Prelude to Salvation: Angels Halo Next Gen MC Series
Lexa Reid knows that the one thing her father won’t let her have is Sheriff Ben Davis. But that doesn’t stop her from waxnting him…
The bell over the door sounded, and I lifted my gaze from my coffee on instinct. I did it every time the door opened, unable to stop myself from watching anyone who came or went from the little mom-and-pop shop that was the best place to eat in town.
Since moving back to Creswell Springs, I’d found that out fairly quick. I had almost every meal at Aggie’s, much to my grandmother’s dismay. I’d moved back to be closer to them now that they were getting older, and because they were my only remaining family. All Gran wanted to do was take care of me, but my own cooking would have killed me, and the hours I worked didn’t allow me to eat with her and Pops as much as any of us liked.
A young couple walked in, the man carrying a car seat in one hand, while the other was entwined with the woman’s at his side. They looked tired, but I put that down to being new parents. One of the waitresses moved forward, taking them straight back to a table and producing a high chair to place the car seat on.
My eyes had barely gone back to my coffee when the door opened again, and everything inside of me suddenly went still.
I’d been in Creswell Springs for six months now, and I’d never seen her before. I would have remembered if I had. Not just because I had a memory that could place any face—if not their name. I was so fucking bad with names sometimes it was ridiculous.
This girl—woman—walked into the place, and the entire restaurant stopped to glance her way.
There was something about her that drew every eye, had them taking a second look, and some even a third.
Her midnight-black hair fell just past her shoulders, half over her back, the other half falling into her face on the right side, but she didn’t move to push it back. Her skin was flawless from what I could see with her left side facing me, a healthy peaches-and-cream shade that looked soft as hell. She was taller than any other woman I’d seen in this town, nearly six feet in her biker boots, with a body that had my cock waking up for the first time in a long, long time.
The beauty didn’t wait for the waitress to return, just walked over to the counter and sat at one of the empty chairs, placing a stack of books on the countertop and opening the first one. I sat there watching her, unable to tear my eyes off her even as the bell over the door sounded again and then again moments later.
The waitress behind the counter placed a coffee cup and saucer in front of the beauty, filling it and saying something with a roll of her eyes. My beauty didn’t lift her head as she spoke back, her gaze still glued to the pages before her.
What was she reading? The cover was encased in brown paper, a makeshift jacket to hide the title. From the size of the book, I knew it was a textbook, though, and it irritated me that I couldn’t see what subject she was studying.
I lifted my own coffee, sipping as I took my time soaking up the sight of her. That curvy ass was encased in jeans and, with her sitting on the stool, it was on perfect display for me. As I observed her, I assumed she was a college student, but that didn’t make sense. School was out for the summer, the majority of the students having gone home for the term. That made for a more peaceful town, and I had fewer frat parties to break up every weekend.
Fuck, I was following her around like some lost puppy in search of attention. Yet, I didn’t give a damn. I wanted her attention. I wanted to know what color her eyes were. What she looked like when she smiled. What she sounded like when I made her come.
My waitress stopped at my table, refilling my coffee, asking if I wanted dessert now that my dinner had settled. I nodded. “Whatever pie you have is fine,” I told Quinn, my usual waitress, without taking my gaze off the woman at the counter.
“Coming right up,” she said chipperly. Quinn was nice and professional—and also a part owner of the place, from what my grandparents told me. She never tried to flirt with me like most of the others did. Never tried to touch me. After meeting her husband once, though, I understood why.
As she walked away, my beauty lifted her left hand, pushing back a few strands that fell on that side of her face, but she kept the right side obscured with the thick, glossy mass. A flash of silver caught my attention as her bracelet shifted on her wrist. The medical alert on it had me leaning forward slightly in my booth, wanting—damn it, needing—to see what it was for.
“Peanuts,” Quinn said quietly, placing the slice of pie in front of me.
Reluctantly, I looked up at her. “Excuse me?”
“Lexa’s bracelet.” She nodded toward the woman at the counter. “She’s allergic to nuts.”
