Other Titles by Lani Lynn Vale: The Freebirds Boomtown Highway Don’t Care Another One Bites the Dust Last Day of My Life Texas Tornado
The Heroes of The Dixie Wardens MC Lights To My Siren Halligan To My Axe Kevlar To My Vest Keys To My Cuffs Life To My Flight Charge To My Line (April 2015)
Dedications To my babies and my husband. As always, this book is dedicated to y’all. To the US Military, thank you for all that you do, words aren’t enough. Asli, my editor. You are my sunshine! I’d like to thank Furiousfotog for taking such a gorgeous picture. As well as Nick Bennett for modeling. I adore the photo, and it’s beautiful.
You’re The Life Cleo’s a Pararescueman for the U.S. Air Force. When a PJ is called, it’s because everyone else has said no. It’s one of the most dangerous jobs in the entire military, but also one of the most rewarding. It’s the reason he doesn’t form relationships. He’s seen his teammates divorce one by one, and he doesn’t want to do that to a woman. Especially one that he’s supposed to love. However, nowhere in his grand scheme did he plan for the force that was Rue. To My Rue’s life has been rough. What she needs is a break. One that’ll distract her from the fact that she’s drowning in responsibility. It comes in the form of a dark and dangerous biker who has a habit of putting his life on the line. He gives her the world, and she holds on with both hands, knowing that he only wants to be friends. Or does he? Flight Thinking she knows what’s best, she pushes him too far, causing his control to take flight, and Cleo to disappear before the dust settles. One night of passion turns into a year of heartbreak as Rue tries to find the ability to move on from Cleo. He was pretty clear with his wishes, and they didn’t include her. Cleo’s not through with Rue, though. Not even a little bit. She’ll be his. All it’ll take is a little bit of… persuasion.
Prologue When we get old, I want you to move into the same nursing home as me, so then when I start forgetting who I am, we can become new friends. -E-card Cleo 2 years ago I walked up to my mother’s grave. Gravel crunched underneath my boots as I followed the winding path from where I’d parked my truck. The grass that had been green, only a month ago, was brown. The leaves on the trees had gone from a nice, leafy green to brown, yellow, and red explosions of color. Fall was in full swing. Not only the weather had changed, though. My demeanor, for one, had gone through a major overhaul. The last time I’d been here, I’d been a wreck. My mother had been my best friend. She’d been my confidant. My savior. My everything. Then she’d had a heart attack while I was deployed overseas, and died as a result. My father had died years ago, but words couldn’t explain how much more it hurt to lose my mom. “Do you see, Nonnie? I wasn’t lying to you. Papa died a year ago,” a woman’s tired voice said from up ahead. My eyes went from my destination, towards the direction the woman’s voice came from. I only saw their heads over the gravestones, though. This cemetery was an old one. There were a ton of huge monuments, headstones, catacombs; even above ground crypts. This was the heart and soul of Natchitoches, Louisiana. “No, child. I don’t understand. He was just with me yesterday. Ollie wouldn’t leave me like this. He just wouldn’t,” a frail elderly woman’s voice cried desolately. My heart constricted as I listened to the woman weep uncontrollably. “Oh, Nonnie. I’m so sorry,” the woman replied breathily. I hung my head and walked to my mother’s grave, trying my hardest to ignore the sound of the crying going on from just across the foot path. My mother’s grave was covered in flowers from my sisters. They felt that the area should be beautiful, and I couldn’t disagree with them. My mom deserved the best, which was why I threw nearly two years of a paycheck at the burial plot that would allow her to be buried next to my father. Even if it meant displacing the prior occupant.
I sat down, leaning forward until my arms hung from my upraised knees. My head rested on my forearms, and I tried my hardest to let my brain tune out the pitiful wails of the old woman. It was really pulling on my non-existent heartstrings. “Ollie! Ollie! I’m right here. What are you doing way over there?” The old woman exclaimed. I looked up to see the old woman barreling towards me as fast as her walker, decorated with hot pink tennis balls at the bottom, could carry her. The woman, who I’d only seen at a cursory glance stood, and started forward. However, the old woman, Nonnie, who was surprisingly fast and nimble in spite of her age, was gone before the woman had even gotten to her feet. She flew across the grass, then the gravel, with startlingly graceful maneuvering. “Nonnie, slow down!” The woman chided. The younger woman finally caught up to her ‘Nonnie’ and hugged her tightly. “Nonnie, that’s not Papa.” Nonnie looked crestfallen. “But...but...but where’s my Ollie?” My guess was that the woman had Alzheimer’s. “I’m so sorry, sir, my Nonnie doesn’t understand.” The woman finally gave me her eyes. She was beautiful. Short brown hair that came to her jaw with the front bangs tucked back behind her ear, she reminded me of one of my little sisters. She wasn’t overtly tall or beautiful, but she was intriguing. Her black tights and brown suede boots hugged her long, shapely legs. Her top half was swallowed by a long, flowy shirt that came down to her knees, and barely showed off anything good. “That’s okay, it isn’t a big deal,” I finally said. The woman smiled. “That’s good. Nonnie doesn’t mean to kick up a fuss. Do you?” The woman looked at her Nonnie. Nonnie looked up. “Rue, what are we doing here?” The woman, Rue, looked extremely relieved. “Oh, Nonnie. You wanted to see Papa’s grave. Now we’re going to go back home so I can get to work on time tonight. Right?” “Right dear,” Nonnie said, patting the younger woman’s hand. “Let’s go. I made you late enough.” The woman gave me a fleeting smile as they walked away, and I was well and truly caught.
*** Rue 1 year later “I’m not that man,” Cleo said to me, his hand on my face. “I’ll never be that man. I’m sorry, baby.” Cleo was my best friend. My confidant. The person who I turned to when I needed it. In all ways but one. He didn’t do relationships. I knew he loved me, and I loved him. However, something held him back. Something always held on to that last tie. That one single piece of him that kept him from taking that final step. He said it was the fact that he was never here. I knew better. It didn’t have anything to do with the fact that he was a PJ, or pararescue jumper, and everything to do with the fact that he lost his father at a young age, and then his mother at a time when he needed her most. He was jaded to love. Not because he was betrayed by a woman, but because he was loved too much by one. Which was reciprocated in kind by him. His mom. The same went for his sisters. They were so tight, that sometimes it was hard to get in. I was the fourth woman in his life, and he didn’t want to chance loving me and then losing me. He could tell himself whatever lie made him sleep at night, but I knew better. It didn’t help that every man on his particular jump team was either divorced or single. They didn’t have a single successful relationship between the six of them. He didn’t think it was possible, and he was too stubborn to see otherwise. “Please,” I whispered against his lips. “Please.” He groaned in defeat, grasping me by the hips with his large hands, and pinning me up against the wall with his huge, muscular body. Mikhail ‘Cleo’ Caruso was the epitome of perfection. Tall, with hair black as midnight, and eyes the color of charcoal. He had perfect, long lashes that women only wished they could have, and a perpetual bad attitude. He was a dick and a half to everyone that came into contact with him...except for me. I gasped when my shirt was yanked off my body, and then unceremoniously tossed to the floor. “You want me? You’ve fucking got me,” Cleo snarled.
Then I fucking got him. And oh, did I get him.
*** Rue I woke the next morning to my body deliciously sore, and my mind a hazy mess from the blissful overload of the night before. Then my mind came back online when I realized that Cleo was no longer there, and I knew that I’d fucked up. I knew as soon as I’d slept with him that he’d leave. I just thought I’d be awake to convince him not to go. Here I was sleeping through his exit, and I had only sore muscles to show for it. I’d gotten to know Cleo through my many visits with my grandmother to the gravesite to visit my Papa. On some of those occasions, her Alzheimer’s wasn’t acting up, but most of them, she couldn’t remember who I was. I loved that woman with all of my heart, but I knew I couldn’t take care of her anymore. My full time home health nurse gave her two-week resignation yesterday¸ which meant that I was on my own. When Nonnie was lucid, I loved having her there, but when she wasn’t, it was a nightmare. It was hard to see someone you loved with all your heart go through that. It was even harder to admit that I couldn’t take care of her anymore. It’d been with Cleo’s help that I’d done as well as I had for so long, but I had a very bad feeling that that support had just jumped out of the proverbial helicopter, and didn’t have plans of returning.
Chapter 1 Come on, let’s get high. -Cleo right before takeoff. Rue 1 year later “50 year old male. BP 89 over 60. Heart rate 110, oxygen sat 96% on O2 non-rebreather. Impaled by a steel pole through the right side of the abdomen. He’s got lacerations all over his body; pole’s doing a good job of keeping the bleeding under control,” a voice from my past said. My breath stalled in my throat as I looked up into the eyes of the love of my life. “Cleo,” I breathed. His eyes snapped up from the patient to me, flared, and then went flat. “Coded in the air. Administered...” he continued. I was listening, but not listening at the same time. Why was he here? Doing Life Flight? How did he find me? Then I shook that stupid thought off. He wasn’t here to find me. He was here because he was bringing a patient in; not here to see me. That worked better than a bucket of cold water over my head. My mind snapped back into focus, and I walked carefully next to the gurney Cleo was pushing, while continuing to write and listen. “Mona, take him to trauma room two. Page Dr. Goldstein. Tell him we’re going to need him,” I instructed the closest nurse. I was the charge nurse for today, due to our normal one calling in sick. Anyone who came in went through me, and I told them where to go. I had patients of my own, but I was also responsible for a whole lot more. “Okay,” Mona replied enthusiastically. Turning to the other nurse at the station, I said, “Jonathan, I’m going to eat my lunch.” First off, I really was hungry. I’d been at work for a little over eight hours now, and hadn’t stopped once since I got here. In fact, I was also going on hour eight of no bathroom break as well. Really, though, it was because Cleo was here, and I couldn’t be here while he was here. There was just no way I could do that. Not and function like I needed to. Not now. Not ever, probably. Even now, a year later, it was still just as raw. Still just as debilitating. “Hey,” that deep, low voice called out to me. The one that spoke to me in my dreams. “Wait up!”
I froze with my hand on the push handle that led outside. My head hung, and my heart started to beat a million miles a minute. I prayed that he’d leave me alone. I didn’t know what he’d have to say, and if it was another ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ or ‘I’m just not made for love,’ I’d fucking flip. My body started working again all at once, and I started to push through, but a large, tanned arm stopped me in my tracks. The same heart that I’d previously thought was beating fast took off like a fuckin’ rocket, beating even harder against my chest. Thump-thump-thump-thump. Over and over again, it pounded as the silence stretched between us. “Rue,” his gruff voice said against the back of my neck. He inhaled, breathing in the scent of my hair as he used to do. “Cleo,” I sighed. I couldn’t help it. I knew it was going to happen. That’s why I’d chosen to retreat. I had no defenses when it came to this man. “How have you been?” He rumbled. How did I answer that? I’ve been great. Not. You ruined my life, and I’ve spent a year trying to fix the unfixable. “Yo, Cleo! You ready to fly?” The pilot’s voice yelled from behind us. He froze against my back, but didn’t turn around. “Yes, I’ll be there in a minute.” He said. “Come have dinner with me tonight,” he demanded. It was a demand, too. I wasn’t even sure if the word please was in his vocabulary. “I’m busy,” I tried. “Get un-busy,” he ordered. “I’ll pick you up outside once your shift’s over.” With that, he turned and left. While my heart was breaking into a million miniscule pieces. I watched as Cleo walked down the long hallway in his sexy as hell flight suit, acting like nothing had happened. ‘Come have dinner with me tonight,’ he’d said. As if he’d spoken to me just yesterday, instead of nearly a year ago.
And what a year it’d been. I’d needed him, and he hadn’t been there. He’d disappeared, and I’d been left with no one to talk to when I’d needed my best friend. Sure, I had friends, but they weren’t him. I knew I’d be going to dinner with him, too. “Hey,” Mona yelled, making me stop watching Cleo’s exit. I turned to find Mona standing at the door to the entrance to the ER with a clip board in her hand. “I have one for you.” My heart sank. I was an ER nurse. Had been for nearly ten years now. However, I’d only been a SANE nurse for five years, and it never got easier, most likely never would.
*** Rue Stupid me. I was waiting for him after work. However, after waiting a good thirty minutes, it made me realize how much of a fool I really was. What made me think he’d keep his word? I walked away from the front doors, weaving in and out of the cars parked in the emergency department’s parking lot. I was parked in the far back lot. Employees weren’t allowed to park in the patient parking lot until after six in the evening. However, I never saw the point in going to get my car at six when I left work at eight. I could barely find time to eat lunch, which I hadn’t done today at all. Why did they think I’d manage to find time to move my car? I was also allowed to call security to have them escort me to my car, but it was a fuckin’ chore to even find them when you needed them. It was easier to just walk. It was dark, though, and we were in the middle of downtown Shreveport; but I hadn’t had a problem yet. I’d just turned the corner into the very back parking lot, where it was the darkest, when two hands slipped around my stomach, pulling me back into a solid wall of muscle. I squeaked and started to flail, but one word from that tempting mouth, and I settled. “Chill.” My shoulders slumped, and my noodle legs refused to hold me up anymore. I dropped...or would’ve if he hadn’t been holding on to me. He grunted, but other than that, he didn’t show the strain of holding my body up in the least. “What’re you doing walking back here by yourself?” He growled against my ear. I straightened my legs, pushing up until I was standing on my own two feet again, before I disentangled myself from his arms. “This is where I’m parked. What’d you want me to do?” I asked honestly. “No one else could’ve walked you to your car?” He asked in outrage. “The guards were busy doing something, and I didn’t want to wait thirty minutes for them to finally come walk me,” I explained as I walked to my car. “That’s stupid. Thirty minutes is worth it,” he snapped. My temper, which only came out to play when I was extremely upset, got the best of me. “What’s it to you, buddy?”
I emphasized that question with a poke to his chest. He looked down at his chest, and my finger poking it, then back up to my face. “What’s it to me? I’d be pretty fucking upset if you got raped, that’s what I’d be!” I started walking toward my car with all the speed I could and still manage to look like I wasn’t running away. Stomach clenched, I said, “Well, you lost that right when you left and wouldn’t return my calls. Maybe if you had at least returned one call to let me know that you were all right, then you’d have that option; but you didn’t, and you don’t. Now, I’ve already missed my appointment. I’ll see you later.” I didn’t wait to hear his reply. I just got into my car, slammed the door in his stunned face, and backed out of my spot. I didn’t necessarily have an appointment. More like a dedicated time that I went to visit someone every night after my shift. I arrived at the nursing home within fifteen minutes, unaware that I had a tail until I was swiping my card at the front doors. “What are you doing here?” I snarled, trying to slam the door in his face. “If your plans were with your Nonnie, I would’ve understood and met you here,” Cleo said understandingly, as he caught the door that I’d tried to slam in his face. I ignored him and kept walking. Although I tried valiantly, I couldn’t get the image of him burned out of my brain. He was wearing black jeans that hugged his thick thighs like they were a second skin. The belt buckle was still the same one he’d worn a year ago. Although I’d never seen him actually ride a bull, thank God, I knew he still loved the sport. Based on his stories and his love for talking about his experiences, I knew it was still very important to him. His red t-shirt showed off his sculpted chest, and I could tell he was just as muscular now as he was then. Not a drop of fat could be seen on any part of his body, and that still had just as much power to annoy me now as it did back then. The black leather vest was new, though. I’d known he’d been a part of a motorcycle club, but he’d never worn that around me, until today. “I would’ve told you, if you’d have stayed to listen,” I explained as I walked purposefully towards Nonnie’s room. “You could’ve called me. My cell hasn’t changed,” he ground out. The heat of his body at my side felt like I was standing next to a potbelly stove. The heat emanating off him could keep me warm during the coldest of nights, if my memory served me right. “Really? And how would I know your number hasn’t changed? I don’t even have it anymore,” I lied.
I could feel his gaze on my face, but I refused to acknowledge the lie that we both knew was just told. I knew his number by heart. Just like he knew mine. Funnily enough, what started our whole relationship was our phone number. One day, Nonnie had given the home health nurse the slip, and gone to visit Papa at the graveyard. Cleo had been visiting his mother and had found her there. Nonnie had been lucid enough to give Cleo my number. Where his ended with a six, mine ended with a seven. It was as if we were meant to be. We would never forget each other’s numbers. However, he’d already proved he could ignore it. “And what? Have you not answer the call?” I finally answered his silent rebuff. He threw his hands up. “How about you give me a chance to explain myself.” I stopped and looked at him. “Explaining yourself would’ve been alright a year ago. Not now. I’ve moved on,” I said softly. We both knew that was a lie, too. Neither one of us had moved on, nor was I likely to; I didn’t want anybody else. I wanted him. The sad thing was that he knew it. “How’s your Nonnie doing?” He asked softly, letting the subject go even though I could tell that he really didn’t want to. I shrugged. Honestly, I wasn’t sure Nonnie was going to be on this earth very much longer. Her Alzheimer’s had gotten so bad that she didn’t remember me anymore. She couldn’t figure out where she was, and half the time she had to stay sedated because she tried to walk out to ‘go back home.’ Sadly, the ‘home’ she was talking about was a rundown house an hour and a half away. “She’s not the same woman you knew a year ago. She’s lost a lot of weight, and she very rarely remembers anything, and when she does, it’s only for a very short time,” I explained softly as I pushed the door to my Nonnie’s room open. Nonnie was sitting in her chair with her knitting in her lap. She’d been making a baby blanket for nearly a month now. At 84, Nonnie’s fingers weren’t what they used to be, but she could still knit with the best of them when she remembered how. More of her knitting sat in a wicker basket beside her chair, and by the looks of it, she’d gotten a lot done in the last few days. “Oh, Bonita. You look lovely today. Is my son being good to you?” Nonnie asked in her frail voice. I looked over at Cleo who was standing towards my back right side and shrugged. Bonita was my mom, and the son in question was my father.
They’d been dead for nearly a decade now, and I didn’t look a thing like my mother. Cleo, though, had the dark hair like my father, but that’s where the resemblances ended. My father was fair skinned, as was my mother. I got my mother’s curly brown hair, and my father’s full lips. Unfortunately, what I did not get, was my mother’s slim hips and accentuating curves. I got full hips, full thighs, small boobs, and flabby arms. I did have a toned ass, though. “Mikhail, how good to see you,” Nonnie’s quivering voice said. “Where’s my Rue? I’ve made this baby blanket for the little baby that’s due in the next couple of months. Do you want to feel it? It’s very soft.” It was amazing how quick she could go from one extreme to the next in only a matter of moments. Cleo looked at me accusingly, and I held up my hands in surrender, shaking my head violently. No babies for me. Not now, and probably not ever. It also upset me that Nonnie hadn’t seen Cleo in well over a year, but she still remembered him each and every time she saw him. I liked to attribute it to his resemblance to my Papa, her first love who’d died during a work related accident on the railroad. He was the spitting image; so much so that it was on the verge of creepy. “Tell me, are you still diddling with airplanes?” Nonnie asked him. I closed my eyes and scrunched them up tight. Diddling with airplanes. It never failed. Nonnie would call them airplanes, and Cleo would correct her. “They’re helicopters,” he said dryly. I opened my eyes to find his on me. He was trying his hardest not to laugh. I had no such gumption. I let the laughter wash through me, happy to have something to laugh at with Nonnie again. When Cleo’s eyes warmed, I sobered. Must not forgive, I repeated to myself over and over again.
*** Rue “She didn’t look that bad,” Cleo observed as we were walking out into the autumn air. “That’s the best I’ve seen her in nearly a year. When you...when I finally decided I couldn’t do it by myself anymore and moved her here, she just seemed to...give up. She likes it here most of the time though. Even if I have to work two overtime shifts a week to pay for it,” I explained as I unlocked my car’s door. The manual way, that is. I had to jiggle the key a little bit to get it all the way in, but it worked. My windows, on the other hand, were a different story. My old Jetta was on its last leg for sure. “Why are you still driving this?” Cleo asked as he pressed his hand down on the hood where it was dented up. “What’d you do? Try to slam this closed with the stick still holding it open?” In fact, that was exactly what I’d done. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said as I collapsed into my seat. “I’ll see you later.” I slammed the door before he could answer. It didn’t matter what he had to say. I didn’t really want to talk to him. My heart was already aching as it was. If I had to stay in his presence and be put underneath his tantalizing gaze a moment longer, I didn’t know what I’d do. He walked towards his bike shaking his head, and straddled it before starting it up. The loud rumble brought back the old feelings. The times he’d take me for a ride and I’d bury my face into his back. Rubbing my face against his neck. Feeling the wind in my hair, and smelling the musky scent rolling off his body. Slamming my hand down into the steering wheel, hard, to get all things Cleo out of my head, I started the car. Or would’ve if it’d actually started. Cleo watched me from his perch on the bike, knowing damn well that something was wrong with my car, and just waiting for me to come ask him for a ride. I narrowed my eyes at him as I pulled out my phone. “Hello?” My best friend answered. “I need a ride,” I said without preamble. “I can’t,” Cody said. “I’m at work. Where are you?” “Fuuuuck,” I groaned. “I’m at my grandmother’s. You weren’t supposed to work today!” My whine was evident, even to me. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “But it’s not my fault. I was called in because Rita called in sick again. You know they have to have someone willing to come in. It’s not like I could’ve said no. The boss is my mother.”
I snorted. Rita was the charge nurse, and Cody’s mom was the ER director. She was the one whom everyone went to if they had a problem. She was incredibly busy, and Cody and I tried to help her out anytime she needed it. I’m sure the only reason I wasn’t called was that I’d just come off shift. “Well, fuck me,” I groaned, studiously ignoring the badass that was now throwing his leg off his bike and standing up straight. “Sorry, chicka. My barn door doesn’t open for the heifers. Only for the bulls,” Cody quipped. “Oh, my God. I cannot believe you just said that to me,” I said in exasperation. “I need some of your juju. Send it to me and pray my car starts. If it doesn’t, I’m going to sell your Waterford egg.” “I gave that to you for safekeeping!” He yelled just before I hung up. Cleo tapped on my window, but I ignored him, and twisted the key again. It turned, and turned, and turned. I ignored him, trying to start it one more time. It turned over, starting with a coughing, choking, smothering roar. The old diesel engine rumbled like a defective cat’s purr, and I backed out of my spot in a hurry, before slamming my foot down on the gas pedal. The gravel underneath my car’s tire flew back, pelting the concrete wall behind me. My poor little car sputtered and groaned as I accelerated out of the parking lot. I vowed that tomorrow I’d get a new car. A girl needed a car that was reliable. Especially when I had a man on my heels that was harder on my heart than a supersized order of french fries.
Chapter 2 I love you more than you annoy me, which is a lot. -E-card Rue I blinked my eyes open blearily, glaring at the alarm clock that was spewing its obnoxious tone. Nobody needs The Beach Boys that early in the morning, regardless of how catchy their tune was. I had to get up, because it was the type of alarm that moved and shook when it started going off. Inevitably, it meant it would either roll under my bed and get lost in the great black hole, or it’d roll down the opposite side and get stuck behind the night stand. Today, however, was the bed. Rolling off the opposite side, while barely opening my eyes, I followed the vibrating mass of annoyance to the floor, and then further under the bed. I started out with just my arm underneath, but it finally went to the entire length of my body. My hand closed around the ball, and it quieted instantly. I laid my head on the ground beneath my bed. However, I didn’t stay for long due to the roll of wrapping paper being smashed underneath the weight of my body. Reluctantly, I continued to crawl to the other side. The first hint that something wasn’t right was the massive pair of boots I saw extended in front of a long pair of muscular legs. I followed the legs up to see a narrow set of hips sitting on the chase lounge I had next to my bed. Then my forehead thumped to the ground as Cleo’s serious eyes connected with my own. “I see you kept my present,” Cleo said as he reached forward and grabbed the alarm out of my hand. I started to shimmy out from under the bed, and then got slowly up to my knees in between his. His eyes flared hot, but I didn’t stay there long, pushing quickly to my feet and getting as far away from him as possible and still be in the room. His eyes went to the short hemline of my shirt and stayed there. I had, indeed, kept his present. “It’s the only thing that gets me out of bed on time,” I replied as I gave him my back. “I know. I couldn’t get you out of bed. However this,” he said as he pointed at the alarm in his hand, “gets you up every time. This is the first time I’ve seen it in use, though. I rather liked the show.” I was lucky I’d gone to the opposite side of the bed, or he’d have seen that I wasn’t wearing any panties beneath my sleep shirt. Then I slapped my hand against my head. His shirt.
His red PJ shirt that felt so soft against my skin that sometimes I imagined it was his fingertips. “Nice shirt,” he said devilishly. “Fuck you,” I said as I stomped to the door then slammed it behind me. I did my usual routine of washing my hair with my head hung over the side of the shower. Then I slicked some mousse and gel in it before letting it hang down my back to dry. The curly mass was already giving me a tension headache, but that was the problem with having long hair. You either dealt with it, or cut it off. I’d tried to cut it off. I’d even gone so far as to be sitting in the salon chair while my hairdresser held scissors in one hand, and the mass of my hair in the other. Then his voice came back to me. God I love your hair. Don’t ever cut it. It’s so fucking sexy. He’d said one night after we went on a ride. Stupidly, I’d told the woman no, and that I was sorry. I paid her what she would’ve gotten out of me anyway, and never went back. Even now, six months later, I only ever trimmed it with a pair of my own scissors. Why? Because I was a stupid girl. A fucking stupid, in love with a man who’d never love me back, girl. After swiping on some mascara, a sheen of lip gloss, and a tiny bit of mascara, I walked out of my bathroom door to find Cleo now laying on my bed. “What are you doing here?” I asked. I didn’t bother asking how he got in. The man was a freakin’ genius. He could get in positively anything. Pickle jars and locked doors being the most common. Even bypassing my complicated alarm I’d had installed as soon as I’d moved in wasn’t out of the ordinary. It’d cost a mint, but it gave me piece of mind. I was a single woman living alone in a new, big city. It was worth it. It did make me question the system, though, if it could be so easily bypassed. “I have to go to work today. Thought I’d give you a ride. Took your car in to the shop,” he said simply. I blinked at him. “But...but I don’t have any money to pay to fix my car right now. And how am I supposed to get to and
from work if you’ve taken my car away from me? And what if Nonnie needs me?” I asked somewhat shrilly. His eyes opened. “What part of ‘I’d give you a ride’ did you not understand?” “The part where you took my car without asking. I have shit in there I needed!” I yelled. The man was so goddamned high handed! Always doing things without asking my input. A year ago, it was kind of nice that he did that for me. Now, though, when we had zero potential of a relationship, it was not something I needed, nor wanted, to put up with. If I was being truthful, though, it was nice of him. And I knew he wouldn’t leave me to fend for myself. I also liked how he cared enough to make sure I had a reliable car. I didn’t like that he was making me feel things I hadn’t felt in so long. Things that made me start hoping. Wanting. Needing. “You have ten minutes before we need to leave. I have to be on shift here shortly, and it’s going to be tight getting you to work and then getting to mine,” he said as he sat up from the bed and looked at me with an impatient gesture. I was habitually late. Cleo was habitually early. We fought over that constantly. The one thing he didn’t do was wake me earlier than I wanted to be woken. I was a bitch to the extreme if I was woken early. Sadly, he knew that, too. Which was why he’d let me sleep this morning instead of waking me. I wasn’t selective in who I was mean to. He knew better, having chosen to wake me early only once before, and then never doing it again. Knowing fighting with him about this right now was futile, I gave him my back and walked to my panty drawer. Smiling devilishly, I opened the door with my sexy panties and pulled out the one pair that I knew would drive him wild. They were white lace boy shorts that were see through everywhere but the crotch. They’d be uncomfortable as hell to wear to work today, but knowing that he’d know that I was wearing them would be worth it. I bent down, most likely giving him a good peak of what he gave up, and stepped into my pantie. Slowly. I heard his sharp inhalation as he saw what I’d intended him to see, and I smiled.
I shucked the shirt from my body, tossed it on the dresser, and reached for the bra that was laying in the drawer beside where the panties had just been. It wasn’t the one that matched the panties, but a deep midnight blue. It wasn’t lace, but it was still pretty. I didn’t do uncomfortable bras nor uncomfortable shoes. Those were two things that I couldn’t handle. The scrub top came next, followed by the scrub pants. I shimmied my ass once I had them on to make sure I could handle the panties, and was satisfied when they didn’t ride up to no man’s land. I walked to the end of the bed, grabbed my shoes, and sat down on the chase beside Cleo. He shifted uncomfortably as I sat and shoved my feet into the tennis shoes. “Let me grab my lunch and we can go,” I said, before darting from the room. I only ever left myself twenty minutes to get ready and leave. It was always a rush in the morning. I assumed Cleo had to be in at the same time I did, and I didn’t even know where he had to go. He’d probably be late. But I wouldn’t. “Heh,” I grunted as I grabbed my salad out of the fridge. “What?” Cleo asked from behind me. I turned, surveying him from head to foot. “Do you wear normal clothes under your flight suit?” I asked. He nodded his head. “Yep.” My brows furrowed. “Well shit.” I’d been hoping for something more risqué, kind of like him free-balling it. He nodded. “You’re eating a salad?” I looked down at the unappetizing pile of lettuce covered in nonfat ranch and grimaced. “Yes.” My workouts had seen a significant drop since I’d moved here. I never left myself enough time in the mornings to work out and, in the evenings, I was always too tired. I very rarely had a day off that I didn’t have eighteen million things to do, so my last resort was to start eating healthy. After having to go up two jeans sizes, I knew I had to do something. Sadly, it was the good, yummy, appealing food that had to take a hike. “Interesting. A lot has changed with you over the last year,” he said as he took a look around my sparsely furnished kitchen. I didn’t have much, but what I did have was enough. I was renting a house in a shoddy part of town, but it was in my price range, and it didn’t leak when the rain came.
The heating could use a little work, but that was nothing a blanket and a nice fire couldn’t fix. Which was what I’d done last night. In Natchitoches, I’d lived in a very nice place. It had hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings, and one hell of a heater. That was only because the owner, one of my grandmother’s best friends, had asked that we live there while Nonnie still needed it. I ignored his comment and walked out of the room, grabbed my jacket off the couch, put it on, and then went out the front door. I came to a stop beside his bike. Dammit. I’d done so well to avoid this very thing two days ago, and now here I was anyway. Fuck. Me. I climbed on without waiting for him, and sat back as far as I could so I didn’t touch him. He laughed at me, and my attempt to keep my distance. He didn’t try to move me forward. Instead, he started the bike, pushed it into gear with his foot, and eased forward slowly. I reluctantly let my body scoot forward until it was plastered up against his, and closed my eyes on the sheer rightness that coursed through me at being pressed against him again. He felt so damn good. As usual, he wasn’t wearing a jacket, even though it was nearing the end of February. It was a cool forty degrees out, but you couldn’t tell by Cleo’s short sleeves that it was anything other than perfect riding weather. He didn’t even have any goose bumps on his skin. The back of his head was trimmed neatly, leaving a clean black line of hair that was military precise. He turned his head, giving me an unencumbered view of his strong, square jaw and the unshaven bristles covering his cheeks. He looked so sexy with a beard, and my heart only hurt all the more. Instead of looking at anything else, I closed my eyes again, leaned my face against his t-shirt clad back, and tried my hardest not to cry. I didn’t succeed. I cried the entire way to the hospital, only managing to dry it up when he pulled into the entrance. He stopped next to the ER entrance, barely getting both feet on the concrete before I bailed. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of seeing me cry. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I left my salad. Oh well.
I’d rather be fat anyway.
*** Cleo I watched her run away from me. Again. I’d known, going into this two days ago, when I’d asked her out that it was going to be tough to win her back, but I didn’t realize it would be debilitating to see how very much I’d hurt her. When I’d left her, I thought that it was for the best. I saw how much being a PJ hurt the other men’s wives. I knew it wasn’t easy. I knew the divorce statistics. I only thought to save her the heartache of being saddled with me. Being a PJ wasn’t for the timid. We dropped off into the middle of warzones all in the name of preserving life. We knew going in that we might not make it out alive again. The morning I’d left Rue, after the best night of my life, I’d had so many regrets. However, none of those regrets compared to this one. Having the woman that I considered mine crying against my back for twenty minutes, because I hurt her, was awful. I knew her crying was because of me, too. I knew it from the bottom of my heart. I was about to put it into gear when I saw a man, wearing the same color scrubs as Rue had on earlier, walk out of the automatic doors of the ER. I probably would’ve left if he didn’t look like he was planning murder. And every bit of his venomous glare was directed at me. This must be the best friend. I’d asked around about Rue once I realized where she’d gone. When I’d gotten out of the Air Force four months ago, I’d looked for her, but found her old house empty, and no indication of where she’d gone. The man I’d tasked to find her had done it in less than twenty four hours. It’d led me to Christus Health in Shreveport, or CH as the locals called it. I’d been watching her for nearly a month, getting all my ducks in a row before I approached her. Knowing it wouldn’t be easy. Two days ago, when I’d gotten the call to transport an accident victim to CH, I’d known that it was
time to make my move. I hadn’t quite planned on her downright not talking to me. Everything I had planned stemmed on getting her to listen to me grovel. Unsurprisingly, it looked like it was already time to implement plan B. Shutting off the bike, I waited for the man to get closer before I spoke. “I’m fixing it,” I said to the man once he stopped next to the bike. He was tiny. Like really tiny. He reminded me of a rabid squirrel. His brown, shaggy hair was practically vibrating with his annoyance. “Good,” he snapped. “Cause if you hurt her...” I raised my eyebrow, waiting for him to finish his sentence. “I know people,” he finally finished. I laughed. “Got it.” I didn’t blame the man. I blamed myself. Rue was easy to love. I knew that. She inspired every protective bone in my body, and if it was possible, I’d kick my own ass for putting those tears in her eyes. I just needed time to fix it. I knew I could.
*** “Hey, Cleo. You ready to fly?” The pilot and my partner, Cormac Reed, asked. Mac was a crazy fuck who I’d come to really rely on in the past three months I’d been working for Life Flight. “Yeah, but we haven’t gotten a call yet,” I observed dryly. Mac gave me a sardonic look. He was a big bastard. Not so much tall as stocky. He was just shy of the two hundred and fifty pound weight limit required for piloting the EC-135. The EC-135 was the brand new addition to the Life Flight fleet in Shreveport, Louisiana. The newest aircraft could now safely transport up to two patients without fear. In the old helicopter, weight was a major issue. Overloading it could be detrimental. Previously, there’d been a limit to the weight requirements by not only the crew, but the gear and patients as well. Before, we couldn’t transport more than one patient, and the stretcher size was minimal at best. Now we could fit a full size stretcher¸ and the EMS worker could possibly have another partner for help if it was needed. With the newest bird, we could do damn near anything. Mac loved the new bird, and he called her Tweety. Their love for each other was downright disturbing at times. “We have a demonstration today. Your favorite,” he said as he raised his eyebrows at me. He was lying. I hated to do meet and greets, as well as demonstrations. I wasn’t on this team to kiss the big wig’s ass; I was there to do my job. Nonetheless, he treated me as his prized pupil. I’d done a meet and greet no less than five times since I’d hired on. The crew, and I, had better things to do than demos for the companies that paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to this project. Like save a few lives for instance. If they wanted proof, all they had to do was read the newspaper articles on us. “Fuckin’ A. Where at?” I asked. He smiled. “Christus Health. You know, where I found you cornering that poor girl in the hallway. Was she smelling you? I couldn’t tell by the way you were towering over her like The Hulk.” I flipped him the bird. Well that changed things.
