I have been at Thing for million times but this time? This time is the single most important one. It’s been two days since I got Nat back and I haven’t parted with him for one minute. I was bedridden but my injury was not getting in the way of me getting ridden in a whole different way by Nat.
Fuck, my man is hot and sexy and-
“Stig? Stig?” Tor demands. “I fucking swear you all lose 50 point of IQ when you fall,” he mumbles.
“That’s another way to level the field,” I smile.
Tor is not up for it. The past two days he has a permanent scowl and he is pensive. He is taking this shit seriously.
“Did you get anything out of Takeshi’s records, phone, all that shit?”
“Nothing I didn’t already know. He was talking to his boss back in Kobe and followed orders. Nothing on who gave them the intel.”
“Motherfucker!” Tor hits his hand on the table.
Takeshi died on that road. There was nothing Tom could do for him. He bled out rather than reveal anything to us and disgrace his boss. Good riddance! Though Nat was disappointed with this development.
Though by the unwritten law we did nothing wrong to cause the Yakuza’s revenge, Tor worked hard and still does not only to end this but also to strike a deal so lucrative with the Yakuza that it would close that door from coming at us for good.
“OK, we got a lot of shit to deal with today and I need you all sharp,” Tor orders.
We all nod and wait.
“We got a deal with the Yakuza. They push clients, travelers from Japan to our facilities and we give them a nice cut of the proceedings. They seem quite happy with this so I am thinking we should go into the gentlemen’s club business.”
“Strip clubs,” Vince corrects.
“No, I mean a gentleman’s club. Exclusive, membership only, high profile.”
“Soo, posh strip club,” Vik comments, and we all laugh.
“Interrupt me one more time,” Tor hisses.
Once more, I am flabbergasted by the fact that Tor, seemingly the less dangerous of us all, is ruling over us. As he gets strict and rigid, I am glad I am not on his bad side and I see that all my brothers feel the same. A natural-born leader.
“It’s a lucrative business we can associate with our girls,” Tor closes that matter. “We will discuss further on that later.”
We all nod. Tor makes most of our strategic decisions and has yet to lead us astray. As I said, we are all dangerous in our way, but we would be dead in the sea without Tor’s leadership.
“Now, though that shit with the Yakuza is patched up, they still won’t give up who or why came after us. The only thing I got them to admit is that they followed someone’s request in a deal. We unbid them but they won’t give their former partner up. Stig, I want you on this. Keep an eye on them, see who might try to talk to them again, if they contact someone out of the ordinary. Daniel, you are the oldest active member here.”
“True.” Daniel nods.
“Someone is gunning for us. Not the Riders. Us. Specifically. Gather intel on past grudges I am not aware of, people getting out of jail, shit like that. Contact all the Kings in the U.S, talk to all the retired members. If we got skeletons in our closets, I want them out.”
Daniel nods and we all stay silent. This is a real threat and this time they got really close. All it took was for me to be scared and they would have everything they needed.
“We need to swell our numbers,” Tor says. “That is the next issue at hand.”
I stiffen. We haven’t talked about Nat’s position in our midst. I will not interfere. Nat is a big boy and can make his own decisions.
“I say Lil’Ed and Jab earned their cut,” Tor says.
“I vouch for Lil’Ed,” Wood readily offers.
“I vouch for Jab,” Tar smiles. “Man, he is so eager for this.”
“Vince, look into our hang-arounds for potential thralls.”
“I already got some lads that are made of Rider fabric.”
A boy comes in mind. A teenager with a sick little brother, with nothing in the world and maybe some bad people coming after him.
“I am going to need assistance,” I say to Tor.
“What do you propose?”
“There is someone I have in mind. I could use an intern,” I smile at thinking of Anthony. “But I need to make a few arrangements.”
“Do whatever you need,” Tor nods. “Now, that we are talking about people around you…”
“What are we going to do with Nathan? I mean, it’s not like we can call him a Valkyrie.”
Everyone laughs. I don’t. Tor is right. Nathan is not a Valkyrie. Then what is he? I know what and who he is to me. Everything. He is everything. And I will not have my brothers laugh at him like that.
“Keep laughing at my man and you will all find your bank accounts drained,” I hiss. “Just think of everything I did for you and now imagine them undone in a second.”
Everyone stops and looks at me. If I really wanted, I could take down the Riders single-handedly. But I don’t want to. This is my family. My loud, violent, insufferable family and I love all of them. But I love Nathan too.
“I got an idea,” I say now that I got everyone’s attention. “How about we ask him?”
Tor looks at me and rolls his eyes.
“Do you have any idea how boring this gets after a while? Seeing you all fall like flies around me? OK, let’s get that shit over with. First, call Lil’Ed and Jab.”
Vince goes out and he comes back with the thralls. We are all dead serious. We all have been through this hazing, the ominous looks of all the Riders, the silence. I want to smile at my new brothers, but I keep my straight face and I study them. They are like polar opposites.
Lil’Ed is sitting with his huge body straight like a rod, his hand behind his back as if he is reporting to duty. Wood looks at him and nods approvingly. There is nothing on the thrall’s stone-cold expression and he is ready for everything.
