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Warped Minds (Boys of Briar Hall Book 4)

Warped Minds (Boys of Briar Hall Book 4) PDF

Author: Elena Lawson

Publisher: Petal and Thorn Books


Publish Date: August 30, 2022


Pages: 419

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

Grey stirred atop the thin cot, his face pinching as he woke.

His skin puckered where the surgical tape held the clean bandage against the garish wound where his right eye used to be.

Rook jerked his chin up, discarding the blade he’d been using to carve twelve more kill lines into the flesh of his right forearm. We left our silent vigil by the front window of Sanctum now allowing cold dawn light to filter through the tinted glass.

“He’s waking up,” Rook rumbled, lurching in Grey’s direction, his leg fucked from not one but two bullet-wounds, one that would’ve shattered his knee-cap if it had hit just a few inches higher.

Grey coughed and Rook bent to slide a hand beneath his shoulders, helping him sit up. I moved for the glass of water set on the floor beside the cot and passed it over, concealing a wince at the sharp pain in my abdomen. “Drink,” I ordered, not caring that the noise was waking the other injured Saints laid up on cots throughout the entire floor of the bar.

The smell of lead and injury was so strong it managed to overpower the usual reek of stale liquor permeating these walls.

Grey choked down some of the water, his one eye focusing slowly on us as he pushed through the haze of drugs our vet had to use to keep his ass down.

I pressed a hand to the bandage on my lower stomach, feeling the ridge of wiry stitches through the gauze as I rose back to my full height. I couldn’t remember the vet digging out the bullet, but I could feel the phantom memory of his sharp tools where they’d scraped and nudged and pulled between major organs. Sewing back together bits of my insides and my outsides.

“Where is she?” Grey croaked and my jaw tightened, teeth clicking from the pressure.

Rook’s fingers curled over Grey’s shoulder, squeezing, but our youngest brother’s eye remained trained squarely on me. As if he somehow knew her leaving was my fault regardless of the fact he was unconscious, near fucking death, when I’d said what I said to her.

“She took off. Isn’t answering any of our calls,” I said in a low voice, struggling to keep it steady. “I sent Drake to look for her hours ago. He texted just before dawn to say he couldn’t find her.”

Grey nodded solemnly, his eye narrowing as he considered that.

“She blamed herself for this,” he said, lifting a hand to gently brush the bandage with a grimace.

“She had help,” Rook hissed, his dark gaze sliding to me before returning to Grey.

Anger flared Grey’s nostrils and tightened the lines around his mouth as he shook his head slow. “She’ll come back. She won’t leave us,” he said with conviction. “She can’t.”

Rook nodded his agreement. “Yeah, man. She’ll be back when she’s ready.”

Grey’s shoulders sagged and for the first time he allowed himself to see the quiet chaos surrounding us all. “How many did we lose?”

“Eight,” Rook replied.



“What you see here. Vet says everyone’ll make it, but Vance won’t walk again.”

I turned to the window, staring out into the early morning as though I could will Ava Jade to appear through the thin fog still clinging to the street.

She would be back.

She had to come back.

My throat burned, and I swallowed hard to snuff the aching, licking my dry lips and tasting blood. No way of telling if it belonged to myself or someone else.

Since we got back, none of us left this space save for Diesel and a small group of uninjured Saints and Kings. They went to see to the clean-up, make sure no one escaped alive.

“Hey,” Becca said weakly, her voice thin and groggy as she padded barefoot through the cots of sleeping gangsters from the back room where we’d put her. She winced when she saw Grey but quickly covered it up with a small smile. “You’re awake,” she said. “Does that mean…”

“He’s going to be fine,” Rook confirmed gruffly, the words carrying with them a finality, as though Grey’s survival was entirely up to him and he’d already made the call. Daring the reaper to try to come and claim a soul that was ours.

Grey’s lips turned up at one corner. He cocked his head at Becca as she tucked a long strand of dark hair behind her ear. “Does it look that bad?” he asked.

She started, shaking her head vehemently. “What? No. No, it’s, um…

“It looks badass,” Rook filled in, giving Becca a glare that could’ve damn near reduced her to ash.

“Yeah,” Becca agreed, swallowing. “I just—it just looks like it hurts, that’s all.”

“It does,” Grey confirmed, clearing his throat. “Feels like I got kicked in the head by a horse.”

My guts twisted.

“And then a zombie with dull fingernails dug out my eye.”

Rook’s upper lips twitched. “Thanks for that visual, man,” Rook deadpanned, going dead-eyed to cover up how bothered he was by his brother’s pain. He patted Grey on the thigh. “I’ll go get you some more morphine, you big baby.”

