Running on Empty
Havoc MC, Book 3
After years of running wild, Linc might’ve finally run out of road.
After a brutal capture at the hands of the Heathens Motorcycle Club, Linc is just trying to heal, mentally and physically. But he’s got men in his life who are complicating everything. There’s Mercy—a Havoc MC biker and the man he is falling fast for—plus an undercover ATF agent and a rogue Havoc member.
But Mercy’s keeping him at arm’s length, and Linc is spinning. In an attempt to regain his equilibrium, he heads to the bar where he first met Mercy. Night after night, he escapes Havoc bonds and continues down his merry path of mayhem . . . mainly in the hopes that Mercy will give chase.
Since Linc’s capture by his old MC, Mercy’s been dealing with the fallout of his guilt. He’s trying to give Linc space and still watch over him—all without Linc’s knowledge. But with Linc’s old job calling and a threat to Havoc MC heating up, can they make their way back together?
Connected Books: Havoc MC
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Read an Excerpt
What you do to survive
Four months earlier . . .
When members of the Heathens Motorcycle Club first shoved Linc into the cell in the basement of their clubhouse, he’d asked, “Why?”
“You’re our gift to Havoc.” Bones smiled, and Linc resisted the urge to lunge at him, because it would only rip his arms out of their sockets. He’d already tested the mettle of the chains.
He could pop the cuffs, but he was surrounded. So he was biding his time, trying not to go fuck-nut crazy and hoping that sooner or later, members of Havoc MC—or at least his best friend, Rush, or his brother, Bram—would figure out where the fuck he was.
Or maybe Mercy. Mercy, a Havoc MC member, bail bondsman and the man Linc was currently sleeping with. But Mercy probably thought he’d flaked and run—that was his rep, after all, and he’d never tried to change it. Couldn’t. Also, he’d never wanted to stay anywhere the way he wanted to stay at Havoc.
The longer he was kept in the basement, the more he overheard. First it was just “Geoff” and then, “He’s Mercy now—what the fuck is that?” and then “This’ll teach him.” And over time, he was sure he’d convince himself a hundred times that he didn’t hear anything.
He knew what Mercy’s weight felt like on him, what the man’s tongue did to him, but he’d never known Mercy’s real first name. Mercy had never offered to share. Linc never pushed. When he’d been with Mercy, all he’d seen was a man who had his shit together. He’d never learned more about Mercy’s troubled past . . . it was only now he learned that, somehow, it was tied to his own kidnapping by the Heathens.
What Linc did know—he’d gone out on his bike, the one he’d been restoring with help from some of the Havoc guys, and he hadn’t planned on going far, but it’d been a nice night for a ride and he’d gotten caught up with the feel of the bike under him. Mercy was working out of town and Linc hadn’t needed to rush back.
He’d never felt the need to rush anywhere, so to think about Mercy like that was definitely weird for him.
And that’s when he’d gotten the call . . . and that’s the point when everything changed. Instead of turning around and heading back to Shades without stopping, he’d pulled into the closest gas station to stop for a piss and a drink. He’d thought about texting Mercy to explain but he couldn’t. Instead, he’d texted him a picture of the sunset, which was ridiculous and sappy but fuck it, Linc had never held back shit. Couldn’t start now just because he’d started to . . . like . . . Mercy.
Yeah, like. That’s as much as he’d been willing to say. Plus, he still owed the guy bond. And he’d gone over the state line, but hell, he was coming back.
At least that’d been the plan. Getting jumped by asshole Heathens definitely hadn’t been. And even though Linc had fought, the shit they’d pumped him full of took effect before he could get in many punches. He did break a couple of noses though, he’d been told later as they kicked the shit out of him while he was still too numb to give a damn.
Now, with not so much as a goddamned Advil for two days, he gave a shit. After thirty-seven days, he was used to the pattern. They’d drug him up, beat him, torture him, and then nothing, because they wanted to watch him detox from whatever strong painkillers they were giving him to keep him pliant. And his body did, but not in a way that satisfied them.
