Wicked Embers: Rebel Souls MC #1

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8.0 Rachel

I handed Nathan’s credit card over for what felt like the hundredth time today. I had no idea what the limit was on this thing, but I was determined to find out. I wasn't planning on keeping everything. My man just needed to be taught a little lesson. I wouldn’t be a kept woman.

Megan and Liza had done nothing but encourage my behavior, laughing the entire time.

Today I had also learned that both of them had slept with my man. It was years ago before they were both married. It stung, but I was able to push it down.

I knew who Nathan was when I agreed to be his old lady. I couldn’t hold his past actions against him. Besides, they were both blissfully happy. More importantly, even if either one of them was still after him, I knew Nathan. He would never.

Which was why, despite knowing that bitch Rain hadn’t backed off, I wasn't worried. She thought she was being subtle, but she wasn't.

“Are you done punishing him yet?” Liza said through her laughter as I loaded yet another set of bags into the truck.

“I probably should be,” I said, biting my lip in contemplation.

“Let’s go back to the clubhouse,” Megan said.

We piled into the truck, all three of us in the front since the back was covered in bags.

Take me down to the paradise city

Where the grass is green and the girls are pretty

Take me home, oh won’t you-” Liza’s singing was interrupted by Megan abruptly changing the music.

’Cause I knew you were trouble when you walked in

So shame on me now

Flew me to places I’d never been

’Til you put me down-” Megan’s singing was interrupted the same way Liza’s was.

I was unable to hold in my laughter as I watched them. They were best friends but they couldn’t be more different if they tried.

“Driver picks the music. Shotgun and bitch seat shut their cake holes,” I said, turning the radio back on and to some random top forty station. They bickered the entire way back to the clubhouse.

When we pulled in, we abandoned the bags, leaving the prospect who’d been not so discretely following us to collect Megan and Liza’s. It’d take him awhile to sort through the piles.

I was the first one through the door. I glared as Rain walked from the hallway into the bar area from the direction of the office. My glare turned to ice when Hawk and Nathan followed shortly behind her.

His expression went from one of annoyance to adoration when his eyes found me. I headed straight to him, doing my best to keep my jealousy in check. Rain’s eyes were cast down when I pushed past her.

“What was that about?” I asked, hoping my voice came out as neutral as it sounded in my own head.

“Apparently she didn’t get the memo that I’m taken.”

“Is that all cleared up?”

“We’ll see,” Hawk answered for him. And as much as I hated it I was going to have to agree with him.

I didn’t know that Rain would ever give up.

“How was shopping?” Nathan asked me, guiding me to his booth.

“The prospect didn’t tell you?” I asked sweetly.

“Told you he was a shitty tail,” Hawk smirked while I laughed.

“Apparently my creditcard got a workout.”

“Indeed.” The grin on my face reflected his own. His grey-green eyes sparkled and I knew mine reflected the same emotion.

Love.

“Whipped,” I heard Hawk mumble under his breath before he slid out of the booth. He’d been spending less and less time at the clubhouse. None of the guys seemed to notice but Liza, Megan and I talked about it. Maybe he had a secret girl?

“Are you ready to go?” I asked.

“Yeah.” Before we could get out of the booth Annie, Jamie and Chrissy walked through the door, talking animatedly amongst themselves. “But you’re not.” I pecked his lips before leaving him alone and walking to the booth the girls were sitting in.

“Oh look, she’s alive,” Jamie said sarcastically, never one to hold back her feelings.

“Be nice,” Annie hissed at her.

“How was court?” I asked Chrissy, ignoring Jamie’s remarks.

“Suddenly the husband wanted to settle,” she said in mock surprise.

“You’re the queen of the courtroom,” I said and bow mockingly at her. She laughed heartily before sipping her drink.

“I got a bunch of stuff to decorate the house today,” I told them. “Why don’t you guys come over next weekend to see it? I’ll make tacos and margaritas.”

“You can’t win back my love with tacos and margs,” Jamie grumbled.

“Yes I can.”

“Yes she can,” Annie agreed with me.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been around much,” I said. “But I haven’t been to the city in weeks.”

“You’ve been playing house with Nathan and ignoring your friends,” she shouted in accusation.

