The next evening, Johnnie walked along the dunes, situated behind Aunt Patricia’s house, his hands stuffed in his pockets. The sun had set and stars blazed in the clear night, where the horizon blended with the ocean into black velvet. The sheen of the moonlight bounced off the darkness of the water and waves crashed onto the sand.
He hadn’t spoken to Kendall since they’d returned home yesterday. He didn’t want to speak to her, either. She’d pushed him too damn far and he had absolutely no interest in pursuing a woman determined to self-destruct.
She’d sounded so lost and forlorn as she spoke about her mother, like a frightened little girl. He’d wanted to offer her comfort, but that had been hard to do with him pointing a goddamn gun to her head.
A hard truth faced him. The only way to remove the threat to Megs’s life was to forfeit both Kendall’s and Kayla’s.
He grimaced, wondering if the scene yesterday had made any impression on the aggravating woman. Maybe, he just needed distance from her and they’d both put things into perspective. He needed the comfort of his brothers, the familiarity of his club.
Outlaw’s voice startled him and he turned, only seeing the outline of his cousin, who stood in the shadow of the moonlight. The man might have a weapon poised and ready to blow him away. Johnnie hoped not. He hoped Outlaw hadn’t accepted his invitation for them to talk just to kill him.
“You came.” His arrival hadn’t been a sure thing. When Johnnie had called and asked for this meeting, Christopher had given him a terse, “I’ll see”, and hung up.
“I need to get CJ inside,” he said without responding to the relief in Johnnie’s voice.
“Little Man is with you?” Johnnie asked in surprise. Then, again—
“Where the fuck you think he gonna be, asshole? My girl in the hospital. She sure the fuck can’t take care of him while I’m visitin’ you, fuckhead.”
Leave it to Christopher to snatch a thought away and bark it out in a profane stream.
Johnnie sighed and followed behind Christopher. It seemed he’d done this his entire life. Except when he’d gone off to college. Then, the differences between the love and affection Johnnie received and Christopher lacked couldn’t have been clearer. But his cousin had been happy for him, proud of him. And Johnnie knew Christopher would always accept him, as he came—with or without a degree; as a member of the Death Dwellers, a nomad, or a sometimes visitor; as a man whose soul was stained with blood or as a man who made humor his outlet.
He never pointed out his fundamental flaw. Never discussed the high Johnnie got when he killed. Christopher drank himself into a stupor after a kill while Johnnie fucked the bloodlust out of his system so he wouldn’t indiscriminately take someone’s life.
Big Joe, Boss Foy, Megan’s father, always claimed they were a club of motorcycle enthusiasts. That was the biggest crock of shit Johnnie had ever heard. They were a club of killers. The lot of them.
Little Man mumbled sounds as Christopher unlocked one of the French doors that opened near the kitchen and let them in. Lights were already on on the other side of the house, so Johnnie realized Christopher had already been inside.
He stopped and glanced around and a chill went through him, his Aunt Patricia’s presence lingering. He swore he smelled her cinnamon scent.
“Jo-Bo!” Little Man squealed when he caught sight of him.
Johnnie laughed and took a step towards them when Christopher’s warning glare stopped him cold.
“See Jo-Bo another time,” Christopher soothed. “Lay your head back on my shoulder and close your eyes.”
“Jo-Bo!” the little boy whined.
Little Man let out an ear-splitting wail and Christopher scowled. “Fuck me,” he growled, thrusting his wiggling son out so Johnnie could take him into his arms.
He kissed the baby’s soft cheek and crooned his tears away. He pulled Johnnie’s nose and gave him a gummy grin. Two teeth at the bottom and one at the top had come in. He shoved his fist in his mouth and laid his dark, little head on Johnnie’s shoulder.
Christopher threw him a sour look, then headed to the kitchen. A moment later, he returned, holding a baby bottle filled with formula and two, unopened beers. When they reached the media room, Christopher sat the beers on the table, then shook a few drops of milk from the bottle onto his hand before licking the milk away. “Fuck, too fuckin’ hot.”
“What are you doing?”
“What the fuck it look like? I’m testin’ the milk to make sure it ain’t too hot or too cold for my boy. Megan showed me this shit when I told her CJ’s lease on her tits had expired.”
No comment. They’d had a long discussion about Megs’s still allowing Little Man to have a bottle when they knew Zoann had weaned Ryan before his first birthday.
“I’m telling you, Outlaw,” Val said, “Meggie spoiling Little Man. You gotta make her stop with the bottle shit.”
Christopher scowled. “Megan know what the fuck she doin’.”
Johnnie leaned back and folded his arms, releasing the smoke after he dragged on his cigarette. “I agree with Outlaw, Val. There’s no crime for a mother to use her own judgment and go against recommendations.”
