Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Chapter 15 - Misunderstood - Original Storyline


            Fists pounded against Kendall’s head and she moaned, twisting to escape the pain. Movement only made it worse. She raised her arms to shield the blows, bracing herself for hits to that part of her body. Only, none came, while the excruciating continued to pound her skull.
            She grimaced and licked her dry lips. Her tongue felt like pickled cotton. Eww. The very thought made her stomach churn. How the hell did pickled cotton taste, anyway? Like this. Like she’d bathed her mouth in a vat of alcohol until it softened to mush.
            Pain punched her again and she cried out. “Stop! Please,” she wailed.
            No one answered. She wasn’t even sure of her location. She knew she was in a bed and she knew she was suffering an assault.
            “Aww, so she awakens,” a voice offered with frustrating mystery. She knew who the voice belonged to, however. Johnnie.
            “What are you here?”
            He sighed. “I think I liked you better last night, gorgeous.”
            She attempted to lift her head and narrow her eyes at him, but fell against his pillows, limp with her pounding head and nauseated belly. “Go to hell.”
            A chuckle. Kendall gritted her teeth.
            “No, thank you. I don’t care to join your party.”
            “Fuck off,” she amended with a growl.
            Deeper laughter, closer this time. The bed dipped and she groaned. He gathered her into his arms. For all his gentleness, her pain and misery increased. He was fully dressed. She was completely naked.
            “I didn’t invite you into my bedroom,” she pointed out.
            “Good to know, since I’ve never been to your house, Kendall. As I recall, you’ve been sleeping in my guestroom, which, in essence belongs to me.”
            “And gives you the right to swagger in whenever you want to.”
            “Not at all. Every time I’ve gone into my guestroom, I’ve knocked. Last night was no different.”
            “Then why—“
            “Because you aren’t in the guestroom. You’re in my bedroom.”
            She was where? Suddenly, she realized the pain in her head wasn’t from external blows. The pain came from evil little trolls taking up space inside her brain and pounding her with wretched meat cleavers. She moaned again and rolled away from him, curling into a fetal position. “Go away. Gloat later about how you took advantage of me in my drunken state since that’s the only way I’d ever let you touch me again, you conceited asshole.”
            “I need to keep you drowning in Stoli so I can see your vulnerable side.” He sat up and his shoes hit the hardwood floor in a hard thump. “Hear all your dirty little secrets. You sucking Benny’s dick for instance.”
            She went completely still at his unconcerned announcement and she swallowed. She’d wanted him to find out, weeks ago, when it first happened. At least, then, she was under the notion he cared a small bit about her. Now, she knew better. She knew he saw her as the sacrificial lamb on behalf of Megan Caldwell. He preferred to fuck her when she was nearly unconscious with alcohol rather than take her when she was sober.
            “I sucked him in return from the pleasure he gave me,” she spat.
            “Kendall, I swear you’re the most self-destructive bitch I’ve ever met.”
            No one but Ellen had ever called her a bitch and—
            “I’m leaving. I’m not sure if I’ll return today or not,” he interrupted. “My library is locked and the liquor is locked away, too, so there’ll be no repeat of yesterday. If you know what’s fucking good for you, you’ll forget your senior citizen pussy eater.”
            She started to raise her head to glare at him, but dizziness swamped her and she fell back onto the pillow. “You can’t tell me what to do. You’re nothing to me. Just an unfeeling, condescending jerk, stealing sex from me when I couldn’t defend myself.”
            Silence slipped between them. It was uncomfortable and brutal, and Kendall wished Johnnie would leave, so she could lick her wounds. She struggled to remember what had happened, yesterday, after Benny’s call, but couldn’t think of anything beyond the feeling Johnnie had betrayed her and the thought to wipe it away with her vodka.
            “I’m not some freak show to stare at,” she snarled, her back to him, but the weight of his regard pressing into her and almost stealing her breath.
            “You’re completely right about me, Kendall,” he said in a hard voice. “While you were drunk out of your head, I took advantage of you. I made you suck my dick. I fucked you senseless and I ate your cunt. I—“
            The ringing of his cellphone interrupted his vile confession.