I couldn’t argue with her. She wasn't exactly wrong. Chrissy went to defend me but was cut off by Jamie again. “And you’re no better. We never see you either. You’re always with JJ.”

“Look," Chrissy began. She was using her courtroom tone and it made me cower a little, even when it wasn't directed at me. “You and Annie were friends first. You got to spend all your time together without having to be away from your other friends.” She was absolutely right. “So instead of us all turning into bitches and this becoming a cat fight, why don’t we act like adults, tell each other we miss each other and plan a girls night?”

Begrudgingly Jamie mumbled out an, “okay.” Annie squeezed her hand in reassurance before kissing her lips. Annie blushed red at her self initiated act of PDA, still not used to it.

“So next weekend,” I began again. “Saturday I’ll send Nathan to the clubhouse for the night and we can have a girls night.”

“It’s really not fair that they’ll get to fool around on girls night,” Chrissy mused. Jamie huffed while Annie turned even redder while I laughed.

“We won’t,” Annie said adamantly.

“The hell we won’t,” Jamie chimed in. She leaned in, pushing Annie’s long red hair to the side to gain access to her ear. I couldn’t hear what she was saying but Annie was squirming in her seat and the blush was spreading over her entire body.

“How far away is the guest bedroom from where I’ll be sleeping?” Chrissy asked while she looked at them.

“The other ends of the house since you’ll be cuddling with me in mine and Nathan’s bed.”

“You’re changing the sheets first right?” Chrissy quipped at me.

“God my friends are all perverts!” I stood up out of the booth and headed back to my man. I’d only ignore them for a few minutes before heading back.

I plopped myself down in Nathan’s lap. His arms wrapped around me and he nuzzled his face in my neck. The rough scruff of his beard made tingles flame up on my skin. “Can I take you upstairs?” He whispered.

“Not yet,” I whispered over my shoulder before planting a kiss to his forehead. “I have to go back to them once they’re done being perverts.”

“You left them for an even bigger pervert.” I laughed loudly, my head falling back against him. Before he could say something even dirtier I untangled his arms from around my waist and headed back to my friends. I yelped when his hand landed heavily on my ass.

Looking over my shoulder, I winked at him. Before I could get back to the girls’ table a series of gunshots rang out.

“Rachel!” I heard Nathan scream my name. Everything slowed down. I saw Jamie flip the table and pull Chrissy and Annie behind it. Annie had no idea what was going on. I was on my way to hitting the floor when Nathan was on me, his bigger body shielding mine.

He was yelling but I couldn’t make out any of the words. Shots were still ringing out. I couldn’t see my friends because Nathan had my head pushed against his chest, secured tightly by his hands.

It seemed like hours went by before the gun fire finally stopped. When it did Nathan pulled my shoulders back so he could assess me. “You good?”

“F-fi-fine,” I managed to stutter out. He kissed me and then he was gone, chasing after Hawk who was already running past us and towards the door. He was pulling his gun from the holster under his cut. I half crawled, half walked to where my friends are.

My eyes took in the damage around me. All the tables were flipped. Most of them had bullet holes in them. The liquor bottles were ruined. Thousands of dollars worth of booze was on the floor, mixed with the shattered glass. When I finally reached them, Annie was in Jamie’s lap, clinging to her while she wept. Chrissy looked shaken and was on her phone, presumably calling JJ. Jamie looked at me, her eyes pleading for help. She had no idea how to deal with Annie. “Take her upstairs,” I said.

I helped Jamie help Annie to her feet and watched them walk out of the bar, carefully avoiding the broken glass.

“JJ is on his way,” Chrissy said, putting her phone back in her pocket. Flinging my arms around her, I pulled her close. Her hands clutched at my back as we held each other and cried. Her breathing was harsh in my ear and I was sure we’re covered in each other’s snot. I hadn’t even looked around the room, but based on the eerie quiet, I was assuming that nobody had taken a bullet. Otherwise it would be utter chaos.

I didn’t know how long we were holding each other for but when she finally pulled away I turned to see Nathan walking in with JJ. Relief washed over his face when he looked at her, as if he didn’t believe she was actually okay until he saw it with his own eyes. They rush to us and suddenly I was pushed against Nathan’s chest again. His hands were in my hair. He was speaking to me but I couldn’t understand it; it all came out muffled through the sounds of him playing with my hair.

