Book 1 of The Devil's Keepers Series
In the start of a sizzling new series, bestselling author Megan Crane takes readers deep into bayou country, where the sultry swamp has nothing on the heat of Louisiana’s fiercest bikers: the Devil’s Keepers.
Merritt Broussard grew up knowing she had two choices if she stayed in Lagrange: run with the outlaws or get left in their dust. So she got the hell out, leaving behind a bad-boy biker and scorching memories of their summer fling. Now Merritt’s back, with trouble on her tail, and the sergeant-at-arms of the Devil’s Keepers is the one person she can still trust. But Greeley isn’t the boy she remembers. He’s harder now, more dangerous – and even more alluring.
Joseph “Greeley” Shaw loves two things: his bike and his club. At eighteen, he escaped a rough life, found the Devil’s Keepers on the wrong side of a bad weekend, and never looked back. Greeley swore to live and die by their code: Devil’s Keepers first, Devil’s Keepers forever. No one comes between him and his brothers – except for the tantalizing woman who touched his soul. Greeley’s the kind of man who honors his commitments… and Merritt is one promise he’s determined to keep.
Praise for Megan Crane’s Make You Burn:
“If you are looking for a hot and dirty read in the motorcycle club genre, then Megan Crane is a new voice to follow. Her characters are gritty, unapologetic, and led by their animal instincts, whether in war or love.” – Heroes & Heartbreakers
“Crane piles on the passion and danger… This tough and dirty world is fascinating and satisfying in its own way.” – Publishers Weekly
“Her style was so sultry and thick that I could almost feel the sweat of the bayou and the pulse of Bourbon Street as I read. I sunk deep into the story and enjoyed every minute of it.” – Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews
The reality of Greeley, sitting out back on his big, gleaming chopper, leaning forward slightly so Merritt could really get a decent look at him in the half-assed pool of light from the porch, was more than overwhelming. It was like that hard hand of his around her jaw, holding her clamped down and still and exactly where he wanted her, which she could still feel against her flesh as if he’d marked her five years ago.
It was like a goddamned sledgehammer. Or maybe that was just him.
She wasn’t ready. She’d known this would happen, sooner or later, but she’d been banking on later. Much, much later. She should have climbed right back in the car when she’d heard that first motorcycle. She could have been holed up in a perfectly nice motel down in Lafayette by now, another place no one would think to look for her with the added bonus of not being smack in the middle of the Devil’s Keepers.
But she’d wanted to feel safe. She’d always felt safe in her father’s house, no matter how lonely. She’d wanted that again, after Antony.
Let’s just stipulate that you’re a fucking idiot, a caustic voice inside her suggested, and she could hardly argue. The evidence was clear.
And it was too late now. He was right here. It didn’t matter if she was ready or not.
With Greeley, it never did.
“This is so sweet,” she murmured, her tone bright and saccharine because she had no defense but a useless offense, standing there behind the screen door like that might work as some kind of buffer. Please. Greeley went wherever the hell he wanted and a screen door wasn’t going to stop him. So she kept talking, because there was a slight chance that might. “Did you come all the way out here just to say hello? After all this time? You always were such a gentleman. It’s what I remember most about you.”
His hard mouth curved faintly in one corner, a stamp of a steel-edged amusement that didn’t bode well for her at all. His gray eyes glittered in the dark. She had to remind herself to breathe.
“Not sure I’d go with an attitude, straight off the bat after five years and how we left it, babe. I’m not thinking that’s the smartest move.”
He’d said he’d keep her or kill her. She remembered that part vividly, and Merritt had absolutely no desire to explore what he’d meant by either.
“If I’d known you were coming over I would have baked a cake or something, like a good little southern belle,” she continued in the same foolhardy fake-sweet tone, choosing to go ahead and ignore the way his rough voice slid all over her and ignited a series of very unfortunate, very dangerous wildfires that began to flicker and dance all over her skin. And beneath it, down deep. “We could have made an occasion out of it. Laissez les bons temps rouler or whatever.”
Greeley laughed at that. Not nicely. He ran a hand down the length of his black beard, shifting that dark and smoky gaze of his from hers while he did it like he was gathering himself for his next attack. Merritt instantly wished he hadn’t looked away because once he did, once she wasn’t caught in that gunmetal tractor beam of his that left her near enough to paralyzed, there was nothing to do but look at him.
God help her.
