Chapter 25 – Changing of the Guard
I do not own SOA or anything youtube related. I claim all original characters and give no one permission to use them.
“Hey…” Jax softly called as he shook Riona awake.
“Em?” She hummed as she came to.
“I gotta head on out.” He said as he buttoned his Teller – Morrow mechanic shirt.
He hoped the new shirts would arrive soon. His mother was sure to have a runaway once she saw the Morrow dropped out of the name, but he didn’t care what she thought at this point. It was time for a change. He didn’t want that name anywhere near the club, that included the shop.
“Abel’s still asleep, but I doubt he will be for long. There’s some money in the top drawer of my dresser if you need anything.”
“So I’m goin’ shopping with Abel?!” Riona threw out there, and Jax chuckled.
“If that’s what you want, go right ahead. Love you.” Jax said before pecking her on the lips.
“Love ya too.”
“I’ll take you and Abel out tonight.”
“Tonight?” Riona questioned in apprehension.
“That a problem?”
“I sort of made plans already.”
“That was fast. You got you a second boyfriend or something?!” Jax teased, and Riona laughed.
“Well, don’t let me find him or I’ll have to kill him.”
“That’d be a shame.”
“Linny and I are havin’ dinner with Ethan tonight.”
“That’s right. I remember now. We got fireworks tomorrow night.”
“Yep, good ole American Fourth of July. Gonna barbeque and fire them at Chibs’s place.”
“Now that sounds fun.”
“I’ll see you when I get off work.”
Jax dashed on out the door, and Riona heard the revving of his motorcycle as it roared to life.
“Mommy?” She heard along with a tiny knock at the door.
“Ya can come in.” She said while making certain she was covered up good.
Abel entered the room and crawled up on the bed.
“Daddy says I no have to stay with grandma since you’s here.” He said with a smile.
“Can we go to the park?”
“How about after lunch?”
“Okay! We’s gonna have so much fun!”
“That’s right. Why don’t ya go and watch some cartoons while I get ready?”
“Okays. Then we have cereal and chocolate milk.”
“Aye, ya know it.”
Abel smiled then hopped on down. Riona reached out and grabbed her robe. She put it on then headed for the shower.
“And that’s tonight?” Chibs questioned once Aislinn told him her plans.
“Ye be careful darlin’. Ye haven’t any ID, and ye just met this Ethan fella. He might be yer brother, but that doesn’t mean ye should let yer guard down.”
“Have him drop ye off at the clubhouse, and I’ll take ye home afterward. There’s somethin’ I want to show you.”
“Ye sure ye’ll be okay by yerself?”
“I’ll be fine Scotty. This gives me a chance to dig through your things and see what secrets ya have!” She teased, and Chibs chuckled.
“Well, it sounds like ye got a full day ahead of ye!”
“I sure do!”
“Love ye,” Chibs uttered after kissing her.
“Love ya too Scotty.” She said as he headed for the door.
“Lock up behind me.” Chibs reminded.
Aislinn locked everything up then looked around the house.
“I need a job.” She muttered knowing she couldn’t do this day in and out.
If they had kids, that would be different, but it was a little too quiet. Aislinn grabbed her journal and guitar. She figured now would be a good time to get some practice in.
“Jackie boy!” Chibs greeted once he entered the garage.
Jax looked over as he was working on one of the trucks. Chibs threw a box down, and Jax smiled.
“Is that what I think it is?”
“Why don’t ye open it up and see?”
Jax retrieved his knife from its holster then made his way over. Everyone looked on as he used that knife to open the box. The president grabbed one of the shirts and smiled.
“They’re in!” He pitched one of the shirts Chibs’s direction.
“Put that shit on!” He said and tossed everyone a new shirt.
Chibs staggered back however once he got a good look at them.
“This says Teller – Telford.” Chibs uttered thinking there was some sort of mistake.
“It sure does,” Jax said with a mere nod and put his shirt on.
The VP regarded his president in shock, and Happy chuckled as he patted Chibs on the shoulder.
“You’ve put more into this shop than anyone else, and before you even think about arguing with me, this was a mutual decision. Everyone agrees that it should be your name up there with Teller. You fixed the roof when it started to rot. We’re using YOUR toolkits, creepers, and chairs.”
“They’re not mine Jackie. I bought them for the shop.”
“All the more reason… Come on Filip you earned that title, and you know it. Just like that patch, so suck it up and get back to work!”
Chibs chuckled as he removed his cut and put his new Teller – Telford shirt on.
“There’s another box in the van. Long and heavy.” Chibs said, and Jax had this stunned look about him.
“That was fast. I didn’t think that would arrive for another week or two.”
“What is it?” Chibs asked, and Jax followed him out to the van.
The two worked together in dragging the box out. Jax withdrew his knife once again, and the VP was blown away by the reveal. It was a new Teller – Telford sign for the shop. The old one had Morrow in it still, and the letters were in red. This one, however, was black and white, much like the MC colors. Chibs shook his head then looked to Jax in disbelief.
“When’d ye go and do all this?!”
“When I got back. I was tired of seeing Morrow in the name. Figured it was time for a change. So whattya say? Wanna help me get this son of a bitch up there?”
“Ye know it!” Chibs expressed, and Jax chuckled as the Scot hugged the hell out of him.
Jax sighed however as his mother pulled into the lot. Chibs shared that same apprehensive look.
“I got this. We’ll put it up in a bit.”
Jax nodded his mother’s direction as she stepped out of the car. She made her way over then pecked him on the cheek.
“How’s your day going, baby?”
“Not bad. You?”
Gemma lowered her shades and reared back when she took notice of not only the sign but Jax’s shirt.
“When were you going to tell me…?”
“There’s nothing to tell. He’s not here anymore mom. Hell, he wasn’t even here when he was!”
“And what about me?”
“What about you?”
“I still carry the Morrow name.”
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t.”
“Is this your way of saying you handed my half over to your VP?”
“Your half?! What do you mean by your half? I own this shop. Dad had it signed over to me years ago. You know… after you fucked his best friend.” Jax harshly whispered, and Gemma slapped him.
This gathered the Sons’ attention as they were looking on from the garage. Chibs shook his head thinking that a dumb thing to do. Jax wasn’t the same person anymore. Gemma hadn’t a clue what she was getting herself into.
Jax closed his eyes then drew back the deepest of breaths. He said nothing as he grabbed his mother by the arm and dragged her into the office. The Sons heard the door slam and Chibs sighed amongst himself.
“She’ll get over it.” Happy uttered with a grin and Chibs gave a nervous laugh.
“Ye sure aboot that?” He asked as they could hear Jax and Gemma shouting at one another from the office.
Bobby hit at his chest as he was laughing so hard he started choking.
“Easy there, Bobby! Ye’ll kill over before we know the outcome!” Chibs taunted as Bobby was coughing into an oil rag.
“So that’s it? I’m just here to do your records?”
Gemma shook her head in disbelief.
“You knew this was coming. How could you not?!” Jax questioned.
“There’s history in the Morrow name.” Gemma sadly put, and Jax sneered at this.
“Name one thing he did for this shop.”
“He put his blood, sweat, and tears into this shop Jax!”
“No. Dad did that. Teller was here, long before Morrow ever was. Clay was up there because of the title he held, nothing more. The only reason they went fifty-fifty was because dad thought of Clay like blood. Dad realized his mistake and fixed that shit a long time ago. You and Clay were too busy swapping spit to even notice what dad had done. It’s been that way for years! I mean fuck you run the records. How could you not notice?!”
Gemma reared back on this and started going through all the filing cabinets. Jax leaned against one of the walls and folded his arms about his chest. He watched in mere amusement as his mother dug for the deed to the shop. It took her a bit, but she eventually found it. The woman regarded her son in absolute shock. The date even showed that this was done a couple of years before JT died.
“Maybe you should’ve been paying more attention. I got a new one here, but I gotta get Filip’s signature first.”
“You willingly gave him half ownership?!”
“Why would you do that?!”
“That’s my business, not yours.”
“How could you do this to me? I’m your mother.”
“Do what to you? It’s not like you were on the deed. You never were.”
“No, but if something happened to Clay…” Gemma stupidly muttered, and Jax raised his brows on this.
“You didn’t just say that…”
Gemma grimaced once she realized her mistake.
