Rogues Of Hell MC-
It’s no secret. I never liked Cat’s little gift, I always believed she was running some kind of scam, but I could never figure out why. I mean we were a club but we didn’t have that much, so what was she really after? Then there was the issue with her mother. Her mom Isobel was after the MC, doing her best to run us off our land or disgrace us to the entire world but again…to gain what? We found her two banks and we thought that was the reason why, until we met Tempe.
Too many secrets and not enough answers but we’re getting there. But as we go along, the puzzle pieces are starting to fit together.
End of Brute….
They reached a doorway and Jesse stopped. “I can’t go any further but you can. You go back and claim your man and don’t forget to give my dad that message.” He stood back and looked at her one last time. “You truly are a beautiful woman and I’m proud to be your father.” He leaned toward her and kissed her forehead again.
As soon as his kiss touched her head, Cat suddenly felt as if she were falling. When she landed, she gasped and opened her eyes. She gazed around at the room and found herself in the Infirmary.
Titan had a hold of her hand with his head lying beside her belly.
Boots was there, tending to the IV and her bandages.
Titan heard her gasp and raised his startled gaze to stare at her. He looked as if he couldn’t believe her eyes were open. “Cat?” he whispered.
Cat smiled. “I-I’m back, baby. I came back for you.”
“Oh, dear God. Thank you,” Titan whispered. “Thank you, thank you. Thank you! I’m so glad you came back. I wasn’t sure I could go on without you.”
Cat smiled then a wave of pain hit her and she groaned. “What the hell happened to me?” she whispered.
“You knocked Hawkins out of the line of a bullet then it slammed into you. I—baby, I-I thought you were dead,” Titan admitted.
Cat lifted her hand and touched his cheek. “I think I was, at least for a while anyway. I knew I had to come back to you. You and me,” she whispered. “We got unfinished business, baby.”
Titan smiled softly, still looking so happy to have her back with him. “We do?”
Cat nodded. “Yeah, we do. I love you with all my heart. I want you to know that.”
“I love you with all my heart too, Little Cat. I want to be able to tell you that for the rest of my life. So don’t plan on going anywhere. You hear me?”
Cat nodded. “Yeah, I hear ya. We still have a lot of work to do, we still have to find Isobel and stop her once and for all.”
They were interrupted by Boots and his stethoscope as he checked her vitals. When the man was done, he smiled. “Damn good to have you back, little girl.”
Cat smiled weakly. “It's good to be back, Boots. Can you go get Hawkins for me? I have a message for him and he needs to hear it right away.”
When Boots walked out of the room, Cat looked over at Titan. “So, I have a question for you.”
“Ok, shoot.” He smiled as he held her hand in his.
“How do you feel about kids?”
Titan froze and the smile slid from his face. “Kids?” he whispered. “Are you sure?”
With a growl, Titan crushed her lips under his. It wasn’t until Hawkins cleared his throat that Titan broke the kiss.
“Save that until she at least recovers a little bit ok, boy? She can’t take all that shit yet.” Hawkins growled.
Cat smiled at Titan and giggled softly. Then she looked over at Hawkins and crooked a finger at him.
Looking curious, Hawkins came close and bent down.
Cat then whispered her father’s message in his ear.
Hawkins paled with shock and backed away slowly as he stared at her in utter disbelief. “How, how the hell would you know something like that?” he finally asked her in a strained voice.
Cat winked at him. “If you think about it for a moment, you’ll know, grandpa.”
Nash sat alone in the main room while everyone else was in the Infirmary congratulating Cat on coming back from the dead. He didn’t think she would want him to be there, as he was the main reason she didn’t feel welcome here.
So he sat alone drinking a double shot of bourbon while feeling sorry for himself. He was happy that she’d saved Hawkins, in spite of the cost of taking the bullet herself. It was a blessing that she survived. Nash shook his head because he heard the story the men had repeated, about how she’d survived this. Her dad Jesse sent her back, the same man who she watched being shot twenty something years ago.
He just could not believe it, not for one second but he refused to say anything about it, he’d learned that lesson from the first time. The rest of them believed her, even the old man. He’d give anything to know what message she had to tell Hawkins had been though. It must have been huge because the old man had lost all the color in his face and for a moment, everyone thought he might pass out.
Nash shook his head. Whatever she told him, it made him a believer. All Nash knew was that he had to find a way to accept her or…well hell, he knew he couldn’t stay here. Damn it, this was where he belonged. This place was his home.
Looking around the clubhouse, he knew he had every right to be here but then so did she. He drained his drink and got to his feet. Maybe he should take a walk, to clear his head.
He stepped outside and saw the blood stains on the grounds and shivered, thankful the blood wasn’t any of theirs. The four men that came to the barn died by a hail of bullets from the Rogues. Just like they deserved for thinking they could come to do in this MC.
Hawkins had called the cops in and explained everything to the Sheriff. He took the bodies away and now everything should be quiet. That was, until Isobel came back. Which could be anytime, so the club wasn’t out of the woods yet.
He walked along the road to Jesse’s old house. It was getting on towards late afternoon and he knew it wouldn’t be safe to be out here much longer. He did not intend to go far, so he knew he’d be okay. He got to the driveway of what once was Jesse’s house and stared at the abandoned, run down old house.
He frowned as he could have sworn someone was in the house. He silently turned and backed up a bit into the woods. He made his way around the edge of the trees until he was at the point where he could see the place. Then he settled down and waited to see if and who might be in the house.
A couple of times he heard something inside crash but whoever was in the house stayed away from the windows and doors.
He watched till night fell and then felt a change in the air as it cooled off. He looked around the woods and wondered if he would be lucky tonight and not run into the pack of wolves he knew damn well roamed these woods at night.
Carefully raising his gaze, he looked around the area. The trees and ground were shadowed by the night’s darkness, it was then when he noticed the safe feeling he felt. These woods used to scare the hell out of him. Shit… the wolves always scared the hell out of him. There always seemed to be a feeling of dread in the air but it seemed to be gone now.
After a while, he saw a shadow run from the back door. It was running away from him so he couldn’t see who it was but before he could move, he felt a blast of hot breath on his shoulder. The short hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and he was afraid to move.
He didn’t dare shift around as he heard a low growl. Then he heard sniffing behind him and Nash knew his imagination was his worst enemy right now. He slowly turned his head and found himself face to muzzle with the wolf Cat called Bear. He could also see several of Bear’s pack all around him.
“Hello Bear,” he said softly, taking a deep breath he spoke, “I-I know I’m probably not your favorite human. And I don’t want to even be here right now, but I…I guess it's too late to change that now.” Nash kept his voice steady and low.
Bear sat down and seemed to study the man for a moment before one of the wolves behind him growled.
“Aww Jesus, Bear, I’m one of the good guys. I promise I’d never hurt you guys. Cat would kill me if I ever even thought about it. You remember Cat don’t ya? She’s hurt right now but I promise, I didn’t hurt her. I—I’m sorry for what I did when she first came here. She took a bullet with Hawkins’s name on it. She damn near died but we got the bastard that shot her.”
The wolf simply stared at him as if he were listening to him babble on.
Nash shook his head. “She’s gonna be okay. Titan and Hawkins will see to that.” He slowly gazed around again and then nodded. Maybe the feeling he’d always had about these woods really were ghosts. Ghosts that just wanted someone to hear them and find out what happened to them. “Well, I’ll be damned,” Nash stated quietly.
He looked over at Bear. “Damn, dog. Your friend Cat was right wasn’t she? We did have ghosts in these woods.” Then he shook his head. “Wait, that can’t be right either. My dad died here a couple of days ago and his ghost should be here now too.” Then he frowned at the shudder of realization coming over him. “I don’t feel him. I don’t feel his shadow hovering over me. I-I actually feel free of that bastard. For the first time in my life, he’s not there anymore. I wonder why I don’t feel him haunting these woods?”
“Maybe the darkness he lived with took his soul straight to hell,” a voice whispered from above him.
Nash looked up to the tree above him and found a pair of emerald green eyes staring back at him. “Shit, who the hell are you?” He growled out, a bit shocked that someone had actually spoken back to him.
She ducked back into the shadows of the tree he’d been leaning against then asked, “Do you always talk to wild animals, mister?”
“No, not always but these wolves, well they are friends of a friend of mine,” Nash replied feeling a bit agitated about the talking with wolves thing. “Who the hell are you?”
“My name isn’t important right now. What’s your name? You know just in case your friends come looking for you? I can at least tell them about your untimely death by the wolves.”
“Hush now,” Nash told her quietly. “I’m hoping that the big one looking at me will remember that I’m somewhat of a friend of a friend and he won’t let me get eaten.”
“Yeah? Good luck with that,” the sweet sounding voice told him.
“I’ve never had much luck in my lifetime,” Nash replied with a heavy sigh.
She giggled a bit, then said, “I have a feeling it's gonna be a long night for you then.”
Nash leaned back against the tree and asked her, “What are you doing out here?”
“I was here collecting some herbs, mushrooms, and stuff that grow around here and I heard noises. So I tucked my pack on my back and shimmied up this tree. I watched a nasty woman go into that house down yonder. Boy, was she pissed about something. I wasn’t gonna get caught up in her drama, so I just stayed where I was. Then you came along and well…here we are.”
Nash frowned then looked up to find out if he could see her. When he couldn’t, he shrugged. "Do you know who the woman was?"
