November 29, 2018

COLLATERAL (Desert Eagles MC #1) By Alexandra Ayers + Chapter 1 & Giveaway!

About the Book:

Title: COLLATERAL (Desert Eagles MC #1)
Author: Alexandra Ayers
Pub. Date: November 9, 2018
Publisher: Afterlife Royalty
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 275
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, iBooks

In the battle of love and loyalty, only one can win.

As Vice President of The Desert Eagles motorcycle club, Derek Pearce is ordered to do business with the ruthless organizer of a dog-fighting ring. But Derek faces another challenge: ten years after turning down his marriage proposal, his childhood love, Brielle Andrews, returns home to Las Vegas. Brielle has devoted her life to healing and saving animals from harm, including, of course, dogs used for fighting.

Derek reconnects with Brielle after rescuing a dog severely injured in a fight and rushing it to the nearest animal hospital, where he finds Brielle as the lead veterinarian. Sparks fly, but turn acrid when she becomes suspicious about how the dog was hurt. Derek can’t risk telling her the truth for fear of exposing the club to an investigation. Out of options, Brielle enlists her father, a federal judge, for help.

When new clues about The Desert Eagles MC come to light, will Brielle’s loyalty to her father and insistence on unearthing the truth about the fighting ring threaten her newly rekindled romance with Derek? Will Derek do whatever is necessary to save their love—and their lives—even if it means exposing the club?


A crowd of rowdy men screaming obscenities and placing bets filled the large room. Their shouts came in waves as they threw themselves into the action, most likely to counter their sobriety from the lack of alcohol at the fight. In the center of the crowd was a ring with two skeletal pit bulls trapped inside. A brown dog was bleeding from its nose, a smear of red staining its white chest, and circling a smaller, grey dog in an attempt to corner it.

“Get him!”

“Bite his f**king ankle!”

“Tear his ear off!”

The men yelled, trying to bait the dogs. The air conditioning was on full blast, whistling through the vents, but Derek could still feel the heat of the barbaric spectators in the room.

“Is this what the fuck we’re doing now? Making dogs fight?” Derek asked with a twisted face. He took a drag from his cigarette. I should ditch this shit hole and go meet Crystal at the bar.

“Hey!” Max frowned at Derek. “Andre needs our money, and that’s what we’re giving him. It’s fucking business, simple as that.”

“The Haitians got held up in customs, but they’ll be here tomorrow. They were supposed to collect one million from us.” Derek pressed his lips together. All the hard work he’d put in to make that deal, and they got ran up by the fucking feds.

“Yeah, well, everyone’s deals are getting fucked up. We need to deliver to the Russians too.” Max lowered his voice. “When the printer is fixed, which better be today if AJ doesn’t want me to strangle him, I’ll cut the bills and deliver them to Andre.”

Although Derek would never admit it, he wanted to impress the other members of the club with this deal. Eliminate any doubts that he’d earned his place as vice president of the Desert Eagles. He shook his head as the brown dog snapped at the grey one. “This shit is fucking sick. What happens to the loser?”

“Don’t turn into a vegan pussy on me, okay?” Max pulled a cigarette from his kutte. “Lucky for us, Carson came to us as a vouch for Andre and his dog business, which apparently is very lucrative. Besides, the piece-of-shit owner wants the cash to buy food and flea treatment for them. Now you can feel good at your next PETA meeting.”

Derek rolled his eyes at his uncle and then blew a puff of smoke at his face.

“Asshole.” Max snatched the lighter from Derek’s hand. “I did a shit job raising you.”

“It’s not your fault. Twenty-two is pretty young to have an eight-year-old dumped on you.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Max smiled. The faint lines of age on his hazel eyes. “Your piece-of-shit father dumped you on me. It wasn’t your doing.”

Derek shot up an eyebrow. The crowd got louder, and the men surrounding the ring started banging on the edge of it. Derek turned to his uncle, who shrugged and brought the lighter to his cigarette. Max took a deep breath and exhaled the smoke. “I’m getting too old for this shit. Fucking forty-two next week.”

Derek took another drag. “Twenty-eight ain’t so young either, you know.”

Max scoffed and said that one day Derek would pray to be twenty-eight again.

Derek put out his cigarette and pushed through the crowd to get to the edge of the ring. What he saw almost made him throw up. He had done some pretty fucked-up shit since patching in with the club ten years ago, but all of those assholes had it coming. These were just dogs who had been starved and tortured so Las Vegas locals didn’t have to put up with tourists at the casinos.

