Striker: No Prisoners MC Book 1
The doors to Desert Community Hospital slid open with a whoosh. It was a sound Dr. Lila Emerson heard countless times each shift, so she didn’t bother to look up, focusing instead on completing a written proposal for the concussion and sports safety program she hoped to institute at the local high school. Another forty-five minutes and she would have it completed, and be on her way home to the bottle of Cabernet and warm bath that promised to soothe her tired body after a hectic week. She couldn’t wait.
“Stitch.” Jester’s booming voice bellowed through the lobby. “We need you, girl! Gumby’s face is all busted up.”
Lila groaned. Again? Perhaps the man needed a new nickname. Gumby didn’t seem fitting, considering the number of times his body cracked.
Members of the No Prisoners motorcycle club had burst into the lobby of the emergency room. She could always tell the moment they came through the doors, even without the inevitable we’re here announcement made by Jester. There was a change in the energy of the room: a charge of fear and distrust from some, a nervous respect from others, and a buzz of sexual energy from all the testosterone they seemed to emit. There was a strong possibility she was the only one who noticed that last point.
Jester led the pack of two leather-clad, boot-wearing men as they tromped through the waiting room, and up to the admissions desk. Silence descended as the patients awaiting treatment gaped at the intimidating duo. Jester was a mountain of a man, topping out at no less than six foot five inches, and probably weighed close to three hundred pounds of solid muscle. He had the body type of a serious weight lifter, and could have been one, for all she knew about him. Both arms boasted full sleeves of tattoos, and additional ink peeked out from the collar of his T-shirt. Jester’s dark brown hair was long, past his shoulders, and thick, though usually contained in a ponytail at the base of his neck. He was a formidable figure, and not someone she’d want to meet in a back alley at night, despite his apparent jovial demeanor.
He reached the admissions desk, and braced his meaty hands on the counter. The action placed him directly above poor Anna, the middle-aged receptionist who worked the night shift. She had to tilt her head way back to meet Jester’s fierce gaze.
“Um, if you wouldn’t mind filling out these papers.” Anna’s voice shook as she fumbled with the clipboard that contained the intake paperwork. “Then please have a seat, and we will call you back soon. There are only a few patients ahead of you, so the wait shouldn’t be more than an hour.”
“That’s not gonna work for us. We’ll just head back to an empty room, and Stitch can meet us in there.”
Jester was the first to call her Stitch, after a number of club members had required stitches following a particularly brutal bar brawl one night a few months ago. The moniker stuck, and spread throughout the town.
The No Prisoners. Their name came from the phrase take no prisoners, an expression the club was rumored to live by. Lila’s patients loved to pass along town gossip, and she was regaled with numerous grandiose stories about the club’s penchant for making their enemies disappear. Typically, she took what patients told and believed about half of it, but these rumors she didn’t doubt. Each club member she’d met was able to laugh and joke with her, but there was always a deadly undercurrent that couldn’t be ignored. They all carried weapons, and she’d often wondered how they got them past the security guard, but she wasn’t about to ask. No point in getting on their bad side.
Lila rolled her eyes, and stood, intending to intervene on Anna’s behalf, when her gaze landed on the man rounding out the group. Striker shook hands with the night security guard as he came through the double doors. In its typical fashion, her heart rate kicked up a notch at the sight of the No Prisoners’ vice president.
Her eyes widened as she watched Striker pass what looked like money to the portly guard who glanced around before sliding his hand into his back pocket. Well that explained how they got their arsenal in the building, and why they were never asked to leave, no matter how many patients complained of being uncomfortable by their presence.
If Webster’s had a definition for sexy bad boy there would be a picture of Striker. He stood around six-foot-two, with muscles galore and dark, almost black hair that was short and a bit unruly. Combined with a strong jaw, piercing blue eyes, and leather, he made for one mouthwatering package.
“Ah, there’s no guarantee that, um, Dr. Emerson will be the one to see you.” Anna’s face was flushed, her voice wavered, and her eyes shone with a glimmer of unshed tears. Jester still hovered over her, a scowl on his face.
Lila sighed. Her schedule had been crazy this week and she’d had to squeeze in work on the proposal anywhere she could. It was just about finished, and she had planned on it being done by the time this shift was over. So much for that.
She moved toward the reception area to rescue Anna before the unassuming woman broke down under Jester’s glower. “Anna, it’s okay.” Lila put a hand on the older woman’s shoulder. “There’s no one else in line to check in. Why don’t you run and grab a cup of coffee from the break room, and I’ll get these gentlemen’s information and get them settled.”
