Valiant: Joker's Wrath MC, page 1
Jokers' Wrath MC
Published by Bella Jewel, 2017.
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Copyright © 2017 Bella Jewel
VALIANT is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and events portrayed in this book either are from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, establishments, events, or location is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 2 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 3 | THEN – MADDIE
CHAPTER 4 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 5 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 6 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 7 | THEN – MADDIE
CHAPTER 8 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 9 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 10 | THEN – MADDIE
CHAPTER 11 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 12 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 13 | THEN – MADDIE
CHAPTER 14 | NOW- BAYLEE
CHAPTER 15 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 16 | THEN – MADDIE
CHAPTER 17 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 18 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 19 | THEN – MADDIE
CHAPTER 20 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 21 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 22 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 23 | THEN – MADDIE
CHAPTER 24 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 25 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 26 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 27 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 28 | NOW – BAYLEE
CHAPTER 29 | NOW – BAYLEE
As always, my heartfelt thanks to every single blogger, reader and author that has supported my journey. From reading my books, to sharing them, to raving about them, to being there for me. Thank you. My career would be nothing without any of you.
A huge thanks to Kylie from Give Me Books for organizing my reveals and blitzes. You do such an amazing job. No matter how many times I use you, I am always blown away by how efficient you are. Nothing is ever a drama. Thank you for giving me so much support.
A massive thanks to Ben Ellis from BE Designs for this gorgeous cover. Not only did you come in at the last minute, you did an absolutely incredible job. I honestly have no words to explain how grateful I am to you for all the help you put in. I’m forever in your debt.
A big, heartfelt thanks to Ready, Set, Edit for doing this book for me at the last moment. I really appreciate the time you took to help me out, and how patient you were when my kids weren’t well!! Thank you so much, lovely.
And of course, to my admin, MJ, for ALWAYS keeping my page running beautifully. I couldn’t do it without you, girly. I love your teasers and your passion; thank you for taking the time out of your life to help this poor girl keep everything running.
And, last but certainly not least, to my loyal readers. To each and every one of you that picks up my books and give me a chance. To the reviews you write, good or bad. To the time you take to make me a better person. You make this real for me; never stop giving such love and passion. You make our journey so amazing.
Run as fast as you can.
Don’t look back.
No matter what. Do not look back.
My feet pound the pavement as I charge toward the trees; the thick, brutal looking trees. Even those they are heaven sent. Their branches will tear the skin from my arms, their trunks will trip me, they will scratch and scrape me, but even then, what they’re offering is so much better than what’s coming behind me.
“Running won’t save you, bitch!”
Angry. Terrifying. The bark of a voice that once sounded kind—soft, even. The anger of a man that I once called my boyfriend. The love of my life. The man I wanted to spend eternity with. How can one change so quickly? How can someone go from loving to a monster in a matter of months? How can everything good be stripped from their soul, only to be replaced with ugliness?
So much ugliness.
I know the answer to that.
I reach the trees and take a staggering breath before shoving my body amongst them. I’m right. Skin is torn from my arms, I’m being scratched and scraped at every turn, but they’re sheltering me. Even in their worst moments, they’re sheltering me, and I’m grateful for their protection.
“If you don’t fucking stop, it’ll fucking hurt!”
Only they’re not really threats, they’re promises. If he gets ahold of me. If his hands curl around my throat, if his fists find my face, if his feet find my body ... Those threats will be promises. And I’ll hurt.
I’m so tired of hurting.
I’m not sure that running will do me any good. I don’t honestly know that it’ll help anything. But I’ll do whatever it takes. Even if it means I fail. I’ll fight with the last piece of strength I have left. I will because I have to. Because I want to. Because I need to taste freedom on my tongue again. I need to remember what it felt like to not be afraid.
Panting, I push deeper and deeper into the trees. Where I’m going to go, I don’t know. I’ll find somewhere. I’ll start again. I’ll change my name. I’ll do whatever it takes. I will.
My hands go out in front of me, shoving branches out of the way as my feet navigate the thick woodlands that surround me. It’s dead silent. Not a sound to be heard. Do they all hear him coming and run too? Do the animals duck for shelter? Do the birds fly away?
They’d be smart to.
I’m nearly there.
I’m nearly free.
I’m nearly ...
A hand curls around my throat, jerking me backwards. Pain explodes in my body as something tugs my hair so hard my eyes water. My feet give way; I fall backwards into a hard, muscled chest. No. No, please. I was so close. I was so damned close. I could taste it. I could feel it.
“You’re going to wish you never fucking did that.”
