It’s morning and I am standing alone in the kitchen. No matter how late I have slept - if what I do can be called sleep at all - I always wake up at the same time I got used to by a burly sergeant screaming in my ear back in training for becoming a SEAL.
I have both hands on the kitchen countertop just to keep the world from exploding. Two hours in the gym and one hour running and still my body is coiled, tense as if there is a gun glued against it.
I shake my head and wipe my sweaty hands on my t-shirt. I wash my hands and then I go straight to the fridge to take out the ingredients I need. I look through the cupboards and I find some more. One thing can relax me and that is freaking cooking.
If my SEAL team could see me constantly cooking, baking, stirring pots and shit, they would laugh. Or not. Each one of us has found his way to deal with the shit we’ve been through in the service.
I make sure I got everything I need for a big serving of quiche and focus on that. I can control the ingredients, I am in charge of the recipe, I am on top of the result. I create something. I am peaceful.
“Good morning, Wood,” I hear a voice behind me.
And there goes my peace. I grind my teeth and I fuss with my beard nervously as I turn to face the woman behind me. It’s been a fucking long time and then some, asshole. Get over it, I scream in my mind.
“Morning, Iris,” my voice is too rough.
“What are you making?”
Iris walks up to me and it takes all I got not to wrap her with my look. Fail, I withdraw my eyes but not before I get her all in. She is in jean shorts, not as short as other women wear them around the Riders, and a halter blue blouse that makes her grey eyes turn a hint of blue. Her look is clear, open, true. That look was what got me so captivated in the first place. That petit woman walking up to me with a genuine smile is the only one I ever thought of…
“I am making a quiche.” I stop my thoughts before they get too far gone.
“Quiche.” Iris looks at the counter. “Need help?”
I stiffen. I can’t stand having her around. It’s too fucking painful. I wanted that woman, I was ready to claim her as mine. But she is Rage’s Valkyrie. She has the tatt on her back and his name on her ring finger. Rage has her name on the fingers of his right hand and a single, striking blue iris flower where his heart is. She loves him. She chose him, not me.
“Nah, I am good,” I am proud I managed to muster a smile.
Putting on a façade is so fucking easy. In a sense, Rage is the sane one. They all call him psycho but all he does is let the darkness inside show, not caring what others think. I may be twice as fucked up as him and I am hiding behind a mask, scared shitless of letting people in.
“So,” I turn to the counter, “how come you dropped by the clubhouse?”
“I still work across the street, Wood.” Iris starts to prepare coffee for everyone like she did every morning before moving in with Rage in a house they bought together. “Work is getting more hectic and now more people ask for me specifically.”
“You should do a worse job then,” I reply. “I hear there are people coming across the Bay to have you tune their cars.”
Iris chuckles and I feel a knife plunge into my heart. I should have made a move back when she first came in. I saw her light under that shroud of fear she had enclosed herself in. We were close then. She was a newcomer, I was still a thrall. We spent hours together, me helping her out, her taking care of the Riders. I was such a fucking fool.
“I got an offer by a NASCAR team,” Iris says timidly.
“Fuck! That’s great!” I drop what I am doing and focus on her.
“I…I don’t know…I don’t want to leave the Riders,” Iris licks her lips and I follow the move. “And I don’t know how Rage will take it.”
“You haven’t told him?”
“Not yet. Actually, you are the first person I’ve told.”
Another knife, deeper this time. Iris always trusted me and considered me a friend. A friend and nothing more. She was Rage’s even before either knew about it. But it feels so fucking good that she trusts me so. I can savor that, hold on to that and leave all other thoughts aside.
“Talk it through with him, Iris. Rage loves you,” he does damn him, “and he would never get in the way of your dreams.”
“Thanks, Wood.” Iris puts one hand on my shoulder and I suddenly feel hot. “It’s always good to talk to you.”
“Anytime, girl,” I strain to utter and go back to my cooking.
Iris checks the fridge, unloads the washing machine, makes a few notes of things the thralls need to buy and then walks away.
“Have a good day, Wood,” she throws at me.
“You too, Iris,” I look over my shoulder.
Damn, she looks so good. This is fucked-up I know as much but the fact that Iris looks so dashing does nothing to help with my throbbing head. She is the perfect mixture of innocence and sensuality. And she belongs to a brother. I decide to take my frustration out on the eggs and I do just that.