Chapter 56 – Closure
Chibs woke to find his wife scribbling something down in her journal. This was a habit of hers, and she seemed to be at it more and more as the babies kept her up. Aislinn was six months along now. She hadn’t a nausea spell in over a month. She grew faint from time to time, but nowhere near as bad as she used to.
“Sorry, Scotty. Did I wake ya?”
“Nah.” He uttered while running a soothing hand along her protruding tummy.
“An idea hit, and I had to jot it down.” She explained.
“That’s what I want ye to do, pet. Don’t bother me any.” Chibs said then smiled when he felt one of the babies move.
“They’re really active this mornin’.” He murmured in awe
“Aye, why do ya think I’m up? Not to mention I’ve had to hit the jacks a billion-one times!”
“A billion-one, aye?”
“That’s right, smart arse.” She said, and Chibs chuckled.
The Scot kissed her belly, then rolled on out of bed. Chibs hadn’t a cigarette in over three to four months now. The Scot had gone a full two months due to doctor’s orders and decided to keep with it after that. For one thing, his wife was carrying miracle babies, so to speak. That and neither liked the idea of smoking around the children once they were born.
“I’ll whip us up some breakfast in a wee bit.” Aislinn offered.
“I got it, darlin’. Ye just finish whatever yer workin’ on.” Chibs went out of his way to encourage his wife.
He wanted his wife to take her time and write whatever lyrics came to mind. She’d written several songs over the last couple months. It was nice seeing her like this again. Chibs missed her usual muses and when she went over her work with him. At times the Scot found himself a little star-struck by his own wife. He couldn’t believe the things Aislinn came up with.
“Bacon?” He asked while slipping into his black jeans and white tank top.
“Ya know it!”
“Tatties, biscuits, and gravy?”
Those were her usual cravings when it came to breakfast. During the day, it was ice cream, French fries, and hamburgers. Chibs would grill some burgers a couple times a week to keep up with her cravings.
“Aye!” She excitably put, and Chibs smiled before pecking her on the lips.
“On it!” He uttered afterward.
“Hey.” The president greeted once he, Riona, and Abel entered the clubhouse.
“Hey! Any of ye hungry?” The VP offered.
“Nah, Riona fixed us some breakfast before we left.”
Chibs scooped his nephew up as he was frying the bacon.
“How’s school goin’?” Chibs questioned while sneaking a slice of bacon into the boy’s hand.
Abel giggled and was quick to eat it.
“It good. Morgan in my class, Uncle Chibs! She gonna go skating with me. But I no know how to skate. Mommy say she gonna teach me!”
“That’s great, buck.”
“Yeah, Morgan like really good at it. Me and mommy seen her. But I no so good, Uncle Chibs. I falls on my ass.”
“Butt, Abel…” Jax corrected.
“Nah, arse!” Riona surprisingly put instead, and Chibs chuckled.
“I’d take yer mother up on that one.” The Scot murmured.
“So, I no falls on my ass but my arse,” Abel said while using his mother’s Irish accent and with a giggle.
“That’s right, lad,” Chibs confirmed while setting the boy back down.
“Hey there, darlin’.” Jax greeted when Aislinn stepped out of the backroom.
“Hey yourself.” She said before making her way over and pecking him on the cheek.
“Man, look at you!” Jax said in sheer amazement.
“Aye, I feel like a blimp!”
“Knock that off, Ali. Yer beautiful and ye know it.” Chibs hollered from the bar.
“He’s right. You’re glowin’, darlin’.” Jax complimented while pulling a chair out for her.
“Thank you.” She said after Jax pushed her in.
Riona sat beside her sister then handed a bag over.
“I couldn’t resist. You’re on the sixth-month mark as of today!” Riona said with a smile Jax’s direction.
The president nodded then sat across from his sister-in-law. He pulled Abel into his lap. Aislinn dug into the bag and pulled a few of the items out. There was a Teller-Telford baby mechanics shirt, SAMCRO onesie, Prospect onesie, Reaper onesie and matching bib, “Daddy’s little squirt” – shirt with a smiley face sperm, “little badass” – with a skull onesie, “I’m Cute, Mom’s Hot, Dad’s Drunk” onesie, “You Can Do This Dad!” onesie with the areas pointed out on how the outfit goes on the infant. Aislinn giggled then pulled out a few more.
“JACKSON!” Riona scolded once her sister unfolded a specific onesie.
Chibs was dying of laughter as he read one of them from the bar – “I’m Not Just Milk Drunk, I’m Tit Faced.”
“I told you to put that one back!” Riona scolded, and Jax sighed.
Chibs muttered something about wishing he was tit faced right now.
“And I told you I wanted to get it. It’s funny, and you know it!” He defended, and Riona shook her head in response.
Aislinn giggled then went on to look at the others. There were a couple “Did 9 months hard time currently serving 18-year parole”. My parole officers are doing life – was in parenthesis. There was a Diaper Loading – please wait, “Party My Crib 2 A.M – bring a bottle” onesie, “Ladies I Have Arrived”, and “Crib Life”. The last three read “ICE ICE”, “World’s Cutest Tax Reduction,” and “100% Locally Grown”.
Aislinn looked to her husband, rather accusingly. Chibs set her plate down, then sat beside her with his.
“You told them, didn’t you?” She said with a gesture towards all the boy clothes.
“I don’t know what yer talkin’ about, pet.” The VP uttered with a playful wink.
“Sure ya, don’t!” Aislinn said as she folded the clothes and put them back into the bag.
“We got him nice and drunk,” Jax teased, and Aislinn laughed.
“That wouldn’t surprise me.”
“Have you come up with any names yet?!” Riona anxiously questioned.
“Actually, yes. We have.” Aislinn admitted, with a nod Chibs’s direction.
He gave her the go-ahead as he placed some biscuits and gravy into his mouth.
“Well, don’t tell Ethan. I want to be the one that tells him. But one of them is gonna be Liam Kirk Telford (Kirk is Filip’s middle name in this story). And the other…” Aislinn trailed off then looked to her husband once again.
Riona was in awe over her sister’s decision. She thought that the perfect way to honor their brother and the nephew they never got to meet.
“Maybe you should tell them.”
Chibs shrugged then signaled for his wife to do the honors. Aislinn ate some of her breakfast before making the big reveal.
“The other will be J.T – short for Jacky Thomas Telford.” Aislinn softly put, and Jax just sat there in a daze.
Riona giggled at her husband’s blown away expression.
“Ye alright there, Jackie boy?” The VP questioned.
Jax cleared his throat, looking somewhat emotional.
“Yeah…” He murmured while leaning back in his chair.
“It’s an honor. Thank you, both of you.” Jax wiped a stray tear off his cheek and Abel looked back at his father.
“Why’s you sad, daddy?”
“He’s not sad, love. That’s a happy tear!” His mother expressed, with a warm smile.
“Oh, okay. So, daddy very happy?”
“That’s right.” Riona reiterated.
Jax didn’t comment but kissed the top of his son’s forehead.
“When you and mommy has a baby, it need to be a girl.”
“Why’s that?” Jax questioned, and Riona reared back in surprise.
She remembered Abel wanting a boy back in Maine. She wondered why her son had a change of heart all of a sudden.
“He means there are too many big swingin’ dicks around here!” They heard, and everyone turned to see Tig at the doorway of the clubhouse.
His words were muffled as he was eating a breakfast sausage on a stick.
“What?!” He asked when he saw everyone staring at him.
“Well, we could always neuter a few of ye. Startin’ with you.” Chibs muttered under his breath.
“We needs some girls,” Abel said like he was overwhelmed by the thought.
“I’ll do my best,” Jax said with a chuckle.
“But just one. No more babies after that. Two is too many, daddy! No, do like Uncle Chibs and Aunt Linny.” Abel said, causing his aunt to giggle.
“I don’t know, Abel. I’m not very good with math.” His father teased.
“Me either.” Abel expressed with a pouty lip.
“Math sucks. Who uses that shit, anyhow?” Tig muttered while squirting one of his mustard packets onto Aislinn’s blouse.
“Shit! Sorry, doll.” Tig apologized then went to wipe it off.
Chibs was quick to slap his hand away as the mustard landed on her breast.
“Do it, and I’ll cut it off and put it on that stick ye just finished!” Chibs warned.
“Jesus man, and I thought Aislinn was fucking hormonal!”
“Not helpin’ yourself, love,” Aislinn warned, while her husband cleaned the mustard off her shirt.
“Those are kind of swollen, aren’t they?” Tig added and was gawking.
