Home > Ride Hard (Raven Riders #1)(2)

Ride Hard (Raven Riders #1)(2)
Laura Kaye

Knowing that her father was looking for her—that he just wouldn’t let her go—and that he had others hunting her, too . . . her stomach got a sour, wiggly sensation that left her feeling nauseous. She couldn’t go back to him. Not ever.

“I’m okay,” she said, giving Cora another smile. “Really.” Maybe if she kept reassuring Cora of that, she’d begin to believe it herself.

“Listen, it’s almost seven. Bunny said there’d be a big celebratory dinner tonight to welcome everyone back. Let’s go down.” Cora’s bright green eyes were filled with so much enthusiasm and excitement.

Haven hated nothing more than disappointing her friend—her longest friend, her only friend, really. They bonded in the fifth grade when Haven noticed that Cora didn’t have anything in her lunch box for the second day in a row. Haven gave Cora half her sandwich and all of her chips. Cora said her father forgot to go food shopping, which he apparently did a lot. So Haven got into the habit of taking extra for her new friend every day, and soon they were besties. Which was why Cora didn’t give up on her when Haven was forced to drop out of school in tenth grade. And why Cora didn’t shy away from visiting when she arrived to find Haven with a busted lip or a fresh bruise. Cora’s father occasionally worked for Haven’s, which paved the way for Cora to be allowed to visit and even sleep over. Haven lived for those visits, especially when her father’s tight control didn’t let up even after she turned eighteen. Or twenty-one.

“I don’t know, Cora. Can you just bring me some food later?” Haven asked, dubious that her appetite was going to rebound but knowing Cora liked taking care of her, running interference for her, protecting her. Despite how tense things were at Haven’s house, Cora slept over more and more in the time before they’d finally ran. Because she’d known it cheered Haven up so much. “I’m not hungry right now anyway.”

“Oh,” Cora said. “You know what? I’m not that hungry, either. I’ll just wait.” Her stomach growled. Loudly.

Haven stared at her, and they both chuckled. “Just go,” Haven said. “Don’t stay here because I’m too chicken to be around a bunch of strangers. Really. I’m so used to being alone. You know I don’t mind.”

Cora frowned. “That’s exactly why I don’t like leaving you.”

“I’ll feel bad if you stay. Go. Eat, visit, and meet everybody. Maybe . . . maybe I’ll come down later,” she said. Yeah. Maybe after the dinner was over, she could sneak down to the kitchen and help Bunny clean up. That might allow her to get a feel for some of the club members without being right in the middle of them, without feeling like she was under a microscope with everyone looking at her and wondering about her.

Grasping her hand, Cora’s gaze narrowed. “Are you sure? You know I don’t mind hanging out.”

“Totally sure.” Besides, Haven couldn’t help but feel she held Cora back. Cora was adventurous and outgoing and pretty much down for anything at any time, which was one of the main reasons Haven was here and not in Georgia married to a horrible stranger. But now Cora was on the run, too, though every time Haven expressed guilt about that, Cora told her it was better than waitressing at the truck stop back home and watching her father drink too much. “I might actually take a nap anyway. I didn’t sleep great last night . . .” Because Bunny had told them all the bikers would be returning to the club today.

Cora just nodded. She didn’t have to ask Haven to explain. She knew her too well. “Okay, well, I’ll bring food back later. But come down if you think you can. Even for a few minutes. Okay?”

“Yup.” Haven sat on the edge of the bed and threw a wave when Cora looked back over her shoulder. The door clicked shut behind her friend. On a huff, Haven flopped backward against the hard mattress. Why couldn’t she be more like Cora? Or, at least, more normal?

Because what did gaining her freedom mean if she was too scared to ever actually live?

DARE KENYON SHOULD’VE been happy—or at least content. The huge fight his club had joined with the team of Special Forces Army veterans operating out of Baltimore’s Hard Ink Tattoo was over, the drug-dealing mercenaries who’d been responsible for killing two of his brothers were either dead or in custody, and all Dare’s people were here at the compound, safe and sound and partying it up like tomorrow might never come.

Which made sense, since today was all anyone was ever guaranteed to get.

Standing at the far end of the carved wooden bar in the club’s big rec room, Dare contemplated the tumbler of whiskey in his hand. Tilting it from side to side, he watched the amber liquid flow around the ice, the dim lighting reflecting off the facets in the cut glass. Around him, his brothers busted out in laughter as rock music filled the room with a pulsing beat. Couples danced and drank and groped. In shadowy corners here and there, people were pairing up, making out, getting hot enough to find a room upstairs. Hell, some of them didn’t mind witnesses, either.

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