Chapter 1: Not a Setup
"Jackie's boy is doing alrigh'," I said to the lad as I hung up my cell. I'd just spoken to Gemma and the wee one had come out of surgery on the strong side of things. It was a relief. Jax had been all torn up and distracted since Abel had been born. The bit of good news was just what he, and the club really, needed.
"That's great!" Half-Sack exclaimed and smiled. I was looking at him still when a frown appeared on his face. "What the hell?" He muttered, and I looked back to the road to see a woman beside an old pickup parked in the middle of the roadway. She was waving her arms, trying to flag us down. She looked panicked, but it could be an act to get the boy and I out of the tow truck. I slowed the rig, though, as either way I was going to have to maneuver the tow and our recent repo around her pickup.
As we approached, I saw that she was saying "Please help." By God, she was beautiful. Clad in jeans and a tank, she was by no means dressed to the nines, but the clothes clung to all the right places. Her long blond hair had a bit of wave to it and the slight breeze ruffled it enough that I could see it came to her mid-back. I hesitated for a moment and then stopped the tow. Hopefully, this wasn't a setup.
Half-Sack gave me a look as I stopped and I shook my head and nodded toward her. "Let's see wha' the lass needs."
"Thank you!" I heard her cry as she came toward me. I'd put her in her mid to late twenties, if I had to guess. Her eyes were bluish and freckles smattered across her nose and on her shoulders. It made me wonder where else I'd find freckles if I went exploring.
"Whas' the problem, lass?" I asked and watched her eyes widen a bit at my accent. No one really expects a Scot in Charming. I've gotten used to the reaction by now. It was amusing and it definitely didn't hurt my chances with the ladies.
"It looks like he was hit by a car and my shoulder's blown out. I can't lift him to the bed of my pickup." She was pointed to the side of the road, where I could see brown and black fur. I followed her over to the side of the road and found a German Shepherd puppy, probably just shy of a year old, laying on the ground. He was matted by blood near his midsection and panting.
"You wan' to take him, lass?" I asked and she nodded her head.
"I can get him to a vet, but I need help loading him. Can you do that?" Her eyes pleaded with me and I sighed. There was a good chance the dog was a lost cause, but for reasons that I couldn't express, I couldn't say no to her.
"Aye, lass." I turned to Half-Sack and motioned toward the animal. "Hold his muzzle. He might try to bite when I move him." The kid nodded at me and we approached the canine. "Eh, there, boy. The pretty lass is going to take ya' to a doctor. Ye' jus' have to be patient wi' me as I lift ya', righ'?"
Half-Sack moved to the front as I leaned down and lifted the animal. He whimpered, but didn't struggle. Poor thing seemed exhausted. As I stretched back up, the woman moved to her pickup and lowered the tailgate. She laid out a tarp and I placed the German on it. I caught a bit of moisture on the lass' cheek out of the corner of my eye. She wasn't carrying on, but it was clear that her heart was aching for the animal.
I raised the tailgate back up and she turned to me and Half-Sack. "Thank you," I saw her look at the TM shirt as she hesitated, "Chibs. You're my hero." She gave the kid and I a bit of a watery smile and then ran to the driver's side of her rig and hopped in. Half-Sack and I watched as she put the truck in gear and drove away.
There was plenty to do when we returned to the shop and so I didn't really have a moment to think too much until late that night. As I stared into the bottom of my Guinness, I thought about the lass' blue eyes. I've seen many a beautiful woman in my life, but it had been a while since one had captured my attention for longer than what it took to bed her. That I was still musing over this one, despite the utter lack of anything sexual in our interaction, was a bit of a surprise to me. It may be her soft heart, or perhaps that she called me a hero; I didn't know what it was, but there was something about the lass that had me twisted up inside.
I was so wrapped up in thoughts of her that I missed Tig coming to join me at the bar.
"You've been quiet, tonight. You alright, brother?" He asked and I saw Half-Sack scoff out of the corner of my eye. Here we go.
"I bet he's still starstruck from this afternoon." The lad said and I considered whether my glass could be embedded in his face. It was a regular pint glass, so I wouldn't need to use much force to shatter it.
"Starstruck?" Jax asked, coming up from behind me and joining in on ribbing me, because the more the merrier, right?
"We stopped to help a sweet thing with an injured dog this afternoon. Chibs hasn't said more than a few words since. I think he's in love." The kid said and I thought about adding Tig's beer bottle to my torture plans.
"Shut it, ye idiot." I muttered, though there wasn't much heat to it. Half-Sack wasn't wrong. I didna even get her name. There was literally nothing I could do to find her again. I hadn't paid attention to her license plate and the pickup was old, but unremarkable. It's not like I could drive around Charming asking people if they knew a beautiful blonde with a heart of gold. Ach, even to my own mind, that sounded sappy and right ridiculous.
Jax slapped me on the back and chuckled. "What's her name, Romeo?" He teased, hitting the nail straight on the head of my problem.
Rather than answer, I shrugged and pointed to the bottles behind the bar. "I'll take somethin' stronger, lad, if ye don't mind."
Half-Sack poured a few shots out and looked to the other men. I knew I was being a right ass, but I couldn't shake the image of that watery smile out of my mind. It was going to be a long night of what-ifs. Best to do that with a shot glass in hand and a bottle close by.
Seeing that I was in no mood to entertain their fun, the men split off to find more pleasant company to fill their evenings while I lost myself in quiet solitude.
Chapter 2: A Dusting of Flour
"So, what are you going to do, Erin?" Dana asked me as I placed more blueberry muffins in the display case. She'd followed me of from the kitchen to ask me about Chaos.
I'd found the poor boy while on errands yesterday. After the tow guys helped me load him up, I took him to an emergency vet by my bakery and spent much of the afternoon making calls, then flyers. While the vet cleaned up the puppy and took him back for surgery, I'd told my staff that I was headed out to try to find the pup's owner. I'd had no success. It was now a day later and the vet had called me to say that he was doing well and that I could pick him up tomorrow.
I'd been calling him Chaos in my head, since that was what the big guy was almost certainly going to cause in my life. I was single and had a home with a yard, but I also had a business that regularly kept me late. When staff are sick, the only one to pick up the slack was me. Having a dog was going to make things more difficult if I couldn't find his owners.
"Right now, I'm going to bring a thank you to the shop of the mechanics who helped me. I'll worry about how to handle Chaos tomorrow." I smiled at Dana and gestured to one of our larger to-go boxes. "Hand that to me, please?" I asked and she folded it up and passed it over.
It was midmorning. I didn't have any idea if Chibs and his younger helper had sweet tooths, or were more the savory type. Keeping the time and lack of known preferences in mind, I piled the pale teal box with a mixture of both. There'd be easily enough in here for the two to share with their coworkers for a kind of brunch. Well, they'd have enough to share if they weren't starving or sharing with more than twenty.
"Don't forget the lemon tarts," Dana said, and I made sure to add a few. After roughly a year of being in business, we'd found that my lemon treats were fan favorites.
Closing the lid, I placed the blue bird sticker on the cardboard clasp and smiled. That should do it. As I stood from my bent over position, Dana laughed and pointed to my cheek. Glancing in the small mirror behind the counter, I found a dusting of flour on the right side. It seemed that I never made it out of the kitchen without some ingredients on my person. I wiped it off and smiled again. "I'm off. I should be back after two for sure."
"We got it under control, boss." Marcus called from a table he was bussing. He and Dana had a thing going, though they both thought I didn't know. It wasn't really my business, so I'd let them keep their 'secret'. They were good workers, so I really didn't have much to worry about with them on shift for the lunch hour.
The bell at the door jingled as I walked out and to my pickup. "Directions to Teller Morrow automotive," I said into my phone as I buckled my seat belt. Although I'd been in town for a year, I didn't really have a good sense of direction and I was a bit of a creature of habit. If I had no reason to be somewhere, I usually didn't go. It meant that I was surprised by the features of the last place I'd lived up to the day before I'd moved - and I'd been there for nearly 7 years!
As Google directed me to the shop where yesterday's saviors worked, I glanced around. I really should be more observant and involved. Maybe it should be my New Year's resolution. I'd never managed to keep one of those, but that didn't mean I should give up trying to improve, right? Settling it in my brain that I should set some goals for myself, I turned into the lot at TM.
My old girl sputtered a bit as I turned the key and cut the engine. I really am shit at any detail not involving the bakery. My pickup had needed some care for a while now, but there was always something else that needed doing. I should add taking care of my rig to my running list of how to adult better. It was a long list- a fact that no doubt had a lot to do with why I never succeeded in keeping my resolutions.
I stepped out of the truck and smiled at a taller man with dark curly hair. "Good morning!" I called and he looked a bit taken aback by my enthusiasm. I'm a bit of a soft touch and my emotions are easily discerned. My happiness at being able to thank Chibs was showing through my voice and, no doubt, my face.
"Don't think I've seen anyone quite so happy at needing their truck repaired before." He said as he rubbed his hands on a shop rag.
"Oh, I'm not here to have my truck looked at. I'm wondering if a guy named Chibs works here?" As I spoke, a calculating light entered the man's eyes.
"You the one with the hurt dog?" He asked and I grinned.
"That's me - though the puppy isn't mine. I just found him. Is Chibs here? I was hoping to thank him properly for his help." Curly laughed. I may not be Adrian Monk, but I wasn't a complete idiot; this one had a dirty mind. "Alright, alright. You going to answer me, or just wallow in your dirty thoughts?"
"Sure thing, doll. Wait here." He said and I turned back to my pickup to grab the box of treats.
I was trying to nurse one hell of a hangover in peace, though it was about impossible in a mechanic's shop. The noise from engines and tools was giving the Ibuprofen I'd taken a challenge in alleviating the pounding in my head. I was tightening a lug nut when Tig came back to my bay and smirked at me.
"Wha?" I asked, not really in the mood for his cheeky ass.
"Your mystery woman; you still thinking about her?" I huffed and turned back to the car in front of me. Arsehole. As if I didn't get enough shite from the lot of them last night and early this morning.
"Well, if you're not interested, I'll see if this hot blonde number out front would prefer a real man, then." He said and started back toward the front of the shop. I scoffed. Like I'd fall for that load. Except...neither Half-Sack nor I had described her. Shite.
Getting up in a hurry and jogging to the front, I found the angel from yesterday standing in the lot with a large, colored cardboard box in her hands. Tig was just to her when she looked past him and saw me. Her smile had gone from slightly uncertain to full blown and I could see a dimple on one side. Was it possible for a woman to be more attractive?
Tig noticed that she was distracted and he glanced back at me with a smirk. Fucker knew I hadn't believed him and was eating this up.
"Hey, Superman." She said and I felt a tinge of pride, but also consternation. In just two words, she'd made me feel like a damn man and it was both intoxicating and a bit concerning. Such a small interaction with someone shouldn't be enough to make my insides feel like they'd been warmed by the Sun.
"Hi, lass." I said as I approached. I was damn glad to see her, but I didn't quite know what to think of her appearance this morning. Maybe she'd been thinking of me all night, like I had of her?
"I brought you a thank you for helping me yesterday," she said and lifted the box. I looked down at it and saw the name of a bakery on the lid.
"You didna have to buy me food, love." I said and she chuckled.
"Good, because I didn't. I made these for you and your young helper." She was a baker. If I find out that the woman knows a thing about motorcycles, I'll be done for. "There's enough to share, if you want to spread the wealth with your raunchy friend here." She teased as she handed me the box. "There's a good mix in there, in case you're not really a fan of sweets."
"Oh, I think Chibby had a fondness for sweet things," Tig said and if I weren't holding the box, I'd have punched him in the gut.
Ignoring him, I spoke to the vision before me. "You never told me your name, lass."
"Oh, right! I'm Erin." Another flash of that dimple and it wouldn't matter if she knew anything about motorcycles after all.
"Erin," I repeated, and I knew from Tig's shit-eating grin that I was smiling like a bloody idiot. "You have time to sit and enjoy some of this with me, lass?" I asked, and you could have lit a town with the energy spike that went through me when she nodded yes.
Chapter 3: An Inked Arm
I showed Erin the picnic benches just outside of the shop and motioned for her to have a seat. She did and I sat next to her, deciding that sitting across from her would be just a little too far. I took out my short blade and opened the seal on the box. The smell of fresh baked goods wafted up and got me salivating. I scanned the contents and looked back to Erin with a smile.
"Any in particular you suggest, love?" I asked and she grinned back at me.
"Well, if you like tart, go for the lemon ones." She pointed to a pair of yellow tinged pastries. "If you're a sweet fan, you can't go wrong with the sticky buns. And if you like savory, the croissants are layered with a cheese and meats of different kinds."
"Oye, lass. I dinna know how to choose. They smell wonderful."
"Well, my favorite are the sticky buns, but I have a bit of a sweet tooth." She smiled a little sheepishly and I chuckled.
"I'll keep tha' in mind, love." I said as I grabbed the sticky bun she'd pointed to earlier and took a bite. Now, I'm not big on overplaying one's hand, so you have to know I didn't intentionally moan when I tasted the gooey cinnamon bread on my tongue. Nevertheless, I sounded like I was at Cara Cara as I continued to chew the lovely bit of food.
"You like it?" She asked and I had to take a minute to swallow it down to respond.
"It's amazing, love. You're a great cook." I said with a smile and was pleased to see a lovely blush stain her cheeks. I was so captivated by the sight that I missed my brothers from the shop descending on us.
"Hey there, Chibs. You going to share with the rest of us?" Bobby asked as he lead the brothers over to where Erin and I sat. Tig, the bastard, sat on the other side of Erin. There really wasn't the room for him, so he was folded up into a tiny space, plastered to her side with one arm snaking behind her. I would have loved to get up and forcibly remove him, but then I would have left a spot open for one of the lot to take. I had no doubt that one of them would, too.
"I'll be happy to send ye' back to the clubhouse with the box, if ye'd like." I muttered and Bobby smirked at me.
"But then we'd never get to kiss the cook." He said and looked to Erin. "I'm Bobby. You've met Tig," he said as he pointed to the touchy arse. "This is Jax," and he indicated Jackie boy. "Half-Sack is off doing some errands."
"Half-Sack?" Erin asked and looked to me, confused.
"The lad that was helping me yesterday." I supplied, though I was pretty sure that didn't resolve all of her questions.
I watched with irritation as the vultures picked over the baked goods that the woman had made for me and the lad. There were just a few left when Clay came out, accompanied by the kid himself. Erin smiled and waved, then pointed to the box.
"There's not much left, but they are part of my thank you to you and Chibs, so you should make sure to grab one."
"A thank you, darling?" Clay asked and Erin nodded.
"Chibs and Half-Sack," she hesitated for a moment on that but continued. "They helped me to save a German Shephard yesterday afternoon. Someone had hit the dog and it was laying on the side of the road. A few years back, I blew out my shoulder, so I can't really lift that kind of dead weight. Chibs here," she smiled at me, "put him in the back of my pickup so that I could get the puppy off to the vet."
"Puppy?" Bobby asked, clearly confused as to why she wouldn't be able to lift a small dog.
"I'd put 'im about a year or so old. Still a puppy, but about three-quarters grown at this point." I supplied and Bobby's expression cleared.
"So, how is the dog?" Jax asked and Erin's eyes lit up.
"He's good. The vet had to open him up, but the internal damage wasn't too bad. They said I can take him home tomorrow."
"Do you plan to keep 'im, lass?" I asked and she shook her head.
"No. I've posted flyers around and made some calls. I'm hoping whoever owns him will get in touch. Until then, he can be on doggy rehab with me."
"That's very kind of you," Clay said.
Erin shrugged. "I'm a softie. When I was a kid, folks always teased that I'd never make it big because I'd be too busy giving the shirt off my back to someone else." She chuckled a little at the memory and the sound was low and slid down my spine like honey.
