Make You Burn (Deacons of Bourbon Street)
Book 0.5 of The Devil's Keepers Series
Meet the Deacons of Bourbon Street, bad boy bikers who are hell on wheels—and heaven between the sheets. Megan Crane revs up an irresistible new series co-written with Rachael Johns, Jackie Ashenden, and Maisey Yates.
Sean “Ajax” Harding’s oaths are inked into his skin. Once second-in-command of the Deacons of Bourbon Street motorcycle club, he left New Orleans to protect the brotherhood, and only the death of his beloved mentor, Priest Lombard, could lure him back. Walking into the old hangout gives him a familiar thrill—especially when he gets an eyeful of the bar’s delectable new owner. A wild ride with her is just the welcome Ajax needs. Then he realizes that she’s Priest’s daughter, all grown up and totally off limits.
Sophie Lombard loved her father, not his lifestyle. She’s done with bikers . . . until Ajax roars into town—arrogant, tough, and sexy as ever. And although he treats her like the Catholic schoolgirl he once knew, Sophie’s daydreams tend to revolve around sin. With the very real possibility of heartbreak looming, Sophie knows better than to get too close to an outlaw. But every touch from Ajax is steamier than the Louisiana bayou—and heat like this may just be worth getting burned.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
Read all four Deacons of Bourbon Street books:
Book One by Megan Crane: Make You Burn
Book Two by Rachael Johns: Fire Me Up
Book Three by Jackie Ashenden: Hold Me Down
Book Four by Maisey Yates: Strip You Bare
Make You Burn (Deacons of Bourbon Street)
She was an accident waiting to happen.
To him, if he had anything to say about it. And he usually did.
Sean Harding—who answered only to his biker road name, Ajax, and he could count the number of times he’d had to correct someone about that on one hand—figured she was his own fucked up Welcome Back card after ten years of exile from the only home he’d ever known.
And as welcomes went, she’d do.
She was a lick of sweet sugar on a sweaty Louisiana afternoon like this one, still hot as hell in early October. She wore tight and sparkling gold hot pants that made her fine ass into a kind of bayou music, sexy and dark. She was in high, high shoes that showed off long legs made to wrap tight around a man’s back while he fucked them both through the nearest wall. She had a giant, golden, feather headdress on her head that moved when she did, a glittery mask across her eyes in case he’d forgotten he was back in the great and gritty pageant of New Orleans and all its masquerades, and most important, she wore nothing but tasseled gold pasties on her perfect, mouthwatering tits.
None of which would have been worthy of notice or comment on Bourbon Street after dark, in all its edgy commotion and the enveloping, inviting sin on all sides, but it was high noon on a goddamned Tuesday and she was moving gracefully in and out of groups of tourists in pastels and fanny packs who were still sober enough to keep their hands to themselves—if not their eyes. Or their cameras.
Home sweet fucking home, Ajax thought in a hard kind of satisfaction, following the twitch of her ass as she sauntered straight down the center of dirty, dangerous, sometimes magical Bourbon Street in the direction of the Priory, the bar that had once been the center of his entire world. Almost like she knew he was heading there now, and was leading him home like the horny, not-too-bright but clearly exhibitionist stripper he sincerely hoped she was.
Well. It had been home until ten years ago when Priest, the only version of a father Ajax had ever acknowledged, much less respected, had issued the order that changed everything. And Ajax might have told his actual, biological father to go fuck himself—a message he’d backed up with his fists, a piece of rebar, and his first arrest for assault when he’d been all of fourteen—but Priest had been the President of the Deacons of Bourbon Street Motorcycle Club and Ajax didn’t defy his MC’s orders. He’d been the VP, a position he’d fucking earned. He’d obeyed and enforced his president’s orders, even the ones he didn’t like, because they’d been good for the club and that was the only thing that had mattered to him.
It still was.
Even if that kind of blood loyalty meant he’d had to leave his beloved club, his brothers, and his city behind in the wake of a bullshit deal gone bad, all a part of Priest’s attempts to bring the once-outlaw MC over to the right side of the law. Less hassle, more money, Priest had said, and Ajax had backed him.
Ajax had always backed Priest. He’d taken an oath to the Deacons when he was sixteen, the youngest full member ever to be patched into the club, and he’d meant every word. He was a man whose oaths were inked into his skin, his promises visible art he wore on his body and had carved into it, proudly. He didn’t break his fucking promises.
He believed in the life he’d chosen. Even if he’d been exiled from that life for the past ten years.
But now Priest was dead. And that changed everything. It had brought Ajax home at last. He’d been on his bike and headed east from Houston within the hour of getting that call from the Deacons’ old lawyer.
