This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Mum smiled brightly before leaning forward and blowing out her candles.
Being the eldest brother of eight, I learnt quickly they their needs came first. Mum did a great job, but when dad died suddenly in a motorcycle accident; her life became all about us kids and I went from a child to a grown up at the age of ten.
I was thirty now and as I looked at my brothers and sisters fussing over my mother- I wouldn’t change a thing. Mum was a model when she met dad. Even now in her sixties she still looked incredible. Her grey locks were cut off at her shoulders and those deep green eyes sparkled with love.
“I think I’ve already got my wish.” She looked up smiling at me. “Having the family together.”
My brothers and I travelled a lot. Because well we were part of a motorcycle club. Dad formed it when he was young with his best mates. All of them lived in different states. Starting a charter in each capital. Before long the clubs grew and now we were one of the most feared outlaw motorcycle clubs in Australia. Always targeted by police and always feared by the public.
So the fact we were all home, at one time, in one place, for one special moment- meant a lot to mum. Sammie and Jess still lived at home with her. It was us boys that were always in a different state.
“Come on mum there has to be something else you want.” Dan sat next to her, stroking her hand. “Maybe for Sammie and Jess to move out?” He snuck a quick little smirk their way. They of course just ignored his insult because we all knew it was them that kept mum sane while we were on the road.
Mum looked at each one of us. Dan, Declan, Oliver, Archie, Marc, Sammie, Jess and then finally me. In fact her eyes were glued to me, and a small smirk spread across her lips.
“Maybe for one of you to find a soul mate. You know I wouldn’t mind grandchildren.” She kept her eyes on me.
Mum wasn’t just hoping that one of us would get married and have kids. She was hoping that one day, her boys would settle down. Maybe get off those machines that took her husband too early in her life. She was hoping that one of us would be happy because she seemed to think that the happiness time in her life, was when she settled down with dad and had kids. So she was hoping we would have the same happiness.
Little did she know, that each one of us were happy with our lives. Sure I rode from state to state but it was with love. I loved the club. I loved what we stood for. I loved the fact when people read Horsemen on my back, it struck fear in them.
But most of all I loved I was keeping dad’s memory alive.
“Chase do you want a piece of cake?” Sammie asked, while sucking the icing off her thumb. She was holding the knife just above the cake. Her long black hair was framing her white face and those darn green eyes- the same as mums. Which usually had me never being able to say no to her.
“I’m good thanks Sammie. Think I might go for a run.” I walked around the table and leant down and gave mum a kiss on the forehead. “Happy birthday mum.”
“You sure you are ok in the guest house? I don’t like the idea of you all alone on that hill.” Mum frowned, but knew well enough that I could look after myself.
“I’ll be fine mum. What was the point of building all the guests houses if we don’t use them?”
Mum didn’t need a giant house to clean or look after. So instead us boys paid for her to have a house, with expensive taste but small enough for just the three of them. But mum wanted us boys to have our own rooms. Our solution was to build us a guest house each. Two bedrooms. Two bathrooms. Kitchen. Lounge room. Dining room. It was just as big as the main house really.
Mum gave me a half nod and I left them to eat cake and drink. If there was one thing my brothers could do, it was drink.
I however thought a nice long run would be a good way to spend the night. So I walked out of the house with the idea changing clothes and going on that run. Little did I know what I would run into would change everything.
If there was one thing I was obsessed with when in town it was that all the boys didn’t wear colours. Sure it was only a small town and everyone knew who we were. But I didn’t like the attention and problems it caused mum. So when we were in town, it was strict no colours- which meant no club colours.
It was starting to pour down rain when I just ran into town. I was running around a bend when I saw it. A car off the side of the road. It looked like it had lost it around the bend.
I scanned the car, the window wipers were going fast and then the driver’s door swung open.
“You ok?” I asked. The rain was coming down cold and fast. Whipping across my skin. It was getting dark now. I shouldn’t of ran so far.
She was tall with curve’s. Her long blonde hair soon sticking to the side of her face, wet from the rain. She slammed the door shut.
“Fine. Thanks.” She didn’t give me a second look. Instead she reached in the back seat and pulled out a bag.
She obviously thought I was gone because she was surprised when she looked back up and saw me standing there- in the dark. There was something about her, keeping me glued to the spot.
