Henry “Volt” Adler, President of the Riot MC Jacksonville chapter, admires Jackie's rarely found spunk and dedication to Simone. The timing is all wrong for him to pursue Jackie. He runs into her nearly two years later, and he will stop at nothing to make her his.
Jackie struggles with this bossy, alpha-male in her life. When she learns he knows who attacked Simone but hasn't made them pay, she questions if he's the man for her.
Upon the two-year anniversary of the attack, Simone attempts suicide, and Volt hates seeing Jacqueline hurting for her friend. He orders his brothers to make the attackers pay for what they did to Simone.
One attacker proves elusive and stalks Jackie. Volt struggles to stay on the right side of the law while protecting his woman.
Release date: April 28, 2020
Print pages: 196
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Starting the Riot: Riot MC 0.5
It wasn’t unusual to wake up in the middle of the night because of my roommate coming in late. In fact, it was a pretty common occurrence, since we were both just over twenty-one and both sowing our wild oats. I rolled to the left to glance at my alarm clock. The blue digits were blurry since I wasn’t wearing my glasses or contacts; I could have sworn it read 5:43, but that couldn’t possibly be right. I closed my eyes and thought maybe I reversed the five and it was really 2:43. Prying one eyelid open, I looked again and saw it was a five, not a two.
A bad feeling crept into my chest. Something wasn’t right, and I knew if I didn’t check on Simone I’d toss and turn the rest of the morning.
I padded into the small living room. Before I could turn toward the hall that led to Simone’s room, I noticed a shape slumped against our front door. My heart froze and I squinted. I didn’t know why I squinted. It was like ingrained stupidity… or undying hopefulness. I couldn’t see worth a shit without my glasses or my contacts, and not once had squinting at something made it so I could miraculously see it. Cautiously, I edged toward the front door, but the closer I got, the clearer it became that it was Simone leaned up against the door.
“Simone,” I whisper-hissed, tagging the light switch in our tiny foyer. The overhead light came on and we both winced. My roommate wouldn’t open her eyes, though. Her wavy brown hair was a mass of tangles and frizz.
That bad feeling turned into a sharp sensation in my chest and my gut.
“Simone,” I said in a stern voice. No reaction, not even a flutter of her eyelids.
I grabbed her hand. Her arm looked okay and I could feel her pulse. I turned her arm and saw the angry marks on the inside of her forearm. Large oval bruises. I put my thumb near one and knew it had to be a thumb mark from a man.
Despite wracking my brain, I couldn’t remember what she wore last night to go out to the minor-league baseball game for Thirsty Thursday, but I was pretty certain it wasn’t this shirt. The shirt was large on her petite frame.
I lifted her arm again and saw more bruises on the inside of her bicep, except these were in groups of four. It didn’t take a detective to realize Simone had been held down.
“Oh, my God,” I said on a sigh.
I stood up and went to my room to get my cell phone. When I came back to Simone, she was turning her head to one side and then turning it the opposite direction.
“Simone, hon. Can you hear me? It’s Jackie.”
“No, light Jack. Turn off the light.”
I hit the switch, and dialed 911.
Five minutes later, I struggled to move Simone’s weight away from the door, and opened it to three paramedics.
“Hi. I don’t know what happened. This is my roommate, Simone. I heard her get in around a quarter ‘til, and I knew something was wrong. She doesn’t normally come in this late. She’s not responsive, and I think someone must have given her something.”
A police officer showed up while the paramedics examined Simone and put her on a gurney. I gave the officer my statement, put on my glasses since there wasn’t time for my contacts, got dressed, and followed the ambulance to the hospital.
Simone was more alert when the nurse finally took me back to see her. She also didn’t seem very thrilled to see me. I wanted to hug her, but I had a feeling that wouldn’t be welcome at this point. Slowly, I sidled up to her on the exam table.
“You doing okay?” I asked. Immediately I felt like a douche because Simone’s arms were wrapped tight around her middle and it was abundantly clear she was anything but ‘doing okay.’
“No,” she whispered.
Her eyes were on mine. The light that normally shone from them was extinguished. Sadness and anger warred within me, but the anger was winning out. I wanted to hunt down the motherfucker who did this to her. She recognized the determined glint in my eyes.
“I was raped,” she mumbled.
My heart broke and I decided when I found the motherfucker, I was going to rip out his fuckin’ fingernails, then I was going to use those nails to hack off his dick. It would be time-consuming, but well worth it.
I opened my mouth to say I was sorry, but my beautiful roommate spoke before me. “More than one guy, they said.”
My breath left me and I closed my eyes. I opened them and Simone was looking at the floor.
“Can I hug you, Simone?”
“’Kay,” she whispered.
I wrapped my arms around her as gently as I could. I murmured in her hair, “I’m gonna call your mom.”
She reacted so violently I couldn’t believe it.
“No, Jacqueline. Do not call my mom. No way. Not my Dad either.”
