Tara watched Jax quietly walk into the dimly lit bedroom, his hair still wet from the shower and a dark blue towel wrapped low on his hips. He stood with his back to her, removing his heavy rings and placing them on the dresser.
He drew her like a lodestone; magnetic, irresistible, and at times, overwhelming. There were small moments, like this one, when just watching him, she didn’t know how she had ever lived without him.
She studied the dark ink of his patch tattoo, evidence of his commitment to the club. The insignia represented one of the many things about him that she loved – his loyalty and dedication. And it was admittedly sexy, in very much a bad boy way. She watched with intense interest as a drop of water, clinging to his back, rolled slowly down the hollow between his shoulder blades, along his spine. She had the urge then, to lick it away.
His whispered promise from the afternoon echoed in her thoughts, and a tremor of desire swept through her, heating her blood. It was a sign of progress in her recovery, her returning interest in sex. She sighed softly.
“Hey, sorry if I woke you,” he murmured, turning at the soft sound of her exhaled breath. Dropping the towel, he climbed under the blankets next to her. He reached up, turning out the light and leaving the room in dim shadows.
“Hi,” she replied softly, moving easily into his arms. “And you didn’t.”
Tucking her against him tightly, he closed his eyes.
She could sense his disquiet. Tilting her head back, she glanced at him, trying to make out his features as her eyes adjusted to the dark. She touched his cheek gently with her fingertips. “Do you want to tell me?”
Opening his eyes, he stared up at the ceiling for a silent moment. He took her hand in his, threading his fingers through hers and squeezing gently.
“I’m leaving SAMCRO,” he said finally, his voice rough with emotion. “Gonna join the Nomad charter.”
“What does that mean?” she asked in a hushed whisper. Jax had born into SAMCRO; it was part of who he was. As much as the club scared her, as much as she often thought she wanted him out of the life, what little she knew of Nomad only scared her more.
“Means I’m still a member of the MC, just not attached to any one town.”
“No. I attend Church in different places, put a few more miles on my bike.”
“You… it’s already decided?” she asked hesitantly, afraid of what it implied for them, for their future. And that he made the decision without her… was he leaving her as well?
“Vote’s tomorrow. It doesn’t change anything for us, babe,” he assured her, his thumb moving back and forth along the back of her hand in a soothing gesture.
“I gotta do this, Tara,” he murmured softly, finally turning to look at her apprehensive face. “Clay is blocking the retaliation vote for some bullshit reason. And you know I can’t let Weston live after what he did.”
She didn’t know if this guy, Weston, was the same man she had seen at the hospital, the one who had raped her, but it didn’t matter. Even if it was, she didn’t want Jax to take any more risks on her behalf; she didn’t need revenge or retaliation. She only wanted Jax, and now Abel, a life together, and someday if they were so lucky, another blonde haired, blue-eyed baby in the image of his or her father.
She would plead with him to forget all of this, if it would make a difference. But knowing Jax as she did… it wouldn’t. His sense of justice, his stubborn determination to right what he saw as wrongs… it was another part of who he was, and another of the many things she loved about him. So she held her protests and her tears, not wanting to make things harder for him when his heart was already so clearly divided between his club and what he thought he had to do, for her.
“I’m sorry we have to put off our trip for a few days.” He brought her hand to his lips, dropping a soft kiss on her fingers. “After the vote, we’ll figure it out.”
“I know,” she murmured against his chest. Idly, she stroked his ribs, his taut stomach. Leaning up, she pressed a soft lingering kiss on his lips. She traced a path from his mouth, along his jaw, down the side of his neck. She moved lower as he watched, pausing to run her tongue over his nipple.
When he seemed to relax with each touch of her lips, the tension in his body dissolving under the sensations evoked by her warm, wet kisses, she continued her erotic caresses. She laved his nipples, sucking and nipping gently before continuing an unhurried path of soft bites and wet kisses over his ribs, down his stomach.
When she reached his cock, she paused and raised her eyes to his. His expression was unreadable in the dark, but the hard length pulsing just inches away from her lips gave away his interest.
Bending, she ran her tongue over the swollen crest of his erection slowly, tasting him. Everything about him she found intoxicating, from his size and length, to the contrasting velvety softness, the silky smoothness that covered such incredible hardness. Leisurely, she licked every inch, savoring the taste of him with small, appreciative sighs that had him gritting his teeth in pleasure. Just when he thought he couldn’t take any more, she sucked him deep into the warm, wet heat of her mouth.