"Well, I'm sure you'll let Chibs know if there is anything we can do to help." Clay said and I could have kissed him. In those few words, he said enough to the brothers to get me some breathing room to explore the possibilities with Erin. He also, not so subtly, gave the men the cue to get their arses back to work.
As they gathered themselves up, each said bye to Erin and she returned the gesture. Throughout the time at the table, she never once indicated queasiness with being around a group of bikers. In fact, she looked like she hardly noticed that any of the men had Reapers on their backs.
The only problem with the lot of them clearing out was that Erin took it as her indication to leave, too. It was too soon. I wanted to spend more time in her presence; get to know her better. I couldn't, however, think of a good way to say that at the moment. I was supposed to get back to work myself, so it wasn't like I could blow off and spend the afternoon with her, no matter how much I liked the idea.
Instead of asking her to stay, I followed her lovely ass back to her old pickup. She turned at the door and smiled at me again and I knew my own face held a similar smile.
"I was glad to catch you at work today, Chibs. Thank you again for your help." She opened the door of her truck; I leaned on the door after she got in and looked at her through the window.
"I'm glad ya came, love. I was sorry to see ye leave yesterday and don't righ' like the idea of it now, either." I said, laying my interest on the table, in case what I hoped would be her response was what I got. She didn't disappoint me.
She turned that lovely shade of pink again and coughed a bit. She then shook her head and said, "I'm not good at this kind of thing, Chibs. I think you're telling me something, but I tend to work best with straight talk. Are you hitting on me?"
My grin widened and I nodded. "Aye, lass. But more than tha'. I'm trying to gauge yer interest in seeing me again."
"I'd like that." She responded with a twinkle in her eyes.
"How do I best reach ya', love?"
"Give me your hand?" She asked and I reached my left into the cab of the pickup. She held the palm up and took a pen from beside her and wrote a number on my wrist. When she was done, she looked at me and spoke. "I hope you'll use it."
"Aye, lass. Ye can count on it." I said huskily and stepped back as she backed her truck out of the lot. The only question in my mind was how long I should wait before I used the number inked on my arm.
Chapter 4: Like a Warm Blanket
After I left Chibs, I wandered Charming looking for a hardware store. I had a few more errands to get to that hadn't been accomplished yesterday because I'd had to take care of Chaos. Most of the remaining tasks on my list could be handled with a visit to Ace or its equivalent. I could have just used my phone to find the closest one, but my happy heart and newfound interest in my surroundings led me to just drive until I found something workable.
When I found the hardware store, I parked and got to shopping. I needed paint to update the interior of the bakery, a new chalkboard sign for the specials, and some new doorknobs for my own place. Thinking about Chaos, I got a couple of bowls for water and food while I was at it. There was a pet shop just down the road where I'd need to stop to get more basics for the puppy.
Once I'd rung up my projects, I went to Barks & More in search of a collar, leash, dog bed, food, treats, and some toys. I really didn't know what I was going to do with all this stuff once we found Chaos' owners, but I couldn't really stomach skimping on the animal while I waited for that to happen. Having secured what all I'd need for the pup, I turned my pickup back to the bakery. It was just about two, and so there'd be enough time to do tomorrow morning's prep work before closing.
My headphones were in my ears as I entered the back of the shop where the kitchen was and I got straight to work. I'm a heavily focused individual. Part of my admitted lack of observational skills was a tendency to direct complete attention to a task at hand and ignore the broader world in the process. It meant that I was able to zone out distractions better than anyone I'd met, but it also meant that I was in a world of daydreams on a semi-regular basis. A necessary side effect was that I'd startle with the best of them when pulled from my hyper focus, something that happened when Marcus tapped my shoulder a few hours later.
"Phew. Marcus, you gave my heart a test there." I said as I held my chest. He smiled and shook his head.
"It's fifteen to closing and the place is pretty well dead. Mind if I pack it in? I have a date tonight."
I glanced up at the clock, surprised to find that it was that close to six. "Sure. I have tomorrow's prep done, so I'll handle closing. You go get ready for your lady." His smile increased and he grabbed the waiting bag by the back door. He must have been sure of my response. Not terribly surprising, but I wouldn't mind being a tad less predictable.
"Thanks, Erin. You're the best." He said with a tap to my shoulder as he walked out the door. I took a quick glance in the hallway mirror to ensure I was presentable for the public and made my way to the front counter. When I got there, I saw that Marcus had already bussed the tables and cleaned the display case. His work meant that I'd just have to lock up, close the blinds, count the till, and mop before I left for the night. I really should consider a raise for him. Even though he liked to leave early, he never shirked necessary tasks.
I was just about to close the blinds and lock the front door when a policeman walked in. He was in the middle of his prime, with a short, cropped haircut and a strong jaw. I bet the combination of his looks and uniform did him well in his search for human companionship.
"Good afternoon, officer." I said as I saw him approach the display. Seeing his badge, I frowned a bit. "Sorry. It looks like I should have said 'Chief'?"
He smiled. "Deputy Chief, ma'am."
"Ah. Well, Deputy Chief, what tickles your fancy this evening?" I asked as I splayed my hands toward the goods before me.
"I'll take a dozen of your dinner rolls and however many of the lemon tarts you have left." He responded and I got to work gathering his order.
"I don't recall you having come in before, Deputy." I commented and he shrugged.
"I'd heard good things about your shop for a couple months but hadn't had the chance to swing by. I have a dinner to attend tonight, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to correct that."
Meeting him at the register, I smiled at him and spoke. "Well, I'm glad you did." I gave him his total and he fished out his wallet to pay. Once the transaction was complete, I'd expected him to turn and leave, but he hesitated.
"Were you at Teller-Morrow today?" He asked and I looked at him confused.
Now, I'm not generally a contrary person, but I grew up questioning authority. It's hard not to when you spent much of your life in a tougher neighborhood. Cops weren't automatically the bad guys in my view, but I'd seen one too many with control issues, and so I had built up a bit of a wall with regard to my privacy around them. My reticence in responding was obvious.
"Why do you ask?" I questioned, not really liking that he knew my personal business. It may be a small town, but the Constitution still applied in this part of the country.
He sighed and looked down. "Charming is a small town. People notice things. You were noticed at TM. Want to tell me why you were there, since it wasn't long enough to get your pickup fixed?"
My expression had to be cold. I've never been a poker player. I was too easily read. "Is there a reason you're asking?"
"You're a beautiful woman, Erin, and new to town. Your business is taking off and good for Charming. I'd hate to see your livelihood impacted by associating with the wrong people."
"And Teller-Morrow is the wrong people?"
He nodded. "The most wrong you could probably find."
"They seemed lovely to me." I responded.
"Yeah, they tend to do that until it's too late." He muttered and looked at me again. "Please, just consider that I have your best interests at heart." He asked as he walked out the door.
After a moment, I closed the blinds, flipped the closed sign and locked the door. Shaking aside the odd encounter, I put in my headphones and got to closing up shop. There was a new set of mysteries on my e-reader at home that I was dying to dig into, so I worked quickly.
Almost three hours later, I was snuggled up in my bed, my Chinese takeout back in the fridge and my book in hand. I was just deciding to wrap up for the night when my cell rattled on the side table. I didn't recognize the number, but answered it anyhow. With a business, I'd found more people knew my number than I ever remembered giving it to.
"Hello?" I called into the receiver softly and was met with a sigh.
"There's ma' angel's voice. I'd missed hearing it, lass." If Chibs had seen my face right now, he'd know that I was ecstatic that he'd called. My cheeks hurt, I was smiling so broadly.
"Chibs," I sighed into the phone and I heard him breathe sharply.
"Ye've no idea how much I like the way ya say my name, love."
"I'm glad you called." I answered.
"Aye, lass. I shoulda waited for a day a' least, but I didna have the strength for it."
God, this man. I was no match for his rugged looks and accent. In just a few short words, he had me in a puddle.
"Tell me about your day, Chibs." I asked.
"Only if ya promise to do the same." He responded.
"Deal," I said and settled in, letting his voice wrap around me like a warm blanket.
Chapter 5: Some New Help
The day dawned bright and fresh and I admit to having a bit of a skip to my steps. I'd talked late into the evening with Chibs last night, only really going to sleep at his insistence. After my second yawn, he'd about demanded that I tuck in. His voice had softened, though, as he'd wished me pleasant dreams. I could listen to that man read the dictionary.
I was manning the front counter this morning, since one of my newer employees wanted to try his hand at baking. Our stock was in good shape, so now was just as good a time as any for him to give it a shot. There are only four little bistro tables in my bakery, and they were all in use. We'd had a steady stream of customers since we opened. All in all, it was a lovely morning.
About midpoint to the day, I received a call on my cell and so I had my afternoon help take the counter. I stepped back into the kitchen to answer, not wanting to disturb our guests.
"Ach, angel, I do so enjoy hearing yer voice."
"Chibs, " I said, smiling. "I didn't expect to hear from you again so soon."
"Aye, I know lass. Something has come up and I need to go on a run. "
"A run?" I asked, confused.
"Aye. A bike trip. "
"Oh." Was I getting the brush off? A convenient trip to put space between us so he could fade into the woodwork?
"I'll be out o' town for abou' a week. It's a fair distance, so I dinna know if I'll be able to call ye tonight, but I should be able to the rest of the time I'm gone." This sure sounded like the beginnings of a brush off. My shoulders slumped. We'd just met, but I liked Chibs.
"Okay," I said, and he must have heard the disappointment in my voice.
"Don' break ma heart love. I don' love the timing of this, but I promise ye, it's not what ya think."
"Erin, love. I mean it. I'd wanted to take ya out tonight. I just need ya to be patient wi' me."
I straightened up. I had no reason to question him. I was disappointed, sure, but I'm a big girl. I conjured up a smile and responded. "Okay, Superman. I'll talk to you soon."
"Ye will lass," he assured me before we said our goodbyes.
The call put a damper on my day, so I stayed in the back until closing. I didn't want to be an Eeyore around paying customers. Just as I was about to lock up, I got a call from the emergency vet. Chaos was ready to be picked up, so I headed in that direction.
When I got there, I signed all his discharge papers and had the young man behind the counter load the German in the cab of my pickup. Chaos was still loopy from his meds, so he was pretty quiet on the drive home. It worked out, because I had a call to make.
"Hey, Sara. Is your teen still looking for odd jobs?"
"She is. Do you need help at the bakery?"
"Actually, I'm looking for someone to dog sit. She'd just need to keep him company during the day so he doesn't move around too much since he's healing from a surgery. She'd get all the pop she can drink, access to Netflix, and some pay. "
I heard Sara talking in the background and then her laughing voice come back on the line. "She's in."
"Great. Have her come by at 7 tomorrow." I said as I pulled in to my driveway. I sat for a moment, thinking about how I was going to get Chaos in the house. He was supposed to be off his feet as much as possible for the next three days. I got out of the cab and made my way around. Maybe a different view would spark inspiration. As I got to the passenger door, I saw Deputy Hale pull up to the sidewalk.
I turned to him as he got out, asking my question with my look rather than words. He got up to me with his palms outstretched. "I come in peace."
"How can I help you, Deputy?"
"I came to apologise. I have a history with many of the men at Teller-Morrow. I let it get you and I off on the wrong foot. I don't want you to think you or your business are unwelcome in Charming." He said it all quickly, as if trying to rush through it.
"That looked like it hurt a bit. Not in the practice of saying you're sorry?" I teased and he actually blushed.
"It's not a well used habit, no."
"Well, buck up, Champ. You're forgiven."
"You looked like you were problem solving when I got here." He said and I nodded. I explained how I'd found Chaos and that I was still on the hunt for his owners. In the meantime, I expected to have a house guest, though it was going to be interesting while the dog wasn't walking much.
"I can keep my ears open for anyone looking for him and can help you with his needs for the next few days." The Deputy offered. If he had a history with TM, I wasn't sure his helping me would be a good idea.
"Oh, I don't know-"
"How were you planning on getting him outside for the few days he needs to be off his feet, if you can't lift him?"
I nodded. "Fair point. But I was working on a plan."
"Well, now you have one. I'll take him now, and then swing by tomorrow morning, afternoon, and before bed. I'll just need a key to get in when you aren't here."
"Oh, well Stacy's going to be here to keep him company during the day, so she can let you in if I'm not here. But," I hesitated, "are you sure? That's coming by nine times over the next three days. It's a lot of time out of your schedule, especially when I won't even be here all those times."
"I had a German as a kid. I love the breed and I'm happy to help."
Well, I couldn't really think of a better option at the moment, so I smiled and opened the cab for him to lift Chaos. He let the puppy down to do his business and then I lead him inside. I pointed to the dog bed by the couch and he set the puppy down.
"Alright," he said and looked around. "What time shall I come by tomorrow?"
"The dog sitter will be here at 7. If you come around then, I can introduce you."
"Sounds like a plan." He said and smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow."
I walked him out and closed the door behind him, locking it thereafter. I looked at Chaos and then glanced toward the kitchen. "What's say you and I have a movie marathon and some snacks, boy?" I asked and he thumped his tail in response. I planned to sleep on the couch to keep the pup company, so we might as well make a night of it.
Settling in, I turned on a comedy and sighed. I missed Chibs already, but he said he would call tomorrow, so I was just going to have to tough it out. I fell asleep patting Chaos' head, the sound of Bill Murray fighting ghosts in the background.
Chapter 6: A Shite Day
The bell rang all too early the next morning. I groaned as I stretched from my position on the couch. Taking a glance at the clock, I saw that it was 6:30 in the morning. I didn't expect Stacy or the Deputy until 7, but it was possible one or the other was early. I swung my legs to the ground and scratched Chaos behind the ears for a moment before heading toward the door.
I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of one of the windows. I was wearing sleep shorts and a tank and my hair was a mess. I took a hair band from my wrist and tied the blonde strands up into a messy bun. Whoever was at the door was just going to have to accept my appearance.
When I opened the door, I found Deputy Hale standing there with two cups of coffee from a local coffee shop. I could smell the bitter brew as he stepped in with a "Good morning."
I murmured at him and he chuckled. "Somehow, I'd figured you for more of a morning person." He said as he handed me the cup from his left hand.
I took a sip and shrugged. "Bit of a rough night. I slept on the couch to keep Chaos company, and I ended up waking up every time I heard him move because I was worried he was going to tear some stitches. Hence, my unimpressive appearance this morning."
Hale smiled and shook his head. "I don't know about that." He responded and then gestured to Chaos. "I'll get this guy going. Why don't you go freshen up?"
I nodded to him gratefully and headed to the stairs. My place wasn't very big, but it was two levels. I'd loved the look of it when I first saw it. I'd never been a believer in love at first sight until I'd seen this house. Materialistic? Maybe, but it was the only solid thing I owned other than my bakery that had ever made me genuinely happy by the mere fact of its existence.
While the Deputy was handling Chaos, I put on some jeans and a tank. I was almost always in the kitchen at some point when at the bakery, so it never made sense to wear anything too hot. I took out the messy bun and braided my hair to one side. It would keep it off my neck, but still look at least a bit professional when I dealt with the inevitable customers this morning. Satisfied that I was presentable, I made my way downstairs in time to hear Stacy at the front door.
I let her in to the living room, where Deputy Hale had laid Chaos. When we came in to the room, I saw that Hale had filled Chaos' water and was playing with a squeaky toy I'd purchased for the puppy. It seemed that Hale really was good with the dog, which alleviated what concerns I had about him coming to help Chaos outside while I wasn't around.
"Stacy, this is Deputy Hale. He's going to swing by in the mornings and afternoons to lift Chaos and take him outside to do his business."
