It took me less than fifteen seconds to assess the situation. The two guns pointed in my direction made my options extremely limited. Non-existent actually. I didn’t necessarily believe that Rain had any idea what to do around a weapon, but Stacy had been a cop. And when she wasn’t a cop she had spent time with the cartel. There’s no way she was a stranger to a weapon, or a moving target. If she was alone I would challenge her. But Rain’s weapon probably had ten rounds and at this range, even with zero skill, the odds were in her favor.
I had so many questions.
“This is what’s going to happen. We need to be out of here quick before Echo traces the breadcrumbs we left that got Blade called away so urgently.”
What breadcrumbs? What had they done?
“Let’s not forget Bender,” Rain said. Her sister nodded in agreement. “He’ll be here soon.”
“You’re going to write Nathan a letter telling him you left him. Then you’re going to come with us.” They forced me deeper into the house towards the kitchen.
How long before Bender got here? Could I stall enough time? Between the two of us we could easily take them.
“Hurry now,” Stacy tutted.
“Here,” Rain said, shoving a pen and paper in my hand.
How were they planning on getting me out of here? There wasn’t a car close by the house and they’d be even crazier than I thought they were to try and make it through the woods.
“Start writing,” Stacy barked, hand on the trigger as she pointed it at me. Nervously, I nibbled on the pen cap, knowing I had to get a message to him. I leaned on the island counter, still contemplating. “Now!”
Thank you so much for the last months
All I’ve ever wanted was you
Chrissy was right, this is wrong
You’re perfect, just not for me.
And remember that what we had was real
I’ll always love you
No matter what happens, don’t try and find me
I’d never called Nathan sweetheart. My terms of endearment for him were baby, babe, and asshole. Chrissy had also never said Nathan and I were wrong, that we shouldn’t be together. Jamie had in the beginning but never Chrissy. She was too wrapped up in JJ to care who I shared my bed with.
Hopefully if they managed to get me out of here he would be smart enough to find the hidden message. The very clear and apparent hidden message.
I prayed these girls were as dumb as they looked. Each of them read over the letter and luck was on my side because they didn’t catch it.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked in an effort to waste time.
“I told you to stay away from Blade.”
“He didn’t want me to,” I smirked.
With the hand that wasn’t holding her gun she backhanded me across the face. It wasn’t hard but the loads of fake gemstones on her fingers left me with open wounds.
It hurt, but it was necessary. I was buying time. Rule number one in a kidnapping was never let them get you to a secondary location. Honestly, I’d rather die here, in Nathan and my’s house, than let them get me secluded somewhere else. I had no doubt they would torture me and kill me. Or maybe they would sell me off to the highest bidder.
“Shut up!” She screeched. Her cool and collected demeanor was long gone and it was clear she was unstable. I couldn’t blame her. She grew up with the club. If Jamie hadn’t kept me anchored all those years our roles could easily be reversed.
“How did you find out you were sisters?” I asked, hoping that her temper would make her forget about the time crunch they were really in.
They exchanged a look.
“Sisters?” Did they really not know?
“Aren’t you sisters?” I asked, now I was the one confused and left doubting all the leads we’d been chasing. Rabbit hole after rabbit hole. I didn’t envy Alice.
“We’re cousins,” Stacy answered. “My mom and hers were sisters. My mom died giving birth to me. Her mom raised me until CPS took me away.”
That made sense. But what about the birth certificate? Something still wasn’t adding up? Did Echo even mention a birth certificate? The stress was clouding my brain.
“But still,” I continued. “How did you find each other? You were already in foster care when Rain was born.”
“Through Joe, actually.” My brows furrowed in confusion before a look of shock crossed my face.
“Don’t look so shocked,” Rain mocked. “Joe fucked her. Blade fucked me. You sure can’t keep a man satisfied.”
“Blade hasn’t fucking touched you since he met me.” Saying his road name felt like a betrayal to our relationship but I didn’t actually know if Rain knew his real name. She grew up in the club, same as Doc and Hawk. And even if she didn’t know it that way, she’d been in the clubhouse while he’d fucked me, while I’d screamed his name. Honestly, everyone probably knew what it was by now. And I still didn’t understand why it was taboo to use it. That was one part of club politics I may never understand. “Nathan loves me.”
She shrugged her shoulders like she didn’t care. “He’s been fucking me for years. You’ve been around for months. He’ll come back to me eventually.”
“I’m his old lady.”
“Were,” she sneered. Emphasizing the past tense of the word. “You broke up with him, remember?”
“He still won’t come to you. The entire club is on to you.”
