I take the thick robe and dip my head into the loop. Pulling it tightly, I inhale a deep breath.
My world is lost.
I step off the chair…
Caring is something I lack in the emotion department lately.
I waited for him—waited for two months. Some may think that that is hardly enough time to give the man who was supposed to be your entire world, but after that day, I knew. I threw all of my hope out the window with every word read…
Pulling open the fridge door to our home on the club property, I take out a bottle of water.
“Babe?” I called out, hollering for Hella. If he wasn’t on a job, he would always make sure that he was home when I got back from the bakery. It was his thing, our thing.
I take a swig of water, looking around the kitchen when a white note catches my eye on the kitchen counter. I pick it up, the thin paper slipping between my fingers. Placing my water down, I open it…
Don’t try to find me—I’ve gone. I won’t be back, and if I do, I want you out of the house. I would never be enough for you. I told you this so many times, but you never listened. I probably will never love anyone the way I did you, but that’s nothing now. All that shit means nothing.
Move on. Forget about me and this life I carelessly led you into.
P.S Divorce is out of the question. If I can’t have you, no one can.
I trembled to the ground, ran all the way to the clubhouse, demanded everyone to tell me where he is—but no one spoke. That’s the thing about men who ride in an MC. They’re a brotherhood. Sure, I was Hella’s old lady, but the moment he walked away from me, their loyalties shifted along with Hella’s presence. Truthfully, deep down I never expected any of them to tell me where he was, but what I didn’t expect, was what they did next. Pity. Everyone gave me the look of pity. I grieved for him for one whole month.
I stayed at our house, curled in a ball and sobbing into his shirt, screaming for him every damn night. Even in my sleep, I was haunted by his presence being ripped away from me so suddenly. I didn’t eat, I didn’t drink, I was too afraid to sleep just in case he came home, and I missed him. It was one whole month of sheer horror. One whole month of loss. I have mourned people before, people who have passed and who had maybe meant something to me, but nothing amounted to losing the one man I fought to get, only for him to permanently remove our battle scars and move on without a second glance back. The heartbreak continued to crack through me as every month passed, but once I hit the third, Beast had come over to tell me that I needed to leave. So, I left. Took what belongings I had without a second glance. Sometimes, we can’t control what other people do, all we can do is live with it, whether we hate it or not.
I sink into the warm water, allowing it to wipe my thoughts away. I hate thinking about my old life, with them, even my own sister. I ignore them with every turn until Millie eventually comes to my apartment or to Eat Me, my bakery downstairs. I’ll be sure to make the visit boring for her in hopes that she’d leave me the fuck alone, but it never works. She’s always back the next week, talking about baby shit. Not that my nephew isn’t cute, I mean, if I was working at a fully functional level, I would totally be bouncing him around on my hip while teaching him some Nate Dogg song, but unfortunately, his auntie is not in the grandest of spirits. In fact, Millie doesn’t bring him anymore.
I’m that tragic.
Pushing up from the ceramic bath, I swipe the water from my face and squeeze the water out of my hair. Korn is blasting on my little sound pod, it’s neurotic tune only fueling my soul into a frenzy. Reaching for the bottle of Jack, I take a swig and stand, slowly stepping out of the tub. Rubbing the condensation off the mirror, I grin at myself in the reflection.
“Oh, yeah, Melissa, you’re totally doing just fine. Just. Fine.”
There’s a bang on the door. I don’t answer. Another bang.
I wrap my towel around my brittle frame and swing it open. “What!”
Drav is leaning on the door frame. “Thought I could hear you talking to yourself.”
I shove him out of the way and make my way to my closet. “What are you doing here, Drav, and how’d you get in?” You know those people who you sort of click with, but don’t, but they have a big dick that temporarily fills the void that someone has willingly ripped from your soul? Yeah, that’s Drav for me. He wears suspenders, classes and has no muscles. He’s the complete opposite of Hella. Ding, ding, that’s what I’m about now. I fucked a guy with tattoos, muscles and then let him whisk me away on his damn Harley to marry him. Where’d that get me? Knee deep in cocaine, a bottle of Jack for breakfast, and a fucking broken heart.
No. I only mess with nerdy guys now.
The ones that can handle me, that is.
“That one night,” he answers, going into the kitchen. I continue shuffling through my clothes to find something clean and wearable. “When we came back here drunk and high as fuck, you showed me where your spare one was, but said I had to forget I showed it to you if I had a small dick.” I roll my eyes, pushing a loose V-neck over my head.
A cupboard closes. “Guess I had a big dick because I was back the next night, and the next, an—”
“—Shut up, Drav!” I yell between jumping around to shove my fishnet tights on. Once they’re securely strapped around my waist, I drag a small leather skirt up and begin towel drying my hair as I make my way back into the lounge.
“I’m just saying,” he answers around a bite of my granola. I slant my eyes on him and then catch his foot resting on my cheap knock-off coffee table.
Drav gives me puppy eyes. Shame really, bet those work on every other woman, you know, the ones who hadn’t been married to a damn Rottweiler. Drav is definitely probably not most girl’s type. In the face department, he is good looking. He has a sharp jaw, he is clean shaven, nice blue eyes and short brown wavy hair, but let’s be real. Instagram models and Channing fucking Tatum in Magic Mike has ruined these kind of guy’s chances at being the “most girls type.” Everyone is chasing the new trend, the guy with the best abs, the biggest arms, and all that shit. Drav is nerdy, but he is still attractive.