“I’ve seen her before but I don’t know her name. She is one nasty piece of work though.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.” Nash knew who she was talking about. It had to be her. “Does she have long red hair, somewhere in her late 40’s and definitely has a foul mouth on her?”
“Yeah, that sounds like her all right,” the voice agreed. “How did you know?”
“Cuz, I belong to the bikers down the road and we’ve been looking for her. Damnit, if we’d have known she was this close this whole time…” Nash growled, then cleared his throat watching nervously as the wolves shifted around him and licked their chops.
The voice went quiet for a long few minutes then asked, “Was she what caused all that shooting I heard earlier today?”
“Yeah, she played a big part in it,” Nash admitted. “We had to defend our home from some really bad bikers. They were only looking to kill us while we were defending our right to live here.”
“I believe ya, though not many would,” she replied “With them shooting at you and your friends. Y’all had to do what you needed to. And I will just bet that red headed woman was the one to blame for it, right?”
Nash snorted. “Yeah. Why? What do you know about her?”
“Well, I know where she’s staying, if you want to know.”
Nash surged to his feet and glared up into the foliage of the tree. Before he could say anything or make another move, the wolves around him growled and shifted their positions. He gazed around and he could see several of them ready to move against him. He looked over at Bear and could see the head of the pack staring at him. “Bear… Dude, honestly I’m not gonna hurt you or your pack, Hawkins and Cat wouldn’t like that, besides I got no weapon on me at the moment.” Nash held his hands up, showing the wolf that he was unarmed. He swallowed heavily and pleaded with Bear, “First off. I.AM.SORRY. I will not be mean to Cat anymore. You got that? So can you take your pack and go away? I know these are your woods. I have no right to be here, so how about you just let me leave alright? And I will go home.”
The voice called down from her perch higher up in the tree, “Could you ask the pretty wolf if I can leave unmolested too? I’d really appreciate it.”
Nash stared at the wolf Cat called Bear. “Well Bear, what do you say? Can the lady and I go?”
Bear got to his feet and took a few steps over to where Nash stood and sniffed his hand then he licked it.
Nash reached out and touched his head.
Quietly, Bear turned and led the pack away from the area.
Releasing a huge breath of relief, Nash slumped against the tree and closed his eyes. Finally, he heard a rustling above him.
Something or someone then landed on the ground in front of him.
Opening his eyes, he found a small woman standing there.
She wore jeans, a t-shirt and a jean jacket. A backpack was snug against her back, and a beanie cap sat on her head, covering her hair. She had on a pair of bright green sneakers.
Looking straight at him, she gave him a slow beaming smile.
Nash felt like he’d been poleaxed as he took in her face and her grin.
With a raised brow at him, she said, “So I’m not gonna ask why you were calling a wolf a bear and apologizing to him for being mean to a cat… of all things. But I do want to thank you for getting them to move away. They looked hungry and even though you apologized nicely to them and all, I really don't want to be a wolfy-kibble dinner tonight. So we’d both better go.”
Nash escorted her out of the woods. When they got out into the open night air, he wiped away the beads of sweat from his forehead. He refused to look back to check, making sure none of the wolves were stalking them. He preferred not to think about whether they were or not, he sure as shit just did not want to know.
Together, they slowly moved away, not wanting to cause the wolves any need to come after them. Once they got far enough down the path, Nash thought maybe he and some of the brothers should go back tomorrow and check out the house during the daytime. He asked his unexpected guest, “So now, will you tell me your name?”
“My name is Tempe Close. And you are?”
“Nash…Nash Wilder. I’m a member of the Rogues of Hell MC.” He motioned toward the clubhouse.
“And the red haired woman?” Tempe asked.
Nash exhaled heavily. “She’s a complicated mess. She used to be married to the president’s son and they had a daughter named Cat, then she murdered her husband because he found out she’d been running drugs for the cartel. She took their little girl, dropped her off with some people to watch over her, and then just disappeared. Four years later, she tried to kill her own daughter. We learned she caused a traffic accident that killed the people Cat had been given to. Cat was thrown from the car, still after all that Cat was injured and once she was better they sent her to an orphanage. Where, of all the shit that could have happened, she ends up being under her grandmother's rule at an Abbey. The red head's own mother was the head nun there.”
Tempe stopped walking and grabbed his shoulder. “Damn, that’s one helluva mess alright.”
Nash snorted. “You don’t know the half of it.” They started walking again and he continued, “Cat came back here with some kind of second sight. She can somehow see when people are in trouble, she saved not only my life but Kota’s as well. He's our president's son. Kota was on trial for murdering four women by ripping their hearts out while they were still using them.”
Tempe gasped while walking at his side.
“She had proof it was someone else,” Nash went on. “And she uncovered the fact that her own mother, we call her Isobel, has been trying to get us in deep enough trouble to cause our MC to lose this land. We found out Isobel had been using a hidden cave as a bank, so we took all the money and ledger book we found and turned it over to the police. Isobel wasn’t happy about that but she didn’t leave. There was a shootout a few days ago in which we caught a couple of her men and she got away. Then we realized she didn’t go far, we discovered her own mother and the real woman whose place she took in the cartel.”
Tempe shook her head. “Wow.”
“We brought them back here and damned if it hasn’t been one thing after another, ending with a shootout with Isobel’s father where Hawkins should have taken a bullet but Cat shoved him out of the way, just at the right time. She took the bullet meant for her grandfather. She almost died, or maybe she did, hell if I know but then she came back.” He shrugged. “I’m not really sure how it all went down.”
Tempe looked at him and asked, “So what…? Are you saying you don’t believe her?”
Nash stopped in the parking lot of the clubhouse and crossed his arms over his chest as he stared at her for a moment. “Honestly, I’m not sure what I believe anymore. I mean she comes here but doesn’t want to be here so she said. Then she told us we had ghosts in the woods, ghosts that wanted justice for their untimely deaths. Well, I ain’t never seen ghosts so I guess I don’t believe that crap. Then she has nightmares, she describes these crimes being committed right down to the details that only the cops know. She even told our prez exactly what happened the day his son Jesse, her own father died.” Shrugging he admitted, “Granted, she was there that day but she was only three. How can a baby like that tell anyone the details she remembered after she saw her dad being killed?”
Tempe shrugged. “It could be possible, I suppose.”
“Then she knew exactly where the club’s key to the safe was and we thought that key was long gone. The police never found it when they identified one of the bodies that burned up in the fire Isobel started in the old clubhouse.” He snorted. “There’s just too damned many questions and no real answers, at least no real answers that would help us to figure out how she knows all the shit she knows.”
Tempe laid her hand on his arm and smiled softly. “Sometimes, you have to take things on faith, you know.”
Nash slowed his walking and stopped to look at her. “Honey,” he snorted. “I’m not even sure what faith is and I doubt I have any in my body. I wasn’t raised to believe in anything that I can’t see or understand. My old man didn’t believe in anything but his own fist.”
Tempe closed her eyes, letting out a huge sigh. When she opened them, she nodded. “I was born the exact opposite. My parents had the wanderlust and they never stayed in one place long enough to set down any form of roots. We finally came back to this area seven years ago, when my mom got sick. We buried her four years later and almost as soon as she was in the ground, dad and my brothers took off.”
“You stayed?” Nash asked. “Why?”
Tempe shrugged. “The wanderlust skipped me but hit everyone else in my family. All I ever wanted was someplace to call home. Maybe with not the small yard and white picket fence but just a place I could call my home.”
Nash paused and looked around the clubhouse compound. “That’s what this place is to me, it's my home. When I was a kid, my dad broke the rules and got us kicked out of this place. It was like being ripped away from everything I knew and I hated it. As soon as I could, I came back and Hawkins took me in. This is my home and I’m happy here.”
“So this Cat? Her sudden coming back here makes you uneasy, huh?” Tempe surmised.
Nash snorted. “Well, I’ve been vocal about not believing her and her dreams. All that has done is get me into trouble. Everyone else is ready to accept her because she’s Hawkins’ granddaughter and all.”
“Then, son…” Tempe smiled. “We have to teach you to believe, don’t we?”
Nash scoffed and asked, “How do you teach someone to believe in nonsense?”
Just then, the door to the clubhouse opened and Wanderer stepped outside. He seemed surprised to see Nash with an unknown woman. He frowned and called out, “Nash, who you got there?”
Nash shrugged. “I found her in the woods, up in a tree of all things.”
“Hi there.” Tempe smiled at the man. “I’m Tempe Close.”
Wanderer nodded at Tempe. “So what were you doing in a tree?”
Tempe shrugged. “It’s better than being a wolf snack.”
He raised a brow at her. “Ok, Tempe, that’s a damn good answer. I’ve seen that pack. They are scary as all hell.” He nodded. “They call me Wanderer.” He looked over at Nash. “So what the fuck were you doing in the woods?”
“I took a walk. Then I found out Isobel was inside her and Jesse’s old house and from the sounds of things, she was tearing up the place. I wanted to see what she would do, then she ran off just as it got dark.”
Wanderer sighed, as he looked troubled by this news. “So did you run into the wolves?”
“Hell yeah, I did,” Nash replied. “I talked my way outta being dinner.”
“You mean you begged your way out of that,” Tempe interjected with a chuckle.
Wanderer looked over at Tempe. “So what are you doing around these parts?”
Tempe shrugged. “Just collecting some of the things I use every day. I wasn’t bothering anybody. But when that red headed woman comes around, I usually hide until she’s gone. The woman is just plain crazy at times, so it’s best to just hide until she leaves. Better for me at least.”
