My eyes slowly open, protesting against the light just beginning to stream in through the bedroom window.
My left arm is stretched out underneath Merryn’s neck. She breathes softly against my chest and I watch her, studying the beautiful face I’ve seen every day for the past eight months. This woman means everything to me. I can feel the heat of her body underneath the covers, the swollen roundness of her belly resting against my side. Our baby. Our baby. I still can’t believe it, even though she’s due in less than a month. I tilt my head down and kiss her forehead. She shifts against me, her hand tightening on my stomach.
I’ve got to change my bandages. I try to pull my arm out from underneath Merryn’s head but pain shoots through my neck and shoulders. I wince, freezing, trying not to make a sound.
Those fucking Bullets.
Five days. Those sick fuckers ambushed us five days ago and my body still hurts from the beating they gave us. We fought back of course, but they had the drop on us. Of course they did; why should we have been on our guard when the Bullets and Chains had been enjoying a truce for the last eight months? A truce that Merryn and I made happen by blackmailing Will Silver?
I still don’t know what triggered the attack. I’ve talked to Merryn, to all the Chains, trying to figure out if one of us did something or said something we shouldn’t have, maybe crossed a line we shouldn’t have crossed. In some ways not knowing why we were attacked is worse than the actual attack itself.
But luckily nobody died, on either side. And one thing that I thought was strange: they left Merryn alone. None of them attacked her, or even tried attacking her. I got her away from the fight as soon as I realized what was going on, but still. No one tried getting to her.
Nobody died, but that doesn’t mean nobody was hurt. I got into the thick of things pretty fast, but Alan and Abby got it pretty bad too. And the bar. It’s in shambles, even after we’ve taken out the busted furniture and screwed boards in over the broken windows. Just thinking about it makes me mad. Why did they do it? Why did they attack us out of nowhere?
The pain in my body has subsided so I try sliding my arm out from underneath Merryn again. I’m almost able to get it out. I can prop myself up on my elbow beside her. Merryn lets out a soft moan and moves against me, and then her eyes open up and I see her focus on me. She smiles a sleepy smile, and I can’t help but smile back.
“Mm, morning,” she says before stifling a yawn.
I yawn in response before saying, “Morning.” Deciding to lie back down, at least for a few more minutes, I settle myself beside Merryn as she nestles herself into my chest.
“How’re you feeling?” she asks, the hand on my chest trailing its fingers back and forth.
“Sore,” I tell her. She hums in assent.
“Any better, though?” she asks. Her fingers move a bit farther down, toward my stomach. It feels good. Merryn’s stomach separates the lower parts of us, but she slides her leg up and over mine.
“I’m definitely feeling better than I was before,” I say. “And strangely, I’m feeling even better now.”
I move my head down and she tilts hers up and we kiss. I breathe in deeply through my nose as we do, hearing her do the same. Our mouths open, allowing our tongues to intertwine, dance, sharing our morning breath and making it disappear.
Merryn’s hand slides down my stomach, all the way down. I feel her fingertips first on the head of my stiff cock, and then she wraps her fingers around it, holding me.
It feels amazing. She feels amazing. She always has. I reach over and place my hand on her bare breast, larger than it was when we first met. Her nipple is hard and swollen and I tease it, rubbing my fingers over it, hearing and feeling her moan against my lips.
She’s stroking me faster, and my hips begin bucking in response. I take my mouth from hers only to drop it down, kissing the side of her neck. Her hair smells amazing as it fills my senses. My hand moves down from her breast along her side, curving over her large belly, reaching underneath and finding that softness, that beautiful place that makes Merryn gasp in my ear.
Her hand on my cock tightens as I slide first one, then two fingers inside of her. She’s already soaking wet, and I can feel her rub her hand over the head of my cock, smearing my own precum down and around. I keep kissing her neck, biting softly on it, and her mouth is open as I hear her trying to stifle the moans that tremble on the edge of her lips.
