I close the door behind me and I swallow the tears that come over me. I have never cried. Never cried when my parents threw me out of the house cause I did some stupid thing most kids do. Didn’t cry when I joined the Army, was given a gun and killed the first man. Didn’t cry when all my squad was butchered and I was helpless.
But turning my back on Tamie as she pleaded me to be with her, that broke my limits. I didn’t sleep all night after we... She let go in my arms and she was sleeping even before I set her down. I cleaned her face and her body and all the while feeling so disgusted with myself.
Her words are replaying in my mind. “I am a good girl.” I took advantage of her. She was drunk and I didn’t give a shit. I know what she has been through and yet I took her against the door as if she was some whore I wouldn’t fuck properly on a bed. The way I pounded in her, how I talked to her. I don’t deserve to kiss her little toe and yet I greedily took from that broken girl.
“Shit!” I hiss.
I go for the bar. It’s early in the morning but if I stay sober, I will explode. The moment I step into the empty bar, the door opens and Iris rushes in. Rage is right behind her. The blood is drained from my face as I take in Iris’s tense face. Then I look at Rage that is barely holding it together.
Maybe that is one way to go. Tell Iris what I did, what a fucking asshole I am and have her unleash the Hellhound on me. Rage won’t even flinch killing me if I made Iris upset by touching her precious sister. Maybe I should-
“Wood” Iris stands before me. “Is Tamie here? Tell me she is here. She hasn’t been home last night and I have been worried sick. If those men found her again...”
“Calm down, Iris,” I say. “She is here.”
The relief in Iris’s eyes sheds some light but not enough to make me feel human again.
“Thank God! Where is she?”
I swallow and I look down at the girl looking at me, protected by the shadow of her fierce man.
“She is in my room,” I say and brace.
“What the fuck is she doing in your room?” Rage barks.
The Hellhound emerges as Rage grabs me by the throat and pushes me to a wall. I hear some pictures hanging there smash on the floor but I don’t even fight back. Iris got upset and the brother is losing his shit over that.
“I said what the fuck is Tamie doing in your fucking room?” Rage spits in my face.
I reply nothing and that enrages him even more. The veins on his neck are protruding and his pupils go wide. He is losing it and I will finally get the punishment I need. His free hand curls to a fist and his body coils. Yes, that's the pain I long for.
“No!” Iris stops him.
For a few moments, Rage is weighing down whether he should do as Iris asked or just beat the shit out of me just for the fun of it. Do it!
“I need to get Tamie,” Iris asks softly.
That does it. Everything Iris needs, Rage would provide even if it meant giving her his own life. The man discards me as if I am some broken toy and I stumble on my feet, getting air through my nose.
“She is fine, baby girl,” Rage’s eyes are back into their baby blue.
Iris caresses his face and Rage leans into her touch closing his eyes. Then he engulfs her in his massive arms and leaves one long, soft kiss on her lips. I look away. I haven’t even kissed Tamie properly. The first kiss, I stole from her without asking and yesterday I bruised her with my mouth. I am that big of an asshole.
When they break their kiss, Iris turns to me. Her eyes are measuring me and I am sure she sees the guilt in them. I betrayed her trust, her friendship. This is who I am. A man to let everyone around him down, untrustworthy, unworthy, a nothing of a man. Her lips tighten and she goes down the hall to my room.
Rage stops right before me and pins his eyes in mine. I see it clear as day that warning he has for me to stay away from those two sisters. I nod to him and get out. I don’t want to be here when Tamie leaves. I can never see her again.
“So, you want to work for us?” Ava asks.
Damn, I like the Queen of the Valkyries. She is tough and doesn’t take any shit. A force of nature not to be messed with. Her stance gives me slight smile on my lips. She is the perfect distraction.
“I want to work with you, Ava,” I reply.
“You did read the sign outside, right?”
"Valkyries Bonds in bold letters.”
“You, Wood, are not a Valkyrie.”
“Is this some plot for the men to keep tabs on us?” Magda asks. “I know Runner is not thrilled I am doing this.”
“You got that right but I am here because I want to do this.”
“And how come you are leaving your grand life in East Rider Studios to join our little venture?"
I shrug and I play it cool. Am I anything but. I barely got sober after days of straight up vomiting my guts out before drinking more. Ever since that day. Or better ever since that night, that morning when Tamie woke up in my bed. But I am not going to go forth and admit to Ava and Magda that I am doing this because I have fucking fallen for the one girl in the world I shouldn’t have.
“That’s what I do,” I smile faintly. “I track fuckers down. Been doing it for the U.S. Army and for a shitty pay.”
Ava studies me and I pull all my defenses up. She squints her nose and glances at Magda. I know Magda wants me here, she is a friend. But if the Queen disapproves...
“You bother me, Wood,” Ava states. “You seriously bother me.”
“I had no intention,” I reply and tilt an eyebrow.
“Well, I have all the Riders figured out. Even that man-child Tor. But you?” Ava sighs and looks at me more intensely.
“Nothing to figure out, Ava,” I lie. “I am a fucking soldier, that’s all.”
“Would be nice to have Wood around.” Magda releases me from Ava’s steely mental grip.
“My partner seems to like you, soldier,” Ava says with open irony. “Let’s say that we will try if this works. How about this?”
“Who knew you were so hard to please, Ava?” I put on my carefree smirk that I have perfected while still shivering on some shore in training. “Poor Bjorn.”
Magda chuckles but Ava is not amused. She is not offended by my comment on her husband. She just sees through my act, damn her KGB instincts! For a while we are locked in a battle of wills but Ava seems to be bored so she shakes her head and reaches for a file.
“Paperwork you need to do. Ex military are easier to get the license but you will still need to go through the procedure,” she says as she hands me the file.
I simply nod and get up. I look through the paperwork and decide to work on that straight away. I nod to both of them and I make for the door.
“And lay off the booze, Wood!” Ava throws at me.
I turn to her and this time I don’t bother to hide my distaste. But it would take more to make Ava Vasilieva, queen apparent to Bratva, Valkyrie to a Rider, yield. She simply raises her eyebrow and waves her hand.
“You reek of alcohol. We need your head in the game.”
“Yes, ma’m,” I mock salute her and get on filling out the paperwork.