“She claims to know where Isobel is staying when she’s in the area,” Nash informed his brother.
“Well hell, Hawkins is going to want to hear about that.” Wanderer snarled.
“That’s kinda what I thought too,” Nash agreed.
“Come on then, let’s go find the man and get him informed.” Wanderer turned and went back inside the clubhouse.
Gently, Nash took her arm and escorted Tempe inside.
Tempe looked around the clubhouse as she walked in and stopped, she found herself staring at the club emblem behind the main table. It reminded her of something she’d seen before but she couldn’t remember where or when it was. Now, she noticed the emblem matched one of the patches on Nash’s vest. Then she realized everyone wore it on their vests. She looked back up at the emblem on the wall.
Moving closer to the bigger emblem, she studied it carefully. She knew she’d seen this before, she just couldn’t remember where. Then a thought came to her and her eyes widened as she backed away, running into a wall of muscle. She turned and saw that she’d run into Nash.
“What’s going on?” he asked softly.
Tempe swallowed heavily and shook her head. “Nothing. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was just looking at the emblem, that’s all. Am I not supposed to look at it?”
Nash studied her face. “No, that’s okay, you can look at it. I was just wondering that’s all. You seemed pretty intent on it.” He looked up and saw the emblem that meant something to every man under its shield. “Have you seen it before?”
Tempe turned her head and shrugged. “I think…I don’t think so.”
Nash caught something in her voice and asked, “What does that mean?” he demanded.
“Nothing.” She shook her head. “It doesn’t mean anything. So, I’ll just head home for now.” She headed toward the front door to escape.
Nash reached out and grabbed her arm. “Not so fast, you need to talk to Hawkins first.”
“I can come back tomorrow. I really need to get home now,” Tempe tried to tell him, but even as she said it, she saw several men coming from the hallway.
As soon as they saw her, they stopped and one of the men gasped.
Three of the group were older but they were all well muscled and looked very formidable. But when her eyes caught one of them staring at her, she recognized his eyes. They reminded her of her mother’s eyes and her own. They were a certain shade of the deepest emerald green. She knew plenty of people had green eyes but there was just something unique about their color of green. Maybe because when they got upset their eyes turned almost gray. She knew hers did and she remembered her mother’s eyes turning colors and she wondered if his did too? She didn’t want to stick around and find out. So, she hurried to the front door.
At the last minute, Nash caught hold of her backpack and pulled her back into the room.
She now came face to face with the three older men. One of them now had his arms crossed over his chest while the other two merely looked curious.
“What the hell, Nash?” The older one with his arms crossed demanded. “Who’s the woman?”
“Why don’t you just ask me?” Tempe growled at his rudeness. She just really hated it when people were rude. “I’m standing right here.” She heard someone gasp and she looked up at the group of men.
The one with green eyes kept staring at her with interest.
Now she knew her eyes must have turned gray.
“Ok, little miss smart ass. My name is Hawkins and I’m the prez here,” Hawkins growled. “Just who the hell are you and what the hell are you doing here?”
Tempe closed her eyes and calmed herself with a technique her mom had taught her as a child. When she opened her eyes, she could feel they had gone back to green but she refused to look at the green eyed man in front of her. Instead, she stared at Hawkins. “My name is Tempe and Nash here, thought you might be interested to know where a certain red headed woman stayed when she was in the area.”
“We found one of her houses already,” Hawkins grumbled. “It was at a rundown motel in the area.”
Tempe shook her head. “She didn’t stay there really but she made sure people would see her there. She stayed somewhere else more, often than not.”
“Do tell us just where that might be, little girl,” Hawkins demanded.
“There’s a house just about a mile outside the city limits. Off the main road a ways and there’s a chain across the driveway with a no trespassing sign on it. If you follow the driveway, you’ll come to an old farmhouse about a mile in. She stays there a lot and she’s probably there right now. She was at the old abandoned house earlier and she was pissed. I wouldn’t be surprised to find she wrecked a lot of the stuff inside. Your man Nash and I waited and listened as she threw a loud hissy fit. Then she ran out the back door just about the time the wolves showed up.”
Hawkins looked over at Nash quickly and asked, “You were in the woods when it got dark?”
Nash nodded. “I made my peace with Bear and his friends, now I just have to apologize to Cat for the way I treated her. I may not understand her motives for coming here or understand her dreams, but I’ll try to give her the benefit of the doubt when she does the things she does.”
Tempe tried to back away but again, she ran into a wall of muscle. When she turned, she found Wanderer standing there.
All he did was raise his eyebrow at her.
Tempe’s shoulders slumped because knew she wasn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
Tempe moved closer to Nash and refused to look at the other man behind Hawkins.
“So little girl…” Hawkins began.
Tempe growled. “I am a full grown woman, I am not a little girl.” She glared at him.
Hawkins frowned. “To me, you’re a little girl because you’re what? All of twenty something?”
“I’m twenty three and I'm a legal adult.” She raised her chin up at him.
Hawkins shook his head. “Good for you. But let’s get on with it. Tell us more about you? Why in the hell are you out in the damn woods, climbing trees? Where do you live and who are your people?”
Tempe cocked her head to one side. “Why are you so interested in me? I’m no one special, and you survived all this time, not knowing a thing about me. Let’s just keep it that way, shall we?” She glanced over at Nash. “I told him where to find the wicked witch. Can I go home now?”
“Oh, I’m thinking you need to stay for a while.” Hawkins snarled. “We need to know more about how you know Isobel and how you know where she’s staying.”
Tempe took in a deep breath and lowered her head while refusing to look at him. She trembled when he snarled but she tried not to show her fear.
Nash studied her and shook his head. “Please stay and answer their questions.”
“What if I don’t want to answer?” she whispered.
“Why wouldn’t you?” He wanted to know.
She shrugged. “I just don’t.”
“Are you hiding something we need to know about?” he asked her quietly.
“Maybe…I just don’t feel like everyone needs to know about me. Not everyone needs to know my private stuff.” Peeking over at the men, she found the man with her mother’s eyes watching her carefully. She turned back to Nash. “Please let me go home. I won’t come back. You won’t have to worry about me anymore. I’ll stay away from here, I promise!”
Nash cocked his head to one side. “And why would you promise that?”
Tempe swallowed hard. She tried to stop shaking. Showing fear to these men would do her no good.
Before she could say anything else, Hawkins grabbed her by the arm and jerked her away from Nash.
She cried out as she stumbled and fell on her ass, her hat flew off her head, and her braid fell to her hips.
Her silvery hair startled everyone.
Tempe got up from the floor, grabbed her hat and quickly stuffed her hair back into it. Her fear left her. She had sworn to herself that no one would push her around after her dad and brothers left and she would be damned if she let this bastard do it now. “Y-you are a damn bully.” She snapped at Hawkins. “You might treat everyone around here like you own them, but you don’t own me! Don’t—ever touch me again!” Her voice shook but she hoped he got the message.
The man with her mother’s eyes came up to her and jerked the hat off again. When her braid popped out, he caught it in his hand. He stared at it for a long moment then raised his gaze to her face. “Who are you child?” he asked softly. “There’s only one other person, other than me, that had this color hair and eyes. Who are you?”
“My name is Tempe and that’s all I’m going to tell you,” she whispered.
“What if I told you that the one other person was a woman… my sister. Would that make a difference to you? A sister I haven’t seen in almost thirty years?” he asked her.
Tempe snapped her gaze up to his. “Your sister?”
He nodded. “Her name was Mara and she left here a very long time ago. I looked for her for years but I never found her.”
“Did she know you were looking for her?” Tempe asked softly.
“She knew,” he told her flatly, almost bitterly. “She knew. But I guess she had her own reasons for staying away. Or at least her old man did.”
Tempe saw his eyes change color like hers did when she got upset and she slowly stepped away from him. She kept backing away until she felt Nash’s arms wrap around her.
“What’s going on here, Cash?” Nash asked.
“Just bad memories," Cash replied in a low voice. "Just old and very bad memories, Nash.”
Tempe shook her head. “Memories I had nothing to do with, old man.”
Hawkins growled and glared at Tempe. “What is your daddy’s name, girl?”
“I don’t want to tell you. Please, just let me go home and you’ll never see me again, I promise. I won’t come around anymore.”
Cash frowned as he stared at her. “You’ve been around here? Why have we never seen you before?”
Tempe shrugged her shoulders, but didn’t say a word.
“Micah Classen has a reason to hide from us.” Hawkins growled.
“Micah might have but Mara never did,” Cash argued.
Hawkins turned to glare at Tempe. “Where are your parents?”
Tempe shook her head. “I don’t know.”
“What the fuck do you mean, you don’t know?” Hawkin’s temper rose. “Where are your parents? Where is Micah Classen? It's long past the time for him to answer for his crimes against this club.”
Tempe shrank into Nash’s arms. “I don’t know. I don’t know,” she whispered over and over.
Nash’s arms wrapped around her tighter. “That’s enough Hawkins,” he finally spoke up. “You’re scaring her.”
Hawkins stared intently at his man Nash and just growled but he backed off. “I want her here until she gives up where her father is.” Then he turned around and went back down the hall.
Tempe closed her eyes and shivered. She laid her head on Nash’s shoulder and couldn’t help but wonder what her dad had done to raise such ire of these bikers. Then she looked over at the man called Cash and decided she didn’t want to know.
