Here it is.. the book that everyone has been waiting for since Dark Protector's release in May, Dark Secret! And because we are so excited that it's coming in just a few short days, we've decided to send out a little sneak preview and release the first chapter a few days early.
Chapter One — Shelby
Thirteen Years Ago
That’s what the doctor had told me with her disapproving eyes while handing me a pamphlet on my options when finding oneself in this exact situation.
Funny how that single word can change every plan you’ve made for your future. Suddenly, you and your wants don’t matter as much as you thought they did, and your boyfriend isn’t your whole world anymore. The only thing that matters is the tiny little being, protected and warm, deep inside your womb. That being becomes your everything.
I swipe another brushstroke of blush across my cheekbone, staring into the eyes of the girl in the mirror before me. Is she really ready to be a mother?
Short and curvy, with fingernails chewed down to the quick. A snub little nose I’ve hated for every single one of my eighteen years on this earth. Too much eye shadow. Too much mascara. Hair cut short and spiky, with pink locks scattered throughout the blonde strands.
That’s just what shows on the outside. There’s more to me than all of that, because the best parts are inside, right?
I’m a bright student, a good daughter, and a hard worker, even if that work is at the Frost-N-Freeze. Work is work.
But what about college? What about Wyatt? We have a plan—a solid one.
In September, I’ll attend community college in the next town over to pursue a degree in child care. It’s not what I truly want to do, but it’s the one course I can afford that will provide me a decent living. Wyatt is being patched into the Black Hoods MC, who are talking about sending him to school to get his degree in computer sciences. We’ve talked about our future at length. Wyatt has so many plans for us, but would that us include a plus one?
Nibbling on my lower lip, I place my hand on my belly. We now have this little peanut to think of, and Wyatt doesn’t even know yet. What’s he going to say? Which option of that teen pregnancy pamphlet is he going to want to choose?
“Shelby!” my dad calls from downstairs. “Miss Kasey’s here.”
“I’ll be right down!” I call through the cracked bedroom door. Shit. Kasey is going to know something’s up the instant she lays eyes on me. But should I tell her?
No, I shouldn’t. Not yet. Kasey can’t stand Wyatt; she’s going to be pissed.
Besides, this news is for Wyatt to hear first, then Kasey. Then—I shudder at the thought—my father. If he hated Wyatt before, knowing I’m having his baby will send him through the roof and straight to the moon.
Flicking my fingers through my hair one last time, I rearrange a few strands to ensure they’re standing at a perfect, haphazard angle, snatch my purse off the end of the bed, and make my way down the stairs.
“Hey,” I greet Kasey as I press a kiss to my father’s cheek, ignoring the burden of my secret when I pull away.
“You girls behave,” he asserts from his place in his favorite recliner. “I spent your bail money on a case of beer.”
He wouldn’t be saying that if he knew where we were going.
Kasey giggles as if she hasn’t heard that same joke from my father a thousand times before. “We’re always good, Mr. D.”
Dad snorts. Taking another swig of his beer, he warns, “Watch it, Miss Kasey. One of these days your pants are gonna catch on fire.”
I roll my eyes. “Bye, Daddy.”
In true Kasey form, I’ve barely closed the door to the house before she’s on me.
Laughing, I walk over to her rusted Ford Taurus at the curb. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What’s wrong with you?”
She glares at me over the roof of the car before climbing into the driver’s seat. Once we’re both inside and buckled in, she pulls out onto the road, heading toward the Black Hoods’ clubhouse.
“Don’t lie,” she retorts.
How does she always know?
“I’m not lying!”
“Shelby Jo Dawson, I’ve known you since we were four years old. I was there when you got yourself into trouble with Ms. Lester for gluing her stapler to her desk. I was there when Bobby Dixon tried to kiss you on the bleachers at the homecoming game our freshman year. And I was there when Wyatt Hayden finally made a woman out of you—well, not there, at that moment, but afterward. You know what I mean. Anyway, I know you better than you know yourself. I could tell straight away you have something going on, and I want to know what it is.”
Sagging my shoulders, I blurt out, “I’m pregnant.” That’s it. Two words. Matter-of-fact. But inside, my heart’s hammering, watching from the corner of my eye as she processes the news.
She doesn’t say anything. Instead, she drives another few minutes and pulls into a parking space at the clubhouse without a word. Turning off the ignition, she drops the keys into her purse and faces me, staring intently. “I got you, girl. Does Wyatt know?”
