Authors: Kimmie Easley
Tags: #General Fiction
Jolene nudged my shoulder with her hip, sending me to my feet.
“Mr. Steele, you are not to leave this county. You will show up for court or your bond will be revoked and you’ll be sitting behind bars before sundown, understood?”
I nodded. “Sure thing, Judge.”
“Good. Don’t make me out to be a fool, boy. I’d hate to have to do the same. One million dollars bail. We’ll meet back here on October 13
for pretrial. Congratulations, son. You’ve got yourself one heck of a babysitter.”
Jolene fell back into her seat. Her face was pale and dull underneath what I thought was way too much makeup. She started shuffling papers into her leather satchel and I noticed the way her hands trembled.
“Holy shit, that was fucking awesome! How’d you do that?”
She froze for a second. “I wish I knew.”
“Are you ok? You don’t look so good.”
I watched as she pulled in air through her nose, letting it out slowly through her mouth. Beads of sweat dotted her forehead.
She sighed before turning to look at me. “I’m sorry. I really thought it would work. I mean, I guess it kind of did, but I thought I’d be able to get you out of here in the meantime.”
“What are you talking about? The judge set bail. I’m going home.”
Her full eyes rounded. “Yeah, a million dollars. Ronin, that means you have to slap down a hundred thousand dollars. There’s no way.”
I grinned. “Darlin, you just handle the paperwork. I’m getting out of this fucking pumpkin suit.”
Watching Ronin struggle to fold his massive frame into my car would have been comical had I not been wondering where the hell he got a hundred grand.
“Seriously, why are expensive cars so damn small?” He flipped down the visor and ran his hands over his face, smoothing down his beard. “I need a shower. That place is a real shit hole.”
“Are you really going to ignore the elephant in the room, or car?” I gawked at him as if he had just robbed a bank. Hell, for all I knew, he had.
He shrugged his heavy shoulders. “What?”
My head felt like it was about to explode. “What do you mean what? Where did you get your hands on that kind of money?”
Ronin leaned his head to one side and smirked. “As my attorney, are you sure you want to know?”
I flung my head backwards, pressing it into the headrest. “Shit. Shit. Shit.”
“Come on, none of this should surprise you. Can you just take me home so I can get a shower? I’m ready to get to the bottom of this bullshit. I need to talk to Jesse and see what he knows.”
I drove, clutching the wheel, trying to ignore the way his presence made my body ache.
“First things first. You can’t live at the clubhouse during the trial. It wouldn’t be good for them, but it would be even worse for you. Anywhere you can stay?”
His face downturned. “Yeah, been thinking about that myself. Some of my shit is at one of the apartments that the club keeps on the side. I guess that could work.”
I weighed out the pros and cons. Yes, it was still associated with the club, but that’s not such a bad thing, as long as he could prove legitimate income. “Ok, but you’ll need to walk the straight and narrow. You can’t screw this up.”
“No, from what I remember,
can’t screw this up. Looks like you’ll have to come along and play babysitter.”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re out of your damn mind. I’m just fine at the Jericho Inn.”
His head snapped. “You are not staying in that rat infested crack den are you? That place is a hundred times worse than lock-up.”
“Oh come on. It’s not that bad.”
“Like hell! You’re not staying there. Let’s stop and get your shit first. If you don’t want to stay with me, you can go stay with Jesse and Ruth.”
I quickly shook my head. “Yeah, that’s not an option.”
“Fine, you can have the bedroom and I’ll take the couch.”
The thought of having to shack up with Ronin gave me instant butterflies. I had been in town for less than forty-eight hours and had been assaulted, witnessed an arrest, survived a night at the Stephen King motel, and even won an almost unheard of battle in court. And now, Ronin was insisting that I move in with him.
Something must really be screwed up in that gorgeous head of his.
“You’re serious?” My eyes widened. I knew Ronin and his impenetrable resolve. “You’re not going to budge, are you?”
He stared directly at me. “Not a fucking inch.”
We spent the next half hour cleaning out my motel room. I was relieved that I’d had the good sense to toss out the beer bottles before heading to court. The next stop Ronin insisted on was the clubhouse.
“You sure you’re ready for that?”
He nodded, staring ahead. “Don’t really have a choice. I’m sure they already know that I’m out. I need to report in and see what’s going on. Have you talked to anyone?”
“Just Ruth. She tried to talk me into leaving.”
He arched his brow. “Why didn’t you?”
My voice cracked. I couldn’t look him in the face. “You know why. I don’t want to do this right now.”
“How’d you leave it?”
“Good.” I gave a long sigh. “Ruth understands and we left it at that.”
We remained silent as we made our way across town. I attempted to keep my emotions in check, which was proving to be increasingly difficult.
“What the hell, brother? What are you doing out?” Stoner crossed the room and embraced Ronin, slapping him on the back of his cut.
“What can I say? Dynamite comes in small packages.” Ronin smirked.
I tried to ignore the way the room came to life when he entered. He was intoxicating. Hercules barreled across the room, nearly shoving people out of his way.
“Hey big guy,” Ronin said as Herc picked him up and squeezed him as if he weighed the size of a small toddler. “Yeah, I’m glad to see you too. Can you put me down now?”
Herc planted him back on the ground just as Ruth rounded the corner.
“There’s my boy.” She spotted both of us. “Oh, and my baby girl.”
“We’re pretty anxious to hear how you pulled it off, son.” Jesse came up from behind and clasped him on the shoulder.
“It wasn’t me. I didn’t say ten words in court. It was all your legal prodigy here, Prez.” He swooped an arm around my waist.
I prayed that he didn’t notice the goose bumps covering my flesh.
Pop turned to face me. I couldn’t get a read on his thoughts.
