Today I’m revealing my next release. Resolve is Zach Jessup’s story. It’s available for preorder right now, with a release day of Saturday, 5 February.
If you’d like to take a look at some of my inspiration visuals, you can check out my public Pinterest board for the Brazen Bulls.
Zach Jessup was born into the Brazen Bulls MC. His father wore the Sergeant at Arms flash for decades, until an overtaxed heart forced him to hang up his kutte. Now Zach wears a kutte himself; he’s the Bulls’ first legacy patch. He loves his family, loves his club, but it’s not easy to thrive in the shadow of a legend like Radical Jessup.
When the club voted to establish a second charter in Nevada, Zach volunteered to be on the set-up crew. He wants some distance, a chance to step out on his own and make his mark. He’s not planning to stay in Laughlin permanently; he would never want to cause his parents that kind of pain. For now, he’s just looking for some room to breathe.
Then he meets the perfect woman, and he no longer knows what his future holds.
Lyra Haddon has lived in Laughlin her whole life and can’t imagine a future that’s not exactly like her present: working in the family business, running the family household, taking care of her father and brother, exactly as she’s done since her parents divorced. She’s happy as she is, without big ambitions for her life.
When her father and brother decide to join the new MC in town, Lyra meets a handsome young biker named Zach. Her life takes a sharp turn toward a possible future she’d never seen coming. In her eyes, Zach is just about perfect—except for one thing.
Will he stay?
And Chapter 4 as a preview:
The young Bull stood gaping at Lyra, his big body wedged between the slider and the doorframe.
Even with his mouth hanging open, he was seriously good looking. Not just big but obviously fit. Thick dark hair, just shy of shoulder-length and sort of shaggy-sexy, like the good kind of bedhead. A dark beard, heavy but not long. And intense blue eyes. Lyra couldn’t decide if the intensity was in their color or their focus. Either way, nice.
He wore a plain white t-shirt under his kutte, and the part of his left arm that the shirt left bare was fully sleeved in an elaborate black and grey tattoo. Some kind of garden scene, maybe? She could make out feathers and plants, she thought.
“You need something?” she asked. Her tone was a little sharp; she always felt defensive when she first met a guy, especially one she liked the look of.
He blinked, as if his batteries had just been replaced, and came all the way into the kitchen. “Hey,” he said as he slid the door closed behind him. “Bathroom?”
Her hands were busy with the knife and the serranos, so she nodded toward the appropriate doorway. “Through there and to the left. Door’s open, so it’s obvious.”
She went back to her chore, but even with her back turned she could tell the guy hadn’t left the kitchen. His presence was like a weight on her back. She looked over her shoulder. “Yeah?”
“I’m Zach.” He held out a hand.
“I’m full of serrano juice,” she pointed out, lifting her hands. “You don’t want that on your hands before you use the bathroom.”
He looked at his hand like he didn’t know whose it was. “Oh. Okay.”
“But I’m Lyra. Ben’s my dad.” Awkwardly, not sure how else to do a proper greeting, she sort of raised her elbow. Zach had no idea what she was doing, because obviously he didn’t. Who greeted somebody with their elbow? Dumb, Lyra.
“Lyra? That’s a really pretty name. Are your folks big readers?”
Her defensive instinct thus neutralized, Lyra grinned broadly. This guy was officially the first cute boy who’d ever known, or at least indicated he knew, where her mother had come up with her name. “My mom is. And yeah, The Golden Compass is one of our favorite books.” The whole series, really, but the first book was the best.
“It’s one of mine, too. I like the whole Dark Materials series, but I’ve read Compass like a dozen times. Even now. I know it’s a kid book, but I think it’s deep as fuck.”
“It is. I love that. All kids’ books should be deep, I think. It helps you figure out what you think about shit.”
“Yeah …” he said and faded out.
It got uncomfortable again until Lyra couldn’t deal and said, “Bathroom—through that door and just on the left.”
“Right. Thanks.” He followed her directions, and Lyra sloughed the awkwardness off with a sharp breath and a shake of her head. She went back to chopping.
She was making corn salad. This little impromptu cookout meant microwave-defrosted meat and whatever else she could throw together. Thankfully, she’d been to the market the day before. The corn salad had been intended for Michelle’s birthday party in a few days, but she had time to go out and replace the ingredients she’d use tonight before then.