Cash didn’t look angry. He looked saddened. He let out a huge sigh as he shook his head.
Nash bent down, swung her up into his arms, and carried her down the hall to his room. Kicking the door shut behind him, he walked over to the chair beside the window and sat down with her in his lap. Tipping her face up with his fingers, he finally noticed her tears. “Hush now, sweetness,” he whispered. “It will be okay. I promise.”
Tempe turned her head away and sobbed into his chest. “I didn’t know, I swear I didn’t know!”
Nash wrapped his arms around her and just held her. “I don’t know the whole story and neither do you. Maybe it's not so bad. Hawkins just likes to growl sometimes.” He chuckled.
Tempe sobbed for another moment or two then quieted down. “My dad’s name is Micah but not Classen. His last name is Close or that’s what I’d been told all my life. My parents had the wanderlust in them and we never stayed in one place very long. They had five kids and each of us kids were born in a different part of the country. They named us where we were born. I have four brothers, Denver, Salem, Reno and Tulsa. My dad bought a bus and redid it to house us all.”
“You said you came back here seven years ago and that your mom died three years ago,” Nash reminded her.
Tempe nodded. “Yeah, she got really sick while we were in Alabama and my dad brought her home to die. He worked part time to feed us but never had health insurance, so she wasn’t able to get any help. It was four years before her illness took her. She suffered so badly at the end and he had no time to care. She was barely in the ground when he and the boys took off. I told him I wasn’t going with him and he didn’t say anything, they just got on the bus and left.”
“Where are you staying?” Nash asked curiously.
Tempe didn’t say anything for a long moment then told him, “Where I’m staying is not important. I’m not hurting anyone.”
Nash ran his hands up and down her back and frowned. Her jacket was thin enough for him to feel her body underneath. She had been light enough when he’d picked her up but he never noticed that until now. This girl was too thin for real. “Sweetheart, are you eating?”
Tempe shrugged. “I eat what I eat.” Then she sighed. “Moving around so much was not helpful for getting any schooling. Mom used to teach the boys their numbers and letters but Dad refused to… he’d said that I did not need to learn along with them. I would listen to her with the boys but mom was too tired to teach me most of the time. I can’t work without an education, so I have no money. Food costs money, but I get by.”
“You get by?” Nash snorted “How the hell do you get by?”
Tempe pursed her lips together and refused to say another word about that. “I want to go home.”
Nash laid his head on the back of the chair. “Hawkins doesn’t want you to leave yet.”
“Hawkins is a bully and I won’t let him bully me,” Tempe told him with anger in her voice.
“So was your mama Cash’s sister?” he asked finally.
Tempe shrugged. “I don’t know. If she was, she never told me. I grew up thinking the family I had around me was my only family. Neither mom nor dad ever said we had other family around.”
“How did your parents take care of you guys if they didn’t stay in one place very long?” Nash frowned.
Tempe shrugged, “Mom worked diners when she could and Dad worked the bars once in a while. We managed the best we could.”
Nash just shook his head. He thought he had a rough childhood, but hers must have been a nightmare. “Are you hungry?”
Tempe shook her head. “No, I’m more tired than hungry.” She shivered, “I think.... If I could, I would love to take a shower first.”
Nash grinned. “Ok, I can help you with that.”
Tempe looked up at him and snickered. “I think I can shower all by myself, been doing it alone most of my life now.”
Nash smiled. “I know that sweetness, what I was saying is that there is a shower right over there.” He pointed to another door in his room. “I can even get you some clothes, well something to cover you at least. Everything I have will be too big for you but you can wear it tonight anyway.”
Tempe nodded. “Ok, it will be good to be clean again.” She got off his lap and stumbled a bit before she caught herself.
Nash tightened his lips as he got up and went over to his dresser to find her a t- shirt and pair of pajama bottoms that he’d never worn. He went with her to the bathroom and turned on the water for her then he showed her where the towels were and left.
Tempe got undressed and didn’t bother looking into the mirror. She knew she was too thin and she never liked looking at herself. She paused to undo her long braid. She needed to wash her hair badly.
The hot water felt good as she stood under the spray. Every week she would sneak into the local motel and get a quick shower and so far, she hadn’t gotten caught. Most people who saw her didn’t bother her, but she didn’t bother them either.
Today, facing the one they called Cash was stirring up memories she hadn’t thought about in years. Overheard fights between her parents in the middle of the night. Sharp words…ugly words. They hadn’t made sense when she was a kid but she was remembering them and now they were making sense.
Something bad had gone down a long time ago, long before she was even born. What it was, was still a mystery to her but she had a feeling she was about to find out, either from Cash or Hawkins.
When her dad and all her brothers had driven away leaving her behind, she thought for a few weeks that she had what she wanted, she was free. It took a long time for her to realize they wouldn’t ever come back and she had truly been on her own. She had lived happily for a long while. Being on her own with no one to tell her what to do. Yes, times were lean but she loved being in the woods and having her own space.
Later on, she had been going through some things her mom had left behind and she found her mom’s journal. Even though she’d felt funny reading it, she had found some of the answers to the questions she had.
She always had a feeling something bad happened and her father was right in the middle of it. Anytime now, she would finally find out what he had done. She really never wanted to know if truth be told. It wasn’t her fault and it happened before she was even born. Now she was going to find out what that horrible thing was and she would be taking the blame for whatever had happened.
She now wished she knew where her dad and brothers were. Her dad should have to face this music, not her. But they could be anywhere. It had been three years since she’d seen any of them. She sniffled through her tears as she washed her long hair, then rinsed it off.
Tipping her head forward, she let the water run down her back. They hadn’t even been able to give her mother a proper burial. Yes, they buried her but there were no words spoken, no priest attended her, no funeral home took care of her body and her dad didn’t even get her a headstone. There hadn’t been any money for any of that. Tempe knew where her grave was but no one else did and that had hurt the most. She had no one who cared, except herself and it had been that way for a long time.
Tempe didn’t realize she was sobbing until Nash opened the door and reached over to shut the water off.
He had a towel in his hands as he wrapped it around her thin body and ushered her out of the bathroom. He swept her up into his arms and carried her over to the chair. Quietly, he just held her while she cried her heart out.
Long after Tempe stopped crying, Nash looked down at her and saw she had cried herself to sleep. He lifted her up in his arms and got to his feet. Carrying her over to the bed, he laid her down. Removing the damp towel, he tried not to look at her body but he couldn’t help himself. Then his lips tightened as he noticed how thin she was. Before he could look too much, he tugged the blankets up to cover. He leaned closer and pressed his lips to her forehead. “Sleep little one. I’ll watch over you and keep you safe tonight. I promise.”
He went into the bathroom and collected her clothing. He could at least give her clean clothes in the morning. He went through her jeans pockets and placed everything on the sink. There wasn’t much in her pockets, a crumpled dollar bill, and forty three cents in coins, a pawn ticket, and a couple sticks of gum.
Her jacket pockets weren’t any different, he found a banana on the verge of becoming too ripe to eat and a handful of walnuts that were still in the husks. Then he pulled out a small notebook, but he didn’t bother to open it, he just laid it on the sink counter along with the other items.
Gathering her clothing, he left the room briefly to put her clothes into the washing machine. He then headed to the kitchen.
When he came back, He had a plate of food with him, and saw she was still sleeping. He settled in the chair and watched her for a while. Then he reached for one of the sandwiches and sat back, hoping she’d wake up soon to eat. He had a feeling it had been sometime between meals for her. More than feeling…he knew it for a fact now.
He went over to his mini fridge and grabbed a can of coke. Sitting in the chair again, he looked back at Tempe and noticed her eyes were cracked open.
Setting the can down on the table, he leaned forward putting his elbows on his knees. “Are you hungry?” he asked her softly before she could even answer, he went on, “Let me get you something to wear and you can have a sandwich, at least.” He went to the bathroom, then returned with the t-shirt and bottoms he’d given her earlier.
He laid them on the edge of the bed and turned his back as he didn’t think she would appreciate him looking at her while she got dressed. He heard her sit up and push the covers off then he heard her pulling the clothes on.
When she was finished, she got up and slipped her hand into his. “Thank you.”
Nash turned and looked down at her. “For what?” he frowned.
“For taking care of me. It's been a long time since anyone but me did that. So I wanted you to know I appreciate that.”
“Hell, I didn’t do that much,” Nash admitted. “Plus, it has been like never, since I took care of anyone but myself. So this is pretty new for me.”
Tempe stared up at him as she placed her hand on his cheek to slowly run her fingers down to his jawline. “I get it. I’ve always had to take care of myself too. Yeah, I had a family, but I think I had a shitty one. My mom tried, but life kept hitting her with new miseries until…Well, she just gave up?”
“I only ever had this club. I had a father, but no one would ever accuse that bastard of being one.” He shook his head. “But that doesn’t mean either one of us has to be like our parents. I just learned this recently, the hard way. Selfish people get what they deserve in the end and I don’t want my ending to be like that.”
Tempe stared at him.” So, is he around here?’ she asked softly.
Nash scoffed. “Yeah, he’s close by all right, but it’s more like he is roasting in hell if there’s any justice in the universe.”
Tempe stared at him.
“Yeah.” Nash shrugged. “ It sounds harsh but that is the truth.”
“So, you want to make sure that you don’t turn out like him.” Tempe stared at him.
“I was becoming like him and when I realized it…” He sighed. “It was a huge shock for me. So yeah. I really want to be a better man.”