"Oh, can he not walk?" She asked, and I went into an abbreviated story of how I came to have Chaos at the house. Stacy seemed to get it and smiled at Hale in thanks for donating his time to the cause.
"Well," I said, "I need to head in. Thank you so much for doing this last minute, Stace. The vet says that Chaos should be able to stand being outside on his own for a while in a few days, so this shouldn't take up too much of your week."
"Oh, it's no problem, Erin. I'm happy to do it."
I nodded at Stacy and jogged my chin at Hale. "Thank you, too. You're got a box of lemon tarts with your name on it at the shop."
Hale chuckled as he walked out the door with me, but shook his head. "I don't need the thanks, though I appreciate it." He glanced about the neighborhood and then back to me. "I'll see you tonight, about 8?" He asked and I nodded.
Time flies when you're busy, and that's what it was at the bakery that day. Before I knew it, it was time to close and head home. Wrapping up a small box of treats for Hale, I got in my pickup and drove the short distance to my humble abode.
It was just past 7 and so I got right to work on making some dinner. Although I'm a baker by trade, I love to cook, too. I find joy in making something from my own two hands, and all the better if it's something that you can then eat afterward. The biggest struggle I had was always portions, in that I almost always ended up making way more than what I could reasonably eat. Tonight's dinner was no exception, though at least this time it was something I knew was going to happen when I started. There just isn't much of a good way to make a small Shepherd's Pie.
It was a recipe I'd used before, so I knew how good it was going to be. My taste buds were ready to roll the second it came out of the oven, but I heard the doorbell and realized Hale was here for Chaos, so I set it on the oven to cool down a bit and made my way to the door.
"Good evening," I said as I opened the door wide for his entry.
"Good evening. It smells wonderful in here." He commented and I smiled.
"You're welcome to join me for a bite if you'd like. It just came out of the oven." Hale seemed to hesitate for a moment and then shook his head.
"I have a lot to catch up on tonight, so I'll have to take a raincheck. How was Chaos today?"
"Stacy said he did well, not pushing his limits too much. We have just two more days of lifting, and then the vet said he should walk on his own."
"Well, I'll get him squared away so you can get to your meal."
The Deputy didn't stay long. Rather, he took Chaos outside and then straight back to his doggie bed and then said good night. He hadn't seemed upset, so I took him at his word that he was just busy. Although he'd said that he was fine, I'd snuck the bakery treats into his vehicle when he had Chaos out. I didn't want him to think that I didn't appreciate what he was doing for the poor dog.
After he left, I cleared away my plates and settled back in to the couch. It was getting late and I was almost asleep when I heard my phone go off. I answered it without looking at the Caller I.D., almost whispering a "Hello" into the receiver.
"Lass, you sound about asleep."
"Chibs," I said as I smiled softly. He hadn't forgotten to call.
"Did ya' have a good day, today, love?"
"I did. The bakery was packed and Chaos was good for Stacy, the girl I'm having dog sit. It was a-" I yawned into the phone. "Sorry." I muttered and continued. "It was a good day. How was yours?"
"It was shite most o' the day, love. But, it's turning up now tha' I am speaking with ye."
I laughed a bit and shook my head. "You're a bit of a charmer, Chibs. You sure you aren't Irish? Aren't they the ones known for the blarney?" I teased, and I heard his own chuckle on the end of the line.
"No blarney here, love. Just a man who appreciates talking to an angel."
"I miss you," I said, before I could even think about it and I could have slapped myself. I had only known him for three days. It was too early for me to be laying that on him. I cringed for a moment as I awaited his response, certain he was going to tell me that I was being too clingy.
"I miss ya', too, Erin girl." I smiled in relief. He sounded sincere. "I been meaning ta ask, love. How are you getting Chaos outside? Donna' he need to stay off his feet for a bit?"
I paused for another yawn and then responded. "Oh, it's been no trouble. Deputy Hale offered to help, so he's been coming by to take Chaos out for me."
"Oh, has he now?" Chibs asked, and I nodded into the phone before I realized that he couldn't see me.
"Yeah. He's been really helpful."
Chapter 7: Never His
I roared as I threw the burner phone against the side of the building and watched as it shattered to pieces. What had started as a shite day and had briefly turned good, had taken a hell of a turn for the worse. I was in the midst of tossing the picnic table I'd been sitting on over when Jax came outside to see what the threat was. He looked a mite shocked to find me having a tantrum, but I was in no mood to apologize. Instead, I continued to kick and throw things until I'd spent enough energy that I needed a breather. By then, the others who'd come to check the raucous had left, deciding an irate Scot was not as interesting as their women.
Jax approached me slowly as I breathed through my mouth, heaving and working to catch my breath.
"You going to tell me what all that was about?" He asked as he lit up a cigarette and sat on the upended bench.
"Erin," I said, looking at him with fire pumping through my veins.
"What'd she do?"
"Is' no' what she did, Jackie. It's what Hale is tryna' do."
"The good Deputy has been going over to Erin's place to take care of Chaos. Arsehole has been there morning, noon, and night since last night helping by taking the dog out, since the lass canna' lift the pup. He was even kind enough to show up this morning with coffee for her." I spat, and my anger started to boil over again. "Captain America is sniffing after ma' girl and I'm in nae position to do anythin' abou' it while I'm ou' here."
"Shit," Jax responded and I nodded. It sure as hell was a large ration o' that. "Is she falling for it?" He asked, and I scoffed.
"Nae, thank Christ. She honestly thinks he's there because he had a German when he was a boy. She hasna' a clue that the bastard is tryna' get in her good graces." I stared off into the night. "She has no idea how gorgeous she is."
"Well, that's good, right? If she doesn't know what the prick is up to, then he's not going to succeed."
"Maybe." My shoulders slumped. "It's new, Jax, but it feels righ'. This run came at the wrong time. I could lose 'er before we've even begun."
Jax shook his head at me. "Nah, man. I don't believe it. If she hasn't caught on to his game, then she clearly isn't thinking of him like that. I mean, come on. Didn't she say anything that gives you some peace of mind?"
"She did say she missed me." Jax smiled broadly.
"After three days, that's some serious progress, brother."
I nodded. "Aye. And she mentioned tha' the vet wanted Chaos ta start putting weight on his legs, so Hale's excuse for being there is disappearing."
"Good. Now, all you have to do is tough this run out for a couple more days, and then you can see your woman."
"Jus' a few?" I asked, confused.
"Yeah. Clay thinks we've gotten what we needed handled. We should be able to hit the road back to Charming in two, three at the most."
"I'd be in your debt, lad, if you could help make it the two."
The following day, I took a ride to clear my head. Jax was right. Hale couldn't have been getting anywhere with Erin, not if she saw him as helping the dog, and not her. Meanwhile, she was missing me. The thought warmed me, giving me hope that I wouldn't come home to find my angel in another man's arms. Though she and I were barely anything, I knew in my bones we could be something special. I just had to help make that happen.
On the thought, I pulled in to a flower shop in town. The men would no doubt think me a pansy for this, but I wanted her to have a visual reminder of me to look at while I was away. A large bouquet of something special would do just that. It would also help to scuttle Hale.
The advantage I had, that he didn't know, was that Erin was a straight talker. Subtle hints wouldn't get you much of anywhere with her; she seemed to think that kind of action was teasing - lacking in any seriousness. Rather, she needed to have one's meaning plain to really acknowledge it. Recognizing that, I made sure the card was playful but unmistakable in my intent. Erin would never question whether I wanted her if I could help it. She'd always know that she was exactly the kind of angel I needed in my life.
Smiling as I rode back to the motel where me and the guys were staying, I felt satisfied. The Deputy could wish all he wanted, but Erin would never be his. If I handled this properly, however, she sure as hell would be mine.
Once again, the bakery was swamped. I was going to have to start considering hiring more help if it kept up like this. Maybe it was time to consider expansion? The place on one side of the bakery was empty at present. If the owner allowed me to tear down the wall, I could put in more tables and display cases for goods.
As I pondered the idea, I saw a huge bouquet of flowers walk in the door. The vase held roses and lilies and tiny little dark chocolate colored flowers that I'd never seen before. It was exquisite. I looked around for Dana; Marcus had certainly pulled out all the stops with this one.
I was about to call into the back when the delivery guy asked, "Erin Donovan?"
Shocked, all I could do was nod as he placed the flowers on the display case and said, "These are for you."
I was riveted. Someone had done this for me? I paused before I lifted the card out from the lovely blooms. I really hoped it was from who I thought it might be from.
I took a big breath and opened the card. Reading the message, I couldn't help the grin that split my face. There on the card read the following message:
I couldn't give business to your competitors and send you sticky buns, but you should know that your buns are the only ones I've been able to think of since I laid eyes on them.
I can't wait to take you out on my bike. I've never driven an angel before.
I chuckled. I could hear the teasing tone of his voice in my head as I read his words. The double entendre was not lost on me. It was perfect; he was perfect, and I totally agreed with his sentiment. I could hardly wait for him to get back, either. Perhaps it was time to do a little shopping so that I had the right things to wear when he and I finally went on that date. Smiling, I put the card in my pocket and smelled some lilies. Chibs made me feel special. I just hoped I could do the same for him.
Chapter 8: Shattered
Later that night, I called Erin from another burner, having destroyed the previous one. It was ten or so in the evening, which seemed to be roughly the time that the lass was settled in and nearly ready for bed. As I dialed, I imagined her in my mind. I wondered if she was a nightgown woman, or t-shirt, or shorts, or buff type. The possibilities in my head were swirling and making me damn uncomfortable in my jeans, something that was not helped by a breathy, "Hello," from my girl.
"You sound a bit out of breath, love. Are you alrigh'?" I asked, hoping that the reason for the slight shake to her voice was something other than what I was imagining.
She coughed for a moment. She was stalling. I sat up straighter on my bike, which I'd been sitting on as I called. "Lass?"
"I-I'm alright, Chibs." I caught the slip up, but before I could point it out, she continued with a stronger voice. "How was your day today? Better than yesterday?"
I frowned, but decided that it would be better to let it go for now. "It was, lass. There's a goo' chance that I am back home tomorrow evenin'."
"Really?" She asked, and I could hear excitement in her voice. "That's great!" She paused for a moment and then continued, her voice slightly huskier than it was before. "I have some appreciating to do when you get back. My flowers are beautiful."
I smirked into the phone. When she hadn't mentioned them right off, I'd wondered. With her voice turning suggestive the way it did, I could only hope that her appreciation was the kind that had her in my arms. "Is tha' righ', lass?"
"It is." She said and I heard her smile in her voice. God, this creature. She had me panting like Chaos and I hadn't even kissed her yet.
"Tell me about yer day, love." I demanded and I heard an intake of breath. There was no doubt about it. The lass was hiding something from me and I didn't like the idea of it one bit.
"Erin? Is there something wrong?"
"No, no. Not really, I mean. Well, you might think so, but I'm not sure, since it's really not that big of a deal. And besides, I have it under control, so there's no need for you to be worried." She was rambling now, but one thing was certain: there was something not quite right in her neck of Charming. Something that she had to get 'under control' which she thought might bother me. Instantly, my mind went to Hale. If that bastard had made a move on Erin, his badge would provide him no protection from my wrath.
"Tell me, love." I demanded, and I knew my voice had hardened, but I couldn't help it. I was a man of action and if action needed to be taken, I wanted to know about it right now.
"Well, you see," she started and I heard Clay all my name. I waved him off for a moment, trying to hear what it was Erin was about to say, but she must have heard the Pres.
"You have to go." She said and I heard relief in her voice. She really didn't want to tell me whatever was going on.
"Nae, lass-" I started to say, but Clay was right in front of me now.
"Wrap it up, Chibs." He said. "I need you inside so we can handle this and hit the road tomorrow."
I nodded and spoke into the phone again. "Erin love, are you alrigh'?" I asked one more time.
"Uh, yeah. I'm good. You shouldn't make Clay wait. I'll see you soon. Good night," she rushed and hung up. I don't quite know what the bloody hell was going on, but I was damn sure glad that I was going to find it out tomorrow.
I sighed as I stared at my phone and then turned back to the large, white building in front of me. My left arm was still dripping blood from the gash that spread from shoulder to elbow. I'd had to take my hand off of it to answer the phone for Chibs' call. I'd considered not picking up, but I was afraid that if I didn't pick up after he'd sent me those lovely flowers, he'd mistake my interest. So, I'd stopped my progression into the ER and sat on a bench not far from the entryway.
My head was starting to get a little woozy. I'm not afraid of blood, but the cut was fairly deep. I wobbled a bit on my feet as I walked through the automatic doors. Thankfully, I'd managed to get Marcus on the phone before I left the house and secured his agreement to board up the window that had shattered when the baseball had come through it.
I'd been in my living room and just pulling the blinds when it had happened. Because I'd been in front of the window, Chaos hadn't been hurt thank goodness. I'd, however, taken a large shard to the left arm, earning myself a slash that was almost certainly going to scar. There were several other, smaller cuts, but the larger one needed attention and fast. I'd left the door unlocked for Marcus to get in while I took myself off to St. Thomas. I hadn't really told him what the problem was, other than that I felt like I should get checked out. I didn't want him to make a fuss.
I hadn't told Chibs, either, because there was nothing he could do. I was at the doctor's, I just needed to have them patch me up with a few stitches, and then I could tell him what happened tomorrow. He knew something was up, so maybe I'd call him once I was done here. I didn't want him thinking the worst.
My head was swirling now. I needed to lie down soon or I was going to pass out. The voices of the ER staff were a muffled, sounding like they came at me from down a hallway. I tried to answer them the best I could, but my mind was no longer focusing and I slipped into blackness.
When I got out of church I found my burner, determined to call Erin back despite the late hour. Something was amiss and I wanted to know what it was. As I looked at the screen, I saw several missed calls from Tig. The poor lad had been on separate club business, so hadn't been able to come on the run. He'd been out of Charming, too, or I'd have sent him to check up on Erin and Chaos and further cut off Hale's attempts at getting to her. He hadn't called me the entire time we were here, but tonight I'd missed six calls from him.
The pit of my stomach dropped as I returned his call. Swallowing hard, I spoke into the receiver. "Whas' going on, brother?"
"Are you lot almost done up there?" He asked, and there was tension in his voice. Something was really wrong.
"Aye, we shou' be heading back to town tomorrow. What's wrong?" He sighed on the other end of the line.
"I was at St. Thomas, checking in on Tara for Jax, when I saw your girl come into the ER. She looked like she'd been in a knife fight; covered in blood along her left side. She passed out while I was standing there."
My legs gave out and I sank to the table nearby. "I jus' spoke to 'er. How'd i' happen?" I asked.
"Don't know, man. I told Tara your interest, so she's trying to get me updates. Looks like something sliced Erin's arm good. It was pretty major, so they have her in surgery now, repairing it. Tara didn't know anything other than that yet; says we have to wait until the surgery is complete."
I saw Jax approach me as I listened to Tig. My face must have given away my emotions, because he was looking at me with concern in his eyes. I looked up at him and spoke to Tig. "I'm on ma' way, now. I'll be there as soon as ma' bike can get me there."
"Alright, brother. Be safe. Tara did say that the guy working on Erin is good. Don't go dumping your bike along the way and make things worse."
"Aye," I said and stood up. "I ha' to go, Jackie. Erin's in surgery. Tig says is' pretty bad."
Jax nodded at me and looked over to Clay, who nodded at him. "Go, brother, and take Jax with you." Clay said and I didn't hesitate. I needed to get to Charming.
Chapter 9: Give Me Good News
I don't know that I've ever driven as fast as I had tonight. It was full dark and I was in no shape to be behind the handlebars, but there was nothing on this Earth that could have stopped me from getting back to Charming and St. Thomas. Jax kept up with me, though I knew that he was cursing nearly the entire way. My movements were reckless but driven. I couldn't make her better or take away the pain she was going to be in, but I was damn sure going to be there when she woke up and I was going to take care of her after.