I owed her a lunch, anyway.
Chapter 3 May God send you flight medics in your dreams, ‘cause seriously, they’ll bring you good luck…or maybe just wet, satisfying dreams. But who cares? -Text from Rue to Cody Rue “They’re shutting down the parking lot again,” Cody said from his spot next to me on the park bench. I glared at him. He was eating a bowl of leftover taco soup. Although he’d offered me some, I’d declined. Cody was all of a hundred and twenty pounds, wet. The man needed the sustenance more than I did. I had some body fat my cells could live on if they got desperate. “Fuck,” I said when I saw which helicopter was landing. It was the same white/green/and blue as the one that had changed my life only two short days ago. “There was no radio in on anyone coming here. Wonder what they’re here for,” Cody speculated as he shoved another spoonful of soup into his mouth. I looked away from him to the massive crowd that was crowded around the back parking lot. “I think it has something to do with the CEO’s being here today. That has to be it.” “Maybe,” Cody said around a mouth full of food. “Maybe it’s because that sexy man in that flight suit right there wanted to bring you some lunch.” My head whipped around and I saw Cleo walking towards me with a brown paper bag in his hand. “Do you think he went through the drive through?” Cody snorted a laugh. “No, he went to that Mexican food restaurant down the street from their building. I told him what to get you.” My stunned eyes turned into his direction. “What do you mean you told him what to get me?” “Exactly what it sounded like. He called here looking for me, asked me what your favorite food was, and I told him. Simple as that,” he shrugged. I turned to see Cleo closer now, but he’d been stopped by a couple of happy journalists asking him questions. Flight nurses and medics were like rock stars. All you could do was stare at them in awe. It took a special person to be a flight medic. You fly in the rain, snow, sleet, or shine. Then there were the freak crashes that happened every once in a while. You were all alone up there with literally no one to rely on. You couldn’t just pull over when the patient started going bad or it was just too bumpy to do some of the things that you needed to do. You couldn’t even have the pilot help. The companies wanted them focusing on flying the plane; not what was
going on in the back. Consequently, the majority of them didn’t even have their paramedic or nursing license. “I can’t believe you,” I sighed. “Why does he even know who you are, anyway?” Cody stood up and stretched. His navy blue scrubs riding up and exposing his taught abdomen. Cody was a soccer player. He could’ve gone pro, but he’d had a calling. He became a nurse when he was twenty-two, and was now well on his way to being a nurse practitioner. “I was going to go out there and kick his ass when you came in crying earlier, but then I saw the size of him, and I changed my mind,” Cody grinned. I snickered, covering my mouth with my hand. “Oh, God. The look on your face would’ve been priceless. I wish I could have seen that. That’s perfect.” Cody grinned unabashedly at me before disappearing around the edge of the courtyard and walking back inside. I saw him walking down the glass hall towards the back entrance of the ER just scant seconds later. “Nice guy,” Cleo’s deep voice said from in front of me. I turned my gaze away from my friend’s retreating back to Cleo’s penetrating gaze. He looked sexy in his black flight suit and Ray Ban sunglasses, with his helmet under one arm. He held out the food and took a seat on the bench beside me. “Who is?” I asked as I took the food and set it down in between us. I opened the bag and nearly died at the smell of warm, melty cheese and spices drifting out from within. “Papa Taco is my favorite,” I said as I started lifting out the plates. “I know,” Cleo explained as he reached for the forks. I handed him over one of the aluminum containers before opening my own and taking the fork from him. “What’d you get?” I asked as I took the first bite of the deliciousness. “The same thing as you. It’s my favorite too,” he denoted. I didn’t comment on that. I was still mad at him. Still sad. Still just as broken now as I was this morning. Although, that didn’t mean I couldn’t eat his Mexican food, and then go about my business. We ate in silence, the feelings that were between us sitting there percolating just as they’d used to.
It’d been like this before, and I remembered it all to well. When we’d met, it was a very trying time for the both of us; nonetheless, that didn’t stop us from first becoming friends, and then something...more. I didn’t know what he was to me now. An ex? An old friend? Nothing? Whatever it was, it most definitely wasn’t together. Licking the last bite off my plastic fork, I stood. “Thanks for the lunch.” I tried not to look at him. I really did. But he had that magnetism to him. The thing that drew me to him. His eyes were like black diamonds; glittering with something I’d never seen before. “What?” I asked finally. He shook his head. “Nothing, sweetheart. I just wanted to make sure you had lunch. I didn’t realize until I got to the station that your salad was still in my saddlebags. I didn’t want you to go hungry.” I nearly melted. Nearly. “Thank you,” I said quietly. “What’s going on today?” He was sitting on the bench, his legs spread wide with his elbows resting on his knees. He hung his head and rolled it, eliciting a few pops and cracks as he did it. “The boss’s boss wants to show his prized toy around. He wants to get everyone ‘ooing’ and ‘ahhing’ over us and the new EC-135.” I scrunched my nose up at him. “Is that the kind of plane you ride in?” He chuckled. “It’s a helicopter, not a plane.” “Same thing,” I sniped back. “Not even in the least. A plane has fixed wings. A helicopter has blades.” “Whatever,” I snapped. The man could argue with damn near anything. He was annoying like that. And smart. Very smart. He could also read me like an open book. He was getting to me, and I couldn’t afford for him to get to me. He’d really hurt me. Fucked me up so bad that there were times I didn’t know which way was up. Then he shows up, acting as if he hadn’t done a damn thing to hurt me. Which made it all the worse. I couldn’t get my hopes up. Not again.
“Alright. Well, have a good day,” I said softly as I walked away. I didn’t look back, even though every cell inside my body screamed at me to turn around to see if he was watching me leave. I arrived inside in time for a large trauma to enter through the emergency doors. This wasn’t unusual. We were the biggest facility in the Ark-La-Tex. That’s the Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas region. This particular trauma was a man in a sheriff’s department uniform with what amounted to a shiv made out of paper impaled in his eyeball. “What happened?” I asked Cody as I slipped gloves over my hands. Cody spoke as he walked with me. “An inmate stabbed him in the eye with a shiv made out of toilet paper and shit made to look like a paper airplane. Guard shot him with the thing sticking out of his eye, though. Dead fucking center. Inmate’s dead,” Cody said as he read from the chart. “Okay,” I said as I walked up to the gurney. “Can you tell me your name?” I asked the young man on the gurney. His head turned my way. Which consequently meant the paper shiv did too. “Lamont Thurgood,” he rumbled. “Can you tell me where you are?” I asked as I started hooking him up to the heart rate monitor. He shook his head. “That little fucker, Jarvis, shoved a shit covered paper airplane through my fuckin’ eye. I’m at the hospital where, hopefully, they can get this thing out,” he said as he pointed to the airplane. “Are you feeling any pain?” I asked as Dr. Norwood walked through the curtain. I didn’t much care for Dr. Norwood. He felt like he was too good for us lowly nurses, and he didn’t care that we were professionals just as he was. Sure, I had a lot less schooling than him, but he didn’t have to act like I was gum stuck to the bottom of his shoe. The bastard didn’t have any problem delegating tasks. Even ones he damn well knew he had to do them himself. He was a good trauma doc though; which was why the ER still had him hired on, despite the numerous complaints by nearly three quarters of the department. “No,” Lamont said brusquely. “The medics gave me some good meds on the way over. Fucking sucks not being able to see, though.” “I’m sure it does,” I agreed. “Mr. Thurgood, my name is Dr. Norwood. I’m going to take a look at your eye now. That’s going to require me to take the bandages from around the paper, though. It might feel funny, but try not to move,
okay?” Dr. Norwood asked. “10-4,” he agreed. The shiv looked about as one would expect. It was luckily through the side of his eyeball, and not directly in the middle. With any hope, it wouldn’t cause any vision loss. However, it was way too early to tell. They’d have to take him up to the OR, and soon. “Nurse,” Dr. Norwood snapped. “Get an IV in the man already.” I looked down at the line that was already placed in the patient’s right side before pointing at it. “He has one in the right AC.” AC stood for antecubital, or more commonly known as the bend of the elbow, and it was extremely hard to miss the fact. He just liked to make me feel stupid. “Well then, why isn’t he hooked up to some antibiotics yet?” He snapped. I took a deep, slow breath. “You haven’t written the order, nor verbally given the order.” Cody made a sound from the other side of the room where he was inputting information into the COW, or the computer on wheels that we now had to drag around with us into every patient’s room. Dr. Norwood’s eyes narrowed on me before they turned to Cody. “Cody, I need you to start Mr. Thurgood on...” I stopped listening as I saw a familiar set of hands come from behind me. “Lamont, my man. What happened to your face?” Cleo asked from behind me. Dr. Norwood’s eyes narrowed impossibly further on the man leaning over my back. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Dr. Norwood was almost jealous, but that couldn’t be. Lamont’s head turned until he could see Cleo’s face, and he smiled. “Piercing gone wrong.” I snorted, as did Cleo. “Right,” Cleo chuckled. “I heard a guard got shivved. I wanted to come see who it was.” “Lucky old me,” he said as he turned his head to Cody, who was hanging up some antibiotics. “I don’t know who you are, but you need to get out of my ER,” Dr. Norwood snapped. Cleo’s eyes flicked up, pinning Dr. Norwood like a bug to the front of a speeding car. “Sorry, didn’t mean to intrude. I just wanted to check on my friend. I’m leaving.” Cleo backed out of the room with his arms raised, but I didn’t miss the glare he aimed at Dr. Norwood, and then the heated glance that landed on me before he disappeared out the doors. “Boyfriend?” Dr. Norwood snapped. I glanced at him before getting an alcohol pad to clean the dried blood off of Mr. Thurgood’s chin and cheeks.
For some reason, the man’s snapped question set my back up, and I snapped right back at him. “That’s none of your business.” That was the last thing I wanted to talk about right now; especially to someone that annoyed the shit out of me. I caught Cody’s amused grin just as he turned away, and I snorted. Cody could find amusement in nearly anything. I, however, was definitely not amused.
*** Rue I shifted from foot to foot as I waited for my ride. I wouldn’t mention that the man was fifteen minutes late. Oh, who was I kidding? The man was fucking late and I was exhausted. Even worse, I had to catch a ride from someone I didn’t even know. Cody had gone home in the middle of the shift sick with a stomach virus. He’d been my ride home. Or he would’ve been. I wasn’t too keen on getting in a car with a stranger. A loud engine rumbled into the parking lot, and I just knew that that red lifted Chevy was my ride. It was older, but still in excellent shape. A man hopped out and walked around the front of the truck. “Rue?” He asked. His large beard caught my eye, and I was sort of shocked, and in beard lust with the man in seconds. I nodded. “I’m Rue.” He held out his hand, and I accepted it, placing my palm in his and giving it a firm shake. He smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling at the edges. “Nice to meet you. I’m Silas.” That was when the front of his leather vest caught my attention. It was nearly the same one that Cleo wore, only this one had this man’s name, Silas, on it. There was also the word ‘President’ underneath that. I swallowed thickly, knowing this man was the president of The Dixie Wardens MC, and I was about to get into a car alone with him. “Silas,” I nodded my head and smoothly extricated my hand from his. He noticed the maneuver and smiled before opening the door for me. I looked at it warily. “I don’t bite,” he rumbled. I looked from the tips of his boots to the top of his head before starting forward. “If you kill me, I’m gonna have Cleo kick your ass,” I said softly. “Noted,” he acknowledged. Once I was in my seat, he slammed the door closed, and walked around the front of the truck before hefting his solid mass into his own seat. “You don’t drive a motorcycle?” I asked. “I ride a motorcycle, yes. But I had my grandkids, and their mother doesn’t like when I give them rides on my bike,” he said as he put the truck in gear. I giggled. “I’m sure she doesn’t.”
“My son doesn’t give me the opportunity to watch his kids very often. Sam’s very protective of his kids, so I do my best to not piss them off. I would hate to lose the kids over something like that,” he said softly as he motored out of the hospital parking lot. I looked over at him, noting the strained look on his face. “How many grandkids do you have?” “Seven,” he beamed. “Another one on the way.” I smiled at him. “That’s great. My best friend just adopted a baby with his husband. I love her to death. She’s a tiny little thing, though.” Silas gave me a funny look, but didn’t comment on the whole gay marriage with a family thing. I knew what he was thinking, though. “Do you know where I live?” I asked. He nodded. “Yep.” “Okay,” I said as we passed the miles to my house in silence. He didn’t speak again until he was pulling into the driveway. “I’ll check your place, and then you can go inside. Okay?” “Fine with me,” I agreed. It was, too. I didn’t care that he wanted to go into my house. It was wonderful to have someone watch out for me. You didn’t realize how scary a dark house could be until it was pitch black and you lived alone. I forgot how nice it was. Silas made a quick sweep through my house, albeit extremely thorough. “Thanks for the ride,” I said as he started to leave. He turned to me. “I’ll see you on Saturday.” With that he left, closing the door quietly behind him. “What’s Saturday?” I yelled. He didn’t answer. But I knew one thing. There was no way I’d see him on Saturday, because that’d probably mean I’d be seeing Cleo, and that was one complication that I didn’t need. Nor want. And I was lying. I did want him. A lot. There was just no way I’d take him back. Not again.
Chapter 4 Watch other people’s kids. They’ll cure you of wanting some of your own right quick. -Life lesson Rue “I’ve never taken care of a baby, though,” I said to Cody as he handed his daughter over. Then he left, and came back with what looked like the rest of Babies-R-Us. Dooley, Cody’s husband, followed shortly behind with a box looking thing which sprung into a baby bed in the middle of my living room. Whoa! “That’s cool,” I said. “But, seriously. What’s going on?” “We both have strep, and we don’t want her to get it. You also have the next two days off. That’s enough time for us to get the antibiotics in our systems before she comes back around us,” Cody said nasally. “I thought it was the stomach flu,” I looked around alarmed. “I really have no experience with babies. This one is tiny, too.” Marie was three months old, and although much more sturdy than she had been when they’d gotten her two months ago, she was still extremely small. I didn’t even have a dog. How was I supposed to know how to take care of a kid? “Rue, you’re a nurse. I’m sure you can figure it out. You wipe ass for a living anyway. You’ll be fine,” Cody explained patiently. I looked at the little girl in my arms and grimaced. “Okay, but only until tomorrow. You only need twenty four hours to get the antibiotics in your system.” Cody smiled slightly before waving as he exited the house with Dooley hot on his heels. Poor Dooley had it even worse than Cody. He couldn’t even talk, which was bad since he was a public speaker. He was a motivational speaker and advocate for teens, as well as a youth probation officer. “Thank you,” Cody said as he started heading for the door. “Call if you need anything.” I watched them go, anxiety starting to take over. I looked down at the little girl in my arms, and nearly wept. It astounded me with the amount of trust Cody and Dooley had in me. To trust me to take care of the most important thing in their life was staggering.
*** Rue I stared at the crying baby, unsure what to do. “Why are you crying?” I whimpered with her. I was flustered. The baby had started crying within an hour of being dropped off, and now, three hours later, was still whimpering. She’d been fed, changed, bathed, and now I was just holding her. Cody had been no help, either. “I forgot to tell you, sometimes she just gets colicky,” Cody said mournfully, and then proceeded that statement by throwing up. I hung up on that undesirable sound. I wasn’t into puking at work, and I wasn’t into it at home, either. I was about to change her diaper for the seventh time in just as many hours when a knock sounded from the front door. I walked to it cautiously, looked out the peephole, and then sighed. My heart started fluttering, and my belly turned into a mass of emotions that ranged from happy, to distraught, right back to ecstatic. He was just what I needed. Punching in the numbers on the keypad, I unarmed the door, unlocked it, and opened it. “Hey,” I said hesitantly. “What are you doing here?” Cleo’s eyes immediately fastened on the baby, and his brows furrowed. Then a look of horror, and sudden realization hit him. “What have you done?” He whispered. Confused, I looked down at the little girl and then back to him before asking, “What do you mean, what have I done?” “I listened to all the messages you left me. Each and every one. If you’d have just said, I would’ve called back. I would’ve never left,” he growled. “What’re you talking about?” I snapped. “Seriously, you’re freaking me the fuck out.” I was flustered, and now I was angry. What was he going on about? “You kept my own freakin’ kid from me!” He bellowed. The mild mannered man I’d never seen raise his voice, even once, yelled at me.
Yelled at me. “What kid?” I asked. “That kid!” he bellowed, pointing to a fascinated Marie. I set Marie down in her playpen, thankful she’d stopped crying for the moment, and turned to the daft man. “Are you drunk? On drugs?” I asked walking up to him and putting my hand on his forehead. He backed off from my touch. I told myself that it didn’t hurt that he flinched at my touch, but I was lying. “Tell me,” he hissed.
*** Cleo It all made sense. A lot of sick sense. I’d been disappointed when she’d stopped calling me. I’d kept every single voicemail she’d ever left me, and when I started to get low, I’d listen to them just to hear her voice. I’d thought that I’d been the one to give up on the relationship, but apparently she had to. We had a kid together. A kid that looked exactly like my sister’s kids did. My stomach was roiling at the thought of Rue keeping that from me. Then I berated myself. I’d had just as much a part of it as she did, if not more. “Cleo...I don’t have any kids. That kid is Cody’s baby,” she yelled back. “Cody’s baby?” I asked, confused. Hadn’t I heard from Silas that Cody was gay? She raised her eyebrows up. “Yeah, they went to Egypt just a few months ago and adopted her.” That stopped me in my tracks. Then I felt immensely stupid. “Fuck, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come over this morning. I had a bad night, and I just jumped to conclusions. I just wanted to see you.” She blinked, surprised at my apology. “It’s okay,” she said softly. “But maybe you should go home. Come back some time when you’re thinking clearly.” “I...I don’t want to go home,” I admitted. “Why?” She asked. “What happened?” I sat down on the edge of her couch and let my head fall into my hands. “I had two patients die last night. Two separate accidents, but no less severe than the other. One was a two year old who’d touched a live wire that had fallen in her backyard. The other was a young girl who suffered third degree burns in a motor vehicle accident.” Both cases were still just as fresh in my brain as they were four and a half hours ago when they’d happened one after the other. “I’m sorry to hear that, Cleo,” she said softly. “But, that still doesn’t help me answer why you’re here at all. You left me, remember? Why now? Why, when I just got my life back in order? Do you know how long it’s been since I cried through the night? Two goddamn weeks. Then one freaking look at you, and it’s all right there again. I can feel everything. It’s tearing me apart,” she whispered with tears filling her voice.
Her head fell, hiding her face so I didn’t see the tears. I swallowed thickly. “I didn’t want to die and leave you alone,” I rasped. She finally looked up, giving me her tear stained blue eyes. “I would’ve followed you anywhere. Done anything for you. All you had to do was tell me what to do. I would’ve waited. I would’ve been able to live my life knowing you’d be coming back to me…if you were able,” she cried. I closed my eyes. The pain and terror that had grown for the past year all compounded to that final moment. The exact instant in time that I knew I had to get out. “I almost died over there,” I grated. “The only thing that kept me alive was knowing you were here for me to come back to you. Whether you thought that you were mine or not, I was always yours. And I always will be.” Her quiet crying turned to a giant sob, and I gathered her into my arms, burying my face into her neck. “What will it take for you to give me a chance?” I asked. My heart froze in my chest, and then started to pound double time. “I’ll give you anything. Everything. You want me to quit, I’ll do it. You want me to leave the MC, I’ll do it. It’ll hurt, but I’ll do it. Just give me a chance. You don’t have to decide anything right now. But just let me spend some time with you. I’ll prove to you I’ve changed. I won’t freak out, I promise,” I pleaded. She listened to my explanation, and I could tell it wasn’t enough by the dead in her eyes. “I can’t. I just can’t,” she said and stepped away. “You can hang with me tonight, but after that, I want you to leave me alone.” “But you’ll give me tonight?” I asked. She nodded. “I’ll give you tonight.”
*** “I don’t think I want any kids,” Rue said softly as she practically fell back onto the couch with me. I leaned forward for a piece of pizza and handed it to her before taking one of my own. “Not if they’re all like that. She’s cute as hell and all, but when she starts crying and doesn’t stop, I can’t see the desire of having one of my own “Me neither,” she shuddered. “I’m glad she’s only staying the night. I felt like I was going to break her when I put that sleeper on her. But you’re right. She’s cute.” I snorted. “You won’t be saying that tonight when she wakes you up in the middle of the night.” She giggled, making something inside my chest loosen. She’d been doing that all night. A comment here, a touch there. When I’d left work, I rode. I don’t think I consciously decided to drive to Rue’s place. It was just one second I was on the back road leaving the station, and the next thing I knew, I was pulling up in front of Rue’s place. I’d found her nearly the minute I’d gotten home from overseas, and I’d spent many nights driving past her place. I supposed it was just instinct that’d driven me to her house tonight. “How’s the new job? Why’d you move?” I asked her when the silence continued too long. She shrugged. “It’s nice. I like working in this ER since it’s so much bigger. However, the staff members are all bitches. You’ve also met the doc that loves to torture me while I’m there.” I lifted my lip up at that thought. “That man was a pompous ass. He knew who I was. I came in and met him during one of our transfers last week. Just let me know if he gives you any problems, and I’ll have a word.” She glanced over at me. Her curly brown hair fell forward, partially obscuring her face from me for long moments before I reached forward out of habit and tucked it behind her ear. She hissed and pulled away, and my hand dropped to rest on the cushion between us. She stood and clapped her hands. “Well, I’m off to bed. Thank you for the pizza, but I foresee a long night ahead of me and I suppose I should be heading that way.” I stood up with her, and reached forward to touch the tip of her nose with my index finger. “Thanks for keeping me company. Today was a hard day,” I said as I started walking to the front door. She followed a good distance behind me so she could make sure there was no possible chance for us to accidentally touch. “You’re welcome,” she said graciously, shifting from foot to foot.
I opened the door, and stepped out into the cold night air. It was colder than normal, but that didn’t matter. I didn’t think fifty degrees was that cold. Not after growing up in North Dakota. Fifty degrees was spring weather up there. What did get me was the humid, hot summers. Leaning forward slowly so she knew my intentions, I kissed her cheek softly. Her eyes widened as I pulled away, and then she shuddered. Her smell was exquisite. Like the rain after a summer shower. That same smell had haunted me over the last year. A thunderstorm would strike, and the smell of her would be in the wind. As if she wasn’t always on my mind already. “Thanks for being with me tonight. I needed it,” I said softly. “Sleep well, Rue La La.” She cracked a grin, which blossomed into a full-blown smile. “You too, Cleo-Leo.” The nicknames that we’d made for each other were one of a kind, and we’d used them often during our time together. She’d used mine, and I knew that it was a sign. I winked at her and headed to my bike, feeling her gaze on my back the entire way. She didn’t know it yet, but she was mine. She thought she was winning this war, but I had a Trojan Horse, and she’d just accepted the package.
Chapter 5 I could use a foot massage, an hour in a sauna, a half of a chocolate sheet cake, and an orgasm. -Tru on what she wants for dinner Rue “I’m going to kill you, Cody,” I whined as I exited the doctor’s office where I’d just been told that I had strep throat. “I’m sorry, Rue. I didn’t mean to pass it off to you,” Cody said remorsefully. “It’s okay, this just sucks. I used to have this all the time as a kid, and I don’t remember it ever bringing me down like it’s done today. I feel awful,” I said nasally into the phone. “Do you want me to get your prescription for you?” Cody asked. I opened my car door and practically fell inside. Luckily, I’d found my car in the driveway this morning like Cleo had promised the night he came over after work, or I’d have been screwed. “No, I need to go for some meds anyway. The doctor said it might be the flu on top of strep since I feel so bad. Therefore, I have to run in for some liquids to tide me over. What you can do is tell your mom I won’t be there for a week or so.” Cody snorted. “Oh, she’s going to love that. We’re already three short due to strep, and now you too. This week is going to be the bomb.” Was that a hint of smartass I heard in my best friend’s voice? “Sorry-Charlie,” I said as I started driving to the pharmacy. “I’ll talk to you later. It’s taking too much concentration to talk to you, drive, and not sneeze at the same time.” “Okay, be careful. Call me if you need anything,” Cody insisted. We hung up, and I drove to the pharmacy closest to my house where the doctor had called in my prescriptions. I parked next to two bikes, and got out. I’d just closed my car door when I sneezed all over the bike that was parked next to me. “Nice,” a deep voice said from in front of me. I didn’t react, but only because I followed up my first sneeze with fifty more. Okay, more like three, but still. “I’m so sorry,” I coughed. Then I opened my back door and lifted out the disinfectant wipes I kept in the car at all times. “Here,” I said as I plucked out two wipes. “You’ll probably want to wipe that off. I have strep throat.” It was when I was handing over the wipes that I realized it was a massive man wearing blue jeans, motorcycle boots, a black shirt, and none other than a Dixie Wardens MC leather vest. Oh, and a scar on his neck that scared the absolute tar out of me.
That kind of wound wasn’t for the timid. This man had to have been a fighter to escape death with that kind of trauma. I blinked at the man, and then extended the towels to him again. He shook his head, leaned forward, grabbed them from my hand, and then went to his bike and started wiping off his bike. “Sorry,” I said as I walked away. “It’s okay,” he said behind me, but I didn’t turn around. I couldn’t tell you why my heart was speeding a mile a minute. I didn’t know that man, but just looking at his ‘cut,’ as Cleo liked to call it, made my stomach flutter with butterflies. Cleo had come in two days ago and turned my world upside down again. He’d made it feel like old times. Times where I hadn’t forced him to have sex with me and ruined our relationship. He’d been nice. He’d bought pizza. Drinks. Even a movie. One that I’d had to return, but he’d brought it nonetheless. I’d been thinking about him non-stop since he’d left, and it was driving me bat-shit crazy. Sighing, I went about getting the things I needed. Slowly. Mainly because it hurt to move too fast. After picking up my prescriptions, soup, and juice, I walked out into the sunshine, stopping dead in the middle of the parking lot. That was because Cleo was standing beside my car with his arm around a very beautiful blonde woman. Her auburn hair was in soft waves down her back, and she was wearing some insanely tight jeans that made her ass look perfect. I couldn’t see the rest of her since she was facing away from me, but I could clearly see the annoyed look on the face of the man whose bike I’d sneezed on. And it was none too happy. “Get your arm off my woman, Cleo,” the man said through clenched teeth. I blinked, waiting to see what would happen. “What if she prefers my body to yours? Would you let her sample this bounty if she wanted to?” Cleo asked as he let the woman go to gesture to his body. His body was a bounty. He had on dark washed jeans with a black t-shirt and his leather vest. Something so simple made him look downright glorious. The woman giggled and I wanted to smack her.
Stomping forward, I pushed behind Cleo, making him take an alarmed step forward before I unlocked my car with the key and opened the door. “Don’t worry, Cleo. Your bounty spoils after one night. That woman looks like she wants stability, not a fuck that leaves the woman all worked up with no relief in sight. Oh, and that man looks like he could fuck better than you, anyway,” I said just before dropping down into my car and taking off. I didn’t miss the woman’s laughter, as well as the deep-throated bellow from the other man. Nor Cleo’s scowling face as I pulled out of the lot. I wasn’t surprised when a deep rumble came up on my bumper and stayed there. However, I couldn’t muster up the courage to care because my head was pounding. By the time I pulled into my driveway, I was thanking sweet baby Jesus that I’d made it that far. Probably shouldn’t have popped those Benadryl’s at the doctor’s office. What I should’ve done was waited until I was at home to do it. I leaned forward and rested my head on the steering wheel, barely able to keep my eyes open. Maybe I could just sleep in my car all night. It was blissfully warm. Or maybe that was my fever. If only that horrible pounding would stop.
*** I woke up in my bed, unaware of how I’d gotten there. I was beyond cold, and looked down to find only a sheet wrapped around my body. I moved experimentally, blindly searching for the blanket that was usually there, but unable to find it. Rolling over, I came up to a barrier that was blissfully warm. “Uh-uh, Rue. You’re running a high fever. You have to stay on your side and you can only use the sheet. You’re already at 103,” a deep voice rumbled. I ignored Cleo and stayed where I was, shivering. “C-cold.” “I know, baby,” Cleo said. “But if you get too hot, we’re going to have to take a cold shower, and you know how that’s going to go.” Sighing, I rolled away from the beautiful warmth of Cleo’s body until I had a foot between us, and continued my shivering. “You’re the devil,” I croaked. “You may call me Diablo,” Cleo rasped. “Oh, Mikhail. I do love you,” I whispered before falling back asleep. I missed the, “I love you, too.”
Cleo was doing sit-ups in my living room. Shirtless. And pantless. In the middle of the night. “Where’re your pants?” I croaked. Cleo stopped halfway into a sit up and twisted just his upper body to look at me. My eyes roamed over the tanned expanse of his chest, cataloguing the multiple tattoos, ridges on top of ridges of hard, toned muscle, and finally the newest addition. Scarring. “What happened?” I gasped as I lurched forward. He sat up fully, and then stood, giving me an unencumbered view of his entire body. I started running my hands over the scarring on his lower hip that disappeared into the waistband of his underwear. A larger gash was evident on his right shoulder, as well as what seemed to be shrapnel scars dotting the rest of his chest. “I told you, I had an accident,” he said evenly. I looked up at his face seeing him staring at me in concern, and then back at his belly. The scars were still fresh. Deep purple, and prominently raised, it looked like it’d hurt when it happened. It also looked like it might still hurt. “You didn’t tell me what kind,” I said as I reached gently to trace the underside of the scar with the tip of my finger. He closed his eyes and sighed. “It was a bad last mission. The team was supposed to help two soldiers who were in a small village outside of their camp. They got separated from their company when a woman blew herself up beside them. It was supposed to be just a routine combat rescue. We knew the area wasn’t secure, but that’s just how it was. That’s what we did. There was a man waiting to show us where to go. A local. However, another woman was there, and she blew herself up right when we stepped foot into the building. My whole team died except two. Bones and I were the only survivors.” He explained it in a monotone voice. A voice that lacked any emotion, making him sound deadly. “I’m so sorry, Cleo,” I said softly. Then I just couldn’t help myself. It was ingrained in me to offer him support. All it took was for me to see the flash of pain in his eyes before they shuttered closed to get me moving. He’d been my best friend. Just because he’d left, didn’t
mean I didn’t still love him. Nor hurt when he hurt. Which was why I found myself throwing my body into his arms, and burying my face into his neck. He clutched me close to him, holding on while he fought whatever demons he was remembering. “And how’s Bones?” I asked as I backed away from him. He shrugged. “About the same as me. We’re living, but not really breathing. Doc says I have PTSD. The doc’s gave me some medicine, but it only makes me like a zombie. Working out seems to help, though.” Well, that explained the sit-ups. “How long have I been asleep?” I asked, trying to get his mind off the past. He looked at the black, mammoth watch on his wrist before answering, “Thirteen hours. Your fever broke. I looked in your purse and found your antibiotics, forced you to take them around eight.” I nodded. “Thank you. You probably shouldn’t be here. I don’t want you to get sick.” He gave me a droll look. “You do know what I do for a living, right? I’m around sick people all the time.” That was true. “Okay, well don’t say I didn’t warn you,” I shrugged. He smiled. “You threw up on my pants, too. They’re in your washer, along with the clothes you were wearing.” I looked down at the thin white camisole and white cotton panties I was wearing, and blushed. I hadn’t even thought to look at the clothes I’d been wearing before I came out here. “I’m sorry,” I said, embarrassed. He shrugged. “Been there, done that.” I’d had that happen, too. That didn’t mean it was fun, however. “I’m hungry,” I said as I turned towards the kitchen. There was no point in me getting dressed now. He’d already seen me in what I was wearing. Then again, he’d dressed me in what I was wearing. And neither the shirt, nor the panties, were what I’d put on the previous morning. “I put the soup that was in your front seat in the kitchen by the sink. I had my sister bring some soup, though. That shit you got was disgusting looking,” he said. I stopped short and turned to look at him. “Which sister?” I asked. All of his sister’s didn’t like me. However one of them, Molly, hated me with a passion. She was the baby in the family, and was the most possessive of her brother. She didn’t feel like
anyone was good enough for Cleo, and had told me so. The words she’d used hadn’t been as eloquent, but it was nearly the same. “Mikayla,” he answered. I relaxed instantly. There was no way I was going to eat anything that was made by Molly, but Mikayla I’d do. Mikayla was the oldest of the Caruso horde. Mikhail the second. Followed by Meredith, and finally Molly. They were a very tight group, and it’d take a small miracle to become one of their group. Even the sister’s own husbands were barely tolerated. Cleo probably didn’t even realize that his sisters were so protective of him, either. “Thank God,” I exhaled. He looked at me sharply. “Why do you say that?” I rolled my eyes and went to the crockpot that was in the corner of my kitchen counter. My kitchen wasn’t much to look at. White cabinets, white tiled counter, with a white tiled backsplash. The floor was diner checkered black and white linoleum, and the appliances were basic white. It looked awful, but at least it was clean. Something that I’d had to work my ass off to accomplish when I’d first moved in. “Probably because your sister’s hate my guts. Molly more than most. I was just thankful that Mikayla brought it. She’s too critical about her food to mess it up with poison,” I said as I reached for a bowl. Cleo’s big body warmed my back as he effortlessly lifted his arm and brought down two bowls. A normal sized one for me, and what amounted to a mixing bowl for him. “They’re not that bad,” he admonished as he made himself at home, scooping up soup for the both of us, and then setting them on the table. I followed behind him dutifully as I grabbed spoons, and sat down at the table. “Whatever you say, Cleo-Patrick,” I said as I took my first spoonful of soup. The liquid hit my tongue, bursting with flavor. However, when it hit my throat, it felt like shards of glass on the way down. “Owww,” I whined. He looked at me sympathetically. “You can take some more ibuprofen.” I nodded, getting up to do just that. I washed the pills down with a glass of milk, and sat down at the table again, studiously ignoring his probing gaze. “I have to go to work in the morning. You’ll be okay?” He asked. I looked up and shrugged. “Yeah.” Picking his phone up off the table, he sent a quick text before sliding it back to the middle of the table
and resuming eating his massive helping of soup. “Were you hungry?” I asked with raised eyebrows. “You have no food,” he said simply. I snorted. I didn’t. I hadn’t been to the store in a week. I’d taken my last salad, and then left it to rot in Cleo’s saddlebags. “I haven’t been able to get to the store this week. No time,” I said by way of apology, before I started forcing myself to eat. I stuck mainly to the broth, occasionally slurping down a noodle or two. I kept my face down so he wouldn’t see the lie that had lit up my face. Cleo was a master at reading me, and I didn’t want him to ask questions and figure out my real reasons. Mainly the one where he found out that I didn’t have the money to buy any food this week. I picked up dinner with Nonnie during the week, when I got home it was a tie between a cheese sandwich and cereal most days. “You have shitty cereal, too. I ate all that around four. I’ll go get you some more tomorrow,” he said just before upending the bowl and drinking the last dregs of his soup down. My eyes started drooping again, but I didn’t want to go to sleep just yet. I wanted to spend just a few more minutes in this lie. I wanted to feel like I did a year ago. Happy and content. “Watch a movie with me?” I asked. He stood and took our bowls to the sink. “Go get it on. I’ll grab your blanket off the bed.” I complied with his instructions, and went to the couch and fired up my DVR. I inserted the first Die Hard DVD, and sat in the very middle, giving him no other choice but to sit directly beside me. Which he did thirty seconds later, wrapping the blanket around us both. I curled around him, pushing until he was leaned back with his body length wise across the couch, and my body alongside his. We’d been in this position many, many times. So many times, in fact, that it felt like almost second nature. I sighed as the movie started playing, and matched my breathing with Cleo’s. Perfection. That’s what it was. In his arms, nothing in the world mattered.
