Tig felt a huge sense of relief as he steered his bike back towards T-M and the clubhouse, Clay had pulled him out to the backyard as he was getting ready to leave and informed him of what Jake Lyons had passed on about Ope.
Fuck, on some levels he was almost glad that Dougie Jones had lost his fuckin’ mind and snatched the girls. First off, he finally got to meet his kid. And grandkid. And they both fuckin’ liked him! And even though Jake Lyons wasn’t his favorite person by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, he was glad that the man did his due diligence before heading out here. He hadn’t been enjoying being suspicious of Ope, at all. It hadn’t felt right to him at his core; Opie just wouldn’t sell SAMCRO out. If Ope had wanted to sell the club out he would have already done it to avoid the time he already served.
When he pulled into the lot, he was a little surprised to see Ope, along with the other guys, unloading the van that Red and Dennis Lyons had used. Getting his bike parked, he ambled over next to Ope.
“Donna take you off the leash tonight?” He snarked as he lit a smoke.
Ope chuckled. “Somethin’ like that.” Then nodded towards the van. “What the hell is all of this?”
He shrugged. “Last I knew, they were goin’ to get a running stroller for Baby Doll. I have no idea what the rest of it is.” He called over to Dennis. “You guys decide to knock over a toy store?” He could see the ‘Toys R Us’ stickers on a couple of boxes.
Dennis grinned. “Nah.” Then nodded toward one of the boxes. “Trike for Miss Thing’s birthday. You guys got somewhere in the garage I can store this stuff, so she doesn’t run across it?”
He nodded, thinking they could lock them up where they kept the paints and painting equipment. “Yeah. Follow me.” Then nodded at Ope. “Grab a box, man.” Then grinned. “Sooner this gets done, sooner I’m drinkin’.”
Ope laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “In that case, grab a box yourself.” Ope had stopped laughing but the relaxed grin remained. It was good to see. It had been awhile.
“Yeah, yeah.” Going to grab a box, only to be stopped by Red. “That’ll go inside.” He looked at the box label. Oh, it was the stroller. “I’m going to go ahead and get this put together tonight. Just in case Jules wants to go running in the morning.” Red shrugged. “Although as tired as she looks, she’ll probably sleep.” A wry grin emerged. “And I would be just fine with that.”
“Big brother wants to get his drink on, and Jules will make his hungover ass get up and go with her.” Dennis grinned as he walked past them carrying a couple of sacks from an electronics shop. “Eric’s hoping to have his hangover in peace.”
And like so many conversations with Dennis tended to go, the younger man did a complete change of subject.
“Hey, do you guys do your own fabrications, or do you send those out?” Dennis directing the question to him and Ope.
“Send ‘em out. We don’t have the room here.” It was an expansion that both Gemma and Clay had been talking about with the custom bike work starting to pick up.
Ope jumped in. “Why do you need a fabrication shop?” Then looking around at all the stuff they had brought into the paint room. “What the hell is all of this, anyway?”
Dennis smiled, and it was a smile that said the young man was immensely pleased with himself. “Stuff to make Miss Thing her very own trike like your Pop has. Gonna need a mini gas tank fabricated to hide the battery that’ll make the trike run.”
Ope looked at Dennis like he’d never seen him before. “You’re going to trick out a tricycle that she’ll probably grow out of in six months?!” Ope shook his head. “Seems like a lot of work for something she’ll barely get a chance to use.”
Dennis shrugged as Eric looked over to Ope, the older brother looking a little defensive. “She’ll ride the fuck out of it while she can.” Then rolled his eyes, as he shoved Dennis. “And he’ll probably be the king of the presents again.” Red smacked his brother lightly on the back of the head. “Which seems to be this fucknut’s priority.”
Dennis ginned. “Awww, you always say the sweetest things about me.” Flipping his older brother off and turning back to Ope. “She’s been on my ass about one since Whitey got one a couple of months ago. So, I figured while I was here…” Dennis grinned at him. “…and had extra, willing hands, why the fuck not?” Dennis shrugged again. “And it’ll be there for when the little dude is old enough. Just have to do a repaint.”
Even though it was said in such a matter of fact tone, his heart still pounded heavily in his chest at the thought that the girls could be here in Charming years from now, that he would be seeing them on the daily or damn close to it. Taking the last of the bags from Dennis, he set them on a shelf and ushered everyone back out of the supply room, he tried to get his equilibrium back. “Maybe Abel will be into pink.” As everyone chuckled, he locked the door. “I need a beer, let’s get into the clubhouse.”
Striding towards the clubhouse, he could hear the murmuring between Ope, Eric, and Dennis as they followed.
About halfway back to Charming, Jax grimaced a little as the rain started to fall. He had been hoping they would beat the weather back to the clubhouse, but unfortunately Mother Nature had decided otherwise.
