Today I’m revealing the cover and description of the eighth and final book in the Brazen Bulls MC series, and, as usual, a preview at the end of this post. Lead is Becker’s story, as he takes the president’s seat and begins his long tenure there.
Sidebar: It’s pronounced LEED, as in “to lead,” and “take the lead,” not LED, as in the thing bullets are made of (though that kinda works, too, lol). All the titles in the series are words that are both nouns and verbs and relate, in both forms, to their stories. (Okay, yeah, it’s maybe not the world’s greatest idea to give a book a title that’s a single word with more than one pronunciation, but that’s the title the story wanted. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
Anyway, back to the point: Lead is Becker’s story. He’s having some trouble adjusting to his new role as president, and the club is going through some big trouble nobody could have expected, so he has to get his shit together pretty quick.
Sage, his One True, is a lot younger than Becker. Everybody’s legal (my characters always will be), but this is the biggest age gap I’ve ever written or probably ever will. I think probably the majority of my male leads are somewhere around 10-12 years older than their loves, that’s kind of my sweet spot, for reasons I haven’t really analyzed, but this gap doubles it. I know some readers aren’t into that, so I thought I’d say so up front here. But I think it really works.
I usually hesitate to brag too much on my own work (I mean, I think everything I publish is good, or I wouldn’t publish it, obviously), but I’ll just say that I especially love these two together, and Sage is one of my favorite leads. Becker is, too, actually, and I didn’t really expect that, I don’t think.
Sage needs some saving, but Becker does, too, and Sage understands that well before he does. They have a lot in common.
Once Lead is out in the world and the series is complete, I think I’m going to post a think piece about the series as a whole, about the entire Horde/Bulls world, and about this book in particular. I have some Big Thoughts I’ve been thinking, lol.
Lead goes live on Saturday, 2 March 2019. A preorder will be available a few weeks in advance.
Here’s the Goodreads page, if you’d like to add it to your TBR.
Okay, so here’s the description for Lead:
Tulsa, Oklahoma, 2002.
Gary Becker never wanted to lead. He hates to be the center of attention, and he doesn’t feel up to the job. But Delaney shocked the Bulls when he retired and set aside the gavel, and the Bulls shocked Becker when they unanimously voted to hand that gavel over to him.
Now he’s the president of the Brazen Bulls MC, and he’s trying to figure out how to deserve that new flash on his chest, and how to bring the club back from the edge it’s teetering on.
Sage Cleary is trying to figure out her own life and help her mother figure out hers. The latest in a lifelong line of her mom’s abusive boyfriends is one of the worst, and Sage is doing all she can to protect herself and her mom, too. But her mom doesn’t want to be rescued, and doesn’t see that Sage needs rescue, too.
When the mysterious, hot biker who lives behind their house jumps the fence one night and saves them, Sage goes to thank him properly. But he’s older, and thinks she’s too young for him.
Sage has never been one to let a little rejection get in her way, and once she gets to know Becker a little, she’s determined to show him how right they are together. He just needs to see that the truths between their lives are much closer than the years between their births.
And, finally, the preview: (Becker and Sage meet right at the beginning, so here’s the second half of Chapter One):
Back in Tulsa, Becker stopped by the service station and clubhouse and checked in on both; then, not in the mood for company, he rode home.
A couple years ago, when the money was coming in crazy fast, he’d finally bought himself a place. He was single and had little in his life besides the club, so he didn’t do anything fancy. Just found a little fixer in a modest neighborhood, surrounded by neighbors he understood, paid cash, and settled in. After so many years of renting, it was nice to be the master of his own home, plain though it was.
The thing that had really sold him on this place was the garage—a simple, two-car detached build, but it had an unfinished room built out on the back, planned as a sunroom, with a big, wide patio around it. It had taken only three weekends to convert that baby into his dream workshop. He’d blown out half the back garage wall and installed a roll-up door so he could get his bikes into the shop through it. Or he could ride them straight in on the patio.
There was nothing he loved better than coming home while it was still light out, pulling a beer out of the little fridge he had back here, and working on a bike while the sun set. On this evening, warm with fresh April spring, he had the Cardinals game on the radio, and all the sliding doors open, and he was up to his elbows in the engine of a 1950 Indian Chief. A couple of neighbors were cutting their lawns, and the scent of freshly mown grass wafted on a tepid breeze. Kids were playing, dogs barking. The sounds of a good spring evening. Soon, crickets would begin to chirp.
It reminded him of when he was a little kid, helping his dad work on an engine, listening to the stories he had to tell. They’d been out in the country, and the sounds were a bit different, but it was still spring and calm and peace.
The Chief had been Ox Sanchez’s; Becker had bought it when Ox retired from the club and moved to Mexico to live out his last days before cancer killed him. That retirement had been the catalyst for Becker’s rise in the club; he’d been tapped for Ox’s VP seat. The next retirement had put him in the president’s place. All within less than eighteen months.
