“This could be a good thing,” Gemma stated decisively from the kitchen.
Clay scrubbed the stubble on cheeks and looked at his wife as she sat down in the chair next to him, placing cups of freshly brewed coffee on the table. His head ached from last night’s over-indulgence of alcohol in celebration of Bobby’s return, so he wasn’t entirely sure he heard her correctly.
“Jax isn’t going to want some torn-up, used pussy for his old lady.”
Chibs had given him an abbreviated version of the events when he and Juice finally returned to the clubhouse in the early morning hours, and then when Clay had arrived home, he heard from Gemma about Jax and Tara’s brief visit. Gemma had pressed him for any additional details, and he’d reiterated what he’d heard.
“Hm,” Clay grunted in noncommittal acknowledgment. Jax was crazy about Tara, and had been since they were practically kids. He couldn’t see what happened to her changing any of that. Hell, his feelings for Gemma wouldn’t change if this had happened to her – though he’d be the first to admit that his wife’s feelings were a bit more… conditional. He suspected a time or two that her love for him would last only as long as he was the SAMCRO President.
“What?” she prompted, annoyed both by his lack of agreement and attention to the conversation.
“Nothing,” Clay sighed, resigned. He knew his old lady; she always masterminding some scheme – he had no doubt this was the beginning of another. She had never liked Tara, or maybe she just never liked the competition for her son’s love and attention.
“That porn girl, Ima, has been coming around the club. And Wendy… she should be out of rehab in a few weeks.”
Clay scoffed slightly. Those two were the very definition of used pussy; Ima was well known for her double-penetration scenes in Luanne’s porn productions, and Wendy had made the rounds more than once with pretty much every member of the club as a crow eater before she somehow managed to snag the SAMCRO VP and get pregnant. Clay long suspected that Gemma’s hand had been in that relationship somewhere; weeks before their hookup she had been dropping clear hints about wanting grandkids.
“Not for his old lady,” Gemma sniffed indignantly as she lit a cigarette. “He doesn’t need an old lady.”
Wendy had been a candidate for the role once, as she wasn’t a real contender for Jax’s affections – not that Gemma consciously realized that was why she had accepted the blonde junkie. But of course, that was before she overdosed while pregnant with Abel. Now she was useful only as an impediment or distraction between Jax and Tara.
“It’ll take some time for Tara to heal and we both know Jax isn’t one for abstinence,” the biker queen amended with certainty, taking a puff on her cigarette.
Clay kept his expression deliberately bland. She’d be surprised how many opportunities her son had passed up since the brunette doctor had returned to Charming. Besides crow eaters and now porn stars always hanging around the clubhouse, the runs they’d been making for the Irish had plenty of available pussy. It was one of the perks of road trips and they all indulged, himself included. All, that is, until recently. Once the new wore off the doctor pussy his stepson would be back to enjoying the benefits of road trips along with the rest of them.
“What?” he asked, glancing at his wife with a guilty expression. He hadn’t heard what she had said, his thoughts having drifted to a pair of attractive and very well built blondes who had caught everyone’s eye on the stopover during the recent Eureka run. Jax took a lot of shit from the guys, but still turned down a pussy proposal for a threesome that would make some men’s wildest wet dreams come true.
“I said I want another grandkid, or two.”
His brows quirked up and he quickly took a sip of coffee to hide his surprise. A porn star or a junkie over a surgeon for a baby mama? He loved his wife, but sometimes her ideas didn’t make much sense to him.
Missing the look of astonishment on his face, Gemma smiled at him over the rim of her cup. “He’s a good man, my Jax. Big heart. He’ll wait until Tara’s healed before he breaks it off.”
Clay sighed. “And if he doesn’t?”
“Why wouldn’t he?” she asked confidently, her brow creasing in consternation as if any other option was inconceivable. Still, her expression was contemplative as she added more milk to her coffee and stirred.
“I don’t know,” he answered with an indifferent shrug. Clay could tell by the look on his old lady’s face that she was back to her plotting and planning. And he knew by now that it was best not to get involved.
He sighed. “What’s for breakfast?”
It was almost noon when Tara finally woke. They had given her something to help her sleep before she left the hospital, and it had clearly been effective.
Still groggy, she rubbed her eyes and stretched slowly, mentally inventorying her injuries and aches. She’d be sore for a while, but fortunately there was nothing that wouldn’t heal with time. Noticing the white paper, she plucked the note from the pillow. Jax had written simply “I love you” and “back soon”, and had drawn what might have been a heart at the bottom, which made her lips curve up in a small smile.
At the sound of a soft thump in the kitchen, Tara sat up, her senses on full alert. The quick change of position triggered a burst of pain and she bit back a groan, listening closely for subsequent sounds. Was it her imagination, or did she smell coffee? Was Jax back already? How late had she slept?
