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

Previous: CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR | JESSE
Next: CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX | TRISH

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

JESSE

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“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” I whisper to my brother, Flint.

The taped music begins to play and he nods.

“Let’s do it then,” I say.

He starts walking down the aisle, lined by white chairs with blue bows, with me close behind him.

We reach the end and turn around to face the group gathered for Flint and Kendra’s wedding. All members of the Steel Infidels are here, along with most of our families and friends.

The music stops and all eyes turn to Kendra standing at the end of the aisle. A big smile lights up Flint’s face when he sees her. As the music plays, she slowly makes her way between the rows of guests. She reaches out to squeeze her mother’s hand, who is sitting on the front row.

When she stops walking, her father leans down to kiss her cheek and places her hand in Flint’s. Kendra takes a deep breath then lets out a nervous laugh.

The wedding officiant, chosen primarily for his love of motorcycles, begins the ceremony by welcoming the guests and reminding us all why we are here. He was asked to prepare a few words for the wedding, and I suspect they’re going to be on the corny side. 

“When you say I love you, what you are saying is, ‘hold on tight, the ride is long,’” he begins in a deep, solemn voice.

I resist the urge to smile. Damn! Guess I was right.

After quoting a few more lines combining an odd mixture of motorcycles and weddings, he holds out his hand to me for the rings. I reach into my pocket and pull out two plain gold wedding bands and pass them to him.

A look of relief crosses Flint’s face. Did he really think I would forget to bring the rings? I’m disappointed. He should have more faith in me.

No way was I fucking this up.

Unlike me, Flint is one of the solid good guys. A tough guy on the outside covering up a big old heart of gold. After everything he has been through the past few months, he deserves a happy ending.

There’s nothing I won’t do to make sure that happens.

The officiant takes the rings and places one each in Flint and Kendra’s hands. He turns to the bride, who looks absolutely beautiful in her white wedding dress. In keeping with Kendra’s down-to-earth personality, she chose a simple dress with a single strand of pearls. No fancy frills or layers of lace for her. 

Flint would have preferred a traditional biker wedding with a motorcycle procession, leather jackets, and a bottomless beer keg. Kendra shot down that idea in a hurry.

So here we all are, standing in their decorated backyard located high on a mountain, dressed in uncomfortable clothes and sweating like pigs.

Kendra told me she was worried about looking fat on her big day. She shouldn’t have. The baby bump is barely visible. She sniffles and then laughs, wiping away a tear threatening to spill down her cheek and ruin her makeup.

I don’t remember ever seeing her look so happy. From the corner of my eye, I catch Flint starting to get choked up by emotion, too. I grab his shoulder in a sign of brotherly support.

Come on buddy, you can do this.

Standing on my other side is our younger brother, Sam. He is grinning from ear to ear and rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. Last night, I reminded him not to lock his knees and pass out like a dumbass during the ceremony. Now I realize I should have also explained that it wasn’t okay for him to bounce around like a jumping bean either.

What the fuck is he grinning about anyway?

I hope to God he isn’t about to do something stupid. I wouldn’t put it past Sam to pull one of his pranks right in the middle of the wedding. For once, I hope he has enough sense to behave himself. I shoot him a stern look just in case he has something on his mind.

“Be still,” I whisper out of the side of my mouth.

He nods and stops moving.

The officiant glares at me and continues with the ceremony.

“Kendra, do you take this man to have and to hold, to lean with him when he leans and ride when he rides?” he asks.

Kendra gazes up into Flint’s face and smiles. “I do.”

“Flint, do you take this woman to share the open road, to protect and to ride with today and for eternity?”

“Hell yes!” Flint says without hesitation. The audience, consisting mostly of bikers, erupts in a cheer. “I mean, I do,” he quickly adds. “I do.”

“Please join hands.” The officiant beams at the smiling couple. “By the power vested in me by the State of Georgia, I now pronounce you husband and wife! Flint, you may kiss your bride.”

The crowd breaks out in applause.

Flint takes a step forward and pulls Kendra toward him for a kiss.

A shot rings out.

Then another.

For a split second, I freeze. My mind is telling me that a gun has accidentally misfired. Maybe some idiot forgot to put on the safety.

My gut tells me I’m dead wrong.

A big splotch of red appears on Kendra’s wedding gown and begins spreading. The color both horrifies and mesmerizes me at the same time.

More shots ring out. Flint knocks Kendra to the ground and covers her with his body. A music speaker near the front row explodes.

All hell breaks loose.

We’re all here. Ripe for the picking.

