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Growing up around the Hawks Motorcycle Club, Maya and Texas have been in each other’s lives seemingly forever. Maya’s crush on her brother’s best friend has lasted almost as long.

Older and somewhat wiser, she knows the man who’s always had her heart will never see her as anything other than his friend’s sister. But try as she might, she can’t escape him. Everywhere she goes, Texas is there, and now it seems like his eyes are always on her.

What in the hell is she meant to do with this version of Texas?!

Recovering from an injury and feeling nothing but Maya’s calming presence, Texas finally sees the possibilities right in front of him. There’s nothing like a punch in the gut when his eyes are pried wide open.

Now he’s on a mission to prove to Maya his playboy ways are over and that he can be the man she needs and deserves. Life is too short not to take what really matters, and to him, that’s Maya.


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Texas

Lila Rose

Expected Release Date: 11 October 2022

Book Series: 

Lila Rose’s Hawks MC: Next Generation series continues next week with Texas and Maya’s story. Texas is on a mission to prove to Maya his playboy ways are over and that he can be the man she needs and deserves, and you can get a little taste of their story right here because I have the first three chapters for you.

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Chapter One

Maya

“Baby—”

“If you call me that again, I’m going to punch you in the balls, Texas.” I glared down at the injured man lying on the bed in a guest room at the Hawks MC compound. He’d not long gotten placed there, the room clearing of club members for me to work after an altercation down the street. Currently, he wasn’t feeling the pain I knew he was in, thanks to the strong medication I’d given him. Still, it didn’t mean I had to listen to him, or this new pet name—instead of little Marcus—while I worked. 

Earlier, when I’d been called to the scene after Texas had been jumped by a bunch of wannabe thugs, and before he got saved by a woman and her two dogs, I’d thought it would be an easy fix on the scene. 

It wasn’t. 

While I hadn’t been told all the details of what had happened—and I probably wouldn’t get all the information—what I did know was that the situation would be taken care of privately through the Hawks motorcycle club. This is even though Texas wasn’t yet a member, but he was a friend of the club, and his uncle was the president to the Caroline Springs Charter in Melbourne. Actually, we’d both been brought up around the club. My dad was the main boss over all the Hawks charters around Australia, but we resided in Ballarat. 

Having grown up in the club meant I wasn’t surprised when someone got hurt from “certain situations.” Only now I could do something to help. I’d been called in because I’d become their own personal doctor since I completed my Bachelor of Paramedic Science degree. Although, it was lucky I’d been available, since usually I worked odd hours and a lot of them. 

Texas’s irritating smirk brought me from my thoughts. He was probably thinking I secretly enjoyed his new pet name. Did he still think I had a crush on him? Annoyance and embarrassment burned under my skin. I hated the reminder of my crush and how I used to look at him with puppy-dog eyes. In fact, it made me want to press a little harder on his cracked ribs, which was what I did, drawing out a pained wheeze from him.

“You done that on purpose,” he accused, scowling.

“Yep.” I nodded. “So don’t be a jackass and call me endearing names.” I checked over his other side and found two more cracked ribs. “Besides, my boyfriend wouldn’t like it.”

“The prez know about that?” he clipped. 

That would be a hard no. A very hard hell no. Dad was as protective of me as a dog was to its bone. Actually, growing up surrounded by a bunch of men in an MC made my dating life pretty much nonexistent. Except, this time, I was lying my arse off. I didn’t have a boyfriend, but Texas didn’t need to know that. I lied because whenever I was around Texas, he either flustered me or annoyed me. I wished he’d just forget the crush I had on him or the fact my brother had pretty much begged Texas to teach me to kiss because I’d been scared of messing up when the time came.  

Nope, I couldn’t, wouldn’t think about that moment or how he’d said, “Not bad, little Marcus.” He’d ruffled my hair. “I’m sure someone will like it.” 

Pushing that night from my mind, I sighed. “No, Dad doesn’t know, and you won’t say anything.” If Talon knew, there was no doubt my imaginary boyfriend would have a background check and drive-bys from the MC brothers in seconds, and if I gave the name of some poor fool, their lives would change instantly. 

Texas hummed under his breath.

“Texas, I mean it. Do not say a word.”

His frown was replaced with a cocky smile. “What do I get in return?” 

I wanted to kick him. 

Why was he this flirty version of himself with me now? He used to dodge me every chance he got because I was only his friend’s little sister. 

