Crossroads: Book 1

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Chapter 46

Elena


The warm wind hits my face as Mike revs the bike into town. I have become much more comfortable with riding this thing. There is no backrest, so my body is forced to rest onto Mike’s large, warm, hard frame. Sometimes, I catch him smiling; I wonder if he doesn’t put a backrest up on purpose.

As we lean into a curve on a dirt road just past the auto shop, my stomach is twisting. What he’s about to show me is a world that I never knew existed before moving here. What if his friends don’t like me? What if I can’t handle this type of crowd?

The bike comes to a halt. I swallow my fears of the unknown and dismount the bike; my legs no longer feel wobbly from the engine’s vibrations. Removing my helmet, I take a look around. It doesn’t seem too scary.

“Not exactly what I imagined.” I don’t try to hide my relief.

“Oh yeah?” Mike asks as he detaches himself from his bike. “What did you imagine?”

“A place that’s barely being held together and maybe a few drunk men stumbling around,” I tease as I rake my sights over the building. The big grey structure has a sign that reads ‘Devil’s Henchmen’ in red bold block letters on the roof. The roof extends into a covered porch that hovers over two double red doors with chrome handles. There are some large windows, but I can’t see in. There are bikes scattered in the lot and a couple of half-dressed women lounging outside on towels in the grass, sunbathing.

With a smirk, Mike mocks, “Do you really think I’d be in charge of a shithole? You watch too many movies.” He chuckles and walks past me. I speed up to follow him then try to swat his arm for that comment. He watches about as many movies as I do.

Mike reaches for the door handle and motions for me to enter first. Once inside, it looks and smells like a bar. Not that I’ve been in one before, but I have always imagined what they would smell like: Alcohol, leather, and cheap perfume. My imagination was right on target, although it looks like it’s been kept up exceptionally well.

There are oak walls with pictures of men and their bikes, nice, well-kept wooden floors, a couple of black leather couches and sofa chairs, a few dark brown – almost cherry – square tables with matching stools are in the space between the lounge area and the bar. The atmosphere reminds me of an upscale tavern.

Right away, eyes are on us. Mike’s hand snakes around my waist as I take in the surrounding faces. There are a few men at the bar on stools. There is also a man with a long v-shaped beard, a dark buzz cut, and crazy looking blue eyes -he’s sitting with a woman. She is too busy leaning all over him to notice me.

There’s a calmness that waves through my nerves as I recognize someone. I met a man when I dropped off the gift basket at the shop a while ago. He is behind the bar, the blond man smiles at me, and the nervous butterflies begin to die down as I smile back at the familiar face.

Mike guides us up to the far side of the bar to meet Jace. They greet each other then turn their attention to me. Feeling a little out of my element, I hesitantly walk forward.

“What are you doing here, darlin’?” Jace asks while holding out a hand for me to shake.

I take his hand firmly and respond by lifting my chin a smudge. “I asked Mike if I could see the clubhouse...”

He barks out a laugh. “Take your girlfriend to work day?” Jace teases. He may as well have a blow horn – the words ring in my ears. My face burns as my heart flutters with the ‘girlfriend’ remark; Mike and I haven’t had that conversation yet. Am I Mike’s girlfriend?

Mike coughs at Jace’s phrase. “Uh...” The unsure man next to me clears his throat and mumbles, “Uh, something like that, I guess.” Interestingly, he didn’t deny it, and there was a bit of pink on the apples of his cheeks.

“Well, it’s the perfect day then,” Jace chimes.

“Yes, it is,” Mike cackles as they fist bump over the bar.

“Why? What’s going on?” Interest is winning me over.

Mike turns to look at me; with a wicked grin, he says, “I have an errand to run for the club, and you’re going with me. You’ll get a real feel for this life.”

I hear Jace chuckle beside me. “I think she may need a drink first if she’s gonna spend all day with the likes of you.” Jace pours a clear liquid into a shot glass and hands it to me. I look up to Mike as he rolls his eyes, seeing a bit of amusement playing on his lips.

My gaze transfers between the shot and Mike a few times before I give in. Why not? It’s only a shot. I want to prove that I can handle his friends. That I can handle this life.

Bringing the liquid to my lips, I swallow it all. Holy mother- It burns!

My mouth feels like it’s on fire as I try to cough the sting away. Jace and Mike bellow in laughter. “Burns a bit, doesn’t it?” Mike hoots. “Give this girl some water,” he says to Jace as he lightly pats my back.

The muscles in my face scrunch up. “What was that?” I ask in disgust.

Jace hands me a glass of water that I can’t wait to accept; I chug the water and catch Jace pompously answer, “Moonshine.”

“Moonshine?” The question falls out of my mouth. “That stuff is so gross.”

