So he"d do what he always did when he couldn"t sleep. Ride a circuit around town " swinging past the Ravens" big compound, the racetrack the club operated, his brothers" places, and the homes of the Ravens" protectees who weren"t currently living in the cabins near their clubhouse. Patrolling wasn"t something he was expected to do, or that anyone even knew he did. Just something that filled his time. Just a routine that gave him something to think about besides the lame-ass woe-is-me bullshit narrative that sometimes filled his head.
You"re a fucking waste of space.
You"re a worthless piece of shit.
You should"ve been the one to die.
Wah wah whatthefuckever.
His bike came to life on a low rolling growl, drowning out the ancient voices and the memories. He donned a matte black helmet and tugged a mouth mask up over his face, and then he was pulling out onto the street and making his way through town, past quiet homes and closed businesses. Glowing Christmas lights hung in trees and around rooflines and in darkened windows, not that the holiday meant anything to him.
Every time he made a left turn, his shifting weight reminded him that he"d been shot through the left wrist less than three months before. The memory of that night was part of the bullshit that pinballed around his skull"not because he"d been hurt, but because three others had been, too. And it was his fucking fault.
The only saving grace was that all three had survived, but clearly he needed to step up and do better watching over the members of the closest thing to a family he"d ever had. Because next time they might not be so lucky.
Nearly an hour into riding the circuit, Caine made his way into town to the row house of the last of their protectees, Ana Garcia. She"d been receiving death threats ever since filing a sexual assault charge against the pastor at a big church on the outskirts of town. One of those places that was as much fundraising machine as it was a house of worship. Powerful and connected, where the woman was not. Which was why she"d come to the Ravens, and why they"d agreed to take her on. It was what they did"protecting those who couldn"t defend themselves, and it"d been the main thing that"d drawn Caine to the club ten years before.
He parked at the curb about a half block away from the client"s house and cut his engine, content to keep eyes on the place for a while despite the December cold. The Ravens had offered to let her stay at one of their cabins, but she didn"t want to be chased from her own house, so they"d been doing regular drive-bys and providing escorts around town, most recently during her courthouse appearance. The show of potential force was frequently enough to make the kind of cowardly shitheads who"d threaten a woman stand down, and so far that seemed to be the case for her.
On a sigh, Caine hung his helmet on the handle bar and got off the bike to walk the block. He moved like a shadow, quiet and quick, a black wraith in the night. Eyes wide open. Ears on alert. Instincts tuned to the tiniest threat. It was just how he was wired"or maybe it was how life had rewired him.
He was almost at the intersection across from their client"s house when he heard it. A woman"s shriek, abruptly cut off, quickly followed by the snarling, aggressive barks of a dog"and then a sharp yelp. Not from the direction of their protectee"s place, but closer, from around the corner of the row houses right next to him.
Instincts screaming, Caine darted to the corner of the house closest to the intersection, his hand already at the small of his back"reaching for the gun he hadn"t brought when his whole plan for the night had been the threesome. Fuck.
He peered around the corner and saw two people locked in physical struggle, a small dog barking and growling at their ankles. One person wore a mask, and the other a halo of long, blond hair.
Aw, hell no. He drew a switchblade from his boot and bolted toward them. He didn"t speak, didn"t wait, didn"t hesitate. He popped the blade open and swung, catching the mask-wearing shitbag on the arm.
The guy hollered and reared back, suddenly off balance, the woman"s purse in his hands as he went down on his ass. It was the perfect opportunity to pin him, except the woman lost her balance, too. She fell back against Caine"s chest and, as he caught her, their feet became entangled in the dog"s leash as the little thing jumped and yipped. It was all Caine could do to keep them upright.
And it allowed the attacker to recover. Her belongings spilling from the purse, he scrabbled off the ground and hauled ass up the street before disappearing down an alley.