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Forced to run from her drug-dealing boyfriend, Neve ends up injured and alone in the middle of the Colorado wilderness. She never planned on being rescued by seven bikers and brought to their clubhouse. While the other bikers welcome a female presence, their leader, Charm, is not impressed. As Neve recuperates, she begins to see that there’s much more to this club president than she thought possible. However, while she might’ve run, she can’t stay hidden forever.
Four Years Ago…Age 18
There was a soft knock at my door before Sofia poked her head around the door. “Did you check Blackboard? Because I did and I’m thinking a study break in the form of a campus party is in order.” She gyrated her hips, hands swaying above, as she moved to the beat of something only she knew.
I dropped my pen and stretched my arms overhead. I’d been sitting at my desk for who knew how long; my body stiff from hours spent hunched over a textbook, taking notes. I wearily opened a new tab on my laptop and entered my login credentials.
I’d been anxiously awaiting my mid-term grades for the last week. And I’d been regretting my decision to double major in Psychology and Neurosciences for even longer than that.
Things had started out promising enough. I’d scheduled my college classes much like I’d done my high school classes, thinking that I could handle the course load.
My academic advisor had recommended that I not overload myself until I got a feel for the program and the instructors. I didn’t want to just take the basics though—I’d wanted to get into the meat of my studies.
So, I ignored his advice and loaded up with a mix of basics and upper level courses that didn’t require a prerequisite.
By the end of the first week, I was cursing myself. The classes were unlike anything I’d experienced in high school. It didn’t matter how hard I worked, I quickly fell behind. I gave up dinner in the dining hall in favor of ramen noodles in my dorm room, glued to my computer.
When two of my professors threatened to drop me, I gave up my part-time job at the campus bookstore, relying instead on my dad’s emergency credit card to keep myself comfortable.
It wasn’t like it was going to affect them—I could’ve maxed the dang thing out every month and I doubt he would’ve cared as he paid it off.
But I’d worked hard to get where I was and someday—I’d pay them back for everything. I pulled up my grades with bated breath. This was it. This was where I turned it all around.
MCDB 2150 Principles of Genetics…overall grade with the midterm factored in…F.
I’d damn near killed myself studying for that one. I even had the kidney infection to prove it too. How could I still be failing?
MATH 2520 Intro to Biometry was just as dismal. In fact, the only classes where my grades didn’t make me want to puke were my psych classes. That didn’t bode well for me getting accepted into the doctoral program. I couldn’t even blame it on the university—the National Academy of Sciences ranked them as one of the best in the country.
Suddenly, the painted cinderblock walls didn’t feel like a cozy haven for studying, but more like the walls of a prison. I’d started this semester with a roommate. A roommate who’d cried most every night and ended up moving out three weeks into the semester. I wasn’t going to be far behind her if my grades were any indicator.
Sofia cocked her head to the side and fixed me with a curious smile. “Yes? You joining me?”
I opened my mouth to decline when I realized there was really nothing stopping me from going out. So far, my college experience had consisted of me spending every waking moment either in class or chained to my desk. And what did I have to show for it? Nothing. I hadn’t pledged a sorority or gone home with a random stranger. I hadn’t even gotten drunk. I was nothing like the stereotypical college freshman. In fact, I’d never acted my age and slacked off.
I’d graduated at the top of my class and gotten accepted to every university I’d applied to. My parents wanted me at UCLA, but I’d chosen University of Colorado in Boulder.
While I’d been born in California, I’d never been considered your ‘typical California girl.’ The girls I grew up with were tall, blonde, and tan. Me? I was short, raven-haired, and fair. I’d slather on the SPF 5000 and it never seemed to matter; I’d burn to a crisp just stepping foot outside.
Colorado had been a much better fit. I found that I didn’t have to wear a lot of makeup or dress in a certain way to fit in.
Now, it seemed, the closest I was going to get to my dream of becoming a researcher was going to be as a janitor in the science building.
I pushed my chair back from my desk. “I’m in.”
It wasn’t like my grades were going to improve if I stayed in studying. I deserved a night out—an evening to just be an eighteen year-old. Tomorrow I’d worry about how I was going to pull myself out of this hole.
I stood against the wall, a lukewarm beer in my hand, taking small sips to appease Sofia whenever necessary. It tasted like watered down piss. I was fighting my gag reflex with every swallow. To say that I’d expected more would’ve been a massive understatement. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how I’d convinced myself that going out was a better alternative to reviewing my mid-term answers and emailing my professors to see if there was anything else I could do to bring my grades up.
I watched as Sofia lost herself to the music, her eyes fluttering closed with every hip thrust from the frat boy behind her. She’d downed several plastic cups of beer upon our arrival and appeared to be feeling no pain.
