SERIES READING ORDER
From the outside, it appears Juliette Patrice has the perfect life. Her career is her number one priority, matched only by her desire to fulfil her parent’s enormous expectations.
Lucas ‘Timber’ Blake is the Sergeant-At-Arms of the Black Shamrocks MC. A violent man who cares only for his Club and his family, he’s wrong for Juliette in every logical way.
Still dealing with the fallout from events earlier in the year, Lucas is tested further when Juliette is dragged into the middle of the war between rival Clubs. A war that’s already had fatal consequences.
Common sense tells her to run. Her emotions compel her to stay. The time has arrived for Juliette to begin MAKING CHOICES.
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“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.” ~Lewis Carroll~
Everything in life comes down to choices. Big choices, little choices, choices that seem insignificant at the time yet end up having a significant impact on our life, and choices that we know are going to change things for us in the biggest way.
Smart people—educated, well-raised people—like me make choices with rationality. We make choices by weighing up the pros and cons, by analyzing every potential outcome, and by removing emotion and fear from the equation.
Is love a choice?
Can you make a choice whether or not to love someone? Or is it a decision that’s taken out of our hands by a combination of hormonal fluctuations and our addiction to them, emotion-led instinct, and a micro-moment of positive resonance that transcends all logic and common sense?
I was certain that as a logical, educated, and composed woman, I would eventually love the person who was the best fit for my career aspirations. The person who would complement my vision for my life. The person who would meet my parent’s exacting expectations.
As a logical, educated, and composed person, I didn’t believe that I would ever regret my choices. If I was honest, I thought I was too smart to end up with significant regrets.
How wrong was I.
“I knew it!” A small, angry voice interrupts me as I’m watching Maddi walk down the hallway to her bedroom and the—potentially unwanted—surprise that awaits her.
Swinging from my spot on the couch to face the French doors that lead to the alfresco area, I’m greeted by an irate JJ. She’s staring at me with her hands on her tiny hips, her ruby-red lips pressed together tight. The fury that emanates from her makes her dark-red hair appear more intense than usual, her ire helping her appear taller than her just over five feet.
“You know what?” My heart’s thudding in my chest. Fuck. I hope she doesn’t say what I think she’s going to say.
I don’t want to deal with this tonight—or any bloody night.
Clenching her hands into fists when I rise from the couch and walk toward her, she spits her answer at me through gritted teeth. “That you’re in love with Maddi, Lucas. I’ve been watching you with her for months. Ever since she moved in with you when Mad Dog dumped her perfect ass, you’ve pined after her like a bloody, love-sick fool hoping she’ll give you her attention.”
“You know nothing. It’s not like that.”
I want to defend myself further, but I can’t. I’m not guilty of everything she’s assuming, but I am guilty. What JJ doesn’t understand is her place in the convoluted mess of my fucking emotions.
“Why do you care anyway? We’ve been playing this cat-and-mouse game that you love so fucking much for the last six months. Didn’t you tell me we were finished last night?”
Shuffling on the spot, she drops her gaze from my eyes and studies the cream tiles on the kitchen floor as if they hold the answer to my questions.
“I came over to apologise. I didn’t expect to find you with Maddi on your lap. And I didn’t expect to hear you tell her that you’d love a shot with her. Damn, Lucas, she called you my dirty little secret. Is that how you feel?”
“It is. You fucking know it is.”
“That’s not fair. I’ve told you why…”
“Yeah, thanks for the warning. You’re a true friend!” My best female friend’s pissed-off voice interrupts JJ’s attempted justifications when she yells from her room. I hold up one finger to silence the seething woman in front of me and yell in response, “Anytime, Princess!”
Even in the face of JJ’s anger, I can’t help the booming laughter that rumbles from my chest. She’s obviously found Mad Dog waiting in her bedroom, ready to ambush her and finally talk her into taking him back. As much as I wish otherwise, she’s made for him, and he’s perfect for her. They just needed someone to give them a push to sort out their shit once and for all—a push I’m happy to provide.
Maybe happy is the wrong word.
It’s more like a push I feel obliged to provide.
“What the hell is that about?” JJ asks in a frosty tone once my laughter dies down.
“That was about the surprise waiting for her in her room.”
Raising one perfectly sculpted eyebrow at me, she sneers. “The surprise being Mad Dog?”
Turning my back to her, I walk to the fridge and pull out a beer. Cracking the top, I drink half of it down in one go. I’m confused as fuck. I don’t know how I feel about this whole situation. I’m happy that Maddi hasn’t sent him packing yet, but the part that will always wonder if we would’ve stood a chance won’t shut up.