Becker had let the Chief sit for about a year, unable to think about working on it, making it his, while Ox lived. But the big man had died in January, and this spring, around the same time that the club had voted him president, Becker had finally begun the work to bring this wrecked classic back to its true glory.
He was finding that working on this bike—this bike specifically—gave him particular calm when his doubts and anxieties about the club and himself got too big. As he worked, he reminisced about Ox, and the way the club had been, and he didn’t think so much about where it was.
After a couple of hours lost in the work, the light changed sharply. It was twilight, and the sensors had kicked on his yard lights. He flipped on the shop lights and used the break in his focus to take a break himself and get a fresh beer.
As he swallowed it down, the gentle sounds of evening falling into night exploded with shouts.
“YOU FUCKING BITCH! YOU LAZY WHORE! YOU DO WHAT I FUCKING TELL YOU!”
Under all that, the frantic screams of a woman.
Becker’s first reaction was a disgusted sigh. For the most part, his neighbors, working-class folks like himself, were good people who kept their places up and didn’t get in other people’s business. But his neighbor behind him, sharing a back fence, was another story. There was always some drama with those two. Shouting, slamming, crashing around. They’d moved in around Christmas, and already he’d been over there six separate times, making sure the woman didn’t need help. She always did, but it was always her who told him to get his nose out of their fucking business.
But he kept sticking his nose in; he couldn’t deal with a woman getting hurt. Even one who didn’t know enough to be grateful for the rescue.
There was a girl, too, a teenager, but from what Becker noticed, she stayed out of the fray, and they seemed to keep her clear as well. He’d only seen her driving by in her beater Dodge, never at the house when all this shit was going on.
Girding himself to yet again have his rescuing rejected on the tip of a middle finger, Becker finished his beer and stepped onto his patio and into his yard.
And then a gun went off—twice—and the woman’s shrieks became superhuman. Then they choked off oddly.
Becker spun back and grabbed his Sig out of the holster lying on a worktable and checked the mag as he ran, hunched, to the back of his yard. A four-foot pine fence separated their properties, and he kept himself low enough to use it as a shield and a blind. He lifted up and made a quick scan of the scene, then ducked low again to process it. The guy was back there, holding the woman on the ground, under a rickety clothes-drying gizmo. He had the gun in her mouth, or just about, and she’d clearly been knocked around before the firearms portion of tonight’s program, but she was conscious, and Becker hadn’t seen any blood.
There was a rusty old shed in their yard. He could jump the fence, go around the shed, and get a bead on the guy. Disabling shot, not a kill. Becker did not need the kind of grief killing this guy would bring. Nor did the Bulls.
As he crabbed toward the side of the fence nearest the shed, he heard something else that made him close his eyes and sigh.
“GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM HER, DENNY, OR I WILL BLOW YOUR FUCKING HEAD OFF!”
The teenager was in this mix. This time, Punch and Judy hadn’t bothered to wait till she was clear.
“YOU THINK YOU CAN GET THAT SHOT OFF BEFORE I DO HER, GO AHEAD AND FUCKING TRY, YOU LITTLE CUNT!”
The woman on the ground screamed, the sound muffled by the gun. But Becker was sure what he’d heard was “NO!”
All that shouting was the stuff of two people bluffing, but it wouldn’t take much to shift a bluff into an act. Becker peered over the fence again, but he’d positioned himself to jump it and use the shed for cover, and now he’d blocked his view of the scene. He jumped the fence and hustled to the corner of the shed.
Now he could see again. Man and woman on the ground, same as before, but now the woman’s daughter, a skinny little thing covered in tats, stood a few steps off the back porch, aiming a shotgun at her mom and her mom’s real catch of a boyfriend. That gun was sawed-off. Shit, she could make a real fucking mess if she pulled the trigger.
There was no way, at that distance, she wouldn’t hit her mother, too, if she got off a shot with that thing. And the way she was shaking, who knew how wide the shot would fly.
Nobody knew Becker was there. But the risk was, if he shot, even if he shot into the ground for a distraction, he could startle the guy into firing, and that revolver was still in the woman’s mouth.
No, wait. The guy had his finger off the trigger. It lay along the guard. He was trained in guns, then, and even now wouldn’t touch the trigger until he was ready to shoot. Becker was right; he was angry and bluffing.
Asshole. All he wanted to do was terrorize this woman. Becker fired and took a piece of the bastard’s ass off.
The man flew back, screaming himself now, and the woman rolled to her hands and knees, crawling to the guy who’d just had a gun in her goddamn mouth, screaming “Denny! Denny! Baby!”
The girl with the fucking sawed-off Mossberg? She’d turned it on Becker. Well, wasn’t that a kick in his Good Samaritan.
