Knock On Wood (Riders of Tyr #6)

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Way Overdue

Wood

I haven’t left the room in two days. I am in here in a smog of cigarette smoke and sustained purely on vodka. With a fucking piece of paper in my hand. I have studied it again and again for hours.

Fuck, fuck, what the hell am I doing? Am I that far gone? Have I finally snapped beyond repair? But I can’t shake this feeling that churns in my stomach. I need to be sure.

I look at the frozen frame for the millionth time. The woman on it is freaking beautiful. Her eyes are the same one’s as.. I can’t even fucking...! They are same as Iris’s! And it's not just the eyes. Her face, her lips. Only difference is that if Iris was a breathtaking girl, this one is a gorgeous woman. She is taller than Iris and fuller, curvier. And then it’s that look.

I grab the bottle and bring it to my lips as I look into those eyes. It should be fucking lust taking a hold of me as they look seductively at the man waiting for her. But it’s protectiveness. Underneath the heavy lids, the sexy look, the pouting of her lips, I see it. Fear. Fuck!

I get up and open my wardrobe and I glance at the arranged clothes I have there. I pick one and throw a perfectly ironed tee over my shoulders. Then I clean the coffee table I have in my room that is filled with cigarette buds and I open the window to let some fresh air in before I vacuum the room. Next is my messy bed. I change bedsheets, throw them in the bin and I make the bed the same way I did in the middle of the desert. Yeah, I am weird like that. I need control over things and I take it when I can.

I glance at my room and then I head out. It’s still early in the morning and there’s no one in yet and I am sure my brothers are so hanged-over that they won’t be up till noon. I am glad I got to avoid the third-degree. It feels nice to have a team once more, but sometimes I want to hide away and keep them off my case. Sometimes? Try all the time.

I get out and light a cigarette. I glance across the street and I see Bjorn and Iris have opened the garage early. There a few cars in line and at least two of them race in the local illegal races. It’s the ridiculous colors. Good. Iris will be busy. Still, I don’t want to fucking do this. He is the last person I need to see right now. Or any other day. But I need to know.

I make my way hastily to the tattoo parlor, not thinking about it too much. If Iris is in, I can be damn sure Rage is in too. He never lets her too far out of his sight, the fucking possessive asshole. Not that I blame him. If Iris was mine...She is not yours, you motherfucker!

I push the door of the parlor and brace. Of all the brothers in our midst, I am the only one that hasn’t got a custom-made tatt from him. That is a pity cause the man has some mad skills. But for me? I don’t think Rage would ever tattoo anything other than the inside of my open chest.

Rage knows how I feel – felt - about Iris and he simply hates me. I am sure that if I didn’t wear the patch, I’d be torn in pieces slowly so he could hear me scream, just cause I even thought about his woman that way. And as he turns to look at me, I see exactly that feeling take over him.

“What the fuck do you want?” he barks.

“I need to talk to you about something.” I take one step closer.

“Get the fuck out of my face, Wood, before I kick your ass,” he seethes.

“Rage, it’s important. It’s about Iris.”

I shouldn’t have said that, I see him storm to me with tight fists. He is a wild animal more than he is a man, a freaking killing machine. But he never had official training. I have. It may not be enough to keep him from killing me but I do have the skill to gain some time and make him listen.

“You don’t speak her name!” Rage comes at me in full force.

I avoid his punch and twirl to be right behind him. Blood pumps through me and though faced with a certified killer, I have a smile on my lips. This was way overdue. We should have done this so long ago. So, without holding back, I hit him right in the back of his neck.

A hit that has taken down men before, seems to just piss him off. He turns and swings his hammer fists my way. I am fast enough to avoid the first one. The second gets me right in the jaw and I feel my brain hit my skull. When I come to, I taste the coppery taste of blood.

I forget what I wanted to talk to him about, why I was here, why I even hate him. Adrenaline is pumping and my life is on the line. So, I fight. I fight for the thrill of fighting, for the pain it brings, for the dominance I feel. I fight to prevail. I fight to feel control over my life. I fight to relieve the fear that cripples me every day, to scatter the images that pry their way into my mind. And surprisingly enough, I don’t fight about Iris.

We hit, we grab, we punch, we curse, we push. My arms hurt, blood runs down from my brow, my knuckles are bloody and torn and I may have broken something. Rage is more or less in the same shape. Fatigue gets me and I struggle to draw breath. My hazy, beaten brain decides to grant me one lucid thought: Rage is my brother, whether we like each other or not. End this, I decide and drop my arms. Rage doesn’t seem to notice my gesture and eyes me murderously.