The look of relief on Anna’s face was almost comical, and she scurried away the second the offer was out of Lila’s mouth. The club members were imposing for sure, but in all the times they’d been into the ER, Lila could be honest in saying they never actually caused any trouble. They just always looked like they were on the verge of it. Still, the patients in the waiting room stared at the floor and out the windows, anywhere but at the hulking men in leather and chains. Most of the staff reacted the same way, and Lila realized, aside from the worthless security guard, she was alone in the shared admissions and charting area.
She shifted her attention to the three men standing by the desk. Jester wore an ear-to-ear grin on his face, like flustering the receptionist had been the highlight of his evening. Gumby, the injured party, stood next to him and held a blood-soaked rag under a rapidly swelling eye. Striker leaned against the wall off to the side, arms crossed, face unreadable, and Lila forced her attention away from him.
“Just head on back to room four,” she instructed. It was best to get them taken care of quickly. Tension would leave the ER once they were back outside on their motorcycles. Plus, she’d be able to go home as soon as she treated Gumby. “You know the way. I have to talk to the nurse for a minute and we’ll be right in. Try not to scare away too much of our business on your way back there.”
“Aww, Stitch, Gumby’s face doesn’t look that bad,” Jester said.
“I was talking to you,” she shot back with a smile.
Jester laughed, threw an arm around Gumby’s shoulders, and steered him in the direction Lila had indicated. Striker lingered at the admissions desk. When she met his gaze, one corner of his mouth lifted in the arrogant grin she had come to expect from him. Her breath caught in her throat and she forgot what she was supposed to be doing. She barely remembered her own name when he looked at her like that, and lately the heated gazes seemed to be coming more frequently.
Part of Lila, the part that had moved across the country in hope of having the freedom to live her life her way, told her she loved the attention. She was free to make her own decisions for the first time in her life. Taking this job in a small-town hospital where she could really affect the lives of individuals in her community was the first step in exerting her autonomy. The next step would be finding a man to spend that life with.
She really didn’t know Striker, but the idea of the tough-looking biker wanting a picket fence and two point five kids was almost laughable. Lila could admire the attractive packaging from afar, but she shouldn’t be thinking about the desire that shone in his eyes, as she did far too often. There was nothing but trouble down that road. Especially since he probably spent much of his time on the wrong side of the law.
“So, Doc, I hear you have a big presentation coming up,” he said.
Pride swelled with the knowledge that there was talk around town about her program. It was her baby. She’d seen too many high school athletes come through the ER with serious head injuries due to the school’s ignorance about concussions and equipment safety.
“I do! I’m presenting my idea in front of the school board Monday night. If all goes well, I’ll form a committee and begin putting a program together. It’s so important. Did you know that the majority of the sports equipment at the high school is over ten years old? There is no way it is in any condition to keep the kids protected.”
Her face heated. She was passionate about this project, and could talk about it for hours, to anyone apparently, even sexy bikers who normally had her tongue-tied. “Sorry. I can ramble on about this until your ears fall off. I’m sure you’re not interested, so I should probably go tend to the bleeding man.”
She turned to flee toward the treatment rooms, but stopped when Striker’s voice sounded behind her. “Actually, Doc, some of my guys have kids in the high school. A few of them play football. I think it’s great what you’re doing.”
And damn if her heart didn’t do a happy dance at the look of admiration on his face. With a nod in his direction, she turned and headed down the hall.
Cammie, her friend and one of the best ER nurses she’d ever worked with, came up the hall as Lila went down it. “Cammie, can you grab a suture kit and meet me in room four? I’ll also need lidocaine and saline to irrigate the wound. Looks like Gumby took quite a shot to the face.”
At the mention of Gumby’s name, Cammie paled a bit, but she nodded and walked straight toward the supply room. Lila wasn’t sure what that was about, and didn’t want to waste time speculating.
She pushed the door to exam room four open and walked in. The miniscule room was even smaller than usual with two very large males filling the space. Gumby sat on the treatment table directly opposite the door, the blood-soaked cloth still pressed to his face. Jester was off to the side, sitting in a plastic chair that was built for a man half his size. Striker hadn’t followed her into the room, and she breathed a small sigh of relief at the lack of distraction.
“Hi, Doc. Miss me?” Gumby asked. He tried to smile but winced when the action caused the skin around his still expanding eye to crinkle.
“Hey there, Gumby, I see you’re here for our standing Friday night date. I gotta tell you, it wouldn’t hurt to bring a girl flowers every once in a while,” she said with a wink.
Jester laughed. “You may want to take it easy on Gumb tonight, Stitch. Not only is his pretty face all busted, he got his ass handed to him in the ring. He’s been a tad cranky ever since.”
“Fuck off, Jest,” grumbled Gumby. “Fucker got in a few lucky shots.”
“Sure he did, Gumb.” Jester patted him on the back like he might a petulant child, and shot a quick wink Lila’s way.
“Lie down on your back for me please, you are way too tall for me to reach your face all the way up there.” She adjusted the angle on the treatment table as she spoke, so he wouldn’t be flat, but would lay at about a thirty-degree incline.