Ignoring his question, I placed myself in doctor mode and treated him like I would any other patient. “Sit up. I’ll wrap your ribs and clean your cuts and scrapes, but then I have to get going.”

With my help, Texas sat. I could feel his gaze on me, but I didn’t meet it. I worked on his body. On his hard, tattooed body. 

Ignore it. 

Ignore those hard plains, those dips and bumps of his muscles. I pushed his looks aside and worked so I could get out of there. The sooner I wasn’t around him, the better. I hadn’t been honest with myself before. To me, my feelings back in the day weren’t just a crush. When I’d been a teen, I’d loved stupid Texas Monroe.

What I thought was love anyway. 

Now that I was older, I was smarter. 

At least, I liked to think I was, and realised it had been a young, foolish crush. The only reason Texas still got to me and my emotions was that over the years he’d grown from an attractive boy into a man who you wanted to make a body pillow out of. What helped was that he knew what he wanted in life and went for it. He’d just opened his second tattoo business in Ballarat, while his first was in Melbourne. He had skills. People from all over the country sought him out for his art to be tattooed on their bodies. 

He was smart, funny, cocky… and I had to learn to forget about him. He’d made it obvious I wasn’t his type with the women I’d seen him dating. They were everything I wasn’t. I was sure he went out of his way to date all women who had a different hair colour than my dark brown. They were all tall, slim, sweet, shy… unlike me. I got my strong will from my mother and attitude from my father. 

Sighing, I went about packing my things into the bag and stepped back from the bed. “It’ll take six weeks to heal those ribs. Please take it easy or you’ll make them worse.” Turning, I started for the door. 

“Maya,” Texas called softly. 

My heart liked it. My heart wanted me to face him, smile at him, and take care of him.

My heart was a fool and needed a punch.

“Yes?” I stared at the door. 

“Thank you.”

I paused for a moment. “Okay” was all I said instead of “You’re welcome.” I may have been acting petty, but I needed the distance between us for my heart’s sake because it was willing to cling to anything he gave me. 

Opening the door, I stepped out and closed it after me, forcing a smile for the man in front of me. “Hey, Dad.” 

“Kiddo,” he replied, opening his arms to me. I wrapped mine around his waist as he curled his around my shoulders. “How’d it go in there?”

“Good. He has four cracked ribs, several cuts, bruises, scrapes, but no concussion. Still, it’s probably best to keep an eye on him.”

Our hands dropped away, and I smiled up at him. Dad bopped my nose. “And how’re you doin’?” He was always worried about his kids. Even though I wasn’t his biological child, he’d claimed me. Which was good, because I’d claimed him right back. He was the best dad anyone could ask for. Though, he could tone down his protectiveness. His brows dipped. “You look stressed. Those fuckers workin’ you too hard?”

Rolling my eyes, I shook my head. “I’m fine. How are you feeling?”

He placed the back of his hand to my forehead. “Don’t stress about me, but are you sure you’re okay?”

I lightly slapped his hand away. “Stop worrying. Now, I’ve taped his ribs and cleaned his wounds. He’ll probably sleep for a while, since the meds have kicked in.”

He curled his arm around my shoulders and steered me down the hall. “Thanks for comin’.”

As I was about to answer, we heard, “Wanna say thanks also, Maya.” Dodge tipped his chin up to me as he walked our way. We stopped and he placed a kiss on my cheek. “The club would be lost without you.” He ruffled my hair like I was still ten years old and not twenty-one like I actually was.

“You know I’d do anything for you guys, even when you annoy me.”

Dodge and my dad, Talon, chuckled. “Gonna go see him. Catch up soon,” he told Dad. 

“Got it.” He nodded. 

Before Dodge left, he added, “Maya, come on down to Melbourne. Low will wanna spoil you for a while.”

“Someday soon.” I smiled. But there was no chance I’d visit, since Texas lived there.

Dodge winked and left to go into Texas’s room as Dad’s phone chimed with a message. He pulled it free, and his brows pinched as he read whatever it was. 

When his jaw clenched, I knew he wasn’t pleased. Slowly, he pulled his gaze back up to me and I swallowed thickly. “What?” 

He crossed his arms over his chest and stared me down. “Somethin’ you wanna tell your dear old dad?”

Scrunching my nose up in confusion, I shook my head. “No. Nothing.”

Dad lifted his phone and tapped it against his chin. “You sure?”