Chibs sent the Son a murderous glare. Tig took a couple of steps back and looked away. The Scot muttered something incoherently under his breath. He didn’t like any man staring at his wife like that. Chibs was somewhat possessive before she was even pregnant. But that seemed to double since her pregnancy. That and he was twice as protective. There were times it drove his wife insane, but she understood all the same. Chibs lost everything back in the day. He wasn’t about to go through all that again. So yes, he could be a little overbearing but meant well.
Aislinn finished her breakfast then smiled her sister and Jax’s direction.
“The clothes were perfect. Thank you.”
“Aye, they’re great. Except for the part where ye think I’m an old drunkard that can’t change a baby!” Chibs mocked.
“Jackson picked those out…” Riona accused, and Jax shrugged.
“I don’t deny that. Oh, wait, I completely forgot. I got you something else!” Jax announced while jumping to his feet.
The president left the clubhouse for a brief moment. He returned with another bag. The president handed it to his VP. Chibs started to hand it to his wife instead, but Jax stopped him.
“Oh, no. That one’s yours.” Jax made clear and with a wink his sister-in-law’s direction.
“I figured you’ll let her sleep while you do ALLLL the diaper changing so…” Jax taunted after Chibs pulled a Harley Davidson diaper bag out of the bag, along with other accessories.
“Now that’s adorable.” Aislinn expressed in awe.
“I thought it was pretty cool,” Jax said, and Chibs nodded.
“I love it, Jackie. Matches me charcoal-shite-brown eyes, perfectly!”
“Yeah, that’s what sold it for me!” Jax mocked in return.
Aislinn snatched the bag out of her husband’s hand.
“It matches mine better!”
“Aye now, lass. That’s mine. Get yer own damn diaper bag!” Chibs stole it back then kept it from his wife’s reach.
Aislinn folded her arms about her chest in a pouting manner.
“Guess we’ll hafta get another one,” Riona said, and Chibs shook his head in disapproval.
Riona giggled in response.
“I thought about havin’ ya a baby shower, but we’re still new to Charmin’. We don’t know a lot of women yet.” Riona explained.
“You could always invite the Cara Cara ladies.” Jax stupidly suggested.
Both sisters cut him a ‘look.”
“Or not…” He muttered with a shrug.
“I don’t think that’d go over very well.” Riona bitterly put.
Aislinn took one of the onesies from the bag then held it against her stomach.
“Doesn’t seem real.” Chibs heard her whisper.
Chibs placed a hand along the onesie then kissed his wife on the cheek.
“Just wait until they’re here, darlin’.” He uttered with a warm smile.
Chibs felt one of them kick yet again but winced when he saw that it caused his wife some pain.
“Rib cage…” She hinted.
He massaged that area, hoping the baby would move to a more comfortable position for Aislinn.
“Lovin’ those ribs, huh?” Riona said, and Aislinn nodded.
“Aye, they kept me up this mornin’. It’s the ribs or bladder.” She said while coming to her feet.
“We gotta get ta work, love,” Chibs said and was looking at the time.
“Shit,” Jax said, overhearing this and looking as well.
Jax seated Abel in another chair then set him up with one of his coloring books.
“Listen to your aunt.” The president whispered as his wife headed for the office.
“Okay, daddy,” Abel said.
Chibs gathered the dishes while his wife got the sink ready.
“I got it.” She said, and Chibs gave her a quick peck on the lips before heading to the garage.
Aislinn glanced Abel’s direction as she did the dishes. She smiled as he was focused on whatever he was coloring. Aislinn dried one of the plates and thought about what it’d be like when J.T and (Little) Ethan were Abel’s age. The young woman was lost in thought when her brother entered the clubhouse. Ethan waved Abel’s direction, and the boy waved in return. Ethan placed a single finger along his lips, letting Abel know to keep quiet. Abel smiled as his uncle snuck up on his aunt. Ethan had a couple gift bags in hand.
Aislinn was humming one of the songs she planned on playing tonight. Ethan placed the bags onto the bar then watched as his sister was in attempts to put up one of the plates. She was up on her tippy-toes and trying to reach the shelf it went on. Ethan nodded amongst himself then took the plate from her hold. Aislinn let out a small yelp as this startled her. Ethan raised his brows then put the plate in its rightful spot.
“Easy…,” He whispered as his sister had a hand along her stomach.
“You scared the livin’ shite out of me!” She scolded, and Ethan chuckled.
“It’s not funny! Are ya wantin’ me to have these babies now?!”
“Not my fault you’re so jumpy.”
Ethan cocked a brow as his sister ran a hand along his cut.
“They voted ya in…” She softly uttered.
“When?!” She asked, wondering why her husband didn’t tell her.
“Last night.” He said, and Aislinn hugged him in response.
“That’s great, Ethan!”
“I thought so. Put me through enough that’s for damn sure.”
Aislinn giggled as she thought back to all the ridiculous shit the Sons put her brother through, during these last couple months. Jax had Ethan, and the other prospects volunteer at the children’s fair before school started. Each of them took turns being clowns at the dunking booth. Jax made certain Ethan was nice and humiliated by the end of the day and one soaked clown. You could see the misery on Ethan’s face, but he didn’t bitch or moan about it, even once. The prospect knew what was coming and took whatever the boys dished out, just as Happy said he would. Chibs himself was very impressed and even admitted so to his wife. There were a couple more instances here and there but nothing like Abel’s birthday, where he was a zombie and the main villain. But Ethan took pride in that. The Son knew that was something Abel would always remember and that he had a blast. That little kick to the prospect’s ego made it all worthwhile in the end.
“But worth it, aye?” She said with a smile.
“I suppose.” He uttered with a smirk.
“Aye well, think of it like this… It’s all over now, and you get to be the one tormentin’ prospects now!”
“True,” Ethan said but took notice of the nervousness in his sister’s voice.
“What is it, hun?” He softly questioned.
“What do ya mean?”
“Come on now… You can’t fool me. I know something’s up. It’s in your voice.”
“Am I that transparent?”
“No. I just know you.”
Aislinn nodded in thought.
“Actually, I wanted to talk to you about somethin’. Do ya got a moment?”
“Sure, I’m on the clock! So, all good!” He teased, and his sister laughed.
“First off…” She handed her brother the money she owed on Riona’s desktop from her birthday back in July.
They were a few months shy of paying it off now.
“Aislinn, I already told you not to worry about it.” He uttered and started to hand it back, only to have her stop him.
“Scotty and I are doin’ much better now. Take the money.” She insisted.
Between the donations at the bar (aka The Tipsy Crow’s Nest now) and what SAMBEL, Indian Hills, and SAMCRO had given them – Chibs and Aislinn had over twenty-one thousand now. Sure, it wasn’t enough to pay for the house being rebuilt, at least not in full. But it was enough for the wedding and a start towards the rebuild. She and Chibs had been discussing their plans and what they wanted for a home, once they were in position to do that. The babies would arrive before they could even think about getting started. There wasn’t much they could do about that. Too much time and money went into these things. Chibs had gone over his and Aislinn’s plans with Jax. Jax made a few suggestions as well. The president made it clear that neither of them was to step foot on that land, not until they were one hundred percent ready. Jax knew how devastating that would be, for both of them. He wanted Chibs and Aislinn in a good place, financially and emotionally, before they even thought about going back there. Chibs argued against this at first, but Jax and the others managed to get across to him. The VP agreed it wouldn’t be a good idea that he needed to focus on Aislinn, his unborn children, and the wedding.
Ethan sighed then pocketed the money, knowing she wouldn’t let up if he didn’t.
Aislinn glanced her nephew’s direction once again. His attention was on his coloring book. Aislinn took her brother by the hand, then led him into the backroom.
“What’s with you?” Ethan questioned with concern.
Her hand was shaking as she held his.
“Would ya mind sittin’ down?” She gestured towards the bed and Ethan shrugged before taking a seat.
“Look, love. I just need ya to know that none of this is set in stone. I’ll understand if you have an issue with what I’m about to ask ya.”
“Aislinn…” Ethan whispered as his sister’s hands were trembling worse than before, and she seemed to be on the verge of tears.
He had that gut-wrenching feeling, and it was driving him crazy. He wished his sister would just spill it out already. What had her so upset?! Aislinn was pacing the room and an anxious mess.
“I mean it felt like the right thing at the time. It’s all I could think about. But now? I’m not so sure!”
“Aislinn, are you going to talk to me or not?!” Ethan rather snipped but out of fear.