I’m making coffee and trying to think of a way to get rid of Drav when my phone starts vibrating on the counter.
Millie flashes over my screen, interrupting my screensaver. Do I answer, or do I leave it? If I leave it, she will probably make it her daily mission to come and find me, but if I answer, she will probably only be telling me that she’s almost here, or about to be here, at the very least.
I hit answer and push it to my ear. “What, Millie! I told you, I don’t have time to have lunch with you because besides the fact that I’m not in the mood, I also can’t be bothered with that girl who is hanging off Miles.”
“Melissa, shut up, something has happened.” When we were five years old, Millie hurt herself on the playground. She cried for days she was in that much pain. Her tone closely matched that.
“What? Someone steal your crown?” I stir my coffee, which is a step up from the Jack. My stomach clenches in hunger, pancakes going through my head. I coul—
“—Hella is dead.”
Two Hours Earlier
My club comes first, even when it doesn’t it comes first, and even when it shouldn’t, it still comes first. I’ve been here for two months now, jacked up watching the girl with red hair.
Her coffee is always a latte, and her left leg has a slight limp in it from surgery in ninth grade after a gymnastics accident. I know that she visits Adam and Eve hair salon every Friday to get her hair freshly dipped, and I know that she lives mainly alone. I know she loves her teaching job because I know that smile.
Because I know her.
The taste of tobacco penetrates my tastebuds as I flick my smoke around in my mouth. I need to get her away, well away from this mess, before shit blows up.
Running my hand through my hair, I bite down on my bottom lip as my eyes catch the patch on my left pec. The Devil’s Own MC. My brothers. I can’t pull them into this, because what this involves isn’t the MC. It involves an uptight bitch who is trying to make my life fucking complicated.
“Problem, Hellraiser?” asks the uptight bitch from the back seat.
“No.” I grind my teeth, fighting the urge to lean over and strangle her.
She chuckles as if she can sense my hostility. “There, there, angry one. It will all be over soon, and you can go back to your little wife and your little life.”
“Fuck you, Taylor.”
I’ve always hated girls who are too much of everything, and Taylor is all of that. “Do my brothers know what you’re planning?”
“Why would they? I don’t answer to anyone but The Operation.”
A laptop slaps closed. “Right, sic em, boy.”
I climb out of the car, slamming the door shut. She flinches and scowls at me from the back seat. I flip her off and slowly make my way to the small cottage with the white picket fence. It’s everything Red would have wanted, everything she spoke about needing when we were kids. I can’t let this life touch her. I promised that I wouldn’t. Let. My life touch her…
I slammed the door closed, running toward my bed. Flinging the old woollen covers up, I kneeled down, poking my head under. “He’s gone. We can go now.”
Red climbed out from under the bed, pushing her wild curls out of her face. “Brax, you can’t help me. If Mr. and Mrs. Appleton find out, you’ll get punished.”
I shook my head, my hand clinging to hers. When Red first came to the Appleton’s, I hated her. I hated her because she made me want to be good, to do good. “I want to help you, Red, and then I’m running too. Fuck this life.”
Her eyes search mine. “You’re going to run?”
A loud crash sounds downstairs and we both jolt up.
“Yes, but come on.” I drag her to the small window that doesn’t let in enough light.
“But where will you go?” Her blue eyes search mine, glassing over in emotion.
“I don’t know. Anywhere will be better than here.”
She doesn’t have time to question me again because I shove her all the way through the window and then lean down to let myself out too.
My feet hit the grass and I quickly grab her hand, running toward the forest up ahead. “Come on, Red, we don’t have time.”
“I don’t understand why you’re helping me!” she says, muffled while running.
“You won’t understand right now, Red.” I yank her again, my legs picking up to a feral speed until I’m almost dragging her into the forest with me. We duck behind a tree.
She opens her mouth, but I shake my head, pushing my finger to my lips. “Shhh.” Closing my eyes, I listen out for the traffic until a loud beeping sound signals me.
I push off the tree trunk and we’re running again. This time jumping over the logs and fallen trees, my old shoes crunching under the leaves.
She’s quiet now. Like she gets it. She understands that this is important and that when I have a beat, I’ll tell her.
The busy highway comes into view, breaking through the trees up ahead. I slow down slightly as a dark car idles toward the shoulder.
Red bumps into me, her little hands squeezing around my bicep. “Brax?”
Slowly but carefully, I shove her behind my body as we approach the vehicle. An older man, looking to be in his mid to late sixties walks toward us. He’s dressed in a suit and tie, even for his age, he rocks it.
“Brax, who is that?” Red asks.
I close my eyes. She wasn’t supposed to be here. I turn to face her, wrapping my fingers around her chin to tilt her head up to me. “Listen to me, Red. You can trust that man, he is your grandfather. Okay?”
Confusion clouds her eyes, but after a few seconds of silence, she nods her head. “But what about you?”
I smile, running my thumb down her soft cheeks. “Don’t worry about me, boo. I’ll be fine.”
She slowly starts making her way toward the car until her fingers unlatch from mine. I felt like my heart had been torn from my chest.
Once the backdoor had closed, I cut my eyes to the old man. “Look after her.”
He doesn’t answer, he just watches me carefully. “Does she know?”
My mouth snaps shut before I grumble. “No.”