She starts kissing my neck too, and for a moment I feel like I’m sixteen, fingering my girlfriend as we struggle to keep quiet from my parents in the next room. I cup my hand over her pussy, feeling the sweet pulse of her hard little clit. My palm rubs it, moving up and down as I curl my fingers inside, drawing that sweet pleasure out of Merryn, out of the woman I love.
Her hand moves without stopping. Everything feels so good. Her hand, her pussy. Her scent and taste and body and soul. I have to let out a moan myself as she moves faster and I move faster in response, the two of us spurring each other on. She’s writhing against me. Her breasts are pressing into my side, into my chest. I bring my head back up and latch my lips onto hers. She kisses me back in turn, forcing her tongue into my mouth, allowing herself a louder moan now that the sound is stifled.
I can feel myself getting closer, and as though reading my mind, Merryn’s kisses intensify and she tightens hard around my hand. She moans into my mouth, her body moving with mine. We’re bucking ourselves together, the bed beginning to squeak as we do. The pleasure rises up in me, Merryn’s hand is drawing me closer, closer to the edge. I moan back against her and she begins to shudder, tightening, clenching around me.
And then, just as I feel myself begin to crest that rise, I feel Merryn bite down on her lower lip as she struggles to hold back a cry. Her pussy tightens hard as she floods over my hand, and as she comes I come too, my cock spasming and shooting my hot load all over my stomach and hers, coating the two of us.
We come together, our bodies moving together against one another’s. Merryn buries her face in my shoulder and I feel her entire body tense, shudder, her pussy practically vibrating against my hand as I keep frigging her, keep pulling that sweet juice out of her.
And when we’re both done, when our bodies finally relax and it feels like my balls have been drained completely, she lifts her head up and kisses me again, a deeper, sweeter kiss this time. We hold each other for a long time, our bodies breathing together, pressing into one another’s as we share each other’s love and warmth.
Finally our kisses stop, and we relax down beside each other. My body is still sore—but it feels better now.
Merryn’s stomach rumbles. “Mm,” she says. “Maybe we should get some breakfast.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” I say, and so the two of us get up to get dressed.
We’re heading back to the bar today to keep working on it. I leave Merryn and go into the bathroom to quickly change my bandages, wincing as the tape pulls at my skin. But my wounds are healing nicely thanks to Merryn. She has a knack, it turns out, for helping others out, but running her Social Assistance practice has thrown her into the deep end. She’s managed to float though, and to be honest it’s great to see all the good that she’s doing, helping out others who need it.
Once I’m cleaned up I go back into the bedroom and pull on boxers and jeans, my white T-shirt hugging tightly to my body. Merryn’s clothes are a little more forgiving, but she still keeps with the Chains dress code, something I appreciate. Our leather jackets and boots are out by the top of the stairs, so once we’re dressed we leave the bedroom and I pad down to the kitchen while Merryn makes her way to the bathroom.
I start putting some eggs on to cook as bread heats up in the toaster. The coffee maker drips out black gold, and when Merryn comes into the kitchen she kisses me on the cheek before pouring herself a cup.
I hear Emily’s door open followed by the metallic sounds of her crutches as she comes down the hall to the kitchen doorway.
“Morning,” she says, dressed and looking awake. Her large camera is slung around her neck, where it seems to have found permanent residence. “That smells good.”
“Don’t worry, I’m making you some too,” I tell her.
“Thanks big brother,” Emily says as she gets three plates down from the cupboard. “You’re the best.”
Merryn butters the toast and when the eggs are ready everything is served and taken to the table where the three of us sit in our usual spots. Emily’s taken her camera off and slung it over the back of the chair, her crutches leaning up against the wall next to her.
“So how’s the cleanup going?” Emily asks us as she takes a bite of toast.
“It’s coming, slowly,” Merryn tells her. Too slowly, I think, and Merryn must see the anger in my face because she covers my hand with hers. “We actually got a quote back for the new windows, so we’re going to order some today. Then we can take the boards off.”
Emily shakes her head. “Those Bullets should be the ones paying for this.”
Before I can stop myself, I say, “They’re going to pay,” but Merryn’s hand squeezes mine and she cuts me off before I can keep talking.
