Edge of Reality, Arrow’s Edge MC, Book Five
Horsepower and green thumbs meets justice and flip-flops.
I’m a late bloomer.
A geek, an introvert, an enigma, and a watchdog.
My name is Paco.
I’m determined enough to bide my time, yet too clever to pass up on opportunity.
I’m a steadfast rebel.
An outcast, a defender, a hothead, and an eccentric.
My name is Mel.
I’m resolute enough to carve my own way, but not too blind to see a better path.
We are established loners—each limited by the boundaries we set—but when a young boy’s life hangs in the balance, we discover we have more in common than we thought.
“I’m sorry. You just missed her, she’s on her way to meet with a client.”
Lindsey rolls her eyes dramatically as I pass by her desk on my way out the door.
My daughter, my legal assistant, and my gatekeeper. She’s the face of this office. Not only much friendlier, she’s also much more diplomatic and politically correct than I ever was or will be.
I’m not making any apologies; my much bristlier personality has served me well in my profession. Especially in family law—my preferred field—where emotions always seem to run high, my lack of bedside matter and unwillingness to coddle tends to cut right through to the business at hand. I don’t think I have many clients who actually like me, but they sure like the results I can get them.
I’m known as a ballbuster, which is mostly manspeak for a woman who won’t put up with their bullshit. It’s probably also the reason I’m single. I’m too much to handle. Even that badass biker I thought had potential seems to be keeping his distance.
I mentally shrug my shoulders. Oh, well, so be it. I guess if he can’t take me the way I am, he’s not worth my time anyway. Screw him.
I pull open the door when I notice Lindsey hanging up the phone.
“Who was it?”
“Mesina’s lawyer. Howell Redfern. That’s the third time he’s called in the past day or two. He really wants to talk with you.”
“I’m sure he does, but he’ll have to wait until I’ve had a chance to talk with my client.”
My client being thirty-three-year-old Shauna Mesina, wife of Carlos Mesina, the man whose lawyer is probably as dirty as he is.
Shauna came to me a week ago expressing a desire to leave her husband. He made it clear it wouldn’t end well if she tried. He has good reason to be worried, it turns out Shauna knows far more about his shady business dealings than he probably suspects she does. That’s why I convinced her to talk to the FBI. Some of the information she shared with me will be of great interest to them.
Fucking drugs and money, the downfall of society, and Carlos Mesina is apparently up to his eyeballs in both. The one blessing for Shauna is that she doesn’t share kids with the man. Not by his choice—he was eager for offspring—but by Shauna’s. Despite staying with him for over ten years, she was never sure she wanted to bring kids into his world.
Turns out that was a smart choice or he would’ve had some serious leverage to keep her in check.
Anyway, Shauna is in federal protective care as we speak and I’m on my way to meet with her and SAC Damian Gomez at the Durango office. Which is also why I’ve avoided speaking with Howell Redfern. I don’t want to run the chance Carlos finds out his wife is about to have his ass handed to him. He’d probably disappear before the FBI can get their case together.
In the meantime, I’m going to proceed with the filings for their divorce as if that’s all we’re interested in.
“Are you gonna be home for dinner?” Lindsey wants to know.
“Do you want to stop at The Backyard Edge and pick us up some brisket? I have a dental cleaning this afternoon and I was hoping to squeeze in a yoga class.”
“Sure. Sounds good to me”
Lindsay and I have been alternating weeks for kitchen duties since she moved back in with me two years ago. This is technically her week, but we regularly opt for takeout because we both have pretty busy schedules.
Our place isn’t big, a modest two-story house with a nanny-suite in the basement in a decent neighborhood, not far from the college. I didn’t want big when I bought it. It would only mean more clutter and more cleaning, neither of which I’m a fan. But I did like the option of Lindsey having her own space for her visits.
Then when she came back to Durango permanently, having her move in made more sense than having to pay rent somewhere else. It gave her a chance to get back on her feet, and although we share the kitchen and the rest of the main floor, we each have our own self-contained space as well. It works for us.
When I start my ancient Subaru, it makes a noise like a frickin’ race car. I really need to get that exhaust checked out; it’s starting to sound like the cars Lindsey’s father used to drive when he was still racing NASCAR.