The consequences were gone. Our distance was gone. What was left was just us. Cleo and Rue.
Chapter 6 It’s hard to be understanding when you’re surrounded by dumb motherfuckers. -Tru’s secret thoughts Rue “Mmph-hello?” I answered the phone sitting next to my face. “Hi, this is Dortea Annapolis.” The woman paused. “My secretary called you and set up an appointment time for this morning, however, you’re not here yet, and I wanted to double check to make sure we were supposed to meet.” My eyes snapped open, and I groaned when I saw the clock. 10:33. “Shit, I mean, shoot. I’m sorry. I’m sick. But I can still come if you need me to. I just need a couple of minutes to get dressed and get over there,” I croaked. The woman made apologetic noises. “I’m sorry to hear that, dear. But the trial takes place next week, and I need your statement confirmed. We already have the arresting officer on the case here waiting. Basically, as long as you can get here, I don’t really care what illness you have .... as long as it’s not deadly.” I groaned and sat up. “Okay, I’ll be there in,” I said glancing at my clock. “Fifteen minutes. I just have to find some pants.” She chuckled, and we hung up. I forwent my jeans for a nice pair of sweats, pulled on a hooded sweatshirt I’d stolen from Cleo, and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. My hair looked horrible, however there was nothing I could do with it besides taking a shower, so it was staying how it was. I shuffled out of my bedroom and into the living room only to find a man sitting on my couch. “What the fuck?” I asked him. It was the same man who’d dropped me off from work a few days ago. The older one with the sexy salt and pepper hair. Oh, and that beard! He was sitting on my couch with his feet propped up on the coffee table, watching bowling of all things. “You look like shit,” he said eloquently. “Thanks. Are you here to be my babysitter?” I asked. He nodded and went back to the TV. “Everyone else was working. Lucky me. However, it beats the hell out of what I was going to do.” I didn’t bother asking him what it was he was ‘going to do.’ He didn’t seem the type to be expounding on his answers. “I have to go to the DA’s office. You coming with me or am I driving myself?” I asked.
“Do you need me to come with you? You look capable to me. I was just supposed to be here in case you started talking crazy again,” he said. “What’s your name?” I finally asked. I hadn’t yet ascertained his name due to his standoffish attitude. However, if he was going to be my babysitter, there was no reason I shouldn’t know his name since I'd already forgotten it from our first encounter. “Silas,” he answered immediately. Well, that wasn’t his full name or anything, but it was a name nonetheless. “Well, Silas. I do believe I’ll use you. Thanks. I still feel a little weak in the knees,” I answered honestly. My head was also pounding. Thank God it was raining. Otherwise, the sunshine would’ve absolutely killed me. “You wearing that?” He asked as he stood. “Yep,” I answered. He shook his head and started walking to the door. I could’ve sworn he said, ‘I don’t know what he sees in you’ but I could’ve just been hearing things. We took his truck again, and I accidentally fell asleep. “Rise and shine, buttercup. We’re here,” Silas’ voice woke me. I blinked my eyes open slowly, and groaned. My body hurt. “Thanks,” I muttered as I practically fell out of the truck. He rolled his eyes and started walking knowingly through the front doors, waving to the on scene guard, and then walking forward to a bank of elevators in the very back. “You’ve been here before?” I wondered. He looked at me. His blue eyes piercingly bright and knowing. “Yes.” It made me wonder, but I wasn’t stupid enough to ask the question that was burning a hole in my brain. He raised his brows, waiting for the inevitable question, but I’d be damned if I gave him that. I narrowed my eyes and pressed my lips together, causing him to laugh. The doors to the elevator opened and we walked in; I leaned against the side, already tired. “You really do look like shit,” he observed dryly. “Fuck off,” I grumbled.
He smiled and pressed the button for the third floor. “So...how about them Saints?” I asked. He chuckled. “I’m more of a hockey fan.” Now why didn’t that surprise me? “Which team?” I asked as the elevator doors opened and emitted us into a stuffy lobby with the walls decorated in off-white and beige. “Red Wings. I’m from Detroit,” he answered as he led us down a hallway, and straight into the office of the woman I was meeting. Color me surprised when I saw the DA and the very man I’d met yesterday at the drug store sitting in Dortea’s office. “Silas? Rue, come sit down,” Dortea ordered. I sat down into the seat, thankful that I was able to sit before I fell. “How are you feeling?” Dortea asked. I noticed Silas out of the corner of my eye move to take up position in the very corner of the room, propping his shoulder on the wall. “I feel great.” I’d tried for upbeat, but it came out sounding more like I was high on PCP more than anything, causing the man in the seat next to me, as well as Silas, to laugh. “Well, okay then. Rue, this is Detective Rector. Rue Loden is the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner who worked on Vanessa White’s case,” Dortea said to the detective. I looked over at him through watery eyes and held up my hand in a salute to him. “Still sick.” A smile kicked at the corner of his mouth. “I can see that.” “Do you two know each other?” Dortea asked. I shook my head. “I snotted all over his bike yesterday.” Dortea let that sink in for a few moments before shaking her head slightly and looking back at the papers on her desk. “Noted,” she said as she sat forward in her chair. “Now, let’s get started. Detective, why don’t you tell us what you have, and from there we’ll move on to what Rue found.” The detective nodded. “Vanessa White was found under the bleachers after a football game. She was the head varsity cheerleader, and she and her boyfriend were set to meet under there once he got changed. He was late, and another man found her under the bleachers where he raped her. Later, we found out that she set up this whole scenario so her boyfriend would catch the man, and they’d both be famous when he saved her. It didn’t work out that way, though, because the boyfriend never came, and when Vanessa realized it was getting too far, she told Brenden Newland ‘no.’ He didn’t stop. Brenden later left her there after he’d finished, and Vanessa took herself to the hospital.” I remembered this story so well that I could recite each and every word. What I hadn’t heard was Brendan’s side of the story.
“Brendan was brought in that night where he showed us the numerous emails between the two of them. Brendan said that they’d met on Craigslist. He told us that they planned the entire thing to the very last detail. Even the part where she’d tell him ‘no’ and he was to ignore her, because that was what she’d wanted. She’d never said anything about the boyfriend coming in to ‘save’ her, and they’d even met up the night before at a Starbuck’s to discuss what was going to happen the next night. Brendan is a dominant at a local BDSM club, and had been searching for a woman to do this with. Vanessa showed Brendan her fake ID, so the entire time Brendan assumed Vanessa was twenty one. Their computers records were subpoenaed and the surveillance from Starbuck’s was pulled. Everything Brendan said was true.” At the time, Vanessa had been so distraught that I hadn’t realized just what was going on. The more Officer Rector explained, the more fucked up the entire thing became. “What a clusterfuck,” Dortea said. “Either way this goes, they both lose. Rue, how about you tell us what you found.” I shifted in my seat until I was leaning forward and started my story. “I was called in on October 3rd to perform a rape kit on Vanessa White. I pulled out samples of hair, fibers, and skin from various parts of her body. She did have evident bruising along her vulva and vagina. The rapist had used a condom, so there were no bodily fluids from him, only a scant amount of blood from her. There was no ripping or tearing along the vaginal canal, and there were no defensive wounds on her body. She’d told me almost verbatim what Detective Rector just said, except she kept saying, ‘This was so not how I planned this’ over and over again. She was visibly distraught, as well as on the verge of noncompliant. She’d said throughout the entire interview that she should go. That maybe she shouldn’t ‘do this.’” Dortea was running her fingers through the hair at her temples, Detective Rector’s lips were thinned, and I didn’t even bother looking at Silas. His face would reflect more of the same. I was just as dumfounded as the rest of them. “Dammit,” Dortea said. “I don’t like this case. Not one bit. Who’s the victim here?” That was the million dollar question.
Chapter 7 A boy makes his girl jealous of other women. A man makes other women jealous of his girl. -How to be a man Cleo “Want to go out to eat?” Loki asked me. I looked over from the TV, downed my beer, and stood. “Sure.” I was annoyed. I didn’t know why I was annoyed, but I was. It wasn’t like Rue owed me anything, but it still bothered the hell out of me that I didn’t know where she was. I’d driven by her house as soon as I’d gotten off shift, and she was gone. I knew she wasn’t at work today because I’d transported two patients there, and each time I’d asked about her, they’d said she was gone. My next stop had been the nursing home, but she hadn’t been there either. Now, with nothing else to do, I was at the clubhouse drinking a beer with Loki. He’d told me about the meeting he’d had with Rue three days ago, and now I was even more hyped up. Something big stank about that case, but none of us could put a finger on what it was. We both walked out to our bikes and drove into the night. The weather was much warmer at sixty degrees, and it felt really nice out. A perfect night for a ride. We ended up at Halligans and Handcuffs, the bar that was owned by The Dixie Wardens. It’d become a very popular attraction among the locals, and even garnered attention from the surrounding states, and a majority of the Ark-La-Tex. The bar was located on the outskirts of Benton, the town where The Dixie Wardens MC called home, and about two minutes from my house. We pulled into the bar and parked near the front, backing in among the member’s parking spaces in view of the front window. I powered off the bike and kicked the stand down before standing up and stretching. The bar was hopping. “Lot of people here tonight,” I observed. Loki nodded. “Been like this nearly every night this week. I would know and all since my wife’s decided that she now lives at her work.” I snorted. Channing was a hell of a woman. How she opened a business with a kid and a detective for a husband was beyond me.
Loki was beyond busy with work most nights and Channing had set the office up so she could take their baby to work with her if she needed to. Starting a new business took a lot of work as well as dedication, and Channing had that in spades. “Stop whining,” I said as we made it into the door. We both waved at Tunnel Morrison, a police officer for Benton PD, and a fellow member of the Dixie Wardens, who was manning the door. “If I can’t whine to you, who would I whine to?” Loki asked. “How about your wife? Your best friend?” I asked. Honestly, I was a bit of a loner. I liked being in the back of the room just watching what was going on around me. I didn’t like talking, but when I did, you damn well better listen, because it was probably important. I didn’t like large gatherings and being in a loud room made me nervous. It’d only been four months since I was off full time duty with the PJ’s, and I was still a bit jumpy as a whole. “You don’t like listening to my problems?” He joked. “I don’t like listening to problems that have no basis on reality. If you don’t like it, fix it. If you can’t fix it, then find someone else who’ll stay with you at home,” I suggested. Sometimes I came off as an asshole, but this world had a ton of problems that were of more consequence than a man’s wife not being at home when he wanted her to be. That just made him sound like a whiney bitch. “You’re such a dick,” Loki laughed. I shrugged and went to the back corner of the bar and took a seat not in front of the bar, but behind the bar. I really didn’t want to have to talk to anyone tonight; I wasn’t in the mood to be nice. “Why do you always sit back here?” Loki asked as he took a seat on the opposite side of me. He had his back to the room, and I could tell it was bothering him. Police officers, and those in the military, had habits. Rule number one was knowing your surroundings. Rule number two, was never put your back to a room. However, he had a mirror, so he was somewhat appeased. “Because I don’t want anyone touching me, and it’s the closest door to the exit that everyone else won’t have access to,” I said patiently. Loki rolled his eyes. “Going out the front door would be faster.” I shook my head. “No, going out the front door would be longer. If there was truly an emergency, then they’d all be using that one door, or the fire exit across the room. They wouldn’t even think to use the back exit.”
Loki seemed to think about it before he nodded his head in understanding. “Gotcha,” he said as he leaned over and grabbed two beers out of the cooler. “You do have more experiences in this area.” I snorted. I did indeed. That was the last thing I wanted to hear about, though. I twisted off the cap and lifted the beer to my mouth before taking a swig. However, a flash of familiar long brown hair caught my eye, and the beer froze halfway down to the table. That was because my Rue was sitting next to a man who had his arms around her shoulders. She was in the back of the room, in the furthest booth. Across from her was Cody and another man, who I assumed was his partner. However, all of my attention was focused on the man that was about to have his face introduced to the table. “The last time you had that look on your face, you sent your sister’s ex-husband to the hospital for hitting her. What’s going on?” Loki asked as he followed my line of sight. “Oh, shit.” I was up and moving before I’d decided that I wanted to be. My large strides ate up the ground on my way across the room boots smacking hard on the stained concrete. Smack-smack-smack. The crowd parted as I walked purposefully towards the woman that was intent on driving me insane. I knew exactly the moment she realized what was about to happen, because her eyes went wide, and she slipped down underneath the table. She popped back out on the other side and she started walking resolutely away from the table in the opposite direction. She must’ve assumed that I was going to follow her, but I went to the table with a single-minded determination. “Hey, Cleo. Thanks for helping Rue the other day. You just missed her, she went to the bathroom I think,” Cody said as I stepped up to the table. I offered him my hand first, and then quickly followed, offering it to the man sitting next to him. “Mikhail Caruso. You can call me Cleo,” I said. The man took my hand. He was a hoss, plain and simple. Jacked and lethal, and I could tell that in a single glance. “Cleo,” he nodded. “My name’s Dooley. Nice to finally meet you. This is Dante Hail. He owns Hail Auto Recovery in Shreveport.” My eyes turned to the man in the opposite seat, and my eyes zeroed in on the man’s tattoo when I
shook his hand. “You’re a PJ?” He nodded. “Was. Had a bad turn a few years back. Now I’m in repossession.” I smiled. “Huh,” I said and pointed to the seat. “Do you mind if I sit?” He looked at the limited space beside him and shrugged. “Sure.” I sat, leaving one foot hanging out of the side to give me more room. “What brings you in tonight?” I asked. Dooley sat back and ran his hand over his face. “Dante called me when he repossessed a little car. He found one of my teenage parolees in the backseat where he’d been sleeping for the past six months.” I lifted my eyebrows at him. “You do Juvenile? I thought Rue said you were a public speaker?” He nodded. “I do both.” Huh. That’s surprising. I figured him to be the kind of man who tried to shove his bullshit down your throat, but he seemed fairly approachable and open. “What do you speak about?” I asked as I took a pull of my beer and kept my eye on the bathroom where Rue had disappeared. “I just go around to all the public and private schools in the area and tell my story. What I do. How I do it. Every once in a while I bring in a few people to show what the kids can accomplish if they set their mind to it,” he explained, and then looked at me critically. “You wouldn’t by chance volunteer to come up and speak, would you?” I would’ve answered with a resounding ‘fuck no’ but Rue’s annoyed voice interrupted me. “You’re in my spot. And you were supposed to follow me, not sit here and talk.” “Sorry, Rue La La. You looked in a hurry to head to the bathroom so I decided to wait here and meet your new friend. Your skin’s got a much healthier glow than it did when you were sick the other night.” Nobody at the table misunderstood my intentions. Rue was mine. She narrowed her eyes at me, and placed her hands on her hips. “Thank you for staying with me,” she said grudgingly. I smiled at her. “Anything for my girl.” “I’m not your girl,” she snapped, causing Dante to snort as he rolled his eyes. We all knew that was a lie. Even her. “Move over,” she sighed in resignation. I looked over at the man I was shoulder to shoulder with and smirked. Patting my lap, I said, “Take a seat.”
She did, reluctantly, putting as little of her ass as possible on top of my leg. Knowing that wouldn’t last long, I ignored her and spoke to Dante. “Are you part of the group they call Hail’s Monsters?” He cracked a smile. “Yep. We earned that a few years ago when we repossessed the entire fleet of limousines that Barbie’s Bounty used to shuttle their clients around with.” I blinked at him for a few seconds before I burst out laughing. “The high profile clients happened to be in those limos at the time, weren’t they?” He nodded with a grin on his face. “The police arrested them for solicitation, and then arrested the prostitutes on top of that. It was a fucking glorious night,” he said with a wink. I laughed. That had been a high profile encounter in our small town that had inflamed until it became national news. “A few of the Dixie Wardens thought you guys were heroes. They even hung up the newspaper articles on the wall. In fact, I think a few of them are still up there,” I informed the table. Cody and Dooley were smiling, obviously remembering the incident fondly. Rue just looked confused. “What happened?” Rue asked as she shifted uncomfortably. As Dante explained, I focused on the smell of Rue’s hair and the feel of her body as I moved her further up in my lap so her plump ass was resting in the cradle of my hips. The palm of my hand found its way under her shirt, and I rested it there on her belly, while the pad of my thumb played with the little ring that pierced her belly button. I felt the goose bumps break out over her belly as the tip of my pinky finger dipped down underneath the band of her blue jeans. What I didn’t notice her doing was denying the move. In fact, she facilitated it by sucking in her stomach, allowing my hand an unencumbered descent down, until it came to a rest on the top of her mound. My dick started to rise, and I knew she could feel it. Her ass was directly on top of it. She shifted her ass minutely, rearranging our positions until the length of my cock came to a rest in the crack of her ass. All the while we did this, the others spoke around us. Occasionally I’d throw a word in here or there, but my mind was focused on one thing. Rue. My hand was on fire with the heat of her pussy, and it took all that I had to keep myself from shoving her panties aside and shoving my fingers deep into her hot, wet pussy. I had some manners, after all. “We’re going to head out, then. Our sixteen year old neighbor is watching Marie, but she has to go to
school tomorrow; we can’t stay out too much longer,” Cody said as he stood from the booth. His eyes went to the hand I had under Rue’s shirt, but quickly skidded away. Not before giving me a sly look as he stood and threw his jacket around his shoulders. Reluctantly, I removed my hand from her pants and let her stand. She gave Cody and Dooley hugs while I stood to let Dante out of his seat. He stood, and I offered my hand to him again. “Nice to meet you.” He took it. “Our grandmothers are in the same nursing home. There’s nothing between us. I have a wife.” I acknowledged that with a thankful nod. “Thanks.” “You got a good girl, my man,” he said with a back slap. He left after that, giving Rue a squeeze on the shoulder. My vision blurred as my hands clenched into fists. I, of course, didn’t care that it was an innocent touch. Nor about the fact that he had a wife. What saved him were Rue’s eyes. They were on me the whole time. Her expression never wavered. An expression that I couldn’t quite read. “What?” I asked. She blinked. Once. Twice. Then she threw herself into my arms. In front of the entire bar. I caught her, my hands going to her ass, before she pressed her mouth to mine. Her tongue slipped into my mouth, and I sucked it, wrapping my tongue around hers. My cock rose, filling with so much blood so fast, that it started to throb. One of my hands let go of her ass enabling me to tangle it into the long brown locks of her hair. Her arms encircled my neck, pulling me as close as we could be without us being naked. “Take me home,” she gasped against my mouth. “I’ve been waiting for you to say that for a year now,” I growled into her mouth. “This doesn’t mean anything,” she tried. “It means fucking everything,” I said as I started walking with her out the door.
I could hear the crowd around me hooting and hollering. I knew they were watching. They knew what we were about to do. But I could give less than a fuck. I’d gone nearly a year without her. She’s lucky she didn’t make me wait much longer. It wouldn’t have been pretty. “This is just one night. Nothing else,” she urged as she started running her lips down the column of my throat. I exited the front door and walked to the spot I’d parked my bike, hidden in shadow, yet in full view of the bar beyond the glass window. She started sucking on my neck, and I lost what little control I had.
Chapter 8 If you think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, then you’ve clearly not been using her right. -Life Lesson Cleo “Let’s go,” I growled against her hair. When she didn’t let go, I fisted her hair and pulled her off me. The suction of her mouth on my neck let go with a sucking pop, and she panted. Her eyes were hooded with desire, and I was lost. “If we don’t go now, we’ll do something in front of this bar window that’s going to be witnessed by no less than fifteen cops,” I gasped. She smiled, her lips tilting in a sensuous smile. “Go fast.” Her order set fire to my blood, and I started the bike up with a roar. She hopped on excitedly behind me, wrapping herself around my torso, and getting so close I didn’t know where I ended and she began. On the ride to my house, she caressed my abs, the outside of my thighs, never quite straying across that line, but toeing it with the best of them. I’d just pulled into my driveway when her hand found its way underneath my shirt, running the pad of her thumb across my left nipple. I pulled up to the house, shut off the bike, and started walking towards the door before she was even aware I was gone. She didn’t take long to get off the bike, and by the time she did, I already had my front door unlocked, the lights on, and my shirt off. She followed suit, ripping her shirt off her body, taking the bra with it. Her beautiful tits popped free, bouncing with her exuberance, and I stared. My mouth watered as I ripped my belt open, popped the buttons on my jeans, and bent down to unlace my boots. All the while, I kept my eyes on hers; hers locked with mine, and we watched the other as we stripped down to our skin. Her body was fuller than it used to be, but no less beautiful. There was more of her to hold on to now, and my dick seemed to like it. Her nipples beaded under my scrutiny, and we started towards each other at the same time. She leapt into my arms once I was close enough to her. I wrapped one arm around her back, and the other around her thigh. The tips of my fingers grazed her pussy, and she moaned as she slammed her mouth down on mine.
This kiss was nothing like it was in the bar. This one was all desperation. Hands, arms, fingers, tongue, hair pulling. This was the type of sex that was so long overdue that neither one of us had any control. My fingers went further into her wet heat, slipping past the lips of her sex, plunging deep into her core. She arched, inadvertently placing her tit at mouth level, and I devoured it as if it was my last meal. “Fuck,” she hissed, her hands going into my hair and yanking me closer. “Goddamn, you taste...” I groaned sucking her nipple into my mouth, sucking on it so hard it elicited a gasp from her, followed by a flood of wetness from her pussy. “Like what?” She panted. I let her nipple go and grinned widely. “Like mine.” She laughed, throwing her head back in glee. “Keep dreaming, pretty boy.” “Pretty boy?” I asked as I started walking towards my room. Her hands started working beneath us, and I froze as she lined the tip of my engorged dick up with her pussy. “Fuck me already,” she demanded. “Your wish,” I said, pinning her to the wall beside the entrance to my bedroom, and then thrusting forward. “Is my command.” She gasped. “Yes.” She felt like a dream. Her wet heat surrounded my cock like a tight, wet fist. It was pulsing at my invasion, trying valiantly to adjust, but I didn’t let her. I took her roughly against the wall, thrusting in and out of her tight heat with a single-minded focus. “You feel so good,” I said, looking down at my cock as it disappeared into her pussy, then reappeared glistening with her juices. She leaned forward, obstructing my line of sight, and bit me on the shoulder, sinking her sharp teeth into my skin hard enough that I jerked hard inside of her. “Goddammit,” I snarled. “You’ll be sore if you keep it up.” She smiled at me, and then leaned forward, running her wet tongue up my neck until she came to a stop at my earlobe. Then she bit down. Hard. I snarled, withdrew my cock from her, and then twisted her around until she was facing the wall.
I pinned her there with my body, grabbed the base of my cock and thrusting back inside her, hitting the end of her and causing her to squeak. “Too much?” I asked against her neck, fisting her hair and pulling her head sideways. The muscles of her neck strained as she shook her head. “No, it was perfect. Exactly what I want right now.” Leaning forward until my elbow was braced above her head, I thrust my hips forward, fucking her hard into the unforgiving wall. My dick slipped in and out of her easily, her wetness easing the way. The cradle of my hips met her ass with a slapping sound, only adding to the erotic effect of our fucking. “I need your finger. I’m so close,” she whispered. I smiled against her neck, letting my hand that was still fisted in her hair slip down until I found the swollen nub. I went past her clit to where my cock was stretching her pussy, gathering some wetness and bringing it back up so I could rub the bundle of nerves unhindered. She groaned, clinching down on my cock like a steel clamp just before she came, screaming. “Mikhail! Yes,” she exclaimed. “Oh, God.” I buried my nose into the crook of her neck, pulling my dick out of her wet heat, reluctantly, before I turned her around and urged her to her knees. She went willingly, leaning forward with a voraciousness that surprised me. She swallowed my dick, taking it so deep that I could feel the tip of it touching the back of her throat. She used her hand at the base, squeezing and working my cock in tandem with her mouth. When her hot little hand cupped my balls and squeezed lightly, I could feel my come boiling just before, what felt like lightening, shot down my spine. Arching and closing my eyes, I grabbed ahold of her hair again as I started fucking her mouth harder. She groaned, making my cock tingle just before my come shot out of my cock and bathed the back of her throat with my release. She worked the final dregs of my release, sucking and pulling on my dick, until finally I had no more to give. She let the tip of my cock slip from her mouth before leaning forward and giving the top of my pubic bone a kiss, before standing. “You’re a-fucking-mazing,” I said, kissing her on the neck. She giggled. “I could say the same thing about you.” Gathering her back into my arms, I lifted her around the waist, and she curled her legs around my hips. My softening cock started to fill again, and I walked into the bedroom, laid her down gently onto the
sheets, and followed her down. We touched again from crotch to thigh. “You ready for round two?” I asked as I descended down her stomach, kissing her belly, the outside of her thighs, and finally down to her sex. “Never more, it’s been so long.” I looked up and smiled. “Same goes.” Then I returned the favor. Multiple times.
Chapter 9 Forget breakfast in bed. Being fucked awake beats pancakes any day. -Rule’s to live by Rue I opened my eyes to the bright sun shining into the non-curtained windows. The room was unfamiliar, but I knew exactly where I was at. Cleo’s. I looked down at my body. I was twined with the hunter green sheets of his bed. The bottom corner of the fitted sheet was around my right foot, and the comforter that’d been covering it when we’d first arrived last night, was in a bundled up wad on the floor. The sight made me laugh. Immediately, the sound of footsteps came up the hallway, emitting the tall handsome man that had rocked my world last night...no less than ten times. I was so drained, but I’d never felt better. “You wanna go run with me?” He asked as he watched me stretch lazily on the bed. He was wearing black nylon running shorts and a pair of athletic shoes. He looked fantastic. All tanned, rippled flesh stretched tight over a set of abs that could easily be counted as a six pack. His shorts hung low on his hips allowing the V leading down to his crotch to be fully exposed. I shifted restlessly in the bed, rubbing my thighs together unconsciously. The sheet slipped down until my nipple popped free, and he zeroed in on it. “I don’t have any clothes,” I said. Really, I didn’t want to go run. I felt too relaxed. We used to run all the time together. I’d do my best to keep up with him, and he’d run about five times slower than he’d normally go to keep me in his sight. I hadn’t ran in nearly three weeks, and then three weeks before that. “My sister left some clothes here,” he said. I could hear the excitement in his voice. He really wanted me to go, and I knew he enjoyed it when I used to run with him. “Which sister?” I asked worriedly.
“Molly,” he answered immediately before leaving the room and coming back a few minutes later with a pair of black lycra shorts and a racer back tank. “Will it cover my vagina?” I asked suspiciously. He laughed and tossed them at me. “Try it on and find out,” he taunted. “I don’t have any panties,” I tried again. He went to his closet, pulled out an army green sack, and dug down to the very bottom, his whole arm disappearing inside. His hand reappeared again, clutching something black lace. I looked at them suspiciously. “Are those my panties?” I’d been missing that particular pair for nearly a year now. “Yep,” he agreed before tossing them to me. I caught them with a clench of my fist and held them up for inspection. “They smell clean. They’re washed...right?” I asked. He nodded. “I washed them when I put them away. They got some sand in them,” he explained. “Sand?” I asked, confused. He nodded. “They went across the world with me. They were in my pocket for nearly a year.” My mouth dropped open. “What?” It came out sounding quite shrill, but what the fuck? He cracked a smile. “Gave me good luck.” I rolled my eyes and stood from the bed, disentangling my feet from the sheet as I walked to the bathroom with the pile of clothes. “I’ll need my bra,” I informed him as I walked into the bathroom. Finishing my business and using my finger to brush my teeth, I inspected his bathroom in awe. The whole thing was white. White walls. White ceiling. White floor. White frosted glass covering a walk in shower. It looked awesome; similar to my kitchen, as a matter of fact…only ten times better. “Here,” Cleo rumbled from behind me. I bent down in front of him, giving him a good show as I slipped my feet into the thong, followed shortly by the shorts. I was right. They barely covered my cooch. “This is a bad idea,” I said as I turned and held out my hand for the bra dangling from his fingers. Instead of handing it to me, he walked behind me, looped the bra around my belly, and hooked it in the back.
The thin nylon of his shorts was doing a piss poor job at keeping his dick confined, but I wasn’t complaining. My bra was one of those supportive, sports bra ones. Last night was supposed to have been just a quick drink with friends. If I’d known I was going to get fucked, thoroughly, I would’ve worn my good lingerie. Once the bra was clipped, he raised it up until it was resting underneath my breasts. He accidentally grazed my nipples with his hands as he pulled the cups up over my boobs, and I barely stifled a groan. Must stop thinking about Cleo’s dick. I scolded myself. I slipped my hands into the loops, and then rearranged my breasts for comfort instead of sex appeal. “Shame,” he said as he stepped away. Leaning towards the sink, I grabbed the tank off the counter, slipped it over my head, and grimaced at how tight it was. “Jesus,” I said as I inspected myself in the mirror. I looked like an Oompa Loompa. “What?” He asked as his eyes centered on my fat ass. “I look like a whale,” I said. He looked up and caught my eyes before prowling forward and bringing my body back against his with a hand at my belly. His rock hard cock dug into the small of my back and I froze. “You’re not a whale. You look so fucking sexy that I’m contemplating my morning run, substituting it with fucking your ass into the floor.” “Sounds painful,” I rasped. He grinned, his dark eyes lowering until all I could see was the slit of his iris under the dark slash of his lashes. “It could be. But it’d also feel fucking awesome at the same time,” he admonished. I snorted. “Let’s go. All your dirty talking is making me need a shower.” He grinned and then grabbed my hand. “Sir, yes, sir.” I smacked his ass, urging him forward. “Any day now, soldier.” “I’m a PJ, darlin’. Not a soldier,” he informed me haughtily. I snorted. Touchy, touchy. We walked out into the cool morning air, down the front walk, and to the street where we both stretched.
I’ll admit I put a little extra bend in my stretch, making sure he could see how flexible I was, just to give his mind a little tease on what was to come. “You ready?” I asked after he stopped stretching and just stared. He blinked and then nodded. “10-4.” The run started out slow, but quickly picked up pace as I tried my damndest to keep up with him. The only thing that kept me going so long was watching the play of his muscles as he took one long stride after another. Today he’d get about a hundred yards in front of me, and then turn back around until he reached me. Immediately followed by him turning back around and repeating the process. He’d probably gotten about twice the run in than I did, but the view was amazing. After what felt like nearly three miles, but was probably more like one, I finally raised the proverbial white flag. “I gotta stop,” I wheezed, waving my hand in the air once he was back. He stopped immediately and came back to me, his hands on his hips and his beautiful chest moving slightly faster than normal. His face was dripping sweat, mingling with that on his chest, and running down the ridged muscles of his abs to disappear in the waistband of his boxers. “You did pretty good. Got a mile out of you at least,” he grinned. As he got closer, I could see each individual rivulet of sweat roll. I’d never been a fan of sweat. It was bad enough when I did it, but just then, with Cleo all sweaty and sexy as if he’d just had sex for hours, I was turned on beyond belief. “I tried,” I managed to get out. “You did good. Proud of you,” he said as he took my hand and started walking back to his house. Now that I wasn’t dying of hypoxia, I started to take in the road we’d been running on. “This is a nice area. When did you move in here?” I asked. He smiled fondly. “I bought it a couple of years ago. I didn’t move in here until last month. A couple of the MC members helped me out by replacing the floors and the roof, making it livable.” “What I saw of it was really great. More than livable,” I supplied. He grabbed my hand suddenly and veered off the road, taking a path that led into the woods. “I’ve been fixing stuff here and there since I’ve been home. I just finished my bedroom two weeks ago. The bathroom a week before that. The kitchen, on the other hand, leaves much to be desired,” he spoke as we walked, leading me along a winding path through a deep thicket of woods. “Wow,” I said. “Where are you taking me?” “I own all this property on this side of the road. A little over sixty acres. I used most of my mom’s life insurance money to buy it. Now I’m using the rest of what she left me to fix it up,” he said just as the path
we were on started jutting downward. He held out his hand, and I took it gratefully as I maneuvered my tired legs over the uneven ground. “Is there some water around here somewhere?” I asked, as I smelled the distinct scent of algae and plant life. “Yep. My property runs along Twelve Mile Bayou. I share my backyard with a couple hundred gators,” he teased. I looked at him crossly. “You know how I feel about them.” He grinned unrepentantly. “Yeah, I do.” I hated alligators. They were ugly, vile creatures. They were also the reason I’d lost my childhood dog, Cinderella. I’d seen the whole debacle and had formed a lifelong commitment to hating anything and everything that had to do with alligators. “It’s a good thing I’m in Shreveport then. There’s no way I could live out here. You’d have to put up a fence or something to keep them from coming into the yard. Then you’d be out a bunch of money,” I said as we finally made it close enough for me to see the water. He turned to me, looking at me oddly. However, he didn’t say anything, just continued to scan my face for something. “What?” I asked. “I’d build you a fence,” he said suddenly. My heart started to pound. “Cleo,” I started, but he interrupted me. “No. Don’t do this yet. Just let me have today before we ruin the day. Please?” Cleo asked. I nodded reluctantly. “Okay.” We walked along the edge in silence, looking at the water, and listening to the occasional fish splash. I studiously ignored the slides that indicated that the belly of an alligator had previously occupied the spot that we were currently passing. I also ignored the fact that we were perilously close to the water. I knew that was why Cleo was the closest. Whatever happened would have to go through him first. We walked for a good twenty minutes before we arrived back at his house. The outside was stunning. “Your house is on stilts,” I said in surprise. He nodded. “Yeah, the lands flood occasionally. Stilts are needed during the rainy season.” “What would happen to your bike and your truck if it started flooding?” I wondered. He shrugged. “I’d move them to the top of the road. Like I said, all the land is mine. It’s never flooded
that far before.” I grimaced. “That’s actually quite scary to think about you trapped down here.” He gave me a perturbed look. “Honey, I’d never be stranded. I have every resource I’d ever need inside my head. Not to mention that I have a boat at the dock and a cell phone if I needed to make a call. It’d never happen.” I stuck my tongue out at him. “It could happen.” He rolled his eyes. “Maybe to some imbecile who doesn’t know his ass from his nose. Never to me.” “You’d just better pray it never happens while I’m here. You’d be carrying me the entire way. That black, murky water scares the shit out of me.” He snorted and started walking up the stairs that led to his back porch. I watched his ass as we went. The perfectly round, muscled globes taunting me. I hadn’t meant to, but my finger extended, and I ran it down the crack of his ass. He froze. “Watch it.” It took me a few seconds to realize he wasn’t talking about me ‘watching his ass,’ but instead about me touching him in the first place. “Why?” I asked once he started walking again. “Because after that little show you gave me in the bathroom, I want nothing more than to bend you over and fuck you so hard you feel me in your throat,” he growled, spinning around, his gaze spearing me in place. He watched as my hand clenched tightly on the wooden railing. Watched my breasts heave. And none of it was because of exertion. No, this was because of pure, sexual desire. “That wasn’t meant to get your dick hard,” I lied. He stared at me for a few long seconds before answering. “You’re playing with fire.” I laughed. “As if that could scare me.” Before I could get the last word out, Cleo lunged forward, encircling my waist with his large arm and pulling me flush up to his body. “It should,” he said ominously just before leaning forward and sucking the top fleshy part of my breast into his mouth. I groaned, pushing closer to him as Cleo back stepped up the stairs. With no other choice, I followed him. He pulled hard, and I could practically feel the blood rushing to my skin, purpling in a bruise that was in the shape of his sexy, sinful mouth.
