On The Road Again
Heather Rhodes’ POV
Arrowhead Pack, Roadkill’s House
New Year’s Eve Morning
The knock on the door woke me up. It was still dark out, no shock around here where the sunrise wasn’t until almost eight in the morning. I was burrowed deep under the heavy comforter with my pillow, and I didn’t want to expose my skin to the cold of the room. “What…”
“Breakfast is at the main house this morning, Heather. Get up and dressed, we need to be there in twenty minutes, or we’ll miss it.” I just groaned, wondering why I couldn’t just sleep in and have Eggos or something later. Looking at my phone, it was six thirty-five.
“I’m not hungry,” I said.
“You need to get out of your room, so get moving, or I’ll get you out of bed my way.”
I didn’t need that. Possum practically invented the Ice Bucket Challenge before it became popular. She would use it to get guys out of the Clubhouse in the morning when the crew needed to clean up. I tossed the covers back and rolled off the bed and onto my feet, heading to the small attached bathroom. Eighteen minutes later, I was dressed to go. I had on my favorite jeans, dark blue Under Armor long-sleeve shirt, Ugg boots, and a white fleece pullover. I went out to the kitchen where Roadkill was sipping coffee with Possum. “It’s not even seven,” I said.
“Two of Chase’s brothers arrived late last night, and everyone is turning out to meet them. You should be there too; they helped Chase take down the warehouse in Los Angeles.”
“That was them?” I’d seen the news, and I knew Vic, Spider Monkey, and Chase had something to do with it, but they’d been tight-lipped on the rest of it. I’d heard of Spider Monkey from when Possum got kidnapped, but she’d been out in California since I arrived back here. Since Vic didn’t seem to like me, I hadn’t heard much.
“They and some of their friends. Come on,” she said as she walked to the stairs for the basement. I’d grown to love the tunnels, as the weather outside was indeed frightful. The rope lighting and ventilation kept the tunnels cool and dry. We walked through them, up the hill to the basement of the main building. I could hear the noise upstairs as we climbed the stairs; of the three big wings that made up the dining area, one was full of people. There was a long table at the far end by the windows over the lake, and I followed them to it. I waved at a few people I knew, but not as many as I should. I’d been a secret here the first time, and after Greg Barks left me behind, I hadn’t been very social.
That was an understatement. I hadn’t left my bed except to go to the bathroom until this morning. Possum, Rori, even Mykayla came to see me but I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t want to talk about it, and I didn’t want their pity. The man I love had the shit beat out of him, then they exiled him for three months to a place that didn’t even have Skype. They were trying to break us up before we got any closer, and they didn’t know it was too late for that.
It was SO unfair, and I hated Roadkill and Chase and Rori for what they did to us.
I was stuck here on a frozen lakeshore. My love was overseas. My parents were dead, and no one was left for me to take vengeance on. I was still in hiding. All of my friends from Orlando said goodbye to me at my funeral. There was no Steel Brotherhood chapter up here to hang out at. Even my new motorcycle was sitting in an enclosed trailer next to Roadkill’s garage, and it never even had gas in it.
I’d spent a whole day feeling sorry for myself and now I was done. The tears were gone, and I needed to decide what to do next. I can’t leave, and I can’t lose myself in a city, so I have to make something of my life here.
I had registered for online college using my fake name and high school diploma, so I could buckle down and study. It sucked having to repeat a semester of Freshman Chemistry and Algebra, but that was life.
“Are you all right, Heather,” Possum asked me as we reached the front table.
“I’ll get through this,” I said. Rori and Chase were near the center of the head table, and Possum and Roadkill were down a few spots from them, with Sawyer, Ashley, Ron, and Teri in between them. There weren’t open spots on this side, so I walked behind everyone. All the chairs at the head table were facing the rest of the room like this was a wedding or something.
“Hey, you’re Heather,” a handsome man in his late twenties said to me as I looked for a spot. “I’ve heard a lot about you. I’m Carson, Chase’s older brother.”
I smiled, how could I not appreciate a man who had risked his life to get revenge on the Sons. I jumped forward and hugged him around the waist as he held his hands up in shock. “Thank you for what you did,” I said. “I wish I could have been with you.”
His arms came down and hugged me briefly before I stepped back. “It was my pleasure, Heather. Would you join me for breakfast?”
I looked to where a gorgeous woman, tall and athletic, was coming up to him. “If it’s all right with you wife,” I said.
He looked at the woman, and they both busted out laughing a few seconds later. “I’m not with him, I mean I am, but he’s my older brother. I’m Coral, Chase’s twin sister.”
I flushed with embarrassment. “I’m sorry. Now that you say it, I see the resemblance.”
“Come on, you can sit between us,” Carson said. “Coral is married and living in Canada; her husband couldn’t make it.” He pulled out a chair for me, then with perfect manners, did the same for Coral. “All the pregnant couples are a little tough to take so you can hide with us at this end.”
