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I’ve been in love with Nickel Kobald since I was fifteen. I know what he is—a biker with almost a decade on me and one hell of an anger management problem—but to me? He’s the one. Night after night, though, I’m dancing up on the stage alone. How much longer is he just gonna watch from the shadows? And how much longer can my heart stand to wait?
I’ve turned down Story Jenkins a hundred times. She’s a happy hippy with eyes like an anime babe and an ass you can rest your beer on. She’s perfect, but she ain’t for me. I can’t be trusted with nice things. I wreck ’em. Not by choice. It’s how I was made, and now, it’s what I am.
When old enemies roar back into town—threatening my club and the girl I don’t dare claim—I’m in for the fight of my life. My fists are all I got, and I’m afraid that this time? Fists aren’t gonna be enough to stop the past from tearing apart everything I love.
Nickel’s Story is a 68,000-word older man/younger woman motorcycle club romance. It’s the second book in the Steel Bones Motorcycle Club series, but it can be read out of order. This novel is intended for adult readers (18+) due to strong language, violence, triggers, and explicit intimate scenes.
Standalone. Safe. HEA.
HERE’S WHAT READERS ARE SAYING:
“I just finished Nickel’s Story and I can honestly say that I’m stunned. I went in thinking it was just going to be an MC romance and what I got was so much more…This was wonderfully written, emotional, intense and funny.”
-Leslee, Booksprout Reviewer
“To say that Nickel has a powerful and gripping story to share is putting it mildly…These two have suspense, action, a great supporting cast of equally intense characters and a romance that will have you saying come on already.”
-JJ, Booksprout Reviewer
“Wanted to thump Nickel up the head but God I loved him and Story’s relationship.”
-Debs MacRae, Booksprout Reviewer
STORY, AGE 15
“Ah, hell yeah, Story, you should go to try-outs. If Anne Michelle sees your moves, she’ll definitely tell the coach to put you on the team.”
“I don’t know.” I shrug, hands in my pockets. “I don’t think I’d make it.”
Yeah, right. I know I wouldn’t make it, and it’d have nothing to do with my dancing and everything to do with Anne Michelle thinking I’m trailer trash, but still…It’s nice to hear someone thinks you rock. Especially if that someone is Ryan-freakin’-Alston.
He’s the star running back of the football team and the hottest guy at Petty’s Mill High, and like, all of Pennsylvania, and he thinks I should go out for cheerleading. This is pretty much the best party ever.
I don’t even care that we’re out in a field, my high-heel wedges are caked in mud, and there’s nowhere to pee but an old tree-break full of sticker bushes. The full moon is out, making everything pretty and silver, and Ryan Alston is talking to me. With Bruce Miller and Keegan Olms. Bruce is the quarterback, and Keegan is a senior.
Ryan’s the hottest though.
“Now why don’t you think you’d make it?” Keegan scoffs. “We were watching you dance by the bonfire. You’re amazing.”
My cheeks heat. I can’t believe they were watching me.
“Yeah, why not?” Ryan echoes.
I can’t say the truth. I do live in a trailer, I’m in remedial English, and I’ve overheard the football coach gossiping to the cheer coach about how he’s shoved dollars in my ma’s G-string down at The White Van. No way they’re letting me on their wholesome, small town cheer squad. Not even JV.
“I dunno.” I hunch my shoulders and look at my feet. “Anne Michelle doesn’t really like me much.” That much is true.
“Anne Michelle’s probably jealous.” Ryan eyes my chest. Under my jean jacket, I’m wearing one of Ma’s tight, low-cut tank tops. She made me wear it. She says it makes my boobs “pop.” She’s always nagging me to make things pop. My eyes. My eyebrows. My butt.
“Yeah.” I nod. If Anne Michelle were here, she’d definitely be pissed that her boyfriend is talking to me.
A lot of the girls hate me. Ma says it’s because I’m super blond, I’ve had huge tits since sixth grade, and my body’s tight from dance. I think it’s because Ma’s a biker chick and a stripper, and we live at Happy Trails down on the Patonquin flats. And then there’s the whole rumor that I have herpes even though I haven’t been with anyone yet.