He didn’t mind riding in the rain, never had. But, in his experience, chicks were usually not as okay with it as he was. “You okay, babe?” He called back.
He received a hard pat on his abdomen and could feel her breath in his ear. “I’m not made of sugar, I won’t melt.” The breathiness of her laughter in his ear made his spine tingle. “Besides, this is better than freaking snow.”
He wouldn’t argue that fact. Not that he had a lot of experience with the stuff.
“But, I wouldn’t argue with getting back sooner rather than later, though.” Her voice humorous, but with a trace of urgency. “You know, before I feel like a drowned kitten.”
He laughed. “Yes, ma’am!” Speeding up just a hair. While the rain wasn’t heavy enough to really make the roads slick, he didn’t want to take the risk with Jules on the back of his bike.
By the time they reached Charming, and the clubhouse, the rain had changed from a constant drizzle to a steady pour. Jules jumped off the bike before he could even get it parked, hustling over to Red who was at the picnic tables that were shielded from the rain, holding a couple of towels.
By the time he made it to the tables, Jules already had her helmet off and was drying her hair.
He accepted the towel Red offered him. “Thanks, man.”
Red shrugged. “Figured neither one of you wanted to drip your way through the clubhouse.” The man looked at Jules with big brother face. “Go get out of those wet clothes and get a warm shower.” Red’s lips twitched to fight a smile, but the eye-roll was heavy. “Bobby said he’d make you a brandy hot chocolate when you’re done.”
He chuckled as Jules beamed. “Awesome!” Then turned to him. “Dude, you better be phenomenal in bed, otherwise I’m leaving your ass for Bobby.” Laughing as she made her way inside.
He looked over to Red who was shaking his head with a half mortified, half dying of laughter look on his face. As he went to open his mouth, Red put his hands up, the laughter starting to win out. “That sounds like a personal conversation that I should not be any part of…” Red started to laugh. “No matter how amusing it would be.”
Then Red turned and followed his sister inside. He stood there for a minute, shaking his head in amusement of his own. Then, feeling the cold, wet denim starting to stick to him, he sighed and followed the other two into the clubhouse. Dry clothes were a necessity.
Jules had planned on booking through the clubhouse and straight back to her room, to a hot shower and dry clothing. But as always, Dennis put a wrench into that plan the second she walked in the door.
Dennis, along with Tig, Chibs, Ope and Juice were gathered around one table with papers all over it. None of them even looked up as she closed the door to Eric’s trying to be embarrassed face and Jax’s speechlessness.
She glanced over to Bobby, who was sitting with Happy at the bar. Bobby gave her an indulgent smile. “Plans for your daughter’s birthday, which is apparently in a few weeks.” Bobby’s smile grew wider. “What kind of cake does she want?”
She rolled her eyes. “Jesus, fuck.” She shook her wet hair at him, as she called out to Dennis. “What the fuck are you planning?”
Dennis looked up, and the shifty fucker grabbed the papers up, as he gave the other guys a ‘shut the fuck up’ look, hammering it home to Juice with a punch on the arm when Juice went to talk. “Nothin’, nothin’ at all.” Butter wouldn’t have melted in his mouth, the lying little prick.
Eric’s voice came from behind her. “You’re so full of shit, Den.” She felt Eric poke her in the back as Jax came in the door looking as soaked as she was. “Go get into dry clothes, at the very least, before you interrogate the fuckwit.”
She could see by the looks on the other’s faces that they had figured out that this was nearly a term of endearment between Eric and Den.
Dennis scoffed. “Like she can break me, you gigantic mother-hen.” She felt Jax’s hand around her wrist and he started to pull her towards the dorm.
She ignored Dennis and smiled at the others around the table, then looked back to Den. “Who says I have to break you, idiot?” She wanted to giggle at the looks the others were exchanging, but Jax was already closing the door, separating the two of them from the others.
Even looking like a drowned puppy, Jax looked relaxed in a way she hadn’t seen yet, and it made something go a little wobbly in her chest. A good wobbly. It wasn’t something she had ever really felt before, but it felt good and right.
Well, who knew that epiphanies really did somehow feel like being struck by a lightning bolt of impermeable knowledge? But, as she was finding out, it sure as hell did.
She could spend the rest of her life with this man, in this place. Take Sophie and Abel and any other kiddos that may come along and make a fucking life here. Yeah, certainly felt like a lightning bolt to her.
Jax must have seen some of the realizations she had come to over her face, because, even though he hadn’t lost any of the relaxed stance, there was now a certain vibrancy to it. A slow smile crossed his face as he leaned over and gave her a small, soft kiss.
“I think we take Red’s advice and get into dry clothes, go back out and show Dennis that here, you have back-up that makes any threat he’d like to make, a moot point.” Sly grin on his face and mischief in his eyes.
