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Plum is the story of Jo-Beth, the sweetbutt, and the man who fought Nickel in the parking lot of The White Van…and almost won.
Keep scrolling for the blurb and the prologue!
We’re from two different worlds, but in her arms, I’m home.
Life didn’t give me a silver spoon. It gave me tetanus. When Adam Wade walks into my club, I know I’m in trouble. His money I can handle. But sweet words, gentle hands? I don’t know what to do with that. Eventually, he’s gonna wise up and walk away. If I let him in, what’ll be left of me when he goes?
I’m the adopted son of the man who owns the city. I was born into nothing, and I’ve earned my seat at the table. But at night, when I can’t sleep, I’m haunted by the pieces of myself I’ve disowned to make it this far.
I don’t know why Plum caught my eye, but I can’t look away. Maybe it’s her brave face, her fight, her quirks. I’m obsessed, all-in with my eyes screwed shut. Then life throws a harsh light on our choices. I’m forced to face the ugly truth of what she’s done to survive—and what I’ll have to sacrifice to be with her.
Plum’s a fighter, but would she fight for us? And if I give up everything for her, who will I be?
Plum is a 60,000-word “opposites attract” romance set in the Steel Bones Motorcycle Club world. It takes place at the same time as Nickel’s Story. This novel is intended for adult readers (18+) due to strong language, violence, triggers, and explicit intimate scenes.
I was ten before I learned to take a punch. Long before then, I was well-versed in how to throw one. Chin down, hands up, knees bent. Aim beyond the guy’s face and punch through.
Where I grew up on Gilson Avenue—before we moved to the mansion on the bluffs—you learned early. Gilson was the worst street in the Cannery. Cannery was the worst neighborhood in Pyle, and unless you lived on the bluffs or downtown, Pyle used to be a rusted, gutted shithole. Now it’s all hipsters and tech companies, but back when I was coming up, Pyle was still decimated by the collapse of domestic steel.
On Gilson, if you wanted to walk to school or get yourself some chips from the corner store with no hassle, you did what the older boys did. The ones no one fucked with. You hit first. You hit harder. And you didn’t stop.
Despite the constant hunger gnawing at my belly, I was always a foot taller and thirty pounds heavier than the other kids my age, and I wasn’t stupid. I put a kid on the pavement every now and again, and mostly, I had no trouble.
Not until the mansion on the bluffs.
My mother came from money, but her folks cut her off when she turned up pregnant at seventeen by a biker with a drug habit. The biker didn’t hang around long after I was born, but the excommunication stuck until Mother found a way to make herself respectable again.
Mom did what she had to do, and when I was ten, she got herself knocked up by her boss, Thomas Gracy Wade. Thomas Wade owned a brokerage, a vintage gold cigar cutter he kept in his breast pocket, and half the men in Pyle.
He was friendly guy.
Call me Thomas.
You’ve got a nice, fine grip there, son.
Hard to believe you’re the same age as my Eric. You’ve got forty pounds on him, and it’s all muscle. Smart, too, aren’t you?
Mom got knocked up at a fortuitous time. Mrs. Thomas Gracy Wade had decided she’d had enough, and she did the rich lady version of going to the corner store for cigarettes and never coming back. Thomas Wade needed a woman to take care of his kid, and my mother deftly presented herself as a solution, not a problem.
So one late summer day, when Thomas Wade was at work, I packed our old Geo Metro while Mom rested on the concrete stoop, resting her hands on her huge belly with her legs crossed at her swollen ankles. Then, we drove up to the bluffs and moved ourselves into his life.
It was a sea change. On Gilson Avenue, we had a one bedroom on the top floor of a four story walk up. My bed was a cot shoved under the eaves in the living room. There was a gap between the roof and the floor, so all kinds of shit flew in. Rain. Bees. Noise from the druggies and the working girls on the street below. I could never sleep. Still can’t.
We kept my clean clothes in a laundry basket and my dirty clothes in a plastic bag, and I tripped on those damn things every morning when I got out of bed.
We did have a second bedroom, and Mom always worked, but every extra penny went to her hair stylist, her gym membership, and the Saks Fifth Avenue downtown. The second bedroom was for her Gucci and Dior and Louboutins. We didn’t have food or cable or heat except on the bitterest days, but Mom had couture. She had a plan, and it wasn’t cheap. I can’t fault her. It worked.
At the mansion on the bluffs—the house, they called it—my bedroom was twice the size of our entire apartment. My shit looked like it’d been shrunk by that laser beam in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
When we pulled up at our new home, there was a smiling man in khaki pants to direct the unpacking of the car, and when the staff—as I was told to call them—were finished, he drove the car off, and I never saw it again. Mom waddled into the house, hugely pregnant, and wandered from room to room, mumbling under her breath whenever she found evidence of Mrs. Thomas Gracy Wade. The man in khaki pants hovered at her elbow, taking notes.
I followed her for a while until I caught sight of a boy my age out back, throwing horseshoes. He was maybe two pounds shy of fat, and even though the weather was mild, he’d already sweat through and messed up a good haircut and what looked to me like a grown man’s white collared shirt.
He looked overdressed and pissed off. I felt an instant sense of camaraderie.
I took off, joining the kid, and it went like it usually does between two boys, bored and unsupervised.
“Yeah. You Eric?”
“Yeah. Don’t touch my stuff.”
“I don’t want to touch your fucking stuff, asshole.”
Silence. Scuffing shoes in the grass.
“Want to play?”
“I never played horseshoes.”
“It’s easy. I’ll show you.”