“They should pay for it, I agree,” she says to Emily. “But this is a … complicated situation. I’m sure you can understand. It’s not like we can send them a bill or anything. And I know I wouldn’t want to call up Will Silver or Maddox and ask them to give us money for what they did.”
“You still don’t know why they did it, huh?”
Merryn shakes her head, squeezing my hand again to stop me from talking. I can feel the rage bubbling up inside, and it seems like Merryn can feel it too.
“No, we don’t, hon. But let’s not talk about this. What’re you going to do today?”
As Emily talks about her plans to take pictures of graffiti in the streets, I try to calm myself down. But it’s hard. For the past five days I’ve had this hatred bubbling inside of me, threatening to boil over. And I have no outlet, that’s the worst part. Merryn’s talked me down, convinced me not to just ride over to the Bullets’ warehouse and burst in, guns blazing. Even though I’d like nothing better than to do that, it wasn’t hard to see where that course of action would take me: into an early grave. And I have more riding on my life than just me. Merryn, and our unborn baby. Emily. And the rest of the Chains. They’re family to me. I’m the leader of that group. They rely on me to keep them safe, and that’s just what I plan to do.
We all finish our breakfast and Emily says she’ll tidy up, taking the dishes back into the kitchen. Merryn and I pull on our leather jackets and boots, bidding farewell to Emily as we walk down the stairs and leave the apartment. Our bikes are parked just outside and we climb on, backing out of the spaces and riding over to the Chain Gang. Morning traffic threatens to block our paths, but Merryn’s riding is as good as mine and we zip between the cars, flowing through them with ease.
We get to the bar and park our bikes. The Chain Gang. It still looks like shit, but it’s better than it was five days ago. And soon enough we’ll get it back to how it used to be, and better. Those Bullets can’t stop us. They’ll never take us down. And when the time is right, we’ll come back at them, as strong as we’ve ever been, and we’ll teach them that you never, ever fuck with the Chains.
Merryn and I walk in through the front door and almost everyone is there. Mandy and Dave are already repainting one of the walls, while Jeremy, Alan, Erica, and Abby pile detritus up for later sorting. They all greet us as we enter. The only person not here is Ruby, but this early in the morning no one is really drinking. Not yet.
It’s been a depressing five days, cleaning up this mess. It’s taken longer than any of us expected. Of course, it wasn’t just the bar that endured the Bullets’ violence. Abby still has a limp, and Dave’s said the vision in his right eye is almost cleared up. The rest are bandaged, just like me. But we work all the same, the group of us tidying together. The radio’s playing, the music of Guns ‘n’ Roses and AC/DC keeping us company.
And then, the front door opens.
My first thought, as I turn my head to see who it is, is that Ruby’s decided to come in early. My second thought is, That’s strange. Why is Ruby wearing a suit?
But it’s not Ruby. Instead it’s the last person I’d ever have expected to walk into our bar at eight thirty on this Sunday morning.
It’s Will Silver.
The sound of cleaning up slows to a stop as everyone else looks at who it is. Will Silver takes a few steps into the bar, looking around as he does. The cleanliness of his suit is a sharp contrast to the state of the bar. The gray hair atop his head belies the youth in his eyes as he raises an eyebrow.
“Wow. I wish I could say you’ve looked better, Chains, but then I’d be lying through my teeth.”
My mind is almost blank. He can’t be here. He can’t. Can he?
Will takes in all of the bar, and then comes to rest his eyes on me.
“Jake,” he says with a smile. “It’s been too long. And Merryn,” he says, looking at her. I see his eyes take in the size of her belly. “I see you’ve been keeping busy.”
My incredulity breaks and I get my voice back.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” I ask, my voice on the verge of yelling. The other Chains around me seem to have snapped back to reality too, as I hear them voice their own protests, yelling at Will Silver, blaming him for this, for all that he sees around him.
Will smiles as he listens to the cacophony, and when he opens his mouth to speak again he raises his hand just a bit to quiet us. It works.
“I know my being here must seem strange,” he says, looking at me as he speaks. “But I assure you, I don’t come to attack. I come as a friend.”