In the end, we made the six hour drive in just under four. It was about three in the morning and the town of Charming was dead quiet. The sound of Jax and my Harleys was sure to awaken some of the citizens tonight, but I couldn't be bothered to care. I drove straight to St. Thomas, parking close to the emergency room and jogging inside before Jax even had his helmet off.
My eyes searched the room, looking for Tara or Tig so that I knew wherever I needed to be for Erin. When I didn't find either of them, I strode toward the hospital side of the building, scanning for a registration desk of some kind so that I could ask for my angel.
I found a group of nurses around a large desk set off to the side and moved quickly toward it. "Erin Donovan?" I asked. "She came in wi' a nasty cut. Had ta go into surgery." I explained when they hesitated, though my irritation was showing.
"What's your relation, sir?" One of them asked and all the tension in my frame focused as I prepared to blast the woman for daring to question me right now. Before I could say a word, Jax grabbed my shoulder.
"I found Tara, man." He said and indicated to the brunette slightly down the hall. "Come on, she'll take us to Tig and give us an update."
With a scornful look at the gaggle of women, I stalked toward Tara. "Gimme goo' news, lass." I demanded, praying that Tara could come through for me.
She turned and started walking down another hallway, which opened to a waiting room where I found Tig sitting in one of those uncomfortable, brownish-grey chairs that every hospital in America owns. Tara stopped as he stood up and turned to the three of us.
"It looks like she was cut with glass. When they went in, they found pieces of it still embedded in her left arm. That's what the problem was when she arrived. One of the shards was still inside causing damage. The surgeon on duty was able to remove all of the glass and repair the larger veins. The smaller ones were cauterized and then she was sewn up. She's in recovery right now, but will be admitted to a room soon. She lost a fair amount of blood, but they gave her a transfusion and she came through the surgery without complications. With rest and care, she's going to be fine."
The relief that swept through me had my knees buckling for the second time that evening. Jax grabbed my arm to steady me and I breathed freely for the first time since I'd talked to Tig. "When can ah see 'er?" I asked, my voice thick with emotion and my accent stronger than normal.
Tara smiled at me in sympathy. "It's well past visiting hours and she's still pretty sedated from the anesthetic. It may be better to come back tomorrow, after you've had some rest, Chibs."
I shook my head at her. "Nae. I need ta see her, even if she can' see me righ' now." I looked to Jax for help and he turned his baby blues on his woman.
"Come on, Tara. He can sit in a chair in her room just as easily as he can sit in one in here. He's not going to be in the way."
She twisted her lips, but nodded. Jax could get just about any woman to do what he wanted with those eyes of his. "Alright. When I have a room number, I'll get you in. You'll have to wait here until then, though." With that, she walked back down the hallway we'd come and I sat in one of the chairs near where Tig had been.
"Wha' happened, brother?" I asked him.
"I had the prospect drive by her bakery and her house to see if he could come up with anything. There was a young guy putting a board over one of her windows at her place and a young woman watching Chaos when he made it to her home. Erin had called them to say her window had been shattered by a baseball. They had no idea she was in as rough a shape as she was. Apparently, she just told them she had a couple of cuts that she needed to come in for, and asked if they could house and dog sit while she handled it."
I scoffed. The fool woman had hidden her injury no doubt to prevent them from worrying over her. On the thought, I straightened in my chair and cursed a blue streak. When I was done, Tig and Jax were both looking at me in question.
"I spoke ta 'er tonigh'. She sounded breathy and off. When I asked 'er wha' was wrong, she changed the subject. I was finally about ta ge' her to tell me when I had ta head into church." I shook my head. "The damn woman was injured and answered her phone and then didna' tell me because she didna want me to be worried about it."
Jax whistled lowly and Tig shook his head. Both men clearly understood how infuriating Erin's actions were. Didn't want me to worry, bah! When she woke, she and I were going to have a talk about necessary disclosures. I looked around the room for a moment and then back to Tig.
"Thank ye, brother, for handling this while I was gone. I appreciate it." Tig nodded and shrugged.
"It's what we do, brother." I nodded back at him, knowing he was right.
"Well, I'm glad that Erin is going to be okay." Jax said and I looked up at him. His tone suggested something wasn't right. "Chibs, you're going to stay here until she wakes?" I nodded. He didn't really need to ask. "Good, because I don't know about you two, but I've never played baseball at ten o'clock at night in a residential neighborhood that doesn't have a diamond."
The weight of his words hit me like a truck. He was right. Erin's place was in a cute little neighborhood surrounded by other, cute little homes. The nearest park was several blocks away, too far to have been the origin of the baseball that took out her window, if it even were a baseball. Erin's injury didn't make sense.
As I was thinking about what could possibly be going on, Tara came in and gestured at me to follow her. Jax and Tig took their leave, letting me have time with my girl.
When we got to her room, I saw that her left arm was encased in bandages and she had tiny cuts along the left side of her neck and face. She was a vision, though, sleeping peacefully in that hospital room with the moon shining down on her bed. I settled in to a chair on her right side and clasped her hand in mine, needing the contact to assuage the parts of me that were still riding on the high of fear-driven adrenaline. The night caught up to me and I laid my head along her bed, slipping into sleep to the sound of her even breathing.
Chapter 10: No Schoolboy
I ran my right hand through his longish dark hair as he slept at my bedside. I'd woken up about five minutes ago and I could tell that it was early morning even before I looked to the clock on the wall. The round device confirmed my suspicions, showing me that it was 6:30. Considering how long of a drive Chibs had when he went on his run, the fact that he was here now - and long enough to have fallen asleep beside me - suggested that he'd driven here shortly after we spoke. Even then, it would have been cutting it a little close, so I wondered at how fast he'd driven.
His hair was soft. I'd first touched it just to move it away from his face, but then had been unable to stop my fingers from continuing to run through the strands. I knew that we'd only met recently, but the late night calls and the feelings I had when I was around him made me more comfortable than I probably should be this early in a relationship.
Relationship. That word carried all manner of meanings with people. I knew that I wanted Chibs and I to be something and I had a good feeling he agreed. Even if he hadn't sent those lovely flowers, his regular calls and his appearance at my sick bed made his intentions pretty clear. I felt different about him than I'd ever felt about a man before. He was exciting, funny, sexy and carried a magnetism that drew me to him. At the same time, I felt oddly safe around him. I had no reason to doubt my safety, and yet it seemed I breathed easier when he was around. It was as if something in my psyche recognized him as my protector.
I shook my head at my musings. If he could read my mind, he'd probably go running for the hills. I'd gotten away with telling him I missed him, but I couldn't go around spouting such strong feelings so soon. If there's one thing just about any woman knows, it's that the fastest way to send a man packing was to come on too strong, too soon. Hell, Kate Hudson had made a pretty penny in a movie about doing just that.
"Hm. Keep doing that, lass, and I'm like to forget tha' you hid a bad injury from me." Per my norm, I was so focused on what I was doing that I was startled by Chibs' voice. His brown eyes carried concern and disappointment as he looked at me; a mix that had me shifting position on the bed.
"I'm sorry, Chibs. I didn't want to worry you." I said softly, hoping he'd understand.
"Erin, love. I can' have ye' keeping secrets, especially when they involve yer health." His voice was similarly soft and I could hear the plea in it, just as much as the words he spoke. I sighed.
"I'm not used to being taken care of, Chibs. What is happening here," I pointed between the two of us, "it feels good. I didn't want to mess it up." I looked at my lap. "I'd hate for you to think I'm some kind of bad luck charm."
I felt more than saw Chibs lean in. He placed a few fingers under my chin to raise my eyes to his. "Nae, lass. I'd never think of ye' like tha'. Ye've brought light into my world."
I felt tears prick my eyes and I smiled at him. He sure knew how to make me melt. "I really am sorry, Chibs. I won't hide things from you again."
"Good," he said and leaned closer and kissed me.
Chibs' kiss was sweet and almost chaste. I could smell leather and fumes and cigarettes on him as he ever so lightly explored my lips and the soft touch was intoxicating. I sighed in pleasure and deepened the kiss, raising my hand up to his neck to play with the hair along his collar. He made a sound deep in his throat and encouraged me, sweeping his tongue along mine as his hands cradled my face. If I thought that the way he spoke had me all gooey inside, it was nothing compared to the feel of him. He shifted on the edge of the bed as we kissed and I spiked my hand through his hair, tugging just slightly and eliciting a groan from him. As he started to deepen the kiss further, a cough from the doorway sounded.
Chibs was no schoolboy; no kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He didn't jump back or act embarrassed at having been seen in such a private moment. Rather, he lightly eased the pressure on my lips until his own smiled against me. Right before he straightened, he whispered, "I'll be needin' more o' tha', soon, love."
He stayed on the bed, having sat on the edge at some point during our kiss, and looked at the doctor who was standing there. I was a bit dazzled and so it took me a moment to gather my wits enough to look the doctor in the eye. By then, the brunette was smiling at us both, a twinkle in her eyes.
"I see the patient is healing nicely, then?" She asked and I flushed. Chibs looked down at me and chuckled, causing the redness in my cheeks to deepen.
"I like tha' look on ya, Erin, girl." He said as he kissed my right wrist and sat back in his chair by the bed.
The doctor walked up and checked my chart, which was hanging off the end of my bed. She then looked over the monitor and came up to my left side.
"You had a bad cut when you came in last night." She said and I nodded.
"Yeah, my window shattered while I was by it and I took some of the glass to my left side."
"Why didn't you call an ambulance?" She asked. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Chibs stiffen somewhat. He apparently hadn't put two and two together yet to realize I'd driven myself.
"I was alright. I just needed a few stitches." I muttered, looking down at my right hand and avoiding the very clear evidence that I'd needed more than that last night.
"We had to operate, Erin." The doctor said with a serious tone. This one would pull off mom-voice easily when she had kids, if she didn't have them already.
"So I see," I commented and lifted my left arm. It was covered in a white bandage. I could feel the adhesive from a few additional bandages on my neck, too.
"Well, your surgery went well and your vitals are looking good. We plan to discharge you in just a little while. You're going to need to be careful of that arm until it heals. No lifting and watch where you're going so you don't bump it and end up in pain. We'll send you home with a prescription to cover the worst of any symptoms, which should ease up in two to three days. Any questions?"
"Will I be able to shower?" I asked, hoping that the answer was in the affirmative.
I was pleased to see the doctor nod. "Yes, but you should wrap up your arm in plastic before you do. We want you to come back in two days so we can look it over. If it's healing alright, we'll remove a lot of the bandaging and give you further instructions."
I smiled my understanding and the doctor turned to Chibs. "Are you going to be making sure she follows orders?" She asked. I was about to interject when Chibs squeezed my right hand and answered her.
"I'll make sure she listens, Tara."
Chapter 11: Move Along, Lad
After Tara left, I stepped out of Erin's room to make a couple of calls. Tara had confirmed that Erin would be safe on the back of my bike, so I needed to have the prospect come pick up her truck. I told him to grab some things from Gemma while he was at it, hoping that Gemma had a pair of sweats and shirt that would work for Erin until I got her home. I'd have happily given her my own shirt and boxers to wear, but after a long trip, none were in the kind of shape such that I was willing to lend them to the lass.
I poked my head into her room to tell her the plan and she smiled at me and nodded. Since the prospect should be here in less than about five minutes - if he knows what's best, that is - I grabbed her keys and headed outside to wait for him.
He drove up closer to ten minutes after my call and I gave him a look. "I know," he said, shaking his head. "Gemma gave me some grief at first, thinking that I was asking for her clothes for a croweater."
I nodded and walked with him toward Erin's pickup, which was close to the ER side of the building. "Jesus," he said when we opened the cab and I just about lost my shit. Erin's blood was all over the seat, steering wheel and floorboard. It looked like someone had nearly died in it. I kicked her back tire and gripped the bed of the pickup as I leaned my head down, trying to catch my breath. I was right pissed; I needed to calm down before I went back in to get her.
"This is a lot of blood, Chibs." The idiot said and I nodded.
"Aye, I can see tha'."
"And this was an accident?" He asked and I shook my head.
"We ha' doubts about tha', lad." I handed him the keys. "See wha' ye' can do about cleaning it up. I'm going to take the lass home."
I stalked back in to the hospital, working hard to control my breathing. Seeing all that blood had me fired up again. Erin drove her damn self to the hospital because she didn't want to be a bother. If it wasn't so infuriating, it would be funny. At the moment though, having been witness to what was in her pickup, I couldn't find the humor in it. That kind of blood loss could have turned out so much worse.
When I reached her room, I walked in to find Deputy Hale standing at the foot of her bed, asking how she was doing. With the fire still coursing through my veins, now was not the time for this arsehole to be within ten feet of my woman.
I stalked up to the side of her bed and kissed her temple as she smiled at me. From the corner of my eye, I saw the good Deputy shift on his feet. I handed her Gemma's clothes.
"These are from Gemma, since yer own are in no condition to be worn, lass." Erin nodded and then gestured to Hale.
"Chibs, I don't think I asked you the other day. Have you met Deputy Hale?" She asked and once again, the situation would have been funny if it weren't happening to me.
"Aye, lass." I said and looked at the Deputy. "Hale and I are acquainted."
"Hale was just checking on me, since he heard from one of the nurses in the ER about my injury."
"Is tha' righ'?" I asked, striving for a noncommittal tone. Hale's eyes narrowed, but Erin didn't seem to pick up on my lack of enthusiasm. Instead, she continued with a bit of a frown gathering her eyebrows together.
"Yeah. I'm not so sure that's entirely legal, what with my privacy rights and all." She muttered and I smiled. Good lass, I thought. She was stuck more on how he found out about her injury than on the fact that he came to visit her. Jax's belief as to the Deputy's chances seemed to be panning out.
Hale ignored the clear violation of Erin's privacy by the nurse and looked away from me to speak with Erin. "I'm glad you're doing alright, Erin." Well, if he says her name like that one more time, I couldn't be held to the consequences.
She nodded and responded. "Thanks. You really didn't have to go out of your way to come by, though. Chibs is taking good care of me." I could have kissed the lass right there for her declaration. Though innocent, her words had staked my claim for me with this arse.
Hale smiled tightly and murmured. "I'm sure he is." That's right, bastard. I'm going to be taking good care of her.
"Well," he said as he shifted to the other side of her bed and gripped her left hand. "Take care. I'll come by to check on you at some point over the next few days." Over my bloody body, I thought as I stared at his hand. He needed to get it off her, now.
She shook her head at him, but smiled again. It wasn't the kind of smile she gave me, but I still didn't like it. "I'm fine, really. I'll be back at the bakery before you know it."
Hale nodded and then moved toward the door. He smirked at me and then spoke to Erin again. "I'm still going to come by. I have a duty to protect and serve, you know. And besides, I like your lemon tarts." With that, he walked out the door and if Erin hadn't put her right hand in mine at that moment, I'd have been out in the hallway, beating the hell out of the man right now. Instead, I looked down at the lass, who was softly smiling at me. The sight eased the tension in my shoulders.
"You ready to go home, lass?" I asked and she nodded.
"I am." She hesitated. "You were angry when you came in, Chibs. Is everything okay?" I shook my head at her and leaned in to kiss the corner of her mouth.
"I saw yer pickup, lass. It's filled with yer blood. I didna' handle that well." Erin looked down and then back in my eyes.
"And the tension with Hale?" She asked and surprised me. She's not an idiot, but I'd thought Hale and I had both managed to keep our subtext conversation to ourselves.
"I dinna' like him coming around you, lass. I think he wants more than to 'protect and serve'." I mocked and Erin nodded at me.