He didn’t really, but I caught on anyway. It wasn’t hard. You throw a horseshoe at a stake. Eric had some kind of scorekeeping system that I couldn’t quite follow, and which didn’t seem consistent, but the sun was shining, I was outside, and when Eric managed to keep his mouth shut, he wasn’t the worst company.
Besides, when I was walking through the house with Mom, I’d seen the kitchen. There was a woman in a white jacket fussing around, and the smells. Jesus, the smells. In those days, I was always hungry for meat, my gut twisted for it, and unless I was dreaming, there was going to be a roast for dinner that night. A fucking roast.
We played a long time, Eric blabbing on and on while I fantasized about beef and potatoes, throwing horseshoe after horseshoe. And then Thomas Wade came home.
He strode across the perfectly manicured back lawn, my mom waddling at his heels, and for the first time that whole day, Eric shut up. Thomas Gracy Wade had a man’s bearing, one I mimicked from that day on until I carried myself the same way, my movements as economical and dominant, my face as inscrutable and vaguely agreeable.
There was nothing weak about Thomas Gracy Wade, nothing that reeked of desperation and want.
I wanted to be that man, and until I could, I wanted his respect. And even though I was only ten, I’d grown up on Gilson. I knew that strength respected strength.
Thomas Wade stood, arms crossed, watching us play horseshoes, and I started to pay attention to the score.
“Ringer!” Eric crowed, skipping forward to grab his horseshoe.
It clearly wasn’t. My gaze skipped to Thomas Wade. His eyes narrowed. He knew it wasn’t too, but he stood silently, his lips thinned.
I dashed forward, placing myself between Eric and the stake. “It’s not a ringer.”
“Are you blind?” Eric’s affableness was gone, his body coiled tight.
“The heel calks don’t clear the stake.”
“You didn’t even know what a heel calk was two hours ago.”
“I do now. Get a straightedge. We’ll settle it.”
“Are you calling me a liar?”
In essence, yes, I was. I didn’t deny it. I stood between Eric and the stake, saying nothing, waiting for the obvious fury turning his face red to boil over. I wanted him to throw a punch. I was shit at horseshoes, but fighting? I never lost. And I wanted to show the man in the shiny shoes and sparkling watch, the man who hadn’t once turned to look at my mother while she trotted huge and panting behind him, that I wasn’t a loser.
“If the horseshoe fits.” I relaxed my stance, ready.
Eric drew back and swung, but I deflected the blow—a sad, flailing mess—and drove a fist into his face. Blood spurted from his nose. He screamed in pain and fury, and I fully expected him to fall on his ass and cry. But he lunged for me, swinging wildly, missing easy shots, and it was immediately clear to me both that he’d never fought anyone before and that he was out of his mind.
“Adam! Stop this now!” Mom begged.
“Let them work it out, Laurel.” Thomas Wade took a purposeful step back.
I had permission. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. I hung back, waiting for Eric to open his weak spots with his undisciplined swings, and then I nailed his ribs, his gut, his kidneys. He began to weave on his feet, tears streaming down his face, diluting the blood, and I glanced over to the man silently observing us.
I still can’t quite describe the look on his face. Disgust. Calculation. Indecision.
My mother worried at the hem of her maternity blouse, her gaze darting from Thomas Wade to Eric to me.
I saw an opening, and I was about to knock the kid out, when Mom shouted, “That’s enough.”
She flung herself forward, and I instantly stopped, but Eric was too far gone. Thomas Wade had to jump in and shoulder his kid back so he didn’t accidentally punch out my mother. Eric was crying and babbling, his father was trying to talk him down, scorn clear in his voice, and Mom got real close to my face.
“What the fuck are you doing?” she hissed.
“All right, Mom. I’m done.” I was huffing and puffing, the blood pounding in my ears.
“The fuck you are. You beat his kid up, you think he’s going to let us stay here? You get back in there, and you take a dive.”
I was confused. My mom wasn’t talking like herself. She always put on airs, never swore, always pretended she didn’t know the words for the things we lived through and walked past every day.
“Go after him, and then go down.”
She stepped out of my way, letting out a fake little cry, and she jerked her chin toward Eric. Thomas Wade had backed off, but in one glance, I could tell Eric was still out of his mind.
I didn’t think. I wanted that big room. The roast. The peace and fresh air and quiet on the bluffs, overlooking the Luckahannock river, Gilson Avenue so far away it might as well be a different world. What was a man’s respect to that?
I launched myself at Eric. He swung, and I slammed my face into fist, the connection rattling my jaw, and I fell to the ground, groaning.
Eric blinked in surprise.
On my back, in the lush, even grass, I stared up at the blue sky and drew in a deep breath of fresh, clean air.
“That’s enough now,” Thomas Wade declared. The look on his face was clear. Pride. Relief.
And then, to my very great surprise, Eric leaned over and offered me a hand. I took it.
“It was a ringer,” he said.
“Bullshit,” I replied. “Let’s get a straightedge.”
So we limped together back toward the house, Eric babbling a mile a minute about the game room in the basement, ping pong and foosball and how goose season is soon, and did I have my hunting license?
I didn’t know shit about half of the things he said, but I wanted them—I wanted the kind of life where that’s the kind of shit you worry about—and I knew then that I was my mother’s son. I would do what I had to do to get that life. Pride is cheap. Once you’ve paid it, you realize. It’s a small price.
What does pride really matter when you’re in a warm house on the bluffs, high above it all, nothing lurking around the corner? When you can put your fists down? When you have roast for dinner, and then you’re never, ever hungry again?
It’s a fair trade.
Anyone would make it.