I don’t have many friends who are girls except at dance. Dance friends are the best. They don’t go to Petty’s Mill since I dance rec all the way out in Shady Gap. They don’t know anything about how I’m in the lowest level classes and everyone thinks I have an STI because some loser got pissed that I wouldn’t give him a hand job under the table in art class.
Anyway, Ryan Alston has never bothered to even look down his nose at me before, and now he’s talking about me going out for cheer. It’s totally weird. Things like this don’t happen to me. Ever.
“I could change her mind, you know.” Ryan flashes his killer smile. “Get her to give you a shot.”
“You could?” This is crazy. It’s got to be the earrings. Ma lent me her pink crystal hoops tonight, and we both know they’re magic. She won fifty bucks off a scratch off the last time she wore them.
Ryan shoots a glance at Bruce and Keegan. “If all three of us ask Anne Michelle to give you a shot, she’d have to. We’re…like…the heart of the team. Right?”
I nod. Everyone knows Keegan is being scouted, and Bruce’s parents practically run the booster club.
“But what if her moves aren’t good enough?” Bruce crosses his arms and frowns. He’s not as friendly as Ryan and Keegan.
“They totally are!” A nervous giggle escapes my lips, and I press them together hard, trying to tone it down. I’m not very good at playing it cool.
I’m laughing, but my moves are awesome. Ma doesn’t believe in TV—as if we could afford cable if she did—so I spend a lot of time practicing on the empty pad next to our place. It’s the perfect stage. That’s why I’ve been in show troupe since third grade. Practice and hard work and no TV.
“We should give her a chance. A try-out before the try-outs,” Keegan suggests. He’s way nicer than Bruce. He’s not hot like Ryan, but he has a really sweet face.
“Maybe. Sometime.” Bruce shrugs and grabs a beer from a passing kid. The kid doesn’t even bother to complain. Bruce is scary big.
Crap. I need to seize this chance. It’s not going to happen again. It’s not as if these guys will talk to me in school. Check out my rack, sure, but talk? Never.
“Why don’t I show you now?” I arch my back so my boobs stick out. Ma’s drilled it in me to work my assets which are—in order—my boobs, my ass, and my hair.
“Here?” Keegan raises an eyebrow, glancing around the clearing.
It is a little crowded. There’s a huge bonfire, a keg, and kids hanging out, sitting on felled logs, horsing around. A couple guys have pulled up their trucks, and girls are dancing in the headlights.
If I weren’t here talking to the cutest, most popular guys in school, I’d be over there. Dance is my life.
I’m about to suggest that I do a try-out in front of the trucks when the roar of engines cuts through the music and laughter, and everyone perks up. Shit. The bikers are here, which means the party is about to get crazy.
Crazy awkward for me.
I kind of hope it’s Rebel Raiders, even though those guys are gross. If it’s Steel Bones, the club my mom hangs with, they might tell her what I’m doing. She wouldn’t care, but that doesn’t mean I want her to know my business.
Three Harleys cut their engines at the same time, and the guys duck walk them back into a line. I recognize Hobs and give him a little wave. He’s the youngest brother of the Steel Bones president, and we’re in the same reading class in this portable out back of the tech ed wing. I’m in there cause I can’t read real good. He’s there because some asshole took a whack at his head with a baseball bat a few years ago, and now he has a hard time remembering how to get places and tell time and stuff.
Hobs is a senior. He’s with a guy named Creech who graduated a year or two ago. Creech is prospecting. I’ve seen him at club picnics. I think my mom has banged him. My mom’s a sweetbutt so that’s not, like, special or anything.
Then I catch sight of the third guy, and my palms go sweaty.
It’s Nickel Kobald.
I steer clear of him. He’s way older—like twenty-four—and he’s an enforcer. Not even my ma messes with him. He’s probably here to make sure no one fucks with Hobs.
I don’t know how Nickel’s not up state. I actually saw him break a guy’s jaw at a lake party once. I’ve seen him headbutt a dude twice his size and then do shots with the guy later, his teeth still coated in blood and his nose bent sideways. I’ve seen him lift a bike and throw it at a brother who pissed him off, and it wasn’t a Sporty, either. It was, like, a Fat Boy.
I’ve known Nickel since I was a little kid and he was a prospect, and I’ve never seen him smile. I’ve seen him laugh plenty, but only when he’s tryin’ to kill someone with his bare hands. The man’s not right in the head.