He knew what this was now. Aislinn was going to take back her offer on him walking her down the aisle. She probably changed her mind and wanted Pepper to do it instead after all, or Jax even.
He should’ve kept his mouth shut when it came to Chibs and the age difference. Aislinn stopped pacing, and her eyes met his. She was on the verge of tears, and Ethan sighed.
“It’s alright. I understand. I fucked up.” Ethan muttered, and Aislinn reared back in response.
“You want Pepper to do it, don’t you?”
“Give you away.” He said as if to say ‘duh’ and while forcing a smile.
Ethan came to his feet. He walked on over then hugged her.
“I’d never hold that against you. Yes, I wanted to be the one to give you away, but I know I fucked up. I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you.”
Ethan dropped his hold, then started for the door.
“Wait! Where’d ya…” Aislinn trailed off in utter confusion.
Ethan sighed as he had his hand along the handle.
“Would you look at me, please!” Aislinn pleaded with tears streaming down her face.
Ethan pivoted around, and his heart sank at the sight.
“Aislinn…” He whispered in misery.
Aislinn ran a hand along her stomach.
“You got it all wrong, ya buffoon!”
Ethan tilted his head in wonder.
“I want to name one of the boy’s after Liam!” She exclaimed like she was out of breath.
Ethan staggered back in response.
“Aye. This hadn’t anythin’ to do with you givin’ me away. Why would ya think such a thing?! Why would I ever replace you?!”
“You’re having boys?” Ethan said as if in a trance.
Aislinn nodded, and Ethan let out this emotional chuckle. He combed his fingers through his hair and stood there for a moment.
“You’re having boys… and you want to name one after MY son?”
“Aye, but only if you’re…” Aislinn recoiled when her brother bowed his head and pinched his eyes shut.
“I shouldn’t have asked. I’m sorry. I can only imagine how inconsiderate…” Aislinn trailed off when her brother lifted his tear-stricken face and waved her over.
Aislinn inched her way towards him. Ethan grabbed ahold of her, then held her like his life depended on it. Aislinn wasn’t sure what to say or how to act as he had himself a good cry. Ethan planted his hands along her cheeks then put his forehead to hers.
“Only you and Riona.”
Aislinn lifted her eyes and Ethan’s locked with hers.
“Only you and Riona would do something like that. You’re the only two that could bring my son’s spirit back.”
Aislinn thickly swallowed as her brother placed a hand along her stomach. This made a first for him. He smiled once he felt one of the babies kick.
“So, we got a lil Liam in there.” He said with pride.
Aislinn gave a tearful smile in response.
“Aye, Jacky Thomas Telford and Liam Kirk Telford.”
“That’s Scotty’s middle name.”
“I never knew that,” Ethan admitted.
“I like it. Liam would be honored. Thank you.” Ethan wiped his face with the back of his hand then shook his head.
“I can’t believe that’s what you were so nervous about. Why would I be upset over that?!”
“Ethan love, I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about the constant reminder…” She hinted, and Ethan nodded in understanding.
“Aislinn, I’d kill to have my son’s name back in my life. If it’s through you and one of my lil nephews then so be it!”
Ethan sat his sister down as she was growing awfully pale.
“You alright there?”
“Aye, I think I got overheated.”
“You mean overly emotional.” Her brother corrected.
“Let me get you some water.” He offered then dashed on out of the room.
Aislinn laid back as the room was starting to spin on her. She stared at the ceiling fan and took deep breaths like her husband told her to do during one of these spells. Aislinn couldn’t believe how wiped out she felt. But Ethan was right. She did all that worrying for nothing. She just knew he’d think the worst when she truly meant well. That wasn’t how she felt, however, when she and Chibs first discussed it. But the more she thought about it, the more uneasy she felt. She just couldn’t hurt Ethan like that, not after what their father did. That and she couldn’t imagine the pain of losing a child and didn’t want to. So, she feared her brother would think her disrespectful for even considering such a thing.
“Is you okay, Aunt Linny?” Aislinn heard and this had her sitting up in response.
“Aye, I’m just fine, love.” But as she said this, her ears felt like they were on fire. The room was spinning all over again.
“You’s all red!” Abel said before crawling onto the bed with his aunt.
Aislinn laid back down, and Abel felt her forehead. Ethan entered the room with her water and gift bags.
“She no feel so good,” Abel said.
“That’s what the water is for.” Ethan set the bags down then made his way over with the water.
He eased his sister into a sitting position and had her drink some before laying her back down. Aislinn closed her eyes, and Ethan let her rest for a moment.
“Mommy say the babies make Aunt Linny sick sometimes.”
“That they do,” Ethan said with a nod.
He sat beside Abel then roughed his hair up a bit.
“Is it cause they grows so big inside her?”
“Pretty much. Pregnancy can take its toll on a woman’s body.”
“Is my mommy gonna get sick too when she has a baby?”
“I’m sure she will,” Ethan admitted, and Abel frowned in thought.
“Hey, now. It’s always worth it. You’ll see!”
“I no want my mommy be sick.”
“No one does, buddy. But it just comes with it. But I know you. You’ll take good care of her.”
“I takes care of Aunt Linny too,” Abel said while feeling her forehead again.
Aislinn opened her eyes then reached out and tickled him.
“No, do that!” Abel scolded with a giggle.
Aislinn grabbed ahold of him and held him down while she gave him a raspberry on his tummy. Abel went into a giggle fit, and Ethan chuckled.
“Is you betters now?” Abel asked, and Aislinn nodded.
Abel looked to the gifts beside the bed.
“Are those for Aunt Linny babies too?” The boy questioned while pointing at the bags.
“They sure are!”
“Can I gives them to her?” Abel said while helping his aunt sit up.
Ethan nodded, and Abel crawled off the bed. He grabbed the smaller one, then handed it to his aunt.
“I take it you and Riona planned this?” Aislinn hinted as to all the gifts she was receiving today.
“You could say that.” Her brother replied with a shrug.
“You has to wait for the big one. Everyone has to wait for the big one.” Abel said, and Aislinn laughed.
Aislinn pulled the item out of the bag, then died of laughter.
“That’s even more fitting considering…” Ethan uttered a certain way.
“Oh?” Aislinn questioned with curiosity.
“That was Liam’s…” Ethan enlightened.
Aislinn’s jaw dropped in response. It was a baby shirt that read “Lil Ass Kicker”.
“Now you can imagine why I reacted the way I did. I couldn’t have planned that better. That was the first thing I ever bought that kid.”
Aislinn hugged the onesie close to her heart then looked as if she were about to cry.
“Don’t. I think we had enough of that for one day.” Her brother lovingly put and with an emotional laugh.
“Aye.” Aislinn agreed while trying her hardest to keep it together.
“There’s more…” Ethan hinted with a gesture towards the bag.
Aislinn peeked inside. She grabbed the outfit that red “Little Man” and the one that read “New To The Crew.”
“Thought those were fitting…”
Aislinn read them out loud, and Abel beamed at this.
“Hey, that what daddy call me! He say, Little Man!”
“That’s why I got it. I figured Filip would get a kick out of that.”
“He would! I’ll hafta show him. Thank you, Ethan.”
“Don’t thank me just yet…” He said then signaled for Abel to give her the bigger bag.
“And before you open that… Just know that one’s yours… You’ll get it once you see what it is.”
Aislinn lifted the item out of the bag then died of laughter. It was a hunter green diaper bag, only military, and tactical style. The changing mat had a target in the middle, and it read drop zone and stand clear on the sides. The bag came with other accessories as well as two camouflaged bears. The bag itself read “MOMMY”.
“I figured if they were going to give Filip his own, then you should have yours.”
“This is completely hatchet! I love it!” She said, and Ethan smiled.
“Just let Filip know he’s not allowed to use it!”
“Riona and I got a couple more things on the way, but they should be here before the little guys get here.”
“Yeah, we went in on a couple car seats and a double stroller. Nice ones too!”
“She didn’t mention it.”
“Which probably means I spoiled the surprise,” Ethan muttered with an unfortunate sigh.
“I’ll play dumb,” Aislinn said, and her brother laughed.
Ethan tilted his head as Abel was looking one of the bears over.
“Does the babies gonna play with this like I plays with Tommy?”
“Sure, hope so!” Ethan wholeheartedly put, and Abel smiled.
“I better get to work. I’m sure Jax is cursing my name about now.”
“Aye well, thank you again.”
“No prob,” Ethan uttered before pecking his sister on the forehead and running on out the door.
“You babies get lots of gifts today, Aunt Linny!”