“I haven’t seen her around before,” I commented, returning my gaze back to the counter.
“That’s because she’s been away at college for the past nine months,” Quinn said with a shrug. “But she’s home for the summer, and if her parents have their way, she’ll stay local next term. Having her go all the way to Oregon for school was hard on her mom.”
If I had my way, she wouldn’t leave for any reason. Ever.
The thought barely flirted through my mind before I was clenching my jaw. Holy shit, where did that come from?
Needing to distract myself and the crazy thoughts going through my head, I picked up my fork and stabbed at my pie. Apple, thankfully, and not the chocolatey peanut butter I normally would have had.
I won’t be able to kiss her if I eat nuts now.
Quinn walked away, taking care of her other customers, and I tried to focus on my dessert. But with each bite, my gaze kept going back to the counter.
I liked the name. It suited her.
I wanted to breathe it in her ear as she rode my cock.
I felt his eyes on me almost as soon as I walked through the door.
It wasn’t unusual. When your dad was the town’s most feared yet respected man, second to none, people tended to stop what they were doing when you walked into a room. And when one side of your face looked like you belonged in the freak show at the carnival, they always came back for a second glance.
My hair fell into my face, blocking prying eyes from gawking at the souvenir I’d gotten from one of my father’s enemies when I was little more than five. I hated that damn scar, but every time Mom asked if I wanted to get it fixed, I always turned her down.
The scar, I could live with. Fuck anyone who didn’t want to see the ugliness. No one asked them to look anyway. Why should I alter the way I looked just to please everyone else?
I dropped my books on the countertop and parked my ass, not even looking up when Tabby came over to pour me a cup of coffee.
“Want something to eat?” the waitress asked casually.
We’d gone to high school together, but she was a year ahead of me. When she graduated, she left for SoCal for a few months, claiming she was going to be some big movie star one day. I guess being the president of the drama club gave her an instant “in” within the acting world—my eyes had never rolled so hard in my life.
Months later, she came crawling back to town, and everyone was so surprised she hadn’t become Hollywood’s new it girl.
“No thanks,” I told her, my eyes scanning over the reading material for my classes. They didn’t start until August, three freaking months away, but I wanted to be prepared. College wasn’t easy, and I’d gone into it with my eyes open, unlike most of my freshman class back in Oregon. I wasn’t going to slack off just because Mom was desperate for me to stay in Creswell Springs and wanted me to go to the local college.
Something I was debating giving in to for her.
I loved my mom more than any other person on the planet. She was my best friend, my biggest cheerleader. When she looked at me, she didn’t see the scar or the broken girl underneath. Her mom-goggles saw the real me, and she loved me anyway. And the crazy part, the thing that always boggled my mind, was that, biologically, I wasn’t even hers.
Raven Hannigan Reid adopted me even before she married my father. She took one look at me, claimed me as her own, and that was that. I belonged to her. I was her baby. There were times I was sure she loved me even more than my brother, and not just when Max was driving her batshit crazy either.
As the feel of everyone else’s eyes slowly faded, I felt his remain.
To my left, five booths away. I was aware of every move he made, and yet I hadn’t even looked at him. I’d caught a glimpse as I walked in, just enough to know what I was dealing with as I took a quick scan of the entire diner on my way to the counter. Dark hair, wide shoulders, sexy scruff of a beard.
That uniform had kept me from taking a second look in his direction even though I’d more than liked what little I’d seen.
My dad would freak if I even blinked at a cop, let alone lusted after one.
“No,” I said again when Tabby didn’t move away, sure that she would try to kill me if I dared order anything to eat from her. It wasn’t like we’d been besties in high school. She’d hated me, and I could honestly say the feeling was mutual. She, like everyone else who knew who I was, was aware of my nut allergy.
One little cross-contamination and I could be fighting for my life.
And she would stand over me smiling even as my tongue began to swell and I fought to breathe.
Tabby had other customers to take care of at the counter, plus to-go orders to put together. I was thankful she was kept busy so I could focus on my reading.