“And how did you come about to knowing who she was?”
“Does it matter?” I snap, feeling the rage that had simmered since Red came into my life boil to the surface.
“Yeah, it does.”
“She showed me a photo of her mother.”
The old man sighed. “I don’t want your life touching her, kid. Don’t get me wrong, your mother was a crackhead and so was your father so that’s a shit hand you were dealt. Lucky for her,” he gestures to the car. “Her dad wasn’t.”
“I won’t let my life touch her if you promise to keep her safe.”
“I’ll keep her safe. You just stay out of her life. She doesn’t need to be side-tracked by her feelings for you.”
Padding up the front steps, I faintly hear a television playing in the background and the sound of food sizzling. Clenching my jaw, I squeeze the handle to her door and wiggle it.
“Fuck’s sake, Red!” I cuss under my breath when it opens. I slowly make my way into the house, noting how tidy it is. I’m not surprised by that either. Red would clean constantly when we were kids. I stepped inside the house, careful not to make a sound. I’m one step away from the lounge room when a gun cocks and a metal barrel presses against the back of my neck.
“Who the fuck are you and what the fuck are you doing in my house.”
I grin, my chest constricting in my chest. “Good to see everything I taught you didn’t go completely over your head, Red.”
She sucks in a breath, the metal disappearing from the back of my neck. “Brax?”
I turn around to face her, my god, she’s even more fucking beautiful up close. “Yeah, it’s me.”
The gun drops to the ground and she flings her arms around my neck. I grind my teeth, wrapping my arms around her back. “Listen,” I murmur into her red hair. “Do you trust me?”
Instantly, she nods her head. “Yes.”
“Okay good, baby. Because I’m about to walk you into a war, but I promise I won’t let a bullet touch you.”
She searches my face, her blue eyes glistening. “I know.”
My hand finds hers and I curl my fingers into them. “Follow me and follow my signals.”
She gulps, her eyes going to my patch. “You’re in a motorcycle club?”
I smirk. “I am. Go turn your dinner off.”
She leaves, running into the kitchen and then coming back.
“Do you have anyone that will wonder where you are? Boyfriend or anythin’?”
She shakes her head. “No. Divorced.”
“Divorced at twenty-six?” I ask, eyebrows high.
She shrugs. “He assumed because we were married that he could start treating me like shit.”
I still, my fists clenching. “Right,” I grit out, annoyed. “Come on.”
“She takes my hand as I lead us to the front door. “Where are we going?”
“I’m going to make sure you’re safe before raising the alarm for my brothers.”
We head out the door and I lead her back to my car that’s parked on the side of the road. Red pauses when she sees Taylor in the back seat.
“Who is that?” she asks, pointing.
“That’s Taylor. The annoying bitch I’m putting up with right now for your safety.” I pin Red with a look, recognition flashes over her face and she nods softly. Do not trust her.
Red grabs the handle to the passenger side door and slides in.
I start up the car until the loud V8 is shaking underneath us.
“You must be Red.”
Red turns in her seat to look at Taylor. “You can call me River Lee Grace.”
Taylor laughs, just as I pull us out onto the road. “Such a long name. Tell me, which of your parents named you that?”
I grit my teeth, fighting the urge to kill her, once again. Miles owes me. Owes me big fucking time.
“Shut up, Taylor, and tell me where the fuck we’re going now.”
Taylor’s phone pings in the back seat, and my eyes fly to her in the rearview mirror. I watch as a smirk pulls across her face, the light from her phone illuminating her features.
“What?” I snap.
She looks up at me. “Oh nothing. Now, about why we needed Little Red Riding Hood over here and her big bad wolf…”
I squeeze the steering wheel.
Taylor clears her throat. “River, we didn’t take you as hostage for Hella. Well, we did, but you come with a double meaning.”
“How so,” Red says, watching me carefully. She’d do this when we were kids too. Watch for my reaction to know what she should do for hers. Before Melissa, Red was the only one walking this earth that could read me. Not including Beast. Fucker.
“The Operation has found her skills to be as of an asset to us.”
“What?” My eyes fly to the rear-view mirror.
Red exhales. “Hacking.”
I turn to face her, wondering what the fuck she’s talking about.
“I missed you so much, Brax. When I was old enough, I started to study hacking and coding. I wanted to find you, but I knew that no one would help me. No one. So I had myself to do it.”
“Jesus,” I whisper. “And did you find me?”
Red turns her head to look at me. “I did. I just didn’t want to disrupt your life. It was enough for me to just know that you’re alive.” She pauses. “Congratulations on the wedding by the way.”
“Thanks,” I grunt, but before I can say anything else, Taylor is laughing in the back seat.
“Shut the fuck up, Taylor.”
“Oh,” Red whispers. “Sorry about that.”
“What do you want with her. With me?” I ask, my eyes going back to Taylor. “And where the fuck is Miles?”
Taylor’s eyes come to meet mine. I drop down gears and zip forward, needing to get us the fuck back to Nevada.
“Miles is where he’s supposed to be. He’s keeping me happy while I sort out The Army.”
“And why do you need us?” I hiss, fucking sick of her shit.
“Well, I need River for her hacking skills, and I need you,” she grins. “As a commander.”
I shake my head. “Fuck you. I want my wife back.”
Taylor tilts her head. “About that.”
I grind my teeth. “What?”