She laughed. Goddamn, she really could spend the rest of her life with him as her partner-in-crime, so to speak. “Hell, yeah.” Kissing him back. “You’ll be dressed before I am, just give a knock before you come in.”
Getting into her and Sophie’s temporary quarters, she turned the light on and was astonished to see not only a running stroller, but a toddler bed, complete with mattress and bedding. There was a note from Eric on the box with the bed. ‘I’ll put this together once I know where you and Soph are staying. If I put it together here, she’ll want to stay here, and that can’t happen. -E’
Eric, once again, wasn’t wrong. The clubhouse was fine for a night or two, and fine in the daytime hours, but it wasn’t a place for a toddler to reside. For any length of time, barring emergencies. And big brother was putting his foot down about it. She got the hint.
Sighing, she set that thought aside as she dug in her bags for dry clothing. Grabbing her old Stanford Tennis sweatshirt and a pair of panties, she snagged the leggings she had been wearing earlier in the day as she went into the bathroom to get out of wet clothes, dry off, get into dry clothes and get wet clothes hanging to dry in the shower.
She heard Jax knock and slip into the room as she was getting into dry clothing. Opening the door, she saw that he had slipped into SAMCRO sweats and another blinding white t-shirt.
Jax read the note on the bed and then looked back over to her. Wrapping a towel around her hair to get it a little drier, she put her hands out in a ‘what do you want me to say’ gesture.
Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Jax gestured for her to take a seat. She had a feeling messing with Den and the others was going to have to wait a few minutes. She sat next to him, their thighs plastered together.
She waited him out. The vibe in the room wasn’t tense, but it was serious. Jax took her hand and was tracing what she thought she remembered to be her lifeline on her palm; looking at her with an air of ‘this is where it all begins’.
Jax spoke just as she was starting to lose patience. “Your brother is right; you and Sophie can’t stay here much longer.” He gave her a grim smile. “The clubhouse really is no place for a little girl.”
As much as she wanted to be a smart-ass, she knew this probably wasn’t the time. “No, it’s not.” She shrugged. “I suppose I could check out the house that Rip…”
Jax interrupted. “No.” There was no arguing with the tone in his voice. This was the VP of SAMCRO talking. “Neither of you are stepping foot in that place until we figure out who that fuck was working for and why the hell they want it.” His tone softened some. “It’s on the outskirts of town, isolated.” He shook his head. “I have no idea why Rip Jones even bought it, if it was meant as a hidey-hole for you and Sophie anyway.”
She shrugged. She had the feeling Rip never had intended it to be a hideaway. When he had told her about the box, she had felt it had more to do with giving her an out from Ray if she felt she needed one. But, since they were both gone, she guessed it really didn’t matter anyway.
“Well, I suppose Sophie and I could stay at Gemma’s.” She hadn’t noticed a lot of hotels in town.
Jax sat still for a moment, then shifted slightly, like he was almost nervous. “You could stay at my place.” Then rushed on, maybe he was more nervous than she had originally thought. “Mom already packed all of Wendy’s stuff and it’s all out of there.” A slight smile crossed his face. “Pretty sure she went through the whole place with bleach.” Then the smile disappeared. “She’s gotta redo Abel’s room.” She could see he was trying to reign in anger. “Kohn broke in.”
“And destroyed an infant’s room?!” She rolled her eyes. “Wow. That’s…” She shook her head. “Deranged.”
Jax nodded in agreement, not looking away from her. She knew that he had taken a risk, just putting the idea of her and Sophie staying at his place out in the universe was a huge step. “You didn’t give me an answer.”
She shrugged, with a smirk. “I don’t remember a question. Just an idea.”
Now he rolled his eyes, as he gave her a sideways smirk. “You always like this? Gotta make everything a pain in my ass?” His voice was teasing.
“Maybe.” She teased right back. “I guess you’re just going to have to find out in time, huh?”
He laughed. “Think I already have that figured out.” The laughter faded, but the smile remained. “So? Would you and Sophie like to stay at my place?”
She sighed. She wasn’t sure. No, that wasn’t right, she was sure she wanted to and that scared the fuck out of her. Because if shit didn’t work out, it wasn’t just her getting hurt, it was Soph, and she’d avoided relationships because she didn’t want Sophie to get her little baby heart broken.
Jax must have felt her trepidation. Taking her hand, he squeezed it. “I know it’s fast as all hell, but…” He shrugged almost sheepishly. “I think I’m okay with that.” The pressure on her hand increased. “Think about it.” Leaning in, he kissed her quick and hard. “I don’t expect an answer right this second.”
She let out a breath of relief, kissing him back. “Thank you.” Then smiled at him. “I’m too fucking tired to make life decisions right this moment.” She looked to the door. “But, I could go for a beer and making Den squirm for a bit.” Then turned back to him with a grin. “You down?”
He smiled as he stood, pulling her with him. “Sounds good, babe.” Taking her hand and leading her out to the clubhouse.