Moose-Savaged Souls MC
THE NEW CHAPTER BOOK IS
PRELUDE-Chapter Fourteen of Grizzly….
The room was sweltering but it wasn’t completely without air. The fans were on but they were on low, so they didn’t cool much. The room stank of human sweat and urine. There were two cots in there but neither held a body. He moved further into the room and looked around carefully. Then he heard the clank of a chain moving from behind the door he came through and he turned quickly.
“Whoever you are, come out, so I can see you,” Moose ordered.
“Are you going to hurt me?” a female voice asked. “I heard some shooting earlier.”
“No… no one here will hurt you,” Moose told her. “We’re here to help you.”
“Help me?” the question hung in the air. “Really? You’re not here to take me to Mexico and sell me?”
“No, I’m here to set you free. I’m here to take you home,” Moose told her.
Then she stepped out from behind the door he came through. “I’d rather you didn’t do that if you don’t mind,” she spoke with a quiver in her voice.
His eyes widened and he gasped when he saw her. She was tall for a woman. She was around five foot eight, her long blonde hair was mid length of her back, but the woman was badly in need of a shower. Her eyes were green and haunted. She was skinny, almost too skinny but he could tell she was beautiful.
Right now, he had no clue how to gage her age. “How old are you?”
“I’m twenty four.” She shook her head. “If you can believe that.”
“What’s your name honey?” he growled as his eyes studied her from head to toes.
“Brinn. What’s yours?” she asked as she was trembling.
“My real name is Seth Daniels but everyone calls me Moose.” His voice was low and raw as he stared at her.
Brinn nodded. “I can see why.” Then she smiled. “You’re a big guy aren’t you?”
Moose’s heart pounded in his chest at the sight of her smile. “Yeah, I guess I am.” He took a step toward her.
The smile on her face faded and she took a step back. “Please don’t hurt me,” she whispered.
Her plea broke his heart. “Listen Brinn, I’m not gonna hurt you.” Then he realized what her words meant. “Did that bastard Logan Riggs hurt you?”
She just stood there and nodded.
He cocked his head and asked her, “How did you come to be here anyway?”
She shook her head. The haunting look came back to her eyes and she began to shake again. “I can’t tell you. If he ever knew I told you he’d hunt me down and kill me.”
His hands curled into fists and he growled. “Who? Who is he?”
Brinn shook her head. “No, I won’t tell you.” She backed up until she hit the wall behind her. She crumbled to a heap on the floor then scrambled into a sitting position and brought her knees close to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. Rocking back and forth, she began to zone out.
Moose took a couple of steps and squatted down in front of her. “Brinn. Sweetheart, are you still with me? I need you to be here honey.” He tried to coax her back.
She blinked a few times and looked at him. She didn’t say anything but she did look at him.
“Who did this to you?” he pleaded with her.
“He said he was my daddy, but I didn’t know him until I was fourteen. He found my mom back then and she made us go and live with him. He was cruel and really bad. I couldn’t wait until I could leave home but he wouldn’t let me go. He told me if I left, he’d kill my mom. He said he’d beat her to death if I left her alone with him.” She looked at him and said, “He was a crazy man.”
“What happened to your mom?” Moose asked.
“He finally did what he always threatened. He got into a rage and he beat her to death. Then he sold me to a man to cover his drug habit.”
Moose felt the rage building inside him. He finally understood Grizzly’s roar earlier in the day. Whoever this girl’s father was, he was a dead man walking for now. As soon as he knew the other man’s name, he was going to hunt him down and hurt him bad.
He bent to gathered her into his arms.
She struggled a little but seemed too weak to give him much trouble.
Moose then carried her out of that fucking dank, hot ass room and out into the sunshine.
She turned her face into his neck and groaned. “Too bright.”
Moose didn’t stop until he came to a vehicle. He set her in the seat and buckled her in. “You wait right here. I gotta tell my boss where I’m going and then we’ll get out of here okay?”
She looked up at him and nodded.
Moose turned away and stomped over to Gunner and Boone. “I found the girl and she’s a mess. I’m taking her somewhere to clean her up and feed her. Then I’ll bring her back to the compound.”
“She needs to be turned over to the Marshals,” Boone reminded him.
“No, she doesn’t,” Moose growled. “I found her and I’m going to help her.” Then he stunned both men by turning around and going back to the truck.
A few minutes later, they watched in total surprise as the truck took off, leaving nothing behind but a cloud of dust.
The further away they got from Logan’s ranch the more Moose relaxed. His tight white knuckled grip on the steering wheel loosened to a regular hold as he drove to Laredo.
“Where are you taking me?” Brinn wanted to know as she began to recognize the road.
“I need to go to Laredo and pick up my ride, then I’m taking you home with me to Jasper. Why?”
Brinn shook her head. Her whole body began to shake. “I can’t go to Laredo. Please don’t make me go back there.”
Moose turned to her and frowned. “You can’t? Why?”
She fumbled to unbuckle her seat belt then reached for the handle of the door. She seemed panicky and it never registered with her that Moose was going 60 miles an hour.
He stomped on the brake and grabbed her wrist and hung on.
When he stomped on the brake she flew toward the windshield. She hit the dashboard hard and groaned then slipped down to the floor and sobbed. “Can’t—go back—won’t go back. Please don’t take me there,” she repeated over and over.
Moose steered the truck off the road and looked at her. Putting the truck in park, he unbuckled his seat belt and gently hauled her up and into his lap. She was zoned completely out and he could see the terror in her eyes. “Aww sweetheart, what the fuck did he do to you?” he whispered as he held her to calm her down. “Ok, we won’t go back to Laredo.”
She peered up at him with her tear filled eyes. “Do you promise?”
He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Yeah baby, I promise.”
Brinn laid her head on his chest and waited for her pounding heart to slow down again. “I just can’t be there again.” Her whole body trembled.
“Ok, I’ll get someone else to bring my bike back.” Moose held her tight and had to wonder what or who was in Laredo that she was so terrified of.
“Can we just go to Jasper? I just need to get away from here. Please?”
“Yeah, we’ll just go to Jasper,” Moose promised her as he released.
She slid back to her seat and tried to buckle herself in. She hung her head and whispered, “I really need a shower. I can’t stand myself anymore and I must look a fright. I’m sorry but I was held in that room for a week with no chance to clean myself. With no air it was hot in that room and it stunk to high heaven. He barely gave me any water or food.”
Moose chuckled under his breath. “I hear ya sweetheart, I hear ya.”
She turned her head to stare at him. “You don’t have to rub it in big guy. I know I’m a hot mess and I hate it.”
Moose shook his head and didn’t say anything as he reached for his phone and sent a text to Gunner to pick up his bike and bring it back with them. He started the truck and turned it around. He would have to catch another route back home. They would have to get back to McAllen and catch highway 37 to San Antonio and go from there.
They headed back the way they came and as soon as possible, he caught the highway and then they were traveling toward San Antonio. It was later afternoon when they made their first stop for gas. While he filled the truck, he looked around. Across the road was a motel and a shopping mall within walking distance. Glancing at Brinn, he noted that she looked worn out. She was barely staying awake and he was tired too. He went inside to pay and grabbed a couple bottles of water.
When he handed her one, she took it gladly and began to sip the cool liquid.
Moose pulled out and drove across the road to the motel. Brinn again, turned to stare at him.
Moose shrugged. “I’m tired and I know you are too. We’ll spend the night here and finish our trip in the morning.”
Brinn watched him carefully as he registered for the room. He took her hand and led her to the door. When he opened it, she balked about going inside.
He looked at her and found her staring at the single double bed inside. “I’m not going to hurt you. You have to trust me on that. You will be safe from me.”
She let him drag her into the room but kept her distance all the same. She watched as Moose adjusted the air in the room and closed her eyes as she felt the cool air brush her skin.
“Why don’t you go ahead and shower while I go get us something to eat?” Moose suggested.
Brinn nodded, walking toward the bathroom while Moose dug the keys out of his pocket again. She waited until he left the room then scrambled to finally get her shower.
She turned the water on and quickly stripped out of her clothes. She couldn’t stand herself anymore. Stepping in the shower, she just stood there and let the water cover her for a moment. The hot water felt so good, looking down at the floor of the shower she could see the dirt going down the drain. She felt so unclean at the moment. Grabbing the soap, she washed her body. When she felt clean enough, she grabbed a bottle of shampoo and washed her hair. As her fingers massaged the soapy mixture in she groaned at how good it felt to be clean again.
By the time the water was cooling down, she shut the water off and stepped out. Grabbing the towels, she wrapped her hair in one and dried her body off with the other. She wiped off the fog off the mirror and studied the face looking back at her.
Her green eyes stared back at her. They were calm and clear for the first time in days, weeks even. Then she thought about why. She looked at the door and thought about the man who waited for her on the other side.
He promised he wouldn’t hurt her and he hadn’t. She begged him not to take her back to Laredo and he hadn’t. She told him she hated being this dirty and he brought her here. Could she believe in him or was he setting her up for a bigger fall?
She had trusted too often in the past and she’d always been burned. Dare she trust him now? Opening the door, she went through it to the room and found him sitting there.
He was on the bed channel flipping, eating a slice of pizza.
When the scent of melted cheese and pepperoni hit her nose, her belly growled loudly.
Moose looked her way and smiled. Then his eyes widened as he really looked at her.
Only clothed in a short towel she knew she looked totally different than she had before. She was clean and smelled so good now, since she’d washed off a week of sweat and dirt.
Moose swallowed and pointed at one of the bags on the bed. “I got you some clean clothes.”
She approached the bed and began opening the bags. There were a couple pairs of shorts and tops as well as a sundress or two in one of the bags. In the other bag was a hairbrush, toothbrush and a few other things a woman might want.
She pulled out one of the sundresses and the hair brush then disappeared into the bathroom again. After getting dressed and brushing out her hair, she hung up the towels and went back out to join him.
She sat down on the bed.
He pushed the pizza toward her.
She grabbed a slice and began eating it. She groaned as the flavors of the cheesy pie burst inside her mouth. “Oh my god, that’s so good.”
Moose just chuckled as he watched her for a moment. He sat up and kicked off his size fourteen boots. He settled back again and turned off the television.
Finally, he turned to her and said, “Ok little Brinn, now we have to talk.”
Brinn swallowed hard and laid her piece of pizza down on the box. Wiping her mouth with a napkin, she said, “Ok, what do you want to talk about?”
“How did you come to be at the Rigg’s ranch?”
“I already told you, a man I knew as my father sold me to Riggs to settle a drug debt.” She repeated what she’d told him earlier.
“What’s his name sweetheart?”
She trembled at the question and clasped her hands together. She had a habit of wringing her hands when she was nervous and she was trying so hard not to do that right now. It took her a moment to gather her thoughts and answer his question, “I won’t tell you that.”
“Why can’t you?” he asked. “All you have to do is say a name.”
She looked up at him. Cocking her head to one side she asked, “Why do you want his name so bad?”
“He murdered your mother and sold you to the cartel, why wouldn’t I want his name?”
Shaking her head, she looked away. “His name doesn’t matter. He doesn’t matter, not anymore. He did what he did and there’s no changing that. Now that I’m free of him, I’m gonna do what I have to do. I’ll change my name and get as far away from him as I can. He’ll never touch me again.” She wet her lips with her tongue and went on, “My mom made some bad choices in her life and dragged me along with her. She was my mother and I did love her but her choice in men was terrible. I chose not to make the same choices she did. Does that man deserve to face the consequences for his actions? Yes, he does. But I want nothing to do with him or that situation.”
