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

Previous: CHAPTER FOURTEEN | TRISH
Next: CHAPTER SIXTEEN | JESSE

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

JESSE

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Trish is still fast asleep when I slip out of the room. After the night we spent together, she needs all the rest she can get. My gut told me that fucking her would be something special. What I didn’t expect is for it to be mind-blowing spectacular.

Something about her brings out my protective streak. Maybe because her brother is such an asshole. Or maybe because when she looks at me with those soft brown eyes, I want to make sure they never have a reason to fill with tears again.

It’s been years since I’ve had deep feelings for any girl. Being with Trish is stirring up something I had forgotten existed, and it worries me.

I have to be careful not to let my personal feelings for her cloud my judgment where the Liberators are concerned. If her brother gets hurt or even killed in the crossfire, then so be it.

I try not to think about how devastated Trish will be if that ever happens.

Or if she will ever forgive me.

I knock on Flint’s door to see if he is up yet. He swings the door open wide and rubs his eyes groggily with the palms of his hands.

“Jesus Christ, Jesse! What time is it?” he asks.

“Time to get your lazy ass up and out of bed. We need to work on a plan.” I move past him into the messy hotel room.

Flint yawns. “Don’t call me lazy, dickhead. I was out all night checking out the Liberators’ hotel while you were next door fucking around. You were, right?”

“Were what?”

“Fucking,” he says with a straight face.

“None of your damn business.”

He chuckles. “Oh, so that’s how it is now.” He cocks his head and gives me a closer look. “You’ve got a serious thing for her, don’t you? Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me. There’s no point in trying to fool me though, Jesse. I know you better than anyone.”

I think about lying and know it will only be a waste of my time. “So I like her,” I say with a shrug. “No big deal. Nothing for you to get a hard on over. Women come and go.”

Flint clears his throat. “Considering I haven’t heard of a single girl actually spending the entire night with you since I came back to town, I do think it’s a big deal. What happened to your famous ‘fuck them and send them packing before daylight’ rule?”

“She’s only sticking around for a couple of days until we get this mess sorted out with the Liberators. After that, who knows? We certainly haven’t talked about it, and I doubt she has given it any thought either. I know I haven’t. So drop it, okay?”

“Whatever you say. You’re the boss man.”

Flint rips open a package provided by the hotel containing a prefilled coffee filter. He holds it up for me to see the label.

“This shit says gourmet coffee, but I’ll bet you fifty bucks it tastes like ass.”

He pours water into the canister and starts the coffee brewing. “How can they make hotel coffee taste so damn awful?”

“You can always stop by the store and buy yourself a bag of decent coffee if you hate it that bad,” I suggest.

“Yeah, but that would ruin the whole experience of going on vacation to bike week with you guys,” he jokes. “If I buy a bag of good coffee, the next thing I know you’ll all be ordering me to make cappuccinos like I’m your own personal barista. Kind of like going camping and bringing along a chef.”

He pours a cup of black coffee when it finishes dripping and hands it to me. I take a sip and grimace.

“Damn! You weren’t kidding. So tell me what you found out last night at the Beachcomber. Any sign of Big Roy?”

Flint shakes his head. “No. Not that we were really expecting there to be. The brother obviously tipped him off and they all split. We hung around in the parking lot for a bit and asked a few questions. Some bikers there remembered seeing a man with red hair and a long beard. Snake tattoo on his arm.”

“Big Roy?”

“Must be. Don’t know anybody else that ugly. Nobody knew where they went. The girl at the check-in desk said the rooms were paid in full through the end of bike week. That’s all we know right now.”

I sit down in a chair by the window and pull up the blinds to keep a close eye on the parking lot. “Since you’re the lawyer and the brains in the family, got any ideas how we can flush them out?”

“Sure, I have an idea,” he says slowly. “You’re probably not going to like it.”

“Spit it out. Let’s hear it.” I already have a clue where this is going.

“We use your girl as bait to lure them out into the open again.”

“No,” I say curtly. “You’re right, I don’t like it. Not one damn bit.”

Flint holds up his hand. “Hear me out, okay? We wouldn’t be putting her in any danger. Well, at least not intentionally. Trish needs to agree to be part of the plan for it to work smoothly.”

“And what exactly would this plan be?”

“First, she would have to call or text her brother and create a believable excuse to set up a meeting. Then, we’ll put a tail on him after the meet up is over. He’s our best link to Big Roy and the rest of the Liberators.”

“No fucking way.”

“Jesse...”

“Don’t start with me, Flint. I’m not asking Trish to do this. You didn’t see the two of them together. Her brother is mean as a rattlesnake and plenty capable of hurting her. He doesn’t give a shit about his sister. I don’t want her anywhere near him.”

“What’s their story?”

“I don’t really know all the details yet. He roughed her up in the parking lot of the bar and left bruises on her arm before that. She hasn’t told me what the extent of his abuse is or if he’s done anything worse. Psychologically, he has some kind of weird hold on her. It’s not safe for her to be with him. Especially now that she’s hanging with us. There’s no telling what he might do.”

Flint blows out a long breath. “I figured you might feel this way. There’s always Plan B then.”

I lift my eyebrows at him. “Which is?”

“We go ahead with the same plan without her knowing she’s part of it.”

“And how do you propose we do that? Wouldn’t she need to be the one to contact her brother?”

Flint downs the last of his coffee and pours another cup. “Not if you can secretly grab her cell phone and do it instead. Send him a text from her phone asking to meet him at the bar and then delete it.”

“Aww...shit. This plan sucks. You graduate from law school and this is the best you can come up with?”

I lean back in the chair and close my eyes. If I do this, Trish is going to be so pissed at me.

“Even if I delete the text, won’t Trish see his response to it?”

Flint hesitates and leans forward to explain. “See, this is where it gets a little tricky and complicated. You need to steal her phone and not give it back. Ever.”

“Steal my girl’s phone? Boy, you’re full of shit ideas this morning, aren’t you? Are you still drunk? What if she needs to call me in an emergency and I have her damn phone in my pocket? What good will that do?”

“I’ve got you covered there too,” Flint says. “A lawyer is always thinking ahead. I’ll pick up a couple of prepaid burner phones for you at the drugstore. You should keep one of those activated and ready to hand over to her when she realizes her phone is...missing in action.”

“I still don’t like it. She’ll suspect something is up. She’s not dumb.”

“Did I say she was?” he asks. “You’re already making this way too personal, and it isn’t like you. We’ve been chasing after the Liberators for months and you’re going to let it all go down the drain for a girl you just met? Quit thinking with your damn dick and get onboard with the plan.”

“When have you ever known me to put a girl before the club?”

“There’s a first time for everything. How many chances do you think we’re going to get to nail the Liberators? We need to finish this. It hasn’t been so long ago that you and I stood up in front of the crew and promised them we would do just that. Here is our opportunity and we have to take it. Trust me, the end justifies the means in this case.”

He’s right. I’m letting my feelings for Trish corrode my judgment. Exactly what I swore to myself I wouldn’t do.

“Plan B it is then,” I say, standing up. “I’ll find a way to grab her phone today. When should I try to set up the meet?”

“Tonight,” he replies without hesitation. “After the bar closes. No need to drag this shit out any longer than necessary.”

“I agree. Wouldn’t it be terrific to never have to think about those bastard Liberators again? Tonight it is then.”

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