The meat was ready-ish. Usually Pop marinated his grilling meats for at least a day, but with no time for that, Lyra had done a dry rub after she’d—very carefully—defrosted it all in the microwave. Now the corn salad; easy enough. What else? A house full of bikers meant a lot of food and alcohol would be consumed. Alcohol they had in abundance. The pantry, fridge and freezer were full, too, but Lyra liked to plan out meals in advance, and she was finding herself stymied, trying to mix one up on the fly.
She’d been expecting to order with DoorDash or something. When they worked a job as late as this one had gone, they usually got take-out or delivery from somewhere.
Grilled cow and corn salad was not enough to feed all these men. There wasn’t time to make bread—except cornbread, but with the corn salad, that was a lot of corn.
Tortillas? They’d be thematically consistent, but there wasn’t anything to put in them. You couldn’t wrap a T-bone in a tortilla.
Beans, maybe? There were plenty of beans—in the bag or in the can. But there wasn’t time to soften whole beans, and refried beans seemed … blah. She had guests and wanted to make a nice meal, no matter how irritated she was at their presence.
She washed her hands at the sink and went to the fridge. Standing with both doors open, she peered inside and tried to think.
Zach came out of the bathroom and back into the kitchen. When he met her eyes, he smiled. “Hey again.”
“Long time no see.”
“You need help with anything?”
She cocked an eyebrow at him. “You want to fix dinner in here while all your friends are playing outside?”
Crossing his arms, he effected an exaggerated thoughtful pose. “Hmm. Let me think. Do I want to sit outside with a bunch of stinky dudes talking about the same old shit, or do I want to be in here, helping out a pretty girl? I don’t know. It’s a pretty tough call. … Hmm. Decisions, decisions. … You know what? I’m a helpful guy. I’m with you, if you want me.”
What a loaded statement. Lyra decided to let that drop where it landed and asked, “Do you have any skill in the kitchen?”
“My mom taught me and my brother both to cook. She wasn’t having sons who expected women to do for them every day.”
Her mother had also taught both her kids to cook, but the gender dynamics in Ben Haddon’s house were firmly traditional. “I like your mom.”
Zach grinned. Wow. Good smile. “I do, too.”
“Okay. You’re enlisted. I’m making corn salad and I’m trying—” she stopped, because Zach had made a face. “You got a problem already?”
“No. No. I mean, I’m not a huge fan of corn, unless it’s popped, but I’m not the only one here.”
“Wait until you’ve had my corn salad to decide how you feel about corn. It’s spicy and delicious. But that’s the hang-up I’m having now. I wasn’t expecting a house full of people, I wasn’t expecting to cook at all since we worked so late, and I can’t figure out what else to make for all you guys. I’ve sorta got a Mexican theme happening.”
He came over and peered into the fridge with her. With him standing so close, she got a keen sense of his size. She wasn’t short, maybe a little taller than average, but his head was all the way above her. His body heat enveloped her. His scent as well. He’d been on the road all day; under the tang of the sour apple soap they kept in the half bath, he smelled of gasoline, road dirt, and fresh air. With a subtle hint of Michelob.
Maybe only a woman who’d lived around bikers her whole life would find that aroma sexy, but she happened to be such a woman.
“How much do you trust me?” Zach asked.
Considering where her mind had just wandered off to, Lyra nearly flinched. But she saved herself and managed what she hoped was a saucy smirk. “I just met you, so, you know … not at all.”
He laughed. “Fair enough. But I see some stuff in there I could work with, if you don’t mind, and I’d kinda like to surprise you.”
“I don’t need to trust you for that. It’s your head if they don’t like it. So go for it.”
“Excellent.” He rubbed his hands together. “What’s your spice rack like?”
With a proud grin, enjoying herself about a thousand times more than when she’d been in here alone muttering about having to feed all these strangers, Lyra opened the cupboard beside the range. She stepped back and did a game-show model flourish to let him see that all four shelves were packed solid with herbs and spices. Each shelf was neatly organized according to size, flavor signature, and alphabet. Each shelf had a graduated organizing gizmo like tiny plastic steps, so each row was slightly higher than the one before it. If there was a dried spice or herb Lyra didn’t have, she’d be surprised. There was even a teensy container of pure saffron. Her cooking talent was only average, but her organizing skills were elite.
“Holy shit,” he said. “Yeah, I can work with that.”