“Yeah, babe,” Jax exhaled with a long breath.
Her fingers curled around him as she moved her head up and down in a slow, deliberate rhythm. His hips moved in response to the motions of her mouth and tongue, and he could feel the long strands of her hair brushing teasingly across his thighs, his groin.
As the sensations mounted and he neared the edge of release, he reached down and tangled his fingers in her hair, guiding her movements. Tara could hear his harsh breathing as she swirled her tongue around him, sucking the very tip, only to plunge down and take him deep into the back of her throat. She sucked harder, moving faster, until the tenuous hold on his control broke. He came with a low, guttural growl, and Tara swallowed willingly, exultant to have brought him such pleasure.
A short while later, curled up at his side, Tara murmured softly, “It will all work out.”
“It will,” he answered, his body humming with contentment. He brushed a kiss on the top of her head. Despite his own fears and uncertainties about the future, one thing was crystal clear – his love for her.
Gemma sipped her coffee in the clubhouse kitchen and listened to the various bits of conversation going on. She was behind the door, the barstool she often perched on hidden from view. It was a perfect vantage point to catch up on club news and gossip, because, more often than not, no one even knew she was there.
“You think he’s really serious?”
Recognizing Juice’s voice, Gemma perked up attentively. It had been late when Clay finally came home last night, and even then he had spent several hours in his office before coming to bed. When she asked about the events of the prior evening over breakfast, his answers had been unusually curt, saying only routine club business. That alone told her it wasn’t, and had prompted her early morning reconnoissance visit to the clubhouse.
“Yeah, I think he is,” Tig answered tiredly, taking a cup of coffee from one of the prospects and adding a liberal amount of whiskey. He rubbed at his eyes. “Clay’ll call Quinn today. We’ll vote it tonight.”
“Shit. Nomad.” Juice’s tone reflected both the awe and fear that came with the Nomad reputation. They often served as mercenaries for the various Sons charters – called in to help handle the most difficult situations or take care of the worst problems. They spent a fair amount of time on the road, usually alone. They had to be tough and ruthless, and always on alert.
“Jax can take care of himself,” Tig offered, having first hand experience with the SAMCRO VP’s ability to do so, both from sparring in the boxing ring at the club and when the two men came to blows over how to deal with the informant who could have ratted out Opie and Bobby over Hefner’s death. “And Hap and McQueen – they’ll have his back.”
Gemma nearly fell off her seat. Jax? Her Jax was talking Nomad?
Tara had just sat down in the hospital cafeteria with a quick breakfast of coffee, yogurt and fruit, her only break between rounds and appointments, when she heard the man speak behind her. She tensed, recognizing his voice as the one from her recent nightmare.
“I don’t think you want to make a scene here,” the man added when McQueen walked over and joined them.
“And I don’t think you do either,” the Nomad biker ventured calmly, staring at the man with a direct, unflinching gaze. He took a seat at the table with Tara, directly facing the man behind her.
“I just need a few minutes with the Doctor here. To discuss a… confidential problem,” AJ Weston offered with a tight smile.
“Maybe you and I should discuss your… problem… outside?” McQueen suggested with a benign smile.
“This is between me, and the Doctor,” Weston countered tightly. “No need to get involved. Or the need to involve my buddy in the hallway, or the two men in the lot outside.”
McQueen scoffed slightly; of course the bully would have brought reinforcements. He didn’t mind the odds; he’d been in similar situations. Regardless, he doubted the man would be quite so foolish as to risk something in such a public venue as the hospital. Sneaking around in packs, attacking vulnerable women… that was more their style. With a reassuring smile at Tara, he casually took a sip of coffee from the paper cup in his hand. “Why don’t you… and your buddies… run along then?”
“We’ll leave once I talk to the Doc.”
Tara glanced over her shoulder to look at Weston, her eyes cold and dismissive. “I’m not your doctor. I don’t know who you are. You need to leave me alone, or I will call hospital security.”
“I don’t think you want to do that,” AJ countered arrogantly, crossing his arms over his chest. He gave her a feral smile. “I just need a few minutes to remind you in private of our… conversation last time we met.”