I turn back to Ryan so I don’t accidentally make eye contact. Not like Nickel’s ever paid me any attention.
“Sweet bike.” Ryan eyes up Nickel’s custom job over my shoulder.
Keegan shrugs and grins. “I’d rather be lookin’ at something else sweet. Like Story’s moves.” He winks. God, he’s so cheesy. But cute, too.
“Well, here’s not good, obviously.” I glance around. This is really disappointing, but no way am I doing cheers in front of Creech and Nickel.
“We could take a little walk,” Ryan suggests. “Past the tree break.”
God, this is amazing. All the girls want to dance with these guys, be with them, but here they are, hanging out with me. Willing to give me a chance.
I knew the earrings were lucky.
“Awesome!” I smile, and when Ryan makes an “after you” sweep of his hand, I walk off in front of the guys into the dark, away from the bonfire.
They lead me out to the tree break—Keegan slings his arm around my neck—and I’m so nervous, I can’t hardly remember any cheers, so I focus on high-stepping so the long grass doesn’t wrap around my heels and trip me. That’s the last thing I need, to fall on my ass in front of these guys.
The further from the bon fire we go, the more shivers prickle down my spine. If this was a horror movie, this would not be a smart move. Ma would definitely call me an idiot if she knew I was walking off into the dark with three guys. It’s Ryan, Bruce, and Keegan, though. It’s not a sex thing; they all have totally hot, really popular girlfriends, and it’s not like virtually every other girl at Petty’s Mill High isn’t taking a number and lining up.
“Here’s good,” Bruce says when the noise from the clearing is faint enough that you can hear the crickets. “What do you think, guys? Here good?”
“Yeah, yeah. Looks good,” Ryan agrees, smirking. He seems really excited. He’s bouncing on his toes like he’s about to take the field.
I take a deep breath and stand in position, feet hip-width apart, hands straight at my side. I’m going to rock this.
“Hold up,” Keegan says. He’s shaking a cigarette out of a pack. “I can’t see with that jacket on. Why don’t you take it off?”
Oh. That makes sense. I didn’t even think about it.
I shrug my jean jacket off and look for a place to put it. The grass is wet with dew, and besides, I need to wear it another week until we make a laundromat run.
“I’ll hold it.” Ryan reaches out a hand. He’s such a gentleman.
The other two take out their phones and pull up a flashlight app so they can see me. They’re only outlines now, and that makes it a little easier. I can pretend I’m alone on the pad next to my trailer.
I take another deep breath and clap once, loudly. I’m so nervous, butterflies are beating wings in my belly. I stare past the guys, into the dark, and I let my body take over.
“Be! Aggressive! Be—be—Aggressive!” I do a dagger and then a high V.
“B—e—a—gg—r—ess—ive!” I get so into it, like I always do when I’m on stage, that I’m not noticing anything but my muscles and the beat.
I finish with a herkie and a toe touch, and I am so stoked I finished it with no mistakes, not one, and my toe touch was really high, and I didn’t wobble at all when I landed even though I’m wearing heels and the ground is spongy.
I blink, grinning widely, and the clearing comes back into focus.
“Look at her. The slut loves it,” Bruce snorts. Keegan laughs, and it isn’t friendly. It’s mean, and it raises the hackles on the back of my neck.
Ryan groans, weird like he’s hurt, and I finally notice.
Their phones aren’t on flashlight anymore; they’re recording.
And their dicks are out.
And Ryan Alston just came. On my coat. Which he’s dumped on the dirty ground in front of him.
My jaw drops open like a fish, and Keegan says, “Let’s get her on her knees. She can suck us off.”
From the trees behind me, there’s a low, raspy, “Fuck that.”
And then it all happens so fast, I don’t have time to panic or run. One second, they’re all three facing me in a row, recording, and then it’s like a tornado goes through them, and there’s no light from their phones anymore, only the sick thud of fists on flesh and cries of pain filling the night air. There’s a crack as Ryan Alston’s head hits a tree trunk. He’s out cold, crumpled near my feet.
I fall to my knees, desperately running my fingers through the grass and thistles and sticks. I feel a nail break. God damn. Where’s his fucking phone? Where is it?
