Keep reading for a sneak peek at Forsaking All Others by Janine Infante Bosco!
Meet Maverick and the North Carolina Knights on March 11th…
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“My Aunt Fern used to say any woman who thinks the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach is aiming about ten inches too high,” Holly says, smacking my hand from the tray of corn fritters. I manage to snag one before she takes the silver tray and moves it to the other side of the counter, far away from my reach. Popping the freshly fried fritter into my mouth, I study my ex-wife, watching as she rearranges the remaining fritters on the tray.
The woman can throw down in the kitchen.
“Is that why you never cooked for me?” I tease, eager to rile her up. A ticked off Holly makes for an entertaining time. She grabs another fancy ass tray from the cabinet and starts plating the braised steak tips.
My fucking favorite.
“I never cooked for you because you were never home,” she sasses, keeping her back to me.
Ignoring the jab at our past, I leave my spot at the other end of the kitchen and make my way toward her.
“Your Aunt Fern was wrong,” I mutter, reaching around her to steal a piece of steak.
And so was I because Holly did cook, five—sometimes six nights a week—until the dinners got cold on the stove and I stopped coming home.
She spins around quickly, swatting my hand with the spatula.
The woman always did have quick reflexes.
Her brown eyes narrow into tiny slits as she glares at me and the urge to grin tugs at me as a sense of nostalgia hits me hard. There used to be a time in our lives when all Holly had to do was shoot me that look and seconds later we were both naked, fucking on the kitchen floor like our lives depended on it. Hell, if memory serves me correctly that’s how our daughter was conceived. I wonder if her Aunt Fern schooled her on what those eyes of hers could do to a man too. Did she warn her niece that when paired with that sassy mouth, she had the power to bring a man to his knees?
She tosses the spatula onto the counter and crosses her arms against her chest. I brace myself for the tongue lashing, watching as she cocks her head to the side. The anger fades from her dark brown eyes and it serves as a reminder that she’s changed. We both have. The things that used to get us going don’t exist anymore.
“She sure was,” she hisses. “She said give a man a blow job he’ll never forget, and he won’t ever cheat.”
It doesn’t matter how much time has passed or how different our lives have become, that still fucking stings. But that’s the nature of the beast, isn’t it? Our biggest regrets never leave us. Once they stab us, they stick and every now and again that knife turns, cuttin’ and diggin’ deeper and deeper.
Holly uncrosses her arms and inches closer to me until her breath touches my ear and she whispers, “Quit picking, Maverick.”
Pulling back, she winks, flashing me a cheeky grin.
That smirk is another weapon of hers.
It gets me every damn time.
Our son Shepard is living proof of that. She flashed me that sexy grin and nine months later we became a family of four.
Clearing my throat, I shake my head.
“You don’t play fair.”
“Well, would you look at that, I guess you did teach me something after all,” she quips, turning to take the tray from the counter. She holds it between us and gives me an exasperated, “Take only one,” she warns.
A smile creeps across my lips and I quickly lean over her, swiping the spatula from the counter before she can change her mind. Careful not to mess her presentation, I take a piece of steak. The second the tender beef touches my tongue, I groan.
Yeah, the woman can get down and dirty in the kitchen for sure.
“Good?” she asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Woman, that’s fucking amazing,” I reply, still chewing, trying to savor the measly piece of steak. “You got my number should you ever feel generous enough to set an extra seat at the dinner table.”
She rolls her eyes.
“Bullshit,” she says. “I invited you over last Sunday, but you were ‘too busy’,” she continues, walking the tray over to the table. She sets it down and fiddles with the silverware, eyeing me from across the room. “What was it this time? A blonde or a brunette?”
I cross my arms against my chest and lean against the counter.
“You got jokes, yeah?”
“Ah, so it was a ginger,” she continues to taunt, fighting back a grin.
“Woman,” I warn, shaking my head. My gaze slides to the diamond ring on her finger and my jaw goes tight.