“You,” I said breathily. “We…fuck.” He’d pulled the top down exposing my nipple to his hungry mouth, followed shortly by sucking it roughly into his mouth. He fed on my nipple, taking long, rough pulls. Then he alternated by running the tip of his tongue around the turgid peak while holding it in place with his teeth. “Damn,” I groaned when we finally reached the top step, allowing me to lean into his embrace fully, followed shortly by my hand disappearing into the elastic of his pants. His cock was rock hard as my fist finally found its destination. He spread his legs wider, allowing the room I so desperately wanted. His balls were loose and hanging a lot lower between his legs than they’d been last night, and I was fascinated by the feel of them. “You’re killing me,” he said just before switching to my other breast. I smiled down at his head, and then closed my eyes as he took a particularly strong pull on my nipple. “God,” I groaned as his large hand slipped underneath the elastic of my own pants, and zeroed in on my throbbing clit. His back hit the side of the house, and he groped blindly for the screen door’s handle, never once losing his grip on my clit or my breast. He swung quickly, flinging the screen door open so hard that it slapped against the house with a thud. He didn’t wait for it to close, though. One second I was in front of him massaging his balls, and the next I was inside the door, on my knees. With a harsh yank, he pulled my tight shorts down my legs exposing my ass. With no time wasted, he lined his hard cock up with my entrance, and thrust inside. This sex was different than it was last night. Harder. Rougher. Stronger. With more emotion. My eyes closed as he started thrusting his hips forward, ramming into me so hard that I had to fall down to my elbows to keep myself from face planting into his pretty wood floors. My core started tightening on his cock, going higher and higher until I started to explode around him. Impossibly, his speed increased, and his balls started slapping against my clit, giving me that little push that I needed to rocket into my orgasm. I would’ve screamed, but my breath left me in the first wave. My pussy clamped down hard on his cock, milking him like a serpent. He groaned and grasped the fleshy part of my ass as he thrust once, twice, and three more times, finally releasing inside of me. “Jesus,” he panted and pulled out, bringing me into his side as he rolled.
“You know,” I panted back as I looked at the ceiling. “This place kind of reminds me of a church.”
*** Cleo “That’s because it was one,” a snotty voice said from the other side of the screen door. I stood so fast that I got light headed. Rue’s legs snapped together so fast and hard that it sounded like a gunshot echoing around the room. “Jesus Christ, Molly. Don’t you knock...or call?” I growled as I yanked my shorts up over my dick. Molly’s eyes were pointed at the tin roof as she surveyed anything that wasn’t my body. “I tried calling. You didn’t answer. I also tried knocking on the front door, and you didn’t answer that either. This was my third option,” Molly snapped. Moving my foot, I grabbed Rue’s shirt with my toes and flicked them at her. She caught it gratefully and roughly yanked the shirt over her body inside out and backwards. Her shorts were already up, and she looked like she was contemplating running away. “Stay,” I snapped. She lowered her eyebrows and I could just see the words that were on the tip of her tongue. “She can leave,” Molly said disdainfully. I turned to my sister and glared at her. She was staring at Rue with such hatred that I wanted to beat her ass. “She’s staying. You’re leaving,” I volleyed back. Molly and Rue’s mouths dropped open in surprise, but I was over Molly’s attitude. I’d put up with her shit pertaining to Rue for a long time now. She’d say that Rue wasn’t good enough for me. I’d say that Molly didn’t know her like I did. My other two sisters had kept neutral on the topic, but Molly was the baby of the family, and therefore thought she was superior. Well she wasn’t. And she no longer came before Rue. Rue came before Molly; I’d put her last for too long now. She was my first place from now on. “But I have something wrong with my car and I want you to look at it,” Molly whined. I sighed. Molly was twenty-four years old. She was old enough to take care of herself, yet when the slightest thing went wrong, she went to her
family first instead of trying to fix it herself. “I’ve told you before I’m not a mechanic. You’ll have to take it in to Torren like the rest of us do,” I told her. Torren was a member of The Dixie Wardens, a firefighter, and a mechanic in his spare time. He’d fixed everyone’s car problems that had come up since he’d joined the MC a little over five years ago. In fact, the business he’d built on the side had become so lucrative that he was now making more doing that than at his regular job. “Torren hates me,” Molly whined. “I wonder why,” Rue muttered. She’d said it quietly, but both Molly and I had heard it. “Fuck you. What are you even doing here? You and your voodoo pussy making my brother think with his dick instead of his goddamned head,” Molly snapped. Rue blinked. Then blinked again. “What?” Her voice cracked like a whip. Molly flinched at the venom in Rue’s tone, and I stood still, wondering what she’d say next. To be honest, I wanted to know if Rue planned on fighting for me, or if she’d just give up. If she could stand up to Molly, then she could stand up to anything. “You heard me, Voodoo,” Molly snarled. “First of all, my pussy doesn’t have any voodoo in it. Second of all, you’re a whore. How you can talk about me having a voodoo pussy when you’re the one who likes to have sex with anyone and everyone? You wonder why Torren doesn’t like you? It’s because you’re a cock tease,” Rue snapped. I was the one to blink now. Cock tease? I looked over at my sister to see her blushing profusely. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she stammered. Rue smiled sardonically. “Of course you don’t. Why don’t you pull your head out and realize what you have before it’s too late.” I had a feeling that she wasn’t just talking about Molly anymore.
*** “I’m sorry,” I said as I walked back up the porch steps after walking Molly to her car. Rue shrugged. “I’d like you to take me home, please.” I nodded. “Okay, just let me get my clothes.” “Thanks,” she muttered, then walked out my door and went to stand next to my bike. I watched her go, observing the sway of her ass as she walked away. Shaking my head, I walked to my bedroom, grabbed a t-shirt out of the drawer, and walked back outside, nearly missing the black thong panties that were laid across my pillows. Nearly. She was willing to fight for me. That was good enough for now.
Chapter 10 If one is not meant to have a midnight snack...then why is there a light in the fridge? -One of life’s unanswered questions Rue “You little pecker head,” I gasped as I backed up out of the room. “I need security!” Cody came meandering down the hall, and I do mean meandering. No concern in his step whatsoever. “Why?” Cody asked as he peeked around the curtain and then widened his eyes at what he saw. “What the fuck?” “What’s going on?” Mona, Cody’s mother, and the charge nurse, asked. We both stood aside to let her see. “Oh, my.” Oh my, was right. The psych patient in room 13 was truly in need of a psych consult. Stat. “Go on, Cody. Go be a man,” I urged him with a nudge of my elbow. Cody shook his head. “No, thank you.” Mona looked on with a flabbergasted expression on her face. “How’d he get those paddles? And where’d he get those needles?” “Fuc-uh, heck if I know,” I said thoughtfully. “The real question is, what do you think is in them?” Cody wondered. I concurred. One could hope it was only tap water, but there was really no telling. He’d been smart so far. No one had even known he’d had the weapons until I’d entered the room moments ago. “Code White, Room 13,” a disembodied voice said over the loud speaker. “Repeat, Code White.” Code white was the code that was called when a combative person or assailant was a current threat to staff or other personnel. That was the code used to get security there, stat. It normally would’ve worked, too, if the patient hadn’t chosen that point to line the needle up with his neck, stab it in his throat, and depress the plunger. I hadn’t meant to start moving. Somehow I’d done it, though. I was right beside him, slapping the other needle out of his hand and dropping down to the floor to duck his fist all in about three seconds. He used that moment to kick my side, throwing my off balance and slamming me hard against the wall. I covered my head with my hands, knowing that he was about to hit me again, or worse, put about 3000 volts into me.
Then he was there. I saw him move out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head just in time to see the patient who’d been holding his hands out towards me to go flying sideways with the full force of Cleo’s body hitting him like a linebacker. Cleo. “What the fuck?” The patient cried. Cleo stood, placing his foot down in the middle of the patient’s chest. “Stay.” That one word had enough bite and force behind it to make anybody stay. Man, woman or child. I’d never been happier to see him in my life. Cleo had just dropped off a patient that had a massive heart attack while riding four wheelers with his friends. I’d seen him at the counter giving his report to the nurse who was taking over the patient’s care, but I hadn’t said hi to him because I’d thought I’d be right back. Turns out, I was wrong. Cleo’s livid eyes turned from the patient who was now cowering on the floor, to me and he gave me one of the most venomous glares that I’d ever been the recipient of in my life. I would’ve shriveled back if the wall hadn’t held me in place. Then he blinked, and the aggression was gone from his eyes. It’d morphed into concern the minute I’d flinched from him. “Are you okay?” He asked. I nodded, but the commotion of security stole my reply. “What happened?” Craig, the oldest security guard in the entire place, asked. No wonder it’d taken so long. The man was a nice person and all, but he had no business being here. He was nearly eighty, and he moved about as slow as a two-toed sloth. Possibly even slower. And asking that man to take you out to your car at night was just a suicide mission because I was fairly sure he shouldn’t be retaining a driver’s license. “This man just tried to kill one of your nursing staff,” Cleo snapped. He looked so damn good in his flight suit. Not to mention the amount of authority that rolled off of him when he spoke. “Where is the sitter that was supposed to be in here?” Cody asked from the doorway. We all looked around, spotting the vacant chair that was now toppled over by the door.
Then a small voice from behind me said, “Here.” I turned to survey the counter behind me and came to a stand slowly. Then I reached forward and opened the cabinet to find the sitter, Audrey, stuffed inside. “What are you doing in there?” I asked. She blinked. “He stuffed me in here. I thought it was prudent to stay.” She crawled out slowly and came to her full height, all 4’11 of her, and glared at the patient on the floor. My height of 5’8 looked mammoth standing next to her small frame. “Uhh,” Mona said smartly. “How about we get you both checked out just in case.” “I’m fine,” we both said at the same time. We shared a giggle, which was quickly cut short with Mona’s next statement. “Actually, you’re bleeding, Rue. And Audrey, you have a pretty nifty bruise on your cheek. Let’s go,” Mona declared. I looked down at my hand to see blood running down it in rivulets. Huh, look at that. I thought. We both went reluctantly, and I avoided Cleo’s eyes as I walked out of room 13 and into room 14 where I repeated the story of what had happened no less than fifteen times. “Your man...he’s scary...and hot,” Audrey said. Audrey was twenty and in school to be a nurse. She was a cute, spunky little thing that was really fun to be around. She made me want to be young again. Not that twenty-eight wasn’t young, but it wasn’t twenty, either. “Yeah, he’s pretty darn hot. But he’s not mine,” I tried. She gave me a look that told me I was dumb if I believed what I’d just said. Honestly, I didn’t know what Cleo and I were. He’d dropped me off at home three days ago, and today was the first time I’d seen or heard from him. Granted, I hadn’t given him my number, but it hadn’t changed from a year ago, either. He also knew where I lived, and where I worked. “Whatever you say,” she agreed, albeit reluctantly. The cut on my arm only turned out to be a minor scrape. My best guess was that I’d hit it on the hardware that held the cabinet doors on, but that was the least of my worries. The main one was now glaring at me from the doorway. “What?” I asked. His eyes flicked from me to Audrey, and then back to me.
“I have to go back to work. I’m flying today,” he said. “What?” I asked in surprise. I hadn’t known he was able to do that. He nodded. “Mack’s out with strep throat,” he looked at me pointedly. I looked up at the ceiling. “Shit.” But I mean, really, it wasn’t my fault...was it? “They don’t have anybody else that can fly?” I asked in surprise. He shook his head. “No. Actually, ten people are out right now with various illnesses. I’ve been working for three days straight.” The wind in my sails died an agonizing death. I was such a selfish little girl sometimes. “Be careful, okay?” I asked. He walked towards me, dropping his head to kiss me on the lips. His lips tasted like Chapstick, and I wanted to lick them. Nonetheless, I squelched the urge, barely, and kissed him back the only way that was suitable for a work setting. Chaste. “I will,” he said before walking out the door. “Not yours my ass,” Audrey coughed into her hand. I gave her a quelling look. “Suck it.”
Chapter 11 Is horny an emotion? -Secret thoughts of Rue Loden Rue Four more days passed before I saw him again. However, this time it was because he was eating out. With a girl. And I was pissed. Have you ever heard the term, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Well, I was about to show the entire restaurant just how truthful that statement was. “What are you doing?” Cody hissed as I stopped walking in the direction of where our group from work was, and started walking in the direction of Cleo. My eyes were glued on the young woman he had his arm around. From the back, I couldn’t tell who she was, but it didn’t matter. Whomever it was, shouldn’t be sitting so close to someone that’s taken. Or someone that says he wants me back, that is. I was nearly right up on her when I realized that the person Cleo had his arm around was his sister. Immediately realizing I overreacted, I turned, disregarding the surprised faces of the men in the booth facing me. One of them was Detective Rector, and the smile on his face let me know that he knew what I’d nearly done. Well I hadn’t, which was why I turned and stuck my tongue out at him like a three year old, causing him to laugh his ass off, and the pretty brunette from the other day to look at him as if he was crazy. “That was quick,” Cody said as I made it to the table. “Did you kick any ass in those two minutes?” I sat down hard. “No. It was his sister. She ruins everything.” Cody snorted into his drink. I glared at him and reached forward for the Long Island Iced Tea he ordered me, sucking hard and fast on the tastiest thing I’d had in well over twelve hours. “Ahh,” I sighed. “That’s good.” “Whoa,” Cody said. “Slow down there, sister. Drunk is not sexy.” I flipped him off. Who cared if I was drunk? It’d been nearly a week and a half since I’d seen Cleo outside of work, and there he was fucking hanging out with his sister instead of me. Now that sounded selfish...but still. The man hadn’t even texted. “Out of all the freaking places, how do we keep up ending up in the same damn bars? This isn’t even
the one they own,” I grumbled just before taking another deep sip of my tea. Cody leaned back into his chair. “This is the cop hangout in Shreveport. And it’s the closest bar to the hospital. It always attracts a lot of people.” “Harrumph,” I sighed as I leaned back in the chair. “I wanted to come here and drink and forget about him for a couple of hours. Not come here and see him out when he hasn’t had the decency to call me.” “Would you like some wine with that cheese?” Cody asked sweetly. I blinked. “Don’t you mean would you like some cheese with that whine?” He shook his head no. “No, I mean the cheese dip is here. Do you want wine?” “Oh,” I said with a blush staining my cheeks. “Yes, I would, thanks.” Wine was the answer. No matter what the question was. I reached down for my phone to see if maybe I’d just missed a call from Cleo when I realized that I didn’t even have my phone at all. Shit. Had I left it at work? I thought about it for a few seconds while Cody spoke with the server and then came to a conclusion that I’d left it in my nursing bag. It’d been raining when I left the hospital, and I’d dropped it in my bag when I’d reached for the small umbrella I kept for the occasions that it was needed. “Hey,” I said standing up. “I’ll be right back. I left my phone in the car.” Cody nodded. “Do you want me to order for you?” I nodded. “Yes, please.” Cody knew what I liked. Just as I knew what he liked. I hurried out of the room, trying my hardest not to stare at the table in the corner, but failing miserably. He was still sitting next to his sister, his arm slung around her shoulders as they both spoke to Detective Rector and Torren. Torren’s best feature was his hair. It was the color of black licorice, and there was just something about the way he always had it spiked up, whether he tried to make it that way or not, that I found so sexy. He was cute, too. Dark gray black eyes, an angular chin, dark stubbled jaw, and the cutest cleft chin that I’d ever seen. His eyes were on Molly as if she were a mug of beer in the middle of a frat party. In fact, if I had to make an educated guess, I’d bet that Torren was just as in love with Molly now as he was a couple of years ago. If she wasn’t careful, she’d lose him before she even got him. Which, I thought, she had a very good chance of doing.
The air was cool once I hit the outside air, and it was extra dark due to the storm still ravaging the night sky. Opening my flimsy umbrella, I made my way to my car cursing myself for not bringing my good umbrella that spanned about four feet. “Hey, you got a light?” A man said from his car as I passed. I shook my head. “Nope. Sorry.” A fat droplet of rain hit me in the face just as I reached the car, and I opened the door without looking, dropping down into the opening. I lost the grasp I had on the umbrella as the wind gusted particularly hard, and I slammed my car door shut. “I should just go home,” I grumbled as I watched my pretty pink umbrella tumble down the parking lot. Sighing, I reached for my bag, digging down to the very bottom. “There you are, you slippery little bastard,” I murmured. Clicking the center button, my phone lit up. Four missed calls. “Oops,” I said as I opened the phone app. It wasn’t who I’d thought it was, though. It was Audrey telling me she was running a few minutes late. Clicking Audrey’s name, I listened to the phone as it rang and rang, finally being picked up by her voicemail. “Hey, it’s me. I was just returning your call. I’m not going to be at the bar. I think I’m just going to go home.” My next call was to Cody. “Hello?” He answered on the fourth ring. “Hey,” I hesitated. “I might have accidentally lost my umbrella...and I’m wearing white scrubs, so there’s no way I’m coming back in there.” “It’s okay,” he laughed. “Dooley walked in right after you left. It works out. Be careful driving home. Text me when you get there so I know you’re safe.” I felt warmed by his concern. It’d been just me taking care of the world so long that it felt nice to be cared after. “Okay, thanks Cody. I’ll see you in two days,” I said just before hanging up. Starting my car, I pulled through the parking space and straight into the street. My drive home was luckily short, but I knew as soon as I got out of the car that I’d be soaked. I stuffed my phone down deep into my bag, followed by my jacket before I zipped it up, perused the distance to my door, opened the car door, and flung myself out. I slammed the door shut behind me, but the sound was lost in the howl of the wind.
I started running up the stairs two at a time, and finally came to a stop under my awning, soaked through and through. “Fuck me in the ass,” I groaned as I missed the lock twice, before finally sliding it all the way in. I turned it quickly, and had just turned the front light on when my pager went off in the bottom of the bag. My state pager. The one that told me when I had a case. I slapped my hand against my forehead. Dropping my things down on the couch, I dried off my arm with the afghan laying over the back of the couch before I dug for my phone and called into work. “Christus Health, this is Erma,” a voice answered cheerfully “Hi, this is Rue Loden. I was just paged for a sexual assault. May I speak to the supervisor please?” I asked Erma. Erma was one of the ER’s newest nurses, and hadn’t yet gotten that jadedness that most of the nurses got once they’d worked in the ER environment for a long time. “Sure,” Erma said sadly. “I’ll get her now.” It took less than two minutes before Mona was on the line. “This is Mona speaking.” “Hi, Mona. This is Rue. I was paged,” I went straight to the point. “Yes, dear. I have a case for you. I know you’re not on call, but...I need you. I don’t trust anybody else for this,” Mona said softly. I stopped for a heartbeat, waiting for her to explain, but she never did. “Mona...what’s going on?” “Just...get here. The sooner the better,” she replied quietly. I blinked. “I had a drink a little over thirty minutes ago. Only one though. I’ll need some coffee and some water. Maybe about thirty minutes for my head to be on straight again,” I explained. “You got it. She only wants you,” Mona said before hanging up. I blinked rapidly. She only wanted me?
*** “Tell me what’s going on,” I demanded. Mona sat down at the table with me and handed me a cup of coffee that was so strong I’d probably see hair on my chest in the morning. Then all my joking took a flying leap out a fifteen story window when I heard what she had to say next. “Audrey was sexually assaulted on the way to her car today. She’s okay, physically, other than the obvious, and she only wants you,” Mona said softly. I closed my eyes, trying in vain to shut out the infuriated scream that threatened to burst free of my lips. “Rue, sweetheart. I know it’s rough. Believe me, I do. But you need to drink your coffee and get it together. Now,” Mona said authoritatively. I opened my eyes, cleared my mind, and stood. The coffee came with me as I walked into the hall. “Which room?” They had two designated rooms that we normally used for these types of cases. Collecting evidence on rape victims could take upwards to six hours, and they wanted the room to be private and as comfortable as could be. “She’s in the blue room,” Mona said quietly. I nodded. The blue room was good. It was the furthest away from the main ER as it could be without actually being off the floor. “Are the things I need already in the room?” I asked. Mona nodded. “I put them in there myself. Let me know if you need me, okay?” I nodded. “Absolutely.” I walked into the room not knowing what to expect, but the defeated, beaten woman in no way, shape, or form resembled the Audrey I knew. “Audrey?” I asked. The beaten woman looked up, and I met Audrey’s beautiful green eyes. They were on fire. Rage. Turmoil. Helplessness. Sadness. Disgust. Those were only a few of the emotions playing in her eyes, and I knew that she’d fight. She’d never give up. Not our Audrey. “Hey, sweet girl. Are you ready?” I asked softly. I gave her room, knowing that was one of the things that assault victims had trouble with: invasion of
their territory. She nodded and croaked, “I’m ready.” I closed the door softly behind me, locked it, and moved closer to her at an extremely slow pace. “You just tell me if I do anything you don’t want me to. I’ll try my best to explain each and everything that I’m doing, and if at any point you get uncomfortable, just let me know, okay?” I told her. Her eyes never left mine. “Yes.” “Okay, sweet girl. Let’s get started. What I want you to do is leave your clothes on. I’m going to start on the outside and work my way inside, okay?” I asked. She nodded but didn’t say anything. Part of a SANE nurse’s job was to collect evidence, collect the statement, and document the injuries that he or she observes. SANE exam protocols were set in place for the safety and comfort of the patient. We didn’t want to make them any more nervous than they already were. The rule was that there was only one person collecting the evidence and doing the invasive procedures, which made it more tolerable for the patient. The only good thing that came out of this was that Audrey knew me. She trusted me. She cared for me. Otherwise, I’d have spent a lot longer trying to calm her down. I was doing well, too, until I got to the point where I was uncovering Audrey. The mass of purple bruises on her legs made her flinch from the sight. “I’m going to start taking pictures again, okay?” I asked. I wanted to hug her so badly, but I knew there wasn’t a place for that right now. She needed me to do my job, and that was what I was going to do.
*** Four hours later, I helped Audrey to the shower. “Okay, honey. You’re welcome to shower and wash whatever you want. Do you need any help?” I asked softly. She shook her head. “No ... but will you stay? In that seat right there? Don’t leave me yet, okay?” I nodded. “I’ll stay right here and start on my paperwork, okay?” She nodded gratefully. “Thank you.” I started writing out exactly what I’d found. What evidence I collected. Her statement. Anything and everything I’d collected now had to be documented, time stamped, and handed over to the police. I wouldn’t be doing that, though, until I got Audrey home to her brother. The one whom she’d refused to call, until just a few moments ago, because she didn’t want him to know what exactly had happened to her until after she’d had it all taken care of. Bowing to the patient’s wishes, I’d conceded and did what she’d asked me to do. I’d finished seven pages of paperwork before she finally turned the shower off. “I need a towel,” she sniffled. I stood, placed the paperwork on the table in the room, and got her some towels. “There’re some scrubs here for you to wear. The clothes you had on will now be in evidence,” I explained as I handed over the towels and the scrubs. She took them and closed the door quietly while I gathered up the evidence. I’d just finished packing it all in evidence bags when she exited the bathroom wearing only hospital issued non-slip socks and surgical scrubs two sizes too big. “You ready, Audrey?” I asked. She nodded, but her legs stayed put. I held my hand out to her, the evidence bag and my paper work under my other arm, and she reluctantly took it. Her grip was tight. Almost like if she let go, then her whole world would be gone. “I’m ready,” she confirmed. I opened the door and sent quelling glares to each and every member of the ER staff that’d stopped and stared. They moved quickly, but Audrey still felt the curiosity on her and started to move faster. “Hold on, honey. I have to drop this off with Mona, and then I’ll walk you out, okay?” I asked. She nodded and we walked quickly to Mona’s office. She was sitting there drinking a cup of coffee, staring blankly at the wall.
“Oh, Audrey,” she whispered as she stood and walked slowly to Audrey. Audrey never let my hand go, but she managed a pretty good hug regardless. “I’m not going to be at work tomorrow,” Audrey stammered. Mona placed both of her hands on either side of Audrey’s face. “Take as long as you need, baby. But I still want you to call me. Let me know you’re all right and tell me when you’ll be up for visitors, okay?” She nodded. “Thanks Mona.” Mona smiled sadly and turned to me. “I’ll take that now.” I handed the paperwork over to Mona. “Please make two copies. One for the PD, and one for our records.” Mona nodded. “Detective Rector is outside waiting to take the evidence.” I closed my eyes and opened them again. “Okay.” We left Mona’s office, hand in hand still. We’d just reached the hallway that led to the outside parking lot when the parking lot started to catch my eye. “What are all those bikes...?” “I’m sure that has to do with my brother,” she whispered beside me. I looked over at her and then back to the parking lot again. “What do you mean?” There had to be fifty or so bikes out there. They were everywhere. “My brother is a member of The Dixie Wardens,” she said softly. “He knows something’s wrong. I haven’t spoken to him in nearly a year... but I just needed him. I need him bad.” I looked over at her just as the first tear slipped out of her eye. “Oh, Audrey. I know, honey, I know. Do you want me to talk to him first?” I asked. “Tell him what happened?” She nodded emphatically, crying uncontrollably now. “Please? Would you? Please?” “Okay, which one is your brother?” I asked. She pointed to the man who was the only one out there with an actual truck. “That one. He’s my brother.” “What’s his name?” I asked. She looked at me and smiled her first genuine smile all night. “Tunnel Morrison. He’s one of the best men in the world.” He was also a cop. Holy shit. This was going to be bad. Especially since Cleo was standing next to him, and on the other side was Detective Rector.
Beside Detective Rector, was my other babysitter, Silas. “Okay, honey. Let’s go,” I said as I scrounged up some manifested courage. As soon as we made it to the emergency room doors Audrey’s brother was sprinting towards us. Audrey froze, and then launched herself at her brother, who caught her with ease. “Audrey, what happened?” He asked. I looked over the brother’s shoulder to Detective Rector and nodded him over. Cleo stayed next to Silas, but I could tell he wanted over here with a ferociousness that I definitely didn’t need right now. Detective Rector came to our sides, and I spoke. “Um, Officer Morrison, would you mind coming over here, out of the entrance, so I can discuss a few things with you?” Tunnel’s eyes hit mine, and I felt like a mouse being eyed by a hawk. At first glance, he didn’t seem that imposing, but man oh man, the look in his eyes right now could peel paint off of a brand new car. I gulped. “Please?” He reluctantly let Audrey drop to her feet and guided her into the corner of the building where there were two walls at our back. Then he said one word. “Start.” I looked at Audrey, confirmed that she wanted me to continue, and started to tell him what had happened. “Audrey was sexually assaulted tonight on her way to her car after work,” I started. He froze, his eyes filleting me open with the horror. “Another male nurse that was leaving for the night heard the commotion and walked up on the act taking place. The assailant abandoned her on the asphalt, and was unable to be apprehended. Your sister was penetrated vaginally, and she has superficial defensive wounds on her hands, arms, legs, and knees. The assailant was interrupted during the act, so he wasn’t able to ejaculate. Audrey did tell me the assailant wore a condom. She’s physically fine, other than a few minor scrapes and bruises. However, she has an appointment with a rape counselor tomorrow morning at nine,” I explained to the man softly. Detective Rector listened to my explanation stoically. I’d have thought he was unaffected it if wasn’t for the anger glossing over his eyes. “Audrey,” Tunnel’s voice broke. “Oh, Audrey. I’m so sorry.” Audrey kept her head down. “Tunnel, can I stay with you for a few days?” She whispered brokenly. Tunnel agreed quickly. “Mina and Dee would love to meet you.” I hadn’t any idea who those two were, nor their family situation, but I could tell both of them were pleased. “Take me home, please.”
As they walked towards Tunnel’s truck, I breathed a sigh of relief that she wouldn’t be alone. “The paperwork?” Detective Rector asked. I closed my eyes and leaned my head back against the brick wall. “Faxed to your office,” I answered tiredly. “You okay?” He asked. I opened my eyes and looked at him. “Fucking peachy.” He grinned. “Maybe you’ll fit in after all.”
Chapter 12 They have boobs. -Things men know about women. Rue My eyes felt gritty as I opened them the next morning. They burned with the need for more sleep, but my bladder was extremely persistent, so I got up with the upmost reluctance. My bed felt heavenly. Why was it that I’d tossed and turned for nearly an hour the night before because I couldn’t find a comfortable position, and then this morning it feels like I’m sleeping on the cloud? Everything felt perfect. Rolling out of bed and walking with my eyes closed towards the bathroom, I skipped over the light and did my business in the dark. I used the dispenser of hand sanitizer on the counter and walked slowly back to my bed, rolling into it and snuggling under the comforter. Then my bed shifted as a body rolled towards me, pulling me in close. I laid my head against Cleo’s pec and breathed in his scent, knowing exactly why I’d slept so well, and was reluctant to let myself think about why. “Morning,” he mumbled. “Sleep,” I answered back. “You wanna go for a ride this morning?” He rumbled. His chest vibrated underneath my cheek, and I shook my head no. He chuckled and wrapped both arms around me, folding me into his body like a life-size Cleo cocoon. “I’ll ask you again in an hour,” he laughed slightly. I murmured an “okay,” and fell back to sleep.
*** Rue “Wake up,” the annoying voice asked. I ignored the bothersome voice, refusing to acknowledge it in hopes that it’d leave if I stayed extremely still. Boy was I wrong. Instead of leaving me alone, the annoyance continued to pester me. “Wakey, wakey eggs and bakey,” Cleo’s infuriatingly awake self, crooned into my ear. “No,” I moaned. “Yes,” he said as he removed the covers. I stayed as still as possible, hoping that if I pretended to sleep, he’d leave. I was wrong. “Come on,” Cleo pleaded. “I’ve been working for nearly a week straight. Please. I want to ride.” “I want to sleep,” I whined into my pillow. I was extremely tired, and my bed felt so beautifully perfect. “Eggs?” he asked. “Uh-uh,” I replied. Eggs weren’t good enough. “Bacon and eggs?” He tried. “No,” I said immediately. It’d have to be at least pancakes and bacon before I bothered with moving. “How about Krispy Kreme?” he asked slowly. I raised my head up to see him biting into a fresh, golden glazed donut. “Oh, man.” He grinned, and then licked his lips free of the glaze flakes. “I bought a dozen,” he teased. Pushing up onto my elbows, I lifted my legs until my knees were underneath me and pushed up to kneeling. My hands were planted on either side of my thighs, and I was watching as he shoved the last bite of donut into his mouth. Before he could lick his fingers, I brought them over to my mouth and sucked. “Yum,” I said as I licked the next finger. His eyes flared. “You are such a freakin’ tease.”
I winked and stood from the bed. “Don’t tease me with my favorite things in the world next time then.” “That was the only way I was getting you out of the bed earlier than eleven o’clock.” He laughed as he followed me out to my kitchen. I sat down at the table and opened the box. There were eleven left, and I chose the one in the very middle. The donut was still warm, and I nearly moaned as I brought the delicacy to my mouth and sank my teeth into it. Flavor burst across my taste buds, and my eyes closed unconsciously. “Seriously, you’ve been practicing that, haven’t you?” Cleo accused. I opened my eyes and winked at him. “You’ve only got to bring these with you every time you come, and I’ll do the same for you.” “Deal,” he said immediately. I giggled and finished my donut in two bites. “So what do you want to do now that you have me up so early?” I asked. “Skeet,” he said quickly. I blinked at him. “What is skeet? And what does doing skeet entail?” He rolled his eyes and stood, rolling up to the balls of his feet as he lifted his hands high above his head. My eyes glazed over, and not because of the glazed donut in his hand, but because of the sheer power of him. It was truly amazing to me how in shape he was. “I’d kill for your body,” I sighed as I stuffed the remaining bite of my second donut into my mouth and swallowed it down. Standing up, I walked to my fridge and reached for the milk, pouring myself a glass and downing it as I watched him scratch his abs absently. “Why would you want my body? Your body is fuckin’ perfect,” he said as he eyed my legs. I followed his gaze down to see my extra-large thighs and the pant-less state of my legs. “Did you know there are two types of women in this world?” I asked as I kept staring at my thighs. I needed to shave. And squat. Also, possibly get some lipo. “No,” he said. “What two types are there?” I could tell he didn’t really want to know. He could smell the trap.
“Yeah,” I said as I lifted my shirt so he could see my thighs. “There are the types that stand with their feet together, and their thighs don’t touch. Then there are the other women. The ones where they stand with their feet together and their thighs do touch.” I looked up once I’d said that, and I could see the hesitancy to say yes or no in his eyes. “So you’re saying this because?” He worried. I smiled slightly at him. “I’m that type of girl who’s always going to have her thighs touching. I don’t have any willpower when it comes to donuts. I don’t have willpower against carbonated beverages. And I certainly like bread too much. I like sitting on the couch watching re-runs of Dancing With The Stars and NCIS. I like sleeping in on my days off. I just wanted you to know what you were getting into. Ya’ know, just in case you need to get out now while you can. So I don’t invest myself in this and you leave like you did last time. I can’t do it again. If you’re planning on leaving, I need you to leave now before I become too involved. Before I start to care too much.” He blinked at that. I’d surprised him in being so forward. Hell, I’d surprised myself. However, that’d been brewing in my brain for a while now, and I needed him to know what was in my heart. I needed him to know that if he took this any further, that I’d become attached. Become his. I didn’t want him to rip my heart out for a second time. I hadn’t realized just how much I’d missed him until he’d come back. His hand snaked out and he brought it up until it was resting against the softness of my hip. “I don’t know where this is going to lead,” he said as he licked his lips. “I’m not a mind reader. I’m not a psychic. What I do know, though, is that I want you. You kept me alive when I needed you the most. I may not have had you there in body, but you were in my soul. You’re mine, and I’m yours. Let’s just leave it at that. No labels. I’d never hurt you on purpose. I swear.” Those last two words were said against my lips. A soft, sweet brush of his mouth against my own. Inadvertently, I let the tip of my tongue snake out to wet my lips, and unintentionally got both his and mine, causing him to groan. The next few seconds were kind of a blur. One moment I was standing up against the counter, and the next I was without panties, with my ass sitting on top of the freezing cold cabinets. He dropped down to one knee, letting the tip of his tongue run a hot, wet line up the center of my core. His stiffened tongue drew circles around the tip of my clit, not actually touching it, only giving me a taste of what it could be. “Please,” I exhaled as I looked down at his head.