All that desperate minimizing she’d done when it came to her memories of that damned summer made this worse. To say nothing of the fairytales she’d told herself to make her behavior back then a little more palatable. She’d imagined Greeley might have gone to fat and ruin, like so many of the men around here did when they got older and still spent all their time doing their aggressive versions of nothing much. Or at the very least, she’d figured whatever had made him so beautiful to her for those three hot and sweaty months would have died. That it was a moment in time that wouldn’t make sense to her at all now that she’d moved on and up. And that, more to the point, he’d be leathery and seedy and have all the appeal of an overused ashtray or a day old beer.
Yeah, too bad.
Because if anything, Greeley was hotter than she remembered him.
His body was carved from unforgiving stone, hard and long and mouthwateringly packed with lean muscle. Everywhere. He wore the same battered jeans and scuffed boots she remembered as his basic uniform, the faded denim spread over him like one of the biker bitches she had no doubt plastered themselves to him at any opportunity. She certainly had, and that was before she’d known how completely unintimidated he was by a smart woman. He wore a lived-in looking black t-shirt touting an obscure band she was sure played only at an angry volume with his club cut on top, the worn yet obviously well-cared-for black leather covered in all those patches she knew he took very, very seriously. Bikers and boy scouts had that in common—an observation she wisely kept to herself.
It was bad enough that the t-shirt strained at his cut biceps, making the tattoos that snaked down both his arms seem more colorful and more fascinating than they should, wrapped around all that corded steel. But it was also much too tight over the flat, hard planes of his pectoral muscles, pulling taut there in a way that made her mouth go dry while her pussy got instantly, unmistakably wet. She couldn’t actually see his ridged abdomen, which meant it was tempting to pretend a beer gut could lurk there, softly marring his brutal perfection—but she doubted it. There wasn’t a single soft thing on this man’s body.
He shifted then, swinging his leg to get off that stripped down and starkly gorgeous bike, and she couldn’t tell if it was panic or something far more worrisome that surged through her then, making her flush much too hot. He ran his hands through his hair once more and that wasn’t any better. His hands looked tougher than she remembered, hard and scarred and covered with deliberately in your face rings, the kind a certain sort of man wore when he expected to use them to inflict damage.
Merritt’s tragedy was that she remembered exactly how he’d used them on her, and more than that, precisely what sort of damage it had done. And that was when he’d treated her like a fragile thing he was afraid he might break—something that hollow place in the pit of her gut told her wouldn’t be a factor tonight.
His hair was longer than she remembered it, thick and dark, making the cool gray of his eyes seem that much more lethal. He still had that beard that she’d felt on every inch of her skin—and remembering exactly how good he was with it and how he’d used it, particularly between her legs, made her head spin a little while her breath went shallow.
What she needed to do was slam the outside door shut and bar it with all the furniture she could drag there, then maybe crawl into the attic and barricade herself in the middle of all her father’s forgotten old clothes and mysterious boxes until Greeley gave up and went away.
But she didn’t move. It was as if her bare feet were cemented to the floor.
He finished shoving his hair back and then he was coming toward her, forbidding and fierce on long, lean legs, the lethal promise he carried with him seeming thicker and more dangerous than the bayou night. His face was hard with the same electric threat that was making her pussy clench, over and over, and his mouth was a tough, grim line that shouldn’t have made her breasts feel so heavy and sensitive.
“Your daddy’s funeral was three months ago.” His too much whiskey, too many late nights voice was quiet, but not at all soft. “Folks thought you might take a break from the big city to pay your respects. But you and me, we know respect isn’t your thing, isn’t that right?”
That hurt more coming from him than it should have. More than it would have if someone else in town said it, as Merritt knew very well they would. Of course they would. But Greeley had once known all about her strange, strained relationship with her father. It stunned her how much it bothered her that he’d either forgotten about that—or more likely, didn’t care. Not when he could get in a hit.
He wasn’t the Greeley she’d known that summer. She needed to remember that. He was the Greeley she’d met for the first time that terrible last night before law school. He wasn’t the man she’d run to, night after hot night. He was the man she’d walked away from.
Not that her body could tell the difference.
“I did pay my respects,” she made herself say with as little emotion as possible. “By staying the hell away, which would have made the old man deliriously happy, the same way it did while he was alive. But remind me, because this part is fuzzy—how is my family your business?”