Since I hadn’t done anything bad recently, and the last time he yelled at me was when I took Swan to an adult store when she was underage and the sales assistant tried to sell us cocaine, I couldn’t think of anything that would upset him.

“I’m sure.”

“Then you wanna tell me who you’re datin’?” 

Anger gripped my belly. That arsehat mofo couldn’t even wait until the next day to inform my dad I was dating someone. Who did that dick think he was? 

Sighing, suddenly more drained than before, I shook my head. “Let me guess, was that Texas messaging you?”

His jaw clenched again. “If it was?”

“I only told him I was dating someone because… well, he was annoying me.”

“Did he ask you out?”

“Dad, no. He’s not into me—”

“Are you into him? I remember back in the day you were. Are you still holdin’ a candle for the guy?”

“No. I’m not for him or anyone. Besides, work takes up all of my time at the moment.” He didn’t look convinced. “Seriously, there’s nothing and never will be anything between Texas and me. You have nothing to worry about.” I gripped his arm and gave it a squeeze. “I really should go, though. I need to get some sleep before my next shift.”

He studied me for a beat longer and then nodded. “I’ll see you at home.”

Home. 

Some days, I still couldn’t believe I lived with my parents, but then I knew moving out would be more of a hassle than I needed right now. Only the need to get out soon was growing. I wanted to see what it would be like to have a life without my parents breathing down my neck. Not that I didn’t love them for caring. Sometimes it was a little overbearing. 

“Yeah, I’ll see you there.” Reaching up, I placed my hand on his shoulder and kissed his cheek before I made my way out of the compound. Once outside, that anger from before twisted inside of me again. Taking out my phone, I pulled up my contacts and was about to press in Texas’s number to shoot off an aggressive text but stopped. 

It wouldn’t be worth it. 

There was also a chance that if I gave Texas more of my time, even with texting, my feelings for the man could sprout and grow once again. I couldn’t let that happen. Years ago, I’d beaten them to a pulp and shoved them way down into the pit of my stomach. They weren’t to surface again. 

I was older now, somewhat wiser, and I knew Texas wasn’t for me. 

So no, I wouldn’t text him and spiral down that hole again. 

There was someone out there for me. I just had to find him. 

After I’d found my own place where I could bring someone home without having my dad standing over whoever it was, ready to rip out his throat if he said or did something wrong. 

Yes, it would be best to wait.

Unless someone caught my attention beforehand. Someone I could laugh with. Someone I could trust and know they were genuinely interested in me.

By the time I got home, Mum was standing in the kitchen in her dressing gown, sipping a cup of coffee. 

She smiled warmly. “You were out early.”

“Had to help Dad with something.” I moved over to give her a hug. 

She cupped my cheek when I pulled back. “You look tired, sweetie.”

A yawn overtook me, and she laughed. Nodding, I grabbed a granola bar. “I am. I’m going to head to bed. Get a nap in before my evening shift. Leave a note if you’re not around when I wake and let me know if you need me to do anything.”

Mum shook her head. “You already do enough. Drake and Ruby could do more around here. Which reminds me, I need to wake them up for school. Have a good sleep, sweetie.”

“Thanks, Mum. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Her lips thinned, but she forced a tight smile and nodded. Mum hated the long and different hours I did, but it came with the job. A job I enjoyed because I could help people in need. Not all of the calls had good endings, but so far, I’d managed to learn to deal with the bad situations. Though, from what I’d been told from my colleagues, apparently what I’d seen to date was mild compared to some of the nightmare ones.

Finishing the granola bar, I walked into my bedroom and threw the wrapper on the top of my dresser drawers. I grabbed some clean pyjamas and went into the bathroom, which thankfully was adjoined to my room or else I’d have to fight Drake and Ruby for usage time.

Turning on the shower, I stripped out of my clothes and adjusted the water before stepping under the spray. As soon as I closed my eyes, my mind took me to Texas. The image of when I’d seen him on the couch with blood coating him was stuck in my head, causing my heart to drop, like it did at the house. 

The thought of Texas hurt gripped my stomach violently once more. Only I wasn’t supposed to care. I wasn’t supposed to worry if I’d left him too soon.

Sighing, I shook my head, picked up the shampoo, and pushed thoughts of him from my mind.


Chapter Two

Three Months Later

Maya

“I’m surprised you’re here with how much you’ve been working.” 