            “You’re late calling, Megs,” he said by way of answering and Kendall’s heart sank to her toes. She almost missed his next words, floating on the air as he walked away. He closed the door but, she mused, he was so caught up in that bitch’s words he didn’t even realize the knob hadn’t caught in its latch, allowing the door to swing open again. He’d walked away, but not far enough where Kendall couldn’t hear. “You think that’ll help?” He sighed. “I told you I’d be there and there’s nothing in the world that’ll keep me away, sweetheart. I’m home right now and I have to finish my conversation.” Another sigh. “Yes. It is. No. It isn’t like that! Damn it, Megan, that’s not true. There’s been some new developments and I just want my hands washed of the entire situation. Fine. Believe whatever the hell you want. It’s your choice. I’m just trying to do the right thing for Outlaw. This has nothing to do about me and my feelings.” And, then, “Your guess is as good as mine, Megs. I can’t say what he’ll do if he finds out about what we’re doing.”
            Kendall sucked in a breath. Outlaw had refused Kendall, but Johnnie couldn’t refuse Megs, could he?
            “Yes. Yes, I know! It’s hard on me, too, Megan. You think I want to betray him?”
            Saint Megan had said something to piss him off and Kendall cheered at that.
            “No, goddammit, Megan, I can’t wait that long for you. I need it now.”
            The tension in Kendall’s shoulders eased and she smiled. He was furious with her. He was—
            “Fuck, Megs, don’t cry,” he said gruffly. “I know. Shhhh. Calm down. Wait. No, wait. Don’t hang up. Please, sweetheart. Let’s finish this conversation in person. Yes, I promise. Will you meet me at our usual spot? Good girl.”
            The relief in Johnnie’s voice turned Kendall’s stomach even more than the vat of alcohol still simmering in her belly. He fell silent and Kendall realized his conversation had ended. She waited with baited breath, expecting him to return to finish talking to her. Instead, the tread of retreating footsteps, and, a moment later, the distant slam of the door, told her he’d forgotten Kendall’s existence because he needed to get to his rendezvous with his Megs.
            By the time Johnnie reached Hortensia, exhaustion pressed in on him. Between Kendall’s episode last night, her anger-inducing accusations this morning, and Megs’s heartache, he felt drained. When he walked into the club, he noted May and Gurly, two girls who seemed to have taken Ellen’s and Kiera’s spots with the boys. Stretch and a Probate were talking to them and it surprised him when Christopher strode out, a bottle of tequila in his hand and headed for the women with just a brief nod to Johnnie.
Christopher looked…unreachable. He placed his hand on May’s back and leaned down to whisper something in her ear. Johnnie turned away, seizing Christopher’s preoccupation with the other women to make the walk to the house. Although it was February, it was still cold and the tips of Johnnie’s ears burned.
Slipper, the one in charge today of directing the Probates used to guard the grounds of Christopher’s and Megan’s house, nodded to him. The dogs came running up to him and Johnnie paused, allowed them to sniff his hands before Slipper whistled them away.
            Entering the warmth of the house, Johnnie paused at K-P’s glower. The bald-headed, silver-bearded biker narrowed his one-eyed gaze. “Fourth day you skulking around Megan, John Boy. Prez find out and he’s gonna fucking castrate you.”
            Johnnie shrugged, not bothering to answer. Female voices echoed from the dining room and he lifted a brow in question. He thought he and Megs would be alone. Before K-P responded, if he’d intended to respond at all, Mortician, Digger, and Val barreled in. Val threw him a look of censure but Dinah walked in from the opposite direction—leaving the dining room, Johnnie assumed—and paused. Tears reddened her eyes.
            “Jesus, give me strength,” K-P growled. He glared at Dinah. “Get back in there, woman. Megan hasn’t once walked out of that room since all of you arrived and it’s her son’s funeral she’s planning.”
            “He would’ve been my grandson, too,” she said in a barely audible voice, staring at her toes. She never directly looked any of them in the eye.
