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Melanie wanted to stomp her foot like a child, but she heard and saw the truth in what he said.
“Tell them I’m your girlfriend if you want, but I’m living here.”
The biker gave her a small smile and shook his head. “Ain’t gonna work that way, sugar. They need to see you with me.”
“But I don’t want—”
“Do you want to see your father and sister hurt and your livestock killed?”
She blanched. “Surely, you don’t think they’d do that?”
“You hurt their pride, girl. Men like that—”
“You mean men like you,” she accused.
He continued speaking as though she hadn’t interrupted. “—won’t take that lying down.”
“That greasy fool killed my sister’s prized steer,” she insisted. “We’re the ones insulted, not them.”
He pulled a thick envelope from his back pocket and handed it to Melanie’s father. “Sir, here’s the money for the steer. Prez of Satan’s Dogs ain’t entirely unreasonable.”
That last sentence was a lie. The president of Satan’s Dogs refused to part with so much as a dollar in recompense for the steer Lowball killed. Hammer’s bank account absorbed the expense. His honor demanded it.
The old man took the envelope from his hand, but didn’t open it. His faded blue eyes flickered over the tattoo on the biker’s upper arm. Something flickered in his gaze. He gave a curt nod and murmured, “Semper fi.”
Hammer nodded, knowing that the old man accept- ed his word and counted upon his honor as a fellow Marine and veteran. He repeated the acknowledgement, “Semper fi.”
Melanie groaned and her knees weakened. “Oh, God, Daddy, you’re not going to trust him just because he used to be a Marine?”
“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” her father muttered, the words almost lost beneath the sound of impatient neighs coming from the barn.
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“We don’t need no dirty biker drug money,” the man snarled and leveled the muzzle at him.
Hammer backed away slowly.
The younger girl tugged on her father’s shirt. “Daddy, I need that money for school.”
The man looked at her and said, “We’ll manage, Julie. We always do.”
“The scholarships aren’t enough. I’ve got to take out student loans as it is.”
“Sir,” Hammer said, drawing upon the discipline and polite behavior drilled into him by eight years of service in the Marines, “I promised your daughter that we’d reimburse for the cow.”
“Steer,” the older girl corrected. She’d moved around the horse and was hosing off its other side.
“Steer,” Hammer repeated. “Seems to me that you owe me a thank-you.”
“Thanks? For what?” she screeched.
The corners of Hammer’s mouth curled in a small smile. “For making sure you got home unharmed. Riding into a rally like that was stupid.”
The old man’s bushy eyebrows rose to where his hairline used to be. “That true, Melanie? You chased that dirty biker all the way to the rally?”
“How else was I going to confront that guy who killed Buster?” she demanded.
The shotgun’s barrel dipped, but Hammer did not make the mistake of thinking it couldn’t be raised again.
“Do you realize what happens to foolish girls who wander into places like that?” the old man snapped.
“Nothing happened, Daddy.”
“Nothing happened to you this time,” Hammer corrected. “But Lowball, the guy who shot your steer, won’t forgive the insult, and it’s likely his brothers won’t either.”
“Ah, shit, Melanie. You’ve gone and gotten us into trouble with those lowlifes.”
Hammer clenched his jaws against the constant slurs, even if they could be accurately applied to too many of the men who populated the outlaw motorcycle clubs that attended the rally. However, he understood the young woman’s pride and the need to protect what belonged to her family. Every MC felt the same way.
He looked at the girl’s father and said, “You’re going to need protection for a little while, just in case Lowball’s club decides to get their revenge.”
“Revenge?” the girl snarled. “What right has he got to think that?”
“You humiliated him in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of his peers. His club’s president might think he deserved it, but he won’t--can’t—tolerate an outsider—and especially a chick—leveling punishment that is his to determine.”
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Cowgirl meets biker ... what could go wrong?
When a biker shoots her sister's prize steer, champion roper Melanie goes after him. Unfortunately, she doesn't think it through, and that hot temper puts her squarely in Hammer's sights. Melanie's ire only increases when Hammer defuses the dangerous situation by claiming her as his property. If the former Marine and now sergeant-at-arms of the Black Ice Revolution MC thinks she's his for the taking, he's sadly mistaken. She wants nothing to do with him, but he's not about to let this sexy, feisty woman go.
The biker returned that evening, accompanied by half a dozen of his brothers. The rumble of their vehicles caught the attention of animals and humans alike. Melanie’s father ventured outside, shotgun leveled and ready. Melanie and Julie peeked at their unwanted visitors from the barn where they were finishing up evening chores. Melanie’s eyes flickered over the bloodstained spot where Buster had been killed. Not one to tolerate waste, Daddy had hauled the carcass to the local butcher for processing.
“What do you want?” the old man shouted.
The big, handsome biker who’d escorted Melanie from the rally dismounted his steel steed and approached, hands raised, palms open.
“I just want to talk to you and the girl.” He paused, then said her name, “Melanie.”
The muzzle of the shotgun swept across the line of bikers.
“And them? What’re they here for?”
“We don’t need your help.”
Stubborn old man. Hammer sighed and explained again, “Look, mister, Satan’s Dogs is a big club, bigger than Black Ice Revolution, and not known for their easygoing, forgiving nature. Your daughter humiliated one of their own. It doesn’t matter to them or their allies that Lowball was in the wrong: he was shown up by a girl. They’ve lost respect and they’ll do what they think necessary to get it back. You’re risking yourself and both girls if you don’t accept our protection.”
The old man’s eyes narrowed with angry suspicion. “You folks only protect what’s yours.”
Hammer squared his shoulders. “I claimed Melanie in front of the entire rally to make sure she got out of there safely. I put my reputation on the line, so she’d better be mine.”
“No!” Melanie screeched. Dropping an empty bucket, she marched toward them. “No! I don’t belong to anyone!”