Tempe smiled at him. “Well Nash, I think you’re wonderful.”
His eyes widened.
“What?” she asked.
He chuckled and rubbed at his jaw. “You might be THE only person to have ever said that.”
“People can change if they really want it. Don’t give up on yourself, Nash. No one's gonna save you or me, unless we save ourselves from falling first.”
Nash paused at her statement and thought about it. Damn, he had a lot of work to do on himself before he would ever feel like he was decent.
With a sigh, Tempe shrugged then walked over to the table. Just then, her stomach growled, so she sat down and took half the sandwich in her hand. She took a bite and groaned as the flavor of the meat burst in her mouth. “Oh my, that is so good.”
Nash stared at her. It’d probably been a while since she had meat at all and the roast beef was tender and juicy. He walked over to his fridge and asked her, “Do you want soda or water?”
“Water is fine,” she mumbled back as her mouth was full.
Nash brought her a bottle of water and frowned as she shoveled the rest of the sandwich in her mouth. Handing her the water, he shook his head, “Slow down girl, before you choke on it. Your sandwich ain’t going anywhere.”
Tempe took a big drink of water and nodded. “I’m sorry, I guess I was hungrier than I thought.”
Yes, I bet you were. “I should go get your clothes. I washed them, so you’d have clean clothes when you woke up.”
Tempe stared at him again with those unusual eyes of hers. “Really?”
Nash nodded. “I put everything in your pockets on the sink in the bathroom.”
Tempe gasped a little as she looked at the bathroom door. Taking another drink of the bottled water, she recapped it and set it on the table. She stood from the chair and disappeared into the bathroom. Collecting her items, she came back out. She put her things down on the table. Staring down at the notebook, she traced the outer edges of it with her fingers. “This belonged to my mom. She always kept a journal, you know? She would write down her thoughts and something about the places we’d go every time we moved. I didn’t want to violate her privacy but I learned so much about the woman she was when I looked at her words and it felt like she was speaking to me.”
Nash looked down at it, noting how she revered it as if it were her last connection with her mom. He never remembered much of one with his own mother.
Tempe pushed the book a little ways toward him. “I carried this with me because she speaks about what caused them to get the wanderlust. I think the one called Cash should read this.” She looked away and shrugged. “And maybe that angry man called Hawkins too. My dad could be a bastard, true enough but my mom never was.”
Nash pushed the book back toward her. “Maybe you should give it to him then. He is your uncle after all, whether you like it or not.”
Tempe shook her head. “I don’t know him at all.” She paused. “Can you, would you give it to him for me? Please.”
After looking between Tempe and the book for a minute, he picked it up and took it with him. “I will be putting your clothes in the dryer and I’ll be back, ok?”
Tempe nodded. She knew some of the answers they wanted probably weren’t in that book but maybe most of them were. Her mom kept some things to herself and she had a feeling that those secrets were what the two men were looking for.
Heading over to the window, she looked outside. Darkness surrounded the clubhouse. So for the moment, all she could see was her own reflection in the glass. Slowly, her eyes adjusted to the darkness and she could see things beyond the glass. Like that shadow moving around the backyard.
She frowned, as the shadow looked familiar to her. She cupped her eyes against the glass, so could see even better.
The shadow paused and turned its head slowly to glare at her.
Tempe recoiled at the hatred on the person's face. Startled, she stumbled backwards and sat down in the chair while trying to reconcile what she saw. Swiftly, she got up, ran for the doorway, and snapped off the light. When the room went dark, she knew he couldn’t see into the room. She slid down the wall and curled up with her knees against her chest and she continued to stare at the glass.
Sometime later, Nash opened the door and noticed the lights were out and he reached for the switch.
“No, don’t,” Tempe whispered as she grabbed his hand and pulled him down to her level. “There’s someone outside and I don’t want him to see me.”
Nash turned his head to the window and saw shadows move in the darkness. He shut the door making the room as dark as he could. Then grabbed his phone and texted Titan.
Mere moments passed as the sound of running footsteps could be heard down the hall and lights from outside went on as the brothers filed out of the clubhouse. Then some shouting echoed and the booming from a couple of gunshots being exchanged.
The sudden noise jolted Tempe, Nash wrapped his arms around her, and he held her tight. She turned her face into his chest and buried herself in his arms.
A few moments later, the door to Nash’s room was flung open.
Nash raised his weapon.
The lights were snapped on.
Hawkins, Cash, and Wilder stood there.
Hawkins looked down, growling as he saw them sitting on the floor. “What the fucking hell is going on?”
Nash looked up at him and shook his head as he put his gun away. “I have no idea, pres.”
“Tempe, are you okay?” Cash asked.
“I’m not sure.” Her voice was muffled as she wouldn’t look up but instead kept her face buried in Nash’s chest.
Cash squatted down to her level and reached out to touch her shoulder.
Tempe flinched away from him.
He pulled his hand back and asked her, “What did you see out there?”
She turned her head slightly and looked at him. “I saw shadows moving. One of them came toward the clubhouse and I saw the rage in his eyes. It was ugly and promised nothing but pain. I’ve seen that monster before, so I always ran away and hid when he came around. I’m afraid of him and I hate him too!” She sobbed. “Lord help me, I truly hate him so much. May God forgive me.”
Cash looked up at Hawkins and shook his head.
Just then, Titan and Brute joined them.
Titan swore, “The mother fucker got away from us. He slipped into the woods. If the wolves don’t get him, he’s long gone.”
Hawkins snorted. “If the wolves do get him, he’s gone too.” He looked down at Tempe. “She saw him but she can’t tell us who he is.”
Brute nodded. “Boss, there were two people out there. They both got away.”
“Send a couple of brothers to the roof,” Hawkins ordered. “Change out every four hours until daybreak and then we’ll have a little look-see. Keep those floodlights on, so we can see them coming if they return.”
Brute nodded and went out the door.
Tempe peered up at Cash. “Did you read the book yet?”
Cash shook his head.
“Read it,” she urged him. “You need to read what my mother wrote. You need to see the world through her eyes.”
Cash just stared at her for a moment then he gazed up at Hawkins. Looking back down at Tempe, he nodded. “I’ll read it.”
Tempe turned her face back into Nash’s chest and whispered, “May God forgive me.”
Nash looked up at Hawkins and asked, “Can you cover the window? I want her to feel safe tonight.”
Hawkins looked toward the window and nodded. “I’ll see to it.”
“Come on little one, let's go get some coffee while the guys cover the window.” Nash urged her to get up. “I want you to know you’re safe here.”
Tempe rose to her feet. “You may not realize this but I do feel safe here.” She gazed into his eyes.
Nash paused for a moment while looking a bit lost as if he didn’t know how to reply to this. Then he turned her toward the doorway.
They went out and headed toward the main room.
Hawkins watched them until they turned the corner then he looked over at Cash. “What the hell was that all about?”
Cash shook his head. “I have no idea. But I think she knows more about who was outside than she’s willing to tell us and right now, we don’t need any more on our plate. We are full up on bullshit the way it is.”
Hawkins snorted. “You don’t need to remind me of that. We got Cheryl on one hand. Then the threat of Joel Greenaway and the Alverez cartel on the other, not to mention that psycho bitch with 9 lives, running around.”
Cash nodded. “Cheryl is recovering from a knife wound and Joel has no idea where we are or who we are. Then there’s always the threat of Alverez returning to claim Luna which is gonna piss Kota off greatly.”
Hawkins agreed, “You got that right. That boy better get his head on straight where she’s concerned and soon.”
“Well, I got some reading to do,” Cash told him.
“When you’re done, pass it along to me will ya? Micah Classen owes this club and I’m interested in finding out why he thought he could cheat and get away with ripping us off.”
Cash nodded. “I hope to find that out myself.” Heading down the hall, he went into his room.
Closing the door quietly behind him, Hawkins looked over at Titan. “Better find something to cover the window.”
“You got it.” Titan nodded then he paused. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” He stared at the window.
Hawkins glanced over at the window too. “That the shadows she saw moving around the backyard was her daddy and maybe one of her brothers? Oh yeah, I’m thinking what you’re thinking.”
Titan sighed. “Dayum. A whole new set of assholes. Just great.” He turned and walked down the hall to find something to cover the window.
When Nash and Tempe got to the main room, she sat down at one of the tables and Nash went into the kitchen to get them both a cup of coffee. The big pot had been washed and was ready the next day so a smaller pot had to be made after supper.
He came back bringing two cups of coffee and two pieces of chocolate cake. Setting them down in front of Tempe, he noticed her staring at the club's emblem. Nash slowly sat down and watched her for a moment. “What is up with you and the club’s emblem?”
Tempe drew her eyes away from it and stared at him for a moment. “I’ve seen it before. I just can’t remember where.” Her gaze swung up to it again. “I know that symbol or one like it but I just cannot place where I’ve seen it before. It has been a long time since I’ve seen it but I remember it.”
Nash pushed the cake toward her. “You need to eat some more.”
She stared at him. “You are sweet, Nash.”
He looked surprised at this compliment. “Hell, no one would ever accuse me of being nice.” He chuckled.
“Well, I would have to disagree with them.” She took a bite of cake and then a sip of coffee. “Mmm, good.” Tempe finished the coffee and the cake in record time. Then sitting back, she looked over at him. “Thank you. I haven’t had cake since...” Her voice faded away then she sat up straighter in her seat. “Oh wow, now I know where I saw it.” Her gaze again swung up to the emblem on the wall.