“Blade, please. I’m so sorry. Let me make it up to you. Joe and Stacy blackmailed me. I only did it to protect you. To protect the club.” Her voice had a begging tone as she mimicked what she would say to Nathan. My Nathan.
She thought she had it all figured out. But Nathan would never be that stupid.
Keep them talking. Keep them talking. Keep them talking. That was the only thing I could think of. I had no idea how much time had passed. Bender must be close by now.
“How did Joe figure out you’re related?” I changed tactics, ignoring the plea she thought would get her in Nathan’s good graces again.
Not a chance.
“Once he figured out you’d moved on and to who he did some digging. I came up in one of his searches and he realized how much I looked like Summer.” I should start calling her Summer too. The double names were confusing.
“Simple DNA test.”
This was a total mind fuck. I’d seen some crazy stuff in my life, growing up in the life. False identities and undercover cops and sting operations were standard everyday run of the mill issues. But this? This was laughable. Never heard of.
“Ah. A wonderful family reunion.” I hoped my act of bravado was good at hiding the distress I was actually feeling. I forced my words out sarcastically. Bender would be here soon. He had to be.
Looking down I noticed my hands instinctively covering my stomach.
“Nathan knows I would never leave him.” Neither of them blinked at the use of his real name.
“I’ll be there to put him back together.”
Movement on the back porch, visible through the kitchen window, caught my eye. Momentarily I panicked, hoping it wasn’t backup for them. I must have stared a little too long because Stacy, Summer, whoever, snapped her head towards the porch. “What?”
So not her backup. How did Bender get here? We would have heard his bike.
I saw more movement and I desperately tried not to draw attention to it. They couldn’t notice it, not when they were both still holding weapons.
I didn’t get the chance to try and distract them anymore because the glass of the screen door shattered, sending shards of glass all over the kitchen. I hit the ground, shielding my eyes. Seconds after the glass settled the front door slammed open.
Gunshots rang out, and I could hear voices in the chaos, but I had no idea who they belonged too. My ears were ringing from the explosive sounds and it was all indistinct, like someone was speaking to me while my head was submerged under water.
“Rachel?” I could make out my name in the chorus of voices. Rolling to my stomach, I opened my eyes; nearly the entire club was standing in my kitchen. Nathan was crouched next to me, hands on my face as he checked me for injuries.
“I’m okay,” I managed to say. Bender was still barking orders at the brothers and they disappeared, scattering out the open doors and into the basement and upstairs.
Every part of my body hurt.
“Can you stand?” I nodded my head at his question. I winced when Nathan helped me to my feet. “No you can’t,” he murmured, lifting me from the ground and walking across the glass, causing it to shatter more under the heavy steps of his boots. Setting me down on the couch, his eyes raked over me again, still assessing if I was actually okay or not.
Before he could answer me Bender and Hawk came back in to the house followed closely by Tank, Bear and Seal. They looked so intimidating. Hawk and Nathan were tall, muscular. But the other three looked like they’d been fed steroids for breakfast when they were babies. Huge. Tattooed. Dangerous. If I didn’t know they were on our side I’d be terrified.
“All clear, Prez,” Bear’s voice rumbled. I’m reminded of Nathan telling me he was Jenny’s first love. I couldn’t fault her taste. It was sad that they were doomed from the start.
But weren’t Nathan and I doomed too?
Nathan looked at me, love and worry reflected in his eyes.
Panic. That’s the only emotion I felt.
“I can’t keep doing this,” I said softly.
“What?” He asked, ignoring his men who were trying to get his attention behind them.
“Prez,” Bender called louder this time, interrupting us.
“What?” He bellowed his eyes glaring into his third in command when he finally pulled them away from mine.
“Get out!” I yelled at them.
All of them.
“Get out! Get out! Get out!”
Wait, this isn’t my house. It’s Nathan’s. He said it was ours, but it was his.
“No. I’ll go,” I say forcing myself from the couch, walking unsteadily. Stacy and Rain hadn’t taken my phone; they hadn’t gotten that far. Another mistake on their part. I pushed passed them, digging my phone out of my back pocket, finding Jamie’s number. She would come get me.
“Rachel!” Nathan called after me, chasing me down the porch steps. “Wait!”
“Let me go, Nathan. I can’t do this anymore.”
“Do what?” He asked, heartbreak already laced in his voice.
“This,” I gestured with just finger between the two of us. “I’ve almost died three times since we’ve been together. I can’t.”
My words were breaking my own heart.
I couldn’t be without him.
But how could I be with him?
“Don’t do this. I love you.”
“I love you too,” I said weakly.
“Then don’t do this.”
“There’s no other way.”
