Rocket: Hell's Handlers MC Book 5
SCENE 1 - Gym Rat
Chloe wiped her sweaty brow with the hem of her loose tank as she stepped off the treadmill. The room spun, and she wobbled a bit, grabbing the machine for support. Crap, she’d forgotten her water bottle. Again.
“Okay, that’s it. I’m officially fucking done with this shit,” Zach said as he came up behind her.
“What?” She jumped as his hand wrapped around her arm.
“My office, now.”
Whoa. The man staring down at her was not the same Zach she’d encountered dozens of times by now. Especially in the two weeks, Logan had been gone. This man was…well, he was scary as hell. Zach had to be the best enforcer in motorcycle club history. He wouldn’t even have to break out that damn bat he liked so much if he was coming to collect money from her. One look at that penetrating glower and she’d hand over her bank card so he could help himself to as much money as he wanted.
“You look like dog shit,” he said after manhandling her into a leather desk chair in his office.
Geez, way to go easy on a girl. “Uh, that’s kinda mean.” Though she had to admit sitting felt much better than standing.
Zach yanked open a small refrigerator and pulled out two sixteen-ounce bottles of water. “Drink,” he said after cracking one open and placing it on the desk in front of her. “And it’s kinda true.”
Chloe scowled as she lifted the water. “I can open it myself, you know.”
“Just drink the goddamn thing.” He paced the short distance across his office. “You have any idea what Rocket’s gonna do to me if you look like this when he comes back? Not just me, to all of us? That man knows ways to kill a fucker that I’ve never even heard of. I do not want to be on his bad side. Get me?”
With a roll of her eyes, Chloe took a long drink of water. As the cold liquid flowed down her throat, she felt an immediate cooling throughout her body. Okay, she was parched, she’d give him that one. “Happy?” she asked with a smirk as she set the bottle down. Half the contents were already gone.
“Not one fucking bit.”
A soft knock was followed immediately by the door cracking open. Toni stuck her head in. Her concerned gaze bounced between Zach and Chloe. “Uh, hey guys. Saw you come in here and I just wanted to make sure everything was okay. Seems a little, uh, tense.”
“Toni, will you please tell your annoying as hell ol’ man that I’m a big girl and I can take care of myself,” Chloe said.
“Um…” Toni replied.
Zach folded his arms across his chest and glared at Chloe. “Babe, can you please tell your stubborn as hell friend that she almost passed out on my treadmill and if she doesn’t start taking better care of herself Rocket’s going to come home to find her in the goddammed hospital.”
“Oookay,” Toni said, stepping fully into the room. With a quiet snick, she closed the door behind her. Her hair was piled on her head in a messy bun, and she wore skin-tight yoga pants with an oversized tank much as Chloe did. “I can see we might need a mediator in here, and it looks like I’m the lucky one who gets the job.”
Chloe glared at Zach just as hard as he was scowling at her. Who the hell did he think he was to boss her around? So she wasn’t looking her best right now. Logan had been gone for fifteen days with nothing more than one text seven days ago. He’d sent the words I promise and that was it. Not a peep since.
“Um, Clo, have you looked in a mirror lately?” Toni asked in a much softer tone than Zach had used.
Some friends these two were. “Seriously, you too?”
“Sweetie, you have circles as big as tires under your eyes, and I swear you’ve lost ten pounds since Rocket left. Are you eating? Sleeping?”
Chloe sighed as the starch left her spine and tears filled her eyes. Panic flared on Zach’s face. “Shit, Toni, you’re making her cry,” he muttered. “Fix it.”
Toni just chuckled. “The girl needs a good cry, Zach. Man up and deal.”
“I have been having some trouble sleeping,” Chloe admitted as her shoulders slumped. Trouble sleeping as in, it wasn’t happening without Logan beside her. She’d managed a few hours on the couch here and there, but whenever she’d taken to the bed, nothing more than ceiling-staring and troublesome thoughts happened. After a week of that maddening pattern, she couldn’t take it and gave up trying. Most nights, she passed out on the couch well after midnight only to wake before the crows.
“And food?” Toni pressed, crouching down in front of Chloe.
“Not much of an appetite.”
“I’m sorry, Chloe,” Zach said, coming to stand behind his woman.