            Johnnie didn’t know if he should pity her or not. He understood how her bastard of a husband had abused her and broken her down, but when it came to Megan, she was absolutely useless.
            “Shouldn’t you wait until Outlaw gets here to do this?” Johnnie asked.
            K-P snorted. “He was here, but he stormed out not long after they started the planning.”
            Megan entered the kitchen, wearing a matching nightgown and wrapper. She nodded when she saw him, then greeted Val, Mortician, and Digger before focusing on her mother. “Mama, are you all right?”
            Dinah’s chin wobbled and she nodded. K-P folded his arms and leaned against the counter. The other three men looked disgusted. Johnnie wanted to escort the woman out and never let her near Megan again.
            She hugged Dinah and stroked her hair. “Why don’t you go upstairs and get some rest?”
            “Because she’s your mother and she’s here to comfort you,” Johnnie snapped, fed up. “Not the other goddamn way around.”
            Dinah flinched away from Megan and ran out of the kitchen, her sobs grating on the tension filtering in the air.
            “You didn’t have any right to say that to her,” Megan said. “She’s having a rough time.”
            “And you aren’t?” he challenged.
            She shrugged and she glanced at the door, then studied the floor, heaving in a deep sigh. Johnnie knew she wanted Christopher.
            “I’m going talk to Dinah,” K-P announced. He went to the refrigerator and pulled out a cold beer. “Megan’s right. She’s going through it, too.”
            A smile tugged at Megan’s lips after K-P left. “He likes my mom.” She ruffled her fingers through her hair. “I think Momma likes him, too.”
            Johnnie couldn’t imagine Dinah Nicholls pairing off with K-P. The man had all the patience of a bull at rut.
            “My friends are here. Farrah and Lacey.” She glanced at Val and shifted her weight. “So’s Zoann,” she mumbled.
            Oh, shit just got better and better. Not only had Christopher’s inability to handle arranging his son’s funeral sent him to the clubhouse, but Zoann was there. And everyone knew, Zoann blamed her brother for their mother’s death.
            Val tensed. “What’s she doing here?”
            “Ophelia brought her,” she said weakly.
            “My son?” he asked.
            “Upstairs,” Megan responded. “Asleep in the nursery with CJ.” She started to turn. “I have to get back…” Her voice trailed off when Christopher opened the door and walked in, a cigarette hanging from his mouth.
            He sighed when he saw her, leaned over and tamped out his cigarette in an ashtray, then opened his arms. Without hesitating, Megan closed the distance between them. Christopher bent and she stood on her tiptoes to wrap her arms around his neck. He kissed her lips, then pulled away.
            “Everything finished?” he asked, walking away from her.
            “No. I just…we took a break because Momma got overwhelmed.”
            Christopher rolled his eyes and cursed. “Figures the whiny bitch would. Don’t know what the fuck she’s doin’ here anyfuckinway. She ain’t ever did fuck all for you.”
He took five cold beers out of the refrigerator and sat them on the island in the center of the room, pushing one in the direction that Johnnie, Val, Digger, and Mortician stood, while keeping the last for himself.
“I need to talk to you, Christopher,” she said.
“Later,” he grumbled. “I need a shower and food.”
Megan’s shoulders slumped, but, without another word, she spun on her heel and departed the kitchen.
They all drank in silence and, really, what was there to say? It was obvious Christopher had pushed Megan away and it was just as obvious he was adding to her pain.
“Okay, fuckheads, say what the fuck you gotta say then shut the fuck up and stay the fuck outta me and Megan’s business.”
Mortician shrugged. “It’s more than just your business, Prez,” he pointed out. “We all was affected by what went down.”
Christopher nodded and thrust his hands through his hair. “You saw that bitch you knocked up yet, Val?”
“No. Haven’t been passed the kitchen. When I walked in, your mother-in-law was in here sniveling.”
“Do yourself a favor and stay the fuck away from Zoann, brother,” Christopher advised. “Go see your kid and leave it at that.”
Christopher drank from his can, swallowed, and focused on Johnnie. “Say what the fuck you wanna say, John Boy.”