I choked down another sip, praying that I was close to feeling as free as she appeared to be. It would be nice to just lose control for a while.
“Did you ace your midterms?”
I turned toward the voice. “Do I know you?”
The man laughed and extended his hand, raising his voice to be heard over the music. “I don’t think we’ve formally met, but you were in my stats class. I’m Paul.”
I shook his hand. “Neve.” I could tell he was waiting for me to elaborate and I gave a small sigh before adding, “I failed my midterms. If I give up sleep, I might have a chance in hell at getting out of my first semester alive.”
He regarded me thoughtfully for a moment and I downed more of my beer, trying to fill the awkward silence between us.
“You’re only a freshman? You’re the one that got special permission from the dean to take a senior level lab, aren’t you?”
I bristled at his words. “So? It’s not like it matters now. I’m failing almost everything.”
He rocked back on his heels. “What if I knew someone who could help you?”
I snorted. “What—like a homework helper? How much is that gonna set me back?”
Paul shook his head and chugged the contents of his cup before latching onto my arm and pulling me toward the stairs. “I know a guy. You see, I was in your shoes my freshman year and I wasn’t ready to watch all my hard work turn to shit.”
I tried to wrangle myself free, spilling beer onto my hand. “Let me go—”
He stopped walking and turned back to me. “What did you just say? If you didn’t need sleep, then you might have a chance at passing. What if I could give you that?”
“What do you mean?” This guy had to be off his meds. Leave it to me to find a lunatic at my first party. I risked a quick glance over the railing and found Sofia and her frat boy wrapped around each other on the makeshift dance floor. Obviously, she wasn’t going to notice if I went missing anytime soon.
All the more reason to stay downstairs.
Paul leaned in. “I can get you something to stay awake. It’ll keep you focused too.”
I should’ve broken free and run back down to the safety of my wall, but his words had piqued my interest. I’d tried energy drinks…coffee…you name it. Nothing helped keep me awake for longer than a day. “What is it?”
He pointed toward a closed door. “Clint—he—just come meet him and see for yourself.”
This was exactly what after-school specials had warned me about. Yet, here I was, following this perfect stranger upstairs to meet ‘Clint’ and get something to keep myself awake.
“Twenty percent of female college students will report being raped during their time on campus,” I muttered to myself as I trudged after him.
Paul gave me a strange look. “What was that?”
I shook my head as he opened the door to reveal a gorgeous man on a leather couch, watching television. His sandy brown hair was spiked up into a fauxhawk and as he turned toward us, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by his piercing green eyes. Eyes that were now narrowing in suspicion.
“What the fuck, Paul?” He complained, while remaining in the same position on the couch, as if his body was unaware of the tension in the room.
Paul pushed me forward, spilling even more beer onto my arm. “My girl needs the goods, man. Get her in the mood.” He said the last part with a wink.
“I am absolutely not his girl.” This was never about helping me with my grades. The prick just wanted to get into my pants. The bass from the music downstairs vibrated the floor beneath my feet and I wondered if Sofia was still tangled up with her guy or if she was looking for me. It obviously hadn’t taken much beer to impair my judgment because I’d now put myself in a very precarious situation.
The man picked up a glass from the side table and took a sip of the amber liquid, suddenly seeming much more distinguished than the punk I’d followed up here. He exuded power and sophistication—heck, even his clothes were designer. He watched me carefully. “You didn’t come with him?”
I shook my head. “I told him I was falling behind with my grades and he said Clint could help me. Obviously, that was a lie so, I’ll just be on my way.”
“Did he try something with you?”
I risked a glance at Paul and noticed the sweat beading along his hairline. He was scared of this man and I knew that if I said yes, Paul was going to be in a world of hurt.
Damn you, Sofia. Damn you for insisting I get out of the dorm for a night.
I shook my head again, while contemplating calling my dad. “No. He just got me up here under false pretenses.”
“Out.” He gestured toward the door with his head and Paul immediately disappeared, leaving just the two of us. He slid off the couch and slowly walked over to me and I could feel my pulse jumping in my neck as he looked me over.
“I’m Clint,” he said by way of greeting, as he patted me down and checked me for a wire. His touch conjured up all sorts of conflicting feelings inside of me, even as I began to suspect that he’d obtained his lifestyle through highly illegal means.
“Neve,” I whispered through quivering lips, effectively killing the smallest hint of a buzz from the beer.
He ran a soft hand lightly down my arm. “Hey, don’t be afraid. Unlike the fuckboy who brought you, I won’t take anything you don’t willingly give me.”
I exhaled and nodded, debating whether to run or press myself up against his muscular body. This was nothing more than his pheromones acting as a catalyst for the sexual attraction I was feeling. I just had to hold it together a little bit longer and then I could go back to my dorm and forget this ever happened.