Jab eyes each and everyone of us worryingly, mostly Tar with whom he was a thrall before Tar took a bullet for the King and was propelled to Rider. I feel for the kid. I was like him more or less. Jab is alone and lost. He found a place here with us and the prospect of losing that which his heart desires is killing him.
“Lil’Ed, Jab,” Tor says very strictly.
They both stiffen.
“Take off your cuts!” he orders.
Lil’Ed has his cut off, folded, and placed on the table in seconds and is back to his stance. Jab looks at us sadly and then really slowly takes it off. Vince gets up and tears the thrall patches off those cuts. Lil’Ed looks ahead and Jab looks away.
Tor then gets up. He stands before them. The tension is high. The emotions too. Two new brothers to join our ranks. Tor reaches for his cut and takes out two new patches. Rider patches.
“Welcome, my brothers,” Tor smiles.
Lil’Ed takes the patch and nods at Tor. But I see it. The relief, the happiness. As for Jab, his looks around one more time before Tar smiles at him wildly.
“For real now?” Jab screams. “I am Rider?”
We all laugh and get up to welcome our brothers. It is always good to have your family extended.
“Now,” Tor looks at me. “Let’s call Nathan.”
I know Nathan is out on the bar with the rest of the Valkyries. My throat is dry. What if in a few moments I have to let go of my family? Cause my mind is made up. I am not leaving Nat. Never again.
As I take my seat I pull on my lip ring and brace for what is to come. Nat walks in and my body relaxes at his sight. He is in his dark denims and a simple white Henley and he is good enough to eat.
“Good morning,” he says lightly and winks at me.
A smile blooms on my face. How did I ever think I was alive before those green eyes looked into mine?
“Cut this shit out!”Tor warns. “We called you to discuss your place amongst us.”
Nathan nods and swallows.
“Stig has declared that you are claimed by him. Do you accept that claim?”
Same-sex marriage is legal in California but this? My King asking Nat if he accepts my claim? This is quite close to a marriage. I feel lightheaded all of a sudden. We haven’t talked about this. What if he says no? He has every right to. Sure, he is here and has forgiven me for acting like a jerk but a commitment like this? It’s too soon and I know Nat. He hasn’t been on a relationship. Not that I have, not really but I have watched my brothers and I know how-
“I do,” Nat states surely.
I look into those eyes I love so much. He means it. The man that has been hunting alone for a lifetime, is willingly claimed. I take in deep breaths and I am this close to crying during Thing. I mean, Bjorn has cried in this very room but Ava was shot and bleeding and no one was laughing.
I get up and walk up to him. Behind me I hear Tor make a sound of disgust and Vince commenting something to Vik but I do not give a flying fuck. This man, this amazing, magnificent man is mine!
“Are you sure, old man?” I tease as I wrap my arms around him. “Is your arthritis going to handle all this?”
Nat keeps his eyes pinned on mine but his look is hooded, loaded with passion. He leans closer to my ear and for a second he breathes. Fan! I may not cry but I may come in Thing.
“Keep up this talk, pretty boy, and I will give you something to handle,” he whispers.
“OK, OK, OK, enough,” Tor erupts.
“What the hell, Tor!” Nat retorts. “Is cockblocking your superpower or something?”
A wave of whistles takes over the room. The mated Riders get up and applaud Nat loudly. Except for Rage. Rage has his eyes on Nat and honestly, that unnerves me.
“Amen, someone came at Tor for that shit at last!” Vik stands up. “I say we patch him in just for that.”
“He is so goddamn right!” Bjorn seconds that. “Every freaking time, there with his random appearances…”
“Knocking on doors,” Wood shakes his head.
“Making phone calls,” Ironhand offers.
“What? He phoned you too?” Nat asks.
“Haha, funny!” Tor shakes his head.
“Funny?” Runner asks. “You think it’s funny trying to be with your woman only to have to see your fucking face?”
Another round of applause.
“Maybe I wouldn’t be cockblocking if you weren’t going at it all the fucking time!” Tor gets up.
“Bror,” I got my King’s attention. “I pity you for when your time comes,” I say and we all laugh louder.
Tor goes dark. Despite his light colors and seemingly light personality, Tor is dark. Constantly. He anticipates the worst from people, he trusts no one but us and seems disconnected. But right now, he goes even darker.
“The only occasion my time will come is when Tyr will come to claim me to Valhalla.”
That ends all laughter.
“The question remains,” Tor leans back to his chair. “What are we to do with you? You are not a Valkyrie. Perhaps you can be a Rider. You do have… potential.”
I stand tall by my man. Whatever his decision, I will live with it.
“Respectfully, I must decline,” Nat says solemnly.
This is it!
“Actually, I have thought about it and I think I am going to be a Valkyrie.”
I am certain that If I hadn’t warned my brothers about laughing at Nat, the room would be booming right now.
“I will be better suited to join Ava, Magda, and Wood at the Valkyries Bonds. I was a bounty hunter before, no reason to stop being one.”
I glance at Tor and his verdict.
“Very well,” Tor says finally and I breathe. “Keep in mind that I may call upon you when the Riders are in need.”
“If the Riders are in need, that means Stig is in need. I will do anything to protect him.”
Tor raises an eyebrow. He approves.
“It is decided then,” Tor says and gets up. “Welcome to the family.”
We turn and look at each other. And we are both smiling.