“This is the best fight I’ve seen in months,” said a short, stocky, bald man who was holding his bet receipts in one hand and a cigar in the other. “Andre usually doesn’t have them fight for this long, but he’s trying to impress some local breeders.”

The shouts from the crowd were not helping Derek’s stomach. If the volume was too much for him, he wondered how it must feel to the dogs. They were literally fighting for their lives and had to stay focused despite the ridiculous volume.

“Yes!” the short, bald man screamed.

The brown dog chewed on the grey dog’s hind leg, working to rip it off. The grey dog cried out but managed to whip around and bite the brown dog’s stomach. While its teeth were lodged in flesh, the grey dog seized the moment, shaking its head back and forth and tearing skin. Out spilled a massive amount of blood from the brown dog’s abdomen. A piercing yelp silenced the crowd. Ribs protruded from the brown dog’s side as it lay on the ground, whimpering.

“Jesus fucking Christ.” Derek ran his hand through his dark hair. He wasn’t some deep animal lover—hell, he had veal last night—but there was a clear difference between questionable meat and making dogs fight to the death. Even his hell-bound ass knew that.

“Shut the fuck up, you bastards!” a man’s voice echoed from the edge of the crowd. “Shut the fuck up!” The men moved out of his way, clearing a path. It got quiet as a tall, thin man with long blond hair came forward. This must be the piece-of-shit owner. The blond man reached the ring, hopped over the edge, and walked toward the dogs. The brown dog was twitching in a puddle of its own blood and intestines. Dead or alive, Derek couldn’t tell from his angle.

“Looks like we have a winner!” The blond man grinned at the spectators. The grey dog was in a corner, blood-soaked and panting. “Albeit by default, since the ragged animal can’t even walk anymore.” He had a hint of irritation in his voice. “Now, if you all line up like civilized gentlemen, my lovely ladies will pay out the winners of tonight’s fight.” Derek saw three tables set up at the edge of the room, each with a pretty girl sitting behind it. There was a cash box on top of each table, and next to every girl was a thick-muscled man in a suit. The goons were holding guns, presumably to keep the spectators from getting any bright ideas. One of the girls caught Derek’s eye and waved at him.

Before he could wink at her, a familiar clicking sound caused him to turn toward the ring. The blond man put a clip in his semiautomatic before delivering a swift kick to the brown dog. When the dog didn’t move, he headed toward the grey dog, still bleeding from its damaged leg. He lifted the gun and pulled back the slide.

“Hey, hey, hey!” Derek said, hopping into the ring. “Hold up, man!”

“The fuck do you want?” He gave Derek an aggravated look while lowering the gun.

Derek approached him with a slight smile. “Hey. My name is Derek. I enjoyed the show and was hoping that I could buy the winning dog from you.” The blond man looked at him like he was growing an extra head. “Well, Derek, I’m Andre, and I’m not sure if you noticed, but this weak piece of shit can’t even walk, let alone fight, so he’s no use to you.” Andre raised his gun again.

“I’ll give you $500 for it,” Derek offered.

Andre looked at him and then back at the dog. “Are you one of those vegan pussies?” he asked, returning his gaze to Derek.

Derek took a deep breath to control his anger. He was starting to lose his patience with this douchebag, and the dog was running out of time. “No, I just want the dog. Are you gonna take the money or not?”

Andre stared him down a little longer before rolling his eyes and agreeing. Derek shoved the bills into Andre’s hand and ran to scoop up the injured animal. There was a lot of blood, and a small peek of bone was visible in the dog’s ankle. “Does he have a name?” Derek called to Andre while he headed for the door.

“Dog.” Andre laughed and shook his head. “You don’t give names to beasts on death row.”

Derek’s face turned crimson. He whipped back around and shifted the dog so he could reach for the gun tucked into his pants. “Listen, you psychotic piece of—”

“Everything all right here?” Max gripped Derek’s shoulder. “Looks like you’ve got a mess on your hands.” Max reached in his pocket, handed him the car keys, and leaned in close to Derek’s ear, whispering, “Why don’t I talk business while you see if you can help Fido make it through the night?”

Derek nodded and, after giving Andre a final look, hopped out of the ring and headed for the exit.