What he’d made was a … frittata? Something like that. Egg and polenta based, with cheese, veggies and peppers, and the last of the bacon crumbles folded in. In her mind, that was a breakfast dish and it would never have occurred to her for tonight, and the polenta didn’t really address the ‘too much corn’ concern, but she had to admit that it covered the bases for this meal nicely: filling, lots of flavor, and plenty big enough for all those feral men to come back for seconds. Plus, the polenta almost made it like a bread thing, which was the feature she’d been looking for.
She’d pointed out that polenta was corn-based, and he grinned and said it was the kernels he didn’t care for. Cornmeal and popcorn were okay in his book.
He’d let her taste his concoction, and it was really good.
Even better than all that? When he’d added the cheese, he’d said, with the cutest little grin she’d ever seen in her life, “Next step is to fold in the cheese.”
She’d jumped in with the next line of that hilarious scene, and they’d done the whole bit together, him playing David and her doing Moira, both of them laughing their asses off. She’d have to watch that scene again to make absolutely sure, but she was pretty sure they’d gotten every word right, with intonation.
Not only was he hot and fit, not only could he cook, not only was he a fan of The Golden Compass. He also knew Schitt’s Creek well enough to reenact a scene?
Okay, this guy was cute as hell.
Now they were sitting on the patio, their table packed with bikers, all of them shoveling food into their mouths as quickly as they could fill their forks. A chorus of appreciative grunts served as thanks. Zach, sitting across the table and down from her, caught her eye a few times, and they shared a grin.
The dinner talk was pretty typical for any time her father and brother got together in a group with other likeminded guys: bikes. Models, engines, modifications, good roads for riding, good places to stop at. Places to avoid. Sturgis was coming up in a few weeks. None of the men shoveling Lyra’s corn salad, Zach’s … frittata, or Pop’s steak into their mouths were going to South Dakota this year, but they’d all gone at some point, it seemed, and they all had opinions and stories.
Once or twice, somebody said something Lyra could tell she didn’t have the context for, and each time that happened, the table took an awkward beat. That meant the comment had brushed up against something she wasn’t meant to know about. Her specifically. She was the only woman at the table, the only one who didn’t ride—not because she didn’t want to but because her father believed women should ride only as passengers—and it was obvious that all the men knew something she didn’t.
Well, that was a situation she was extremely used to.
As the meal wound down and she fielded appreciative words from all the men—and Zach took some lighthearted shit for his contribution to the meal—Lyra started to clear the table, and Zach and his brother, Jay … or JJ … or both, started to help her. But her dad caught her arm gently and held her back from taking a load to the kitchen.
“Set the dishes aside for now. Reed and I’ll get ‘em tonight.”
Lyra gaped. “Huh?”
Her father did not do dishes. With the exception of improvements and repairs, he considered all work done inside a house to be women’s work.
“Why don’t you take Zach and Jay down to the Strip tonight. Maybe see if Michelle wants to go, too. And, uh, Christian, you too.”
After a beat, looking like he was trying to figure out Pop’s play, Eight Ball said, “Chris, no. I want you at the motel, making sure the rooms are right.”
“Okay, Prez,” Christian answered.
Eight Ball seemed to have figured Pop’s idea out. Lyra could only stand there and stare.
Another thing her father never did was plan her social calendar. She couldn’t work out what his game was—until she saw it. Pop was trying to get rid of the young guys. He didn’t know them, Christian was only a prospect, Zach and Jay were too young for him to respect as patches in an MC, and he apparently had something serious he wanted to talk about with the older Bulls.
He was normally completely forthright, and she would have expected him to simply say what he wanted straight out, but there was something going on tonight between her dad and the Bulls—and maybe Reed, too? Something that had him trying to be diplomatic.
She glanced over at Zach and his brother, both of whom wore similar expressions of confusion and dawning suspicion. When Zach met her eyes, though, his expression softened.
“Um, yeah. Sure,” she said, looking at Zach. “If you want?”
Laughlin was like Vegas if you bought it on Wish: definitely cheaper, recognizably similar and obviously nothing like it. Hotel-casino combos, lots of neon, palm trees and swimming pools, just like in Vegas. But everything considerably smaller, far fewer interesting people, mainly C-and D-list entertainment. Just generally duller in every way. But Laughlin was on the bank of the Colorado River, so they had the Riverwalk, which was nice. They’d had a riverboat casino, but the Colorado Belle had closed down not too long ago.
The Jessup boys didn’t seem to mind at all that Laughlin was the Wish version of Vegas. As Lyra drove down South Casino Drive, Zach and Jay gazed out the windows of her car, watching the lights go by.
