Heather Rhodes’ POV
I-80 in Nebraska
It was near dinnertime, and we had been driving since before midnight. In our hurry to get away from Minnesota, we stopped only to get gas, food, and to use the bathrooms. The big vehicle was comfortable, and we had been rotating driving, shotgun, and sleeping in the backseat. I was driving now, and I was starving. “Are we going to stop for food,” I asked Roadkill as I saw the signs for places to eat in Grand Island.
“I think it’s time we stop for the night, the babies need to have some time out of their car seats,” he said from the back seat.
“That sounds like a decent place,” Possum said as she read the sign. I put on my blinker well before the exit, making sure the SUV behind me in our little convoy got the idea. We exited and drove a few blocks to Joy’s Place Steak and Pasta, parking in the lot. I took the keys out and handed the to Roadkill before stepping out into the cold and snow. “I could eat half a cow,” Possum said as she came around the back.
“I’ll take the rest,” Roadkill said as he took her hand in his.
I stretched before opening the back door of the second SUV. “How are the babies doing,” I asked.
“They don’t like travel much,” Laura said as she got out of the passenger seat. “At least they are sleeping now.” Her husband, Brent, walked in with Possum and Roadkill as I took Cheryl in her car seat, covered by a blanket. Brenda got out, and Zoe handed over baby Mark to her before she followed. We walked inside as Laura stayed behind us, alert and with a hand in her pocket. Brent held the door open for us as we walked in, and my stomach growled with the smell. Fast food and gas station snacks didn’t compare to corn-fed beef and pasta.
The hostess led us to a large round table in the back, and the car seats put on each side of the nanny’s chairs. I didn’t miss how Brent was next to Cheryl, and Laura was on the other side next to Mark. I’d asked about it after the first few stops, and knew why they were here. They would protect me, but their primary job was to protect Rori and Chase’s babies. The nannies would care for them, but they weren’t trained bodyguards like the couple was. I took a seat next to Laura; I wanted to find out more about her. She was beautiful and deadly, just like I wanted to be.
The food was good, and in between bites, I learned more about Laura’s background and training. She had been born into a family of warriors, but her older brother was nineteen years older than her. She learned to shoot pistols at eight, rifles at nine, and hand-to-hand combat at twelve. “You didn’t spend your teen years on makeup and boys,” I guessed.
“Only to cover the bruises from sparring,” she said with a smile. “I was raised to project strength because I would not allow weakness in my body or mind.”
“Didn’t that make you an outcast?”
“Not In the small town where I grew up. The Canadian Rockies are for the strong, and men and women need to be fierce to survive. Nothing is a given; your reputation is what you make it.”
She was right; I had a new name, a new life, and right now, my reputation was shit. I was a whiny, injured, helpless teen who wasn’t good enough for a fighter like Greg. That was why they sent him away; to keep us apart until he came to his senses. I was a Club Princess, and he deserved a fierce partner like Laura, not me. “What kind of fighting do you do?”
“Mixed martial, it allows me to combine disciplines,” she said. “I learn everything; I know boxing, wrestling, karate, taekwondo, Krav Maga, and some Brazilian Jujitsu. I also compete in three-gun competitions locally to stay sharp.” Three-gun was pistol, rifle, and shotgun; I’d seen a little, and it looked like fun. “Have you fought before?”
I couldn’t believe she hadn’t heard about my background; then again, I was injured and needed a bodyguard. “In my past life, I was an Under-18 state champion in Judo in my weight class,” I said. “I haven’t worked on it since getting shot. I’m only now able to start running and lifting again.”
“You should train with us,” she said with a smile. “I love fighting specialists because they can teach me new techniques. We can teach you how to defend yourself with your hands, knives, and guns.”
“You fight your husband?” I looked across the table at him; Laura was athletic and fit, but Brent was a good eight inches taller and almost twice her weight.
“We don’t just wrestle under the sheets, but that’s the only place I let him pin me,” she said in a whisper.
I blushed as she laughed, and somehow Brent must have heard. “She’s not an easy opponent for anyone, regardless of size. I found that out when I met her.”
“Oh, this story I have to hear,” I said.
“I was in Winnepeg, at an underground fight club. I was there with a few friends because we had to drive a thousand miles to get away from my reputation and get better odds,” she said with a grin. “I’d just dispatched the only woman who would fight me, but the odds were shit. I yelled out that I’d fight anyone, male or female, who had the guts to get in the ring with me.”
“I was in the locker room with my buddy Tony, who was in the main fight,” Brent said. “The owner came in and said this hot chick was challenging anyone, and the bitch needed to learn her place. He offered $500 for the fight, and I took him up on it.” He smiled at Laura as he told the story. “I quickly changed and went out to the cage, only to see the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in the other corner. It was love at first sight.”
“You fought each other for a first date,” I said as I almost choked on my T-bone.
