By: Ellen Harper

Chapter One



I cringed at the sound of fist against flesh. It wasn’t new and it wouldn’t be the last time I ever heard that sound, but I was tired of it. And I was tired of knowing what it came from.


I was tired of knowing that the guy on the receiving end would be several ugly shades of purple and yellow and black as his skin tried desperately to fix itself after the beating it took. And it was definitely taking a beating. No one in the Unholys was there because they were accused of being gentle or because they went easy on someone new. And Johnny was no exception to that rule.

The thought of Johnny still did strange things to me. Things that were difficult to explain to anyone who wasn’t from this life and hadn’t seen what I’ve seen. Violence was a part of it and so was initiation, but that didn’t mean I had to like it.

Desperately I hoped Johnny didn’t like it either.

I heard another punch, imagined it whistling through the air like a power hammer, one meant to both judge and maim, and it was finally enough to make me look once again at the beating the poor man on the ground was taking.

He wasn’t an attractive man to begin with and the beating hasn’t helped with that. He was big, but it was more blubbery bulk than anything else. His weight has to have been a problem for him all his life, or at least most of it, because he looked more or less comfortable in his own skin. Maybe not happy with it or proud of it, but comfortable wasn’t one of those things that required pride or happiness. It just was.

I was comfortable with the Unholys; I wasn’t happy with them.

The man took a sharp hit to the side of his face, but it didn’t look like it did too much damage. It looked like he bit his tongue because there was blood trickling out of his mouth. There was no question as to whether or not he was in pain.

I gave him credit; he didn’t ask them to stop. That was one of the rules here: If you asked for it to stop, it would. But you’d also be gone. No club, no patch, no initiation. If you wanted in, you had to suffer the consequences, and it looked to me like this guy was ready to do that.

My eyes slipped away from the grunting, moaning man on the pavement, unwilling to look at him any longer. He was ugly, but determined, and that made it so much worse. Determination always made things take longer and I never needed to see this much violence again.

Of their own accord, my eyes found Johnny. They couldn’t help it; he stood out in a crowd.

A bloodied, bruised hand raked through his thick, dark hair. It was damp with sweat, but it didn’t make him look greasy or unkempt. If anything, it only added to the sex appeal that oozed from him. He was grinning wickedly, like he was enjoying this, and I admitted quietly to myself that he probably was. He was probably getting a kick out of this whole thing.

That should have disturbed me, but I was long past the point where any of this disturbed me. It made my stomach twist in knots and caused my heart to ache from time to time, but I knew that it was all part of the life and if I wasn’t capable of handling it, I should get out.

But Johnny.

He rolled his shoulders, flexing those large muscles of his. He was wearing a black t-shirt, the shoulders cut off to expose his biceps, and jeans that hung low on his hips. When he raised his arms, I could see a strip of skin beneath that shirt. Tight, muscled, and towards his belt buckle, covered in just a few dark hairs that led to promising, seductive places.

It was only Johnny throwing the next punch that jerked me from the inappropriate places my mind was slinking down to.

Johnny’s already bloody fist caught the man—they called him Worm, a new recruit—square in the jaw until he coughed up a spittle of blood. I saw a tooth scatter across the pavement and took a small moment of comfort in knowing that it was over. Lose a tooth; that was another rule. I cringed as Worm spit up blood again, but tried to keep it in. No use in showing these guys fear; they’d never leave me be after that.

Oh, Johnny would hold them at bay. He was my warrior and my lover and no one would cross a man like Johnny, but it would go easier for everyone if I acted like the tough bitch I was supposed to be.

Times like this, though, it was hard.

Worm worked at getting himself back onto his feet. He got up halfway and I knew that someone would go to help him soon; the initiation was over, so the punishment was, too. But while he was on his hands and knees, I saw a guy out of the corner of my eye. He moved too fast for me to say or do anything—what could I do anyway? I was just an old lady—and before anyone even knew what was happening, Specter slammed a steel toed boot right between Worm’s ribs.

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