His cousin’s nonchalance infuriated him. “Megs is here suffering through this and you’re at the clubhouse looking to get your dick sucked,” he snarled.
“Even if that’s the case, it ain’tcha fuckin’ business who I have suckin’ my cock or who I’m fuckin’.”
“Megan deserve better than that, Outlaw,” Digger said, his brow creased in disgust. “That’d break her heart if she found out.”
“And? Apparently, she knows who I am better than you fucks do.”
“We do know you,” Johnnie snapped.
“Yeah, brother, that’s the problem,” Val agreed.
Through another beer, they stood in uncomfortable silence and Johnnie saw that the brothers were as conflicted as he was. They’d pledged allegiance to the club and that meant following their president and keeping his confidences. But they all doted on Megs. To know that Christopher had betrayed her and what it would do to her if she ever found out wasn’t a place anyone of them wanted to be.
Finally, Megs emerged with two pretty girls flanking her. Farrah’s blonde streaked chestnut hair was plaited, her whiskey colored eyes misty. Lacey had blunt cut purple hair with pink tips. When she saw Christopher, she narrowed her hazel eyes.
Megan elbowed her, earning a scowl from Lacey.
“Howdy, boys,” Farrah said with a broad wave. She grabbed Lacey’s arm and began pulling her out of the room. “We’re going upstairs to our rooms, Megsters,” she called.
“That’s the stupidest fuckin’ name I ever heard,” Christopher growled. “I prefer fuckhead’s ‘Megs’ to her Megsters.”
“Um, Christopher, I really need to talk to you. Alone.”
“Ain’t had my shower yet, Megan. Besides, I have club business to discuss with my boys.”
Such bullshit. They’d been standing around for almost an hour, not saying shit, just uncomfortable in the knowledge of Christopher’s betrayal.
            “Megan, I don’t need your fuckin’ bullshit right now.”
            Megan raised her chin and folded her arms. “And I don’t need yours, Christopher. I asked you to do two things for me and you refused both. You couldn’t have the decency to help me plan our son’s--”
            “Don’t you dare fuckin’ say it. I don’t need you remindin’ me of what a sorry fuck I am. Caused Ma’s death and—“ He waved his hand in the air. “The kid’s.”
            “I never said that and I wouldn’t ever say that and, after I got through with Zoann—“
            “Drop it, Megan. I need to talk to the four of you. You,” he said, pointing to Megan. “You been outta bed long enough. Get upstairs and rest.”  He shoved away from the island and stalked out of the room.
            Without a word, they followed Christopher, who headed for the room Megan had fashioned after the clubhouse bar. Before he could shut the door, Megan walked in.
            “What I have to say is club business,” she interrupted.
            Christopher narrowed his eyes at her.
            In response, she swept her gaze swept over him. “So you’re really going straight from the cemetery to the airport?” she asked quietly.
            He flinched and looked away. Johnnie saw the helpless despair in his cousin’s eyes before he hardened his features and turned back to Megan. “This my life, Megan. Don’t nothin’ hold me back. Not even death.”
            This was her life, too, Johnnie thought, watching her face crumple. Her life was played out in front of men who regarded feelings as a liability. Not her feelings, though. They all wanted to protect her because life seemed to have it in for her. Yet, she rolled with it, somehow managing to cope and survive.
            If only Kendall was like that. Her life hadn’t been easy, either, but she hated and blamed everyone for all the hard knocks she’d suffered.
            “Can I come with you?” Her voice was small. She cut a tearful blue gaze in Christopher’s direction and his cousin closed his eyes, drawing in a deep breath. “I won’t be any trouble and I’ll listen to everything you tell me to do. Just don’t leave…don’t do this.”
            “This ain’t club fuckin’ business, Megan. This is private fuckin’ business, so I need you to leave so I can get to my meetin’.”
            She drew in a shuddering breath and a sob broke through. She shoved her wrist into her mouth to stifle it and shocked the shit out of Johnnie when she bit down, hard enough to draw blood.