Moose stared at her, as he shook his head.
She got nervous again, at the determined look on his face. “You won’t be able to get close to him anyway.”
“What makes you say that?” Moose wanted to know.
“Laredo has an underground faction. No one knows who they are but the minions of the faction collect the protection revenues and everyone knows if you don’t pay or you disrupt the route they take every day, then you are inviting the factions to rain down hell on you and your family. That’s just the way things are run there. The man who sold me to the cartel is one of the five in charge of the city. The main faction knows he’s taking the product he’s supposed to be selling on the streets but as long as his money comes in, they don’t care how he gets it. I’m not the only one he’s sold and I know I won’t be the last.” She shivered and then admitted, “In the past few months, five other women have disappeared. I overheard him talking about setting up a traffic port with some of his gang members. That was something I was never supposed to hear. When I told my mom, she warned me to never let him know that I knew about any of their business. She told me if he knew, he’d kill both of us.” She paused then swallowed hard. “I have to wonder if that was why he killed her. I wonder if she told him that I knew what he was doing and she got herself killed because of me.”
“Little girl, no… don’t think like that.” Moose tried to assure her. “I think if your dad was as bad as you claim, then it was only a matter of time before he killed her. I don’t know for sure but he sounds like a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off.”
“Maybe you’re right. My mom made a lot of mistakes in her life but he was the worst one. She had terrible judgement in men but she just couldn’t stay away from the bad boys. She was always so attracted to them. She tried to clean up her act for my sake but she just couldn’t stay away from them.”
“So, you said your dad belonged to this underground faction, is it part of a bigger organization or what?”
Brinn shrugged. “It’s really nothing more than a street gang. They call themselves the Rebel Runners. They split the city into five territories.”
“And your father is one of the five bosses?”
“He likes to think so.”
Moose frowned. “What else is there?”
She turned her head to look at him. “He likes to drink and he’s been doing hard drugs, his own men are watching him and I’ve been hearing things. His own men are beginning to talk and he either doesn’t hear it, or he just doesn’t care. He thinks he has more power than he actually does. He doesn’t realize his own men are waiting and willing to take him down.”
“So things are ramping up, huh?”
“Could be a showdown sooner than he thinks.” She looked away. “His number two man is Craylon and he’s been waiting three months for my dad to make a big enough mistake, then he has plans to slit his throat. And he won’t care if he has to do it while he’s sleeping.” She swallowed hard. “When he’s awake and not drunk, my dad is a bastard, he’s just ugly mean and no one will touch him, but I’ve seen the hate in Craylon’s eyes when he looks at my dad, especially when he’s high or passed out. He wants him dead sooner rather than later. And I think my dad knows it. He pisses Craylon off on purpose.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Moose demanded.
“He knows Craylon wants me. Craylon announced his intentions to my dad and the old man laughed at him. He told Craylon he’d see me dead before he allowed him access to me. That was just a day or so before he sold me to the cartel. I don’t know what happened after that. I’ve been locked up at the ranch for a week. I don’t know who is in charge of the west side Rebels but I can’t stay here.”
“Why do you say it that way?”
She shivered again as if she couldn't get warm enough. “I have to disappear and stay out of sight until this blows over. If my father is still in charge and he figures out I wasn’t taken over the border, it will mean he didn’t keep his word. Mr. Brago hadn’t accepted the deal as of yet and if daddy dearest doesn’t get either the money or the ok on the deal for me this week or the next, then his totals won’t match what the Rebels demand from his part of the whole deal. My father could lose everything then. The cartel owns their gang or their so-called faction and they make the rules.”
“And you think your dad, this Craylon or even the cartel will or could come looking for you?” Moose frowned.
She nodded and swallowed hard. “I don't think...I know. Probably as soon as word gets to them about what happened today. The cartel won’t take what happened to Mr. Riggs lightly. You and those men might have started a war today, a war you can’t win.”
Moose snorted. “Don’t you worry about the cartel. We took out Francisco Brago today. We’ll have a little time to regroup before they come after us, if they even know who we are. They’ll have to make sure they get the right people first. We weren’t there alone either. We had Texas Rangers and US Marshals with us as well. They won’t know who took the shot that ended Brago’s life.”
Brinn gulped heavily as she thought about what happened. She didn’t know all the details but she was smart enough to know the cartel would come back hard and ruthless to find out who murdered their leader. “You started a war with the cartel on purpose? Are you guys crazy? They will use whatever and whomever they have to, to find you guys. They have more than just the Rebels on this side of the border. They will hunt you down and take you guys out.”
Moose shrugged. “They’ll try for sure. They won’t succeed, but they will try.”
Brinn studied him for a moment then asked, “You don’t seem to be too worried. Aren’t you concerned at all about them coming after you and yours?”
Moose leaned back against the headboard and crossed his arms over his massive chest. “The cartel is going to find no rest in Texas until we run them out of here. We don’t want them or their poison here and this war is only beginning. We aren’t the only ones in this fight either. We’re drawing our line in the sand and if they want a war, they have to step over that line. Then we will nail them. They have no idea how strong we are, but they’ll learn.”
“But they will kill you,” she whispered fearfully. “The cartel can’t be stopped. They’ll just keep coming and coming and they will use whatever they have to find you. People like my father and his group. They’ve got more people than you think they do.”
He shook his head while leaning forward to make his point. “Honey, there are more people like us that are tired of being bullied by the cartel and gangs like the Rebels. People that have been pushed around and stomped on and have had their businesses fined and taken over. They are tired of it and when they figure out they have nothing to fear anymore, they will stand with us. They will fight back side by side with us. They just have to figure out we’re on their side first. They have to believe that they aren’t trading one bully for another. We don’t want to hurt them, we just don’t want the cartel and its toxins on our streets anymore. History tells us it doesn’t take much to start a war, well we’ve just fired the first shot and the cartel is going to find out the hard way, we have an army behind us.”
Brinn remained quiet, but she didn't feel any safer by his words.
Moose leaned back against the headboard of the bed again and thought about what went down today. Then his eyes widened and he turned to her to ask, “Have you ever heard about or seen a tunnel anywhere in Laredo? One that goes from this side of the border to the Mexican side?”
Brinn thought about his question for a moment then shook her head. “No I haven’t, maybe that was why he sent me to McAllen with Mr. Riggs. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. I just have never seen or heard of one.”
“Ok, we’ll get a few hours of sleep then get back on the road. There’s safety in numbers and right now, we’re on our own and I don’t want to be a sitting duck.” He motioned toward the food. “Eat up, you need your strength.”
Brinn pressed her hand against her belly as she felt queasy now, “I’m not sure I’m hungry anymore.”
Moose shook his head. “Don’t let this or him take your appetite away. I’ll keep you safe.”
She cocked her head to one side. “Why? You rescued me from that hell, then whisk me away to feed me and give me some rest. And I thank you for it, but I just don't get it. I mean why are you putting your life on the line for someone you don’t even know?”
“Because baby, I’m a Savaged Soul brother and that means we protect innocents from harm. I’m also a bounty hunter and I track down bad guys. What happened today at the Riggs ranch was long overdue. Riggs gave the order for the murder of a peace officer fifteen years ago. Evidence showed us that and it finally came to light. You were caught up in something that you never should have been caught up in.”
“So I’m just an innocent to you then?” she had to know." Like someone lost and needing help."
“I wouldn’t say that.” Moose’s voice lowered.
“I took one look into your eyes and I recognized something in you. You may not know it yet, but you belong to me and I’m not turning my back on that,” he told her quietly.
Brinn began to shake again, only this time it wasn’t from fear. “But we just met. That's crazy! How can you know such a thing so soon?”
“Sometimes, a person just knows.” Moose looked into her eyes.
“You said you wouldn’t hurt me. You promised me that back at the ranch,” she whispered.
“Have I hurt you?” Moose asked her patiently.
“And I never will,” he assured her. “I’m a patient man, I can wait for you to catch up to where I am. I might kiss you but I would never hurt you.”
“You’re like a freight train, you know that, right?” she murmured.
Moose smiled and chuckled at her analogy. “No, I’m really not. I just have great instincts and I rely on them. I can wait for you to catch up, like I said, but when you’re ready, I’ll be waiting.”
Brinn watched him carefully, keeping her distance until he snapped off the light and told her to get some sleep. They would be leaving before dawn to complete the trip to Jasper.
She curled up on her side of the bed and he stayed on his. Only when she heard him begin to snore did she relax enough to fall asleep herself.
Hours later, something nudged her awake. But she didn’t want to move. She was warm and she felt safe and she wanted that for a few more minutes.
She groaned and tried to swat away the thing that tried to wake her but it wouldn’t go away. She snuggled deeper into her pillow but then she frowned. Her pillow was rock hard. She came awake slowly and before she opened her eyes, she thought she could hear another heartbeat echoing in her ear. She opened her eyes and found herself looking at a soft black t shirt.
Following the shirt upward, she saw a long brown beard, above the beard she found herself looking into a pair of silver grey eyes. Eyes that were looking back at her with amusement in them.
“Mornin' sweetheart,” he rumbled softly.
“What are you doing?” she whispered.
“I was sleeping until you snuggled into me. Now, I’m just holding you.” His voice was full of humor.
She sat up and noticed she had moved over to his side of the bed. “Oh God, I’m so sorry.” She felt mortified.
“Hell sweetheart, I’m not.” Moose chuckled. “I was happy to hold you. I didn’t mind a bit.”
Brinn pushed her hair out of her face and turned her head to stare at him. “You are a strange man. You don’t even know me.”
Moose sat up and leaned into her space. “Maybe I don’t know all of you yet, but if you give me a chance, I’d like to know more.” Then he brushed her lips gently before he moved away from her. He checked the clock on the bedside table. “It’s time to get on the road. I want to get a start before the sun comes up.”
Brinn nodded. “Yeah, I think we should get as far away from them as we can.”
“Are you still worried about them finding you?”
Brinn nodded. “The Rebels would drag me back to Laredo and then hold me for the cartel.”
Moose thought for a moment then decided to tell her something that not everyone knew. “I have a feeling the cartel will take a little while to restructure. The three men in charge have been killed in battle.”
Brinn frowned. “I thought only Francisco had been killed?”
Moose shook his head. “Like I said before, there are others out there that don’t want the cartel spreading their poison in their towns either. But the war didn’t start on the Riggs farm today. It started a few days ago and if they don’t have the news yet, they soon will.”
“Are we going to be safe?” She wanted to know.
Moose nodded. “I’ll protect you until we can get to Jasper then my brothers will protect you as well.”
“How long before we get there?”
“Roughly, five hours.”
“What are we waiting for then?”
Moose shook his head. “Hold your horses there, little girl. I let my brothers know we were spending the night and they agreed to escort us home. They’re meeting us on the road and will follow us back.”
Brinn shook her head. “I’m sorry but you have no idea how the Rebel’s work. Once they get their teeth into something, they don’t let go and if they know what happened at the farm, then they will be out there looking for those who did it. They have to protect the cartel or give them information for the cartel to strike back. Either that or the cartel will go after them. That’s just the way they are.”
“So in other words, they have sold their souls to the devils.” Moose raised a brow at her.
Brinn nodded. “And the devils will come for their souls. And they will keep coming and coming and coming. They could care less about how many lives they destroy.”
“Then this should be an interesting battle huh?” Moose just smiled.
“What does that mean?” She frowned.
“I told you last night, the cartel doesn’t know yet, but there are more of us than they realize. The good people are tired of being bullied and putting their lives on the line for something they didn’t want in the first damn place. They will fight back once they realize we have their backs. They might just be surprised.”