“I thought you two came to Laughlin a lot,” Michelle said from behind Lyra.
When they’d picked her up, there had been a moment of weirdness about who was going to sit where. Michelle was used to riding shotgun, and Lyra felt a little strange about the composition of their group being a bit too much like a double date, so she would have probably preferred—or told herself she preferred—her friend to sit up front and the guys in back.
But she drove a ten-year-old Nissan Cube, which had great headroom but not wonderful legroom, and the brothers were pretty tall. Zach was noticeably bigger than Jay and almost as tall as Reed; Lyra guessed he was probably six-two or six-three.
So Zach sat up front with her, and Jay sat back with Michelle, and maybe they were on a double date.
“We do,” Jay said, “but we’re usually hanging around a bunch of crabby old bikers. Two hot chicks makes the whole thing shiny and new.” He hooked his arm over Michelle’s shoulders.
She shrugged him off at once. Jay was going to have to work much harder to be allowed to get that close to Lyra’s friend.
In just the few hours of their acquaintance, Lyra thought she’d figured out the Jessup boys pretty well, and she was glad she’d managed to snag the good one. They were both good looking, and there was enough similarity in their features and mannerisms to see the family link in them. They had some similarities of personality as well: Both extroverts, quick to smile, quick to start a conversation, quick to laugh, quick to tell a joke. Both flirts. But Jay was a smartass without the finely tuned sensor to know when a smartass comment was welcome and when it was not.
Zach flirted by trying to get to know Lyra—asking about books, chatting about cooking and offering help, throwing out a Schitt’s Creek quote to see if she could pick it up. Which, obviously, she could.
Jay, on the other hand, flirted by giving shit and pushing boundaries.
The group dynamic had fallen out the right way, though. The pairs worked the best way they could. Zach had definitely piqued Lyra’s interest, just by being himself. Michelle liked a project. She would put Jay through his paces before she decided whether he was trainable.
She’d have to decide pretty quick; the guys were in town only for the night. The Bulls were going to spend the night at the Days Inn south of the Strip. They planned to be on the road in the morning, headed back to Tulsa.
With a few drunken exceptions, Lyra wasn’t usually a one-night-stand kind of woman, but she thought she might make an exception, drunken or otherwise, for the very appealing biker riding shotgun in her car his brother had called a ‘nerdy chick mobile.’
“Hey, what about the Aquarius?” Jay asked as they passed that big, animated blue neon sign. “I love that one.”
Michelle made a loud, disgusted groan.
Laughing, Lyra translated. “Michelle’s a blackjack dealer there. You’re lucky she’ll go to any casino on her off time. Definitely not the one she works at. Dealers can’t gamble where they work.”
In the rearview, Lyra saw Jay lean close to Michelle and say something too quietly to traverse the distance from back to front. Whatever he said, though, made her friend roll her eyes and push him away.
He was going to have to bring his A game, and so far he was not.
At Lyra’s side, Zach said, “Jake and I are the outsiders. You’re the locals. Where do you like to go?”
In the back, Michelle turned to Zach’s brother and said, “Okay, I’m confused. Are you Jay, or Jake, or JJ?”
His brother shrugged. “All of ‘em. I guess it’s family that calls me Jake or Jay. Everybody else calls me Jay or JJ, but I don’t give a fuck. I answer to whatever.”
“So your actual name is Jacob?” Michelle prodded.
“Yeah, but my folks are the only ones who use that one, when they’re pissed. That one gives me a twitch, actually.”
Oh, that was dangerous ammunition to hand to Lyra’s puckish friend.
And Michelle made him pay for it at once. “Okay, Jacob. Good to know.”
Zach laughed with real relish and turned to the back to give Michelle a thumbs up. When he settled in his seat again, he told Lyra, “You still haven’t said where you like to go.”
Truthfully, Lyra thought casinos were loud and tacky, and she didn’t have the personality to find gambling fun. She preferred nature to artifice, the light of the sun to neon, quiet to noise. The thing that made Laughlin better than Vegas, in her mind, was the world around it: river, lakes, desert, mountains, more natural beauty than one’s eyes could hold.
However, as a Laughlin native, she’d been to every casino on the Strip at one time or another. So she knew exactly which one she liked best.
She changed lanes and turned into the Cadence Hotel and Casino.