“Andre, my man!” He heard Max laughing and was grateful for his intrusion. If he hadn’t intervened, Derek would have slaughtered that psycho in front of at least seventy witnesses. He pushed open the door and was blinded by the sun. Thankfully, Max had decided to drive the truck today, which gave the dog plenty of room in the back seat. As Derek opened the door, he accidentally tapped the dog’s injured leg, causing it to cry out.

“Sorry, Rocky,” he said, laying the dog down in the back seat. “Does that sound all right? Rocky? We’ll be at the vet soon enough, boy. Hang on.” He held his phone and searched for the nearest vet. A wave of relief washed over him when it said it was a ten-minute drive.

“Hang on, Rocky,” he said, buckling his seat belt and smiling in the rear-view mirror. “Gonna get you patched up and eating Kibbles ’n Bits in no time.”


“I need some help over here!” Derek yelled as he walked into the veterinary hospital with Rocky in his arms. A pretty blond woman behind a desk glanced up at him, and her expression shifted to a look of horror.

“Oh my God! Stay right there! I’ll go get help!” she exclaimed, running toward a door that said “Employees Only.”

Derek looked around. This place was nice. The reception area was large with a few couches and a couple of glass tables with magazines on them. On one side of the room, a marble counter attached to a glass-sealed fireplace inside of a protruding wall. Large canvas prints of animals decorated the walls, and two small chandeliers hung above the front desk. The marble floor was so clean you could almost use it as a mirror, which made Derek grimace thinking of how awful he must look. He looked down at Rocky, whose breathing was starting to slow. Just as he was getting ready to start yelling for help again, the blond nurse came out, pushing a stretcher, along with a tall Asian man who was wearing scrubs.

“Would you place them here?” the Asian man placed his hand on top of the stretcher.

Derek looked at him with caution.

“My name is Allison Murphy,” the nurse said. “We’re going to do emergency surgery. We called our vet tech, who should be here shortly.”

“There’s no one here but you two?” Derek gave them a blank stare before setting Rocky on the stretcher.

“Sir, I explained the situation to Dr. Andrews, and she said she will be here in ten minutes. Allison and I are going to prep your dog in the meantime.” The Asian man spoke with restraint. “My name is Michael Yu; I’m the assistant vet tech.”

“Derek.” He wanted to apologize for being rude, but he just shoved his bloodied hands in his pockets.

“We’re running out of time. This dog has lost a significant amount of blood.” Michael pushed the stretcher toward the door. “Allison will be back when Dr. Andrews gets here and have you sign some forms.”

“His name is Rocky,” he called out as Allison let the door close behind them. Derek gave a lingering look at the door; then he let out a deep sigh and turned to walk outside. If he were smart, he would bail and leave them with the mess, but if Rocky didn’t make it, Derek wanted to at least give him a proper burial. Derek pulled out his cigarettes. The poor mutt deserves at least that.

Sitting outside on a bench facing the empty street, Derek thought about Dr. Andrews. What kind of jackass leaves a vet clinic with no doctor? Rocky could die all because that jackass couldn’t be bothered to bring a lunch. Derek knew he was being irrational, but since he wasn’t able to beat the shit out of Andre, he needed someone to blame for Rocky’s potential demise. He pulled out another cigarette and looked around, realizing there were plenty of food places within walking distance. Maybe the doctor was in one of those restaurants and would arrive as soon as they promised.

Fuck, I hope Rocky pulls through. I do not want to dig any graves in this goddamn heat. No matter how small they might be. I could see the goddamn bone. There’s no way I’m getting out of this shit without a dead body. Derek had been around his fair share of corpses, but that was business. This was just sick cruelty. If he ever saw Andre again, there would be a fucking murder. He took a long drag of his cigarette and wondered how long he’d been chain-smoking. He looked at his phone: two missed calls from Max. Derek was definitely going to be in some shit if anything went wrong and he wasn’t there for backup.

The whoosh of sliding doors made him turn to see the cute blond nurse walking toward him. She crossed her arms over her chest. “I want you to know that Rocky is stable.” Her voice shook, and her eyes started to well up with tears. She was scanning his face, for what he didn’t know. Derek blanched at the amount of blood covering her shirt.

“What happened? Is he going to be okay?” He gazed into her grey eyes with a worried expression on his face.

