Home > Faking it All (Hellfire Riders MC #10)(6)

Faking it All (Hellfire Riders MC #10)(6)
Author: Kati Wilde

I’ve met the Hellfire Riders’ president, who seemed steely cold and unimpressed by Ivan—which is a far cry from the regimented deference Ivan’s own security shows him, and a far far cry from the fawning obeisance shown by the bevy of stylists and aestheticians who’ve spent the past three days transforming me into Keri Bishop. Indeed, all of these bikers have seemed unimpressed by Ivan, as if they don’t give a single damn about him or his wealth. With me—with Keri—some of their badass attitudes have cracked a little, but still their responses are nothing like the overwhelming reactions I’ve gotten from strangers who mistook me for her before.

Yet this biker, Duke—his attitude goes beyond unimpressed and straight into wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire. Because Duke basically just told Ivan that if his being in charge is a problem, then Ivan can take his twenty-thousand-a-day and go screw himself with it.

I’m not sure if the best person to protect me is someone who doesn’t give a flying flip about me. But apparently this guy’s response satisfies Ivan.

“No distractions, yes?” he says.

Duke nods. “None.”

“That is very good.” Ivan’s fingers lace through mine and gently squeeze, which probably appears affectionate, but his voice is stiff and his faint Russian accent deepens as he adds, “My beautiful Keri must be kept safe.”

A noncommittal grunt is Duke’s response to that. His attention shifts to the bearded giant—Bull.

I really appreciate how all of these guys wear their names on their vests.

“Will you see her settled in?” Duke asks him. “I’ll round up the brothers I’m bringing in on this.”

The giant nods easily. “I’ll do that.”

Duke’s gaze skips over me and lands on Ivan again. “Bull will take care of her. Anything else I ought to know before you hand her off and head out?”

“Only that I do not tolerate failure.” Although it sounds like a line from a villain in an action movie, I don’t think Ivan’s acting.

I also don’t think his message is only for Duke.

A sardonic smile twists the biker’s mouth. But he doesn’t respond to the implied threat. Instead he simply gives a short nod before turning away, his long strides carrying him past Ivan’s hulking security guards as if he doesn’t notice—or care—that they’re there.

As soon as he goes, the tension tightening my skin eases, but I still can’t tear my gaze from his retreating back. Over the years, I’ve developed a sense about some men. Guys like my stepfather, like Ivan—my gut warns me to tread warily around them. Now my instincts are screaming that Duke’s a danger to me, too…but it’s not the same kind of danger. I don’t know how to categorize it because I certainly haven’t felt it before. Because with my stepfather, with Ivan, I feel a lot safer when their attention is elsewhere. And Duke…

I want him to look at me.

But he doesn’t glance back. Instead he stalks through the clubhouse’s front door and the night swallows him up. Faintly I’m aware that Bull’s saying something to Ivan—that maybe Ivan would like a few minutes alone with his wife before leaving.

His wife. That’s me. And I’m supposed to be in love with him, not staring after another man.

So I gaze adoringly up at Ivan’s handsome profile. “A few minutes alone would be lovely, Bull. Thank you.”

And I screwed that up. Because Ivan’s fingers tighten on mine and faint disapproval firms his mouth. “We will take a moment out by the vehicles. Walk with me outside, love.”

He doesn’t finish talking before tugging me forward, and I have to race-walk to keep up with him—not easy to do in these shoes. The Jimmy Choo sandals are more comfortable than any heels I’ve worn before, but I’m still adjusting to the height of them. Keri is about an inch taller than I am, so every bit of footwear Ivan bought for me increases my height by that difference, plus two or three more inches. And although I’m used to spending all day on my feet, it’s usually in sneakers, not peep toe sandals with needle-thin heels.

Outside, the chill night air immediately sinks through my thin silk dress. I don’t remember which designer label was sewn into the inside seam, but whoever made this white silk sheath obviously pictured summer days in Los Angeles, not September evenings in central Oregon. When we arrived at the clubhouse late this afternoon the air was much warmer, but now it’s a little too brisk for my Louisianan blood.

Even before Ivan stops, though, I realize my Louisianan blood is the problem, because it spills out in my accent. Try as I might, I can’t speak in those flat tones that the California-born Keri does. We’ve already concocted a story as cover—that Keri is practicing her Southern accent for an upcoming film—but if Ivan had his way, I’d spend the entire time here with my lips sewn together.

“Give us space,” he orders the security following at our heels, and they immediately back off. Ivan keeps going, past the SUVs that brought us here, almost to the end of the clubhouse building, where the angle of the vehicles and a pool of shadows conceal us from the men standing back near the entrance. Probably everyone thinks that he’s giving me a passionate good-bye in private, but I know he won’t kiss me. The one good thing I can say about him: he’s devoted to his wife. In all this time, he’s only touched my hand, and only does that for show.

Now he pivots to face me, his voice low and dangerous. “There’s only one thing you need to remember while you’re here, and that’s to keep your stupid mouth shut. Can you do that?”

Anger spits fire through my veins but no matter what Ivan believes about my brainpower, my mama didn’t birth a stupid baby. I keep my mouth shut and simply nod. Because he’s not just talking about my accent—he’s talking about the warning he drilled into me over and over the past few days: No one can know you aren’t Keri. If you tell a single person or do something to reveal yourself, the deal is off. No money, no custody agreement. Nothing.

I can’t afford to ruin this deal. Erin can’t afford for me to ruin it.

And he’s not done. “You are Keri Bishop,” he reminds me. “You are a goddess who walks red carpets. Men crawl at your feet. Women dream of being you. You have nothing to say to this biker trash and nothing in common with them. Can you remember that?”

Again I nod. This time it’s not enough.

His eyes narrow. “Let me hear it, then.”

I can’t keep the acid off my tongue. “I’ve got nothing in common with this trash,” I say in my accent that gives lie to every word.

Because I’ve got nothing in common with Keri, except a face. And even though I’m more than two thousand miles from Winnfield, Louisiana, these bikers are a lot closer to home than my new Jimmy Choos are.

“So you don’t cozy up to them and you don’t run your mouth, and everything will work out as it should. Understood?”

“Understood,” I echo woodenly.

His cold gaze searches my face. Finally he nods and calls out to his security team that he’s ready. “You had best head back in,” he tells me and looks toward the clubhouse entrance, where Bull is waiting for me to return.

“I will in a minute,” I say sweetly. “As your loving wife, I ought to see you off.” And say good riddance when your tail lights vanish down the road.

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