“They sure did!”
“I wants to get them something too!”
“Do you now?”
“Yeah, and I wants to color something. So, they can has it in their room!”
“Now that would be lovely.”
“What does they like?” Abel questioned.
“They’d like whatever you make them, love.”
“Okays. I go do that now. Then I think about what to get them.”
“Can I help you?” Riona questioned when someone entered the office, without knocking.
“Yeah, you the manager?”
“One of em…” Riona replied with unease.
This man was awfully shifty.
“Why don’t you have a seat and I’ll get the owner?”
“You mean that asshole in the garage?! The one that won’t let me have my tSUV back?!”
Riona narrowed her eyes then looked to the files on her desk. She took notice of the one with her husband’s signature. Jax denied the man his SUV until he paid what he owed them. Riona was discreet as she took the phone off the hook and hit the button to her husband’s cellphone number.
She acted like she was looking something up on the computer instead.
“Why don’t you start by giving me your name and I’ll look into the matter?” She politely put.
Riona could hear Jax answer the phone on the other end. She hoped the man standing before her couldn’t, however.
“You already have my name. I need my car, and I need it now.” Riona leaped out of her chair as the man brought a gun out.
“GIVE ME THE KEYS!” He demanded once again.
Riona had her run-ins when it came to customers. This had her thinking back to the rude woman she dealt with when she first started. But none of them held her at actual gunpoint before.
“I don’t have the keys.” She softly put.
“Don’t lie to me, woman. Just give me the keys, and I’ll be on my fucking way.”
Despite her nerves, Riona was fuming on the inside. How dare this man expect these boys to work for free! He wasn’t the only one, either. They had a handful of “self-entitled” assholes that acted as if Teller-Telford was a volunteer service. They wanted the work done, but when that bill came, they went into complete denial and would accuse Teller-Telford of ripping everyone off. That was just the handful in comparison to the loyal customers that actually appreciated the work the boys did. Most of Charming thought the boys were more than reasonable with their prices.
Riona gritted her teeth then pointed to the rack on the wall with the keys.
“DO YOU SEE YOURS?!” She snapped in response, and the man sneered at this.
“Well do ya?! IF SO, GET IT! NOTHIN’ WORTH LOSIN’ MY LIFE OVER!” Riona pulled a drawer out from her desk. It was filled with keys as well. She threw it at the man’s feet.
“THERE YA GO! GRAB WHATEVER KEYS YA WANT!”
The man bent down and started to dig through the drawer. The door to the office flung open. A couple gunshots were heard as Jax and Riona fired their guns. Jax regarded his wife in sheer amazement. Riona had snatched the gun he kept hidden just for this kind of instance. He kept it duct-taped beneath the desk.
“Nice shot, babe!” Jax complimented as they shot the man in the same knee, at the same time.
This was something she and Jax had gone over, just in case she was ever in this situation. Riona was to go for the knees, unless it cost her life to do so. If that were the case, it was her life over theirs. Jax made that perfectly clear. He wouldn’t lose his wife to some greedy asshole.
The others had rushed into the room and were checking out the scene before them.
“You alright?” Happy and Ethan chorused as Jax disarmed the customer.
Riona nodded but was clearly shaken. Jax took notice and had Happy finish apprehending the man. Chibs called the sheriff’s department and let them know they were needed at the shop. Jax put his gun away then pried his wife’s out of her hold.
“You did good, baby. Real good.” He said while checking her over and pulling her into his arms.
“Riona?!” They heard and turned to see Aislinn at the doorway.
She had her gun in hand. Chibs sighed then signaled for her to put the gun away. Aislinn did as her husband requested.
“What happened?!” She asked once her husband was off the phone.
Riona told everyone what happened. Jax heard most of it over the phone and shook his head in thought.
“Where’s Abel?” Riona questioned in a panic.
“In the church. I had him take cover once I heard the gunshots.”
“Thank you,” Riona said in relief.
Aislinn gave a simple nod but was looking at the man responsible.
“You’re not firin’ on all cylinders, now are ya?” She witted, and Chibs chuckled.
The man was rocking back and forth and holding his knee. Happy and Ethan dragged the man out of the office and waited with him outside. Aislinn picked the keys up off the floor and was putting them back in the drawer. Chibs helped his wife with the keys while Jax consoled his wife. Riona was shaken up more than usual. It didn’t take a mind reader to know why. Abel could’ve been in the office when this took place. Thankfully, he was with Aislinn at the time.
“He’s alright, love.” Aislinn softly uttered after placing the drawer back into the desk.
Riona nodded, and Jax hugged his wife once again.
“I want you to take the rest of the day off,” Jax said.
“I’m alright, Jackson.”
“Riona babe, that’s not a suggestion. That’s an order. Get your stuff ready. I’m taking you and Abel home.”
Aislinn grabbed her sister’s purse then handed it over.
“Aye, go home. I got it from here.”
“You don’t even know what to do!” Riona rather snipped and her sister sighed.
“I’ll wing it!” She said with an upbeat voice causing her sister to laugh.
“This isn’t somethin’ you can wing, Linny.”
“It’s just for the one day, Riona,” Jax said.
The sheriff showed up, just as Jax was escorting his wife out of the office. Jax reared back however when a man stepped out of the squad car. He wore a suit and a pair of brown cowboy boots with it.
“You rang?” The new sheriff uttered, and Jax laughed once he recognized him.
“That’s Sheriff Noone now.”
“Well, I’ll be damned. She told me you might be taking over!”
The sheriff gave a mere nod. He glanced the suspect’s direction.
“So, what’s the story here?” The sheriff questioned, and Jax told him.
Jax, however, couldn’t help but notice the offbeat look on Tig’s face. In fact, the Son was looking around the area with a bitter presence.
“What’s wrong, love?” Aislinn whispered in Tig’s direction.
“Nothing…” Tig lied, and Aislinn sighed.
“I take it she didn’t say anythin’ about leavin’.”
Tig shook his head no, and Aislinn wrapped her hand around his arm. She led him into the garage.
“Give her time….” Aislinn whispered, and Tig lifted his eyes on this.
“You’ll see. She has her reasons.”
“Have you talked to her?” He anxiously questioned.
“Shhhh…” Aislinn shushed and was looking towards the new sheriff.
“Come on, doll. I haven’t heard from her in a couple months now.” Tig pleaded.
The Son hadn’t heard from Dinah since she and Jax’s last court date. She called to let him know everything went smoothly and that was pretty much it.
“She’ll be here. When the timin’ is right.” Aislinn vowed.
Tig closed his eyes in response.
“Come on, Tigger. Where’s your faith?” Aislinn said, and Tig lifted his head. The way Aislinn said this sounded just like Dinah. She even used the same nickname Dinah used for him.
Aislinn smiled then pecked him on the cheek.
Chibs entered the garage then nodded his wife’s direction.
“I told Jackie ta go on home with the wife and kid. He needs ta be with yer sister right now. I thought you, and I can wrap everythin’ up before closin’. I’ll get ye ta work in plenty of time.”
“Sounds good,” Aislinn said while heading for the office.
Chibs reached out and stopped her.
“Riona said not ta screw anythin’ up.” The VP said with a smile and his wife frowned.
“Her words, not mine.”
“Oh, she of little faith!” Aislinn bitched under her breath, and Chibs chuckled.
“But seriously, don’t screw anythin’ up.”
“Not you too!”
“Aye, I know how ye are when it comes ta technology. Yer a fuckin’ klutz and ye know it. Ye haven’t any business workin’ in an office!”
Aislinn’s jaw dropped, and Chibs resisted the urge to laugh. The Scot watched as his wife stormed off and grumbled under her breath.
“Sounds like someone’s going to be on the couch tonight!” Bobby taunted, and Chibs shrugged.
“Nah, the lass knows she’s better with a guitar than a computer.”
“What’s this?” Riona questioned, and Jax sent his son a wink through the rearview mirror.
Abel giggled. He and his father had kept this a secret, so they could surprise his mother. Jax pulled up to a massive tree out by the lake. He didn’t utter a word as he hopped on out of the truck and gathered everything he and Abel hid in the back. Riona peered into the back seat when she heard their son giggle once again.
“What are you two up to?” She playfully snipped.
“It a secret,” Abel said with a grin.
“Em…” Riona said as Abel unbuckled the belt to his car seat.
Riona watched as he climbed out of the truck and helped his father set everything up. The young woman stepped out of the truck, and Jax handed her a batch of purple tulips. Abel, however, handed her a single white one. Riona tilted her head on this. Abel pointed towards the middle of the purple tulips his father had given his mother.