Gumby did as she asked while Lila donned a pair of nitrile gloves. Before she moved to assess him, she opened a drawer beneath the table, and pulled out a few four-by-fours of gauze and ripped the packages open. When Gumby was in position, Lila placed her gloved hand over his to remove the saturated cloth.
His eye was badly contused and swollen shut. The color palette was spectacular. Various shades of purple and blue mottled the skin surrounding his entire orbit. A two-inch laceration stretched across Gumby’s cheekbone as well. The gash cut deep, but not jagged, so it would be easy to approximate the edges and he’d have minimal scarring. She pressed the clean gauze over his eye while she waited for Cammie to bring the suture kit.
“Did you get knocked out, Gumby? If so I’ll need to do a CT scan of your head.”
“I’m good, Stitch. Just need my face sewn up so it will stop fucking bleeding.”
“Well, I’d really like to—”
“Doc.” A gruff voice came from over her shoulder. “He’s fine, just do your thing, and put his face back together so we can get out of your way.”
She’d heard him approach and had tried to ignore the star of too many of her late-night fantasies, but apparently Striker wasn’t going to let that happen. A dueling sizzle of awareness and annoyance struck her as he stepped in between her and her patient.
“Thank you, Striker. As usual I’d be lost in my job without your sound medical input.”
“Man, I love coming here.” Jester laughed. “Too bad one of us needs to get all jacked up or I’d be here every day to be on the receiving end of your charms, Stitch.”
Lila turned her attention back to Striker, and narrowed her eyes to let him know she was serious when she expressed her dislike of his interference. Once again she was met with a one-sided smirk she would like to smack off his face. Okay, there was a chance she’d like to kiss the smirk off his face, but she wasn’t ready to admit that out loud.
Cammie knocked on the door before she entered, and wheeled in a cart with the supplies Lila had requested. Lila often teased her about her curly red hair and how it bounced as she walked, mimicking her bubbly personality, but tonight she was stiff and rigid as though she was being walked to her doom. “I have your suture kit, Dr. Emerson. What can I do to help you?” she asked.
“Thanks, Cammie, I can take it from here.”
Cammie shot Lila a grateful smile, and was out of the room in a flash, apparently not wanting to miss out on the reprieve she was given. Lila made a mental note to ask Cammie why she seemed so uncomfortable when Jester mumbled. “Yeah, Gumby, probably shouldn’t have climbed on that ride, knowing how often you end up here.”
Well, that explained why Cammie lit out of there like the floor was caving in. Given how the members of the MC flirted with any female staff between ages nineteen and fifty, she was surprised there weren’t more awkward encounters.
Lila gifted Gumby with an innocent grin. “Oh crap! I’m so sorry, Gumby, I forgot I have a meeting to get to. I’m just going to call Cammie back and have her stitch you up. I’m sure she won’t forget to numb you, and she’ll be very gentle.” Her snarky statement would have been better believed if she hadn’t burst out laughing halfway through at the look of horror on Gumby’s face.
Behind her, Striker laughed. “Ouch, Doc, way to hit the man when he’s down.”
Lila chuckled. She always had fun when these guys were here. “Okay let’s get down to business so you can get out of here, and ignore my instructions by mixing your pain killers with booze.” She grabbed the bottle of sterile saline off the cart, and irrigated the wound. Gumby hissed out a curse. “Sorry, Gumby. I can’t see exactly how deep it is unless I clean out the blood. There’s a chance you have an orbital fracture. I recommend a CT.”
He shook his head. “Just close it up.”
Surprise, surprise. “Sometimes you guys are very annoying.”
They all laughed, and she used the lidocaine to deaden the area around the wound. When he was numb, she ripped open the suture kit and got to work. Lila could feel Striker’s eyes on her back and she had to concentrate to keep her hands from quivering like a third-year medical student. Thankfully they remained quiet, allowing her to focus, and in ten minutes Gumby’s wound was closed, the stitch job quite impressive, if she did say so herself.
“Okay, Gumby, you are the proud new recipient of fifteen stitches. I’ll have a nurse bring you something for the pain. It will hurt like a bitch when the lidocaine wears off. The nurse will also have your discharge instructions. You can leave when she’s done.”
Lila knew how they operated, and didn’t expect a single instruction to be followed, but protocol was protocol and she’d obey it. As she turned to leave the room, her gaze collided with Striker’s. His heated stare affected her more than she was prepared to admit so she shifted her gaze and broke the connection. Neither said anything as she left the room, but she felt the lingering effects of having him so near in her racing heart and wobbly legs.
Her shift was officially over, and she could go home as soon as Gumby’s paperwork was complete. Now she just needed to get Striker off her mind long enough to finish her proposal and still get some sleep tonight.