I hung my helmet over the handlebars of my motorcycle and swung my leg over the seat. My boots crunched on the gravel as I took the walk up the drive to the shop, where I could see Ellie hunched over the back end of a crotch rocket of some sort. She was dressed in a white tank top and jeans and had a long-sleeved shirt tied around her waist. She was hard at work, as always, and I was sure she would be giving me shit for coming in late when we were the only two full-time mechanics currently on payroll.
Summertime in New York City was the busiest time of year at the Lost Breed’s mechanic shop. Long-term customers travelled from other states to bring in their motorcycles, primarily Harley’s, to Ryder Moretti’s shop for the best service and prices. Usually it would be full-staffed with four full-time mechanics and two part-time. But this summer, things were different. They were slow.
The usual crews who rode in from out of state had not arrived by the first week of July, which was strange, but understandable. All the drama the Lost Breed had suffered over the last couple of years might have been enough to scare business away.
The damn Black Hearts had managed to land a hit on our wallets. That was for sure.
So for now, it was just Ellie and me holding down the fort. Jax and Axel had both taken a step back and only came in a couple days a week when we were stretched thin. For the most part, they stayed home with their kids. Ellie had received the same offer from Ryder, who suggested she take advantage of the downtime to be at home with her family. She had flat out refused and told him that someone had to make some money in her household. It was all jokes, of course. We all knew the truth: Ellie’s identity was her mechanic skills. She lived and breathed motor oil and grease, and talking her out of the shop would be like talking Ryder himself out of his own MC.
It just wasn’t going to happen.
Ellie looked up from her work when I stepped from the gravel to the cement floor of the shop. She braced one hand on her knee as she peered up at me over her shoulder. Her brow was furrowed and sweaty, and loose strands of bright blonde hair hung around her cheeks. Maybe hung was the wrong word. They were plastered to her cheeks from sweat, and she had grease stains on her chin.
“It’s about fucking time,” she spat as she leaned down and plucked a shop rag from the floor. She wiped the grease from her hands and stood, tucking the rag into the back pocket of her jeans. “What took you so long?”
I shrugged as I escaped the heat of the sun and swapped it for the cool shade of the shop. “I overslept.”
Ellie’s eyes narrowed, and she blew out a frustrated breath. “You know this bike has to go out today, right?”
“I do. And I also know that it only has a couple more hours of work left on it.” I stepped in closer to the bike to get a look at the work she was doing. The customer had asked for a custom order, and Ellie had crafted a rear fairing of her own design over the week. “That looks sick.”
Ellie’s serious expression shattered, and she gave me a bright grin. “Right?”
I nodded. “Yeah, he’ll be impressed. You’ll be doing custom designs for all of New York City soon. Maybe you’ll get scouted by Harley or Yamaha or something and make it big time.”
Ellie chuckled and shook her head as she returned to her work. “You and I both know I’d turn them down.”
“Yeah, because you’re afraid of change.”
“No,” she said simply. “I just don’t want to mess with a good thing. I’m happy here. Besides, I don’t think I’d ever want to work for anyone else besides Ryder.”
“I can’t argue with that.”
Ryder and I had history. He and my older brother, Rafael, had been best friends all throughout their childhood. Our madre hadn’t liked Rafael hanging around with Johnny. He was rowdy, and loud, and white, as my madre had put it. Being just a young boy, five years their junior, I hadn’t really understood what she meant. Later, I learned that she didn’t like how Johnny pulled Rafael away from his Mexican heritage.
Then, when I was nineteen, I had to choose between Ryder and my madre. A middle aged wealthy businessman had run over my brother in his Cadillac after snorting an obscene amount of cocaine. He hadn’t stopped. Just kept on driving.
He dragged Rafael under his car for two blocks before my brother’s corpse became dislodged from the undercarriage.
I hadn’t been there, but Ryder had, and he had been the one to come to my front door and break the news to me and my madre.
That had been the worst night of my life, and hers. And it was burned into my memory for eternity.
Ryder took us to the funeral and paid for everything. My family wasn’t well off by any means, and Rafael had been our only hope of achieving financial stability. He was running with Ryder at the time, who created the Lost Breed, and making strides that were putting thick bundles of cash in his pocket every week.
A week after I put my brother in the ground, Ryder came to me with a proposal. He’d hunted down the piece of shit that killed Rafael, and he was giving me the chance to go with him to deliver justice.
I went without even thinking about it.
We found the driver in a bar. He was drunk and high as a kite, and when the night ended, Ryder and I watched him walk to his car parked in the lane behind the bar. It wasn’t his Cadillac. It was a Mercedes this time. His Cadillac was probably still parked in his garage in his suburban home with chunks of my brother’s flesh lodged in the differential.
I lost my fucking mind when the guy went to get into his Mercedes. Ryder didn’t hold me back when I went after him and beat the shit out of him. He didn’t stand a chance of escaping me. I pummelled him while he sat in his driver’s seat. He tried to close the door on me, and I used it to break his arm. I can still hear the series of cracks before the loud crunch of breaking bones made him scream.
Ryder only intervened when I tried to strangle the asshole with his seatbelt. He got me the hell out of there, and we left my brother’s killer dripping blood all over his expensive interior. Then, two days later, Ryder called in with an anonymous tip about who committed the hit and run that killed Rafael Delgado, and the guilty party did not deny it. He went to prison. My madre had peace of mind and justice for her son.
And I had a thirst for violence that permeated my existence for nearly three years before Ryder got me stable.
I owed him more than my life.
I would never leave him. He and the Lost Breed MC were my family now, and it was better for my madre this way. The three-year bender I had gone on after Rafael died had nearly broken her; it had certainly broken our relationship. Now things were better, but we were still estranged. She knew where I was and what I was up to with the MC, and I sent her money and made sure she was safe and healthy. But that was the extent of our communication.
