Mallory's relationship with Cal has a rough start, but the two of them cannot stay away from one another. After an attempt by a rival MC to abduct Mallory she finds herself practically living with Cal. There are many things she doesn't understand about his lifestyle and his world, but she understands she's quickly developing feelings for this over-protective alpha male.
Cal “Callous” Robertson has been a patched member of the Riot MC for the past nineteen years. He's fascinated by the spunky brunette, Mallory Pierce, who is one of the only women to push his buttons. He thinks Mallory's mother-in-law is behind the break-in at Mallory's house, but at such an early point in their relationship Cal keeps that to himself. When a member of a rival MC shows interest in Mallory, Cal can no longer deny his attraction to her. Cal is determined to protect Mallory, and get to know her better along the way. The more he finds out, the more he wants her in his life. Permanently. When Mallory is abducted from Bike Week right under Cal's nose, he finds he cannot live without this spitfire woman in his life, and he'll do whatever he has to in order to get her back.
Release date: April 30, 2018
Print pages: 423
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Unforeseen Riot: A Riot MC Novel
I felt like walls were caving in on me. Everyone in my life, and even a man I hadn’t met yet, were pushing me. There was my boss, but that’s what bosses do. They push, and normally because they were getting pushed by their own boss or by a client – which is effectively the same thing. My mother-in-law was pushing me for a definitive monetary amount in the insurance settlement for the deaths of my husband and son. My late husband’s buddies were pushing me to make Trivia because it was Thursday and it was tradition. The only time I had been given a reprieve from trivia with the guys was during the six months following the tragic deaths of my husband and son in a freak drunk driving accident. Well, in my biased opinion, it wasn’t a freak accident. Seriously, call a cab, there’s no accident. Lightning strike, sinkhole swallowing your home in the wee hours of dawn, a stray piece of dryer lint igniting your entire house on fire, those were ‘freak’ accidents, but I’m no actuary.
A man I didn’t know, with obvious Alpha-male tendencies, pushing me? There was a man I could do without. When this man named Cal pushed me to get my ass to trivia, let’s just say, it was time to push back.
I parked my car in my driveway as my cell phone rang. I didn’t feel like answering it, even if I didn’t know who was calling. I was exhausted and felt like curling under my bed covers and hibernating. It was quarter after six, and my workday as a business analyst had been a doozy. It was mid-February, and my boss’s boss was leaning heavily on our department to get annual analysis reports done so he would look good. The work would get done, but I hated the unnecessary stress. Our reports weren’t going to change the world or even increase the bottom line. I knew other people had it far worse than I did. It was just the little stressors that all added up by the end of the day. Traffic in Jacksonville that evening was exceptionally worse than usual for no discernible reason. I felt a headache coming on at my temples. I unbuckled my seatbelt and dug the phone out of my purse.
“Could be good news for once, right Mal?” I asked myself. The screen showed Gwendolyn Pierce calling, and I said to myself, “Or not.” My mother-in-law, Gwen, was prone to drama, and her dramatic tendencies had taken a sharp turn for the worse after my husband Greg and my son Landon were killed in a car crash. I thought about letting the call go to voice mail, but decided to tackle one more annoying thing before putting a lid on this lousy day. I greeted my mother-in-law, “Hello, Gwen.”
“Mallory. Have you heard more from the lawyers? I hate to think my son and grandson were killed for nothing. We need some justice.”
My husband was out on a Saturday evening with our son. A quick trip to the hardware store right after dinner. It should have been a routine trip, except their car was broadsided by a large pickup truck driven by a drunk. The accident was one year and five months ago.
“Gwen, there won’t be any justice. There is nothing fair or just about my boy and my husband losing their lives. We’re lucky the man plead guilty. My lawyer says we should hear something late next week. Hopefully, that information will include settlement terms.”
“Let me know what they come back with.”
Her insistence angered and annoyed me for some reason. Maybe it was the icing on the cake of this lousy day. I snapped, “Why? What difference does it make? No amount of money will relieve the ache in my heart. No sum will bring back Landon’s giggles and smiles, or give me another day with him. Frankly, the money is irrelevant.”
Gwen’s voice was shrill when she said, “So, Greg and Landon were irrelevant now? I’m ashamed of you, Mallory.”