I turned at Josie’s words and smiled. In the next second, we were hugging. Officially, Josie was my aunt. She’d been adopted by my grandparents when I was young, but now she was more than an aunt. As I grew older, she became a best friend. 

“Question is, what are you doing here?” I asked. Josie had moved to Melbourne when I was about eight and now lived happily with her two husbands and twins. 

She shrugged. “Missed everyone. I was also sick of FaceTiming and calls when I wanted to really see how Talon was going.”

My stomach tightened and a wave of sadness swept over me. Dad had been shot a month ago by Cody’s girlfriend’s father. He took a bullet to save Cody, and we’d nearly lost him. It was a time I never wanted to relive again. Mum had been a mess and had only started to leave his side longer than just getting my brother and sister to and from school. 

My throat clogging with emotions, I cleared it. “I’ve been keeping an eye on him. He’s getting there.” I gave her a watery smile. “Though, he thinks he’s ready to be up and running like normal. I give him another month before Mum lets him get back to work.” 

Josie reached out and squeezed my hand. “It’s lucky he sees how wrecked Zara was and is allowing all the mothering.” 

Nodding, I shifted to the side to let Killer and Ivy slip by before I nodded towards the back door. I needed sunshine to warm me. To help fight away the cold of the memory of Dad getting hurt. As we made our way out, I said, “That’s true. God only knows he could do with the rest, though. Anyway, where are your husbands?”

She laughed, stepping outside into the sunny afternoon. “Probably following the twins around to make sure they don’t get into too much trouble.”

Laughing with her, I spotted Swan, Rommy, and Clary approaching, and smiled. We ended up talking about things we’d been up to lately, and I was about to ask Rommy something when I happened to glance to the side and stilled when I saw Texas standing near the back door with my brother Cody, Ruin, and Wolf, who was Ruin’s partner. 

He was talking, yet his gaze was on me.

Only I didn’t understand that look. I’d never seen that look in his eyes before. I wouldn’t even know how to describe it. Soft, yet something else.

Whatever it was, it sent my stomach a flutter, so I quickly glanced away and swallowed. 

“Are you okay?” Swan asked softly. She always spoke quietly.

“Yeah, yes. I’m fine.” An awkward laugh followed. “Just spaced for a second.”

“You won’t believe what I saw the other day,” Rommy said. Our friend was always full of stories and fun. She wore her heart on her sleeve, and everyone couldn’t help but want to protect her. 

“What’s that?” Clary asked.

She leaned in. “Porn.”

My eyes widened, and mine weren’t the only ones. 

Rommy shrugged. “It was surprising. I’ve seen books with naked ladies in them from when Texas hid his under his mattress. But what I don’t get, and wanted to know, was do women really like their hair being pulled? Or like having a guy’s shlong shoved down their throat?” Her head tilted to the side. “I mean, she acted like she liked it, but her eyes watered a lot and there was so much snot. Is that something you lot like?”

Swan turned beet red. She hadn’t done anything with anyone and probably hadn’t even watched porn. At least I’d had one experience. Even though it was in the back of a car and awkward as hell. 

“Um…,” Clary mumbled, glancing around wildly.

“Well…,” Josie started. “I guess, ah, maybe sometimes.”

Rommy hummed under her breath and nodded.

“Rommy, what you see in porn isn’t like real life, usually. A person can like a little hair pulling and such, but just remember porn stars get paid for what they do, which is act.”

Clary pointed at me. “Yes, they’re actors. When the time comes, you’ll find things you like and dislike. Just be sure you’re honest with your partner.”

Rommy smiled. “Okay.” She saw something that caught her attention. “Oooh, brownies.” Then she was gone, skipping off to get her treat. 

“She’s such a sweet soul,” Josie said.

I snorted. “Sweet soul who asks about porn. I never thought I’d hear that come out of her mouth.” 

Josie, Clary, and I looked at one another and started laughing. Swan’s blush spread down to her neck, and she covered her warm cheeks with her hands. 

My laugh tapered off when I could feel eyes on me. I chanced a glance over and saw Texas looking. I glared. The arsehole grinned. 

* * * *

Texas was freaking me out. He happened to turn up at places where I was. I hadn’t thought he was in Ballarat still, but there he was. In the last few weeks, I’d seen him show up at a café, the supermarket, and the compound. Okay, so that one could easily happen. But what was weirder was how he’d try and start a conversation with me. Which shot nerves right to my belly. Every time I’d quickly make something up and run the other way. 