Linc didn’t want to disappoint them, but hell, he was never the one with the addictive personality. That was more his brother Bram’s thing, and Bram was careful to not expose himself to shit like that. Linc liked pot and booze and feeling mellow, but he’d lived without it for long stretches of time—in the Army, when he was broke, when he felt he needed to make changes.
He’d kept track of how long the Heathens had kept him prisoner in their compound, by marking the cement of the cell floor, happy with himself that he was still semi-sane. They fed him, but half the time the shit was drugged too, and Linc was fucked enough without drugs. They’d never sat well in his system, which meant he slept a lot, which meant his whole keeping-track-of-the-days thing could be slightly off.
And, in between drugging him with whatever they got their hands on and Linc being alternately passed out and beaten, Bones would sit with him and tell him that he was Mercy’s brother, that he’d killed one of Mercy’s lovers before . . . and that there was a grave dug for him already, right next to Mercy’s first lover.
But that hadn’t been the worst of it, not by a long shot. Because Bones would detail exactly how that first lover had been killed. Excruciatingly vivid detail. And then he’d taken Linc on a field trip—not once, but several times—to the graves. He’d even threatened to make Linc climb into his, to make sure it fit.
In Linc’s mind, that was the worst thing they’d done to him, but it definitely hadn’t been the only form a torture. For men who hated fags, they sure hadn’t minded fucking him. When Linc had pointed that out, he’d gotten beaten for his efforts but hey, he hadn’t been there to make friends.
He’d never thought the POW training he’d gotten in the military would come in so handy in civilian life. Or that the training Castle had insisted he go through would be what got him through this hell.
But something different was happening now. He heard loud voices—Bones yelling at someone. Typically, they kept it quiet down here, because that added to the atmosphere of never knowing what would happen and when it would happen.
Something always did, though. Half the time he was too zoned out to care what the fuck they did to him. He kept his mouth shut and took what they gave him.
Today though, he refused to let himself ignore the yelling.
Today, for the first time in thirty-seven days, he had hope.
Drop all your troubles by the riverside
After his rescue, Linc stayed in the hospital just under two weeks. He’d been too restless to just sit around and get well, and so, with his doctor’s help—and Bram’s—he’d moved into a lake house to finish his recovery and figure out his next steps.
He’d also had help from another source, but no one knew about that, and if Linc had his way, no one would.
The house Linc had insisted Bram rent was old and rambling, the kind of light, airy house he’d always wished they’d lived in growing up. Even as a kid, all he remembered was dark, damp walls closing in . . . although Bram and their sister, Linnea, always got him through the darkness. But the lake? Bram had shitty memories of growing up in houses on the water, but for Linc, they brought the same amount of comfort that being with Bram did.
Bram thought Linc didn’t remember much about his near-drowning in another lake, another lifetime ago, by his father’s hand. Bram was wrong, but Linc didn’t see the purpose of dwelling on it or letting it change him. He brushed off the bad, focused on the good. The what’s next?
He just kept it moving.
Of course, there were problems inherent with that too.
“I could live here,” Bram said now, lying on his belly on the dock, propped on his elbows.
“You kind of are,” Linc told him, the sun beating down on his chest, warming him as he lay next to his brother, his body worn out in a pleasant way from his most recent swim.
“Smart-ass. You know what I mean.”
Yeah, he did. “Sweet misses you when you’re here.” Sweet being Havoc MC’s president, and his brother’s boyfriend. During Linc’s recovery, he’d watched Sweet attempt to push Bram away. Bram, of course, wasn’t one to be told what to do, and so Linc just looked upon their grand gestures as entertainment while he healed, happy to see that love did exist.
Bram and Sweet were firmly together now, evidenced by the fact that Sweet often spent the night here with Bram. And Linc was cool with that—his best friend, Sean Rush—and Rush’s boyfriend and Havoc’s XO, Ryker—stayed here together too. He was just happy for the company of people he was comfortable with.
Sometimes Tug would hang, and sometimes Boomer. Lately, Linc was able to stay here alone, although he knew someone from Havoc was always standing guard somewhere on the property.