When he placed the bag of white powder on his coffee table, all of my previous suspicions were confirmed.
He caught my stare and explained. “Blow. Snow. Coke. It’ll help you stay awake and keep you focused.”
Oh, hell no.
I took a step back. “Um, well…”
I envisioned telling him that Paul had been mistaken. That I hadn’t known what he was dragging me up here to do. I ran through several different scenarios that would get me the hell out of there—
“I forgot I had an eight o’clock lab…”
“I left my flatiron on in my dorm room…”
“I just remembered I’m supposed to say no to drugs…”
Every scenario ended with me getting shot in the back as I tried to escape. I paused to fathom how I’d ended up in this predicament, but came up short.
I wet my lips with my tongue and settled for, “Um, Clint, I’m not sure—I mean, I’ve never done anything—”
He cut me off. “You’ve never used before, have you?”
I shook my head and laughed nervously. “I’ve never even been to a party until tonight. Paul just said if I wanted to get my grades up that you might have something to help me. I guess I thought that maybe it was caffeine pills or something like that.”
I was rambling, but couldn’t seem to stop vomiting up words. I could’ve told myself that it was just the one time. Bought the damn drugs, used them once, and then gone back to my dorm—forgetting that I ever came here. But, that wasn’t me.
He easily swiped the bag from the coffee table and returned it to his pocket before smiling. “How about we get to know each other over something a little more refined than that cow piss they call beer?”
I set my still mostly full cup down on the table as Clint walked over to a sideboard and grabbed a decanter. “So, first time to a party, but surely not your first time drinking?”
I winced. “Actually… yes.”
He paused before pouring. “Well then, at least you’re with someone who can steer you in the right direction.” He handed me the glass and raised his in a toast. “To first times. Just knock it back like a shot. It’ll go down easier that way.”
Clint wasn’t what I expected in a drug dealer—well, my only experience up until this point was based upon the aforementioned after-school specials with bad music. I’d expected some greasy drifter with bad hygiene, but he was none of those things.
He was someone who would fit in seamlessly in my world. The thought sent a flutter of excitement through my body, but I shook it off, trying to stay focused on the task at hand. Nothing like transitioning from attending my first party to taking shots with the resident drug-dealer. The incredibly sexy drug-dealer.
I downed the contents of my glass before my mind had a chance to continue. It was only going to lead somewhere dangerous. The liquid burned as it hit my throat, warming my chest on the way down.
He immediately poured us another. The second one went down even smoother than the first. When we began, we were on opposite ends of the couch, but each shot moved me closer to him. He asked me about my classes while his hand rested lightly against my thigh and instead of shifting away, I leaned into him, while explaining how I’d ended up in Colorado.
Clint took a sip of his drink. “So, now what?”
I shifted the empty glass in my hand, watching amusedly as it distorted the shape of the coffee table underneath. “I don’t know,” I admitted. “I guess if things keep going like this, I’ll be back in Cali by Christmas.”
He leaned in until his lips hovered less than an inch from mine. “I’d like it if you stayed.”
I nodded and swallowed. “I—”
Clint’s mouth latched onto mine with a focused possessiveness and my sentence cut off in a moan. Every flicker of his tongue weakened my resolve to walk out of here unchanged, while the scrape of his teeth against my mouth left me with an unfamiliar ache for more.
He pulled back and panted, “I knew the minute you walked in here that you didn’t belong with someone like Paul. You need more than he could ever give.”
My body shuddered at his words and I knew that I wasn’t capable of walking away anymore.
I wanted more.
I wanted it all—recklessness and bad decisions be damned.
He ran the pad of his thumb across my lower lip with a grin. “Goddamn am I glad that you showed up tonight. Any other firsts you want to try tonight?”
I glanced at his pocket and then back up at him. “Would the coke really help me stay awake?”
He pulled the bag from his pocket and held it up. “You snort some of this and you can go without sleep for days—I hear it’s perfect for students with full course loads.”
I blurted out, “Cocaine is the second most popular illicit recreational drug in the United States.”
He smiled amusedly. “Oh yeah? And what’s the most popular?”
I tried to match his smile, even as anxiety mixed with liquor, churning my stomach into a rough sea. “Marijuana—um, weed. Sorry, I tend to ramble off random facts when I’m nervous or uncomfortable.”
He cupped my face in his hand. “I think it’s pretty fucking adorable, if we’re being honest. I don’t want you to be nervous around me though. I’m not going to push you.”
I pressed my cheek into his palm. “If I’m going to do it, I want you to be the one to show me.”
I tried to push my desire down as Clint showed me exactly what to do, his knee brushing against mine in the process. “It’s gonna burn like a bitch, but if you can make it through that, you’re gonna feel amazing.”