“There’s always another way, baby.” My eyes were cast down, unable to look at him as he hit back with a retort for every argument I threw at him.
His hands were on my face, cupping my cheeks as he forced me to look up at him. I couldn’t. If I looked in his eyes I would crumble, knowing that no one else could ever make make me feel the way he did.
“Open your eyes, Rachel.” I squeezed them tighter. “Look at me, baby.” I shook my head, still clenching my eyes closed, worrying my bottom lip. “Please.” The begging tone of his voice was what did me in.
Blinking my eyes open I looked at him. His own flicked back and forth between mine, and I knew there was only one thing he would see.
Doubt. Not about loving him but for trying to run. Again.
He was going to use it against me. He wouldn’t be a gentleman and let me go easily. He’d fight for me.
Exactly like I’d always wanted. Or so I thought I wanted.
“Come back inside. I need to tell you some things. If you still want to go after that, I’ll call you a cab.”
I didn’t believe him.
But I went willingly anyways, unable to force myself to walk away from him. From the love of my life.
“Out!” He bellowed to the guys. I hadn’t seen any of their motorcycles out front.
I sat on the couch, knees pulled to my chest as I wiped the stray tears from my face.
“Everything is taken care of,” Tank said before closing the door behind him as the last to leave. I chanced a glance behind me, glass and blood still covered the floor.
When I turned back around, Nathan was sitting in front of me, elbows on his knees while his eyes looked down. Changing positions I sat with my legs crisscrossed, waiting for him to speak.
“This morning, while your were asleep, and I was in church, Echo had intel. You can be mad at me for not telling you, but I did it to keep you safe. Bubbles managed to convince his FBI guy to release the records on Joe. Stacy Summers and Rain are not related. He faked the DNA test.”
“Why would he do that?” And they looked eerily alike for people who didn’t share DNA.
“After you escaped, he wanted you back. It’s really that simple. The file we got had thousands of pictures of you. They were collected from where he was captured. He was obsessed with you. From hacking their phone records, Echo figured out that they both wanted you out of the way. Rain wanted you away from me, Stacy wanted revenge for Joe. Making them believe they were related put them both on his side.”
All I could do was nod.
I had figured as much.
I wanted to ask who had pulled the triggers, but stopped myself. If it had been Nathan, I didn't think I wanted to know.
He didn’t say anything else, but I was sure the story wasn’t over.
I knew Stacy and Rain were dead but hearing the words didn’t bring me the sense of closure that I was expecting it to.
“Once Echo had all the pieces he was able to track Rain. They thought they were being smart. They turned Rain’s phone back on and dumped it in the back of a pickup, believing we’d follow it. Smart plan. Not so smart, using the same login to restore her new phone.”
Stacy had been a cop. Apparently a bad one because this was all tracking 101.
The guys never even chased whatever breadcrumbs they’d thought they left.
“Did you know they were in the house when you left?”
“Yes. We knew their entire plan. But Seal was out front with a sniper on them. He could see them the entire time. Bender was on the back porch and had eyes on you the entire time you were in the kitchen. Tank was hiding in the laundry room.”
“I know,” he conceded. “The club voted on the plan. And I knew that if you had a vote you would have voted yes.”
I couldn’t argue with him.
I was also trying to push him away for things that weren’t his fault. Joe kidnapped me and nearly killed me. I knew Joe before him. That wasn’t his fault.
“We’re they responsible for the shooting at the club?”
“Yes, they hired some punks from the next county to do it. They’ve been taken care of,” he said darkly and I didn’t need to ask for details.
The shooting wasn’t his fault either. It was Stacy and Rain. Working to finish what Joe started.
Not Nathan’s fault.
If anything, I’d been the one who’d brought danger on to him.
“Please don’t run,” he begged. He must have not wanted to or been out of more details to share. “I love you, Rachel. So fucking much. I’ll retire, leave the club if that’s what you want, but don’t run from us.”
He’d leave the club for me? Where I came from, guys didn’t get out. But I remembered him mentioning his and Hawk’s dads being retired. I guessed things were different here.
“Is that what you want?” I asked. I wouldn’t force him to do anything.
“No. But I would. For you. I’d do anything for you. To keep you safe. To keep you happy.”
“I couldn’t ask you to do that.”
Jamie’s words rang in my ears. When we ran and vowed not to get back in to the life, she’d said the only thing worth living like that for was love. I’d scoffed at the idea then, so sure I’d never love a man capable of doing all the things I’d seen the club do.
What was that saying? A bad boy can be a good man. That hadn’t been my experience. They’d all been bad men masquerading as good men.
But Nathan? He may have been a bad boy, capable of doing bad things, but he was a good man.