She shrugged. “It’s okay. You probably saved me from taking a dive out there.”
“No,” he said as he pulled Toni to her feet and wrapped his arms around her from behind. “I meant I’m sorry we haven’t been paying close enough attention to you. I’ve seen you working out in here for hours every day, and the girls have been hanging with you almost every day. I thought it was enough, but clearly, we’ve overlooked how much you’re struggling.”
God, she did not want to break down in Zach’s office. But it seemed inevitable with both him and Toni turning so sweet now. “I…” She swallowed and picked at a chipped fingernail. “I’m just so worried about him, all the time. I can’t turn it off. It’s always at the forefront of my thoughts.” She lifted her head. Zach was frowning as he ran his hands up and down Toni’s arms. As sweet as they were, being in the presence of a happy couple wasn’t the easiest at the moment. “Do you think it’s been too long? Shouldn’t we have heard something by now? I mean it’s been fifteen—” Her voice broke as the tears escaped her eyes.
“Shh,” Toni said, breaking away from Zach to pull Chloe out of the chair for a hug. “Girl, I think you’re a freakin’ rock star. I don’t know how you’re holding up as well as you are. I’d have probably spent the last two weeks sobbing in bed.”
Chloe gave a watery laugh, though she didn’t believe it for a second. Toni was fierce. Tough and independent. “Feels like I’m unraveling at the seams. Glad to know I’m fooling you all at least a little bit.” She hugged Toni back then sat again after Toni returned to her man.
Zach’s chin came to rest on Toni’s head; his hands interlaced over her stomach. She circled hers behind him, clasping the backs of his thighs.
God, they were so sickeningly perfect. Normally, she’d hate them on sight, but they also happened to be good, hardworking, fun, decent people who loved Logan like a brother.
“Here’s the thing, babe,” Zach said. “We’ve met some nasty motherfuckers over the years, and I’ve had a few chances to see Rocket in action in a …unofficial capacity.”
Unofficial. Code word for illegal. The knowledge should probably make her uncomfortable, and it would if she didn’t know Logan, but Chloe was pretty sure whatever these men had gotten up to, it was justified. At least by their moral code which she’d learned was strict even if not always in line with the law.
“He’s good, Clo. Really fucking good. Well trained, experienced, smart. No one I’d trust at my back more than that man.”
With a nod, Chloe said, “Thanks, Zach.”
“He warned us this would take weeks. You gotta hold out a little longer, okay?”
“Yeah.” Blowing out a breath, Chloe straightened her shoulders. They were right. Logan made her a promise. A promise to return to her. She’d been telling herself, telling him she trusted him more than anyone in her life. It was time to prove it by womaning-up and holding down the fort until he returned. Letting herself fall to pieces would only cause him guilt over leaving. And since the only reason he’d taken on this task was to avenge a horrible wrong done to her, she had no intention of causing him any additional grief.
“And seriously, you need to do a better job taking care of yourself. Rocket’s gonna skin me a-fucking-live if he comes home to a walking skeleton with black eyes.” Zach raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips.
With a roll of her eyes, Chloe said. “I don’t look that bad.” She cast a glance at Toni whose face seemed to have frozen in a wince. “Do I?”
“Well, honey, as soon as we’re done here, I’m taking you to the diner and serving you the fattiest and most carb-loaded meal we have on the menu. Then we’re going to buy you some undereye concealer.”
“Shit,” Chloe whispered. Maybe it was that bad.
She rose, grabbing the bottle of water as she went. “Thanks, guys. Suddenly I’m feeling hungry.”
Toni beamed. “We pretty much love you, Clo, and we love you for Rocket. You’re the only one that can make him string more than two words together. That man needs you to survive any sort of social situation.”
She was, wasn’t she? Pride filled her. Felt damn good to be needed and appreciated.
“Last thing,” Zach said, serious mask back in place, though not the I’m-going-to-bash-your-skull-in look he’d given her earlier. “I’m cutting you off at ninety-minute workouts each day. Rocket doesn’t want to fuck a skinny woman with giant muscles.”
Toni snorted and slapped Zach’s thighs. “You’re an ass,” she said.
“Pretty sure Chloe isn’t bulking up at all. She mostly does cardio and works out with Jig in the ring. I’m guessing her being able to fight so well is gonna be a serious turn on for Rocket.” She winked.