“I think you want to rethink that. Or wait, I have a better idea. Why don’t you save that conversation for Jax when he shows up to cut your balls off,” McQueen softly replied, more than a hint of menace in his tone. He sat forward, bracing his elbows on the table. “I can just give him a call, and we can set that right up.”
One side of his mouth twitched derisively as Weston replied, “That ain’t gonna happen.”
“I’d keep it in mind, just the same.” The threat was unmistakeable.
“Why don’t I just stop by another time, Doc. When you’re… not busy.” Weston had a smug smile on his face as he left; his mission accomplished. The biker would, without doubt, inform Teller, and then the MC would follow the carefully planted clues right into their trap.
“You can’t tell Jax,” Tara hissed as soon as Weston walked away. “And what was that about Jax cutting his… Jesus.”
“That’s the guy, isn’t it?”
“It doesn’t matter,” she answered ambiguously. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“You have to call Jax,” McQueen insisted, his brows lifting in emphasis. “He needs to know the guy was here.”
“If I tell Jax… then that guy… whoever he is, he gets what he wants. I don’t want Jax to take this on, to make this his problem.”
“Tara… you’re his old lady. It’s already his problem.” McQueen refrained from stating the obvious, that Jax was way beyond just taking this on; the two men buried in shallow graves in Chigger Woods could also attest to that. “And the guy’s name is name is AJ Weston. He’s muscle for League, for Ethan Zobelle, the cigar shop guy.”
At least that confirmed some of what she hadn’t known; his name and that it was the same guy Jax suspected, and wanted retaliation against – but she wasn’t sure if that made it better, or worse.
“You don’t need to take this on alone, either. Tell Jax and the club will-”
“The club will what?” she retorted sharply. “Jax told me they voted against retaliation, that’s why he’s talking about leaving SAMCRO. And I’m not taking anything on… I’m just… choosing not to play their game.”
“Tell Jax. Hell, tell Chibs, Ope, Bobby… anyone in SAMCRO. Your word will change the retaliation vote. Jax won’t go Nomad. The club will take care of this guy and you’ll be safe.”
She studied him for a moment, debating the level of fear she had that the guy would continue to harass her, or worse – against the fear she had that something bad was going to happen to Jax as a result.
“These guys mean serious business,” McQueen asserted.
“I know that,” she snapped, unable to keep the fear completely out of her voice.
“I’m sorry,” McQueen apologized softly. “I know you do… but we can protect you.”
“Not from jail you can’t,” she emphatically asserted. “You know Jax… he’s already… No. I don’t want him to get hurt, or go to jail. I can’t do that to him, don’t you understand? I can’t.”
“Okay, okay,” McQueen soothed when he saw the rising panic in her eyes. Her raised voice was starting to draw attention from people around them. “I hear what you’re saying.”
“Promise me you aren’t going to tell him about this.”
“I’m sorry, honey. I can’t promise that,” McQueen replied prosaically. “You know I can’t. Especially not when the guy is dropping threats.”
Tara stood, her clear-eyed, angry gaze locked with the Nomad biker’s impervious stare. “Then you’re going to get him hurt. Or killed,” she ground out bitterly. “Is that really what you want to happen to your brother?”
“Jax already suspects the guy,” McQueen replied, ignoring her assertion. “Your confirmation will remove any doubt, make it easier for him to do what he has to do. Take a minute, think about it. Tell him tonight. But either way, he’s gotta know.”
“So you’re serious,” Opie said, rapping lightly on the door.
Jax was sitting in a desk chair, sorting and packing his personal belongings. His apartment at the clubhouse would be given to the next SAMCRO VP.
“Yeah, I am,” Jax replied without looking up. He dumped the contents of a drawer in a box and returned the drawer to the dresser behind him.
Ope scratched at this beard, and dropped his gaze. If the club hadn’t voted retaliation for Donna, if they hadn’t hunted down the man responsible for her death and given him the satisfaction of vengeance … he would have wanted to leave too. “I get it, but maybe if we sit down again with Clay…“
“You heard him. He wants to chase some bullshit story.” Jax stood and finally glanced at one of his closest friends.
“You’re sure it’s Weston?”
“I know it is,” Jax declared without hesitation.
“Look… I got your back on this,” he volunteered quietly. “Chibs too. Whatever you need.”
Jax nodded, well aware of the significance of the offer, and the problems it would create for the guys with SAMCRO. He’d keep them out of it, but it meant a lot to him to know he had their support. “Thanks.”
