Chris “Shooter” Sullivan has returned to his home town of Rapid City, South Dakota to pick up the pieces of his life shattered by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He only wants to focus on holding what’s left of his old unit together, running his garage where he builds custom bikes and cars, and pretending that his murdered father’s motorcycle gang doesn’t exist.
Hayley Turner is a young woman with her own traumatic past. Fresh off the bus from Nowhere, USA, all she wants is a job and a place to live, until it’s time for her to leave again. She doesn’t want to make friends, or enemies, least of all the ex-Army Ranger who obviously doesn’t like her. She bristles under his watchful eye. He’s even got her convinced she’s bad news.
But circumstances force two people who don’t need anyone to need each other more and more. The more Chris gets to know Hayley, the harder it is to stay detached. And the more Hayley gets to know Chris, the more she realizes she’s been alone for so long she might never recover from it.Books in Series:Burnout Series by Dahlia WestBooks by Author:Dahlia West Books
She jerked awake as a hand squeezed her knee. A hand that was a little too friendly. She opened her eyes to see a pair of brown ones looking down on her. Brown eyes set into a round face topped by a receding hairline. The bus driver had a look that was a little too friendly, also. She immediately moved her knee away from his grip.
“Well, hey there, darlin’ ” he said, amused. “This is your stop.”
She blinked and looked out the window that was covered with road dust. The bus was old and seats were starting to show their wear, but outside the window was a bright, sunny April morning. She gathered her duffel from the overhead compartment, having been unwilling to stow it underneath the bus. Everything she owned was in that bag and not having it within arm’s reach was unthinkable. Several other passengers were getting up, gathering their own belongings and she was grateful when the handsy bus driver was forced to head back up to the front to begin letting people off.
Compared to the interior of the bus, the crisp spring air was welcoming even if it was only in the 50’s right now. The city was always at the mercy of the wind. It could turn a hot day bearable, a mild day chilly, and rip the breath from your lungs in winter, so said her guidebook. She pulled her hoodie a little tighter around her against the chill and headed toward Main Street. Her travel guide was stowed securely in her duffel and she was confident that she could navigate the streets now without it. She’d picked up the book on the shelf at the bookstore two days ago.
The photo of the Black Hills National Forest on the cover had caught her eye and she thumbed through it, settling on Rapid City as the closest she could get and still feel anonymous. Rapid City boasted 67,000 people. Considerably smaller than Denver, which was more than ten times larger. But the bustling downtown area made her feel comfortable. Safe. She wanted to be around people, just not be overwhelmed by them.
She slung the black bag over her shoulder and out of habit fingered the bills in her jeans pocket. The rest of her money was stored in several different locations both on her person and in her bag so if the bag was lost or stolen she wouldn’t be completely broke. And if she had the unfortunate luck to be robbed on the bus, as she had four years ago, she had a chance of convincing him the fifty some odd dollars in her front pocket really was all she had. She was clearly traveling by bus, wearing cheap canvas shoes, and, as was her usual, a pair of nearly worn out jeans. So any potential mugger might actually believe her.
She could afford better shoes and clothes, but she lived in perpetual fear of being broke again, as she had when she’d finally gotten off the bus in Dallas with only the clothes in her bag. Going to the police was certainly not an option so she’d avoided her mugger as best she could, darting into the bus station and locking herself in a bathroom stall for an entire night until she could be sure he would have moved on.
Those had been terrifying days. Days when she hadn’t yet gotten used to being on the road, without a past, totally cut off from everything and everyone. Earning money had seemed an impossible task. Those first few days were spent searching for employment by day and returning to the familiar bus station at night. Even though she wasn’t a ticketed passenger, no one seemed to give her shit for sleeping in the terminal.
She’d almost lost it and called her Mom and Dad, but that fifth day the clouds parted and she finally had a clear path again. She’d walked into a diner. Not shabby, but not trendy, either. She"d been worn out and hungry from eating out of the vending machine with the few coins she’d found in a jacket pocket in her duffel. The owner turned out to be an older, no nonsense woman, who took one look at her and had probably immediately decided she was a junkie. Sensing the interview was going badly, she’d gotten up to leave when the sleeve of her shirt had hiked up and the slightly purple, now yellowing bruise left by the mugger on the bus had become visible.
The woman, Shirley, had snagged her wrist, gently but firmly and frowned down at marks. “He gonna come looking for you"” Shirley had asked quietly.
For a moment, that horrible night, not the night of the mugging, but that other, more awful, more terrifying night, the night that had seemed to stretch out forever until she was convinced she was in Hell and that every moment was an eternity of pain and fear flashed in her mind and her breath caught.