“I’m so sorry,” he said. The first words I could actually understand.

“It’s not your fault,” I tried to tell him.

“I didn’t keep you safe.”

“Look at me,” I emphasized, pulling his face down to me so he was looking me in the eyes. His grey-green eyes were shining nearly emerald, greener than I’d ever seen them, and it was because they were bloodshot from holding back tears. “I’m fine.”

“You were walking. Completely exposed and vulnerable.”

He was going to lose it and handcuff himself to me. This was worse than when Joe took me.

“In my clubhouse,” his voice was low, angry and growly when it came out. “You’re supposed to be safe here. We all are.”

“Is anyone hurt?”

“No,” he said on a sigh.

“Who did this?”

“I have no idea. I called church and a lockdown.”

“What’s the other damage?”

“Couple of the bikes are fucked. So is the truck. Where are your friends?”

“I sent them upstairs. Annie isn’t handling it very well.”

“She’s too fragile for this life.”

I nodded in agreement. “Where are Liza and Megan?”

“Hands took them to the hospital. Liza fell hard so they’re going to get the baby checked out.”

Grabbing my phone I texted Liza, asking her to let me know when she heard something and to let her know I was thinking about her. Hands was probably freaking out.

“Why don’t I hear any sirens?” I asked, suddenly, the absence of the sound ringing loudly in my ears.

Nathan gave me an are you serious look?

“Hawk called them off.”

Sure.

Because that was normal.

I nodded, unable to say anything else.

“After church I’ll take you home so you can grab some stuff.”

“Not necessary,” I said. He looked at at me confusedly. “Baby, you gave me your credit card. There’s plenty of clothes in the truck.”

He shook his head before wrapping his arms around me again. “I love you so fucking much.”

“Such a charmer.” Our moment was interrupted by Hawk. He and Nathan exchanged a look without words, but I could tell they each knew what the other was saying and thinking. “I’m going to check on Annie and Jamie. I’ll see you later.”

Nathan kissed me forehead before I walked away. I stopped briefly and waited awkwardly for Chrissy and JJ to exchange their own goodbyes. When they were finally done Chrissy gave me a hesitant smile before following me up the stairs.

Once we reached the room our two friends had shared with Chrissy during the last lockdown I knocked softly. Jamie said something from the other side that I couldn't understand, but I took it as permission to open the door.

Annie was curled up against Jamie who had both her arms around her while they laid on the bed together. Annie was still crying and Jamie looked completely helpless. “Is it always like this?” Chrissy was the first one to speak.

“No,” I said at the same time Jamie said “yes.”

“No,” I said louder this time.

“I thought she was talking about Annie.” Chrissy snorted and Annie pulled herself from her hiding spot in Jamie’s shoulder to glare at her and back hand her lightly.

“Rude.”

“Got you out of my shoulder,” she smiled widely at her girlfriend who looked more flustered than upset now, which was Jamie’s goal all along. “It’s not always like this, babe. I promise.” Jamie emphasized her words by kissing Annie lightly on the lips. “What did Nathan say?”

“He called a lockdown.”

“Anything else?”

“No. I asked who it could be but he said he doesn’t know.”

“And JJ?” Jamie continued all while rubbing Annie’s back soothingly.

“Same thing. But for legal reasons I don’t actually know how much he can tell me. Or even how much Nathan tells him.”

Silence fell over the room. Annie and Jamie snuggled while Chrissy and I did too.

Surprisingly, Annie was the first to speak. “Was anybody hurt?”

“No. Liza went to the hospital to get the baby checked out.”

“She’s pregnant?” Annie asked softly. “How does she deal with the stress?”

“It’s not always like this,” Jamie said.

“It’s not for nothing you two ran away at seventeen,” she snapped.

“Liza is pregnant, yes,” I interrupted before Jamie could say something snippy back.

“Don’t they already have like seven kids?” Jamie cringed.

“This is their fourth.”

“Still too many.”

“What happened?”

“I guess when she hit the floor it was on her stomach and hard. It’s early in her pregnancy. I’m sure she’ll be fine.” I tried to make my words reassuring. But I wasn't sure if that was how the came out.