I saw the corners of his mouth tip up and knew that I was in for one hell of a ride. The man was relentless. Finding no purchase on his hair, I let my hand snake down the back of his head until I encountered his neck. Pulling forward, I urged him closer. He obliged by burying his mouth in my pussy. His long tongue plunging into my pussy and the tip of his nose ground against my clit as he thrust forward. “Jesus,” I gasped. He grinned against my soaked channel before reaching his hand forward and plunging two fingers deep inside of me. The unshaved portion of his face was a sweet burn against the inside of my thighs as I clenched tightly around his fingers. “Oh, sweet mother of pearl,” I gasped when his tongue did something particularly talented with my clit. His chuckle against the inside of my thighs and had excitement coursing through me. “Please.” I didn’t really know what I was saying ‘please’ to. For him to go faster? For him to stop? He knew though. Standing to his full height, he lowered the elastic band on his pants, revealing his engorged cock to me. My eyes zeroed in on his dick as he lined it up with my entrance, and then slowly slid inside. Home. I finally felt like I was home. My eyes closed to mere slits, and I started panting at the feeling of his hard, ridged cock sinking into me balls deep. His eyes were on my face, I could tell. However, my eyes were too busy watching as the ruddy length of him moved in and out of me. Slowly. His cock was darker than the rest of him. His balls hung heavy between his legs, and each time he sank into me, they’d press up against my ass, causing a thrill to shoot through me. I’d never been into that kind of thing before, but with Cleo, I had the urge to try absolutely everything. Even the foreign and taboo. “Look at me,” he rasped. My eyes raised reluctantly, but he rewarded my compliance with a sharp thrust inside of me.
My eyes widened at the invasion, and he smiled. Finally getting what he wanted, he started to push in and out of me, slow and steady. The slick sounds of my sex opening up to his invasion filled the room. His skin started to glisten from his exertion, and I was sure that I was doing the very same, and not caring one tiny bit. Sex was messy. There was no other way around it. I could tell when he was close when his thrusts went from steady to erratic. I clenched around him as a tidal wave started to take me over; in only a few more short, sharp strokes, I was falling over, and he followed right along with me. He grunted as I started contracting around him. His eyes narrowed to slits, and his lips tightened. “Fuck,” he gritted out. I was in complete agreement; however, I couldn’t voice my agreement because I was too busy screaming out my climax. Once his thrusts slowed to little, tiny movements, I opened my eyes that I wasn’t aware that I’d closed, and stared into the depths of his. “I like it when you scream,” he said breathlessly. My head fell back to rest on the cabinet door behind me as I tried to catch my breath. “I like it when you make me scream.” He snorted and pulled out, leaving a very wet feeling in his wake. I looked down to see his release dripping out of me, and I grimaced. “I’m going to need to disinfect this kitchen after that,” I said as I shimmied off the counter. He grunted in agreement. “Yeah.” His tone was odd. As if I’d done something to piss him off somehow. “Does that mean you’re not going to help?” I teased, hoping to draw him out of his mood. Snapping the towel off the oven handle like it’d done something to wrong him, he walked over to the counter and wiped up the mess. “Go get dressed. Wear jeans and a t-shirt. Oh, and those boots I got you last year.” I blinked at him. “Okay,” I said warily at his abruptness. I’d nearly thrown those boots away last year. They sat in my closet in the very package he’d brought them in. They had never been worn. The evening we’d finally slept together, he’d brought them over because we were supposed to go on a
ride the next day. Needless to say, he hadn’t shown, and I never got to wear the boots. They sat in my closet on the third shelf, gathering dust. I walked away slowly, reluctantly. If I opened that box that would mean that I was admitting that I was giving him a second chance. Was I ready for that? Was he worth it? The throb between my legs pulsed with the aftershocks of our coupling, reminding me of what we’d just shared together. It was good. Really good. And I wanted him. I missed him when he wasn’t there. I’d missed him for a whole year. Reaching my closet, I found the box in question. It was a normal brown box. Nothing special about it, but it meant something. Something huge. Taking the last step, I opened the box.
*** Rue “Where are we going?” I asked for the fifth time. I looked down at my boots that were now caked in mud, and grinned. We were on the back of Cleo’s bike, but we were driving slower than hell, and had been for nearly twenty minutes. I’d lost track of the amount of times we’d taken a turn where I hadn’t realized that a turn was even possible. “Few more minutes,” he said shortly. Uh-oh. Was he mad that I wouldn’t shut up? He’d been snappy since we’d left my place, and I didn’t know what to think of a pissy Cleo. I’d only been around him when he was in a good mood. This was a new side of him that I wasn’t sure that I liked. “Whatever,” I snapped back. He pulled over to the side of the road, turned the bike off, and stood quickly. I hadn’t even had time to realize that he was stopping until he was already three feet away from me. “What’s your fucking problem?” I yelled, tired of his attitude. He stopped and put his hands up on his head. “I’m just...I need you...I’m confused,” he finally decided. I blinked quickly. “What are you confused about? Can you call for directions?” He sighed. “I know where we are.” “Then what are you confused about?” I finally asked. He rubbed his palms roughly over his face. “A lot of things. Mainly I’m just not used to being wrong. I fucked up by leaving, and then not calling. I fully admit that, but I thought I was doing the right thing. I didn’t want you to be a statistic. Now here you are giving me the time of day when I don’t deserve it, and I just don’t know why I deserve that.” I looked down at his bike, tracing my finger around the bright silver dials of the motorcycle’s gauges while I thought about what I wanted to say. Looking up, I swallowed tightly, admitting one of my inner fears. “You don’t deserve it, Cleo. You really hurt me. Gutted me. However, that being said, I’ve missed you. You were...still are, one of my best friends. I want that back, and if that means I have to put my trust in you again, then I’ll do that. It’s my decision to make. Just don’t fuck it up again, okay?” He laughed. The shit.
“Okay, baby. I won’t fuck it up again,” he said. Walking back towards the bike, he swung his leg over and settled back between my legs. Just before he started the bike back up, he reached his large palm back and cupped the back of my head, pulling it towards him. I leaned in and lifted up until I could touch his lips with my own. “Love you,” he said before the roar of him starting up his bike covered up my surprised exclamation. “Holy fucking shit!” I squealed. He laughed as he took off down the dirt road.
*** Rue “Have you ever shot a gun before?” The woman asked. I smiled down at the ground, not wanting to show my face to the men. “Yep,” I said quietly. “I have, too. But I’m not good enough to outshoot Trance,” the black haired woman with the black dog at her feet said. She’d introduced herself as Viddy earlier, and the dog as Radar. She’d come in a big, monster of a truck with one of the most devastatingly handsome men I’d ever seen before in my life. He had curly, baby fine blonde hair, two different colored eyes, one green and one blue, and a killer smile. However, I knew as soon as he’d looked at me that there was more than what met the eye. I could tell with just one look that Trance and Viddy were in love. Trance only had eyes for Viddy; just being around them made me feel like I was a voyeur. They instinctively knew where the other was, even without glancing over at each other. Radar had stuck to Viddy’s side like glue for the last twenty minutes we’d been here. “That’s ‘cause you can’t see,” Adeline, Viddy’s twin sister, said. It was most obvious that the two of them were twins. It’d saddened me to hear that Viddy had limited eyesight; however, from what I could tell, she’d dealt with it just fine. “Be nice, and don’t start,” a deep, rumbled command came from behind us. That would be Kettle. He was large. In fact, I would even go as far as saying he was massive. Tall, with dark brown hair and nearly translucent, pale blue eyes, he was hypnotic. He could easily compete in the looks department with Trance. No one held a candle to Cleo, though. “Make me,” Adeline retorted. I giggled as Kettle’s eyes narrowed on his wife. “Really?” Kettle asked with a tilt of his head. “Uh, no?” Adeline back tracked. He rolled his eyes and turned, but left with a parting shot. “I didn’t think so.” When would men ever learn?
She started tiptoeing in his direction, coming to a stop about three feet away from him before launching herself at his back and reaching her arms over his shoulders to start digging her fingers into his armpits. “Ack!” He roared. Adeline held onto Kettle like a monkey while the man started doing everything in his power to get her off without actually using force. “They’re not always this weird,” Cleo said as he locked an arm around my neck and pulled me into his chest. “Sure they aren’t,” I teased good-naturedly. I liked that he had friends that could be silly. I was practically annoying when I was in ‘one of those moods,’ as my dad used to call it. A wave of sadness hit me as I remembered how I used to go into those hyperactive times, and then my dad would take me out to burn off the energy. He was a gun smith. Which was why I smiled slyly when Cleo had patiently showed me how to use a shotgun a little over a half hour ago. Cleo knew my dad had been a gun smith. Just who did he think helped test those guns out before my dad sold them? They may have died ten years ago, but shooting was kind of like riding a bike. You never forgot. “Okay, what are we doing?” I asked after a few more minutes of the impromptu WWF show going on in front of me. Cleo grinned at me. “Can you pull that lever back?” I looked where he was pointing at the skeet thrower and blinked. “Well yeah, but I thought I was going to shoot?” “Well, really we just brought y’all along so you wouldn’t feel lonely. Now y’all have each other to talk to while we shoot, but it’d be nice if one of you would load the skeet and pull for us,” he said slowly. I looked over at the two women with me, and they hid knowing smiles. “So…you wanted me to come along with you so you could shoot with these two. Not for me to do it with you, do I have that correct?” I asked. He nodded. “Yep.” I inhaled slowly. “What if I wanted to shoot?” “Can you shoot?” He asked in return. I nodded. “You can shoot…this?” He asked as he held up the shotgun for my inspection.
“Yep,” I agreed. “And just who taught you that?” He asked suspiciously. I wanted to smile, I really did, but I managed to hold it in check just for him. “Show me what you got,” he said tauntingly. So I did. Sucker. I took the shotgun out of Cleo’s hand and inspected it. Loaded. One in the chamber. Pump. Four shells total. Lining my toes up at the edge of the concrete I looked back at him and said, “Pull.” Whomever was behind me pulled, and an orange disc the size of a small plate launched into the sky in front of me. Lifting the gun up quickly, I placed the stock of the gun in the crease of my shoulder, laid my cheek against the stock, and looked down the barrel at the sites. Less than two seconds later, I fired, and the orange disk exploded into a million tiny pieces. “Fuck me,” multiple someone’s said from behind me. “Now that’s what I’m talking about,” Cleo said as he stepped up next to me. “Load two.” “Pull,” I said. Boom. Boom. Two clay discs shattered. “Hot damn, it’s a match made in heaven,” Trance drawled. I giggled, and had a blast. It felt good to be a part of them. Used to be, I was on the outside looking in. Now, however, I was there with them. A part of them. So this was what happy felt like.
Chapter 13 Do I want my own bike? Why would I need one? I have my own biker! -Text from Rue to Cody Rue I blinked my eyes open and looked at the clock. 4:37 A.M. What. The. Fuck? Sliding out of my nice warm bed, I walked half awake, half asleep, to the front door, wondering who in the world would be knocking on my apartment door at this hour. We’d gotten home from the day…and night, of fun, and I’d collapsed into the bed, not even taking the time to say goodbye to Cleo. Had he forgotten something? No, I decided. He’d have just broken in like he usually did. So who was at my door? I turned the corner into the living room and squeaked when I saw a shadow blocking out the security light through my front window. Walking to my door, I unlocked the deadbolt, twisted lock on the doorknob, and then cursed when I forgot to unarm the system. Quickly punching in the buttons that shut the system down, I turned back around to see the door slam open and stop when it caught the chain on the door that I’d yet to unlock. It saved my life. A couple months ago when I’d made the move, I’d thought the extra heavy door was ridiculous. Nonetheless, I’d remembered what Cleo had told me about having a good door, and a chain that could withstand hundreds of pounds of force, and I’d felt secure. Now, I was thanking sweet baby Jesus that I’d listened. “Open the door, bitch,” a man’s rough voice hissed. I blinked and backed away from the door. The man’s hands went inside the crack and started grappling for the chain at the top of the door. Not knowing what the hell to do, but knowing I had to do something, I did what any sane woman would do. Something I knew wouldn’t feel too good for the occupant of that arm. Using my body, I ran and slammed into the door with all the force my body could muster, without breaking myself in the process. I hit hard, and I head the audible snap of the radius and the ulna breaking in the man’s arm.
Bile rushed up my throat, but I tamped it down as my flight or fight response started to really kick in. Running back to my bedroom, I grabbed my phone and ran back to the living room with the phone to my ear. “911, what’s your emergency?” the operator asked. “My address is 3332 Point Dunes Road. Apartment 1C. Shreveport. Someone’s trying to break into my apartment,” I blurted out. “How do you know someone’s trying to break in?” The operator asked. I looked at the door, and something silver caught my attention. A knife. On the floor. What the fuck? “I went to open the door and the chain was still on. That stopped him from bashing my face in with the door. I broke his arm, though,” I explained quickly. Why she couldn’t just dispatch units first, and ask questions later, was beyond me. However, I wasn’t a dispatcher, and what the hell did I know? “You broke his arm? How are you aware it’s a male?” The woman asked. I could hear her fingers moving on the keyboard on the other end, so I hoped she sent someone. Quick. I swallowed quickly, trying to keep our late dinner down as I watched the door warily, too scared to actually go check to see if the man was gone. “He yelled at me to ‘open the door, bitch’ but I didn’t,” I explained. Sirens started to wail in the distance, and I started to breathe again. “They’re coming,” I said gratefully. “Yeah, honey. They are,” she said soothingly. “What’s your name, sweetie?” I blinked, surprised at the abrupt shift in her demeanor, and tone of her voice. “I’m Rue Loden,” I said softly. “Alright, Rue. Well, just stay on the line. The police should be there any second. Okay?” She asked softly. I nodded even though she couldn’t see me. “Yes, ma’am.” She giggled. “Good. What do you do?” I knew she was just trying to keep my mind off of what was going on, but it worked. I calmed some. “I’m a nurse at Christus Health,” I said. Which reminded me that I had less than an hour before I needed to leave for work.
Mother fucker. A scratch outside the door made me freeze, and I started to get scared all over again when a flashlight’s beam of light swept over my window, door, and the porch area. “Are the cops here yet?” I whispered as softly as I could. “Yes, they are. There’s a police officer at your door right now,” the 911 operator said. I felt relief pour through me. “Thank you.” I could practically feel the other woman on the other end of the line smiling. “You’re welcome, dear. Just stay there until he makes sure the scene is secure. He’ll announce himself when he’s ready for you to open it, okay?” I agreed, and waited for a good ten more minutes before I heard what I’d been waiting for. “This is the police, you can open up now, Ms. Loden.” I walked slowly to the door. “Can I see your badge?” A shiny metal object wormed its way through the door, held by a man with black sleeves covering his arm all the way to the wrist. “Ask the operator what my badge number is,” he said soothingly. I followed directions. “He wants me to ask you what his badge number is.” “916464. Officer Ray Murano,” she said quickly. I flipped the entryway light on, and read the numbers that were on his badge. “Thank you for staying with me, the right man is here,” I said to the woman. My legs started shaking as respite coursed through me. “I’m glad you’re all right, sweetie. Take care now,” she said as she hung up. I opened the door, and was surprised to see a nice looking older man in his late fifties standing at the door, badge still in his right hand and holding it up for me to see. “Hi,” I said opening the door wide. “Thank you for coming so quick.” He winked. “It’s my job, ma’am.” I smiled. “Still. It means a lot to me.” “No problem, honey. That’s what I’d want if my own daughter was in trouble. Now, I want you to stay back and let me get some fingerprints. He wrote something on your door, too. So just stay away, and let me work, okay?” He instructed. I nodded, and turned to the TV, clicking it on. The sound of 50 First Dates started to drone in the background as I watched the older cop start casing my door for prints. An hour and a half later, the cop was finished with the front door, and the surrounding area. “Property is clear. Her car is trashed, though. Needs to be towed to the yard. Already dusted it for prints, but we’ll see if we can’t find anything better,” the youngest of all the cops said.
My heart sank. Mother lover, I just got that bitch back! “Are you needing to tow it into the police impound yard, or can I tow it somewhere I can have someone fix it for me?” I asked, causing all three men to look at me. I blushed when I had all of their attention. Thank God I was wearing my jeans still! “You can have it towed anywhere you want. We’ll just need to run a crime scene crew through it. Shouldn’t take very long, though. You’ll need to call the insurance provider as soon as you can. That bad boy’s gonna need some work,” the second cop said. He was huge. His skin was the color of ebony, and his hair was cut tightly to his scalp. The edges perfect. He was extremely good looking. He wore that uniform well. “Uhh, thank you. I’ll just give him a call right quick, if you don’t mind,” I said as I backed away to the kitchen where I’d left my phone. They all nodded and went back to inspecting whatever was written on my door, the knife on the floor, and the area surrounding my front porch. I walked to my phone and dialed the number I knew by heart. It rang five times before a husky female voice answered. “Hello?” I hung up, knowing I had no desire to deal with Molly’s shit right then. “Okay, well change of plans. Take it to wherever. I’ll figure it out tomorrow after I get off work,” I said as I shoved the phone into my pant’s pocket. “No problem. It’s there when you’re ready. Can I give you a ride anywhere before we go?” The older cop asked. I looked at the time on the stove and nodded. “Yeah, actually, if you don’t mind. I need to be getting into work here shortly. If you’ll give me about fifteen minutes to get ready, I’d appreciate it. You can make yourselves some coffee, and you’re welcome to the muffins on the counter.” I’d made those to take to work this morning, but it seemed like a better idea for the cops that had helped me out when I most needed it.
*** Rue “So what did your door say again?” Cody asked as I took a bite of my sandwich. “Keep your mouth shut. Or something to that affect. I didn’t really look. It was too dark,” I said around a mouthful of food. Cody blinked. “And you’re not the least bit worried about this?” I shook my head. “Not really, no. I’ve had this happen before. It probably has something to do with the trial that’s coming up next month.” He blinked again. “You got something wrong with your eyes?” I worried. He shook his head. “No. You’re just being really flippant about it. You nearly had someone break into your apartment last night. I’d think you’d at least call someone and tell them instead of just letting it slip out when you tell me why you didn’t bring the muffins you said you were going to bring.” “I’d like to know that, too,” I dark, menacing voice said from behind me. I tensed, sensing the anger in Cleo’s voice before I even turned around to look at his face. I swallowed thickly, choking down the partially chewed piece of bread and meat like it was a rock. I turned slowly to see Cleo standing behind us in jeans, a black shirt, and his motorcycle vest. He had on his aviator glasses and a blue ball cap that said Life Flight on it in red embroidered letters. It was me not being able to see his eyes that really set the tone, letting me know that he was extremely pissed off. However, I didn’t know what for. I’d tried to call him. Once. Kind of. “What are you doing here?” I asked. He stared at me for a few long moments before his gaze moved to Cody. “Give us a few minutes, please?” Cody stood and patted my shoulder. “I’ll cover for you for another half hour or so.” I watched him leave with reluctance. “You wanna know what I heard today on the way to work?” He asked with a deceptively soft tone of voice. I shook my head. “No, what?” “My sister called. Told me she answered my phone this morning at five, saying that you’d called while I was on my run. Stupid me, but I didn’t call you back because I was running late for work. However, then I got another call from a cop buddy on the Shreveport PD who said you’d had your place broken into, and your car vandalized. I probably wouldn’t have known at all if I hadn’t asked the man to
keep an ear out for your name,” he snapped. “I tried calling you!” I accused. “Really? You tried? Or did you just go through the motions? ‘Cause if you’d wanted me to know, you would’ve left a message instead of hanging up as soon as you’d heard my sister’s voice,” he growled. I stood and faced the man who was doing a really, really good job at pissing me off. “You want to know the truth of why I didn’t talk to her? Because your sister’s a fucking bitch. In fact, all of them are bitches to me. They’re so fucking selfish. All they care about is keeping you to themselves. They don’t care if you’re happy. That’s your job, after all. To make them happy. Don’t you ever wonder why I’m never around when you’re sisters are?” He blinked, surprised at my vehemence. “You don’t like my sisters?” I laughed in amusement at how truly cuckolded he was when it came to his sisters. “Do me a favor. Next time you see them, bring up my name. In fact, I know you’re supposed to do lunch with them tomorrow. How about you call me when you’re done, and we’ll pick this up again there.” I didn’t spare him another glance, annoyed that he wouldn’t even ask me what had happened. I probably wouldn’t have told him if I’d been a little less sleep deprived. No one told him what to do when it came to his sisters. They had their big brother so wrapped around their fingers that it was comical. The man did absolutely anything and everything he could when it came to them. So much so that it was well and truly hard to get in there. Somehow, though, I’d managed it this time around, and I could tell just by the expression on his face as I left that he’d be thinking about what I’d said. Which was good, because I wasn’t coming fourth to him any longer. I deserved first.
Chapter 14 It’s throat punch Thursday, and I’m offering free tickets. -Cleo to his boss Cleo “You’ve got to be kidding,” I said incredulously. “You’re telling me, that if I don’t get my girlfriend not to testify against the case that’s in less than a month, that I’m going to be let go? Is that what I’m hearing?” Did he know how illegal that was? Seriously, was I hearing what he was saying correctly? The man standing in front of me, the same man that I’d once had the upmost respect for, nodded. “Yes.” I walked forward until I was standing in front of him, nearly nose to nose. “Fuck. You.” He blinked at me, surprised. “What?” The funny thing was, was that he actually looked surprised that I hadn’t taken him up on his offer. “You heard me,” I confirmed. “But…but if you don’t tell her not to testify, we’ll lose everything anyway, and you’ll lose your job,” he stuttered. I smiled at him. “Yeah? Well who says I want this job anyway? Do you know that I had at least eight other offers when I started this job?” He swallowed thickly. “No.” “Well, I did. In fact, the hospital in Longview also offered me one. It’d be a little bit of a drive to go to Longview and back every day, but I could do it. That’s not too far away. I think I’ll go talk to them. Maybe we can start things rolling,” I snapped. I walked away from the man and my job. Fuck him. He could take that job and shove it up his ass. I’d made it nearly all the way out to my bike when a thought struck me, causing me to turn and walk back inside and to the man’s office. He was on the phone. “No, I can’t get him to. He just quit rather than ask her not to testify. I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do.” Alonzo Potts, the man who’d just fired me, looked scared. So scared, in fact, that he was almost ashen. “He did exactly like you told him to do. In fact, he has a broken arm for it now,” he pleaded. The man must’ve said something horrible, because the look on the Alonzo’s face when he hung up the
phone spoke of anything but happiness. He looked downright terrified. I left the same way I came, my mind whirling. The same thought kept going through my head, over and over again. What had she gotten herself into?
*** Cleo I was late for my lunch with my sisters. However, I’d needed to inform Silas about what I’d learned and get his opinion on things. He’d set to work on finding out what he could on his end, and he’d had an interesting possibility for my job as well. I drove to The Blind Tiger with my mind on Rue. Then what she’d said yesterday about how my sisters were selfish popped through my mind. They’d really only met a handful of times. Surely she was just overreacting. As I pulled into the parking lot and parked next to my sister, Meredith’s, car, I made a note of the tires. They’d need to be replaced. I’d do that this week since I didn’t have anything else to do seeing as I’d just quit my job less than two hours ago. I walked into the dark room and went straight to the bar where my sisters were already in full swing. Each had a half empty glass of something blue sitting in front of them, and they were all carrying on about something. None of them saw me though. Which annoyed me to no end. I was always telling them they needed to be more aware of their surroundings than they were. “No, she called and as soon as she heard my voice she hung back up,” Molly tittered. I froze, stopping two tables down and listening. “That’s funny. A year ago she did that to me, too. She’d called looking for Mikhail, and I’d told her he was gone,” Meredith said around her straw. I’d always wondered about that. I’d gotten two calls from Rue after I’d left her. If I’d gotten anymore, I’d probably have caved and gone back to her. At the time, I thought it was weird that she hadn’t tried just a little bit harder to get me to come back. Really, that’d probably been what kept me from her the most. I hadn’t felt like she tried hard enough to get me to come back. Call me selfish, but I wanted someone to fight for me. “She called me a few times too,” Mikayla said. “He’d actually been gone those times, though.” I gritted my teeth. “What the fuck gives y’all the right to think I don’t deserve to hear my own goddamned phone messages?” I snapped. “If anyone called for you, I’d have at least told you.”
They all jumped at the tone of my voice, none of them looking in the least bit guilty. “Sorry,” they said. They didn’t sound sorry. “What do y’all have against Rue?” I asked as I took the empty seat at their table. “Nothing,” they said quickly. “Nothing? Then why does she think y’all hate her?” I asked suspiciously. “Probably ‘cause we do,” Molly muttered. I turned to her sharply. “Why do you?” “We just don’t think she’s good enough for you,” Meredith answered reluctantly. “You know,” I said. “I didn’t tell any of you who to date. When you married,” I looked at Mikayla. “I didn’t say a word about your choice of husband, even though I wanted to. Who was I to say anything if he was what you wanted?” Mikayla had the decency to look sheepish. “And you,” I said turning towards Meredith. “I didn’t say a word to you when you started dating that low-life. And when he left you pregnant and alone, who took care of you instead of saying ‘I told you so?’ I think it’s time y’all let me make my own decisions.” They didn’t have anything to say about that. “She’s a part of my life. She’s going to be mine, whether you, or her, like it or not. Time to stop acting so selfish and be happy for me,” I snapped. They didn’t have anything to say about that, either. “She’s going to be the mother of your nieces and nephews. She’s also going to be my wife and old lady. Try not to be so bitchy about everything and think about somebody other than yourselves,” I said as I stood. “Hey, what about lunch?” Molly whined. I looked at them, each of them getting a look before I focused in on Molly. “It’s time to pay for your own lunch from now on.”
*** Cleo I found her at her Nonnie’s place. “But Nonnie, I don’t understand why you’re doing this. I’m not even pregnant,” Rue said to her Nonnie as she held up four blankets and what looked to be baby socks. “You are,” Nonnie said. “I’m not,” Rue argued. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother me to think about Rue being pregnant. Although it’d be helpful if she waited until we got married first. I knocked on the door, interrupting the women. They both looked up, Nonnie smiling widely, and Rue glaring. “What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be at lunch?” She snarled. She spit the word lunch out so hotly that I barely contained the urge to laugh. It wouldn’t do to make her think I was making fun of her. “So…it turns out you’re right and I’m wrong. My sisters are bitches,” I explained reluctantly. I still loved them, but it made me disappointed that they’d act like that. They weren’t raised to be mean. Rue physically wilted when I said that and her head hung. “I’m sorry.” I blinked, surprised that she’d be apologizing when she clearly wasn’t in the wrong. “What are you sorry about?” I wondered. Nonnie stood and folded the blanket in her arms. “Brianne was just leaving. Would you be a sweetheart and walk my daughter out to her car?” I smiled sadly at Rue before turning to her Nonnie. “Sure thing, Nonnie. I’ll walk her out. You have a good night now, okay?” “Yes, dear boy. Have a good night now. I love you!” Nonnie said loudly as we were walking out the door. “I love you too, Nonnie!” I yelled over my shoulder. We walked in silence down the hall of the nursing home and, for once in my life, I didn’t know what to say. “You’re quiet,” Rue said as we pushed out of the front doors to the parking lot. “I feel like I had my head in the clouds. It doesn’t sit well with me. And I’ve had a pretty exciting day,” I sighed. She stopped and turned to me. “What happened?” “I don’t really want to talk about it right now,” I tried.
She looked at me incredulously. “You’re kidding, right?” I closed my eyes. “I quit my job.” Her mouth dropped open comically, and I lifted my hand to touch the bottom of her chin, closing it. “What the fuck, Mikhail? Why’d you quit the job you just got?” She yelled loudly and waved her hands in the air. I took a deep breath and then explained. She sat down heavily on the bench outside the front doors. “I just don’t believe it. What the hell is wrong with this case? First last night and now this.” “I tried to get into contact with Loki, but he never got back to me. He’s working a case that’s hot right now, and I didn’t want to keep bothering him. Can you tell me about it?” I asked as I took a seat at her side. She leaned into my shoulder, and I lifted my arm to wrap it around her shoulders, pulling her in close. “I’m sure you can get the information yourself just as easily, but I’ll tell you anyway,” she said quietly, and then started to explain. I closed my eyes as I listened. The entire situation sounded fucked, and I told her so. “That’s fucked.” She snorted. “Eloquently put, but right on, nonetheless. The whole situation is screwy, and has been since I did the rape kit.” I lifted my free hand that wasn’t around her shoulders and rubbed my eyes. “I guess I need to talk to Loki first, tell him what happened. Maybe he can shine some light on the whole situation.” She leaned into me harder before she stood as a yellow cab pulled into the parking lot. “I’ve got to go check on Audrey. I haven’t heard from her, and she isn’t answering my calls.” I grimaced. Tunnel had been in a rage the last couple times I’d seen him. So much so that I wasn’t really sure I wanted her going over to his house without me. “You could’ve called me, I’d have given you a ride,” I said dryly. “You were supposed to be at lunch with those lovely sisters of yours,” she quipped. “Shut up and go get on my bike,” I sighed. She giggled and stood, walking over to my bike. “Sir, yes, sir!” “Smartass,” I muttered as I too mounted the bike.
Chapter 15 What if when we die, the light at the end of the tunnel is really just another vagina? -Food for thought Rue “There’s a cat in that tree,” I said pointing up to the tree above our heads. All the men looked up and Tunnel cursed. “Motherfuckin’ cat. I told that woman she didn’t need a cat. She asked for the cat, I told her I didn’t like cats, and we compromised and got a cat.” The men chuckled, breaking the tension that was palpable in the air around us, and I giggled. We were standing outside of Tunnel’s house and I was explaining the case I was about to testify on to them. There were currently six very large, very annoyed men standing around me. Each and every one of them had their arms crossed over their massive chests as they listened to my recounting of the story. However, to be truthful, this was a sore subject right now since one of The Dixie Warden’s own had recently suffered at the hands of a rapist. Audrey was doing very well considering it’d only been just a few short days ago. Tunnel, on the other hand, was not. He was still just as pissed now as he was three days ago. And now the poor cat was about to take the brunt of Tunnel’s mood. “It’s not that far up. Cleo, give me a boost,” I said as I walked up to the tree. Then I realized just what I’d said and rethought it. “Never mind, I’ll-eep!” Cleo lifted me as if I was the lightest of feathers. Straight the fuck up and over his head. “You’d be really good at cheerleading,” I gasped breathlessly. “Right, cause I’d fit my shoulders in one of those uniforms for sure,” he said dryly. I snorted. “That’s a good visual. I was really just saying that you’d be able to pick girls up easily,” I said. “Two more inches up.” I moved two more inches, and was able to get the cat off the lowest branch. She was a cutie. Mostly black with white patches on her feet, nose, and the end of her tail; she reminded me of a cat I used to have when I was younger. Although, Flower, my old cat, was the devil. She was not very nice, and as it turned out, neither was this one. As soon as my hand made it around her belly, she flipped a switch. One moment she was sweet and thankful for me getting to her, and the next she was attacking my hand and drawing blood.
“Motherhumper- you stupid bitch!” I hissed, drawing my hand away quickly. Too late, though. I could feel the blood running down my arm as I reached forward and grabbed the little heifer by the scruff of the neck, hauling her down regardless of her spitting and hissing. “Here,” I said hanging the cat over open air. “Take this little whore before I drop her.” Tunnel came up and grabbed the cat from my hand, being extra cautious now that he’d seen what his cat could do. “Fucker,” Tunnel grumbled as he took the cat much the same as I had done before handing him over, and walked inside with him. Cleo lowered me to the ground just as his cell phone rang, but he didn’t answer it. Instead, he lowered me down and then walked me over to the steps at the front of the house. Pushing me down gently until I sat on my bottom, he pulled my injured hand into both of his and inspected it. “Doesn’t look too bad,” he rumbled. I shook my head. “Nah, it’s just burning. It won’t be that bad by tomorrow.” “Yeah,” he said as he leaned over and kissed the top of my head. “Fucker deserves to die for hurting you.” “It was just a cat, Cleo,” I said teasingly. “I don’t care if it’s a kitten or a motherfuckin’ Yetti, it hurts you, it deserves to die,” he growled. I giggled. “A Yetti? When was the last time you saw one of those just hanging around?” The bad thing was, was that he looked completely serious. He’d kill a little cat because it scratched me…for real? “You think I’m kidding, don’t you?” He asked with a raised brow. I shook my head. “No, I know you’re completely serious. I just wish you’d chill. Nothing’s going to hurt me.” “Says the person who got her place vandalized, and a message on her car that said if she didn’t withdraw her testimony, her face would look as bad as her car,” Loki muttered from behind me. I blinked and turned my body until I was half turned to look at him. “It said that?” He looked at me peculiarly. “The cops didn’t tell you?” I shook my head. “No. It was still dark and I avoided looking at it. Now I’m pretty sure I should’ve just looked at it.” “Here, Mina said to give this to you. Sorry she can’t come out. She’s pretty sure she has the flu or something,” Tunnel muttered as he extended a couple Band-Aid’s and alcohol wipes. I giggled as I reached for the offerings, then rolled my eyes as the man at my side took them from me instead. He opened the alcohol wipes before methodically wiping my hand and arm clean of the blood. “This is ugly,” he muttered.
I looked down at the cuts and bite marks. “It’s not too bad. She was just scared.” He grumbled something under his breath, and although I didn’t hear it very clearly, I was fairly positive it had something to do with “gator bait.” “Silas called. He asked me to tell you that he wants you to stop by later on your way home from here,” Tunnel said as he came to a stop at the swing connected to the porch’s ceiling and sat down. “Okay,” Cleo agreed. “Thanks.” “Why didn’t he just call you?” I wondered as he started placing Batman Band-Aids over my various cuts. “My phone’s not behaving. It’s been out of whack for going on a week now and doesn’t even work most of the time. That’s why I haven’t called you. The charger I have for work doesn’t work right, either,” he said as he placed the last Band-Aid on. So that was why he hadn’t been calling me. Huh. I guess that was a good enough excuse. “I’d been wondering where you were.” “Just work. Or what used to be work. Don’t know what they’re going to do in two days when my shift’s back up again. Mac is still out. He has pneumonia now, and all the other shifts have been putting in just as much work as I have,” Cleo said as he wrapped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me in close to his side. I leaned into him, laying my head on his shoulder. “What are you going to do with all your free time?” He shrugged. “Dunno. Guess we’ll see. I’m sure Silas has something for me to do; if anything else, I can always pull a couple of shifts at Halligans and Handcuffs.” “You’d probably make shit money there. You’re not nice enough to work the bar or any of the tables. The only thing you could do is cook, and we already know you don’t do that,” Loki returned. I looked at Loki and winked at him. “Cleo’s a nice man. You just have to appeal to his sense of interest.” Trance, who’d been quiet up until now, snorted. “I’m not sure that’s the way most people work. I, of course, am a people person. Day in and day out I make an effort to at least appear like I care. That’s the problem with Cleo-Patrick. If he’s not interested, he’s not going to try. Cleo-Patrick doesn’t care enough about other people to waste his effort.” I turned to Cleo. “Why do they call you Cleo-Patrick?” He rolled his eyes down to mine. “That’s just a nickname I got when I first entered the club. They said I resembled an Egyptian pharaoh or some shit, and started calling me Cleo-Patrick as opposed to Cleopatra. Name stuck, but I wasn’t answering to Cleo-Patrick, so they shortened it to Cleo. Cleo I can handle.” I giggled. “That’s cute.” He squeezed my waist. “I’m not cute.” “Of course you’re not,” I lied.