“She’s been up to no good since you’ve been gone.” I can hear Red suck in a breath beside me.
I hiss, baring my teeth. “Shut up, Taylor. You really don’t want to give me another reason to kill you.” Fuck. Fucking Melissa. That’s what I get for marrying the woman version of me.
Red clears her throat as we hit the highway. “I missed you, Brax.”
“Me too, Red, but there’s something I should have told you a long fucking time ago.” God, what the fuck am I doing. If I tell her this, then there’s no going back. She will one-hundred percent be inside my life. “You’re my sister.”
“What!” she squeals, jumping up from her seat.
“Yeah, sorry, babe. The day that your pops came to pick you up, we both agreed that it was best you didn’t know. We have the same mom, different dads. Anyway.” I shift gears and floor it forward. “I found out the second week you were at the Appleton’s. You showed me the only image you had of your mom and I recognized her instantly. You know how fucked up it is to have a crush on a chick only to find out that she’s your fucking sister?” I chuckle, looking toward her.
“Yeah,” Red murmurs. “Imagine that and multiply it by like, fifteen or whatever years…”
Red shuffles in her seat. “So you want me to hack? Hack what?”
Taylor has partially rebuilt the headquarters, only adding her own little touches every now and then. Not sure who the fuck is more terrifying. Her or Kurr.
I slam the door closed and stretch my arms above my head. Taylor gets out of the back seat carrying her laptop. “Come. We need to talk.”
Red looks around the place and gives me a questioning look. Don’t blame her. There are small cabin homes built in lines with small fences around them. That hasn’t changed since I was last here, but what has is the building that used to sit in the middle of the small community. It’s not behind the cabins and the building is more like a glass box with a complete view of the surrounding area. The desert dust kicks up around my boots as I head around the car to grab Red.
“Just go with it. Okay?” I whisper into her hair, pulling her in close to me.
She nods her head, her arm hooking around my torso. “Okay.”
We head toward the large cube, following where Taylor entered. As soon as the doors open, I’m taken aback by the architecture. The space is open with no doors. There are eight small cubicles around the edges where people are sitting at computers, completely entranced in their task. As suspected, you have a complete view of the base, even the roof is glass to see the sky.
“This bulletproof, sugar?” I ask Taylor with a smirk, not letting Red go.
“It is,” a familiar voice mutters out behind me. I turn to face it and chuckle, shaking my head.
“This where she’s keeping you holed up?” I gesture around the room while keeping my eyes on him.
Miles chuckles, but not enough to reach his eyes. “When she can.”
Taylor’s heels clink across the tiled floor until she’s back in front of us, holding a manila file. She hands it to me. “I need you to complete this.”
I clench my jaw. “Why me.”
Taylor lifts her eyebrows. “Really need to ask why?” She gestures toward a long rectangle table that sits in the middle of the room. We all follow her, Miles included. Taking a seat, I open up the file as she continues. “Aside from the fact that you’re Hellraiser, I need your expertise, and well, your sister here also helped sweeten the deal.”
I slap the folder closed. “You’ve been sending me shit about Red for two months, getting me away from Melissa and my club, for me to do all of this? Nah, I ain’t buying it. What else do you want?”
Taylor’s eyes go to Miles. “I want to make sure your club won’t get in the way of The Army again. I want an alliance between the two of us.”
“First of all.” I lean forward. “Raze handed The Army to you on a silver platter. Why would he do that and run the risk of brewing a war? This is all yours.” Stupid fucking bitch.
Taylor’s eyes come to mine. “But Raze still has The Operation.”
“With good reason,” Miles adds, his face frozen and his eyes flat. “Raze is the only man walking this earth that can come close to God. He should be running The Army too, but he gave it to you,” Miles says, looking directly at Taylor. “So handle it.”
I lean back in my chair, running my index finger over my upper lip. There’s something Miles isn’t telling me, that much is obvious. He and Raze separated are people to fear, but together, they’re damn lethal. It’s then that I realize I don’t really have to worry about much of this deal. Something is cooking under Miles and Raze where Taylor is concerned and that isn’t any of my business.
“How long do you need Red and I for?” My eyes stay on Miles and I give him a smirk. His face is blank, showing nothing in return, but I see the slight twitch on the corner of his eye.
Game on, bitch. I would not want to be Taylor.
“I need you for six weeks, but in order for this to work, there’s something else I need done.”
“Yeah?” My eyebrows raise. “And what’s that, pumpkin?”
Taylor’s mouth opens, and then shuts, and then opens again. I see the exact moment that she decides to leave my smart little pet name for her and move forward because she shakes her head. Then she grins, so deep that it makes wrinkle lines appear where they fucking shouldn’t for a girl of her age. “Everyone has to think you’re dead.”
People say that numb isn’t a feeling, but I’d disagree. The feeling of being numb is lethal. It doesn’t kick start your heart or pump up your adrenaline. It doesn’t give you butterflies in your belly or make you excited.
It’s numb. It’s the feeling of ice being injected into your veins. It’s the feeling of indescribable motions that wave through you ever so gently. You don’t feel it to the touch or feel it skate over your flesh, the feeling of being numb is caressed against your soul with its nine-inch blade.
He’s dead. Now he’s not just left me without answers, he’s left me for good. I bring the rim of Jack Daniels to my lips and lean back, taking a long swig. My phone has been going crazy all day since Millie told me, but I haven’t answered.