But instead of being able to get lost in the words, all I could think about was the feel of his gaze. It was like a physical caress as his eyes skimmed over my shoulders and down to my ass where they lingered.
I shifted on my stool, feeling a tension begin to build low in my belly.
How could someone’s eyes make me feel so needy?
Yet that was exactly what I was feeling. This ache deep in my gut, burning down to my core. Making my boobs swell and throb as my nipples pressed into the material of my bra cups. I wasn’t even going to think about the state of my panties, but as damp as they were, it was becoming hard not to.
Frustrated with myself, I pushed a few strands of hair back from my face and used the moment to glance at him out of the corner of my eye. Strong jaw, broad nose, lips that made me want to lick them—
Fuck, Lexa, stop it.
Chastising myself was enough to force my attention back on the book, and I turned the page—even though I hadn’t even taken in a single word I’d just read.
A soft hand touched my shoulder, and I looked up to find my aunt Quinn standing behind me. She gave me a sweet smile, her blue eyes filling with amusement as she leaned in close.
“The sheriff can’t take his eyes off you,” she whispered. “Have you been casting spells again, Lexa?”
I refused to look his way, but something she said caught my attention. “Sheriff?” He didn’t look old enough to be the sheriff, at least not any sheriff I’d ever seen before. Sheriff Hogan, who’d been sheriff since I was five, was old as hell. He’d been a good sheriff, but I heard he’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer and retired less than a year before his latest term was up.
“Sheriff Davis stepped in after Hogan announced his retirement so the town wouldn’t have to hold a special election. But he’s been doing a good job, and everyone is talking about voting for him in November.”
“But…” I bit into the tender flesh of my cheek to force myself from speaking the words that wanted freedom. But I don’t want him to be the fucking sheriff.
A cop was one thing.
The sheriff of the entire county? No. Fucking. Way.
Dad would freak, and not even Mom would be able to calm him down.
Blowing out a long exhale that sounded sad even to my own ears, I closed my books and stood. Pulling out a five-dollar bill, I dropped it on the counter to pay for my coffee and tip Tabby. I might hate her, but I still figured she deserved a tip.
“Where are you going?” my aunt asked. The amusement was gone now, and I could tell she was worried about me.
I made sure my hair was down over the right side of my face, not wanting Sheriff Davis to see how monstrous I looked with my scar when I left. “I just remembered I have to pick something up for Mom,” I lied, grabbing my books. “See you later, Aunt Quinn.”
“Lexa, honey, be careful.”
I didn’t comment as I practically sprinted to my car and tossed my books into the back seat. I stabbed at the push start, only to realize my foot wasn’t on the brake when the thing didn’t purr to life. Cursing myself, I stomped on the pedal and pushed the starter again.
But when my car came to life, I didn’t move to shift it into gear immediately. Instead, I just sat there, my heart beating me to death.
And silently breaking.
My radio was silent as I drove through the night-darkened town, my gaze on the car two vehicles ahead of my work SUV.
Lexa had rushed out of Aggie’s earlier, and I’d barely had enough thought to drop a few bills on the table to cover my meal before I was running after her. By the time I got behind the wheel, she’d pulled out of the parking lot, and I’d been following her ever since.
There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to where she was going, though. She drove through town, then toward the outer limits of the city. Lucky for me, I had jurisdiction over the entire county, and it wouldn’t be suspicious if I went all the way to the county line.
Which seemed to be exactly where my beauty was going.
The two cars between us eventually turned off, and I was no longer keeping my distance. The way her silhouette kept shifting, I knew she was watching her mirrors. Did she know it was me?
Fuck, I was following her around like some lost puppy in search of attention.
Yet, I didn’t give a damn.
I wanted her attention.
I wanted to know what color her eyes were. What she looked like when she smiled.
What she sounded like when I made her come.
Two miles from the county line, she took a quick right, and I didn’t even question it as I followed her down the back road that led to nowhere. She drove for miles and miles, and I was starting to get pissed.