*** Cleo “Silas didn’t sound like he was going to let you quit work, though, from what he told me.” Tunnel said. “What he made it sound like was that he had plans in motion, and that you were supposed to go to your assigned shift like normal.” “I’m not going back to that fucked up place,” Cleo said darkly. “No, listen. If you do go back, you pretend everything is normal.” Tunnel said waving his hand in the air. “Just think about you being on the inside; you’ll be right there, privy to all that goes on. Alonzo will slip, I’m sure of it. You’ll be there to catch it. There won’t be a better opportunity to get some ears in there, either.” Loki concurred, “Yeah, that’d work really well. I have some new toys we can throw in his office. Just got them from Jack and Max.” Jack and Max were two of the founding members of Free. Free was a custom bike repair/motorcycle design shop in Kilgore, Texas. Sam was the owner of the shop and the president of that chapter of the Dixie Wardens.. He was the brother of Sebastian and son of Silas from our motorcycle club. Apparently, the two brothers hadn’t even known about each other until just a few years ago. I’d been in the Air Force at the time, so I wasn’t as in the know to some shit, such as how they were all lovey dovey all of a sudden, as the others were. However, I did know that Jack and Max’s shit was quality, and that whatever they’d have, would work perfectly. “Well, I guess we’ll be going then. I’ll run by there on the way home, and then go from there. You ready?” I asked Rue. She looked at me and nodded. “Yep, just let me go say bye to Audrey.” I nodded and Rue got up to leave. We all watched her go before we moved on to another hard topic. The rape of a member’s sister. “You okay?” I asked once the door closed. Tunnel, the one I’d been speaking to, looked up, and I could see the barely contained fury that lit his eyes. “No.” I understood that. Or at least tried to. Nothing beyond a few broken hearts had happened to any of my sisters. I don’t even know what I’d do if I found out that one of them had been violated in such a way as Tunnel’s had been. “The DNA, what little of it there was, was sent through the police database early this morning. There
weren’t any matches,” Loki informed us. I had a feeling that Tunnel already knew that; which happened to only add to his bad mood. And who could blame him? “I know, just fuck. She had no physical description of the man. She was in the dark, and didn’t see a goddamned thing. That fucking hospital is about to hear it, too. I’m so fucking mad that they make their ‘valued’ employees walk that far away in the goddamned dark,” he growled, throwing his hands up in frustration. “Then she told me what she did today, and, just fuck!” His yell reverberated through the night. I silently agreed. The night I found Rue in the parking lot, I could’ve just as easily been someone else. I could’ve had her before she even realized something was wrong. Then my stomach started to knot. “That could’ve been her,” I said aloud, but not meaning to. “That’s something else I wanted to talk to you about,” Loki said quietly. “That’s why I invited myself over. Audrey said something to me today. Something you’re not going to like.” I closed my eyes and waited, knowing down deep that it was going to be bad. “Audrey said today while she confirmed her statement that the man said something,” Loki said quietly as he watched the door where Rue had disappeared earlier. “Audrey and Rue were seen together the day it’d happened. Audrey was a message…to Rue.” The men surrounding me stayed silent as I processed what was said. “She got punished for being friends with Rue,” I stated softly. Tunnel’s face was set in stone, and Loki’s was just as hard as he nodded his head in confirmation. “Yeah.” I took a long, deep breath. “Don’t let Rue find out. That’d gut her.” Fuck. Rue came out of the house moments after my epiphany and I knew, right then and there, that whatever I had to do, I’d keep her safe. It wouldn’t happen to her. Oh, she’d be watched like a hawk, and she’d feel smothered, but that wouldn’t be happening. Not now. Not fucking ever.
Chapter 16 Treat your woman like a princess, and fuck her like a whore. -Biker rule number fifty seven Cleo “You’re buying the company?” Rue asked in surprised. Silas, who’d just informed us that he’d already set plans in motion to buy Life Flight, said it’d be finalized within the next couple of months. In the meantime, he had complete control of who did and didn’t work there. So I now had my job back, as well as a new supervisor position to boot. “I’m not really supervisor material,” I said worriedly. Rue snorted. “He’s really not.” I winked at her. “To be honest, I don’t really care if you are or not. You’re doing this, because I want you to do this. There’s no other reason,” Silas informed me. I sighed. I knew chain of command. I also knew our MC. If my president wanted me to do it, I’d do it. But I wouldn’t necessarily like it. “I don’t have to have his office, do I?” I clarified. He shook his head. “No, for now, Alfonzo is staying in place. He’s still got his title, just not any pull, or rank. He can no longer make those decisions, either. The man I bought it from, Ulysses, was a buddy of mine from Desert Storm. He’s got prostate and rectal cancer, and isn’t doing so well any more. His kids are all dead, and he’s unaware of what’s been going on. The partner who’d helped found the Life Flight here in Shreveport died a couple of years ago, but left it all to Ulysses. Kid was pretty bitter about it, so Ulysses gave him the job as ‘director’ about a year ago. Then he got sick, and the kid had to pick up quite a bit of the slack.” I grimaced. “I knew the prick. His name’s Forrester. Brenton Forrester.” Silas nodded, flicking his eyes once to Rue before moving them back to me. “Yeah, it is. He’s the one you’ve been showing off for. The new bird you got a couple of weeks ago is his doing. He’s also pulled the money out of somewhere, but none of it has anything to do with the business. That’s what has Ulysses in a tither. He thinks the kid is into some bad shit, and after seeing some of the shit he’s bought in the last couple months, with no money trail in sight, I’m wanting to agree with him.” “That doesn’t make any sense. Why the heck would he want to buy stuff for the company? And aren’t helicopters like…a million dollars? What was wrong with the old one? I seem to remember hearing the ER talking about that a couple of months ago. They’d just gotten a new one around four years ago, right?” Rue asked me.
I shook my head. “I don’t know. I started working within a week after getting the new bird.” “Where do they house the old one, or is it still used?” Silas asked. I shook my head. “Not anywhere that I know of. We use just the one.” Silas sat back in his chair, looking out the window thoughtfully. Silas lived almost directly across the same lake that Kettle and Sebastian lived on; Silas’ house was much smaller, though. It was a nice place, but there wasn’t much to it. Which I guess suited Silas. And also explained why he was able to afford buying a company like it was no skin off his nose. I wasn’t doing badly, but I wasn’t a millionaire, either. I made an honest living, but I lived paycheck to paycheck just like the rest of the world. No one would think by the way Silas lived that he had the kind of money to throw around like that, either. “I’ll do some looking into it. In the meantime, just go about doing your job. Keep an ear out, though. You never know what you’ll hear,” Silas said before standing, which was our cue to leave. Rue stood along with me, and we all started walking towards Silas’ front door. I opened it, interrupting a woman’s attempted knock. “Oh!” The woman exclaimed. “You scared me. Is Silas- Oh! Hey, Silas! I wanted to see if I could trouble you for a cup of beer.” I blinked. Well that line was original. I’d heard of asking the neighbor for sugar…but beer was definitely unique. “Oh, sure thing Reba, darlin’,” Silas said as he disappeared into the kitchen. We all stared at each other. Rue and Reba looked at each other quizzically for long moments before they both came to a realization at the same time. “Reba!” “Rue!” They both yelled each other’s names and then started laughing. “I take it you two know each other?” I asked dryly. Rue nodded. “Yep. She’s a float nurse. Reba, this is Cleo. Cleo, Reba. I don’t see her all that often. I knew I’d seen you somewhere.” The last statement had been directed towards Reba who’d held out her hand for me to shake. Reba nodded. “Yep. I don’t like being in one place too long. It’s a good way to keep out of the drama that goes on with each floor.”
“I know that’s right,” Rue agreed. “Sometimes when I’m working, I swear it feels like I’m in high school. Whispering about other people behind the other’s back. Groups of popular kids, the jocks, and then the loners. We don’t even sit at the same table when we have lunch together.” I’d never experienced that in high school. When I was sixteen, I was in the work program and at work once lunch time hit. I’d joined the Air Force immediately out of high school, shocking not only my sisters, but my mother as well. I’d needed out, though. I was being smothered by estrogen. “Exactly. I’m sorry to hear about that young girl. The sitter. How’s she doing?” Reba asked. That sobered the two of them up quickly. For me, though, that only just served to set fire to my blood even more. I’d managed to mask it slightly while we were discussing what my part in this was, but now that I’d been reminded of it, yet again, it was right back to the forefront of my mind. Which brought up another uncomfortable topic. That Rue was now staying with me. I’d only have to tell her. Which sounded about as fun as baptizing a cat. “Here you go,” Silas said as he came back with an unopened beer. He handed it over to Reba, who blushed. “Thank you, but I didn’t need the whole can, just a cup.” He took the beer out of her hand, opened it, and then took a few chugs before handing it back to her. “There you go.” Reba rolled her eyes. “I’m making beer bread again. I may need someone to make sure it tastes all right.” I sensed that we were no longer needed here. “Well, all right, I’ll see you later in the week, Silas. Good to meet you, Reba.” “Night,” Silas said, “Be good,” he continued and then resumed ignoring us. “Silas and Reba sitting in a tree, k-i-s-,” Rue sang before I stopped her with my palm over her mouth. Her eyes were dancing with mirth as I let her mouth go and kept walking to the bike that was parked at the end of the drive. “The man has super hearing. I guarantee he heard you,” I said once we were to the bike. She shook her head vehemently. “No, he didn’t.” “Yes I did,” Silas called from the porch, causing me to burst out laughing, and Rue’s face to turn a cherry red.
“You wanna go for a little ride, and then head to my place?” I asked hopefully. She turned her head to the side before straightening up and throwing one long leg over the side as she straddled the bike. “Yep. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I mounted the bike in front of her and started the bike. “Let’s ride.” “Take us on a back road,” Rue ordered before the wind drowned the sound of her voice out. We drove to Rue’s apartment first, only staying long enough for her to pack a bag for a couple of nights. Then we set off on the back roads of Louisiana. I’d found through numerous rides through the Eastern half of Louisiana that I could get lost in the landscape very easily. Louisiana was infamous for its bayous. They were everywhere you went. On each and every road you passed, there’d be no less than two bridges that you had to cross to go over bayou after bayou. That’s why I wanted to live on the bayou. It was peaceful. I was always the one who took the road less traveled, and it was nice to find someone that wanted to do the same with me. It was near midnight when I finally turned into my driveway. Rue had been laying with her head on my back for the past forty five minutes, but she wasn’t complaining. In fact, she was on the opposite end of the spectrum, very nearly at contentment. I pulled under the house and turned off the bike, sitting like that with Rue for a long minute before I patted her hand. “Let’s go inside. I’m beat.” Just as those words left my mouth, a set of headlights that’d caught my attention as it turned onto the road, turned into my driveway. “Fuck,” I sighed. I’d known that this confrontation was going to happen, but I’d thought that they’d at least give me a couple of days. Of course, my sisters were lost when their only brother was mad at them, and I should’ve known better. “I’d really hoped that they’d leave it until tomorrow,” I sighed and raised up off the bike. Rue laughed as she, too, rose from her perch and stretched her arms up. “Honestly? I didn’t. I thought they’d be here waiting for you to get home. Do you remember when Molly borrowed your truck without your permission, and then wrecked it? You stayed mad at her for all of an hour before you were
comforting her and telling her it’d be all right.” I smiled sheepishly. I remembered that instance well. Mainly because I’d just bought a brand new truck and I’d left it at my sister’s place while I was on a ride with the club. I’d only left the keys there in case my sister’s needed to move it, not so Molly could take it out because she ran low on gas. I’d come home to a huge dent down the entire right side where Molly had hit a telephone pole. Then she’d left it there hoping I wouldn’t fucking notice the massive dent because I ‘never went on that side.’ Needless to say, I’d never left my vehicles or belongings under her care again. Meredith’s champagne colored Trail Blazer pulled up to the back of my bike and shut off. Meredith was the first to exit, followed by Molly and Mikayla. We all stood there in silence. Me, because I wasn’t sure I was ready to forgive them yet, and them because they didn’t want to admit they were wrong in front of Rue. “So…” Rue said. “Do y’all want me to go upstairs while y’all talk?” The bullfrogs in the bayou behind us started croaking loud while we all watched each other in silence. “Well, okay,” she said as she started walking. “I’ll just be up there.” Before she passed, I stopped her with a hand on her wrist and pulled her into me. Kissing her on the lips, I said, “Thanks baby.” Then I let her go. “You’re welcome,” she said before walking quietly away. She turned back about halfway there and walked back to grab my keys, and then headed back in the direction she came. They waited until she was up the stairs before they spoke. At once. “We’re really sorry.” “I’m sorry.” “We were horrible. I’m sorry.” I smiled sadly. “I know. Just…don’t do it again, okay?” They all nodded. “We don’t want to lose you.” I hung my head and ran my hand against the back of my neck.
It was sore, and I was seriously over this day. “We want to get to know her,” Mikayla said. “We know she’s the one.” I turned my head slightly to the side, wondering how they’d come to that conclusion when they were so against her earlier in the day. “You love her. It’s obvious to us now,” Meredith said quietly. I nodded. “I do.” “Then it’s best that we start trying to get along now. We don’t want to make anything harder for you when it comes to her,” Molly sighed. Molly didn’t sound as truthful about what she said as the other two did, but I’d take what I could get. Molly was still the baby, even if she was twenty years old now. “Okay, well then it’s time y’all get back home. Maybe you can start getting to know her next week,” I ordered. They looked upset that I was telling them to go home, but we’d gotten the hard part out of the way. They were going to try with Rue and, at this moment in time, that was all I really cared about. “Be careful, and let me know when you get home,” I ordered as I opened Meredith and Molly’s doors. They got in the cars and buckled up. With a final kiss to each of their cheeks, they backed out of the driveway, waving as they went. I watched until their headlights disappeared into the distance before heading up the stairs and into my place. I found her in the bathtub. I’d never been in it, but damned if the thing didn’t look extremely inviting right then. I toed off my boots, hung up my vest, emptied my pockets, unstrapped my gun and holster from my ankle, and then shucked off my remaining clothes all under the watchful eye of Rue. She scrutinized each of my movements avidly, eyes glued to my hands as they went through the monotonous task of removing my belongings. “Your eyes will pop out of your head if you keep watching me like that,” I teased. She grinned unrepentantly. “Oh, but what a way to go.” My cock was half hard as I finally slipped into the low slung copper tub on the opposite side of her. My legs settled on either side of her hips as I sank into the steaming water up to my armpits. “I’ve never been in here before, but it’s kinda cozy,” I said as I let my head fall back against the tub. I’d purchased the tub with Rue in mind. We’d been at an estate sale to buy her Nonnie a few nice things for her birthday when she’d spied the tub. At the time, she’d gone through the entire house looking at all the things, and the one thing I saw draw
her eyes over and over was this tub. However, it’d been extremely overpriced, so we’d left with empty arms, despite wanting the beautiful piece. I’d gone back over later that night after the sale had ended to see an older man loading the piece into the back of his truck. When I’d pulled into his driveway, I’d asked him what he planned on doing with it, and he’d said he was taking it to an auction house later on in the week. When I’d told him how much my girl had liked it, he’d smiled wistfully and told me about his own wife and how much she’d liked it when they’d purchased it over fifty years ago. He told me that it held so much sentimental value that he hadn’t wanted to let it go, so he’d set the price too high, knowing no one would want to buy it. He also had nowhere to take it anymore since he was moving in with his son later that week. I’d purchased it from him for half the price, and left with him knowing that I planned to give it to my girl for her birthday one day soon. However, I’d fucked up and ruined it, and I’d been kicking myself for it ever since. “Do you remember looking at that tub at the estate sale when we went for your grandmother’s birthday present?” I asked. She nodded. “Sure do. This one looks nearly exactly like it. Where’d you find it?” Reaching forward, I grabbed the foot that was slipping closer and closer to my balls, and lifted it into my hands. Rubbing it softly, I encouraged a moan out of her before I told her what I did next. A smile tilted up the corners of my mouth. “This is it.” Her mouth fell open and she froze. “You’re kidding me.” I shook my head. “Nope. This is it. I bought it for you the week before we…yeah.” She closed her eyes and when she opened them again, there were tears gathering in the beautiful depths. “You bought it for me?” I nodded once. “Yes. You couldn’t keep your eyes off it that day. The man was more than happy to give it to someone that could make some more memories in it like he did.” “That’s kind of gross to think about,” she said as she leaned forward and swam to me. “But I’m pretty sure we can make some hellacious memories in this bitch.” I grinned so wide my face hurt. “We sure as hell can.” Then I kissed her. Her lips were cool from the water drying on her skin, and her hair smelled like the men’s body wash I used instead of her girly soap. Her long arms wrapped around my neck as her body practically floated above mine, tempting, but not quite touching. All, that is, except for the head of my dick.
That was most definitely touching her. It was jabbing her insistently in the belly as our tongues rubbed and snaked along each other’s. Her hands latched onto my ears, grasping them hard as I plundered her mouth. Her nipples beaded against my chest, and drug excruciatingly slow over the smooth expanse of my chest each time she moved. Sensing her need for more, I latched onto her hips and spun her around until her back was against my front, and her naked ass was pressed flush against the cradle of my hips. She hissed when the cool air kissed the tips of her nipples, and my free hand snuck up and latched onto the tight, turgid tip. My mouth found the crook of her neck as I let the nearly three days of growth on my face rasp against the super soft skin. Her ass ground down into my ready cock, and she undulated against me, provoking a growl to burst from my chest. Using the buoyancy of the water, I lifted her and positioned my cock, and then pulled her back down until my cock sat poised at her entrance. She took over from there, moving her legs up until they were placed flat on either side of my thighs before pushing down, slowly taking my length inside her body. She felt like freakin’ heaven. Her body was like a tight, warm glove. One that was made specifically for me. So perfect, in fact, that she felt like there’d never been anybody but us. She lowered herself down, down, and down until I was seated in her fully. Her ass rested against my hips. “God, you feel brilliant,” I moaned against the wet skin of her back. She concurred with a grunt as she started moving, lifting all the way up until the head of my cock was just barely lodged inside of her before sinking all the way down. I’d never had sex in the shower before, much less the bath, so this was a new experience; but now that I’d had it, I knew it wouldn’t be our last foray in this bathtub. We’d have many, many more to come. On that thought, one hand found her hip, latching on so hard that I feared she’d be bruised in the morning. However, I didn’t let up, not even minutely. I watched her bounce up and down, each plunge making her tits slap against the water, creating small ripples on the surface. My eyes stayed glued to her beautiful breasts as she worked me harder and harder, chasing her orgasm with a ferociousness that surprised me. Her head flung back, and the wet strands of her hair tickled my chest.
My free hand reached up and tangled with the long locks, keeping her head back, and exposing the long column of her throat. There was just something so erotic about the whole show she was putting on for me that my release started filling up my balls. My impending orgasm made my eyes narrow, and I pushed her forward and off of me. She moaned when my cock left her slick heat, but I didn’t make her wait for long. Shoving her forward until she was leaning over the side of the tub, the only thing out of the water was her hot pussy, and the long stretch of her back. Lining my cock up with her hole, I shoved inside, lifting her knees from the bottom of the tub slightly before withdrawing. I withdrew completely, allowing my cock to kiss the entrance of her pussy before I shoved back inside her. Deep. The head of my cock hit the back of her tight sheath, bumping up against the entrance to her womb. “Yes,” she breathed as she threw her head back again. I grinned devilishly, and shoved forward again. She took each thrust I had to give, and gave back more. It didn’t take but three more rough thrusts before I felt her core clutch me tightly, clamping down on me so hard that I saw Jesus. I growled, allowing myself to let go, shoving into her pussy with short, erratic strokes. Squeezing my eyes shut tightly, I groaned loudly, followed shortly by my release shooting out of my cock at what felt like a million miles an hour to get buried deep inside her still clenching sheath. We stayed just how we were for a few minutes, resting and catching our breath. “This is about how I saw our first time in this tub going,” I supplied. She laughed. “Yeah, that’s all I kept thinking about that time I saw it, too.” Smiling wide, I pulled out of her, watching as my release and hers combined started to leak from her channel. Reaching forward with my thumb, I gathered our combined juices and rubbed them into her pouting lips. “You’re beautiful.” She sank her lower half down into the water and turned to me. “You say the nicest things,” she said cheekily. I dipped my head, gesturing to the water. “The water’s pretty cold, now.” She nodded, reached her hand to the bottom of the tub before raising it in between her thighs. She washed herself efficiently as I stood and dried off. Hanging the wet towel on the rack, I grabbed a new one just as she stood and lifted her leg over the lip of the tub.
“I like your bath mat, too,” she said as she wiggled her wet toes in the memory foam beneath her feet. I wrapped the towel around her shoulders and pulled her into my naked chest. “I bought it for you,” I said solemnly. She tilted her head and looked up at me. “Why?” I asked. Leaning forward, I kissed her on the tip of her cold nose before answering. “So you can bathe me like the king I am,” I said before letting her go and running away. Her screech of outrage followed me into my room, but the look on her face was worth it. A hundred times over.
Chapter 17 Anything that gets your blood racing is probably dangerous. -Life Lesson Cleo “Hey,” Rue said as I pulled on a pair of knit shorts over my boxer briefs. I looked up to find her watching me with a small smile on her face. “Yeah?” “Do y’all ever allow ride along’s?” She asked. I nodded. “Sure. All the time.” “Really? Do I have to sign up or something? Do I need to have any special permissions?” She asked. I shook my head again as I pulled a black shirt out of my drawer and shrugged it on. “No. It’s really up to whomever is on duty at the time. Who the flight medic is. Why do you ask?” She pursed her lips. “I just want to ride along. I’ve always enjoyed doing the trauma rooms, but I think it’d be interesting to see your side of things. I’ve always been curious about first responders.” “Come with me. What good is being boss if I can’t let you come with me whenever the hell I want to?” I asked. She grinned widely. “Okay…what do I wear?”
*** Rue “You know,” I said. “You really shattered all of my illusions when you told me you wear clothes underneath your flight suit.” Cleo chuckled as he walked down the long white hallway that led to the heli-pad. We were at Life Flight headquarters, and were going out to do the ‘first check’ of the morning. The first thing Cleo had done when we arrived was find me a flight suit that fit me. He’d studiously ignored the glares of the man, Alonzo, as he went into the man’s office and started pawing through the closet where all the extra suits were held. “Sorry to burst your bubble,” he winked. “It just gets hotter than hell in that enclosed space. When you’re in route to the scene, or you have someone back there, you don’t necessarily feel the heat. But once you’re done, it finally hits you. If I’m not wearing anything on underneath, then I wouldn’t be able to pull the suit down.” I gave him a mock glare. “Still. I had these visions of you and all of them were centered on you having nothing under your suit.” He rolled his eyes at me, and then pushed the door open that led outside. “I’m flying today. Ross Bradley’s the flight nurse today. He’s new, so I don’t know much about him other than he’s just started this job, and he’s young. Maybe twenty five or so.” “Is he cute?” I teased. He looked down at me, and even though he had on glasses, I could tell he was glaring. “Keep it up.” I winked at him. “Okay, I’ll see what I can do.” “You do that, see what you end up with,” he growled, and then gave my ass a sharp slap. I squeaked and jumped forward. “Agh!” He grinned and walked in front of me, leading the way to the large white and green helicopter that was in front of us. “Would you let me fly sometime?” I asked. I was genuinely interested in learning to fly. I wanted to see why Cleo liked it so much. “Yeah…no. This is a multimillion dollar machine, and there’s no way I’m going to let you fly it. You’ll have to take actual lessons before I ever consider it,” he said, no bullshitting for my man. Not that I didn’t respect his decision, though. In fact, it impressed me. He wouldn’t think of compromising himself or me just because I wanted to have fun. “Normally, what I do when I first arrive on shift is do a check of the helicopter. I check my equipment, make sure everything is in proper working order. When I’m piloting, my partner’s the one who’s supposed to do the check of the supplies we have on board, but I’ll do that so I can show you what we normally
do,” Cleo said as he opened the back doors of the helicopter, turned around, lifted me by my hips, and set me on the platform in the back of the helicopter. He followed up behind me and sat down on the bench beside the cot where the patients were strapped down. We were in there for twenty minutes as he showed me around the area before his partner came out. The man was young; really young. He must’ve gone into nursing school right out of high school. He couldn’t even grow a full beard yet; and he still had the whipcord lean body of a youth who didn’t have the bulkiness of an older man. He was cute, though. There was no doubt about that. “Hey,” the man said, holding out his hand to Cleo. “My name’s Ross Bradley. Nice to meet you.” I raised my eyebrows at Cleo when Cleo stared at the man for a few long moments. “Are you any relation to Grayson Trammel?” I blinked. Now that Cleo had mentioned it, Torren (Grayson was his real name) and Ross did look incredibly alike. Ross shook his head. “No, never heard of him. I actually just moved here because my ma’s in bad shape. She’s seeing a specialist here.” Cleo stayed silent for a moment too long, so I intervened. “I’m sorry to hear about your mom. I know it’s not good losing a loved one. My Nonnie’s in assisted living with Alzheimer’s. It’s like I lose her every couple of weeks.” Ross looked at me with sympathy. “I’m sorry to hear about that.” “I’m just showing Rue…” Cleo started to say when a loud sound from the radio on his shirt interrupted him. “Air Medic 1,” a disembodied voice relayed. “MVA on Interstate 20. South bound and East bound lanes are being shut down right now. Two year old male with major injuries to the right leg, right hand, and head. Sending coordinates to your navigation system.” My stomach knotted as the implications of my decision to ride with Cleo meant for me. I’d be watching a little tiny child fight for his life. The next thirty minutes happened quickly. It took us less than two to take off, and eleven to arrive on scene. I’d been on an airplane before. However, a helicopter was an entirely different experience. It felt incredibly weird to take off from a flat surface, straight up into the air. It was loud, and we had to wear helmets to hear each other speak.
I watched from my perch in the Captain’s seat in the back, caddy corner to Cleo, who was awe inspiring. The man’s movements were so smooth and controlled He looked hyper focused on the land that was speeding by beneath us. He had on aviator sunglasses; paired with the large white helmet that was covering his head, there wasn’t much I could see of his face. Somehow, though, I knew that he was having fun. He loved doing his job. That had been why I’d been so upset that he quit his job. Sure, he could’ve easily been a paramedic, but he wouldn’t have gotten that sense of satisfaction from any other job. He wouldn’t have been in his element as he was at that very moment. I started noticing the interstate within five minutes of our flight, and then I saw the massive amount of backed up cars. “Catching up to the backed up cars normally means we’re getting close,” Cleo’s deep, voice rumbled over the airwaves. I kept my eyes on the traffic, flabbergasted as we passed mile after mile, car after car. It must’ve been an extremely bad wreck, and the closer we got to the scene, the more anxiety I started to feel. “Was there only one victim?” I asked. Cleo’s eyes didn’t move from the direction we were moving, but I could feel his attention shift towards me. “No, not necessarily. We’re really only called when there’s one that needs some major help. Most likely, they’ll just ground and pound the others, if they haven’t done so already.” “Ground and pound?” I asked, finally spotting the emergency crews a couple miles ahead. “That’s short hand for them running lights and sirens on the ground in an ambulance,” Ross said distractedly, watching the scene coming up on us very quickly. Cleo slowed exponentially, and I felt my stomach float up into my throat before it settled back down in the correct spot. Then we descended. I watched the ground as we moved closer and closer to the asphalt road of East Bound I-20. “Holy shit,” I said as my heart started to pound. I saw Cleo grin out of the corner of my eye, but my eyes were glued to the large, cleared area that Cleo was in the process of setting down on. “Nothing like it,” Ross said as he started to gather his supplies. The moment we set down, everything went into motion. Cleo kept the helicopter running, Ross opened the back doors, Cleo was there to get the stretcher,
Ross went out. I went out. And I tried to stay out of the way, not wanting to interrupt their seamless partnership. The scene we arrived on was a nightmare made in hell. There were three cars involved, two of which no longer even resembled any vehicle I knew. The last one was a van, and the most chilling was the car seat sitting on the sidewalk, straps cut, showing where the first responders had removed it from the vehicle. There was a crowd surrounding the back of the ambulance where Cleo and Ross were headed, and they parted like the sea as soon as the two men made it up to them. My first look at the tiny child was overwhelming. Although I’d been an ER nurse for years, nothing could compare to the rawness of seeing it in the field. The transfer of the child was quick and relatively painless. Ross listened to the report from the ambulance crews as Cleo and another fireman started strapping the child down onto the helicopter’s stretcher. Three adults stood off to the side, crying and watching the scene unfold. There was no telling which car they’d belonged to at one point, but it was nice to see that there were survivors from that awful crash. Cleo started back towards the ambulance with Ross close on his heels, running and shielding his eyes against the blades of the helicopter. As soon as they were close enough, I climbed back inside, doing my best to stay out of the way as Cleo put the patient in the back. Once the stretcher was locked into place, Cleo stepped back, letting Ross inside; Ross sat and immediately started making himself busy. The doors behind us slammed shut, closing us in. That was when I finally understood why Cleo did it. This was his passion. He literally had the lives of three people in his care right now. How empowering that must feel, and what a gift it was when a passion and an occupation came together.
*** Rue “My head feels like it weights fifty pounds,” I groaned when my head met the pillow twenty four hours later. Cleo grinned and fell back on the bed beside me. His bed, might I add. I hadn’t been back to my apartment in over two days now. Which, if I were being honest, was okay with me. It was nice not to be alone. It was even nicer to have someone take off my shoes and pants for me when I was too tired to do it myself. “That’s what happens when you do twenty four hour shifts,” Cleo grunted as he threw my pants across the room, aiming for the large laundry hamper in the corner of the room. My eyes got heavy, sleep already settling in to take me under. “I enjoyed it a lot, though. Let me know when you’re hiring,” I teased. His hand smoothed down my back. “You got it.” The day had gone well. We’d gotten the little boy to the hospital in Dallas, and from what Cleo told me earlier in the day, the boy had lived through surgery after they cut a hole in his skull to reduce the intracranial pressure. They expected him to have a full recovery, and go on to live a full life. We’d run two more calls after that. Both had lived. And both would’ve died without Life Flight. “The seed’s been planted, hasn’t it?” Cleo asked as he settled next to me, pulling me into his chest. I snuggled deep. “Yes, the seed’s most definitely been planted.”
Chapter 18 Life isn’t a fairytale. Sometimes one has to pull up her big girl panties and get the fuck over it. -Life Lesson Rue Rue: I took a naked picture of myself. You’re welcome. Cleo: It’s black. I can’t see anything. Rue: There’s only so much one can do while in the dark. Cleo: Tease. Rue: Yep. You want to know why? Call me ASAP. It’d been two months now since I’d been on Cleo’s helicopter and a lot had changed. The trial that I was testifying in had started, but I’d yet to be on the witness stand. Neither side wanted me there. In all honesty, I was as neutral of a party as I could get and neither side had a need for somebody that wouldn’t help their case. In the past month, Silas had bought Life Flight. Layoffs had started at our hospital, and my Nonnie had gone into a decline. The one positive thing about the last month was that Cleo and I seemed to be doing really well. Even though I knew he was keeping secrets. It didn’t escape my attention that he had people following me. I wasn’t stupid. However, I wasn’t sure they were trying to keep it from me, but more or less just not talking about it. I guessed it had something to do with the damage that was done to my car that was related to the break in. Cleo had asked me to stay at his place when he couldn’t be with me and I’d obliged. I couldn’t tell you why, though. Maybe because I was comforted being surrounded by all of Cleo’s things. Or maybe it was because I knew he was just making sure I was safe. Whatever the reason, I’d practically moved in. It was my day off and I was hotter than hell. The power had gone out twenty minutes ago, and I was so hot that I’d stripped down to my bra and underwear in a vain attempt to try to keep cool. It wasn’t working, though. Sadly, Cleo was on the back half of a forty-eight hour shift, and that text I’d just sent him was the first
one he’d answered in well over twelve hours. They really must be busy. I’d reported the power outage myself, yet some drunk on the highway that ran along Cleo’s place had taken out a power pole with his big rig. Effectively stranding nearly two hundred people in the entire grid without power. So there I lay…doing nothing. A timid knock came from the direction of the living room, and my body froze. It was nearly eleven at night…who would be over here that late? Then I heard Molly’s voice, annoying and soft, as she yelled for Cleo to ‘open up.’ Sighing, I reached down for the discarded shirt of Cleo’s instead of my sweats and tank top. Shuffling carefully though the doorway, I took it slow, not quite remembering if I’d picked up all the socks I’d been pairing only an hour before. It was amazing how somewhere in between Cleo taking off his socks and the dryer that he could lose so many, but he managed to do it. So I started a box of mismatched socks, and today it’d been so full that I thought it time to pair them. Out of the thirty pairs I’d made, only five of them had been mine. “Cleo,” Molly’s enraged voice came through the front door. “It’s dark out here, I’m in heels and I need to pee. Open up the door.” If I wasn’t mistaken Molly sounded a tad drunk, too. Joy, oh joy! Unlocking the three locks on the door, I swung the door wide and was nearly ran over with Molly’s rush to get inside. “Jesus, it’s about time. Turn on some freakin’ lights,” Molly whined. She must’ve been walking to the bathroom, because her voice got less annoying the further and further away she got. Then I heard an, “Eeek!” Thump. Thump. Thump. Must’ve not gotten all of the socks after all. Heh. “Owww,” Molly groaned. “Why aren’t there any lights?” Sighing, I answered. “The power’s out.” “What are you doing here?” Molly seethed. I wanted to shout out, ‘I live here,’ but I felt it prudent not to. That wouldn’t be good to diffuse her anger.