I stifled a growl, “Don’t put words in my mouth. I don’t know why you need to know the settlement amount. There is no figure that will ever equate to the value of their lives.”
“I’m sorry, honey. I know, and you’re right. I’m just having a rough day. Keep me posted though, okay? Take care.”
Her complete turn-around in tone almost made me feel bad for rebuking her, but it came with her dramatic flair. She went from nagging or angry to calm and gentle with a turn of the dime. I suppose some women get married and immediately feel like they landed another set of parents. I didn’t feel that way. I care about Gwendolyn, but she and I didn’t hit it off in that mother/daughter way. More like in a distant-relative way. I can have a conversation with her, but I rarely get into anything deep.
“Sure thing,” I said, ending the call. I walked into my home, and as always, was reminded of Greg and Landon. What would we eat tonight? Except, now it was just me. Moving into the living room, I expected to trip over the toys of a six-year-old boy, but the toys were in the garage. Still. Just sitting there. I didn’t have the heart to sell them or give them away.
Greg had supervised a team of four IT specialists, which included Gavin, James, Bobby and Quinton. While most IT guys were introverted and kept to themselves, Greg’s team was different. They were always at our house, or we were at theirs. Thursday nights were trivia nights at Rounder’s, the neighborhood sports bar and grill. After the accident, the guys gave me some time, but then they insisted I start coming back to trivia.
Today was Thursday, and I had no desire to do trivia tonight. It was a Netflix-and-red-wine night. As I pulled the cork on a bottle of pinot noir, my cell rang again. The screen indicated it was Gavin, one of the guys. He should have been a salesperson. If I let it go, he would call me again every ten minutes. He was persistent at best and annoying at worst.
Gavin was in his thirties, like me, but he’d been a smoker since his teens. His voice had a smoker’s rasp when he said, “Hey, Mal! You’re coming right?”
I took a deep breath. “No.”
“No? What do you mean ‘No?’ You can’t bail out on us. You bring all the feminine knowledge to our table, honey.”
“Right. By ‘feminine’ you just mean literature and sappy music knowledge to the table.”
“Whatever. Scandal is a repeat tonight…besides we’re more fun than that political soap opera anyway. Get your ass over here.”
“Gavin, it isn’t happening.”
I heard Gavin telling the others I was bailing. Then there was a scratchy sound on the phone, as if Gavin had lost his grip.
“I hope you’re eating soon, Gavin, because it sounds like you’ve had too many beers already,” I giggled.
A deep voice I had never heard before rumbled, “This isn’t Gavin, woman.”
Every woman has a sore spot. Whether it’s being called bitch, sweets, easy, or two-faced and so on, we’ve all got one. Mine is being called ‘woman’. It was uncalled-for in most situations, and I didn’t like to think of myself as some man’s possession. Here’s this guy who doesn’t even know me acting like he had the right to be possessive of me!
My voice went up an octave, “Excuse me? Who the hell is this, and don’t call me ‘woman’!”
He chuckled. A freaking chuckle. My eyes went wide and my lips thinned out in irritation.
“I’m Cal. I’m on the team tonight. We’re going to win, and according to these guys you’re required for a win. So get your ass down here.”
“What?” he barked.
I had thrown him off, and it was a good feeling. “Why should I show up? You just said you’re going to win, so I don’t think you need me, with all your cocky bravado. I don’t like you much already. After the day I’ve had, I sure as hell don’t feel like sitting around a table playing trivia with you.”
Another chuckle. “Suit yourself, sweet cheeks.”
“What the hell? Did you just…”
The line was exceptionally silent, and, moving the phone away from my face, I saw the call had ended. I took a deep breath and exhaled. I was torn between staying home to spite this Cal and showing up to give him a piece of my mind. Calling me ‘woman’ was understandable, since he had no way of knowing about my hot button. ‘Sweet cheeks’ though? He hadn’t even laid eyes on me or my cheeks.
I spoke to my empty living room, “What the hell kind of name is Cal, anyway? Must be a new hire. Maybe it’s short for Calvin. I can’t wait to give this little shit a piece of my mind!”