I stared at her for a very long moment. She needed her family. Anyone would. But her eyes pleaded with me and I nodded. Before I could say anything more, a slightly older woman poked her head through the curtain opening.
“Simone Barnes? I’m Jennifer Fiske with Victim’s Advocacy.”
Fridays I only had one class. At the beginning of the semester, I had questioned what I was thinking, signing up for a Monday-Wednesday-Friday class, because having Fridays wide-open was one of the many great things about being a college student. I had deprived myself of that fabulousness by taking Dr. Kurji’s Transcendental Literature class, but Dr. Kurji was one of the coolest professors on campus. He was from India, and had taken the courses to become a full-fledged American citizen. He quoted Thomas Jefferson at the most random moments, yet always tied the quote back around to the subject matter at hand with brilliance. I marveled at how much more he knew about my country than I did ‒or any of my classmates did‒ then my marvel gave way to shame, because I had pride in my country, so what kind of lazy person did it make me to not know all these things, as Dr. Kurji did? I loved his class, so that more than made up for the fact that it interrupted my Friday afternoons.
Papers and books were rustling in the room, and the sounds gained momentum as more people gathered their things. I caught sight of the clock on the wall, and our time would be up in just a few minutes. The ninety-minute class had seemed longer than normal because I felt so guilty for attending. I had offered to stay home with Simone, but she insisted I go to class.
“Besides, I’m going to be in my room. My head is killing me, and the doctors gave me some high grade pain killers. I took some and I’m gonna take a long nap.”
I had contemplated sticking around anyway, to be safe, but I figured I would hit class in case she needed me to skip out on Monday, instead. My guilt gave way to disgust with myself because I hadn’t paid much attention to anything said during today’s class.
“Miss Eastmon,” Dr. Kurji called. “If I could have a word, please.”
I placed my notebook in my bag, zipped it, and approached the lectern, where Dr. Kurji was collecting his things.
Resting a forearm on the top of the podium, he leaned toward me. “You were not here today. Your body, yes, but your mind was elsewhere. This is unusual for you. Is everything all right?”
My lips thinned as I took in a deep breath. “My roommate was attacked very early this morning. She doesn’t know exactly who did it, and she does not want to notify her family.”
Dr. Kurji’s brows furrowed over his warm brown eyes. “No,” he whispered.
I nodded. “And, she hasn’t said it, at least not yet, but I don’t think she’s all that pleased I called 911 to get her to the hospital or that I gave a statement to the police.”
His head nodded and kept on nodding. When he stopped, he gave me a piercing look. “That is a difficult situation. I am surprised you did not stay home today. It would have been excused, Miss Eastmon. Surely, you recognize that?”
I smiled wanly. “I do, but she was taking a long nap, and I thought she might need me more on Monday, so this way, it might even out.”
“Yes. I can see your logic,” he said. “Surely, your roommate’s parents will be notified by the police about this incident?”
I frowned. “She’s an adult. She expressly said not to notify anyone else. I’m just not sure I can respect that wish of hers.”
“Indeed. A difficult situation you’re in, Miss Eastmon. There are counselors on campus; it isn’t only the victim who suffers from an attack. Suffering takes many forms, so do not hesitate to reach out for help if you should need it also.”
“Thank you, Dr. Kurji.”
Other students were trickling into the vacated classroom. Dr. Kurji grabbed his beaten leather satchel and walked me to the door. We split ways at the mouth of the hall, and I hustled to my car in the parking lot.
It was three-fifteen in the afternoon, and at that time of day on a Friday it would be hit or miss as to how crowded it would be, but my gut, my heart, and my mind had all three come to the same conclusion. Simone’s parents needed to know, and since her dad was in town and Simone’s mother was two hundred miles away, I’d have to go to him.
Simone and I went way back. Way back to sixth grade, anyway, when she and her mom moved to Ruskin, where I lived with my parents, after her parents were divorced. It wasn’t pretty, but from what I gathered from other friends who were children of divorce, it never was pretty. We became fast friends, and that didn’t change through high school. Both of us were good girls, relatively speaking, and we maintained high grade-point averages. When it came time to apply for colleges, we both wanted to get away from home, but we didn’t want to leave Florida entirely. As luck would have it, Jacksonville University accepted us both, and somehow we both landed scholarships allowing us to attend the private college.
My parents weren’t thrilled with the idea of me going to college in the northeast part of the state. When Simone decided she was headed to JU too, my parents relaxed, a little. Mainly, that was because Simone’s father was a Jacksonville native, and when he and her mother split, he’d stayed there. Hard for him not to, he had opened a biker bar early in his marriage. After a while it became clear to Simone’s mom he was married to the bar, not her.
So, it was almost like I would have a father-figure nearby, because even though Simone’s father lived in Jacksonville, she’d spent time with him in the summer. She and I were so tight, I wound up spending a week with her and her dad each summer from the time I was thirteen until I was eighteen. That was the other upside to going to college in Jacksonville: it was a city that was new to me, yet familiar, all at the same time.