“Um where is the town?” She looked me over at me warily. Not taking a step closer to me. She was only dressed in a tshirt and jeans and was clearly freezing; as her body shook.
“Just around the bend.” I gestured my head and rose my voice so she could hear me over the rain.
She glanced up the road and then started walking. I automatically started walking next to her.
“Are you following me?” She paused, the rain pouring down. She took another step away from me. As if I was about to attack her at any moment. She kept one hand rose and on her left cheek.
“Actually its where I’m heading too.” It was the truth but at the same time a lie. I should head back or at least catch a cab home.
We rounded the corner and the small fish and chip shop was still open, with its porch lights on. She jogged slightly to get to it and then took shelter under the porch.
“God its freezing.” She muttered to herself. Pushing her blonde hair out of her face. It was only now under the dim lights I could see her sea blue eyes. They were incredibly and you could easily get lost in them.
Women don’t usually do this to me. I had been with lots of women sure. But I had never been more amazed by one yet.
“Yeah typical Cardigan weather for you.”
She looked up at me, keeping her hand over her left cheek. “Right.” Her words were clipped and short. “Thanks again.”
She wanted me to leave. I could sense it. She wanted me to get away from her. She clearly didn’t trust me- or men maybe.
“So you planning on getting a tow?” I was hovering. Didn’t know the fuck why but I was.
She scoffed. “It’s dead.”
She wouldn’t be old. I would guess late teens early twenties. Her looks are what you would see on a magazine. Though her wet clothes, maybe not.
When I looked at her more I could pick up on two things. One she was running. Two, Cardigan wasn’t where she wanted to end up.
“Um where is the closest hotel?” She looked up from her feet nervously. “A cheap one?”
And it seems she didn’t have money either. “Cardigan doesn’t have one.”
Her nervous face dropped of expression. “You’re joking?”
“Looks like I’m going back to the car.” She picked up her bag and was about to head back out in the rain when I stopped her.
“I’ve got somewhere for you to stay the night.”
“I don’t know you.”
“Yeah but you can trust me.”
“I don’t trust anyone.” Her words were firm and strong. I didn’t need to second guess her. She really didn’t trust people. Clearly someone had broken it once too many times.
“Well I trust you. I’m sure you won’t trash my place over night. Don’t worry it’s a guest house, you won’t be sleeping anywhere near me.”
She was thinking about it and just knowing she was thinking about caused my heart to beat a little quicker. Why did I care if this girl had somewhere to stay tonight? But thinking of her staying in that car, just didn’t sit well with me. Mum had brought us kids up with manners and if she knew I was leaving a girl to sleep in a car she would whack me from head to toe.
She finally deflated “Ok.”
My heart warmed at that. She was trusting me- even though she didn’t think she was. Maybe she thought what the worst that could happen. I hoped she wasn’t that down that the thought of me killing her was ok with her. After all the dark stranger on the highway offers you a place to stay the night only to kill you, sounds like something you would read about.
But it wouldn’t be the ending to this story.
I closed the taxi door. After my directions we ended up here. The taxi driver was slow driving into the property and sure it was big but it wasn’t a fucking maze.
“You going to get out?”
I looked at her puzzled face. “I thought you said it was a guest house?”
“It is one of several.” I paid the taxi driver.
She didn’t open the door right away. I got out and moved around the taxi. I was going to open her door, when it swung open.
“I’ll um pay you back for that.” She muttered holding her bag close.
“Don’t worry about it. Had to get a lift back anyway.” I brushed it off. But it seemed like it bothered her. Maybe she didn’t like being looked after?
I unlocked the front door and pushed the double doors open. Then felt the wall for the light switch. We had only rode in this morning. My bags were still on the floor of the foyer.
I went straight to the heater and switched it on. It was freezing and I had a feeling she would be just as cold. After all she was dripping wet.
“You going to come in?” I asked her over my shoulder, still sensing her by the front door. As if she didn’t want to close it.
I heard the door shut softly and I had to turn around to make sure she was still there. It was as if she was ready to bolt at any moment.
To my surprise she was still there. Now standing under a down light. Her true beauty was radiating from her. She was breath takingly beautiful. I wondered if she knew how pretty she was? She wasn’t just pretty- she was beautiful. Her white skin, glowed. Her sharp eyes were slicing through mine and I had to pull myself together because it was clear I had just been opening staring at her.
