By: Joanna Blake

A dangerously fast dream.

Mason James was the kindest man I’d ever met in my life. I’d been right to trust my instincts all those years ago.

Not that I’d had much of a choice.

Mason owned the bar that all the bikers came to. It was definitely badass central around here. The place smelled like leather and smoke and axel grease.

It smelled like home.

For the past three years I’d worked here. I’d run away from my fifth foster home. Like all the rest it had been a little too cold and a lot too dirty. And the woman who ‘kept’ it was constantly drunk, with a steady stream of on again off again boyfriends.

A few of which had started to pay me a little too much attention.

When one of them cornered me in the kitchen late one night, I’d known it was time to go. I’d kicked the guy where it counted and ran, stopping in my room to grab my few belongings. He’d stood in the hallway, jiggling my doorknob over and over. But the fucker didn’t know that I’d perfected my escape plan.

I had fixed the lock weeks before.

And I’d already climbed out the window and down the drain pipe. Twice. I’d hit the ground running and never looked back.

So, here I was. And I could not be happier. Well, I could be happier, technically speaking. But I wasn’t too worried.

I knew I was lucky to be alive, and in one piece. I had big plans for the future. I’d passed my GED, but I wanted more. Community college for starters. My own place nearby. And maybe, someday, I could actually have a boyfriend.

If Mason didn’t scare the shit out of him first.

I was pretty sure he’d threatened to slowly skin the last guy who’d shown an interest alive. Then he’d mentioned cutting off a few body parts. And all the guy had done was ask for my number.

Yeah, Mason watched a lot of Game of Thrones.

So far, I hadn’t been interested enough to argue with him. But I would, if I wanted to. I was over 18 now. I could date.

Technically, I should be dating. But Mason was right about one thing.

I probably shouldn’t date anyone who I met in the bar.

Sure, regular people came in here sometimes. But they were tourists. And that was mostly for lunch.

Most of the time, it was ninety percent bikers. Some in gangs, some independent. Most of them were in or associated with Mason’s old gang, the Untouchables. Some were from the Hell Raisers, a gang from one town over.

They were the ones who made me nervous.

I knew most of the Untouchables. For the most part they were everything you would imagine when you thought of outlaw bikers. Mean, violent, and loud. They were loyal to a fault though, and they looked after me like one of their own.

But it was the Hell Raisers who were downright scary.

And after the stuff I’d seen, I didn’t scare all that easy.

The worst part wasn’t that they didn’t seem to have a sense of loyalty to anything or anyone. Except for him. Tall, darkly handsome and casually cruel.

The worst part was the he liked me.

Dante, the leader of the Raisers, had taken a definite shine to me. He smiled, left outrageous tips, and kissed my hand. I always wanted to scrub my hand when he did that, and I did, still feeling his lips even when the skin was red and raw. I shivered at the thought of him kissing me anywhere else.

Mason hadn’t noticed and I planned to keep it that way. If he did, there would be blood.

And considering how crazy Dante was, I didn’t know whose blood it would be.

Mase could hold his own with the best of them. I’d seen him crack skulls when things got rough in the bar. But Dante was younger and unpredictable. I’d seen him put a fork through someone’s hand once. He’d had his minions clean up the mess before anyone noticed.

But I’d seen it, and he’d smiled at me, like nothing had happened. Like there wasn’t blood pouring off the table like cheap ketchup.

Yeah, Dante was a special kind of crazy, and I didn’t want him and Mason tussling over me.

So I just deflected, avoided and stayed well out of arm’s reach when the Raisers came in. Dante’s eyes might follow me constantly, but he hadn’t yet crossed any lines.

At two AM the place was full and I was busy. The moment there was a break in the action I stepped outside to get some of the cool Spring air on my face. I inhaled deeply and froze.

Less than ten feet away, a man was being forced to his knees.

“I warned you.”

“Please- no-“

“Too fucking late.”

I heard the sound of flesh parting as a knife slid across the man’s throat. He clutched at it desperately. There was a horrible gargling sound coming from his mouth as he struggled for air. Then he fell silent. The man holding him let go and he slumped to the ground.

Dead. Gone. Really gone.

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