How I feel about JJ isn’t helping matters, and neither are her bloody hang-ups.
“You’re a piece of work, you know? A real fucked-up individual.”
Straightening my shoulders, I face her. “Jesus, tell me how you really feel, Doll. You’re fucking awesome at telling me how I’m wrong about everything, so let’s lay it all out. Let’s sort this shit out once and for all.”
As she stands there swallowing hard in the face of my ferocity, I continue. “You don’t get to barge into my house after you threw my feelings for you in my fucking face last night and then cuss me out for looking out for my best friends. Whatever it is you think is going on here, you’re fucking wrong. All I’ve done is put everyone else’s happiness in front of mine, and I’m fucking over it. Princess and Mad Dog will sort their shit out, so how about you sort yours out. You gonna tell Daddy about us, or are we over and fucking done for good? Those are the options here. All or nothing.”
As I come to the crux of our problems, JJ bites her bottom lip so hard that I’m worried she’s going to draw blood. She can throw all the shit she wants at me about my feelings for Maddi, but I’ve done fuck all wrong. I’ve chased this woman for six months—breaking every fucking one of my rules along the way. I’ve kept quiet about us, even going as far as pretending that we aren’t fucking six ways to Sunday when we’re in front of anyone she knows.
Fuck, I’ve even hidden in her bedroom when her parents have turned up at her place unexpectedly. In return, I’ve introduced her to my Club, and they’ve all taken her into our family. She’s even been to my parents for our monthly Sunday roast lunch.
A place I’ve only ever taken one other woman.
All I asked last night was that she finally acknowledge we’re more than a fucking fling. That went down well, resulting in a temper tantrum about me pushing her too fucking fast. Instead of listening to what I had to say like a bloody adult, she told me it was too hard and that we couldn’t see each other anymore.
Then she stormed off.
I’d decided then and there that I wasn’t chasing her anymore, so I’d left her alone today and was planning to do so from now on. There are only so many times I’m willing to bang my head against a brick wall before I give up. Throughout the day, I’d slowly wrapped my head around the end of whatever the fuck it was that we had, only to have her come here tonight to fuck with my head again, jumping to conclusions that weren’t hers to make anymore.
Finishing my beer, I throw the empty bottle in the recycle bin before verbally prodding her again. “You gonna stand there all night chewing on that luscious lip of yours? Or am I gonna get a straight answer?”
Sighing, she removes her teeth from her lip. “I need to think, Lucas. I came here to apologise, even though nothing’s really changed. You want serious, and I can’t give you that…yet.”
“Bullshit. You can, but you won’t. Too scared of what everyone else thinks—that’s what you are.”
Approaching me as if I’m a wild animal she’s unsure of, JJ lifts herself up onto her tiptoes, and grabs me by the front of my shirt. She tugs hard, and after a moment’s hesitation, I lean down to her. “I need time.” She breathes her words over my face before she touches her lips to mine. It takes every ounce of control I have not to pick her up, push her against the wall, and kiss her back before planting myself inside of her warm body.
Instead of giving in to my growing need, I pull back from her mouth. “Six months is plenty of time.”
Her pretty, hope-filled face shuts down, and the professional mask she wears at work drops into place. Awesome. Here comes cold, calculating JJ.
“No, it’s not. I’ve told you it’s not. I need more time.”
Shaking my head at her, I gently push her away from me, and toward the French doors that she entered through. She doesn’t even attempt to struggle to stay with me, heightening my doubts of the success of what I’m about to offer.
“One week, Doll. That’s it.” This ultimatum is going to bite me in the ass—I can feel it—but I need to do this. I’ve been burned before. Actually, I was more than burned—I was fucking incinerated.
I need upfront promises before I go down this road with another woman with daddy issues.
“You’ve got one week. I’ll leave you alone for one week. So, go home now, JJ, and think about how it felt when we met. Think about how good we are together. Think about how you feel when we’re apart. And when your week’s up, I’ll come find you. Then you can tell me if those feelings outweigh your Daddy being upset with you.” When I emphasise the word “Daddy” she winces. It’s a low blow, but she’s supposed to be a grown woman. I need to know if she’ll ever be all in with me.
“All right, Lucas. I will. But you need to do one thing for me during this week.”
Fuck knows what else she wants from me. I’ve done everything she’s asked of me, even when it’s chafed against my need to be straightforward.
Walking to the French doors, she pauses with her hand on the door handle. “I want you to figure out if I’m more important to you than Maddi. If I have to deal with the fall-out from my family for you, then I refuse to play second fiddle to her.”
JJ doesn’t wait for my answer. She simply walks out the door, leaving me with my mouth hanging open.