I really wished I knew why they hated me so much. What had I ever done to them other than make their brother happy? I didn’t break his heart, he broke mine. I didn’t leave him, he left me! What had I done, I wanted to wail. Did I do any of those things? No. Of course I didn’t. I never yelled at anybody. “I’m staying the night at Cleo’s, but he got called into work. Are you okay?” I asked, staying where I was so I didn’t fall on top of her. It really was pitch black. With Cleo’s place being in the middle of nowhere, and the lights being out on top of that, there was only pitch black darkness. There wasn’t even a moon tonight, on top of it all. My phone was also on the verge of a low battery to boot, so I couldn’t use that for a light if I wanted to be able to use it to make a call later. “I’m fine,” she snarled. “Can you take me home? I got the cab to drop me off here since I was closer to Cleo and I only had ten bucks.” I thought about the fact that Cleo probably wouldn’t like me driving without him knowing I was out, but then I thought about the alternative of having Molly here all night, and I came to a quick decision. “Alright,” I said as I walked slowly forward. “I’ll go get some clothes and shoes on. I’ll meet you by the front door.”
*** Rue “Thanks for the ride,” Molly said reluctantly. I nodded, and watched her step out of the car and slam the door without waiting for a reply. “You’re welcome,” I said to empty air. Bitch. I watched her as she wobbled up the stairs, praying that she wouldn’t fall backwards. I gave a sigh of relief as soon as she made it through her door, and pulled a U-turn before heading back towards Cleo’s place. The purple taco bell sign called my name, and I may, or may not have stopped and gotten three tacos. I’d just finished the final taco when I pulled into Cleo’s drive, and was stunned with what I saw. In the thirty odd minutes I’d been gone, huge stadium lights had been erected sporadically throughout the area, and no less than five police cars, six bikes, and two large four wheel drive trucks filled the small area. “Holy shit,” I breathed. The blue and white lights on one police car was on at the bottom of the drive, and he stopped me when I turned in. Coming to a stop, I rolled down my window and was blinded by the cop’s flashlight shining into my eyes. “Ack!” I said as I flinched away from the light. “Why?” “Ma’am, we have a situation here. You’ll have to turn around and go back the way you came.” The police officer said. I blinked. “But…I live here!” The cop turned his head, and then reached for the radio on his shoulder. “Yeah, we have a woman down here claiming to live here,” the cop said. I pursed my lips. Why on earth would I lie about that? Who in their right mind would say they live somewhere where there were five cops and who knows how many bikers all standing around looking pissed? I put the car in park, and turned off the engine in just enough time to see Cleo coming out of the house at a full sprint, barreling straight towards me. “Shit,” I hissed. He looked really, really mad. Why on earth was he running so fast? I’d just gotten my belt off when my door was yanked open and, like a rag doll, was pulled into Cleo’s arms.
They felt like steel bands around me. He squeezed so tight that I was having trouble breathing…not to mention tasting the three tacos I’d just eaten. “Can’t. Breathe,” I squeezed out. His arms loosened some, but just enough that I wasn’t in danger of losing my midnight snack all over his chest. “What’s going on?” I asked awkwardly. My arms were down straight at my sides, and my head was bent at an unnatural angle due to Cleo’s face buried deep into my neck. He was shaking so bad that I started to get really scared, even more so when it took him nearly five more minutes of standing like that before he answered. “Thought you were gone,” he rumbled into my skin. Shivers raced up my spine. “I was…but your sister came over drunk and falling over, and there was no way I was spending the night with her whining about no air when I could just take her home.” He laughed. Not just a chuckle, either. No, it was an all-out, body shake, throw your head back, kind of laugh. One that you felt from down deep in the pit of your stomach. I wiggled until I got one arm loose, and then smacked him on the shoulder. “What the hell, Cleo?” He let me loose, allowing me to take my first full breath in ten minutes. “I got a call from Dante Hail. He’d gone out to recover the vehicle that took out the power line out by my road. The man that did it was moaning about seeing a man dressed in black running across the road towards my property,” Cleo explained harshly. I looked at him like he was crazy. “And? And anyway, why would you know him well enough for him to call you? You only met him a few months ago.” He shrugged. “Seen him around. We’ve made nice. He uses my boat ramp now when he goes fishing.” I blinked. “The power company said it was a drunk. Maybe he just hallucinated that he saw something.” Cleo shook his head and took my hand, leading me through the multiple vehicles, past the scary looking men of The Dixie Wardens MC, around the front of his house, and up the back porch steps. That was when I gasped, and felt bile running up the back of my throat. “When did that happen?” I asked quietly. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into his chest. “Within the last two hours. My guess was as soon as the lights went out. The power company said they’ve been out for two hours and five minutes now. The guy that hit the power pole only did this guy a favor by taking out all the lights.”
“It was my fault, wasn’t it?” I asked quietly. “She was raped because of me.” Cleo didn’t give any false platitudes. He knew it just as well as I did. Oh, God. Oh, my God. Audrey. “Audrey must hate me,” I said on a deep inhale. I didn’t want to cry, but I could feel the ball of sadness welling in my throat, and my eyes were filling up with tears. “She doesn’t hate you, honey. She knows you didn’t want this,” Cleo rasped. I read the words that were splashed across Cleo’s deck in white, bold letters. I told you what would happen. Back off the case, or this’ll happen to someone else. “What happens if I don’t testify?” I asked as I surveyed the hundreds and hundreds of pictures that were laid out all over the deck. Some of them weren’t too bad. One of me leaving the grocery store. Another of me walking out of my apartment. One talking with Cody as I left the hospital. Then there were the ones of me naked. Or the ones of me and Cleo pressed against each other in an intimate embrace. The ones that really got me, though, were the ones of my friends. Cody and his husband. Their daughter. Cody’s mother. Cleo. Cleo’s sisters. The club. And Audrey. The girl that was raped…all because of me. There were pictures of her on the ground with her pants and panties around her ankles. Some of her on her hands and knees with her face smashed into the grill of a car. I closed my eyes, not wanting to see anything else. “This can’t be happening,” I cried, finally letting the tears spill over. Cleo turned us, and started heading down the back stairs. “We’ll go to your place tonight, and then tomorrow I’ll get some security sensors and a generator so the system doesn’t go down again.” I nodded, numbly. “Okay.”
*** Cleo I walked out of Rue’s apartment door, closing it quietly behind me before turning the corner and coming to a stop on the side of the building. Loki, Trance, Torren, Sebastian, Silas, Tunnel, and Kettle were all there, waiting for me. “She asleep?” Loki asked once I’d made it close enough to them. I nodded. “Yeah. She wasn’t doing too well.” “Audrey wants to come by in the evening, if it’s all right,” Tunnel said quietly. I nodded once. “She’d like that.” Audrey started back to work only a few days ago, and she seemed to be doing just fine. Rue hadn’t been there for those two, she ended up on opposite shifts than Audrey and that was something she planned on rectifying tomorrow when she went in to work. It’d be a long day for her with only three hours of sleep, but she’d said that she wanted to go in, regardless, and I wasn’t one to argue. Usually. “Got some prospects on the friends place, as well as your sisters,” Silas rumbled. “Thanks,” I said. “I called Meredith’s husband and Mikayla’s husband while I was inside. They’re going to keep an eye out.” “What now?” Sebastian asked. Something we were all thinking. “I don’t fucking know,” I said, lifting my hands up to run through my hair. It’d gotten long. My beard had gotten long, too. I was getting soft. Only six months out of the Air Force and I was growing my hair out. What would DP and Cord think of me if they saw me right this second? My phone rang DP’s ringtone, and it was as if he could tell I was thinking about him. We’d done that quite a few times before, too, guessing when the others were in trouble. If I had to say that I had a best friend…or friends…it’d be those two. They got me. They let me brood in the corner if I felt like it. They listened to me moan about Rue. They went to my mother’s funeral with me.
They saved my life more times than I could count. They truly were my best friends. Not that the men standing in front of me right this moment didn’t mean something to me, but they didn’t get me as well as Cord and DP. Stepping back away from the still discussing men, I tapped answer and held it up to my ear. “Are your ears burning?” DP’s dark chuckle rang in my ears. “Yes, sir. I was just watching a TV show and thought of you. We haven’t spoken in a few, so I thought I’d come down for the weekend. What do you think?” I thought about all the shit swirling around in my life right now, and couldn’t think of a better man to help me deal with it. “Abso-fucking-lutely.” Rue would be pleased, too. She’d made a friends with the two men and their wives…now ex-wives, and I knew she’d be excited to see them. It may just be the thing to keep her mind off of what was going on at the moment, too. “10-4. I’ve called Cord, but I’m not sure if he’ll be able to get off in time. He started with the Sherriff’s department last week,” DP said. “Alright, well you know where I live. I can’t promise clean sheets, but there’s bound to be some around somewhere. I’ll see you this weekend,” I said. We hung up, and I walked up in time to hear the back half of the idea that Torren had. “So why doesn’t the DA just call her up to the witness stand. Get it over with. See what happens,” Tunnel asked us. I thought about that for a moment, and couldn’t find a single thing wrong with the idea…other than the obvious threats she’d been getting. However, we were a lot more aware now. Nobody would be getting to her. Not without going through me and the other men standing here with me at the moment. “I can’t find any flaws with that,” Silas said. Sebastian and Kettle were nodding. Trance and Loki were looking thoughtful, as was Torren. “Okay, well Silas, since you’re closest to Dortea, how about you bring that up with her and see what she thinks. She already knows about the threats, but maybe she’ll see a flaw in it where we don’t,” I offered. Silas nodded. “Sounds like a plan. I’ll head out, then. I’ll let you know what she has to say in the morning, okay?” I nodded, and the lot of them dispersed one by one, all offering a handshake before they rumbled off into the night. I was only left with one question. Would it work?
Only one way to find out.
Chapter 19 I would do Christian Grey-ish things to you. -Text from Rue to Cleo Rue “Guess who’s coming in?” Cleo said over the phone the next morning. I looked over the chart that was in front of me and said, “Hmm?” distractedly. “The boys,” his deep voice rumbled, making the cold knot in my belly warm slightly. “That’s great. When and what time?” I asked. Good thing I had the whole weekend off. “This weekend is the bike rally in Jefferson,” he continued; however, my mind stayed on the patient’s chart who’d signed a DNR because she wanted to die with dignity. She was a twenty nine year old mother of four young children with stage four breast cancer. She’d contracted the flu, and her immune system was nearly nonexistent. She was having trouble breathing, and was refusing even the basic of medical interventions, including oxygen. It was only a matter of time, unfortunately. It just broke my heart that she was having to go through this and her family was having to witness it. “You there, baby?” Cleo rasped. I closed my eyes and envisioned his arms around me. “Yeah, I’m here. It’s been a bad day.” He chuckled lightly. “It’s only been less than an hour.” I snorted. “Yeah, I know.” “Hey, Rue. You have a patient in four that’s on the call light for the fifth time.” Johnathan, one of the two male nurses that worked in the ER during my shift, said. Johnathan was pretty awesome. He reminded me of Stone Cold Steve Austin, the wrestler who’d been my idol growing up. He had a shaved head, big, beefy biceps, and a temper that could rival a psychopath when it called for it. He never put up with bullshit, and he always had our backs when we needed him. He was ex-military, and had zero tolerance when it came to patients badmouthing his ‘girls.’ “Cleo,” I said standing up and putting the chart I was looking at back where it went. “I’ve got to go. I’ll talk to you when you pick me up, okay?” Cleo made a understanding sound and said, “Got it. Love you.” I blinked rapidly as the sound of the dial tone rang in my ear. He didn’t say it that often. Only every
now and then, and only when I least expected it. So when I did get graced with hearing those words, I cherished them. Walking away from the nurse’s station with a pep in my step, I came into the room of one Mr. Bowen Bloodsworth, and had to hold back the grimace that threatened to overtake my face. The guy looked downright gross. It was more than obvious that he hadn’t had a bath in a while, and to add insult to injury, he gave me the creeps. “How can I help you, Mr. Bloodsworth?” I asked him as I barely breached the inside of the door. I wasn’t comfortable going that close to him. Not only did he smell horrible, but he was obviously juicin’ on some drug of choice, and I didn’t want to be close to him when he heard what I had to tell him next. “I’m hurtin’ doc,” he groaned. I rolled my eyes. I’d told him I wasn’t a doctor nearly ten times now. “I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. Bloodsworth. What’s your pain on a scale of 1-10?” I asked. Earlier he’d said it was a seventy two. I’d bet now was going to be even worse. “At least an eighty,” he groaned pitifully. My left eye started to tick. “Did the medicine you were given not touch the pain at all?” I asked tiredly. He shook his head. “No, doc. Not at all. I told you those drugs wouldn’t work on me. Only Dilaudid and Morphine work. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, hydrocodone’ll work, too.” I suppressed the urge to snort. “Well, I’m sorry to hear that. However, we can no longer prescribe you any narcotics. You’ll have to see your regular doctor to obtain your prescription. However, with that being said, I saw that you just had the last prescription filled only six days ago, so he’s probably not going to give you another one for another twenty four days.” He lifted his lip in a snarl. “Listen, bitch. I need that now. The doc’s office isn’t open until Monday. And besides, I ain’t got no money to pay for that again.” I squeezed my hands into fists to keep myself from throwing my hands up in the air and yelling, ‘dumbass’ out loud. What did he think? That when he came here it was free? “I’m sorry, Mr. Bloodsworth,” I said again. “Your doctor is in the middle of signing your discharge paperwork, and you’ll be free to go soon.” “I want to see my doctor now,” he snapped. I turned without another word and found Doctor Norwood with dread. Normally telling a patient that he wouldn’t be getting any narcotics would’ve been the doctor’s role. However, Dr. Norwood still lived to give me shit and found joy in making my day as bad as he could possibly make it. I found him in his usual spot next to the corner, and stepped up to the counter so I was facing him. “Dr.
Norwood, Mr. Bloodsworth would like to speak with you.” “Here, tell him I have him ready. Thanks,” he said as he shoved a stack of paperwork in my direction. I ignored the paper work. “He’d like to see you,” I repeated. He looked up at me and glared. “Did you hear what I said?” I suppressed the urge to growl at him. Where was Cleo when I needed him? “I realize that, Dr. Norwood, but he’d like to speak with you,” I said tightly. He stood with barely contained impatience and made his way into Mr. Bloodsworth’s room. “Can I help you?” He asked him coolly. Bowen Bloodsworth looked even worse in the three minutes I’d been gone. “Yes, you can tell this other doctor that I’m allowed to have some drugs. My toe hurts somethin’ fierce,” he hissed. Dr. Norwood grimaced. “You won’t be getting any narcotics. Here’s your discharge paperwork. Follow up with your primary care provider come Monday,” he hissed back. Very helpful, Dr. Norwood. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said. Then proceeded to shit his pants. “Did you seriously just do that?” Dr. Norwood asked in flabbergasted surprise. Bloodsworth shrugged. “Yes.” “Call security,” Dr. Norwood said. I did. Gratefully. A very upset Bowen Bloodsworth was escorted out moments later, and I, for once, was happy with Dr. Norwood. Then he had to go and ruin it. “It’s illegal to impersonate a doctor,” Dr. Norwood said snidely. I ignored him and walked away. If I said something to him, I’d probably get written up, and nobody wanted that. “Dick,” I said under my breath. Then proceeded to have a very, very shitty day. It consisted of puke, shit, temper tantrums from both fellow nurses and patients, and finally, I tripped and fell. With a specimen cup of pee in my hand. Yay, me. Then, for the icing on the cake, I now had to testify on the stand tomorrow morning, and I had a no good, very bad, craptastic day. Hooray.
*** Rue “Are you drunk?” Cleo asked with a smile in his voice. I ignored him and filled my coffee cup back up with the boxed wine I’d begged Silas to stop and get on the way home from work. I was a little mad at Cleo, because I felt that maybe he had a hand in getting me to testify tomorrow. Usually, it wouldn’t bother me in the least to testify on a rape case. Normally, though, I didn’t have my life threatened on a daily basis with bodily harm if I did testify. I knew his intentions were good. I knew he’d protect me. But still. I was a tad bit miffed. Taking a sip of my wine, I stared at the television and tried (and note I said try) to ignore the beautiful man. It was only my second…or third… cup. I really needed to stop, because it probably wouldn’t help to get on the stand drunk, but if I didn’t, I’d start worrying about the what if’s. What if whoever was threating me was serious? What if something happened to Cleo while he was trying to protect me? What if something happened to one of The Dixie Wardens? “Rue?” Cleo asked sharply. I snapped my head around until I was staring into his eyes. “What?” My voice came out sounding a tad bit more shrewish than I’d intended, and his eyebrows rose up in surprise. “What’s your problem?” I stared around his house. His furniture. His TV. His afghan. His fucking food. What here was mine? That’s right, nothing. Because I didn’t live here. This wasn’t my place. This was only temporary. I turned back to Cleo who was still waiting for my answer and did the one thing that I knew he’d hate.
I continued ignoring him. He waited patiently for a few more moments before he got his face down into my own. “What. Is. Your. Problem?” I wanted to smack him, yet I refrained. Was there a reason he kept me in the dark about everything? Hell, I was still mad at him for leaving me and not speaking to me for a year. “I’m not talking to you right now,” I was finally able to say. He snorted. “Well let me know when you decide to stop being a bitch. I’ll be in bed.” A twinge of guilt speared through me. He was probably worried just as much as me… but that was what he got for being the one to recommend me taking the stand in the first place. Finishing the last dregs of wine, I stood and laughed when I saw all the crumbs from the remnants of the four cookies I eaten earlier fall to the floor. Cleo needed a dog. If he had a dog, I wouldn’t be worried about the crumbs. Groaning with annoyance, I went to the closet where Cleo kept his vacuum and started cleaning. Which inevitably led to me cleaning the entire house, stopping to hydrate myself once or twice with another cup of coffee…I mean wine. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point I sat down and fell asleep, because housecleaning was hard work, people!
*** Rue I woke when I felt an unfamiliar hand touch the sole of my foot. It was there, and then it was gone. That happened four more times before I woke up, staring straight into the eyes of Sebastian, The VP of The Dixie Wardens. “What?” I snapped. Except for I fell back to sleep almost instantly, missing why this strange man was caressing my feet inappropriately. “You’re going to have to actually pick her up and stand her on her feet. She won’t wake up if you give her girl taps on the foot,” Cleo said mildly. I wanted to tell Cleo that he was a douche, but for some reason I was extremely comfortable “Why am I doing this and not you, when you clearly could be doing it right now?” Sebastian asked. Secretly, I wanted to know the answer to that question as well, but I didn’t care enough about the answer to wake up completely. Why was it that at night, I could toss and turn for an hour and not find one smidgeon of comfort, but when I needed to wake up, any and every position was like sleeping on the softest of clouds? “Because she’s mad at me and giving me the silent treatment. I’m supposed to stay away from her, or so she told me last night,” Cleo said dryly. Had I said that? “Yes,” Cleo answered immediately. Clearly, I’d said that out loud. I popped an eye open and glared at him over the couch. “No, I didn’t.” “Last night when I tried to get you to back away from the vacuum, you told me to go fuck a duck, and to leave you alone,” he said with amusement. I closed my eyes again, not even caring in the least. “Whatever. I did not.” Suddenly my afghan was ripped off me, and I found myself being carried like a sack of grain into the bedroom, watching Sebastian’s amused face as I went. “I’m gonna barf down your ass if you don’t put me down,” I growled. He did put me down, right into an ice cold shower. “Eeeek!” I squeaked. “You…you…butt muncher!” My stuttered insult had him laughing, and he left with a smile on his face while I struggled out of my wet clothes. Then went to work on the elastic band in my hair that didn’t want to let go of its firm hold on my tangles.
I sped through my shower, knowing damn well why I’d had so much to drink last night. I was nervous. In fact, I was so nervous that I was on the verge of puking…or maybe that was the remnants of the wine sloshing around in my empty belly. Washing my hair, I was just about to get out of the shower when I saw that Cleo had left his razor in the shower. Smiling deviously, I did a quick shave of my legs, bikini line, and armpits, then put the razor back exactly where I found it. Served him right. “What are you smiling about?” Cleo asked from the doorway causing me to jump in surprise. I thought about the time he told me how gross it was when I asked if I could shave my legs with his razor and barely contained a smile. “Nothing. I’m just about ready.” He looked at my dripping body skeptically, and turned without another word. Toweling off as I walked into the bedroom, I went to the closet where my clothes usually hung and grimaced. I’d taken a little too much over to Cleo’s place, and I didn’t really have anything left that was ‘courtroom apparel.’ The first pair of black pants I tried on wouldn’t zip. The second zipped, but left much to be desired. I finally settled on a brown pair of capris that had a flared leg, and paired it with a royal blue flowered shirt. It looked a little showy for a courtroom, and I knew I’d be attracting a lot of attention, but I figured it didn’t really matter. I’d be the center of attention when I was giving my testimony anyway. Let the games begin.
*** Rue No bombs went off on our way to the courthouse. No gunman were sitting on the roof across the street shooting me full of holes. It was so very uneventful that when I finally took my seat beside Cleo in the back of the room, I was a tad bit disappointed. No, not that I didn’t die, but because I hyped myself up to be brave, and nothing even happened. That wasn’t to say that I didn’t anticipate something happening. There were over a hundred people in the courtroom. This was a big case for this town. It wasn’t every day that a man was accused of rape when he most likely didn’t do it. If it was, in reality, rape, then this was one hell of an elaborate setup. “All rise,” the bailiff’s call reverberated through the room. We all rose, and the honorable Judge Judy, I shit you not, walked into the room. Judy was her last name, though. She was a woman with brass balls bigger than most men. Cleo and Loki had been talking this morning when we’d stopped at a red light, and Loki had said something about her that I couldn’t believe. Now, though, looking at her, I realized what he meant. She looks like Snow White, Loki had said. She did, indeed, look like Snow White. Black hair in a bob at chin level. Porcelain white skin. Rosy cheeks. Then she spoke, and any disillusion that she was like Snow White flew out the window. “Sit down. Dortea, get on with it,” Judge Judy snapped. “Somebody didn’t get any last night,” Cleo muttered under his breath. I elbowed him, causing a gush of air to escape him. He turned and glared at me. I could feel his gaze as it burned a hole in the side of my face. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, inadvertently bumping Loki’s shoulder. Why I had to sit in between the two of them was beyond me, but if that’s what I had to do to make the two of them comfortable, then so be it.
Dortea stood from her chair, and walked until she stood just in front of the judge’s bench. “I’d like to call Rue Loden to the stand. The SANE, or sexual assault nurse examiner, who was the first one to speak with Vanessa about the case.” I stood, nervousness making my legs shake, and walked up to the front. However, not before Cleo grabbed the back of my thigh and gave me a reassuring squeeze. I patted his hand, letting him know I had it under control. Walking up to the stand, I ignored the whispered conversations as best as I could. I still heard the muttered comment of ‘he’s hot. Wonder why he’s with her.’ I would’ve loved to respond, but Judge Judy AKA Snow White, probably wouldn’t like me going all Southern on whatever bitch had just said that, in her courtroom. Doing the usual, I stood behind the wooden barrier that was directly beside the Judge’s bench, and placed my hand on the bible. “Do you swear to tell the truth,” the bailiff began. I missed the rest of what was said, and barely managed an ‘I do’ because my eyes caught on Cleo. His gaze held mine, and all the nervousness I was feeling evaporated. He wouldn’t let anything happen to me. I was sure of it.
*** Rue It all started out good. Then it wasn’t. Brendan’s lawyer was a beast. He was tall, broad, and unforgiving. He was cute for an older man, but any and all appeal was lost as soon as he started questioning me. “Can you walk me through the routine, just one more time, Ms. Loden?” Mr. Masterson asked. I don’t think he meant it to come out sounding so harsh, but it did. He made me feel like I was a low life criminal, and I wasn’t. I was a law-abiding citizen who only wanted to make a difference. That was why I was a SANE nurse. They needed me when they were most vulnerable. Sure, most of the time they were just bullshit cases, but every once in a while, like with Audrey, I helped. Which was why I pulled my big girl panties up, and explained it one more time. “As I said,” I sighed. “I was called in to work a case on the night of April 7. I walked into the room, started speaking with Vanessa, and started collecting what little evidence there was.” “And what do you mean by, ‘what little of it there was?’” Mr. Masterson asked, eyes pinning me in place. My leg was shaking a mile a minute, but I answered the intimidating man despite my growing ire. “I mean there was very little, if any, evidence. There was no tearing,” I explained, holding up one finger. “There was no bruising,” I said holding up the second. “There was no semen. There were no fibers. Vanessa didn’t even want to press charges, but her father was standing outside the door ranting. So she did anyway.” Once I got that last sentence out, a small smile tipped up the corner of the stoic lawyer’s lips. “I see. And what was the father doing during this time?” “He was on the phone with the DA’s office, from what I could tell. He was ranting and raving about turning this,” I said, gesturing to the room as a whole with my hand. “Town upside down, and selling off every property he owned if someone, somewhere, didn’t ‘fix’ this.’” A grumbled oath from someone in the crowd had my heart beating a little faster. I knew it was Vanessa’s father. I just knew that if I looked over at him right now, he’d flay the skin from my body with the intensity of his anger. “Anyway, like I said, she told me that she said ‘no’ but she also told me she was playing a game with
the young man. However, towards the end she ‘actually meant it’ even though in the beginning she was just saying no because that’s what they’d agreed upon before they made the contract,” I explained. Mr. Masterson’s eyes zeroed in on me. “Contract?” I nodded. “Yes.” “So you’re telling me that Vanessa admitted that the two of them had a contract?” He asked slowly. I nodded. “Yes,” I agreed. “Hmmm,” he hummed. “I think that’s all. No further questions.” I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders as I got down from the stand and made my way back to my seat. I kept my head down, refusing to look at Vanessa’s father’s eyes, even though I knew he was still glaring daggers at me. Once I sat, I leaned into Cleo, resting my head on his shoulder as the DA called the next witness to the stand. “You did good, sweet girl,” Cleo murmured against my head. “Thank you,” I whispered back. “I did.” He laughed. “Yeah, no self-doubt there,” he teased. I agreed, albeit silently. I wasn’t a big fan of contempt of court, and based on the glare I was receiving from Judge Judy, it wouldn’t be long before her patience failed her. Giving him one last kiss on the cheek, I laid my head down on his shoulder and promptly fell asleep.
Chapter 20 I’m sorry for what I said when you tried to wake me up. I don’t control that me. -Rue to Cleo Rue I awoke from my nap when my pillow slid out from under me. I’d been drifting in and out while my head laid pillowed on Cleo’s thigh. He, Torren and Loki spoke quietly about the day, allowing me the sleep I so desperately needed. Channing was on her way over with food, Bodacious BBQ, to be exact, and we were all just waiting. They’d come to my place since the workers had started on Cleo’s house that morning. It was in the process of having a full overhaul, including a built in generator, and a brand new security system. I’d volunteered to go somewhere else, but everyone, except me that was, agreed that I’d had a long day and I needed to be around my own things. Secretly, I thought it was because if something did happen, they didn’t want blood on their carpet. The voices that had been floating around my subconscious in my asleep/waking state drifted away, and I fell back to sleep without thought. The next time I woke was to a sharp pinching sensation in my leg. I sat up only to fall backwards as whatever was in the needle that was currently embedded in my leg took effect. My brain got sluggish, and my arms only worked long enough for me to push myself up completely, propping myself up on the arm of the couch. My limbs refused to work, and my heart started to pound as Vanessa dropped down to her haunches in front of me. “What are you doing here?” I slurred. “How hard is it to not testify?” The young girl hissed. Vanessa White looked ghastly. I looked at her with wariness. Would she slit my throat with that knife? Stab me? I could see why she was using a knife, though. Anything louder would alert the men in the other room of what was happening. What had she given me anyway? My eyes were getting heavy, and I couldn’t even open my mouth to protest. She’d played the part of a thankful victim well. Cleo must’ve just let her right on in and not even thought twice. Hell, I wouldn’t have questioned her wanting to see me either. While I watched her pace back and forth across the room, I focused on raising my arm.
Just a little bit. There was a glass jar of marbles on the side table. The jar wouldn’t shatter if it hit the floor, but it would make a hell of a noise. Maybe if I could just knock it off, Cleo would come in here. “I mean, how many ways did I have to tell you to stop?” The young girl hissed without looking at me or what I was trying to do. My hand rose in slow degrees. A millimeter at a time until finally I had it resting against the base of the jar. It was heavy. Really heavy. “Then daddy wouldn’t let me drop the case, and my poor boyfriend was just hung out there to dry,” she whined. If I could lift my arm right now, I’d have smacked her. My fingers inched closer and closer. All the while I prayed I’d make it. It took another ten minutes of her ranting and raving before I finally got my hand in place. I pushed with all my strength. And nothing happened. My hand didn’t even move a single inch. “All I wanted was to be a wife to my ex-boyfriend. Then everything was screwed up royally when Brendan went all the way instead of my ex finding him. I’d have gone with it, too, but then my supposed best friend caught us and then told Scooter,” Vanessa spat. Scooter must be the ex-boyfriend. I hadn’t heard his name before now. I still couldn’t fathom how this little teenage girl was able to get past the entire room of men, and then drug me. Why hadn’t Cleo come to check on us yet? The glass I was pushing against slipped minutely, giving me hope. “Anyway,” she said waving her hand. “I just needed you to know that there were consequences. You should’ve listened when I had daddy’s friend come to scare you. This all would’ve been avoided, but now I have to prove a point. It’ll be ugly. It’ll probably hurt, too. But it can’t be avoided.” The girl was fucking cuckoo. What did she think she was going to do with a room full of men on the other side of this wall? “Anyway, I hate to tell you this, but you’re about to burn, baby,” she said cheerfully as she pulled a bottle of liquor out of her purse, twisted off the top, took a swig, and then stuffed the ugly pink scarf she wore around her neck down the neck of the bottle. My heart started to pound.
But she surprised me. She didn’t do what I thought she was going to, which was smash the bottle against the wall once she lit it. Instead, she walked up to the door, opened it and started walking out. She stopped, though, looking over her shoulder and smiling widely. I must’ve had some sort of expression on my face that resembled pure terror, because she started to laugh once she caught a look at me. “Oh, by the way,” she said. “I sent the guys out to look at my car that conveniently broke down. They are all at the other end of the street.” Then she wiggled what looked like a spark plug at me and winked. Fucking winked. “Peace,” she said as she walked away, disappearing through the door of my bedroom. A loud crash sounded from somewhere in the living room area, confirming that the men were not there anymore. If they had been, they wouldn’t have let her do that. And they’d be rushing in here right now to see just what had happened to me. Despair rose thick inside my throat, and I just knew this was it. I’d never see Cleo again. I’d never see my grandmother again. I’d never be a mother. Or a grandmother. I wouldn’t be anything, because I’d be dead. As the thick, noxious smoke started to fill the air, I felt horrible for Cleo. He’d witness his greatest fear. Losing me. A fear he’d admitted to on the way home from the courthouse, only hours before. My eyes closed on their own accord. The smoke was getting thick. So thick that I couldn’t even get a full breath anymore. My lungs felt like they were on fire, and as my breath sawed faster and faster in and out of my lungs, I knew it was a matter of moments before I lost consciousness. The hand that was on the glass vase slipped down, finally tipping the whole thing over. The marbles crashed to the floor, scattering everywhere. However, the roar of the fire burning just outside the room drowned out the sound, doing no good. My arm flopped to the couch limply, and my face fell further, burying in the crook of the couch,
suffocating me even more. Then there was nothing.
*** Cleo This is a pretty new car to be breaking down, I thought. Loki had gone to meet his wife so they didn’t have two vehicles here when it was time to leave later. He’d given Vanessa a withering look as he’d left, saying with his eyes that he didn’t trust her. Then she’d slunk away from him like a beaten kitten as he’d walked by, causing Loki’s glare to soften; only minutely, though. “You think her father beats her?” Torren asked as he puttered underneath the hood of Vanessa’s car. I shook my head. “I don’t know, but by the way she cowered from Loki as he passed her, I would say probably so. She looked like she was pretty sick, too. Do you think I should’ve woken Rue up before I sent Vanessa in there?” Torren shrugged and started twisting something. “Maybe if she were naked, then yes.” I didn’t look at what he was doing, however. It was too dark to see, and my head was already killing me from being on the edge of my seat all day, waiting for the other shoe to drop. “I’ll go get the truck and we’ll pull it to the garage…there’s a spark plug missing,” Torren said suddenly. I blinked. “How the fuck…” Then a sudden, sick realization hit me. A spark plug didn’t just fall out on its own. Sure, it’d loosen, but it wouldn’t just be gone unless somebody wanted it gone. That girl. Vanessa. I’d fallen for her poor, pitiful me act; hook, line, and sinker. I looked at Torren, and Torren looked at me, before we both started sprinting back to the apartment. We’d left Tunnel there, seeing as he was waiting for his sister to come over. However, he’d be more vulnerable than most to her act because of his own sister having the same thing done to her only a few short months ago. My legs ate up the ground for a half mile before we turned the bend and saw smoke billowing out of Rue’s apartment. Fire poured out of the window in the front, so we bypassed it and ran straight through the narrow path between the Rue’s apartment and the one directly next to hers. Smoke poured out of the seams of the paneling as we rounded the back, thanking God that the back door and window were free of smoke and fire. “Follow me,” Torren instructed. “Walk where I walk, and don’t deviate.” Knowing when I wasn’t in my element, I did as instructed, staying on his ass the entire way.
We both saw the lump in the living room at the same time. Both of us cursed and went straight to Tunnel, Torren dropping down to one knee as I dropped down to both. Smoke billowed thick and black around us, causing Torren and me to cough. Tunnel, on the other hand, wasn’t coughing. He was staring straight at the ceiling, not moving even the slightest inch. He was breathing, thank God. Slow, and very labored, but he was breathing. He wouldn’t be for long if we didn’t get him out of the smoke. I looked at Torren, knowing without a doubt that it’d be easier for me to get Tunnel out. One, because I was larger and would be able to handle him more easily. Two, because he knew what to do, and I didn’t. He and I both knew it. He understood my silent torture, and as I picked up Tunnel and threw him over my shoulder, I left him with my heart. He nodded a silent creed, and turned towards the smoky hallway, disappearing in a matter of milliseconds thanks to the dense blackness. The smoke was so thick that it disoriented me. It took me a few moments to realize where I was at, and I lost a few precious moments that I couldn’t afford to lose. Or, rather, Tunnel couldn’t afford to lose. A roaring sound started to pound in my ears, and I couldn’t tell if it was from the fire, or the blood pumping through my veins. Either way, I started to move faster, feeling along the wall as I went. My hand brushed pictures off the wall, shattered sconces to the floor, and finally, knocked all the keys off the key hook that hung at the back door. Heart pounding, I pointed myself towards where I thought that the door might be, only bumping into the frame slightly as I practically fell out of the doorway and into the open air. I wasn’t home free, yet, however. In fact, it was just as bad, if not worse here since the fire and smoke sought the oxygen of the outside air. I fell to my knees, coughing and gagging on my own spit as my throat burned like acid. Then my body started moving on its own volition. Or what I assumed was my own volition. Turns out, it was my two best friends. DP took Tunnel, and Cord took me, carrying me out to the
clearing behind Rue’s apartment and dropping me down crudely into the deep foliage. I sat up, choking and coughing as my two best friends worked on Tunnel. My brother. Cord breathed for Tunnel as DP did chest compressions, while I watched in silent horror. They worked for so long that two firefighters showed and took over. Kettle and Sebastian. They didn’t even see who it was at first. Tunnel was so covered in black soot that it honestly didn’t look like him. They never even realized it until Kettle stood back once he hooked up the leads to the ECG. “Nothing.” I moaned. “No.” He was gone. They knew it. I knew it. DP and Cord knew it. The only blip on the little black screen was each time Sebastian pushed down on Tunnel’s chest. A short blip, blip, blip, and then it was gone as Kettle gave the breath. They both shook their head. We all knew it. The rhythm wasn’t shockable. There wasn’t anything we could do. It wasn’t his heart. It was the fact that his lungs were most likely burned to Rice Krispies; there was nothing viable left. Even if his heart were to be working, there wasn’t anything in his body to oxygenate his lungs when his lungs were no more. “He’s gone,” I croaked. Kettle sighed and placed his hand down on Tunnel’s chest, only then realizing what he was touching. Tunnel’s cut. I saw the moment realization dawned on him. One second he was only upset over losing a patient. The next he was devastated. Eviscerated. The moan of pain was echoed by us all as one of our own died, and two more were still inside, fighting for their lives, too. It felt like hours as we all watched the back of the house. Me, I’d have gotten up, which I’d tried to do, but my body just wouldn’t respond. At some point oxygen was thrust over my face, an annoying presence that obstructed my field of view of the back door.