She didn’t even know it was me behind her, and yet she was leading me into the woods?
Unable to take it a minute longer, I turned on my lights and sounded the siren. She hit the brakes, stopping right in the middle of the road. Not that there was anywhere to pull over. This road was narrow as hell and overgrown with vegetation. There was no way anyone would be coming up here without a reason.
I turned off my siren and the lights as I jerked open my door and stomped up beside her, using the headlights of my cruiser to see where I was going.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I growled, glad she had her window rolled down. “Anyone could have been behind you, ready to do God knows what to you, and you don’t even seem to fucking care.”
Her hands tightened around the wheel, her gaze straight ahead. “Why were you following me?”
“Maybe I wanted to make sure you were okay,” I told her, my anger slowly starting to fade from the boil it was currently in. “You took off out of Aggie’s like something was wrong. My job is to serve and protect the citizens of Trinity County. You appear to be a citizen. Hence, doing my job.”
A soft laugh escaped her, but her mouth didn’t even have a ghost of a smile on it. “Hence,” she muttered, shaking her dark head. “Who says ‘hence’?”
I leaned down, putting my hands on her door to steady myself as I got close enough to smell her perfume. It was a subtle scent, something floral and sweet. Or maybe it was her shampoo. Whatever it was, I liked it, and I breathed in deeper so I could smell it again.
“What are you doing out here, Lexa?”
Her shoulders tensed at my use of her name, her fingers tightening even more around the steering wheel. “Honestly?”
“No, lie to me,” I grumbled.
Another soft laugh, followed by a tired sigh. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I just felt you behind me and kept driving. Maybe… Maybe I wanted to see how far you would go before you got bored.”
“You felt me?” I repeated, suddenly so hard it stunned me. I couldn’t remember my cock ever being this stiff.
“Yeah,” she answered, her voice soft, unsure. “I don’t know why I came down this road. I haven’t been here since I was a kid. My brother got pissed at me and ran away, and I knew I had to find him before our parents found out. He came up here, for some reason.”
I opened her door, offering her my hand to help her out. “Let’s talk out here,” I suggested, waiting with bated breath for her to touch me.
She turned her head slightly, and I caught my first sight of her eyes. Blue. The clearest blue I’d ever seen. They were the same color as the glaciers I’d seen in Alaska. Pure. She looked down at my hand for a long moment before turning her gaze back to the windshield. “Only if you turn off your headlights,” she said after another pause.
“But then I can’t see you, beautiful.” And I wanted to see her. I would have been happy standing there looking at her all damn night if she would let me.
“Then, no. I’m not getting out. Lose the lights, or I’m leaving.”
Swallowing a curse, I went back to my cruiser and turned off the engine, effectively killing the lights. As I walked back to her, she was already getting out of her car, having turned off her own engine. The moon barely gave off enough light to see how to get back to her.
Shutting her door, she leaned back against it, looking up at the sky, keeping half her face turned away from me. I stopped beside her, turning to look at the stars, letting my arm brush against hers.
“So, you’re the sheriff,” she muttered after a few minutes passed.
“Acting sheriff,” I corrected.
“It wasn’t my plan when I came back to Creswell Springs,” I admitted. “My grandfather and Sheriff Hogan are best friends. Hogan offered me a job when I got out of the marines. It was the best option open at the time, so I took it.”
“How long were you in the marines?” She shifted, her arm pressing into mine a little more. As if she didn’t want to touch me but ached to at the same time.
“Went in right out of high school at eighteen. Got out six months ago at the ripe old age of thirty.” I caught her hand, needing to feel some part of her skin under my fingertips. Just as I thought, she was silky-soft. Tracing my thumb over her palm, I felt her shiver.
“Thank you for your service,” she whispered.
I shrugged, having heard those same words of gratitude a plethora of times.
“Thirty is still pretty young to be a sheriff, even if you are just the acting sheriff,” Lexa commented after a few more minutes of silence. “How did that happen?”
