Authors: Kira Johns
I stare at the ceiling unmoving, trying to focus on anything other than what is taking place. I hate that this is what I have become, what I will forever be.
It could be worse and in the beginning it was. Being beaten is in no way the life I envisioned for myself. Neither was this, but beggars can’t be choosers. Fighting Rattletop is no longer an option if I want to survive and that’s all I have left in this life.
“You feel so fuckin’ good, baby.” The sound of Rattletop’s voice causes bile to rise in the back of my throat. Squeezing my eyes shut, I try to force the image of him out of my mind.
I hate him but I hate myself even more. I am weak, a realization I’m not proud of, but I don’t know any other way to be.
Death would be so much easier, but ending my miserable existence isn’t even an option. Every tool I could possibly use has been taken from me, including the bedding I once used to try to hang myself. I am forced to eat with my fingers now and only allowed to bathe in Rattletop’s presence. He has sentenced me to this life.
“Tell me you love me.”
My eyes jerk open at his words, a look of disgust marring my face. “No.” One simple word he despises more than anything. I know I will pay for my insolence but I don’t care.
“I wasn’t asking,” he seethes, his eyes turning cold. “Tell me you love me.”
Swallowing hard, I shake my head. “No,” I say in a determined voice. I brace myself for the blow long before his fist impacts my cheek.
“Say it!” he shouts, glaring down at me with unbridled anger.
“I…” For a moment, I contemplate saying those three little words. One simple lie that would make my existence more bearable, but I can’t bring myself to do it. “I hate you,” I whisper.
The moment the words escape my lips, the pain begins. His fists are relentless as they pound into my face and body. His laughter echoes through the small room as I cry out in agony, but this is only the beginning.
He throws me from the barren mattress onto the floor, his heavy boots colliding with my side. I scream out as pain radiates through my body but do nothing to prevent each subsequent kick. I silently pray that somehow he will deliver the final blow that will end my miserable existence.
Only when he lifts me by my hair and bends me over the mattress do I realize he isn’t through with me yet.
Crying out, I knife upright in the bed. I am trembling as tears stream down my face. Nearly a week has passed since I was set free, yet my nights are spent reliving a time I want desperately to forget.
Tossing aside the covers, I climb from the bed. Rushing into the bathroom, I stare at my disheveled appearance in the mirror, barely recognizing the person staring back at me. So much has changed in the year I’ve been away. Gone is the lively girl I once was.
Drawing in a deep breath, I swiftly wipe away the remnants of my tears. Maybe I could move on if the old me still existed, but she died a long time ago. Only the shell of her remains, because of him and what I allowed him to do to me. And I would still be there if it wasn’t for my uncle and Jade.
Dog lost his life because of me. The club calls his death an honorable one. He infiltrated the enemy all in an effort to save me. What he didn’t realize is the Bella he once knew and loved was long gone. He died in vain and I am left with nothing but guilt.
Then there is Jade. She is the strong one. I keep trying to convince myself that in time she would become as weak as me, but somehow I don’t think that’s the case. In the end, she took Rattletop’s life. There was no hesitation or regrets. She saved herself and me in the process, all while I cowered in the corner like the frightened child I am.
I order myself.
You did the only thing you could in order to survive.
The problem is, I know that’s not true. I didn’t just give in, I completely submitted to him out of fear because I was weak. I still am.
Letting out a frustrated breath, I turn on the faucet, letting the sound of the running water soothe my nerves. Closing my eyes, I am brought back to a time and place long before all of this started. A time of happiness, of being carefree – a time long forgotten, a distant memory that chooses this exact moment to resurface only to remind me of what I’ve lost that can never be regained – my mother, my uncle… myself.
“Your mine, Bella. You’ll always belong to me.”
Rattletop’s voice invades my mind.
Forcing my eyes open, I banish his image from my mind, if for only a brief moment. He will always be with me, forever reminding me that even in death, I will forever be his.
Tears cascade relentlessly down my cheeks as I rush from the bathroom. Collapsing on top of the bed, I sob uncontrollably into my pillow, wishing I had the courage to end this nightmare forever.
Standing just inside the doorway, I stare at the scene playing out in front of me. It’s reminiscent of a movie, seemingly out of this world, yet I know this is real life.
I’ve never been one to cringe at the sight of blood. In fact, it’s always intrigued me. Watching as the dark red fluid slowly oozes from the open wound until a pool of opaque wetness forms around it. It’s in that moment that it becomes almost mystical, when the perfectly formed droplets seem to cry, the streams branching off into trails of crimson red. The warmth it eludes, the sticky sweet texture, and the feeling of instant gratification have always mesmerized me, but then again, I’ve always been the odd man out.
