I loved you yesterday, I love you today, and I’ll love you tomorrow whether you’re here with me or waiting for me among the stars.
Known to the Hell’s Handlers Motorcycle Club as Mama V, Cassie is living a full life she could never have dreamed of growing up in a wealthy, loveless, and miserable household. With her family and beloved husband Viper at her back, she’s survived loss, club rivalries, injuries, and illness. Now, she’s coping with the challenge of a lifetime, one she can never defeat but must learn to accept and survive no matter how difficult.
Faced with life-changing tragedy and decisions on how to move forward, Cassie can’t help but reminisce on the events of the past that led her to her Hell’s Handlers family, starting with the fateful day she met Viper. Had it not been for him, Cassie’s life would have taken a drastically different and possibly deadly course.
1982 Burien, Washington
They called him a legacy.
The roots of the Devil’s Tribe Motorcycle Club coursed through his blood. Started by his great grandpop back in nineteen thirty-one, every man in his bloodline had had their chance to lead the club. Right now, his pops ran the show. The old man had been president for the past ten years, give or take—vice president before that when Viper’s grandfather sat on the throne.
As long as he didn’t fuck up and land his ass behind bars or six feet under, Viper’s time as top dog would come. One day, he’d head up the rough and raw group of men he’d idolized since the first time his diapered ass rode on a motorcycle. Rumor had it his old man had made a trip into town with a ten-month-old baby Viper strapped to his back, ignoring the blue streak his mother had cussed from the porch as they’d torn down the block. Young Viper had laughed and squealed the entire ride, solidifying his place in the pack.
Or so the story went.
Being heir to the throne might mean he’d assume the role of president one day, but as a prospect, it meant shit. No one cared who or what he was until he’d officially proved himself. Some clubs didn’t make descendants of original members prospect. He should have been so lucky. He’d suffered like all prospects before him. Night and day, he’d had to prove himself and his loyalty alongside the other grunts if he’d wanted to receive that patch.
And he’d wanted it more than anything.
Finally, last night, he’d earned it. After twelve longs months of busting his ass, eating shit, and biting his tongue, he’d patched in. Fuck, it had been the best moment of his life. Proudest for his pops too. One they’d both remember for the rest of their days. He’d been flying high on booze, ego, adrenalin, and pussy—good fucking times.
But, right now? Well, now he wanted to take his rifle and mow down each and every man he’d considered family up until five minutes ago.
Shit could change in a fucking instant.
The men he’d idolized since childhood were not who or what he’d thought. The very brothers who’d taught Viper what it was to be a man, who’d given him his core values, had him seconds from puking.
“Is this really fucking happening?” Sarge, the other brand spanking new patched member, muttered under his breath.
“Christ, I think so.” Viper blinked slowly as though the scene before him would change when his eyes reopened. It didn’t.
“Well then, we got a problem, brother. Cuz I sure as fuck didn’t sign on for this shit.”
Sarge had suffered through a year of abuse and scut work right alongside Viper, and last night, they’d received their official patches together. At twenty-eight, Sarge had a few years on Viper’s twenty-one. The guy served time in the army, discharging at the rank of Sergeant, hence the nickname. As they’d prospected together, they’d forged a bond, toughing out the torture their brothers reveled in dishing out. Though sometimes erratic and difficult to control, Viper considered Sarge his best friend as well as his brother.
“Shut the fuck up,” Viper whispered from the corner of his mouth. He kept his gaze locked on the rusted-out van rumbling up the long dirt road that led to the shack owned by his club. His entire life, even as a prospect, he’d been told the rundown two-room abode was a safe house of sorts. Used by guys looking to lay low for a while. Usually, until the law lost interest in pursuing them.
The truth was entirely different than that crock of shit.
“You telling me you ain’t freaking the fuck out, V?” Sarge also spoke out of the side of his mouth, so low Viper had to strain to hear him. To the others, it’d look like the two were merely standing guard, waiting for the van to arrive. “Come on, man, we got tight over the last year. You told me all about your high school sweetheart. You of all people cannot be okay with this shit.”