Brinn felt her heart stop then start up again. She didn’t know if she was happy about this news or not. She hated the idea that a war was coming but she prayed she would live through it. She got up and went to get herself ready for the day.
They left the motel about twenty minutes later.
Moose looked over the parking lot carefully before he took off, then he watched his rearview mirror until the sun came up a few hours later.
They were just hitting Houston when Moose saw his brothers surrounding his truck. He looked over at Brinn.
She was staring at the bikers around them.
“Relax these are my brothers. They will escort us home.”
She looked over at him and nodded. She seemed to relax the more miles they drove.
“Tell me more about how you met the man who sold you to the cartel,” he finally asked.
Brinn exhaled slowly. “You aren’t giving up on this, are you?”
“Nope, just not in me to do so.” Moose shook his head. “If he’s going to come after you, my brothers and I need to know as much about the man as we can. We need to know and understand what you know about the Rebel Runners as well. The more we know, the more we can plan our defense, and also keep you safe.” He pulled out his phone and told her, “I want my brothers to hear what you have to say as well, so I’m opening a line to them and they’ll be listening.” He hit the call button… he knew Gunner and the others were on the other end.
Exhaling again Brinn nodded. She had already decided he was right. The more they knew the better chance they had to defend themselves. So, she delved in, “The Rebels are a group of five different factions. I only know four of the five leaders. One is my father, Luther Oliver and he’s a real bastard. A man with no honor whatsoever. He controls the west side. The East side territory is controlled by Jose. I’m not really sure about his last name. The north side is controlled by Jax Devlin. The south side is run by Martin Shane.”
“What’s left then?” Moose asked as he urged her to go on.
“There’s a small section in the center of the city. That’s the fifth section and no one knows who runs that section.” She bit at her lip. “No one goes there unless they have business with the Rebels. In fact, the people in the city hope they never have to go there. They say the streets in that section are protected by armed guards. Only the four other leaders travel into that area.”
“So, your dad’s name is Luther Oliver huh?”
Brinn shrugged. “So he claims, but like I said, I never knew him until I was fourteen. My mom had very bad taste in the men she dated, so I was never sure about anything with her or him.”
“Were you born in Laredo?”
“I’m not sure. My mom moved us around a lot when I was growing up. I know I lived in McAllen, Crystal City and Kingsville for a while.” She shrugged. “Whenever I would ask her about my father, she would never give me a straight answer. Then she met up with Luther again. She always did like the bad boys but he was no boy.”
“How many men are there in this Rebels’ gang?”
Brinn shrugged. “Luther had five in his council but I know he had more men working the streets. I couldn’t really say how many. I asked my mom once but she said that was not our business and Luther didn’t want us knowing his business. If I had to guess, I would say maybe thirty or so, but that was just his territory. I have no clue how many the others had.”
“What else do you know about the Rebels?” Moose keep her going.
“I know they are always watching for any threat to their city. You can see them on every corner. It's kind of creepy. Laredo used to be a nice place to live until they took up there. It’s only been the last seven years or so, they really became as big as they have.”
“What happened seven years ago?”
“That’s when they became organized and the city was split up into sections. I mean the Rebels have been there for years but seven years ago, the man who controls the center of the city came in and took over. For a while, there was chaos in the streets as every one of the leaders fought to control more of the territory that he already had. Then the man came in and he organized them and since then things were harsh but everyone knew his role.” She shrugged. “I don’t know who he is but he did organize them all and he runs a tight ship. Everyone answers to him.”
“That was why you didn’t want to be seen in Laredo. You were afraid someone would see you and report back to Luther,” Moose finally acknowledged.
Brinn nodded. “Luther had to get approval to do what he did, which means he had to ask permission from the guy in the center of the city. And of course, he said yes, which will make my disappearance all the more painful for him.”
“Why is that?” Moose wanted to know.
“The cartel could have gotten a lot of money for me, now they won’t get anything.”
“Well, you are a beautiful woman. I’ll give you that much,” Moose agreed.
Brinn shook her head. “No, that’s not it. I’m worth more to them because I’m a virgin. Luther made sure of that.”
Moose gripped the steering wheel harder and almost swerved off the road. He took a deep breath then turned his head to glare at her. “What the fuck did you just say?”
Brinn stared at him. “Which part didn’t you understand?”
“The part about the fact your dad sold you to the cartel for big money because you’re a virgin,” Moose repeated. “You told me earlier you were twenty four, how can you be a virgin at twenty four?”
“There are still virgins out there in the world you know.” Brinn raised her chin at him. “I also told you my mother always had bad taste in men, remember? I realized very young what sex was and I could see it every day, how people would use their bodies as a barter to get something they thought they wanted in exchange. To me. that was just so sorted. I wanted something more for myself. Besides, the way my mom lived? I didn’t want that for myself. Moving from man to man like that? Maybe she could live like that but I knew I didn’t want that. I had dreams as a young girl. Then my supposed father found us and those dreams were gone. My own mother used me as a tool to get something from him. When she told him I was untouched… that’s when he knew he could use that to his advantage. I think he always had plans to sell me to the cartel as I would make him and them good money.”
Moose could hear the bitterness in her voice, both for the cartel and at her father, if indeed that’s who this Luther Oliver really was.
He was close to home now and his hands relaxed their tight grip on the wheel. So his Brinn was a virgin huh? Moose thought. Then he frowned. When did he start thinking she was his?
Grinning, he remembered… oh yeah right after I saw her in the disgusting room at the Riggs ranch. He reached down and shut off his phone. His brothers had heard a little more than they really needed to know but that didn’t mean they needed to hear all of it. “We’re almost home, baby.”
“You mean you’re almost home. Me? I still have a long ways to go yet, before I can find a place to call home. I’m not even sure there is a place for me out there that I can call home. I honestly have no idea what a home is supposed to be like.”
“A home is supposed to be somewhere where you feel safe and loved,” Moose explained. “A place where you make it yours by building the walls that surround you with your bare hands, knowing that they will stand between you and the rest of the world. A place that has a roof over your head that will do more than just keep the rain and sun off of you, but it will also protect you from the wolves at your door.”
Brinn turned her head and gazed at him. “I’ve never had a place like that before.”
“I had that once,” he murmured softly. “After I lost it, I think I’ve been searching for that place all over again. I still haven’t found it, but I believe I’m getting closer.”
“I think I’d like to find a place like that and settle down there myself.” Brinn nodded.
Moose turned the wheel and they left the highway to turn onto a gravel driveway. He then made another turn. Now a fence with an open gate was in front of them.
Brinn gasped as she looked inside the gate. A huge building sat front and center but there were also other buildings there as well. This really wasn’t what caught her attention though. The many men, who stood waiting for them to arrive, were what she stared at. There must have been thirty to forty of them lined up in front of the main building.
Brinn looked over at Moose in shock.
Moose gave her a dazzling smile as he said, “Honey, we’re home.”
Brinn stared at the lineup of men in front of her then she slowly turned her head to look at Moose. “Will I be safe here?” she whispered. “You promised me I’d be safe.”
Moose frowned. “Yeah baby, you’ll be safe here. I always keep my promises.” He stared at the men. Then he looked at them through her eyes and realized his Mc brothers might just look a little scary to other people. He chuckled to himself. “Oh baby, these men aren’t going to hurt you. I promise, they won’t touch you.”
“Can I just stay close to you?” she asked while looking scared.
“You stay as close to me as you want.” Moose assured her with a smile. He reached for his door handle and slid out of the truck. He was about to shut the door but he noted she had slid across the seat and was right there waiting for him to help her down. Moose just shook his head.
He held out his arms and she threw herself into them. He held her close for a moment and felt her trembling in his arms. “I got your back, baby girl,” he whispered in her ear. “No one will hurt you again.”
“You don’t know that Moose,” she whispered back.
“I won’t ever lie to you honey. I’ve got your back and if I’m not around, then my brothers will protect you. I want you to know that. That’s just how we roll here.”
She gazed up into his eyes and read the truth in them. He really meant what he was telling her. She swallowed hard. “Ok. I believe you.”
“Let’s go meet the guys.” He urged her. He turned her around and with his arm around her, he moved her forward to the lineup of the Savaged Souls.
He stopped in front of the President and introduced her to him, “Brinn, I’d like you to meet our fearless leader Gunner, and our VP Boone.”
Brinn peeked out at the men then turned her face into Moose.
Moose wrapped his arm around her shoulder and hugged her close. He turned his gaze to his brothers. “She’s been a little leery the whole trip here.”
Gunner nodded. “After your call this morning, we phoned Python and Cobra. They are on their way here to find out what she knows for sure. But it sounds to us like the cartel is in charge of Laredo.”
Moose nodded in agreement with his assessment. “I think so too.”
Boone turned and motioned for them to go inside. “As Python and his boys will be here soon, I think we should find out as much as she knows. At least now, we know more of the details than we did before.”
Grizzly nodded, “But what she’s already told us is opening up a Pandora’s box of misery isn’t it? Just means we gotta dig deeper to route the cartel out in the open.”
“Come on Brinn, let’s see what they dug up so far.” Moose squeezed her waist a bit and ushered her into the clubhouse. When they were inside Moose asked, “You said Python was on his way here?”
Gunner, Boone and Grizzly along with Gypsy and a few of the others all sat down at the same table as Moose and Brinn.
She had moved her chair right next to him, as she still seemed skittish of being around so many large men.
“Yeah.” Grizzly nodded. “He was very interested in the fact that Laredo was in question. Cotton had been telling them they might need to check it out as rumor on the street was it was under cartel control. He was really interested in the man who controlled the center of the city.”
Brinn shuddered at his words and it wasn’t just Moose who noticed.
Gunner looked over at her and noticed how pale she looked. “Brinn, it would help us a lot if you tell us about the man who rules the center of the city.”
“No one really knows who he is. It's safer that way.”
Gunner gave her a nod. “He knows that too, and he’s using that fact to hide behind. We want to bring him out of hiding and confront him in the streets. We want to show his people what a coward he really is.”
Brinn shook her head. “Everyone knows better than to step into his territory. They know if they do, they may never return again.”
Boone narrowed his eyes and stared at her. “How do they know it's his territory?”
“His territory is well marked. And his men carry his mark, so people know to leave them alone.”
“His mark?” Gunner asked.
Brinn nodded. “It’s a Tattoo on their inner wrist. It matches the marker of his territory. That and his men are always dressed in black. Black shirt, black jeans, black silk vests and black shoes. They are all big men like you and when they show up, most people disappear into the shadows, hoping they won’t be noticed.” She shrugged. “They are bullies and love to show off. Even the street people aren’t safe from them. It isn’t unusual for people to disappear and never be seen again.”
“And you don’t know this guy’s name?” Gunner asked.
Brinn shook her head. “Luther always called him, El Jefe.”
Rigger passed some papers over to Gunner.
Gunner pushed them over toward Brinn.
Brinn looked up at Moose then turned to look at the pages on the table.
“Are these the men you mentioned to Moose this morning?” Gunner asked.
There printed out were DMV photos of Jose, Jax and Martin She nodded and laid them down on the table again. The fourth photo she didn’t know. She tapped his picture, “Him… I don’t know but the others are Jose, Jax and Martin.”
Gunner frowned and glanced at Rigger then Boone. “The fourth is Luther Oliver.”
She shook her head slowly. “That’s not my father. It may be a Luther Oliver but it's not the man I know.”
Rigger turned to his laptop and began typing, a few minutes later, he turned the laptop around and there were several more DMV photos on the screen.