Up until a year ago, we had lived in the campus dorm. Then we moved into an apartment together in the Arlington neighborhood. The area could be a little rough, but on the whole it was a hard-working area. It was also close to Simone’s father’s bar.
The name of his bar wasn’t exactly original. His name was Barney Barnes and his bar was called The Barnes Bar. I supposed when one had a lousy name there were two options. Make do or change it. Obviously, Simone’s dad embraced his name and made the most of it.
I pulled into the parking lot, and noticed two men standing outside the doors. One was wearing dark sunglasses that were wrap-arounds. He was leaned up against the wall, with a boot flat against it, and one hand held a cigarette to his mouth. The other man was standing to his right and talking animatedly. Both men had long brown hair, but the animated guy had his hair pulled back into a low pony-tail. The smoker left his dark hair loose around his shoulders.
I turned off my car, and grabbed my small purse. Tilting my head from one side to the other until a satisfying crack filled my car, I sighed. My tension level was sky-high, and what I was about to do wasn’t helping matters.
“Time to get this over with,” I said to the windshield, and I opened my door.
I slung my purse strap on my shoulder as I walked up to the doors. Since I was on a mission, I didn’t pay the two men much mind. Just as my hand reached out to grab the door handle, I heard the smoker’s rough voice.
“You’re in the wrong place, sorority girl.”
I bristled at the comment, because I wasn’t in a sorority, and I really didn’t like people making assumptions about me or anyone else. It also didn’t help that my gut told me Simone’s membership in her own sorority most likely got her raped last night, but that was an assumption I was making and I probably shouldn’t.
I was ready to mouth off to him, but when I took a good look at this unruly guy, I knew he was not someone to be disrespected. Certainly, the black leather vest told me he was part of something bigger than himself.
That didn’t mean I would let someone like him run right over me with accusations of being a sorority girl. It wasn’t any of his business, and it wasn’t the business I was at The Barnes Bar for anyway. I was there to see Mr. Barnes. I did my level best to keep my face fairly neutral.
I shook my head at both of them and opened the door. The smoky air assaulted me, and I suddenly wondered why these two were outside when clearly smoking could, and did, take place inside the bar. Oh well, not my issue. I moved directly to the bar and heard a low chuckle along with two sets of footsteps following me inside.
Putting my elbows to the bar, I noticed one of Barnes’s ex-girlfriends was behind it. She caught sight of me, narrowed an eye and recognition shifted into her gaze.
“Shouldn’t have to tell you this, since you live with the girl, but Simone ain’t here.”
The rough voice from earlier seemed smoother. Probably because it was very close to my ear. “Told you, you are in the wrong place.”
I turned my head just enough to give him a scathing look from the corner of my eye, and I saw his lips twitch. I caught this brief show of humor despite his thick, dark mustache framing his lips. The mustache would’ve been part of a beard, but it appeared he’d shaved his chin and cheeks maybe two days prior.
I turned back to the ex-girlfriend, her name had left my mind. “I need to see Barnes. Now.” I said through gritted teeth.
“She needs to see Barnes,” I heard repeated and the voice sounded amused. I turned and noticed the animated guy was smiling outright at me. Then he added in a mocking tone, “‘Now’. Does she know where she’s at?”
I looked past him and his buddy the smoker. There were a few regulars planted on stools, and a waitress was wiping down a high-top in the corner. This early on a Friday, my guess was Barnes was in his office preparing for the upcoming rush-hour and evening crush. I turned on my low-heeled boot, and walked a few steps as though I was going to leave. Then I took a hard left and beelined it for the office. I got one hand on the knob of the door before a burly arm caught me around my waist.
“Your hearing must be selective, because I heard you speak English to Shirley not five seconds ago. Last warning, sorority girl. You’re in the wrong place. You don’t want to add ‘the wrong time’ to that description.”
I tipped my head back and realized he had removed his sunglasses. His brown eyes were the very definition of striking. I fought to keep my mouth shut because the color in each iris was so rich. A vibrant shade of russet-brown I didn’t know existed. Moreover, I could see that his eyes had seen things, and his eyes were anything but soulful.
Mentally, I slapped myself out of my shocked daze, and then I physically wrenched myself from his hold.
“I’m going to talk to Barnes. It’s fucking important,” I said and I didn’t know how loud I was until I stopped speaking and realized the rest of the bar went silent.
His head shifted minutely at me like he could sense something was wrong. Before he could say anything, the door flew open and Barney Barnes stood in the doorway, scowling.
“What the… Jacqueline? What in God’s green earth are you doin’ here, skinny-minnie?”
Oh, God. I’d forgotten how reassuring it could be to hear Simone’s father’s rumbly voice call me such a ludicrous name.
I looked at him and couldn’t fight the tears springing into my eyes.
“I gotta talk to you, Mr. Barnes. In private.”
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