Redemption Road (A Vicious Cycle Novel)

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9780451474926: Redemption Road (A Vicious Cycle Novel)

The New York Times bestselling author of Vicious Cycle plunges readers into a world of danger and desire in her newest in the Vicious Cycle motorcycle club romance series. 

Looking for a walk on the wild side, Annabel Percy, the daughter of a powerful politician, gives in to an attraction to a sexy biker she meets one night. But she finds herself living a nightmare when she’s kidnapped and transported into a hell on earth she never could have imagined.

Born and bred into the Hells Raiders MC, Nathaniel “Reverend” Malloy lives and dies for his brothers. But when he becomes the unexpected savior of a rival club’s captive, Rev makes it his personal mission to nurse Annabel back to health—and to shelter her from the nightmares that torment her.

Once Annabel heals, she’s stunned to realize she is falling for the seductive man who saved her. Faced with their impossible attraction, can she accept the life he leads, or will Rev walk away from the only life he’s ever known for the woman he was never supposed to love?

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About the Author:

Katie Ashley is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Proposition Series, Runaway Train series, and several New Adult and Young Adult titles. She spent the last eleven years teaching both middle and high school English, but is now a full-time writer, who lives outside of Atlanta.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

PROLOGUE

The whirring sound of his mother’s ancient hand mixer drew Nathaniel’s attention away from his homework. He sniffed the chocolate-scented air appreciatively. Glancing over his shoulder, he watched as his younger brother, Benjamin, leaned on the counter, eyeing the mixture and waiting for just the right moment to stick his finger in and get a taste of the icing.

“Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing,” his mother said, with an amused smile.

“But you said we could lick the spoon,” Ben protested.

“That’s if you get your homework done.”

With an exasperated sigh, Benjamin trudged across the worn linoleum floor and back to his chair next to Nathaniel. After he flopped down, he reluctantly took up his pencil.

“There. This one is done,” his mother announced. She had just put the final touches on one of the chocolate cakes she had spent the better part of the afternoon baking. He and Benjamin would have to wait until she was completely finished to devour the remaining icing.

His mother glanced over at Nathaniel. “Honey, would you do me a huge favor and run this down to Miss Mae’s?”

“Sure.” He rose from his chair and went over to the counter. “But you better save some of the icing for me.”

Smiling, she reached over and ruffled his hair. “Of course I will.” After putting the cake into a container, she thrust it into Nathaniel’s arms. “Thanks, sweetheart.”

He headed out the kitchen door and down the back steps. Mae Sanders lived three houses up the road from them on the right. All twelve of the houses in the semicircular lane, or compound, as people called it, belonged to members of his father’s church. At the top of the hill sat the old cotton mill office that now housed Soul Harbor, the church where his father was the pastor.

Carefully balancing the cake tray in his hands, Nathaniel made his way up Miss Mae’s flower-lined front walk and then up the three steps onto the porch. After he pounded on the door, it swung open. But it wasn’t the blue-haired, grandmotherly Miss Mae standing there. Instead, it was the tall, lanky figure of Kurt Miller, one of the homeless men from his father’s church whom Miss Mae had taken on to help her with work around the house. She had a soft spot for the less fortunate and always had one or two people living with her.

“Well, if it isn’t Nate the Great,” Kurt said, with a wide smile.

Nathaniel felt his cheeks warm under the attention. No one at church ever paid much attention to him. Compared to his two rambunctious brothers, he was quiet, the well-behaved and obedient one. But since Kurt had arrived two weeks ago, he had gone out of his way to make Nathaniel feel special.

Amusement flickered in Kurt’s dark eyes. “You brought me a cake? But it isn’t even my birthday.”

Shaking his head, Nathaniel replied, “No, my mama sent it to Miss Mae to take to the VFW for bingo night.”

Kurt stroked his chin. “That’s right. Tonight is bingo night.” Stretching his arms wide, he motioned for Nathaniel to come in. “She just left for the beauty shop and won’t be back for an hour. But you can leave the cake for her so you don’t have to make two trips.”

“Okay, thanks,” Nathaniel replied as he stepped over the threshold. All the houses in the compound were alike, so he knew the way to the kitchen. They had once been part of the row houses belonging to the cotton mill before it had gone out of business.

After setting the cake on the counter, Nathaniel turned to go, but Kurt stopped him. “What’s your rush?”

Nathaniel shrugged. “Just need to get back to my homework.”

“Ah, it ain’t goin’ nowhere. Why don’t you sit down for a minute?”

Even though he knew a spoonful of chocolate icing was awaiting him at home, Nathaniel felt it would be rude if he refused to sit for just a minute. Or at least his mama would think it was rude, and the last thing he wanted was to disappoint her.

After easing down into one of the straight-backed kitchen chairs, he looked expectantly at Kurt.

“How about something to drink?” Kurt asked.

“Um, okay. Sure.”