Loving. Caring. Honest. Protective. Honorable.
Those were all good reasons to stay. To love him and let him love me.
I also had one very good reason to run and never look back.
And that same reason to run was also another reason to stay. The reason I’d been such a bitch, so moody and emotional, recently. And so tired. The secret I’d been hiding from him, my friends and even denying from myself.
His eyes went wide as he looked from my eyes to my stomach and back again.
“Yeah,” I nodded.
“But you’re on birth control.”
“Apparently it doesn’t mix well with antibiotics.”
“Did Doc know?” He growled out angrily.
“No. Nobody knew.”
“When did you find out?”
“Last week. After the last lockdown ended.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I haven’t been to the doctor yet. It might be a false positive.”
“No,” I sighed. I’ve been exhausted. My boobs hurt. And I’m always nauseous. “I don’t think so.”
“Let’s go,” he said, pulling me to my feet.
“Are we done talking about this?”
“We’re going to Doc.”
Pulling me from the house he walked me to the truck before helping me in. The drive to the club passed in silence. It wasn’t the comfortable silence I was used to with him; it felt heavy. The clubhouse was busy, but there was no party. Most of the women were shocked by Rain’s betrayal and the atmosphere was heavy.
“Doc,” Hawk said when we had walked over the threshold. He was immediately on his feet and walking towards us. Nathan took my hand, the gesture instantly calming me.
“She okay?” I hated when he did that, asking Nathan instead of asking me directly. I was too tired to argue about it now though.
“Yeah, let’s go.”
Nathan waited to speak again until we were behind the closed doors of the makeshift clinic. “She’s pregnant.”
“Have you had an ultrasound yet?” He finally addressed a question about me to me.
“I can’t do an internal one. Sit down and lift your shirt and tug your leggings down a little.” Nathan sat in the chair next to me, instantly taking my hand. Doc squirted gel onto my stomach and I flinched at the cold. “Sorry.”
I waited on bated breath while Doc moved the wand of the ultrasound machine along my lower stomach eyes glued to the screen. The sound of a rapid heart beat filled the silence of the room. “You’re somewhere between six and eight weeks.”
Silent tears fell from my eyes. Turning my head I looked at Nathan, his eyes were glued to the screen the hand holding mine close to his lips as he kissed it gently.
“Stay like that and I’ll just clean the scrapes on your face.” I laid still, trying not to jump at the sting of the alcohol as he cleaned me up. “None of them need stitches. I’ll leave you to it.” Doc handed me a paper towel to wipe my stomach before leaving us alone. Nathan was eerily quiet.
“Fuck!” He shouted, releasing my hand and throwing a punch to the wall, leaving a dent in the drywall.
I thought he wanted me pregnant?
“I’m so sorry,” he said when he turned to look at me.
“It’s my fault, not yours,” I said confused. I was the one to blame. I should have known antibiotics effected birth control. “If you don’t want the baby, I’ll go. You’ll never-” an angry noise left his throat, cutting me off.
“I want this baby, Rachel. And you. But I put you in danger. You and our child.”
“You didn’t know,” I said sitting up and moving towards where he stood leaning against the wall. “And you said I was covered the whole time.”
“It still wasn’t without its risks.”
I didn’t know what else to do or say so I did the only thing I thought could help. I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him close to me, my ear against his chest where I could hear his heartbeat.
“You were going to leave me. Leave with my baby.” His voice wasn’t angry or accusatory, but broken.
“I panicked. Temporarily insanity. Whatever else you want to call it, but I love you, Nathan. I’m not going anywhere.”
Three times I'd tried to run. The first time we met when I never called him and Jamie had done it for me. When I found out that he was the president of a motorcycle club and I'd kicked him out of my apartment. And tonight. And three times, I couldn't. We belonged together.
Tears fell from his eyes. And he let them, unapologetically. His emotions triggered my own as I started crying too, sadness and fear leaving my body only to be replaced with love and peace that I could feel radiate from Nathan.
“Take me home,” I whispered.
“It’s a disaster. The prospects will clean it but I don’t want to go back until it’s put back together.”
“I don’t want to stay here.” I wanted to be alone with him. No distractions.
“Come on,” he said, kissing my head before he pulled me through the clubhouse. He stopped briefly and whispered something to Hawk. Probably putting him in charge until we came back.
“Where are we going?” I asked when he pulled away from the club and onto the main road.
I swallowed harshly, anxious to get to the hotel. To remind him how much I loved him. That I needed him. And that despite the fact that I may occasionally panic and act irrationally, years of flight response flooding to the surface and taking over my instincts, I’d never leave him.