“Hey, Jax,” Juice called out enthusiastically as he rushed down the hall.
Opie stepped aside to make room so the Puerto Rican biker could stick his head in the door.
“Just heard a call on the police band, shots fired. UPS delivery called it in, reported some kids home alone. Took a shot at her.”
Jax shrugged impatiently. “So?”
“So apparently AJ Weston has a couple of kids who like to play with guns.” Juice grinned. “I got an address, if you-“
“Hell yeah, I do,” Jax interrupted, his head coming up like an animal catching a scent of prey in the wind. This was just the break he needed in planning his retribution. A visit would make Weston nervous; the L.O.A.N. lieutenant had kept his home address pretty well concealed – until now.
“Huh. I was just thinking about taking a ride out that way,” Opie said flatly, making it clear that he wasn’t going to let Jax go alone.
“Yeah. Yeah,” Juice nodded emphatically. “How about that? Me too.”
On edge after the run in with Weston, her mind churning in confusion about what to do after her conversation with McQueen, Tara was leaning on the sink and staring at her reflection in the bathroom mirror when the door flew open.
“We need to talk.”
“Gemma,” Tara replied with a sigh, her voice composed despite the turmoil in her mind. She’d learned long ago with Jax’s mother it was best not to show signs of weakness.
“This is your fault,” Gemma asserted, forcefully closing the door behind her. She strode through the room, pushing in all of the stall doors to assure herself they were alone. She had seen McQueen down the hall, and had no doubt he would join them in the ladies room if he thought it necessary. This was not, however, a conversation she wanted him eavesdropping in on and reporting back to Jax.
“I told you that you should have ended things before one of you got hurt. You didn’t listen to me and now look what’s happened.”
“What happened?” Tara asked, her pulse rate accelerating. Had something happened to Jax? Was he hurt?
“Jax going Nomad,” Gemma declared sharply, closing the distance between them. Her hands on her hips, she stared down her nose at Tara. “You don’t want Jax on the road, alone.”
“No, I don’t… This wasn’t my idea.”
“Not with the enemies we have,” the older woman continued as if Tara hadn’t spoken. “If you really love my son and if you don’t want him in jail or, God forbid, dead… then you need to leave Charming. Now, before he takes this any further.”
“Jesus… what are you saying?”
“If you stay here, he pushes away from SAMCRO, the family who has been there for him his entire life. Goes Nomad. And for what? So he can go after those League pricks on a guess that one of them raped you?” She paused, her glance sweeping over Tara rudely. “That is, if it really was rape, and not just an excuse when you got caught cheating.”
The accusation was a slap in the face. Tara sucked in a breath and worked to control her outrage. “Jesus Christ, Gemma. We were at your house that night-”
“Yeah, I know. I saw my son, and he was bloody and banged up. I don’t know anything else,” she replied, the slightest malice in her tone. “Go back to Chicago. Go anywhere else. If you really care about him, if you want to keep him alive, leave. Today.”
Tara’s chin came up contentiously. Gemma had never disguised her dislike of her or her relationship with her son, and as much as the club matriarch thought she had a right to dictate what they did, their relationship wasn’t subject to her decision. “What’s between me and Jax-“
“Jesus, are you really that selfish? You need him do more than he’s already done for you?” Gemma interrupted coldly. Shifting her stance to one hip, she crossed her arms over her chest. “What ever happened to the Fed who was sniffing around, Kohn?”
When Tara didn’t immediately answer, Gemma’s lips pressed together in a straight, tight line. She had seen the anger her son had for the Fed, and had always suspected he’d done more than follow the guy and his police escort out of town. “What did Jax do? He take care of that too?”
“I didn’t ask for any of this,” Tara insisted, her eyes flashing angrily. “I am trying to keep him out of it.”
“Yeah,” the biker queen scoffed insolently. “Just look at how good of a job you’re doing at that.”
A hushed, hostile silence descended in the room.
“Look Doc, do what you do best – leave.” A glimmer of deadly derision appeared in Gemma’s brown eyes. “And I’d do it soon, before something else bad happens to you.”
Gemma glanced the mirror, fluffed her hair and ran a finger along the edge of her lips, as if they had just finished the most casual of conversations. She cast one last glance at the brunette doctor before she walked unhurriedly out the door.
Shaken, Tara stared after her.
