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Hmm. This was unfair and heartbreakingly true at the same time.

I went to the fridge and found milk. “Do you have sugar?”

Tack was flipping pancakes, he finished this task, reached into a cupboard and pulled out a half full bag of sugar, putting it down by my mug. I searched for spoons, sloshed in milk, did my sugar, put back the milk and stirred. Then I set the spoon aside and sipped the coffee.

Tack made good coffee too.

Hmm.

“Peaches,” Tack called, I looked and I saw he was watching me.

“Yes?”

“I answered your question, now’s the time you answer mine.”

I took another sip and studied him over the rim of my mug. His eyes didn’t leave mine so I sighed.

Then I shared, “Hawk just ended things with me so I really, really needed a ride.”

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“Hawk ended things?” he whispered and even though I was studying him, I still missed the change in him but when I caught it, my body got tight.

Shit!

“Um…”

“He ended things the night you got kidnapped, your f**kin’ wrists torn up and your picture, bound and gagged, farmed out for bid.”

That didn’t sound good but then again, it f**king wasn’t.

“Um…” I mumbled.

Tack turned to his pancakes. “At least he f**kin’ ended things. Clean go.”

Tack scraped pancakes off the griddle onto a waiting plate as I asked, “Clean go?”

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His head turned to me. “Clean go. For you. He’s outta the picture, I don’t have to deal with his shit anymore.”

Uh-oh.

“Tack –” I started, uncertain how to say what I had to say and that was I was so done with men. Seriously done with them. Forever done with them. I was not going to go there again. The problem was, according to Hawk, saying something like that to Tack was like a challenge and I really didn’t need that.

Tack dropped the pancake flipper on the counter, turned and closed the distance between us before I could blink.

Then he started speaking. “Gwen, people talk and the last week, most ‘a the talk on the street that’s not about your f**kin’ sister has been about you and Hawk. I know your shit’s been linked to his for awhile. I know you’re different from the rest. And I saw your face last night, babe, so I know you’re feelin’ this deep and, believe me, it gives me no pleasure sayin’ this, but I also know when he’s done, he’s done and if he said he’s done with you, he… is… done.”

I felt the sting in my sinuses heralding tears.

Tack went on. “I also know what I saw when you first saw me, I know what I felt when I saw you and I know exactly what you felt when I first touched you. That said, I ain’t stupid and I ain’t an ass**le. You aren’t ready. That don’t mean I don’t want in there enough to wait. So,” he moved in closer and his hand came up, curled around my neck as his head bent, his face got in mine and his voice went gentle, “you take your time, darlin’, you lick your wounds and you got me at your back while they heal. You feel like explorin’ more energetic ways to wipe him outta your mind, I’m here. And when you come out the other side, I’m waitin’.”

“Tack –” I started on a breath, my eyes staring into his and I could feel the tears trembling at their edges, tears for the end of my living daydream with Hawk and tears because standing in front of me, apparently, was a good man. A dangerous one, but a good one and still, there was no way in hell I was ever going there.

His head bent further, his mouth touched mine and since my lips were parted, he took that opportunity to slide his tongue in my mouth. Reflexively, the tip of mine moved to meet the tip of his and an electric shock of surprise and something a whole lot different bolted through me causing another bolt to shoot somewhere else.

Even though he didn’t miss his opportunity, he didn’t take advantage, his head lifted and my eyes opened to see his staring into mine.

His hand at my neck squeezed reassuringly and he ordered gently, “Now, eat your pancakes, babe.”

I did as I was told. I took the pancakes and he got me butter and maple syrup. I sat at a stool at his bar, readied them and ate them while he made some for himself.

He was right and I was surprised.

They were the best pancakes I’d ever had.

It was just after noon and I was spent.

Tack had gone down the mountain to see about getting my things. He had decreed that I was staying at his place. Thinking about this, people were kidnapping me. Dad and Meredith were homeless and their vulnerability had been proven by a firebomb. Leo was a cop but he had a job that he had to work in order to get paid which meant he couldn’t spend his days guarding me. I was still averse to buying a gun and, anyway, I was pretty sure there was a waiting period prior to earning a permit so that was out.

Tack had a bevy of badass bikers at his command and a mountain hideaway.

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So I picked Tack.

While he was gone I called and left a message with Dad telling him where I was so he wouldn’t worry and telling him I’d explain later. I also told him the dinner Elvira and I sorted out with Hawk, Gus and Maria was off and I’d explain that later too. I didn’t call Meredith because she could take calls at work and I wasn’t ready to go there. I did call Cam and Tracy. Cam ranted about Hawk saying how she knew, she just knew, Hawk was a motherfucking ass**le. Tracy sounded exactly as heartbroken as I felt.

I didn’t call Troy. He wouldn’t gloat, I knew that, he’d be kind. He’d also offer me a place to stay and Troy was a great guy but he didn’t have a bevy of badass bikers at his command and a mountain hideaway. He had a condo and his male friends were mostly bankers.

I was sitting on Tack’s huge, slouchy, comfortable, tan couch that faced the view, my mind filled with unhappy thoughts at the same time considering a nap which I hoped would last around fifty years, when I saw Tack on his bike roaring up the drive. He was alone and his Harley was not laden with suitcases.

Shit.

I got up and met him at the front door.

He looked unhappy.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“No,” he answered, moved to a door off the entry area, opened it and pulled out a leather biker jacket. He turned, tossed it to me and I caught it. “Put that on, peaches. I hate to break this to you but Hawk’s bein’ a dick. He won’t release your shit unless he sees you. My boys are in a standoff with his boys at his warehouse and to get your shit without unnecessary hassle which could mean anything from minor injuries to bloodshed to hospital stays, I need you to show your face.”

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