"You don't need to worry if he does, Chibs. I don't see him that way." She said and it warmed my heart to have confirmation.
"And wha' way is that, love?" I asked, gilding the lily to see if I could get her to declare herself to me. She'd said that she liked where we were going, but that wasn't enough, not right now. I wanted to know that she was feeling the rightness of the two of us together.
"The way I feel about you." She said simply and my heart did a flip. I was a damn lad for this woman. In six words, she gave me the energy to move mountains. Her eyes looked at me in a way that had my guts twisting.
"You canna keep looking at me like tha', love." She looked her question at me and I continued. "Yer looking at me like I'm the only lad in the world, lass." She blushed. It was such a lovely sight and I knew that I'd happily spend years making it happen. My breath stopped for a moment, though, when she responded.
"Well, you are." Those three words spellbound me for the briefest of time before I crashed my lips down to hers, putting every bit of my being into kissing her.
Chapter 12: Loyal to a Fault
Chibs was glued to me from the moment we left my hospital room. I saw his eyes scanning the parking lot as we got to his bike and noticed that he continued to look around as he drove me back to my home. There was something off; he was looking for some kind of threat. I didn't know him well enough, though, to know if this was just how he was or if there was a reason for his vigilance.
The fact that I noticed it was odd to me and the thought kept my mind occupied during the ride. I am usually not good at picking up on smaller human communication. While I'm great at picking up the feel of a room, subtlety in language and even nonverbal cues are not my strong suit. That's why I prefer people who are straight with me. I don't have to try to decipher their meanings. Chibs had understood that from the moment I'd said something back at TM, and was good about just talking to me. Maybe it was because of that, that I was able to pick up on his unsaid words and mannerisms better. Maybe, because I knew when he spoke he was telling me the truth, I was freer to observe more.
It was an interesting thought. I wasn't sure if my growing feelings for this man were what caused it, or if it was the reverse: was I developing feelings for this man because I wasn't interpreting everything he said? Either way, I knew without a doubt that he and I were on the same page with how we felt. The look in his eyes when we'd spoken in the hospital was still vivid in my mind, as was the kiss we shared thereafter. My toes still hadn't uncurled from it.
As we got to my home, I saw that Marcus had boarded up my broken window. Chibs had Half-Sack take Chaos to the shop, thinking that I would probably spend more time taking care of the dog than myself. He wasn't totally wrong on that. I smiled as I squeezed Chibs one last time before I got off the back of his bike. I liked riding with him. It gave me an excuse to touch him.
He parked his bike and we walked inside. It was then that I became certain that Chibs was worried about something. Instead of dropping me off and heading home to shower, or rest, or even to work, he plopped down on the couch and motioned for me to sit. When I did, he pulled me into his side and I rested my head on his chest. I could get used to this, but I had to know what was wrong.
"Why are you worried, Chibs?" I asked and I felt him shift.
"You told me you were no good at reading between lines, lass." He responded.
"I'm usually not. I seem to be okay at it with you. You didn't answer." I said softly, hoping that he wouldn't brush off my question again.
He sighed and ran a hand through my hair. "Lass, I don' righ' believe that baseball through yer window was an accident."
I frowned. "It is a bit odd, isn't it?"
I looked up at him from my position. "Is there a reason someone would want to hurt me?" I asked and he sighed again.
"I'm afraid to tell ye, love. Ye've claimed me and I'm afraid that speakin' plain will chase ya' off. I'm no' sure how I'd handle tha'." Chibs answered and I could see the conflict in his eyes.
"I'm not delicate, Chibs, and I'm not blind. You wear a grim reaper." I motioned to his kutte, which was resting on the coat hanger by the door. "Since you're not a teenager looking to be cool, I assume that means you sometimes do things that are dangerous."
Chibs' expression was one of shock. "I don' know what to say, lass."
"Tell me enough; whatever I need to know that you are willing to share." I answered and I felt him breathe deeply.
"But why aren' ya kicking me ou', love?" He asked.
I shrugged against him. "Things aren't always what they seem. I learned a long time ago to trust what I feel," I paused, "even if everyone else can see it." He chuckled. I leaned back to look in his eyes again. "I'm not kicking you out because I'm not. I don't have an answer better than that, really. But," I said as he went to speak, "you should know that I've already been warned away from you all. I disregarded the warning then and I plan to keep doing that."
Chibs face went from surprise to anger. "Hale?" He demanded and I felt the tension in his body.
I nodded and reached up to his cheek when I started to feel him move. "Chibs," I whispered, as I looked in his eyes. "He didn't scare me off, and neither will you. Talk to me." I pushed myself up enough to place a light kiss on the corner of his mouth, but he turned into me and deepened the kiss. In a moment, he had me shifted so that I was straddling his lap, his hands on my hips.
When we broke apart, he spoke in low tones. "I'm not a goo' man, love. I protect my own and I work hard, but is' no' always on the side o' the law."
I nodded. "Okay," I said, raising my eyebrows for him to continue.
"I dinna know if what happened to ye is related. I dinna think so, because we only jus' decided ourselves how things are movin'. But, is' possible, lass." His eyes held a plea, but he didn't voice it. He was still worried I was going to bail on him, which made sense, considering everything was new. There was no history between us that would make me stay.
I leaned in and kissed him lightly, trying to reassure him. "I don't think it's related, either. It's odd, but it could be a weird, fluke kind of thing. If not, I trust you to keep me safe."
His eyes searched mine. "You dinna' want to know more, love?"
I was about to shake my head no, but then changed my mind. "I'm not sure. Right now, I want the tension in your neck to ease." I gripped it and started to massage my hands over it. "Chibs, I'm still in. As long as I'm in, you can tell me whatever you want. Anything," I reiterated. "I'll keep your secrets, whether we make it or not." I smiled. "It's one of my faults. I'm loyal to the death."
"That dinna' sound like a fault, lass." He murmured, groaning in pleasure as my hands continued to work on his neck.
"Eh." I said. "You haven't seen how loyalty makes you do silly things." I said, a twinkle in my eye. I was teasing, but Chibs opened his eyes and stared intently at me.
"I'll never wan' ye' ta put yerself in danger for me, love. Never."
"Well, then. I guess you better make sure that I never have to." I responded, refusing to be drawn down the dark path in his eyes. When he saw that I wasn't backing down, he reached his hands back to grab my hands and pulled them between us, kissing my knuckles.
"Let's go rest, ya? I' was a long night, and I wan' to have ye in my arms for a while." I smiled and got up, pulling his hand behind me as I lead him up to my room.
Chapter 13: I Need You
I woke in the middle of the afternoon with Erin in my arms. We were on the covers of her bed. I looked down from my position on the pillow to see that she'd thrown a leg over one of mine and had her injured arm up over my chest, her hand resting at about my heart. Her head was about at my shoulder and her long hair flowed over one of my arms. I'd taken off my kutte downstairs and had a thin button down on, so the light huff of her breathing was easy to feel through the fabric.
I'd made her take a Percocet for the pain in her arm before we'd laid down and it had made her drowsy. With my long night and her medication-induced need for sleep, our nap had taken us several hours into the day. I shifted my arm so that it ran along her side, positioning my outside hand at her waist. For a moment, I closed my eyes and just reveled in the feel of her.
The fear of loss last night had been near overwhelming. Erin and I may have a lot to work out with one another, but there was no doubt in my mind where we were heading. I'd told her at the hospital that she brought light to my world and I couldn't have said it better than that. I associated her with brightness, with joy, and though it was soon, love.
I loved this woman. It was quick and unexpected and downright terrifying how totally she'd ensnared me. I credited the run to a bit of how sure I was of this, too. Although the worst of timing, it was probably the best thing that could have happened for the two of us. It forced us to talk to one another without the pull of physical desire. It had meant that, though I didn't know everything about her and perhaps never would, I knew enough to be certain of myself. I'd seen too much, been down too many wrong roads, not to recognize the good when it came to me.
I looked down at her sleeping form and wondered when she would tell me she felt the same. I smiled as I thought it. Erin couldn't hide what she were feeling if she tried. The lass had no poker face and, once I'd figured out what her look meant after her words at the hospital, it was easy to see it in her eyes. She loved me, too, though I think she had some crazy female notion that saying as much would be a problem. Considering how I knew some of my brothers would act upon hearing something like that, I couldn't exactly fault her. However, I'd have to disabuse her of the notion if things were to move along the way I wanted them to.
As I lie there, pondering how to broach the topic, Erin shifted in her sleep, moving her knee to rub along my crotch and causing all manner of thoughts to shift in an entirely different direction. I tried to ease back slightly, but she frowned and snuggled closer, moving her hips so that she was straddling me from the side, her hand moving up to the base of my neck. I closed my eyes. I was supposed to think of baseball, or the Queen, or some such nonsense to clear my head but my entire being was focused on the soft touch of her hand and the pressure of her limb against me. It was the most exquisite torture.
Swallowing, I moved my hand at her waist, rubbing a slight circle at it and slightly running the tips of my fingers under the hem of her shirt. The feel of her smooth skin was like gasoline to the blaze raging internally, but I couldn't stop. Erin gave a hum in her slumber, a satisfied sound that nearly had me groaning. Knowing that she liked what I was doing gave me the fortitude to continue, though I was likely going up in flames if I didn't find a release for my pent up desire soon.
Fuck it. If I'm going down in flames, I may as well enjoy the heat, I thought as I shifted her more fully on to me and ran both hands from her waist to her shoulders inside her shirt. Gemma had handed over a SAMCRO shirt for Erin to wear. I'd smirked when I saw it, knowing that Gemma was making a statement in doing so. Since I approved of that message, I'd taken no issue with the choice. Now, the soft fabric rolled over the backs of my hands as my fingertips traced my angel's spine.
"Hmm," she said into my neck and goosebumps ran down my arms and legs. She kissed at the spot my neck met my collarbone and murmured, "Don't stop." Christ. How would I ever say no to this woman?
Following her instructions, I continued to run my hands along her back, exploring it all and noting with increasing pain that there was no bra interfering with my touch. She'd taken it off before our nap and, at the time, I'd enjoyed the idea but hadn't pursued its end. Now, it meant that as I moved my hands up and down her back with increasing pressure, I could feel her hardened nipples against me.
"Erin, love?" I whispered, trying to gauge just how far this was headed. She moved on me and fuck if every inch of her didn't fit exactly where it was supposed to.
She lifted her head and looked at me, her eyes hazy and half-lidded, pupils dilated with desire. "Don't stop," she reiterated. Well, I'd had to be told twice, but I wasn't such an arse that I was going to question it again.
I pulled her up my length and kissed her as I turned us over, pressing myself into her. She arched into my hips and I groaned at the sweet pain. I was prepared to plunder and in so much damn need. I moved my lips to the back of her ear at the top of her neck and she whispered a moan that had my cock twitching, begging to be released.
I pulled back to lift her shirt and gazed down at the beauty before me for half a second before the pull to touch and taste was too much and I all but crashed myself to her. Running my tongue from her collarbone to her right nipple, I encased the soft pink tip in my mouth and suckled, feeling Erin's hands grip my shoulders tightly in response. My own palm found her other breast as I continued to kiss, suck and nip at her soft flesh, earning myself a place of victory with each sigh and moan coming from her mouth.
I worked my way down her stomach, scratching my goatee against her hip as I bit and she arched again. "Filip," she cried and damn me if I didn't almost lose it there. I'd spend the rest of my life making her say my name like that if it was the last thing I did. I pulled her sweats down, touching and tasting everywhere, not missing an inch of her glorious body. When I licked at her folds, her nails bit into my back and then my head as I explored her with my tongue.
She was dripping and panting when she whispered, "I need you."
I shifted up to kiss her mouth and felt her pull at the buttons of my fly. My shirt had come off at some point in my expedition to discover every inch of her, and now my jeans and underwear found their places in the heap where it lay. I looked directly into Erin's eyes as I sank slowly into her and watched as she closed her own in the pleasure of me filling her.
She opened them and moved with me, rolling her hips and wrapping her soft legs around me. "Aye, lass." I said as I felt her catch my rhythm. Soon, we were both panting and moaning, reaching ever closer.
"Harder, Filip!" She cried and I thrust deeper and harder than I ever had in my entire life, crying out her name as I felt her climax and the tingles of my orgasm overcome me.
Chapter 14: You're Mine
I felt delicious. Chibs had touched and tasted nearly every inch of me. The bits of me that make me self conscious - because how many people really have none - disappeared from my mind as we'd had what I'd easily describe as the best sex of my life. In every touch, every kiss, Chibs made me feel like a queen. It was as if I were his everything and that kind of loving was the best aphrodisiac ever. I looked at him and wondered if it was too soon for round two. My face flaming, I dug my head into his chest and squeezed him with my arms.
"Wha' are ya thinkin', lass, that yer hiding that beautiful face from me?" He asked and I could hear the amusement in his voice. I mumbled into him and he shifted his back on the headboard. "Erin, love?"
I lifted my head up and looked at his nose. "I was thinking that I'd like to do that again." I said, my face hotter than a sunburn.
Chibs reached his hand up from where it had been on my waist and tilted my head so I'd look at him. A pleased smile stretched his lips while increasing darkness flooded his eyes. "Anythin' ma angel wants." He said as he pulled me further up his chest and gave me a heated kiss. I moaned into his mouth as his other hand grasped my backside and squeezed.
It was now evening and Chibs and I still hadn't made it out of my bed. We need to, though, because my stomach lining was eating itself away. All the exercise we'd engaged in had gotten my appetite going. On the thought, I rolled out of the bed on my bad arm and hissed when I felt the pain. Stupid window shattering because of a stupid baseball.
I knew Chibs thought something nefarious was going on, but I really doubted it. If someone wanted to hurt me, it seemed to me that there were more efficient ways to do it. Sure, I'd gotten hurt, but there had been no guarantee that would happen. It could have easily just been an annoyance.
As I gathered some clothes to put on, I felt my Scot's arms come around me. "And wha' do ya think yer doin', love?" He asked as he kissed me behind the ear and I smiled.
"You and I need sustenance, mister." Came my response and I felt as much as heard Chibs chuckle.
"Aye, I could eat." He murmured into the shell of my ear and I shivered. His arms tightened around me for a brief moment before he stepped away. "We should do tha' now, lass, before I decide i' needs to wait a little longer."
We wandered downstairs and into the kitchen. I had the ingredients for a few different things, but I didn't know what kind of things Chibs liked. "Any preferences, baby?" I asked as I leaned to look into the fridge and felt his arms come around me from behind again when I stood back up.
"I like i' when you call me baby, lass." He said against the skin of my neck. I turned in his arms with a smile, but a little hesitation.
"You are, right? My baby?" I asked. Sure, I knew how I felt and all indications from him had been that we were on the same page, but it never hurt to hear the words, especially when they came in such a sexy accent.
"Aye, lass. I'm yers." He said with a kiss to the corner of my mouth. "And ye are mine." He continued, possession heavy in his tone.
"Yes, I am." I said as I placed a return kiss to the corner of his mouth. "Now, about food." I said, expectation clear in my voice.
"I'm no' picky, love."
"Tacos sound good to me." I murmured as I turned back to the fridge to get out some meat, tomatoes and cheese. I'd cheated and purchased pre-cut lettuce, so I'd just need to cut the tomato and and shred the cheese while the meat cooked. As I moved about the kitchen, Chibs watched from the table. He had his shirt on, but unbuttoned, leaving me an excellent view of his chest.
When the meat was ready and the toppings prepared, I gestured towards the living room. "Would you rather eat at the table, or in there?"
"Either is fine, love." He responded and I grinned. "Wha'?" He asked.
"You're downright docile right now. Maybe I took all your energy?" I winked at him and moved back when he went to grab my hips.