Viper’s stomach clenched as it always did when Vanessa was mentioned, which wasn’t much anymore, but it still happened on occasion. They’d been young, stupid, and head over fucking heels wild for each other. Double V, as everyone had nicknamed them. In their youthful ignorance, they’d made plans to marry the summer after high school graduation.
One week, seven goddammed days before school let out, Vanessa had been raped. Brutally assaulted. A random act of senseless violence, or so the useless pigs claimed. The attack had destroyed a beautiful and vibrant young woman. No matter what Viper did, and he’d tried every fucking tactic he could think of, he couldn’t drag her out of the dark pit her mind had descended into. She’d become so consumed by the trauma, she’d committed suicide three months after it happened.
So, no, he wasn’t fucking okay with this. Truth was, he was okay with a lot of illegal and even amoral shit, but this was not one of those things.
“Shit, brother, you know I’m not fucking on board with this.” He kept his voice a notch above a whisper. Nudging his chin toward their president, vice president, and enforcer, he said, “They’ll have your ass if they catch wind of what you’re saying, though.”
Sarge scratched the side of his clean-shaven head. The guy had been cue-balling it ever since some skirt he was banging told him she’d had fucking pubic lice. Turned out, he went down on her. Shit freaked him out so bad he shaved his fucking head. “So we’re just gonna let this play out?” Sarge whispered, then covered it with a fake as fuck cough.
Were they? Could he stand by and watch this? Could he live with himself?
Viper ran a hand across his scruffy chin. He’d been too hung-over and tired to bother shaving that morning. “Fuck,” he mumbled. “How did we not know about this? Can’t believe they managed to keep the fact they’re trafficking women a secret from us for an entire year. Christ, for my entire fucking life.” How clueless had he been all these years?
“Too risky when we were just prospects,” Sarge responded. “Now that we’ve patched in, we’re committed. No choice but to be loyal. Well, I guess we could choose to die.” He snorted out a soft laugh.
“Goddammit.” Never in a million years had Viper imagined his dream turning into a shit-pile so fast.
“We gotta do something, V,” Sarge said. The guy’s moral code was looser than a whore’s twat. If he had a problem with this, the situation was pretty fucking bad.
“Can’t do shit right now, brother,” Viper said as the van rolled to a stop. “Meet me at my place when we’re done. We’ll come up with a plan.”
The club had its fingers in just about every illegal pot in three counties. Drugs, guns, money laundering, even prostitution. They owned two cat houses full of women selling themselves daily. Viper never so much as blinked at any of it. Difference was, each and every one of those women came to the club willingly looking to work.
This shit? The chick in the back of that van? Yeah, she’d been sold to the highest bidder, and Viper was pretty fucking sure she didn’t agree to be.
A short, stout man with a cheap rug and a stash that rivaled a seventies porn star climbed down from the driver’s side of the van. He strutted with an exaggerated swagger befitting a cocky teenager trying to hang with real men. With the pile of gold chains and tuft of chest hair peeking from the collar of his silk button-up, the man was practically a cartoon pimp.
“Hey, Fox. Long time no see.” The man greeted Viper’s father with a limp, probably damp handshake.
“Yeah, sorry about that, Wayne. Had a cop sniffing around for a few months. Had to lay low with this shit,” Fox replied. His shoulder-length hair had gone gray a few years ago, but even at fifty, Fox managed to maintain a hard and intimidating physique.
Wayne played with the longest of his necklaces. “Heard about that. Glad it’s all cleared up.” He sent a smarmy smile Fox’s way. “Got you a beaut this time, boys. Rich little princess. Virgin too.” He whistled. “She’ll be fun as shit for your buyer to break in.”
