Wreck Me: Steel Talons MC (4 page)

CHAPTER
TEN

             

Susan arrived at the small conference center a few minutes early and sat in the car, wrinkling her nose in disgust as she watched people enter the facility. She didn’t exactly like a lot of the other paramedics in her territory, but she had a much greater hatred for the rest of the medical community. She saw doctors with watches that cost more than her car laughing and strolling along without a care in the world.

 

They’d probably just come from some elective surgery, when they could have been helping a kid with club feet or a cleft palate.

 

Too many doctors were all about the money, and Susan had no intention of becoming one of those. Her aspirations of being a surgeon had nothing to do with making bank. She truly wanted to help people, and she knew she was delusional to think she could singlehandedly change the face of the medical community, but that was her futile journey in life.

 

Eventually, she got out of the car and strode into the conference room, stopping to be sure her attendance was registered. She needed the credit for this, and she refused to do it again. She searched the crowd, counting about two dozen coworkers she recognized and not finding any of them she cared to talk to. The three women gave female paramedics a bad name, flirting and sleeping with anything that had two legs and something hanging in between.

 

That, more than anything else, was the reason she hated what she’d done the night before. Now she was just like them, the shameless women who slept their way to the top.

 

As for the men, most of them were chauvinistic, and the only reason she appreciated Eric was that he was a family man. While he may have flirted with some of the girls, to her knowledge, he’d never followed through. Of course, she’d managed to dupe him quite easily last night, so how did she know for sure he wasn’t sneaking off and banging one of these poor excuses for independent women against a wall somewhere?

 

Too jaded to care, she finally spotted Eric and rushed toward him, ignoring everyone else in the room. He smiled and waved as she approached, and they sat next to each other at a table with two other male medics who at least didn’t openly make derogatory comments about her.

 

She glanced around the space as everyone settled in and shook her head. The segregation never ceased to amaze her. Front and center were the surgeons, with general practitioners and hospital residents to the right. She sat on the left side, where medics took the front and nurses sat in the back.

 

So much for the 21
st
century.

 

The food was mediocre, and the lecture was worse. Speaking in a calm, soothing voice and using the terms ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’, as the lecturer suggested, wouldn’t get her anywhere with someone like Wade. She sneezed to cover a grunt of frustration as his name passed through her mind yet again. She couldn’t stand it anymore! If only she could get in his face and tell him exactly what she thought of him, maybe it would be enough to move on.

 

The alternative was unthinkable.

 

Of course, there had been a time or two that she’d made this sort of mistake, albeit with someone slightly less disgusting, and she’d discovered the best way to get them out of her system was to go one more round. But there was no way she could even consider something that filthy now. The mere thought of ever touching that man again made her want another shower.

 

She clapped with the others when the lecture ended, sure that at least half of the attendees were only applauding the fact that it was over. Eric leaned over and muttered, “I could have been at my son’s soccer game.”

 

She nodded and rolled her eyes. “I have a test to study for.”

 

“You really think you can make it on the other side, don’t you?”

 

Susan looked up to find Leila, one of her least favorite among that circle, staring at her with amused disdain.

 

“We all have dreams, honey, but if you think you’re going to just slide right in the big swinging doors wearing the white coat without getting a little white stain on your uniform first, you are sorely mistaken.”

 

Susan clutched her hands into fists, digging her short nails into her skin in an attempt to keep from decking the girl. With as much venom as she could muster, Susan spat back, “Just because
you
don’t have any viable skills doesn’t mean everyone has to sleep their way to the top. Some of us know how to keep our pants and our mouths closed.”

 

Eric laid a hand on her arm to call her off. Over her head, he said, “That's enough, Leila. Go harass someone who might actually deserve it.”

 

Susan stood to leave as the woman with fake tits and a fake smile walked away, but she heard a disapproving noise behind her and turned with wide eyes to find Dr. Julian Richards looking at her with amusement. “Now, Miss MacGregor, I think you should really keep your attitude in check. I’ve heard about your reputation, and I’ll tell you, it’s very hard to get invited into an OR for observation or anything else if you can’t play nicely with others.”

 

He walked away before she could respond, and she started after him, but Eric held her back. “Let it go, Susan. What the hell has gotten into you today? You need to relax. You’re ready to bite everyone’s head off.”

 

She sure as hell was, and there was one person to blame—one lousy man who had started her off on the wrong foot about twelve hours ago. But she was done being Jim Wade’s victim. She faced enough bullies on a daily basis, in her real life.

 

There was no way she was going to let him get the best of her and rule her life and the way she acted anymore.

CHAPTER
ELEVEN

 

Jim sat back in the chair in the makeshift office at the Steel Talons clubhouse, his feet propped up on the table, smoking and staring out the window. The rest of the present members were amped up about this delivery, but he couldn’t seem to muster any excitement, as Digger had just so kindly pointed out.

 

“It’s just another day in paradise for you, eh, Jimmy?”

 

Taking his time putting out his cigarette in the ash tray, Jim blew out one last long line of smoke and shrugged. “It’s just a delivery, Digger. We run down to San Antonio, drop the blank papers off with our new supplier and make sure he’s still willing to work with us, and swing back home. Easy as a preacher’s daughter.”

 

Digger chuckled, rubbing his bald head. “Nicely put, but SAPD isn’t on our payroll, and neither are most of the small towns in between. Aren’t you worried about questions? We don’t know anything about the pigs down there.”