He couldn’t be babysat forever. He had to get on with his life, get his shit together. And he was, because he also managed to not think about or ask about Mercy for several hours at a time each day. And it was a major accomplishment, considering he’d mainly thought about Mercy the entire incarceration. Of course, Mercy felt too guilty to come anywhere near him, and Linc let him off the hook by telling Bram he didn’t want to see Mercy and then banning him all together. Because everyone needed their lies to insulate them from the truth.
For the first several weeks, Linc couldn’t remember much about what happened. Being kept prisoner at the hands of the Heathens filtered through first, usually while he slept, which resulted in screaming nightmares. And then he recalled the day of his actual rescue. Every day, more detail filled out, and he forced himself to go over it as much as possible, because remembering meant getting stronger.
Now, he closed his eyes and turned his face toward the sun, letting the memories drift in . . .
He’d smelled the fire before the smoke had billowed into the basement, and then he’d blinked and Mercy was walking through the haze, tossing him the keys to his cuffs before slamming Bones against the cement wall.
Mercy had lit the goddamned place on fire.
“You go, Linc. Go now,” Mercy ordered him, and Linc knew that tone . . . and knew he was right. The smoke was thick and he’d unlocked his bonds, ignoring the urge to stay and watch Mercy beat the ever-loving shit out of Bones, and instead he navigated the dark hallways to get to the stairs. To get the hell out of here and into daylight. And he’d almost made it when Bruno came around the corner.
Thankfully, the keys hadn’t been the only thing Mercy had thrown at him. Now, Linc’s hands steadied as he drove the knife into Bruno’s neck, the way he’d been taught, the way he’d done a time or two before, what seemed like a lifetime ago.
With Bruno’s blood on his hands, Linc stepped out into the light, and into chaos. He stayed behind the tree line and made his way up the long drive toward the road, when he saw Bram’s truck come barreling down in a cloud of dust. Heathens were starting to gather, to look for someone to fight, someone to blame in a last-ditch effort. Bram stopped the truck when he saw Linc, and Linc yelled at him to stay put and ran to him. He recalled throwing himself into the back seat and lying down, feeling the lurch of the vehicle and hearing Bram say he wasn’t leaving his side.
The next minute, he was awake, in the hospital, and yes, Bram was there and Linc’s mind was fuzzy. He was shaking, coming down from being injected daily with drugs, and his ribs ached like hell every time he tried to breathe. But he was free.
It was hard to think about those first days post-capture—post-rescue—when he’d barely been able to move. When he’d refused to see Mercy, and told Misha and Bram and Rush that he wanted Mercy permanently barred from his room . . . and that was after he’d learned that Mercy had assumed he’d run . . . that Mercy hadn’t bothered to look for him, not until Bram had come to town.
He’d forced Bram to tell him, and his brother had done so—haltingly and reluctantly, as if not wanting to break Linc’s heart but knowing that lying wasn’t an option.
“He didn’t know, Linc. I know he’s hurting.” Bram had tried to soften all the blows, but it hadn’t helped.
“I don’t want to see him, okay?”
“Not now, I get it.”
“Not now. Not when I get out. Understood?”
And Bram had kept to his word. It hadn’t been hard to do because Mercy never showed, never called, never tried, which in turn made Linc angrier. Which was good, because angry was better than numb any day, and Linc never wanted to be numb again. He’d spent thirty-plus days in that state, and he didn’t need any reminders.
But he’d called Mercy at one point, at his weakest. After a nightmare that’d rocked him, he’d dialed Mercy’s number and practically begged the man to call him back. And then he’d waited around like a lovesick asshole for Mercy to call him back.
He was still waiting.
He’d thought, somehow, that Mercy would’ve been his refuge. Instead, that’s what the house became. He didn’t tell Bram how he’d discovered it, and eventually, Bram would realize that his rent checks on the place weren’t getting cashed, but for the next months post-capture, this house and the water would heal him better than any hospital ever could.
He’d have to take himself the rest of the way.