            The moment she did it, she blinked and shoved her wrist behind her back, but Christopher saw it and he went white. Megan was hanging her head in shame.
            “Come here, Megan,” Christopher ordered.
            Sniffling, she stood up and stumbled to her husband, her hand still firmly behind her back. He pulled her behind the bar and Johnnie knew Christopher was untying Megan’s wrapper and raising her nightgown from his movements.
            “Fuck me,” he murmured a moment later. “I thought you’d stopped this shit.”
            What shit?
            “I-I h-have,” she stuttered. “I just…I don’t…this is so hard.”
            A pained expression crossed Christopher’s face and he thumbed Megan’s lips. “I’m gonna be gone one week at the most, baby,” he said, softer. “I can’t take you with me, Megan.”
            She met each of their gazes and they all shifted in discomfort. Johnnie wondered what was going through her mind.
            The anger returned. “This is fuckin’ club business. Don’t you fuckin’ interfere. Don’t ever fuckin’ interfere.” He re-tied her robe. “If you come and anythin’ go wrong, they grabbin’ you. In this matter, you a liability. I’m dealin’ with a lotta fuckin’ money here and I shoulda delivered the fuckin’ goods weeks ago.”
            Megan’s brows drew together and she massaged the wrist she’d bitten. “This is what this is about, isn’t it?” she said, hoarse. “Your life is in danger, isn’t it? And…and you think you’re protecting me by pushing me away?”
            “Go to bed, Megan,” Christopher said with a sigh, turning away from her.
            She glanced at Johnnie and lowered her lashes, shifting her weight before speaking again. “I-I have two requests first.”
            Megan completely frustrated Christopher and it showed. “Fuck me, Megan. What? What fuckin’ requests you got? And I still ain’t heard the club business you have.”
            “If you’d shut up, you jerk, you’d hear,” she yelled, her voice a combination of tears and fury.
            Christopher indicated the sofas and chairs. “All right, boys. My wife has the floor. Let’s hear her club business, so we can get to ours.”
            Folding his arms, he leaned against the bar and Megan glared at him. He nodded to the middle of the floor. “C’mon, baby. Ball’s in your court. We’re listenin’ so spill.”
            Taking hesitant steps to stand where Christopher pointed to, she put her bitten wrist behind her back and swallowed, sidling another glance at Johnnie. A chill swept through him, a distinctly uncomfortable feeling settling into his stomach. It was just dawning on him the club business she wanted to discuss.
            “I’m waitin’, Megan.”
            Was she out of her mind? Couldn’t she see the beast her husband had turned into? Christopher wouldn’t ever listen to her in his current frame of mind.
            With one last look at Johnnie, she frowned. She raised the hand that had been slack at her side and absently rubbed her belly. “It’s about…about K-Kendall.”
            Mortician choked, looking as horrified as Johnnie felt.
            Christopher blinked, widened his eyes, then narrowed them. “What the fuck you said?”
            “I’m not whispering, so you heard me loud and clear,” she retorted with a sniff.
            “Get upstairs. That’s club business, already taken care of, and ain’t got shit to do with you.”
            “It isn’t club business if it relates to me.”  
            He barreled to her, grabbed her shoulders, and lifted her off her feet. “That bitch hurt you, Megan. Took my son outta you. I’m your motherfuckin’ husband and your motherfuckin’ husband is president of the Death Dwellers’ MC.”
“Megs, this isn’t important,” Johnnie decided to say. Too many emotions were running between everyone. If the others felt like he did, they were still reeling from seeing Megs’ chew on her arm and Christopher’s reaction to it. He wondered what his cousin had searched her for.
“Christopher, just listen to me,” Megan persisted, and Johnnie understood why Christopher was always trying to tear his hair from his head.
Megan was too smart for her own good and too determined to insure their safety. He understood why Christopher had hesitated about saying anything to Megan about the nature of his trip. He’d just given her a couple of facts and she’d understood the implications immediately. And she was quite deftly ignoring both his and Christopher’s demands to drop the subject.
“Kendall…what she did was personal and against me. It wasn’t a strike against the club.”