Would it protect Jax if she left? Would he would leave off his search for retaliation? Would it change his decision to leave SAMCRO? Would he be safe, if she left? And could she leave Abel?
Tara sighed and wiped at the tears stinging her eyes. What was she going to do?
The green Ford Bronco pulled in abruptly, sending a spray of gravel and dirt into the air. AJ Weston jumped out of the vehicle and, ignoring the Sheriff’s deputies who tried to stop him, raced over to the white Child Protective Services van.
“What’s going on?” he demanded, peering in the window at his two boys in the back seat. “Why are you taking them?!”
“Your kids were home alone, with loaded weapons in the house. Weapons they fired at the UPS driver when she approached the house,” the CPS agent, Erica Morales, answered.
“So? They were only protecting themselves. There was no delivery expected. She shouldn’t have been here,” Weston retorted angrily. He was incensed that not only was an agent of the state taking his boys, but she was some sort of inferior mixed race. It was insult to injury as far as he was concerned.
“They are 6 and 10 years old,” she replied firmly, unconcerned with his excuses and undaunted by his hostile demeanor. She’d seen much of it before with angry, and often abusive parents. Her interest was only for the welfare and safety of the children. “They should be in school, not home alone, with loaded weapons.”
“Give me my kids.”
“Take that up with the court. You’ll get a summons,” Agent Morales handed him a piece of paper. She signaled the other CPS agent, and they climbed into the van.
It was only after the van pulled away that AJ noticed the three SAMCRO bikers parked across from his drive, sitting casually on their bikes.
Enraged, he stalked over to them. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Jax came to his feet and casually exhaled a plume of smoke. “Little Junior is a psycho,” he commented dryly, having listened to the kid make threats and scream racial slurs and curse words at the CPS agents for the last 10 minutes. He tossed the spent butt of his cigarette to the ground.
“You got no business around my house, my kids,” Weston challenged, closing the distance between them so he could get directly in the SAMCRO VP’s face.
“Yeah. I can say the same,” Jax scoffed softly, his eyebrows rising slightly. “At least I didn’t gang rape them.”
Weston’s jaw clenched, tension evident in the grim slash of his mouth and the flare of his nostrils. He hadn’t expected the doctor to tell the biker so soon about his visit, nor had he expected them to show up at his house – the location of which he’d purposefully kept confidential. “Guess your old lady told you I paid her a visit this morning.”
Jax masked his surprise, though he could feel his blood begin to pound through his veins. His blue eyes darkened with hate and outrage. He clenched his jaw, his fists, and rocked forward on the balls of his feet. “You’re going to pay for what you did to her.”
“I don’t think so,” Weston retorted, his anger at losing his kids overriding any fear, any rational judgement.
A silence, thick with challenge, hung between them for a moment.
“I do,” Jax countered, his voice lethally soft and his eyes flaring in emphasis.
“You want to kill me?” AJ replied furiously, the tenuous control on his emotions snapping under the biker’s confident, cold stare. “Time and place.”
Opie, alert to the keen eyes of the Sheriff’s deputies on them, stepped up and put a hand between the two men. “Timberland, tomorrow night, 8 o’clock.”
With Jax determined to exact his vengeance, the best thing he could do to help was give him a time and place away from the cops. SAMCRO would have to back Jax now; that or risk losing the rest of the table. No one else would agree with Clay to push off retaliation after Weston just admitted to stalking Tara at the hospital.
“Just you and me,” Jax murmured in a voice taut with self-control.
“Access Road L-4. Off the main lumber drive road,” Ope continued in a low voice, giving direction to a known but secluded spot on the Wahewa reservation, outside of Charming. “No weapons.”
Juice leaned in and added, “No witnesses.”
“Either you or me goes home in a bag,” Jax clarified with unconditional certainty.
Weston clenched his jaw, his eyes virulent with hate. He had no intention of coming alone, but there was no need to let the bikers know that. “I’ll be there.”
Jax nodded, and casually put an unlit cigarette in his mouth. After a moment, he turned and walked back to his Dyna. Ope and Juice waited until Weston went back to his house before they too turned and joined their VP.
With the risk of a potentially deadly altercation apparently over, the two Sheriff’s deputies got into their cruiser and pulled out of Weston’s drive. When they turned on to the main road, they could see the three SAMCRO bikers in the distance ahead of them. As they drove, Deputy Sheriff Cane suggested to his partner, “Give Hale a call, let him know he should keep an eye on SAMCRO. Rage we just saw back there… that’s gonna end badly.”
