Shattered Skull Excerpt & a Giveaway!
The first time I saw Aiken Cross, aka Skull, he was standing atop a speeding motorcycle. The second time, he was putting his fist through my brother’s face.
Now he’s everywhere I look.
He’s making my life hell with his vulgar remarks and seductive lure, but it’s not my fault my brother joined The Border Lords, his rival crew. I keep my nose out of their business and my head in the books. Yet he’s always there provoking me, dragging me into their conflict. Everyone in town knows you don’t mess with the Sons of Sinister, but no one ever told me what to do when a Son of Sinister messes with me.
The scream of a motorcycle engine filled the night, and the people standing around turned toward the abandoned road and began to cheer.
It was then that I saw him.
The skull from the stoplight.
His familiar neon green and black bike pulled up in front of us, but he faced ahead, ready to race his bike. His tires were lined in neon lights that made the exhaust around him look like it was glowing green too. He revved his engine, the screeching sound making me flinch, and he nodded his helmeted head toward someone on the sideline.
Another bike pulled up next to the skull, glowing purple. The rider of that bike turned toward the skull, and I gasped a bit when I saw he wore a similar handkerchief over the bottom half of his face, but instead of a skull, it was the lower half of The Joker’s face.
They nodded at each other before facing a guy who was suddenly standing in the center of the road. I hadn’t noticed the guy in the center before, but I stiffened when he pulled a handgun out of his pocket and aimed it toward the sky.
“Okay, motherfuckers, let’s keep it clean. Winner takes bragging rights. No bullshit. Got it?” he called out.
The two riders nodded their agreement and revved their engines.
And what I assumed was illegal racing.
How had I gotten myself mixed up in this?
He pulled the trigger, sending an echo of a loud gunshot through the night air. Then the sounds of the roaring engines battling for lead stole the gun’s thunder. The crowd exploded, rushing to the sidelines to follow the riders to see who would pass the finish line first, and I felt their energy course through my body.
At first, the noise had been deafening, and I felt my heart rate speed up. I was sure the black curse of panic was going to override my Valium, but it never came. It wasn’t long until I realized it wasn’t panic making my heart race; it was excitement.
My heart drilled in my chest, my breath rushing in and out in quick bursts, but instead of feeling the grip of anxiety around my heart, I felt pure exhilaration.
Everything I was doing was wrong, from watching the illegal race to standing beside a guy who was bumping cocaine from his long pinky nail, but at the same time, it was the most excitement I had felt in a very long time. I was doing something so unlike myself—something I knew my dad would never have approved of, and I liked it way more than I should have.
My entire life, I had done everything I was supposed to do—followed every rule—went the extra mile in all things. If I was honest, it was because I was too afraid of everything in life. But this moment—the one with burnt rubber and biker boys—was for me and me alone.
The skull won the race, standing on his bike and thrusting his glove-covered fist into the air. The place went nuts. He was a favorite, and I couldn’t say I blamed the people. His bike was gorgeous, and there was something about his eyes when he looked over at me the first time I saw him. They were tragic and angry, and yet they held so much more.
He popped a wheelie and stood on the tail end of his bike until it was almost touching the gravel. I gasped at the trick and blinked at how amazing he was. He and the Joker followed each other to a small group of bikes parked at the edge of the road, and when they turned their bikes off and climbed off, they clasped hands and pulled each other in for a hug.
They were friends.
The races continued, and I felt myself getting into it. I was smiling and clapping, cheering with the crowd, and rooting for my favorite bikes when they pulled forward. The colors were amazing.
The taste of the gasoline lingering in the air.
It was a playground for my panic-ridden senses, and I was able to repeat my sensory steps without issue, even though it was more of a habit instead of a need. There were many things to see.
It was a world unlike any other, and strangely, I felt like I belonged, even though I had never been on a motorcycle and would never have the guts to remedy that.
I found myself moving away from Zada and Reggie, staying along the sidelines of The Strip so that I could see the bikes and the riders up close. I envied them for the freedom they must have felt slicing through the wind at high rates of speed. I longed to feel that way.
I grew bolder, moving closer until I was standing in front of everyone else. I was so close to the racers when they passed; I could feel the heat of their engines blowing against my skin.
It was beyond electrifying.
The gun went off at the starting line again, and I jerked, ready to see the riders blow past me. I leaned forward to get a better look and see if they were coming, and just as I did, one of the riders flew by me, cutting it so close that my hair swung into my face with the burst of the wind trailing behind it.
I smoothed my hair down and blew it away from my face seconds before someone squeezed my arm and slung me to the ground.
A deep voice barked down at me, but I couldn’t make out what the person was saying over the sound of my blood rushing through my ears.
My back ached, and the gravel and rocks dug into my hands as I pushed myself into a sitting position. I cleared my hair from my face and swore to never leave it down again. I looked up, and my eyes clashed with a pair of glowing green eyes with heavy dark brows before settling over the skull handkerchief hiding the bottom of his face.
It was the skull who drove the neon green bike, and he was even more amazing up close.
He shook his head and sighed, obviously aggravated with me.
“You stepped onto the strip while a race was going on. I’m just trying to figure out why. Are you suicidal, murderous, or mental?”
“None of the above,” I said, pushing up from the ground.
He didn’t move to help me.
Once I was on my feet, he was still looming over me and looking down at me as if I had tried to murder his favorite person.
“You don’t belong here,” he spat. “Stay on your side of town before you get someone killed.”
He turned away from me in aggravation, and I found myself annoyed by his behavior. I was having a lovely time, and he had to go and ruin it.
“This is my side of town,” I lied.
He stopped and spun around. His wide shoulders were blocking my view of The Strip behind him.