Brinn studied every one of them but when she reached the end, she looked up and shook her head. “He’s not there either.”
Rigger glanced over at Gunner and shook his head. “These are the only Luther Oliver’s in Texas.”
Brinn peered up at Moose. “I don’t understand.” Shaking her head, she looked at the photos again. “None of them are the man my mom and I lived with for ten years.”
Moose turned his head toward Gunner and Boone. “Then who is this guy?”
“That’s a very good question, isn’t it?” Gunner stated.
Ivy Blue came up to the table and nodded at Gunner. “Cobra just texted me and said they would be here in twenty minutes. He wanted me to let you guys know.”
Gunner nodded. “Thank you, darlin.”
Gunner glanced over at Moose, “Maybe he will know more by the time he gets here.” Raking his hands through his hair he told them, “We sent a copy of the conversation Brinn told us before and he wanted to talk to her. Cotton seems to know more about Laredo than we do, maybe between the two of them, they can give us a better picture of what’s really going on there.”
Just then, DeeDee brought out a carafe of coffee, cups and a plate or two of danishes.
Moose poured two cups of the hot brew, gave one to Brinn, and kept the other for himself.
Brinn sipped the hot brew and groaned as it was unusually good coffee. She relaxed a bit more and just sat close to Moose.
Fifteen minutes later, the front door opened a group of men came in.
Seven of them altogether and each one more intimidating than the next.
The last man who entered made Brinn gasp slightly and she lowered her head, so she didn’t have to look at him.
Moose noticed her actions and looked up to view the man who had just arrived. He knew all of them well. He glanced over at Gunner and caught his eyes.
Gunner had noticed her actions as well, got to his feet and held out his hand to Python and Cobra. He noticed Cotton was there along with Pops, GTO, Whiskey and there was a seventh man he didn’t know. That was the man Brinn seemed to be avoiding. Finally, he turned to Python, “Who’s the new guy?”
Brinn pulled down Moose’s head to whisper in his ear, “He’s one of Luther’s crew.”
Moose surged to his feet to stand between her and the new guy. He reached for his weapon and growled, “Who the fuck are you?”
The new guy slowly held up his hands. “Whoa there. Cotton, tell them who I am before this giant shoots me, please.”
Cotton held out his own hands and said, “Whoa everybody, cool your jets. His name is Joey Hill. And yeah, he was one of Luther’s crew but he’s also a plant for our side.”
“How is that possible?” Moose growled. “And if he knew what was happening, why did he let it go on? Luther sold his own daughter to the cartel.”
Joey snapped his head over to look at Brinn. “He did what?”
“You didn’t know?” she asked, confused.
Joey shook his head. “No, I did not. That fucker never told us anything about why you weren’t there anymore.” He looked over at Cotton. “I know he’s been drinking more and he’s been out of it a lot more but I never would have guessed this. “Well, shit,” he said then ran his hands through his hair. “Some of us have been thinking there’s more going on that he isn’t sharing and if he sold her, maybe there have been others.”
“There have been at least four maybe five women who have disappeared from Laredo in recent months,” Brinn told them.
Joey nodded. “We’ve been hearing that too. We just didn’t know he was involved in that shit.”
Brinn lowered her head and asked, “Where do you think I’ve been for the last week or so?”
“Luther told us you were sick.” Joey growled. “Some of us didn’t believe him as he’s been known to get violent when he’s drunk or high. We’ve been waiting for you to show up again.”
Cotton stepped up and told them, “Joey has been able to get some pictures of some of the men around town. We’re hoping to ID the players in this game. Maybe between the two of you… we can identify who’s who.”
Joey offered up his phone.
Rigger took it to download the pictures he had. He began printing them out and soon, they spread all the pictures out on the table.
Brinn began looking them over. She identified Jose, Jax and Martin and then with a trembling hand she pointed at one of the other photos. She looked at Moose and whispered, “That’s Luther.”
Rigger looked at the photo and began typing on his keyboard. He was running a facial recognition program he had on the photo. The program reconstructed the face with the different components of the eyes, the cheek bones, the eye brows, the nose and the mouth. The final scan it did was the shape of the face and the hairline.
The program began running faces through, looking for the one face and name that would match all the markers.
Gunner looked at Joey for a moment then asked, “So how did you become one of Cotton’s men if you were working for this Luther guy? The two just don’t mesh.”
“I started working for Luther ten years ago,” Joey explained. “At first, the money was good and we weren’t doing anything all that bad. I mean we were running drugs and guns but so was everyone else. Then Brinn and her mom moved in with Luther and things began to ramp up. About seven years ago, the big boss came in and got the factions organized. That’s when things changed dramatically. Luther himself changed. He became more secretive and evasive. He began giving his squad more of the responsibility of being out on the streets. It was like he went into hiding.”
“Why do you think that?” Python asked with a frown.
“He didn’t want to be seen?” Joey shrugged. “Who he didn’t want to be seen by was never made clear but he was truly the one in charge, at any rate.”
Rigger watched as the program began putting Luther’s face back together again feature by feature but this Luther was a much younger man. His greying hair wasn’t grey in this picture, nor were there any lines in his forehead or around his mouth like there were now.
When the face was complete, Rigger looked up at Gunner and the others. “We have a name and it isn’t Luther Oliver, boss.” He turned the laptop around to show everyone the final results.
Brinn gasped and began to tremble. She looked up at Moose, “That was him, ten years ago.”
“What is his real name?” Python wanted to know.
“This program gives him the name of Cristo London,” Rigger announced to the room.
Joey swore under his breath. “Fucking hell, no wonder he didn’t want anyone to know who he was.”
Cobra turned to stare at Joey. “What do you know about him that we don’t?”
Joey shook his head. “It was rumored fifteen years ago that a man with the name Cristo London assassinated the leader of the Brago cartel in Mexico. That would have been Luis, Francisco and Angel’s own father Luis Emmanuel Brago Senior himself. We also heard that Brago’s wife Marga was caught in the crossfire and she died a few days later from her injuries.”
“Well, fuck a duck,” Gunner swore.
Gunner and Python glared at Brinn and Joey.
“Find a seat you two,” Python ordered. “We need to know everything the two of you know about this bastard. Whether his name is Cristo London or Luther Oliver, I don’t really give a shit.”
Gunner motioned toward the table. “The two of you have personal knowledge of what’s going on in Laredo and we don’t.”
Moose sat back down and Brinn surprised him by sitting down on his lap. He grinned and wrapped her in his embrace.
Joey sat down across from her and glanced at the pair of them. He seemed to study them intently and Moose wondered why. His eyes sought out Gunner’s.
Gunner turned his head to check out Joey.
Python sat down and glared at Joey. “So, tell us what you know about the Rebel Runners.”
Joey quickly glanced over at Brinn then his eyes went back to Python. He ran his hands over the top of his head and blew out a deep breath. “The Rebels huh? She told you about them?”
“Why wouldn’t she tell us?” Gunner wanted to know. “Is it some secret society or something?”
“Something like that,” he grumbled.
“It's kind of like a fight club, you know it, they know it but it's something that isn’t spoken about,” Brinn admitted, then she shrugged. “I dared to talk about it.”
Moose glared at the other man. “Well, she’s under our protection now, so she’s off limits to you and your other friends, capiche?”
Joey inhaled deeply, let his breath out and then nodded. “Yeah, I hear ya, man .”
“How did you get out of the city?” Brinn suddenly asked. “Luther usually has you guys stay closer to home than this.”
Joey snorted. “Yeah, he usually does, but he’s been out of it again for the last few days, remember?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Brinn reminded them all. “I haven’t been there for a week.”
Python stared at Joey. “You still haven’t said anything about the inner workings of the city.”
Joey rubbed the back of his neck trying to put off his answer until he could come up with something that wouldn’t give the whole game away. But he hesitated too long.
“He’s afraid to talk about the fight club,” Brinn told the men sitting at the table.
Joey whipped his head up to glare at her. “If you knew the truth, you might be afraid too.”
“Joey,” Cotton snapped. “You playing us against them? Boy, that’s a dangerous game to be playing. Especially, with this group.”
Brinn glanced over at Joey then she remembered something, “Wait, I think it’s because he’s got a girlfriend in Laredo.”
Joey hung his head. “My girlfriend is pregnant. Craylon knows it too. If I don’t come back, he’ll for sure kill her and my unborn child. He’ll make her an example without even blinking an eye, he’s just that evil.”
“Sucks to be you, don’t it boy?” Python growled. “You should have come clean to us long before now.”
“Do they know about us?” Cobra snarled. “Are they waiting to ambush us?”
“No, not yet,” Joey admitted. “But Craylon is expecting info when I get back.”
“Who says you’re going back?” Python’s hands fisted tight.
Joey looked into Python’s gaze and paled at the expression on his face. “My girl and baby are dead if I don’t go back. I don’t care about what you do to me but you can’t let them kill my family.”
“We aren’t the ones who are gonna get her killed son.” Python shook his head. “You did that all on your own.”
“Tell us what we want to know and we’ll try to get her out before it all goes to hell,” Cobra demanded.
“Who’s the man in the fifth section?” Gunner wanted to know.
Joey shook his head. “I’m not high enough in the food chain to know that. I don’t even know if Craylon knows who he is.”
“What about Luther?” Gunner asked. “Does he know?”
Joey nodded. “Yeah, the mystery man called in all the faction leaders. Luther had no choice but to go and meet him. He came back shook up to hell.”
“That was when he lost it and he began drinking heavily,” Brinn picked up the story. “He wasn’t a pleasant man to be around.”
“You think he was bad at home?” Joey snorted. “You didn’t see him around the men he worked with then. He made us go out on the streets and told us to make the people fear us. Some of the men took that to heart and they made living on the west side pure hell for a lot of the people.”
“What other changes have there been recently?” Boone inquired. “Has there been anything new in the last two weeks?”
Joey nodded. “Oh yeah, the streets are buzzing with tension. No one knows why and many are freaked out. A few of the businesses are packing up and trying to get out.” He shrugged. “Craylon is clamping down on them and by that I mean he’s not letting them go but fear is spreading in every territory. The other leaders are clamping down too.”
“Is that why Craylon let you come to us?” Cotton wanted to know.
Joey nodded. “He was hoping I could bring back some information that would explain it all.”
“What are his plans to take over for Luther?” Python questioned.
“He’s planning a coup, plain and simple.” Joey shrugged. “I do know he’s talking to the other leaders about taking over.”
“And the man in the middle of the city?” Python kept glaring at him.
“Craylon is hoping to get something on Luther that will turn the tide in his favor.” He shook his head. “He doesn’t care at this point what it is but Craylon wants the power and leadership position of the West side.” He looked at Brinn and said, “He doesn’t care who he has to kill or maim either. I think he found out something about you that he plans to use against Luther. He’s just been waiting for you to get better to put his plan into play.”
Brinn shook her head. “Luther sold me to the cartel. I was waiting to be transferred or picked up in another town when these guys rescued me.” She didn’t want to say anything about the details to Joey. Just in case someone put things together and got the right answer. She wasn’t sure she trusted the man who was playing both sides.
Moose growled. “What does he know about her that would bring Luther down?”
Joey shrugged. “I don’t know but after Luther killed her mom, Craylon broke into their house and had searched it carefully. When he came out, he was in a good mood so whatever he found, he knew it was worth something.”
Moose looked over at Brinn and asked, “Any idea what he might have found at Luther’s house?”
Brinn began to tremble. She remembered well the break in Joey was talking about. As soon as she heard the door open, she ran to hide. But she still heard the men moving from room to room. She was well hidden, not even Luther knew her hiding place.
