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Shield
Author: Anne Malcom

Prologue

 

 

Rosie


Age Five


Most doomed romances didn’t actually know they were doomed at the beginning. I mean the very beginning. Before the tragedy. In that Hollywood mega zoom-in moment when their eyes meet and lasting—and more often than not, fatal—love is born. First comes love, and then comes all the rest of the shit.

This is in most cases.

Romeo and Juliet, Heathcliff and Catherine… and I don’t know any more, come to think of it. I flunked English.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m never going to fit into the category of ‘most cases.’

Or maybe I’m the ultimate fucking cliché. The girl who strives so hard to be extraordinary that she meets the masses doing the exact same thing. Falls for love right where she shouldn’t. Just like the rest of them.

Whatever.

I knew it was doomed before it even began. The second I saw him.

I was five. First day of school. Yep, it’s that fucking pathetic. Even more so because he didn’t even know I existed at that point, and many points after.

Total fucking cliché.

I knew who he was. Even at five, I knew the line drawn in the sand. The one splattered in blood.

Dad dropped me off at school, with me riding on the back of his motorcycle. My dad was the president The Sons of Templar MC.

Not many people had stark, in-detail memories of their five-year-old selves. Normally it was a mix of images, some memories muddled with make-believe. Recalling it was like staring at an interior TV screen. Maybe because moments with my father could’ve been held in my hand, treasured because moments and memories were all I had left.

Maybe it was because then, precisely then, was when my life stopped being my own.

“Now, baby, what do you do if anyone gives you trouble?” Daddy asked, his knees clicking as he bent down so I could see his eyes smiling, even if his face didn’t.

Daddy didn’t smile around other people. Bad for his image, he said.

I didn’t get that. A bad image was like a photo of someone who looked bad. And even when he wasn’t smiling, my daddy never looked bad. I thought my daddy was the most handsome man ever.

I grinned, holding up my fist, squeezing it tight so my nails cut into the insides of my palm. “I give them a knuckle sandwich,” I said.

Daddy chuckled, rustling my hair. “That’s right, my princess. No one fucks with my girl.”

I was laughing too, happy I’d made Daddy laugh. I collected that sound, and it made me smile whenever I was the reason Daddy chuckled. His laugh stopped when he focused on a car.

I looked at the car too, uninterested, until I got a look at him.

He was dropped off in front of us, in a policeman’s car—his daddy wore a uniform. With a great big badge on it.

I barely knew how to tie my shoes, but I knew the police were bad. We didn’t like the police, and they didn’t like us.

I also knew the look that darkened Daddy’s face.

It meant someone was in trouble. A lot of it.

I’d seen that look a lot, though never directed at me. Mostly it was directed at the men in the club if they did something to ‘fuck up.’ I knew fuck was a bad word from the way it sounded in the air, harsh and wrong. I heard other mommas yell at their kids who said it in the grocery store. But I didn’t have a momma, not to take me grocery shopping at least, and no one yelled at me when I said it. No one had ever yelled at me.

I was the princess. That was what my brother Cade called me. And Daddy.

But I’d never really felt like much of a princess. And I knew I really wasn’t when I caught sight of the older boy getting out of the police car. The second I saw his blond hair, his beautiful face, his clean clothes, I knew. He was the prince. The real one, like in the movies. The good guy.

I looked down at my boots, the smallest ones at the Harley Davidson store and they were still a little big. Daddy said I’d grow into them. Another reason why I knew I wasn’t a princess—they always wore froufrou dresses and a lot of pink, and their hair was always in lots of pretty braids.

I didn’t wear pink. Pink was for pussies, as Uncle Steg said, so I always wore all black. Like my brother, Cade. Black was my favorite color in the whole world. My hair was always curly and crazy; I didn’t know how to braid, and neither did Cade or Daddy. Sometimes Daddy would brush it and tie it up into the ponytail I had it in right now. But my hair wasn’t straight and shiny like Barbie or princesses; it was curly and wild, and some of it was always escaping from my hair bobble.

I didn’t mind that.

I didn’t want froufrou, or pink or Barbie. I didn’t want to be a princess.

I wanted to be a warrior like my daddy. Like my big brother.

Until that moment outside the school, on my very first day. When I saw the prince. Then I wanted very badly to be the princess he saved from the bad guys and rode away with to live happily ever after.

The problematic thing was the bad guys were my family. The ones I loved with all my heart. If you wanted to get technical, I was a bad guy too. Maybe the worst of them all.

The bad guys didn’t get a happily ever after.

As it happened, neither did princes.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

Rosie


Age Six


“Why can’t I be like them, Daddy?” I asked, nodding toward the men roaring away on their motorcycles.

Daddy ruffled my hair. “Because even for a Fletcher, six years old is too young to be on a motorcycle,” he said, his voice smiling. “But don’t worry, kid. Soon as you can reach the pedals, you’re on a bike. It’s in your blood.”

I smiled too, but I also frowned because that wasn’t what I meant. “No, why can’t I be in the club too? Like you.” I tugged at the leather he always wore, so much so that it was a part of my daddy, just like his gray eyes and his smile voices. “Is it because I’m a girl?”

Daddy grabbed my chin. His eyes weren’t smiling. “Simple answer? Yeah, baby, it’s ’cause you’re a girl. ’Cause my pops lived in a time where women didn’t have much say in anythin’ and he quite liked it like that.” He paused, and even though he was looking at me, I thought he might’ve been seeing something else. “Still like that now, I guess. Society is moving on in that respect, but our club doesn’t move with society. Our club just is. Not many rules, but the ones we got ain’t gonna change. I’m sure of that. Not while I’m around, at least.” He looked at Cade, who was helping Uncle Steg with a car. “I have a feelin’ your big bro might shake things up a bit, though. Maybe after I’m gone.” There was both a smile and a frown in his voice.

I slipped my hand into his.

Daddy looked down, staring at my teeny tiny hand. He squeezed mine, not too tight, just right, then smiled.

“You’re gonna shake things up more than a bit, my little princess,” he said. “I already know that. Which is why even if the club wasn’t the way it is, I wouldn’t have you wearin’ a cut, following rules. There ain’t many, but there’s enough to tell you to be a certain kind of person. My Rosie will never let anyone tell her what kind of person she is. You’re my caterpillar. You’re gonna grow wings, baby. And you’re gonna soar and be the only version of you in this whole world. I know you’ll be the heart and soul of this club. In more ways than one. But you’re destined to be somethin’ different. Somethin’ bigger.”

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