“Liar,” he growled.
“I’m not lying.”
He moved toward me, his form growing broader and taller the closer he got. The chain hanging from his pocket jingled, and his heavy boots crunched the gravel with each step he took. His eyes, while super bright green and almost glowing, somehow managed to be lifeless. They were dull, without a single drop of emotion.
“You are, and you wanna know how I know?”
I held my head high even though I was shivering. “How?”
He tugged the handkerchief down, exposing his thick lips. My eyes caught on the set of silver studs under his bottom lip on each side. He sucked his bottom lip in and released it with a pop. The side of his mouth lifted in a grin that was anything but happy.
“Because you’re fresh meat for the hunt with your loose Mom jeans and your shirt that’s two sizes too big. Look around you, Cherry Girl. You’re the only virgin in a five-mile radius who’s over seventeen. I can smell your innocence like a dead skunk on the side of a country road. You’re not from around here, and everybody fucking knows it.”
Tears rushed to my eyes, but I blinked them away. I cried for no one—especially not some biker asshole with a bad attitude.
“I swear if you fucking cry, I’m going to lose my shit,” he snapped.
As if he hadn’t already.
“You’re an asshole,” I muttered, having never spoken to another human being like that in my life.
His brows lifted, and his eyes were wide with shock. “What did you just call me?”
“You heard me.” I swallowed, feeling like I were seconds away from tossing up my lunch.
Panic clawed at my chest like the wild animal that she was, threatening to rush up my throat and choke me to death. My heart was crazy in my chest, pushing too much blood through my veins and making me feel dizzy.
I was trembling, and I hoped he didn’t see that.
Again, he grinned down at me with no humor, but this time there was a hint of something in his green gaze.
“I’ll let that slide since you’re new around here, and you don’t know the rules, but let me fill you in,” he said, pushing into my space until my face brushed against his hard chest.
He smelled like the engines around me. All gasoline and motor oil. He breathed down at me, his eyes darkening and his nostrils flaring with each pull of air. “Nobody talks to me that way. Not even some high and mighty daddy’s girl with too much money and not enough tits.”
His words burned because he was right. I was a daddy’s girl, except my dad was no more. I clenched my eyes closed, and even though I tried to fight them, a single tear slipped down my cheek.
“Are you crying?” he asked, appalled. His eyes grew wide in disgust. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” He snorted. “Poor little rich girl can’t handle the big bad truth.”
This time I shook with hurt and anger. He had brought my father into the conversation, and I wasn’t okay with that. Say what you wanted about me, but never mention my father. I gritted my teeth and debated turning away from him, but words I had never said leaped from my lips before I could.
“Fuck you,” I growled, anger like I hadn’t experienced in my life bubbling over.
He chuckled, obviously not affected by my hateful words. “I wouldn’t fuck you with a two-dollar dildo.”
Then he was gone, taking my next breath with him. My stomach ached from his vile words, but the panic which had been simmering against my ribs was gone.
It was strange.
I was shaking, my heart beating so hard it hurt, but it was anger running the show, not panic.
I turned away, blinking away the tears and begging them to obey. It was then that I saw my brother again. He was leaning against his car with his arm draped over the shoulder of a different blonde. He laughed at something the guy standing in front of him said, and then he reached out and took a joint from him. My eyes went wide when he put the joint to his lips and inhaled as if he had been getting high for years.
What was going on in my world?
Everything was changing. Even my twin brother and I weren’t close anymore. He was hanging out with these people and doing drugs. Although, I was hanging out with them, too. But I was only doing it so I could keep an eye on him. So I could be there if he needed a ride home.
He looked over at me, feeling my eyes on him, and he grinned and nodded in my direction. He had known I would come. There wasn’t even a tiny bit of surprise on his face from seeing me there.
“What was that about?” Zada asked as she reached my side, pulling my attention away from my brother.
She held out a canned soda, and I took it, the cold aluminum burning my palm.
“What?” I asked, unsure if she was referring to my brother or my run-in with the skull.
“You were talking to Aiken Cross. He looked pissed. Did something happen?”
I nodded, popping my can of soda open and taking a long cold swig.
That was the devil’s name.
It fit him somehow.
“Yeah. He pulled me away from the track and told me I was standing too close.”
Her eyes went wide, and her mouth fell open. “Skull walked all the way over here to tell you to back up?”
“Something like that. He’s a bit of an asshole, huh?”
“Oh yeah. The biggest, but he’s also super fucking hot.” She laughed when Reggie, her boyfriend, pushed his shoulder into hers. “What? He is!”
“If you say so,” I responded.
I wouldn’t admit it, but I could see the appeal of him. His dark hair and striking green eyes. The way he licked his thick lips and how they looked when he grinned. The piercings. The tattoos. He was an attractive guy but in a bad boy kind of way. I stayed away from those types, although, even if I didn’t, they would surely stay away from me.
Cherry Girl was what he called me.
The new girl.
Poor little rich Daddy’s girl.
Tears pooled in my eyes, and I blinked them away.
She laughed again. “I say so.”
“It’s probably best if you stay away from the sons,” Reggie said, pulling Zada into his arms.
“Who?” I asked, confused.
“The Sons of Sinister. They’re a motorcycle crew. Four of them live a few houses down from Zada. Including the skull. They can be nice guys, but it’s probably best not to get on their bad side.”
I hadn’t done anything.
How could I have gotten on anyone’s bad side by standing alone and watching a race?
These people were unhinged. That was the only thing that made any sense.
I nodded, agreeing to stay away from the skull and his crew. I doubted I would even see him again, and if I did, I had no problem whatsoever staying away from him.