Home > Harley (Cerberus MC #21)

Harley (Cerberus MC #21)
Author: Marie James




The tears stopped mattering hours ago.

The only thing I’m able to focus on is my caved-in heart and the emptiness I never thought I’d feel.

We made plans, intended to have forever.

Our forever was taken in the blink of an eye.

My gorgeous, amazing, incredible wife is gone because she didn’t look twice before pulling out onto the highway.

I thought grief was supposed to hit in stages, the first being shock and disbelief, followed by bargaining and depression, then anger.

Acceptance is the final stage, but I’ll never accept that my life will never be the same. I refuse to think one day I’ll be okay with what has happened.

I’ll be stuck in the first five for the rest of my life, and I hate that I’m focusing so much on anger.

I’m livid that she didn’t look. Pissed that she left. Enraged that she could’ve easily avoided all of this just by paying a little more attention.

None of it matters, though. Following her is what I’ve always done, and today is no different.

I go where she goes, and if that’s the grave, then I’ll happily join her because I can’t do this on my own.

The matte black handgun on the bedside table beckons me. It calls my name as my hands tremble.

This is how it’s supposed to be. We vowed forever. We just never thought forever would be gone so quickly.

The gun is too light in my hand, weightless compared to what I’m facing, but I know the salvation inside to be true despite the insignificant weight.

Calming breaths do nothing to slow my racing heart, but soon it will cease to beat, so that doesn’t matter either.

Being unable to have an open casket funeral would hurt my mother even more, so I point the gun to my chest, praying one shot will be enough.

Closing my eyes, I whisper my apologies and curl my thumb on the trigger.

It’s an awkward position, this backward angle of the gun, so unfamiliar to how I’ve been trained, but it’ll get the job done.

Five… four… three… two—

Cries ring out around the room, and I gasp, the gun clattering to the floor like a lead weight.

Aria continues to wail as I stare down at the weapon, my heart racing even more now, pounding in my chest and threatening to explode.

What the fuck was I doing?

I may not be able to accept that Lana is gone, but leaving my precious daughter without a parent? I could never be that selfish.

I swipe at the steady stream of tears on my face and stand from the bed.

As if she senses something is terribly wrong, my baby girl doesn’t ease her crying when I lift her from the crib.

I whisper promises to her, wondering all the while if I’ll be able to keep them because Lana wasn’t able to keep the ones she made to both of us.



Chapter 1


Five Months Later

I don’t get sick very often.

At least I didn’t use to.

The things I’m struggling with right now are more than a headache or a cold. Fixing what’s ailing me is more complicated than some over-the-counter medication and rest.

My therapist thought Xanax was a good idea, and although I balked at taking it, I didn’t hesitate before leaving the house this morning to catch a plane to New Mexico.

The pill has made me slow, my reactions and understanding of what’s going on around me more of a dreamlike situation, and after having been abducted months ago, that strain has me stuck in this very weird limbo. I want to be nervous. I think I need to be nervous, but I just can’t channel the emotion.

I hate the way I feel, but that’s not really anything new.

I haven’t felt right in my own skin for a very long time.

The regional airport I just flew into is smaller than what I’m used to, and I guess I should be grateful for the calm around me, but it’s like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I know how significant today is. I’ve been working toward it for months.

I spoke with Grace, the woman I met after being abducted months ago. I used my semester at college as an excuse to stay in Nebraska, but the truth is, I couldn’t leave the house. I was stuck mentally in the cocoon my mother provided and my father ignored. I was able to finish the semester online, but my grades were abysmal at best, nothing like the 4.0 GPA I maintained until the night I was asked to help an injured woman, a ruse by a couple who left Grace for dead and abducted me.

I know my life will never be the same, and I hate my new normal of looking over my shoulder and being afraid of my own damn shadow. Twenty-three shouldn’t look like this for anyone. I should be firmly in a job I love, working toward a promotion. Lack of money for college had already set me back, and I can’t see myself returning to any campus to finish my degree. The reprieve the college gave me to complete my coursework online was only for the spring semester, a guilt offering after being abducted from campus. I’m certain that had more to do with fear of being sued than actual compassion for what I went through.

Even with my dulled senses, I can conjure those feelings I got when I received the letter, reminding me that the fall semester will have to be attended in person. The classes I have remaining for my senior year aren’t offered online.

That’s why I’m in Farmington, New Mexico, planning to live with people I don’t know. I’d never get back to normal in Nebraska, and this is a last-ditch effort, a summer to get my head back on straight so I can return home and get back to my normal life.

I attempt a smile when I spot Grace waving to me outside the tiny airport. I don’t think my face manages it, though.

“How was your flight?” she asks when I approach.

“Fine,” I tell her, keeping my eyes on the man standing beside her.

I blame my father for my lack of trust in men, but before I was taken, it was more promise based distrust. I’ve been lied to and have had promises broken for years by my father.

After my abduction, I have a hard time trusting men, and women now, since Karen Bishop helped Ronald Higgle abduct both Grace and me, only it’s more than just broken vows that make me keep my eyes on the man.

“This is Trenton,” Grace introduces.

The man gives me a nod, and I’m grateful he doesn’t extend his hand. I’d have to leave it hanging in the air, and that would make things extremely awkward.

“Nice to meet you,” I tell him.

“Can I take your bags?”

I give him a quick nod, making sure not to touch him when I pass the strap of my carry-on and roll my suitcase in his direction.

“You’re safe,” Grace whispers when Trenton takes my things to the back of the SUV. “There will be a lot of men at the clubhouse, but they would never do anything to hurt you or make you feel uncomfortable. I promise.”

I nod because I could never voice my doubts. Deep down, I know that most people are inherently good, but my trauma just won’t let me accept it.

“You’ll see. Come on.” Grace opens the back door to the SUV before stepping to the side so I can climb inside.

The ride is dulled by the medication I took. I know I should be nervous, but my body just can’t manage it. I don’t plan to ever take Xanax again. I hate the way it makes me feel disconnected from the world.

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