“I kicked his ass,” Laura said with a smile. “I needed the money bad. I had to win, even if all I wanted to do was kiss him and take him home. He didn’t even throw a punch! All he wanted to do was wrestle with me.”
“Still all I want to do,” he added with a laugh.
“I knocked him down with a spinning heel kick, then choked him out. After I changed and collected my prize money, I waited for him outside the locker room. My friends went home without me; we got married the next weekend. Eight years now and going strong.”
It was a great story and a great meal. There was a storm coming over the Rockies, so we ended up staying in a mom and pop motel for a day as we waited it out. When we arrived in Las Vegas, we unloaded Roadkill’s Harley and waited for him to talk to Aces. Nobody was surprised when two Harleys returned to where we were parked. Bunny was off the motorcycle before it parked, running over and embracing me in a hug as the others watched. “OHMYGODI’MSOGLADYOU’REALIVE,” she said in one breath.
“Hi Bunny,” I said as I pushed her back enough that my face wasn’t pressed down into her ample cleavage. She was a Jessica Rabbit in real life, and in those heels, she towered over me. Aces came over and pulled me into a hug. The big man was crying as Bunny embraced us both. “Thanks for taking us in, President.”
“Aces,” he said as he let me go. “You’re family while you are here. I miss your parents every day.”
“The Club will be around for protection if we call, but we won’t be staying at the Clubhouse,” Roadkill said.
“I’ve got a little place outside town I’ll be putting you up in,” Aces said. “It’s isolated and owned by one of my real estate investment companies. Only the Club Officers and their Old Ladies will know who you are and why you are here.”
“So, I’m locked in a bigger prison?” I was beginning to wonder when I’d be free again.
“Hardly. There are miles of desert roads out there, and you have your rides. I’d ask that you ride with me, or a Club member, so we can keep you out of sight and trouble.”
“I’m not TRYING to be trouble, Aces.”
“I know, girl. It keeps finding you.” We got back in the cars and followed him for another forty minutes, ending up in a desert canyon well north of town. We pulled up in front of an expansive home, no, MANSION, built in the Southwest style of adobe and mesquite. My jaw was open as Aces and Bunny walked up. “Will this work for you?”
“Holy shit,” I said.
“Yeah, it’s not bad,” Bunny said. “Come on; I’ll give you all the tour, then you can settle in.” The place was lavish, and I was kind of jealous of the master suite that Roadkill was taking. The guest bedroom I was in was just as fancy, with a Jacuzzi overlooking the back and a doorway leading to the enclosed garden courtyard. Brent and Laura’s room was across the hall, and the nursery was next to them. The nannies were sharing a room by mine.
The home had a gym, including a ring, and Laura was smiling as we spotted it. Over the next few months, we’d get to know that room pretty well. We grilled chicken for dinner by the pool in the outdoor kitchen, and that night I slept for twelve hours.
When I woke, I had to run to the bathroom. I barely made it before I started throwing up. I flushed and leaned back against the wall as someone knocked on my door. “Heather?”
It was Laura’s voice. Our bathrooms adjoined, and she probably heard my retching. “Come in,” I said. Her nose wrinkled as she walked into the bathroom and smelled my vomit. She helped me up, and I rinsed my mouth out before starting to brush my teeth.
“Are you all right?”
“I must have had some bad chicken.”
She came up and checked my forehead. “No fever.” She turned me around. “Are these sore,” she asked as she squeezed my breasts.
“Ow,” I said.
“Heather, when was your last period?”
Oh my GOD. No. It couldn’t be. I thought back, and I just knew. “The second weekend of November.”
“You’ve had intercourse since then?”
I nodded. “We used condoms, except…”
She shook her head. “It only takes once. Was it with Greg Barks?” I nodded, tears starting to run down my face. He’d knocked me up, and now that I needed him, he was gone. “We’ll get a test and find out for sure.”
“What am I going to do,” I asked her as she pulled me into a hug.
“You’re going to become a kick-ass mother,” she said. “You aren’t in this alone.”
The test later that day was positive, and Aces sent a doctor to the home to examine me. He confirmed the pregnancy and informed me of my options. It would be easy to abort, but I couldn’t kill our love child. I just hoped he would be happy when he found out, and that all the talk of love and being together wasn’t bullshit. I wrote a long letter and gave it to Roadkill to send back to Arrowhead, where Ron could forward it to Greg.
I could still work out and train, and with little else to do, I focused on that. We would wake early and get in a morning run before the temperature rose. When we returned, we worked on firearms training. They didn’t want me exposed to lead dust, so we used high-end air pistols and rifles instead. After lunch we’d do Mixed Martial Arts and Krav Maga; in the evening, we’d practice knife fighting and throwing. Laura was determined to make me a badass, and along with long motorcycle rides, it kept me from worrying excessively about Greg, and his reaction to our child.
Two months passed with no word from him.
I’d need his love and support more than I ever imagined. At my twelve-week check, the ultrasound showed I was pregnant with fraternal twins.