"I'll show ye energy, angel. Righ' after we get ya something ta eat." He smirked at me and my face flamed. I wasn't embarrassed, but I couldn't stop blushing at him. Something, it seemed, that he found attractive.
We talked as we ate at the table, continuing what we'd started while he was on his run. He hasn't told me specifics of his activities with the Sons, but he told me about his history and I shared mine. As with just about everything with this man, it came naturally - like we were made for one another. When we finished our dinner, we went upstairs and explored what energy we both had left.
It was after we'd gone to sleep for the night that I heard something downstairs. I looked at the red LED display of my clock and saw that it was four in the morning. I looked over in the bed, thinking maybe it was Chibs, but he was asleep at my side. I paused, thinking that maybe I was imagining things. That's when I heard it again. Someone was in the house.
I leaned over to Chibs and whispered in his ear. "Chibs? Wake up."
He gave a slight moan and I saw him start to smile like a cat with cream. "Agin', lass?" Okay, fair, but not the time.
"No!" I whisper yelled. "There's someone downstairs." I continued and my Scot went from lazy male satisfaction to high alert in a second.
"Ge' in the bathroom, love, and dinna open the door for anyone but me." He instructed softly, rolling to his feet and looking around the room.
"Chibs," I started to speak and he shook his head.
"Dinna argue, Erin. No' now."
I nodded and moved quietly toward the bathroom. On my way, I grabbed a baseball bat I kept by my side of the bed and reached it out to him. He nodded at me as he took it and watched as I went into the bathroom.
I sat on the toilet seat and tried to control my breathing so that I could hear. I thought I'd heard something about a minute after I'd come in, but then it had gone quiet again. The anticipation was getting to me. I had no idea if Chibs was okay, I didn't have my phone handy to call for help, and it felt like I was a little kid afraid of what was in the closet - if I didn't open the door, then the monsters couldn't get me.
I was there for less than seven minutes, I was sure, when I heard someone in my room. Please, I thought, be Chibs. I kept quiet though, because everyone who has seen a horror movie knows that only an idiot calls out into the darkness. I sat as still as possible until I heard a light tap at the door.
"Erin, love." A sighed with so much relief I almost felt dizzy. "Ye can come ou', lass." On the words, I swung open the door to a slightly disheveled, but seemingly okay Chibs. He opened his arms and I stepped into them, my heart finally coming down to a normal rate. He squeezed me tight. "Yer safe, love. I'd never let anyone hurt me angel."
Chapter 15: I May Lose It
Fucking shite. I'd wanted to believe that the broken window was a fluke. After all, it didn't make sense that it would be related to the Sons. No one had known that Erin was connected to us. Except that, maybe that wasn't true. Erin had said that Hale warned her off of us before the hospital. That, combined with the presently unconscious man laying sprawled over the floor of her kitchen, made me question whether it was her relation to me that was the root of the problem after all.
When she'd woken me up moments ago, I'd thought that the lass wanted to go for another ride. Thank God my initial reaction hadn't taken so long that I'd fucked things up. Seconds can mean the difference between breathing and not, in my experience. I'd also fucked up in leaving my weapons in my saddlebags. Erin and I hadn't talked about the specifics of some of the risks coming with me. She knew a lot, but not everything. I wanted to give her time to adjust first. Now, however, I was going to have to speed up the disclosure process. With people breaking in to her home, there was no way I was going to have her unprotected, which meant that she needed to know about the Sons now.
I grabbed Erin's cell, which was sitting on the counter charging, and called Tig. "This better be fucking important." He muttered into the phone.
"Aye. There's an unconscious man taking up real estate in Erin's kitchen right now. Erin's upstairs, so I need someone ta come take the trash ou'." I responded and heard Tig shift position, coming to full alert.
"Shit. She okay?" He asked.
"Aye. I need ta' go get her, bu' I'd rather do tha' when this piece of shite is ou' of 'ere." I answered, knowing that Erin was likely scared silly upstairs.
As we were talking, I heard the sounds in the background change and I knew that Tig had been getting ready. I heard a thump in the background and a muttered, "Move. We've got clean up duty." Tig then became louder, talking back into the receiver. "We'll be there in a couple. He secure enough that you can go upstairs and take care of Erin, or should we push a few speed limits?"
I looked down at the man on the ground. He'd be out for a while, if I had my guess right, but I wanted to be sure. "I'll tie 'im in a nice bow before I 'ead up. The back door will be open for ye."
I hung up the phone and looked around the kitchen. There was sure to be something that I could use to keep the bastard tied up until Tig came and cleared him out. I shifted through the kitchen drawers, looking for the inevitable junk drawer that takes up space in every kitchen in every house I'd ever been in. After a half a minute of looking, I'd found it. "Jackpo'," I muttered, seeing a roll of duct tape.
I made quick work of the task, knowing that the silence from downstairs was probably just as terrifying to the poor lass as noise. Erin wasn't a shrinking violet, but I had no misconception that she was a stone, either. She'd be worried about me more than her own safety, I was sure. I didn't want that to override my instructions that she stay put. While she needed to know what I did for the Sons, I'd rather explain it without a visual aid.
Satisfied that this arsehole was managed for now, I went upstairs and tapped on the bathroom door. When I opened the door, Erin flew into my arms and I could feel her heart start to slow down. I was right, then. She was worried about me. I smiled into her hair, wondering how I'd managed to secure such a woman. I didn't deserve her, all the more proven by my unwillingness to give her up.
A good man would probably walk away, leaving her to find happiness with someone else and wallow in his own sense of self-importance for having done the 'right thing'. I wasn't that man. I'd already gone through the loss of a woman I loved. While I'd recovered from that emotionally, I'd learned my lesson. For as long as she wanted me, there wasn't a force on the planet that was going to keep my angel from me, and I told her as much as I held her.
"What happened, Chibs?" She asked as she pulled back and looked into my eyes. I sighed and pointed to the bed.
"Let's talk, love." I murmured and walked with her to the edge of the mattress, feeling it shift under our combined weight.
"I need ta tell ya more abou' me, lass." I paused, trying to decide how to do this in a way that wouldn't have her running for the hills. I was certain she loved me, but she still hadn't said the words. Having not done so, I was afraid she still had an out to walk.
"Okay," she responded, a slight furrow in her brows.
"You know tha' I'm occasionally on the wrong side o' the law. You guessed that righ'. It's a bit more than tha', love." I started and then took her hands in mine as I told her everything. I told her about my violent past, including the more recent violence. I explained how I sometimes made my money, how I'd been no stranger to blood, and that there were men's lives on my conscience.
Throughout it all, Erin kept her eyes on mine and our hands entwined. Her emotions spread across her face in sweeping succession; I saw shock, horror, concern, fear, and anger, but I didn't hold back. I loved this woman and I'd do whatever I needed to do to keep her, but I couldn't do it without her knowing who I was. It wouldn't be enough for her to love who I showed her in our quiet moments. I needed her to love who I was when I was protecting her, but also when I was protecting my chosen family. The Sons were family and, as Gemma had often said, if Erin was going to love the man, I needed her to come to love the club, too.
When I was done, we sat in silence for several minutes. Erin's emotions had long since passed from her face. She was thinking, taking it all in. I desperately wanted to rush the process, but I knew I had to wait for her to make the next move. It was going to fucking kill me if she backed away, but I couldn't have her with one foot out the door for the rest of our lives. If she was going to walk, it needed to be now, while there was still some chance that I'd come out the other side of it as a human.
Erin stood and paced the floor for a minute and then spoke. "Will you ever hurt me?" She asked quietly and I stood and walked to her.
"Never, love. I'd never hurt ye." My eyes pleaded with her to believe me. She'd said she would keep my secrets, regardless of where we went, but she'd made no promises that she'd stay.
"And you aren't going to stop doing what you are now?" She asked and God I wanted to lie but I didn't.
"Nae, lass. Is' who I am." She nodded, still seemingly deep in thought. She looked at me, those gorgeous eyes searching mine, and I waited for the verdict.
"Do you love me, Filip?" She asked and I closed my eyes with the feelings that swept me.
"Aye, lass. I love ye more than I can express." I opened my eyes to find her own sparkling at me.
"I don't know how I'll handle all of it as we keep going, Filip. I know this is who you are, so I'll never ask you to stop." She twisted her lips. "Though I may lose it on you occasionally." She paused again. "I'm not going anywhere," she whispered as she cupped my cheek. "I've never been more in love with another person in my entire life and I'm not letting that go."
The weight of a semi-truck lifted off my heart and I swept her into my arms, kissing her for all that I was worth. She wasn't promising that we'd never have problems because of what I do, and I was thankful that she was realistic enough to know that was inevitable. But, she was staying. She chose me and by God if that wasn't the balm my poor soul needed.
Chapter 16: My Old Lady
It was mid-morning and time to get some information. After our talk, Erin and I had gone back to bed, holding each other as we slept. The relief we'd both felt - her in relation to the intruder, me in relation to her not booting my arse to the curb - was such that we were drained. To be honest, though, it probably had just as much to do with our more recent rabbit-like behavior. When I'd woken up with her in my arms, I'd considered working to convince her of another round. I'd set the thought aside, though, thinking that it would be best to give her at least a little peace.
Instead, once she'd woken, I'd told her to pack a bag so that we could head to the clubhouse. After what had happened, I wasn't keen on leaving her in the home, daylight hours be damned. She hadn't hesitated, instead moving with quiet and elegant efficiency as I called Jax to tell him we were on our way in and that we should probably call for church.
Once again, I had Erin on the back of my bike and once again, it was heaven. I don't know if I'd ever get used to the feel of her, but I was damn sure I'd enjoy every moment of the attempt. She didn't seem scared of the bike. Rather, while she held me close, I could feel her look around the town. When we pulled into the lot at the shop, she gave me a quick squeeze and got off, using my shoulder for balance.
I got off after her and gestured to the clubhouse. "We're heading tha' way, love."
She nodded and I grabbed her round the waist as we walked inside. Once through the doors, I saw Juice at the bar, Tig at a table, and Jax near the doors of the chapel. Each looked up as we entered and all gave a nod. Tig smiled at us, indicating a couple of chairs near him.
"We're waiting on Clay and Bobby. Shouldn't be more than a few minutes." He said as we approached and I looked to Erin.
"Do ya' want a drink, lass?" I asked and Erin smiled at me in partial surprise.
"Nah. I get a little," she paused, appearing to look for the words to finish her statement. "Uh, let's just say that I'm a drunk best supervised." I quirked my brow at her, thinking that I was really going to enjoy finding out why that was.
"Alrigh', lass. When Clay and Bobby-" I started to say when the door opened and the two men walked in. "Now that Clay and Bobby are here," I continued, "I'm going ta need ya to stay inside. I'll show ya to our room while we discuss a few things, yeah?"
Erin nodded and I took her up to the room. She set her bag beside the bed and settled in on it, pulling out her phone. "Since the doctor wanted me to take it easy for a few days, I think I'm just going to do some recipe research for the bakery. I'll be fine in here."
"Alrigh', love. If ya decide yer wanting company, there's usually someone downstairs. Otherwise, I'll come see ya when we're done." With that, I leaned in and gave her a kiss and turned to leave.
"What do we know right now?" Clay asked and I spoke to the men gathered round the redwood.
"Half-Sack and I met Erin when we were on our way back from a repo. She was in the process of rescuing a dog and needed help getting i' into the bed of her pickup. Later, she swung by in thank you and you lot ate all of her baked goods and gave me a ration o' shite for my attention to 'er. She and I talked later tha' nigh'. Tha next day, we went on our run." I paused, piecing the bits of the timeline together.
"After tha', Deputy Hale came into 'er shop to get dinner rolls and to ask Erin wha' she was doing a' the shop. Erin didn't answer him, shutting him down with questions about 'is interest instead." I saw a few slight nods of approval around the table. The brothers liked that her first response to the law was to push back, rather than fold.
"Apparently, the next day, he showed up a' her place after she'd gotten the dog home and offered to come by her place morning, noon and nigh' to help carry the mutt ou' to do 'is business." The ones who hadn't heard about that part showed various expressions of suspicion and disgust. They knew what I'd known from the first.
"Erin tells me 'e didna' question her further abou' us, rather that 'is offer of help was by way of apology." I snorted. "Is' clear as day the lad was sniffing after 'er."
"The nigh' before I came back, Erin was standing in her living room when a baseball came through the window by 'er. It sliced 'er up good, requiring surgery. There's no diamond near her place, and the window wen' ou' at abou' ten." The expressions on the men steadily grew more grave.
"I stayed with 'er and las' nigh' - well, early morning - an intruder came in. I pu' 'im to rest with 'er baseball bat and had Tig come for clean up." At that point, Tig jumped into the conversation.
"We've got him in a secure shed outside of town. Chibs did a number on him with the bat," he gave a nod to me, "but I understand that he's come around in the last hour or so. He doesn't have any ink to suggest an affiliation."
"We need to find out if this is about Erin, or about us." Jax said to the group and several heads nodded. "If it's about us, we may need a lock down for our women. If it's about Erin, we should follow Chibs' lead."
"She's ma' Old Lady," I said in response and the table went silent, each brother showing varying expressions of surprise.
"You're sure about that, Chibs? You haven't known her long." Clay asked and I did my best to control the anger that flowed at the question.
"Aye, I'm sure." I responded tightly. He nodded with hands raised.
"Just making sure, brother. It's been a long time for you." I nodded in acceptance. He wasn't wrong. It had been a long time since I'd truly had an Old Lady.
"Well, then that settles the question. Whether it's about Erin or about the club, the response will be the same - total retribution." Clay said as he looked every man around the table in the eye. "Tig, you up for some discussion with Erin's uninvited guest?"
"I'd love to," he said and jogged my elbow. "You going to come along for the fun?" He asked and I smirked.
"I wouldna' miss i'." I muttered as Clay lifted his chin to the group.
"Agreed?" He asked and all those round the table indicated their assent. "Good." He looked at Tig and I. "Let us know. Anything else?" Hearing nothing else from the brothers, he closed the meeting and we exited the chapel.
I went upstairs to check on Erin before Tig and I were to leave. I found her sprawled out on the bed, her bottom lip between her teeth as she scrolled through something on her phone. I smiled at the sight, walking quietly into the room and leaning over her to give a kiss. "I'll be bac' later, love. Are ye all set for a while 'ere?"
She nodded at me with a small smile. "I'm good. I'll see you later."
Chapter 17: Poor Choice
I might as well have been the teenage girl fooling around with her boyfriend at the beginning of every B rated horror movie from the 80s. After all, my choice had lead me to have a "go ahead and kill me now" sign on my forehead just as clearly as if I were one of those actresses. I mean really, what kind of an idiot doesn't listen to her boyfriend when he tells her to stay put after she'd been sliced open and her home had been burgled? Ding, ding, ladies and gentleman, that idiot would be me.
As I sat in between Marcus and Dana on the long bench seat in an old Chevy, I couldn't help but wonder - if I survived this, that was - whether there were classes on reading people that I could take. Certainly, someone had to be able to teach me such a skill. I'd be the most diligent student there was, if only I found a way out of this mess. Because I was fairly confident that I was going to have to figure it out myself, seeing as no one knew I'd left the clubhouse.
It had been innocent enough, really. I'd gotten tired of recipe searches and so I'd wandered downstairs. When I got there, I saw a couple of scantily clad women playing pool, but no one else. Since the two playing looked pretty heated about the game, I walked outside, thinking some fresh air would be nice. That was when I'd gotten the call.
Marcus had called me to say that Chaos was acting really sick and he and Dana thought there might have been an infection. So, went the story, they'd taken the puppy in to the vet, only to be told that the vet wouldn't look at Chaos without my physical appearance at the clinic to approve the work. I'd bought that crock of shit like it was a batch of chocolate chip cookies and told Marcus to swing by TM and get me, since I was without a vehicle.