Cautiously she rose, noting as she did so that she was still wearing Jax’s blue SOA shirt and her yoga pants; she had slept in the clothes she had worn to and from the hospital last night. With a resolute shrug, she crept toward the door and peered into the living room.
“Good morning. Coffee?”
Tara jumped back and suppressed a startled scream. With her heart pounding in her chest, she stared warily at the man who seemed to appear out of nowhere and in her kitchen doorway. Tall, bearded, and broad shouldered, he seemed to take up most of the frame.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Who are you?” she asked, her voice calmer than her state of mind as she scrutinized him and fought back waves of panic. She resisted the urge to take another step backward. With his dark blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, and unusual tattoos he looked like some Norse god, she thought, though there was a smile on his face and a friendly lilt in his voice that belied his intimidating appearance.
“McQueen. Sorry, thought you knew I’d be here,” he replied apologetically, nodding in the direction of the nearby chair. He seemed to realize he might have startled her less had he been wearing his kutte.
“I told Jax I’d stick around for a bit, make sure you’re safe.”
Tara nodded, slowly letting out the breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding. It was slowly coming back to her… Jax talking to someone on the phone before they left the hospital… a mention about an old friend, someone he trusted… then on the drive home, something about having someone around for her protection…. as he helped her into the house, something about his schedule today – but by then the sedative had started to kick in so it was all only a dreamy memory. Had she remembered the conversation, she would have expected one of the prospects. Not a blonde haired, blue-eyed guy who looked enough like Jax to be his brother.
“So, can I make you some breakfast? I’m pretty good with crepes…”
For a long while, Jax simply stood and stared at the man, his mind going through the various forms of punishment he might mete out as retribution for what the scum had done to Tara.
Opie and Chibs exchanged glances. They had known, even before they arrived at the cabin, this was going to be harsh and bloody. But the long silence and utter stillness of their VP was even starting to unnerve them.
The man shifted in his bonds, watching Jax in return. He had known of the risks when he accepted the assignment. He’d taken a bad beating at the hands of the man watching him, and he’d survived the torture dealt out by the other SAMCRO biker without breaking down. But the cold menace in the face of the blonde biker now made him break into a sweat.
Finally, Jax took of his hat. He shrugged out of his kutte, tugged his grey hoodie and white t-shirt over his head, and set them aside. He ran a hand through his hair then lit a cigarette and took a long drag. Next, he took a pair of gloves out of his back pocket and pulled them on. Every move was calm, and deliberate.
Carefully placing the still smoking butt on the nearby fence railing, Jax rolled his neck and his shoulders, tilting his head side to side. As he took a step forward, he reached down and slowly pulled out his KA-BAR knife.
“Are you picking up your car tonight?” Ima asked, pursing her lips into a kiss. She applied a bright cherry red lipstick in preparation for her upcoming scene, turning her head side to side to check the color from different angles.
“Yes, it’s supposed to be ready,” Lyla replied as she adjusted her garters. She swung around to look over her shoulder in the mirror, checking to make sure her stocking seams were straight.
“I’ll come with.”
“Why?” Satisfied with her outfit, Lyla perched on the edge of her vanity table and studied her fingernails.
“It’s safer if we stick together. Georgie-“
“Georgie hasn’t been around for weeks,” Lyla admonished, picking up a bottle of lotion and rubbing the scented cream into her hands and elbows. “Jax and the guys took care of that.”
“Well, then do I have to have a reason?” Ima asked with a sniff, irked to have to spell out her wishes and intentions. “Maybe I just want to hang out with my best friend.”
Lyla paused and looked at her frequent costar. In their many Saffron Sisters productions, they’d shared more intimacies than even some married couples could imagine, but best friends? She doubted that Ima actually knew the real meaning of the word. “You’re hoping to see Jax,” she concluded with a wry smile.
“Maybe. So?” Ima picked up a pencil and began to touch up her brows. “You’re hoping to see Opie.”
“Okay, yeah, you have me there,” Lyla admitted, her smile shifting to one of genuine delight. She did have a crush on the big, burly biker. One of his arms was almost as big as her waist, and he had more tattoos than she could count, but to her he seemed like a big sweet teddy bear. She couldn’t remember the last time she had a real honest to goodness crush on someone… it wasn’t like you met people you wanted to date in this business.
“See? It’s perfect,” Ima murmured smugly, pausing once again to scrutinize her makeup.