He held his free hand up and turned his gun away from the scene, not about to let it go but wanting her to see he wasn’t a threat. “Easy, shortcake. It’s okay. Not gonna hurt you.”
She gave him a look like an old prospector in a movie Western, all squinty eyes and suspicion, and finally turned the gun up—she wasn’t ready to let it go, either.
Becker strode in, keeping his eyes on everyone, and got the revolver off the lawn. He emptied it, pocketed the bullets, and gave the gun to the girl. “You seem like the one to trust with this.”
“Thanks,” she said, lifting enormous brown eyes—this was what people meant by doe eyes, though these were surrounded by thick black makeup—up to him. “I mean, you know, thanks.”
“You son of a bitch!” the girl’s mother squawked behind him. “You shot him!”
Becker rolled his eyes and got a piece of a smile from the girl, then sighed and went to the woman and her beloved asshole, Denny. With his boot on Denny’s hip, he shoved the guy over, onto his belly—he liked the agonized moan he got for that—and took a look. A graze, as he’d intended, leaving a long gouge through jeans and flesh. It was bleeding like a mother, though.
This wasn’t a neighborhood the cops rushed to, but a total of three shots had gone off, so they might make their way around here eventually. Scanning the yards around them and seeing no one watching, he crouched beside the pair, who were having their own white-trash reenactment of the Pietà.
“You know who I am, right?” he asked the woman. When she nodded, getting a fresh hit of the fear he was hoping to see, he added, “Cops’ll probably be here soon. I was not here. You”—he shoved at the moaning asshole—“shot yourself on accident. Any other story gets me over here with much more firepower and a fuck ton more rage. Got it?”
Denny the Brave Beater of Weak Women nodded. “Got it,” he rasped.
Becker stood up and turned his condemnation on the woman. She was a battered mess, her face and neck flowering with fresh bruises, while old marks still tinted her skin yellow in places. “You oughta throw his weaselly ass out on the street, but I’m sure you’ll help him in and kiss his booboo for him. I know you don’t give a fuck how you get treated, but keep your shit away from your kid, lady.” He kicked the asshole in the sore ass cheek and grinned when he screamed.
When he looked over, the girl was grinning, too.
With a nod and a wink, Becker headed to the back of their yard and jumped the fence to his own.
Riled up after that adventure in unwanted chivalry, Becker went back to his workshop, re-holstered his Sig, turned the game up nice and loud, yanked off his t-shirt and wiped the sweat from his face and body. Tossing the shirt on top of his Sig, he got himself another beer and stood staring at the dismantled Chief. Getting back into the work would clear this new gunk out of his head, put him back in tune.
Maybe he should just let that shit go on in the house behind him. His assistance obviously wasn’t wanted, and usually he knocked himself around after, when the stupid woman threw his concern back at him. But he’d lived through two stepfathers who’d treated his mother like that, and he was not wired to let it go. Even after eight and a half years in the slam for what he’d done to Stepfather Number Two.
It really torqued him that the daughter had been in the middle of this one. That little thing—what was she, sixteen?—holding a big old Mossberg in her shaking hands, trying to defend her mother, who didn’t even care to defend herself. At least before, the woman had made sure the girl wasn’t around.
His mother had tried to keep him out of her mess, too, but she hadn’t always managed it. When he got old enough, he’d made sure she couldn’t manage it. He’d put himself between her and hurt. Maybe this kid had tried to do the same thing.
That was a good way to get hurt. Or put away. Or both.
A light, sharp rap on glass. “Knock knock.”
Not at all expecting to hear a woman’s voice at his workshop door, Becker turned. The daughter stood there, shoving her hands into her jeans pockets.
He’d never gotten a real good look at her before today. The jeans were faded and ratty, sliced open at the knees and worn to white threads all over, almost as if the tatters were intentional. She wore them pegged, with the rolled cuffs meeting the top of a pair of badly scuffed maroon Doc Martens. A faded black Ramones t-shirt, also tattered, covered her top half. It was knotted at the waist, and the way she had her hands shoved into her pockets, pulling the waistband low on her belly, he saw the ink there. Her arms were covered, her hands, and tendrils of the edge of a piece showed at her collarbones, too. All of it was black and grey; most of it was patterns and designs rather than images. It was beautiful work, but the girl was on her way to being a sideshow-freak kind of inked.
She had to be older than sixteen, then, right? Under eighteen, she’d need permission from her mom to get tattooed. That could be forged, of course. Or maybe her mom just didn’t care that she was making permanent decisions before she was old enough to know what she wanted to live with. Still, what artist would do this much ink on somebody so young?
Her hair was straight and bluntly cut, just past her shoulders, and almost true black. Bangs covered her forehead and brushed dark, heavy but shapely eyebrows that arched over those huge dark eyes. She had a silver ring in her nose, at the side of her right nostril.