“John Boy right,” Mortician commented, unclipping his phone with it indicated a text message. He looked at the screen, then rubbed his face, his expression a combination of resignation and aggravation.
“What pussy textin’ you and makin’ you so jerked off?” Outlaw asked, pulling his nine from his cut and laying it on the table before lighting a cigarette.
Johnnie studied the weapon, almost unable to imagine Megs picking it up and firing it to save Christopher’s life. But she had and they knew she had their backs when worse came to worse.
“Just some young bitch I’m trying to fucking ignore,” Mortician snapped, bringing Johnnie back to the conversation.
“Don’t,” Christopher said with a twinkle. He sucked on his cigarette and laughed, something he did a lot of lately because he felt worthy in someone’s eyes. Namely, Megs’s. “I can use a fuckin’ extra 5Gs. Call the bitch. Fuck her. Marry her, then deliver my fuckin’ money, you smug motherfucker.”
Digger sniggered. “Outlaw not ever letting you live our bet down, Mort.”
“I’m not even answering this bitch, so I sure the fuck not fucking her. EVER. I stand behind my bet and my belief young pussy fuck with a man’s head and make motherfuckers stupid.”
Christopher shrugged. “I’ll take stupid any fuckin’ day if it mean I got Megan, so go suck your own dick and then shove those words up your fuckin’ ass, assfuck.”
“Who is it, anyway?” Val asked, gulping from his bottle of beer.
Mortician frowned and looked away.
Christopher placed his cigarette in his special ashtray, the one engraved with the grim reaper and his initials, the one Megan had given him for his 34th birthday. He picked up his gun and removed the clip. “You one fucked motherfucker, Mortician,” he said, thrusting his chin toward the cabinet in the corner and indicating Val to get the supplies needed to clean his nine.
“What you mean, Outlaw?” Mortician said faintly, cursing when another round of sounds indicated a new message.
“I mean I think them messages from fuckin’ Bailey. And your dick been in a snit ever said you saw her and it ain’t gonna let up ‘til you make her yours and then you really fucked.”
No one said anything since Christopher spoke from experience.
“Might as well put your dick outta its painful misery and get it in Bailey cuz you fightin’ a losin’ battle, motherfucker.”
“Fuck off, Outlaw,” Mortician grumbled.
Christopher shrugged, not offended because it was only them. Outside of the presence of the officers, if anyone spoke to Outlaw like that, their teeth would be in pieces on the floor. “I’m gonna throw you the biggest fuckin’ bachelor party around, Mort. We gonna roast the fuck outta your ass like celebrities do and you gonna present all us motherfuckers with our 5Gs durin’ the celebration.”
Not responding, Mortician leaned back and glared at them, balling his fists when another message came through.
“Fuck off and let’s get back to discussin’ formula and shit for Ryan and Little Man.”
“My kid don’t drink no formala,” Val growled. “Never did. After Zoann finished with her tit milk, she got him drinking out of cups and shit.”
Christopher rubbed the oiled cloth around the chamber. “Little Man drink outta cups, too. But Megan say he rest better when he suck on his bottle. Ain’t fuckin’ arguin’ with her.”
“Zoann a nurse,” Val argued. “And she say—“
“Don’t give a fuck what my sister say. Anyway, she the bitch who gave Megan the recommendation on what formula to use.”
Raising his eyebrows, Val rubbed his chin. “Really? Which one was it? I was reading about formulas online when she first stopped her tit milk and Ryan was so fucking miserable. I felt for the kid. Tits are addictive and I can only imagine how it must be when you can get milk from them.”
“Best fuckin’ thing in the world,” Christopher announced, not looking up from his task.
He missed the way Johnnie, Val, Mortician, and Digger glanced at each other. All the better for them. They’d be missing their dicks. While Johnnie’s feelings for Megs was the worst kept secret on the fucking planet, the other three hid their lust for her quite well. But when Christopher announced bullshit like milk in Megs’s tits…well, they were only fucking human.
Val scratched his nape. He’d recovered well in the four months since his gunshot wound. Johnnie noticed a change in him, although he couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was.
“What formula Little Man drink?” Val asked after clearing his throat.
“Not the one Zoann told her. Gave CJ the flamin’ shits,” Christopher remarked before they dived into a conversation about which formula was the best and taking notes on the best diaper changing techniques, which they all had experience with because of Little Man.
The door swung open and K-P strolled in, frowning at the sudden silence. “What’s up?” he asked slowly.
Christopher snatched his gun up, only half finished with the cleaning, and slid the clip back into place, not answering.
Johnnie knuckled his nose, his nostrils flaring while Mortician and Digger grew quite interested in Mort’s phone. Val downed the rest of his beer.