Nash paused and asked her, “Are you sure?”
Tempe nodded. “It was that symbol, yet somehow there is a slight difference. It’s … I think it’s the writing above and below it that’s different. I know I saw it as a child though.”
Hawkins overheard her last comment and frowned. He looked over at the club emblem and shook his head. That emblem meant something to each member of the club. It was who they were. Each member had to earn the right to wear it on a patch, then he paused. He looked over at Wilder, then he walked over to the other man.
Wilder recognized the look on his friend's face. “When we started this club the four of us, you, me, Cash and Judge. Then Micah and seven others joined us. We formed the Rogues of Hell. Within that fucking year, it all went to shit. Micah betrayed us, and Judge was dead. Before we knew what the hell happened, Micah and Mara were gone, those of us left were burying Judge, tending to the wounded. Hell, we didn’t find out for at least a day or two that the money was gone. And by then, we couldn’t find either of them.” Wilder turned his head to look at Tempe. “Until now.”
“Damn near thirty years has passed,” Hawkins reminded him.
“Twenty eight years, four months and twenty four days,” Wilder corrected him.
Hawkins stared at him. Then he remembered Judge had been Wilder’s cousin. The man still mourned him. He nodded at him and looked back over at Tempe. “We have to find him, shit we will find him.” Hawkins growled. Heading over to the table where Tempe and Nash were sitting, he drew out a chair, flipped it around, and straddled it. Staring at Tempe, he said, “Little girl, we need to know where your family is.”
Tempe looked at him and simply said, “I don’t know where they are.”
“I don’t believe that,” Hawkins retorted.
“The last time I saw any of them was the day I buried my mom,” she explained. “That was three years ago. We came back to the area seven years ago when my mom got sick. We were in the south, Alabama, or Mississippi, I really don’t remember. Once we got here, it took her four long years to give up the fight...” Tempe swiped the tears from her cheeks, seeming to recall how her mom suffered. Taking a deep breath, she seemed to gather herself together and continued with her story, “When she finally passed, my dad and brothers left. I told them I wasn’t going with them. That I wasn’t leaving her here alone, not one of them said anything. They just got back on the bus and drove away.”
“Why didn’t you go with them?” Hawkins asked.
Tempe looked up at him. “Because all my life, we’ve had nothing. Never staying in one place long enough to make friends or even to go to school. My mom worked in a diner when she could for gas money and for food on the table and my dad would work at bars when he needed to but that wasn’t very often. I don’t know what happened before they got the wanderlust but I do know I spent a lot of time looking out the window watching the roads as we were leaving one area for another. I remember longing to be like other kids. Have a real house, a yard. Go to school. When mom died, I was almost twenty, so I was pretty much on my own when they drove away. For the first time in my life, I could breathe. The man that was my dad was a suffocating presence. It all had to be his way, all the time. After they went down the road, I was so fucking glad. I could make my own decisions and there was no one to tell me to get on that damned bus ever again.”
“That sounds harsh, girl. I’m sorry you had to grow up like that.” Hawkins rubbed his finger along his jaw. “Your mom was a sweet woman. I hated it when Michah…” He shook his head. “So Mara’s been gone for three years now? Where is she buried?”
“I don’t have to tell you that.” Tempe growled. “That is my secret and if I won’t tell my own father why the hell would I tell you?”
“What do you mean? Tell your own dad?” Wilder asked.
“My mom had barely taken her last breath and dad told the boys to get packed up. I asked him about burying her and he said there was no money for that. He told me to call the authorities and have them take care of her if I wanted. At least, that way she would have a grave. Well, after he drove away, I buried her in a place that was special to the two of us. He called a year later and that was when I still had my phone. He asked me if I was ready to join them again. I told him I wasn’t, then he asked where I buried mom. I refused to tell him and I haven’t spoken to him or my brothers since then.”
“The men in the yard tonight?” Hawkins asked. “Was that your daddy and maybe one of your brothers?”
Tempe shrugged. “I don’t know, it could have been, I wasn’t quite awake. It was dark too. All I could see was the rage on their faces.”
Hawkins stared at her. “Your dad robbed us and killed one of our own almost thirty years ago and before we realized what the hell he and your mother had done, they left. Rather than face us, as a club or face our tribunal, he ran away and hasn’t come back since then.”
Tempe shook her head. “I didn’t know that, you have to remember that all happened before I was born. You can’t blame me for what someone else did. I don’t think my mom would have gone with him if she knew what he did.” She stared at him for a moment then suggested, “And if she did, that’s on her, not on me. If you no longer want me here, then open your gate and let me walk out.”
“What’s in that book you gave Cash?” Hawkins asked.
“You’ll have to read it for yourself,” Tempe replied.
“The money he took from us,” Wilder spoke up. “Should have lasted him a long time, even on the road, it should have lasted some time.”
Tempe swung her gaze over to him and said, “If he took money, it probably wouldn't last him long, but my mom, if she knew about it… She more than likely had a trick or two up her sleeve. She told me later that she was already carrying my oldest brother when he took her away. So, maybe that’s why he dragged her away with him, I don’t know. I wasn’t there. All I knew of their relationship was what I saw and heard while growing up.”
“And what was that like?” Hawkins asked.
Tempe slowly turned her head to look at him. “Like any adult relationship I guess, they had their good times and bad times, they had fights, arguments, and their own makeup sessions.” She got to her feet and glared at him. “One thing you can bet your sweet ass about though, I will never forgive him for how he treated her when she got sick. I would lay there at night and listen to her sobbing, groaning in pain and that bastard would sit outside drinking beer with Denver and Salem. He wouldn’t even sit with her or hold her hand. That was all she wanted, just someone to care about her. She was fighting for her life and he didn’t give a damn. I would get up and stay with her.”
“He could have walked out on her, at least he stayed.” Wilder stared at her.
Tempe snorted. “Yeah, he stayed, but you know why he stayed? Before they left my mom told me, she hid some bag. Mom always suspected that whatever dad did to make money wasn't just in bars. She figured it wasn’t legal but she couldn’t verify it without him getting all pissy. Then when she got sick, he made a deal with her, he would bring her home, back here but she had to tell him where she hid the bag. She never did though, she made excuses that her memory was shot, she couldn’t recall the exact place, things looked so different.” Tempe took a deep breath and shuddered. “The day she died, dad and my brothers were out searching, no one was with her but me. I was alone with her that day and she took my hand and told me where she hid the bag. My dad showed up with my brothers about a half an hour too late. When I told him she was gone, he asked me if she said anything. I lied and told him she hadn’t. That’s when they packed up and left me here. They’d already been here too long and they couldn’t be found out or that was what I overheard my dad saying.”
Hawkins narrowed his eyes and glared at her. “Your mom told you where the money was? You’ve known all this time where it was buried? And you’re just now telling us?”
She slowly shook her head. “You never asked me before and I didn’t know what was in the bag. She made me promise to never open it. I mean yeah, it must have been money, but I never knew that for sure.” She turned her head to look at the emblem on the wall. “I remember it now. It was the cake that Nash brought to me."
The men all looked confused.
"My mom made the best chocolate cake," Tempe explained. "She had that emblem tattooed on her upper arm. Below it was the words, ‘Property of Micah.’ I think she loved him at some point but that love faded away by the time I was born. He kept her with him by reminding her that she belonged to him and she couldn’t just walk away. All my life, I watched him treat her like shit on his shoes until I couldn’t stand it anymore. He finally broke her when he left her alone, when she was dying. I can’t stand the man and he raised my brothers to think the same way he did. to be nothing but selfish assholes. He only wanted me along with them, so I could take mom’s place. Be the cook and bottle washer.”
As Nash sat beside her, he looked troubled and took her hand in his.
“You tell me my dad stole from the club.” She shrugged. “Well, I guess you’ll have to tell me the rest of the story. Until I hear it. I’m not telling you where that bag is.” She glared at Hawkins and added, "I didn’t do any of this and I refuse to be painted by the same brush you painted him and my mom with. I don’t think my mom had anything to do with the theft or the killing of the man you lost but she didn’t live well on the spoils either. Since you told me what my dad did, I now think the money he took is still there in that damned bag. And if I'd known it was money, I wouldn’t have touched it even if I had to starve. My mom lived a horrible life because of what he did and so did I. As far as I’m concerned, it can sit there and fucking rot. I don’t really care one way or the other.” She pushed her chair back, rose to her feet, then went down the hall to the bedroom she shared with Nash and disappeared inside.
Nash watched her leave and sighed. “Now what, Pres?”
“I have no idea, son.” Hawkins shook his head. “I have no idea. How do we convince her of what happened almost thirty years ago?”
Luna came over and sat down. “You tell her the truth, with no holds barred. I don’t know what that truth is but it's always better to hear the truth, to hear the whole story rather than half of it.”
“You might be right about that girl.” Hawkins nodded then looked down the hall.
Nash went to his bedroom and opened the door. His gaze swung over to the bed but it was empty, then he looked over at the chair and it too, was empty. He scanned the room.
Tempe sat on the floor in the corner, all curled up into a little ball with her knees pressed against her chest and her arms wrapped around her legs.
He slowly approached her and knelt in front of her. Searching her eyes he asked, “Are you all right?”