When Jax arrived at St. Thomas, Tara was in surgery, unexpectedly called in for an emergency operation. McQueen was sitting in a far corner of the waiting room, along with the patient’s family and other hospital visitors, reading a book.
Glancing at the title of the book, Do Not Disturb: Hotel Sex Stories, and the somewhat explicit cover, Jax quirked up a brow. “Really?”
McQueen smiled and stretched. “My old lady said it was required reading before coming home.”
The Nomad biker stood, tucking the book in his kutte. “Pretty hot. Way better than 50 Shades of shit. That was just bad writing.” Almost as an afterthought, he shrugged and smiled. “Though it wasn’t entirely a waste…”
“I ain’t even gonna ask.”
“Word of advice, use the lock on your bedroom door. Once Abel starts walking… it ain’t easy to explain to your 3 year old why you’re spanking Mommy.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Jax gave a short laugh, shaking his head. Provoked by McQueen’s words, he indulged for a second or two in lusty thoughts of sex games with Tara, before shaking them away, his expression turning serious.
“Weston was here today?”
The Nomad biker nodded. “Yeah, how’d you know?”
“He told me.” Jax tensed, his fingers curling his his palms tightly. “Juice got his address.”
McQueen’s brows lifted inquisitively. “He still breathing?”
“For now. Set up a meet with him tomorrow night,” Jax replied flatly. “Why didn’t you call?”
“Your old lady. She was upset, didn’t want you to know.”
“More reason you should have called me.”
“Hey… before you get all on my shit, talk to Tara. She was damn near in a panic about it. I wanted to give her some time, let her figure it out and tell you. If she didn’t, I would have.“
“Yeah, all right.” Jax accepted the answer with a resolved sigh. He probably would have done the same in McQueen’s place, taking Tara’s feelings into account.
“What’d he say?”
“Mostly innuendo, wanting to remind her of a conversation, implied he’d catch her alone.”
Clenching his jaw, Jax muttered under his breath, “Motherfucker.”
“When’s the vote?”
“Tonight. Ope wants to push for a retaliation vote first.”
“Maybe you should.”
“I don’t know, man. The way me and Clay have been going… all he’ll see is that I went after Weston without a vote, without the club. Maybe even push for some damage on me. He won’t care that Weston admitted stalking her.”
“Well, it’s done now.”
“Yeah, it is. Look, I have to make a run to Oakland, check in with Laroy and his crew. This thing with Weston… it may be safer to stick around the clubhouse for the next couple of days.”
“Yeah, all right. When Tara’s done here we’ll pick up Abel and meet you there.”
“Hey, you should know… Weston wasn’t the only one who stopped by today.”
Jax lifted his chin in question.
“Shit. What now?”
“I don’t know, man. She followed Tara into the john, didn’t stay long. Your old lady is good at hiding it, but something was on her mind when she came out. She wouldn’t tell me though, so it’s on you to find out what shit your Mom has stirred up now.”
“Jesus Christ.” Jax sighed heavily. “Yeah, all right.”
Jax scanned the cars parked at TM on his return from Oakland, surprised that the black Cutlass wasn’t in the lot. Pulling his phone out of his pocket, he dialed and listened to it ring, and finally go to voice mail. He left a message, asking Tara to call him.
He was just about to dial McQueen when he noticed his mother, smoking and watching him from the doorway of the TM office garage with a look of disapproval. She must have heard about him going Nomad. With a sigh, he walked over to her.
Tossing away her cigarette, Gemma went back into the office. Take a seat behind the desk, she looked up at him and asked bluntly, “Were you going to tell me?”
“Of course I was gonna tell you,” Jax answered a bit apologetically, following her inside. “I just didn’t want to say anything till things were certain.”
“Are things certain?” Her brows lifted inquisitively.
“Sit,” she directed, nodding at the chair near the desk. She waited until he sat before she asked, “What are you doing, Jackson?”
“Mom…” He knew she was well aware of the reasons driving his decision; there was very little Clay kept from his old lady or that she found out on her own.
“Your dad… after Thomas died. He was lost. Darkest part of his life,” she interrupted before he could continue. She looked away, thinking back to times past. “He talked about wanting to leave SAMCRO.” And he had, in many ways with his frequent road trips with the guys to various places, and with Maureen Ashby and the trips to Ireland…
Jax waited patiently for her continue, able to tell from her voice and her expression that the memories were painful.