“I um can show you the room if you want?” I scratched the back of my neck, needing those intense eyes off me.
She lowered her hand from her cheek and picked up her bag. It was only now I saw it. The slice across her left cheek and the purple bruising that was occurring.
“Fuck. You said you weren’t hurt?” I moved across the room at a fast pace until she was only centimetres from me.
Her eyes widened and her hand shot back up and shielded her cheek. She was ashamed of it. It was clear on her face. But why?
“I’m fine.” She stuttered and took a step back from me, clinging onto her bag. “Um you said you were going to show me a room.”
“Yeah I will. After you put some ice on that.” I left her and walked into the kitchen, going to the fridge and pulling out some ice. It was already bruising, so it was going to be an ugly purple tomorrow.
I handed her a tea towel with some ice in it. She took it. Slowly.
I got another good look at the slice across her cheek and knew now this hadn’t been caused by the car accident. I had been in too many punch ups with my brothers to know what the receiving end of a punch looked like. But I wasn’t about to ask her if someone hit her when she was clearly uncomfortable about it in the first place.
I watched her wince at the coldness and my jaw clenched.
Chloe’s Point of View
I had left with the intention of never going back. I had stolen that car, planning on never returning it. Sure it was my step father’s car but I knew he would have reported it stolen as soon as I left in it.
He hadn’t told me his name. Then again I hadn’t told him mine. His shoulders were broad which framed a chiselled chest and his waist came into a narrow v. His tousled black hair was wet from the rain and was dripping across his perfectly tanned face. Those deep green eyes were glued on me and I felt like I was suffocating under his attention.
I took the ice off him and applied it to my cheek. Wincing from the pain.
“Thanks.” I said to him and to be honest to god I was thankful. Thankful I had got this far and put so much distance between my step father and me. Still it wasn’t enough. I needed to get on the first bus tomorrow and leave.
I was thankful he had offered me a place to stay. No one would look here for me.
“You sure you are ok?”
I looked up at him. God he was good looking. I bet he had multiple ladies on the go. Or had multiple ladies after him. I didn’t have time for another man. Men weren’t worth my time. Time and time again I was shown they didn’t deserve trust.
“It’s just a bruise.” I muttered.
“It’s more than that.” His eyes flashed with something I didn’t understand. I hadn’t seen it in a man’s eyes before. “Someone hit you.” He didn’t bet around the brush or not tell it how it was. There was something about him, strong- powerful, you would feel safe around him.
“Maybe I deserved it.” I was dry and up front to him.
His jaw clenched. “No one deserves to be hurt.” His hand took the ice from me and he gently held it to my cheek. “Unless you’re one of my brother then in that case you had it coming.”
“You have brothers?”
“Five and two sisters.” He nodded his head.
“Wow. All from the same family?” I was shocked. Surely they would have to be step brothers or sisters.
He held the ice on my cheek. “All blood.”
“Are they all as good looking as you?” The question tumbled out before I could stop it.
A smirk spread across his lips. “Nah I think I won the looks.”
“Right.” I somewhat doubted that. I was staring into those green eyes losing my train of thought when he asked me.
“So you going to tell me who did this to you?”
I snapped back into reality. I swiped the ice from my cheek and took a step away from him. I didn’t know him. I couldn’t trust him.
“Calm down.” He rose his hands. Seeming to be very calm himself. While he radiated this sense of safety I was scared stiff of it.
I didn’t like men and I sure as fuck didn’t trust them or feel safe around them.
“I’ll pay you for tonight.” I reached into my bag feeling for my step father’s wallet.
“There is no need. I’ll um show you the bedroom.” He took a step away from me and I followed him up a corridor.
Maybe he wasn’t use to a girl being so jumpy around him. I’m sure other girls loved the fact they could feel safe around him. I on the other hand didn’t because I didn’t trust it.
He opened up the door at the end of the corridor. A large four poster bed was in the middle of the room, with an ensuite and walk in robe coming off it. The room was decorated with expensive taste and while I didn’t know much about him. I knew one thing. That being he had money. And a hell of a lot of it.
“Thanks. I um didn’t catch your name?” I said feeling a little guilty for overacting before.
“It’s Chase.” He gave me a smile.