He hadn’t particularly enjoyed the life he’d crafted for himself since he’d left New Orleans. Ajax had been an excellent mercenary, mostly because he hadn’t given much of a shit if he survived each operation. And maybe because of that, he and the outfit he’d worked for were damned good at what they did. Sometimes they’d acted as security for shady motherfuckers who wanted the nuclear option at their fingertips should shit fall apart, which it often did. Sometimes they’d operated as their own form of Special Forces for assholes who could afford to buy their own, personal armies. They sold their services to the highest bidder and they didn’t ask any questions. It was nothing Ajax hadn’t done in one form or another for his club, but it wasn’t his club.
It was never his club.
Mercenary work was a collection of dangerous men who happened to band together and might at any moment shoot each other in the back if shit went down that way, never a brotherhood. Never any kind of family.
Never a cause Ajax would consider wearing on his own skin.
Ajax had always intended to return to his home and his club one day. Preferably by riding his shit-kicking Dyna, black as sin and a hundred times louder, straight into the heart of the French Quarter with his cut on his back and his middle finger held high. But ten years of working as a hired gun in some of the world’s least hospitable places—worse, even, than the shithole shack out in the bayou where he’d been born and beaten on by his drunk asshole of a father for his first fourteen years—had taught him the value of reconnaissance and restraint. Or anyway, how to fake it when it suited him.
Thinking about ancient history and all the grief that went along with it pissed him off.
And when Ajax got pissed off, he fought or he fucked until he felt right again, and not always in that order.
So when Miss Gold Hot Pants pushed her way past a pack of drooling engineer-types, all chinos and narrow shoulders, to enter the Priory, Ajax decided it was a sign. He could keep his grief and his fury to himself. And he wouldn’t mind a quick, hot, satisfying bang in the Priory toilets to take the edge off the only version of mourning he’d allow himself, before he got down to business. It wouldn’t be the first time.
He stared down the engineers until they dispersed like a cloud of tiny little flies—when he’d hoped they’d be wasted enough to mouth off to him so he could indulge in the great joy of shoving his boot up an ass or two—and then he followed her inside and just like that, he was home.
There were a lot fewer Deacons in the dim interior than there had been ten years ago. None, in fact. No Priest behind the bar, scowling ferociously around a Marlboro Red and refusing to serve the dumbass tourists who staggered in, drunk off their asses and too stupid to notice that they weren’t in a safe place. Something that was also true of the Big Easy herself, the faithless bitch, but that didn’t seem to stop folks from swarming down to the city anyway like they wanted to make themselves another crime statistic or sad story the ghost tour operators would embellish for tips.
Ajax could almost see the ghost of the old man down there at the far reach of the bar, could almost smell his cigarette smoke as the ceiling fans moved it around and made it a part of the humid Louisiana air. Fuck you, Priest, he thought ferociously. You weren’t supposed to die alone.
“I did it,” the girl with the perfect tits announced grandly to the mostly-empty bar, because it was still early in the week and in the day, and only October besides. “I said I would do it and I did.”
She still had that sculpted back turned to him, a lush, supple thing with intricate angel wings tattooed on each of her shoulder blades. Girly ink, sure, but with a body like that, who was Ajax to question whether or not she was one of New Orleans’s resident saints? He could think of several ways he’d like to pray with a gritty little street angel like this one, and that was just his cock talking. His head had always been far more creative, even after zero sleep and a long, hot ride, to say nothing of the significantly less fun drive in from outside Baton Rouge. Because there wasn’t much left on this earth that Ajax feared, but only a dumbass rolled up into a city after a ten year absence without his brothers at his back.
Ajax was a lot of things, including a little too hot for a stripper in a Vegas-style headdress at the moment, but he was no dumbass. Dumbasses tended to die ugly deaths in the places he’d been, this one included.
He moved to the bar, instinctively situating himself at the shortest part of its L, where he could keep his back to the mirrored wall and his eyes on the rest of the Priory with those rolling doors pulled wide open to bring the hectic mess of Bourbon Street inside.
“I don’t get why you had to do it,” the current bartender said.
She looked cute and perky, like she’d gotten lost on her way to a sorority house at Tulane, which left Ajax completely cold. He missed the foul-mouthed, big-titted biker bitches and hot little sweet butts who’d worked here back in the day, all dressed in leather and attitude problems and visible ink. It caused him physical pain to think of the Priory—his Priory—as nothing more than a French Quarter tourist trap like that joke Pat O’Brien’s around the way, dispensing watered-down Hurricanes and bullshit to every imported frat boy in a fifty mile radius.
“But,” Tulane continued with a blinding cheerleader’s smile that was completely out of place here to Ajax’s way of thinking, “I support your right to go topless in the middle of the Quarter if you feel like you have to, Sophie. You know that.”
Ajax went still. Very still. The way he’d learned to do in far-off jungles where the faintest twitch of a single muscle meant a blown off head, at best.
No fucking way, he thought. And then again.
