Betrayed By Beauty - Ashley Lane



27 years old

This place gives me fucking hives.

My back is sweating underneath my leather cut and I shift, tugging at the collar of my black tee, hoping to erase the sensation of a noose tightening around my neck.

The air inside the courtroom is suffocating.

My eyes dart around the room, needlessly making note of the exits. Down the row, my gaze connects with Grace’s bored one, and in an attempt to distract her, and myself, I cross my eyes and stick out my tongue at her. Probably not the wisest move. But then again, I’ve never been one to follow the rules, so fuck it. Grace snickers at my antics and I consider that a win until Alaska nudges her to be quiet. Never one to take one for the team, Grace snitches and points at me down the row. Now I’m the one being chastised.

At the front of the room, standing before the judge, are the two reasons we’re all here.

Tobias and Falcon.

After fifteen long months of fostering, the boys’ stay in the system is ending. When we leave today they’re officially and legally, Bullet and Holly’s boys. After he proposed at a club cookout three months ago, they wasted no time in making an appointment with a justice of the peace to make things legal.

Bullet already knew that the boys were it for him. Holly, having felt the same way, suggested a small ceremony in the flower garden next to the courthouse. They’d no less said their I do’s and sealed it with a kiss before Holly was marching next door where they officially—as husband and wife—filed for adoption of Tobias and Falcon.

Three months later and we’re finally here. Today, the boys will officially become Tobias and Falcon Bentley, sons of Hawk and Holly Bentley. My eyes move to little Falcon who is bouncing on his toes, one hand clasped in Tobias’ hand, the other in Bullet’s.

The judge comes to the end of the page he’s been reading from for what seems like the past two hours and lifts his head. The sound of shuffling paper is all that can be heard in the otherwise silent, cavernous room. The judge folds his aged hands in front of him as his assessing gaze moves to the rest of our family.

He takes his time eying each of us, and for a brief second fear slices through me. Fuck. What if wearing our cuts wasn’t the right move to make? Can he tell them they aren’t fit?

Beside me, Demon stiffens, his thoughts no doubt mirroring my own. But before either of us can worry further, the old man surprises us when his eyes warm.

“I’m going to tell you something that very few people know about me,” he addresses Holly and Bullet. “Despite my current stature, it may surprise you to learn that I was raised in a world similar to the one in which you will raise these boys. I will admit, it can have its shortcomings. But where they may fall, others are made up for in leaps and bounds. The show of solidarity that your men… your family, has displayed today gives my old heart peace in signing these papers.” He smiles.

“Mr. and Mrs. Bently, I’m sure you are aware of the responsibility that is about to be laid upon your shoulders. I can see that it is one you are both eager to carry—but wanted or not, a responsibility of this magnitude is not to be taken lightly. In times of hardship or misfortune, lean heavily on those who will gladly help you carry the load.”

A burst of pride surges through my chest at the judge’s words. There’s no doubt in my mind that Holly and Bullet have this one hundred percent under control, but the conviction behind the old man’s words still ring true. If there ever is a time that they need us, they never have to doubt that we will be there.

Bullet looks over his shoulder at us, and I swear I can almost see tears swimming in his eyes. “Yes, Your Honor.”

He eyes the boys. “And now that I’ve given your parents their talkin’ to, it’s your turn.” No one misses the way Holly and Bullet’s breaths catch at being called parents for the first time.

“As you continue to grow on this path that may not be the one you started on, but is ultimately the one that God always had waiting for you, you will undoubtedly face times of uncertainty and confusion. Don’t hold these