It was better that way. I was only following in my brother’s footsteps, and if the past was any indication, my life might be cut short just like his. I didn’t want to do that to her.
“Will you pass me that piece there?” Ellie asked, pointing to a shiny black piece of fibreglass on the work table beside me.
I passed it to her as a bright yellow Volkswagen convertible parked out on the gravel beside my bike. Jamie, our receptionist, got out of her car and waved at me. I waved back as she ducked back into her car and came back out with a tray of blended iced coffees.
“Oh, fuck yeah,” I muttered, kicking the crate Ellie was sitting on as I walked by. “Take a break. Jamie has cold drinks.”
Ellie swept her hair off her forehead and got to her feet. Jamie met us at the bay doors and handed us both our coffees.
“Morning,” she said cheerfully before sealing her lips over her straw and sipping her drink.
“Morning,” Ellie and I said together.
Jamie looked up at me with bright eyes and an eager smile. “So?”
I felt my eyebrows come together. “So? What?”
Jamie rolled her eyes and giggled. “Oh, come on! Your date on Saturday. You promised to tell us how it went. Let’s hear it.”
Ellie turned to me. “I completely forgot. What was her name again?”
I sipped my coffee and wished both women had forgotten I even had a date that weekend. I wasn’t keen on suffering any humiliation at their hands, and by the glint in their eyes, I knew they were dying for an opportunity to lay into me.
“Her name was Mia,” I said.
“Mia as in Mia Salvega?” Jamie asked with an arched eyebrow.
Jamie chuckled and shook her head. “I thought you’d learned not to pick up women from work. It’s unprofessional. Not only that, but it’ll be weird now when she picks up her car.”
I shrugged. “Weird for her, I guess.”
Both women stared at me expectantly. Jamie had her straw in her mouth, and Ellie was absently stirring hers to mix the whip cream in with the blended coffee. Ellie glanced at Jamie then back at me. “Are we going to have to pry the information out of you? Or are you just going to tell us? Because you know we won’t leave you alone until you do.”
I wasn’t sure when or how it had happened, but over the course of the last year, I had become good friends with both Ellie and Jamie. It had been a surprise to all of us when I started working full time in the shop to cover for Axel and Jax, and it couldn’t have worked out better. All three of us enjoyed each other’s company.
Except for on days like today, where I knew I was about to be ripped a new asshole because, as everyone in the MC now knew, I was terrible at dating.
More specifically, I was terrible with women.
I sighed. “Fine. I’ll tell you. But this stays within our little circle, all right?”
“All right.” Jamie nodded eagerly.
I groaned, ran my hand down my face, thought dimly that I should probably shave, and then came clean with how the date went down.
“I met her at the restaurant the two of you suggested. She looked pretty hot. I won’t lie. She had on this tight little red dress and heels longer than my fingers—”
“Did you tell her?” Jamie asked.
“Tell her what?”
She looked at me like I was a moron. “Did you tell her you thought she looked nice?”
“Uh, I don’t remember.”
“So that’s a no,” Ellie said dryly. “Smooth, Sabian. Real smooth.”
“Seriously? It matters that much to you women to be told you look nice?”
“Yes,” Ellie and Jamie said in unison.
I scratched the back of my neck. “All right. Noted. Anyways, after we met up, we took our seats and ordered drinks. She had this fruity thing that sounded like something you would order off a kid’s menu. And then ordered a salad.”
Ellie laughed. “Date over. Sabian Delgado can’t date a woman who likes her greens.”
“Not true,” I said, holding up one finger. “I can, but if I’m taking you out on my dime, I want a woman who will order real food.”
“A salad is real food,” Jamie muttered.
“Debatable,” I said.
“No, it’s not,” Jamie said under her breath.
I ignored her. “Whatever. It was just a salad. I didn’t say anything.”
“What did she do that did make you say something, then?” Ellie asked knowingly as she shifted her weight to her right foot and popped her hip out.
She knew me too well. I looked down at my feet. “She asked me to carry her purse.”
Ellie snorted loudly and covered her mouth as she burst into a fit of giggles. Jamie was quick to follow suit, and soon they were both swaying on the spot as they laughed their asses off.
“I’m glad you find it amusing,” I said, sighing.
“What did you say to her?” Ellie managed to ask through wheezing breaths as she struggled to recover.
“I made it from our table to the sidewalk outside the restaurant before passing it back to her and telling her I wasn’t that kind of guy.”
Elli arched an eyebrow, silently prodding me to continue.
“And she ripped it out of my hands and asked me what kind of guy I was.” I finished off my blended coffee, fought off the wave of brain freeze that rolled over me, and tossed the empty cup into the garbage can in the corner of the shop. “So, naturally, I was honest with her, and I told her exactly what kind of guy I was.”
Jamie covered her mouth and shook her head. “You didn’t.”
“Oh, I did.” I grinned sheepishly.
“And it didn’t make her panties all wet?” Ellie asked.
“No, she slapped me in front of the doorman and walked off.”
Ellie and Jamie roared with more laughter, and after Ellie finished slapping her thigh with amusement, she met my eye. “All right, I have to know what you said to her. Come on, what did you say that made poor little Mia run off in such a hurry?”
I pinched the bridge of my nose before looking at the two of them. “I told her I was the kind of guy who would eat her better than she ate her salad and fuck her like she deserved for asking me to hold her purse. Hard and rough. And up the ass.”
Jamie choked on her coffee, and Ellie laughed at the ceiling. It was going to be a long day with the two of them taking jabs at me for my ruthless come-on and less than impressive dating skills.
Mondays were the worst around here.