SERIES READING ORDER
Rock bottom…some would say Benjamin O’Brien has finally reached it.
When you’ve ruined your life and brought your loved ones to their knees in the process, you’d assume you couldn’t fall any further.
Lacey Marquis is done. Broken. Shattered. Ruined. Deserted by the man she thought was the love of her life, she’s reached her breaking point.
It takes a lot to make the Black Shamrocks MC abandon their family, yet Benji has almost managed it. When the Club discovers Lacey’s involvement in his deception, they’re both given one last chance. Make amends or die. It’s that simple.
When two scarred souls find each other in the midst of chaos, is it possible for them to be the strength the other needs? Or will their individual demons prevent the other from SEEKING REDEMPTION?
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“The day misspent, the love misplaced, has inside it the seed of redemption. Nothing is exempt from resurrection.” ~Kay Ryan~
There comes a time when you have to admit defeat, when the only thing left to do is throw your hands in the air, and say “That’s it! I’m done.” You realize that you’ve reached that point, when no matter how hard you try to tell yourself that your life is going to get better, you know deep down that you’ll need a miracle for things to improve. And since I don’t believe in miracles anymore; I know I’m fucked.
Right now, it’s just a matter of when, not if.
In my former life as the pin-up girl for wholesomeness, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d ever reach this point. I was the girl with the nice house, the worthwhile career, the supportive parents, and the hot bad-boy biker boyfriend who was really a teddy bear underneath it all. I volunteered. I played competitive hockey. I helped old people carry their groceries to their car.
I can pin-point the exact moment my life started to spiral out-of-control. When his fist connected with my cheek that first time, when I accepted his sobbing apology instead of walking away like I’d always said I would if it happened to me—that was when everything was set in motion.
Forgiveness, deliverance, salvation—I’ve always believed that everyone was entitled to a second chance. I might not have faith in my own worthiness, but the broken man who has joined me in my descent into the darkness, I know he warrants another opportunity to pull himself back from the brink. For me, I know there isn’t a way out of this bleak, black hole we currently call a life, yet before I admit defeat, maybe I can help him find the redemption he so desperately seeks?
My mouth is dry, my fucking head pounds, and the throbbing in my right arm is almost unbearable. Actually, every part of me aches in some way—the constant beeping and the bright, overhead light shining in my eyes is not helping matters—and that makes me wonder how hard I partied last night.
Bloody hell, I’ve gotta lay off the meth. The comedowns are hitting harder and lasting longer. This one looks like it’s gearing up to be a real motherfucker. Even trying to swallow is near impossible. I need something to drink, something to at least wet my mouth. Opening my eyes to search for the bottle of water I keep next to my bed, I regret that decision when the pain in my temples kicks up a notch. My need for something wet overrides my desire for total darkness, so I close the eye that hurts the most, and peer around the room with my good one.
This isn’t my room. I’m in a goddamn hospital room. The annoying beeping is coming from the monitors hooked to my left arm, the ache in my right arm is explained by the plaster covering it. Raising what I assume is a broken arm, I peer at it in confusion. Flashes of Maddi screaming at me flit across my mind, followed by glimpses of Lacey staring at me with hurt, tear-filled eyes. I grab my head with my left hand and squeeze my eyes shut as a bolt of pain tries to split my head in half.
Why were my sister and Lacey at my house together? How did I end up in the hospital? What the hell happened?
“About time you woke the fuck up.”
Shit. I feel like death warmed up and he’s the last person I want to deal with.
Dropping my arm back onto the bed and feigning sleep, I lie still and concentrate on keeping my breathing regular. So far, I’ve been able to keep him from working out how much I use. If he sees me like this, he’s going to figure it out pretty, fucking quickly.
“Don’t fuck with me, boy. I’m not in the fucking mood. Shit’s hit the roof today. Finding out you’re a lying junkie is the least of my bloody problems.”
I thought my mouth was dry before but listening to my dad spit his venomous words at me turns it into the Sahara. Sighing in defeat, I turn my head in the direction his voice is coming from. Cracking one eye enough to see him, I attempt to speak. My voice is croaky and just about inaudible.
“Turn the lights down. Get me water.”
Dad shakes his head at me, huffing like I’ve asked him if I could take his antique Harley for a ride, before hauling his mammoth frame out of the green visitor’s chair. His shoulders are slumped as he moves to the light switch and dims the room. Grabbing a plastic cup with a straw, he shoves it at me once I’ve raised the hospital bed so I’m upright. He drops back into his seat with a loud exhalation, making my eyes roll of their own accord.
Ouch. Dumb move.
Holding the cup as if it contains liquid gold, I suck ice-cold water through the short straw as I regard him over the rim. He looks tired. Deep lines bracket his blue eyes—the same ones that stare back at me whenever I look in a mirror—and he looks a decade older than he did when I last saw him a week ago. Returning my gaze through bleak eyes, he scares the shit out of me. I’ve never seen him look so defeated.
“Well, what’s up?”