I charged into my bedroom and changed clothes. I wasn’t anything to write home about so I had to put in some effort to make myself good-looking, though Greg always told me I was completely wrong in that assessment. I occasionally found myself five pounds overweight, but I disguised it well. I had meat on my bones, Greg said. Wearing my favorite jeans, a crimson stretchy v-neck, black high-heel boots, and my Stella & Dot Rebel necklace, I ran into the bathroom for a quick freshening. This included a face wash, spritzing my favorite perfume, and running a brush through my long, wavy brown hair. My brown eyes were the same chestnut brown as my hair. I wasn’t experienced with make-up application, so I kept to lips and occasional mascara. I put on a swipe of my ruby-red tinted lip gloss and I was set.
The drive to Rounder’s Grill subdued my initial flare of temper. I still felt like I was practically stomping into the restaurant as I scanned for the high-top table where I would find Gavin, the boys and Cal. I moved toward the bar, but people were coming toward me from the restrooms, which were tucked behind the bar. As I headed to the right to move to the high-tops, I narrowly missed colliding with a tall, extremely well-built man wearing blue jeans and a blue t-shirt. I glanced at his eyes; they were hazel or maybe green. He was gorgeous, but I was sure he was taken. I mumbled ‘Excuse me’ to him, because I’m a well-mannered southern girl, and he gave me a lift of his chin. I sat down on a stool. Hanging my purse on a hook beneath the table I said, “Okay. I’m here, dammit! Against my better judgment, I might add. So where’s this Cal person anyway?”
I looked up and Gavin’s blue eyes appeared strained while Quinton, the oldest of the group and almost like a father figure, broke into a huge grin. He said, “Now there’s the Mallory I’ve missed. About damn time something worked you up.”
My jaw dropped. “What the hell? Plenty of stuff works me up.”
Quinton snorted, “Bullshit, Mal. You’ve been a shell the past year. The first six or nine months, understandable. But you’re a beautiful and vibrant woman. It kills me to see you so empty. This is the first time you came in here like you owned the place, not like you were fulfilling some duty.”
I couldn’t have this conversation today. Quinton might be right, but he was out of bounds and I didn’t want a confrontation. “That’s not the issue right now. I’m here. Y’all got your way. Where’s the new guy?”
James held up a pitcher. “Chill, Mal. Want a beer?” James’s answer to everything was beer. You would have thought James would be sporting a huge beer belly with the amount of beer he consumed regularly. However, I wasn’t sure if it was good genetics, which is to say a great metabolism, or if it was the amount of time he spent at the gym. Probably it was a little bit of both, but James always showed up to after-work type stuff wearing sleeveless work-out shirts or t-shirts from which he had deftly cut the sleeves off. At first I thought this started because he had tattooed his undying love for University of Texas on his outer bicep and it took some time to heal. Whether this started it or not, he didn’t stop wearing the sleeveless shirts, even in the winter, and this, to me, was saying something. It was Florida, and our winters were mild, no doubt, but truly, sleeveless in forty-degree weather, um, not a chance. Soon, I realized he did it to show off his devotion to his favorite team. Strangers would see his tat, and throw him the Longhorns with their hand and he’d throw them right back. Then he’d possibly make a new Longhorn friend.
James was a little over six feet tall, and kept his dark hair very short. He cut it himself with an electric hair-trimmer set at the closest setting available without going one hundred percent Mr. Clean. He had grayish blue eyes and his chin had a slight divot. He gave me a shy smile which exposed his teeth, which were great but spoke to rougher times in his past. His bicuspid was broken at the very bottom in a slant, as though he may have been on the wrong end of a punch a long time ago.
Bobby was his younger brother by two years, and he was standing next to James at the table. He was not as tall as James, though. Bobby stood around five feet eight inches, but was built in a solid and stocky way. I didn’t know if James did Bobby’s hair for him or not, but just like James, Bobby kept his hair clipped very short to his scalp. Unlike his brother, Bobby’s eyes were a deep brown, but you’d be slightly hard-pressed to know this because he wore glasses with Transitions tinting, which made examining his eyes more difficult. I also thought those glasses were what made Bobby such a good poker player, but Greg always reminded me it was his super smarts.
I responded to James’s offer of a beer, “Sure. Then someone can introduce me to the chump who thinks he can call me ‘sweet cheeks’.”
