ONCE A YEAR
The Skulls, 16
Copyright © 2018
Knocking back his second glass of whiskey for the evening, Butch knew he should be at home with his wife, Cheryl. She needed him now more than ever. They were getting close to that date when she’d give birth to their first child. They’d had several miscarriages between them, and even though he considered Michael his son, he, in fact, belonged to another man, another club brother who Butch was trying to get along with.
Not that it was hard.
He wasn’t in Fort Wills anymore and hadn’t been for years.
He still wore the Fort Wills patch and was still a member, but he hadn’t been back home in so long now, at least not to stay. Nope, that was for people that didn’t break their loyalty. Not that he ever wanted to be disloyal to The Skulls, but he had been. He had his reasons, and those who knew him and his situation were well aware of them.
The biggest surprise for him was Lacey.
They kept in touch.
They were the only two surviving members of a previous MC, one that had been slaughtered, and the name of which he refused to voice again. It was hard at times not to think about what had happened over the years. For the longest time The Skulls had been his life. Part of his very fucking soul, and now, there were days, he felt like he was no more than Ned Walker’s personal protector.
There was no other word for it. It sucked, big time.
Running a hand down his face to clear the feeling he was experiencing, he tapped the rim of his glass for the bartender to know he needed a refill.
“You know, being here alone, drinking, is not good for a man’s soul,” Ned said, taking a seat beside him at the bar.
“Do you have some kind of radar for where I’m at?” Butch didn’t even bother to turn to look at the much older man. He must be nearing his eighties, but no one actually knew how old Ned was.
Whenever he tried to find out information about the old man, nothing ever came up. Ned had his hand in so many pies it was fucking scary. From drugs, to fighting, to guns, and other shit that he didn’t want to think about, Ned was the go-to for most deals in Vegas.
“Don’t you have people to kill?”
“Probably, but you see, I’ve got you to think about.”
“You’re not going to pretend to me that you care, old man.”
Ned put a hand over his heart. “Damn, son, that hurt.”
Rolling his eyes, Butch watched the bartender fill up his shot glass.
“That’s his last for the night,” Ned said.
“I’m right fucking here, and I didn’t say it was my last one.”
“You’ve got a wife at home that is freaking out twenty-four seven, and I’m not having you hungover on the jobs that I need you to do. Last drink, or do you want to take this outside?”
Butch stared at his glass and figured he could take the old man. However, there were so many rumors when it came to Ned. Some people thought he had some kind of mystic voodoo on his side or at least something that always made sure he won.
The thing about Ned, no one had ever bested him unless they played dirty. The only time he could recall was when Tabitha, Ned’s granddaughter, was a young one, and they’d been attacked. They’d hurt Tabitha, even as they took down Ned.
Thinking about everything he’d experienced with his time of being in The Skulls, it was a wonder he was still sane.
“You’ve got to get home.”
“I’m going to. Can’t a man have a drink after a long day at work?” Instead of knocking the entire thing back, he sipped at it, refusing to rush the pleasure of enjoying his drink.
“You know, when Tiny made the decision for you to come here, I thought it was a big mistake.”
“I fucked up,” Butch said. “It was necessary.”
“You’ve proven to them your loyalty. Enough time has passed, and you’ve done what is right now. You can’t keep bringing up the past. They know everything, and you’re not keeping any secrets anymore. We’re living life the way we have to. It’s the way the world works. No one can hold that against you.”
“You keep secrets from Eva?”
Eva was his daughter and married to Tiny.
“Fuck yeah. Of course, I did. I still do. There’s a lot of shit in this life that she doesn’t need to know.”
Butch wasn’t about to tell him that Eva was sharp as anything and had probably already figured out everything he’d kept from her. That was for him to discover.
Checking the time, he saw it was a little after eleven. He hoped Cheryl was fast asleep.
They were into their eighth month, and because of all the other failed pregnancies, they’d agreed not to have sex.
Only, that came at a cost.
He’d never cheat on his woman. Not once.
Pregnancy did something to a woman. Even if a woman was calm before her pregnancy, that wasn’t going to stay with their personality.
Cheryl was … paranoid as fuck.
Not only that, she was afraid he was cheating on her, which made it difficult going home. All he wanted to do was to wrap his arms around her, protect her, tell her it was going to be okay.
He didn’t know if that was even true, but he liked to think he could do that for the woman he loved.
Arguing with her caused her stress. The last thing he wanted to do was get into an argument about nothing, because he’d never cheat, and then for her to lose the baby over nothing.