“A friend?” I laugh. “A friend! Well you know, Silver, I’ve never been known to blow my friend’s fucking head off, but I’m inclined to try it now.”
“You’re angry,” he says.
My eyebrows shoot up. “Angry! Uh, yeah, I think I have a right to be angry at you. Look at what you fucking did to us!”
I wave my hand around to indicate the bar, but Will doesn’t look at it again. His eyes stay on me.
“Ah, now that’s where you’re wrong, Jake. I’d take a moment to cool your head and listen to me. I had nothing to do with this.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” I ask. “You’ve got two fucking seconds to explain yourself, or you’ll be joining the pile of trash outside.”
“Listen,” he says, and his smile is gone now. His tone is serious. “Listen to me. I’m not here to attack you, Jake. I’m not here to hurt you. I’m here … I’m here to ask a favor.”
The last word hits me like a good joke. I have to laugh.
“A favor?” I repeat. “Why the fuck should we help you?”
Will takes a breath in and lets it out.
“I’ve lost control of the Bullets,” he says. “My gang. My own gang. They’ve turned against me. I should’ve seen it coming, but I had no idea how fast they would act, and all behind my back. Two members have started a mutiny against me. Trista and Flynn. Flynn, I thought I could trust. He never took things as seriously as the others did, but I didn’t think he would stab me in the back like that. And Trista. She’s only been with us—with them, now; I’ve washed my hands of them—for a month. It was my fault. I should have vetted her more. I should have done my research. But I trusted too much.”
Something seems off about this, and I narrow my eyebrows.
“A mutiny?” I ask him. “What’s Maddox doing about it?”
“Maddox is dead,” Will tells us, and this comes as a real shock to me. “Trista and Flynn killed him, a day after they ordered the attack on you. It was them who made it happen. They convinced the others that I’d sent word for it. That Maddox okayed the order. When Maddox found out about it, they killed him, and threatened to kill anyone who went against them. Now they want to take the Bullets away from me completely. And to be honest … I didn’t know where else to turn.”
This is a lot of information. It’s taking a bit for it to sink in.
“This Trista,” I decide to ask him. “She’s only been with you a month?”
Will nods, a look of humility on his face.
“A month, that’s right. I’d only met her a few times, and like I said, I should have had my guard up more. She’d convinced the others so well that I figured she was on the ball. But here’s the kicker: Trista was a cop. Working undercover. I guess she got deeper into it than she intended. She quit the force the same day she and Flynn killed Maddox and tried to take over. Maybe that was her plan all along. I don’t know. I don’t want to know. All I know is that I want them gone.”
This is too much. Everyone around me is silent, probably too stunned for words the way I am.
“So why are you here?” I ask him, and Will looks at me.
“Because I want your help,” he says. “Like I said, I’ve washed my hands of the Bullets. They were a family to me—I’m sure you know how that feels—but they’re strangers to me now. I want you to help me take out Trista and Flynn. I know for a fact that they’re at the warehouse today. Right now, in fact. They’re waiting for me to send them tasks for the day. They aren’t suspecting anything. If you wanted to attack them, to get your revenge for what they did to you, now would be the perfect time.”
He looks at me, and I feel put on the spot. I feel the others looking at me too. I don’t know what to do.
“Listen,” Will says, cutting the silence. He drops his gaze from mine. “I’m not a man to admit to defeat easily. I’m proud, you know that. You both do,” he glances up at Merryn. “But I’m asking for your help now. I have nothing. No way to change this, not on my own. It’s a win-win situation. Do the right thing. Put aside our differences and help me keep at least the tiniest piece of pride I still have. I assure you, I won’t forget the favor. It would mean everything to me.”
Silence again. I look over at Merryn, and she looks back at me. Her mouth is closed, her eyes saying something … but what?
“Think about it,” Will says, and I break my gaze at Merryn to look at him again. “But don’t think too long. Now is the time to strike. If you’re going to do it, do it now.”
And with that he turns around and walks out of the bar, the door swinging shut behind him. I stare at the thing, the window in it showcasing the brilliance of the light outside.