“It go in the middle cause daddy says that would be cool. He say the white one you because you the light in the darkness.”
“Is that so?” Riona questioned and Jax nodded her direction.
Abel nodded as well, and Riona pecked them both on the cheek.
“You is welcome,” Abel said then led Mayhem around on his leash.
“How’d ya pull this off?”
“Wasn’t easy…” Jax admitted as they had a little trouble sneaking everything past her.
They brought a couple of picnic baskets filled with food and drinks. Jax had a blanket set out for him, and Riona and another set out for Abel and Mayhem. The president plopped down on one of them then gestured for his wife to join him.
Riona laid beside him, and Jax pulled her in a little closer.
“So, what brought this on?”
“You needed it,” Jax whispered while kissing along her shoulder and arm.
“We needed it.” Jax corrected as he watched his son play with his puppy.
Jax took his wife’s hand into his own, then rested his head against her.
“I suppose I should be used to havin’ a gun aimed at me by now.”
“That isn’t somethin’ you should have to get used to, especially now. I’m sorry. But you did the right thing. You handled it perfectly. I could hear everything and knew I needed to get my ass in there. I gotta admit. You sure as fuck impressed me with that shot. Damn. I can’t believe we shot him at the same damn time and in the same fucking knee!”
Riona managed to laugh, and Jax smiled.
“Guess that just goes to show we’re the perfect match, baby.” Jax rolled Riona onto her back as he said this.
He kissed her, and they heard Abel sigh.
“Again?!” The boy expressed with a groan.
Jax lifted his eyes but continued with that kiss. Abel got his puppy situated on the other blanket and was feeding him a piece of ham from the lunch meat.
“Hm?” Jax hummed, and Riona giggled as this was inside her mouth.
“When does mommy have a baby?”
Jax stopped what he was doing and regarded Riona in thought.
“Not sure. Why?” Jax curiously questioned.
Abel grew somewhat shy all of a sudden, and this had his parents sitting up in response.
“Abel?” His mother called with concern.
“I no want you be sick, mommy. I no know about havin’ a baby. Maybe you no have one.”
“Abel…” Jax uttered in disbelief.
“Uncle Ethan say mommy get sick if she has one. He say it worth it but I no like mommy being sick.”
“Abel love, all women get that way when they’re pregnant. It comes with it.” Riona explained.
“We no need a baby.”
“Why’s that?” Jax questioned.
“Because Aunt Linny and Uncle Chibs already having TWO babies. We no need no more. That enough.”
“I thought you wanted a baby sister.” Riona reminded.
“Not no more. I is fine.”
Riona drew back a hesitant breath, and Jax nodded as he felt the way she looked.
“Abel son, that’s Aunt Linny and Uncle Chibs’s family. Don’t you want one of our own?” His father asked.
“We is a family.” Abel bitterly corrected.
“That we are. But don’t you want a brother or sister to add to it?”
“No. I is okay. I has Mayhem, and we plays together all the time.”
“Abel love, what if I want a baby?” Riona asked, and Abel locked eyes with his mother.
“Does you wants a baby?”
Abel frowned in thought.
“Does you wants a baby too?” He asked with a frustrated nod his father’s direction.
“Yes. I want another one just like you one day.” Jax admitted.
“Will mommy still be MY mommy, though? You know, cause she no really has me in her tummy like Aunt Linny has her babies.” Abel sadly questioned, and Riona’s heart sank. She never dreamed of him feeling that way about it.
“Oh, Abel. I will always be your mother. Always and forever. It doesn’t matter if we have a million babies or none at all. You were my first. I might not have given birth to ya, but that doesn’t and will never change how I feel about you. I love ya more than words could ever express. Havin’ another baby wouldn’t change that!”
“Is that what this is really about? Are you afraid of being replaced?” Jax sincerely questioned, and Abel nodded.
“Abel, that would NEVER happen. You mean the world to us. And your mother’s right. Riona might not be your birth mother, but she is your mother. Always will be.”
Abel nodded, and Jax regarded his wife in thought.
“Tell you what. I say we make a deal.”
“What deal?” Abel asked while petting his puppy.
“I say we have one more year, just the three of us. Then we try for that brother or sister of yours.” Jax threw out there.
“That’s right. One whole year. See?! That gives you MORE than enough time with just us. That baby will have to cook when it gets here and that alone takes at least nine whole months. So, we’ll have almost two years.”
“Two years?” Abel asked.
“Aye, just about.” His mother said in agreement.
“Okay, we do that.”
“Alright,” Jax said then held his hand out for Abel to shake.
Abel accepted his father’s deal then went back to playing. Jax shook his head, and his wife softly giggled.
“Didn’t expect that,” Jax admitted.
“Your sister was pretty sick during those first few months though,” Jax uttered in memory.
“Aye, but the wee lad broke my heart when he thought I wouldn’t be HIS mother anymore.” She whispered.
“Yeah, kids have a funny way about things.”
“So, did we really just decide that?” Riona said, looking a little stunned at the thought.
“Seems so. By this time next year, we’ll be trying. If you’re ready, that is…”
“Aye, I think the timin’s perfect.”
“That’ll keep everyone at a close age range too.” The president said with the VP’s children in thought.
“Aye, I’d like that.”
“Well, that conversation most certainly wasn’t planned!” Jax witted and his wife laughed.
“Agreed. I say we start practicing tonight.” He said while wiggling his brows.
“Do ya now?”
“Oh, yeah. Lots of practice.”
Aislinn kept it simple and didn’t bother with the Teller-Telford website or the actual records. She knew she hadn’t any business messing with that and would be damned if she screwed something up. Especially with Chibs and Riona expecting her to. Aislinn answered any phone calls and directed everyone’s call best she could and answered whatever questions they had. The young woman left her sister notes for anything she couldn’t answer then let the caller know they’d get back to them tomorrow.
A couple hours had passed when Aislinn heard something buzzing.
“Oh, no…” She muttered once she realized her sister had left her cellphone behind.
Aislinn paid no attention to the caller and answered out of concern that it might be important.
“It’s about fuckin’ time, Riona. I swear I must’ve left a million messages. You can’t avoid me forever, you know!”
Aislinn looked to the phone like it bit her.
“I can only say sorry so much…” The man added, and Aislinn pinched her eyes shut.
“And what are ya sorry for, Brodie?” She asked, doing her best to sound like Riona.
“You already know…”
“Aye, but I want to hear ya say it.”
“For hurtin’ her and hurtin’ you and Filip in the process. But you know I hadn’t a choice. I needed a clean break.”
“Clean break, aye?”
“That’s right. Look, I’m in town but not for long. Is there any possible way I can convince ye to come and see me? I know ye said ye was done with me. But there’s somethin’s that can only be said in person.”
“Em, and where are ya?”
“The ice cream shop. Just a few blocks away. But do me a favor leave the kid and that husband of yours behind. I don’t need any added grief and whatever you do… Don’t you even think about letting it slip to Aislinn that I’m in town. This is between us. I mean it, Riona. Just meet me in…” There was a bit of a pause.
“Aye. Fifteen. See ya then!”
Aislinn let out the longest of sighs then looked to the time. The young woman grabbed the necklace Brodie had given her. Riona had it in her purse originally, but Aislinn remembered seeing it in one of the drawers in her desk not long ago. Aislinn stuffed the necklace into her pocket, then came to her feet. She locked everything up behind her. It was just a couple minutes shy of closing time anyhow. She headed for the garage and let her husband know she was walking to the ice cream shop. Chibs gave her a simple thumbs up in response. He didn’t think anything of it, considering her cravings as of late and this was a trip she made often since it wasn’t that far away.
“What is it?” Jax questioned as Riona seemed to be looking for something.
She’d emptied her purse out on the blanket and had dug through the truck earlier.
“I think I left my phone at the office.”
“We can get it tomorrow. Don’t need it right now anyway. Seriously, relax gorgeous.” Jax said with a shrug.
Riona sighed before stuffing everything back into her purse. Jax handed his wife a beer then pulled her back into his arms.
“It’s not every day we can watch the sunset like this.” He fondly whispered.
“Jaysus!” Brodie snipped the moment Aislinn Telford plopped down across from him.
He didn’t see Aislinn enter the shop. Brodie was too focused on his phone and going through old messages between him and Riona. Aislinn was a good seventeen minutes late. So, Brodie had been messaging Riona asking where she was and asking if she was coming or not.
“Not even close. But ya might be prayin’ to him by the time I’m done with ya!”