“Well, let’s have a beer and hear the tale.”
Two prospects brought out a round of Buds, passing them out to the group. Ronin took mine and pried off the cap before giving it back. He didn’t even look at me. It was an automatic gesture, just as he had done so many times before.
My heart fluttered, beating wildly against my chest. For a slight moment, I almost felt like I was home. Almost.
“Alright Princess, let’s hear it.” Jimmy X plopped down on a bar stool and all eyes were focused on me.
I leaned against the wall. The room smelled of cigarette smoke and weed, leaving me queasy. I took a swig from the ice-cold beer to wet my dry throat.
“There’s nothing to tell, really. This was just an arraignment. We have pretrial coming up and we were able to get Ronin out on bail through the next phase.
“How’s that? Thought being a murder trial and all, he wouldn’t be able to bond out.” Zombie glowered at me, sending a shudder through my body. He was a bad seed, and he made no bones about hiding his disgust for his ‘brother’.
“Yes, that’s often the case,” I said as I leveled my gaze.
Ronin stood; his large build was impressive compared to others in the club.
“My lawyer here is just being modest. The prosecutor asked for no bail. Painted me out to be a real douchebag. Criminal, murderer, and a flight risk. Something about being a gang banger. Jo bitch slapped Garner, gave it to him good. She said I’m not a flight risk because of my ties to the club. She told them you were my family and I would never abandon my family. Now, isn’t that fucking brilliant or what?”
Everyone stared wide eyed at me.
“And the judge just agreed?” Jessa had crept in and was now sidled up next to Jesse, her heavy, sunken eyes boring holes through me. No sisterly love lost there.
“Well, not exactly.” I peered up at Ronin.
He dropped his gaze to meet mine. “I paid my bail and the judge ordered Jo to be my personal babysitter.”
Snickers and laughter filled the room, with a few exceptions. Ruth put an arm on Pop’s shoulder. His face downturned. Jessa scowled. And from the corner, the cheap redhead that I had seen at Ronin’s side Sunday night looked as if she was shooting daggers from her dilated, bloodshot eyes.
“Yeah, so that went well.” I rummaged through the kitchen, finally grabbing a sleeve of crackers and a beer.
“It could have gone worse, I guess.” Ronin grabbed the bottle, twisted off the cap, and handed it back to me.
“So, you don’t actually live here?” I asked, surprised. Why the hell would anyone want to live at that damn clubhouse when there were a handful of perfectly good apartments going unused?
He shook his head. “It’s all for staging. I guess I’m a perfect example. When the heat’s on your back, it helps keep the law out of the clubhouse. Not always, but it helps. Ruth comes by and stocks the groceries, toilet paper, shit like that to make it look lived in.”
I glanced around the apartment, observing what a great job my stepmother had done of giving the illusion of being occupied. She always did have an eye for detail. “Not a bad plan.”
Ronin stepped in closer. With one hand, he tipped my chin up to meet his face. “Careful, darlin. You almost got caught straddling the fence there.”
I took one, large step backwards. “Not a chance.” My heart hammered in my tingling chest. I pulled the cell phone from my bag. “I need to make a call.”
“Checking in with the boyfriend?”
“Not checking in, just calling to tell him I miss him. He must be worried by now. And it’s private, so if you don’t mind?” I got ready to close the door to the bedroom that I quickly claimed as mine.
He stood in the hallway with both hands in the air. “Yeah, cool. Don’t wanna get in the way of true love.”
I eased down on the bed and stared at my phone. The thought of having to talk to Brad made a sharp pain thump in my forehead. I couldn’t figure out why I was faking a relationship. I was only calling to put in for a leave of absence.
Not that I wanted Ronin to know that. He was such a smug son of a bitch. I willed my fingers to hit the call button.
“Well, you just couldn’t stay away, could you?”
I rolled my eyes. Music and the sound of clinking glasses filled the background. He was at the bar, probably already well on his way to a threesome and a fucker of a headache.
“Yeah, it’s not like that.”
“Aw, don’t tell me you’re still pissed. It was just a little tiff. You took a personal day. Take another. Go to a spa, you’ll be back to your old self in no time.”
What a condescending bastard
“Brad, I’m not calling because of us. It’s work.” A female voice giggled on the other end of the phone. “Are you even listening to me?”
“Oh, huh? Sorry, helping a friend with a personal matter. What’d you say?”
Frustration knotted in my neck. “Yeah, I bet. I said I’m calling about work. I need to take a leave of absence.”
His tone instantly changed. His playful banter grew cold. “This better not have anything to do with us.”
“Shit. Seriously? Grow up. I need to take some personal time.”
“I don’t know yet. Possibly a month or two. Look, I know it’s an inconvenience. I love my job, but this really can’t be helped. Can you just work with me on this, please?”
“I’ll let Mr. Carrington know. You better check in on a regular basis and keep me updated. Don’t make me out to be a dumbass, Jolene.”
“Of course not,” I replied, thinking he does that all on his own.
“Fine. I expect to hear from you within a week.”
“Not a problem, and …”
“Ughhh.” I rolled over and buried my face in a pillow. The man was infuriating. I drew a blank when attempting to remember what I ever saw in him. What a jackass.
I checked my reflection in the dresser mirror. This day was definitely taking a toll. And after spending the entire afternoon over at the clubhouse, I just wanted a hot shower and a cold drink. Court seemed like a lifetime ago.
Ronin sat on the couch with his heavy boots propped up on the coffee table. He was drinking a beer and scribbling in a notebook.
“Hey, how’s everything with the boy toy?”
I ignored him and grabbed another beer before heading to the bathroom. I locked the door behind me. Not so much to keep Ronin out, but to keep me from begging him to come in.