Gunner (Ride Second Generation #4) - Megan O'Brien
The sun was just dipping beneath the horizon as I walked to my truck after an exhausting shift at the hospital. I loved being a nurse, but the chaos of the hospital wasn’t for me long-term. I’d put in an application with a family practice in town and had my fingers crossed as I waited to hear back.
I groaned at the text from Grace, my best friend and roommate. With every exclamation mark she used, the probability of me talking her out of something decreased significantly. Her using three pretty much spelled my doom.
It wasn’t that I wanted to avoid the Knights’ clubhouse. With my brother Cole the prez and my father, Cal Jackson, the former prez, I’d all but grown up there. Its members were both literally and figuratively my family.
It wasn’t the club at all that had me wishing I could retreat, but one of its members. A man who’d been part of my life for as long as I could remember. My brother Max’s best friend.
He constantly teased me about what I wore and criticized just about anything I did, but God forbid someone look at me wrong—he lost his shit even faster than my brothers did. To say our relationship was complicated was putting it mildly.
But never more so than now, at least for me. When he’d been shot recently while protecting Francesca, Maddox’s wife, it was as though every feeling I’d denied having for him for so long swept me off my feet in a tidal wave I was still struggling not to drown in.
Now, with him thankfully recovered, his standard barbs and indifference struck deep rather than the surface bruising I was so accustomed to.
When I pulled up to the bungalow-style home I’d shared with Grace for the last few years, the door was opening before I’d even left my truck.
“You’re not getting out of this,” she warned, her gorgeous red mane down in soft waves around her shoulders, her green eyes full of familiar determination. “Layla’s coming,” she added with a raised brow.
I sighed in defeat. Layla was new to Hawthorne and to the Knights’ way of life. Plus, she’d found some trouble in her short time in town. She’d become a good friend, and Grace knew I wouldn’t deny a chance to make sure she felt comfortable at the club.
“Fine,” I grumbled. “I have no idea what I’ll wear though.”
She rolled her eyes. “Em, how long have we known each other?” she demanded in exasperation. “I already picked you out three options. They’re lying on your bed.”
“Only three?” I quipped with a grin.
“Go get dressed,” she ordered.
An hour later, I sat on the familiar club couches surrounded by my girls, dressed in the black jeans, boots, and tank top Grace had picked out. It had been the most modest option of the three.
The club was packed, music blaring as a low tension drifted through the air that only those paying attention would notice. The Black Riders, a former adversary club with whom we’d developed a fragile truce, had joined tonight’s party, and the air was permeated with barely restrained violence.
When Gunner stalked over and picked up a pool cue to begin a game nearby, I tried desperately to ignore how handsome he looked. With his shaved head magnifying his expressive dark eyes, full lips, and muscular body decorated with black and gray tattoos, I couldn’t believe I’d denied my feelings for so long. The man made my palms sweat and heart pound.
Not that I’d ever let anyone know.
My solution for surviving an evening with Gunner so close was to keep the alcohol flowing.
When our couch was bumped by an unfamiliar biker, nearly sloshing my beer and Layla’s, she gave me a nervous smile. “Crowded tonight.”
Ginnie watched the man who’d jostled us with narrowed eyes. “Yeah, and with a lot of Riders.”
“You think there’s gonna be trouble,” Grace surmised.
“A bunch of drunk men from formerly rival clubs? What could go wrong,” Ginnie replied dryly. Always one to speak her mind, she was also usually right.
Gunner’s eyes drifted toward us, locking with mine, narrowing on the beer in my hand before refocusing on the pool table.
When the same man knocked into Wren, Max—my brother and her husband—appeared as though out of thin air. Before I could take another breath, the two were throwing punches.
All hell broke loose as another Rider joined in, ganging up on Max. My brother could handle himself, but it still made my blood boil to see him attacked.