I fell asleep almost instantly, Rachel wrapped in my arms. But it was a restless sleep and didn’t last long enough. I’d already been awake for an hour or so when the clock read three in the morning.
The witching hour.
Rachel’s breathing was still steady and even next to me.
As quietly as possible I slid out of bed, pulling on the first pair of joggers I found. My junk was being constricted and they came up to just below my knee. Damnit. They were Rachel’s. It was a struggle getting out of them, especially when I was trying to do it quietly.
Thankfully I managed to do it and found my own pair of sweatpants in the pitch black of the room. I pulled an MC t-shirt over my head before glancing at Rachel one more time.
The only light was what was creeping in through the gap between the curtains. It painted her face in low lighting. There were no worry lines between her eyes as she slept, no frown on her pouty lips.
I had to make sure she was safe.
With that thought in my head I made my way to the bar. All was quiet, which was strange, even for this time of night. When I got to to the bar, I saw Hawk sitting in our booth, a bottle of Jack in front of him. There was only an inch or two off the top which either boded well or not. He’d either already opened a second or was taking it slow.
The tumbler in his hand told me the odds were in my favor. If he was hammered he’d be drinking straight from the bottle.
“Couldn’t sleep?” I asked, pouring three fingers into the glass I’d swiped from behind the bar.
He didn’t respond, just nodded a little before taking a sip.
Unfortunately church hadn’t brought any answers. We had no suspects, nobody who would want to come at the club like this right now. Momentarily we thought it might be blowback from the security job Seal had brought in. But that didn’t start until tomorrow or today technically. Seal had only just made the call confirming the job before the shots started. Nobody could have put something together that fast.
We were stumped.
“You got any enlightening ideas?”
Hawk snorted, his standard method of communication when he didn’t want to speak.
Which was often.
“Helpful.” My voice dripped with sarcasm.
Hawk snorted again before taking another sip of whiskey. Better than the grunting we usually exchanged.
“You worried about your girl?” He asked, when he finally spoke.
“Bullets flew through this fucking clubhouse. Of course I’m worried. Who the fuck did this?”
“Look,” Hawk began slowly. He was looking me square in the eye, which meant what ever he was about to say was deadly serious. And probably going to piss me off. “I’m past the point of thinking your girl was was working with Joe and the cartel. But there hasn’t been an attack on us like this in years. Since we were young. Could it be her old club?”
“I don’t know,” I said defeatedly.
“I was thinking about it during church too, but I knew how you’d react if I brought it up again in front of the club.”
Now it was my turn to snort. “Would have been more helpful than the fucking chorus of chirping crickets I got.”
Hawk tilted his glass at me, as if to say I was right before finishing it off and pouring himself another two fingers.
“I’ll talk to her about it.” That was the only thing I could do.
“And if it’s to get her?”
“Wars have been waged for less.”
I could tell he wasn't happy with my answer. Despite Hawk’s skills with a weapon and his hot headedness, he didn’t like when battle lines were drawn. He preferred sneaking around and doing his dirty work in the dark. Quick and easy. Clean.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”
We were silent for a minute, both just sipping our whiskey.
“So, nobody else has noticed it, but where have you been running off too?” I asked.
Hawk looked at me, shock covering his face.
“You noticed or your old lady noticed?” He smirked at his own question.
It was a fair one.
“Rachel may have brought it to my attention. But I noticed it too.” My voice was too defensive, causing him to laugh at me. “You got a girl?”
“You got a guy?” He didn’t even blink, unfazed by my question.
“What’s going on?”
“I just ride around. This is going to make me sound like a little bitch, but it’s hard being around you with your old lady here all the time.”
“Of?” I didn’t keep the anger out of my voice, all my instincts telling me he wants my girl.
“I don’t want her. I want my own version of her.”
“You sure you don’t just want me?” I fluttered my eyelashes at him.
I laughed too loudly, probably waking up more than one member thanks to the paper thin walls.