Lyra led her little foursome into the Cadence and smiled when Zach looked up and around. As a genre, casinos had an aesthetic that was loud and garish, managing to be both oppressively dark and aggressively bright at the same time. Despite the expansive spaces, she felt claustrophobic in them and attributed that discomfort to the entire lack of natural anything. Not even a window to be found until you got to the guest rooms. Even the air was canned.
But the Cadence here in Laughlin had a ‘woodland’ theme, with rushing waterfalls, a stream meandering through the lobby, lush trees and plants, and the skylights to keep them happy. The water made the place even louder, but with a better kind of sound.
It was still tacky as hell, of course; tackiness seemed to be a requirement in casino design. But Lyra could breathe better here.
“Cool!” Jay said behind her. “Let’s gamble!”
“What’s your game?” Zach asked, leaning down close as if her answer might be a secret.
“I don’t have one. I don’t really like to gamble.”
He frowned. “So why’d we come to a casino?”
Lyra gave him the look that question deserved. “Because you wanted to.”
At that, Zach did a weird little motion that was part grin, part shrug, and part head-tilt, with a dash of shimmy. Altogether, it clearly conveyed the sentiment I guess.
Meanwhile, his brother was striding purposefully toward the slots.
Was he the only one who wanted to be here?
“Can I talk to you please?” Michelle asked, grabbing her arm. “Alone.”
“Excuse us,” Lyra said to Zach.
“No prob. I’ll … uh, head over and keep tabs on Jay.”
When he was far enough away to make for some privacy, Lyra pulled free of Michelle’s surprisingly hard hold and asked, “You don’t like Jay, do you?”
Michelle sighed. “I mean, he’s hot, sure. But he’s like a … a feral puppy. Like a coyote pup or something. Bounding all over everywhere, getting into trouble, tearing up shit.”
Lyra blinked. “He sat in the back seat of my car. I didn’t notice any bounding or tearing up shit. Or getting into trouble.”
“You know what I mean,” Michelle persisted.
Yes, Lyra was pretty sure she did. However, she said, “I don’t, actually.”
“I can just tell. You know that line from Bull Durham, where Annie’s talking about Nuke and says, ‘He fucks like he pitches, sorta all over the place’? That’s Jacob. Just sitting next to him in the car for twenty minutes, I can tell that’s him. Feral puppy.”
Michelle loved all things baseball and had probably literally seen every baseball movie ever made. Bull Durham ranked very high on her list of the best ones. As her best friend, Lyra had seen it multiple times.
“When I said I’d come out with you and your new biker buddies, I did not think I was agreeing to a blind date with one of them.”
“It’s not a date if you don’t want it to be,” Lyra assured her.
Michelle gave her a sharply searching consideration. “But you want it to be, right? With the good brother? I see you making googly eyes at him.”
“I am not making googly eyes.”
Michelle snorted. “Right. Whatever, you like him, don’t you?”
Turning toward the slot machines, Lyra studied the Jessup boys. Jay was on a machine; Zach stood behind him, watching. And also, she thought, guarding? There was something alert about his posture, as if he was a bodyguard at work. But that could be simply a big-brother thing, not a feral-little-brother thing. Reed got bodyguard-y when they went out together, too.
Both brothers had brought their kuttes, but neither wore it. They’d left them in her car. Zach wore the same white t-shirt and jeans he’d had on when he’d come into the kitchen. Unremarkable, except for the way he filled both out. He really was hot. As she watched, he raked his hair back from his face and did a head shake thing that had a practically pornographic effect on her. Her eyes trailed from his fingers through his hair to the swell of his bicep as his arm bent and rose, the way his sleeve tightened over that swell and his shoulder, and she swallowed hard.
“Yeah, I like him.”
Again, Michelle sighed. This one was clearly rhetorical. “Okay. I love you, and you do not get out enough, so I’ll wrangle the dumb one. Go play with the good one. Don’t go far without letting me know first, though.”
“You don’t have to—”
“I don’t want to get dragged along behind you two while you get snuggly. I’d rather teach his brother how to actually gamble. He’s at the slots, for fuck’s sake.”
“Chelle, I’m not going to go up and grab him and drag him off somewhere. Let’s just keep together.”
“Fine. We’ll start off together. But if I want to drag Dumbass off somewhere, I’ll let you know, and you do the same. Cool?”
“Yes, fine. Cool.”
“Cool.” She slipped her arm around Lyra’s. “Okay. Operation Visiting Bikers, commence.”
©2021 Susan Fanetti