“For fuck’s sake. You were counting on Clay’s half, weren’t you? That’s what this is all about?! You were expecting some sort of compensation!”
“I need the money, Jax!”
“FOR WHAT?! YOUR HAIR?!”
Gemma sent her son a look of hell, and Jax laughed.
“I pay you more than enough to keep things afloat. More than a record keeper is even worth! How much more could you possibly need?!”
“Do you even hear yourself? I really am just a record keeper to you, aren’t I?”
“Mom…” Jax uttered in misery.
“You forget who you’re talking to! I was standing beside that gavel, long before you were even born! I was there with JT and Clay.”
“Oh, I know, and you screwed them both, in more ways than one.”
“JT screwed ME over!”
Jax froze in place, and Gemma gave a firm nod.
“You didn’t…” Jax whispered with his hands balled up into fists.
“Look me in the eyes and tell me how my father screwed you over.” Jax put as calmly as possible.
“It wasn’t just me Jax. He was screwing everyone over. The moment he decided to be done with the cartel.”
Jax closed his eyes as it took all willpower not to hit his own mother.
“Everyone counted on that money. Your father and I lost our house, my car was repossessed, and we were living in hotels. But he insisted this was the way to go.”
“But he never turned his back on you. He kept a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and food in your greedy-as-fuck stomach. Dad took care of us all!”
“So I’m to blame. Is that what you’re saying?”
“Yes. You are. You tore this family apart. You and Clay.” Jax said with tears streaming down his face.
“I buried my father and my brother because green was more important than family. That’s the Morrow way of doing things. And that’s why I chose Telford over Morrow. Telford knows the importance of family over green. Telford wouldn’t fuck my old lady then smile in my face like all is right in the world.”
“You sure about that?” Gemma challenged, and that was the final nail in the coffin.
“You heard me. You’re done. Pack up your shit. Find someplace else to work. I won’t support your greedy habits anymore.”
“Jax…” Gemma started to plead, and Jax slammed his fist down on her desk.
“You of all people should understand my decision on this. How many lives do we have to lose before you open your eyes? You just pissed all over JT and Thomas’s grave. You just let it known that their deaths were in vain and you could give a flying fuck because power is all you care about. What happened to you, mom? Huh? You used to be all about family.”
“I’D DO ANYTHING FOR MY FAMILY!”
“THERE WAS A TIME I BELIEVED THAT. BUT I WAS WRONG. YOU’D DO ANYTHING FOR YOU. NOW GET OUT OF MY FACE. YOU’RE FIRED!”
This was heard throughout the entire shop. Gemma regarded her son in absolute shock. Jax trembled all over as he eyed his mother down. Gemma was quick to grab her purse and darted on out of the office. Jax watched as she got into her car and sped off.
Jax sighed as he looked around the office. He fished his cell phone out of his cut then called Riona.
“Jackson?” Riona answered, and he could hear his son playing in the background.
Jax let out a miserable laugh.
“Certainly feels like a Monday.”
“That bad, huh?”
“Yeah. How you doing?”
“Better than you. We’re at the park. Abel’s showin’ off his monkeyin’ skills!”
Jax chuckled in thought.
“I have a question, and I need you to be one hundred percent honest, babe.”
“Yeah well… this is a little out there.”
“How out there?”
“How do you feel about coming to work for me?” Jax awkwardly put then flinched on the way that sounded.
He mouthed the words to himself then shook his head in disbelief. She was acting as a free babysitter as it was. Even if he and Abel saw Riona as his mother, it didn’t feel right. Jax just threw all this responsibility at Riona, and now he was going to ask if she could run records for the shop? The president felt like he was taking advantage even if that wasn’t his intention. She’d been in Charming for less than seventy-two hours, and here he was asking his old lady for a favor.
“Work for you?” She curiously asked.
“You know what. Nevermind. I’m having an off day. Forget I even asked that shit. Alright?”
“What’s come over ya Jackson? Did somethin’ happen?!”
“I fired my mother.”
“I didn’t even know she worked for ya!”
“Oh yeah… she’s been keeping records for years.”
“I think I can manage that!”
“Riona babe, it’s cool. I had a desperate moment, but it’s gone now. Bobby can do records until I find someone else.”
“Well, I’m not so sure how Bobby would look in a skirt.”
Jax raised his brows on this.
“Isn’t that requirement of a records keeper? Skirts and all.”
“If that’s the case… Let’s just say I’m glad my mother never got that memo.”
Riona died of laughter, and Jax cleared his throat.
“Tell ya what Mr. Teller you hire me, and I’ll wear a skirt every day, except Fridays. Those are casual days. I’ll wear shorts and a t-shirt.”
“Is this turning into one of those sex hotlines?” He teased, and Riona laughed.
“If I wasn’t at the park with our son…”
Jax found himself taken aback by how she said that. Just the mere words “our son” had the man melting in ways he never imagined possible.
“Guess who starts Monday?”
“ME?!” She teased, and Jax chuckled.
“That’s right. I’ll go over the dets tonight. Abel can tag along until school starts. I think he’ll be fine with you in the office or the clubhouse even. I’ve had him here when I’m working before, and he tends to keep himself pretty entertained.”
“School…” Riona said as if the thought hadn’t even occurred to her.
“That’s right. He’ll be starting school in September babe.” He said as he’d be turning five in August.
“Kindergarten…” Riona uttered, and Jax smiled as she even sounded like a heartbroken mother.
“Guess I better go to work then, huh?”
“Only if you want to. I know this is rather sudden and…”
“Shhhh…” Riona shushed.
“You just hired me. Ya can’t turn around and fire me. I’ll be there with bells on!”
“The skirt will do. The shorter, the better.”
“Now that sounds like sexual harassment.”
“You know it! There’ll be more where that came from. I better get back to work darlin’. We’ll talk more about this later.”
“Alright. You got this, love.” Riona encouraged.
“Hope so,” Jax said before hanging up.
Even the one with the four leaf clover… Aislinn wrote before slamming her journal shut.
The young woman let out a frustrated sigh as she’d been working on the same song for hours. But something was missing, and she couldn’t pinpoint what. She decided it best to take a break and clear her head a bit. She grabbed one of the boxes with her belongings and went through it. It wasn’t much just a few pictures, some old journals of hers, and things Brodie knew she’d want to hold on to. She smiled as one of those things was a mic from one of her first gigs with Brodie. He’d gone all out and had her name engraved and everything.
She was sixteen at the time. Brodie hadn’t a clue when he first asked her out. He told her he’d wait until she was eighteen and ask her again and that he did. He did this every birthday, but she always turned him down. She made it clear she didn’t want to ruin what friendship they had. It was her twenty-first birthday when she finally gave in. But it wasn’t long after she caught Brodie with Kimmy and everything went to shit after that. She didn’t speak to him for months and swore she’d never sing with him again. It wasn’t until Brodie showed up at the house personally and apologized that she finally agreed into giving him another chance. Another chance… as in their gigs but she was done when it came to Brodie and that chase of his. That didn’t stop him as he’d hit her up on her twenty-second birthday and twenty-third. The young woman shook her head in memory.
Brodie had made it a tradition asking her out every October and on the day of her birthday. As to why it hurt when she finally agreed, and she caught him with Kimmy. It seemed as if her birthdays took on a curse after that day. She lost one of her horses, and her father was a drunken mess that same night, and she broke her arm falling off stage on her twenty-second. The very last birthday she’d come down with the flu, and it was bad enough she ended up being hospitalized. Aislinn knew it was all in her head, but that didn’t stop her from wondering what was next? But she couldn’t think about that now. She had to focus on her sister’s birthday, the wedding, and tonight.
The young woman sighed as she thought about Ethan. She thought back to that party and how she could’ve sworn that man carried her into that bedroom. But she was so out of it… She thought it her imagination.
“I got you…” Was all he said and that stayed with her all these years.
It was the way he said it. I got you… She remembered how safe she felt. Aislinn thought back to how foolish she was and knew it was a wonder she didn’t end up raped before Jimmy. Those parties… They were dangerous. But she didn’t care about that at the time. All she could think about was her next buzz and that empty feeling. She didn’t want to think or care about anything. She accepted the numbness as it erased the pain. She didn’t want to think about her mother, her father, or the guilt when it came to her sister raising her. At times she felt as if her sister would’ve been better off without her. Riona could’ve lived a normal life if it hadn’t been for her. But that wasn’t true and deep down Aislinn knew that. Pepper was a lot of the blame, but she was too much of a daddy’s girl to see that at the time.
