Cover & Teaser: Nolan: Return to Signal Bend

We were going to do this tomorrow, but tomorrow has filled up with family stuff, so…

Nolan cover

There’s the cover. The relevant dates for the release of Nolan’s book:

Preorder: Should be available by 18 May 2016. This title will be widely available, on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo. And paperback.

Release date: Saturday 4 June 2016

 

Here’s the description:

Nolan Mariano is a man shaped by loss. All his life, people he’s loved deeply have left him in one way or another. In Signal Bend, Missouri, as a son and then a member of the Night Horde MC, he’s found a home and a family. His mother and his younger brother are protected and loved, too.

But Nolan can’t trust it. The past haunts him; injustices left unanswered loom over his present and threaten his future. One injustice in particular.

Iris Ryan is a Night Horde daughter who knows loss of her own. Taken away from her home as a child after unspeakable horror tore her family apart, she returns to Signal Bend, and her father, when she’s grown because she’s never felt at home anywhere else. As Iris settles into a new life of her choosing in the home she’s regained, she and Nolan connect.

As his love for Iris deepens, Nolan can’t ignore the way that loss has warped him. The past is a shadow over him, and he can no longer live under its weight.

He needs vengeance. At any cost.

 

And finally, here’s a teaser–Chapter One of Nolan: Return to Signal Bend

CHAPTER ONE

The cold was bitter, but the sky was clear, and Nolan rode into the night.

He liked riding in the cold, liked the feel of the wind so sharp it might almost cut his face. It braced him, made him feel like he was vying against the elements and holding his own.

It wasn’t winter yet, officially, but the cold had come in fast and hard. There had been little snow or ice, however, so he’d kept riding, even as his Night Horde brothers, especially the older among them, garaged their Harleys and started driving trucks everywhere.

Nolan rode up Highway 68, over the hills and around the bends, alone on the road, no company but the stars. Often in the night he just rode, with no destination in mind, no purpose but to get right with his head for a while. But on this night, he knew where he was going.

When he arrived where he’d been headed, he pulled off onto a narrow gravel lane mounded in dead leaves and rode slowly under a canopy of the skeletal trees from which they’d fallen. At the end of the lane, he parked and walked into the dark. The light of the star-filled sky was enough to guide him; he knew the way by heart.

He walked to the top of a hill and sat down on the frozen ground. From this vantage, he could see most of Signal Bend spread out below, beyond the rolling expanse of acres of sleeping farmland. Over his head was that infinite dome of starry sky. He lay back and crossed his arms under his head.

“Hey, Ani,” he whispered.

He hated this night. Four years ago on this night, he’d lost the first woman he’d loved. Maybe the only one he ever would.

The date on her headstone in California was two days later, but that didn’t matter. It was on this night four years ago that he’d woken to find her dying at his side. It was on this night that he’d held her as the light faded from her eyes. It didn’t matter that machines had kept her body going longer. Analisa had left him while he’d held her.

While they were together, she’d gotten a tattoo on her back, an inscription: We are star stuff which has taken its destiny into its own hands. Those words had been important to her, especially as she’d known her death was closing in. Since she’d gone, and he’d come home, Nolan rode out here on clear nights, where the stars filled the sky and seemed to nearly touch the ground, when he needed to be alone and remember.

On the anniversary of the day they’d met. And on this day. And sometimes just because.

He hadn’t had her love very long. Just a few months. And now, four years later, it seemed like he would never want anyone else’s.

Lying on the dead grass, the cold leaching up from the earth and into his bones, Nolan stared up at the stars. He didn’t talk; he wasn’t up here to have a conversation, and he didn’t really believe she could hear him, anyway. He just felt close here, and it was enough.

Well, not enough. Not at all. But all he had.

When the cold finally got to be too much, and he could feel his body going stiff, Nolan sat up. Pulling off a glove, he opened his coat and dug under the neckline of his thermal, catching a leather cord between his fingers and pulling it into the open. A little silver star, studded with diamonds. Analisa’s father had given it to him at the cemetery. It had been her mother’s, and then hers. Now it was his.

He kissed it, whispering, “Love you, babe.” Then he put it away, zipped up his coat, pulled on his glove, and stood. After one more look up at the stars, Nolan turned and went back to his bike.

He hated this night. There was only one day of the year he hated more.

~oOo~

“Morning, Mom.”

Nolan leaned in and kissed his mother’s cheek as she stood at the range, frying sausage patties in a cast-iron skillet. She was burning them, as usual. The smell of burnt meat wrestled with the strong aroma of cinnamon. He figured there were Pillsbury cinnamon rolls in the oven, too.

“Hey, kiddo. Not in the mood for the Friday night scene at the clubhouse last night, I guess. You doing okay this morning?”

His mom knew what last night was, and what he’d needed to do. Normally, he lived at the Horde clubhouse, but he kept his room here, too, and sometimes he just needed to be home, to wake up to his mom and his little brother and a marginally decent breakfast.

Friday nights were party nights at the clubhouse, and the day after Thanksgiving was a big blowout party. The last place on earth Nolan could have dealt with last night.

