Susan and I hope you’re enjoying Knife & Flesh. Trick turned out to be Susan’s favorite of the Night Horde SoCal brothers.
When you finish with Trick & Juliana, here’s a peek at what’s up next.
Rest & Trust is Sherlock’s story. It takes a few chapters for him to meet Sadie, his love, so we’re breaking with Susan’s normal pattern of sharing the beginning of a book as a teaser and instead sharing Chapter 4, wherein they meet and you also get a little sense of who they are. Chapter 4 is in Sadie’s POV. Because of that, this teaser has no spoilers for the series.
Rest & Trust is scheduled for release on Saturday, 12 September, with preorder up a couple of weeks before that.
In other news, Susan recently completed the first draft of the last volume of the SoCal series–Book Six–which will be out at the end of October. We’re almost at the end of the road.
Here’s a taste of Sherlock & Sadie. Enjoy.
Sadie didn’t know where the flashpoint was that made everything fall apart. She’d never been involved in a protest that had gone so wrong.
Blake had; he was older. He’d started protesting during the invasion of Iraq after 9-11, while he was in grad school, and he’d been sort of an expert protester since. He’d also been part of the Occupy protests, and the Ferguson and Baltimore protests, from about ten or fifteen years ago, so he’d seen peaceful assemblies turn violent, and he’d seen angry groups become deadly riots. His stalwart assertion was that police and Guardsmen invariably made the move that turned tension into blood.
But Sadie didn’t know what move had been made now. All she knew was that gunfire seemed to be coming from every direction at once, and fear and fury had turned the crowd into a mob.
They’d been standing on the courthouse steps. Blake had been using a bullhorn to keep a chant going, and Sadie and the other organizers had been handing out flyers and fielding questions—people looking for information about the status of the trial inside, or directions about where to go or what to do, or just where the port-a-potties were. Everything had been pretty normal. It was the first day of the trial, so energies were high, but so was hope.
And then there was an explosion—Sadie had never heard a gun fired in real life before, and it was so very much louder than anything she’d ever heard on television or in a movie. She’d first, irrationally, thought it had been something like a cannon. Then the crowd had erupted, moving first like a wave, from a point near the sidewalk, and then a surge, and then, when bullets seemed to fill the air like a leaden hailstorm, everything was chaos.
She’d been standing there, frozen, when Blake grabbed her arm and yanked her down into a crouch. Throwing his arm over her, he scrambled them through the crowd. She had no idea where he was leading her; she still hadn’t fully processed what the fuck was going on.
Finally finding a break in the chaos, he paused and looked back. She did, too, and her heart leapt up and filled her throat at what she saw: three police or National Guard or whatever in full riot gear, massive, terrifying guns drawn, coming straight for them, pushing people out of their way.
Coming for them specifically.
Blake turned to her and grabbed her shoulders. “Run. Run now.”
“Not without you!”
“Yes! I know what I’m doing. You don’t. Fucking RUN!” He turned her and gave her a shove so hard that she fell forward, landing on her hands.
She got up again as quickly as she could, before she got swallowed by the teeming, frantic crowd. Turning back to Blake, she saw one of the riot-gear guys slam the butt of his huge gun into her friend’s face. Blake went down in a gush of blood, and she took one step back toward him.
Then one of the cops took two steps toward her, and she turned and did what Blake had demanded. She ran.
Sadie was short, and with every step, she risked getting mowed down in the frenzy. She was punched ferociously in the arm, turning her bicep into instant fire, but she didn’t stop to see who’d done it. People were running and screaming, shouting and fighting. It wasn’t only the cops who had guns. She was caught in the middle of an honest-to-God shootout, and she wondered, as she ran, how many of the people dropping had been shot.
A teeny, tiny voice in the back of her head kept insisting that she was one of the organizers of this protest, and she should stand pat. But fear had her in its teeth now. Seeing Blake go down so hard, so viciously—he’d been armed only with a bullhorn and had been standing still!—had shaken her spirit. He wanted her to run. With that permission for cowardice, she ran.