“Hogan got sick. When it came time to appoint his replacement until the November election, both he and Mayor Jenkins thought I had the experience to get the job done. A few of the older guys bitched and moaned for a few weeks, but in the end, they didn’t want to deal with the bureaucracy that comes with being sheriff.”
“And everyone wants you to run in November?”
I shrugged again, and her shoulders seemed to deflate. “What?” I demanded, not liking that she seemed disappointed.
“I can’t want the sheriff,” she muttered, turning her head so she was looking off into the distance. “My dad will go ballistic.”
“You want me?” I grinned, wrapping my arm around her waist and pulling her back against me. Her hips shifted, rubbing over the bulge that rested along my left thigh, the tip already leaking precome.
“But I can’t,” she moaned, dropping her head back on my chest. “This is impossible.”
“Why?” I demanded, pressing my lips to the top of her head, my fingers skimming over the skin of her belly under her shirt.
Her shoulders stiffened, and she glanced at me over her shoulder. “You know who I am, right?”
“You’re Lexa. The woman I’m about to push up against this car and make mine,” I informed her, lowering my head to kiss her.
Before I could reach her mouth, she jerked back, breathing hard. “Sheriff Davis—”
“Ben,” I corrected her.
“Ben…I’m assuming you know who the Angel’s Halo MC is.” I nodded, following her as she took another step backward.
All I could think about was who could have done that to her. How could they have hurt her like that? And then the anger took hold. I would find out. I would finish off the person who had dared hurt my beauty.
I was still on the fence about the local MC. I’d heard rumors about them, knew they weren’t exactly living the letter of the law. But I hadn’t had any trouble out of them. Yet. There were plenty of times I had to go to Hannigans’ to break up fights, but that was usually because some college kid went in to play pool, got drunk off his ass, and ended up in over his head. I hadn’t had to arrest a single MC member so far.
“My dad is the MC president,” Lexa announced, still backing away from me. “I’m Bash Reid’s daughter.”
I kept following her. “Don’t care,” I assured her.
“But my dad will,” she cried, and I thought her chin might have trembled, but it was too dark to tell. “We can’t do this.”
“Your dad will get over it.” I caught her wrists, pulled her in closer. Her hair fell into her face, putting the right side in complete darkness.
I started to push it back out of my way, but she shook her head. “Please don’t,” she begged. “I-I want you to kiss me, but—”
Groaning, I caught her mouth. She tasted of coffee, but there was something sweet underlying it. Something addictive that made me its victim the second my tongue brushed against hers.
I’d never been kissed by a guy before. Not once in nineteen years has anyone wanted to. They take one look at my scar and revulsion crosses their face, and any urge to want to be kissed goes up in a cloud of smoke.
That was why I didn’t want Ben to see my scar. I wanted to know how he tasted, what it would feel like to have his tongue play with my own.
It was more than I ever could have thought. His lips were firm, yet brushed over mine so damn softly, it had my breath catching. His hands gripped my ass through my jeans, pressing me into his hardness. He was so tall that my height didn’t even matter. We fit against each other so perfectly, it was like someone had used a puzzle cutter to create us.
I kissed him back, hungry for more. My hands fisted in his uniform button-up, clinging to him.
With a growl that was like an electrical current strait to my core, he lifted me and sat me down on the hood of my car. I spread my legs for him, letting him closer, then locked them around his waist to keep him in place. He laughed at how hard my thighs squeezed him, and he twisted his hips in a way that made me whimper with pleasure.
“Easy, beautiful,” he murmured against my neck. “I’ll take care of you.”
“Ben,” I moaned, trying to find some small trace of rational thought, needing to stop this before it went too far. “We can’t. We really, really can’t.”
“The only thing that’s going to stop me is you saying you’re married. You married, beautiful?”
I shook my head. “No, of course not. But—”
“Then we don’t have a problem.”
My nails bit into his arms, but instead of deterring him, it only seemed to urge him on. His hips thrust against me, and even through his work pants and my jeans, he rubbed over the perfect spot to make me see stars.