But after a long ten minutes, it was more than obvious that no one was coming out of that door. Especially after the back half of the roof collapsed, effectively blocking the final entrance that wasn’t encased in fire. I lost it.
Chapter 21 You will live on in my heart. I will avenge you, even if it takes me and my whole mother fuckin’ club to do it. -A biker promise Rue “You have to wait until they’re both out of here before we discuss the funeral arrangements,” an insistent voice growled from the chair beside me. My eyes blinked open, gritty and coarse. It felt like I’d rubbed some sandpaper over the whites of my eyes. I was surprised to find my bed surrounded by men. Sebastian. Silas. Loki. Trance. DP. Kettle. Cord. My hospital bed. Why were they all in here? Then I noticed who wasn’t there. Cleo. Torren. Tunnel. It was the beat of my heart that alerted them that I was awake. The steady beep, beep, beep became an erratic tattoo, going from an even 80 beats per minute to a steady 110 in less than thirty seconds. Silas was the one to jump up and come to me. He leaned over until his beard touched my chest. “You’re okay, girl.” “Cleo,” I croaked. My voice sounded raw and edgy, nothing smoky about it. Silas smiled. “He’s fine. They have him down in X-ray checking out his lungs. That’s why you have so many of us in your room. I blinked stupidly at him. “His lungs?” He turned his head slightly and leaned back before sitting down on the edge of my bed. His leg came up to rest at my side. “There was a fire,” he started. I nodded. I’d remembered that. But they weren’t supposed to be there. And speaking of, how had I gotten out? Then I knew. Cleo had come. Just like I’d known he would.
“Everyone okay?” I rasped. Silas face went from somber to sorrowful, and I knew instantly that something terrible had happened. “What?” I asked. Someone from the other side of the bed took my hand, and I turned to see that Cord had it. Then something touched my foot, and I saw that Loki’s hand rested at the top of the footboard. His scarred hand that spoke of tons of fights, held on to my toes through the blanket. “Please,” I said as I turned back to Silas. He swallowed, causing his beard to bob with the effort. “Tunnel died. Complications from smoke inhalation,” he murmured softly. My heart sank, and a sob got caught in my throat, causing my raw voice to come out even grittier. “No.” The wail of denial came from down deep as I let all the pain and fury pour out of me in just that one word. He nodded sorrowfully. “I’m sorry, girl. He died. It wasn’t from anything you did, though.” “I testified,” I wailed. “If I hadn’t, he’d have still been alive.” My voice sounded ghastly, but I couldn’t keep the words in. They just poured out. “Vanessa said not to testify. I should’ve listened. I should’ve listened,” I shook my head frantically. “He knew the risks,” a soft-spoken voice said from the doorway. “It was his idea, after all.” I turned and looked over Cord’s shoulder to see a slight Hispanic woman with pitch black hair that hung down to her hip in a tight braid, standing at the door. She was wearing scrubs. Navy blue with lime green piping. The only thing off was the puffiness of her eyes. Then it hit me. She’d looked so familiar. That was because I’d seen her around at a couple Dixie Wardens functions. It was Tunnel’s wife, Mina. “He knew, just as I did, what was at risk, but he wasn’t doing it for anybody here. He was doing it for his sister,” Mina’s voice cracked. Sebastian walked towards the door and wrapped her in his arms. She looked so tiny and frail in his arms. Tunnel and Sebastian had been roughly the same size. Which meant she’d have been dwarfed in Tunnel’s arms as well. We all watched in silence as the tiny woman broke down and cried, and I silently wondered why she was wearing her scrubs.
She wasn’t working was she? How many days had it been? Had I been asleep long enough for her grieving process to end? “You should go home, sweets. Get some rest,” Sebastian murmured into her hair as he kissed the top of her head. Tears ran freely down my face as I listened to the two speak. “I can’t go home. Not to our bed. Not again. Not without him. It’s too big. You know the last thing he said to me in that bed? That he wanted another baby. I told him he was out of his damn mind.” A sob caught in her throat. “I should’ve taken him up on it. I should’ve relented a few months ago when he’d first brought it up, because maybe if I had, I would be carrying him around with me,” she wept. The room was silent except the erratic beat of my heart as long moments passed by. Finally, Mina lifted her head from Sebastian’s chest. “I’ll sit here and wait for Cleo to get back. I’ve already requested that they let Torren come in here for a little while so we can make the arrangements.” Sebastian nodded and led Mina to the vacated chair near the corner of the room. And there we waited, nobody able…or willing…to break the silence.
*** Cleo “I can walk, dammit,” I snapped at Baylee. Baylee was the vice president of the Dixie Wardens, Sebastian’s, wife. “I damn well know you can walk, but your ass is hanging out, and you’re showing the entire hospital,” she snapped back. Chastised, I let her tie up the ties in the back so my ass wasn’t on exhibit, and then shuffled stiffly to the door of Rue’s room. It’d been a long twenty one hours, but she’d made it. Although she’d had quite a bit of smoke inhalation, having her face buried in the couch had saved her life. It’d provided an adequate enough seal that smoke couldn’t permeate easily, and offered her enough room for her to breathe as well. It turns out that Torren had had to use a computer chair as a battering ram to break through the thin wall connecting Rue’s apartment to the one beside her. After fifteen painstaking minutes of trying to get a hole big enough for him to fit through and tearing a ligament in his shoulder in the process, he’d finally gotten through, and just in the nick of time. Around the time that we’d seen the back entrance way collapse, Torren had gone through the wall. He’d gone out the front, while we’d all been watching the back like hawks. I hadn’t known until after we’d arrive at the hospital and I was treated for smoke inhalation that they’d both made it. Though, only because I’d heard the stupid whore who’d been responsible for it all yelling that she should’ve just ‘fucking shot the cunt who refused to die.’ The stupid bitch had ran through the woods behind Rue’s property and was bitten by a rattlesnake. Most likely, she’d be losing her leg. If she was lucky, she’d die. Because there was no way that I wouldn’t pay all the money I had for her to be put away for life in the most disgusting filth of a jail on earth, just so I could see her suffer. And I had a feeling that the majority of The Dixie Wardens felt much the same way. I’d found Rue in the next room, unconscious but alive, and had stayed by her side until an hour ago when I’d been told I needed an x-ray of my lungs done. Luckily they’d been in good working order. Unluckily, I hadn’t been there when Rue had woken up. “She’s okay?” I asked for the fourth time. Baylee smiled at me knowingly. “She’s fine.” Finally somewhat relieved, I breached the door to Rue’s room, and was a little taken back when I saw Mina in the corner.
She looked like hell, which was to be expected. She’d been on shift when we’d come up to her floor. It’d not been very fun to tell her that her husband had died in a fire. In fact, twenty two hours later and it still hurt just as much now to see that look on her face as it did when I put it there by telling her that her husband was gone. Tearing my eyes away from the grieving widow, my eyes softened when I found Rue scooted over to the very edge of the bed, and Torren lying next to her. I owed that man my life, and nothing I could ever do would ever be enough to repay him. He said he was just doing his job, but he hadn’t been on shift at that moment in time, and I’d never stop trying to make him realize just what it meant to me to have him save my woman. “Hey,” Rue said softly when she caught sight of me in the doorway. “Hey,” I rasped back. I sounded like I was a four pack a day smoker, and she sounded much the same. However, we were alive and that was all I could focus on at that point. ‘Cause if I focused on anything else, I just might shatter.
*** Cleo “So how do all those people fit in?” Rue asked later that night as we snuggled into the bed. After being discharged, we went to my place, and the rest of The Dixie Wardens had followed, along with the wives. Mina had gone home, opting to spend some time with her daughter who was confused as to why her daddy wasn’t coming home ever again. The rest of the group had gone home after a long night of comfort food, leaving us by ourselves for the first time in nearly forty eight hours. “My boss is Vanessa’s dad’s half-brother. Vanessa has him wrapped around her little finger. She calls him ‘daddy.’ It’s not known, yet, whether they had anything more of a relationship or not, but we do know that Alonzo’s son was the man who tried to break into your place. Now those two did, indeed, sleep together.” She grimaced at the visual. “How’d she get that medicine?” She asked quietly. I scratched my head. “I never heard. But I’ll find out for you if you want to know.” She shook her head. “I don’t really want to think about it anymore, to be truthful. I want it all to go away.” I hugged her closer, laying my head against her chest. Her breathing evened out after a few long minutes, but it took me a very long while. Everything kept playing through my mind. Could I have done anything differently? Rue was the one to stop my overactive mind. Her hand raised in her sleep, and her hand connected with the back of my neck, allowing me to relax fully into her. I fell asleep with the reassuring sound of her heart thumping underneath my ear. Tomorrow would be a bad day, but we’d get through it.
Chapter 22 There’s a fine line between pissed, and livid. Cleo crossed that line three days ago. God help you all. -Life Lesson Rue “With brave wings, he flies to where he’s always wanted to be. Paris, Texas,” Mina laughed quietly. Watery laughs overtook the crowd, including the somber men on the bench in front of, beside, and behind me. I giggled, and the tears that were streaming down my cheeks fell into my open mouth. The Dixie Wardens, even ones from other Chapters, filled up the first couple rows normally saved for family. Which, I guess, in all honesty, we were his family. “He was such a good daddy. I remember the first time he met our girl, Sienna,” Mina wiped her eyes. “He held her up to his face, and breathed in her scent. And what did he say? She doesn’t smell like a baby is supposed to.” I smiled through the tears, and then started giggling. Cleo, looking down at me, wrapped his arm around me and brought me into his chest. One hand went around his torso as I leaned into him. “I had to tell him that she probably would once they managed to wipe the blood off of her,” she smiled wistfully. “That was the best day of my life, second only to the day I married him.” We were sitting in the front of the local high school’s auditorium, watching while Mina gave her heartfelt speech. When she’d told me she was going to do it, I’d been skeptical, but she’d made it through the first five minutes all right, and had the crowd laughing at that. Shaking her head, she placed her hands on the podium one last time before she looked up at the crowd. “Tunnel was over the moon four times in his life. The first time, when we got married. The second time, when our daughter, Sienna was born. The third, when he got on with Benton PD. The final time was when he was patched in with The Dixie Wardens MC,” she sniffled. I swallowed thickly, seeing each and every man on the row with me stiffen. Heads hanging, they listened intently. “Tunnel loved The Dixie Wardens. He loved the police department. He loved his life. It wasn’t always that way. We had a tough couple of years, but he made me a promise when we found out I was expecting. And that was that he’d make our girl a life that he would be proud of. And he succeeded by leaps and bounds,” she said as a lone tear fell down her cheek. “Thank you all for coming,” she said as she looked over the crowd. “He would’ve been so happy.” With that, she stepped back from the podium, and the preacher, Reverend Spano, whom I’d met only a
day ago, helped her to the edge of the stairs. Mina walked down the steps leading up to the stage carefully, then kept walking around the steps until she came to a rest beside Tunnel’s casket. Bending over, she wrapped her hands around the flag-covered wood, and rested her head on the top, weeping softly. Silas got up and rubbed his hand along Mina’s back, talking to her softly. After a moment’s hesitation at what she requested, he turned around and grabbed her vacated chair, placing it so it was facing the coffin. She sat down in the chair, facing away from the hundreds of off duty police, firefighters, bikers, and mourning town inhabitants, and placed her head against the wood. My heart broke for her all over again. Turning my cheek, I buried my nose into the silk of Cleo’s dress shirt, not caring in the least as my tears soaked it through.
*** Rue “Why do you think they always have so much food at funerals?” Viddy asked as she covered the fifth pecan pie that was delivered. Channing shrugged. “No clue. Just exactly what you need when you’re depressed. Tons of food.” I focused on the turkey I was filling a Ziploc bag with and groaned. “I’ve been eating all day. Literally, have not stopped once since we got here over four hours ago.” “That’s good. You really haven’t eaten much in a couple of days. I’m surprised you’re not falling down asleep after the last couple of weeks,” Adeline observed. I thought about the two naps I’d taken today. One on the seat of Cleo’s truck as we followed the funeral procession, and the second while I sat on Cleo’s lap about an hour before the funeral, and smiled. “I took a couple of naps today,” I explained. They nodded. “I did, too,” Channing agreed. “What did y’all think about Tunnel’s choice of music as the casket was lowered?” Baylee asked as she walked into the room and took a seat on the counter beside me. I snorted. Mina had explained that Tunnel really wanted a certain song to be played at his funeral, and had nearly died laughing when we heard Another One Bites the Dust roll through the speakers. Some of the older folks in the crowd found the song horrific; me, I found it perfect. It perfectly expressed Tunnel’s love for life flawlessly. “That’s Tunnel for you,” Viddy said as she placed a bag of sliced cheese into the fridge beside the other four. “What got to me was the twenty one gun salute. When Sienna started calling for her daddy when she heard the gun shots, it damn near killed me,” I said sadly. They all agreed with me. Hell, even a few of the men wiped a tear or two away after that one. The door behind us opened, causing us all to turn and watch as Cleo walked into the kitchen. He looked tired. His eyes were all for me. “You ready to go, babe?” He asked. I nodded. “Yeah, just let me finish putting all this up, and then I’ll meet you outside? Okay?” He nodded, ruffled Viddy’s hair, and left. It didn’t take me long to finish.
Each of us took some of the nearly forty bags of food with us. Mina had already left with Sienna, and her own ten bags of food. “Alright, ladies. I’ll see y’all later,” I called my goodbye. A chorus of bye’s were called to my back, and I lifted my hand with two sacks of food, and started towards where I heard Cleo’s voice. I found him in the main room, standing with DP and Cord as he told them about Tunnel. “He sounded like a good man,” DP said softly. “He was,” I agreed. They turned and smiled at me. “I’m ready,” I stated the obvious. They each walked towards me, divesting me of my bags. “Y’all staying with us?” I asked as I walked between the two men, with Cleo at my front, leading the way. They each nodded. “Yeah, the hotels were booked solid. So it’s couch and air mattress night at the Caruso residence,” Cord said dryly. I gave him a wink. “We can build a fort in the living room and have a pillow fight.” Cleo gave me a look over his shoulder and I zipped my mouth up tight. Once we reached Cleo’s truck, he opened the door for me and stowed the multiple bags in the floorboard. The other two men got into another vehicle, a few car lengths away, and drove out of the parking lot without waiting. “Where are they off to in such a hurry?” I asked in surprise. “Beer. Lots and lots of beer. This day calls for getting drunk,” Cleo explained as he walked around the front of the truck and got in. It did, too. Especially after hearing from the cops that the fire that had taken Tunnel’s life, had also taken an elderly man’s life in the apartment below my own. The fire marshal had explained what had happened quite adequately. It’d been a nothing but luck on Vanessa’s part. We’d never know how exactly she’d gotten to Tunnel, only that she had, and then set the place on fire as she walked out. Paired with the fact that every single piece of my furniture was old wood, it’d only acted as extra accelerant, fueling the fire until it raged out of control. Tunnel never stood a chance, and surprisingly, neither had I. It was only by a divine stroke of fate that left me alive today. In all honesty, I should be in that morgue beside Tunnel.
However, I knew that I’d lived for a reason, and I was going to make Tunnel’s life mean something. Make his death meaningful. Before Cleo started the truck, he turned only his head and asked, “Are you ready to go home?” Home. Home wasn’t something I’d ever thought that I’d have again, but now, looking into Cleo’s eyes, I knew I’d have a home and more with him. I’d learned a lot of things over the past few months. The main thing, though? That Cleo and I were made for each other. Cleo was mine, just as I was his. He was the flight of my life.
Chapter 23 And for my next trick, I’m going to convince you all that I’m a functioning adult. -E-card Rue 3 months later “Did you know Hunstville State Penitentiary executes the most inmates in the state of Texas?” Cody asked as he read an article online. I grunted. Why he was looking up where Vanessa was currently imprisoned, was beyond me. If I never thought of that bitch again, it’d be too soon. Her trial had gone quickly. Killing a police officer would do that, though. She never even had a chance. I’d never seen a case go by so fast, and I’d been a witness to quite a few over the course of my SANE career. The trial that Vanessa had been a part of in the first place was quickly decided in Brendan’s favor. They were both investigated, Brendan being found to have no involvement in the entire fiasco. And he’d been investigated very thoroughly. Tunnel’s death was huge. The entire Ark-La-Tex had been in on the investigation. FBI, state police, local police. If they were a law enforcement official, they were affected. It didn’t’ matter if they’d never met Tunnel before. Cops had other cops’ backs. No matter what. If one fell, you’d better believe that the wrath of the entire police community nationwide would feel it. “That’s interesting. I voted for the death penalty, but the judge ignored me,” I muttered darkly. “I’m sure you’re not the only one, darlin’,” Cody snorted. “I heard DP and Cord finally went home last week.” I nodded. That’d been an interesting three months, sharing living space with three men. DP and Cord lived in Southern Louisiana, about an hour outside of New Orleans. They’d both stayed here for nearly a month, helping any way they could, where they could, staying for days at a time. When they’d gone home, they still came up every other weekend. Mainly it was to help Cleo, though. He felt incredible guilt over the fire, as did I.
They knew when they were needed, and Cleo definitely needed them. This week, he’d finally told them they could stop coming, and they’d agreed to cool it. “You’re man is here,” Danita said as she hung up the phone. I looked up from my paperwork I was inputting for my patient in room six and smiled. I hadn’t seen him in a two days. We’d both been working hard, especially him. When Silas bought Life Flight, he’d implemented some new policies, making Cleo pull a lot of overtime trying to make sure everything ran smoothly. I missed him. “Really? What’s he bringing in?” I asked as I signed off on my chart and pulled up the next one. “He’s not. He’s coming to see you, I’m assuming. He just called and told me to send you out front in five minutes,” she said cagily. Looking at her like she was a loony bird, I stood, and started walking towards the ambulance bay. I don’t know what I expected. The Life Flight helicopter…his bike maybe, but not this. I stood at the glass, taking in the spectacle before me, and nearly dropped to my knees. “What the hell?” I said breathily, as I pressed the little silver button on the wall that would open the doors for me. As soon as they slid open enough for me to exit, I dashed through the doors and started running, coming to a stop once I was ten feet away from him. “Come closer,” he ordered. He was just standing there. In full gear. The helicopter’s blades were spinning slowly as if they’d turned off only moments earlier. I crept closer, slowly placing one foot in front of the other until I came to within a few feet of him. He was wearing his flight suit. His helmet. His aviator sunglasses. “What’s going on?” I asked in confusion. He held his hand out to me, and I walked forward, taking it without thought. He gripped my hand hard, and pulled me into his chest. Effortlessly, I wrapped my arms around his neck and looked up into his eyes, seeing my face reflected in his glasses. My face looked just as confused as I felt. “Wanna come for a ride in my helicopter?” He asked with a smile.
Tilting my head, I said, “I’m working.” His face lifted, and his eyes caught on something behind me. “Do you mind if I steal her for an hour?” He yelled to someone behind me. I looked over my shoulder to see nearly the whole ER behind me, all watching the show. Danita waved her hand in a shooing gesture. “She’s all yours.” With that, he turned and started walking towards the helicopter, dragging me in his wake. “Nonnie didn’t die, did she?” I asked worriedly. He shook his head. “No, she’s still hanging on. I have something to show you.” I followed closely behind him, coming to a stop near the side door which he opened. He picked me up easily, and sat me down on the seat before grabbing the helmet at my feet and placing it securely on my head. After strapping it on, he started on my belts, anchoring me down securely before he closed the door, and walked around to his own side. I watched in silence as he did much the same, strapping himself in, followed by hitting buttons then flipping switches. The large blades above us started spinning, the noise getting louder and louder as the blades spun faster and faster. Once it reached a crescendo, we started rising, my belly crawling up into my throat as I watched the ground get further and further away. Cleo kept his eye on the gauges, and his hand on the stick between his thighs as he lifted up, and turned a hard right, taking us out of town. “Where are we going?” I asked again, my disembodied voice sounding funky through the mic’s speaker in my helmet. He looked over at me, grinned, and didn’t say anything. So I sat in silence, watching the buildings pass under my feet. Something changed once we were fifteen minutes out. The air in the cabin seemed to thicken, and I turned when I saw Cleo’s hand move from the stick between his thighs. “You wanna fly?” He asked. I looked at him, remembering the time I’d asked him if he’d let me fly nearly six months ago, and shook my head animatedly. “No, way! You said you’d never let me fly your multi-million dollar machine.” He grinned, and looked back towards the horizon. “I can’t ask you to marry me if you don’t hold my stick,” he teased. I blinked, unsure if I’d heard him right or not. “Say what?” I clarified.
He looked at me like I was a dumbass. “You heard what I said.” “No, I don’t think I did. Repeat it one more time,” I instructed quickly. Sighing, he reached over and took my hand, placing it on the stick between his legs. I froze as he lifted his hand from the stick, causing adrenaline to pour through my body as I watched the sky in front of us. “Cleo?” I asked nervously. He reached into his flight suit, and came out with a velvet box. I started hyperventilating. He opened it, presenting me with the diamond that was nestled in the folds of velvet. It was black and hot pink; exactly what I never knew I wanted. “Holy shit,” I breathed, causing him to beam at me. “I’ve waited a long, long time to ask you this. Rue Delaney Loden, will you marry me?” I nodded emphatically. “You betcha’!” God, I was such a dork. He leaned forward, placing the ring gently on the finger that was laying against his stick. “That’s what I wanted to hear. Let’s go for a ride,” he said as he took over the helicopter, flying us East. He didn’t have a destination in mind, and I was happy to be where he was at, even if it did only last until they got a call. Cleo’s partner was a silent presence in the back seat. Making the best use of his time since he had to be there anyway. I had looked back at him a few times, noticing that he was taking pictures with his phone at one point. And I knew I’d have some of the best memories of my life forever memorialized in a frozen moment of time.
Epilogue How to celebrate a wedding: Beer, hot sex, and donuts on your bike in the clubhouse. -Bikers do it better Cleo 6 months later “What’s her dress look like?” I asked Molly. Molly shrugged. Most of the wedding guests were seated and we were all talking as we waited for the wedding to start. She was beginning to piss me off. Torren had ignored her all day long, and she really didn’t like that. Which, if I was being honest, was a good thing. Torren had been crushing on my sister for a long time, as had my sister for Torren, and neither one of them had done a damn thing about it. My sister had a lot of growing up to do at twenty, and Torren deserved better than Molly stringing him along. However, it was none of my business, even if Rue liked to say otherwise. “I’m betting she’s wearing black. You know…’cause it is the end of her life and all,” DP teased, punching me in the shoulder and knocking be sideways slightly. I shot him a glare. “No, it’s the beginning,” I quipped back. He winked. “Just keep telling yourself that.” “She’s wearing a dress. A dress is a dress is a dress,” Molly said stiffly. Molly’s words were heated, and I looked over at her to see her looking at Torren. Who had his eyes on another woman for once. A shy-eyed blonde with wavy hair down to her waist. She was wearing a slinky black dress that was really quite modest. Tru? I think that was what Rue had introduced her as. She was a COTA, or a certified occupational therapist assistant. The two of them had met at the hospital while Torren had gone through occupational therapy. Tru worked in the therapy department of Christus Health. Their paths had crossed from time to time, and they’d become friends. I’d met her only a few times, but what I knew of her, I liked. Even the part that captured Torren’s attention.
I loved my baby sister and all, but I cared for Torren, too. They weren’t good for each other, and it was nice to see Torren moving on instead of staying in the same rut he’d been in for the last couple of years. The music changed from the normal wedding shit to the bridal march, drawing my gaze from Torren, and placing it on Audrey as she walked down the steps of my back porch. She looked great. She’d been doing great, too. After Tunnel had died, Audrey had withdrawn into herself for a few weeks, and it’d only been because of Cord, of all people, that she’d come out. The two had struck up a friendship, that I could very well see morphing into something more given just a bit more time. Then my soon to be wife showed at the top of the stairs, and all thoughts, except her, flew out of my brain and left me speechless. I could, however, laugh. We’d decided not to have a formal wedding. Instead, we decided to have a backyard affair at my place, going for casual. I’d been certain that Rue would dress up. Don’t get me wrong…she was wearing a dress. It just wasn’t what I’d expected. It was black and pink, to match her engagement ring and wedding band. The dress was short, and tight. She wore black cowboy boots, and had her hair up high on her head. Oh, and let’s not forget the property patch. She was wearing that, too. By the time she made it to stand beside me, I was practically beaming. “You look good in my patch,” I observed, once the music stopped and Reverend Spano started the ceremony. She smiled. “Thanks. I wanted everyone to know I was yours. Lock, stock, and barrel.” I’d given her the property patch, which was a leather vest with ‘Property of Cleo’ on the back, before we’d separated for the night. I’d given it to her later than I’d wanted, but I needed her to have the right mindset when I gave it to her. Which she didn’t have for many months leading up to the previous day. It was simple in design, but it meant much, much more. To her and to me.
Twenty minutes later, Rue became Mrs. Mikhail Caruso, and I was one happy motherfucker.
*** Rue 8 months later
Feeling on top of the world, I took my helmet off and turned to Cleo in the back, seeing him clutching the seat with wide, wild eyes. He looked white as a ghost, and I had to suppress the urge to smile. I’d just taken my last FAA- helicopter flight training session, and totally kicked its ass. I couldn’t tell you why I wanted to fly a helicopter. Mostly, though, it was so I could be closer to Cleo. Sure he may be a little unsure right now, but eventually he’d be okay. This was the first time he’d flown with me since I’d started the training over six months ago, and it showed. “Well?” I asked. “How was it?” He blinked rapidly before he let his grip on the seat go. “Uhh,” he croaked. “I think I might’ve died a thousand deaths in the last two hours.” I gave him a wry look. “I did just fine, and you know it.” With that comment, I had Ross laughing. “Oh, boy. You should see your face in some of these pictures,” Ross crowed as he started going through some pictures on his phone. Ross had demanded to go as soon as he’d heard it was my final teacher-assisted flight. He’d especially wanted to go when he found out that Cleo was going, too. Which, now I knew, was to get blackmail pictures of him. He was becoming quite the photographer. I secretly couldn’t wait to see the pictures either. My hands fumbled with the latches that strapped me in, moving them this way and that as I tried in vain to get them off. I heard Cleo sigh from the back, followed shortly by the door opening. My door was opened moments later, and Cleo’s hands made quick work of the latches that were digging uncomfortably into my stomach. “Thanks,” I said once he got me completely free. His head fell down until it rested on my belly, and he started talking to our soon to be child as if I couldn’t hear every word he said. “You’re mother’s making me fucking crazy. What kind of hugely pregnant person would want to fly
when she has a perfectly capable husband that can do it for her?” He asked our child. “The type that doesn’t like to cook in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant,” I snapped. His eyes rose up to meet mine, and he smiled. “I’m proud of you, girl,” he said, and meant it. I smiled widely at him and wrapped my arms firmly around his neck. The position was awkward at best, but neither one of us cared. That was us. Perfectly imperfect.
*** Rue 1 year later “Nonnie’s really living this up. I can’t believe she’s doing so well,” I said as I watched Nonnie show our eighth month old son a glass bird on the shelf beside our kitchen window. Cleo looked up from underneath the sink where he was placing childproof locks and smiled. “All she needed was the grandchild she was making all those baby blankets for.” I secretly agreed. It was like a light switched the moment we introduced Nonnie to Zach. Zachariah Lee Caruso was born a mere nine pounds one ounce via C-section. He had a head of pitch black hair that was untamable, and had a killer smile just like his daddy. Zach and Cleo were like two peas in a pod. Now, at eight months, if Cleo was in the room, Zach had nothing to do with me. He was a daddy’s boy, pure and simple. Even if his momma did everything for him like feed him in the middle of the night and kiss away his boo-boos. “Pass me those screws sitting on the counter,” Cleo instructed as he held out his hand. Leaning forward, I grabbed the screws off the counter and dropped down to my knees in between Cleo’s splayed thighs. He was killing me in his shirtless state and tight blue jeans. Dropping the screws in his hand, I let my hands roam up and down the insides of his thighs, not quite touching the important stuff, but getting close enough that I was getting a response from Cleo. The muscles in his legs tightened, and his abs flexed with the urge to stay as still as possible. “You’re playing with fire, woman,” Cleo growled softly. I smiled, and lifted one hand to trace the waistband of his jeans. “You know, we do have a babysitter,” I said, letting my fingers dip slightly into his pants before slipping them back out. Cleo didn’t waste any time dropping the screws and throwing me over his shoulder as he practically ran towards our bedroom. “Silas is totally going to kill me for leaving him with your Nonnie and Zach,” he groaned as he tossed me down on the bed and then followed me down. I grinned. “Yeah, but what a way to go!”
Coming Soon Charge To My Line April 2015
Prologue Tru Three months prior “I dare you to go up and hug that fireman. Wrap your legs around his waist,” Iliana challenged me. I looked to where she was gesturing and rolled my eyes. “No.” I was trying to have a relaxing drink at the newest restaurant and bar in town, Halligans and Handcuffs. What I wasn’t trying to do was draw attention to myself; especially, in a room filled with my mother’s colleagues. “Oh, come on, you big chicken. Balk. Balk. Balk,” she clucked. I shook my head again. “All you’re doing is making yourself sound like a dork.” Seriously, why did the woman have to embarrass me? I averted my eyes as the tables around us started to turn and study Iliana. Just pour a few drinks in the woman, and she became the queen of obnoxious. She smiled widely. “Oh, come on. Do it.” I took a pull of my beer and looked at the man she was wanting me to hug. He was tall. He’d dwarf my five and a half feet easily. “What will you give me if I do?” I asked as I took another sip of beer, keeping my eye on the man with the shaved dark hair, dressed in his fire department blues. Large, mouthwatering biceps. Arms that were covered from wrist to where his sleeve stopped in tattoos. Strong, angular chin. Slightly crooked nose. Deep toe curling laugh. “Whatever you want,” Iliana promised holding up her pinky finger in the air with a dare. Knowing exactly what I’d take if she actually held up her end of the bargain, I smiled. I took her pinky finger, and we kissed our hands one by one. “Deal,” I said and stood. “What are you going to take?” She asked warily, knowing I’d given up too easily. Iliana was my best friend and roommate. We’d moved in together when we’d started occupational therapy school, and had been living together ever since. She was two years younger than my twenty eight, but acted like she was fifty, that is, unless she was drinking, like she was doing right now. In real life, she was that boring person who never did anything because she was too scared her
boyfriend would find out that she actually had fun without him. And the things she did was did not scream twenty six. It screamed old. For instance, she had a Temper-Pedic bed that sat up like a hospital bed…and it was about to become mine. “Your bed. For two weeks,” I said with an evil grin. She glared at me. “If you do it, it’s yours for a month. His name’s Torren.” Downing the remainder of my beer, I started walking off purposefully in the man’s direction. Torren, she’d said his name was. That was a weird name. Who named their kid Torren? Why not Paul, or Brian? Those were normal names. Then again, my name was different, too. Once I got to within a straight shot of him, I started jogging. Then, when I was close enough, I jumped into his arms and wrapped my hands around his neck, and my legs around his hips. He caught me, reflexively. One hand going around my ass as the other went up to protect his beer. “Uhhh,” he said as I stayed there for another couple of seconds. “Do I know you?” I barely contained the urge to giggle. He sounded so lost. Then I became aware of the other men surrounding us. I’d been so focused on the man, Torren, that I hadn’t even taken account the circle of badass I’d broken with my entrance. “Sorry about that,” I said as I dropped down. “I thought you were someone else.” With that, I turned around and left, trying my hardest to forget what it felt like to be wrapped in his arms. Iliana was grinning like a fool as I walked closer to her. By the time I sat down at the table, this time purposefully facing in the opposite direction of the bar, she was practically crying in hilarity. “Oh, God,” she wheezed. “You should’ve seen his face!” “He’s not still looking at me, is he?” I worried. Jesus, the man was hot. Up close, I could tell his eyes were the color of a stormy day. And the sheer size of the muscles of his arm were mouthwatering. The colors of his tattoos were even more magnificent up close. “He’s gesturing towards us with his head, talking to a waitress. I wonder what he’s saying,” Iliana whispered conspiringly. I tried my hardest not to turn around and look.
It was a close call, but I managed it. “Uh, oh. Here she comes,” she whispered. The young girl stopped at the table with a beer in her hand. “Hi,” she chirped. “I was sent over here to give this to you.” When she placed the beer on the table, I waved it off. “No thank you, I don’t drink.” She eyed the empty beer bottle that she’d brought me earlier, but wisely didn’t comment. “Dude, what the fuck?” Iliana gasped once the waitress left. My eyes widened. “I don’t know! It just came out of my mouth! I don’t know!” I was seriously freaking out. I was such a dork. I was literally a homebody. I didn’t do this sort of shit. I’d never even had a boyfriend! I was still a virgin! I didn’t know how to flirt! I don’t even know what the hell got into me earlier. “He’s not looking at me, is he?” I was starting to freak out. “We should go.” I stood and threw my backpack over my shoulders. “Come on, quick.” I started pulling her, and she grabbed her own beer long enough to chug the remnants, and slammed it down onto a table as we poured into the parking lot. “Hurry,” I demanded as we started walking quickly to my truck. “Oh, my God. He’s in the doorway,” Iliana said as she looked over her shoulder. I yanked her arm hard. “Turn around. Eyes straight ahead. Get to the truck before he starts trying to talk to me.” I’d just made it to my truck when Torren’s voice yelled out over the nearly empty parking lot. “I don’t bite!” I turned around, and, swear to God, I said, “I do!” My hand went over my mouth and I looked at Iliana, wide eyed. “Did you slip me a roofie?” She laughed. “Oh, my God. He’s walking this way.” Wasting no time, I backed out of the parking spot and spun my wheels in my haste to get out of the parking lot. “He’s laughing,” she said as she watched until she could see no more. “I do believe, Tru, that you now have yourself a sexy firefighter admirer.”