“You know, I’m pretty sure Jax has an old lady,” Lyla replied somewhat prudently. Despite her profession, she didn’t like to see men cheating on their wives or girlfriends, though she had accepted it as a fact of life. Opening one of her vanity drawers, she pulled out a small bag containing her stash of coke and began to draw lines of white powder on a flat mirror.
Ima shrugged, a negligent lift of one delicate shoulder. She had expected to hook up with the hot blonde biker at the wrap party last week, but had instead walked in on him fucking some brunette in the bathroom. It had been the same woman she had seen with him earlier in the day, waiting on his bike outside Cara Cara. Was that supposed to his old lady? And so what if it was? From all the rumors she’d heard about the SAMCRO VP, he didn’t stick with any one woman for too long.
“So, drinks tonight at the SAMCRO clubhouse?” Ima asked, though it was really more of a statement, the porn star intent on getting her way. She gestured to Lyla to add another series of lines to the mirror for her.
“Fine, sure,” Lyla relented with the shake of her head.
Happy tossed a pair of gloves, some clothes, and a few towels on the body, spit to add one final insult, then rolled the whole bloody mess up in a tarp.
Chibs watched and puffed on a cigarette, absently thinking that it was a good thing Hap had the forethought to move things outside before they arrived. They would have never gotten all that blood out of the furniture.
Their VP had been merciless.
Just as he had promised, the man had eventually been emasculated. The act made them all squirm a little and want to cover their dicks, but none of them would have done anything differently in the same circumstances.
The prospects were on their way with the van – they’d bury this guy near the other one in a shallow grave; shallow in case Jax still wanted the bodies available to deliver to the shot caller when found as he’d threatened.
Opie sat on the steps of the cabin, smoking a joint, and drying the weapon that had now been thoroughly washed with bleach.
Not one word had been said, but then no one felt inclined to make conversation after the events of the last hour.
A short while later Jax came out the front door, his hair still wet from the shower, a half smoked cigarette hanging from his lips. His jeans and shoes had a few flecks of blood on them, but those would be cleaned or replaced at the clubhouse.
Ope stood and handed him his knife, the silver blade gleaming in the sunlight.
Without a word, Jax returned the knife to the leather sheath at this side, and swung a leg over his bike. He tugged on a spare set of gloves, tossed away the now smoked butt, then picked up his helmet and put it on. After a nod to Happy, and a quick look at Chibs and Ope to confirm they were ready to go, he put his bike into gear.
Without so much as a backward glance, he hit the throttle and sped away from the cabin.
“Hey, Ma,” Jax said, kissing the cheek Gemma offered as he took the baby from her.
“Hey little man,” he murmured gently. He smiled at his son, carefully settling him over one shoulder.
“What’re you doin’ here?” He glanced at the clock then back at his mother. It was almost eight.
“I had to drop off some coffee and supplies I picked up this afternoon. And I thought you might want to see your son.” She patted Abel lightly on the back.
Jax bounced the baby gently, smiling when he smiled in return. “Yeah, thanks.” Just the presence of his son lightened his mood; though he had already largely put the day’s activities behind him. Compartmentalizing was a necessary part of life in the club.
“I hired Neeta to help out with him. She starts day after tomorrow.”
“Yeah.” Gemma smiled fondly, watching her son with her grandson. She was also well aware of the blonde at the bar watching them with avid interest.
“Ok,” Jax replied agreeably. He didn’t bother to ask about the cost; for his son, he’d find the money.
“There he is,” Chibs said with a smile, tweaking the baby’s cheek when he passed. The club members were slowly gathering in the clubhouse for Church. Chibs nodded to Jax and kissed Gemma on the cheek, then crossed the room to the bar where the prospects were pouring drinks. Along with the Cara Cara girls, Opie, Tig and Juice were already there. Tig was animated, telling some story that involved both arms and unusual sound effects; Juice was laughing hard in response.
After a few minutes, Opie walked over carrying a bottle of Jack and two glasses. Lyla stayed and watched from the bar but Ima followed close on the tall biker’s heels.
Greeting Gemma with a kiss, Ope nodded at Jax before he poured a healthy amount of whiskey in each glass and handed one to the SAMCRO VP. Jax tossed the amber liquid back in one shot. The fiery alcohol was a welcome anesthetic after the events of the day, and some liquid fortitude would be appreciated for the discussion ahead.
“Hi Jax,” Ima smiled, her voice flirtatious as she sidled up suggestively to the blonde biker. The barely-there top and short skirt she wore were attention getting in their own right, but the promising look on her face left no doubts about her intentions.
“Hey,” he answered automatically, polite out of habit. His smile was courteous but not genuine, and it was clear that his mind was elsewhere. He switched Abel to his other shoulder, moving his son away from the porn star and returned his attention to the conversation with his friend and mother.