Finally, my finger grazes a smooth rectangle, and I snatch it up, shoving it into my pocket while I take out my own, much cheaper phone and hold it up, trying to sort out what’s going on.
Bruce and Keegan are still on their feet. Barely. A man with a buzz cut and a leather jacket is taking turns on them, just pummeling the hell out of their midsections, mixing it up every few blows by sending a fist or a boot into their faces.
Hobs and Creech are nowhere to be seen.
Nickel’s strong, wiry and quick, but it’s two against one. Biker against quarterback and linebacker. Not good.
I see a chance, and I jump in, landing a good kick to Keegan’s nuts, but then the fighting gets up close again, and I can’t see another opening. Nickel’s all over them, though. It’s all they can do to stay on their feet. One combo to Keegan’s throat and gut, and he topples backwards, wind-milling his arms. When he hits the ground near me, I slam my heel into his balls.
He wheezes, whistling like wind through a crack in the insulation. I drop down again, searching the ground around him and then dig into his pockets until I find another phone. Got it. Jacket pocket.
One more. All I need is to find one more phone and this never happened.
It’s just Bruce now, and he’s weaving on his feet. I think Nickel might ease off, wind down, but he doesn’t. Instead, he goes berserker, slamming his forehead into Bruce’s face and driving his knee into his belly. The moonlight bathes Nickel’s bloody face, and pure fear races through my veins.
This is not a guy in control of himself.
Nickel’s mouth is drawn back in a grimace, feral and mad, his eyes glinting black. Blood splatter drips down his tattooed neck, and I swear I can see bone where his knuckles are torn. Bruce slams to his knees, and Nickel grabs him by the scalp to hold him upright.
“Come here, Story.” Nickel swings his wild eyes to me.
Oh, God. Suddenly I have to pee so bad. I should run. I should get the hell out of here. Fuck that last phone. Bruce is obviously going to die now, so’s it’s not like he’s going to be able to post anything.
When I stay where I am, Nickel’s brow furrows in frustration, like he’s trying to move me with his mind or something. Finally, he raises the hand not holding up Bruce’s bloody head, palm facing me, like “whoa.” Which is weird cause I’m not the one dripping with another dude’s blood.
“Ain’t gonna hurt you, Story,” he says. “Come here.”
And this is gonna sound strange, cause you’d think a man like Nickel wouldn’t care to repeat himself, that he’d sound impatient or there’d be a threat in his tone. But I swear, he sounds just like when my mom tries to lure Poxie, the stray cat we feed, out from under the Henderson’s truck.
Slow and patient.
So, Lord help me, I hobble over to the scene of the crime.
I stop a few steps away, hugging myself around the middle. This close, I can see the hate in Bruce’s eyes. There’s fear, too, but mostly, I can see that however this ends—Monday morning and next week and for the next two years—I will never have a moment’s peace at Petty’s Mill High again.
“C-can I just…can I just go, Nickel? I just want to go.”
Nickel ignores me. Instead, he kicks Bruce in the ribs with the metal toe of his black boot. There’s a crack, and Bruce shrieks, high-pitched. Then he throws up in the pine needles he’s kneeling on.
Oh. There’s his phone. Lucky for me, it’s a good six inches away from the puke. I sneak my foot out and drag it toward me with my toe. Nickel’s gaze flashes down, and he rolls his eyes. Then he jerks Bruce’s head up so he can stare him in the face.
“Now you’re gonna listen, you worthless piece of shit. You see Story here? Nod if you understand me.”
Bruce whimpers. He can’t nod without his hair pulling in Nickel’s grasp, but he nods anyway.
“Story is property of Steel Bones. You understand what that means?”
Bruce blubbers something that sounds like yes.
“It means—” Nickel stomps the hand propping Bruce up off the ground. Bruce collapses to his side, sobbing.
“Don’t touch.” Nickel leans over.
“Don’t look.” Nickel spits next to Bruce’s heaving body.
“Don’t even fuckin’ think about her ever again.”
Then he sniffs, wiping a bloody hand across his face, and tilts his head to crack his neck. The moon takes that moment to send a beam down to light his face. He looks insane. His eyes are black hollows; the slash of his cheekbones and hard line of his clenched jaw make him seem more like a comic book villain rather than human.