“How’s school?” Kurt asked as his footsteps creaked along the worn floorboards.

“It’s fine. Got all As,” Nathaniel replied.

“Good for you.” With his back to Nathaniel, Kurt glanced at him over his shoulder. “Got a girlfriend?”

Fiery embarrassment filled Nathaniel’s cheeks. “N-No, I—I don’t,” he stammered in reply.

“Don’t worry about it. With your looks, in a few years the girls will be all over you.”

“I hope. I mean, I guess I want them to be,” Nathaniel murmured. He couldn’t imagine a girl ever being interested in him, and he was too shy to talk to them. He wished he could be more like his older brother, David. At fourteen, he always had a steady girlfriend, with others waiting in the wings.

Kurt set a mug down in front of Nathaniel. “Here’s some coffee to warm you up before you have to head back out into the cold.”

Nathaniel fought the urge to protest that his mother didn’t allow him to drink coffee, as he was afraid of looking uncool in front of someone like Kurt. So he took the mug and blew ripples across the dark surface of the steaming liquid. When he thought it wouldn’t burn his tongue, he took a sip.

Wrinkling his nose, Nathaniel eased the mug away from his lips. He surveyed the contents curiously. “This sure doesn’t taste like coffee.”

“I put a little nip of Jack in there,” Kurt replied, with a wink.

Nathaniel widened his eyes. “You put . . . alcohol in my coffee?”

“Sure. Why not? I was your age when I had my first drink.”

As Nathaniel continued studying the mug, he could feel the familiar tug of his conscience that happened whenever the angel and the devil on his shoulder waged war against each other. He was pretty sure his mother would fall to her knees in prayer for him if she knew, and then his father would tan his hide. Even though he should’ve poured out the mug’s contents, he couldn’t help wanting to taste a little more. “You won’t tell, will you?” he questioned in a whisper.

Kurt flashed him a toothy smile. “’Course not.” He nodded at the mug. “Drink up. Make it count.”

Shrugging away his doubt, Nathaniel took several more hearty sips. The more he drank, the more terrible the mixture tasted. He didn’t want to have any more, but Kurt urged him on. Once he had finished it, he set the empty mug down on the table.

“How do you feel?” Kurt asked.

Furrowing his brow, Nathaniel tried to make sense of what was happening to him. His head felt like it might fly away from his body. Within seconds, the room started spinning like it had the time he’d been caged in on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the county fair. He’d desperately wanted to get off, but he’d been forced to endure the entire ride. At the moment, he wanted to stop the way his body was feeling.

A cold hand on his cheek caused him to jump. “Nathaniel, how are you feeling?”

“I . . . I can’t make it stop,” he murmured, his eyelids fluttering closed.

“Don’t try to.”

The next thing he knew, his body was being lifted out of the chair. He was dragged into Miss Mae’s bedroom. After the door slammed and locked behind him, his face was forced down onto Miss Mae’s frilly pink comforter.

“What . . . are . . . you . . . doing?” he questioned. It was a struggle getting each word out.

When hands fumbled with the button of his jeans, he tried to push them away. “I’m going to make you feel good, Nathaniel.” Kurt’s voice came from behind him.

Nathaniel didn’t want to feel good. He just wanted to go home. He wanted to be in the safety of his kitchen, arguing with Benjamin over who got more icing.

As he faded in and out of a dark, shadowy consciousness, harsh hands roamed over his body. Just when he thought things couldn’t be any worse, pain like he had never experienced tore through him. Tears welled in his eyes, then streaked down his cheeks. His suffering seemed to go on and on, and he began to fear that it would never end.

But then, through the hellish haze, he heard someone come through the front door. From the loud clomp of the boots on the floorboard, he knew it was his father. His mother must’ve sent his dad to look for him. Just as he got the strength to raise his head to call for help, Kurt’s hand clamped over his mouth. His harsh whisper came at Nathaniel’s ear. “If you even think about screaming, I’ll cut your throat and all of your family’s. You got me?”

Nathaniel wanted desperately to scream. He wanted the nightmare, the pain, the humiliation to end. And yet even though he didn’t care whether he lived or died, he didn’t want anything to happen to his family.

But when his father didn’t appear at the door, Nathaniel let his hope die. He buried his face in the soft folds of Miss Mae’s comforter and wept. At the sound of a loud bang, he jerked his head up.

His father stood in the doorway. The unadulterated horror mixed with rage on his face caused Nathaniel to shudder with fear. He barely had time to brace himself for his father’s wrath before the gun came up and a blast came out of it so loud that the windows rattled.

And then, as his father called his name in a ragged breath, Nathaniel realized he had just traded one hell for another.

ONE

REV

THE PRESENT

I came awake to find someone shaking the hell out of me. Flipping open my eyelids to escape my tormented unconsciousness, I stared up into the concerned blue eyes of my brother Bishop. His hands gripped my shoulders so tightly I figured there would be marks. “What the fuck, man?” I questioned, slinging him away.