Last Sunday, when I dropped the kids off, Holly did invite me to stay for dinner and I did decline—that much is true. I told her I had to run, that I was busy—that’s the lie. Sure, I had shit to do, my motorcycle club was on the verge of expanding a gun deal we had with a charter up north, but I turned down the invite because I didn’t feel up to sitting across the table from her and the man who took my place.
Six years ago, the knife of regret cut real deep when Holly remarried and it fucking severed an artery four years later when she gave birth to his son.
At first, I hated Colt Armstrong. Hell, I had my club tail him for a good six months after they started dating. The plan was to make him disappear, to fucking bury him so deep in the ground that it would take two lifetimes for them to find his bones.
But then I saw how happy he made her.
How could I hate the man who brought back Holly’s smile?
They say a man’s greatest mistake is giving another man an opportunity to love his woman and it’s fucking true. I gave up my woman and a damn good man came and claimed her for himself. He didn’t ignore her. He didn’t make her cry. He didn’t reach for something else because he knew he already had the best in his arms. He appreciated everything I took for granted.
So, yeah, I didn’t hate Colt, but I sure as fuck hated myself.
Over the years, I’ve learned how to hide it, though. We celebrate holidays and birthdays together and we don’t skip a beat when it comes to our kids. Holly may not be mine anymore, but she gave me two beautiful kids and they deserve the best we got to give and if that’s this co-parenting gig, then I’m all in. I’ll shake Colt’s hand and make small talk with him. I’ll ignore the pang of jealousy I feel every time he reaches for Holly and I’ll turn my head when he goes to kiss her.
There ain’t a thing I won’t do for my kids.
I lost their mom, but I’ll never lose them.
That’s why I didn’t turn down this week’s invitation. It ain’t about Holly taking pity on me and offering me a home-cooked meal, this is about our baby girl breaking the news that she’s got herself a boyfriend and us putting aside our shit to size up the little fucker and make sure he’s worthy.
Men don’t become worthy of perfection until they stop thinking with their dicks and that usually don’t happen until they reach the age of forty. Take it from me, I’m forty-one and I’m just starting to think with the head attached to my fucking neck.
At the sound of my name, I pull myself away from my thoughts and stare at Holly. She shakes her head, silently telling me it wasn’t her who called my name and points to my leg. My brows pinch together as something tugs at my Wranglers. I lower my gaze, spotting the diaper clad toddler staring up at me with a big ol’ grin on his pudgy face.
“Hey, buddy,” I say, crouching down to pull a Nerf dart from his blond hair—a physical trait he inherited from his dad. “Rough day, huh?” He looks at the dart, his grin widening as he pretends his fingers are a gun.
“Pew, pew, mother fudger!”
Fighting a smirk, I raise an eyebrow and shoot Holly a look, knowing very well our son had a hand in his little brother’s vocabulary.
Simultaneously we both shout for Shepard.
“You rang?” Shepard croons as he saunters into the kitchen carrying a Nerf gun.
At ten, our boy is almost as tall as his mama. Holly crosses her arms against her chest and fixes him with a look.
“You want to explain why Theo is running around with a dart stuck in his hair, using words like mother fudger?”
Shep shrugs his shoulders.
“You told me to play with him and I decided to kill two birds with one stone,” he says, bringing his eyes to me. “I was practicing my aim.”
“Things you don’t want to hear your ten-year-old son say unless he’s in the bathroom,” Holly mutters. Sighing, she looks from him to me. “You take the tween, I’ll take the toddler?”
I nod, watching as she uncrosses her arms and scoops her son up into her arms.
“Let’s go get you some clothes before your sister’s boyfriend comes and thinks we condone nudity,” she murmurs, pressing a kiss to Theo’s cheek. Once they’re out of sight, I push off the counter and take the Nerf gun from Shep’s hands.
“Practicing your aim, huh?” I say, fitting the gun to my hand. My finger closes around the trigger, but I don’t shoot.