“How do you do this?” Annie’s voice was distraught.

Climbing to the other side of the bed, I squished her body against mine, sandwiching her between Jamie and I. Chrissy climbed into the empty spot behind me. The four of us have snuggled like this countless times but this time it was sad.

Looking over at Jamie I could read her like my favorite childhood book. I knew each one of her mannerisms and facial expressions and right now fear was radiating off of her. Not fear about what happened but fear about what this was doing to Annie. What it will end up doing to our friendships.

She’ll be okay; I tried to communicate with her. The lone tear falling from her eye told me she got the message.

Jamie was every reference to complicated characters from every book and movie ever written. An onion with multiple layers. A coconut, hard on the inside and soft on the inside.

And she was starting to crack.

“Switch with me,” I whispered to Chrissy. She took my place next to Annie and I slid out of the bed. I nodded my head at Jamie. Unwrapping herself from around Annie, she kissed her head delicately and followed me to the hallway.

Jamie was the one who pulled me out of my bed after Joe broke up with me. She was the strong one. Always has been. When we decided to run away she was the one who planned it, assured me we’d be okay the entire time.

She gave me my freedom.

And by dragging my ass out of bed and into that club she gave me Nathan.

She didn’t say anything but fell apart against me. I was supporting almost all of her weight as she let out a heartbreaking cry. I didn’t try to comfort her in any other way. My words would be pointless. When she finally pulled herself together she stood and wiped under her eyes while offering me a weak smile.

“She’s not cut out for this.”

“None of us are,” I said. “We’ve all adapted.”

“But I don’t have to be here,” she said. And although her words broke my heart, she was right. I had to be here with Nathan because I’d made my choice. Chrissy was here with JJ and she chose that too. Jamie and Annie were just along for the ride.

“I won’t hold it against you,” I said to her.

Was I really standing here talking about my best friend disappearing from my life?

“We made our choice too,” Annie suddenly said. I hadn’t even heard the door open behind us. Jamie just stared at her, mouth hanging open. “Close your mouth, babe. You’ll catch flies.” Her hand reached up and and pushed Jamie’s mouth closed.

Chrissy bursted into a fit of inappropriate laughter, cackling at the action. Our three heads snapped to her while she was snorting. Bending forward, she had her hands on her knees, trying to catch her breath. Her hand waved in front of her like a maniac. It must have been contagious because suddenly Annie was in the same position. Her laughter, much like her voice, was much higher pitched than Chrissy’s. They fell to the floor together, huddled together while fits of laughter bubbled out of them.

Jamie and I just stared at them.

Eventually the contagion spread because before I knew it, it was the four of us on the floor, uncontainable laughter radiating out of us.

When we finally stopped we were all breathless. “I made my choice too,” Annie said softly. “I chose my friends. I might not be cut out for this, but I’m not going to ditch my friends. Or force you to leave your best friend of like twenty-five years behind.” Her last words were directed at Jamie and her voice came out with more conviction than I’d ever heard from the petite redhead.

Her words made the laughter turn to tears.

That was how Nathan and JJ found us. A huddled mess of bodies laying half in the bedroom half in the hallway, each of us touching another in one way or another.

Nathan offered me a soft smile when his eyes found mine. JJ said nothing, just swept Chrissy into his arms and carried her down the hall. I climbed to my feet before pulling Jamie and Annie up. I wrapped them both in my arms and kissed both of them on their cheeks sloppily before pulling away.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Annie said. “Fantastic four,” she whispered in my ear. I laughed at the horrible nickname she'd dubbed us with years ago.

I kissed them both again before walking into Nathan’s waiting arms.

He guided me to our room at the clubhouse. We hadn’t stayed there in a while but somehow it still smelt like home.

Immediately Nathan started undressing me.

How did I tell him I didn’t want to have sex after everything that just happened?

I never turned him down.

“I just want to hold you,” he said, reading me easily before I even had to open my mouth. Once I was naked, Nathan stripped himself of his cut, t-shirt, boots and pants and was left standing in front of me naked. He scooped me up bridal style and laid me in the bed before settling in behind me.

I was dying to know what had happened in church.

But the adrenaline seemed to finally be wearing off, preventing me from asking.

Safe in Nathan’s arm, I fell asleep.

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