“Chloe.” I introduced myself. Seeming it rude if I didn’t. After all I was staying at his place, guest house or not. He didn’t have to take me in off the streets.
“Well sleep well Chloe. I’ll be at the main house if you need anything. Just follow the path on your right.”
Panic struck me. Sleeping here by myself. I was never good at being alone. After all isn’t that why I stayed at home as long as I did.
“Um you don’t have to leave.” I clung at straws and attempted to think of one reason why he should stay here.
He gave me an odd look. “I promised you I wouldn’t bother you.”
“You won’t be bothering me and to be honest I um...” My words dried up and I took a deep breath in, as those green eyes stared holes down at me. “I don’t want to be by myself.”
Just knowing there was someone else in the house meant something to me. It calmed me. I wasn’t looking for someone to cuddle me and kiss me good night. I just wanted someone to be in the house with me.
“You sure you want that?” His eyes flashed to my cheek. “From the seams of things you have had one hell of a night.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You’ve been in a crash accident and it looks like a physical accident as well.”
He had summed my night up in one sentence. “You’re right I have.”
“So some stranger hanging around wouldn’t be what you are wanting?” He crossed his arms, watching me, leaning against the door.
God he was tall. God he was well built.
“Actually that is exactly what I’m after.” I dropped my bag on the floor. “If you don’t have somewhere else to be?”
His green eyes flashed to my cheek again. “I have nowhere else to be. In fact, before I met you I was planning on spending the night here.”
“Then don’t change your plans.” I picked up my bag and crossed the room. Putting it on the bed. Stupid me should of packed clothes or something useful. Instead of my school bag. I wondered how useful my chemistry books were going to come in handy on the run.
“Do you want something to wear?”
I spun around. What was with this guy? It was like he was in my head. My eyes had widened but words weren’t forming.
“By the look on your face I’m going with yes.” He smirked at me. “Give me a minute.” He turned and left.
God what was happening to me. I had always been confident around men. Sure I didn’t trust them but I wasn’t stupid. They liked the way I looked on their arm or in their bed.
“Here.” He was back and tossed something at me. Out of reflexes I caught it.
It was clearly one of his t-shirts. It was big enough to fit him.
“You sure you don’t mind?” I glanced at him.
“Not at all.” He was standing in the door way. I think debating whether to come in or leave. I hoped he stayed. But it was up to him.
I unbuttoned my jeans and slid them down my legs. They were struck to me because of the rain. I stepped out of them and then reached for the hem of my t-shirt and pulled it off, dropping it on the floor. I grabbed his t-shirt and slid it on. The warm fabric was a delight on my skin. I took a calming breath, finally comfortable.
I turned back to face Chase only to see his jaw clenched and his eyes painted in desire. I had seen that look before. But this time it didn’t scare me. Instead it delighted me. That I could cause this man to feel anything.
I looked at him, as he attempted to regain his self-control.
“So what should we do?”
Chase’s Point of View.
She looked at me all innocent and said. “So what should we do?”
I was about half a second from striding across the room, ripping that t-shirt off to see that naked flesh again and then take her in ways she had never been taken before. What was she thinking changing in front of me? Didn’t she know I was a man? A stranger at that? How did she know I wouldn’t rape her? She clearly was acting her age maybe ten years younger than her real age.
“I can think of a few things.” I coughed out, trying to get a hold of myself. All the things I was thinking about involved her naked and in my bed. But I wasn’t about to tell her that.
“How about something to drink?” I changed the subject. I was needing liquor. This woman was going to drive me physical insane.
“I don’t drink.”
“Good time to start.” I turned and walked down the hall. I needed a drink and I wondered briefly maybe she wasn’t old enough to drink. I walked into the kitchen and headed for the bar.
“You have a nice home.” She spoke standing in the lounge room in front of the open fire.
With only the dim down lights over the foyer on and the light from the fire- it was fair to say she was even more alluring in this light. Darn it. I was trying to get fucking her out of my mind.
“Not my home.” I poured myself a drink. “Want one?”
She glanced over at me. “Um what is it?”
I felt like I was temping the angel to the dark side when I handed her, her drink.
Her long blonde hair was drying and it framed her face perfectly. Those deep sea blue eyes were examining me. Her curves were perfect, and I was dying to run my hand down her perfectly shaped body. She was shorted then me and usually I went for the tall and lean women, but she was easily the most beautiful women I had ever seen.