The men laugh together as they continue to feed me water. Mike leans into the counter resting on his elbows; I take a seat on the stool, and Jace is wiping a few glasses then puts them away on the shelves.

Mike explains to me, “This moonshine is the best in this county- -”

“Hell, it’s the best in the whole damn state!” Jace cuts Mike off, standing proud.

“You would say that about your own moonshine, wouldn’t you, sweetheart?” A feminine voice rings in the air. I turn around on the barstool to see a fiery redhead stalk up to the three of us.

“Red, where have you been, baby?” It takes me a minute to realize that the fiery red-headed woman in a leopard print tube top, cutoff jeans that are just way too short, with a nose ring, bright red lipstick, and big blue eyes is not only sauntering up to Mike but also referring to him as Red and Babe.

Mike straightens himself from the counter to wrap his arms around the woman. A pang of jealousy impales through me. She reaches up for him, and they kiss each other on the cheek; she leaves a bright red stain on the side of his perfect face. The sight literally hurts my eyes.

“Darlin’, how are you?” he greets. It appears I am completely forgotten about as they gaze into each other’s eyes.

“I’ve been good, been missing you, though.” The petite fingers with long red nails flirt with the black t-shirt that covers his broad chest. Watching all of this unfold before me, I feel so stupid thinking that someone like him would ever really have feelings for me.

He lifts his hand to push back a strand of the unnaturally red wavy hair behind the woman’s ear. “I’ve missed you, too.” This is too much; I feel my stomach turning. I think the moonshine is on its way back up.

“Rose,” Mike says as he turns to me, “this is Elena. Elena, this is Rose...an...old friend of mine.” An old friend? Just what kind of an old friend is she?

Stop it, Elena. He’s not yours. He’s free to be ‘friends’ with whoever he wants. If she weren’t still touching him, then I’d feel sorry for myself for feeling so green about this whole situation. I still can’t peel my eyes away from the fact that her claws are still on him, resting comfortably over his heart.

She does a double-take at me. “This is Elena?” Her eyes widen a bit as Mike gives her a nod. I swear his jaw tightened.

“Hi there, honey. Nice to meet ya,” Rose chirps as she embraces me in an uncomfortable hug.

“Yeah, you too,” I manage out through my clenching throat.

“Do you mind occupying Elena a bit, maybe show her around? I need to have a talk with Jace about the errand that I’ll be running later.” Mike turns to me. “Is that okay with you?”

No, no, it’s not okay.

“Sure, yeah, that’s fine.” I try not to bare my teeth as I say it. While Mike walks behind the bar to meet with Jace, miss leopard prints slinks her arm with mine.

“Come with me, babe,” she smiles.

Before we can step away from the bar area, a man stops in front of us. “Rose! Girl, whenever you’re ready, I’ll be in my room.” The man sways from his heels to his toes. The smell of alcohol vapors out with his breath. The man’s brown eyes land on mine; he points a finger at me to soberly say, “Bring her with you,” he smiles, my eyes widen.

With his hand out, he introduces himself, cheekily, “I’m Squirrelly.” I take his hand, and I stifle a giggle at his name.

Rose jumps in. “Elena is not interested, boo, but I’ll join you soon.” She winks at Squirrelly, then whispers to me, “he’s harmless.”

The hand he had in mine drops to clasp up to his mouth with animation; he wheezes, “Elena!” With a single hop, like a little boy at his surprise birthday party, he says, “Oh, it’s a pleasure to meet you. You’re hot.” I burst with a laugh. He eyes me with the glazed brown orbs, then leans in and puts his palm up as if to whisper a secret. “I see why Red can’t stop talking about you.” His dark brows flirt up and down; I feel the heat rise up my neck at the thought of Mike talking about me to his friends.

“Okay, down boy,” Rose orders with a titter; Squirrelly winks with exaggeration at Rose. This man is so cute. He is drunk, but he is a funny drunk.

“Squirrelly, is it?” I ask with intrigue; he looks back to me and nods happily. “How in the world did you get that name?”

With a thick smile, he gives his explanation as if he’s sharing a science experiment. “I was drunk one time and made out with a stuffed squirrel.”

I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard as I picture this tall grown man making out with a fake squirrel. Rose and Squirrelly join in with their own belly rolls of mirth.

“He gets very handsy and flirts uncontrollably when he’s drunk,” Rose tells me while she sobers. “Boo, head to your room, I’ll be there soon.” She reaches out to place a kiss on his cheek. Like an obedient dog, Squirrelly practically skips past the bar and jumps past a curtain.

“He has a room here?” I ask, pointing towards the black drapes.

“All the men do; most of them live here,” Rose informs as she pulls my arm towards the door.