He tumbled back on the mattress. “You were having one hell of a nightmare.”

I sighed and rubbed my shoulders where his hands had been. “Yeah, well, that doesn’t mean I want to wake up to your ugly mug with morning breath in my face,” I replied, trying to ease the palpable tension in the air.

Bishop didn’t laugh. He didn’t make a move to get off the bed, either. He continued staring at me like he hoped he could somehow will me into talking. He’d been giving me the same stare for the past few days while we’d been on the road. Whenever we’d stop for food or to gas up our bikes, I would find him staring at me, chewing his bottom lip like he wanted to say something. He had been desperate since three nights ago, when a personal tragedy within our club allowed him a tiny glimpse at my long-buried secret.

Breaking the silence between us, I asked, “What time is our meeting with the El Paso Raiders?”

“Seven.”

I glanced over my shoulder at the glowing digital clock on the nightstand. “That doesn’t give us much time to make it across the state. Better get crackin’ and hit the road. You want the shower first?”

“Nah, you can have it.” As I rose off the mattress, Bishop said, “I’ll go grab us a quick breakfast.”

“Thanks, brother.”

When I started across the threadbare carpet to the bathroom, Bishop’s words froze me. “Rev . . . you know it doesn’t matter to me what the fuck happened to you—it ain’t gonna change a damn thing about the way I feel about you. No matter what, you’re my big brother and my prez.”

Since I was both too emotionally conflicted and too stubborn to respond, I ignored him and pushed on into the bathroom. After locking the door behind me, I gazed at my reflection in the mirror. Two days of driving across Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana with minimal sleep had taken its physical toll. That, coupled with emotional stress, had left dark circles under my eyes. We’d packed up to leave so abruptly, I hadn’t bothered with a razor, so my beard was growing in. I looked like the hell that raged inside me.

Turning on the water full blast, I stepped into the shower. I placed my palms flat on the tile and stood with my head under the stream. Rolling my shoulders, I tried to ease my tense muscles.

Two days ago felt like two years and another world ago. It was hard to imagine just forty-eight hours ago I’d been dancing and drinking at my brother Deacon and sister-in-law Alexandra’s wedding. Then one phone call from the Raiders’ unofficial doctor, Bob “Breakneck” Edgeway, had changed everything.

Whenever I closed my eyes, one of two faces would haunt me. It was either the sinister visage of my rapist or the fresh-faced, innocent countenance of Breakneck’s daughter. It had been five years since I had seen Sarah at any of the Raiders events. She’d been an awkward thirteen-year-old girl in braces who had spent most of the BBQ fawning over Eric, the teenage son of our then-president, Case. Now she was a freshman at Texas A&M. From the picture Breakneck had texted me, I could see she’d grown into an auburn-haired beauty with an innocent smile.

The kind of girl that low-life traffickers were always jonesing for.

The criminal profiling of the scum who bought these women indicated they didn’t want fake-breasted, slutty types. They could pay for those any day on the streets or at the strip clubs. No, they seemed to want the unattainable female—the one who would never give them the time of day, unless she was forced. And sadly, Sarah fit that bill.

We didn’t have much to go on other than that it was the Highway Henchmen who took her and were making financial demands on Breakneck to get her back. Apparently, she had spilled the beans that her old man was a biker. Usually, girls kidnapped for trafficking never got a chance of being ransomed back to their families. Instead, they were sold to the highest bidder, into a life of sexual slavery. The thought that Sarah now faced that future turned my stomach and enraged me.

After scrubbing off yesterday’s grit and grime with the hotel’s cheap soap, I made fast work of rinsing. The moment I turned the water off, I heard my phone ringing in the bedroom. Throwing a towel around my waist, I hurried out of the bathroom to grab it. When I saw who was calling, I grimaced. “Yeah?”

“Where the hell are you?” Deacon demanded without even a hello.

“I’m touched that you thought to call me while you’re on your honeymoon.”

Deacon’s low growl came in my ear. “Don’t fucking change the subject, asshole.”

“I was just trying to be nice.”

“Yeah, you’re just being a prick is what you’re doing. Now I want a fucking straight answer.”

“Last time I checked, big brother, I wore the president’s patch.” I knew my words were the equivalent of poking a rattlesnake ready to strike. Regardless of whether I was the president of the Hells Raiders, I still owed Deacon an explanation.

“Fine, motherfucker, then answer me as your newly patched vice president, why my two brothers bailed on my reception to hit the road and are now in Texas.”

Defeated, I leaned back against the counter. I knew I couldn’t evade his questions anymore. “It’s complicated.”

“I’m listening.”

Slowly, I began unraveling the story of Sarah’s abduction, and how we were going to get her back from the Henchmen.

When I finished, Deacon merely muttered, “Fucking hell.”

“Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.”

Deacon exhaled a long sigh into the phone. “Man, I can’t bel...

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