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Outlaw’s Promise

By:Helena Newbury

Prologue





This is my story.

It’s about a big, scary, incredible biker they call Irish.

It’s about Mac and Hunter and Ox and Viking and Mom (not my mom).

It’s about a necklace and a promise. Family and loyalty. Sex and violence. Riding and sunsets.

I was going to start it with him saving me.

But to really understand it, we have to start with how I saved him.





1





Annabelle





Twelve Years Ago



I sat bolt upright in bed. What was that?

There was only silence, now, but I could still feel the sound echoing around my bedroom. The furniture in my dollhouse was still rattling.

I replayed the noise in my mind: a low growl, like a tiger getting ready to pounce. Then a crash of glass, a screech of metal and a final heavy thump.

And it had come from right outside my window.

I clutched my stuffed bunny, Perkins—just in case he was scared. He looked up at me with his one remaining eye and told me to be brave.

I strained my ears but the house was silent. Good. He hadn’t woken up.

Very carefully, I crawled across my bed to the window and looked out.

Beyond the little field of wilted maize, the fence that separated our farm from the road was even more crooked than usual. Something big and dark had slammed up against it.

It moved. I ducked back down below the window, then cautiously peeked again. A man, bigger than my step-dad. Bigger even than I remembered my real dad being, and he was a big man. The man was trying to get up, but he kept slumping back down with a grunt of pain. His legs wouldn’t support him.

He needed help.

I bit my lip and looked towards the room my step-dad shared with my mom. When I’d gone to bed, he’d been a good way down the bottle. Now he’d be in the heavy, coma-like sleep that would last until noon. If I woke him now, I’d be feeling it for a week. And I couldn’t wake my mom without waking him.

I looked towards the window. It was down to me. I was only eight but there was no one else.

I took a deep breath, unlatched my window and crawled out onto the flat roof below, then down the wooden trellis to the ground. My bare feet sank into soft grass and the desiccated leaves the wind had stripped from the maize. The summer sun hadn’t even started to creep over the horizon, yet, so I figured it must be the very middle of the night. Overhead, the sky was a glorious bowl of inky black dusted with a million stars.

I crept down the path, Perkins dangling from one hand. I could see the motorcycle, now, huge and gleaming, lying on its side near the fence like a wounded horse, one wheel still spinning. The road glittered with glass.

My steps got smaller and smaller as I approached the man. He seemed to have given up moving and just lay there on his back, staring up at the stars. I gawped at him, as fascinated as I would have been by an alien.

He wore boots, but not the plain, dirt-brown work boots men around town wore: these were black leather, studded with gleaming metal. He had a helmet, too, a metal bowl that hugged his scalp but left his face free. And over his white t-shirt he had a sort of leather jacket...but someone mean had cut the arms off of it. The badge on the front said Hell’s Princes.

I took a step back. Mom said hell was bad, even though my step-dad said much, much worse words all the time. What if this man was dangerous? What if he was here to hurt us and I was out here on my own with him?

I squeezed Perkins’ paw for courage. “Are you bad?” I asked the man. Because in my mind, however evil he was, he still had to answer truthfully.

His head whipped around and he groaned in pain. His dark brows rose in amazement as he saw me: three feet of white nightdress and frizzy red hair. “What?”

I already had my answer. His eyes weren’t like my step-dad’s, cold and gray and bloodshot from whiskey. They were blue like the sky when the storm clouds have just cleared and everything’s fresh and new. Those eyes didn’t want to hurt anyone.

Both of us looked up as a low growl vibrated along the road. The same growl his bike had made, but now it was a harmony. More than one of them. His friends?

He looked back at me in panic. “Go inside!” he snapped. “Go!”

No. Not his friends.

For the first time, I noticed he was pressing one hand to his side, as if he’d been running and he had a stitch there. But when he shifted his palm a little, I saw the red oozing out. And he looked towards the approaching engines when he did it. “They hurt you?” I asked.

He looked at me again, sighed and went to snap at me again. But he seemed to catch himself at the last second and his face softened. It didn’t matter that he had black stubble all over his cheeks, which my step-dad said was for losers. It didn’t matter that he was so big, with muscles as big as my head swelling his arms. I didn’t feel that he’d ever hurt me, not even when he was mad. “Get outta here,” he told me. There was something odd about his voice, an accent that sounded like ancient, weathered rocks banging together to make silver sparks. “They might hurt you, too.”

My stomach knotted and I crushed Perkins’ paw in my hand and stepped back. I didn’t want to get hurt. The sort of hurt they’d done to him looked worse than the kind my step-dad did. I took a few stumbling steps back towards the house.

Then I stopped. I didn’t want him to get hurt, either.

I looked at the road. The approaching bikes were still out of sight, down at the bottom of the next valley, but the growl of their engines was getting louder.

I put Perkins carefully down on the ground, walked over to the man and took hold of one arm. Then I heaved. He twisted a little where he lay, but I couldn’t lift him.

“What are you doing?!” he snarled, pain twisting his face. “Get out of here!”

I ignored his protests, stepped back and thought.

I’ve always known I’m weird. I’m too interested in

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