This had the young woman looking to her phone in thought. She picked it up then started to dial a number she knew she shouldn’t. She thought back to her sister’s words and struggled against that urge. But it was killing her… not knowing her father’s side to all this. Aislinn looked to the old business card on the kitchen counter and picked it up. She drew back the deepest of breaths as she dialed that number instead. It rang a few times before she got an answer.
“Is this a bad time?”
“It’s never a bad time. I told you to call whenever you needed.”
There was an awkward moment of silence.
“You still there?” He asked.
“Then talk to me.”
“What about it?”
“Do you remember what you said?”
“What I said?”
“Just say it. Please.”
Ethan cleared his throat.
“I got you.” He softly uttered, and Aislinn closed her eyes as he even said it just like that day.
“I’ll see you tonight.” Aislinn softly put.
“Alright.” He said before she hung up.
Aislinn looked to one of the framed pictures she had of her father and curled her lip in disgust. She grabbed that picture, dropped it then stomped on it repeatedly.
“How’s that look?” Jax hollered, and Bobby gave the thumbs up.
Chibs climbed on down and took a gander as well.
“Looks great, Jackie!”
Jax joined them below and smiled once he saw the sign.
“Now that’s a lot better!”
“Agreed.” Happy uttered.
The others made their way out of the garage and had a look themselves.
“Oh man, it’s crazy how different that makes everything look!” Kip said.
“My thoughts exactly. But this is a good thing. We needed a change.” The president said.
“Guess you need me to do records now?” Bobby softly put, and Jax peered back.
“You heard all that, huh?” Jax murmured.
“We all heard it.” Happy said with a smirk, and Jax shook his head.
“Had to be done. Mom’s too much of a Morrow at heart. As for the records… Riona will be handling that.”
Bobby reared back in surprise.
“Yer puttin’ yer old lady ta work already?” Chibs taunted.
“That’s right. Crackin’ that whip and all.” Jax witted, and the Scot laughed.
“Somethin’ tells me it’s the other way around Jackie.”
“Riona with a whip… Now that could be hot.”
“Ya don’t say.”
Jax closed his eyes as the familiar voice came directly behind him.
“A warning would’ve been nice.” Jax harshly whispered, and Chibs laughed.
“Now what would be the fun in that? Ye heard him, lass. Jackie wants a good ole whippin’.”
The Scot sent her a wink and headed into the garage.
“Why daddy want a spankin’?” Abel asked.
Jax spun around, and Riona laughed. The look on his face was priceless.
“I’m sure your father was misbehavin’,” Riona uttered, and Abel giggled.
Jax shook his head but with a smile.
“What are you two doing here? Did you walk?”
“It wasn’t that far. I didn’t realize how close the park and the house was. Abel was determined to come see you.”
Jax scooped the boy up and tossed him into the air.
“Sign looks good!” Riona remarked.
“Aye. Teller – Telford huh?”
“Yeah figured it was time…”
“Looks so different and all ya did is put up a sign. I dig the shirts too.”
“Again daddy!” Abel squealed as Jax tossed him about once more.
“We won’t keep ya. We’re headed to that ice cream shop Abel mentioned.”
“That’s three blocks away babe. You’ve walked a good five at least already!”
“We’s like to walk daddy!”
“That’s right. It’s good for us.”
“Next time take the truck. I have a set of keys hanging up in the kitchen. Just be careful. Don’t be getting yourself pulled over.”
“I’m okay with walkin’.”
Jax shook his head in thought.
“Did you grab the money?”
“Aye, but we don’t need THAT much for ice cream.” She uttered as he left her five bills.
“Just wanted to make sure you had enough.”
“I don’t know. Whatever you needed.”
“I don’t need that much, but I appreciate the thought, Jackson. We’ll get out of your hair.”
“I’ll see you later little man.” He said while roughing up Abel’s hair.
Jax pecked Riona on the lips.
“Got your phone, right?”
“Ya know it!”
“Good deal. Call me if you two need a ride back to the house.”
“We’ll be fine. It’s nice out.”
“Big difference between here and Belfast huh?” He hinted as to the warm weather.
“Aye, it’s nice. Don’t hafta freeze me knickers off!”
Jax laughed and watched as they headed off.
Chibs tossed his keys onto the coffee table when he got home. He looked around seeing as how Aislinn had already put a few pictures up. There were ones of her and Riona, their mother, and she had a couple of Brodie and their friend Quinn as well. Chibs’s things were still intact and hadn’t been touched. He was somewhat impressed by how she managed to squeeze her pictures in without taking anything down. He wouldn’t have cared if she did though. The Scot narrowed his eyes however as he took notice of the broken glass and the picture of Pepper in a trash bag. Chibs could hear her guitar and followed the sound as it led him into the backyard. He raised his brows as she was kicked back on the patio chair and strumming away.
“Hey, darlin’.” He called once she took notice of him.
She smiled as he kissed her on the cheek. Chibs sat across from her.
“Day go okay?” She asked while setting her guitar down.
He took off his cut and showed her the Teller – Telford mechanic shirt. Aislinn’s jaw dropped, and Chibs chuckled.
“That’s completely hatchet (absolutely brilliant)!”
“Aye, kid caught me off guard too. I hadn’t a clue. He set that up on his own.” Chibs pulled a certain face, however, and Aislinn regarded him in wonder.
“Is somethin’ wrong?”
“His mum didn’t take a likin’ to it. Caused a bit of drama actually. Ye should’ve heard them arguin’. Jackie ended up firin’ her.”
“Nah, none of us expected that. No one seems ta grasp that Jackie isn’t a wee lad anymore. He’s takin’ the reins, and he’s gonna do things the way he sees fit. The way JT always wanted. He’s his father’s son through and through, and it’ll get ugly before things get better if people can’t accept that.”
“That’s why he has you. Ya can knock them back into play.”
“Try anyhow. C’mere.” He uttered while wiggling his index finger.
Aislinn came to her feet then made her way over. Chibs reached out then pulled her into his lap.
“Ye didn’t get too bored?”
“Nah, just worked on some songs. Oh, and I hung a few pictures up. Hope that was okay.”
“I done told ye it was. Do whatever ye need ta feel at home.”
Chibs ran his hand along her bare legs. He wasn’t used to seeing her in shorts.
“Now that’s sexy.” He uttered, and Aislinn laughed as he rocked her about him.
“Couldn’t get away with this back home.”
“Aye, well this is yer home now pet. Ye wear all the shorts and skirts ye want.”
“I don’t have very many.”
“I’ll get ye some.”
“Scotty, that can wait until I get a job.”
“Ali love, ye don’t seem ta grasp just how long that could take. Especially if we’re takin’ the route, Happy mentioned.”
“Aye, he thinks it would be better if ye worked on gainin’ your citizenship through marriage. I agree. It’d be better for ye and Riona in the long run. It won’t be easy, but I think we can do this and make it legit.”
“Guess I better learn all I can about American history.”
“That’d be a start. But they’re gonna question us about one another and how we met. So we’re gonna have to work on that as well.”
“Ya mean we’ll have to come up with a cover story for the real one?”
“Then we had better make certain it coincides with Riona’s and Jax’s.”
“Agreed. We’ll figure it out before we go and take that leap. Happy’s right. If ye two want any sort of real life here… We gotta go about this the right way.”
“Does that mean Jax has to shite or get off the pot?!”
“Oh yeah!” Chibs said with a grin, and Aislinn laughed.
“Yer fingers are all blistered up.” The Scot murmured while looking them over.
“Ye need to soak those.”
“I’m alright Scotty.”
“I like this.” He said as if in another world.
“This… Comin’ home ta ye darlin’. It’s a good-feelin ’.”
“Em.” Chibs hummed as she kissed him.
“Guess I better get ready for tonight,” Aislinn said after looking to the time on her cell phone.
“Aye, I gotta head back to the shop myself.”
“I just wanted ta see you before ye left tonight. Ye be careful Ali. I mean it. Don’t ye go and get yerself inta any trouble. If ye do, ye had better call me, first thing.”
“I’ll be a good girl.” She promised.
“Ye don’t hafta lie pet. We both know better than that.” He taunted while smacking her on the ass.