I break the heavy silence filling the room. The atmosphere feels like it’s trying to squash me like an irritating bug. Serious discussions with my father are something I avoid like the plague; not that they occur often. I’m normally invisible to him, unless I’m running around a football field in a futile attempt to live up to his footy legend status.
Looking at the closed door to my room before he leans closer to me, Dad asks, “You know how I’ve been looking for the body?”
Fuck. I don’t want to get into this shit again. Sucking some more water through the straw, I try to ignore the guilt that’s knocking on my mind seeking admittance. My fuck-up has left my family’s motorcycle club with a big problem to deal with. It’s left my twin sister in an even bigger predicament if the body is found by someone outside of the Club. So far, Dad’s kept it from everyone else, but I’ve always known it was only a matter of time before they found out.
“Yeah. Did you find him?” I hold my breath, hoping like hell that he’s about to say that he’s finally found him.
“Doesn’t matter no more. The Shamrocks know about it. They reckon they’re gonna find him themselves, which is bullshit. Ain’t nothing nobody can do…I’m out of the Club anyway. They can go fuck themselves.”
I can’t follow a word of what he’s saying. My mouth drops open as I stare at him. Dad’s a bigger fucking mess than I originally thought. It takes a moment but I find my voice again. “What the hell are you talking about, Dad? What do you mean, you’re out of the…” Trailing off as I realize that he’s not wearing his President’s cut, I shake my head, and grimace when shards of pain ricochet through my skull. I can count on one hand the number of times in my life that I’ve seen him without his cut on. None of them have been in public.
“They voted you out because of my fuck up?” The question tumbles from my lips and my heart falls with them. Disbelief grips me, even as I interrogate him. There’s no way my mistake was bad enough to get Dad booted as President. Not from a Club my family founded.
There’s something he’s not telling me.
“What the fuck’s going on?” I demand with as much volume as I can muster. Confusion doesn’t sit well with me, something I inherited from the man who’s sitting in front of me, refusing to meet my eyes.
My rough and tough father—the father who alternates between scaring the shit out of me and inspiring awe within me, even as a twenty-three-year-old grown man—visibly gulps. Shrugging, he shakes himself, then straightens his shoulders and meets my eyes with the trademark O’Brien don’t-fuck-with-me glare that my three brothers, sister, and I all got from him.
“I had some schemes in action. Had hoped that I’d pull off everything without anyone putting two and two together. None of the balls I had in the air fell in my favour. Fucking Mad Dog fucked everything up for us.”
“Us?” The pain in my head fades into a secondary annoyance as my confusion grows at Dad’s mention of Mad Dog. I haven’t had much to do with him over the last six months since he’s always busting my balls about my so-called addiction, although I’m aware that he’s been at loggerheads with Dad since the shit went down with Maddi and her ex. Fuck knows why Mad Dog’s copped the blame for everything that happened with my father, but if it keeps him off my back, I’m not going out of my way to set Dad straight.
“Bloody hell, you’re not making any sense. You’re saying that you haven’t found Brendan’s body and that it’s not a problem anymore. If that’s right, why have the Shamrocks voted you out? What schemes are you talking about? What does any of this have to do with me and Mad Dog?”
Leaning forward, Dad laces his fingers together and leans his chin on them. A strange glint lights up his eyes, making my pulse spike. “It is what it is, Benji. I’m sure you’ll hear all the details soon enough. I’m out, but your ass is covered. Right now, we need to concentrate on making sure you end up in your rightful role. He might’ve fucked everything else up for me, but if the Shamrocks survive the war that’s coming, there’s no way he’ll be leading my club. The presidency belongs to the O’Brien’s. It’ll be a cold day in hell before a Kennedy is anything more than a fill-in.”
Please, Lord, don’t let him be hinting at what I fucking think he is.
“Dad, I’m not—” I begin to tell him that I’m not on board with this, but as usual, I’m ignored. Sitting upright, his expression’s fierce as he talks over me. “I have a plan in place to guarantee you the presidency. All you need to do is follow my instructions. Call time on your footy, get your junkie self fucking clean, and get your sorry ass prospecting. It’ll be a fucking formality and in a year or two, you’ll be Prez.”
My racing heartbeat becomes a roar in my ears as his words about finishing my football career sink in. No fucking way. I thought I had a few more years before we had to have this conversation. I’ve never said I wanted to join the Club. That’s always been Maddi’s thing—even though she’s a girl, she’s much more than suitable. It’ll be even better once her and Mad Dog sort their shit out and get married. An O’Brien and a Kennedy, the dynasty will be intact, and I’ll be free to live my own life.
“I’m not quitting footy. I’m rehabbing my knee so I can play next year.” I argue.
“Highly fucking unlikely that’ll happen considering baby girl just broke your arm for you. You’re never gonna play footy again. Wake up and smell the roses, son. You’ve wasted the talent I gave you. Squandered it and fucked me over in the process.” Dad spits his words at me. Pure loathing covers his face, his top lip curling on one side as he snarls at me. “You owe me. You owe your twin. You owe Joel. Each of us have paid the price for your fuck-ups.”