“She told you?!” Brodie sneered, and Aislinn leaned back in mere amusement.
“Nah, Riona left her phone in the office. Ya was talkin’ to me ya gimp (fool).”
Brodie blinked a couple of times and Aislinn sent him a crazed smile.
“I mean, don’t ya even recognize my voice anymore?!”
Brodie couldn’t answer that. All he could focus on was her stomach and how noticeably pregnant she was. He didn’t expect her to be showing that much already. Aislinn tilted her head, taking notice.
“I was stung, Brodie.”
Brodie lifted his eyes on this and Aislinn forced a smile.
“A big ole Scottish sausage!”
“FOR FUCK’S SAKE!” Brodie shouted in response.
This had everyone in the shop looking in their direction. Brodie cleared his throat in response.
“I’m only here to give ya that clean break ya wanted. Sad, ya had to go through my sister, but I suppose that is the Brodie Dowe way of doin’ things. Ya never could deal when it came to matters of the heart. I mean, honestly… Ya say you want a clean break. But ya went through my sister in order to get that?! And what did she and Scotty ever do to ya? Em?! I understand if ya wanna be done with me. But why them?! He’s your cousin, Brodie. Hell, he was your best friend once upon a time.”
“Once upon a time.” Brodie reiterated through gritted teeth.
“So angry… Why?!”
“Same ole Aislinn. Hafta spell everythin’ out for ye! Ye shouldn’t be here, and ye know it! We were done, remember?”
“You’re right. I shouldn’t. But I’m givin’ ya what ya need. You should be thankin’ me!”
“What would you know about what I need?!” The way he said this had Aislinn raising her brows.
“I did everythin’ I could ta get ye to notice me. EVERYTHIN’! I took care of ye and Riona! Tell me Aislinn, who was there for ye when yer mum died and when ye went through all that shite with yer old man?! EM?! Who was there when ye were discoverin’ who ye was still and who encouraged ye to keep truckin’ when ye thought about givin’ up, and I’m not just talkin’ about yer music, love. No, I’m talkin’ about takin’ the fuckin’ bullet out of the gun then handin’ it back so ye wouldn’t hurt yerself. Hell, I took care of ye in that fuckin’ hospital, and I even supported me cousin with that fuckin’ marriage he forced on ye. A marriage I can’t believe ye didn’t bitch him out for. If it had been me, ye would’ve killed me sorry arse! That was selfish of Filip, and ye know it! I was hopin’ just for once ye’d see that. That ye’d see that Filip could be just as selfish with ye as I was. It killed me… havin’ ye carry his name, wearing his ring, windin’ up pregnant with his children. That shite cut like a motherfuckin’ knife. But I loved takin’ care of ye, Aislinn. For a moment, I could actually picture what it’d be like… bein’ married ta ye. But then ye had to go and say what ye said…” Brodie shook his head in thought.
“I love ye both. I told myself I was gonna do whatever I could ta show my support. I wanted to show ye how much ye meant ta me, how much I loved ye. Then there was that lassie back in Tennessee… Sure, she was married but in a bad place with her marriage. She reminded me so much of ye. Same color eyes, hair. She even had the same laugh. Dressed just like ye and had that same fire. I just knew she’d be the one to save me from my torment. But like ye, she broke me heart. Aislinn love, I did everythin’ I could ta make amends for MY ONE MISTAKE, SO MANY YEARS AGO. But no, ye just had ta go and hold it against me. Ye never even bothered ta give me another chance.” Brodie slammed his fist down on the table.
“BUT I WAS THERE FOR IT ALL. I WAS THE ONE THAT HAD YER BACK! I WAS THE ONE THAT BELIEVED IN YE. I WAS THE ONE THAT LOVED YE, UNCONDITIONALLY! I WAS THE ONE THAT NEVER GAVE UP HOPE! I WAS THE ONE WAITIN’ AROUND FOOOOR YEARS, HOPIN’, AND PRAYIN’ YE’D FUCKIN NOTICE ME! BUT YE NEVER DID, YE FUCKIN’ GASH!”
Aislinn’s entire face lit up at that last part.
“You’re wrong and ya know it.” She angrily whispered.
“Nah, ye didn’t. Even when ye had me for the wee bit ye did, yer only focus was where my dick was. If ye had been payin’ attention, ye would’ve known where my heart was!”
“You’re stocious (drunk)…” Aislinn muttered as she could smell the alcohol coming off his breath.
Brodie ignored this and continued with his rant.
“All those years… My cousin comes along and it’s like I don’t even exist.”
“That isn’t how it was, and ya know it.”
“He knew ye for a whoppin’ what? Three, maybe four months? And here ye are carryin’ his name and his children. And ye wonder why I call ye a tease.”
“Actually, no, I don’t. But do enlighten me.”
“Ye knew what you were doin’… It was in yer eyes and the way ye carried yerself around me.”
“And how did I carry myself?!”
“Ye made me believe that if I was patient enough, ye’d see me for what I really was. Now I’d never hurt my cousin like that… comin’ onta ye that is. But I won’t lie, if ye came ta me, there’d be no stoppin’ it. I’d pray for the Lord and Filip’s forgiveness, but would’ve been more than happy as your fuckin’ side piece, even if that’s all I ever got. I just wanted a part of ye!”
“Aye now, ya was never patient. And I think ya have me confused with one of your many whores!” Aislinn was insulted by his words, but laughed when it finally dawned on her.
“What?!” Brodie snapped.
“My birthday’s tomorrow… That’s what this is about, isn’t it? You can’t pull your usual shenanigans, and it’s killin’ ya.”
“No, Aislinn. Yer what’s killin’ me. How did I spend all these years just ta end up in the fuckin’ friend zone?!”
“Aye now, ya have to actually be a friend in order to end up in that zone. As of now, you’re nothin’.”
“Nah, I was always nothin’. I started out as nothin’.”
“Then ya should’ve seen this comin’, love.” Aislinn cruelly put, and Brodie reared back.
“Oh, I can be just as cruel, if not crueler. Ya’ve no idea what I’m truly capable of. Ya wanna play dirty, love? Well, ya just opened up Pandora’s box! I can play dirty.” Aislinn leaned in.
“I can reach down your throat and rip your spine out like it’s nothin’ then laugh in your motherfuckin’ face. Don’t ya even think about tryin’ me. I’m guessin’ ya want me to hate you, aye? That’s what that was about that day… You said those things hopin’ to rip my heart out. Well, congratulations, Brodie. Ya certainly achieved that. I can’t even stand to look at ya! You see it isn’t just about what ya did to me. It’s about what ya did to Riona and Scotty. Ya tossed them aside like they were nothin’! As for you and me, I never saw this comin’. I’ve apologized time and time again for not feelin’ the same about ya since that night. It isn’t somethin’ I can control. Ya really hurt me. And for you to go and talk about your dick bein’ in another woman like it’s some casual thing I should accept and so easily forgive, only makes me realize that we would’ve never worked. Ya’d jump on me every time like I was the one in the wrong. But we both know what really happened that night. Ya were impatient, and you never was one for listenin’ or payin’ attention. You were the first man I ever said those words to… And you told me you loved me too, but fifteen minutes later ya had your dick in another woman. Brodie, you thought I turned you down and wanted to hurt me. But you only hurt yourself… And noooow, you know the truth… Since ya can’t ever seem to remember.” Aislinn hated admitting that.
She had kept that buried, deep within. That was the real reason behind not giving Brodie Dowe another chance. Aislinn just couldn’t put herself through something like that again.
Brodie had this look of absolute shock and Aislinn nodded. It was then he took notice of his cousin. Brodie wondered how long he’d been standing there. The VP was just a few feet away and eyeing him down something fierce. Brodie knew he must’ve heard what he said about being Aislinn’s side piece. It was written all over Filip’s face. Brodie, however, didn’t comment and kept quiet, knowing he had it coming. He should’ve ended this with Riona that day on the phone like she made perfectly clear. But no… He was passing through for a gig and just had to make a pit stop. That pit stop led to him getting drunk at a local bar, and it went from there. His only reason for seeing Riona was to check up on Aislinn.
“That’s what happens when ya live your days as a drunken perv… Ya miss out on what truly matters. I’ve only told one other man that. And right now, he thinks I’m gettin’ ice cream.” She said while running a hand along her belly.
“If he knew…”
Aislinn removed something from her pocket then placed into Brodie’s hand.
“I won’t be needin’ this anymore.”
Brodie recoiled once he saw it was the second cross, the one he made her back at the hospital with the clover.
