Edge of Fear, Arrow’s Edge MC, Book Four

Ink and sawdust meets brisket and moxie

I’m a tattooed casualty.
A charmer, a fraud, a skeptic, and a carpenter.

My name is Tse.
I’m cocky enough to believe my own lies, but too oblivious to see the truth is already out there.

I’m a cautious perfectionist.
A sister, a scrapper, a dreamer, and a workhorse.

My name is Sophia.
I’m capable enough to plan ahead, yet too powerless to avoid getting blindsided.

We’re complete opposites—one who plays it safe, the other a thrill-seeker—but when old sins resurface bringing violence to the present, our path forward becomes clear.

CHAPTER 1

Sophia

“I SEE HERE you have experience in the food industry. Where did you work before?”

The barely twenty-year-old fidgets in her seat.

“McDonald’s.”

Of course.

I did my own creative résumé writing when I was younger, eager to bolster up my meager qualifications to land a job, but for the Backyard Edge it’s simply not enough.

The restaurant has only been open a couple of weeks and already I’ve lost a few of my waitstaff. I’m told it’s not unusual to have a high turnover at first, but I find it a little discouraging. Especially since I’m new to this type of business.

I spend a few more minutes talking with the girl before I get up and hold out my hand.

“I appreciate you coming in, Crystal. I’ll be in touch.”

Unfortunately that will be to let her know she didn’t get the job.

“No luck?”

I turn around to find Bernie, one of the sous-chefs, wandering in from the kitchen. He’s here early to start on prep.

“Afraid not. Too young, too inexperienced.” I run my fingers through my short hair. “I need to add at least two reliable servers and I can’t even find one.”

“I was thinking, I may know someone. A girl I worked with at my previous restaurant before it closed down. She may not have found anything else yet. I can give her a call, if you like,” he offers.

“Yes. Please do.”

“I can’t make any promises, but I can at least get the word out there.”

“That would be amazing, thank you.”

Temporarily putting the staffing issues out of my mind, I disappear into my small office and dive into the orders I need to place.

That’s more my strength, paperwork and budgets. Other than a part-time job at a fast-food joint when I was still in school, I have no experience in the restaurant business. In fact, three weeks ago I was still doing payroll and accounts payable for a small manufacturing company in Denver.

I was in Durango in May, attending the wedding of my best friend, Kelsey’s father. Kelsey and I both worked for the same military transport company in Denver, until last year when she discovered our boss was involved in illegal arms deals. Unfortunately, that knowledge cost Kelsey her life and put a target on my back as well. I ended up with a gnarly scar on my left leg, from a bullet wound, but survived. My bestie did not and left behind an infant son, who ended up living with her father.

Brick, his new wife, Lisa, and her two young grandkids took Finn into their home without question. I’d be lying if I said part of me wasn’t disappointed—I love that baby like he was my own—but I’m not sure a single, and at that time unemployed, woman would’ve been best for him. He’s better off with them, as part of a family. A family I seem to have been adopted into as well.

Brick runs the auto shop at the Arrow’s Edge MC compound, where Lisa basically runs the clubhouse. The club is not at all what I would’ve expected. It has a strong focus on family, provides a safe haven for troubled boys, and owns a growing number of legitimate businesses in Durango. The latest of which is the Backyard Edge.

By merit of being Kelsey’s friend, I was taken into their protection last year. Protection that was taken a little too seriously by two of the brothers, which is why it was Ouray, the club’s president, who gave me a ride to the airport last month.

I’d flown in to attend Lisa and Brick’s wedding for a few days and had to rush back to Denver because my boss was an asshole. On the drive I’d mentioned to Ouray my job in Denver wasn’t shaping up the way I’d hoped, and I was looking for something else. Even considered moving closer to my sister, who lives in Oregon with her family. He brought up the Backyard Edge, a more upscale venue than the microbrewery the club also owns. Then he offered me a job, asking if I’d be interested in managing the new place.