But he’d seen too much to believe in coincidences. What were the chances that another girl with the same name as Priest’s sweet little daughter—an actual Catholic schoolgirl ten years ago and in Ajax’s memory a fucking baby barely old enough to merit a training bra—would wander into the Priory and also happen to have a close relationship with the bartender? He stared at the golden hot pants and the angel wings. That ass. He ignored that roaring thing in him that urged him to clear the bar and put his hands on this girl he’d followed halfway across the city without ever seeing more of her face than a hint of jaw, a flutter of fake eyelashes—
Keep your hands to yourself, asshole, he told himself harshly, though in his head he sounded a lot like the ghost he still half-saw looming there in the shadows at the other end of the bar.
She turned then, displaying those perfect fucking tits that should have been illegal on the daughter of a man Ajax respected above all others, and he took his instant, unmanageable hard on as a personal affront to every oath he’d ever made in this sacred space.
“My daddy told me I could dress up like a drag queen and wander the streets of the French Quarter over his dead body,” Sophie Lombard said as she tugged off the glittery mask—and there was no doubt about it, goddamn it, it was her. “So it was now or never, really.”
Ajax knew that face, though he took the stripper cosmetics and the hooker lashes as another insult, when the face he remembered had been scrubbed clean and sweet and pure. And when she peeled the acrobatic headdress from her head and sent it skidding a few feet down the dull sheen of the bar, her long, dark, wavy hair tumbled down past her shoulders, a thick and shining rope of it he wanted to wrap around his hands while he took her—
He stared at her, willing this to be some kind of homecoming-inspired hallucination, but no. He was sober at the moment, he hadn’t touched the funky stuff in years, and this was Sophie Lombard all grown up. She was a lush little package, all taut curves and a belly ring, just like a couple of his preferred wet dreams. She had the most perfect set of plump, round tits he’d ever seen, even with the stupid tassels jutting from them, and they definitely should not have been on display for the entire fucking city like that. Or ever. What the hell was the matter with her? More to the point, he absolutely could not fuck her in the Priory toilets, no matter what bad decisions his cock was agitating for even now.
A man did not fuck the daughter of his beloved father figure when said father figure’s body was barely cold. Even if the daughter in question was dressed for a long night on the pole and had basically just advertised that she was for sale to the better part of New Orleans.
Not in the toilets, anyway.
When she only slipped onto a bar stool, making no attempt to cover herself or change what passed for her clothes, Ajax decided he’d had enough. It was high time he took control of this shit.
Before he lost what was left of his.
“Hey, Sophie,” he said. He didn’t have to raise his voice to command the attention of the entire bar. He saw her stiffen like she recognized his voice and he couldn’t deny that he liked that. He was never meant to go unnoticed, not here. Not in the only place he’d ever belonged. “Is that what you’re wearing to the funeral?”
She turned toward him slowly. So slowly he had a lifetime or two to remember her as a little girl. Sophie of the big, wide eyes and sparkly little laugh. Sophie in thick dark braids and with skinned knees. Sophie, who Priest would have died to protect, which meant any of the brothers would have done the same. Sophie, who had never been meant for a sticky dive bar and a pair of pasties, no matter how hot she looked in both.
Sophie, who glared at him down the length of the bar with a notable lack of the respect Ajax was used to receiving, especially from soft, breakable females who usually purred and got silly when they took a good look at him.
“Oh, hey there, Sean,” she replied after a long moment, her green eyes cool and haughty, like she was a goddamned queen instead of a half naked girl with a death wish, throwing around names she knew better than to use. “Long time no see.”
“Call me that again,” he suggested, in what he considered a friendly manner given the insult she’d just thrown at him, though he wasn’t entirely surprised when Tulane backed away from him in a wide-eyed rush, “and I might be the last thing you ever see.”
“Let me guess,” she replied, “you spent all this time in charm school?” Was it his imagination that she sat taller on her stool, then arched her back just enough to make those tits stick out a little further? Like she was trying to fuck with him? “Between you and me, you might think about asking for your money back. I don’t think it took.”
He forgot who she was for a moment, forgot the respect she was owed because of her father. He grinned at her instead, the way he would any other bitch who got in his face like that, flinging down challenges from across a public bar like he was some dickless frat boy. Ajax had always had a pretty face. No one tended to notice it much after the first time he grinned at them like that, though.
“No need to resort to all this flirting, baby,” he told her softly. “If you want to hop on and ride my dick, just ask.”
Sophie smiled at him, and it was not a nice smile. It was all the proof he needed that she wasn’t that sweet little girl he remembered, and he was a sick fuck, because it fascinated him to see she had her father’s fangs when she felt like showing them. He wanted them sunk in his neck. He wanted her to draw blood.
He wanted her, bad.
“Noted,” she said, in that snooty drawl of hers that sounded more like High Class Georgia, thanks to battalions of nuns over the years, than the Louisiana swamps that had made them both. Sophie Lombard, the pampered little princess of the Deacons MC, all grown up and bitchy besides. He couldn’t believe it. Much less the way she waved a hand at him, dismissively, which pissed him off—but in no way lessened his desire to get a taste of her. Soon. “Now get the fuck out of my bar.”