“Fine. Good for me anyhow.”
“That’s better. And that’s another thing…”
“No heat tonight. Ta be honest, I want ye to stop carryin’ for a bit. That’s the last thing you or Riona need. If ye get caught and with an unregistered handheld yer fucked. Ye two should be in the clear now anyhow. So there’s no reason ta be carryin’.” Chibs prayed to God he wouldn’t be eating those words later.
“Ya want me dropped off at the clubhouse still?”
“Aye. I’ll wait for ye there.”
“Hey…” Jax greeted after he opened the door.
Ethan gave a simple nod, and Jax invited him inside. Abel was sitting on the couch and watching cartoons.
“Abel, right?” Ethan questioned, and the boy nodded.
“I remember watching Scooby Doo when I was little.” Ethan murmured.
“Is you really my mommy’s brother?”
“I’ll go get her,” Jax said as Ethan joined Abel on the couch.
“You alright babe?” Jax questioned at the bathroom door.
Riona opened the door, and Jax narrowed his eyes.
“What is it?”
“This is just a wee bit nerve wrackin’. I’m the one that set this up… but…”
Jax reached out and caressed her cheek.
“I understand. But this is somethin’ you and Aislinn need. Just do me a favor and stay out of trouble. I mean it Riona. You and Aislinn are here illegally. You gotta keep that in mind. One little fuck up, that’s all it takes. Chibs and I are working on getting you both some sort of ID and birth certificates. Brodie shipped some stuff over to help with that. But for now you two gotta hang low. Alright? At least until we can do this the legal way.”
“We’ll talk about that later. Like I said, stay out of trouble.”
“We will,” Riona promised, and Jax handed her some cash in case she needed it. But as he did this, he patted her down then took her gun away.
Riona frowned and Jax laughed.
“No heat. Trust me you don’t wanna get caught with that. Now go and have fun. I’ll show you around sometime this weekend.” Jax said as he hadn’t had the chance to do that yet.
He’d been too slammed at work. He was going to do that tonight after supper but forgot about Riona’s plans.
“Where you going, mommy?”
“I’m going to dinner with Ethan.”
“Will you’s be gone for a long time?”
“No love. I’ll be back before ya know it.”
“Okays,” Abel said and hugged her goodbye.
Jax pecked her on the lips and Riona headed on out the door. Ethan started to follow, but Jax pulled him aside.
“Keep in mind what could happen if they get into trouble…” Jax reminded, and Ethan nodded in understanding. Jax knew he was being somewhat overbearing. But he couldn’t help it. He’d never forgive himself if Riona got into some sort of trouble.
“If things get too heated take it somewhere else. Those girls don’t need any attention right now.”
“I think all that’s died down,” Ethan said with a shameful presence.
“I hope so, for yours and their sake. I’m putting a lot of faith in you, Tex. Don’t prove me wrong. That would be a very big mistake. Take them out. Show them a good time. Leave all that other shit behind.”
Jax watched as Ethan opened the door for Riona. He didn’t bring his bike but an old Chevy pickup.
“Oh yeah, where’s that Filip guy live?” Ethan hollered out, and Jax chuckled.
“I’ll text you the address,” Jax called in response.
Ethan gave a thumbs up before pulling out of the driveway.
“Man likes his privacy…” Ethan murmured as Chibs lived further out and he had some land as well.
Ethan parked at the curb and Riona followed him to the door. She herself was rather curious as Riona hadn’t been here yet. She would’ve been living here with her sister if she hadn’t taken Jax up on his offer. Aislinn opened the door and was about to step on out of the house.
“Hold up. I wanna see his place!” Riona said, and Aislinn laughed as her sister invited herself inside.
“Now this I didn’t expect,” Riona admitted as she looked around.
“Right?! Scotty’s got a knack for this stuff.”
Riona reared back then glanced her sister’s direction.
“Ya mean he did all this?!”
“Yep! Guess you can say he flipped it. Said the place was a real dump.”
“Oh wow…” Riona said in awe.
“He wants to build on.”
Aislinn went over Chibs’s plans, and Ethan listened in silence. He too was taken back by what all Chibs had done to the place. Ethan took notice of the way Aislinn carried on about Chibs too. She was most certainly smitten. It was in her eyes the entire time she talked about him.
“I see ya’ve been workin’…” Riona said as her sister’s guitar was still out.
She had notes scattered about Chibs’s coffee table.
“Aye, I’ve been doin’ some writin’.”
“Dig the guitar,” Ethan said.
He’d never seen one like that before, and it certainly fit Aislinn’s personality.
“Thank you. Scotty got it for me.”
“Guess we better head on out,” Riona said, and they nodded in agreement.
Aislinn locked everything up and put the key Chibs had given her into her pocket. He’d given her some money and his credit card just in case.
“Where we goin’?” Riona asked.
“Figured we couldn’t go wrong with some good ole Mexican food. I know just the place.” Ethan said as he opened the door for his sisters.
“Mexican?” Aislinn said with a giggle.
“Hey now, we have some of the best Mexican places! I’ll prove it tonight. Everything’s on me so if you two want margaritas or what have you then go for it!”
Ethan had gotten his check in the mail from the last job he had. He used it to pay the water bill and with what Jax had given him the other day; he had more than enough to take them out. He’d be damned if either of them paid.
“Sorry…” Ethan said as he had to reach over Riona’s leg to shift gears.
It was a tight squeeze with the three of them. Aislinn reached over and turned the radio on.
“At least you’ve got good taste in music,” Aislinn said, and Riona laughed as Ethan had it on a local rock station.
“I’ve listened to you two enough to know what good music is.” Ethan complimented, and the girls smiled.
This just didn’t seem real to Ethan. He couldn’t believe he was taking his sisters out to dinner. He’d longed for this very day but now that it was here… The man was a nervous wreck. He just knew he was going to say something stupid or do the wrong thing. Ethan thought back to Aislinn’s phone call, however, and something about that put him a little more at ease. This had the man glancing her direction.
She was singing along to Aerosmith’s What It Takes and looking out the window. These girls seemed just as nervous if not more. He could hear it in Aislinn’s voice as she sang. It was different from her usual stage voice. As for Riona she was staring straight ahead and quiet the entire drive.
“Ya can smell it from here,” Aislinn said once he pulled into the lot of the restaurant.
“Oh yeah. This is one of my favorite places, this and the steakhouse outside of town. I’ll have to take you two there one day. I almost did that today. But figured I couldn’t go wrong with Mexican food and margaritas.”
“Who’s the wee lad?” Riona asked as he had a picture of Liam clipped to his visor.
“Ya mean we have a nephew?!” Aislinn exclaimed while taking the picture off the visor and looking it over.
“Had…” Ethan sadly corrected.
This had the girls looking to Ethan in question.
“His name was Liam. He would’ve been five this Saturday.”
“What happened?!” Riona said with a hand over her heart.
“Died in a car wreck caused by my ex-wife.”
The girls let out simultaneous gasps.
“Abel will be five in August.” Riona murmured in thought.
“How’s that work anyhow?” Ethan asked.
“The whole mother thing… I mean you and Jax aren’t married, right?”
Riona half laughed.
“I’ll explain inside. I’m sorry to hear about your son.” Riona said as she took a gander at the picture as well before Aislinn put it back.
“He looked just like ya,” Riona said in awe.
“I was thinkin’ the same thing,” Aislinn said as Ethan hopped out and made his way around. He opened the passenger side door then helped them out of the pickup as they had a bit of a step.
“Well, look at ya all gentlemen like!” Riona complimented.
“I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time Riona. So yeah, you two get the full Ethan Lawless date night treatment.”
“Ya don’t kiss on the first date do ya?!” Aislinn teased, and her sister elbowed her.
Ethan died of laughter as he escorted them inside.
“So the kid proposed?!” Ethan questioned in amazement.
“Aye,” Riona said while sipping at her margarita.
Ethan requested a waiter he knew personally. This way the girls wouldn’t be bothered about being carded.
“Not even five and he’s got more game than most men I know,” Aislinn said with a giggle.
“Sounds like it. Damn.” Ethan muttered in thought.
He took a bite out of his rice then pointed towards Aislinn’s plate with his fork.
“That any good?” He asked as she’d gotten shrimp fajitas.
“Soooo good!” She said and took a big bite.