That took me by surprise. I’m a numbers girl, always have been, but he assured me that was part of the reason he offered me the job. That and the fact I’d give the place some ‘class.’ I’m not too sure about the last, but the offer was intriguing to say the least. It was a challenge, a new opportunity, and a chance to be closer to Finn.

Back in Denver I thought of little else the following week, and after yet another frustrating day at work, I ended up calling him.

Three weeks ago, I drove here with just a couple of suitcases. The rest of my stuff was temporarily stored, until I could find something more permanent than a spare bedroom over the garage of the mother-in-law of one of the club members. Like I said, it’s all about family with the Arrow’s Edge MC.

Then this past week, I was talking to a couple who came in for dinner, and the woman mentioned she was looking to rent out her place. It sounds amazing and I’m excited to go take a look after the weekend. From what Meredith tells me it’s a rustic, one-bedroom A-frame with a full wall of windows looking out on the mountains.

“I’ve got your keg.”

Wapi, one of my self-assigned protectors, sticks his head in the door. He mentioned he’d bring by a fresh keg from the microbrewery for the tap.

“Good morning to you too,” I tease him.

“Sorry,” he mumbles, an embarrassed blush staining his cheeks immediately. “Mornin’, I’m just here to hook it up for you.”

“That’d be awesome, thank you.”

He reminds me of my brother, is probably about the same age as well. Except, the way Wapi looks at me is far from brotherly. I feel bad; I don’t have any feelings for him that go beyond friendship. Even though he’s handsome, probably one of the kindest, most softhearted men I know, and would be good to me, there are no sparks on my part.

Not like the ones I feel around another Arrow’s Edge MC member.

Unlike his club brother, Tse is dark, smoldering, cocky, and would undoubtedly break my heart. The two men have come close to exchanging blows, a few times, with me in the middle. Not a place I particularly want to be.

I’ve managed to avoid the club and Tse since I came back to Durango—I haven’t seen him once—but Wapi has been here almost every night since we opened. Helping me get settled in behind the bar, sitting on a stool keeping me company, or jumping in when we’re shorthanded.

Tse has been pointedly absent.

Maybe he’s found someone else to toy with, which would be a good thing.

So why is it I’m disappointed he hasn’t shown his face?

Tse

“Ravi, grab your shit, kid.”

The boy drags his ass from the edge of the creek where he’s been skipping rocks since breakfast.

“Do we gotta go?”

“Yeah. Time to go home.”

Ravi is the youngest of the kids Paco and I brought up here. Even after having been with the club for over a year, the boy was having trouble fitting in, which is why we ended up taking him, even though he’s not quite fourteen.

This trip to Glenwood Springs was an opportunity to teach the boys some responsibility, some basic skills, and hopefully be a team-building exercise. We have two sixteen-year-old boys in the club’s care, who regularly feel the need to measure their dicks. It was high time to teach each of them a little humility.

I’d been looking for an excuse to get out of town for a while and found this two-week Habitat for Humanity build in Glenwood Springs. When I mentioned it to Trunk, our resident child psychologist, he came up with the idea to bring Elan and Maska.

Ravi had been an afterthought. He’s mature for his age, which is probably why he’s not really jelling with the younger boys, and the older ones ignore him.

The five of us have been camping at Elk Creek for the past two weeks and the kids have come a long way. Ravi still seems to prefer his own company, but he seems less out of place. He held his own working hard on the build during the days, and shared equally in camp duties with everyone else. He’s proven himself equal to the older boys, who seem to have found a balance as well.

Yesterday was the final day on the four-home build. We stayed for the barbecue organized and donated by local restaurants and watched the new homeowners take possession. That had left an impression, especially on Ravi, who hasn’t said much since last night, which is why Paco suggested he ride home with me. He left ten minutes ago with the others.

The kid seems to have taken a shine to me, following me around the construction site and asking a million and one questions about the carpentry work he was helping me with. Maybe without the other kids listening in I’ll be able to get him to tell me why he’s so quiet.

“All your stuff in the back, Bud?”

“Yeah.”

“Then close the gate and let’s get on the road. See if we can beat those other guys home.”