“Ya want to be mad. Then be mad. But love isn’t somethin’ you can force. Ya see I always loved you. But I hadn’t been in love with you since that night. Believe me. I tried gettin’ those feelings back. But nothin’ I did triggered them. The fifteen-year-old in me was pissed and hurt, but there was nothin’ I could do. That fire was gone. This is your closure, Brodie Dowe. Take it, do with it what ya will. But I don’t want to see you ever again. All ya ever resort to is anger and means of payin’ me back, so to speak. I don’t believe there’s a rational bone in that body of yours when it comes to me. I don’t think there ever was. Ya saw somethin’ and wanted it, and that’s all it ever became. The onward battle… But ya lost, Brodie. Ya lost fair and square, and ya know it. Ya might’ve been there for me. But deep down, you always had a hidden agenda even when ya took care of me. It never was about me and what I needed. It was about you and what you wanted. I won’t let ya drag me down anymore. You’re toxic, and I don’t need that in my life, never have. So, do us both a favor. Take that cross and shove it where the good lord split ya.”
His voice had her so startled, she nearly screamed. Chibs took notice and was quick to wrap a loving arm around her. Brodie however just sat there as another necklace was tossed onto the table.
Chibs shook his head in disappointment. He brought his wife into his arms then buried her face against his chest. He knew without even looking at her. Chibs just knew. The Scot didn’t think his cousin worthy enough to even look at her.
“Get the fuck out of MY town and stay out.” The VP severely put.
“NOOOOW!” Chibs added with a sneer and protective hold on his wife.
Chibs made it clear he was packing, and Brodie was quick to his feet. If there was one thing, Brodie knew about his cousin… It was that Chibs didn’t fuck around. He’d shoot Brodie, right there in front of God and everyone, if he didn’t get moving and now. Chibs had that possessive look in his eyes, and Brodie knew he had pushed him to that point – a point where Chibs no longer cared if his cousin lived or died. He was done, and so was Aislinn.
“What are ya goin’ to tell Abel?” Aislinn hinted as to the matching necklace she’d given their nephew.
Chibs ran his fingers through her hair in thought. They were in the truck, and she had her head in his lap. They were parked at The Tipsy Crow’s Nest.
“I suppose I’ll get us a matchin’ set and tell the buck it’s time for an upgrade. I’ll trade the old one for the new.”
“He’d like that. All he cared about was that it matched yours.” Aislinn sadly murmured.
She couldn’t believe Brodie had the nerve to show his face here again. That and seeing him broke her heart all over again. She never saw this out of Brodie Dowe. She just knew their friendship was unbreakable, but she was wrong. Aislinn felt as if Brodie was the one misleading her all along.
“Why didn’t ye tell me, pet?”
“Because this was something I needed to do, and I knew you’d stop me.”
“You’re right. I would’ve. Brodie doesn’t deserve your time or energy. But I’m proud of ye. Ye really let him have it, deservingly so.” Chibs sighed, however.
“Why didn’t ye tell me about that night?”
“Ali love, ye never told me that you actually told Brodie you loved him…” Chibs uttered, and Aislinn recoiled.
She sat up then placed a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Because it wasn’t somethin’ I wanted to remember, much less talk about. Scotty, I put all that past me, years ago. Besides you, Brodie was the only one I ever expressed any real feelings towards. That’s why it hurt so much. I let my guard down, and he ripped my heart out. He was drunk, and I was a fool.”
“Ye weren’t the fool, lass. Drunk or not, that doesn’t excuse his actions. If he said he loved ye in return, then he knew…”
Aislinn tilted her head on this.
“Trust me, darlin’. The truth is more predominate when you’re plastered. He meant it when he said he loved ye. But he also showed that he would’ve run around on ye when he had one too many. Ali love, I think Brodie’s been lyin’ about that night, ta cover his own sorry arse. I think you’re right. I think he was plannin’ on ye catchin’ him, as means of payin’ ye back. But the idiot shifted the blame on ye when you revealed what really happened. Hearin’ ye say those things out loud finally made that clear. He would’ve hurt ye, no matter, Ali. And he would’ve put ye at fault every time. That’s not to say he doesn’t love you and wouldn’t die for you. I truly believe he would. But that’s how men like Brodie work. He might’ve admitted ta doin’ ye wrong. But he hadn’t any issue puttin’ some of that blame on ye when deep down he knew it was all on him. Ye didn’t do a damn thing wrong, other than fallin’ for the bastard in the first place. You deserved better and still do. Better than me and Brodie that’s fur damn sure.”
“Why do you always say that?!
“Because it’s true, love. I hurt ye, and I was supposed ta be the one person that didn’t. I’ll never forgive myself for that.”
“Scotty…” She started to argue this and Chibs placed a finger along her lips.
“Hurtin’ ye like that, it taught me somethin’. It taught me that I could NEVER hurt you like that again, because it killed a part of me when I did. Whereas when Brodie hurt ye, he kept makin’ the same ole mistakes, over and over again. I think if he would’ve stopped with is whorin’ ways and really tried. He would’ve won ye over, but he never tried, not even once. Despite his claims, he was never willin’ ta show ye what he could’ve been for ye, or what ye really needed. Nah, if anythin’ he only shoved that shite further down yer throat. My cousin slept with those women because he wanted ta make ye jealous, and when that didn’t work, he took things a wee bit too far. Ye hit the nail on the head when ye said Brodie worked through anger and means of payin’ ye back when somethin’ went wrong. Trust me when I say ye avoided a bullet there.” Chibs hated this conversation but knew it was needed.
The Scot might’ve been Aislinn’s husband, but he was also her friend, and that’s what she needed at this very moment.
She didn’t need him acting insecure and moody over what took place. She needed him to be understanding and rational. Chibs was more than willing to be that, even if he hated the subject. Brodie truly was like that of a first love. But Chibs took pride in the sense that he was her literal first in everything else. Brodie never stood a chance, and that was of his own making. But Chibs would never forgive Brodie, not after everything he heard. To think Brodie would willingly fuck his wife if given the chance, gave the Scot homicidal thoughts. It took all will not to shoot his cousin, right then and there.
“Guess I better get to work,” Aislinn said while looking at the time.
“Aye, I’ll pick ye up at closin’,” Chibs uttered before kissing her goodbye.
“AC must be off today,” Aislinn announced when she entered the bar and saw her brother and Leia making out.
This had Aislinn thinking back to all the hell AC gave Ethan and Leia at first. But Ethan and Leia made it clear that AC wasn’t in control of their relationship, that they would see one another whenever they pleased. It wasn’t long after that argument that AC and Aislinn had another one on one. Aislinn seemed to get through to AC as it hadn’t been brought up again since. That and AC was actually civil and friendly with Ethan as of late. Aislinn hoped that meant AC was seeing what she had been trying to tell him all along. Ethan was good for Leia and vice versa.
Ethan stopped what he was doing, then cleared his throat.
“Imagine if I had been a customer!” His sister further mocked.
“Funny,” Ethan muttered as it was just the three of them.
It was a little early for customers. It’d be a couple more hours at least until they came pouring in. And with it being a Friday night, this place would be packed and fast.
“Where’s the new girl?” Aislinn questioned as to the woman Ethan and AC hired.
“Gina’s got another hour,” Ethan uttered while looking at the schedule.
“Ah,” Aislinn said while getting the stage ready for tonight.
“What are you doing?” Ethan rather scolded.
Aislinn glanced his direction.
“David and Mark can do that.”
David and Mark were Piper Shay’s newest members. Mark played guitar and did vocals as well, and David was the drummer. Aislinn was currently looking for a bassist player. She’d given a few interviews, but no one really fit the bill. Ethan and AC were letting her handle anything band related since she knew more about it and would be stuck performing with them.
Mark and David had been with Piper Shay for a little over a month now.
“I’m pregnant, Ethan. Not dying.”
“You always say that,” Ethan muttered with a frown.
Leia nodded towards the entrance as Mark stepped inside. He waved in return then rushed on over to help Aislinn. David entered not long after. He had a pickle in his mouth and was carrying one of the drums inside.
A customer entered right behind Mark. The man had a guitar case with him and was wearing a black beanie and shades. He welcomed himself to one of the corner tables, and Leia took his order. Aislinn was preoccupied and took no notice of the customer. Ethan however did and wondered what was up with the guitar case.
“What’d he order?” Ethan curiously questioned once Leia made her way back to the bar.
“Water.” She said with a shrug.
“Bottled, so he’s not a complete mooch.” She said while grabbing a bottle.