I hadn't really needed to sneak out. There was a young man near the entry of the TM lot, but he was busy with someone who'd come in with a smoking car when I walked out of the gates. So, I'd waited at the curb, like a moron, for my ride to come and get me and shove a gun in my side.
I looked at Dana, who was holding the gun on me, as Marcus drove. Neither one had really spoken much since Dana had hopped out of the car and gestured for me to get in. I'd hesitated when I'd gotten to the door of the vehicle, wondering why Dana would be with Marcus if Chaos was at the vet. At my pause, she'd stuck the end of the gun into my ribcage and instructed me to get in.
Chibs, I thought. Poor man was not going to be happy when he came back to the clubhouse to find an empty room. I hadn't planned to leave, so I hadn't left a note. I'd sent a quick text message to him, but it had said what I'd thought was happening - that I was headed to the vet. He wasn't going to have any way to find me without some serious help. Who knew, maybe Hale would be able to track me down for him?
Deciding that the silence was too much, I hesitantly spoke. "Are one of you going to tell me what's going on?"
"Oh, stop the act, Erin. You know damn well what's going on." Marcus replied and I shifted somewhat to look at him more closely.
"I really don't." I responded and he scoffed. Figuring I was going to get no where with him, I looked to Dana. We'd been friends, or so I'd thought.
"Dana?" I asked, working to keep my voice calm, though my fear would be apparent on my face.
"Just stay quiet, Erin. We'll be there soon." She said, not moving the gun from where it was digging a bruise into my side.
"Going to be where?" I asked, trying my luck. If they'd wanted me dead right away, they had their chance back at TM. I reasoned that there had to be something they needed me alive for. At least, I wanted to believe that.
"To Donnie's." Came the short response and I wracked my brain, trying to think of why that name struck a chord in my brain. Donnie. Donnie. Where had I heard that name before?
As the car began to slow to take an off ramp toward the desert, it came to me. Donnie was the name of a man who'd wanted to buy my bakery six months ago. He'd said something about it being the perfect spot for his own business, though I couldn't for the life of me remember what that business was. At the time, I'd told him no because my own place was just heating up. Besides, there were other locations in Charming. I hadn't understood the need for mine.
"The businessman?" I asked Dana, trying to get some more information.
"Yes, the businessman," Marcus responded sarcastically with a shake of his head. "Are you serious? Are you honestly going to sit there and tell us you didn't know who you'd said no to?"
I shook my head in confusion. For once, my expressive face was a help. Marcus took one look at me and snorted, "unbelievable."
"Marcus," Dana warned and he shrugged.
"What?" He asked. "Her stupid ass brought it on herself. First, she says no. Then, instead of her stupid bakery going the way of the dinosaur, it takes off. She doesn't take the hint from the window, instead calling that fucking biker of hers. And then, she goes and gets Len caught. Of course, she's in deep shit." He shook his head. "She brought it on herself," he repeated, this time quieter.
So, this Donnie guy was a shady businessman and I was apparently supposed to have picked up on that and these other clues. Now, I may not have been the most observant person on the planet, but I'm not dumb. How the hell was I supposed to know that my window and the burglary were related? On the thought, I asked the question. It was Dana who answered this time.
"Well, the burglar was going to explain the window to you and provide you with the paperwork for the sale of the bakery." She twisted her lips. "We didn't expect your Scot to be there, let alone capture him. That is what happened, isn't it?" She asked me to confirm and I nodded. It wouldn't have made sense for me to lie, given that they had picked me up from the clubhouse and their buddy was M.I.A.
"What's going to happen, Dana?" I asked quietly, praying that there was a chance I was coming out the other side of this with a heartbeat.
Dana shook her head. "It's Donnie's call, now, Erin." She paused as we approached a larger, ranch style home set off the main road. "You really should have sold out six months ago." She continued flatly.
Marcus stopped the car and Dana got out while continuing to point the gun at me. "Out you go, Erin. You have a meeting to attend."
I climbed off my seat and out and took stock of my surroundings. There were no other houses that I could see and the house that was here was probably half a football field from the main road. No one was going to hear me if this went badly, and all indications were that it would.
Chapter 18: Some Family Beef
Tig and I stared down the man presently tied to a chair, watching as the blood flowed from several of his wounds. We'd been at this for about an hour and a half before he'd started talking. It was slow at first, but had now turned to a steady flow of information - information that was surprisingly not related to the Sons, for once.
"It's the damn shop!" The wounded man yelled. "She wouldn't give up the fucking shop and he wants it. He tried buying it from her but she turned him down. So, he put people inside to kill her sales. Even with skimming off the profits, the shop was still growing. She'd talked about the possibility of buying the empty place on one side to have more room. So, we put a baseball through her window and the plan was for me to go in and explain her options." The injured man took a deep breath. "But she got more hurt than we expected and she drove herself to the hospital. I couldn't get to her until she was released." He looked us both in the eyes, pleading for mercy. "That's it. I swear it."
"These...options, ye were goin' ta explain to ma woman - wha' were they?" I asked and noted the shift in Tig's position. He could hear the death knell in my voice, even if the man before us could not.
"That she had to sell or else." The man answered, still heaving with the effort of attempting to stay conscious.
"Or else wha'?" I asked softly.
He looked away. "He was going to kill her." He muttered, avoiding my eyes.
"He woul', or you woul' do i' for 'im?" I asked with a tilt of my head, knowing the answer without the piece of shite needing to speak.
"I wouldn't have done it! I swear! I would have found another way!" He screamed as I pressed my gun into one of the wounds at his shoulder and pulled the trigger.
"An' wha' other way would there ha' been?" I asked calmly, also knowing the answer to that question.
"No! No, no, no, no, no! I wouldn't have done it. I just would have scared her with it. Please!" He cried as I placed the gun at his stomach wound and fired again. He was losing a lot more blood now, the lights in his eyes swiftly extinguishing. I leaned in to his ear and spoke again, barely above a whisper.
"No one touches ma' woman and lives." I pressed the gun to his neck and pulled the trigger one more time and turned to Tig, not bothering to look at what remained of the man in the chair.
"Time to find Donnie Rivers?" Tig asked and I nodded as I walked toward the door. We'd send a prospect to clean up the mess. I took off my gloves and reached into my pocket for my phone. I'd felt it buzz with a text about a half hour ago. What I saw when I opened it up made my blood run cold.
"Tig! Get Juice trackin' Erin, now!" I yelled as I ran to my bike. I sent a silent prayer for my angel. I may not deserve mercy at the end, but she did. She deserved more than what the fucker Rivers had planned for her. Tig heard the urgency in my voice and got on his phone, following after me as I tore toward Charming with the hope that somehow, my Erin was safe.
"Where tha fuck is she?" I screamed through the door when I got to the clubhouse. Juice was at his laptop, working furiously and Clay and Jax were both there with arms raised to placate me.
"He's working on it, man." Jax said and I could see the feeling in his eyes. He knew, just as well as any man in the room, that time was not our friend.
"We have everyone ready to go, brother. We'll get her back," Clay said with determination. I knew he was right, but I didn't know if we'd get her back whole and the fear of loss was once again upon me. I would rip the limbs off the man who had put her in this position twice now. He would die slowly, knowing that there would be no one to save him from my wrath.
"I have it!" Juice yelled. "She's about twenty miles into the desert. We take the second off ramp and the main road for a few minutes, then veer to the left." He continued as he closed his laptop to come with us and the rest of the men turned toward the doors.
"I'm coming, lass." I muttered into the air, hoping that Erin would know I would never leave her to face this alone. It had been long enough for Rivers to do some serious damage and the thought only drove me to push my bike harder as we left the boundaries of Charming.
"We're going to die, Marcus." I said softly. We were standing at the back of Donnie's shop, presumably watching out for any potential threat to come from the road.
Marcus scoffed. "No, we aren't. The biker barely knows her. He wouldn't stick his neck out for someone he's only just met. If anything, this will help to convince him that she's more trouble than she's worth."
I looked at Marcus in surprise. He couldn't be that blind - that stupid. The damn man had spent every night speaking with Erin. Since she'd been injured, he'd been with her just about every moment. For shit's sake, he'd taken her to the Sons' clubhouse to keep her safe. It may have been fast, but there was no doubt in my mind that he considered her his and that he was going to come and he'd come for blood. The only hope we had would be if the entire club didn't come with him.
I looked at Erin, who was at a long wooden table across from Donnie. Erin's stitches must have torn, because there was blood seeping through her bandage on her left arm. Having witnessed Donnie's initial flare of anger toward Erin, I knew that she had to be sporting new bruises under her shirt, and potentially a bruised or broken rib, as well.
When we'd gotten here, Donnie had instructed us to bring Erin around back to the shop. He'd then come out and, without a word, hit her until she'd crumbled to the ground. Erin was expressive, had been for as long as I'd known her. The pain and betrayal on her face as she'd looked at me from the ground was nearly overwhelming. I'd taken a step forward, not really knowing what I was going to do, when Marcus had gripped my arm with a shake of his head.
Now, Erin was placed in a chair in front of Donnie as he spoke to her, a contract for the sale of her bakery laying on the table. Donnie was sure to be giving her the option to sell - with a condition of silence as to what happened today and why she sold - or die. Even from this distance, I could see the disbelief cross Erin's face. She didn't understand and to be honest, neither did I.
"Why the hell is that place so important, Marcus?" I asked and he jogged his chin at me.
"It's not it, but what it is next to. On one side is the empty store that Erin was considering expanding to. On the other side, the retail shop? You have a business owned by Donnie's grandson, who also wants to expand. Donnie's trying to get Erin's place for him to make up for some family beef with his daughter, the grandson's mom."
"All this? Really?" I asked and shook my head. It seemed like such a waste. Before Marcus got too far into responding, I heard the rumble and paled. Erin's Scot was here.
Chapter 19: If I Sign This?
I sat at a long, wooden table across from a madman. Oh, he looked sane enough, but those looks were deceiving. Inside his eyes, I could see a man cracking apart at the seams. The problem, of course, was that he was the one who was going to decide if I lived or died.
After he'd beaten me for a couple of minutes, he'd demanded that Marcus and Dana bring me to this warehouse-style shop and sit me down. He'd then spent the next ten minutes talking pleasantries with me as one of his men went and got the contract for the sale of my bakery, which was presently sitting in front of me on the table. After the contract had been brought, he'd started "talking business."
Donnie Rivers was acting as if I were freely here to negotiate the sale of my bakery. From the outside, it would look like I was just politely listening. Except, I'm sure that my face gave away what was going on in my head, which was anything but polite. However, because the man was a loon, I tried harder than I'd ever done in my entire life to school my features. I needed to pretend as best I could and go along with his game. I had hope that if I prolonged the process of our business discussion, Chibs would have time to come to the rescue.
Now, earlier I'd thought that I'd have to get out of this myself. It was a good idea, but not one which I'd been able to move forward. There were too many people around who worked for Donnie. There were too many guns. And, once he'd knocked me around, there was just too little strength in me to be able to reasonably fight anyone off. The best I could hope for was a distraction that would give me time to run. Even then, I'd need to hide like never before, considering how isolated this place was.
"So, you see," Donnie was saying, "it is really quite reasonable. You will be turning over the building itself, and all permanent attachments. You, of course, get to keep the name and goodwill associated with your bakery, should you choose to open up shop elsewhere in Charming." He smiled at me, selling me on this 'deal' that would put me out of business because there was no way I'd be able to pay off the mortgage to the bank with no assets and no place to work.
"Now, we would ask that, if you continue with your bakery, you do so at least ten blocks from Jonathan's store." He shrugged. "I'd hate for you to have to constantly explain moving just a few doors down, and ten blocks seems like it would be enough distance to justify a rationale that has nothing to do with my grandson. You understand, of course?" He asked and I nodded.
I licked my lips and asked. "What will happen to the attachments?" I needed to stall. "The ovens and kitchen equipment are costly and necessary for a bakery to function."
"Ah, well. Jonathan is happy to sell those back to you, should you decide you want them. It will, of course, be at a slightly higher price to account for his storage of them while you get set up at a new location." I nodded again. I had no idea what to do. I didn't really believe that this man was going to let me live. If I did, I'd have signed the contract when it was first placed in front of me. My business was important, but wouldn't do me a fat lot of good if I weren't alive to run it.
"And, uh, will that conclude all of the agreements between us, then?" I paused as I thought I heard thunder outside for a moment. "If I sign this, that is?"
Donnie nodded his head, pleased with how our 'discussion' was proceeding. "Yes, yes." He leaned forward, a pen in his right hand outstretched toward me. "If you agree to this, then the bakery becomes ours, but you go about your merry life. I understand that you may have recently found a new love. I'd suggest after the sale that you take some time to enjoy life with him for a bit before you decide on how you want to move forward." A cold expression took over Donnie's face, showing the reality of the situation in just a hair's breath of a moment. "But, if you do not agree, we will have to see whether the personal representative for your estate is more amenable to a deal."
I swallowed hard and nodded. He couldn't be any clearer than that. Reaching up my right arm with difficulty, I opened my palm for him to place the pen in it. When he'd beaten me earlier, he'd caught the arm right at the elbow with his steel-toed boot. I didn't know if I had a fracture, but I sure as hell couldn't move the arm without serious pain. Seeing my slow movement, Donnie's eyes narrowed somewhat, but he didn't comment. Instead, he waited for me as I stiffly signed the papers in front of me.
"Excellent!" He announced loudly. "Now, let's get you back to Charming." He turned toward the doorway where Marcus and Dana had been standing. They weren't there any longer. I looked around in confusion, seeing Donnie do the same. He stood and walked around the table, grasping my injured right elbow to lift me from the chair and causing me to gasp aloud. "Sorry, my dear. But sometimes, good help is hard to find. Their lack of diligence will be addressed once Dana and Marcus return from driving you back to town."
Relief swept through me. The lunatic really was going to let me live. All I had to do was stay quiet and docile, and then deal with whatever came from Chibs later. While I briefly started to wonder how I was going to handle that, I heard Donnie call out to the two people whom I had thought were my friends.
"Marcus! Dana! I want you to take her body back to Charming and dump it just over the county line. Her biker will want to give her a proper burial." He cried out and I struggled in his arms as he did.
"What! You said-" I started to scream at him and he backhanded me, the force sending me to the ground in a tangle of limbs. I was scrambling on the ground, trying to find purchase on the smooth concrete to get some distance between the two of us, when I saw him lift a gun and point it at my head.
"I know what I said." He spoke coldly. "I lied." He cocked the gun and I closed my eyes. I've heard that your life flashes through your eyes when you are about to die. Maybe that happens as a result of an actual injury, as opposed to when you are just confronted with the reality of your own mortality. For, as I half sat, half leaned up and waited for the bullet that would end me, I didn't see a kaleidoscope of memories from my childhood through present day. Instead, I saw the beautiful eyes of my Scot and heard his soft brogue as he told me he loved me. If I had to choose something to remember as I died, I couldn't have picked better.
A shot rang out and I flinched and then opened my eyes in a burst of confusion. I shouldn't have been able to flinch. I should have been discovering whether there was something on the other side of this consciousness, after all. I looked around me to see Donnie lying on the ground and to a find a flood of large men in black leather pouring through the shop, one man in particular running at me full speed.
"Filip," I smiled at him as his body skidded down on the ground to hold me, not bothering with something so trivial as stopping his run. He pulled me close and whispered into my neck.
"Aye, love. I'm here."
Chapter 20: Show Me
I sat at the bar of the clubhouse while Tara looked Erin over. Tara had requested privacy for her examination. At first, I'd thought to object, but then I saw the look in Tara's eyes. She wanted to make sure that Erin told her everything that happened and she wasn't sure that Erin would if I were in the room.