“Yes,” she said. But before Derek could become happy, she added, “Rocky is in an induced coma. Her leg isn’t as bad as we thought, but the blood loss is most concerning. She lost such an extreme amount that Dr. Andrews said she might need to be under for the next day or two so her body can fully repair itself without her using excess energy.”

Derek took a deep breath and really looked at her now. She was shorter than him, at about five feet nine inches, with a short haircut—a “bob” was what Max’s wife, Amy, called it. He stepped closer to her, not caring if the cigarette smell bothered her since he’d never heard any complaints from women before.

“What’s your name, pretty girl?” Derek was no stranger to attracting women; in fact, he did it at least five times a week. The club girls didn’t try to hide their interest. The tattoos covering his arms and neck, the leather kutte, his deep blue eyes and slicked-back undercut held some appeal. Of course, being six foot three with a body that lived at the gym didn’t hurt either. Yes, he had his choice of women. There was only one he couldn’t have, and he was better off without her. Does she ever think of me? Or maybe she forgot all about me, like I knew she would. “Allison.” She smiled wide at him, causing her dimples to become prominent. “Sorry we have to meet like this. I’m really just like so sorry about your dog. It’s terrible what happened to her leg, and I’m just so happy Dr. Andrews was able to save her. Oh my God! I’m sorry I’m talking so much. You must think I have no manners. What’s your name?” She was biting her lip now and looking at him with wide eyes.

“I’m Derek. You seem to have impeccable manners. You didn’t give me shit about Rocky’s injury.” He looked her up and down, a slow smile built across his face. Then what she’d said earlier dawned on him. “Hold up. Did you say Rocky was a ‘she’?”

“She’s not your dog?” Allison had a confused look on her face. Biting her lip, she looked at him for a minute. She wrung her hands together before she spoke. “Dr. Andrews has to run more tests, but it looks like Rocky’s pregnant.”


“About three weeks.”

“That fucking asshole!” Derek was definitely going to commit a felony when he saw Andre again. He looked at Allison, who was staring down at the ground. “Sorry to yell, pretty girl.”

Allison nodded and told him she understood. A deep sigh left his mouth. He was grateful she didn’t ask about the origins of Rocky’s injuries. He checked his phone and realized he’d been there for two hours. If he didn’t leave soon, all hell would break loose with Max. He would need help transporting the money from the club and making the exchange with that dog-abusing piece of shit.

“I’ve got to go, pretty girl. You got a number I can call?”

“Of course, the hospital number is—”

“No, your number.”


“Your personal number, pretty girl. I’d love to see more of you.” He thought of Allison on her knees in front of him, his hand pulling her hair. “Maybe this weekend you can meet me at the bar where me and my boys hang out.”

“I actually don’t drink, but I’ll come to hang out. It’s not on the strip, is it?” she asked while pulling out her phone.

“Hell, no. Goddamn tourists. You a local?”

She giggled while nodding and handed him her phone to add his number. “Text me anytime, Allison.” Derek caught her fingers when he handed the phone back. He let her hand go and turned to walk toward the truck. He hadn’t taken two steps before he heard the clinic doors slide open. Whoever was coming out was probably wondering why there were no forms filled out for the dog. He was not putting his name on anything that could be linked to that dog abuser.

A voice shouted at Derek’s back: “Hey, you! Stop! You can’t leave this dog here without signing consent forms!”

He stopped dead in his tracks.

He knew that voice.

He was afraid to turn around. He had no idea what his reaction would be if he were right.

No fucking way. What would be the goddamn odds? Might as well go to the Bellagio and bet my life savings.

Footsteps approached, along with a familiar tap against the concrete sidewalk. He turned, hoping against all odds it wasn’t her.

“Look, I don’t know what happened, but—” The woman went dead silent and stared at him. “Derek?”


It was like looking at a ghost. Shock stole his voice. He couldn’t form thoughts to put into words for her. Allison hurried inside, leaving them with no audience. “What are you doing here? I can’t believe it! You look so different.” Dropping her cane before wrapping her arms around him, she murmured into his broad chest, “I’ve missed you so much.”

“Missed me?” he whispered into the air, still not processing what was happening. Was he having a stroke? Maybe all that smoking had finally caught up with him.

“Of course! Just because you disappeared from social media once you joined the club doesn’t mean I forgot about you.”

“Brielle.” He backed away to get a better look. Where his eyes playing tricks on him? “I—I can’t have online activity. That can be tied to the club.”

