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Joy (Hell’s Handlers #7)
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Life, death, trauma, healing; the Hell’s Handlers have been through it all over the past year. They’ve conquered old enemies, acquired new ones, and struggled through devastating upheavals. So far, they’ve come out on top, knocking down challenges by focusing on one essential ideal: family above all. With Copper at the helm, the Handlers are a patchwork family of bikers who will fight to the death for what they’ve created.
And after all they’ve survived over the past three hundred and sixty-five days, the Handlers are ready to lay down their weapons, pick up their drinks, and coast through the holidays with nothing but joy in mind. But as often happens with life in an MC, Christmas takes a back seat to club drama.
As the year rolls to a close, the men and women of the club will experience new life, new chapters in love, and plenty of new beginnings. But not everything is sparkly and bright as dangerous enemies threaten the tight-knit group of rough and rowdy bikers. Will twenty-nineteen end in tragedy, or will the club once again emerge victorious in time to find a little joy for the holidays?
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The cringe-worthy sound of repeated retching jerked Viper from a deep, restorative sleep. He shot to a seated position, immediately aware of the absence of his better half who’d fallen asleep in his arms some hours ago.
With a heavy sigh, Viper dropped his head and allowed himself one moment to buck the fuck up and muster the incredible amount of strength needed to endure what he’d find when he walked into the bathroom. To be the man his wife needed. Who’d have thought, after all he’d been through in his life, after all he’d survived, overcome, and fought for, he’d end up as nothing but a terrified coward?
Certainly not him.
But then, he’d never been faced with a battle like this one. A battle where pain, suffering, heartbreak were inevitable, even if he and Cassie emerged victorious.
Another heave followed by a tortured groan had him jumping out of the bed and sprinting to the bathroom.
There was no victory here, not when the uphill climb was fraught with so much torment.
“Baby,” he said as he walked into the lit bathroom to find the love of his life clinging to the toilet with a white-knuckled grip.
God, he was a selfish fuck, worried about his own misery when Cassie was the one fighting for her life. Literally. And had she complained once? Had she whined, cursed the universe, or screamed at the injustice of it all until her throat was raw?
Cassie was stronger than all the men in his MC combined.
But he’d sure raged, and cursed, and told the universe to go fuck itself on more than one occasion. He’d just made sure to do it out of earshot of his wife.
Without moving a muscle, Cassie said, “I’m sorry I woke you,” in a dry, raspy voice. Her throat had to be raw as fuck from all the vomiting she’d done in the past twenty-four hours.
“Woman,” he said, injecting a growl into his voice. Normally, the grizzly bear impression would have had Cassie giggling and rolling her eyes as it had for all the years they’d been together. She knew when it came to her, he was far more a kitten than a ferocious bear. The woman had owned him heart and soul since the moment he first laid eyes on her back when she was in her twenties and in a desperate situation. “Didn’t I make you promise to wake me before you ended up riding the porcelain bus?”
She let out a feminine grunt, then threw up all over again. Viper winced as her thin body heaved and jerked with the strong force of the abdominal contractions.
The worst part of this for him was how useless he felt. He strode forward then sank to his knees, gathering up her long silver tinged hair into one hand as he rubbed her back with the other. That was it. All he could do. Hold her hair and stroke her skin as she weathered the storm.
Her flannel pajamas were soft beneath his palm but did nothing to conceal the bony feel of her spine. The amount of weight she’d lost recently would be alarming if they didn’t have more frightening medical concerns to focus on than the drop in pounds.
Cassie blew out a shaky breath. “I think I’m done for now.” She shifted to her ass, letting her back rest against their deep soaking tub.
Viper reached up to flush the toilet, then assumed his position next to her, gathering her into his arms.
“Thank you,” she said, piercing his heart with the sweet words.
He snorted. “Thank you? For fucking what? I can’t do jack shit, beautiful.”
“I know you wish you could do more,” she said, voice thick with the need for sleep. “But you have no idea how much you do. This right here, you holding me, climbing out of our warm bed in the middle of the night to comfort me, calling me beautiful when I couldn’t feel further from it, those things take away so much of the agony. They make me smile, make me feel loved, still wanted.”
There he went, whining again like a little bitch while Cassie wasted no time jumping in to soothe him. Shit. “Baby, I’ve wanted you every minute of every day since I met you. And I will every day for the rest of our lives.” Please let that be a long, long time from now. “Never doubt that.”
“Even that time I called you a stupid, motorcycle-riding monkey?” she asked, humor lacing her voice. “Not sure you wanted me then.”
Viper threw back his head and laughed. Even at her maddest, that was the meanest insult she’d been able to come up with. “Even then.”
“Huh,” she said. “Guess you must love me almost as much as I love you, huh?”
“More, baby.” After a few more minutes of sitting on the cold tile floor, his tailbone began to ache. Even though he could sit there forever, absorbing the soft weight of his wife against him, she had to be feeling it too. And she needed to sleep. “You ready to try and get a few more hours in?”