“Does he want lemon with that?” Ethan witted, and Leia laughed.
“Charge him fifty cents for that lemon!” Ethan further mocked, and Leia nodded as she headed towards the man’s table.
Leia handed the man his water but took notice of the way he lowered his shades when looking at Aislinn. The man cleared his throat then nodded Leia’s direction.
“I’m at the right place, right?”
“Depends on who you’re looking for…”
“Is that Aislinn Telford?”
Leia reared back in response. She wasn’t sure what to say. Their customers knew Aislinn by her stage given name.
“This Aislinn chick a friend of yours?” Leia questioned, with caution.
“You could say that…”
“Then wouldn’t you just go up and talk to her?”
The man regarded Aislinn in thought, then smiled.
“I thought I’d surprise her… “
“Oh, no, you don’t… Last surprise that girl had…” Leia trailed off, once she realized she gave Aislinn away.
“Had…?” The man uttered in question as Aislinn and Mark tested their guitars and mics.
Leia frowned then waved Ethan over. Ethan headed that way but froze once he caught wind of the rather familiar man. The man gave a simple nod, and Ethan gave a nervous chuckle.
“This asshole is asking all kinds of questions about your sister!” Leia protectively put.
Ethan sent the man an apologetic glance then leaned in and whispered into Leia’s ear.
“No, shit!” Leia said, and Ethan was quick to cover her mouth.
The man gave a simple nod their direction.
“I’d appreciate it if no one knew just yet… That includes your sister, which has clearly been very busy…” The man hinted as to Aislinn’s pregnancy and while putting his shades back on.
“You got it, and you could say that….” Ethan uttered, and was quick to take Leia by the hand.
He dragged her away, then explained Aislinn’s connection to this man back at the bar.
“You’re kidding!” Leia gasped, and Ethan shook his head no.
“You give that bastard whatever he wants, on the house, got it?”
“Sure thing, boss!”
Ethan looked to his sister as she was on stage and shook his head.
“You’re gonna shit yourself, Aislinn…” He whispered with a grin.
“Alright, we ready?” Aislinn questioned, and her drummer and guitarist nodded.
“Hello,” Mark said when the newest waitress walked in.
“I am…” he uttered with a smirk Gina’s direction.
The new waitress gave him a little wave, and Mark sent the young woman a wink.
“Damn she’s hot.”
“That she is.” Aislinn agreed, and this had Mark looking Aislinn’s direction.
“I saw her first.” He teased, and Aislinn laughed.
“Tell you what… Don’t fuck up tonight and I’ll put in a good word for you.” She said as Mark was known to have a few blunders here and there.
He wasn’t used to some of the music Aislinn played, but he was getting there.
“Yep. But you gotta earn that shite.”
“Oh, I’ll earn it.” He said while testing one of the songs he usually struggled with.
Aislinn raised her brows, looking somewhat impressed.
“See?! I told you… I’ve been practicing!” Mark proudly put.
Piper Shay practiced a few more songs before their usual customers filled the bar. Aislinn signaled for David and Mark to stop once they were on the hour.
“You two ready?” She whispered while taking the mic off the stand.
They nodded, and Aislinn nodded in response.
“Alright, boys. Mark, don’t fuck up. David, keep with your bad self.”
“You know it, babe!” David said then gave her a little drum roll.
Aislinn got everyone’s attention then introduced herself (as Piper Shay) as well as her band members. She went from the intro right to the song – (The Reckoning by Within Temptation featuring Jacoby Shaddix). Ethan watched the man in the corner’s reaction as he served a few customers at the bar. Mark joined in on the lyrics when it came to the male part.
Mark and Aislinn always put on one hell of a stage presence, were very energetic, and meshed well together. David could be seen in the back, and he’d be headbanging along. Even with Mark’s blunders, Ethan thought his sister nailed it when it came to picking members.
Aislinn swapped her guitar for the fiddle Bobby Munson had given her. She went from that to Shatter Me by Lzzy Hale and Lindsey Stirling. Ethan chuckled at the amused look on their visitor’s face as his sister sang her heart out and danced all over that stage. This was even more impressive, considering she was six months pregnant. That didn’t stop his sister, nothing did.
Everyone gave the band a standing ovation, including that of the visitor. Aislinn and Mark slightly bowed then took a small break before getting to their next song. Ethan couldn’t help but to laugh at their song choice, considering WHO their guest was.
Leia caught on then smiled in Ethan’s direction.
“She couldn’t have planned that better!” Ethan hollered.
“Right?!” Leia replied as Mark and Aislinn were singing Shinedown’s Breaking Inside featuring Lzzy Hale.
“Oh, shit…” Ethan said then signaled for Leia to have a look as well.
The man had picked up his guitar case and was opening it. Their visitor said nothing as he welcomed himself to the stage and joined in. Aislinn kept with the performance, but Mark stopped singing altogether and was looking at Aislinn in confusion. Aislinn narrowed her eyes as the man was standing right beside her now and singing along.
Aislinn waited until the song came to an end. She tilted her head upon the strange, and yet somehow very familiar man. He nodded, then took his beanie and sunglasses off. Leia and Ethan laughed when Aislinn let out a bit of a surprised yelp.
“Well, do I get a hug or…” The man said, and Aislinn was quick to hug him.
The man faced everyone else, and the entire bar went crazy. Aislinn laughed at everyone’s response. She grew somewhat teary-eyed then dropped her hold.
“Aye, as most of ye know this is Brent Smith from Shinedown!” She announced, and the crowd went nuts again.
Brent chuckled then gave a slight wave towards the crowd.
“You alright there?” Brent questioned Mark and David as they were completely star-struck.
Mark gave a wide-eyed nod.
“Didn’t mean to take over. Sorry about that. But I had to get this girl back for not calling me back.” Brent explained then looked to Aislinn once again.
“You’ve been busy…” He said with a gesture towards her belly.
“Aye, very.” She teased in return.
“Still, you could’ve called…” He hinted as to the deal they made back at the Watchtower Festival.
“Like you said… I’ve been a little busy.” Brent narrowed his eyes at the rather sad tone behind that.
Aislinn took notice then forced a smile.
“I’ll explain later.”
Brent didn’t hound her and gave a simple nod.
“What do you say to giving that one a try again…” He hinted.
“Ah, that one…” Aislinn replied in memory.
“You finished it, right?”
“With my spin?” He asked with hope in his eyes.
“Ya know it!”
“Awesome. Let’s do it!” He said, then they played The Crow and the Butterfly – The version they worked on together at the festival.
Brent gestured for Mark and David to join in. Mark was a little nervous when he first started. Aislinn, however, gave her guitarist an encouraging nod. She and Brent high-fived one another once they wrapped the song up. Once again, everyone went ballistic in the bar.
“Now, that’s what I’m talking about,” Brent announced.
“Think we can talk business later?”
“Aye,” Aislinn uttered with a flushed face.
“Mind if I join you for a couple more songs?”
“If you must…” Aislinn mocked, and Brent chuckled.
“How’s it going?” Bobby asked.
Chibs lifted his head as he was looking under the hood of the mustang he was working on.
“Good. I just aboot have it ready ta go.”
“Hope so, considering her birthday’s tomorrow.”
“Aye, I thought about puttin’ a cardboard engine in…” Chibs said and Bobby chuckled.
“Lass still forgets what side of the road she’s supposed to drive on,” Chibs admitted, and Bobby laughed once again.
“She’ll get the hang of it.” Bobby muttered with a shrug.
“Aren’t you late picking her up?” The sergeant reminded while checking out all the work Chibs had done.
The Scot looked to the time then bitched under his breath.
“Cover that up for me, will ye?” Chibs asked as he rushed on out of the garage.
Chibs raised his brows as his wife practically danced her way to the truck. She was humming one of Shinedown’s songs when she placed her guitar and fiddle in the back.
“Ye must’ve had a good night!” Chibs said once Aislinn was in the passenger’s seat.
“You’re not goin’ to believe what happened tonight, Scotty!”
Author Disclaimer: The Crow and the Butterfly belongs to Shinedown. I have Aislinn’s involvement for story purposes ONLY. I would never take credit for someone else’s work. I’m just a fan, writing out the dream. That’s all!
A/N: Credit for the Harley diaper bag goes to Tosha and Michelle. They both played a part in finding this for me. Thank you, ladies.
Remember to leave your comment, review, or a simple like. It helps keep the muses going.
Necklace trade between Chibs and Abel will take place in next chapter instead.
4 more chapters to go!