Becca wrapped her arms around herself, tiptoeing toward where I stood back at the front window. She looked out into the morning, at the streets slowly waking for another gorgeous day in Thorn Valley. None of them aware that only miles away, just out of earshot, a battle left at least forty men dead by the shores of Spirit Lake.

“She still hasn’t come back,” Becca said.

It wasn’t a question, so I didn’t answer.

She shivered, her fingers tightening on her shoulders.

It was hot as fucking balls in here, so I knew it wasn’t from the cold.

“Have you tried calling?” she asked.

I lifted a brow at her, and she deflated. “Sorry, stupid question. Of course you have.”

“I take it you’ve tried too?”

She nodded and my stomach twisted.

Ava Jade would ignore us if she was upset, me especially, but Becca? If she wasn’t answering calls or texts from her best friend either, that meant she was more hurt than I realized.

That or she’d lost her damn phone.

Or something far far worse.

I wished I’d had Grey install the tracking app on her new phone, but I was trying to let go of my need to control her. Giving her, her freedom. Look what fucking good it did me.

My fists clenched and not for the first time this morning, the urge to hit something until my knuckles cracked and bled raced up my arms like lightning, heat pulsing through my core. I shut my eyes against the sensations, a ragged breath slinking past my lips.

A hand gingerly touched my shoulder, and I flinched, gripping the window ledge to keep from throwing my girl’s best friend across the damn room.

“She’s fine,” Becca said, though her tone lacked conviction. “She’s always fine, no matter what happens. I’m pretty convinced that girl can’t die.”


Why the fuck did she have to say that?

I scrubbed a palm over the sharp stubble on my jaw, pulling away from Becca’s touch.

The back door of Sanctum opened, and I had my gun out and aimed, Becca swept behind me, in the span of a single second.

“What took you so long?” I heard Rook say quietly, and my pulse steadied as Diesel strode into the main bar with a few men on his heels.

I tucked my gun back into the waistband of my jeans, avoiding the injury still singing agony through my core.

Our father took in the injured around him, the storm of his face not calming until he found Grey.

“I’m good,” Grey confirmed and Diesel’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he cleared the space between them, sinking to one knee to check the wound and Grey’s state himself. He nodded once he was satisfied, and some of the ice in his eyes melted away, leaving a glint on the surface before he blinked, sniffing hard and the tears were gone.

“You scared me, Son.”

Grey smirked. “About time. I’ve been trying for years.”

Diesel shook his head, rising back to his feet. “Smart-ass.”

He lifted something from his back pocket and turned, throwing the slim phone in my direction. I caught it, my lips parting in surprise and dread.

“Found it on the roof at the Docks,” Diesel explained as I pressed the side button, lighting up the screen to a barrage of missed call and text notifications. The battery almost dead. “Someone was trying to call it off the hook. Thought Grey could check it, make sure it’s not one of theirs, or—”

“It’s not,” I interrupted him. “It’s Ava Jade’s.”

I walked it to Grey, and he took it eagerly.

“It’s locked. Can you get into it?”

Rook returned with a single tiny pill, but Grey didn’t take it, staring at the lock screen like he could figure out her passcode just by staring at it.

“Do you need a laptop?”

He shook his head, thumb hesitating over the screen before he tapped five times and then sighed in relief.

“How did you know her passcode?”

“Saw her enter the first two numbers once. Wasn’t hard to figure out the rest.”

I resisted trying to pry the phone out of his hands as he scrolled through all our missed calls and texts.

“What do you mean?” Becca asked, confused.

“The numbers were two and seven. C. R. It wasn’t hard to figure out the rest. It’s a thumbprint entry, but her backup passcode spelled Crows.”

His words were a sucker punch to the gut.

I didn’t know how, but I was going to make this up to her. I’d fucking beg for forgiveness on my knees. I’d grovel at her feet for as long as it took.

She shouldn’t have fired that shot, but I shouldn’t have put the blame for Grey, for everything, on her shoulders.

And then there was the other possibility.

That I was wrong.

If Ava Jade hadn’t taken the shot, it was possible Lenny Ace could’ve come back even stronger, with a better plan, and killed us all.

We lost good men, but we were still here.

Diesel was still here.

Maybe it was the right call. The call I was too hesitant to make.

Damn,” Grey cursed, his thumbs lifting from the screen as he paused his scrolling, staring down at something with his lips in a hard line.

“What is it?” Rook asked, but I was already pulling the phone from Grey’s stiff grip.

It wasn’t a text he was looking at but an email.

To: [email protected]

From: Ava Jade Mason

Subject: RE: Miss me?

Why don’t you come out of the shadows and play? Or are you too much of a coward? It’s me you want. Come and get me, motherfucker.