“She touch you. She touch me. She touch me. She touch my club. She get fuckin’ buried.” He set her on her feet and kissed her hard. “You been bringin’ her up for four fuckin’ days and I’m sick to death of it. I don’t know why we havin’ this fuckin’ discussion anyfuckinway. The bitch already buried.”
Megan rocked on her feet, silent, then slanted another glance at Johnnie. She sighed. “Christopher—“
“Ain’t like I can dig her the fuck up and bring her the fuck back to life, Megan,” he snapped. “Even if I fuckin’ wanted to, which, in case you ain’t realized it, I don’t. So—“ He paused abruptly, went completely still and quiet. He stared at Megan and she flushed, but held his gaze, refusing to look away and raising her chin. “Fuck me, that bitch still breathin’, ain’t she?” He thrust his face into hers and she raised her hands to grip his biceps. “Ain’t she? And this motherfucker—“ He faced Johnnie and started for him. “I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you. You comin’ here pressurin’ my wife to save your piece of pussy.”
“Whoa, whoa, Prez,” Mortician began, rushing from his seat and grabbing Christopher’s arm to halt his stride. “Calm down.”
“Get your fuckin’ hands off me, asswipe,” Christopher roared, jerking away. “I’m gonna deal with you, too, motherfucker. You lied to me.”
“Listen to me, Outlaw,” Johnnie began, his gun heavy in his pocket, sweat beginning to pop off his brow. He hadn’t quite understood the position his cousin had faced with the old president, Big Joe, when he’d had to choose his life or the other man’s. Now, Johnnie knew because, if passions didn’t simmer down, he’d face the same situation.
“Christopher, stop!” Megan demanded, apparently recognizing the danger.
He swung around to face her, so furious Johnnie wondered how Megan didn’t fall into a quivering puddle.
She walked to him and then it hit Johnnie. She trusted Christopher. She trusted that, despite his rage, he’d never hurt her. She laid a hand on his heaving chest. “These men are not only your brothers, they’re your friends,” she whispered. She nodded to Johnnie, urged Christopher’s head down and rubbed his cheek. “Your family.”
“They disobeyed me,” he rasped, but Johnnie saw Megan was already breaking through to him.
“No, they didn’t,” she told him in a sweet, little voice. “The night I met you and I was so afraid, you said you weren’t a woman beater.” She kissed his chest and his cousin tensed.
Johnnie figured Christopher didn’t want Megan to detect another woman’s scent on him. That’s why he’d been so insistent on a shower.
“And you aren’t a woman beater, Christopher. They know that. You know that. That’s when I begin to fall in love with you. You’re big and scary, but with women…” She allowed her voice to trail off.
She laid her head on Christopher’s chest, which, to Johnnie was a good thing. If his cousin had been looking at her face, he would’ve seen how hard it was for her to defend Kendall. And she was defending her for him, Johnnie. Because she wanted him happy.
“She’s Ellen’s sister. She thought I hurt Ellen and she wanted revenge. Just like what you want from her because of what she did to me. They didn’t disobey you,” she repeated. “They protected you.”
She cast a desperate look to Johnnie. But he didn’t know what to say. Hearing his voice might set Christopher off again and Megan was the only one with the power to get through to him. Then, again, Christopher’s anger was justified. Johnnie should’ve waited until Megan had healed, until after the funeral he didn’t know was being planned, before he got her into this. She was dealing with enough.
“Don’t destroy everything you’ve put back together,” she urged. “They’d die for you and I know you’d die for them. You’ve all been through so much together. Think about that. These are your officers. No one else has to know how you handled this since you consider this club business.”
Johnnie wondered if Christopher realized she’d considered it club business, too, according to her own words.
“Don’t fuckin’ play me, Megan,” Christopher growled. “You can’t think to disrupt my fuckin’ meetin’ to discuss club shit, then pull the fuck back and call it personal.” He grabbed her wrist and pulled it in front of her. “This is what her bullshit is makin’ you go back to. How about for every fuckin’ cut you marred your beautiful skin with over this shit, I slice her the fuck up, too?”