Shaking my head, a tear escapes, making its way down my cheek.
Taking my hand, she gives it a tight squeeze. “I’ve got you.”
Music blares out of the clubhouse. This is a big night for the club, and an even bigger night for Wyatt. After becoming a prospect at eighteen, he’d worked his ass off for two years to become a member of the Black Hoods MC.
He’d done things he would never tell me about. He’d learned things that were club business only, and I had quickly figured out it wasn’t my place to know. It had been a rough two years for the both of us. But tonight, he gets his patch. Tonight, all his hard work and the struggles we have both faced are paying off. His dream is coming true.
“I can’t do this,” I announce, reaching behind me and grabbing at the seat belt I’d just removed. “I can’t tell him. Not tonight. This is his night.”
Kasey grabs my hand once more and holds it still. “This is his night. And if finding out he’s going to be a father with the woman he loves doesn’t make it even better for him, he doesn’t deserve you or the baby.”
God, I hope she’s right.
“Get your ass out of this car and go tell that man he’s going to be a daddy.” She says it with so much enthusiasm, my fear of his disappointment fades a little.
I climb out of the car and move toward the door of the clubhouse. Kasey loops her arm through mine and grins over at a couple of the guys leaning against their motorcycles. The men here love Kasey, but other than being a total flirt, she never gives them the time of day. It drives most of them nuts.
Inside, the air is thick with smoke, and the music thumps so loud, I can’t even hear my hammering heart. I scan the room for Wyatt, but he’s nowhere to be seen.
“Two”—she glances back at me—“make that one beer,” Kasey tells the prospect tending bar. “And, do you know where Hashtag is?”
Slamming a bottle of beer onto the bar top, he tips his head toward the hallway. “Last I saw him, he was heading back there to check out his new room.”
Ah, right. I’d forgotten about that part. All patched members of the Black Hoods are given a room here at the clubhouse to store their shit or crash. Tonight, Wyatt would be given the key to a room of his own.
“You know which one it is?” I shout over the noise as I move in that direction.
Holding up three fingers, he shouts back, “Room 3A!”
Kasey grabs my shoulder and turns me around to face her, urging, “You’ve got this.”
I try not to let fear overwhelm me as I wade through the crowd and into the hallway. Trying to calm my breathing, I walk past a bunch of closed doors until I reach room 3A. Finding it ajar, I take a deep breath before pushing it open.
I’ve been inside these rooms before, which are all the same, really: a bed, a dresser, and a nightstand. A small en suite bathroom is off to the side, complete with a shower. So, his room is basically what I expected, except for one thing.
I never expected to see Layla and Sasha in his bed—naked.
Sasha, whose back is to me, is riding the man beneath her. I can’t see his face, but from his moans, and the way his toes are curled, I’d be wise to assume he’s thoroughly enjoying it.
Layla, however, is facing me. She’s up near the headboard, her pussy pressed against his face, her hands full of Sasha’s tits. When she sees me, she freezes, her eyes wide with shock. Then, curling her lips up in an evil grin, she rocks her hips faster.
She doesn’t stop. She doesn’t tell Sasha I’m standing here. Instead, she continues to ride Wyatt’s face, making a show of how much she’s enjoying it.
All of this happens in a matter of seconds. I don’t make a sound. They don’t hear my heart shatter into a million pieces. They don’t hear me sob as I turn and bolt down the hallway.
I knew Wyatt was around women all the time at the club, including Layla, and it’s no secret she and I don’t get along. Hell, it’s been the cause of a lot of our quarrels. But I never believed in a million years he would betray me like this.
“What happened?” Kasey probes, her face twisted in anger and confusion as I approach.
I push past her, rushing toward the door. “I want to get out of here.”
“Shelby!” she calls out, scrambling to keep up with me. “Shelby, wait! What’s going on?”
Tears pour down my cheeks like a waterfall as I make my way to her car. Pressing my hands against my belly, I think of my tiny peanut, and how Wyatt’s betrayed us both.
The locks click when Kasey presses the button and I climb inside, wiping my hot tears on my sleeves.
“What the fuck is going on? What did that asshole do?” she asks as she settles herself behind the wheel.
The pain in my chest has me gasping for breath between sobs. “Just get me out of here, Kase, please?”
When her warm hand lands on mine, I turn and look her in the eyes when she assures, “Shelby, I’ve got you.”
Read More in Dark Secret, releasing July 31st.
Avelyn Paige is an Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY bestselling Motorcycle Romance author.