“When did she send that?” Rook asked, trying to scroll back up on the phone over my shoulder.

We both looked at the time stamp. It was sent days ago, and she’d received no reply.

“She was fucking taunting him,” Grey said.

“Who?” Diesel asked, a knot forming between his brows.

“Let me see,” Becca demanded, rushing over to stand on tiptoe to see the screen.

“Are we really surprised?” Rook asked gruffly as Becca let out a little gasp after reading the message.

“No,” Becca replied to the rhetorical question. “But… you don’t think she would go after him, do you?”

Heat surged through my chest, making my breaths come heavier.

I knew she would. But did she? After everything that happened, was that where her head would be right now?

“I don’t think she can,” Grey answered Becca. “I’ve exhausted every resource we have looking for this fucker. As smart as Ava Jade is, she couldn’t find him alone.”

“That’s the fucking problem,” I growled, struggling to regulate my breathing at the idea of this piece of shit’s hands touching what was ours. “She’s alone. And that’s exactly what he wants.”

“What the fuck are you talking about? Who are you talking about?” Diesel asked, reminding me he was still standing there, the other Saints who’d been with him scattered around the bar, checking on their injured brothers.

I met my father’s cold eyes, lifting my chin. “We meant to tell you,” I said, unable to sound even the tiniest bit apologetic. I had bigger fucking problems. “We were going to last night before—”

“Before you lost your shit on Ghost over a fucking jacket,” Rook supplied, reaching over the empty bar to scoop a bottle of Jack from the other side and take a swig straight from its mouth.

Diesel pinched the bridge of his nose. “Mind explaining now?”

“AJ has a stalker,” Grey started, and when Diesel shifted his hard stare to my brother, he lost his nerve, sagging at the raw emotion in Grey’s eye. The fear. The pain.

He wore his worry plain on his face, not bothering to try to conceal it.

Diesel dragged a stool from the bar and set it down near Grey’s cot, falling onto it, leaning his elbows over his knees. “Go on.”

Grey told Diesel almost everything, not glazing over the gritty details. There wasn’t any point. Once he caught wind of it, Diesel would find out all of those details for himself one way or another. And he needed to know. This person, whoever it was, had threatened not only Ava Jade, but us too.

If it were reversed, I’d want to know.

“You should’ve come to me sooner,” Diesel said when Grey was finished, his icy blue eyes pacing the floor.

“You weren’t—”

“You should’ve fucking told me,” he cut me off, his tone sharp as he pushed to his feet. “Where is she now?”

My brows furrowed.

“Ava Jade,” he clarified. “Where is she?”

“We don’t know,” Rook said, leaving the bottle on the bar. “This idiot told her all that shit down at the Docks was her fault.”

I flinched, but I would own that.

“She took off,” Grey added.

Diesel nodded. “I saw her storm down the dock. I remember.”

“We should look for her,” Becca said, piping up for the first time in thirty minutes.

Diesel’s gaze slid to her like he was only just remembering she was there. “There’s no reason to believe that this… this filth has her. She was upset. She left. She doesn’t know you’re here to come looking.”

“She’d figure it out,” Grey argued.

Rook shook his head. “She won’t be ready to come looking. Not yet.”

“Becca’s right,” I said, two words I never thought I’d utter. “We should look for her. I don’t care if she’s ready or not. She shouldn’t be out there alone.”

“Give her the day,” Diesel suggested. “If she isn’t here by nightfall, we’ll find her. Send out teams of three to every place you think she might’ve gone.”

I cocked my head at him. We? He was going to use our men to aid in the search for her?

“She’s one of us,” Diesel said plainly, looking at me as though I should’ve understood that. “And she’s important to the three most important people to me. That makes her problems my problems. But I got to say, boys, the timing of this shit…”

He trailed off, not needing to finish the thought.

We all hoped the war with the Aces and Dead Men was at an end after the slaughter at the Docks, but we needed to be cautious. We needed to rebuild. Strengthen our ranks. With the Kings here to help bolster us, we were all right. We wouldn’t be perceived as weak or vulnerable to attack any who wanted a piece of our territory.

But did that alliance still hold now that the threat was dealt with?

“Tonight, then,” Rook said with a note of finality in his tone.

Diesel shook his head. “You three aren’t going anywhere. The vet said Grey shouldn’t be moving around for a couple days at least. You either, Rook. In fact, I recall him saying not to put any pressure whatsoever on that leg.”

Diesel eyed Rook’s torn off jeans and the bandages cuffing his thigh and calf. Blood was already showing through the starchy white gauze even though I’d changed the dressings for him twice. Unless I tied him down, he wouldn’t stay sitting.