Until— “Lissa?” Scarlett’s voice breaks through the deep sounding jazz that’s playing on the jukebox in the old bar I stumbled into in town.
My eyes come to hers, but I don’t say a word. I don’t have to. That’s the beauty of Scarlett. She comes closer, putting her handbag on the bar beside me and then bringing her hands to my face. “I’m sorry, baby.”
I met Scarlett again, through Hella and the club. The Devil’s Own MC made an alliance with the Sons of Templar MC, and Scarlett is a part of the New Mexico chapter. She was a club girl until she shacked up with one of the brothers in their MC. I can’t remember his name, but I remember he looked like The Rock.
I don’t wipe the tears from my eyes, I let them fall over her finger.
She pulls out one of the bar stools beside me and orders what I’m having then looks back to me. “How?”
I shake my head. “I don’t know. I don’t want to know and I—” I choke on my words, unable to say that he’s gone. Never coming back. His touch is something I’d never feel, his voice something I’ll never hear and his smell is something I will never smell again.
“Let’s get drunk. Take my mind off all the bullshit that’s been happening on our side. Where’s that young lad that’s always with you?”
I take another shot of whiskey. “Drav? I don’t know. I haven’t been able to see him, or anyone.” I cough, clearing my throat from the lingering burn.
“Drink,” Scarlett says, bringing the glass up to the air. “To the men who fuck us, love us, leave us, and fucking die on us.” It’s completely inappropriate for anyone else to say those words and in fact, if anyone else had been the ones to say them I would have probably punched them square in the jaw, but it was Scarlett. It came with her personality. She would tie me over until Phoebe got here, that’s for sure.
We drank, we got messy, we danced, we took a nap down a grungy old alley, and then we woke up and drank some more. I didn’t go home for three days, she didn’t leave me. Scarlett stayed right by my side throughout. It was sunset of day three that we started walking back toward my apartment with my dirty heels in hand, my feet grubby from the past three days and my face stanching of smoke, alcohol and bad decisions.
I stop, just as we’re about to approach my apartment door, bypassing my bakery. Stupid fucking thing. What’s the point of baking if you have no one to bake for. “I lost my husband,” I whisper, letting my long dirty blonde hair hang down my face. My eyes whip to Scarlett. “I lost my best friend, my soulmate. I lost everything, Scarlett, and I don’t know if I can do this for much longer.”
Scarlett’s hand came out to mine. “Come on, sugar. Let’s get you washed and into your bed.”
After a second, I agreed, allowing her to take me upstairs and into the shower. I cried more once I was under the hot pelting water. Scarlett handed me a bottle of SKYY vodka through the bathroom curtain and I snatched it, sinking into the tub and letting the water wash through me.
I didn’t want to go on. I couldn’t go on. Not without him. I’ve never been suicidal, I’ve never considered myself to have those kinds of thoughts but losing Hella has pushed me damn near the edge.
It’s week four of losing him. Everyone has come to check on me in waves. The guys from the club, the old ladies, and even some girls who are regulars at Eat Me. I eventually get tired of their presence, but the one person who hasn’t left is Phoebe, who is still asleep on my bed.
I turn to face her, tucking my hand under my cheek. We’ve known each other since we were just little kids and having her so close to me during this time has been my magnet to earth. Either that or the small bump that’s growing in her belly.
I reach out and run my hand over it and her eyes slowly peel open. “Hey, beauty.” Hey beauty. No, “you look like shit,” or “your breath stinks.” It’s so unlike Phoebe, but I can see what she’s doing. Everyone is doing it—treading around me carefully, like I’m a ticking time-bomb, one that no one knows the second I’m about to blow.
She props herself up onto one elbow. “How are you feeling today?”
I take my hand away from her swollen belly and tuck it back under my pillow. “Not sure. I think I don’t feel anything.”
Her throat bobs, the sunlight from the morning breaking through my rundown blinds. It’s a huge step down to what Phoebe is used to sleeping in, that’s for sure. What with her hotshot rock star husband and all.
“Well, I have a plan. You know how when we were kids and we used to go cliff jumping?”
I give her a judgmental look, rolling my eyes. “I don’t know if you know this, but you have a growing human in your belly and I don’t think you can do that anymore…”
She whacks me with the back of her hand, tucking her short blonde hair behind her ear. “You can. It always gave you such a rush, and I don’t know, boo. I feel like after you’ve lost someone close, you need to do the things that make you happy.”
She has a point.
“But I don’t know if I want to experience happiness without him.”
She sighs, swinging her legs off the bed and clipping her hair up. “It feels like that right now, but one day at a time, okay? And I’ll be here for it all. Also, I think Ryker wants to see you, and you know how persistent he is…”
I chuckle. “Cliff diving with Ryker Oakley? Okay. Count me in.”
Cliff diving with old friends was definitely on the top of my list as far as mourning goes, but it’s still not enough to cover the wounds that bare through my soul. If anything, they weep more now from seeing how much in love everyone is now. I probably might need new friends.
“Melissa?” There’s a knock on the door. I think. I’m cradled in the corner of the sitting room. Our sitting room. Our house. Rocking back and forth as images zap through my brain. True, coming back to our home probably wasn’t a good idea. His scent still penetrates the particles of air that floats around, and every single inch of this house is embedded with a memory of him and me, but it’s been six weeks. Six weeks and things are still not good. I don’t think they’ve gotten better, but they haven’t gotten worse.