“Of course. I get it. Nothing’s ever deleted once it’s online,” she bent to pick up her cane.

She was gorgeous. Her deep mahogany skin glowed under the bright sun. Her youthful face was framed by shoulder-length black hair. The contours of her face were enhanced by shimmer on her cheeks, and mascara accentuated her gorgeous brown eyes. A doctor’s coat covered her top and stopped at her slim-fit khakis. Blood stained her pants, and he grimaced at the thought of her elbow deep in Rocky’s bone marrow. Even her cane had spots of blood on it.

“You’re Dr. Andrews?” He tilted his head.

“Yes, of course,” Brielle gave a small laugh.

He looked her up and down again and realized that she still used the cane he’d had custom made for her: a reinforced ebony wood shaft tipped with a small, platinum eagle. It was in good shape for being ten years old, but considering the cost, it should look brand new.

Derek kept staring at her. “How long have you been back?”

“I’ve been here for about two weeks. I got offered the position of interim lead vet while the owner is away. After two years at my last job, I was grateful for the opportunity and chance to return home.”

“How’s the homecoming been?”

She squeezed her hands together and looked him in the eyes; then she averted her gaze and mumbled that it was good. My baby girl, running a vet clinic. Well, not mine. She hasn’t been mine for a long time. He sighed and shook his head. “Well, I better go.”

“Derek, wait. Please. If we could just talk—”

He took a step back. Being this close to her was screwing with his nerves. Her soulful brown eyes never left his face, and old feelings started to surface. That could not happen. “We haven’t talked in a long time, and we have nothing to talk about now.”

Brielle snapped her head back. “You came here with a suspiciously injured dog and needed my help. I haven’t tried to talk to you because truthfully, Derek, I didn’t know how you would react. I wasn’t lying when I said I’ve missed you.”

Derek turned to walk toward the truck. There was no way he was going to listen to lies. Not from her mouth. She was always good at getting him to let go of any anger he harbored, but he had a lot of it this time around, and he wasn’t ready to give it up.

“Wait! Derek, please stop.”

“I really need to go.”

“What about the dog?”

Derek met her questioning eyes. “She’ll be good here. I know you’ll take care of her.”

Brielle took a deep breath and proceeded to tie her hair up into a tight bun atop her head. He knew that meant she was going to say something serious. “Derek. What I’m about to say is with no assumptions, but that dog—”

“Rocky,” he said.

“Rocky. Her injuries were caused by another dog.”

“Is that your professional opinion?”

“I’ve seen enough dogfighting injuries to tell them apart from others.”

Derek stiffened. “What are you getting at?”

“She has various old scars on her face, she’s severely underweight, and she has worms. I’m obligated by law to report any signs of animal abuse. If you say that you found Rocky, then I will believe you, but I need the truth. What happened?”

She tried to reach out and touch him, but he jerked away. His heart was beating at a rate he didn’t know was possible. Heat flushed through his whole body. How dare she judge me in all of what? Five minutes?

“Who the fuck do you think you are?” He burned with rage. “You show up here, haven’t said a word to me in ten years, and then accuse me of some bullshit.” “How can you say that to me when I’m trying to help?” Her dark eyes were brimming with tears.

“Rocky needed help, so I brought her here. That’s the truth.”

Brielle stuffed her hands into her lab coat pockets and looked down. “Why name a dog you just found?”

“Fuck this.” He turned to finish the walk to his car and ignored her as she shouted his name. The whole day had been one big pile of fuckery, and he didn’t have the patience left to deal with Brielle. After putting the key in the ignition, he paused for a moment and let out a sigh. When he reversed the truck, in the side mirror he caught her staring at him.

Derek thought about stopping. No. He was not going to get drawn back into her, especially not after all this time. He pulled out of the parking lot without looking back. His phone started to buzz. He knew it was Max without looking at the screen. He pressed the talk button. “Hey. I’m on my way back now,” Derek said, exhaustion filling him.

“Don’t fucking bother. We’re all going home. The exchange went fine, no thanks to you. I don’t know what your deal was today, but you need to control yourself. The club comes first. Always.”

“I know that. I would’ve been back, but I got held up at the vet.” He took a deep breath. “Brielle is back in town.”

“Holy shit. I don’t know what to say to that.” Max paused for a moment. “Do you think she talked to Amy?”