Tempe slowly shook her head. “I’ve known all my life that my dad wasn’t a good man. Mom and me, we just didn’t matter to him as much as his sons did. The older they got, the more he took them with him to ‘work.’ He would often go to work and come home after only one day. It happened a lot and I knew jobs weren’t like that. I think my mom knew it was suspect too but of course, she never said anything. Now I find out he was laready a thief and a murderer before I was even born. Well, I guess I now know for sure that there is nothing too low for him. He always felt entitled and now I know why. He taught my brothers to be that way too. All in all, I was quite shocked when they all stayed until she died. I fully expected to wake up one day and find them all gone.” She scoffed. “I guess he was waiting the whole time for the money, wasn’t he? Because she was the only one who knew where it was.”
“Are you sure you want to bring this mess up again?” Nash moved closer and sat down beside her. “I mean the guys might not want to bring up the memories of what happened back then either.”
She shrugged. “Mom told me certain things that happened in the past. I just want to make sure the blame falls on the right shoulders. Those men out there are blaming me and her for something my dad did. I didn’t do anything wrong and she didn’t either. I saw firsthand how he treated her growing up and now, he’s back and he’s still looking for that damn bag of money that was never his to begin with.”
Nash leaned his head against the wall behind him. “If that was your dad outside, why do you think he came back here? This is the last place he should come if he has any brains at all. Usually, MC clubs are not very forgiving when it comes to murder and robbery.”
“I don’t imagine he thought anyone would see him. He probably needs cash and thought he could just come inside. Then somehow grab it from you guys and be gone before anyone knew it. A brilliant mind… he isn’t.” She scoffed. “I do think they must have come back to search for that bag again too.”
“Do you think he saw you?” Nash wanted to know.
She shrugged and rested her chin on her knees. “I imagine he did. That could be why he looked so mad. He would see me being here as betrayal.”
Nash frowned. “Why would he view your being here as a betrayal?”
Tempe turned her head and looked him square in the eyes. “I can’t prove it but I think he knows. Somehow, he believes or feels I knew about the money. Me and my mom were close because basically we only had each other. That I moved it and he knows he’ll never get his hands on it without my help. He’s been here before looking for me, but in the three years since my mom’s been gone, he hasn’t been able to find me and that’s because I’ve been hiding from him.”
“Is that what you meant when you said you wouldn’t come around here anymore?” Nash stared at her.
Tempe nodded. “I would come to the woods every time I saw him and my brothers when they came back. I would hide in one of the tree stands you guys put up.” She shrugged. “I didn’t think you guys used them all that often. So I could go up there and be safe.”
Nash shook his head. “We never knew you were there.”
Tempe nodded. “I know. That was the point. My dad didn’t know where I was either.”
“So, you know where the missing money is.” Nash stared at her.
She turned her head and stared at him for a moment. Then she shrugged but didn’t say anything.
Nash wrapped his arm around her and held her close. “Come on sweetness, you need some sleep. I’ll watch over you tonight. You need to rest.” He slowly got up and helped her to her feet then led her over to the bed. Toeing off his boots, he laid down on the mattress fully dressed. He pulled her down beside him and took her into his arms. Covering them both with the blanket from the foot of the bed, they both settled in and it was no time before he closed his eyes.
He could hear her breathing even out and he knew she was sleeping. Finally, when he opened his eyes again, he stared at the ceiling for some time. Thinking about the situation he found himself in and the one she was in. He couldn’t help but wonder what really happened here thirty years ago. What on earth was going through Micah’s head that would ever make him believe that killing a man and robbing the club was a righteous thing to do?
Looking down at the top of Tempe’s head, he had to wonder what kind of man her father was. Was he a man like his own father had been? While Hogg hadn’t been the best man, he was pretty much all Nash ever knew as a father figure, until Nash came back here. That was when Hawkins and the other men showed him how a father should have treated a young man. When he was young, he had the rest of the club. After the club kicked him out, Hogg’s rage knew no bounds. He would be gone for days, sometimes leaving young Nash alone and on his own. Nash knew better than to bring his situation to the eyes of the law. All that would do was piss Hogg off and he didn’t want to endure the wrath of the man who was his father. Even as a young boy it had been easier and healthier for Nash to just bide his time. He got by until he was old enough to do something about it.
When that day finally came and Nash stood up to his dad for the first and last time in his life, it felt good to be able to walk away free and clear. When he left Hogg, he felt the weight he’d carried all those years fall away from his shoulders.
So yeah, he understood her story, probably better than she realized. He looked down again at the top of her head. The only way he knew she would be safe was if she turned the money back over to the club in a public way, so her dad would know it was out of his reach for good. She had to do it in front of her dad, her brothers, and the club. While Nash couldn’t force her to do what was right, he could pray that she would do it. She needed to sever her ties to the bag and her family for good. That was what Nash did… he severed his ties with Hogg. She wouldn’t be safe or free until that happened.
Nash glanced over at the clock on the side table. It was just after three a.m. He knew he needed to get some sleep, so he snuggled down beside her. A moment later, he felt her arms sneak around his waist and he had to smile. A man could get used to this, real easy.
The next thing he knew, someone was pounding on his door. He opened his eyes and felt the cold spot next to him. He bolted up and his eyes darted around the room.
Tempe stood at the window, peeking out into the backyard through the small slat in the wood they had nailed up. He saw sunlight coming in from where Tempe stood, so he knew it was morning. Then the pounding came again and he swung his head around to glare at the door. He got up and went to the door. Wrenching it open, he glared at the man who stood in the hall.
Cash looked worse than Nash had ever seen him.
His eyes were haunted as he entered the room and gazed around. He then spotted Tempe beside the window and walked right over to her. He stopped about two feet from her and held out the notebook to her.
She stared at it for a moment then raised her eyes to him. She didn’t reach for the notebook. In fact, she tucked her hands into her pockets and wouldn’t take it back.
“Why… didn’t she ever… call me?” His words were whispered and broken. “I would have come and got her and brought her home with me from wherever she was if she had only called me.”
Tempe nodded. “She knew that but she didn’t want anything to happen to you or these men. Don’t you see? She couldn’t risk Micah or his son’s going off on you or her.”
“Did he hurt her?” Cash demanded to know his bloodshot eyes glued to her face.
Tempe hung her head and wouldn’t answer.
Cash stepped closer, grabbed her by the upper arms, and shook her. “Did he hurt her?”
“Sometimes,” she whispered her answer as tears welled in her eyes to run down her face. “He didn’t have to hit her to hurt her, you know that, right? He told her every time he got mad that she’d better behave and be a good little wife or one day, he would leave me behind somewhere, maybe just drop me off beside the road. I was a girl, so he wouldn’t miss me when he drove away. He threatened this a lot to get her to stay in line. She would go along with whatever he wanted.”
He looked furious as his grip on her arms tightened until she cried out. Sucking in a breath, he dropped his hands and stepped back. “Damn it, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” He took another step back and ran his hand over his head. “So your dad threatened to abandon you along the side of the road if your mom didn’t behave herself. Is that what you’re telling me?”
Tempe bit her lips and nodded as she turned to stare out the sliver of the covered window. “I never knew it for sure, because for all that time she never said anything about it. Until that morning when she was dying. She told me to contact you guys and set things right but that I should be careful about it, because what he did before they left this area was really bad. He was such a bastard to her and to me. I never knew why until she told me that day. I never had much respect for him, but that day, any feeling I had for him as a father died in me.”
“Cash,” Nash spoke up. “She’s been coming here off and on for a while now. She hides here when her dad and brothers come back to look for the money.”
Cash looked between Nash and Tempe. “You found the money?”
Tempe stared at him and replied, “Yes, I know where it is.”
“Hawkins and the others need to know about this.” Cash sighed heavily.
Tempe nodded. Then she looked down at the notebook Cash still held. “You can let him read that too. He might not want to but he needs to know she never disrespected this club. Micah just didn’t give her any choice. At that time, she was already about four months pregnant with my oldest brother and he wasn’t going to leave her behind. He wanted sons and that was obvious. I now think it was so he could have his own soldiers. Ones that would follow him and do whatever he said. So really, my brothers didn’t have it any better than I did. They are totally under his thumb. He ruled over my mom, kept her captive really. He’s cruel like that. Acting like he’s some kind of damn king or something.”
“Is he wanted by the law anywhere?” Cash asked. “I mean how did you live? He sure as hell wouldn’t work for his money.”
“He didn’t work very often and most of the time, we left in the middle of the night. Or rather, we escaped in the middle of the night. Is he wanted anywhere? Probably all over, his MO was robbery, anywhere there was cash available, gas stations, bars, banks… you name it and he or the boys probably hit it. As soon as the boys got old enough to watch his back, he made them his thugs.”
Cash let out a heavy sigh. “Tempe, if I had known…”
She shook her head. “But you didn’t know. This isn’t your fault.”
“Damn.” Cash growled as his fingers curled into fists. He turned to leave Nash’s room then he stopped. Flipping around, he walked over to Tempe and before she knew what he was going to do… he hugged her.
When Cash went out to the main room he found Hawkins sitting at the table with a cup of coffee in front of him.
Hawkins looked up at him. “Jesus man, you been up all night or what? You look like hell.”
“Yeah, I was up all night.” Cash threw the book down.
Hawkins glared at it. “What the hell is that?”
“It's Mara’s notebook. I think it is something you should read,” Cash told him.
“Why the fuck do I need to read it?’ Hawkins growled. “Don’t we have enough troubles around here?”