That earns me a little grin. Ravi is as competitive as I am.

“You think we can?” he wants to know, getting in the passenger seat and buckling up.

“Beat them? Heck, yeah. Paco drives like a grandma.”

I smile when I hear his chuckle and floor the gas the moment the tires hit hardtop.

It’s been a good couple of weeks. Work, eat, and sleep for the most part, but we did get a few hikes and some fishing in. Life boiled down to simple basics was a welcome change.

I don’t mind the physical work; it keeps my hands and therefore my head busy. I’ve always been good with my hands; I like building things. Something tangible to show for your efforts. It gives me a sense of purpose I was lacking most of my life.

We’d just finished adding a wing to Lisa and Brick’s cottage when Ouray asked me to build a bar for the new restaurant. That was a fun project, using only repurposed wood, and I’m proud of the result.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been back to see the whole place finished. I skipped the official opening of the Backyard Edge and kept a low profile at the club. This Habitat for Humanity build provided a good excuse to get out of town for a while, but that’s come to an end. Going home it’ll be tough to keep my distance.

Fuck, I about lost it on Ouray when I found out he’d asked her to manage the restaurant. Sophia: the woman who almost caused a rift between brothers.

I knew she was trouble when she first walked into the club last year. The kind of trouble that would pit brother against brother. Not that she had any intention of doing so. Hell, if anything, she kept both of us from getting anywhere with her.

One look at that woman—all legs and ass—one husky word from those pouty lips, one blink with those large doe-like eyes, and I wasn’t the only one having a come-to-papa moment. Never mind I’m almost a decade too old for her. My brother is almost a decade too young and it didn’t stop him from falling ass over teakettle either.

It had been almost a relief when she headed back to Denver after Christmas. I figured it would be out of sight, out of mind, but then she came back for the wedding last month. Any headway Wapi and I had made to settle our differences went flying out the window.

I don’t get it, Ouray was the one who ripped us a new one, only to turn around and announce he’d not only asked her to come back to Durango, but also offered her the job at the restaurant. Safest option was for me to stay away, even if it goes against every last fucking instinct.

_______________

“Boys seem good.”

Trunk steps up beside me at the bar in the clubhouse.

“Yeah. Nothing like manual labor and forced proximity to forge a brotherhood,” I suggest.

Elan and Maska would be graduating high school next year and both kids have apparently expressed an interest in prospecting for the club. Except in the Arrow’s Edge MC a prospect is known as a cub. Grunts, who can earn a place in the brotherhood by placing themselves in service to the club. After they’ve had a chance to show what they’re made of and have proven their loyalty, the brothers will take a vote to make them a full member.

Ironically, the last vote we had was for Wapi and that was a couple of years ago. It took longer for him to get patched in because he’d made a few serious errors in judgment in his younger years, and it took him a while to win back the trust of the club.

“And you? Clear your head some?”

Trust Trunk to see right through to the core.

“Time will tell, brother.”

He claps a hand on my shoulder and leans close.

“Prepare then. I have a feeling you’re about to get tested.”

I turn to look at him but he’s already walking away, passing Ouray who is heading in this direction.

“Good trip?”

“Yeah.”

“Get your head straight?”

I drop my head and groan. What the fuck is this with everyone up in my business? The good mood I was in when I sat down for a beer, after that long drive, is fading fast.

“What the fuck do you want?”

I throw him a pissed glare when I hear him chuckle.

“Plumbing problem that needs fixin’ before the dinner rush.”

“Here?” I ask hopefully, but the feeling in my gut tells me I won’t get off that easy.

“At the Backyard.”

“Send Wapi.”

I turn back to my beer and take a hefty swig.

“No can do,” Ouray says, humor in his voice. “He’s off to Farmington, picking up some parts Brick needs for tomorrow.” He lifts a hand when I open my mouth. “And I’m not about to call a fucking plumber when you can do it. Can’t avoid the woman forever, brother. Time to man up.”

Oh, I’ll man up all right. That’s exactly what I’m afraid of.

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