Book: Tough and Tender (Bad Boy Romance Box Set)





I’m too upset and exhausted to put up an argument about going back to Jesse’s hotel with him. Of the different alternatives, it seems like the best option at the time.

I dash back inside the bar and grab my bag from the break room. On my way out, I tell one of the girls that I unfortunately won’t be making it to the condo tonight. I was really hoping things would work out with them. For a brief few hours, things almost felt normal.

My mind is whirling as I hurry back outside to meet Jesse. Things keep happening so quickly and I don’t have time to adjust. Just when I think I have things figured out, at least for the next twenty-four hours, something else happens to flip my plans upside down.

Agreeing to meet Ty in the parking lot was a mistake. I know that now. God only knows what I was thinking. I shouldn’t have looked at his text messages after he was thrown out of the club, much less replied to them.

Old habits die hard.

He said he only needed a couple of hundred bucks. I stupidly thought that giving him the money would be a cheap way to get rid of him and get him off my back.

What a bad decision that turned out to be.

My plan was to give him the money and tell him to never bother me again as long as he was riding with the Liberators.

My brother wasn’t always an asshole. There was a time not so long ago when we were almost friends. I refuse to believe the brother I used to know is gone forever. Big Roy and the Liberators changed him. I hate them for what they’ve done to Ty.

When Jesse attacked him, I felt ripped right down the middle. For the first time in my life, someone was actually protecting me for a change. It felt good and was definitely something I could get used to.

At the same time, it hurt to see my brother getting beaten to a bloody pulp, even if Ty didn’t have any qualms about hurting me when it suited him.

“Did you get all of your things?” Jesse asks when I walk out. He is leaning against the building, waiting for me, just like he said he would be.

“Everything I own is in here,” I answer, patting the green duffel bag.

“If you need anything else, we can pick it up at the store tomorrow,” he offers. “Let’s get out of here before your brother wakes up and calls the Liberators for backup.” He takes my arm and quickly ushers me away from the building.

I glance back over my shoulder toward my brother, who is still lying on the ground at the edge of the parking lot. The crowd has thinned out and the few remaining customers aren’t paying him any attention. Probably assuming he is passed out drunk or high on drugs.

“Shouldn’t I call an ambulance or something?” I say. “What if he is badly hurt?”

“Trust me, he’ll be fine,” Jesse says. “A busted nose, maybe. That’s all. It’s nothing that a couple of painkillers and Band-Aids can’t fix.”

I abruptly stop walking. Now I’m starting to feel bad about leaving my brother alone and bleeding on the ground. I always take care of people. Leaving someone behind who needs me is not easy.

“I should at least go back to check on him,” I say. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” I turn around and start walking toward Ty, who is already stirring.

Jesse grabs the strap of my bag and jerks me back. “Damn it, Trish! You really don’t get this, do you? Haven’t you been paying any attention? Don’t you realize what kind of men the Liberators are? Do you think they are just playing around or joking about the things they are involved with?”

His tone is grim. He’s furious with me.

“Less than six months ago, I attended the funeral of a young woman the Liberators murdered and dumped on the side of the road like a bag of trash. She was Big Roy’s old lady, by her choice. She was also an old friend of mine from high school. She warned us that the Liberators were on their way to ambush my brother, Flint. They killed her for that. And she’s been an integral part of their club for years.”

“I’m sorry,” I say, my voice faltering. “I didn’t realize.”

“What do you think they will do to you? A new girl who they don’t know or care about? Do you think for one second that they give a shit about you? That they wouldn’t hesitate to rape or even kill you if it suits them? When Big Roy said you were going to be his old lady, he meant one way or the other. In his eyes, he doesn’t need a woman’s permission to take what he wants. And right now he wants you.”

I’m shocked by everything Jesse is telling me, yet I don’t need any verification or proof. In my gut, I know every word is true.

“I feel like such a fool,” I stammer. “I didn’t know about any of these things. They didn’t talk much around me. And when they did, Big Roy always blamed everything on the Steel Infidels.”

From the corner of my eye, I see Ty pull himself up to a sitting position.

“Well, you know now and that ought to be enough,” Jesse says. “I don’t want to hear any more argument. Let’s get out of here. Your brother is coming around.”

He hustles me around the corner where his brother Sam is waiting by the two motorcycles.

“Where’s the girl?” Jesse asks.

“I gave her money for a cab and sent her home,” Sam answers. “If the Liberators are in town, we’ve got bigger problems to deal with than chasing pussy. She would just be a distraction for me tonight.”

“Good decision,” Jesse says as he slings my bag onto the back of the bike.

“I’ve already called Flint and told him to round up the rest of the crew for a sitdown when we get back to the hotel,” Sam says. “He’s rousing everybody and making coffee, so hopefully they’ll be halfway sober by the time we get there.”

Jesse motions to me. “Hop on.”

I throw my leg across the bike and wrap my arms around Jesse’s waist, at first hesitantly then in a death grip. I scoot up as close as I can get to his hard, muscular body.

I’m not about to let go of this man.

Not now.

Maybe not ever.

“You go first,” Sam says. “I’ll make sure we’re not being followed.”

Jesse revs the engine. The motorcycle roars when he pulls out onto the road with Sam right behind us.

The short distance to the hotel flies by in a blur. The rest of the Steel Infidels are waiting for us when we ride into the hotel parking lot a few minutes later. Some are a little wobbly and unsteady on their feet, but at least they all made the effort to be there.

Jesse slides off the bike, pulls out his keycard, and hands it to me. “Go ahead and get settled in,” he says. “Don’t wait up for me. I don’t know how long I’ll be.”

As I walk by the group, one of the men who is a spitting image of Jesse, only younger, throws up a hand at me in greeting, and I nod as I hurry past. Must be his other brother.

Once inside the hotel room, I head straight for the shower.

What a night this is turning out to be.