Tru (Hell's Ankhor #7) by Aiden Bates



“Ugh, come on!” Heath complained with a broad smile on his face. “I don’t have time to shower before class.”

Dare responded by drawing his flour-dusted finger down the bridge of Heath’s nose again, leaving behind a white powdery smudge on his pale skin. “You sure?” he asked coyly. “I can’t convince you to be a few minutes late?”

Heath laughed and swatted at Dare’s arm. “Stop it, you’ve made me late too many times!”

“Gross,” I said, purposefully walking between them to get to the coffeemaker. “Are you washing your hands after doing that?”

“These are for the club, not customers,” Dare said. He wrapped one big arm around Heath’s narrow waist and tugged him out of the way so I could pour a cup of coffee unimpeded. “I think the club will survive.”

“And if not?” I asked as I poured my coffee. “Then what? Who will pay for the funeral costs? You know my will requires my funeral to be at least $50,000.”

“You already have a will? Aren’t you, like, thirty?” Heath asked, still grinning. Since he had met Dare and gotten their shit together, Heath had brightened a lot. And he had a quicker wit than I expected, returning my digs the way a tennis player returns a serve.

“He does not,” Dare said, rolling his eyes at me. “He’s just being difficult, and for that reason, I won’t be allowing him to taste test these scones.”

“No!” I exclaimed. “After everything I’ve done for you and the Crew?”

Dare laughed and rolled his eyes again. “Scones’ll be done in ten.”

I nodded, appeased, and sipped my coffee then slunk to the other side of the kitchen island so I wasn’t in Dare’s way. I felt a little strange about calling us the Crew—force of habit, it’d just slipped out—but Dare hadn’t corrected me. Would our moniker eventually have to change, now that we were a charter of Hell’s Ankhor?

I wasn’t unhappy with the fact that the clubs had combined. Actually, I thought it was a great idea—navigating our autonomy as a club living and working within Hell’s Ankhor’s territory was exhausting. Patching in to their club was better for the safety of both clubs in the long-term, and being able to call on Hell’s Ankhor enforcers for backup was going to make my job a hell of a lot easier.

And through Heath, I’d gotten to know a lot of the Hell’s Ankhor guys a little better. I liked them, and respected them a whole hell of a lot. But I was a member of the Liberty Crew, and I had been for years now. I couldn’t just switch to calling myself a Hell’s Ankhor member overnight. Would we have to eventually? I didn’t love the thought of doing so, but I’d have to cross that bridge when I came to it.

“Are you testing new recipes?” I asked. “Or just goofing off?”

“Goofing off,” Dare said. He wiped his hands on a dish towel tucked into his back pocket. “No use in recipe testing yet—there are bigger things to focus on.”

“How’s the construction going?” I asked, leaning both elbows on the kitchen island.

“It’s about to finally start,” Dare grumbled.

“Because you couldn’t stop making tweaks with the architect,” Heath said fondly.

“Well, if we’re gonna have to do it, might as well get it the way we want,” Dare said with a shrug. “But yeah, the construction crew’s arriving in a few days. I met their lead guy recently—he’s young but he seems to have a good head on his shoulders.”

“He’s up for the challenge of working with you?” I asked.

Dare chucked his dish towel at me. “I’m not that bad.”

“You’re a little difficult,” Heath said.

“See? He’s on my side!” I exclaimed.

Dare groaned. “Ugh, I regret introducing you two.”

“It’ll be worth the trouble,” I said. “I’m just glad the exterior was able to be saved.”

Dare shook his head. “I know. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to have to build an entirely new building. Brennan, the construction guy, says it’d be easier to start from nothing from a construction standpoint… But like hell I’d let them tear the brick down.”

“Lucky the building is sturdy,” Heath agreed. “And lucky the firefighters arrived when they did.”