“Goodness Linny, you’re gonna choke to death!” Riona scoffed.
“That’s what he said.” Their sister smarted once she chewed and swallowed.
Ethan choked back on his beer, and the girls laughed as he hit at his chest.
“Not something I want to hear one of my sisters say!” He said afterward, and the girls laughed once again.
“And what about yours?” He asked as Riona had gotten the chicken instead.
She gave a thumbs up as he’d just caught her with her mouth full.
Ethan had a million one things he wanted to say but refrained and let them eat in silence. He knew it’d take some warming up to get them at that level of comfort.
“Either of you want dessert?” Ethan offered once they finished.
“I’ll pop if I eat another bite,” Riona said, and Ethan laughed.
“Same. That was so good. I’ll have to keep this place in mind.” Aislinn said while patting her tummy.
“How bout another margarita?”
“Aye!” The girls chorused, and Ethan chuckled as he waved their waiter over.
“I take it you two never had a margarita before today?”
“We have, but it’s a little different in Ireland. We use lemon juice!” Aislinn said, and Ethan nodded.
“You might be running into that a lot.” He uttered in thought.
Ethan ordered the girls another round, and he got another beer.
“So you know everythin’ about us?” Riona rather challenged, and Ethan lifted his eyes on this.
“Alright, what’s my favorite color?” Riona teased but was surprised by his answer.
“You can’t decide between purple, blue, or teal.”
Aislinn’s jaw dropped, and Ethan pointed her direction next.
“Blue, silver, and clover green.”
“How’d ya…” The girls chorused, and Ethan smiled.
“Try something else.” He dared, and the girls looked to one another.
“Favorite band?” Riona asked, and Aislinn resisted the urge to laugh.
“You mean bands.” Ethan corrected.
“You like Shinedown, Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, The Chainsmokers, and Two Steps From Hell. Aislinn’s favorites are Metallica, Flogging Molly, Linkin’ Park, Hidden Citizens, and The Rumjacks. But you have a lot of bands in common as to why you lean towards singing Poets of the Fall, The Pretty Reckless, Evanescence, Halestorm, HIM, Papa Roach, Ledger, and Skillet. I think the ones I was most surprised at was Matchbox 20 and The Fray. Talk about fucking old school. Not to mention how do you go from fucking Metallica to Matchbox 20?”
“How do you do that?” Riona asked like he was some sort of wizard.
“It’s easy really. I pay attention. You can learn a lot about someone if you just sit back and watch.” Ethan paused in thought.
“That sounded creepy didn’t it?” Ethan admitted as he thought back to Jax’s words.
“Just a wee bit.” Riona teased with a smile, and Ethan laughed.
“It was all I knew at the time. I never meant for it to come off like that. I just wanted to know everything about you two. I can look back though and see how it must’ve looked.”
“What else do you know?” Aislinn asked as she stirred her margarita.
“Hmm… Now that’s a loaded question.” He said with a smirk.
“I know all about your friends Brodie and Quinn. I know that Riona was married to a cop named Nicholas and that he came up missing a few years ago.”
Aislinn cocked a brow her sister’s direction. Riona shook her head as if warning her not to say a word. Aislinn smiled then went back to sipping on her margarita.
“What was that?” Ethan questioned as he took notice of that little exchange.
Riona ignored this knowing that was for the best.
“What did you know about Nicholas?” She curiously asked.
“Not much other than that. I will say he didn’t seem like your type and you always seemed downright miserable around him. Hard to say what went on behind closed doors. I know he never went to your gigs, not the ones I went to anyhow.” Ethan cleared his throat once he saw the look on Riona’s face.
“I went too far, didn’t I? Sorry.”
“Yer fine…” Riona murmured.
“Nicholas was a psychopath, and that’s puttin’ it lightly,” Aislinn said, and Ethan reared back on this.
“Linny…” Riona cautioned, and Aislinn sighed.
“Don’t ya think he should know?”
“Maybe another time…”
“I want to know. That’s the whole point of all this.” Ethan said.
“He hurt you didn’t he?”
“He did more than hurt her…” Aislinn hissed.
“And that’s why he’s missing…” Ethan whispered as it was all coming together.
Aislinn gave a simple nod, and Ethan pinched his eyes shut.
“Like I said, I should’ve made myself known years ago. I could’ve prevented all this. I would’ve kept you two safe.”
“What?!” Aislinn asked as Riona was shooting her daggers.
“Ya know what.”
“He’s our brother…”
“And we just met him.”
Ethan drew back the deepest of breaths knowing this was about to get ugly. He threw down the tip along with whatever they owed. Riona grabbed her purse then darted on out of the restaurant. Aislinn recoiled as she followed her sister out.
“Ya had no business tellin’ him that!” Riona snapped once they were in the parking lot.
“I meant nothin’ by it. Don’t ya think he should know?!”
“Do ya even realize what ya just admitted to?!”
Aislinn narrowed her eyes in confusion.
“Ya just went and told him what ya did.”
Aislinn shrugged, and Riona grabbed her by the arm. She pulled her back behind the pickup.
“Jackson says Ethan was a criminal investigator for the army.”
“SO?! I NEED YA TO THINK LINNY! We don’t know him and ya just more or less admitted that ya had somethin’ to do with Nick missin’.”
“Who is he goin’ to tell Riona? Besides, I doubt he thinks that… I could’ve run Nick off for all he knows.”
“You’re playin’ with fire love. You’re too trustin’, and that’s goin’ to get ya into trouble.”
“Whatever this is… You can trust me. Anything that’s said I will take to the grave.” They heard and peered back as Ethan was leaning against the Chevy.
The man sighed as Riona had that mistrusting glare about her still.
“I think it’s time you two learned a little more about me…” Ethan said as he waved them over and opened the passenger side door. He gestured for them to get inside and the girls climbed on in.
“Where we goin’?” Aislinn asked as she was sitting in the middle this time.
“Oh, I get it. This is the part where he drives us out to the middle of nowhere and buries us alive!” Aislinn exclaimed while playfully nudging her sister.
Riona rolled her eyes and looked out the window.
“I’m sorry,” Aislinn whispered.
“Is that what you’re goin’ to say when you’re behind bars?” Riona softly muttered.
“Behind bars?” Aislinn questioned.
“Ya know damn well what I mean.”
Aislinn nodded gathering the hint.
“Nah, I’d probably say somethin’ along the lines of… Beatrix sure likes to snuggle and would you mind sendin’ me a cake with a sharp dagger or somethin’?”
Riona managed to laugh, and Ethan chuckled as well. Aislinn smiled.
“See?! You can’t stay mad at me.”
“Keep it up Linny, and I’ll give ya a good puck!”
Ethan pulled into a local pool hall parking lot but shook his head looking somewhat conflicted.
“What?” Aislinn asked.
“Mind if I took you two somewhere a little more private?”
“My place… I know that’s asking a lot considering… But there are some things I need to tell you, and that might not go over so well in a place like this, and I don’t know where else to go.”
“I’ll let Scotty know where we’re headed,” Aislinn said, and Ethan gave her the address.
“He cool with it?” He asked afterward.
“Hasn’t replied yet.”
“Riona, if you don’t feel comfortable…” Ethan awkwardly put.
“That’s not the problem.”
“Look at me Riona,” Ethan said and Riona’s eyes locked with his.
“I wouldn’t do ANYTHING to jeopardize you or Aislinn. Everything you say stays between us. I know you two have been through the ringer, but I’m not your enemy. I’m only looking out for you. All the more reason you two need to get to know me. I have to earn that trust, and I get that, more than you realize. I’m also okay with taking you to Jax’s or the clubhouse. Hell Filip’s even. Just tell me what would make you more comfortable.”
“You’re not the problem. It’s Linny.”
Aislinn flinched on her sister’s words.
“She tends to word vomit and doesn’t know when to keep that gob of hers shut!”
“Word vomit?! Didn’t ya just accuse me of keepin’ too much in, not long ago?!”
“Aye, on things ya think you should suffer alone on. Ya’ve always been like that! Somethin’ happens, and ya go out of your way to hide it. But when it comes to things like this… Ya, just yap and yap! You’re gonna pull it with the wrong person one day, then what?! Ya make jokes about it… But I don’t think ya truly grasp the consequences. They’d put you and pa away for life. Whatever future you’re plannin’ with Chibs would go right down the drain. And I’d have no choice but to join you, leaving Abel and Jackson behind.”
