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After the Fall (The Fallen Men #4)
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I was settin’ up to live a good life, the kinda life I’d fought hard to deserve.
*After the Fall can be read as a stand-alone romance, but you first meet the couple in Lessons in Corruption (The Fallen Men, #1)*
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Never thought much about dyin’. I was still a young man by anyone’s standards, only twenty-three and healthy with it, but my lack of curiosity about death stemmed more from my lifelong exposure to it than anything else. Had a father who killed his uncle in a church parkin’ lot when I was a kid, sent to the clinker for half a dime. There were guns in my house, in the clubhouse that was home to my dad’s motorcycle club, The Fallen, and guns worn on the hips of the men who hung there. Learned to shoot when I was five, how to defend myself usin’ the stick limbs of a twelve-year-old boy’s body, and how to use a knife like a fuckin’ extension of myself when Priest rolled into my life and taught me his deadly craft. Mostly, I knew death because it stole my best friend, my fuckin’ brother in everythin’ but blood, when we were still kids, still filled with hope and piss and a shit ton of vinegar.
So yeah, I knew death, but not for myself. Never thought of it until now, but to be fuckin’ honest, I never could have known I’d be facin’ down death’s door with no chance to escape it. Suppose some would argue there was a choice; that there was choice to be had in all things.
Only, I’d counter there was no other decision to be made for me. Dyin’ meant my dad would be free, my girl would be safe, and my family would be whole.
How could I do anythin’ else, but die for that?
Yeah, that’s exactly right.
So, I stood on the edge of that cliff that had been my place, a kinda special settin’ for so many of the greatest moments of my life, and I stared down the craggy wall of rock into the sharp rocks and churnin’ ocean below, and I braced.
There was pure evil at my back, and only a chasm that represented an empty future without any of the people I loved before me.
Should’ve been a sad moment, maybe, somethin’ like a tragedy. But as I heard the cock of the gun and the hard spit of the bullet from the chamber somewhere behind me, I couldn’t muster up a tear because I was only filled with hope.
Hope that my sacrifice would ensure the happily ever after I’d once promised my woman.
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I saw her in the parking lot five years ago when I was sellin’ drugs to preppy college kids. Not the most poetic place for love at first sight, but I believed enough in fate to know you can’t choose these things.
She was standin’ across the asphalt like a mirage in the heatwaves of the midday, late summer sun. The shine caught the long tumble of hair streamin’ down her back and turned it to burnished gold, threads of copper glintin’ in the curlin’ mass of it as if each strand was semi-precious metal. Instantly, I wanted to sink my hands into that silken cloud, fist the locks between my fingers, and tug so that those nearly purple red lips, stained like a bruised plum, would bloom open for me to pluck at and plunder. I knew how she would taste just lookin’ at her, somethin’ hot and heady, potent like whiskey.
Even thinkin’ this, I knew she wasn’t the kinda woman to succumb to just any man’s flashy desires. She walked with a prim elegance across the lot to Mac’s Grocer as if she was a debutante about to be presented for her social inauguration, her gait liquid and posture naturally straight. There was a haughtiness to the tip of her chin, a cultivated class to her sweet, tight pencil skirt, and a blouse that should’ve been a male deterrent but wasn’t because the material was just sheer enough to promise a glimpse of the dark lace bra beneath.
She was buttoned up, but the promise of more, of what would happen if a man like me got his hands on her and trust from her, stretched me taut as an overextended coil about to snap back.
I wanted that. Her body and, almost inexplicably, her trust.
I knew instinctively with a woman of her calibre that I couldn’t have one without the other.
It was her I was thinkin’ about when Mute drew my attention to the yuppie as fuck college kids rollin’ outta their mint Mustang convertible and strollin’ over to buy some weed. I was thinkin’ about her, so I knew somehow when the hairs at the back of my neck stood on end that she had spotted me.
She watched as I dealt with the punks who wanted a cheaper deal on grade fuckin’ A marijuana, and she watched as Mute and I waited for them to leave before we bust a gut laughin’ at their fear. We were barely eighteen, but we’d been grown in the manner of men since we were boys. We knew how to intimidate, but more, we knew how not to be intimidated, especially by things that didn’t matter like those guys’ generic, expensive ride and college educations.