It wasn't long before Bender, half dressed and half asleep came down the hallway. “The fuck you idiots doing?” He slid into the booth, taking a swig of the bottle. “It’s four in the damn morning.”
“Shootin the shit,” Hawk answered.
“Who’d you abandon in your bed for this?” Bender asked.
“Rachel. But she was asleep.”
“You going through a dry spell Hawk?” The guys had become relentless in their teasing of him since his self imposed celibacy. They didn’t believe it was self imposed.
“Who you got in your bed?” Hawk shot back. Three minutes with the two of them together and I already had a headache. Making them my second and third was not the best decision I'd ever made.
“Cinnamon.” Dear God. The names on these girls.
“She came to me first,” Hawk shrugged. “Begged to suck me off but I turned her down. Second choice again.” Hawk’s grin covered his entire face as he taunted him.
They’d been like this since we were kids. Although, I guess not really since Bender had only been around for four years or so. But it felt like he'd always been there.
Bender just took a long swig of whiskey, ignoring the comment.
“She would have been screaming my name even if she was with you.”
Now it was my turn to chuckle again. “That would have been a good comeback if you hadn’t taken five minutes to come up with it.”
“Y’all are way too loud,” Rachel’s southern accent washed over me from behind. It came out when she was tired or drunk, otherwise she sounded like a California girl.
She was wearing nothing but one of my t-shirts and having Hawk and Bender see her like that brought out my possessive side.
Quickly, I grabbed her and pulled her into my lap, covering her shapely legs with the table. Sleepily she rubbed her head against my shoulder, nestling into the crook of my neck.
“I don’t like waking up alone,” she said softly.
Holding her close I offered her a sip of my drink but she scrunched her nose adorably.
“You can put some coffee in it,” I teased. She shook her head against me.
I was holding her against me but my eyes were flashing between Bender and Hawk. They were communicating without words and I missed the beginning of it so I was out of the loop. When both of their eyes flashed to Rachel I finally figured it out.
Hawk must have shared his theory about the attack being from her father’s MC with Bender before me. Nodding I gave them permission to ask. Better them than me if she got angry.
My girl’s wrath wasn’t something I was excited about acquainting myself with.
“Rachel?” Hawk called. Her head pulled away from me and looked at him.
“I was thinking. Things have been kind of crazy since you joined us.” Her head snapped up, already feeling attacked. I rubbed circles against her bare thigh in an effort to calm her. “Is there any possibility that someone from back home hasn’t taken kindly to you becoming the old lady to a president from another club?”
“No.” Her voice was firm, not defensive.
“Yes, Hawk.” She was annoyed but still not defensive. “They let Jamie and I go. They’ve never looked for us. Why would they start now? It’s been ten years. It doesn’t make any sense. We have no value to them. I have no value to them.”
“You may think that,” Bender spoke this time. “But I’ve seen a few occasions where an MC princess was promised to a brother or that of a rival club to keep peace.”
“Why does this sound like some old school royalty nonsense? Or something the Mafia or Cartels would do?” She asked.
“Because it still is. MCs are more democratic. Power is voted on. Leadership, alliances, retaliations. All voted on. Cartels and Mafias are authoritarian. If daddy says the Cartel princess has to get married she does. That being said, it’s uncommon among MCs but I know of a few times when it’s been done.”
“I don’t have any way of knowing. I wouldn’t be able to contact anyone. Even if I wanted to.”
“We could have Echo look into it,” Hawk offered up.
“I’ll see what he can find before he leaves with Seal.”
“Hopefully nothing,” Rachel said. “Because you’re the only biker I need in my life.”
“Hypothetically,” Bender began, his face pretending as if he was deep in thought.
Although that wasn't actually something he was capable of.
“If you weren’t with the Prez here, which brother would you be with?” He finished.
A low grumble leat my throat at his question.
“Brenda,” Rachel deadpanned. I cackled while Bender looked defeated. He’d been hoping she’d play along, but she turned the tables on him.