“Yeah?” Zach said, his eyebrow creeping up. “That true? He get off on you handing him his ass?”
Laughing now, Chloe shook her head. “Pretty sure you’re confusing him with Jig. Izzy’s the only one around here who could take any of you.”
The shudder that moved through Zach had both women cracking up. “I’ll leave that to him. I prefer my women soft and pliant beneath me.”
“Excuse me?” Toni pulled away from him and planted her hands on her hips. “Women? Exactly what women are you referring to?”
The color leached out of Zach’s face. “Woman.” He turned to Chloe, a panic in his eyes. “I said woman, didn’t I?”
“Nope. You said women. Plural,” Chloe said as she moved toward the door. “I’m off to the locker room. See you at the diner in thirty, Toni.” She went up on her toes to press a quick kiss on Zach’s cheek as she passed him.
“I’ll be there,” Toni replied, arms now folded and toe-tapping. “Well?” she said to Zach.
All Chloe’s energy went toward schooling her expression. “Bye, Zach,” she said.
When he shot back, “Wait, don’t go,” Chloe giggled.
“Good luck!” she called as she darted out the door in time to hear Toni ask yet again which women he was referring to.
She was still chuckling to herself as she rounded the corner to the locker room hallway.
“Oh shit!” Jig said as he nearly took her out.
Chloe bounced off his very hard chest. Thankfully, his quick reflexes allowed him to grab her arms and prevent her from landing on her ass in a spectacular display of humiliation. Just what she needed after getting dissected by Zach and Toni.
“Whoa, thanks for the save. Not sure I could have nailed that landing gracefully.”
Still holding her at arm’s length, Jig peered down at her with an assessing gaze. She squirmed. What was it with these bikers? Bunch of mother hens.
“Shit, Cloe. We are not getting in the ring today. You look like—”
She lifted a hand. “I know, I know, I look like I haven’t eaten or slept in weeks, then got run over by a truck on the way in here and had someone puke on me for good measure. Sound about right? I already got the lecture from Zach and Toni. I’m going to get dressed, eat a million calories at the diner, then go home to try and get some sleep. Happy?”
Jig released her, taking a step back as he lifted his hands in surrender. “Uh, sure. I was just gonna say you seem exhausted, but now that you mention it, you are looking a little ragged.”
“Thanks,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “The lot of you are too sweet for words.”
Jig smirked. “Aww, now don’t get mad. We only say it because we love you.”
“I hate to hear what you all say to people you don’t like.”
This time he threw back his head and laughed. “Well it might be tough love, but it’s love all the same.”
“Mmm, I’m feeling all warm and tingly.” Growing up with brothers had its perks. She could fire off the snark with ease.
“You must be getting pretty comfortable around all of us, cuz you’re getting damn sassy.”
“Maybe I’m just spending too much time with your woman,” she shot back with a wink.
“Nah, if that were the case you’d be less sassy and more bloodthirsty.” Slinging an arm around her shoulders, Jig steered her toward the locker room. “Want some company for breakfast? I was just heading out, and Izzy ditched me for work.”
Suddenly, she felt like an ass for giving them a hard time. Each and every one of them had been looking out for her since Logan left. Wasn’t their fault she couldn’t stop her mind from spinning out of control each time she was alone. They’d put up with tears, anger, and general shitty moods from her over the past few weeks. It was time for her to pull her head out of her ass and be strong for her man.
“I’d like that, Jig. Thanks.”
“Great, I’ll save you a seat.” After kissing her cheek, he sauntered down the hallway whistling something she didn’t recognize. For the first time in two weeks, Chloe realized her anxiety level had dropped. The nervous pit still sat in her stomach, but there was a warmth too—a feeling of support and love that came from family.
He’d promised to return to her, and she now was the time to put faith in that promise. One thing all of the Hell’s Handlers’ ol’ ladies had in common was strength. Each had overcome tremendous obstacles and was able to handle a hard-headed outlaw with one hand tied behind their back. Whether or not Chloe ended up a permanent fixture in Logan’s life, she wanted him to be proud of the way she handled herself. Proud to call her his ol’ lady if that’s where they were headed.
It was time to put on her big girl panties and show these bikers just how much she could handle. Even if it was hell.