She was short, not much over five feet, and slight. He thought she was probably pretty, under all that black makeup and ink. He was into smaller women. But not little girls.
“Hey,” he said, before he’d spent too long checking her out. It made him feel like a creeper just giving her a once-over. “You okay?”
“Yeah.” She stepped into his workshop and looked around. “I just wanted to say thank you.”
“You already did, shortcake. We’re good.”
“Is all this stuff for one bike?” Eyeing his stock, she wandered to the far worktable and heaved up the custom straight pipe that had been delivered for the Chief a couple days ago. She hefted it like a branch she’d grabbed up off the ground and not a two-thousand-dollar custom piece made to fifty-year-old specs.
As impressed as he was that her little arms could lift that fucker, he snatched it from her and set it back on the table. “You mind?”
“Sorry.” She obviously wasn’t the least bit sorry. “What is it?”
“A tailpipe. And no, this is not all for one bike.” He had three different bike rebuilds going; he got bored if he worked on one project at a time. “Can I help you?”
She was standing beside him; her head didn’t even come up to his shoulder. He wanted to grab her and pull her away from the table before she caused more mischief, but he didn’t want to touch her and have her misconstrue it. Plus, he didn’t want his own self to misconstrue it. He was having some inappropriate feelings that he very much wanted to stop having.
As he stood there trying to work that out, she touched him. He felt her hand on his back, a swirling sweep of soft fingertips, and he pulled away and twisted out of her reach. He’d forgotten he wasn’t wearing a shirt. Shit.
“That’s good,” she said, seeming not to notice his discomfort.
“The ink. Good work. Where’d you get it done?”
His club piece. It covered most of his back. “Iron Spike.”
“Oh, cool. Who does you? Marla does my work.”
“Craig. Kid, what’re you doing here?”
“I told you. I want to thank you. I think he might have killed her tonight.”
“Done. We’re square, and I’m busy, so …”
His rejections rolled right off her back. She strolled over to the radio—the game was over, and they were on to sports talk bullshit now—and looked around it, as if she had a specific target in mind. “What kind of music do you like?”
She turned and shrugged at him. “Just trying to be neighborly. Is it country? You like country, don’t you. George Strait and Randy Travis and all those white-bread dudes.” The face she made clearly indicated her feelings about country music.
“Metal,” he answered, feeling defensive. Jesus Christ, he was well old enough to be this kid’s father, and she had him flinching and backpedaling and defending his tastes.
With a smirk that telegraphed her disbelief, she popped a hip, set her hand on it—worn black polish on her fingernails—and said, “Top five favorite bands?”
Any sensible forty-four-year-old man faced with a smartass teenager in his way would have told her to clam up and get gone, and made sure it happened. Becker, standing here shirtless, his sick fuck of a cock almost hard enough in his jeans to make the fact obvious, answered her question as if it mattered what she thought.
“Motörhead. Metallica. Pantera. Sabbath. Zeppelin.”
He’d impressed her, and he felt more pleasure in that than was decent.
“In that order?”
“Depends on my mood.” And he finally understood why this little thing had him so discombobulated. She wasn’t just a kid looking for mischief. She was actively flirting with him. His subconscious was picking up on that, catching her pheromones or whatever, and his body was down with her plan.
But no fucking way was that ever going to happen.
He grabbed his shirt off another workbench and yanked it on. That felt better. Everything about him calmed down once he was fully dressed.
But he’d exposed his Sig, and she went straight for it. He caught her hands before she could pull it from its holster. Jesus, she was like a toddler. Or a kitten. Maybe a baby chimp.
“That is not a toy.” He pulled the gun away, shoulder holster and all, and let go of her hands.
“Will you teach me how to shoot?”
“Because I don’t know you.”
With another impish smirk, she held out a tattooed hand. The work was excellent, dots and swirls in an intricate, symmetrical pattern, like that thing Indian women did when they were about to get married, but permanent. It went up to her fingers, curling around her ring finger, and over her wrist to blend into a looping vine of thorns and flowers around her arm. “I’m Sage. Now you know me.”
Strange name, if he’d heard her right. “Sage? Like the herb?”
“Like the herb, sure. Or, like, a wise one. And you are?” She bobbed her hand, but Becker ignored it.
“Way too goddamn old for you, shortcake. You need to go.”
The smirk became a grin. “Wow. Conceited much? Who says I’m into you?”
He shrugged. “Good. You still need to go.”
“Okay.” She sauntered to the door, putting some sway in her hips. At the door, she turned back and showed that smirk again. “I’m twenty, by the way. Totally legal. You don’t need to soak that semi-stiffy you’re sporting in bleach or anything. Grandpa.”
And then she was gone.
Becker sagged against the nearest workbench and stared at the open door.
What the fuck?
© 2018 Susan Fanetti