I laughed at that. “Thank you. I’m a little mad at your brother right now.” As breakfast passed, they helped me forget my troubles with stories of their childhood. Everyone was leaving, and Coral excused herself. “We’ve got a big conference coming up that I have to help plan,” she said. “I’ll see you at lunch.”
I looked over at Carson. “The married couples have this one,” he said. “I’d just get in the way. What are you planning to do?”
I didn’t have anything planned; maybe work out, or try the pool I’d heard so much about. “I’m not sure,” I said.
“You like motorcycles, right?” I nodded. “Come snowmobiling with me,” he said as he gave me a wide grin. “They have loaner sleds and equipment, and I’ll teach you.”
My hand went down to my side, where I’d taken a bullet. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to,” I said. I waved Possum over; she told me I could if I took it easy, and warned Carson not to make it too fast or bumpy. We went through the tunnels to the garage, where a room held loaner suits, boots, gloves, and helmets. He helped me get dressed, and we went out to a pair of Yamaha RS Vectors in blue and black trim. “Nice,” I said as I walked alongside the machine.
He gave me a quick overview of the controls. They were simple and intuitive, the throttle and brakes the same as a motorcycle. It was actually simpler than one, as there were no gears to change. We fired them up and slowly drove them down to the lake and onto the ice. The helmets were Bluetooth-enabled like some motorcycles, so he could talk to me through our helmets. “I’ll follow you, just take it easy and get used to it.”
I accelerated to twenty miles an hour, turning side to side and learning how it handled. The ice and snow was smooth, so I opened it up until I looked down and was doing fifty. “This is GREAT,” I said. You sat much lower than on a motorcycle, and it felt faster. I looked back to see we were halfway across the lake, so I slowed and turned before letting him catch up. “Can we race?”
“Stop if you feel like you’re hurting yourself,” he said. “Race back to that green ice fishing house near where we drove onto the ice.” I could barely see it a mile away. He counted down, and I gunned the engine and released the brake when he said go. It was exhilarating; we were going eighty miles an hour in a few seconds, and it felt like a hundred. I let him win, slowing down when the bumps got to be too much. “Are you all right?”
“Just playing it safe,” I said.
“Cool. Do you want to try a trail? They have a long loop through private woods. It’s fun.”
“Take it slow,” I said. Carson drove up onto the land and to a well-traveled trail. For the next two hours, we went up and down hills, through dense forest and across grassy clearings, and along bubbling creeks. By the time we returned to the garage, I was hooked on this winter sport. “That was AMAZING,” I said as I took my helmet off. “Thank you.” I hugged him for a second time, and this time he hugged me back.
“Are you cold?”
“Not as much as I thought I’d be.” We removed the gear and left it to be cleaned and restocked, then went back through the tunnels to the main house. “Where are we going?”
“There’s nothing better after being outside for a while than a soak in a hot tub,” he said. “Come on.” He led me down a hall to the locker rooms. “Hang your stuff in a locker, and I’ll meet you on the other side.”
“I don’t have a suit,” I said as I looked at him.
“There’s extra stuff in there,” he said as he went through the door.
I pushed the door open to find a nicely-appointed locker room. A young teen was putting her clothes into a locker, already naked from the waist up. “Hi Mykayla. I'm sorry about yesterday,” I said as she turned towards me. She had come to cheer me up and I had refused to see her.
“Thanks for talking to me this time. It's nice to hang around someone more my age.”
I didn’t know what to say to that; she looked to be maybe fourteen. This place was packed with good-looking men and women, and most looked to be in their twenties or thirties. I hadn’t seen anyone who looked over fifty. Other than the babies, I didn’t see any other kids. I found an empty locker and started to undress. “Are the other teens in school?”
“I’m it. The next oldest here is four, then the babies.”
“Who do you hang out with? Do you have friends in the area?” I couldn’t imagine being a young teen and not having kids my age around.
“No, I hang out with other members and help out the pack, I mean the people. I’m home-schooled now, but next year I’m going to go to high school. That should be interesting.”
I just nodded as she walked naked to the showers and started to rinse off. “Where are the swimsuits?”
She just laughed. “Nobody in there will care, we all go naked in the pool. Who wants to deal with wet, clingy suits anyway?”
I just stared at her. “Carson is going to be in there!”
“So will a bunch of others, and nobody cares that you’re naked too. If you’re nervous, grab a towel and wrap up until we get to the hot tub.”
I’d never been a nudist, but I wasn’t a prude either. I took a quick shower and grabbed a towel, wrapping it around my body. Mykayla grabbed one too, but she just threw it over her shoulder as she walked through the door. My jaw dropped as I saw the inside; the pool, the bar and snack area, even the waterslide was something I’d only seen at large hotels. She was right, everyone was naked and no one gave me a second glance. “Ah, you made it,” Carson said from the hot tub as Mykayla got in, leaving a space for me next to him.
Six other women were in the large pool, all smiled at me then went back to talking. I thought about what to do, finally tossing the towel into a nearby chair and lowering myself into the warm water. “Oh, this is nice,” I said. The seat left me at a good height, my breasts underwater obscured by the bubbles, and a massage jet in my lower back.