I would’ve made the perfect cutter. The release I feel at the sight of the very first drop is immeasurable, yet I have never even contemplated doing it. It lacks the spontaneity I’ve always desired in my need for the unexpected.
“You wanted to see the dark? Well here it is.” My father’s voice brings me back to the present, reaffirming that this is not a dream.
Looking at the form strung up from the rafters, my eyes wander to the large gashes that adorn his chest, the dried blood surrounding them the culprit for the rancid smell filling the small enclosure. The man has been beaten, the bruising to his face and body forming an almost mesmeric pattern.
I watch in amazement as Tank takes a step forward, lunging at the helpless man with his blade, slicing into the skin of his chest. The subsequent screams fill my ears as the man begs for mercy, something he will never be given. He is being tortured, plain and simple, and no amount of pleading will end his agony.
“Who is he?” I ask, my voice steady and unaffected.
“Think. You know who he is,” he says calmly, smirking as Tank takes a step back, admiring his work before passing the blade over to Shadow. “Guess he got more than he bargained for,” he chuckles, his eyes affixed to the torture taking place in front of us.
Standing back, I watch as Spike steps forward and instantly know who he is. Brian Reynolds cries for mercy go unheard as one by one, each of the brothers take turns inflicting some sort of pain on him.
In any other circumstance, I’d feel sorry for the man, but Jenna’s ex was willing to go to any lengths to get her back, including hiring one of the most sadistic men to take her. Getting my Mom, Paige and Brittany was just icing on the cake. He deserves this, and so much more, for what he did to them.
Pushing aside all thoughts, I return my focus to Spike, who continues to torture the man in a rage I’ve never before seen from him. This is what I wanted, so I can’t show a hint of the horror I am feeling as I witness their brutality. For years, I begged for this - an inside look into the Satan’s Rebels world. I may have grown up surrounded by the club, but I’ve never before witnessed the brutality they are capable of.
When I was a kid, I used to see myself becoming one of them. After all, it’s in my blood. My dreams were crushed the first time I showed an ounce of interest in club life and every day that followed.
That all changed the moment I beat my dependence and I returned home to find my mother had been taken. Upon her return, I opened up to her and expressed my desire to follow in my father’s footsteps. It was her and Hawk’s influence that got me this far and I won’t let either of them down.
“What about you?” I ask, looking over at my father. “Why aren’t you taking part?”
“I’ll have my chance, but I promised your mother I wouldn’t throw everything at you all at once. Plus you’re not ready to see what I’m capable of,” he says, motioning towards the door.
As I step out into the darkness behind him, my mind goes over everything I have learned in the last few days since I’ve been privy to the ins and outs of the club. Drugs, weapons, all sorts of criminal activities are just the beginning of what the Satan’s Rebels are about. Throw this into the mix and I am starting to wonder if I’m truly ready for this.
“What’s gonna happen to him?” I ask as we slowly make our way back to the main building.
“He’s gonna die,” he says nonchalantly, not showing an ounce of emotion or remorse. Stopping in his tracks, he turns towards me. “When I said not everyone is cut out for this life, this is what I meant. You always assumed it had something to do with how tough I thought you were. That never had anything to do with it. You are your mother’s son. You have a conscience and a heart.”
For the first time, I am finally getting a glimpse inside my father’s head and can understand his concern. He’s right, in more ways than one, but as much as I’m my mother’s son, I’m just as much his. “There are sides to me you haven’t seen.”
“Are you telling me you still want this?” he asks pointedly.
“Yes,” I answer without hesitation.
“Then it’s settled. You’ll prospect, but under certain conditions.” This is the part I know I will dread. “No more fuckin’ off. That means with school too.”
“Yes sir,” I agree. That’ll be the easy part.
“And if I so much as think you’re using again, all bets are off. You got me?”
I swallow hard, knowing that will be the most difficult of tasks. “I’ll do my best,” I tell him honestly. I may be clean now but the urge still remains. According to Hawk, it always will.
He nods his head in understanding before he continues. “And don’t change the person you are or try to be something you’re not. The club wasn’t built on pretenses. We are who we are, faults and all. And remember, you have always been a Rebel whether you realize it or not.”
In this exact moment, my future is clear. I know what my life will amount to, and it couldn’t be any more fuckin’ perfect.
“Alright, crisis averted,” I say as I enter the kitchen. Mom looks over at me, narrowing her eyes at me before turning back to the pot on the stove, the aroma of her homemade marinara making my mouth water. I love it when she makes her lasagna. We are treated once a month to her specialty and the house will undoubtedly be packed tonight because of it. Good thing she always makes five pans.
“I wouldn’t call it a crisis,” she mumbles, and even though her back is to me, I know she is rolling her eyes.