“Yeah, I’m good.” He picked up a patty from the stack of paper towels on the counter beside the range and popped it into his mouth. He liked burnt sausage; he’d been surprised when he’d found out they came any other way.

As he poured himself a cup of coffee, a din arose from the other room. His little brother, Loki, was at his drum set.

“LOKE! NO!” their mom yelled. “Not before breakfast!” The din stopped, and she turned a long-suffering grimace on Nolan. “I still can’t believe you did that.”

He’d gotten his brother the kit for his tenth birthday that summer. Nolan grinned innocently back at his mom. “What? He loves ‘em. And he’s getting okay at it. He’d be better if you’d let me get him real lessons. Couple years, who knows? You two could start a band.”

Their mom played guitar and sang. She’d once done it more or less professionally, doing little gigs around the region, but now she managed a bar, so she didn’t play much. She’d get on stage at work every now and then, and she’d played some club events, but not much more than that. Nolan missed the days when her guitar was out all the time.

The timer went off, and she pulled a tray of rolls from the oven. “Lessons when his grades get better. Besides, he’s ten. I think it’ll be more than a couple of years before he’s ready to be in a band. Loke! Wash your hands!”

Nolan helped his mom set out breakfast. When his little brother came in, hands still dripping, he came straight for Nolan and gave him a hug. “Mom said you might be grumpy today. Are you grumpy?”

“Nope. I’m good. Heard you banging around in there. How’s your grade in reading?”

Loki sighed dramatically and slid his hand through his curly, dark hair. “The books are so boring. I like comic books. I found a box of ones you made, but Mom said I have to ask you before I read them. Can I read them?”

As a kid, Nolan had drawn all the time. He’d had some stupid dreams of designing a video game, or being the next Alan Moore or something. He’d been a pretty lame kid, really. All dreams and no life. “What are you reading for school?”

Another big sigh. “Where the Red Fern Grows. It’s so old and boring, and it’s all about this stupid boy who saves up for puppies and how long it takes him to save up and how he has to walk to get the dogs. I like dogs”—with his sock-clad foot, he nudged Thor, their old monster of a mutt, who was lying under the table waiting for nibbles to come his way—“but this Billy is dumb and boring. And there’s not even a red fern in the story. The title is stupid, too. I want to read X-Men instead.”

“You have a project due on that book on Wednesday, Loke. You need to get it read,” their mom said.

“A diorama. It’s so stupid.”

Nolan remembered that book. It had made him cry. In class. In fifth grade. Not a highlight in his memory reel.

Of course, his memory reel was mostly lowlights.

He reached over and set his hand on his little brother’s head. He was sixteen years older, and their dad had been killed when Loki was only two months old, so Nolan was kind of the closest thing Loke had to a father. He always tried to keep that in mind. “I get it, big guy. I really do. School can be a drag. But if you want drum lessons, you need to pull your grades up, right?”

“Yeah,” Loki sighed.

“Tell you what. I have work this morning, but I’ll come back after, and you can read to me about Billy and the puppies. We’ll talk about it, and I’ll help you plan out your diorama. When you get that project done, you can read my old comics.”

“I don’t think we can finish it tonight. It’s pretty long.”

Nolan grinned. “I’ll stay tonight, and we can read it tomorrow, too, then. I’m free and clear tomorrow. We’ll get it done.”

“Yeah? Cool! Thanks, bro!” Calling Nolan ‘bro’ was a new thing Loki had picked up recently, probably trying to mimic his uncles. The Horde all called each other ‘brother’ or ‘bro.’ That was what the club was, more than anything else: a brotherhood. Family. The best one Nolan—or his mom, for that matter—had ever had.

With a laugh, Nolan ruffled his little brother’s hair and went back to his burnt sausage and canned cinnamon roll.

His mom gave him a thoughtful look and then reached across and set her hand flat on the table, near his plate. She still wore her wedding and engagement rings, ten years after Havoc’s death, even though they hadn’t even been married a year when he’d died. The man had left a deep impression in their world. One so deep he’d erased Nolan’s deadbeat biological father from meaning and had become the only father he’d ever wanted—or needed.

And then he’d gone and died.

Nolan met his mother’s eyes and gave her the smile she needed to see. The one that said he was okay. He’d perfected that smile.

And he really was okay. Just as he’d found a way to be okay after his father’s death; he’d found a way to be okay after Ani’s. Time made scars and life went on. It had been ten years since Havoc, four since Ani. He was okay. Having his life. Just having a hard day in it every now and then.

Just like his mom.

Since this past summer, though, not long after Loki’s birthday, when the SoCal charter of the Night Horde MC had almost been destroyed in a hellfire of blood and death, he’d felt less okay.

Someone he’d thought long gone, probably dead and definitely no longer a danger, had risen up in the middle of the chaos in SoCal. Someone Nolan hated with a sick, simmering fury. David Vega.

Since then, Nolan had felt his old, restless anger pacing again at the bottom of his gut.

“Nolan?”

He looked up to see his mom’s head tilted and her brow furrowed, and he realized that he was dragging his fork across his plate, tines down, making a low screeching noise. He stopped. “Sorry.”

“You sure you’re okay?”

