Strength & Courage

By: Susan Fanetti

(The Night Horde SoCal #1)

Alone, I’m neither strong nor brave,

but with those who love me, and whom I love, I am both.

This book is dedicated to those who give me strength and courage.

I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.

~Anaïs Nin


The Hall was nearly empty, just before noon on a Thursday—only a couple of girls, looking like they were still trying to get their feet under them from the night before, and the newest Prospect, Peaches, scrubbing out the ice bin. The guys working in the bike shop hadn’t come over for lunch yet.

That was fine; Muse wanted a beer and some quiet. He’d been up before dawn working at a location shoot out at Joshua Tree. He felt like he needed to wash more than the dust off. Movie people—and television people, and commercial people—made his skin crawl.

He’d been working as a technical advisor, a ‘TA,’ for a few years, since he’d given up his Nomad patch and settled with the new Southern California charter of the Night Horde MC. His previous club—to which they never referred by name—had disbanded under a cloud of violence and death, and most of the members of the Night Horde SoCal were orphans from one charter or another of that dead club—including all the officers. The adjustment from his hardcore outlaw Nomad life to his settled, legitimate, Hollywood lackey life rubbed hard. But he was needed here. His Nomad days were over.

“Need a beer, shithead.”

Peaches reared back out of the empty ice bin, cracking his head as he did so. “Ow. Fuck.” He turned around, rubbing his noggin. “Hey, Muse. Sorry. Bottle or tap?”

The kid was too new to know all the members’ preferences yet. “Bottle—but none of that imported bullshit. Just a Bud.”

As the kid turned for a bottle from the cooler, Muse felt a heavy hand on his shoulder.

Hoosier, the charter President, swung around and sat on the stool next to him. “Muse. Bikes back in one piece?”

“Yeah, Prez. No trouble. Fargo took ‘em back for a wash.”

The club rented bikes to the entertainment industry, and Muse managed that business, as well as providing technical support. He also had his SAG card, but that had been an accident. He’d been working on a movie set and had ended up taking some walk-on role when the signed actor flaked. He’d said two words—‘Stay down’—and pointed a rubber gun at a movie star, and now he was on the books as a fucking actor.

Only in Southern California.

Peaches handed Muse his beer and refilled Hoosier’s coffee.

“You back out there tomorrow?”

“Nah. Gig’s done. Got a bike booked for a commercial next week, just one day, but I got nothing until then.”

“How about a protection run, just out to Barstow and back. Decent cut in it for you. Good money for short work.”

Muse could definitely use money. Working on movie sets was only lucrative for the ‘creatives.’ The technical people were working stiffs just like everybody else. The club did okay, and his cut of its business was fair, but he still had real need for more. The bills on his back weighed him down like concrete blocks. And Hoosier knew it. He was always on the lookout for extra work for him. “Yeah, thanks. When?”

“Tonight. Out at six. Back by ten, easy.”

Goddammit. He couldn’t do it, not tonight. “Fuck, Prez. I can’t. Got a date.”

Hoosier tipped his head back. “Aw, shit. That’s right.” He sighed. “Okay. I’ll hit you up for the next one, then.” He patted Muse on the back and stood, just as the front doors opened, and Keanu, another Prospect, ambled in, balancing a couple of cardboard flats full of sacks from the burger joint around the corner. At the same time, in came the mechanics from the shop: Connor, Demon, Trick, and P.B. Lunch time.

They had standing orders at all the take-out joints around the clubhouse, plenty of food for anyone around. So Muse stood and went to the big table in the middle of the room, where the Prospects were setting out the meal. He grabbed a fried chicken sandwich and a carton of onion rings.

“Where’s Diaz?” He asked the room, no one in particular.

Connor answered around a bite of double bacon cheeseburger. “He and Bart took their old ladies for some charm patrol shit Jesse worked out. I don’t know.”

Muse nodded. The Night Horde SoCal had a lot of Hollywood connections. Unavoidable, he guessed. They had some fame themselves, and Diaz and Bart were both married to hot, celebrity women. They tended to get called in to smile for the cameras on behalf of the club pretty often. It was one of the reasons the Horde, despite their noise and rowdy ways, had been welcomed by the citizens of Madrone, a sleepy little snapshot of a town in the converging foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and the San Bernardino Mountains, about fifty miles east of L.A.—their famous women and their famous bike shop tended to draw famous faces out their way.