 

Jim sat up as Boxer joined them, hovering over Digger’s shoulder. “We’ve also got to dodge the Diablos Blancos, brother. Maybe we’re not in their industry, but they’re not going to like us barging in on their territory without cutting them in for a piece.”

 

Jim shook his head. “I’m not worried about it. As far as they’re concerned, we’re scouting the territory and haven’t made any deals. If they question us further than that, it’s going to start some real business that they don’t have the gun power to handle.”

 

“Besides, they could earn a cut if they wanted it.” Boxer and Digger turned, and Jim stood to see Ari bent over the pool table with a cigar in his mouth. “Diablos raise any hell and we can lay out the options.”

 

“And what are those?” Jim asked, suddenly curious what their president had up his sleeve.

 

“First option is shut the fuck up or die. Second option is stay out of our business, and we’ll stay out of yours. Third option is, if you want a cut, assume some of the risk. We’ll meet them halfway on deliveries and pickups, cutting our risk and staying the hell out of their territory, and they can take ten percent.” Ari slipped the cue through his fingers, making a bank shot and nodding his approval.

 

Jim didn’t like it, and Boxer beat him to the punch. “They aren’t going to settle for that. And besides, who’s to say they can be trusted? They’ll take our first pickup and run with it, probably to the border, and somehow get half a million dollars in small counterfeit bills to Mexico.”

 

Digger agreed. “I don’t know why we picked up this new guy anyway.”

 

Ari narrowed his eyes at the three of them, not used to his members calling him out on a decision like this. That is, except for Jim, who managed to talk some sense into the old man every now and then. Ari Babcock was old-school, and he didn’t like democracy. “If none of you like it, we can put it to a vote. I’m just telling it like it is, though. If you all want to start a war with some nasty, half-wild band of hooligans, be my guest. I’ll stay here and wave the white flag when I don’t have anyone left to count on, and this club can go to hell in a handbasket.”

 

Jim clenched his jaw. He loved Ari like a father, but he’d noticed more and more how manipulative the son of a bitch could be, and that bothered him. He was about to take on this crazy mission, making sure they could get a truck full of cut paper to a printer—the only printer they had found who could actually counterfeit the newly colored small bills the U.S. government now minted—and return to pick up the finished product in a week.

 

Jim knew enough to know that they couldn’t keep funneling big bills through all of their contacts. They had plenty of places to launder money, but most of them needed smaller bills to avoid suspicion.

 

The Feds already had a team trying to figure out where the influx of counterfeit money was coming from, and those guys didn’t even know the half of it. If they kept getting big bills in, someone would eventually take notice. Smaller bills wouldn’t be checked as carefully; anything under fifty would probably go unnoticed.

 

But Jim thought they should bide their time and find someone in friendlier territory, or simply buy this guy off to get copies of his templates for their previous supplier. He’d mentioned it more than once to Ari, but the president had blown him off, telling him that if he wanted to vie for the leadership role, he needed to have the balls to put old horses out to pasture.

 

Jim didn’t want the role of president; he was more than happy handling the treasury role and aiding enforcement. But if Ari kept getting them into a bunch of happy horseshit like this, Jim knew someone would have to challenge the old fool.

 

Now, though, there was business to attend to. The obligation was set, and Jim didn’t back down. Besides, the long ride would do him good—maybe help him get that paramedic out of his head.

 

But as he started to follow Digger out of the office, Boxer grabbed his arm. He groaned. “What now?”

 

“Don’t get pissy with me. How are you doing today?”

 

“I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be?”

 

Boxer rolled his eyes. “Your dumb act doesn’t work on me, bud. After last night, with all the shit that happened and that leg of yours, are you good to take this trip?”

 

Jim scoffed. “I’m perfectly fine to ride, okay? And I don’t appreciate you questioning me about it.”

 

“I just want to make sure you’re not going to do anything stupid. I mean, you’ve been flying by the seat of your pants for a while, and you’ve gotten a little loose and dangerous when it comes to business. I need to know you’re going to be safe and not do anything that’s going to get us caught, hurt, or dead.”

 

The seriousness of his expression didn’t sit well with Jim, and he started back, hoping Boxer would back down.

 

When Boxer didn’t, Jim finally responded. “The Steel Talons are my family. The last thing I want is for anyone to get hurt.” Boxer didn’t look convinced. “Would it make you feel better if I said I’d be on my best behavior, Scout’s honor?” He held up two fingers playfully and got Boxer to smile.

 

“Actually, yes, it does. Thanks.” Boxer patted him on the back, and they stepped out into the bright sunlight. Jim pulled on his jacket, grabbed his backpack, and reached for his sunglasses, squinting. But he halted at the sound of screeching tires and looked up to see dust flying behind a set of tires on a beat-up Chevy sedan.

 

“What the hell is that?” Boxer muttered, shading his eyes with his hand and staring at the car as it jerked to a stop.

 

Jim shrugged. He couldn’t see through the cloud surrounding the car and waited as it began to settle. But as the driver’s door flew open and he saw a pair of long, shapely legs, he knew exactly who had just burst into his compound to rain on his parade.

 

As if she hadn’t already done enough.

 

Susan stormed straight at him and didn’t stop until she was inches from his face. “I’ve got some things to clear up with you.”

 

“This should be fun,” Boxer muttered, but he backed away with his hands up in a universal sign of surrender at the searing look she gave him. “She’s all yours, cowboy.”

 

Great. The one time he wanted his brothers to stand beside him, they left him to his own devices, and he didn’t know if that was good enough to survive.

 

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