“Are you guys hungry?” Rachel asked, half yawning as she spoke, ending further speculation.
“Yeah,” we said in unison. Rachel removed herself from my lap, heading to the kitchen. Her ass nearly hung out of my t-shirt as she lifted her arms over her head to stretch. Wordlessly I followed behind her, taking a left to go up the stairs while she continued towards the kitchen. Once I made it to our room I grabbed the pair of joggers I’d unsuccessfully tried to squeeze myself into when I’d woken up.
When I made it to the kitchen Rachel had the radio to a classic rock station turned on softly in the background while she mixed some sort of batter. “Put these on, please,” I asked her pushing myself against her.
I saw her roll her eyes as I stared at her profile.
“I just don’t want anyone else to see what’s mine.” I didn’t mean to be so possessive.
“Do you think any of your guys are stupid enough to actually look at me?”
“Brenda might be,” I teased her.
“Might be what?” Brenda’s voice came from behind us.
“Wanting to check me out.”
“Daily, baby,” Brenda threw a wink at my girl.
“That’s why when Bender asked which brother I’d be with if it wasn’t Na-Blade,” she corrected herself quickly. “I told him you.”
“Awww,” Brenda cooed, doing that weird thing girls do where they bend at their knees and hold their hands to their chests.
That was my cue to leave.
Kissing Rachel on the cheek I left her to cook with Brenda.
Despite the early morning hours, the bar slowly started to fill with brothers and soul suckers.
Rachel’s friends made it downstairs too. Surprisingly, after yesterday, Annie was the one who looked the most put together. Collectively they underestimated the petite redhead. JJ nodded at me, following behind Chrissy like a puppy, panting at her feet. I’d laugh, but I was sure I looked exactly the same when I was following Rachel.
And I didn’t mind one bit.
About thirty minutes later, Rachel called her friends to the kitchen. When they all returned they were each carrying an overflowing tray. Eggs, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage, fried potatoes and coffee and juice were set down buffet style on the bar. The guys let me go first but I pushed Rachel in front of me, allowing her to eat first.
By the time everyone had eaten it didn’t even look like we’d put a dent in the food. Which was surprising. My guys could eat.
I had one arm around Rachel as I glanced around the room.
It felt eerily like the calm before the storm.
After everyone was finished eating, the soul suckers, on Brenda’s orders, cleaned up the mess.
“Church!” The guys finished their coffees, mostly Irish, quickly before heading to the meeting room. Standing from the booth I kissed Rachel chastely on the lips. She slid out of the booth before me and headed to where her friends were sitting.
As usual I was the last to enter with Hawk and Bender going in right before me.
I nodded at Hawk, allowing him to take the lead. Lighting a joint I leaned back in the chair, listening as he relayed his thoughts on the situation. The potential target on Rachel’s back.
“Seems unlikely,” Tank said.
“I agree,” I nodded. “But unless any of you have another lead to chase?” I let my words linger. “Hands you reach out to our allies?”
“Yeah. Haven’t gotten anything negative back yet. I’ve got ears to the ground. So far nobody is taking responsibility.”
“And the security gig?” Seal asked nervously.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s not related to that. And unless I get definite word it is, you Tank and Echo move forward with it. When do you guys need to be on the road?”
“Around noon. But the timeline is flexible.”
“Echo, until then you’re on Rachel’s old club. Find me as much as you can. Who’s in charge now. Allies. Enemies. What do they have to gain if she comes back? To lose if she doesn’t?”
Echo immediately started typing on his laptop, cigarette in his mouth and coffee next to him as he did.
“Seal, twice daily check ins.” Seal nodded his head in understanding.
“How’s Liza and the baby?” I asked Hands
“Both fine,” he said although he was clearly shaken up.
Bender clapped him on the back in a show of support.
“Dismissed,” I said while smacking the gavel down.
