Kerry “Mercury” Dawson blinked.
Twilight. Dark Nevada sky. No stars out yet. No glow from the Las Vegas strip yet, either.
Why am I looking at the sky?
From the corner of his eye, Kerry took in the chopped-off motorcycle he’d been riding. It lay at an unnatural angle, six feet away.
Oh yeah. Little old blue-hair making a left turn in front of me.
Even from here Kerry could see the caved-in front fender, forks grotesquely squeezing the wheel. The mini-windshield was a spider-web of fiberglass. All that glorious chrome twisted and scraped raw.
And what was left of the rear fender another six feet away.
Laz is gonna be pissed I trashed his bike.
“Yo, man, you okay?” Buck’s pock-marked face appeared above him.
Kerry held his hands up in the air. Yep, all fingers were still there. And they moved. He wiggled his toes inside his boots. “Well,” he deadpanned. “I’m not dead.”
Buck smirked and offered Kerry a hand.
“Don’t!” The voice was high and shrill, and made Kerry wince. “He could have a head injury. Don’t move him!”
The body belonging to the voice moved into the circle of bikers that stood over him. The woman had delicate features, elegantly shaped eyes and mouth, and a mess of blonde curls held back by a clip.
“We take care of our own,” one of the bikers—was it Chaff?—growled.
The woman looked at Chaff, then at the other bikers. She was just one woman, and only half their size at that. His fellow bikers had to look damned intimidating in their tattoos, leather and Strikers patches.
She jammed her hands on her hips. “You’re kidding me, right?” She pinned each biker with a stare, one at a time. “One of you is a trained doctor, then? Paramedic? Nurse?”
Kerry started to chuckle, but a brick wall slammed into his body. His hip, his ribs, his shoulder were suddenly—excruciatingly—on fire. And his head…
Fuck, my head hurts!
He heard a groan—was that him?—and the woman’s attention promptly focused on him. She knelt beside him. “I’m Lucy. I’m an E.R. nurse. I’ve already called for an ambulance.”
Her hands moved over his body.
“Lady, what the—?!”
“Don’t try to move,” she said. “I think you hit your head.”
She got her hand into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet.
“Kerry.” She read off his license. “Do you hurt anywhere else?”
“I prefer Merc,” he grumbled.
“Did you say Merc?”
“As in Mercury,” he said. “You know… Mercury Rising?”
Her hand fluttered above his face, blurring. Was she really moving it that fast?
“Well, Merc,” she said. “We need to keep you awake until the ambulance gets here. Tell me something about your life.”
“Kerry, wake up.”
He knew the voice. It was the same one that kept saying Stay Awake, Stay Awake, in the ambulance. The woman just would not shut up. He groaned; was he still trapped in the ambulance with her?
He slit his eyes open just enough to ascertain that no, he was no longer in the ambulance. But that blurry figure… Yep, it was her. What was her name again? Oh yeah. Lucy.
“Lucy.” Damn, it was an effort to speak. “You’re giving me a headache.”
“Kerry.” Relief laced her voice. “You’re awake.”
“Merc,” he grunted.
“That’s right.” Was that amusement he heard in her voice? “Kerry isn’t tough-biker-ish enough for you?”
What did this pixie of a woman know about biker life? He cracked one eye open, enough to see the glimmer of mischief in her eyes, but also enough for the light to lance through his eye sockets.
He closed his eyes as he tried to raise his left hand to his temple.
He tried his right. It was as if both hands were glued in place. Were they broken? Couldn’t be; he’d wiggled them, hadn’t he?
Something akin to panic clawed at his insides. His eyes flew open and he raised his head, pain be damned, to search out his hands.
“Easy, Kerry,” Lucy said. “I mean, Merc.”
His hands were not encased in a cast, or even bandaged. But around his wrists…
He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “Restraints?” he croaked.
Nobody restrains me!
He jerked his arms and the bed shook.
So did his head. Maybe not the best idea…
“Kerry, you hit one of the nurses.” Lucy laid a hand on his arm. “We couldn’t risk that again.”
He stopped wrestling the restraints as her words sunk in. “I did what? That’s not possible… I don’t…”
“Which nurse?” He squinted at her.
Oh shit… was that a bruise on her…?