Some of the bubbles created by the carbonation in my beer clung to the sides of the pint glass while others rose in sweeping paths to the top. I stared at them, praying that what Tara feared hadn't happened. My Erin. God, I couldn't imagine the pain of having something like that ripped from you, and I could barely keep the bile in my body as I thought of the possibility it had happened to my angel.
After about a half hour with Tara and Erin in the room, closed off from the brothers and myself, I got up and kicked the stool. It would only take this long if something were seriously wrong. Jax approached me, no doubt seeing the pain on my face from the torture that was cutting up my nerves from the inside.
"Tara's thorough, man. It doesn't mean what you're thinking." He said and I had my confirmation that I was easily read right now.
I let out a huge breath. "Aye, but..." I couldn't finish the statement. Jax just nodded, an understanding passing through his eyes that not many could replicate.
"She's-" he started to speak, but then the door to the room holding my life and her doctor opened. Tara came out first, murmuring something to Erin that I couldn't hear. She didn't appear to be unduly concerned, but then, we'd learned that she was as good as any in keeping another's secret.
Erin came out just after her, a sling holding her right arm and new bandages on her left. I stared in confusion. Erin had ridden on the back of my bike back to the clubhouse. She'd used both arms to hold on to me. Why was there a sling on the right?
She came up to stand before me and smiled. "I'm all good, Chibs." I looked to Tara for confirmation and received the tiniest of nods. I was relieved but still confused, and so I jogged my head at the sling.
"Why the sling, love?" Erin's face flushed and I knew she'd done it again. She'd hidden an injury from me. My tone became sterner as I looked at her and stepped slightly forward. "Erin?"
"Uh, yeah. Donnie may have kicked it right at the elbow." I started to speak but Erin rushed to continue. "But," she said, holding up her left hand so I'd let her finish, "Tara doesn't think it's broken. Rather, just..." Erin searched for the words and Tara spoke up.
"It just needs a bit of an easier load so it doesn't become a problem. She should be able to lose the sling in a day or two, depending on her symptoms."
I looked at Tara, surprised to find her speaking up in defense of Erin. I figured Tara didn't mind Erin, but the way she jumped in suggested it was deeper than that. What I saw in Tara when I looked in her eyes, however, was acceptance. She'd accepted Erin as my Old Lady, which brought a different kind of relief. Tara was a good woman, but she had it in her to be judgmental. I'd have hated to find that Erin was on the receiving end of trouble from the other women. Tara's demeanor suggested I wouldn't have to worry about that.
I nodded and turned back to Erin, who still had a guilty expression on her face. "Lass," I said, half in warning, half in resignation.
Erin swept toward me and snuggled into my chest and my arms wrapped around her without intentional thought. "I know," she whispered. "But I'd needed to feel you for a while longer." And just like that, my frustration was gone. I couldn't stay angry at her when that was her reason. Hell, I'd felt the same need to have her close. On the thought, I bent my knees and lifted her like she were an infant.
"Don' come fer me unless is' really fucking important." I said over my shoulder as I carried my angel up the stairs of the clubhouse to my dorm.
I heard chuckles behind me and felt Erin giggle against my chest. As I looked down, she looked back up at me with so much adoration that I nearly stumbled. I didn't deserve to be looked at like that, but God help me, I both craved and treasured it. I placed a light kiss on her forehead as we reached the room and I set her down to open the door. I then pulled her back into my arms after I closed and locked the door. I saw her wince a bit and I stood back again, concern flooding me.
"Let me see, lass." I demanded and she nodded as she raised her left hand to my cheek.
"Just remember, this was my own fault." She whispered before she moved to remove her top. It was a button down, so she didn't need to raise her arms above her head, or even really remove it fully, for me to see the damage. I sunk to my knees as I saw the purple and blue marks littering her skin from breast to hip bone. One of her ribs looked particularly bad and I raised tentative fingers to trace the outline of the forming bruise.
"Tara thinks it's just bruised. She offered to wrap it, but I told her that you could help me with that." Erin said quietly. I raised my eyes to her, my own painful with the sting of moisture. "No, baby. No." She said as she moved hair from my forehead.
"I'm so sorry I didna' protect you from this, love." I said, my voice choked from the emotions raging through me. I placed my head on her belly, my arms hugging her hips to me, silently begging her to forgive me.
"No, Filip." She answered as her arms came around my head. "This is on me. I didn't listen when you asked me to stay put. I wasn't thinking. This isn't your fault."
I breathed hard as I worked to control myself, feeling her soft skin against my own and smelling the lemon and honey from the body wash she'd used for her shower earlier. The two things, when combined with her small hand working through my hair, brought the calm that I needed after a few moments. I squeezed her to me and looked up into her eyes once more. "I canna take it when yer hurt, love. It tears me up inside."
She smiled at me softly and pulled at my kutte with her left hand and I rose to my feet. She ran her hand down it, leaving her right to its position between us. "What will help me most is time with my Old Man." She murmured as she leaned up to kiss me.
I kissed her back, lifting her once again and taking her to the bed. "Old Man?" I asked and she smirked at me.
"I hear you've already claimed me with the club. Doesn't that mean you're my Old Man?"
"Aye, lass. That it does." I smiled as I leaned down to kiss her again.
"Then show me." She dared, and I did just that.
Chapter 21: I Need to Hear You Say It
Four months had passed from my abduction and I was now more than fully healed. With the threat against me having come as a result of my own business and not the Sons', I'd finally convinced Chibs that it was safe for me to be back in the house after a few weeks of clubhouse living. That experience had done a lot for my understanding as to how the club life went. To say it was a bit of a surprise would be an understatement.
I huffed as I walked through the house, picking up random clothing of Chibs' as I went. Although he'd kept some things in his dorm for the times he needed to crash there, he'd also unofficially moved in. I'd quickly learned that the man considered an entire household a hamper. Once he'd decided it was time to rid himself of clothing, whatever it was came off in whatever room he was located. I'd given him some flak for it, but hadn't pushed too hard. It made the home feel lived in. Besides, he put up with my occasional random demand for a couple's bubble bath - something that he'd groused would get his patches removed if the brothers learned about.
I still hadn't found Chaos' owners. After the debacle with Marcus and Dana, I'd gone to her home and his to try to locate the animal. He hadn't been at either place and so I'd worried that they'd harmed him. It was the night after I'd been taken that I got a call from his vet. Dana had taken Chaos in after all, although for boarding and not for a check up on his stitches and injuries. Like me, he was now fully healed.
I hadn't heard from either Dana or Marcus since the day they took me out to Donnie. Chibs told me that Dana had been pushed by Marcus toward a brother during their storm of the shop, but that she'd ended up hitting a rock on the ground at the wrong spot on her head. When someone had checked on her, it had been too late to help. Meanwhile, Chibs' brother, Happy, had wanted to handle Marcus, apparently taking personal umbrage at the lack of loyalty he'd shown to me. I didn't question it. Happy had a quiet, jaguar-like feel to him that assured me that I would never want to be on his bad side. I didn't know what specifically happened to Marcus, but I was certain that he wouldn't be coming round to bother me ever again.
About four or five days after the whole thing, Deputy Hale came to see me. He knew something had gone down, but none of the club was going to tell him and I wasn't going to either. Instead, we talked about my left arm, which he knew about, and Chaos. It was small talk really, but with a river of unsaid things flowing in the background. When Hale had gone to give me a hug goodbye, Chibs had materialized out of thin air. I'd never seen men engage in a silent pissing match. It was almost funny, but for the threat that was in Chibs' eyes. He was still on the protective side, not having forgiven himself for me getting hurt - regardless of the fact that it hadn't had anything to do with him.
"Chaos!" I called out, not sure where the mutt had gotten to as I stomped through the house, now more than a little perturbed. I hadn't been able to take him for a walk this morning, and I had the half-eaten remnants of one of Chibs' shoes in my hand as evidence of the dog's displeasure. I continued to call his name until I heard a bark from the backyard. I hadn't remembered letting him out there, but perhaps Chibs had.
I walked out, intent on scolding him, but found myself on the receiving end of slobbery, excited kisses. "Whoa, boy. It's only been couple hours. What's got you so excited?" I asked as I ran my hand over his head and scratched his neck. His collar gave more of a jingle than I was used to hearing and so I turned it, looking to see if he'd got something caught in it.
There was a key chain attached to the collar and tag that wasn't there before and I looked at it in confusion. This looked like it belonged to my pickup. I worked the ring off of Chaos' collar and let him in the house with a stern, "be good" instruction and then wandered out to my truck. Chibs had taken me in to the bakery this morning and one of the prospects had picked me up and dropped me home for lunch since Chibs couldn't get away from the shop. My truck sat in the driveway, so I figured I'd at least test the theory that this was a set of keys to it and then ask Chibs what the hell he was doing in putting them on the dog.
I never lock my truck doors, so when I got to it I opened the driver's side, intent on putting the key into the ignition to confirm this was the right key. Instead, I stopped short at the sight of a small, black box on the seat. I looked up, but didn't see anyone near the truck, and so I reached in and lifted the two inch by inch box and opened the lid.
My hand rose to my mouth of its own volition as I stared at the emerald cut diamond ring. Tears started up behind my eyes and I turned, searching for the man who I knew had placed this treasure for me to find. He was kneeling by the tree in my front yard and I didn't wait. I ran directly at him, throwing my arms around his neck and toppling him to the ground.
"Do I take tha' as a 'yes', love?" He said, amusement in his voice as I continued to get all weepy all over his shoulders and neck. I couldn't speak at the moment, so I continued to bury my head in his neck, feeling his hands come up my back in soothing circles.
"Erin, love. I need ta' hear ya' say it." He murmured quietly into my ear and I lifted my head to look at him.
"Yes. Yes. Yes, I'll marry you." I responded and then kissed him, not caring a whit that we were laying in full view of anyone who would wander by. I'd happily tell the world this man was mine.
Chapter 22: My Angel - Bonus Chapter
I watched as Chibs, once again, pulled his phone out to check to see if there were any texts. For the past two months, Chibs had been acting strangely. He'd get a call or a text and would tear out of the lot, off a repo, out of the clubhouse - it didn't matter. Wherever he was when he got one of those calls or texts, he would leave immediately and return anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour and a half later. Sometimes he came back looking rumpled, other times he was freshly showered. As I watched him check again, I decided I couldn't just stand back any longer.
"Chibs? Can I talk to you, man?" I asked and nodded toward the benches. He looked at me, surprised by my tone and expression I'm sure, but nodded. We walked over to the benches and he sat, removing a cigarette and lighting up. I raised an eyebrow at that. Erin had been trying to get him to quit and he'd cut back substantially, but at the shop he always seemed to have a few more than when he was around her.
"Whas' on ya mind, Jackie boy?" He asked and I looked at my feet before speaking. I didn't know how to say this without being a fucking hypocrite, but I was going to do it anyway.
"What's going on, man?" I asked as I looked back up into my brother's eyes and he looked back at me with confusion.
"Wha' do ya mean?" He asked and I sighed.
"Erin's a good woman. Everyone can see how much you two love each other." I said and he tilted his head at me, waiting for me to continue. "It'd be stupid to fuck that up over some random piece." I said and saw the shock flash across Chibs' face.
"Ya think I'm cheatin', boy?" He asked, disbelief in his tone.
"Come on. We all see you leaving at random times and coming back either showered or...wrinkled. You've been avoiding runs for the last two months and you're glued to your damn phone." I said, frustrated that he would deny it. "You haven't been subtle."
Chibs closed his eyes and blew out a breath before he gave a chuckle with a shake of his head. "I though' no one woul' notice." He said and I was really fucking confused by his reaction.
"Yeah, well it's been noticed. What the fuck are you doing? You'll lose her, man." I said with concern, knowing that if Erin walked out on Chibs, he wouldn't come out the other side of it the same man.
"Ah, Jackie boy. You're observant, I'll give ya tha'." He looked out over the building for a minute before continuing. "But ya' haven' all the information." He took a drag off his cigarette and then looked back at me. "Erin wants a baby." He said and I furrowed my brows at him.
"So you cheat?" I asked and he shook his head.
"Nae, lad. She's been trackin' her temperatures or some such nonsense. Whenever she gets tha' righ' result, she calls me home." He responded and I laughed in shock and relief.
"What?" I asked, a broad grin stretching my face.
"Aye, I know. I'm a damn stud horse a' tha moment. Is' why I've been leaving suddenly and come back as ya describe." He said with a smirk, belying his grouse about the situation with a look of pride in his eyes. I shook my head at his words.
"That's great, man. Congratulations." I said and he smiled.
"Aye. The though' of a wee one wit' Erin," he paused and the look on his face was powerful with it's joy. He smiled at me and continued. "I'd give 'er the moon, Jackie." He finished and I nodded, slapping him on the back.
"Well, I'm really fucking glad it wasn't what I thought." I said and he laughed at me.
"T'was idiot thinking there, lad. Ya know she has ma' balls in her purse." He answered with a grin, clearly not giving one shit that his woman had him wrapped around her finger. I nodded with a chuckle.
"You're right. I wasn't thinking straight." I said as we walked back into the shop.
I hadn't heard from Erin all day, but I'd been so busy after the talk with Jax that I hadn't noticed it until it was near five o'clock. With a slight frown, I checked my phone and saw that there were no missed calls or texts. That was odd, even if one took our more recent activities out of the equation. Erin and I tended to talk to each other at least once a day throughout our days. On the thought, I fired up my Harley and drove by her bakery, only to see it dark early. Now, I was starting to worry.
When I got home, I shut off the bike and wandered inside, calling out for my girl. "Erin, love?"
"In the kitchen!" She called and I sighed with relief. She was alright.
When I walked into the room, I found her cooking dinner, her shoes kicked to the side and an apron thrown onto the counter. I came up behind her, wrapping my arms around her waist and giving her a kiss on the neck before peering at what she was making.
"It's a pasta dish that I found online." She said and I hummed in my throat and kissed behind her ear.
"Smells delicious." I said and was gratified to feel the shiver run down her. She turned in my arms, wrapping her own around my neck, and leaned up to kiss me. I would never grow tired of this woman. Her feel, her smell, her laugh, her - she was everything. I kissed her back and was about to suggest turning the stove down so we could go occupy ourselves further when I heard a ding.
Erin jumped and beamed at me. "Hold that thought." She said and rushed from the room. I stood there for a moment, confused by her actions, before I shook my head and moved to take off my kutte and weapons. As I sat in a chair at the table to remove my boots, Chaos came up to me to lick my hands and receive a pet behind the ears.
I was thus occupied when Erin came back into the kitchen, smiling at me like she'd just won the lottery. "Whas' brough' on such a goo' mood, love?" I asked and she came to stand between my legs and gave me a small kiss. As she did, I saw that her hands were behind her back.
"I have something for you," she whispered against my lips and I tilted my head. She pulled a thin cardboard box around from behind her and I looked at her in question.
"I know I didna miss our anniversary, lass." I said and she smiled with a shake of her head.
"Just open it." She demanded and I took out my short blade and slit the tape on either side of the lid before raising it. I set the lid on the table to my side and pulled at the tissue in the box to find soft, black fabric on the inside. I lifted it out to find baby's clothing with the Sons emblem on it. It didn't take me more than a partial second to know what she was telling me and I moved the box off my lap and stood to grab Erin around the waist.
We laughed and clung to each other, sharing in our joy as the timer to the rolls Erin was cooking went off. When she turned off the oven and stove, I took her back to our room, needing the feel of her against me. My angel was pregnant.
A/N: That wraps up the second volume of the First Old Lady Series. I hope you enjoyed it. Until next time, happy reading! -OQ