Tear Me Away (Desert Wraiths MC Romance)By: Amy Kiss
I had my own bunkhouse, out back. It had been an outhouse once, but it had been modded since. Now even my augmented sense of smell picked up only smoke and pine. I stripped down on the way to the bathroom. I left the lights off, but my eyes still glowed in the mirror. The spike had already faded, but not enough for my face to look fearsome to me. I could see the bleary red around my eyes. The dark bags in the skin beneath them. The little creases on my skin that even the army's best surgeons couldn't fix. I looked like a cracked vase glued together.
All in all, much better than when I'd joined half a year ago.
I hopped in the shower, enjoying the warm and slightly salty water. I gargled it and spit it out. I lathered my hands with it, cleaning out any caked blood in the nails. Killing was one thing, but I never felt truly clean after a spike. The shower had a window and I stood for a long time, watching the moon creep.
We had a fence out back. I'd never really noticed before, but now my brain used it as pretext to think about her face again. That gentle round of pale skin past those iron bars. Shining like another moon. That little glance holding my thoughts, my mind.
I'd learned not to question the things I did. That was the first lesson in Basic. You get an order, you follow that order. Unless you shouldn't, but that wasn't for you to decide. Letting her go was an order I’d given to myself, though. I hadn’t even asked how much she'd seen or what. Her phone hadn't been recording. That was something. But her memory still had value.
I may have been drifting since I got back, but that hadn’t kept me from riding any bar girl or junkie who didn’t fight me off too much. And killing didn’t make me seek out sex like it did for other men. It did nothing. So what was it about the sight of this one girl that left me transfixed?
Her cowering behind that car? No, plenty of women had cowered at the sight of me outside of Kabul, hiding their kids where they could. Some, even for good reason. The special ops training had beaten the protection instinct out of me. The world was just split into acceptable targets, and no-kill ones. Nico had never spelled things out so clear, but a witness was something other than a civilian.
Her hazel eyes. The gentle swell of her forehead. That was all I had seen of her. Why were they enough to leave me spellbound?
I finished my dark shower, and studied my face again. My grip felt less firm on the counter, but my face also had dissolved, smoothed nearer to perfection as the chems faded. I looked as young and untarnished as my birth certificate claimed.
That was it.
Nothing. She had shown nothing. She had gazed at me while I was in full fury, and she had been not scared...but curious? And then, she hadn't stayed hidden, but continued to watch, safely through a lens.
She wanted answers. And now I wanted them too. What did she see when she saw me?
I lay on my bed, but sleep didn't come. My hands trembled across the sheets, like they had their own plans. I shouldn't have spiked again tonight. That had been idiotic.
A roar of laughter went off in the bar, flared me with irritation. They wanted war, but they wanted pleasure too. You couldn't have both. They wanted discipline and they wanted to remove the only enemies they had left. Couldn't have those two either.
I tried to think of the girl, her big white amber eyes, lit in my vision not like a deer, not like prey. But in wonder.
Another roaring laugh set off. No sleep until that ended. I chucked on my jeans and stormed out across the desert.
I slammed open the club door and a dozen faces looked my way, half between a laugh.
"The fuck's so funny?" I asked.
"Just celebrating, man," Canyon said. "You should too. Twist and Stick are back."
"They're done cleaning?"
"Stick's heading back out to get the car. But Twist is uh...gonna deal with the trash."
They would have dumped trash. I narrowed my eyes at him. "Start making sense."
"There was a girl, watching. Can't leave witnesses right? So he brought her back to teach her some, uh, etiquette. Took her out back."
My hands went still. "Where?"
The room loomed around me stark and wooden like a coffin. If only I was alone in it.
The man called Twist was emptying his pockets out on a chair. This was preparation for my education. The other gnarly biker had grinned and promised I was going to get some before rumbling back toward town. Twist had dragged me past an even shadier bar than the Roaring Pint and dumped me in here.
A powder hung in the air, and I couldn't help myself. I sneezed.
"Ok," I said. "Can you take me back? I get it. You guys are tough. I won't say anything to anyone."
"We ain't that tough, sweetie," Twist said. "You might think we're hard after what you seen tonight, but we're all fluff and marshmallow deep inside. Well, most of us."
I felt an oncoming panic, but fought it back. If I stayed busy there wouldn't be room for fear. I searched furiously for some connection. Empathy was the key to getting people to listen. I knew that from work. I needed a lot of it to convince people their little buddy was better off resting for good.
I had to find what mattered here.
"That guy," I said. "He was in your gang."