I take a long swig of Proper Twelve Whiskey, saluting the air. “Cheers, Notorious.” Hella was a huge Connor McGregor fan, he even had the walk down.
I scratch my chest in an attempt to soothe the ache just thinking of him sets off inside of me. Sweat trickles down my face as the tears pour through—again. God, all I fucking do is cry.
I shake my head, watching as the shadows from the trees from outside the glass windows of the sitting room pour over the light, casting shadows on the floor. “Leave me alone.”
“Melissa, you need to come with me now.”
My head moves, my eyes coming to hers. She broke in? Am I that drunk that I didn’t hear her break in? Can being drunk impair your hearing? I should google that.
I can barely make out her small features through the fog in my brain. “Why.”
“Because, you just. Please come. I don’t want to say anything just in case.”
I stand, swiping my bare legs. I’m in my Harley tee and short cut-offs. My hair hasn’t been brushed and my face is so swollen from the unlimited number of tears that have been spilled.
I follow her out of the house and into her car. She drives us back toward the clubhouse, and with every mile driven, I feel my heart slam against my chest. Everything is a memory of him. My existence is a memory of him, and if this is how it’s going to be, then I don’t want to exist. Closing my eyes, I think of what it would be to make the decision to stop walking this earth without him. I’d be lying if I said that this is the first time I’ve thought about it, because I think about it. A lot.
I take the thick robe and dip my head into the loop. Pulling it tightly, I inhale a deep breath. My world is lost. I step off the chair… I wish I could ease the pain that way. God, I wish I could, but it comes down to the fact that I couldn’t do that to Millie. She’s lost everyone, and yeah, she may have Raze and Miles and their “family,” but I still couldn’t leave her. Suicide takes away the pain of the sufferer by passing it on to the loved ones they leave behind.
Millie stops outside the clubhouse and once the dust settles from beneath her wheels, I can see the large crowd that’s standing outside. More bikes than usual are lined up and behind them—I suck in a breath. “Who brought his car here?”
The group of bikers slowly split, revealing—I gasp, my eyebrows pulling together. “He’s alive?” I ask Millie, cautiously.
She smiles at me. “Yes, he is.”
Relief floods through me, but that’s short-lived when fury pushes through my veins. My jaw tightens. A sudden rush of rage washes over me, and then I see the girl. She has long red hair, pale skin, and sharp features. Not only that, but she has a long tight body and the way she’s looking at Hella stirs something feral inside of me. I should be jumping out of this car and rushing into his arms, but the fact is is that he left me.
“Take me home.”
“—Millie!” I snap, turning to face her. “He ruined my life, not once, but now twice. The fact that he’s back does not erase the fact that he left me. Take. Me. Home.”
“Okay!” Millie yells, putting the car in reverse. “But just so you know, that girl might—”
“I don’t care. That’s not why I’m mad. I’m mad because he left, and then I thought he was dead, and now this. I can’t deal. Take me home. I’m glad he’s alive, but fuck him.”
Millie looks toward the crowd again one last time before putting it into drive.
“So why did she use you?” Beast asks, glaring at me from the head of the table. With good reason.
“Because she wanted me to command her new soldiers and she wanted Red. She needed her, but she knew that she couldn’t have her unless she had me, and there was no having me without her. She found my weakness, one that wasn’t Melissa and that could benefit her.”
“Speaking of…” Racer mutters around the smoke hanging from his mouth. “You gon’ make up to her or what? She’s been through some shit since you left, dawg…”
I rub my hand over my face. “I’ll get her back.”
“—and Miles?” Beast asks.
I clench my jaw. “Miles is fine. I only saw him the once.”
Racer shakes his head, leaning forward on his arms. “Bro, Raze is going to pack the shit if we don’t tell him an update on Miles.”
My eyes go to Racer. “Raze already knows. He knows everything that is going on with Miles and Taylor. Taylor is out of bounds for everyone except Miles. Not even I can kill that bitch.”
There’s a round of chuckles that go around the table before a loud knock sounds from the door.
“What!” Beast calls out.
Meadow steps inside, her eyes coming to me. “You should probably go and see Melissa.”
It’s not that I don’t want to see her, it’s that I don’t know what to say when I do. Then there’s the fact that she’s probably been with other people since I’ve been gone, out of vengeance, and honestly, I’m not feeling very fucking stable right now.
“Not yet,” I answer, turning back around to face my brothers.
“Hella,” she whispers softly. “She is so pissed and we’re a little scared that she’s going to finally do something stupid, and—”
“—Bro,” I say to Beast.
Beast watches me carefully, slowly nodding his head. “Leave it alone, baby. I’ll be out in a second.”
After locking up the bakery, I toss my handbag over my arm and make my way around the front and toward the door that leads up to my apartment. It’s been three days since Hella came back and I’ve not heard anything. I’m not someone who chases people—ever—especially if I feel like I’m not needed. The fact that he’s my husband won’t change that either. I’m still mad, upset, and confused. I’m not ready to forgive yet and in a way that frightens me. I’ve been upset with Hella before, but this feels so much deeper than that. It’s the feeling of betrayal that takes hold of my gut and squeezes until I can barely handle the pain.