“I don’t think Dad would agree with you, especially since he warned you about checking the fluids before you take the car out.” I still don’t understand why she is adamant about keeping that piece of shit. She’s had the same car since before I was born but refuses to even talk about getting a new car. It’s unreliable more often than not, and Dad, Tank and I are all tired of working on it for her.
“I was in a hurry,” she says, shaking her head. “And don’t lecture me!”
“I’m not lecturing you, I’m just stating a fact. You’re lucky you didn’t crack the block.” The radiator was bone dry and I’m surprised she made it home from the store. “Don’t you think it’s time to lay the beast to rest?”
“What is it with you and your father wanting me to sell Pearl? She’s been good to me all these years!”
Where she came up with the name Pearl I will never know, but for whatever reason she is sentimental over the heap of metal that is nothing more than an eyesore. “Mom, it’s old and has over two hundred thousand miles on it.” I know I’m fighting a losing battle, but can’t stop myself from saying the same thing she’s heard a thousand times over the years.
She narrows her eyes at me. “So does your father. What’s your point?” she smirks.
“Alright, I give up!” I throw my hands in the air. “I just think that my mother deserves the best and for whatever reason she doesn’t agree with me. You want to continue driving that heap of junk, that’s your business.”
She lays the spoon on the rest and turns towards me with angry eyes. “That heap of junk was my first car!”
“But it shouldn’t be your last.” Letting out a ragged breath, I decide to take a different approach. “I’m not saying get rid of it, Mom. You should retire her. And if you give me some time, I could rebuild the engine and give her a facelift. Make her look good as new.”
“You’d do that for me?” she asks, her expression softening and her eyes filling with tears. My gaze lands on the remnants of bruising that adorns her face and I inwardly cringe as I imagine what all she went through just a few weeks ago.
“Mom, you know I love working on cars and this would be an opportunity for me to fix her up right instead of patching things here and there.”
She smiles at me and nods her head. “I’d like that,” she says, stepping towards me and wrapping her arms around me. “But on one condition.” She pulls back and looks up at me.
“Let’s do it now before I change my mind,” she laughs.
“You mean it?” I ask, taking a step back from her in shock.
She nods her head. “And only if you’ll go with me.”
“I think I can handle that,” I grin, feeling more than a little ecstatic.
“Let me grab my purse and we can head out,” she calls over her shoulder as she runs from the room.
Shaking my head in disbelief, I grab the keys off the counter and make my way outside. Just as I open the driver’s side door, I see her come barreling down the stairs. “Pearl’s retired now, remember?” she calls out before turning towards the standalone garage beside the house. She pulls up the door and turns around to face me. “Are you coming or not?”
“Are you serious?” I ask as I walk towards her, my pulse racing. I’ve had my eye on my dad’s Fatboy Gray Ghost for as long as I can remember.
“You think you can handle this beast or do you wanna ride bitch?”
“Dad’ll kill me,” I tell her, shaking my head.
“What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Besides, he gave this to me a long time ago,” she says nodding towards the bike I have literally drooled over since I was a kid. “If he says anything, he’ll have to deal with me.”
I can’t disguise my excitement as I mount the bike, my mother climbing on behind me. As I pull out of the driveway and turn onto the road, my heart begins to race as we head straight towards the car dealership in town.
“Thought I’d find you out here.” I quickly grind the remnants of my cigarette into the ground before turning to face my father. He shakes his head, but says nothing. Bad habits are hard to break, but at least he knows I’m trying.
“I take it you saw Mom’s new ride?” I ask, smirking.
“I did. Not gonna lie to you, I’m surprised she finally took the leap,” he smiles, taking a seat at the picnic table.
“Me too. I know it was her first car and all, but I still don’t see why she’s so damn sentimental. It should’ve been junked a long time ago.”
“To you and me, it’s a heap of junk. To her, it holds meaning. I get that and wasn’t gonna push the issue. Last thing I need is your mom being pissed at me,” he says raising his brow. “She tells me you’re gonna rebuild the motor and do some body work?”
“I mean I can, but I’m hoping she’ll forget about it once she’s driven the Challenger for a few months. It’s a sweet ride and you should’ve seen her face when she got behind the wheel. Before long, she’ll forget all about Pearl,” I chuckle.
“Don’t count on it,” he says, shaking his head. “That car holds too many memories.” His expression suddenly becomes serious, and I know my dad is gone for the time being and my future VP is taking his place. He’s been preparing me the last several weeks for what is to come. “We’ve talked about expectations and what’s required to become a Rebel. We also discussed loyalty and commitment. I think you get the gist of where I’m going with all of this.”
“I do.” Being a part of the Satan’s Rebels is a way of life, something you don’t walk away from.
“One of the things that we look for in all prospects is their skills. Every single member of the club has a gift so to speak, something that they excel at. Sometimes their road name is a giveaway. Take Shadow. He’d be the equivalent of a tracker. He’s able to move with stealth, be right behind his prey without them even realizing it.”