I couldn’t handle his warm smiles. They caused my blood to pump through my body too fast, making me near dizzy. 

He’d never paid attention to me before.

Then why now?

Was it to mess with me?

Shaking my head, I walked into Cody’s Harley store and smiled at Cowboy. “Cody in?” I pointed up at where Cody’s apartment was above the store. 

He nodded but then shrugged. “I was sure I saw Coyote not long ago, but his woman was with him.”

Well, dang it. 

“I can walk in first.”

I spun at the voice, my smile settling into a scowl at Texas who stood just behind me.

He grinned. “So you don’t have to wash your pretty eyes out in case you see your brother in a position you don’t want to.”

I snorted, crossing my arms over my chest. “Yeah, I’m sure you’d love to see Channa in a— You know what, never mind.” With heat in my cheeks, I faced Cowboy. I couldn’t believe I’d burst out with that. It didn’t matter that I thought Texas had been flirting with Channa the night he’d got injured. It wasn’t like she saw anyone else now she was with my brother. He was her world. That was plain to see. “Tell my brother to call me.”

Cowboy looked from me to Texas and back again before he nodded slowly. 

I went to pass Texas, but he grabbed my upper arm. “Why wait? Scared to be around me, Maya?”

How dare he say my name in that low, rough tone. 

If I could grip my heart and shake some sense into it, I would. 

It was hard to admit my little crush was still there. Down deep. Way down deep. It was why I didn’t want to be around him more than necessary. Far too easily, I could let it spark again. 

Knowing what kind of man Texas was made it possible for feelings to get attached. 

Other than the fact he was a flirt, he was success-driven and kind. He’d help out anyone if he could. He was careful and sweet to not only his sister, but Dodge and Low, his guardians. 

Still, I was and would always be just his friend’s sister. Someone he’d known from a young age. Someone who used to follow him around. Someone who had her brother make him kiss me. 

He wouldn’t see me as anything more. 

But then why was he popping up everywhere? 

Why was he flirting with me with those smiles? 

Gah, shut up, mind. 

Tipping my chin up, I glared at him. “Scared? No.”

Mirth filled his gaze. “Good.” He used my arm to turn me. “Then you’ll come up with me.”

“Wait, I didn’t….” He kept dragging me. “I have to be somewhere.”

He glanced over his shoulder, his gaze reeling me in. “It can wait.”

“It can’t. I have to…” What? Think of something, dammit. “Clean my car before I go to bed and start my shift.”

“Uh-huh.” He stopped at the bottom of the stairs that led up to Cody’s place and faced me, dropping my arm. “How is work?”

How is work? Why was he asking?

“Good.” I nodded. “How’s the ribs?” His cuts and bruises had all healed, at least. 

He patted his left side. “All better. I had a good doctor.” I rolled my eyes. “How’s the boyfriend?”

“Boyfriend?” I blurted, and then it dawned on me. I’d told him I was seeing someone. “Oh, ah, he’s good.” I thumbed over my shoulder. “Anyway, I better go.” I took a step back.

“He’s good?”

“Yep.” I nodded.

“I noticed he wasn’t at the hospital when shit went down with the prez.”

Why had he noted that?

“He’d been out of town. He travels a lot.” I took another step back.

Texas cocked a brow. “Really?”

“Yes. Anyway, tell—”

“Maya,” Cody called from the top of the staircase. 

Shit. I’d nearly made my escape.

Cody led Channa down with his hand in hers. He noticed Texas standing there. “Hey, brother.” He’d always called Texas brother, even when Texas wasn’t a member of the club. They had a close bond, one they also shared with Ruin.

“Hey,” Texas replied and turned a grin on Channa. “Darlin’.”

The taste on my tongue soured. I ignored it. 

“Texas.” Channa smiled. “Hi, Maya.”

“Hey, girl.” I’d come to care for Channa a lot. She was perfect for my brother, and it was good to see him as happy as Mum was with Dad. 

“Maya was too scared to come up in case you two were gettin’ it on,” Texas teased.

I shoved him and shouted, “I was not.”

Channa blushed, while the other two idiots chuckled. 

As I scratched the side of my cheek with my middle finger, I grumbled under my breath that I was going to kill Texas. 

What nailed his coffin shut was when he reached out and ruffled my hair.

Like I was still his friend’s sister.

Like I was still a kid. 