My stomach churns as his accusations hit me. He’s one-hundred percent right. I’m a fuck up and my family has paid the price. My guilt travels up my throat, making me gag. After my bender, there’s nothing in my stomach to puke, yet that doesn’t stop my body from trying. My mouth waters, and I start shaking. A cold shiver shoots through me and my body breaks out in goose bumps.
Inhaling deeply through my nose, I ride out the sickness by slowly letting the air out through my clenched teeth. Once I feel somewhat better, I turn my attention to my father. He watched me battle through the sickness with hard eyes, his lips pressed together in a tight line.
“Coming down, are we?”
Dropping his accusing glare, I stare at my plastered arm without answering him. Dad’s words about Maddi breaking my arm tumble around my head and I struggle to piece together when that might have happened. Last thing I remember was calling Lacey and sweet talking her into coming over and sharing the meth I’d just got my hands on. She came over, helped me shoot up since I’m still hopeless at hitting my vein, and then we’d fucked. A typical night between the two of us. I don’t know why Maddi would be there at the same time as Lacey since we’re keeping the fact we’re fucking to ourselves—Maddi being Lacey’s best friend is a complication I’m not thrilled about. My bossy-ass twin doesn’t need any further reason to stick her nose into my shit.
“Did you hear what I said?” Dad pulls me from my thoughts with his terse question. I hadn’t realized that he was speaking again.
Giving him a sheepish smile, I shake my head.
He snorts at me.
“I said that you need to ask to prospect the day you get the fuck out of here.” He waves his hand around, indicating my hospital room. “I’ll get Lenny to nominate you. You can deal with your footy club later.”
“Dad.” I interrupt him. “I’m not—”
Pointing his huge fucking finger in my face after he jumps to his feet and strides to my bedside, saliva showers my face when he yells at me, “You’ll do as you’re fucking told. I have plans in place for this to go down tomorrow. Fuck this up for me and I’ll make sure you have nothing left. You think everyone’s pissed with you, now? That’ll be nothing to how much they’ll hate you by the time I’m done.”
I recoil at his vehemence. His eyes glitter with fury and he looks one step away from completely losing it. Watching his shoulders shake and his fists clench and unclench, I stay quiet so I don’t push him over the edge. My father’s a volatile man, prone to temper tantrums when he thinks you’re not going to meet his demands, yet until this moment, I’ve never been scared that he was going to deck me. Right now, it’s a genuine worry.
Summoning every ounce of spine I possess, I force down my nausea, straighten my back, and meet his eyes.
“You’re losing the fucking plot, old man.” Swallowing hard, every part of me revolts at what I’m about to say. This is the last thing I ever wanted to do. “But I’ll prospect.”
Lifting my broken arm, I point at my fucked right knee with the fingers protruding from the cast, and laugh. It’s a hollow laugh, not the least bit happy. “We both know I’m never playing footy again so I might as well pay you back for the fall you’ve just taken for me.”
I watch as my father blinks in rapid succession. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was fighting tears. The moment passes as if it never happened, his features hardening as his expression shuts down.
“What if I am losing it?” he asks, without any heat to his tone. “Would that make you fucking well listen to me?” Dad doesn’t wait for me to answer him before he continues in the same monotone. “All I’m trying to do is make sure you kids are taken care of. You mightn’t agree with my plans, but they’re what I think is for the best, so just do as you’re told for once.”
Even though he says this evenly, it still gets my back up. My own temper sparks. Do as I’m told? He’s got to be kidding me?
“Jesus Christ. I don’t have a clue what you’re on about. Fuck you and fuck your cryptic bullshit. I’m a grown fucking man.” My nostrils flare as my breathing picks up pace. “You’re a bit late to become a caring father now. Maybe Matty and Lachie will welcome your sudden concern, but me, Joel, and Maddi don’t need you.”
I want to say so much more. I want to yell every grievance I’ve had with him since my mum died but I force myself to stop. It’s too late. He’ll never listen.
Bull-headed cunt that he is.
“I said I’ll prospect. That’s it. I’m not making a play for the president’s patch unless I’m wanted. If that means Mad Dog ends up as Prez, then that’s too fucking bad—”
For the first time, I’m ready to admit my lack of desire to join the Shamrocks, but I’m forced to shut up when he hurtles forward and grabs me by the front of my hospital gown. Pulling my face to his, he glares at me, running his feral eyes over my face as if I’m a puzzle he’s trying to solve. Shaking me twice, he throws me back against the bed. There’s nothing left of the father I know in his eyes when he snarls his ultimatum at me.
“You don’t get a say in fuck all. Everything’s already in motion. You either get with the program or you get the fuck out of this family…” His words trail off as he turns his back on me and walks to the door. “Since we both know you’re a junkie loser who can’t survive without his twin saving his ass, I’m sure you’ll make the right choice. Considering I didn’t tell the Club about you hiding Connor and his whore at your house after they fucked-up their takeover attempt.”
Every ounce of oxygen is sucked from my lungs at his veiled threat. I’m gasping for breath when the door slams behind him, making me jump in shock.
How the fuck does he know?
Anyone else finds out what I did, I’m dead.