It was only when she knew the house was empty that she came out of her secret place. Then she went around straightening up the mess they left. She knew if Luther came back and found the mess he’d flip out and she didn’t want to catch that end of his temper. It wasn’t until she got to her mother’s room that she found what they were after. A lock box of her mom’s had been broken into. She never knew what her mom kept in that box but it had evidently been worth her life. “He found my mom’s lock box, ” Brinn finally spoke. “I never knew what she kept secreted away in there but whatever it was, he took it away with him.”
“It could have been information on who your real father is or was.” Python surmised.
“Or who Luther really is and what he did.” Cobra shrugged. “We won’t know until we ask him, now will we?”
Joey shook his head. “You won’t get close to him to ask him anything.”
Cobra barked a laugh. “Oh boy, you have no idea what we can and will do, but you’ll learn and so will Craylon and the rest of them.”
“Which is why we need to know who the man behind the mystery is,” Cotton added.
Brinn shook her head. “But we don’t know who he is.”
Moose frowned at her. “You said he marked his territory and you said his men wear his tat, what does the tat look like?”
Brinn sighed as she got up, went over to the printer, and grabbed a piece of paper from the tray. Grabbing a pencil she went back to the table and began to draw what looked like a patch of some kind.
When she finished, she turned the paper around and showed it to Moose.
Moose studied it for a moment then turned it over to Gunner and Python.
Finally, Joey looked at the drawing as well and nodded. “Yeah, that’s his symbol all right.”
Cotton took the drawing and glared at it. “Fucking hell.” He swore under his breath.
“You know that symbol son?” Python asked. As he fixed his gaze on his youngest son.
“Yeah, I fucking know this symbol.” Cotton gritted his teeth as he spoke. “So do the rest of you. She missed part of the design.” He grabbed the pencil and drew it in to complete the design. Turning the paper around, he showed his dad and the rest of them.
“Aw hell, ” Python grumbled. “You gotta be shitting me? Really?” He pushed his chair away from the table, threw back his head and swore out loud. “Fuuuckin hell!”
Brinn cringed and planted her face in Moose’s chest. His arms wrapped around her shoulders and he held her close to him.
Joey looked at Cotton and whispered, “I take it you know the mystery man.”
“Yeah we know who he is and this is going to get real bloody before we’re done,” Cotton admitted.
“But this is the closest we’ve ever been to that bastard and we aren’t going to let this opportunity go to waste.” Cobra glared at them all. “This time, we nail that dirty fucking bastard.”
“What the hell are you all talking about?” Joey wanted to know.
“Twenty five years ago, we confronted the cartel at a warehouse in Odessa,” Python began to explain, “There was a gun battle and a fire but we didn’t start either. We were there to run the cartel out of our town. We didn’t want them to get settled there but before the fight really got going, we were caught in the crossfire. We fought back and it wasn’t until later we discovered that one of the cartel’s own began the shooting. He used us as an excuse to kill one of his own family. Then he started the fire to hide his own crime of murder.”
Joey paled. “Who was the man he killed?”
“Luis’s oldest son, Jesus Brago,” Python told him. “In that fight, Luis lost more than just his son though, he lost a few of his upper echelon and he barely escaped with his own life. Luis always blamed us for the shooting and the fire but it was one of his own that took out Jesus.”
Joey used his fingers to comb the hair away from his face. His skin had gone utterly white as his eyes held a crazy expression in them. “Who is this man?” he whispered.
“Arturo Brago,” Cotton whispered his name. “He’s Angel Brago’s second born son.”
“Holy shit!” Joey swore. He turned stunned eyes to Cotton. “No one in Laredo knows who this man is. They know he’s dangerous but they don’t know that much about him.”
Brinn turned her head to look at them. “Luther knows. He knows damn well, who this man is and he knows exactly what kind of man he is. And I think this Arturo knows who Luther is as well. Luther or Cristo has been waiting, I think for the last seven years for his day of reckoning. He knows it's coming and he knows he’s been living on borrowed time but he doesn’t know when the axe is going to fall. That’s why he’s been so unstable lately. He knows his time is almost up.”
Joey just stared at her. “He just doesn’t know who is going to get to him first, Arturo or Craylon. One or the other and that’s going to be the fuse that lights Laredo on fire.”
“Not if we get there first.” Python growled.
Python turned to Joey. “Whatever comes next ,you’re out of the game, boyo. You’ll be waiting for the end of this game in a cell.”
Joey just glared at the other man. “At least give me a chance to get my woman out of the city and to a safe place. At least give me that much.”
Python shook his head. “Son, you’re lucky to still be breathing at the moment. I don’t like being played and you going back in the city for your girl, just isn’t happening.”
“But she’s my family.” Joey tried to get him to understand.
“And this is my family!” Python roared. “You should have come clean with us from the beginning but seeing as if you hadn’t been outed by Miss Brinn, you’d still be playing us against them and hell boy, I can’t overlook that.”
Joey looked over at Brinn and snarled, “You little bitch! You just cost me everything I hold dear. You and that slut of a mother you had, should have just stayed gone. Craylon had plans for you, did you know that? Plans that would have turned the whole city over to him and he promised us a place in his new plans for the city. He would have screwed over the other leaders and became the one true leader.”
“Enough!” Gunner yelled, loud enough to rattle the windows.
Joey erupted from his seat and tried to rush at Brinn with his hands stretched out to wrap around her throat.
Two men grabbed him and held him back while she turned into Moose’s chest.
Moose quickly wrapped his big strong arms around her to protect her from the attack. Standing up with her in his arms, he took a step back.
Python stood up as well. He swung his heavy arm at Joey. His big fist plowed into the other man's jaw and the hit was so hard Joey dropped to the floor immediately. Python glared at the men as he ordered, “Put this fucker in a cell. Strip him of everything in his pockets and take his shoes, then put a guard on his dumb ass.”
He turned to Gunner. “I know this is your house but you would have done the same thing.”
Gunner nodded. “I would have.” He turned to Brinn and Moose. “Are you okay?”
Brinn was buried so deep in Moose’s chest she didn’t know where she began or he ended. Her whole body was shaking so bad as her arms were wrapped around his neck and they were almost too tight.
Moose’s nodded at him as his arms were tightly wrapped around her. He stepped away from the others and just held her while murmuring in her ear, trying to get her to settle down.
Brinn had never been as scared in her whole life as she had been the moment Joey turned toward her, when he came after her. There had been so much hate in his eyes that she could feel it burn her soul. Not even Luther had looked at her like that. Luther scared her, but the rage and hate in his eyes hadn’t reached that level.
Moose’s voice cut through her daze and she felt safe in his arms. Eventually, she came out of it and back to him from her safe place as the sounds of the clubhouse reassured her she was still alive and she was safe.
When she looked into his silver grey eyes, she could see fear and something else in his eyes and she had to wonder if the fear had been for her. Had he really cared what she was experiencing? Then she saw relief in his eyes.
He whispered, “Are you back now? You know you’re safe here, as long as I’m alive, no one will ever hurt you again. I got your back sweetheart.”
“You really mean that, don’t you?” she whispered back.
“You bet your sweet ass I do.” Moose growled softly in her ear.
In her present position, she was face to face with him and suddenly, she got the urge to kiss him. She wanted to feel a little bit of the promise of passion in his eyes when he talked about protecting her. She licked her dry lips and before she could change her mind, she pressed her lips over his.
Moose groaned and took over the kiss. Crushing her mouth under his, he poured everything he had into that kiss.
The noise from the room faded.
Brinn was stunned. His touch had started a fire in her soul and she didn’t want to stop. Her heart pounded in her chest, but this time it wasn’t from the fear and all she wanted was to reach out and hold onto this feeling.
Someone cleared their throat and Moose reluctantly broke the kiss to turn his head and glare at the men in the room.
“Get a fuckin' room you horny bastard,” Python grumbled at the display of affection coming close to getting out of control. “We don’t have time for this shit right now.”
Moose lowered his forehead to Brinn’s and noted her red face. “Fuck you old, man.” He growled.
Brinn startled as she whispered, “Isn’t he your president?”
“Hell no, I’m a Savaged Soul, but he is the leader of the Hades Demon’s. I will give him the respect that goes along with that but we are working together to bring down the cartel.” He nodded at Gunner, “He’s my president. I owe my allegiance to him and my brothers.” He turned to look at her. “But I found you and I’m keeping you. I will also kill to keep you safe and I will die for the same reason. You may not want to hear this yet, but you belong to me and that’s just the way it is darlin.”
“Does that mean I’ll have a home with you?” she whispered.
“Yep, you best know it baby.” Moose smiled.
“Okay.” She nodded and looked around as her cheeks flushed to see they had shared that kiss in front of everyone here.
“Well now, that that’s settled, can we move on now?” Gunner asked. “We need to know as much about the city and the people as we can get.”
Moose sat down again at the table, keeping her in his lap.
Brinn looked up at Gunner and asked, “Can you get Joey’s girlfriend out of Laredo before shit hits the fan?”
“Why would we do that?” Gunner asked. “He knew what he was doing when he came here. He knew the risks.”
Brinn tucked her hair behind her ear. “He might have but I doubt she did. And if she did, then she deserves what’s coming but that sweet baby is innocent of both its parents. That child didn’t ask to be born to two very stupid people and so it doesn’t deserve to die for their choices.”
“Honey, that baby isn’t even born yet.” Gunner sat back in his chair and watched her.
“Maybe not, but the moment its heart began to beat, that baby is a living person.” She paused then asked, “If Joey or his woman were one of your own, would you care then?”
Python growled as did Gunner, Boone and several of the others.
Brinn just shook her head. “I don’t mean to start something, rather I’m just pointing out that no matter who that baby is or who it belongs to, the poor thing deserves the chance to be born. Like Joey said, Craylon will kill it and the mother if he doesn’t come back.”
They all remained silent.
Brinn took a deep breath and exhaled, “I’m just asking… please save them? Please consider it, at least?” She looked around at them this time with no shyness. “So what else can I tell you?”
“Where can we find this bastard Craylon?” Python wanted to know.
“He has a house on Channel Street but he mostly hangs out at a club called the Jellybean.” She shook her head. “The club is the hangout of most of the west side Rebels.”
“If he did take Joey’s woman, where would he put her?” Boone asked.
She shivered but felt excited that they might have listened to her plea. “Luther used to talk about the dungeon Craylon had. Craylon has a storm shelter he uses as a dungeon.”
“Why would he tell you about that?” Gunner stared at her.
Brinn didn’t say anything for a couple of minutes, so he asked again, “Come on girl tell me. Why?”
When Moose felt her tremble he whispered in her ear, “I got you. Nothing and no one will ever hurt you again.”
She released a huge breath as she replied, “I overheard Luther and Craylon talking about if something happened to him, he should take me to his dungeon and keep me there, that he should maybe teach me to be a good little bitch and train me in the ways to please a man. Then he said Craylon could make a good penny when he sold me.” She paused then said, “But Luther made him promise to keep me a virgin because he could ask whatever price he wanted for me. He said someone should make some money off me as I was pretty much useless in any other capacity. He laughed and said not even my father wanted me.”
Growls could be heard from all over the room.
Finally Gunner snapped, “What does that tell you? You are not his damn daughter, I know that’s what it tells me.”
“How do you get that?” Brinn wanted to know.
“Well, you just said it…He said not even your dad wanted you. Stands to reason if he was your dad, he would have said, I don’t want her, not that your own dad didn’t want you.” He pointed out.