Aislinn snapped Riona a look.
“Aye, if they lock ya away I’m goin’ with ya! You know this! I’d tell them I played a part as well.”
“THE HELL YOU WILL!” Aislinn roared, and Ethan decided it best to hit the road and headed to his place as the two argued back and forth.
“Ya don’t have a say in that Linny!”
“OH, YOU’RE WRONG ABOUT THAT LOVE. I MOST CERTAINLY HAVE A SAY. I HAVE YOU AN ALIBI, ALWAYS HAVE, JUST IN CASE. SO YA BEST HOLD YOUR HORSES ON THAT ONE! THIS WAS MINE AND PA’S DECISION. YA HAD NO PART IN IT, AND I WON’T HAVE YA GOIN’ DOWN FOR SOMETHIN’ LIKE THAT. BESIDES, THIS WOULD’VE COME TO LIGHT BY NOW IF IT WAS GONNA! NO ONE KNOWS SHITE, AND THAT’S HOW IT’S GOIN’ TO STAY!”
“IF YOU DON’T QUIT BLABBIN’ THAT MOUTH OF YOURS IT WON’T!”
Ethan cleared his throat gathering the girls’ attention.
“Actually, I hadn’t a clue he was even dead, not until now. I thought she and the old man drove him off.” Ethan uttered, and Aislinn sent her sister a snooty grin.
Riona pinched the bridge of her nose, and Aislinn giggled.
“Now who has the vomit mouth?!”
Ethan chuckled as he stopped at a red light.
“Sounds like he had it coming,” Ethan uttered with a shrug.
“So my littlest sister killed a man…” He said while shifting gears.
“The things you learn… You say Pepper played a part in this as well?”
“Aye, he helped me set it up, and we buried the body.”
“Why didn’t he kill him?” Ethan questioned, and both girls glanced in his direction.
“He should’ve never put you in that situation. If he knew Riona was being abused, he should’ve handled that himself. He had no business putting that on you Aislinn. You were just a kid!”
“I wasn’t a kid.”
“Yes, you were. Hell, you’re still a kid. I don’t care how old you are. Pepper should’ve been looking after you, not the other way around.”
Aislinn regarded her brother in shock and Ethan nodded as he hit the gas.
“That’s right. I know… I might not have known about Nicholas, but I knew about Pepper. Well, for the most part, not everything. I know the roles switched once your mother died. Riona was taking care of you, and you were taking care of our father.”
The girls grew eerily quiet as Ethan drove to his place. Aislinn damn near jumped out of her skin however when her cellphone sounded.
Be careful pet. Call if you need me to come get you.
Will do. Aislinn replied.
Aislinn showed her sister the text and Riona nodded.
“Everything good?” Ethan asked as he pulled into his driveway and killed the engine.
The girls nodded.
“Are you two good?” The man asked with a touch of a grin.
“Imma thinkin’.” Riona taunted, and Aislinn pouted.
“Every time…” Ethan muttered in mere amusement, and the girls snapped him a look.
“Eight times out of ten your only reason for arguing is because you’re trying to protect one another. Dig the matching tats by the way!” Ethan said as he hopped on out of the Chevy.
He went to open their door, only to have Riona beat him to the punch. Ethan let out a disappointed sigh.
“Next time let me open the door.” He said and helped them down.
Riona laughed but nodded in agreement.
“Thank you!” Ethan said as he escorted them inside.
The house was like that of your typical bachelor pad. Only it was very compact. They thought Chibs’s place was small. Ethan’s was a shoebox in comparison. The girls could make out his bedroom in the loft. There was a kitchen below it. His desk was in the same area as his couch and TV. But it was surprisingly tidy, except for a few dirty ashtrays and empty beer bottles.
Ethan gestured for the girls to have a seat. The girls sat on the couch and Ethan sat in the chair by his desk.
“Mind if I smoke?” He asked, and the girls laughed in unison considering Jax and Chibs smoked.
“Can I have one?!” Aislinn questioned, and Riona shook her head knowing her sister did that just to get under her skin.
“Sure.” Ethan handed one over, and Aislinn ignored her sister’s daunting glare as Ethan lit it for her.
“No prob. Was I not supposed to do that?” Ethan asked once he took notice of the look on Riona’s face.
“She’s a grown woman if she wants to fill her lungs with cancer let her.”
“Doesn’t your man smoke?” Ethan rhetorically questioned.
Riona sighed knowing where this was going. But she couldn’t help herself. She damn near raised this girl. It was in her nature to look after her.
“I’m not as cute as Jax so…” Aislinn teased, and Riona shook her head but smiled.
“I don’t have deep blue eyes and sexy man buns,” Aislinn added and Ethan curled his lip in disgust.
“So that’s what it takes, huh?” Ethan played along, and Aislinn laughed.
“Pretty much. That man could get away with murder!”
“Aye…” Riona warned getting the gist.
“How bout I get us some drinks?” Ethan offered as he came to his feet.
“I got beer, water, beer, milk, beer, and Dr. Pepper.”
“Oh Mary, he really is our brother,” Riona uttered, and Aislinn died of laughter.
“Dr. Pepper!” They chorused.
Ethan brought the girls their drinks, and he took his seat back at the desk. The three of them sipped on their drinks and Ethan was about to start his story when Aislinn let out a squeal. Riona and Ethan reared back in wonder.
“You have a dog!” Aislinn hopped up then rushed on over to the very pregnant Beagle.
Riona’s jaw dropped, and she too ran on over. Ethan chuckled as the two fussed over his dog.
“What’s her name?” Riona asked.
“Awe. Well, hello there Daisy. You’re about to pop!” Aislinn said and was feeling her tummy over.
“Oh yeah…” Riona said as she too felt around.
The dog was wagging her tail and eating up all the attention.
“Where’s the pa?!” Aislinn curiously questioned.
“At my mother’s. I plan on going back for him once I get a bigger place. I didn’t think it a good idea to have him around when she has her puppies.”
Ethan showed his sisters the area he’d set up for when she went into labor.
“Your mother…” Aislinn said as if in thought.
Ethan lifted his eyes on this.
“What’s she like?”
“Eccentric I suppose is how you would describe her?” Ethan said with a grin and shook his head.
“Yeah, she’s a little out there. But she means well. Mom has her own way of doing things, and it’s not your typical way. It’s almost like her brain is on a different wave link from anyone else if that makes sense. But she was a single mom for the longest time, and I think that was part of it. I heard she wasn’t always like that.”
“What’s her name?” Riona asked.
Ethan pointed to a picture he had of her and Riona picked it up.
“She’s pretty!” Aislinn said, and Riona nodded in agreement.
“Who’s the lad?” Riona questioned.
“That’s Steve, my step-father. He’s cool. They’ve been married for a little over twelve years now? I think…”
“Nice lookin’ fella too!” Aislinn complimented thinking they made a good-looking couple.
“Don’t tell him that. It’ll go to his head.” Ethan said behind a chuckle.
Ethan grabbed another picture and handed it over.
“That’s my gramps. You gotta meet him. He’s a hoot. He’ll talk your ear off, and he’s a little senile, but you should hear his stories about WWII. He’s got loads of them. Hell, he’s the reason I joined in the first place. That man’s a real hero. I’ll take you there one day…”
The girls looked to one another and smiled.
“Now that sounds like fun!” Aislinn said, and Riona laughed.
“They’d kick us out Linny!”
“What makes ya think they won’t kick us out of California?” She teased in return.
“Most of my family resides in Corpus Christi. I had a place on the beach before I moved here.”
The girls regarded their brother in realization.
“Ya moved here because of us…” Riona whispered as if to herself.
“That’s right. I needed new scenery anyhow.”
Truth of the matter? Ethan couldn’t stand being in that house, much less that beach. It brought back too many memories of his son.
“That was one hell of a risk…” Aislinn blurted out, and Riona shook her head in a scolding manner.
“I didn’t mean that rudely but I can’t believe ya just up and moved here on a whim!”
“Nah, it’s cool. I don’t want either of you holding back on me. Alright? I can handle it.”
Ethan took the picture of his grandfather from Aislinn’s hold then put it back.