James handed me a full beer mug and Gavin nudged my shoulder, “You got work to do first, Mal. Ray’s the emcee tonight and he wants your girly handwriting instead of our pathetic chicken scratch.” Ray had worked in an assistant capacity at the IT firm for almost a decade before he decided to quit and become an artist. Since art doesn’t pay the bills in a timely fashion, Ray was running trivia shows on the side. He had been Greg’s assistant for almost five years, and he and I used to have many lengthy conversations about music, books, and of course art.
“Same team name?”
Bobby said, “Tonight we’re the IT MC.”
“Say what? Is this some new computer code or virus or something?”
A deep voice grumbled next to me, “It’s my idea. Sweet cheeks.”
I looked up, at the hot man I had nearly collided with on my way to the table. He had short, dirty-blond hair spiked up with gel, and the most piercing hazel, almost green, eyes I had ever seen. His cheeks had a smattering of stubble which, if he had darker hair, would have been a five-o'-clock shadow. His complexion was golden tan and appeared to be from time in the sun. His lips were full and dusky pink with a square chin below. He wore a light-blue Salt Life t-shirt, which almost looked too small because his broad shoulders and tan biceps were straining the sleeves.
I arched an eyebrow at him. “So you’re the new hire?”
His dirty-blond eyebrows furrowed. “Say again?”
“The new hire, new guy. You haven’t played trivia with us before. Figure you must be new to the IT group. Especially if the team name is IT MC, and it’s your idea.”
Gavin reached across the table putting his hand on mine, “Mal, just fill out the slips and drink your beer.”
Gavin didn’t normally interfere, but his eyes were almost pleading. I figured my rushing-in, ranting might be getting on the guys’ nerves, so I acquiesced. As I mechanically filled out the forms with our team name, I couldn’t help thinking what a lame name it was. My analytical mind was trying to figure out what the letters could stand for. The IT was obvious with these guys, Information Technology, but MC? None of the guys drove motorcycles. Massive Crash perhaps? I knew my computer at work had massive crashes, mainly because my boss was too focused on being under-budget to upgrade my computer.
The server took our dinner orders, preventing me from contemplating the team name's meaning any further. I ordered the stuffed mushroom appetizer and a side garden salad. I turned to ask Cal if he enjoyed working with the guys, but he was at the other end of the long table talking to Bobby and James.
The night felt like a total waste until about halfway through. There was finally a question in Literature that had the boys stumped, and I whispered to them, “The answer is the Charles Dickens’s novel Little Dorrit.”
“Better be sure, sweets. I never lose,” Cal grumbled from the other end of the table.
With a smirk, I asked, “Do you know the answer?”
“Nope, but the boys trust you. So, I’ll trust you. For now.”
I almost fell off my stool, and I felt the blood drain from my face. The pause, the tone, it was just like Greg. Except, they weren’t the same words Greg would have used. He would have said, ‘as far as you know’ with the same semi-dramatic emphasis. Cal’s hazel eyes were locked with mine, but Quinton was sitting next to me and asked, “You all right, Mal?”
I broke the gaze, and scrawled the answer on the white slip of paper. Looking at Quinton, I said, “Yeah. Just fine.”
I took the answer to Ray. We exchanged stilted pleasantries while he took answers from other teams. I didn’t want to go back to the table. The memory of Greg was too strong. I couldn’t tell if the memory was stronger because Cal, who was essentially still a stranger, invoked it or if it was stronger because I missed Greg so much. I missed him every day. But not every day did someone else talk to me the same way Greg did. I wanted to hug this man, and I wanted to slap him. Like any good woman trying to get a grip, I went to the bathroom.
Returning to the table, I found the guys talking to James’s latest girlfriend. James was thirty-one with no intentions of settling down. Normally I don’t believe people have “types,” but James had his own dating demographic. He liked them blonde, thin, just over 21 and no older than 28. His latest girlfriend was nearly sitting in his lap and her level of frivolity indicated she was on her third cosmopolitan.
She let out a shrill giggle, saying, “I would never get on the back of a motorcycle!”
I arched an eyebrow, which I thought would go unnoticed. I was wrong.
“What’s with the eyebrow, Mallory?” rumbled Cal.
“Every woman wants to ride on a Harley. No two ways about it, no matter what James’s girl says to the contrary.”
She gave me her pouty lips, but they were wasted on me.
“How would you know?” asked Cal.