I met David Zimmerman when he was at an event at my alma mater. I was just twenty-one and was drawn to his almost reckless sense of adventure. Everything he did, he did to the extreme. Including me, which is how I ended up pregnant after a whirlwind two months of dating. My parents hated him on sight, which was all the more reason for me to say yes when he surprisingly asked me to marry him.
I can’t say being with him was a mistake, because I got Lindsey out of it, but I should’ve thought twice before marrying him. Needless to say, the impromptu marriage lasted about as long as it took to give birth to Lindsey and for the reality of parenthood to scare the absolute shit out of David. He was gone before the ink on the birth certificate was dry.
You’d think I would’ve been heartbroken, but instead I felt liberated and oddly empowered, managing new parenthood by myself while still in college. It wasn’t easy but I made it through both, earning my law degree just before she turned eight.
Lindsey grounded me, forced me to shed any remaining wild hairs I may have sported. I grew up alongside my daughter, and I don’t mind admitting she taught me as much as I taught her.
Of course Lindsey had her own bout of rebellion right around when she left for college. No pregnancies—thank God—but it took every last ounce of patience I had, cost me many sleepless nights, and added many a gray hair before she managed to get herself together.
David was only peripherally present in her life, but his monthly child support payments were as regular as clockwork. It’s only in the past few years since he quit racing that he’s started showing his face a little more often. Lindsey isn’t that gung-ho but I try to stay out of it. She’s an adult and more than capable of making decisions of her own.
Heck, sometimes I think she’s become the adult in our relationship. If I’d listened to her, I wouldn’t be driving through downtown Durango with a muffler hanging on by a thread. She tried to get me to buy new wheels when she went to pick up her Toyota RAV4 from the dealer, but I was being stubborn.
As promised, my client is at the FBI office on Rock Point Drive waiting for me. SAC Gomez doesn’t want me to know where they’re keeping her—totally fine by me—which is why he arranged this meeting.
“Has he been asking about me?” is the first thing out of my client’s mouth.
I have to curb my annoyance at her question, or I might say something to set her off which could jeopardize the investigation.
“I’m not his lawyer, Shauna. I have no reason to talk with Carlos and any communication is through his attorney.”
I don’t bother telling her I’ve been ducking his calls for days.
“So no messages?”
I glance over at Agent Gomez, who seems as unimpressed as I am.
“No messages, and don’t forget that’s a good thing. Now,” I firmly steer us toward the real reason for this meeting.
I pull the documents we need to go over from my briefcase, which is really more of a knapsack. It fits my personality better. At least I wore black pants and my Chucks today, instead of my cargo pants and flip-flops, which made Lindsey happy. She’s responsible for the sleek-looking offices we occupy, I was fine with the old furnishings I had before. It was all still serviceable and I don’t put a lot of stock in looks. The only luxuries I tend to spend money on are my laptop, which is always the latest model, and my shampoo, which costs a whack but makes my hair look and feel fabulous.
Oops. Guess I have a hint of vanity after all.
It’s already after five when Gomez finally walks me out of the office.
“Tell me she’s not this difficult for you to deal with?” I ask him.
“Me? Half an hour was enough for me to want to put my fist through the wall. No, I handed the interviews over to Luna, who’s doing a good job of handling her. Better than I could.”
Luna is one of Gomez’s agents but also happens to be married to the president of the Arrow’s Edge, a motorcycle club I regularly work for. They foster troubled boys—mostly runaways—get them to school, give them direction, and teach them the value of family. I may have been apprehensive at first, but I’ve seen them in action and completely stand behind their mandate.
“As long as you’re getting somewhere with her.” I hold up the documents I got her to sign. “I’ll get these filed, which should buy us at least another month. I’m guessing that’s how long it’ll be before we’ll even get on the family court docket.”
“Fingers crossed we’ll have enough evidence to nail him before then.”
“I hope so too.”
The parking lot behind The Backyard Edge isn’t too crowded. Hopefully, it won’t take them too long to get my takeout order ready. Don’t get me wrong, I love this restaurant, and I adore Sophia who manages it. The place is owned by the Arrow’s Edge MC and the food is phenomenal. Sophia is actually married to Tse, one of the club members. Nothing wrong with the club, this restaurant, or Tse, I just prefer to avoid one of his brothers.