He finished his coffee and pushed back from the table. “I’m always okay. You worry too much. I gotta go, but I’ll be back.” He looked at Loki. “You be ready to read, guy. We’ll get that book done.”

“Okay!” Loki said and handed Thor a sausage patty while their mom’s attention was on Nolan.

“You’re working this morning? Saturday? Club stuff?”

“Yeah. Just a little protection run to Eureka. Squeaky clean.”

Though they ran little jobs here or there that might not have been completely legit, the Missouri Horde hadn’t been truly outlaw in a long time. These days, besides still being the de facto law in town, they worked construction and mechanical repair, they owned a few Signal Bend businesses, and they did some guarding and protection work—like the job he had this morning, riding with Tommy, escorting a shipment of completely legal inventory to its warehouse destination. The dirtiest thing about the job was the forged concealed-carry permit for the piece in his holster.

Most days, Nolan worked with one of the Horde’s companies, Signal Bend Construction. On those jobs, he was just a grunt, swinging a hammer. He liked club work better, even if it was just being visible around town, keeping their kind of order. In the club, he was the Sergeant at Arms. Not a role with the kind of punch it had had when Len had worn that flash, back in the days when the Horde had gone everywhere armed, but one that still carried some weight.

The last time there had been real danger around the Night Horde Missouri or Signal Bend had been the first time David Vega’s name had come up. Vega had been instrumental in the trouble then, when the mother charter had almost been destroyed. Vega himself had killed Nolan and Loki’s father. Brutally. And Vega had risen from the supposed dead and been involved this summer, when SoCal had almost gone down. When Bart’s wife, Riley, and the SoCal president, Hoosier, had been killed. More people Nolan cared about.

Vega had disappeared again. Nolan felt like that asshole was just lurking in the background somewhere, waiting for another opportunity to fuck things up for the Horde.

With a blink, he pushed that restless feeling off to the side. He gave his mom his reassuring smile. “It’s all good, Mom.”

His mom frowned but didn’t say more. He bent down and kissed her cheek. “I’ll be back by one or so. You going to Valhalla this afternoon?”

“Yeah. Jackie’s closing, but I need to be there through the after-dinner rush. I’ll pick up a couple of pizzas at Tuck’s on my way home.”

“Sounds good. Love you.”

“Love you, Nolan. Be careful.”

“I always am. And you always worry too much.”

~oOo~

On Sunday afternoon, Loki swiped angrily at his face and threw the book. “That’s stupid! That’s so stupid! Billy is stupid!” His voice broke, and he sobbed for a second, then punched his leg and got some control. “What a stupid book,” he said through his tears and stopped-up nose. “I hate that book. I hate Billy, and I hate those stupid dogs for going after a mountain lion. Why did the guy write a book about dogs dying? Why did I have to read it? It’s so stupid!”

“I felt the same way, guy. But Billy loved his pups, and they loved him.”

Feeling emotional himself, Nolan hooked his arm around his brother’s shoulders, but Loki shook him off. “It’s stupid,” he muttered again.

“You want to take some time before we talk about what it’s about and figure out your project?”

“It’s about a stupid boy who let his stupid dog get eaten by a stupid lion,” Loki grumbled, picking at a hole in his sock.

For Nolan, the worst part this time was Little Ann, the other pup, lying on her brother’s grave and dying of starvation—or, really, of a broken heart. “Yeah, let’s take some time. You want to play Mario for a while?”

“No.” Loki lay down on his bed and put his back to Nolan.

“Okay, guy. I’ll be around. Let me know when you’re ready.”

“I hate school,” Loki snarled as Nolan left his room.

Nolan closed the door and went to the kitchen for a beer. He took it to the living room and plopped down on the sofa, not bothering to turn on the television. Their mom had gone off to run errands and wasn’t back yet. Thor shuffled in and collapsed on the floor at Nolan’s feet.

The house felt thick with quiet. Nolan took a long pull on his beer, then leaned his head back and closed his eyes.

Fifth grade was about the same time that school had started getting unmanageable for Nolan, too. He was smart, and Loki was as well. Too smart for school. None of the actual subjects had been hard for Nolan, and Loki had been doing well until this year. It was being required to do stupid shit for no discernible reason that had gotten Nolan hung up, and being ignored when he’d had legitimate questions and disciplined when he wanted to think about things in different ways. From that point on, school had been, at best, a waste of time, and at worst, traumatic.

Reading a book like Where the Red Fern Grows and doing nothing with it but assigning some stupid shoebox diorama for a project? How fucked up was that? Why not talk about how the prize money from the hunting competition made everything worth it to everybody but Billy and what that meant about how fucked up their lives were? Better yet, why not talk about how a book could break your heart, how some made-up story could remind you of things about your own life and make you think about those things differently? Why not just talk about why it was so fucking sad? Why assign a book that made you feel so much and not give kids a way to understand all those feelings? It was so fucked up.

But no. Glue some construction paper into a shoebox and move on to the next thing.

Loki was right: school was fucking stupid.

But why should it be different from anything else? Nothing about anything made any kind of sense.

Life was fucking stupid.

© 2016 Susan Fanetti