“Then why did my mother make us go and stay with him? Why would she tell me he was my dad?”
Gunner shook his head. “I don’t know but I don’t think he was your father.”
Brinn laid her head on Moose’s shoulder. “Then who am I?”
“We don’t know yet.” Gunner stressed the yet, “But when we go after Craylon, we’ll find the papers he took from your mother. Maybe that will tell us who you are.”
Moose growled in her ear, “It doesn’t matter, you are mine now, and I’ll never leave you behind.”
Tears filled her eyes. “When the truth comes out, you might not want to keep that promise.”
“I don’t care what the truth is, ” he insisted. “I’ll never turn my back on you girl.”
“Just remember you said that,” she warned him. Then she looked over at Gunner and Python. “If you’re going to go into the city, I would not wear your colors. The Rebels are trigger happy and they don’t like strangers, coming in to take over. You’d be better off to stay in the shadows because they’d never think to look there. You can figure things out if you watch the Rebels long enough.”
“What about the other factions?” Boone wanted to know. “Jose, Jax and Martin?”
Brinn shrugged. “I was never allowed out of the house but the few times they came around, they were just as bad if not worse than Luther. But I do know they were all under the orders of the man you call Arturo. Him, they all hate a lot.”
“What does that mean?” Gunner frowned.
“They all feel they should be in charge and they hate the fact he took most of the money they brought in every week. Luther once pointed out that it was his product they were selling, but Jose pointed out that yes, it was his product but it was them that put their lives on the line every day to sell. It was them that risked jail if they were stupid enough to get caught and it was them that did the dirty work while he collected the money for their efforts.”
Python shrugged. “Well, he had a point, the wrong point but he did have a point.”
“What happened later on?” Gunner wanted to know.
Brinn shivered. “Luther kept telling them they should raise the prices then keep the difference. That’s what he’d been doing for the last few months. He laughed when he told them, what the boss didn’t know couldn’t hurt them.”
Cotton shook his head. “Oh, that’s not going to go over well for Luther or the rest of them, when Arturo finds that out. And he will find out. He has his spies all over the state.”
“Huh,” Python grumbled. “Maybe we should give him a heads up and just sit back and watch them all implode with that info.” He shrugged. “Ole Arturo isn’t going to like the fact his men are stealing from him, I can guaran-fucking-tee that much.”
Gunner just stared at the table for a moment tapping his fingers. Then he looked up and caught her eye. “That might just work to shake up the inner city hierarchy. It might be enough to rattle some cages too. If Arturo even thinks he’s not in charge of the streets he’s got under him, he could make a fatal mistake.” Gunner smiled and said, “He might even start a street war and we could go in and mop up the mess.”
Brinn shivered at his words as her body felt cold again at the idea behind his words. She didn’t think he knew what he was talking about but many of the men sitting here agreed with him. She closed her eyes and sent up a prayer for the people of Laredo.
The day wore on and soon, Python and his boys were going back to Hondo. Some of Gunner’s men would follow in the next few days but for now, they remained in Jasper.
Moose kept Brinn close to him all day. He knew this was all so new to her and he didn’t want to scare her. Now she stood at the window, staring out into the parking lot. He caught her standing there and thought she looked lonesome over there all by herself.
He was standing with Gunner and Boone.
Gunner noted his view and asked the other man. “So what’s going on between you and Brinn?”
Moose glanced over at his president and shrugged. “I found her and I’m keeping her.”
“Just like that huh?” Gunner glanced over at Boone and smiled.
“Just like that,” Moose stated.
“And does she agree with that statement?” Boone asked.
“She hasn’t said no.” Moose shrugged.
“What if she’s waiting for everything to settle down and then she goes back to Laredo a free woman?” Gunner played devil’s advocate.
Moose shook his head. “I don’t think she has many fond memories of Laredo. In fact, I don’t think she’s had fond memories of anywhere she’s ever lived. Her mother wasn’t any kind of real mother to her. She’s had a hard life, so she doesn’t know what she’s missed.” He paused then said, “All I know is that no one will ever hurt her again. That much I can and will do for her.”
Boone shook his head. “Yeah, I think Joey would have killed her if he’d been able to connect today. And the thing was she didn’t do anything wrong.”
Gunner nodded then he looked over at Brinn. “What do you think of what she said about Joey’s girlfriend and their baby?”
Boone shook his head. “She’s got a soft heart doesn’t she? But then most women do have a soft touch in their hearts.”
Moose snorted. “Most women? Not the women I know. They would only care about themselves. They wouldn’t give a shit about a woman they don't even know.”
“And yet... Brinn does,” Gunner pointed out.
Moose nodded. “Yeah, she does. That says a lot about her doesn’t it? I know she didn’t get that from her own mother. Her mother was going to let Luther sell her wasn’t she? Brinn isn’t stupid, she knew this too.”
Gunner stared at him. “So, what do you want us to do here?”
Moose shrugged. “I think we need to send some guys to Laredo to find this girlfriend of Joey's and get her out of the city. I’m not sure Cobra or his boys are going to worry about that when shit starts flying. They’re gonna have their hands full with the Bragos.”
Gunner sighed hard. Running his hands over the back of his head, he looked around the room thinking about who he could send in. His eyes found Skeeter. Skeeter had been here all day and he had heard Brinn’s ideas earlier. In fact, Skeeter had come to Gunner to talk to him after Python and Cobra left. He agreed with Brinn about Craylon’s intentions. He knew the type of man Craylon was and he’d heard the stories about him from the Ranger’s side of things.
He motioned for Skeeter to join them.
The other man came over and just looked at his president.
“You seem awful deep in thought over there, Skeet. I was curious to know what you were thinking about?” Gunner asked him.
“I was thinking about Joey’s betrayal.” Skeeter shook his head. “I’ve been watching Laredo the last few months and I know when Python and the boys go in, they are gonna rip the heart out of the city. There’s gonna be civilian casualties and they are gonna leave blood in the streets. Brinn was right. That girlfriend and their child will be one of those civilians caught in the crossfire. They won’t survive.”
“Unless you go in and get them out,” Gunner spoke quietly.
Skeeter raised his head and stared at him. “Are you asking me or telling me?”
“As you’re still a Ranger I’m asking,” Gunner clarified his position. “I don’t have the right to order you yet.”
“I only have two weeks left in the Rangers. You know that,” Skeeter commented.
“But two weeks is too much time,” Gunner pointed out. “She needs to be out now. Or like you said… she becomes another victim.”
Skeeter shrugged. “I can try.”
Moose turned to look at the other man. “As long as you’re there, can you try and find the paperwork Craylon took from her mother? I know you want to get in and out as quickly as you can but it might give Brinn some answers. Answers she needs.”
Skeeter exhaled deeply. “If I have time I’ll try, but I want to get in, get the girl and get the hell out without getting caught in the crossfire.” He shook his head. “But I will try.”
“That’s all I can ask.” Moose held out his hand. “Brinn’s life hasn’t been easy and she has no clue who she even is. She needs value as a person and right now, she doesn’t have that.”
“And does that bother you?” Gunner wanted to know.
“Fuck no.” Moose growled. “I know what that girl has deep down inside her. I can see her compassion as a person, but she can’t. She has very little self-worth and if I can help her find her way to that, I will.”
Skeeter looked at the clock on the wall. He noted the time before he turned back to Gunner. “If I leave now, I’ll get there after dark and I should be able to get around the city undisturbed.”
“That’s true.” Gunner nodded. “You might not even meet Craylon if Brinn is right about them spending a lot of time at the club.”
“You want me to take backup?” Skeeter wanted to know.
“Might not be a bad idea,” Gunner agreed.
“I’d like to go with him if that’s okay with you guys,” a voice said from behind them.
Skeeter turned and saw Gypsy standing there.
Skeeter froze as he looked into the other man’s eyes. Then he held out his hand to him. Their history had been bad for a long time. Skeeter had arrested the man who killed Gypsy’s woman back when and the man got out to kill again. Skeeter finally took him down though.
Gypsy took it without hesitation. “I would be proud to be your backup, Skeet.”
Skeeter nodded. “Then let's roll, brother.”
The two men left a few minutes later.
Moose turned to Gunner and Boone. “Let’s not say anything in case they can’t bring her back.”
Boone agreed with his reasoning. “Yeah, we don’t want to get Brinn’s hopes up, only to crush them if the boys don’t succeed.”
Gunner watched the woman in question then turned to Moose. “I think she’s a little lost at the moment.”
Moose nodded. “She’s afraid of all the people around here. She’s used to being left alone all the time.” He smiled. “Maybe I should reassure her she’s safe.”
“Is that what they call it nowadays?” Gunner chuckled as he grinned. “Safe?”
Moose laughed out loud and gave his president the finger as he went to join Brinn. Wrapping his arms around her waist when he reached her, he whispered in her ear, “Are you okay?”
Brinn smiled slightly and leaned back against his chest. “I think so. It’s just so noisy with so many people around. I miss the quiet.”
“Do you need a break from all the noise?” he asked her. “We can go to my room if you like.”
She looked at him over her shoulder. “You wouldn’t mind?”
Moose grinned. “No honey, I wouldn’t mind at all.” He let go of her and reached out to take her hand. “Come on.”
Leading her down the hall, he led her up the stairs and onto the second floor, they continued down the hall to his room. There weren’t too many others that lived on the second floor, so it was nice and quiet up there.
When Moose opened his door and ushered her in, she looked around the oversized room.
The walls were painted a soft grey color and the bedspread was black as were the pillows on the bed. Other accents were also in black and dark blue. She thought at first it was kind of depressing but then after a few minutes, she realized the color scheme fit the man. “This is nice.” She moved around the room. She went over to the window and looked out into the late afternoon sun. “You can see a long way from up here can’t you?”
Moose walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. “Yeah, I guess you can.” They stood there for a few minutes before he asked her, “Are you really okay? I know today was hard for you.”
Brinn sighed hard. “Yeah, it was. No one ever asked me anything before. Not like that. My mom always told me to never stick my nose in anyone else’s business. To her way of thinking, kids were not to be seen or heard from. She would barely speak to me for days on end sometimes. I think there were days when she forgot I was even there. Luther for the most part, ignored me and no one else was allowed to ever see me. I was like a ghost in that house. I was there but they never really saw me.” She turned her head toward the window. “I would go up in the house as high as I could get on the third floor, find a window, and just look over the city. Some days, it would be quiet with hardly anyone out and about, then other days, I could see hundreds of people on the streets. I never knew where they were going but I could make up stories in my head about what they doing. But mostly, no one ever saw me…” Her voice faded to nothing when she was done.
“Well, I see you,” he told her quietly. “You aren’t a ghost to me.”
“Will you kiss me?” she whispered.
Moose smiled. “Yeah, I can do that.” He turned her in his arms and then he lowered his mouth to hers. He wanted to kiss her gently so as not to scare her but the moment his lips met hers he groaned as electricity arced between them.
Reaching up, she, wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her body against his. When the kiss deepened, it was her turn to moan when she pulled her lips from his. “Oh, my god,” she cried out. “Moose, what have you done to me?”
Moose had been lost in the kiss and it had been the same for him. He took a step or two and pushed her against the wall. His knees felt weak and he needed to stabilize himself against the onslaught of feelings the kiss brought to the surface. he then took her mouth again, her flavor too addicting to stop kissing her.
Brinn arched her back pressing harder against him searching for something more. She tore herself away from his mouth again, and groaned in frustration. “I need something, something more but I don’t know what.” She began to tremble.
“Me,” he insisted wildly. “You need me.”
