Dead Man Walking by Giana Darling

Bea


I was wearing white.

More specifically, I was dressed in the costume of an angel resplendent with feathered wings gracing my shoulders and a silk dress that fluttered above my knees. With my pale gold hair, my small feminine features, and my plush mouth painted pink, Brett had told me I looked descended from heaven.

I didn’t bother to educate him on the irony of my guise. Yes, in most ways, to most people, I was Beatrice Lafayette, lover of all things pink, cute, and girly. I was virginal, by choice, during a time when most girls threw their first time at anyone who handed them a Solo cup of lukewarm beer, and I volunteered my weeks at First Light Church, where my grandfather had been the pastor for decades.

I was good enough to suit the wings.

No one knew the dark heart of me. It was a private secret I harbored inside me, attentive to it only enough to keep it barely alive.

Growing up as I did in the mayor’s mansion, a white wedding topper of a house set in the middle of a relatively sleepy town on the west coast of Canada, I didn’t have cause to experience much violence. We had a cousin, though, who played hockey down in Vancouver, and my mum, wanting to visit her sister but not particularly enjoying her company, often decided to visit during one of Ryker’s games. I loved going to those games, not because I liked the sport or even my aunt very much, but because I loved to watch the fights. They broke out abruptly, little grenades of violence bursting forth on the frosted surface of the arena so suddenly it stole the cold breath from my lungs. There was so much power in the interchange, the vicious strength of seasoned athletes battering each other. It was moving to me in a strange way. I knew my mother noticed my fascination, the way my cheeks pinked from more than just the cold, and how I leaned forward in my seat to be closer to the action.

Even as a child, I was drawn inexplicably to those things opposite of me.

Violence and darkness, immorality and iniquity.

I was a good Christian girl with an obsession for those who sinned.

Which explained, imperfectly, how I felt when my older sister, Loulou, fell in love with an ex-con, outlaw motorcycle club president and in doing so, introduced me to an entire world ripe with deviancy.

The Fallen MC felt more like my home than that mayor’s mansion ever had.

These were people who understood the full spectrum of morality and cut their own rules and uses from it.

I loved the bloodthirsty nature of their revenge because it stemmed like a dark bloom from their deep-rooted loyalty. The way they proudly, staunchly wore their flaws the same way they did their values, daring you to accept nothing less than the full package of who they were.

These men, perfectly imperfect, compelling specimens of the ultimate alpha male who eschewed all judgments that were not his own? These men were my kryptonite and my family.

So was it any wonder I grew to love one of their own?

Maybe love isn’t the right word.

I didn’t know him well enough for that.

Obsession, probably, was more fitting.

I studied him like one, stalking him as much as I could over the years under the ever-watchful eyes of my blood and biker family, which wasn’t as much as I wanted to but enough to sustain the vague image I had of this man and my yearning for him.

They called him Priest. As far as I’d ever been able to tell, no one knew his birth name. Beyond that, I knew nothing much of his history before he showed up at the club as a seventeen-year-old runaway. He was originally from Ireland and retained a lyricism to his speech that he obviously tried to curtail with that rough and gritty biker slang.

He looked exactly how I envisioned God must have wanted a man to look, constructed so beautifully he seemed almost preternaturally handsome. His otherworldliness cast a kind of confusion on those who looked at him; he was at once both divine and an invitation to sin. A magnet to even the most pious moral compass.

One look at him nearly shattered mine.

The silken red hair worn too long, kissing the tops of broad shoulders, and the thick gleam of it along the curve of his jaw and upper lip. The endless constellations of cinnamon freckles scattered on every inch of available pale skin, and the shade of green in his eyes I sometimes fancied was emerald and other times darker, textured like wet moss.

I knew his looks as well as I could, having never touched him or seen him in anything less than a T-shirt, leather cut, and blue jeans.

My imagination, which my mother and sister had long called overactive, filled in the blanks.

Other details were gleaned over my years of living at the heart of The Fallen family where Loulou reigned with her husband, Zeus, as sovereign.

Priest was the club enforcer.

The death dealer.

The vengeful angel sent to collect the cost of betraying the club.

He was a loner, but comfortable in company, charismatic in a quiet way that didn’t draw too much notice. I’d seen him make Cressida laugh when she was grieving for her lost husband, and I’d seen him touch his rough tipped fingers to the crown of Z and Lou’s little girl, Angel’s fair curls, as if anointing her with his protection, a knight in service to her since birth.

I knew he didn’t drink, but he smoked cigarettes he rolled himself.

He played darts like a pro but was masterfully skilled with knives and often practiced on an old, rotting cross the size of a cow he’d leaned against a tree behind the clubhouse on The Fallen Compound.

Such a small collection of things, like seashells gathered along the shore, not nearly enough to claim notion of the entire ocean.