“It spoils you,” Carson said as he leaned back. An older woman came over with a tray of drinks, smiling as she handed them to us. “I thought you might appreciate a fruit smoothie, it’s a little early for daiquiris.” It was wonderful, and I could already smell the pizzas cooking. “You can get lunch here?”
“I like eating in here instead of the dining room,” Mykayla said. “You can get pizza, sandwiches and other basic stuff, and you can eat whenever you want.” There were tables already filling up; people were already eating an early lunch with towels over the chairs. “I practically live in here during the winter. It makes me forget how cold it is outside.”
I could see why. The glass was frosted over, hiding us from anyone looking in, and the building and the hillside meant no one on the lake could see you. “Pretty nice.” We sat in the tub until it got too hot, then took a dip in the pool before having pizza for lunch. My nervousness at nudity forgotten, I accepted this as my new normal. The only weird thing was how all the women were beautiful, and all the men ripped. I loved my Greg, but everyone looked like they belonged on a calendar. “Why are there so many more women here? Time of day?”
“It’s just how it ended up. All of the men are married or in a relationship except me,” Carson said.
I looked at the gorgeous man in the next chair. “I’d think you’d be fighting them off,” I said.
He laughed. “I’m glad you’re here. You aren’t interested in me, but you keep the single women away.”
“You’re not gay, are you? I mean, nothing wrong with that if you are.”
He laughed even harder. “No. Someday I might find a woman who can become more than a fling, but today is not that day.”
I left it alone after that, sensing the sadness in his statement. Someone had hurt him badly. I was disappointed when he had to help Chase, who I still didn’t want to see. I liked Mykayla; she was like the kid sister I never had. I was shocked when she said she was an orphan, and I gave her a big hug. She didn’t have adoptive parents; she had two older women she stayed with who were her guardians. She checked with one and got permission to sleepover in my room. We spent the afternoon in my room watching Netflix and eating junk food, then went back to the pool and stayed there until nine. We headed back to my room and turned on the Times Square broadcast when the door barged open. “Possum?”
“We have to relocate you, Heather. Now. Pack all your stuff now. we’re leaving before midnight. No phone, no electronics, leave that all here.”
“It has to be. Mykayla, go to storage and get some boxes and bags. No arguments, pack everything you can, and we’ll take it out to the trailer. Don’t leave anything behind as we may not come back.”
“We’re taking the motorcycles?”
“Everything. Hurry up.” Mykayla took off, and I started pulling stuff out of my closet and drawers. I filled up five suitcases and two boxes with clothes, and another two boxes with my stuff. A few more people showed up, taking the things outside. I packed one small bag to take in the car and went out to where Roadkill’s Expedition was attaching to the enclosed trailer. It was filled full. “Who else is leaving?”
“We’re going with you this time,” Roadkill said. “We’re taking them too.” A second Expedition pulled up, this one had a rough-looking man and three women in it. As they loaded more bags, I saw the twins.
“We’re taking Rori’s babies?”
“We have to keep them safe. There’s another threat coming.” I didn’t say any more as we loaded up; if Rori was sending her babies away, it must be a grave situation. A man came up and handed me a bag, telling me to open it when I was gone. I tossed it on the back seat. There were no long goodbyes; I waved to Mykayla as we pulled out into the night.
I looked in the bag; it had bundles of cash, a few bank books and debit cards, and another set of identification showing me with red hair. I zipped it back up and set it on the floor.
“Where are we going,” I finally asked as we turned south on Highway 61 towards Duluth.
“We don’t know,” Possum said. “We figured we would leave before deciding, that way no one at Arrowhead can help them find us, even if tortured. We have to get well away from here; nothing in the Midwest, Northeast, Rockies, or Pacific Northwest. We can’t go to Florida or the Southeast because of the press coverage on you down there.”
I was reeling at the implications of what she just said. Half the country was out of the question. I looked out at the frozen landscape. “I suppose the Caribbean is out of the question?”
“We have to drive there, and we’re going to need protection, even if we’re hiding out,” Roadkill said. “We’re going to need the Brotherhood.”
“Isn’t that a risk for me? They all know who I am, and all it would take is one person saying something,” I said.
“The Brotherhood would never betray you, Heather. They kept Rori safe for years, moving around between Chapters,” Roadkill said.
“Which chapter? Who do we trust with the lives of Heather and our grandchildren,” Possum said as she looked out at the homes along Lake Superior, all lit up with Christmas lights.
“I’ve only met a few of the other Ladies at parties,” I said. “Mom was friends with Bunny out of Vegas.”
The two looked at each other. “That’s a good idea,” Roadkill said. “Aces still owns lots of real estate and Vegas is easy to disappear in.”
“And we can ride,” I said with a smile.
“But not gamble. Casinos have facial-recognition technology and security you wouldn’t believe. You aren’t going anywhere near the Strip.”
Fine. Desert rides and warm weather were in my future. As much fun as Arrowhead had been, I could leave the snow and cold behind.
I needed to return in three months to see my man, though.