“I know it was a very impulsive decision. But I knew what I wanted, and I was determined to get that one way or another. It was time you knew the truth. I grew tired of holding back. I went through the ugliest of divorces, I lost my son, and my grandmother all at once or so it felt. When I found out you two were missing… I lost it. So yeah, the moment I found out where you two were headed. I made a home here. I wasn’t missing out, not this time. The only regret I have is how much of a jackass I was when we first met. You didn’t deserve that, neither of you did. I know I’m nothing more than a stranger at this point. But I plan on fixing that. This is what tonight is about. I’m trying to get you to understand why I’m so protective, why I went about things the way I did, and why I feel a connection, you don’t. When I say you… I mean BOTH of you. I’ve damn near watched you grow up. So when I see you… you’re not strangers to me. You are my sisters. I can’t control how strongly I feel about that.” Ethan cleared his throat as he was growing somewhat emotional.
He took a step back and sighed as he sat in his chair.
“I know you’ll never see me the way I see you. That’s my own doing. I should’ve stood up to that son of a bitch and let him know nothing was standing in my way. But there was more to it… So much more. So please just sit down and hear me out.”
Ethan went on to admit how he hated them at first and how resentful he was when Pepper chose them and Teagan over him and his mother. He revealed the truth behind everything else and how he began to see them in a different light and knew it wasn’t their fault. By the time he was done explaining his side of things, the girls were in tears. Ethan sighed as that wasn’t his intention. He jumped up and hurriedly searched for a box of tissues. The man found a box in his bathroom. He ripped the tab open and darted back into the living room. He handed the box over, and the girls reached out and were grabbing fistfuls of tissues.
“Didn’t mean to do that…” Ethan uttered apologetically.
“I just want you two to know the truth. You deserve to know. It’s only fair after knowing so much about you two. I’ll tell you anything. All you have to do is ask.”
Ethan sat back down and gave them a moment to collect themselves.
“He had no right,” Aislinn muttered so softly he barely heard her.
“He?!” Ethan questioned.
“Pa… What he did to you and your mother. It wasn’t right. I don’t blame ya for bein’ resentful. It could’ve been the other way around.” Aislinn hinted, and Riona recoiled in thought.
“Nah, he loved you two too much for that shit. Trust me.” Ethan said as he thought back to how violent Pepper got when he thought Ethan would fuck everything up.
Pepper let it known that nothing was getting in the way of his wife or daughters, including that of his own bastard son.
“He didn’t love us. He fed us nothin’ but lies. Everythin’ from the time we were born and up until now has been one big lie. Pepper loved our mother and when she left this world; he hadn’t any love left. She took whatever was left of him with her.”
“Linny, that’s not…” Riona started to say how that wasn’t true but refrained.
Aislinn had that broken look, and Riona knew that look all too well.
“There were no good parts to pa. He even fed our ma full of complete and utter shite! She hadn’t a clue. Just like us. But he’d…” Aislinn trailed off and gritted her teeth.
“Linny love…” Riona whispered.
“I should’ve shoved him in that grave with Nick!”
Ethan and Riona looked on with concern as Aislinn headed for the bathroom.
“Daddy’s girl…” Riona softly explained, and Ethan nodded in understanding.
“So that’s why she gets like that…” he said as he thought back to the all times Pepper was mentioned.
“Aye. It kills her every time… All she ever wanted was for pa to see the light. But he never did. Hell, there never was a light, to begin with. He was a soulless bastard, and I’ve been tellin’ her she’s just like him.” Riona pinched the bridge of her nose.
“I kept sayin’ she’s the best parts of him, but there were none. No wonder she’s…”
“Hey…” Ethan reached out as Riona broke into sobs.
Ethan hugged her close and kept an eye on the bathroom door. They could hear the water to the sink going, and Riona knew that was her sister’s way of masking her cries.
“Maybe we shouldn’t have done this…” Ethan said, and Riona shook her head in disagreement.
“We needed to know. No matter how much it hurts. We needed to know it was nothin’ but a lie. I better check on her.”
“I got it,” Ethan said, and Riona signaled for him to go ahead.
He handed Riona another tissue then went to check on Aislinn.
“Hey…” he called after knocking on the door.
He heard the squeaking of the faucet as she turned it off. Ethan gave a simple nod when she opened the door. Her eyes were bloodshot, and she had the most pitiful look he’d ever seen.
“I’m sorry Aislinn. I didn’t say those things to hurt you or Riona.”
To Ethan’s great surprise Aislinn reached out and hugged him. Ethan thickly swallowed as a knot formed within the back of his throat. He said nothing as she cried it out. Not until he heard her apologize to him. This had the man placing his hands along her shoulders and looking her in the eyes.
“Why are you apologizing to me?”
“Because pa fucked up your life too.”
Ethan hadn’t a clue what to say to that. He waved Riona over and was hugging the both of them now.
“I told you I’d never let go.” He said then kissed the top of their heads.
“It’ll take some time. I know that. But I want you two in my life, and I only hope you want me in yours.”
Ethan went on to tell them more about his mother and stepfather. He mentioned that Marianne was a nurse and had been for years. She used the hush money Pepper had given her to go to school and get her degree, while Ethan’s grandparents watched after him. It was during this that Aislinn and Riona finally realized why their father was so broke. It wasn’t just because he was caring for them but another family. They wondered why their mother never brought it to his attention. That was a good chunk of change how could she not question it?
Ethan’s stepfather was a mechanic and taught Ethan everything he knows. His mother and Steve dated for a couple of years before they got married. Steve made certain Ethan had all the knowledge he needed as Ethan made it clear he wanted to run his own business one day.
Their brother mentioned his grandmother and how close they were before she died. She was like a second mother to him and ended up going blind from a stroke that later killed her.
Tracy his ex-wife… They met after his army days. He didn’t say much about her other than being the biggest mistake of his life. He let the girls know she was a teacher when they first met. Ethan admitted to being shocked when she turned out to be a junkie. He hadn’t a clue as she never showed the signs. Not until he was knee deep into the relationship and he thought he could help her. But there was no help for someone that didn’t want it. That’s what led to his resentment with that particular judge; the one that handled the custody hearing. The judge knew about Tracy’s junkie and neglectful ways. But he needed “proof”. That proof ended up being their dead son. Too little too late… And Ethan knew that’s how it would end. He said as much in court, and everyone shrugged it off.
They hadn’t realized just how long they’d been talking. Not until Chibs called Aislinn at three in the morning.
“Scotty! I’m so sorry!” Aislinn said as soon as she answered.
He had been waiting for her at the clubhouse this entire time. Ethan recoiled knowing he’d kept the girls too long.
“Ye don’t have to apologize pet. I just wanted ta make certain ye were alright.”
“I’m fine. We’re fine. I’ll be there soon. I didn’t mean to keep you waitin’. Time got away from us.”
“Ali love, yer alright. There’s no rush. Take your time. I just wanted to check in and make certain ye were alright. I’ll let ye go.” He said before hanging up.
Ethan checked on Daisy then grabbed his keys.
“I better get you home and that one to the clubhouse.”
Riona nodded in agreement as Jax had already sent her a text asking if everything was alright. She let him know everything was fine and they were on their way home.
They followed Ethan to the pickup, and he opened the door for them.
“Thank you.” He sincerely put.
“I mean it. This day meant a lot to me.”
The girls nodded in unison and Ethan shut the door.
“What the…” Ethan said as they were headed into town when someone sped up and was riding his ass.
Whoever it was had their high beams on.
“What are they doin’?!” Riona questioned in disbelief as this blinded the three of them.
“Hell if I… GET DOWN!” Ethan shouted as there were several popping-like sounds.
He reached over and brought his arm down on the girls as they took cover. Ethan let out a painful grunt as something pierced through his shoulder.
“SHIT!” Ethan hollered as he had to slam on the brakes to keep from hitting another car.
“RIONA!” He yelled as she flew out of his grip and hit the dashboard. The car behind them hit, and this caused her head to slam against the window as well.
Aislinn grabbed ahold of her then held on for dear life as the car behind them rammed into them yet again.
“WHAT THE FUCK?!” Ethan shouted as they were sandwiched in between the two cars.
Ethan reached over and dug through the glove compartment. Aislinn dialed Chibs, but the back car hit again, along with another pop. The phone fell out of her hand and landed on the floorboard.
“ETHAN!” Riona screamed as another bullet struck him.