“Yeah, we do. Between Cheryl, Isobel, the Cartel, and Joel Greenaway we got our hands full but now we got Tempe and her family too. When it rains it pours, brother, but this is one problem that we might actually be able to deal with.”
“Did you read it all?” Hawkins asked quietly.
Hawkins stared at him. “Just what did your sister have to say that swayed you to her side over the event that took place here twenty eight years ago?”
“It’s all in there. After he robbed us and shot Judge, he stuck around for hours before he went home, told her to pack their things. He was leaving this place. She packed them up, but then she found the bag of money. She knew something was up so instead, she left the place and buried it, not knowing what happened, or how he came to have such an amount of cash. She had enough sense to know wherever that money came from wasn’t good. So she buried it here. She didn’t tell him until they were on the road and he wanted to party.”
The others in the room began listening as Cash told them about what Mara had written.
“Micah knew she was pregnant with his first son and he didn’t hurt her so much as he just slapped her around a bit. You see his dream, she shared in the notebook, tells that he always wanted a houseful of boys to carry on his good name. Micah didn’t want to have to work too hard, so he thought robbing places was the easiest way. It wasn’t hard work so as they traveled around, he began robbing gas stations and stores. He’d case out a bar and then he’d get hired as a bartender and after working a few days, he’d lock up the bar at night and take the day’s receipts with him. When his sons got old enough, he’d use them as his look outs and they learned from him how to pull off a robbery. He wasn’t too happy about Tempe being a girl, so he pretty much ignored her but he did dote on his boys. Then seven years ago, Mara wrote about how she started getting sick and all she wanted was to come home. Micah made a deal with her. He’d bring her home and even stay around if she would tell him where she hid the money from twenty eight years ago. He had one other stipulation, she couldn’t let us know they were back. Mara went to a doc somewhere along the way and she was told she would need chemo, but he was too fucking cheap to get her medical aid or even allow her go to a doctor for treatments. They came back and set up house in one of the abandoned buildings around the outskirts of Boston. She continued to get worse. It took four long pain filled years for it to kill her. She says that he and the boy’s would leave for days at a time, come back, then sit around and drink beer while she suffered and he would have Tempe doing all the work.”
Hawkins looked enraged as he sat there listening.
Cash let out a huge sigh, then he went on, “Then just before she died, she told Tempe everything. Including where she buried the money. She made Tempe promise to give the money back to where it came from and I think that’s why my niece is here.”
“What about Judge?” Wilder snarled. “What about justice for him or are we just supposed to forget about the fact that Micah shot him down like a dog? Are we supposed to forget that even after he shot Judge, he stayed there while the man bled to death and only when we came back and found him did Micah somehow slip away, unbeknownst to any of us. Knowing we were doing everything we could for Judge, trying our best to keep him alive? Are we supposed to not care about the wasted time Micah played God and let another man bleed out?”
“God, I hope not,” a soft voice came from behind them.
They all turned and saw Nash standing there with Tempe next to him. Nash was holding her hand as tears rolled down her face. “The why of what he did doesn’t surprise me. I’ll tell you why it happened though, that bastard never cared for a single soul except his own, that’s why. He was always a mean sonofabitch and he never changed in all the years I knew him. He raised his four sons to follow in his footsteps too.” She turned to Wilder and said, “I know my words aren’t going to make you suddenly give a damn but I’m going to say them anyway. Don’t forget what Micah did to you and to this club. You wanna know how he controlled my mom? He wanted nothing but all boys and the first three babies were boys. That made my dad very happy. He could have his lifelong dream of teaching his sons to be just like him. Then I was born and he wouldn’t even look at me. He told my mom he was disappointed in me and her for giving him a girl. You see, because I was a girl he didn’t want me around. He would have left me in the hospital if he could have but mom wanted me. He figured he could control her by threatening me. And that is exactly what he did.”
The men in the room grumbled as they stared at her.
“Mom had to watch every step she took while I was growing up or dad might accidentally leave me behind. I wasn't allowed to learn to read or write because my education would be a waste of time. I was only good for one purpose, but his sons, they would follow in his footsteps. Mom and I were stupid women and only good for fucking, cooking and cleaning and that was all a woman had purpose for in his world. When I turned ten, she made a special bag for me. It had two items in it and she made me carry it everywhere I went. A one hundred dollar bill, a name, and an address. The address to this club and my Uncle Cash. Mom wanted me to know that if my dad ever followed through on his promise and he did leave me behind that I would have a place to go. Then when I was sixteen, she got really sick. He brought her home with the thought that he’d get the location of where she hid the money. I watched my mom suffer the pain and humiliation of her husband and sons ignoring her.” Tempe started to cry at this point and she stopped talking for a moment as she looked up at the ceiling.
The room full of men sat as if they were all made of stone. Cash looked like he wanted to tear the room apart.
Sniffling, she continued with her wretched story, “They would walk past her every day and she begged them for food or water, some days she just wanted them to sit with her and talk to her. My dad and brothers never even gave her the time of day. They were good at badgering her though, they would demand and threaten her to know where she hid the money. Then dad and the boys would disappear for days sometimes. Towards the end, she wouldn’t even speak to him and he wouldn’t ask about her but they seemed to be waiting for something. The day she died was the day she finally broke free from whatever hold he had on her. She told me everything about what happened here that day, then she told me where the money was.” Tempe swiped the tears from her cheeks and went on, “After she was gone, my dad was so pissed. I told him she never told me anything about any money. He wouldn’t even bury her properly. All he told me was to call the cops and they would bury her. He said he wasn’t going to waste good money. Ten minutes later, they were loaded in the bus and leaving. He didn’t even care that I wasn’t going with them. He just left me behind like he always threatened to do.”
“Now he’s back,” Wilder stated.
Tempe nodded. “He has been back before. He’s still searching for the money and every time he comes back, I have to hide for a few days. I don’t want him to figure out the money is still here or that I know where it is. You see, I moved it after mom died. He can’t find it and I stay hidden when he and the boys are here.”
“When her dad and brothers come around she comes here and hides in one of the tree stands,” Nash told them. “We never knew she was there and her dad wouldn’t be able to find her either.”
“Why is it that she never told us she was there?” Wilder snarled. “We would have stopped her dad cold if we had known he was back in the area.”
“I almost made contact a couple of years ago but then I found that redheaded woman watching you. I knew she was trouble as soon as I saw her watching you guys. I would be hunting for food in the woods and when she came around, I went up a tree, as I couldn’t get away without being seen. That woman is just plain nuts.” Shaking her head she admitted, “I used to follow her around some back then and she’s not only nuts but dangerous too.”
“We know all about her,” Hawkins grumbled. “How long has your dad been back this time?”
Tempe shrugged. “I’m not sure. I hadn't seen him around before last night when I spotted him through the window in the backyard. I know he saw me and he’s not happy. He might even think you got the money. He would see my being here as a betrayal to him. You see he wants that money to buy some land and make it his fortress against the rest of the world. He figures there’s enough money to see that happen.”
“How do you know that?” Cash asked.
“The bus he converted into our home on the road wasn’t all that big for seven people. He would wake up Denver and Salem and they would talk for hours at night. I would lay there and listen to them talking. I guess I always knew deep down what a bastard of a man my dad was, but I just didn’t want to believe it. They would talk about their robberies and how they got away with them and no one was going to find them because they would hit a place and leave the area. They were holding millions of dollars, but dad always wanted that first robbery money to buy the land with. He would tell them it was his stake, his pin money and he wouldn’t stop until he got it back.”
“So where is the money?” Wilder wanted to know.
Tempe turned her head and stared at him for a moment. “It's safe enough for now. He’ll never find it.”
“How do we know you won’t disappear with it?” Wilder snarled. “You could be pulling us into a firestorm by letting us think you’re a good person and you want what your mom wanted and then when we did believe you, you could just take the money and run out on us and your dad.”
Tempe walked over to where Wilder stood and poked him in the chest. “Yeah, I could be doing just that. Hiding out here while my dad and my brothers were around. I could be using you guys to keep me safe from them because I know once they have the money, they wouldn’t hesitate to kill me and leave me for wolf kibble. I could be doing that but I’m not. What you don’t seem to understand is that I don’t want them to get that fucking money. I don’t want them to get it because that money has my mother’s blood on it! She died for that fucking money and I just don’t want any part of it.” She took a step back and looked over at Hawkins. “I refuse to just give it back to you either. You see, I realized I do want something out of this deal too.”
Hawkins frowned and then growled, “What the fuck do you want girl?”
“I want you to catch my dad and my brothers and turn them over to the cops. My dad has a lot to answer for and I want him to stand before a judge and answer for each and every crime he ever committed. I want my mom’s name cleared and for her to be buried properly and I want my dad to pay for what he did to her and to me.”
“Well hell, is that all?” Hawkins grumbled. “Just how are you going to do all that? Get your dad to pay for every crime he committed. He’s been all over the place and his crimes are cash robberies, from what I understand. So how are the fucking police going to connect him to those crimes?”
Tempe squared her shoulders and explained, “Like most stupid criminals, my dad has a tell and I know what that tell is. I also know that he and the boys have the money stashed, they’re like squirrels gathering the nuts for safe keeping. So when the time is right, I’ll tell the cops how to find his trail of all they have stashed away over the years. I want him caught, him and the boys because I know they’ve been robbing places without dad’s knowledge. It has to stop.” She shook her head. “He and the boys just need to be stopped.” Tempe turned and folded herself into Nash’s arms.