“Yeah, I had it all planned. I was going to shoot Tara’s boyfriend right in the nuts that’s why I was using Theo as a target, I figure he’s prime height.”
Aside from the fact it isn’t a real gun and Theo is like two feet tall, it’s not a bad plan.
“Unless your sister is dating a midget, you might want to aim a little higher, son.”
“Maverick!” Holly shouts from the other room.
I forgot the woman has super-sonic hearing.
Shaking my head, I set the Nerf gun on the counter and turn back to Shepard.
“No guns in the house.”
“It’s fake,” he defends.
The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree with this one. He’s got his mama’s looks, but he’s all me personality wise which makes disciplining him ten times harder.
“You’re making me look bad, kid.”
Holly returns, wrangling a t-shirt over Theo’s head and huffs out a breath as she glares at me.
“If we fuck this up, she’ll never bring anyone around again, Maverick, and that’s when the sneaking around starts. Is that what you want?”
“I wanted to send her to a convent, but you weren’t on board with that,” I argue.
I’m not joking either. Lightning struck twice when our little girl hit puberty and she became a spitting image of her mama—hypnotic eyes and all.
“What?” I grunt, not liking this conversation.
She sighs, turning her attention to Shepard. “Take your brother inside and no more Nerf guns in the house.”
I cut him off.
“Do what your mother says.”
He huffs out a breath and takes Theo’s hand, leading him out of the kitchen.
Yeah, Shepard Burnside is the perfect mix of me and Holly. Good lookin’, cunning, and stubborn as all hell. I bring my eyes back to Holly.
“He’s all you.”
“Don’t change the subject,” she volleys, placing a hand on her hip. Her gaze softens as she continues. “I was sixteen once, Maverick, remember?”
Do I ever.
She was friends with my little brother, Shady, and lived next door to us for years prior, but it wasn’t until Holly turned sixteen that I really noticed her. My father, Preacher, was the president of the Satan’s Knights motorcycle club at the time and I was a prospect. Shady had just started hanging around the clubhouse, getting a feel for the life, seeing if it was good fit for him. He mostly washed bikes and served drinks, but every once and a while, he’d bring Holly around. It was obvious he no longer saw her as a friend, but I didn’t give a fuck.
Especially not after our father took the gavel.
That’s when I got my colors.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. The vote was unanimous, and we celebrated in true Knight fashion with top-shelf booze, pure cocaine, and easy pussy.
I don’t know how she wound up being there, but one minute I was snorting coke off some whore’s ass, the next I was standing in front of Holly, winding her long brown hair around my fingers.
I knew I was five years her senior.
That my brother wanted her, maybe even loved her.
But like I said, I didn’t give a fuck.
Not a single one.
And neither did she.
We didn’t cross the line that night.
Didn’t even kiss.
She gave me those eyes, shared her smile and by the grace of God, I kept my dick in my pants. I brushed her hair away from her ear and leaned in.
She smelled like sweet watermelon and fucking sunshine.
My lips touched her ear and with my dick pressing against the zipper of my jeans, I told her to leave. To come back when she was legal.
Of course, she didn’t listen.
She showed up every chance she got, we flirted and toed the line, but in the end, I turned her away every damn time.
Then on her eighteenth birthday she strutted into the clubhouse, wearing skintight leather pants and a white tank top. Her hair was down, just the way I liked it, and I itched to run my fingers through it. Everyone, Shady included, thought she was there for him, but my girl only had eyes for me. She stood in front of me, her hand perched on her hip, eyes soft and said, “I’m legal, now.”
I shook my head.
“No, now you’re mine,” I whispered back.
The rest—as they say—is history.
I shake the memory from my head and stare back at Holly.
Hand still perched on her hip.
Eyes still soft.
“You remember,” she whispers.
“I’ll never forget,” I rasp.
It doesn’t matter how old we get.
Or who we belong to.
Some things just stick until the end of time.