“Show me?” She begged. “Please show me.”
Moose took a moment to look at her, really look at her. He caught her jaw in his fingers and brought her face up to his. “If we take this any further, I want you to know it means you will belong to me. I want you to understand that right here… right now. That means you will stay with me forever. There won’t be any running away to hide from Luther or the Rebels. I can and will protect you. Do you understand that? Our lives will be forever linked if we do this.”
She was silent for a moment then she had to ask, “Why? I mean it might just be sex to you? Why do you want me in a serious way? I don’t get it…”
Moose smiled gently. “Brinn, the moment I looked at you in that dirty smelly room in McAllen I saw you. Something in me saw who you really were and I wanted you. All I know is that I can’t let you go. So you have to know when we take this next step, you will belong to me.”
Brinn smiled slowly, pushing him back a step, she held out her hand and said, “Show me. Teach me what I need to know so I can walk beside you with my head held high. I want to make you proud of me. I want to belong to you.”
“Sweet woman,” he breathed in deeply. “I’m already there. Now come here.” He wrapped her up tight in his arms while lifting her feet off the floor and carried her over to his bed.
He stripped them both from their clothes and then his hot satiny skin came down against hers as he laid her down on the mattress to show her what love and passion was all about.
His lips and teeth nibbled over her skin as he kissed his way from her mouth to her core. He placed his mouth on her and licked then sucked in her button.
Her body nearly arched out of his grasp and she whimpered, as she never knew someone would or could do that to her... it had just never occurred to her that a man would want to lick her there and taste her. He drove her insane with lust as he introduced her to the passion of her own body.
Moving up along her trembling body, he then made a feast of her nipples sucking and tweaking them with his fingers and his hot mouth.
Panting wildly, Brinn remained in a state of awe and pleasure, such as she'd never known before. Her body opened itself up to him, begging for more. She felt on fire, yet it was the best heat she had ever known.
When he pushed himself into her, she was more than ready and he showed her a whole new way of expressing herself. She thrust her hips toward him when he pulled back, she lost herself to something so sweet just from the feeling of him taking her and it was heavenly as she nearly floated away into another world. One, where she wasn’t alone anymore.
Tears filled her eyes as they both went flying over the edge towards something so beautiful that she had to close her eyes and ride the wave of passion.
It was after midnight in the city when Skeeter and Gypsy rolled into town. Tensions were high here and there was no one on the streets. They could see the flames of something burning in one part of town and could hear the shooting in another but not on the streets of the west side where they were. They arrived at the address Rigger had given them for Craylon and the house was in darkness as they pulled over still a ways away.
“I’m not sure I like this,” Gypsy told his partner. He was checking out the neighborhood carefully.
“I hear ya,” Skeeter grumbled. “But I don’t see we got much choice here.”
“Well, this isn’t gonna get done if we don’t get to moving here,” Gypsy stated. He reached down to the pocket on the door and grabbed a small crowbar. He slipped it in his boot and they set off.
“Quick and quiet, like always,” Skeeter whispered.
Gypsy nodded and together, they moved to where Brinn thought the dungeon was located. Then both men began searching the backyard for what was described as a storm shelter. Gypsy found it inside a small shed at the back of the yard.
Both men wouldn’t fit inside the shed so Skeeter whispered, “You take care of this. Moose wanted me to see if I could find the papers Craylon took from Brinn’s mom.”
“Don’t be too long then.” Gypsy nodded.
“Get the woman out and I’ll meet you back at the truck. Be careful brother,” Skeeter said then he sprinted across the back lawn and began looking for a way inside the house. He found the patio doors open slightly, so he grabbed his gun and went inside.
The moment he stepped inside, he knew something was terribly wrong. He caught a strong scent of blood in the air and he stepped forward carefully. When he got closer to the desk in the middle of the room, he thought someone was sitting there.
He moved to the shadows and waited for whoever was sitting there to notice him, but they never did. Then he felt something being shoved into his side. “I don’t know who you are but you’re too late,” a faint voice growled from behind him.
“Too late? Too late for what?” he asked in a harsh whisper.
A few seconds later, the voice behind him said, “Too late for either revenge or for saving. He’s dead.”
Skeeter turned swiftly and caught the person behind him unaware. He snatched the gun out of the person's hand and growling, he backed up the slight figure slamming it into the wall behind him. The figure cried out and Skeeter frowned. It sounded like a woman’s cry. “Who the fuck are you?” he growled.
“It doesn’t matter who I am.” She snarled at him. “I’m getting the hell out of this damn house before whoever did that to him comes back.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Skeeter growled.
“Craylon is dead you nimrod,” she grumbled. “He’s been dead for a couple of hours now and I’m leaving this fucking house. My hell is over and I am fucking getting out of here.”
Skeeter grabbed her wrist and dragged her over to the desk where he found a lamp and when he snapped it on, he found himself looking into Craylon’s face. But the man himself was far beyond anything Skeeter could do. His face was frozen in horror, his eyes glazed over in the thousand mile stare.
His shirt was stained with bright red from the cut across his throat that laid his entire throat open. The blood was already drying and turning brown. Craylon had his mouth open in a scream that no one would ever hear.
“What the fuck happened to him?” Skeeter wanted to know as he turned his head to glare at the woman he still had a hold of.
He found himself looking at a small woman, only about five foot four inches tall. Her dark hair pulled back and braided down the back of her neck. Her eyes were a honey color and at the moment she looked in shock. She was staring at the man sitting behind the desk then she struggled as she said, “I have to get gone. If they come back, I’m a dead woman.” She looked up at him as tears ran down her face. “I can’t be here anymore and you shouldn’t be here either. The city is going crazy tonight and it's not safe for anyone.”
“I know,” Skeeter admitted. “But I’m here to collect some papers Craylon got his hands on a few weeks ago. Do you know where they would be?”
She nodded. “Bottom drawer left side. That’s where he keeps all his important papers.” She tried to get away again but Skeeter wouldn’t let her go. “What are you doing? Let me get the hell out of here.”
“Not until I get what I came for.” He growled at her then he shook her. “Tell me your name.”
“Why? What the hell do you care who I am?” she cried out softly.
“I like to know who I’m dealing with.”
“I’m nobody,” she finally admitted. “I work here but I hated it every day I’ve been here. I couldn’t leave but now, I’m gonna get gone.”
“Why couldn’t you leave?” Skeeter frowned.
She shook her head. “I can’t tell you that, but after this, I’m gone and I’m not coming back. I’m leaving this city and I’m never coming back. You have to let me go.”
“Then help me find what I need. I can get you out of here but I need to find the papers he took from Luther’s house a few weeks ago.”
She growled and moved around behind the desk. Grabbing the drawer, she pulled it free of the desk then she placed it on the desk and began pawing through the files inside the drawer. She pulled out several files and handed them to him.
Skeeter shoved the files back in the drawer and took the whole thing. Tucking it under his arm, he grabbed her again and pulled her behind him toward the door leading to the back yard.
“You damn fool, let me go.” She struggled to break the hold on her wrist but Skeeter wouldn’t let her go.
He pulled her out the back door and over to the truck where Gypsy was waiting with a woman in the backseat. He tossed the drawer at Gypsy and pushed the woman into the back seat with the pregnant woman they’d come here to find.
“What the fuck?” Gypsy exclaimed.
“Let’s just get the fuck out of here before you ask anything.” Skeeter growled.
They pulled out and made their way out of town and when they saw the town of Laredo in the rear view mirror, Skeeter finally breathed a sigh of relief. He noticed after they got on the road and was well out of town, the girl he found in the house had slunk down in the seat. He met her eyes in the rear view mirror and saw tears running down her cheeks. Then he looked over at the other woman in the mirror.
She was bruised, tired and had traces of tears but she was still alive. Her belly looked big enough for her to pop any day now and he hoped they would make it home before she went into labor. He looked over at Gypsy and asked, “Did she give you any problem?”
Gypsy tightened his lips but shook his head. “She can barely move, she’s so weak. She needs medical attention soon, or she and her baby won’t make it.”
“Well we have a few hours to get home,” Skeeter told him.
Gypsy turned his head and asked, “Who’s the chick?”
“I’m not sure she didn’t tell me her name.”
“Oh, fucking hell,” Gypsy swore. “Here we go again.”
Brinn stood at the window and looked outside as the sun came up the next morning. She’d been awake for a while now and there was a lead ball in the pit of her stomach. A ball of worry that had been growing bigger as time passed.
Today would be big in the fight against the cartel. Laying her forehead against the glass, she knew today would be a bloody day for all concerned and for everyone in the fight but she also knew today had to happen.
When she felt his arms go around her waist she almost jumped, being so caught up in her own thoughts she didn’t realize he was awake. Sighing, she leaned back against his chest.
“I woke up and you weren’t there,” Moose whispered in her ear.
“I didn’t go far,” she whispered back.
“Far enough.” He growled. He nuzzled her neck and asked, “What you thinking about?”
“Trying hard not to think about what today will bring,” she told him softly. “It’s going to be bad isn’t it?”
Moose sighed heavily. “It could be but you have to remember, the cartel doesn’t give a shit about the people between them and the front lines. They will put as many people in front of them as they can and when they fall, they’ll put even more in front of them. That’s just how they work.”
“I know Luther worked that way too,” she admitted.
Moose was more than a little reluctant to bring up this part of her life, but he had too. “You know your mom wasn’t that great either right?”
Brinn hesitated then nodded. “I know. I used to look out the window and see the other people living around us. I used to watch the mothers and daughters and I knew my mom wasn’t acting like their mothers were. I would watch their eyes when they looked at their children. I saw the caring and love in them.” She hung her head and he felt the hot tears and her next words broke his heart all over again. “They loved their kids and it showed. I think my mom hated me and I never knew why. What had I done to incur her wrath? Why couldn’t she just love me? Was I so hard to care about?”
Moose tightened his hold on her. “I doubt you did anything for her to hate you so much. Some people just shouldn’t be parents and she’s one of them.”
She rested her head on his chest. “I always knew there was something wrong in the way I was raised but it was all I knew. She always had bad taste in men before and I tried to stay away when she had company, so I was left alone all too often. Then we moved in with Luther and after that, it got really bad. Neither of them wanted to see me or hear from me, so I was a ghost in that house.”
“Well, you’re not there anymore and you never have to go back,” Moose assured her.
“You say you want to keep me but while I want to stay, I’m also afraid.”
“What are you afraid of?” he asked softly.
“I’m not like other women,” she whispered her fear. “I’m twenty four years old and I’ve never been to school. I can read and I’ve tried to do as well as I could but I know I’m not as smart as a twenty four year old woman needs to be. I don’t think I could hold a job anywhere because I’ve never been allowed to try. How will I live on the outside if I can’t hold a job? How will I pay rent or learn to even shop for food to feed myself?”
“I can teach you,” he told her. “I told you, you aren’t alone anymore.”
She tipped her head back to study him for a moment. “You would do that for me? Teach me?”
“I will do anything you want except let you go,” he warned her. “You are mine now and I take care of my own.”
“How could I want to leave you?” She snuggled into his arms. “You offered me safety from day one. That means something to me but you offered me so much more than just safety. I’m not with you just because I’m safe with you. I hope you don’t think that.”
Moose smiled. “Oh, I think I know that.”
She turned around again, and stared out the window. “Good, I never want you to doubt that. You mean so much more to me than just a safety net. You offer me freedom too. Freedom to be me, a me I never knew existed, a me I’m just beginning to know.”
Moose chuckled. “A me I’m beginning to know too. I can’t wait to find out more about you. The person you are discovering.”