Clearing the thickest part of the chaos about half a block away from the courthouse, Sadie took a beat to look over her shoulder—and saw that the cop was still coming for her. He was maybe fifty feet away. Before fear could paralyze her, she spun and turned on the afterburners. She’d started running in rehab, as a way to reclaim her body from the poison she’d filled it with for years. She was wearing Docs and had been training for a marathon, not a sprint, but she was small and light and not weighed down by fifty pounds of Kevlar and weaponry.
Traffic before her was a locked snarl, and she tried to visualize a way through the cars to the other side. Just as she neared the corner, a guy on a huge Harley jumped the curb between two parked cars, just up from the intersection, like he meant to ride on the sidewalk around the jam.
He had a passenger seat. Sadie didn’t think beyond that. She ran straight for him, dropped her hands onto the seat and leap-frogged on.
His head flew around to look over his shoulder. “What the fuck?”
“RIDE! FUCKING RIDE!” She grabbed his hips.
He wore dark Oakleys, so she couldn’t see his eyes, but he seemed to look past her. Then he turned and went full throttle, pulling forward so fast she almost flew off the back; only her hands clawing into his waist saved her.
As they pulled away, the cop fired twice; both she and the biker crouched low, and he took a sharp turn around the sidewalk, almost laying the bike down. Then he flung it the other direction, into an alley, and gunned the engine again.
She wrapped her arms around him and held on, closing her eyes and pressing herself as closely to his back as she could. Her head was so full of adrenaline and confusion that she didn’t have one single cogent though. She just held on.
He stayed on alleys and side streets, going full tilt, rocketing around cars and people, and didn’t stop or even slow down until they were clear of downtown entirely. Finally, he pulled into a nook in a residential alley and stopped. He cut the engine and kicked the stand down, then looked over his shoulder at her.
She nodded, but she couldn’t let go. Her left arm was absolutely frozen, and just at that very moment, she realized that she was in agony.
Something about how she had moved must have clued him in, because he looked down at her arm and muttered, “Fuck. Goddammit.”
Her brain moving as if through molasses, she finally thought to look herself. Her whole left arm was bright red with blood; it was flowing freely through three different wounds—a lateral gash just above her elbow, and two holes, one neat and tiny and the other larger and ragged, near her shoulder.
The biker put his gloved hands on hers where they were still clenched together at his belly. He forced them apart—being surprisingly gentle—and eased her off his bike. Now that hurt had made its way to her senses, she couldn’t hold back a cry as he moved her sore arm. Not sore. So much more than sore.
She expected him to use that opportunity to ride away and leave her wherever she was, but instead he dismounted.
Oh, he was tall. A weird thought to have at that time, but she had it anyway. She was five-three. He might have been a whole foot taller. She craned her neck to see his face—what she could see, under his helmet and behind his sunglasses.
“You got shot, sweetheart. Twice.” He nodded at her arm.
She looked dumbly down at it, now hanging useless from her shoulder.
He reached inside his kutte and pulled out a bandana. While she watched, passive and speechless, he tied it around the gash, which was bleeding most freely. It hurt, and she winced and pulled away from the pain, but he held on and tied it tight.
“I’m gonna drop you off at SB General. You need seen to.”
That got her words back in action. “No! No! Cops shot me—I can’t go to a hospital.” Holy shit! She’d been shot! She made her brain think. Shit, her arm really hurt now. Like her blood was made of hot sauce. “Um…can you—can you just take me home? I can take care of it. There’s not, like, a bullet in me, right?”
He smiled—a great smile, with straight, white teeth, surrounded by a thick auburn beard. A ring bisected his bottom lip, and he had a ring through his septum, too. “That’s a through-and-through, yeah, and that’s a graze. But it’s gonna take more than a Band-Aid to fix these, sweetheart.” He seemed to hear something and looked sharply up and around. When he was again satisfied that they were safe, he turned back to her. “Where do you live?”