“It’s in the ladies handbook. Chance to ride on a Harley, you take it.”
Quinton and Gavin shook their heads at me. Bobby and James were too busy with the blonde of the week to pay attention. Cal stared at me, but before I could call him on it, the trivia “half time” was over and questions resumed. Our server asked if we needed anything else. I ordered chocolate lava cake and a glass of cabernet. My cake didn’t arrive until we had submitted our final-round trivia answer. Three bites into my cake, I felt a presence to my left. I turned my head to see blue cotton t-shirt. I looked up into a pair of hazel eyes.
“You happy?” Cal asked.
“Pardon?” I asked, hoping I didn’t have chocolate cake crumbs in my teeth.
“You heard me.” He paused and lifted an eyebrow, then said, “Woman.”
My eyes widened, and beyond that everything blurred. I was not some Wilma Flintstone wannabe. I wasn’t someone’s property. I didn’t mind being someone’s lady, like the Freddy Jackson song from the 80’s. The word "woman," did nothing for me. All of that was raging through my mind as I responded to his obvious taunt.
“I heard you, Jackass. And I’m not happy.”
“Because you’re either deaf or incredibly stubborn. I am not your woman. Stop referring to me as such. Is that so difficult?”
“Didn’t call you ‘my’ woman. I just mentioned your gender. Doing what you ask isn’t difficult, if I felt like doing it. Don’t take orders well. Answer my question. You happy?”
“I don’t believe you.”
I gestured to my plate, “I’ve got chocolate cake and red wine, how could I not be happy? Besides, what’s it to you if I’m happy or not?”
“I think Quinton has a point. You don’t act happy; you’re just going through the motions. I don’t know what happened to make you that way, and I’m not trying to find out. But, I do know life’s too short.”
I swallowed some wine, “Life certainly is short, but you weren’t even at the table when Quinton said all that.”
Cal turned toward me. “I was right behind you, but you were worked up and didn’t notice. So, you ridden on a Harley?”
“I’ll take subject change for a thousand, Alex.”
“Do you ever just answer questions?”
“If I feel like it.”
He might have growled at me, but he said, “Time to put your money where your mouth is, sweet cheeks. Got a Harley in the parking lot. It’s your chance to take a ride. Or maybe you’re more like Blondie over there than you think.”
I rolled my eyes. I looked up to retort, but Cal was already walking toward the doors. Something about this man made me want to have the last word. Not want, need to have the last word. I hated to do it, but I abandoned my half-eaten cake and my wine. A chance to ride on a Harley trumped wine and chocolate. Grabbing my purse, I found the waiter and paid my bill.
I caught up to Cal next to his motorcycle. It was a Harley and in the dimly-lit parking lot it appeared to be painted dark red. I put my hands on my hips. “Would you stop calling me ‘sweet cheeks’! Especially since you haven’t seen me before.”
Cal grinned at me, “I’ve seen you now, and I like what I see. Though I can’t say you’ve been especially sweet. Have you ridden on a bike before?”
He reached into a side compartment on the back of the bike, and pulled out a helmet. “Put this on. Not gonna take you far, but God knows there’s plenty of crazy-ass people around the Westside.”
I put the black half-helmet on my head, surprised at how heavy it was for its size. Cal took my purse and stowed it in the side compartment where the helmet had been stored. He moved around me and threw his leg over the seat of the bike, settling himself. He turned his head to me, “Climb on behind me.”
I looked at the pipes of the bike and then back to Cal. “Where do I put my feet? I knew a girl in school who had a God-awful scar on her leg from getting too close to the pipes of a bike. I’d rather not experience that.”
Cal looked at me like I was trying his patience, “Throw a leg over and get on first. Then put your…hell, woman, what kind of shoes are you wearing?” Cal asked, looking at my feet.
“Boots,” I said, jutting my right foot out at an angle, “And don’t call me 'woman'!”
“Those are boots? Whatever. Get on, and put the ball of your foot on the foot peg back here. Try to be quick. I knew there was a reason I never let bitches on the back of my bike. Gonna take some serious shit if my brothers hear about this.”
“Brothers?” I asked, as I scrambled onto the back of the bike.
“Give me your hand.”
“What brothers, and why do you need my hand?” I said, louder.