She sipped the drink and stood in front of the fire. “So you don’t live here?”
I was brought back to the moment. Right I was staring at her again. “Um no.”
“Guest house right?”
“So you live at the main house?”
She frowned. “Ok.”
I guess I wasn’t giving her much to go off. I didn’t mean to be giving her ended answers but my life was complicated. It wasn’t easy to say you live from hotel to hotel.
“This is my mother’s place.” I explained. “All us boys have our own guest house.”
She turned putting her hands in front of the fire and giving me the perfect view of her ass. How I would love to bend her over...
“Your mum must really love you guys to do that.” Her words were soft. I saw her gulp back the rest of her drink and then sit the empty glass on the ground.
“So guessing she’s the one who brought the artwork and rugs?” Chloe was staring up at a painting I hadn’t taken much notice of till now. It was a classic black and white photo of a couple on a street corner.
“No my sisters did.”
“Right you have two? Right?” She turned back around and titled her head as she remembered.
“Yes. Sammie and Jess.”
“They have really good taste.”
“I’m sure they would love to hear that.” I leant back on the couch and just watched her. Her skin was glowing and the fact she was wearing my t-shirt only made things more appealing. “So do you have any brothers and sisters?” I peeled my eyes off her hips, which were calling my name and looked her in the eye.
She sighed and looked down. “Only child.”
I scoffed. “Couldn’t imagine that.” I couldn’t imagine not having my brothers or sisters in my life. Coming from a big family was all I knew. Then I had the club and when it came down to it, that was just another big family.
“No I guess you couldn’t.” She looked up and smiled at me and it knocked me straight in the guts. I struggled to take a breath. God she was beautiful. Did she know she was that beautiful?
“So where were you going tonight?” I asked and patted myself down for a cigarette. Looking at her would make you a chain smoker. I watched her tense from here. She didn’t like sharing details about herself. I could pick that up from here as well.
“Um just through.” She muttered avoiding eye contact.
“So Cardigan wasn’t your destination?”
“Just passing through?”
“Something like that.”
I got up from the couch putting my glass on the coffee table. I needed a smoke. I walked to my bags that were alright unzipped from getting a tshirt for Chloe. First bag and there they were. I pulled one out and lit it up. Only as I turned around did I realise she was watching me.
“Sorry. Needed a smoke. Do you?” I gestured the packet out to her.
“I’ve never tried.” She gave me a weary look.
“Well I don’t want to tempt you over to the dark side.” I put the packet down and lit up. “So you want a refill?”
“Trying to get me drunk?” She smiled at me.
“I wouldn’t mind a refill.” She handed me the empty glass and our fingers just touched and it was enough. Enough to light every fibre in my body. Enough to send shivers down my spine. This girl had something special and I was getting addicted. I was close enough to smell the scent of her shampoo and the fresh rain. She more than appealing she was darn well intoxicating.
I went to the bar and filled up our drinks. I wasn’t trying to get her drunk. I glanced up, seeing her standing there. She was so young, so pretty. No not pretty, beautiful. I made her drink weaker and handed it back to her. This time making sure not to touch her.
“No worries.” I took a drag on my cigarette and used the ash tray on the coffee table. It was crystal and way to fancy for my taste. But as I said. My sisters loved spending money.
“So.” She looked at the glass then me. “Thanks for tonight.”
“Not a problem. Wasn’t like I was going to let you sleep in that wreck of a car.” I scoffed.
“A lot of other men wouldn’t of cared.”
“Guess I’m not a lot of other men then.” I took a gulp of my drink. I was dying to ask it and I still hadn’t done it. But now seemed like the right time. I had to know if she was taken or not. “So does your boyfriend know you are trapped in a strange town for the night?”
She looked at me blankly. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”
So it wasn’t the boyfriend that hit her. Also meant she was on the market and that spiked my interest. Though what would a young girl see in me. I was older and came with a lot more problems. She needed a man that would put her first and I could only ever put my family first and club second. She didn’t deserve to be third. She deserved to be first.
“So does your girlfriend care you take in strangers?” She asked with a hint of curiosity in her voice.