“My dad,” I panted, trying to explain. “He won’t let me keep you.” And that was what made this so hard. Because I wanted to keep Ben.
Oh God. I’d just met this man. Knew next to nothing about him, but I wanted him for myself. Wanted him more than I’d ever wanted anything.
“Lexa, baby.” He lifted his head, his hands cupping my face.
I froze, feeling his thumb grazing over my scar before the palm of his hand settled over it. I closed my eyes, waiting for him to notice it. His eyes should have adjusted to the darkness by now; he wouldn’t be able to miss the outline of the scar that went from my temple down to the corner of my mouth. It wasn’t puckered and red like it had been when Fontana first disfigured me, but it still wasn’t pretty. Not even makeup could cover up that grotesque thing.
And for the first time, I wished I’d given in and let Mom take me to a plastic surgeon.
“I’m not letting you go,” he breathed, his lips skimming over mine. “Don’t ask me how I know, but you are mine. I won’t let anything fuck with that. Do you hear me?”
Tears burned my throat, and I finally opened my eyes, knowing I had to do something before this turned dangerous. I wanted to be his more than I wanted to breathe, but I also knew I needed to protect him.
Bash Reid was a dangerous man.
I loved my dad dearly, but I wasn’t blind to who or what he was.
And I couldn’t let him hurt Ben.
I jerked my head back from his touch, allowing my hair to fall away from my face for the first time. Even in the dimness of the moon overhead, there was no way he could miss that scar now.
He jerked back, and though that was the reaction I’d been expecting, it still shattered something inside me.
“You still want me?” I asked with a cold laugh, burying my pain as I hopped down off my car.
Ben just stood there, frozen, his eyes glued to my scar and nothing else. “What happened?” he choked out.
“This is what happens to little girls who don’t follow the rules,” I explained. “No outsiders. Ever. Lesson learned.” I pushed past him and opened my car door. “Nice meeting you, Sheriff Davis. See you around.”
I turned my car around, then drove away, but I couldn’t keep my eyes from lifting to my rearview mirror.
Ben just stood there, watching me drive away.
Any secret hope that he wouldn’t care, that my scar wouldn’t matter to him, turned to dust and blew across the road that now separated us.
All I could think about was who could have done that to her. How could they have hurt her like that?
And then the anger took hold.
I would find out.
I would finish off the person who had dared hurt my beauty.
I didn’t care what I had to do, how many laws I broke to accomplish it, but I would make whoever hurt her pay.
By the time I got myself under control, she was long gone, but I didn’t follow her immediately. I’d run by her house on my way home to make sure she got home safe, but I didn’t trust myself to follow her yet.
I was shaking with rage and remnants of a need that had nearly brought me to my knees. Fuck, I still wanted her so bad my balls ached, but I was afraid to touch her.
All my life, I’d worked hard to control my rage. The marines had helped with that when nothing else could, but seeing her beautiful face marred by that damn scar had stirred something that had been lying dormant for years. I didn’t trust myself not to hurt her unintentionally if my rage suddenly got out of hand.
I got in my cruiser, my hands clenching around the wheel as I fought the urge to decimate and hurt someone the way Lexa had so obviously been hurt.
An hour later, I drove by Bash Reid’s house and parked out front. I saw Lexa’s car in the driveway and looked up at the house, wondering which room was hers. But all the upstairs lights were off, and they remained off an hour later when I finally forced myself to drive home.
I’d talk to Lexa tomorrow, I assured myself. Get the story out of her, make her tell me who’d hurt her. I’d find the sonofabitch and take care of him, then I would claim the woman who was already mine.
If only it were so easy.
Will Ben be able to convince Lexa she is his Salvation?
Copyright © Terri Anne Browning/Anna Henson 2019
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of Terri Anne Browning, except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976.
Prelude to Salvation: Angels Halo Next Gen MC Series is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
No part of this book can be reproduced in any form by electronic or mechanical means, including storage or retrieval systems, without the express permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer who may quote short excerpts in a review.