Tears filled Megan’s eyes and all her resolve drained away.
“By the way, Megan,” Christopher spat, “I saw May when I was at the clubhouse. Took her to my office and had a drink with her.”
What. The. Fuck? She looked like she could die right then and Johnnie considered shooting Christopher, anyway.
Instead of addressing that, she said, “Don’t you want Johnnie happy? If she makes him happy, do you really want to take her away from him?”
Christopher balled his fists at his sides and closed his eyes. “Fuck, Megan. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”
“I love you,” she said softly. Even after he’d thrown another woman in her face? “And you love me. As long as we have each other, we have everything. But, with our family around, we have that much more. And Johnnie and Digger and Val and Mortician and K-P and Stretch are a part of our family, Christopher.” She glanced at each of them, pain deep in her eyes.
“I hurt, Christopher. Losing your son hurts. But we have CJ and we love him to pieces and if I can’t give you any more children, then we’ll still have each other.”
            “You fuckin’ win, Megan.” Christopher narrowed his eyes at Johnnie, immune to the pain of his betrayal he’d caused Megan. “Your bitch is safe. Make sure you tell her if she ever see Megan she better fall on her fuckin’ knees and thank my wife for savin’ her miserable fuckin’ life. But, I promise you, John Boy. That cunt try somethin’ against Megan again, and I’ll kill her myfuckinself.”
            “And Mortician?” Megan went on.
            “What the fuck you think, baby? If I ain’t fuckin’ John Boy up, I ain’t fuckin’ Mort up.” He glared at the man in question. “Thank her for keeping your head on your shoulders, motherfucker.”
            Mortician just glared at him and Christopher smirked.
            “All right, baby. You said two requests. Since you twisted me up and got your way with one, what’s the other one?”
            “First, I want to ask you about May?”
            “She ain’t worth worryin’ about.”
            “You’re sure?”
            “Fuck, Megan. I took the bitch to my office, got her nice and mellow with a fuckin’ drink, then told her if she thought about fuckin’ up your whiny ass bitch of a Ma because Dinah fuckin’ K-P, you wouldn’t be too happy. And if you wasn’t happy, then I wouldn’t be happy. She got the fuckin’ message and when I left she was in a corner suckin’ Stretch’s dick.” He blew out a breath. “I can’t imagine K-P wanna fuck—“
            “Christopher. Please. That’s my mother and, um—“ She wrinkled her nose—“Do you really want to imagine K-P and my mother together. Because I sure don’t.”
            “You gonna make me fuckin’ puke.”
            Val made a gagging sound and Digger held his throat.
            “We all right with you, Prez,” Mortician said, much friendlier.
            “Baby, these fuckheads wanted to cut my fuckin’ dick off, on your behalf,” Christopher said with a smile in his voice even though his eyes were dull and sad.
            Megan frowned. “Why?”
            He smirked at the lot of them. “Cuz, obviously, they don’t know me as well as they think,” he explained. “It ain’t dawned on them how much you trust me and how I’d kill  myfuckinself before I betrayed you.”
            “Oh. Well.” She shrugged. “I’m your wife and I’m in your bed. No one should know you as well as I do.”
            He groaned and kissed the top of her head again but Johnnie already saw the distance Christopher was putting between them.
            “I have to discuss my plans, Megan.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and turned away from her. “Tell me your second request and then leave us alone so we can get to business.”
            She waited until Christopher was behind the bar and facing her again. She licked her lips and Christopher’s jaw clenched. “I want you to come to bed.”
            A muscle ticked and Johnnie would cut off his right arm rather than admit, he felt Megan’s words all the way down to his balls. For the first time, he saw a hint of lust for her in Val’s, Digger’s and Mortician’s eyes.
            “I’m not sleepy,” Christopher said, nonchalant.
            “Neither am I,” she said softly.
            Christopher scratched his neck. “I have to take care of my boys, so—“
            “I’m trying to take care of them for you,” she said with a little huff.