His hands on his hips, he sighed and looked down, like he was studying the broken asphalt between his boots. Then he shrugged off his kutte and laid it across the seat of his bike. That bike was a monster—gleaming black and chrome, with a rear tire that was at least a foot wide.
With his kutte off, he began unbuttoning his dark green shirt. That didn’t make any sense.
“What are you doing?”
“You can’t ride with that bloody arm out for everybody to see. The goal is to escape LEO, not invite them along for the ride, right?”
“Law Enforcement Officers.”
He pulled his shirt off; underneath, he wore a white beater. Oh. He had a lot of ink—covering both arms and across his chest. Colorful and various. The beater was snug and showed definition across—
Was she seriously standing here in this scary alley, bleeding from gunshot wounds and checking out the strange biker?
Yes, of course she was. This was exactly the kind of out-of-control mindfuck that made her horniest.
With a step toward her—shit, she only came up to his chest—he eased his shirt over her wounded arm.
It hurt, and she hissed. “Ow!”
“Sorry,” he muttered but didn’t stop working the shirt up over her shoulder. She helped with the right arm and let him button the shirt over her black, sleeveless top.
Then he unfastened his helmet and took it off. The auburn tone of his hair was a shade darker than his beard. He had kind of a punk cut, undercut all around, and about three inches long on the top. It flopped over his forehead as he leaned down, set the helmet on her head and tightened the strap under her chin.
His ears were pierced, too—one-inch gauges in his lobes and an industrial piercing in his left ear.
She wasn’t even fighting the urge to check him out. He was hot, and noticing his hotness distracted her from the shrieking pain in her arm.
“I’m Sherlock,” he said as his hands dropped from the strap.
Strange name, but she didn’t comment on it. It seemed rude to mock her rescuer. “Sadie.”
With a nod, he turned back to his bike. As he slipped his kutte back on—he had ink across the top of his back, too—he said, “I live closer, and I have a lot of first aid supplies.” On that note, he mounted his bike and kicked up the stand.
“Wait—what?” There was no way she was going to his house. That would be massive stranger-danger stupidity. “It’s okay. I can make it home on my own.”
He turned a look on her so icy she could feel it even through his dark glasses. “You’re telling me that after jumping uninvited on my bike, using me to run from the law, bleeding all over my kutte, and my shirt, you’re not gonna extend that little bit of trust?”
“That’s a lot of trust.”
“Sweetheart, if I was gonna hurt you, you’d be hurt already—and I’m not talking about your arm. If you want me to ride away, I will. No sweat for me.” He brushed his hands together to make the point. “I’ll just need my helmet back.” Now he held out his hand to make that point.
“Fuck.” She did not want to be left alone in this alley. She didn’t even know where they were. Feeling buffaloed, she took a step toward his bike. The smile he gave her as he fired the engine up didn’t make her feel any less resentful of his manipulation. But when he held out his arm, she grabbed it with her good hand and swung on behind him.
He took her good hand and pulled it around his waist. “Hold on tight. I’ll ride easy now.”
Sadie nodded and held on tight.
Fuck, she wanted to be high right now. Too much had gone haywire everywhere. And she really hurt. The pain made her feel disoriented. She was scared and sore, and a little sick.
So she held on tighter, laying her head against the patch on the biker’s broad back.
His house surprised her. It was a normal little house in a normal little neighborhood. Rosebushes and boxwoods alternated across the front. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected, but normal and middle-class hadn’t been it. He pulled up into the blacktop driveway and parked just in front of the detached garage.
He helped her off again and then headed toward the back door. She followed.
Inside was much more in line with what she’d expected. The place—at least the kitchen they’d walked into—was a pit. Dirty dishes filled the sink and were stacked on the counter at both sides. At least a dozen empty bottles of whiskey and tequila and a few full ones—and countless empties of two different brands of beer—were strewn across the tile countertops, interspersed with pizza boxes and takeout cartons. With all that food and booze residue, the air quality was maybe one step above toxic.