I brushed his hand away. “Cody—” I pointed at him. “—I’ll call you later. Channa—” I smiled at her. “—I’ll be at the bakery later in the week.” Looking at Texas, I pulled my upper lip high. “Asshole, see you never.”

“Maya—”

My hand shot up in his face. Up because the dick was tall. “Nope.” I quickly rushed out of there with a tightness in my chest. 

Get it through your head, Maya. He will only ever see you as a kid. 


Chapter Three

Two Months Later

Maya

Weariness tugged at my mind and body after I woke to my alarm. It was going to be one of those rough days when my head already thumped with a headache. Groaning, I sat up in bed and twisted to place my feet on the floor. 

Of course, the first thing that swept through my mind was how I hadn’t seen Texas in a couple of days. Yet before that, it had been the same. He’d somehow managed to be around wherever I was and tried for a conversation. Every time, I made excuses and bolted. 

Sighing, I scrubbed a hand over my face. I really had to stop dodging him. It wasn’t his fault a part of me had clung to him and wanted more.

That damn first kiss had sealed the deal with my heart.

Well, it would just have to get over it because in a few days I was going on another date with Samuel. He happened to be one of Drake’s teachers who I’d met one time at school when I had the chance to pick up my brother and sister. We’d clicked that day, and our words had quickly turned flirty. I’d enjoyed our first two dates. He made me smile and laugh. He was easy to talk to. 

The sexual energy would grow. 

It would.

It had to. 

The date coming up would be our third, and I planned to go further than kissing and fondling to see if the small connection we’d been building over texts, calls, and a couple of dates could ignite into something more than surface interest. 

Samuel was a nice guy.

He also didn’t run when Dad opened the front door half naked and pointed at his wound, stating, “I got shot saving my son. Imagine the lengths I’d go to keep my daughter protected.”

Samuel had looked a little scared, especially when Dad then pulled a hunting knife from the back pocket of his pants and waved Samuel in. 

Thankfully, I’d come running from the hallway and ushered him back outside. I could see he regretted coming to the door, especially when I’d originally told him I’d meet him at the car. I’d thought that would be the last date, but by the end of the second one, he’d asked me out again. 

I was looking forward to it. 

I was. 

Sort of.

I thought I was. 

God, I didn’t know. 

I liked Samuel. I just wasn’t sure if I saw something more than friendship with him. Maybe it would be best to cancel over text. No, that’d be rude. I’d meet with him and tell him I was messed up in the head and heart. 

Standing from the bed, I made my way into the bathroom and took a refreshing shower that helped my headache a little. Once dressed in my work uniform, I snuck out of my room so I wouldn’t wake anyone and went down into the kitchen. Since it was nearing midnight, it was still dark outside. I turned on the light above the stove to brighten the room enough to see. I pulled the refrigerator door open to grab something I could snack on until I bought a big breakfast somewhere on our break. But when I saw a packed lunch with my name on it, I smiled. Mum must have noticed I stopped making my own lunches when time got away from me, especially since I preferred to get an extra ten minutes of sleep than be prepared for the day. It made me sound lazy, but my body was revolting at my messed-up sleep patterns. 

After driving in a daze, which wasn’t good, I dragged my feet into the depot. 

“Maya.”

I turned towards the doorway off to my left when I heard a familiar voice. Smiling, I made my way over to Easton. 

“What are you doing here?” I asked as we hugged. 

“They’re low-staffed and called in a couple of us Melton people. How have you been? Are you getting used to the hours?”

I shot my brows high. “Do you ever really get used to the hours?”

Easton laughed and shook his head. “No.”

“How’s Parker and Lan going?”

It was cute how his face lit up at the same time that he blushed. “They’re good. We’ll be at the next family barbeque at the compound, since we missed the last one.”

“Great. You don’t want Mum and her posse coming after you three.”

He chuckled, shaking his head. “No, we really don’t.”

“Maya, come on,” John called from our vehicle with a wave. 

Reaching out, I pressed a hand to Easton’s elbow. “I’ll see you soon.”

“You will, and we can talk more about work.”

Nodding, I gave him a grateful smile. “I’d like that.” 

By the time John and I were on the road, I knew it was going to be a quiet night. There hadn’t been a call in over an hour. It was great for everyone else, but the quiet only made things harder for me to stay awake. 

“Favourite food?” John asked as he drove.

I laughed. “Haven’t you already asked me that?”

“Have I? Shit, I can’t remember.”