Every member of the Steel Infidels MC, Kendra’s family, our family, close friends, and even some members of other friendly biker clubs.

As President of the Steel Infidels, this is my fault. All blame is on me. I never should have allowed this to happen. Gathering us together in a big group provides the perfect opportunity for someone with a grudge to strike against us.

I should have stood firm and not given my approval for a big wedding. Especially after everything that went down at the bike rally in Panama City. 

Happy endings aren’t meant for us. Shouldn’t I know that by now?

Movement at the edge of the driveway catches my eye and I spot him.

The red-headed motherfucker I’ve spent months trying to find.

Big Roy, President of the Liberators.

My sworn enemy, the only person in this world that I want to kill with my bare hands.

I take off after him with Sam right behind me. By the time I reach my motorcycle, the handgun I normally keep tucked in the back of my pants is already in my hand.

The fight with the Liberators is ending today.

One way or the other.

I wonder how long Big Roy and his crew have been sitting in the woods above the house patiently waiting for the wedding to begin. Probably hours. With all the preparations going on, nobody would have noticed the noise from a few extra motorcycles coming up the mountain. I suspect they hid the bikes on the side of the road and hiked through the woods to find a good sniper spot. When I hear motorcycle engines starting up a little ways down the road, I know I’m right.

“They’re on their bikes,” I yell to Sam. “We can catch them. They don’t know the road.”

I roar out of the driveway with Sam on my tail. There are several bad curves on the mountain road, some of which have steep cliffs dropping off on the side.

While it might not be possible to pull close enough to the Liberators to get off a good shot, I know I can force them into taking the curves faster than they should.

In the past few months, I’ve come up that gravel mountain road often to visit Flint. There have been plenty of times that I’ve almost spun out myself, so I know exactly how fast to go and still be able to keep the bike on the road.

I motion for Sam to stay behind me. He better not get any ideas to hot shot ahead. There’s enough blame on my shoulders today without something happening to him, too.

Speeding up, I lean in with the bike as I take a sharp curve. Big Roy is in my line of sight now. He glances back and sees me.

Good.

I want my face to be the last thing he sees before he dies. And if not my face, the glint of sunlight off of my bike will do too. As long as he knows I’m the one responsible for taking him off this earth.

“I’m coming for you, motherfucker!” I yell into the wind, knowing he can’t hear me.

Everything he’s done to me and the MC flashes through my mind: killing Flint’s best friend Tommy, shooting Flint, murdering his own old lady and my high school sweetheart, Leah. Terrorizing Trish, firebombing Roger’s club, and shooting an innocent, pregnant woman on her wedding day.

Only the devil himself could be capable of such evil.

Big Roy is going down this time. The feud with the Liberators has dragged on for far too long.

As we speed along the twisting road, I realize that for my plan to work, I might have to go down with him.

To protect my family and my club, it will be worth it. They all have so much more to lose than I do. Wives, babies, real futures. It is my duty, and mine alone, to protect them. None of them will ever be safe again as long as Big Roy lives. Not even Trish.

Rolling back the throttle, I lean in, determined now more than ever. If I’m going to do this, I only have one chance. The next curve coming up is a tight hairpin. Every second that goes by, I’m gaining on him a little bit more, pushing him to go faster and faster. I can sense him getting nervous now as he realizes I’m willing to risk it all to take him out.

How does it feel to know you’re going to die today, Big Roy?

Sam frantically yells at me from behind. He’s figured out what I’m going to do too. Fuck! I wish he wasn’t here to see this. I’ve always tried to protect him the best I could. If something happens to me, I know he’ll still be okay. Flint and Kendra will make sure of it. I wave for him to pull back and he backs off only a little.

Another few seconds and Big Roy will be coming up on the curve. Like most country mountain roads, there isn’t a guardrail. Only a thin patch of loose dirt and a steep drop off down the side.

Time to go full throttle.

I instinctively feel Big Roy’s moment of panic deep in my gut when he hears me right on his ass.

For a split-second, an image of Trish’s beautiful face pops into my head.

She could’ve been the one. 

Hell! She is the one.

So many regrets.

I never meant for things to end this way.

Now or never.

It’s time to meet your maker, Big Roy, and it sure as hell ain’t God! 

I surge ahead and slam into the back end of his bike going full speed. The impact throws us both up into the air, off the side of the road, and then we’re falling down the side of the cliff in a tangle of limbs and bikes, tumbling over and over.

“Jesse!” Sam yells from far away.

Previous: CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR | JESSE
Next: CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX | TRISH
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