“I won’t hit you, brother,” I pant.

It takes him some time to register. His nostrils are flaring and the animal in him doesn’t want to back down. It smelled blood and wants to taste it. But Rage is still a Rider, loyal to the club, bound by its rules. After a few moments, he steps back and sits on one of the work-chairs.

I take in deep breaths and assess the damage. We have wrecked the place, broke a few things, damaged some of the equipment and bloodied the floor. Shit, that was a good fight! I look back at Rage and he seems calmer now. Calmer in the sense that he doesn’t want to kill me anymore. For now.

What I suddenly realize is that I don’t hate the man. Why should I? Because he loves his woman with all his heart? Because he is making her happy every day? No, it would take a bastard to want to take that away from a girl like Iris. It’s me I hate, same as always. I am the man that is always late. Late for life, late to save others, late to claim the woman I thought I loved.

I shake my head and those thoughts away and I light a cigarette with my bloodied hands. I take one deep breath and let the smoke out. Focus.

I head for the fridge he has there and I take a frozen pack he uses for his clients and put it on my face. I take another and throw it at him. For a while, we just sit there, nursing our wounds and smoking a cigarette.

“Listen, man,” I finally say. “I need to ask you something but it stays between us.”

Rage lowers his head and eyes me. He is not liking this. And I fear he might even hate this. But I can’t ignore my gut. Last time I did...No, stay focused in the now.

“Iris had a sister, right?”

He stiffens and stands up. He openly warns me to back off.

“Talk to me, Rage.”

“She did. Tamie. Daultrey killed her,” Rage bites out every word.

We are on the same boat right now. The serenity the thrill of the fight brought evaporates. I would love for Daultrey to be alive so that I could slowly kill him all over again for hurting Iris. A knowing look passes between us and Rage nods slightly.

“Is she sure?” I need to know.

"Daultrey told her.”

“Fuck that sadistic motherfucker! Has she seen that herself? The body?”

Rage frowns and walks up to me. He has only his cut over his shoulders and my look falls on his chest. The wolf, Fenrir is tattooed there. Fitting. Rage is a freaking giant wolf that can eat up the world. When I get a glimpse of the blue iris flower right where his heart is, I tense my jaw.

“What the fuck is going on, Wood?”

I take out the piece of paper from my cut and hand it to him. He unfolds it and looks at the girl. I watch him as he focuses on the eyes, lingering for a few moments. His look darts up to me seriously deranged.

“You think that’s her?”

“I don’t know.” I shake my head. “I honestly don’t fucking know.”

“Where did you get this?”

I tell him the whole story and his face becomes darker and darker the more I talk. I get darker the more I talk because now that I say it out loud, it sounds crazier by the word. When I finish, I have decided that the doctors back in the army were spot on. I need to talk to a therapist, a specialist, something cause reality is slipping away from me.

Am I obsessed? I am haunted by the vision of a girl that rejected me and I am seeing her everywhere. I am fucking pathetic. Without looking up at him, I take the paper, fold it reverently and place it back in my cut.

“Never mind,” I whisper and turn my back. “Forget I said anything. I... drank too much.”

I walk to the door, determined to put this shit behind me.

“Fuck!” Rage hisses and I turn over my shoulder.

He is pacing up and down the room. He is barefoot and he steps on some broken glass but he doesn’t stop, not even when his blood makes a trail on the floor.

“Calm down, brother.” I am about to see Rage explode. “I am wrong. I am an asshole for bringing it to you.”

“Fuck! FUCK!” Rage hits his head and yells.

Runner. He is the one that has some kind of control over him. And Iris but I am not about to bring her into this shit.

“Talk to me, brother. Tell me you understand I was wrong,” I try to stop Rage from going nuclear.

“The mark.” Rage messes with his hair and digs his nails in his scalp.

I know what he is talking about. I have memorized every little detail of that picture. The woman has a mark, on the right side of her neck. A mark that looks like a little heart. I swallow.

“What about the mark, Rage?”

“The mark, that fucking mark, the heart-shaped one,” he is still pacing, his voice a loud, painful growl.

“Did Tamie...?”

“FUCK!” Rage loses it but I go to him.

“Rage!” I am in his face, demanding an answer. “Did Tamie have the same mark?”

Rage looks up at me and I take one step back. It’s her. His expression is that of utter fear and realization. Iris’s sister is alive and she is some kind of a sex slave, god knows where.

“Fuck!” I join Rage in his panic.

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