“It’s the old age getting to you.”

His glare only made me laugh louder. “Shut it, girlie.”

Reaching out, I patted his arm. “It’s all right, John. Aging happens to everyone.”

“You make me sound like I’m on my last legs. I’m not, smartarse.”

“Well, this smartarse could really go for a nice hot coffee to keep her awake.”

John snorted. “See how awake this old man is, girlie? I could run rings around your tired form.”

Rolling my eyes, I couldn’t help but smile. I loved working with John. He reminded me of a mixture of Dad’s club brothers. He also never minded if I gave him hell with the teasing. We’d gotten along from the first day, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better partner. 

When he pulled into a twenty-four-hour petrol station where we knew the coffee didn’t taste like arse, I smiled over at him.

As he stopped the vehicle, I undid my seat belt. “You want the usual?”

“You know it.” He took out the romance novel that he’d been reading for a while and opened it. His wife, Moreen, loved to read, and he decided to check out some of her choices. He hadn’t been a fan of the polyamorous romances but didn’t mind romantic comedies. I thought it was cute how he read them so they’d have something to talk about. 

I’d just grabbed the coffees and John’s donut when my phone rang. I glanced outside and saw John waving wildly. 

We’d gotten a call. Finally.

I quickly threw the cash onto the counter and ran outside. John took the coffees and placed them in the holders while I got strapped in. We took off with the sirens blaring. 

“What’s the call?”

“A bystander at a party said a guy collapsed. He’s breathing but not responding.”

“How far out?” I asked, taking a sip of my coffee. 

“Ten.”

I’d managed to get my coffee down by the time we stopped in front of a house that looked like it could use a makeover. There was music pumping from inside and lights flashing. A group of people stood in the front yard. 

John and I grabbed our bags and made our way up the path. My partner opened the gate and called out, “Paramedics. We got a call about someone unconscious?”

“Yeah, over here.” A guy pointed down at the ground on the other side of a huge tree, and then he took a sip of whatever was in his cup. Once around the tree, I realised the people outside were all gathered around a prone form on the grass, staring and talking. “He’s probably just drunk,” the same guy said. 

“Step back,” John ordered. They all did, just not far. 

“Move back more, please,” I tried. They took another step and watched us work like we were a new television show. 

John tapped on the unconscious guy’s cheek, and surprisingly, he opened his eyes. He smiled. “Oh, hey,” he called and tried to sit up.

We pushed at his shoulders to keep him in place. 

“Please don’t move until we look you over. Do you know why you’re on the ground?” John asked.

The guy laughed. “Yeah.”

I flicked the penlight over his eyes. Glassy, bloodshot, and wide pupils. Could be alcohol or drugs or a mixture of both. I glanced at John, and he nodded in understanding. “What’s your name?” 

“Phil.” He looked up at me. “Man, I just need something…. I’ll be fine.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Phil. You’ve had a few drinks, right?” 

He chuckled. “A few, yeah.”

“Maya, he has a cut on his leg that looks infected.”

I nodded. “Phil, how long have you had a sore leg?”

He waved a hand around. “Don’t feel it. It’s not sore.” He pushed at my hands. “Going home. Just tired.”

“Phil, how about you take a trip with us first? You can have a sleep in the vehicle while we take a look at your leg?”

“Nah.” He went to sit up and groaned, lying back down. “Feel dizzy.”

“Okay, Phil, just relax. John will go get the gurney, and we’ll wait here.” 

“You sure?” John asked as he glanced around at the other people. 

So far, the onlookers had stayed back, chatting and laughing among themselves. I couldn’t see them being a problem. “Yes.” Besides, I knew John wouldn’t be long. 

I patted Phil’s shoulder. “Just rest there for a moment.” Glancing at the others, I asked, “Does anyone know Phil?” While I listened to the answers, I checked over Phil’s vitals.

“Never seen him before.”

“Nope.”

“Didn’t he come with Brad?”

“I don’t think so. He showed up with Gail.”

It seemed no one knew Phil. Why was he at a party where no one knew him? It didn’t make sense unless someone inside knew him. Right then, I guessed it didn’t matter. We had a patient to treat, and that was what we’d do. 

John came back, and together we got Phil onto the gurney and into the back of the ambulance. 

Phil groaned and gripped his stomach. “It hurts.”

I stopped checking over things and pressed down on his stomach. Phil moaned when I touched his right side. When John got into the driver seat, I called out, “John, maybe appendicitis.” 