“No idea. Amy’s never been one to run her mouth, though, so I doubt she would’ve told me if she knew.” Derek shifted in his seat. His kutte was making him sweat through his shirt, sticking Rocky’s blood to his skin. Fuck, he needed a shower.

“Look, I know today hasn't been spectacular for you, and seeing her couldn’t have made it better, but I need you to get your shit together. You’re my VP. I need you to be 100 percent. Yeah?”

“Don’t worry, it won’t happen again.”

“Good. Now go home, get some pussy, and smoke some weed. Put this shit with Brielle in another place. I need you tomorrow. The Haitians will be here in the afternoon.”

“I’ll be there early.” He hung up and pulled out a cigarette, wondering how long it would be until Brielle came looking for answers about Rocky.


“Asshole,” Brielle whispered to herself while wiping away her tears. She regretted putting makeup on this morning. Nothing could be worse than seeing your ex and ending up with mascara stains on your cheeks. She walked across the parking lot. She was in no hurry to go back inside after that scene, but she wanted to check on Rocky. Her sweaty hands made it difficult to use her cane. The slim black wood with the platinum eagle tip was not ideal for gripping, but she refused to get some old-person cane.

Okay. Deep breath. Brielle stepped through the doors. Allison looked up from behind the desk and gave her a wide smile. “How are you feeling?” Allison asked with genuine concern.

Brielle gave a fake smile. “I’m fine. Just ready for this day to be over.”

“Did you know that guy?”

“He’s an old friend. We grew up together.” Brielle looked at Allison, who was chewing on her lip. What had he said to her? “You got anything to say about why this paperwork wasn’t filled out?”

“I’m so sorry.” Allison’s voice started to crack. “I was caught up in giving him the news about Rocky, and he seemed so distressed by what happened to her.” Tears were rolling down her cheeks like little rivers. Allison could water all of Nevada with just a hint of a reprimand. “Please don’t fire me! I’m sorry! It won’t happen again, I promise.”

“Shh. Come on, Allison. Calm down.” Brielle walked behind the desk and pulled her into a gentle hug. “I’m not going to fire you. But I do need you to show more responsibility in the future. Okay?”

Allison nodded in agreement. Brielle handed her a tissue from the silver container on the desk.

“Why don’t you clean up here, finish filing the papers, and then go home? I’ll lock up.”

Allison sniffled and nodded again. Brielle gave her a small smile headed to the back. After punching the code into the keypad, she pushed through the employees-only door. A sigh of relief left her mouth. Michael had cleaned up the blood that was left in the hallway. She was grateful to have him around. He always had a cool head and wasn’t overwhelmed by stressful situations like today. He was only a year younger than her, which helped. Brielle stepped in front of Rocky’s cage.

“Hey, sweetie,” she said to the unconscious dog. “The painkillers we gave you should be in effect until tomorrow afternoon. Then when you wake up, we’ll take you out to the yard.”

A million thoughts rushed her mind. They would have to test Rocky and see if she was stable enough to be around people. Whether Derek was willing to admit it or not, this dog had been in a dogfight, and judging by the other scars on her body, it hadn’t been her first. Brielle needed answers—especially if Rocky was going to be a mom. She took out her phone and started scrolling through the contact list. Her finger hovered over Max’s name. He wasn’t the type to change his phone number, so it should still work. Fuck. She couldn’t. Anything she said to Max would get back to Derek, and the last thing she wanted was more drama. She pushed the name of another person who might know what those two had gotten into with the club.


“Hey, Amy. It’s Brielle.”

“Oh, wow. Thanks for letting me know you were in town. You said two weeks ago you were going to call me when you headed to Sacramento Airport.”

“I’m sorry. Everything has been such a whirlwind. I’ve been busy getting to know the hospital staff and clients. How’s the shop doing?” Brielle asked while checking the saline pouch connected to Rocky’s IV.

“It’s busy as shit. I’m booked until January.”

“January? Amy, it’s June. How could you possibly have that many tattoo appointments?”

“What can I say? Your favorite Korean is in high demand.”

Brielle grinned. Amy had sacrificed a lot to get where she was, and it made Brielle happy to see her hard work pay off. Last month, Amy was flown to New York as a headliner for a tattoo convention. Amy had cried to her over Facetime because she couldn’t believe how far her passion had taken her.

“Luckily, I get to make my own hours. Otherwise, I would never see my boo.”

