I worry that her lily-white skin will get burned under the sun but I don’t have the heart to tell her to go. I am sitting on the sand and though there are so many people around us, I watch only her. She has taken her shoes off and she is standing where the waves lick the sand, her legs knee deep in the water. Her eyes are closed and she looks up in the sky. From where I am sitting, I can see a smile on those big lips of hers.
Seeing that smile makes me smile too. I can’t resist it, there is no fighting it. I am smiling and I am not doing it to pretend I am OK. I am really, genuinely smiling because this girl is enjoying the beach.
A flash from last night comes to my mind and I scowl. I kissed her. She came to comfort me and I took advantage of her. I forced her to me, I pushed her to my body, I placed my lips on hers. And the worst part is that I still think of it and in the back of my head, I don’t regret it.
I don’t regret it because I have never kissed fuller lips, never held a warmer body, never smelled a deeper scent. Those moments, with Tamie in my arms, caressing my hair, moving in that slow way, I was a goner.
"Motherfucking asshole,” I light a cigarette and shake my head.
When I look up, I see one of these Californian boys, with their artificially buffed bodies and their clean-shaved faces talk to Tamie. I get up and I walk to them. I stop right where the water reaches the shore and I eye the asshole. Too blonde, too tanned, too steroid-fed, too fucking stupid.
“Tamie,” I say and her head snaps to me.
She turns to come to me but he grabs her arm. Motherfucking idiot, I fume and my fists clench at my sides.
“Where are you going, beautiful?” He asks still holding her.
Tamie says nothing, just tries to wiggle away and come to me. For a while, my anger is subdued. She doesn’t want to be close to that stupid jerk. She wants to come to me. When I meet her eyes, she is longing to be by my side. Good!
“Let her go,” I growl.
“What’s your deal, man? I was talking to the girl.”
“I said. Let. Her. Go.”
The asshole releases Tamie that darts to my side and pulls me away. I pull her to me but I don’t move. All I do is eye the boy that dares come to my face, two of his buddies falling behind him.
“Maybe the girl prefers to stay with me. You her uncle or something?”
I take a drag from my cigarette and let the smoke out. If it wasn’t for the messed-up situation we are in, I wouldn’t mind drawing some attention to us by showing those boys what real pain feels like. Instead, I guide Tamie before me and I walk away.
“Damn right, walk away. Pity,” I hear the asshole say to his friends, “she seems like a good fuck.”
I stop and stiffen on the spot.
“Wood,” Tamie reads me correctly.
I put out my cigarette and I turn to them. I walk to that dead motherfucker and I get in his face. He scoffs and then raises his arm to punch me. I smile. I am too tense and a fight is always a good way to blow some steam even if it is with some worthless jocks.
I avoid that lame punch and I connect my fist with his stomach. He lets out a sigh and folds in half but not for long. My knee gets him in the head and he falls on his back, unconscious on the beach.
I eye his friends but none of them seems willing to risk those expensive pearl teeth so they back away and look down at their friend. Pity. They all seemed like a good fuck.
“Let’s go,” I grab Tamie and we walk away from the beach.
I want to go to the SUV and get the hell away but there are several people watching us and I don’t want to risk them getting our plates. So, I guide Tamie to the beach front.
“Hungry?” I ask her.
She looks up to me perplexed and a little bit scared. I scared her. I ruined her day. That’s who I am.
“You hurt that man.”
“Because of me,” the hurt in her voice makes me lose it.
I stop and take her by the arm to me. I pin her with my look and I involuntarily glance down her lips. That asshole thought that this perfect creature was worthy of him. He got less than what he deserved. I shake with anger and I am this close to going back and finish the job.
“I hurt him because he was an asshole, kitten. I hurt him because he dared looked at what is m...”
I stop before I finish that sentence. I am going mad. I am losing the little sanity I have left. How could I ever think that Tamie is mine? She is Iris’s sister, she is Rider family, she was abused for years and the last thing she needs is more violence in her life. But she is stuck with me. At least for today.
“Let’s go eat,” I release her and I walk to one of those fancy restaurants on the beach.
Tamie is eating her food quietly though we both feel all eyes on us. I should have picked the pizza place. This is a posh restaurant and we are both the odd ones out. I am too ragged, too tattooed, too biker and she is too fresh, too real, too genuinely beautiful for this place. At least the food is good.
Though I could have picked a simpler dish. This shit upon shit is getting on my nerves and for a while, I simply arrange my plate so I can fucking eat at peace. There is a reason I like a simple steak.
“Wood?” Tamie asks and I look up to her.
She looks down at my plate for a few seconds and I know I must be coming across as a lunatic, separating and arranging ingredients so they don't touch. Cooking for others is OK but I want my plate...
"Yeah," I ignore her look and dig into my food finally.
We got a table outside. I was against it but Tamie looked at me with those eyes and I simply did what she asked. We are sitting under an umbrella but I still see that the sun got to her and she has a few freckles on her cheeks. I have never in my life seen anything cuter.
"I was wondering," she sighs.
“What about, kitten?” I stir away from her face and focus on my potatoes.
“Will they like me there? Where you are taking me?”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Why wouldn’t they?”
Tamie stops eating and looks away at the beach, at the people passing, the families going about.
“Because I was locked up for years for men to use me. I am not... normal.”
I fist my fork and I want to hunt down each person in her life that made her feel this way. Daultrey is gone, her mother is dead, Freddie is in pieces but all these other motherfuckers deserve to have their dicks cut off for reducing her to a fuck bag.
“Well,” I put on my light mask for her, “then it’s a good thing no one is normal there.”
Tamie turns to me and smile.
“I have only met Rage and you but somehow, I believe you.”
“Hey! You put me in the same league with Rage?” I pretend to be offended. “Am I not normal?”
She glances down at my plate and shrugs. I shake my head and smirk only to have her face relax into a true smile. Her smile turns to a light laughter and my heart tightens. God, she is so beautiful! From the moment I saw her on the Thing’s wall to now, I can’t get over on the simple fact that she is a beautiful woman.
“You are definitely not,” she jokes, dives in her pasta and I smile at her.
"I'll take that as a compliment."
“Wood?” She asks again. “What were you dreaming last night?”
My smile withers, the sun is blocked, the world darkens around me. The happy chatter of people turns to screams, the heat is now desert heat. And I am back there once again. To the place without fancy restaurants and peaceful beachfront walks. To where death duels at every corner.
“Forgive me, Wood,” Tamie says hastily. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
I look up to her and she is looking at me crushed. My heart tightens once again. I’d give everything to stop her feeling this way.
“I was a soldier,” I say abruptly and keep eating.
My tone was strict enough to let her know that I am not going to talk about it. Not with her, not with anyone.