She was wondering what I had been wondering moments ago about her. Now she was wondering the same thing about me. I smirked at that. Looks like this girl did attract trouble and if I was one thing, only one thing, that was trouble.
“No she wouldn’t care.” I watched her face drop just a bit and it killed me to do it, to her. “Seeing she doesn’t exist.” I added.
She stared down at her glass. “Well a good looking guy like you would have a pick of the ladies. I’m sure you have them on strings.” She looked up with a hardness in her eyes. “I think I’ll go to bed.”
What had I done to deserve that? But I felt like I needed to defend myself. “I’m picky with my women and I’m no man whore.”
“I didn’t mean it like that.” She gulped down the rest of her drink. “Just forget I said anything. Do you know if there is a bus that runs out of town tomorrow morning?”
Change of subject. Maybe she regretted it. “Yeah there is a bus, leaves at nine.”
“Well early morning then.”
“Where you heading too?”
“As far away from them as possible.” She put the glass on the coffee table. “Thanks for tonight.”
It bothered me that it was only for tonight. Sure I just meet her but I didn’t want her leaving so soon.
“You’re more than welcome Chloe. Now you sure you still want me to stay?” She said she didn’t trust people. But clearly she was trusting me if she wanted me to stay in the same house as her.
“Um yeah if it isn’t a hassle. If you have somewhere else to be that’s fine.” She muttered staring down at the ground.
I wanted to see those sea blue eyes again. “It’s after one in the morning. I have nowhere to be.” I got up and walked towards her and couldn’t help myself from lifting her head to stare into those eyes. Her skin burnt mine. So soft. So beautiful. I couldn’t stop my hand from moving and cupping the side of her cheek. I thought she would pull away but instead she pushed her cheek into my hand. My other hand gently pushed a stray hair from the side of her face and tucked it behind her ear.
My thumb ran over the bruise that forming. “You sure you don’t want to tell me who did this?”
I could have the boys at his place within the hour, pounding some manners into the man that thought it was ok to hit a girl. Especially this girl.
She pulled away from my touch and her hand automatically went to her cheek. “It was nothing. Now I better go to bed.” Her hand ran down my arm as she reached around me putting her glass on the coffee table. “Thanks for the drink.”
She moved around me and began walking up the hall. I should go after her. I should say good night to her. But what I was really kicking myself about was I should of fucking kissed her.
Marimar Amieva: I just can't believe the story! I absolutely loved it, all of it. The characters and their chemistry between them, and the fact that they are relatable. The story also has some sick plot twists, which I never saw coming. I loved the fact that it is an adorable love story but has its mystery touc...
OpheliaJones: This story took a different kind of spin on the "normal girl lives with definitely not normal guy" plot. The plot points of Frey's father, Liam's family, and Frey's view of Liam's world were good to read. She did not fall in love with him in the first couple weeks. Their lives were not smooth in ...
daneliacapote116: This was one of my favorites! When you start reading you want to continue I can't wait for the rest of the novel!! The characters where awesome! Everything was great. I encourage you to read this novel, your going to love it it and want to read it more and more !!
Flik: Hi! ^.^ huge fan of yours on ff.net! When I saw the note about this contest on The Way We Smile, I couldn't help but rush over here, create an account, and vote! XD Seriously love this story and would recommend it to anyone! :D best FT fanfiction out there. Amazing story, amazing concept that wa...
263Adder: Okay so I adore this story. I only knocked one star off plot for historical inaccuracies because I'm a bit of a stickler for that. The ending broke my heart though, considering you already changed history couldn't you (SPOILER) change it a bit more and have them together!!!! I want an alternative...
annie08c: I really like this story, I can relate to it a lot and with how she feels, the boyfriend and the events that happened but I'm a little bit younger. It was really good plot, really liked how you stuck to the topic and you had a new title for every chapter making me guess what's going to happen. Ma...
Sandra Estrada: I loved every minute of it and I thank my lucky stars that brought me to the story, it's been a whirlwind of emotions, plot twist after plot twist but I never got tired of them. Abby and Kade's story is a hard one to understand but once you're submerged in their story and love, you can't help but...
christylynnr5: This was beyond amazing! I loved this book. The characters seemed so real. It was amazing how the author let Zak and Kaylees personalities slowly change. This story was very sad and eye opening. It could teach some people a very worthy lesson. It was a great combination of romance, mystery, and a...