Viper’s stomach turned as his father and the rest of his cronies laughed. He’d grown up in the club. Not a single day went by where he hadn’t been at the clubhouse for some reason or another. He’d spent thousands of hours around the men he loved like family. From the time he was twelve, he’d caught snippets of club business he should never have been privy to. Not once in all that time did anyone let slip that they trafficked women. Those conversations had all occurred behind closed doors.
“This is fucked,” Sarge muttered, cracking his knuckles.
“Keep it in check, brother,” Viper whispered back. “We can’t do shit right now. Save it for later.” If Sarge lost his temper as he was known to do, they’d be fucked.
“Bring her on out,” Fox said. “My buyer is looking for something real specific. I’ll check out the goods. She passes muster, we’ll pay and take her off your hands.”
Wayne’s beady eyes lit up. The motherfucker was practically salivating. Whoever the unlucky lady was, she must be going for a mint.
Viper and Sarge stood about twenty feet from the back of the van, arms crossed, taking it all in. They’d been invited along as extra security on a “sensitive transaction.” Viper hadn’t thought twice about it. He trusted his new brothers—and his father—implicitly.
Or he had. Until he realized his old man was involved in the one criminal act Viper couldn’t stomach. Hardest part to swallow was that Fox fucking knew what happened to Vanessa and what it did to Viper. He fucking knew Viper would never go for this shit.
All this talk of loyalty, brotherhood, having each other’s back, it was all horseshit if Fox couldn’t even stand behind his son. Couldn’t walk away from a business that represented the most traumatic event of his flesh and blood’s life. Viper’s stomach cramped so hard, he nearly doubled over in pain. Nothing hurt worse than family betrayal. He’d learned that from his pops. Turned out, the old man had been dead fucking right. This pained worse than anything he’d experienced to date—even Vanessa’s death.
As though sensing he was in Viper’s thoughts, Fox turned his way. Cold eyes devoid of feeling watched as though gauging his son’s commitment.
Was this a fucking test? One last twisted check of his loyalty?
Viper shoved down the newfound hatred for his father, ignored the red-hot poker of pain in his gut, and gave the man a nod. A false show of support.
Fox grinned. He was proud as fuck of his son for approving of the buying and selling of women.
Wayne fished a keyring out of his pocket. The thing made him look like an apartment super. After sifting through about thirty keys, he stuck one in the lock on the back door of the van and twisted. He yanked the heavy doors open then climbed in.
Despite the chilly temperature, sweat beaded across Viper’s forehead. He wiped it away without breaking his stare. With each second that ticked by, tension coiled tighter in his gut. Where the fuck was she?
After a few more beats of Viper’s heart, Wayne hopped out of the truck with what could only be described as a leash in his hand. A few solid yanks had a shadowed figure appearing at the open end of the van. He paused, then reached out and roughly grabbed hold of a nearly naked woman. After dragging her out of the van by a fucking leather collar around her neck, he shoved her toward Fox.
She stumbled then fell to her knees in the dirt at Fox’s feet. Viper’s knees throbbed in sympathy as the girl winced through a whimper.
Viper’s father arched his back and let out a loud booming laugh that had Viper’s fists clenching. “Appreciate the sentiment, darlin’, but I’m not the one you’ll be on your knees for.” Struggling to rise, she shivered uncontrollably. Viper swore he could hear her teeth chatter.
When she rose to her full height, which couldn’t be more than five foot five, Viper let his gaze scan her body. Clad in nothing but dark purple bikini panties and a matching bra, it was no wonder she was so fucking cold. Bruises marred her upper arms, nearly matching the bruises in color, and her flame-red hair was a tangled mess, as though she’d been thrashing for hours. The leather collar ringing her neck attached to the leash Wayne controlled. Despite the dirt and bruising, it was clear the woman had a curvy body made for long sleepless nights of passion. But not this way. Not against her will by a bunch of sick hypocrites and lowlifes needing to pay to satisfy their specific brand of fucked-up urges. She deserved better. Every woman did.