This is a topic I like. I’ve often wondered how some of the guys got their names. “And Tank because of his size?”
“Yeah. Your grandfather started calling him that when he was in high school and the name stuck. Your mom says it had something to do with a fight with eight football players. Ganged up on his ass and they still couldn’t bring him down. Sometimes, the road name fits the skill.”
Even now, Tank is a mass of muscle that I wouldn’t want to go toe to toe with. “What about Spike?” I ask, my interest piqued.
He cringes. “His road name has nothing to do with his skills and everything to do with certain piercings in a particular appendage.”
I burst out laughing, unable to control myself. That wasn’t quite the answer I expected, but damn if it isn’t a conversation starter.
“Like I said, sometimes the road name fits the skill, but that isn’t always the case,” he laughs. “Maze got lost in one of those corn mazes one Halloween when he was a prospect. Was screaming for help like a little girl - something he’ll have to live with the rest of his life.”
I am laughing so hard, my side hurts. I can actually picture it in my head, which makes it all the more hilarious.
“Taze, shit I can still remember the night I knew he was one of us like it was yesterday. We were at The Streamline one night and some girl got attacked outside. Pointed the finger at him when he was with us the entire time. He’d only been outta the joint for less than a week and he wasn’t going back without a fight. Five cops all pulled out their Tasers. Fucker ripped out the probes and kept fighting ‘em. Knew he was a keeper at that moment and patched him in after he was released.”
I always knew Taze was a badass, but I have a newfound respect for the man.
“You’ll be given a road name too if you make the cut and just like the rest of us, you don’t get a say in it,” he says, making me cringe. Last thing I want is some embarrassing moment in my life being with me for the rest of my days in the form of a road name.
“I remember Tank saying something about you originally being from the Spokane chapter. What made you come to Rockingham?” I ask, quickly changing the subject.
“To eliminate a problem,” he says nonchalantly. I already know enough about my father’s history and where he got his name, so there’s no need for him to elaborate. He’s a killer, something that is still hard for me to accept. “By the time it all went down, Tank was made president and not long after, he made me his VP.”
“So you just left your life behind?”
“I didn’t have a life until I came here,” he begins. “Coming to Rockingham was just another assignment. At the time, the club was run by Reaper. Hawk had reason to believe he was stealing from the club, so he sent Tank and Shadow to investigate. I was asked to tag along because of my… special skills. All we had to do was get the proof and then I was supposed to take him out. It was simple. I’d be in and out in less than a week.”
I listen intently, eager to learn everything there is to know about the club.
“We started digging and found things none of us were expecting. A rival club, The Condemned Warriors, had been an enemy of the Rebels long before my time. Not saying we’re a bunch of angels, but we do respect our women. Because of their reputation, your grandfather had made it known that they’d be taken down if they set foot in Rockingham. When he died, they saw an opportunity and took it.
“Reaper may’ve been his brother, but he was never the man Halo was. He was a coward and gave into their demands, turning a blind eye while they moved in and expanded their sex trafficking operation because he wanted a cut. But they didn’t trust him. They wanted a guarantee that he wouldn’t have a sudden change of heart. So Reaper turned over one of the girls to them.”
I don’t know how to react. I’ve heard stories my entire life about how honorable my grandfather was and to learn his predecessor, my great uncle nonetheless, was the complete opposite is more than a little shocking.
“I was sent in to locate her and bring her home.”
“Was she alive?” I ask, my curiosity piqued.
“Barely. She was their insurance policy, a way to keep Reaper in their pocket. He kept his mouth shut and The Condemned Warriors continued their operation, all while brutalizing this girl. For four years she was with them, beaten and raped.” The words roll off his tongue in anger and disgust.
“It took some time to get on the inside and I wasn’t prepared for any of it. For the first time in a very long time, I felt something - compassion and the need to save this girl. So that’s what I did. The night I took her from that place, they had taken turns with her. She was hanging from the rafters bleeding, but she didn’t give up. She was still fighting after four damn years of that shit!” He takes in a deep breath, squeezing his eyes shut.
When he opens them again, he is once again absent of emotion. “Her jaw was broken and there were lashes all over her body. When I say she was brutalized, you can’t even comprehend the things those fuckers did to her. My job was done the moment I got her out of that place, but I couldn’t just walk away from her. Not after everything she’d been through. She trusted me.”
“Did she make it?” I ask, trying to not show any emotion.
“She did. She came home where she belonged and started to recover while I took the remainder of them out. None of them deserved to live and one by one, I eliminated them, except for one. Brax was in jail at the time, so I had to bide my time and wait for his release, only I found out too late. He was released and out for revenge. He took her and the nightmare started all over again.”