“I remember when Eva’s mother was pregnant with her. That bitch was so fucking high most of the time, but when she had Eva, I kept her off the dope. Up until that point, she was a decent lay. Imagine having no drugs, heavily pregnant, and just fucking miserable. That was Eva’s mom. The biggest lie I ever told Eva?” Ned stopped, looking at his hands that were flat on the counter.
“What was it?” Butch asked.
Like so many people before him, he’d been lulled in by Ned’s conversation. By his memories.
Women loved the old bastard. Cheryl loved having him around for dinner, especially now that Michael had moved back to Fort Wills with his father.
They’d been able to have a lot of time on their own since he’d been gone. It was a hard decision to make.
Michael was an angry child, and seeing as Alex complained all the time about having no time with him, it seemed like a good idea. Of course, he’d not thought about how it would affect Cheryl.
She missed her son, and Butch did as well, even if he was an evil bastard at times that liked to cause nothing but trouble.
“I told Eva that her mom wanted her. That she would be so damn proud of her, and the truth is, Eva’s mom wanted to fucking kill her. I had to have her watched twenty-four-seven so she didn’t try and kill herself or our baby.” Ned sighed. “That’s what you get when you fuck up.”
Butch had no idea. “Did you always love Eva?”
“The moment I saw her, I loved her. She’s my flesh and blood. Of course, she has the worst taste in men, but then, it wasn’t like I’d picked out anyone better for her. At least she’s been able to train Tiny. He’s doing well. A good son-in-law even if he does make bad decisions.”
“Lash is a damn good Prez, and you know it.”
“That I do know; however, when I want a job done right, I want to rely on people I can trust. The Skulls and Chaos Bleeds were two MC clubs I can trust. Now, I’m test driving everyone.”
The Skulls and Chaos Bleeds had both come away from the drug and gun runs. After years of facing one enemy or making new ones, they’d decided to go legit. They had some deals going with the Billionaire Bikers MC as well as witness protection programs. They helped men, women, and children all over the country.
It’s what the club did.
Butch wished he’d been part of it, but again, he was back in Vegas, knowing his true purpose was here. Even when he missed the club life, the brotherhood, that sense of purpose, Fort Wills would never be his home again.
“Go on home, Butch. Snuggle up with your wife, and if she gives you shit about cheating, kiss the fuck out of her, so she knows there’s no pussy you want to be in but hers.”
Knocking back his drink, he shook his head. “I don’t have a clue how you manage to get women to fall all over you.”
Ned stuck his tongue out and gave it a wiggle. “I’m a fucking hero.”
“To get a woman eating out of your hand, you must first be willing to eat them.” Ned winked at him, and Butch turned his back.
It would have been nice to eat his wife’s pussy. They were both so filled with worry that there was no chance it was going to happen.
Cheryl ran the brush through her hair for the hundredth time and stared at her reflection. She was way too pale, and there was no way she’d be putting makeup on in the hope of looking healthy.
Placing a protective hand over her stomach, she tried not to cry.
When she got pregnant with Michael, it had been a mistake, an accident. After one night with a stranger only to be left to raise her child alone, she never for a second thought she would have trouble delivering again.
Only, she had.
She and Butch had tried and failed so many times.
Putting the brush down, she stared at her reflection, feeling sick to her stomach. They’d never gotten this far before, and seeing as they’d had a couple of miscarriages along the way, their doctor was on constant call just in case something went wrong.
She stood up and stared at her enormous stomach.
It stuck right out in front of her, looking odd.
She put her hand underneath her breasts and curved over the bump. It still amazed her even now that she was heavily pregnant.
So far, no scares.
The loneliness of this pregnancy though, killed her.
Butch didn’t spend a whole lot of time with her, and when he came home, he always looked tired.
He worked hard for Ned Walker and all those fighters, but she hated it. She’d been to the gym where they all trained and had seen all the young, beautiful, sexy women who were hanging around. She’d even walked in on several of the women giving head to the men, or taking it in the pussy or ass.
Right now, she’d give anything to just feel her man’s arms wrapped around her, his lips on her neck.
Instead, she wondered if he’d been lured in by one of the pieces of ass that was always around.
“You know you’re thinking stupid thoughts.” Sitting on the edge of the bed, she saw it was late and only getting later.
Butch had started to come home later and later. Not that she blamed him. Even as she threw accusations at him, it drove her crazy, and she was always overcome by guilt once it was all over. She felt like a horrible person for some of the stuff she’d said to him.
Covering her face with her hands, she wondered if it was even any use in trying to figure out how to fix them.
She was going to be giving birth within the next month, and there were times the similarities between this pregnancy and Michael’s weren’t lost on her.
Only she didn’t love Alex.