I followed his instructions exactly—suddenly hyperaware of everything around me. Even the hairs on my arms seemed to be standing at attention, searching the air around me for new sensations. I felt more awake than I had in years and all the stress regarding my classes seemed to fade away until I was suspended in a euphoric state. This was a memory that was going to stay with me forever.
“Cocaine raises the level of the neurotransmitter Dopamine. Did you know that?”
Clint’s mouth dropped to my ear and I shivered as he pressed a soft kiss against my jaw. “No. What else?”
I moaned softly, while marveling at how vibrant everything seemed. Clint’s hair wasn’t just a sandy brown—there were strands of gold mixed in. I’d missed it before, but now I could see everything.
It was as if my eyes had finally been opened.
“Um, thirty-eight million people have reported using cocaine at some point in their lives.”
He pulled back and smiled again, soft dimples appearing in both cheeks. “You can thank Paul for that first bump. I can get you more…” His voice trailed off as he gazed at my body.
I stood up unsteadily. “Dance with me.”
I was going to experience what Sofia had before I left here. It was only right. I’d never wanted to dance as much as I did in this moment. Clint reached for a small remote and a stereo kicked on in the corner, playing some pop ballad. I was dreaming, I knew that, but I wasn’t going to let my fantasy go to waste. We moved together in time to the music and just like everything else between us, it was perfect.
“We should be on Dancing with the Stars,” I mumbled, mesmerized by how small my hips looked in his hands.
He let out a low chuckle and squeezed me tighter.
Suddenly uninhibited, I stumbled back and stripped off my tank, tossing it onto the carpet. He undid the buttons on his Polo and pulled it off, before joining me. His hands gripped my hips again as we moved to the beat of the music. If I thought Clint was attractive before, the cocaine pushed those feelings into overdrive. I felt like a supermodel and, based on what I was feeling through his jeans, he shared similar feelings.
I wanted him. Badly.
I lost all interest in dancing about a minute into it and began working to get his pants off instead. He backed me up against a wall and kissed my throat while fighting to get the zipper on my jeans down, as his teeth nipped at my breasts through the lace of my bra, forcing another moan from my lips.
I felt like I was floating somewhere high above my body as he slid into me. Sex with him while high was incredible—it was deeply spiritual; the way our bodies connected. He was tender…loving, you might say. It made the handful of times with my boyfriend in high school seem like a joke. This wasn’t some fumbled attempt in the backseat of his dad’s sedan. This was a man, taking what was his.
This was why people made such a big deal about sex.
I peaked in his arms, but didn’t once come down from my high. It was wrong, but everything about it felt right. As I steadied myself against his shoulder, I knew that I could never do it again.
“How are you feeling?” He murmured into my hair, before pulling out, leaving me empty. Hollow.
“I—I can’t do this,” I confessed.
He chuckled and pressed a kiss to my forehead, still holding me upright. “I’m assuming you mean the blow. It’s not for everyone. If you’re referring to me, I hope you’ll reconsider. That was the best sex I’ve ever had.”
My heart fluttered again at his words, but I frowned. A drug dealer wanted to be with me. This hadn’t been part of my plans.
He tilted my face up to his. “Look at me, Neve. Do I look messed up to you?” I shook my head and he continued, “Exactly. I sell it, but I don’t use. Ever. It’s a business, baby. Plain and simple.”
I chewed on the corner of my lip while mulling over his words. He was right—the sex had been amazing. If he kept his business away from me, maybe we could make it work.
The coke had me feeling invincible; like I could take on the world. Maybe instead of locking myself away in the castle that was Hallett Hall, I should take a chance and let myself fall for someone.
It was time for me to live a little.
“Okay,” I agreed. “Let’s see where this goes.”
He flashed his white teeth as he grinned. “I’m going to take such good care of you, Neve. Just you wait and see.”
Shannon is a born and raised Texan. She grew up inventing clever stories, usually to get herself out of trouble. Her mother was not amused. In junior high, she began writing fractured fairy tales from the villain’s point of view and that was the moment she knew that she was going to use her powers for evil instead of good.
In 2003, she moved to Denver and met the love of her life. After some relentless stalking and a few well-timed sarcastic remarks, the man eventually gave in to her charms and wifed her so hard. They welcomed a son in 2007 that they named after their favorite Marvel superhero, Spiderman.
Sick of seeing beautiful mountains through their window every day, the three escaped back to the desolate landscape of the west Texas desert in 2009. She welcomed her second son not long after and soon realized that being surrounded by three men was nothing at all like she’d imagined in her fantasies.
After an unplanned surgery in 2014 and a long pity party, she decided to pen a novel about the worst thing that could happen to a person in order to cheer herself up. She’s twisted like that. Thus, From This Day Forward was born and the rest, as they say, is history.
Not only does Shannon enjoy stalking people, she also has a fondness for being stalked.