There was danger for her in this house, especially in her current frazzled state. She was more ripe for a relapse right now than she’d been since she’d gone into rehab.
But she was also stuck, so she needed to stay strong. “Jeez,” she muttered. “Must’ve been one helluva party.”
He took off his sunglasses—his eyes were a bright, greenish blue, like teal, and intense as fuck, with lashes so dense and dark it almost looked like he wore eyeliner—and gave her an unreadable look. “Have a seat. Take my shirt off.” When he indicated a totally awesome, mid-century-era Formica table, white with a red boomerang pattern, and a set of red metallic vinyl chairs, she giggled.
He cocked his head.
“That table set is fucking awesome. You should treat it better.” The fantastic Formica was buried under a foot-high stack of pizza boxes and a seemingly random collection of electronic parts.
She managed to get out of his shirt without dying from the pain, then pulled one of the chairs out and sat down. As he opened the door to a stuffed-full pantry and pulled out what looked like a fishing tackle box, Sadie got worried about something new.
“You know, I kinda don’t want to end up with gangrene or anything. Is there a cleaner place to do this?”
He came over and set the tackle box down. Shrugging off his kutte, he said, “It’ll be fine. Everything’s sterile.”
“This room hasn’t been sterile in a very long time.”
Rather than respond to that comment, Sherlock hung his kutte over the back of a chair, pulled off his several big, silver rings, then went to the sink and washed his hands over the dirty dishes. Yeesh. From there, shaking his hands dry, he grabbed a half-full bottle of Jack Daniels and came over.
Sadie eyed that bottle warily. She’d never been a drunk, but recovering addicts didn’t really get to pick and choose which mind-altering substances they could and could not use. She wasn’t sure whether drinking would reset her clock—the phrase was clean and sober, like they were two different things, right?—but everybody had cautioned her to stay clear of it all.
He opened the box—wow, it really was full of just about everything. “I don’t think I can do anything about the through-and-through except clean it up, but that gash needs stitches. I’m not a doctor or even a medic, but I’ve sewn myself up a time or two. I can do a fair stitch. You game for that?”
She nodded. No, she was not game for that, but she didn’t have many choices. All of her friends were either not even in the state or…Blake. Oh, shit. She’d been so freaked she hadn’t thought about Blake since he’d made her run.
“Shit! I need to call…” She dug her phone out of her cutoffs, fighting to use her good arm crossways over her body. While Sherlock got his supplies set up, she dialed Blake—and got his voice mail. Of course. The cops would have his phone. Shit. Were they hurting him more? Had they given him first aid? Panic started to crowd in on her, and she took a deep breath and tried to be mindful.
This was a very shitty moment to be fully mindful in, however. This was the kind of moment to be stoned all to fuck in.
She took another deep breath. And then Sherlock held out two little pink pills on the palm of his hand. She could see the callused grooves in his skin.
“What are those?” She laughed as she asked; she knew exactly what those were.
“Oxy 20s. You want to swallow these down with the Jack before I get started.”
Now she laughed harder. Her fingers throbbed with the desire to grab those little pink beauties. “Yeah, no. I’ll be okay.”
“No, you won’t. You do not want to get stitched up without painkillers.” He pushed his hand closer to her face, and she closed her eyes. “Trust me. I know.”
“No.” She kept her eyes closed and took another deep breath, counting steadily to herself as she released it.
He was quiet for an awkwardly long time. When she opened her eyes, curious, she found him staring at her. His eyes were so…fierce that she flinched.
“How long have you been clean?”
He didn’t repeat himself. They both knew he didn’t need to.
No point in prevaricating; maybe if he knew, he’d stop waving temptation in front of her. “Three hundred and ninety-three days.”
He turned and dumped the Oxy back into its bottle. “That’s good. Is it Oxy?”
“Opiates in general. Started with E, actually, but Oxy and H are my personal monkeys.”
Nodding, he opened a sterile package and pulled on a pair of latex gloves. “Meth rides my brother. He hasn’t managed a week clean in probably ten years.”
“Shit. That’s tough. Meth is a bastard.”