Sarge shifted, as though he was going to charge forward and take Fox down. Viper shot his hand out and caught his brother’s arm before the idiot got them both killed.
“Rein it the fuck in,” he rumbled so low no one would hear.
“Shit. Sorry. I’m cool,” Sarge muttered back, rubbing his hand over his smooth head. “Just…”
“Get it, brother. I really do.”
Sarge nodded and scanned the area around them.
Viper should be doing the same, but at that moment, the woman lifted her head, and he couldn’t do a damn thing but stare at her. Wide, green eyes, full of defiance stared up at his father. Even with black tear tracks streaked down her cheeks and her fiery red hair a rat’s nest, she was the most gorgeous woman he’d ever seen. With that face and that body, it was no wonder some sick fuck was willing to pay big bucks for her.
Viper felt a stirring below the belt. Shit, he was just as vile as the fucker who’d purchased her.
“Hmm,” Fox hummed, the sly grin he was named for curling his mouth. “Not bad, Wayne. Pretty much exactly what I asked for.” He reached out and grabbed one of the woman’s breasts. She jerked back but had nowhere to go. Fox followed her movement, keeping his hands on her. Tears spilled down her cheeks, and she trembled, but held her head high and toughed it out.
She was strong.
Viper growled; he couldn’t help it. Watching his father paw the unwilling woman was making him rabid.
Sarge’s elbow connected with his gut.
Fuck, he’d been too loud.
Fox shot him a look then laughed. “See something you want, Viper, my boy? Sorry, this one’s not for the taking. At least not by you.” He stepped back and stared at her. “She is your type, though, ain’t she? Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll find you one just like her for the night.”
Viper grunted in response. He didn’t trust himself to speak. Not without calling his father out on being a rapist piece of shit.
“Excellent find, as usual, Wayne,” Fox said as he handed the slimy bastard a thick envelope. “There’s a little something extra in there for you. I know this one was hard to find.”
Wayne’s smirk was more snake-like than Viper’s name. “Always good doing business with the Tribe,” he said as he palmed the envelope. As though this routine was rote, which it appeared to be, Wayne gave Fox a two-finger salute, slammed the back door of the van, then climbed in the driver’s seat. Without another word, he was off, leaving the victimized woman alone with five bikers.
Fox rubbed his palms together, then blew into his cupped hands. “Fuck, it’s cold.” He chuckled. “You’d know, wouldn’t you, girly? Legs,” he said to the club’s enforcer, a muscle head with quads the size of tree trunks. “Take her in, chain her to the bed. Her buyer is flying in on Tuesday to pick her up, so she’ll be our guest until then. And keep it in your fucking pants. He’s particular and specific in his demands. Rich, twenty-one, virgin, green eyes, red hair. Ain’t risking the two hundred grand pay off ’cuz your dick’s hungry. Get me?”
Two hundred thousand dollars? Beside him, Sarge whistled.
“Got it, boss.” Legs bent down and picked up the lead Wayne had dropped. “Let’s go, bitch.” He yanked the rope, jerking her forward and chuckling at her yelp of pain.
Viper growled again. This time Fox missed it, but the girl didn’t. For just a second before they’d dragged her toward the shack, her gaze collided with his.
It was like a punch to the gut and a stroke to the dick all at the same time.
Terrified, but stunning green eyes stared into his as though pleading for mercy. He clenched his teeth so hard his jaw screamed for relief. Steeling his expression, Viper returned her gaze with a hardened, impassive one.
The tiny flare of hope his growl must have sparked died, and her shoulders slumped in defeat. Another tug on the rope had her jerking and following Legs into the dilapidated house.
Viper wanted nothing more than to rush forward, grab the girl, and toss her on the back of his bike. But they wouldn’t make it two miles before Fox had the whole club hunting their asses.
He settled for trying to send her a telepathic message
Hang tight, baby. Viper’s coming for you.