“Melissa…” My hand stops, hovering above the door handle as I slam my mouth closed, ignoring the breeze that lifts my hair up from the nape of my neck. It’s the eve of Christmas Eve. I shouldn’t be bleeding my problems out into what is supposed to be the most joyful time of year, but fuck my life because I could recognize that voice anywhere. “Don’t fucking do it, baby. Don’t ignore me.”
My eyes close and I exhale, trying to collect my thoughts. I’m strong. I don’t need this, and I can’t be the girl he comes back to after he has done me so wrong.
Turning slowly, my eyes meet the shadow that’s lurking underneath the bright shop signs. There he is, in a dark hoodie and jeans with his patch on over top. I can make out the sharp cut of his jawline and his swollen lips, but that’s all the lighting will allow me to see.
“What, Hella? What do you want?”
He steps forward, but I take one back, my hand flying out to the handle. “Don’t!”
He stops. “Are you going to let me explain?”
I twist the handle. “You had your chance to explain and you didn’t. You can’t do that now.” I dip inside and slam the door closed behind me. Locking it quickly, I take a few seconds to collect myself before climbing the stairs that lead up into my apartment.
I can’t do this. My head is so fucked up from everything, I don’t know which is right and which is left. I don’t trust people in general and Hella knew that. He knew that by him leaving it was going to jeopardize my trust, but he did it anyway. We were supposed to be a team. He was supposed to come to me before he did anything. How was I supposed to just drop the wall that he rebuilt in the first place, as soon as he got home. I can’t. I won’t.
“Hey, sexy!” Drav comes slurring into the kitchen holding a bottle of wine.
“I’m not really in the mood, D. I might just go to bed.”
“Oh no, but I think there’s someone here that you might want to see…” I follow him into the living room, pulling my scarf away from my neck. I stop in my tracks when I see Phoebe and her brother Blake sitting on the sofa. Blake has one foot perched against the coffee table and one arm slung over the back of the sofa.
“Hey, trouble, what you are getting yourself into now?”
“Hey!” I narrow my eyes on Phoebe, who throws her hands up in defense.
“This was not my idea, and als—”
A loud whistle sounds out from behind me and I turn to face it. I freeze when I see who it is. “Zane? Ade?” I look back at Phoebe, narrowing my eyes. “Please tell me why the fuck the Sinful Souls MC is sitting in my house.”
“Naawww, I missed you too, princess.” Ade winks at me, moving toward my couch—that looks very fucking small with these guys—and flopping down beside Blake.
Phoebe stands. “As I was saying, this was not my idea, but The Devil’s Own invited them up to—to—” Phoebe pauses, her hands going to her hips. “What the fuck are you looking at?” It took me a second to realize she’s saying that to me. Oh, here’s my best friend. She’s back.
“You’re looking at Ade!”
“Oh my fucking god.” I shake my head, sinking down onto the sofa. Drav leans against the armrest, popping peanuts into his mouth. “You know, I can’t believe you still think to this day that Ade and I have—”
“—because we have…” Ade laughs, his annoyingly smug and pretty face is looking rather punchable right now.
I sigh, rubbing my temples. “Where the fuck is your woman? And yours, and yours!” I further point to Blake and Zane.
They all shrug. “Back in Westbeach.”
“Don’t change the subject!” Phoebe screeches.
“The subject is old. As in, it happened when we were at school. I’m over this conversation, so let’s get back to why everyone is here.”
Phoebe rubs her belly, relaxing back into the sofa beside Ade. “I’m sorry, I think pregnancy is turning me into a crazy person.”
“Poor Ryder,” I groan.
“They have a meeting with the Devils on Christmas Eve, so we’ve decided to have a hog roast.”
Great. “That’s nice, but I will not be there, so carry on.”
“Why?” Blake asks, his blue eyes coming to mine. His blond hair is much longer these days, it’s a good look for him.
“Because he lied to me. Because he left me. Because he faked his own stupid death and now I want to give him his real one.”
Blake chuckles, shaking his head. “Man, he would have done what he had to do. Do you really think that man is someone who marries a chick and then just decides, huh, I don’t like this bitch anymore…”
“I can’t tell if you’re seriously asking me that or….”
Ade puts a smoke into his mouth. “The answer is no. Can you see any of us doing that to our women?”
“You guys are different to these boys—no offense. They’re a little more… deranged and honestly, you guys know my insecurities and he fucked it.”
“Was that his bike I heard just before?” Ade blows out his smoke, ignoring what I had just said.
“I don’t know about you, but that’s the moves from a man who is trying to make it right. Don’t ya think?”
I sit there for a second, brewing over Ade’s words. Then it dawns on me and I laugh, shaking my head. “Ade, I am not taking advice from the biggest manwhore to hit US soil since, I don’t know—”
“—Your husband?” he adds, a cocky grin on his face.
I’m going to punch him. Right in the dick, and that would hurt if he still has the thing pierced. “You’re such a c—”
“—Okay! Phoebe says, standing. “You guys can move along. We will see you tomorrow night.”
“She will see you…”
“We,” Phoebe snaps, shooting daggers at me.
The guys are shuffling out when Ade’s big body brushes against me. He leans down and whispers in my ear. “I wouldn’t fuck with that, and if it gets angry, just throw chocolate at it.”
“Ade!” she screams, throwing a pillow at him. He dodges, laughing and shuts the door behind himself. I swear we can still hear their roar of laughter seconds later.