Her heart belonged to Butch.
She would die for him without batting an eye.
He owned her very soul.
Now, though, everything was going so weirdly. She didn’t know how to stop this divide that was happening between them.
It was all because of this baby right now.
They’d experienced so much heartache in having a baby that it terrified her to fail once again. Butch was not only an amazing man but a truly wonderful father. He’d been there for Michael every single step of the way, even when he got in trouble.
She pushed some of her hair that had fallen onto her face out of the way. Getting to her feet, she made her way slowly downstairs to the kitchen. There was nothing in this world that a little hot chocolate wouldn’t fix. This wouldn’t be as good as Angel could do it, but she knew how to fix a hot chocolate to take away all of her woes.
Moving out to Vegas should have been a fresh start for all of them.
At first, she really thought they could make it work, and they had. Ned Walker had been with them every single step of the way, and there were times he was more of a father to them than anything else.
Of course, his group of fighters were part of their world as well. They’d lost many men along the way, and there were times she didn’t think she could handle being part of this world.
Just as she was pouring the steaming hot chocolate into her cup, she heard the door open and close.
Her heart sped up, and as Butch came around the corner into the kitchen, he stopped. He looked tired all the time. She didn’t know what to say, which was another problem they were facing.
He threw his keys onto the table, and she watched as he ran a hand down his face. “You should be in bed.”
Gritting her teeth, she didn’t want to snap at him or do anything to start an argument. Instead, she smiled and offered up her cup. “I just wanted to get a drink.” She tilted her head to the side, watching him. “There’s nothing wrong with having some hot chocolate. I made enough for two cups.” He didn’t tell her to stop, so she got him a cup and poured the rest inside. Next, she added a good handful of marshmallows. She hated the sweet stuff, but she knew Butch loved it.
They both sat down at the table, and she was sure to lower herself into the chair. It had been a couple of weeks since she’d looked even a little dignified while she tried to sit or stand.
“Did you have a good day?” she asked.
“It was long. Fucking tiring. Another fighter smashed through Carlton. He’s in the hospital at the moment.”
“Was this an actual fight?”
“Nah, not even close. It was one of Ned’s fighters that put Carlton down. He was shouting shit about how good he was, how much better than everyone else. People don’t want or need to hear that, so he got slugged. It disappointed Ned. Carlton was supposed to be able to take a few hits. One punch and he’s down isn’t going to cut it in the ring.”
Some women would be really upset by the kind of work Butch did. He helped men to train in illegal fighting. The thing was, she knew all about his past, the truth of The Skulls, and deep down, she’d love him no matter what he did.
The fights were going to happen regardless. She only hoped Butch never got involved. Taking care of this baby alone didn’t exactly appeal to her.
Butch released a sigh, and she smelled the whiskey on his breath.
“I went out for a drink after I dumped Carlton’s useless ass in the hospital.”
“It’s fine.” She’d noticed he preferred to go out to the bar rather than come home to her. “I’m sorry.”
“What are you sorry for?”
“For everything. For this baby, for … being a total bitch to you.” The hormones were kicking in once again, and as she sniffled, she heard Butch groan.
“Don’t, babe. You know I can handle everything in the world but not that. Please.” He got out of the chair and moved behind her. He wrapped his arms around her as best he could. His lips were against her neck.
She missed him so much, missed his touch. “I don’t mean to push you away.”
“You’re not. I’m going to the bar to give you a chance to rest. There’s no other woman. I’ve told you that a gazillion times, and I’ll keep on telling you that. There’s no one else in this world I’ll want but you.”
“But I’m an elephant. Look at me.” She placed a hand over her stomach. “I can’t satisfy you. I can’t do anything but look like this, and I’m so afraid of losing this baby. I don’t want you to hate me.”
Before she could say anything more, Butch had dragged the chair so that he could face her. He knelt down before her and forced her to look at him.
“Now, you listen to me, baby. I don’t hate you. I can never hate you. I want this baby, too, and I know how important it is to the both of us. I get that you’re full of your pregnant mom hormones. I’m not going to cheat. I’m not going to walk away. You’re not getting rid of me that easily. Once we have our kid in our arms, Ned doesn’t know this yet, but he’s taking care of our child while I spend the weekend fucking you and making you aware who you belong to. Of course, when the doctor says we can. Do you understand me?”
“I just … we’re here because of me, and everything is a mess.”
“No, we’re here because of me.”
“Do you want to go back?” she asked.
She saw him hesitate, and then he kissed her.
Even though that’s all they’d been doing for eight months, it still had her heart racing.
“What I want right now is to put you in bed, wrap my arms around you, and sleep.”