“You got a lot of bravado for someone who should know better,” he pointed out, closing in on the porch, and he didn’t sound like he thought that was a positive development. “They teach you how to run your mouth like that in law school? Or is that a New York thing?”
He jumped up the back step with a little too much silken, athletic ease for Merritt’s peace of mind. Her stomach flipped over , and then he was right there. Right there on the other side of the screen door. Big and tough, blocking out the night and the bayou and the whole of the St. Germain parish spread out behind him.
And Merritt stopped pretending she could breathe. Or that her nipples weren’t as hard and tight as her belly was taut and her pussy was wet, as if it had been five minutes since he’d last made her come instead of five years.
Five interminable years, a completely unhelpful voice inside of her chimed in.
Greeley stopped on the other side of the screen. Merritt was frozen solid again. Unable to move. Unable to try to ward him off somehow, with her mouth if necessary. Unable to back away from him and unable to run. She couldn’t seem to do anything except stand there like a statue while he leaned in, propping himself against the door frame and getting his face near hers. Separated only by the damned screen.
Which did not one thing to lessen the sheer impact of him. Male and hard and visibly pissed and god help her, so much more beautiful than he should have been.
“You feel safe?” he asked her, low and taunting, a hard gleam she couldn’t quite name in his dark eyes. “You think I’m playing with you?”
“I haven’t felt safe since I turned eight and Marilee DuBois told me what the Devil’s Keepers MC really was and how often her mama had to wash blood out of her daddy’s clothes,” Merritt retorted. Marilee really had told her exactly that out on the swing set behind the elementary school. But it hadn’t made Merritt feel much of anything but annoyed at the other girl’s flair for melodrama. It sounded like the truth, however, and maybe that was close enough to count. “I didn’t realize feeling safe was on the menu down here.”
“Nice try.” He shook his head like she was being foolish. Or worse, like he knew perfectly well she was embellishing her upset at that story. “You didn’t have a problem with the club growing up. Is that the excuse you want to use? That’s the best you could dream up over five years?”
“You knew me for three months five years ago and pretty much all we did was have sex.” That also wasn’t really true. If it had just been sex, surely she would have gotten over it faster. She made herself shrug as if there had been nothing between them but a random one night stand. It was an act of extraordinary bravery given how the word sex seemed to spark and flare between them, then sink deep inside of her, where it shimmered into a brand new flame. But she did it because it was better than the alternative, which might involve talking about all the time they’d spent together not having sex. “You don’t have any idea what I have a problem with.”
“Hate to break it to you, babe, but you’re not that complicated.” His voice was much too gruff. His gaze was much too hard. “Your whole thing? This? Is called a princess complex.”
Merritt could react to the things he said to wound her or she could try to fight him, but not both. She chose to fight. She’d have to turn over the bruises he’d left later, when she had time to really explore how much it hurt to hear him say these things to her. Even all these years after he should have stopped mattering to her.
She forced out a laugh. “What does that even mean? You’re an outlaw biker. You’re almost certainly a criminal under any definition of that term, something you’re so proud of you walk around wearing patches that proclaim it on the off chance someone might otherwise miss that about you. What’s a princess to you? A girl who doesn’t flash her tits the minute you walk in a room?”
She probably shouldn’t have mentioned tits. Or his criminal activity, summed up in the 1%-er patch right there on his cut that shouted out the fact he set himself apart from regular folks. She wasn’t sure which part of what she’d said made him tense as he leaned there, filling up the entire screen door—and the whole damned world—with that searing temper she could feel surround her like a noose.
But then he started talking. And that was worse.
“You grew up about as high and mighty as it’s possible to be in this town. Your daddy was the only doctor for miles and he didn’t have to lord that over folks, it just was. You had outlaw biker, criminal protection since before you could walk. You were set apart and special, taken care of because of shit your daddy did, but all you ever did was turn your nose up at this town and the club that keeps it running. Then you took yourself off to your fancy fucking college and got that high opinion of yourself hardwired in deep. I see law school made it worse. But you can’t change who you are, darlin’, no matter how you try or how far away you go.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
Greeley’s gray eyes gleamed silver, menace and threat like the sharp edge of a terrible knife that he clearly had no compunction about shoving deep into her gut. Or her heart. “I’ll tell you what it means. It turns out the only thing that really gets the doctor’s prissy daughter wet and crazy is a rough as shit biker and all the dirty things he can do to her.”