“How is Owen?” Brielle asked before putting the phone on speaker and setting it on the steel work table. One of the cats had thrown up in its cage. Fantastic.

“Annoying as hell. Thinks he knows everything, but I love him, so I tolerate it.”

“I know the feeling.” Brielle gave the cat a dirty look as she pulled it from the cage. Trying not to gag, she sprayed antiseptic and wiped up the bile. This was definitely not the part of vet life they showed on Animal Planet. She tripped over the cat as she walked to the garbage can. The cat shrieked and jumped onto the counter, knocking things to the floor. Perfect.

“What are you doing? What’s all that noise?” Amy asked.

“Nothing. Just cleaning up before I head home,” Brielle shouted at the phone from the floor.

“Mhm. You sure it isn’t Derek cleaning you?”

“What?” Brielle choked on her spit. What the hell? She had seen him not even an hour ago. How could Amy joke that she would be sleeping with him? Jesus. He looked good but not fuck-me-in-my-office-right-now good. Well, maybe he did, but Brielle would never do anything so unprofessional. Although the thought of her over the desk with Derek pumping into her from behind seemed worthy of breaking her professional code.

“Fine. Don’t kiss and tell,” Amy replied. Brielle could feel her smugness radiating through the phone.

“How do you know I saw him? Did Derek call you?”

“Nope. Max called and tried to use it as an excuse to pull me into a conversation.”

Brielle flushed with heat and her stomach dropped. What did Derek tell Max? Was she a threat to him? No. Jesus. She wasn’t thinking straight. She took a deep breath to clear her mind. This was Derek, not some mobster from an HBO series. Get a damn grip. “So what did Max say to you?”

“Nothing about Derek. He asked if I heard from you, and when I said no, he asked if I was seeing anyone. Asshole. He just wanted an excuse to call me. I think he’s going to invite me to dinner with him and Owen tomorrow night.”

Brielle smiled at the thought of Amy talking to Max about dating. “Maybe he wants to keep things friendly. It’s been a few months since you moved out. Some people are friends with their exes, and I’m sure Owen would like to know his parents are still civil with each other.”

Amy snorted. Brielle knew what was coming before Amy said the words. “You know how ironic that sounds coming from you, right? It would almost be insulting if it weren’t so funny. I mean, honestly.”

Brielle rolled her eyes and finished picking up the last few items from the floor. This cleanup was going to make her late, not that she had any plans outside of Chardonnay and reading a mystery novel. “That’s not fair, Amy. You know it was hard for both of us. He couldn’t move past his anger.” Is that why he was so angry? No. Who holds a grudge for ten years?

“You could say that again. He’s been handling it by putting his dick in any girl that practices basic hygiene.” Amy stated it as though it was a known fact throughout Clark County.

Brielle’s heart seized inside her chest. She knew that Derek received attention from women, but now she might have to witness it firsthand. Brielle became lost in thought, and after a few moments of silence, Amy brought her back to the present.

“Hey. Owen is going to be with Max this weekend. Do you want to go out with me and the girls Saturday night? You don’t work on Sundays, right?” “I don’t know.” Brielle looked over at her cane that was still on the floor. “Girls who use canes don’t usually get guys to buy them drinks at the club.” “Fuck guys! We’re going to have a good time and celebrate your homecoming. Melissa and Roxy haven’t seen you since we all took that trip to Napa.” Brielle’s heart warmed at the memory. They always had a good time together but clubs were different. Thirty minutes on the dance floor and the familiar ache in her hip would be too much. This could be fun, or a complete embarrassment, but at least she would be getting out of the house.

“Okay.” Brielle’s smile widened at the thought of a girls’ night. “I’ll be there.” Amy squealed then said good-bye. Brielle looked around the room and realized that she still needed to wrangle the cat back into its cage. This was going to be one long night.

About Alexandra:

Alex is a California native who currently resides in the Bay Area.  She has loved romance for as long as she could remember, from watching Titanic as young girl to True Blood as a teenager to Say Yes to the Dress as an Adult. After years of reading romance, she finally decided to try her hand at writing stories with characters that reflect the diverse world we inhabit.

Outside of writing, Alex enjoys listening to girlboss podcasts while doing her makeup, reading comic books (DC girl but loves The Punisher), stalking BeyoncĂ©’s every move, and watching The Golden Girls with a glass of wine. She enjoys talking to her readers and anyone with a great sense of humor, so feel free to drop her a note anytime!


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