The hiss in my ear comes only moments before a fist hits the side of my head so hard my world goes black.
I was so close.
NOW – BAYLEE
I jerk awake, my hand going to my chest to ease my pounding heart. A few shaky breaths escape my lips, and for a moment, I sit, panting, wondering where the hell I am. My eyes focus, and after a few moments, I remember. I’m at home. I’m safe. He isn’t here. He’s gone. He won’t find me.
My fingers tremble as I clutch my chest, afraid to let it go, afraid my heart will burst out in a futile attempt to stop feeling this kind of pressure every single moment of its life. I close my eyes, steady my breathing, and only then do I drop my hand, letting it fall to my side.
I turn in my bed, sliding my legs out and placing my feet on the floor. The carpet is soft between my toes, and it feels nice, comforting even. With trembling fingers, I reach over and grab my phone from the nightstand, staring down at the screen. No missed calls. No messages. Nothing. Exactly how I like it. Exactly how I need it.
It’s been six months, and I’m still safe. I’m still okay.
He isn’t here.
I place my phone down and stand, walking out of the room on shaky legs. I move towards the hallway, preparing myself for my morning. It’s the same every day. Every single damned day. I step out into the living area, and my eyes flick to the kitchen. To the mess. To the cups and saucers thrown around, to the plates stacked up in the sink, to the food left out on the counter.
Food that’ll be ruined now.
Food I’ll have to go and buy again.
“Rae?” I call, my eyes scanning the room.
A groan comes from the couch, and I walk over, peering down at the tiny, yet massive, girl curled up on her side. A girl I never needed. A girl I didn’t even want. But a girl I couldn’t abandon, because I knew the life she was living, because I knew how it felt, and because I couldn’t be that heartless. I was raised better than that.
“Rae,” I say again, reaching down and stroking a piece of fiery red hair from the side of her face so I can see her.
She rolls to her back, hands clutching her stomach, and looks up at me with tired, bloodshot eyes.
“What?” she snaps.
I stare at her. She looks just like him. Only his hair was browner. Hers is red. Their eyes, though. Exactly the same piercing green that seem to penetrate your soul. I rub my hands over my thighs, trying to practice patience for the girl who is, currently, ruining my life. I know I shouldn’t say things like that, but it’s honestly how I feel most of the time.
I’m trying my hardest. I really am.
“You left the food out, again,” I point out. “I’m working two jobs, Rae. I can’t afford it.”
“You can afford it,” she mutters. “You always replace it.”
I do always replace it.
But it isn’t for her.
My eyes move to her rounded belly. No. It isn’t for her, but for the tiny baby no doubt struggling to survive inside her seventeen-year-old frame. A baby I convinced her to keep, in some futile attempt to get her clean and on the right track.
It didn’t work. She’s clean, at least, I think she is – but she certainly isn’t on the right track and I fear that as soon as the baby is born, she’ll spiral back down that ugly path.
I live with that guilt every day, so I do the only thing I can—I take care of her, I take her of her in hopes that she will give birth to a healthy baby that can make someone happy. A family that can’t have children. Anyone but her.
“I replace it because I’m trying to take care of you,” I mumble, running my hands through my hair. “You’re not making it easy.”
“I never asked you to take care of me,” she hisses, pinning me with those eyes.
“No, Rae, you didn’t. But I chose to, to get you away from your brother, I chose to help you. The least you could do is go easy on me.”
Pain flashes in her eyes, the only subject guaranteed to make her show any kind of emotion but anger. She and York were close; both of them having grown up in foster care together. When I met York, Rae was a sweet, happy girl. Then something changed. He started working long hours, he was tired all the time, and he turned to drugs to get him through. Then, before I knew it, his young, fragile sister was doing the same.
I watched them slip away. Everything good about them crushed into nothing.
I’ll never stop hearing her cries as he dragged her down the hallway by her hair in one of his drug-induced rages, or how she’d cry for me when he threw me against walls. Eventually, though, she stopped caring. She stopped caring because she too became clouded by the dark, dangerous world of drugs.
When I ran, I took her with me.
If it wasn’t for her baby, I don’t think I would have been able to convince her to stay with me.
But in a moment of weakness and fear, she agreed.
Now she’s making my life a living hell, but even during all of it, she’ll never leave me. She’ll never reveal our location. She’ll never tell him where we are.
Because he scares her as much, if not more, than he scares me.
“You always use that against me,” she growls, the pain disappearing and her angry, bitter attitude taking its place.
She stands, clutching her stomach and turns to me, glaring.