“I miss something important?” K-P persisted.
Not at all, Johnnie thought with humiliation. Just a bunch of bad ass bikers talking baby formula and diaper changing.
“Nope,” Christopher said with a straight face. “We was just discussin’ whether or not Ryan or CJ had the biggest dick. My boy win hands down. He got enough dick to lend some out and still don’t miss nothin’.”
And that was how Christopher saved them from being the butts of jokes for the rest of their lives.
After opening the beers and taking his son again, Christopher sat, settling Little Man into the crook of his arm. He sipped his beer in silence, seeming to count to an internal clock until he was satisfied enough time had passed and he exchanged the bottle of beer for the baby bottle.
He didn’t speak until his son was fed, burped, diaper changed, and asleep in some type of contraption with ridiculous looking little toys looming above him. Then, he leaned back, transitioning from loving father to…to Outlaw.
“Are you sleeping here tonight?”
Outlaw shrugged. “Probably, though I ain’t sure. I wanna do right by CJ but I can’t stand leavin’ Megan all alone in the hospital.”
“She isn’t alone. She has nurses at her beck-and-call.”
“Ain’t none of us, so I don’t give a shit.”
Johnnie realized Christopher’s statement had casually included him. He sipped his beer and accepted a cigarette from Christopher.
“You took care of that bitch?”
“Yes.” He had, just not in the way Christopher was referring to.
Christopher yanked at his hair. “I know it was hard, but it had to be done. A bitch could burn the fuckin’ club to the ground. I’d be pissed, yeah, but if Megan and CJ ain’t involved, she’d walk away with her life intact.”
“Don’t you think you’ll regret the order to kill Kendall?”
“Kendall.” Christopher said her name, then nodded. “Nice name for a gorgeous chick.” He rubbed his face. “Look, John Boy. I know you liked her and I’m sorry it had to be Megan she went after.”
Johnnie drank from his beer. He was, too. He was truly sorry it was Megan she still wanted to go after.
“About you and my wife.”
Johnnie tensed and he realized he was unarmed. Christopher’s inscrutable look didn’t comfort Johnnie in the least.
“Megan been fuckin’ crushin’ on you since she met your fuckin’ ass.”
He didn’t want that to affect him and remind him of all the time he’d spent with Megs in this house and, especially, this room.
“I ain’t the most forgivin’ motherfucker, but I guess I got what I deserved.” He leaned back and rested an ankle on his knee.
“Don’t make Megs suffer for what I revealed.”
“You try my last fuckin’ nerve with that Megs bullshit.”
“I mean no harm.”
Christopher fixed him with an evil look. “Callin’ another man’s wife by her nickname ain’t meanin’ no harm?”
Instead of responding, Johnnie drank beer.
“I shouldna left her here, ripe for the pickin’, knowin’ how much she like you and dick.”
Johnnie’s jumped at Christopher’s words and he knew the asshole said that on purpose. He didn’t discuss Megs in such a manner. He was making a point in his own crude way.
“But I’m gonna be fair about this shit and take my responsibility. Besides, you didn’t put your dick in her. She only jerked you off. Even though I wanna fuckin’ kill you every time I think about her little hands around your ugly cock…I knew somethin’ had gone on between you.”
Johnnie frowned in surprise.
“She told me you and her kissed, but she swore she ain’t never felt your dick in her.”
“You asked her that?” he asked, outraged.
Christopher rolled his eyes. “I asked her if she ever felt your dick. Stalled like a motherfucker to answer. But didn’t hesitate when I changed the question up and asked if she’d felt your dick in her. Didn’t want to think too hard about that shit cuz I woulda admitted what happened between you two to myself and then I woulda had to kill you.” He shrugged. “So I left the shit alone.” He leaned forward, rubbing his hands together. “Now that it’s out in the open…I know you, motherfucker. You didn’t like Megan walk the fuck away without doin’ somethin’ to her pussy. I wanna know what the fuck it was. Do I gotta pluck your fuckin’ eyes out for seein’ her pussy? Cut your tongue out for tastin’ her? What? You tell me.”
Johnnie gritted his teeth together. “You’re a barbarian and a lunatic, Christopher.”
“Nothin’ new there.”
Johnnie clamped his mouth shut and considered his options. Not many when he sat not three feet away from Mr. Psycho. He drew in a sigh, his shoulders heaving. Would no one let this rest so he could move on? “I’ve never seen Megan’s,” he began, inserting her full name at the last minute. No use in stoking the fires of his cousin’s jealousy. And he wouldn’t dare utter the words Megan’s pussy to Christopher. “I’ve never seen Megan’s private area.”