This time Cal did growl at me. He grabbed my right hand, and placed it on his stomach. Then he did the same with my left hand.
“Hold on, and lean when I lean. Don’t fight it. I don’t want road rash tonight.”
I wondered if he had road rash before, but my hands on his abdomen were a major distraction. He was warm and solid. It had been so long since I had my hands on a man’s abdomen. Panic rose inside me. What was I thinking? I didn’t belong on the back of a bike with a guy who called me ‘sweet cheeks’ and ‘woman’. I was a control freak, and I had no control over this motorcycle. He started the engine, and I couldn’t hear myself think. This prevented me from trying to get off the bike. He moved the bike a little in the parking space, and then he planted his feet on the ground. Next thing I knew, he reached back with both hands and placed them on my ass. He hauled me forward toward his back. My pelvis slammed into his ass. I squeaked, and tried to back away. His hands tightened on my ass. Cal looked over his shoulder and gave me a frown.
“What’d I say? Do not fight it.” Then he grinned, “Sweet cheeks.”
“Okay!” I yelled.
Cal duck-walked the bike out of his parking space. It was nine o’clock and there wasn’t much traffic on Argyle Forest Boulevard. When the road was clear, Cal pulled out and we were off. Even with the helmet, my long brown hair was whipping wildly in and out of my face. The February winter had been mild, but the night was rapidly cooling into the high forties. With the forty-five-mile-an-hour wind-chill of a motorcycle, I was freezing. It was good Cal forced me to sit so close to him. I didn’t think about how cold I would be on the back of a bike. My hair stopped whipping around, and I realized we were slowing down. Cal leaned slightly to the right, and I did the same thing instinctively.
As the bike straightened, my panic came back. I had no idea where we were going. I just met him, and I trusted him to get me back to my car in one piece. Gah! As usual, my anxiety was for naught. We made another right hand turn and I realized we were taking a mile-long side street that curved back around to the backside of Rounder’s. Just as I felt settled, Cal sped the bike up to what must have been close to fifty-five miles an hour, though I didn’t try to see how fast we were really going. I was excited, but scared simultaneously. I loved driving fast in my car, but riding on a speeding motorcycle was better than the fastest sports car. A smile spread across my face, and I felt the wind in my mouth. Definitely in the ladies’ handbook: Chance to ride a Harley; you do it every single time.
* * * * *
Cal returned me to the parking lot. We both dismounted the motorcycle. I unlatched the helmet, and handed it back to him. He gave me my purse and stowed the helmet in the hard-sided saddlebag on his bike.
I tried to keep the beaming smile off my face. “Well, thanks for that. It was nice. Something off the bucket list,” I said.
His lips tipped up and he asked, “What else is on your bucket list, sweet cheeks?”
My voice was louder than it should’ve been because I still thought I was on the bike. “Dude! Stop calling me ‘sweet cheeks’. What in God’s green acre is it going to take to get it through your thick-"
My rant ended with a firm hold on my neck, and warm, soft lips on mine with a tongue gliding into my mouth. I froze. His other hand wrapped around my waist, pulling me up close to his tall, lean frame. Seventeen months. I hadn’t been kissed by a man in seventeen months. Guilt. All I could feel was guilt. Wait, no. The guilt was because I liked his kiss, a lot. I was enjoying it, which made me feel guiltier. Was I kissing him back? Before I knew one way or another, it was over.
Cal’s warm hand was on the back of my neck and he looked down at me with his hazel eyes, “Sweet. You. Your mouth. The cheeks on your face when you smile are just as sweet as I thought they’d be when I spoke to you on Gavin’s phone. You can’t tell me your ass isn’t as sweet as cherry pie. I felt it. You are the fuckin’ epitome of sweet cheeks, babe. Not gonna stop callin’ you that. Got a problem with that, too bad. I got shit to do. That beer and wine you had, you sure you’re okay to drive yourself home?”
My head was spinning, but not because of alcohol. Between his refusals to do something I had repeatedly asked of him and his blunt assessment of my nether-regions, I was tongue-tied. Plus, I still had a heaping dose of guilt surging through me. I knew I had a deer-in-the-headlights look to me, but he smiled at me. So I nodded, that yeah, I was good to drive home. He nodded to me, let go of my neck, got on his bike, started it up and left.
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