We descendants of six notorious brothers are a close knit group, because we have to protect each other. People want to be our friends, our lovers, for the wrong reasons… for what we can do for them. What they can take from us. And sometimes snakes wear masks.
Every man I’ve dated in this city has either bored me or hurt me.
So when my cousin, Sofia Sol, offers me a ride on the back of her Harley with no destination in mind besides out-of-Atlanta, can you blame me for saying yes?
Life doesn’t always give you what you want. You have to take it. Two years ago I lost a fight that cost me my Champion title. Now’s my chance to turn the tide.
I don’t know who the Cocker family is. Florida doesn’t give a damn what happens in any other state. So when I spot Hannah Cocker for the first time, I don’t know she’s semi-famous, and I don’t care. All I’m thinking is, how can I make that beautiful woman’s sadness disappear? I’m not good enough to be her forever, but I sure can give her one hell of a ride tonight.
Hannah presses closer into me, her fingertips tracing my skin. “My mom read to me every night, and taught me how before Kindergarten. She was really patient, you know? I don’t remember her ever losing her temper, at least not with me.”
“You see her lose it with someone else?”
“She got mad at a plumber once, called him a robber. And when he left she kneeled in front of me and said, ‘Don’t ever let them take advantage of you because you’re a girl, Hannah.’ I think it’s my strongest memory of her. But I have photos, and my grandma recorded stories with my dad before she died.”
I whisper, “How many?”
“Tons.” Hannah’s chest caves in as she rubs her nose then wraps her arms around me again. She feels so good. “I haven’t listened to them in years. They’d make me miss her too much, and I miss her so badly already. I want my mom. I need her! Why’d that have to happen to her?” Her shoulders start shaking while I rock her.
“I know, gorgeous, it sucks.”
“So bad! It sucks so bad,” she whispers. “I hate it. I have a stepmother, and I love her. She’s great, and I know I’m lucky. I shouldn’t feel this badly, but Tobias, I want my real mom to meet my children. I want her to see who I marry. I want her to be able to slap my dad, like really hard! Maybe two times.”
Quietly laughing at that last one, I ask, “You can’t do it?”
“No,” she sighs, chuckling through the tears. “He’s too good a guy. But I kind of want to.” My chest rumbles with hers and then we go quiet together. “Thank you, Tobias.”
“I think I needed to talk about her. I never do. All my cousins have both their parents. It’s only me who doesn’t, so they can’t ever understand. But then it’s like she was never here, and that’s not good.” Hannah meets my eyes. “And I’m sorry about what happened to you. I know they’re not the same stories…”
“…but they’re the same feelings.”
“Same loss.” Her stomach growls and she glances to it, making a face at the timing.
I laugh and trace her cheek. “You hungry, babe?”
“Yeah, a little.”
“Let’s get room service.”
Her hand slides down my stomach and under my towel, which unlatches the haphazard knot. The damp cotton drifts to the ground. She takes hold of my sleeping length and smiles up at me, looking so beautiful my heart shudders. “I know what we can do while we wait for food to get here.”
One of my eyebrows cocks up and I murmur against her waiting lips, “Let’s make the pain go away.”