That should explain everything, but Christopher was as perverted and obstinate as they came. He wanted to hear Johnnie say he’d never tasted Megan. Hadn’t he, though? When he’d licked his fingers and the remnants of her wet sex remained. Somehow, he had to get the words out and beat away the memory of that night.
“I’ve never tongued her. Happy now, asshole?”
Christopher scratched his jaw, that cold, green gaze remaining on Johnnie, making him want to squirm like a girl.
“What did you do to her?” he persisted with quiet menace.
“Is it important?” he asked tightly. “She’s yours, mind, body, and soul. She labored to bring your son into the world, then laid in your bed so you could give her another one.” He sounded pathetic. Jealous. And looking at the fury on his cousin’s face, suicidal.
“It’s important, yeah, cuz it’s teachin’ me a big fuckin’ lesson. Makin’ Megan go with them two bitches when she knew I’d fucked them. She saw me with Kiera. I was doin’ the best I fuckin’ could under the circumstances, but, maybe, I shoulda listened to her and let her stay in the room instead of sendin’ her with them two bitches. Who’s to say if I hadn’t forced her to go with them, Ma and those two wouldn’t still be alive. My Megan wouldn’t be…she wouldn’t be where she is. Kendall, the chick you was feelin’, would still be alive. Megan?” He tapped his forehead. “She make me think. I am who I am, but, if I could go back and change that one, single day, all these women—Ma—wouldna got killed. My other son would still be inside Megan.” He rubbed his eyes. “I didn’t wanna see you fuckin’ ass and I woulda killed you if it wasn’t for Val. But I’m to blame for all this shit because I insisted Megan fuck with Ellen and Kiera.”
Johnnie didn’t agree with Christopher’s assessment and, yet, the obvious introspection Christopher had been doing seemed to have brought up a shitload of guilt.
“I despise knowin’ you touched her and she touched you, but, then, I guess she hated having them girls around knowin’ I’d fucked them. That’s why I came John-Boy. That’s why I forgive you for goin’ after Megan and tryin’ to protect Kendall.”
“You’re being too hard on yourself,” Johnnie felt compelled to say. “You were still dealing with Boss’s death, when you met Megan, trying to get Rack.”
Christopher scoffed. “Ain’t no room for pussyish behavior in our business. I couldn’t get a handle on the club, John-Boy. Cuz if I would’ve, I woulda buried Rack and whoever the fuck had a problem with it, buried them, too. I shouldna fucked around with that motherfucker, played his fuckin’ games like a punk ass bitch.” He made a face, then shook the thought away. “What’s past is past,” he decided quietly. “Can’t do shit over.”
Christopher rested his head on the back on the sofa and stared at the ceiling. “She might not ever be able to have another baby, John Boy. Fuck, but that bitch did a job a Megan. She lost a lot of blood and they been trying to make it stop. She’s starting to respond a little but Doc Will was talking about a hysterectomy. They still might wanna take her womb. I don’t give a fuck as long as I have Megan, but I don’t think Megan’s gonna feel the same way.”
“What…what does her doctor think caused it?”
“A bitch attacked my wife. That’s what she think caused it. She filed a fuckin’ police report, yada, yada, yada. Had to fuckin’ make a donation to our friends cuz I had to give them that bitch’s plate numbers.” He folded his arms. “They wanted to confiscate her car, asshole.”
And Johnnie had had Mortician deliver it, so the man had had to ‘fess up.
“Now that that bitch is gone, I need to turn over that car to Mutt and Jeff.”
Mutt and Jeff were two of Christopher’s special police officers on the payroll. That fact was mild compared to the fact that Kendall, would never, in a million years, let Johnnie take her little car. If he protested, Christopher wouldn’t take long to figure out why.
She’d just have to deal with it. He had to do what he had to do.
“I need you back at the club, Johnnie. We got that fuckin’ brick and we ain’t delivered those fuckin’ guns. Shit’s on the verge of gettin’ ugly. We already banked a million dollars. We gotta get those guns to those fuckers.”
“You want me to go?” Johnnie guessed. As the VP, he was the logical choice. But he needed to stay in Long Beach to look after Kendall just as much as Christopher needed to remain in Hortensia for Megan.
“They already insulted. If you go, I have to go, too. So, no, I want you there so we can get everything settled with these other annoying motherfuckers.” He sighed. “This been a fuckin’ hard choice for me, John-Boy. If I stall too much longer, they gonna wanna cut out my heart. I made the deal. I accepted the money. My life’ll be the payment.”
“Don’t worry, Christopher. That’s not going to happen. You go and smooth things out—“
“Fuck me, John Boy, ain’t you been listenin’ to shit I said? The brothers are safe right now. I made sure of that. It’s just me who ain’t. But I just can’t do it. I can’t leave Megan until I know she’s gonna be fine.”