He groaned. Could this get any worse? Yeah, he was in a biker club, and sometimes he was required to enforce a certain… honor… but he was not some hoodlum or ruffian that went around hitting women…
“Kerry,” she said. “You have a very nasty bump on your head. You’ve had two seizures and it’s quite possible you’ve damaged something inside that skull of yours.”
He willed his brain to absorb what she was saying. Seizures?
“Lashing out at me wasn’t a conscious action on your part,” she continued. “I understand that, and I don’t blame you. It happens.”
It happens? Ah, Christ…
“The doctor ordered some scans of your head,” she said. “As soon as those are back the restraints will likely be removed and they’ll take you to your room.”
He didn’t know what to say.
“Kerry, will you look at me, please?”
He didn’t want to. Didn’t want to see the bruise he’d left on her cheek.
But he did; he owed her that much. Her eyes were startlingly blue. Deep blue, like the twilit sky he’d been staring up at…
“Frankly, you’re lucky to be alive,” she said. “You’ve got one seriously hard head.”
She didn’t know the half of it.
Kerry opened his eyes carefully. His brain no longer felt like it had outgrown his skull. That was a good sign. Gingerly he moved his arms. Relief flooded through him. No restraints.
“How you feeling, man?”
Kerry jumped at the voice; Laz had been so still and quiet, Kerry hadn’t noticed him sitting in the corner chair.
“Bruised everywhere, but I’ll live,” he said.
Laz nodded, and a strange mix of emotions stirred within Kerry: surprise, relief, worry. He tried to put his finger on what he was feeling and could only come up with… touched. Yes, he was touched that Laz had come. He looked up to Laz the way he thought other men might look up to their fathers.
Men who have fathers.
“I hear it’s a good thing you’ve got such a hard head,” Laz said.
Lazarus Lowenstein, owner of Dream Machines, was no pushover; he probably knew everything already.
Time to face the music.
“I guess we need to talk about the motorcycle I trashed,” Kerry said.
Laz didn’t answer, and that made Kerry nervous. “I’ll pay you back for it.”
Laz stroked his chin absently. “Yes, you will have to do that. The question is, how?”
Apprehension laced through Kerry’s chest. “Are you saying…” He swallowed. “I’m gonna need to find a new job?”
“I was very clear that none of the Dream Machine projects were to be used in any type of club activity.”
Kerry shouldn’t be surprised that Laz knew his riding companions were more than just a club. “That wasn’t an activity,” he objected. “It was just…”
Laz fixed him with a stare. “Was I or was I not clear?”
Kerry knew the older man was right, and he had too much respect for Laz to try to blow smoke up his ass.
As if it would work anyway.
“You were clear. And…” Kerry swallowed again. “I’m sorry.”
Laz stared hard at him. “I ought to fire you,” he said. “But sometimes you remind me of my younger self.”
“Yeah?” What would the forty-ish Lazarus have been like in his twenties?
Laz paced the few feet the hospital room allowed, and Kerry found himself holding his breath. He liked his job at Dream Machines. He liked the work, and the people, and… shoot, for the first time in his life, he actually cared if he got fired.
“One day, you’re going to want more in your life,” Laz said. “You’re going to realize the club lifestyle is rather limiting.”
More? What more was there, than riding and working on motorcycles? With a little sex and a little art thrown in…
Laz stroked his chin again, studying Kerry in a way that unnerved him. “You broke a cardinal rule when you took the motorcycle out with your friends,” he said. “If you want to stay on at Dream Machines, the job is yours under one condition.”
Well, this was better. Kerry started breathing again. “Name it.”
“You leave the club,” Laz said.
Kerry froze. Leave the Strikers? Those guys were the only friends he had. He couldn’t just bow out…
Laz picked his leather jacket up off the chair. “You think about it,” he said. “I gotta go meet with the new office manager, Tori.”
At the door, Laz stopped. “I almost forgot.” He dug in his jacket pocket. “The guys at the shop got you this.” He handed Kerry an envelope. “They’ll be by later to see you.”
When Laz had gone, Kerry opened the envelope. It was a get-well card that showed a cartoon man laid up in a hospital bed with his motorcycle peeking in the window. Inside, each person had written a personal note, some offering help with groceries or anything else he may need.
At the bottom, someone had written “Come back soon, we miss you!”
Maybe the Strikers weren’t his only friends…