Echo stayed in his seat, typing away like a madman while the rest of the guys slowly poured out of the room. There was no excitement in their movements after yesterday’s events.
Rachel was talking seriously with her friends and I decided not to interrupt. I tookup enough of her time. Jamie’s words were clear yesterday.
“Wanna hit the gym?” Hawk asked.
We made our way out the back door of the clubhouse towards the out building we turned into a gym. It was pretty shitty, but it got the job done. Hawk headed straight for the bench while I went for the dumbells.
I wasn't paying attention to how many reps I did, but by the time I let them fall my arms were burning. Heading over to the bench where Hawk was still doing his chest press, I spotted him.
“I’m in the mood to punch something,” he said when he set the bar back.
“Me too,” I smiled widely.
I held the punching bag while Hawk let out whatever inner rage he was holding onto against the bag. I didn’t know what was going on with him lately, but he was angrier than usual. He threw punch after punch until his knuckles were bloody and he was gasping for breath.
“Want to talk about it?”
“Nope,” he said pushing me away and holding the bag while I took my turn letting out my aggression. Most of it came from concern for the safety of Rachel and my club. Something I should have had control over, but didn’t at the moment.
“Want to talk about it?” Hawk’s smart ass mouth mirrored my own words back at me. I punched harder, putting my entire body behind it.
By the time I was out of breath Hawk was ready for another round so we traded places again.
This time when he was done he threw himself to the ground, flat on his back with his hands resting on his stomach as he gasped for air.
“Still don’t want to talk about it?”
“Nah,” he said.
“Don’t make me call in the big guns.”
“Yeah yeah. Your girl is good at getting me to run my mouth. Don’t even try it.”
“I wasn’t talking about Rachel. I meant mama Hawk.”
“Jesus. No.” I laughed at his horrified facial expression. Hawk was a mama’s boy. And by that I meant the woman puts the fear of God into him. “I just. I’ve been driving by Sammie’s place.”
“Shit,” I let out on a whistle. Hawk’s first love. She didn’t leave him because of the MC. She left him because she fell in love with someone else. It’d been nearly five years. “Why?”
Stalker much? I din’t verbalize that thought. He already knew he was being crazy.
“What if she was my only chance at love?” He asked. Who knew Hawk was so desperate for love. You’d never know by looking at him. “She’s got a kid now. Little boy.”
“I don’t know what to say man. I didn’t know you were strung out about this.”
“I’m not really. Losing Jenny just made me realize life is short. The meaningless sex just isn’t worth it.”
“We can sign you up for Tinder.”
“Didn’t I just say meaningless sex isn’t worth it?”
Laughing loudly, I offered him a hand which he used to pull himself to his feet.
“Stop driving by her place.”
Silently we walked back to the clubhouse. We were met at the door by Echo. He was itching to start talking already but I silenced him with a look until we could get to the meeting room.
“The secrecy wasn’t necessary,” he began. “There’s absolutely nothing that shows they’re still after Rachel. Or that they ever were. There’s only one brother left who even knows who she is. And he’s in jail. Everyone else who knew who she was is died.”
As happy as I was to know she didn't have a target on her, it left us with even less answers than we had. Now we had zero leads.
“Thanks, Echo.” He took my words as a dismissal and left.
My mind spun with the other possibilities as I headed back to the bar.
“Hey, baby,” I said to Rachel, sitting down next to her with her friends.
“You stink,” she said doing her adorable nose scrunch thing.
“Want to help me shower?” I wiggled my brows.
“Gross. Go.” Jamie was ever the tactful one in her delivery.
Once we were upstairs and inside our room, Rachel started rummaging through the drawers, looking for clothes.
“That’s weird,” she commented. “A bunch of the stuff I bought yesterday isn’t here. The prospect must have mixed it up with Liza and Megan’s stuff.”
Neither of us thought anything of it, too busy stripping each other’s clothes off as we stumbled into the shower.
I didn’t think anything of it at the time. But later I’d realize that was the first clue.