“All right. We’re heading to the right place to get that fixed.”

Phil groaned again as John started to drive.

“Phil, are you hurting anywhere else?” 

“Head… just, just give me something to take the pain away.”

I was already reaching for the pain relief when I paused. “Let me check your stomach once again. Appendix is on the left, so tell me if it hurts.” I pressed on his left and he groaned. Phil was lying. Thinning my lips, I caught John’s gaze in the mirror. 

“Give me something,” Phil ordered. “Anything. Just make it go away.”

“How much have you had to drink?” I asked.

“Doesn’t matter. Give me drugs.” He glared up at me.

Just as I looked at the restraints, Phil reacted. He punched the side of my head, and I instantly saw stars. The vehicle swerved, and I heard John cry out. 

“Pull over, pull over,” Phil ordered. 

I blinked repeatedly and wondered why John was moaning. When my focus cleared, I saw Phil raise a knife and stab it down into John.

“No!” I cried and lunged for Phil. He turned and kicked out, but I managed to get my arms around his waist and take him to the floor. 

“—under attack. Help,” I heard John say and prayed the call went through. 

A sharp pain to my lower back had me sucking in a breath and my grip on Phil loosening. My head was jerked backwards by my hair, and he pressed the knife under my throat. 

His stale breath washed over my face when he said, “Get me all the drugs you have in here.”

“O-Okay,” I whispered. Panic clutched at my heart. My body shook, my pulse feeling like it wanted to leap from my skin. Calm down and think, Maya, think. “J-Just let me check on John and—” I whimpered as he slid the sharp edge down the side of my face. 

“Now, bitch. I want it all now.” He shoved me back and pointed his knife down at me. “Move.” 

Nodding, I got to my knees and went to the locked drawers. I grabbed a garbage bag to lay on the floor between my knees. My hands shook and I fumbled with the keys as I tried to unlock the first one. I needed to go slow. John called for help. They’d be here soon. Right?

John.

A sob caught in my throat as tears welled. 

Please be all right. Please. 

I cried out when I was suddenly knocked forward from a hit to the back. “Hurry up, bitch.”

My head throbbed, but I managed a nod, biting my bottom lip to try and control myself. I couldn’t lose it. I couldn’t break. John needed me. I had to help him. 

“M-Maya,” I heard from John. He sounded weak, tired.

“I-I’m okay,” I called. I didn’t want him to worry, to try and help me. “I’m all right.” I heard him shifting up front and then he groaned. “John, please, you just stay there.” I grabbed whatever my hands landed on and dumped them into the bag. Drugs weren’t worth getting us killed over. I had to get Phil out of here as soon as— 

Sirens sounded in the distance. I froze for a second and glanced at Phil. 

“Fuck,” he spat. “They heard his call. Fuck.” He turned John’s way.

“No,” I cried. When Phil faced me again, I held the bag out. “Take it and go. Please.”

His jaw clenched. “Open the doors and get out.”

Get out?

He wanted me to get out with him?

But I needed to see to John. It didn’t matter that my head and body throbbed. I needed to help John, and I couldn’t do that if I got out with him. What would he do to me if I did? Would he let me go? 

I shook my head, tears welling. “Please, take it and go so I can help John. Please, Phil.”

His jaw clenched over and over. The sirens grew louder. He thrust the knife my way and nodded to the doors. “Open the fucking doors and get out.” 

I had no choice.

I had to do it.

I couldn’t look away from the knife. If I could get it away from him, the situation could turn in our favour. 

Did I dare?

Was it the right choice?

When Phil kicked out at me, I lunged for his knife-wielding hand and grabbed his wrist. He held on and gripped my hair, trying to pry me off him. My hair felt like it was torn from my head when I leaned in and bit him. 

His hand opened and the knife dropped. I managed to kick it under the bed before his hand wrapped around my throat and he threw me into the doors. 

My mouth opened and closed, trying to draw in a breath. My eyes watered as I gasped, coughed, and eventually sucked in the air. 

But Phil was there. Right in front of me again. The doors opened behind me. I tumbled out onto the ground with a cry and groaned. 

Sirens sounded close. Engines revved. Tyres screeched. People shouted.

I was picked up and held against a chest. A sharp needle point stabbed against my neck. 

Help had arrived, but was it too late? 

Copyright © 2022 by Lila Rose.

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