Sighing, she returned her attention back to her son. “I loved your dad. More than I’ve loved any man.” Gemma smiled. “Great lay.”
Chuckling slightly, Jax returned her smile. He remembered the affection and passion between his parents when he was younger, but also how that seemed to wither away in the years before JT died.
“Smart, big heart… And very complicated,” Gemma continued affectionately. She gave her son a pointed look, “Sound familiar?”
With an almost sheepish smile, Jax looked down.
“His complications killed him,” the biker queen asserted, her tone changing.
Jax’s head came up, and he look at his mother curiously. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t think your father’s death was an accident. I think he hated his life, and he let the road take it.” She paused, looking away. There was considerably more to JT’s death, but she’d never admit to any of it. She had loved her first husband… until he had betrayed her, the club, and all they had built together. She still loved him, but she hadn’t been able to forgive him. She stepped in and with Clay’s help, saved the club, but the cost had been high.
With a deep inhalation, she turned back to her son. “I don’t want that same fate for you, Jackson. Things I do, I do to keep you safe. Less complicated.”
“I know, Mom.”
“Nomad… is a bad idea.”
“I got to do this Mom.”
“No, you don’t. Listen to Clay. He wants what’s best for you and for the club.”
“Just think about it, baby. SAMCRO is your life. Don’t throw it away. Before you make any decisions, before the vote tonight, re-read your father’s manuscript around page four hundred, four fifty. Promise me, Jackson.”
“All right,” Jax nodded, reaching in his pocket for his cigarettes. Changing the subject, he asked, “Hey, what were you doing at the hospital today?”
Gemma looked at him speculatively, wondering how he knew. Had Tara told him? Or McQueen? “I was uh, picking up some meds for Unser. Stuff for his cancer.”
“Did you talk to Tara?” He knew she had, but he decided to see what she would freely admit too. He stuck an unlit cigarette in his mouth.
“For a few minutes. Why, baby?” She clasped her hands together in her lap.
“What’d you say to her?” Flicking his lighter, he lit his smoke and inhaled.
“Nothing. What?” she asked archly, irritated by his skeptical look. “I just asked her how she was doing with all of it, you know. Why? What did she say?”
“Nothing, I haven’t talked to her. McQueen said she seemed upset.”
“Hm,” she sniffed, then shrugged her shoulders. “Well, she did seem kind of jumpy, on edge.”
He stood, flicking his ashes out the doorway since there was no ashtray nearby. “Did she say why?”
“No, I just figured it’s still because of what happened. I hope you’re not pushing things with her for-”
“Mom.” He shook his head, cutting her off before she could say anything more.
“Something wrong, baby?” Gemma cocked her head as she looked at her son. She could always read him; something more was on his mind.
“No. She and McQueen were supposed to be meet me here; thought they’d be here by now.”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” the biker queen suppressed a small hopeful smile. Maybe the doctor took her advice after all. This could work to her advantage. “Well, I didn’t want to say anything… I didn’t think she was serious, but she did mention something about leaving’, going back to Chicago.”
“What?” Jax turned, his features drawing together in a frown.
“Yeah, I guess with all this shit going on… she was having second thoughts about staying in Charming,” Gemma explained. “I should have told you, baby, but I didn’t know if she was really serious. If she was, I thought she’d say something to you, you know, instead of just taking off. But, I guess she made up her mind and left.”
Jax stared at his mother. Was it possible? Would Tara have left without saying a word? No… she wouldn’t have. And even if she had left town, McQueen would have called him.
“Abel with Neeta?”
Pulled back from his thoughts by her voice, he answered absently. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“You want me to go get him?”
“No, I got it,” he turned, pulling his gloves out of his pocket. He had time to go home before Church tonight. He could check on his son, confirm that Tara’s things were still at the house, and read he page of the manucript he promised his mother.
Looking back, Jax acknowledged her with a slight lift of his chin.
“I told you she was going to break your heart again.”
I found myself lost in my own club. I trusted few, feared most. Nomad offered escape and exile. I didn’t know if leaving would cure or kill this thing that we created. I didn’t know if it was an act of strength or cowardice. I didn’t know, so I stayed. I stayed because, in the end, the only way I could hold this up was to suffer under the weight of it.
– John Teller