Bear is sending us in to deal with some loan shark that started operating in our territory about eighteen months ago, been ripping people off for years but he made a mistake doing it here. We’re only going into a small apartment in the shitty part of town because his second in command, Earl, works out of there and we need him for information.
“Breaker, Runner, Reign. You’re up. Bring Earl to me, the others you can kill.” Reign and Runner both stock up on weapons while I stand off to the side waiting for them. I don’t take weapons other than the knife strapped to my back but I hardly ever use it, it’s really only there because I’ve never gone without it. Think of it as a lucky charm or extra protection.
Saviour walks in with baby Miracle to speak to her husband and her best friend, both of which fawn over the little baby in her arms.
Miracle was born about six months ago, Doc said she came out perfect despite the circumstances and they named her Hope but everyone still calls her Miracle. I suppose it stuck since her middle name is Mira. Saviour wishes me well too before the three of us mount our bikes and make the ten minute trip to the apartment. We park up in the side alley and start climbing the steps that moan with every step we take.
I make sure I’m in front since both the men I’m with have family to get back to. Runner has Romeo and their little boy Oliver (I’ve been teaching him to play cards even after Runner told me not to) and Reign has Saviour and Miracle. I’d rather take the brunt of the action if it means they can safely go back to them.
They were obviously not happy with the suggestion but conceded after a long ten minutes of them shouting at me and me not replying.
I swing open the door and immediately I notice the small figure of a woman led on the floor, bleeding. I see red and punch the biggest guy hard enough for his eyes to roll into his skull and his body to crash to the floor. I know Mac followed us with the van so that’s where this fucker will go. While I dealt with the big guy, Reign and Runner shot the other three.
I hear a small cry of pain from the woman and creep towards her, her hazel eyes are blurry and her neck, face and most likely her torso are bruised from her assault. I look over her, from her deep chocolate hair to the small frame dressed in simple jeans and a sweater. I gently lift her into my arms and almost collapse at the warmth I feel from her touch. I don’t normally appreciate being touched, I do it because most social situations require it but I’ve never craved it, not like I do right now.
She smells sweet and feels soft with her hair tickling my neck and her little nose twitching as she falls into unconsciousness. I bring her closer to my chest when we get outside as she starts to shiver in my hold as the brisk air washes over her and bites at her freckled cheeks. Reign and Runner bring Earl down and Mac laughs. “Really? You’re the strongest and you’re carrying the tiniest girl while they have to lug that man mountain?”
I ignore him, still focusing on the small beauty in my arms. What on Earth was she doing in that apartment? I couldn’t imagine someone as innocent looking as her finding herself into trouble, maybe she has family involved or something. “Give her here, Breaker, I’ll get her back to the clubhouse in the van.” Mac gestures for me to pass her to him but a wave of protectiveness washes over me.
What if she wakes up without me? She obviously trusted me enough to pass out in my arms even after what she just went through. I don’t even have it in me to shake my head, I just tug her closer to me without looking away and Mac sighs heavily. “Okay, give me the keys to your bike. You drive the van back.” I manoeuvre her so that we can trade keys before I gently lay her in the passenger seat of the van, doing her seatbelt seconds later.
The drive back is short, I panic slightly as her breathing gets shallower and I’m grateful that Reign called ahead so Doc and Saviour are ready to treat her these wounds. I bring her back to my chest and almost sigh in relief as her cheek rests back against my cut, it’s like she senses me as she curls further into my embrace.
As I lay her on the table in the clubhouse with everyone watching, I find myself lingering near her head so that I’m out of Doc’s way but still close enough to hear her soft breaths and feel the warmth she emits. “Jesus Christ, what did they do to her?” Doc exclaims as he lifts her top slightly, forcing everyone to turn around in respect since he’s stripping her. I turn and face the wall but maintain the same distance.
“What do you mean, Doc?” Bear asks, leaning on the bar and forcing one of the prospects to turn their head.
“She has bruises everywhere, Prez. They did a number on her, she also has a impression on her cheek which I’d assume is from a ring. Nothing is broken but her ribs are bruised and she needs stitches for the cut on the back of her head.” He explains as he gets to work and I find myself twitching with a need to see her. It’s like my brain can’t believe that she’s okay until I see her chest rise and fall steadily.
Finally, after an agonising half an hour, Doc declares that she’s okay and I spin around to see her again. Her eyelids are flickering, whether she’s waking up or in the midst of a dream, I don’t know. I don’t even care, it means she’s alive. Suddenly, her eyes snap open, the bright hazel made golden under the lowlight. She realises where she is and tries to sit up, her body protests at the movement but she powers through.
This woman is stronger than I give her credit for. She may seem fragile but I’d peg her a warrior.
I’m still stood behind her so she can’t see me as I watch her curiously. Is she gonna scream or panic? Fight her way out? Ask questions?
Her eyes flicker over the entire club - all thirty having gathered in here when they found out - before they land on me. Her body sags in relief and she shuffles across the table closer to me, almost pressing her back against my chest but leaving about an inch of space so that whenever I breathe it brushes against her.
“What’s your name, honey?” Lexie is the first one to ask questions, the Old Ladies forcing their way to the front of the crowd so that she is met with soft faces instead of the men who are probably scaring her.
“Aurora Cassidy, but people call me Cass.” Her voice is soft, hesitant and she closes that final inch, pressing herself to me as if my presence will stop her from being harmed. It will, I would kill anything that even thought about hurting her, rip them apart with my bare fucking hands.
“Cass, could you tell us what you were doing there?” Saviour continues, reaching out to touch her but she squeals and pulls herself in, bringing herself even closer to me to comfort herself.
“I was paying them, the last one and they-they said that it was a parting gift.” My chest rumbles at the idea of someone roughing a woman up after she pays them everything she owes like a fucking punishment. “Look, I’m sorry for being a hassle. If you could tell me where I am, I can get myself home.”
“You are severely injured, Cass. You need to be monitored.”
“He’s done worse, I’ll be okay.” The uproar that starts at that statement has Aurora plunge into a panic. I gently spin her around so she can see my eyes and grab her upper arms softly to keep her grounded. She takes deep breaths, her panic lessening as she grips onto the front of my shirt tightly.
Her big eyes look up at me, her eyes still fearful and at this point I’d be willing to sell my soul to get rid of that for her.