The first person I see walking in is him, his ass parked at the bar.
Murphy’s fucking law.
Well, damn…my day is looking up.
She tries to avoid my eyes but I know her well enough, she won’t be able to resist the challenge I’m putting out there.
As I’ve seen her do before, she straightens her shoulders, lifts her chin, and then looks at me, her eyes cool.
I indicate the barstool beside me and I see the brief hesitation before she takes a seat.
“Hey, Mel,” Emme, one of the bartenders, greets her. “What can I get you?”
“I’m just here to order takeout.”
“Have a drink while you wait.”
I don’t even have to say a word, Emme is doing all the work. Means I won’t risk shoving my size twelves in my mouth again, which is what I seem to do every time I open my mouth around her.
At first, I could’ve sworn there was something there, the way she looked at me with blatant interest when we were first introduced last year. I looked too but figured I’d pace myself, get familiar. Then I tried giving her a compliment at Brick and Lisa’s wedding and I got my first taste of that ice-queen look she’s mastered.
As soon as the words left my mouth, I wished them back. I’m good with my hands, my mind works fine, but I’ve never been good with words. Shit, I never needed them. Back when we’d still have club chicks showing up at the clubhouse, a look and a raised eyebrow was all it took.
Mel is definitely not a club chick. She may have a mouth on her and balls of steel, but underneath that woman is all class and I told her with some hair dye and makeup she’d be a looker. Fuck. Don’t know what the hell I was thinking. Her hair is awesome and she doesn’t need anything to enhance her beauty.
“Yo, earth to Paco. Refill?”
Emme waves my empty under my nose.
I sip my beer, as Mel chats up Emme, and wait for an opportunity to get a word in. Ten minutes later, when her order comes out and she gets up from her stool, I can’t do much more than watch her leave.
My opportunity comes five minutes later when I’ve settled up with Emme and make my way to the parking lot.
Mel’s car is still there and she’s standing beside it, giving the fender a swift kick.
“Need a hand?”
Her head snaps around as I approach.
“Stupid car,” she mumbles, looking annoyed. “I thought it was just the muffler.”
“Let me have a look.”
I hold out my hand for the keys and after a hard glare, she drops her keys in my palm with a deep sigh. I’m not a mechanic, but I’m pretty handy with engines. I can handle the basics.
Having about six inches or so on Mel, I have to move the seat back to be able to get behind the wheel. The engine coughs to life when I start it, then makes a god-awful racket before sputtering out again.
Mel sticks her head in the door opening. “Can you fix it?”
It’s on my lips to tell her no amount of fixing this piece of shit is worth it, but I’ve learned my lesson so keep it to myself.
I ease out of the car and pull my phone from my pocket and dial Brick.
“Talk to me.”
Brick is one of my brothers and runs an auto shop for the club. Mel helped him get custody of his grandson last year.
“Yo, brother, Mel’s car crapped out. Parking lot at the Backyard.”
“Finally,” Brick deadpans. “Was waiting for that piece of crap to die.”
I chuckle and catch a sharp look from Mel.
“Can you swing by?”
“Does she need a ride?”
“I’ll take care of that.”
Been wanting to get that woman on the back of my bike and now is my chance.
“Good. Leave the keys behind the sun visor, I’ll pick it up when I’m done here.”
I end the call and lean back into the car, leaving her keys where Brick instructed.
“You can’t leave the keys in the car. Someone’ll steal it.”
I straighten up and turn to her, pulling an eyebrow up.
“No one’s going anywhere with this car unless they have a tow truck, Darlin’,” I point out. Then I put a hand on her elbow. “Come on. I’ll drive you home.”
She pulls her arm free and says stubbornly, “I’ll wait for Brick.”
“You’d be waiting a while and your dinner’s gettin’ cold.”
She looks down at the bag in her hand and mutters what sounded like a curse under her breath.
“Fine. Where are you parked?”
I don’t bother hiding the grin as I point at my bike parked next to the restaurant’s back door.
“You’ve got to be shitting me.”