By: Jade Chandler

Chapter One: Lila

Life offered new chances all the time, and today was mine. Nothing matched the optimism of the first day. I’ve always loved the potential of these days—new school years, new jobs, new opportunities.

“Today, I will kick ass and take names,” I told myself with a confidence I didn’t feel.

Hell, I couldn’t even convince my reflection.

I swiped a coat of gloss on my lips before I grabbed my red hobo bag and headed to my first day of work.

I hurried down the narrow wood stairs and around the corner to the tattoo shop’s side entrance, literally mere feet from my apartment. I hit the four-digit code to my new home away from home.

Astringent and wood scents greeted me as I flipped up a row of switches and lit the workroom. My steps echoed across the worn wooden floor, and I approved of the way the brick-colored walls accented the chrome and black motif of the stations.

“Anyone here?” I raised my voice, and it echoed through the huge room. Apparently not. I wish I knew who would be meeting me, but all Jericho had said was “one of the guys will be there at eleven.”

The hall split in two directions—the left led to the front, my domain, and the right to a closed door marked Staff Only. I itched to dig in to the inventory. Instead, I moved to the front so I wouldn’t miss my mysterious guide who was now...oh, who’d now be just on time. Right, I’d come early, unable to wait anymore.

Besides, the front belonged to me. The green walls, huge old wooden counter and 1950s retro cash register shouted attitude and style. The shelves under the oak counter held the leather-bound appointment book and the ledger Jericho, the guy who’d interviewed me, said I should use to track sales and expenses.

There really wasn’t a freaking computer. Who did business like that?

The Jericho Brotherhood. Unease made me move, I needed to do anything besides think about the barely legal motorcycle club who owned the shop.

I grabbed the window cleaner and polished the print-smudged glass covering the old counter.

I erased the drink rings coating the two end tables before I tackled the door and two huge plate-glass windows. Hands on hips, I surveyed my work—the waiting area gleamed.

I took a quick look at my watch to reaffirm what the huge metal clock on the wall said—eleven fifteen. Now Mr. Mysterious was late, and my nerves started to eat my stomach lining since the cleaning hadn’t helped my anxiety. I stowed away the cleaner before I walked outside to see my handiwork.

The tattoo shop, the Marked Man, stood at the west end of Main Street with boutiques, small businesses, the only bar and two of Barden’s four restaurants. The hot Oklahoma sun beat down, with the temperature above ninety, according to the bank sign cattywampus from the shop. Sweat popped on my brow in seconds, and white light bounced off the windows, almost blinding me.

“Hey,” a deep rumbling voice called from behind me. I steeled myself to not react, no matter how scary or intimidating the biker might be. I mean, the boss guy, Jericho, gave me the willies with his cold, bi-colored eyes.

“Hey, Red,” the man repeated.

I wasn’t a fan of my curly red hair that refused to do anything I wanted. Seriously, it was like a temperamental cat lived on my head. Give me Medusa hair any day over this stuff.

I turned but only saw a white-outlined silhouette in the bright noon sun. Tall, blond and the owner of a seriously sexy voice.

“Dare,” he greeted me, before he opened the door.

I walked into the dimmer light of the reception area.

“Did ya find your way around?”

When I turned toward him, I almost swallowed my tongue.

He stood in front of me dressed in leather chaps, motorcycle boots and a tight red T-shirt almost painted on his wide chest.

His strong chin was bare, even though I thought beards were a biker requirement. Full lips tilted in a sexy, sarcastic smirk. Aviator glasses slid off, and he assessed me with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen.

“Hey, I’m Lila.” I held out my hand, glad it didn’t tremble.

He clasped it in a firm but not crushing handshake.

Tingles shot from my fingers up my arm and raced down my spine. I was in serious trouble. My attraction meter shot past interested into the red zone.

“Glad you’re here to fix the chaos.”

His wide smile lit up his face, adding a hint of adorable to his charm.

No bikers, no men, period, I chastised myself. I don’t want trouble. I liked the empty apartment above my lust-filled head. Hadn’t I just run from one loser as soon as I landed this job?

I stepped back into the counter. “Doesn’t look like it’s in too bad of shape.” I bit my lip and suppressed the moan I wanted to let loose thanks to the six feet of sexiness standing in front of me.

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