She smiled wickedly. “A me I can’t wait to know.” She turned in his arms and looked up at him. “Could you teach me more about the passion we recently discovered? I like the feelings you inspire. I want to feel it again and again, as often as I can.”
“Why?” He frowned. “Why do I hear something more, something almost like a but in your statement?”
She touched the bare skin on his chest. “Because this might not last. Luther and the cartel are still out there and they could come after me any time. I want this to last the rest of my days but it may not happen and I want more memories to live on if it doesn’t. My mother always told me that if something bad happens I should go to a safe place in my own mind. She called it a safe place so the bad stuff would just go away. Well, I want memories of you in my safe place if I’m ever taken away.”
Moose swallowed hard. Her words were heartbreaking but she didn’t know he would never let that happen. If he couldn’t convince her in words then he would convince her in actions. “I can do that. I can give you enough memories to last a lifetime because we will be making new memories every day for the rest of our lives.” He then bent down and swung her up into his arms. Walking back to the bed he laid her down carefully and began stripping her clothes off.
Then he joined her and together, they got busy making new memories.
It was mid-morning when Skeeter and Gypsy pulled into the parking lot at the compound. Both men were tired and they were glad to be home.
The pregnant girl hadn’t said a word all the way and every time Skeeter looked her way, she’d been sleeping. The other girl who refused to give him her name was glaring at him most of the way back.
When they arrived though, she looked around with interest.
Skeeter knew she’d been watching the route they’d taken since they left Laredo and he had to wonder what she was thinking now.
Gunner and several of the brothers came out of the clubhouse. They met them at the truck and Gypsy handed over the drawer Skeeter had given him the night before.
“What’s this?” Gunner asked as he passed the drawer to Boone.
“According to her…” Skeeter motioned at the woman in question. “It’s Craylon’s important papers.”
Gunner raised an eyebrow. “And she would know this how?”
She raised her head glaring at the men. “I worked in his home.”
Gunner stared her down before turning to Skeeter. “And Craylon?”
“Somebody beat us to him,” Skeeter told his prez. “He isn’t going to bother anyone ever again.”
Gunner nodded. “Well, that is good news in some ways.” He then looked at Gypsy as he assisted a heavily pregnant woman out of the vehicle. “Is that Joey’s girlfriend?”
The pregnant woman lifted her tired head and looked over at Gunner. “His girlfriend? Is that what he told you?” She shook her head. “I’m not his girlfriend. I never was. But if you ask, is this his baby? Yes it is, but he doesn’t want it or me.”
“That’s not what he says,” Boone told her.
The woman shook her head. “I’m sure it's not.” Leaning on Gypsy’s arm she told them, “His concern is not for me or this baby, it is only for his place in the pecking order. My father is Martin Shane. As the father of his grandchild, Joey thinks he will be taken care of.” She shook her head again. “Only problem is my father hates him. He knows Joey already walked away from me once. Dad is just waiting for the baby to be born and if Joey steps up to the plate, then my father will make his move.”
Patriot stepped forward and took her inside the clubhouse. “Let’s get you to a bed and some rest.” He went on to tell her he was a doctor and she did not have to worry.
Gunner looked over at the other woman who stood beside Skeeter now. “And who are you?”
She shrugged. “I’m no one you have to worry about.”
“Ok, Ms. No One…What do you know about Craylon’s death?” Boone asked her.
“Nothing.” She sighed. “The city went crazy last night and I went to hide when I heard someone pounding on his front door. Before he could answer it, I heard whoever was banging on the door kick the door in. I didn’t see who it was but I did hear them yelling. Then I didn’t hear anything for the longest time. When I felt it was safe, I came out and found Craylon in his office with his throat cut.” She paused then motioned to Skeeter, “Then this big oaf came in. I told him I was getting out of town but he insisted I come with him.” She scowled, “The big bastard didn’t give me much of a choice.”
Skeeter shook his head at her. “I’m a bastard? You were trapped in that house working for a real bastard, remember? So don’t get it mixed up.”
She huffed as she blew hair from her face. “Whatever.”
“Do you know who busted in the front door?” Gunner asked. “Do you know who killed him?”
She shook her head. “I know the voice but I never met the man himself. I was never allowed to meet the people that came to see him.”
“What position did you hold in Craylon’s house?” Gunner wanted to know.
“I was his slave.” She snorted. “Get it? S.L.A.V.E…I didn’t have a relationship with him, because he knew I would have scratched his beady eyes out if he tried that shit. But I kept his house clean, served his meals and washed his clothes. He didn’t treat me or anyone that worked with him very well but that was just the kind of man he was.”
“Why did you stay then?” Boone wanted to know.
She turned her head to glare at him. “Because I didn’t have a choice. He threatened someone I’m close to and would have killed him if I didn’t do what he wanted. I had to stay and serve him but I hated him every single day I was there.”
Moose stepped up and peeked into the drawer. “What is all this?”
Skeeter motioned to the girl beside him. “She said the drawer held all Craylon’s important papers. I haven’t had a chance to look yet, but whatever he took from Luther’s house could be in there.”
Moose grabbed the drawer and carried it inside the clubhouse.
Skeeter motioned for the girl to follow the others inside.
She grumbled but followed them inside. Before she went any further, she turned and begged, “Please let me go. I need to go back to Laredo and get someone I love very much.”
Skeeter felt the punch to his heart. He didn’t know why but her words cut him deep. She must mean a man she was in love with. “I can’t. The city isn’t safe right now. For anyone. You know that. You saw what was happening.”
She made the sign of the Cross, briefly touching her forehead, her shoulders, and her mouth, then she turned narrowed her eyes at him with a cutting glare and walked inside.
Skeeter paused for a few seconds, then followed her in. What could he do? Nothing right now. But he intended to find out who she was protecting. The mystery of this woman bothered him. He never liked puzzles, or rather, he did, he had to admit. That was why he joined law enforcement in the first place, but this was different. It felt personal, all the sudden. He would get to the bottom of it too. Before he set her free, not after.
Moose set the drawer on one of the tables and sat down to go through it.
Brinn sat down next to him and studied the papers he set to one side.
Moose glanced at her to see her frowning. It was a clusterfuck of odd things to him as well. This might be parts of her life here. But as puzzle pieces. What they found could make or break her future. Once they found her real past and put those pieces together, she might not feel the same way about anything anymore. He let out a sigh as he reached for the next file and paused when he saw her name on the tab. He opened it and his brows furrowed as he looked over the contents. He couldn’t make any sense out of what he saw here. There appeared to be a couple of old newspaper articles. The articles were twenty-three years old as far as he could read, anyway. Something about a kidnapping in New York but half the articles had been torn off. He set them aside and looked at what else was in the drawer. It appeared to be a blood test of some sort but there wasn’t a name on the top of the test.
The next page was a copy of a ransom note. The letters were cut out of a magazine and the words weren’t really clear. Like one of those stupid things, you saw in movies. It was almost as if the sender hadn’t even gone to school. Moose shook his head as he read the note a couple of times.
He looked up and saw Gunner and Boone standing not too far from him. He got up and moved over to where they were and handed each of them a piece of the evidence he found. Silently, he handed the note to Gunner and the news articles to Boone.
Both men read them and frowned as well. Then they exchanged the information.
Gunner shook his head. “What the hell does all this mean?”
“Not sure,” Boone stated. “Maybe Rigger could find the original articles and we could get a better idea of what they mean.”
“But what did this tell Craylon and why was he so interested in Brinn?” Moose wanted to know.
“It’s anyone’s guess right now.” Gunner shrugged. “To find that answer, we need to dig a little deeper into these articles.”
All three men looked back at Brinn.
She seemed to be trying to read something in another file.
Moose turned back to Gunner and Boone. “Do you know she never got the chance to go to school? That she had to teach herself to read? I’m not even sure she knows how to write her own fucking name.” He growled. “Whoever raised her, never should have been a parent.”
“That’s something we all know.” Gunner nodded. “But the real question is was the woman she called her mother, really her mother?”
While Gunner was holding the articles, he more or less asked his thoughts aloud, “Why would the woman even keep articles that were about a child being kidnapped? What’s up with the blood test? Whose blood test is it?” He shook his head. “Too many questions, not enough answers. And why did Craylon have all of this anyway?”
“But we’ll get the answers right?” Moose asked hopefully.
“Oh yeah, we’ll figure this out. For her sake, if for nothing else,” Boone stated.
“Just remember, she’s mine now. She’s not going anywhere. Not without me.” Moose growled.
“Let’s figure this out first,” Gunner told him. “Then it will be up to her won’t it? I know you got a claim on her and she knows it too. I know you’ll be there for her no matter what we find out but first, we have to figure all of this out.”
“You keep forgetting one thing here.”
They heard a voice from behind Moose. They all turned around and found Brinn standing there.
“What’s that sweetheart?” Gunner asked.
“I have a choice here,” she told them. “For the first time in my life, I have a voice and I have a choice. No matter what you all might find, it's still my choice to act on it.” She motioned to Moose. “He taught me that. When he took me out of that stinky room in McAllen, he claimed me but he also gave me a choice. He offered me protection but he said, I could walk away if I chose to do so. I stayed with him because he was the first person in my life that asked me what I wanted. I stayed because he showed me the things I could do if I chose to do them. I won’t walk away from him now, not because I want my freedom. He taught me that I could have both. Him and my freedom. He’s willing to let me explore this world if I choose too, but I’ll know he’s right behind me all the way. He’s not telling me I can’t do something, he’s willing to show me the way to do it. To me, that means the world.”
Moose opened his arms and she took the few steps to walk into his embrace. He folded his arms around her, not to trap her but to hold her safely.
Gunner and Boone shared a look.
Brinn looked up at Moose. “Now, what did you find in that file?”
“We found a few news articles,” Moose explained. “Announcing a kidnapping of a child from a high profile family. Only half the article is here though and we don’t have a name of the family, so we don’t know what it all means but this could be about you.”
Brinn was stunned. The puzzles she called her life suddenly snapped into place. “So the woman who raised me might not have been my mom, my real mom?”
“We don’t know for sure honey,” Moose admitted.
“Can you find out?” She had a pleading tone in her words.
“Yeah honey, we’ll find out,” he promised her.
She trembled. “I’m not sure I really want to know but I know I have to. I have to know for sure who I am. Even if I don’t like it.”
“You won’t be facing this alone, baby girl.” Moose comforted her by rubbing her shoulder. “I’ll be right here beside you, every step of the way.”
“And we will have your back, every step of the way,” Gunner assured her.
“Really?” Tears rolled down her face.
“Every step of the way.” Boone nodded at her.
She planted her face in Moose’s chest and cried tears of relief. Her tears soaked his shirt but after a couple of minutes, she lifted her head and wiped the tears away. “Then let's find out what the truth is. The woman who raised me hated me at times and I never understood why. Then she lied to me and told me Luther was my dad but he hated me as well. I was stuck in that house for ten years with little to no hope of ever getting out, then he sold me to the cartel as if I were nothing to him. If for no other reason, I need to know why he could something like that.”
“Your life could change if we find the truth, you do realize that don’t you?” Gunner asked her.
Brinn shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. Who’s to say my family will ever accept me after all this time? Who’s to say I’d want to be part of them after all this time?”
“I’ve got your back either way sweetheart,” Moose told her. “I don’t care who you are because you belong to me. Anyway you fucking slice it, you belong to me.”
She turned shining eyes to him. “Yeah, I do. Just as you belong to me.”
“Damn right I do.” Moose growled.