            He scowled at her. “You know I ain’t talkin’ about those boys. I’m talkin’ about my four brothers.” He motioned to the door. “Go.”
            “Can I talk to you in the hallway?”
            “Nope. Ain’t interested in listenin’.”
            “Well, can they leave us alone for two minutes?”
            Again, Christopher shook his head. “You had surgery a month ago, Megan. You ain’t healed, so you really need to go to bed and rest.”
            “Remember, you forced me to do this, Christopher,” she announced.
            He pretended boredom and Johnnie knew it was pretense. His cousin was strung tight as a bow, even with all the alcohol he’d drank. “I have to—“
            “I’m so hurt inside, Christopher. I try to make everything right. And…Doctor Will said she wants me to wait before we try for another baby and…” She stopped her flow of words when the anger returned to Christopher’s face. She glanced at Johnnie, then shut her mouth and clenched her hands together, digging her fingernails into her palms. She didn’t even seem to notice the pain. “It was the hardest thing. Planning his funeral. I-I need to…I need you to hold me.”
            “Nope. Guest room is fine for me right now. I don’t want to hurt you by accident. Or anything.”
            “It’s the or anything I want from you.”
            He glowered at her. “Go.”
            “Maybe, we should take a walk,” Johnnie suggested.
            “Great idea,” Megan agreed just as Christopher snarled, “stay the fuck where you at.”
            “I’ll come and kiss you goodnight just like I have since you got home.”
            “I’m not a little girl.”
            That’s the point, Megs.
            “That’s the motherfuckin’ problem, Megan.” He stomped toward her and began to guide her by the arm toward the door.
            As if Fate insisted on taunting him with Megan, the moment she got within earshot, she muttered, “I want to take you in my mouth, Christopher. I’ll get comfort giving you pleasure.”
            He swept her into his arms and walked to the door with her. When he sat her on his feet, he slammed it in her face and locked it, as if he hadn’t heard the offer Johnnie would die to hear.
            It startled him to realize he’d like Kendall to speak those words to him. He’d followed in Christopher’s footsteps in almost everything, so it didn’t surprise him he’d want a relationship similar to his cousin’s. One where Kendall believed in him when no one else would, trusted in him with unwavering loyalty. Johnnie had often wondered how Megan had so much power over Christopher. What they had went beyond love and sex. Rather than power over him, Megan had faith in him.
            Within half an hour, she’d gotten Christopher to do what Johnnie needed most of all. Kendall’s salvation and his and Mortician’s redemption. Johnnie wanted to know why Megan hurt herself, then decided it wasn’t a stretch of the imagination. She had found a way to cope and, in doing so, had taken her pain out on herself while managing to show love and kindness to everyone else.
            Would he be pushing it if he talked her to her and asked her how to help Kendall? He’d wanted to ask Kendall, but she’d been so unreachable and, to protect her, he couldn’t bring himself to mention the state he’d found her in. He didn’t want her to have false pride, but he did want to keep her dignity intact.
            “Okay, John Boy, it’s done,” Christopher announced, pocketing his phone.
            Johnnie frowned. “What is?” he asked stupidly.
            “Your fuckin’ bitch,” he said with impatience.
            “Her name is Kendall.”
            “Don’t give a fuck what the fuck her name is. To me, she’ll always be the cunt who fucked over my girl. Now, you take me calling her bitch or cunt. Your fuckin’ choice. Because I ain’t a forgivin’ motherfucker and it galls the fuck outta me the way Megan got me to do this shit. But she believes in me and if I live to come home to her…” His voice trailed off and the bleakness returned. “Anyway, I got those two mean cop fucks to report she was found dead or some shit. So she free and off the hook. I hope you have many happy years with her.”
            He would’ve been satisfied to just have a happy day with her.
            “Let’s get to work. Cuz I know Megan. She’s spoiled as fuck. I have about fifteen minutes before she comes to lead me upstairs, so we can kiss goodnight.”
            Judging by the barely contained lust in Christopher’s eyes and remembering her words, Johnnie had a very good idea where Megan was going to give his cousin a kiss.


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