She opens the door for me; I walk through to embrace the warm sun. It’s so bright that I have to shade my eyes with my hand—a stark contrast to the clubhouse’s dim lighting.

Curiosity spikes my tongue with a spell as questions begin to pour out, “How many rooms?”

“They have their own bathrooms as well. There are nine rooms,” Rose answers matter of fact.

“Does Mike have a room here?” I wonder if the apprehension in my voice is detectible.

Her shoulders shrug under her bright hair. “He does have a room here, but I haven’t noticed him sleeping here for a while now.”

“Do those women stay here too?” I ask, looking over my shoulder at a blonde and brunette turning themselves over in the sun’s heat.

I nearly bump into a picnic table when she speaks with a hint of annoyance. “You sure ask a lot of questions.”

A nervous smile erupts. “Yeah, sorry about that.”

She looks at me for a moment. “It’s okay.” Rose waves her hand in dismissal. “No, they don’t live here. Just the guys do. We live at home, but we do come here a lot. Boys need attention; you know what I mean?” We both take a seat at the table.

An anxious chuckle spills out. “You mean, you...” I don’t want to just assume.

“Sleep with them – yes,” she answers. Her hands remove a cigarette pack from her bra and a lighter from a back pocket.

“Voluntarily or...?” I pry for more information as she lights her stick. I sure hope these women aren’t forced into anything.

Smoke puffs from her lips. “Of course. We are not forced to do anything we don’t want to do. It’s not like that. We all have respectable jobs in town. It just so happens that a group of us girls are really into bikers.” She takes an inhale of the nicotine. “We are essentially Biker Bunnies – ‘Old Lady’ wannabees.” Rose chuckles to herself while smoke rolls out of her nose.

With a tap of her cigarette, she goes on. “Some of us have been around for a long time waiting for our men to want to settle down.”

“Do you girls stay with one guy?” Now that I’ve asked it, I’m not sure I want to know the answer.

She inhales her rolled tobacco. “That depends on the people involved.”

So far, there seems to be only three... “How many of you are there?”

She taps the butt of the stick and answers, “Seven, including me.”

My hands fidget on my lap. I want to ask her if she’s slept with Mike... “Have all the men here...Uhm. Did...Uhm.” How do I word this without sounding like I’m judging or sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong?

Taking a draw from the stick, she bluntly speaks, “Have I slept with Mike?” Smoke blows to my face.

I cough out a “Yeah,” as I try to wave the puffs away.

Giving me a knowing smile, she raises an eyebrow. “Yeah, we have. A great lay by the way, but I’m not into him like that. That was yea – I mean, it was a long time ago.” She clears her throat. “I have my eye on someone else.” Suddenly, I feel relief, but the relief is entwined with nausea at the fact that Mike slept with Rose. Who else has he slept with? There’s the blond from his driveway, Rose, and...

Do I even want to know?

Rose leans into the table while removing her cigarette. “There is one bitch here that you have to watch out for.” She motions with her head across the parking lot. I take a peek over my shoulder. “The brunette over there is Kara,” she says with repulsion. “Kara has been trying to get Mike to claim her ever since they met. Who could blame her, though, right? I’m just glad her sights aren’t on Squirrelly.”

“Is Squirrelly the one you want?” I ask while I take in an eyeful of the brunette.

“Yeah.” With adoration, she says, “He is something else. But he always makes me feel special and wanted. Plus, he’s hilarious -he always makes me laugh.”

This Kara is very pretty and very much comfortable in that little red bikini. It’s warm outside, but even I don’t think it’s that warm. I’ve never worn a two-piece before; I always felt uncomfortable with how much skin people can see. She has long, wavy brown hair, I can’t see the fine features of her at this distance, but I’m sure she is much prettier than I am. Wouldn’t surprise me if she and Mike ended up together...

I turn my head back to Rose. “What do you mean by claim?" It sounds kind of degrading, like claiming a piece of property or a slice of cake.

Rose lets out a laugh then explains, “It’s a club thing. If a man in a biker club, like this, claims you - it basically means that you’re spoken for each other. No man can touch you, and no woman can touch him. Basically, it’s a boyfriend/girlfriend kind of thing. Or in terms of the club,” she points a painted claw at me, “you’d be his ‘old lady.’ Which is a title of respect. If you were to become Mike’s old lady, you’d be the club’s queen because of his rank in the club.”

Interesting.

Before I can ask more about how this club works, I hear a familiar voice call out my name. I turn around to see Mike. His perfectly imperfect messy dark hair is shining a bright brown under the sun’s rays, aviators are resting on his beautiful face hiding those amazing green eyes. He is wearing that adorable grin as he shows off that dimple while strolling in our direction.

He stands at the head of the table; he looks between Rose and me. “You ready, Kitten?” he asks with that devilishly handsome smirk.

*************
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