“And you,” Diesel added, gaze sliding my way. “You’re lucky the internal bleeding didn’t put your ass in a casket. You need fluids and rest.”

“Then we’ll rest,” I said through gritted teeth. “…until the sun goes down.”

He threw his hands up, scoffing as he rolled his eyes. “Have kids she said,” he muttered to himself. “It’ll be fucking fun, she said.”

Grey snorted, and I couldn’t help the tiniest smirk at the reminder of the reason Diesel St. Crow took in three strays and made them family. His wife, who couldn’t have children, but always wanted them. The woman who resolved to adopt… just before her life was ended.

“All right. Rest then,” Diesel said after a moment. “We’ll be back in a few hours. Got some things to check up on and Maverick wants to have a meet.”

“You need us there for that?” Rook asked.

“It’ll happen at Sanctum. I’ll be back before he gets here.”

“Wait,” I said before Dies could take off again, remembering the other thing we’d wanted to talk to Dies about during his party. “Aries.”

He quirked a brow.

“Maverick’s man,” I explained. “His clean-up guy. Ava Jade thought he might be the guy. Her stalker. He took off a couple days ago, after the newsletter was sent to the entire school about my… origin. We haven’t seen him since.”

Diesel’s mouth pressed into a thin line as he thought through the new problem. Asking a gang leader to hand over one of his own men wasn’t going to be pleasant, but Maverick could either give him over or let us hunt him down. If he was smart, he’d prefer the former.

“I’ll bring it up at the meet,” Diesel said finally. “You think it’s him?”

I rolled the question around in my mouth.

“No,” Rook answered for me. “The guy’s a creep, but not a monster.” He sneered. “Too weak. Besides, he’s probably a hundred pounds soaking wet.”

“AJ said—” Grey started, but Rook cut him off.

“Which is why we’ll look into it. You actually telling me you think that little shit is the guy?”

Grey didn’t have anything to say to that, falling silent.

“We just want to ask him a few questions,” I supplied.

“A few questions?” Diesel scoffed, knowing exactly what that meant. He shook his head. “I’ll speak to Maverick.”

He whistled low and lifted his hand, making a circular motion with his ring and index fingers. The others who’d been with him gathered back to his side, following him from the bar. The conversation finished for the moment.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” Rook asked as I lifted my jacket from the back of a chair with my pinkie and slid it on, ignoring the pain of the movement.

“I can’t just sit here.”

“Where are you going?” he repeated.

“To check on Julia.” I didn’t have a specific place in mind, but the words rolled off my tongue anyway. It was as good a place as any. She wasn’t answering our requests for updates on our humanitarian projects the last couple weeks or so. And hadn’t Sparrow said something about that girl in Williams’ class trying to call the hotline but not getting through?

Yes. I would check on Julia.

It was as good a thing to do as any if I was meant to fucking wait another two hours to hunt my Sparrow.

By the time I got back, no force on this earth, not even Diesel St. Crow, was going to stop me from finding her. I prayed she’d be back before I was. I didn’t want to, but I would drag her back if that was what it took. Kicking and fucking screaming.

Fuck. Wait,” Rook huffed, a snarl on his lips as he put weight on his fucked up leg. “I’ll come with you.”

His leg buckled when he moved forward, and he caught himself on a table, cursing.

“No you won’t. I don’t need your gimp ass slowing me down.”

“Fuck you.”

“Besides, you and Grey need to be here with the others. Just in case.”

“That’s what the sentries are for,” Grey argued, swinging his legs from the cot.

He wasn’t wrong. Diesel left a team of men guarding Sanctum. There were five around the building and two on the roof. No one would even get close.

“You need to lie down,” I reminded Grey. “And, Rook, you’re already bleeding through your fucking bandages.”

“You aren’t going out there alone, man,” Grey argued.

“I’ll go with him.”

At once, our heads turned on a swivel to where Becca was still standing quietly by a high-top table. She flushed, swallowing hard as she tried to appear confident, nearly succeeding.

I… didn’t know what to say.

Fuck no seemed a good option, but I knew Sparrow wouldn’t like that. “You should stay here,” I said instead. “Where you’ll be safe.”

“Fuck that. I can’t sit here anymore, either. Let me help. I’m a shitty shot, but I know how a gun works. I’ll cover you.”

I ran my tongue over my teeth, holding back another response I knew my Sparrow wouldn’t like. “Rebecca…”

“Look, either you let me help you or I’m just going to go and start looking for her.”

“No, you’re not,” Rook warned. “Not alone.”

“If anything happened to you, AJ’d have our balls,” Grey added.

She strengthened her resolve, lifting through her hips to stand taller, looking more like someone who could be Ava Jade’s equal than I ever gave her credit for. “Then you’re taking me with you.”

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