“Smack’s no picnic, either.” He undid the bandana from her arm and started cleaning her wounds.
“Ah, fuck,” she muttered at the sting of the antiseptic.
He stopped and met her eyes. “This is going to suck like nobody’s business, doing this straight. You know that, right?”
She managed a smile. “You told me you wouldn’t hurt me, though. Remember?”
He smiled back, and she was distracted from the pain and fear by the potent urge to lean in and suck on that ring through his lip.
“I’ll go as easy as I can.”
“Okay, then. Try not to make it too ugly.”
“No guarantees. But scars are hot.” His smile became a grin, and she returned it. This guy. Damn.
First he dabbed ointment in the through-and-through wounds and taped pads of gauze over them. Then he threaded a curved needle with dark thread, and swabbed the gash again with antiseptic.
He pushed the needle into her skin, and she yelled, “Holy FUCK!” That was a very not-cool level of pain. Her eyes sought the bottle of whiskey. Maybe just…
His head turned and tracked her view. “You want to take a hit off that bottle? Would that screw up your time clean?”
“Maybe. Either way, it’s a long, twisty road to hell. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop at whiskey, once I start feeling good.”
“Okay. If you yell and jump every time the needle goes in, though, this is gonna look like Leatherface did your first aid. And I’m gonna need to start drinking.”
“You do that a lot?”
The needle came through the other side, and this time she only grunted. But fuck a duck, it hurt.
He tied off the first stitch. “Do what?”
“Drink. This mess isn’t the aftermath of a party. This is normal state. You drank all this, didn’t you? Alone?” He poked the needle in with a bit more force the next time, and she jumped and yelled, “Ow!”
He ignored her and brought the needle through again. “Don’t get twelve-step preachy with me. I know the drill. Been through it a bunch of times with Thomas.”
“Thomas is your brother?”
“He is. He’s the one with the problem. I’m a slob, not a drunk.”
“Unless this mess is a year’s worth of booze, I think you might be both—OW! You said you’d go easy!” If someone offered to cut her arm off right now, she’d probably accept rather than deal with more stitches. At least that would be one quick pain.
“You want to watch you don’t piss off the guy with the needle, sweetheart.”
“Sorry,” Sadie replied, well and truly cowed.
They sat quietly for the next couple of stitches. Sadie kept her face screwed up, trying to be still. This shit hurt more than anything she’d ever felt before. But at least he was being gentle again.
“This isn’t me with a drinking problem,” Sherlock muttered as he tied off a stitch—oh please let it be the last one. “This is me just going through some shit.”
He pushed the needle into her arm again. Fuck! Sadie looked and saw that this one would certainly be the last; he was at the end of the wound. “That’s how roads like mine start, though. Your brother’s, too—AH!”—she breathed deep and held still as he tied off the last stitch. “We all started because we were looking for something to help us deal with some shit.”
“Nobody preachier than a recovering fucking addict,” he muttered as he taped gauze over the line of stitches—Sadie noticed that they were fairly straight and even—and pushed away. “You don’t know me, or my brother, so keep your opinions to yourself.”
“Yeah.” He pulled off the gloves and started cleaning up the mess from his medical attentions. At least he was cleaning that up.
While she watched him, everything that had happened over the past hour or so finally converged into one clear thought. “Holy shit. I got shot. By a cop.”
At that, Sherlock gave her a wry smile, lifting one side of his mouth. “You did. Welcome to the club, little outlaw.”
Sadie was overcome with urges. Her arm hurt like a fucker, but the endorphins had finally fired up, and she was vibrating with need. She needed to scrub his house down. She needed to drink that whiskey, and God! she needed those Oxys that were just right there.
And she needed to get off. She needed her hot new biker friend to put his hands on her—and not when he was holding a needle.
That last option seemed the safest, so before he could stand up, when he would be too tall for her to reach, she stood, leaned down, and brought her good arm up. She grabbed hold of his beater and kissed him on the mouth.
©2015 Susan Fanetti