For several minutes, Opie, Jax and Gemma talked about bikes and babies, Gemma admonishing Jax for taking Abel for a ride two days earlier, the baby strapped to his chest in a modified backpack. She admitted however, that both JT and Piney had done the same when their boys were small.
“So Jax…” Ima interrupted after several minutes, a pout evident in her tone. She wasn’t used to being ignored. Using one finger, she lightly began to trace the tattoo on his forearm.
“Why don’t you grab a drink?” Jax suggested with a jerk of his head in the direction of the bar. It was not a question as much as a directive; he wasn’t in the mood to make nice or play coy games, and he definitely wasn’t looking to get laid. Church was in ten minutes and they had serious topics on the agenda.
“Oh, I have one,” she countered blithely, holding up her vodka glass. She batted her lashes and nibbled at her bottom lip, a coy, flirtatious trick used often and with predictable effect.
When Jax turned back to look at her, there was a distinct hint of menace in his expression, his blue eyes cold. It was a glimpse of the man as the hard, intimidating, outlaw biker.
She forced a nervous smile, then tossed her hair and sauntered back to the bar. He rebuffed her because he had his kid, she mentally excused. She’d have to try again when he was alone, or with just the guys.
With the quirk of an eyebrow, Opie smirked, and followed Ima. He wanted to spend a few minutes with Lyla before club business would take precedence for the night.
Gemma watched Jax refill his glass and down a second shot of whiskey. She studied her son, much as she had been doing all his life. He was her baby and her wild boy, but also the center of her life. He’d been the cause of plenty of sleepless nights, but he was on the right track now with the club, and with his own son. She made sure of that. And with her help, he’d stay that way.
“How’s Tara?” she finally asked.
His expression somber, Jax replied, “She’s doing okay.”
“She at the house?”
“No. Prospects were still cleaning up.” The carpets were replaced; the furniture would be too if it were stained. He wanted nothing left that would remind Tara of what happened. If he had to, he’d even move.
Noting that his son was falling asleep, Jax touched the downy top of his head tenderly. “Can you keep Abel again tonight? I’m gonna stay with Tara.”
“Sure, baby.” She glanced at the bar where Ima was now sitting and looking petulant. Gemma sighed. That was no way to attract a man, especially Jax. She’d have to give the porn star some advice.
“Thanks. We’ll be back in the house tomorrow, I’ll take him home then.” He smiled gratefully and pressed a kiss to Abel’s head.
Gemma gave her son a long look as he carefully settled the now sleeping baby in the stroller.
“You know… rape is a real hard thing for a woman to get over,” she said quietly.
Jax’s head came up slowly, almost as if he hadn’t quite heard her.
“It can take a real long time before they want to be touched,” she continued, aware that he was listening even if he had yet to look at her. “Longer before they want sex.”
He didn’t need her to tell him that what had happened to Tara would leave a mark; if not physical scars, emotional and mental ones. As for sex… that had been far from his mind in the last twenty-four hours; all he wanted was to find who was responsible, and kill them slowly and painfully. And he wanted for Tara to recover. If she needed time, he’d give her time. It wasn’t even a question.
Gemma noted the turbulent expression on his face with pleased assurance. He was taking her words to heart. “You’ll have to give her some distance, baby, and time. A lot of time.”
Jax finally looked at his mother, his expression guarded.
“You may want to … consider other options.” She glanced meaningfully at the bar. “To give her that time.”
At the slight lift of his chin and the tensing of her son’s shoulders, Gemma knew she ran the risk of touching a raw nerve, of turning him in the direction opposite of the one she wanted. Changing her tactic, she amended in a soothing tone, “All I’m saying, Sweetheart, is don’t push things. She’ll have to be the one to, you know, initiate.”
Jax turned when Tig whistled, calling them to the table.
With a troubled look on his face, he nodded. “See you later.”
“Why don’t you bring everybody up to speed?” Clay said, glancing at Jax after he called the meeting to order.
In clipped tones, Jax recounted what he knew and what Tara had told him.
Juice added what he had found out about the blue Ford F150, which was only that it had been reported stolen from a Lodi garage almost two weeks ago. The owner had been visiting her daughter and new granddaughter near Portland for the last three months and was not even aware the truck had been reported missing.
Happy said that the cabin had been cleaned up. He and Juice made sure that prints of both men had been delivered to Trammel.
After some discussion about possible reasons why and who might be behind what had happened, including Clay’s suggestion that it could Mayan or Niner revenge, they resolved that they would find those responsible and make them pay.
SAMCRO would focus on finding the third man – the one Jax had shot, and then they would vote on retaliation.
But, it was also agreed, no one tells SAMCRO what they can do. There would be no change to their business, guns or otherwise.