Once they’ve gone, the silence is deafening. “Drav, don’t start, and give me some wine.”
Phoebe takes a seat back on the sofa. “I think you should hear Braxton out.”
“Really?” I ask, wrapping my lips around the rim of the bottle. “And why would I do that?”
Phoebe leans forward. “You forget I was raised with bikers, Melissa. These guys, they do annoying fucking things for the good of their club and brothers and shit, which is precisely why I didn’t marry one.”
“Yeah.” I roll my eyes. “You married a famous rock star.”
She flashes me a grin that resembles the Grinch. “Exactly.”
Later that night, I’m in bed when my phone vibrates on the bedside table, cutting through Phoebe’s snoring.
Come to the clubhouse tomorrow. Let me explain and the old ladies wanna see you.
I snort, shaking my head and hitting my reply.
M: Fuck you.
H: Baby, you know damn well that there’s more to this. Fuck, Melissa, I didn’t marry a stupid bitch.
M: Your tactic sucks, and no, I’m not stupid, Hella. Leave me alone.
H: Are you coming?
I throw my phone across the room and sink into a deep sleep with comforting dreams of the last episodes on How to Kill Your Husband and Get Away With It.
Why am I here? I turn to face Phoebe. “Why am I here?”
She rolls her eyes, brushing me forward. “Because this is your family, Melissa.” She gestures to the bikes that are parked in a perfect line in the front of the clubhouse. “Like, warts and all. Come on.”
I yank my hand out of her grip and she spins around to glare at me, hands on hips and all. “What the fuck. Who are you and give me my best friend back!”
I rear back in shock. “What?”
“You heard me!” Phoebe snaps, and I can hear from the tone that she’s using with me that the girl is not playing at all. “This isn’t you, Melissa. You put these guys and girls to sleep. Sort your shit out and I’ll see you when you’re ready to woman up.” She spins and marches into the entry to the clubhouse, that is actually one big gigantic barn. That’s what it looks like from the outside anyway, in the inside, it’s equipped with all the latest nooks and crannies. A bar, sofas, pool tables, the boardroom, or “church” room, and then there’s upstairs with all the bedrooms.
She’s fucking right. I hate my best friend.
I start walking toward the entry but a hand comes out and yanks me behind the side of the garage. I go to scream, but that same hand slams over my mouth, lips coming to my ear. Should I panic? I should.
“Shut the fuck up, wife.”
I relax, my shoulders slacking. He chuckles. “I wouldn’t be so confident with that exhale, baby. I’m going to ask you one question and be very careful with how you answer this because it will determine whether or not you disappear.”
I consider biting his palm but think better of it. His leg comes between mine, spreading me wide. His cock presses into my stomach and everything south jumps to life.
“Have you fucked anyone since I’ve been gone?”
I shove him away and his hand moves from my mouth, but his legs stay where they are. “Fuck you.”
He presses his cock against me, up and down to the shape of his length. “Deal.”
I shove him again. “Hella!”
“Have you!” he snaps, his hand flying to my throat.
I could lie. Maybe it’ll make me feel better. “No!” I snap, angry at myself for not riding on every cock that hit me up since he left. “But I fucking wanted to!”
He chuckles, and by god, I’m an inch away from kneeing him in the nuts.
I do one better. Leaning on my tippy toes, I run my lips near his ear. “I fucking wanted to, baby. I wanted to let some other man slam his cock into me and fuck me until my skin turned blue and my thoughts turned to mush—”
He squeezes my throat more, cutting off my airway. “If anyone touched this, Melissa, I’d kill him and you, so I guess I was wrong. I did marry a smart bitch.”
I whack his hand away from my throat and attempt to talk myself down from the peak he’s talked me up to. “Fuck you.”
“I love you too, baby, now. Come play nice and I’ll fill you in on everything that I’ve been doing, and by the way, you ever question my loyalty to you, I’ll fucking kill you and then myself because admittedly, I can’t live without you.”
“Oh, how sweet,” I seethe, baring my teeth.
He bites my bottom lip, yanking it between his teeth. “Never said that I was sweet, baby.” Then he takes my hand, dragging me into the clubhouse.
A round of applause sounds out on our entry and I force myself not to flip them off. Ade catches my attention near the pool table, and he blows me a subtle kiss, licking his lip. I flip him off for sure because, motherfucker. Then I look around the clubroom carefully, watching Beast and Meadow, and Racer and whoever he has on his lap tonight, along with the rest of The Devil’s Own brothers. It occurs to me that yeah, I should have trusted the process. Maybe Hella did keep things from me, but this is what I signed up for when I became his old lady and what I signed for when he claimed me as his wife.
He takes my hand and squeezes, leaning into my ear. “I love you, baby. We goin’ to stay here for about thirty minutes and then I’m taking that ass home and we’re going to actively work on making you the hottest fucking mom walking this earth.”
My ovaries freeze. Like hell! I’m no fucking mother.
Could I be?
Miles, Blake (no, not Phoebe’s brother), and Willow’s book.
“I’m not bisexual, Willow. How many times do I have to tell you…”
“So, you’re gay?” I asked, confused.
He exhaled, annoyed with my question. “No. I’m not fucking anything. I am Miles motherfucking Cavendish, and I take what I want when I want. You good with that?”
“Um, I’ll go with… yes.”
“Good,” he answered, grabbing me by the hand and yanking me into him. “Because I’m taking you.”