Ethan held that gun but kept his body planted over the girls, despite their effort to check on him. They heard a door open and footsteps as someone approached Ethan’s window. Riona locked eyes with the man, and her jaw dropped in disbelief.
Before Aislinn could even comment on what they were seeing, Ethan had his hand along the handle of the door and flung it open. He was quick to hop out afterward. The girls couldn’t make anything out from there all they could hear was gunshots.
“NOOO!” Riona shouted behind a gurgle as she was choking on a mouthful of blood.
She reached out as her sister crawled on out of the truck and went to check on Ethan. Riona opened her door then tumbled on out. She landed on her knees and let out a painful whimper. The young woman shook it off then came to her feet. She made her way around, and her heart sank to the pit of her stomach.
“Don’t make me do this.” The man said as he had Ethan on his knees.
Aislinn was blocking the way.
“I don’t want to kill her. I’m only here for him. Tell her to move Riona!”
“That’s our brother Opie!” Riona spat, and the man gathered this struck stupid appearance.
Riona shook her head then took flank beside her sister.
“WE’RE NOT MOVIN’!” She made clear, and Aislinn nodded in agreement.
“Then you leave me no choice. I’m sorry Riona. If I had known…”
Ethan was discreet as he slid his gun into Riona’s hand. Thanks to his bullet wounds, he couldn’t pull the trigger as to why Opie got the upper hand. Riona kept her eyes on the man before her and showed no sign of what was to come.
“I’m sorry too.” She said before firing Ethan’s gun.
Opie cried out in horror as the gun he was carrying exploded, and parts of his hand scattered about the area.
“We gotta go!” Ethan hollered as they could hear sirens from a distance.
Riona eyed the ex-Son down as Ethan rushed Aislinn into the truck.
“COME ON!” Ethan shouted in desperation.
“Riona! We got to go!”
The young woman snapped out of it and climbed on in.
“NOOO GODDAMMIT!” He hollered as the truck wouldn’t start.
Ethan looked at the girls.
“Go! Both of you! RUN!” He said while taking the gun from Riona’s clutch and opening the passenger side door. He shoved his sisters out of the truck.
“I got this. Go and don’t look back!”
“WE CAN’T LEAVE YOU!” Aislinn hysterically shouted.
“YOU CAN AND YOU WILL! NOW GET THE FUUUCK OUT OF HERE!”
Tears streamed on down Riona’s face as she took her sister’s hand and dragged her away.
“Shit,” Ethan uttered once he saw Aislinn’s phone on the floorboard. He was quick to pick it up. He reared back seeing as how Chibs was on the phone.
“Hey, they’re headed down the freeway, eastbound. I gotta rid of this phone!” Ethan said before hobbling on out of the truck. He buried the phone near a tree and piled some leaves over it. He wouldn’t leave any evidence of his sisters having been here. He could see the police cars off to the distance and nodded amongst himself.
“Whatever history you and Jax have. He’ll just have to forgive me. I said I’d protect them! I have no choice!” Ethan said and was holding his gun in his left hand. It would be a shitty shot as he was right-handed.
“TAKE MY CAR AND GO!” Opie shouted taking Ethan by surprise.
“You’re going to file a complaint. Say someone stole your truck. I’ll tell them I had to in order to get away from Weston and his men. Take my car. Go to the clubhouse. Jax will know what to do from there. Go, before they fucking see you!”
Ethan had a moment of inner struggle. He could take this man at his word. Or he could shoot him and run the risk of getting arrested. Happy’s words came to mind. Yeah, and one more is all it takes… They’ll put you away for life. Ethan nodded amongst himself then hopped into the car. He drove off the median and onto the freeway. He did this just in time to see the girls climbing into the back of the SAMCRO van. He followed that van to the clubhouse. Chibs jumped out and opened the door to the car Ethan was in. He grabbed Ethan then yanked him out of the car. Ethan and the girls watched as Chibs drove the car into the garage. He pulled the garage doors down and locked everything up.
“Inside! All of ye!” Chibs ordered as he waved Jax on through the gates.
Chibs shut the gates, turned off the lights then headed inside.
“Jesus,” Jax whispered once he saw his old lady’s face.
“Where’s Abel?!” Riona asked in a panic.
“Kip’s at the house with him.” He said, and Riona let out a breath of relief.
“Scotty!” Aislinn hollered as she had Ethan in her arms and was doing her best to hold him up.
Riona started that direction, only to have Jax stop her.
“They got it. You need stitches.” He lifted her up then sat her down at the bar.
“What in the fuck happened?” Jax questioned as he was plucking gravel out from Riona’s busted knees.
“Opie,” Riona said, and Chibs and Jax locked eyes on this.
“Opie?!” Jax repeated as if in a daze.
“He wanted to kill Ethan! Why?!” Riona demanded, and Jax recoiled as he thought back to Weston’s nephew. Weston must’ve made him another deal.
“Goddammit, Op!” He barked but continued in getting Riona cleaned up.
Riona told him what happened and Jax looked as if he’d hurl.
“So someone else was involved?”
“And they drove away?”
Jax rinsed the rag he was using out and went to clean the blood off her cheek. Riona placed a hand along his as the man was trembling.
“Jackson…” She soothingly put.
Jax shook his head and went back to cleaning her up.
“Jackson stop!” She said.
“I CAN’T!” He barked.
“YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE SAFE! LOOK AT YOU! YOU CALL THIS SAFE?!”
Jax took the young woman by surprise. He grabbed ahold of her then hugged her like there was no tomorrow, and to him, it felt like it.
“When Filip called I just knew that was it. I’d never see you again. He told me there were gunshots and shouting. But he couldn’t get anyone to pick up the phone! I just knew I lost you. So don’t you tell me to stop. Let me do this babe, or I’ll go insane!”
Riona nodded, and Jax wiped a stray tear from her cheek.
Chibs was doing his best to focus on Ethan, but he wanted to check on his old lady. He thought back to everything he heard over that phone, and like that of Jax, he just knew the girls were done for. The Scot cursed under his breath as he tried keeping his hands steady enough to dig for the second bullet in Ethan’s shoulder.
“What can I do to help?” Aislinn asked as she paced the area.
“Ye can get me some more gauze from the bathroom. I’m all out. I’m gonna need some ice too. He’s startin’ ta swell.”
Aislinn nodded then took off.
“I should’ve kept things the way they were. They shouldn’t have been with me.”
Chibs narrowed his eyes on Ethan’s words.
“Ye hadn’t any control over what happened tonight.”
“If they hadn’t been with me…”
“Ye’d be dead. He wouldn’t have thought twice about killin’ ye! Opie wasn’t plannin’ on those girls bein’ in the truck with ye!”
“Nah man, he was going to kill them too!”
Chibs plucked the bullet out then dropped it into a bowl. He lifted his eyes and regarded Ethan in question.
“Opie?” He asked making certain he understood correctly.
“You could see it in his eyes. He wanted to shut them up! He would’ve killed all three of us if Riona hadn’t shot his fucking hand off! The only reason he let me go is because he prefers jail over what your MC might do to him, or whoever else is after him. I mean FUCK what did this son of a bitch do?! I’m guessing he was a Son too?”
“So what’d he do? Did he rat or something?”
Chibs drew back a hesitant breath on this.
“He put his hands on Jackie’s old lady and held mine at gunpoint. But that was just the final nail. There was more ta it.”
“You mean you let him live after that shit?!”
“COMPLICATED?! HOW?! ALL OF THIS COULD’VE BEEN PREVENTED IF YOU AND JAX WOULD’VE TAKEN CARE OF BUSINESS!”
Chibs gritted his teeth, and forced Ethan down on the table he had him on. The Scot had his hand pressed down against his jugular.
“Ye weren’t there, and ye weren’t here. So don’t ye sit there and tell me how Jackie and I should’ve taken care of business, boy. We needed the greasy bastard alive… or I would’ve ended him myself, THAT DAY!”
The Scot was quick to remove his hand and brought Ethan back up as Aislinn returned with the items he requested.
“Took a wee bit to find the gauze.” She said in an apologetic manner.
Aislinn, however, took notice of the tension between Ethan and Chibs.
“Is everythin’ alright?”
“Everythin’s just fine, love.”
(Your comments/reviews, or a simple ‘like” are much appreciated. Thank you!)