I want to throttle her. “Don’t glare at me, I’m trying to help you. Why can’t you see that?”
“You’re just using it against me at every chance you get. You wanted me here. I didn’t force you to bring me.”
I stare at her. Be calm. Don’t get angry. It’ll only make things worse.
“Just put the things away when you’re finished with them, and it wouldn’t kill you to do some washing up,” I say in the kindest tone I can muster up right now.
“Do you see this?” she snaps, pointing to her stomach. “I can’t sleep, I can’t move, I can’t do anything. Stop pressuring me. You’re no better than him sometimes!”
With that, she turns and waddles off down the hall.
I sigh and my shoulders slump. The same thing. Every. Day.
One day it’ll get easier, until then ...
I look at the mess, and then I start cleaning it up.
“You need to get rid of her,” my best friend, Shania, says, her voice soft, yet firm.
“We have this conversation every day, Shan; I can’t get rid of her.”
“There are shelters, places for girls like her to go. You don’t owe her anything, hell, you certainly don’t owe him anything. What if she gives away your location? What if he finds you again and—”
I stare at her and see the pain in her face. She’s terrified for me. She knows what I went through with York. She was the person I called when he beat me nearly to death. She was the one by my side when I changed my name and got the hell out of there. She moved her life to come and be by my side. No matter the risk. I constantly live with the fear that York will find me through her, but he only met her once, and I was sure never to tell him much about her.
It’s worth the risk.
I can’t do it without her.
“He won’t find me, and once she has that baby, I will get her the help she needs. But right now, it’s hard. I don’t want that child to be born in some shelter or on a street. If she isn’t with me, she’ll get back on the drugs, and I’ve fought way too hard to keep her off them.”
“I know.” Shan sighs. “I know, but she’s wearing you down. She’s making your life so much harder. You’re suffering enough as it is. You’re working two jobs. You’re struggling, Mad ...”
I shoot her a look. “You can’t call me Madison anymore. It’s Baylee now. Please, please try and stop calling me Maddie.”
She rubs her forehead, and her black hair falls over her hand. “You’re Maddie to me, you’ve always been Maddie to me. It’s so hard to call you Baylee, but I’ll get used to it.”
I smile warmly at her. “I know.”
“Listen,” she says, perking up a little, “I’m going out tonight for a friend’s birthday party at a local bar. You should come with me. I know you don’t get out much, but you have a night off and you deserve it, Baylee. You really do.”
I study her, and her blue eyes are pleading with me to accept her offer. A huge part of me wants to. I don’t know how to have fun anymore. God, I don’t even know the meaning of the word. Rae and my work—it’s all I know now.
That and fear.
So much fear.
“I don’t know if I can leave Rae and ...”
“You leave Rae every day when you go to work,” she points out, raising her brows. “Please. Jus
I smile at her use of my fake name, and a smile breaks out across her face, too.
“Okay,” I say, nodding. “Okay, I’ll come with you.”
“Oh, yay!” she squeals, clapping her hands. “I have the most gorgeous dress you can wear.”
I raise my brows.
“What?” she questions, shrugging. “Nobody will see ... It’ll cover them, I swear.”
I hesitate a little more, then exhale loudly.
“Okay,” I nod. “Okay, you win. Come over when you’re finished with work, and we’ll get ready together.”
“I’m so excited,” she cries. “It’s been so long since we’ve gone out together. You won’t regret it, I swear.”
I hope not.
God, I really hope not.
NOW – BAYLEE
Music pounds from the club we’re lined up in front of. Blue neon lights flash and people are crowded everywhere, chatting and laughing, drinking and dancing. I stand close to Shania, clutching her arm, feeling a range of nerves I haven’t experienced for such a long time. I take a shaky breath, trying to calm myself. I really should have forced myself out long before this.
“Breathe, Baylee,” Shan says, squeezing my hand.
I didn’t realize I was hanging onto her so tightly. I ease my grip, take some more deep breaths, and murmur, “I need a hard shot of vodka.”
She laughs. “Yes, yes you do. Come on, we’re up.”
We hand over our identification and then head into the club. It’s surprisingly less crowded in here, and we make our way past groups of people until we reach the long, sleek, black bar. It’s nice. Classy. “Vodka and cranberry?” Shania asks me.
I give her a thumbs up, and then reach down and adjust my dress. It’s nice, I can’t deny that. It’s a black v-neck dress that dips down between my breasts, squeezing tightly around them and my waist before fanning out softly. It reaches my knees, so it isn’t overly short. I’ve paired it with some silver pumps and decided to leave my blond hair down in soft curls.
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