He’s the most mesmerizing man I’ve ever seen. Strong. Fearless. Totally mental.
“Get out of here,” Nickel growls at me. “And quit bein’ so stupid.”
“Nickel?” I don’t quite know what I mean to say. Maybe don’t kill him. Maybe make it hurt.
“Git.” This time, there is a threat in his voice, and I do have a sense of self-preservation, so I bail.
I try to hurry back to the clearing, but it takes a while cause the clouds have drifted over the moon and the grass is really high. I hear a thud behind me, a few muffled snarls, and then nothing. When I’m a few yards from the bonfire, Nickel catches up. I know it’s him because his tread is heavier than any of the boys. Besides, there’s no way Ryan or the others are gonna be walking that quickly anytime soon.
Nickel slows down when he gets next to me, keeping a foot or two between us. His face is all shadows, but I can smell the copper of blood.
Should I say thank you? Sorry?
I should probably say thank you.
I open my mouth to speak, but he beats me to it.
“Why the fuck were you doin’ cheers for three dudes out in the fuckin’ woods?”
Yeah. I can see it now. I was being totally stupid. Growing up where I have…I should know better about guys. My skin prickles with embarrassment, and I’m happy it’s too dark for him to see me blush.
“They said if I was good, they’d get me on the squad.” I know how lame I sound.
He snorts and walks silently beside me a while longer. Then he says, “Why the fuck you want to be a cheerleader? Thought you danced.”
Huh? How would Nickel Kobald know that?
He must sense my confusion because he kind of grunts, and spits out all grudgingly, “When your ma was fuckin’ Big George, five, six years ago, you had a charity thing up at the community college in Shady Gap. Big George made all us prospects go.”
Five or six years ago? That was, like, my first or second show-troupe recital. The proceeds always go to the children’s hospital, so it’s a big deal. He saw that?
“Was I wearing a yellow body suit with sequins or a black-and-white polka dot tutu?”
There is a long silence.
“I have no fuckin’ idea.”
He must be sorry he said anything because he doesn’t say a single word more until we’re past the bonfire, close to all the trucks with their lights on.
“You want to be on the cheerleading squad?”
I don’t really know. I thought I did. The idea of being on the team, in the middle of the other girls, girls no one ever looks down on—I guess the idea of that is what made me go off into the woods with three guys I didn’t really know.
Cheerleading is fun and all, but I do pointe, and pointe’s way harder.
“I guess not,” I mumble.
“You want to be with those guys?”
The question makes my stomach turn. It wasn’t like that. “No,” I huff.
Nickel stops, reaches out all sudden and grabs my forearm so I stop, too. He leans down, so his face is almost level with mine.
He speaks real slow and clear. “Stop doin’ things you don’t want to do. And stay away from those motherfuckers. Hear me?”
I nod. His raspy, clipped voice echoes in my ear. I hear him, all right.
I glance up.
“Give me the phones.”
My cheeks heat a little while I wiggle and tug them from my butt pocket where they’re all three wedged in tight as a drum. I lay them in his out-stretched hand.
“What are you going to do with them?”
He shrugs a shoulder. “Toss ’em in the river.”
Then he jerks his chin and takes off for his brothers.
The rest of the night, he doesn’t talk to me once, but his eyes never leave me while he leans against Ryan’s F150 with Creech and Hobs. When the guys finally hobble out of the woods, Nickel stares them down, daring them to say anything. They catch on right quick and tell everyone they were wrestling out in the tree break. Letting off steam. No one believes them. Not when Nickel has his knee bent and the bottom of his mud-caked boot propped on Ryan’s pristine driver’s side door.
Even though I beg, my ride won’t bail while the guy she’s crushing on is still around, so I sit on a log real close to everyone else, my arms wrapped around my belly for an hour before another girl from Happy Trails offers to drive me home. Nickel and his brothers are still there when I go, so I don’t know how it all ends. I hear later that Ryan had to say “please” to get in his truck.
What happened was enough for me, though. I learned my lesson. For the rest of high school and after, I stayed in my lane. Life’s hard enough; you don’t need to add the misery of wanting things you can’t have.
But God’s got a real sense of humor, cause after that night, no matter what anyone said, I was a goner for Nickel Kobald.
Talk about the misery of wanting things you can’t have.