Did that just happen? I look over at Merryn again to see her looking back at me.
“Jake,” she says, and that’s all.
The information seems to be trickling into my mind. I’m unstuck, able to process it.
“Will Silver,” I say slowly, the others listening to me.
“He seemed desperate,” Abby says, and I nod.
“Yeah. He came right in here … maybe he really does need help.”
Merryn speaks up. “Jake, I’ve worked with that man. Okay? I’ve had to see documents he wrote, ones that specifically avoid all the bad his drugs do just so he can get them out in the market. He lies, Jake. He’s a liar.”
I chew on my lower lip. The thought of the Bullets all sitting there in their warehouse, unaware. If that were true …
“It was a ballsy move, coming in here,” I say out loud. “He was stepping right into the lion’s den. He knew the danger he would’ve been in.”
“Jake—” Merryn begins, but I shake my head.
“No, think about it,” I tell her. “Sure, he’s a liar. I’m not saying he’s not. But he didn’t want any follow-up. He has no hand in this. He wasn’t threatening us, or goading us. He wanted us to attack his own gang. His own gang! Why would he do that if he wasn’t serious?”
“I don’t know, Jake,” Merryn admits, “but listen, you’re not thinking clearly.”
“And Trista and Flynn, they did this to us,” I go on. “He wasn’t the one responsible for it. If they’re there …”
“He said they called this attack, but that doesn’t mean it happened!”
But I’m hardly listening now. “This is an opportunity. This is what we need.” I turn and look at the other Chains. “We can get our revenge. They took us unawares. Now it’s our chance to do the same!”
The Chains shout out agreement.
“We can show those Bullet fuckers that you do not mess around with the Chains!” I yell. Merryn looks concerned, but the others shout out in response. There’s an old feeling coursing through me, a feeling of adrenaline and promise.
“We can kill them!” Jeremy shouts.
“Fuck those fuckers!” Abby cries out.
“Let’s fucking get them!” I shout, and the six of us rush to get our weapons, taking guns down off of shelves, some of the Chains checking the ones already on their person. I pick up my trusty shotgun, checking to make sure it’s loaded before snapping it back together.
“Jake, wait!” Merryn cries, but blood is pounding in my ears and I can feel myself smiling—actually smiling!—as we make our way to the front door.
“Don’t worry, babe,” I stop and say to her as the others leave. I give her a kiss on the cheek, but she still has a frown on her face. “We’ll be back soon. And all of our troubles will be over.”
I leave the building before Merryn can protest and climb onto my bike, starting it up, the others already ready to go. I shove the shotgun into the pannier at my side, rev my engine, and shout out my feelings as the others echo them. Then we all peel out, heading away from the Chain Gang and toward the Bullets’ warehouse.
I can’t seem to go fast enough. The other cars seem to stand still as we whip around them, between them, desperate to get to our destination. The Bullets. I can almost hear their screams, smell their hot blood already. It’ll be so sweet. Finally I see that fucking building loom up in the distance and I push my bike harder, the other Chains hot on my heels as we dip and dodge between traffic on our way there.
We turn into the industrial sector and go down quieter roads, finally reaching the place where our enemy is going to die. True to Will’s word, I see the bikes of all the Bullets lined up outside. Idiots. I think. This is too good to be true.
I park my bike as the others do the same. Taking my shotgun out of its holster I get off my bike and the others join me. Together we walk toward the door and I grab it, pulling it so hard that it bangs against the wall before we walk in.
The interior is dark, and I hear angered voices in conversation die out as I blink, getting my vision to adjust. My heart is hammering in my chest. I’m carrying my shotgun in both hands, feeling like a kid on Christmas morning. There they are, gathered around together. And they’re all looking at us.
“Hello there, you fucking Bullets!” I shout, a hard smile on my lips.
The group suddenly scrambles, and I hear guns being taken out, people shouting as they get behind shelves, taking cover. Only two people stay where they are: Flynn and some red-haired woman I don’t recognize. Flynn glances at her, but she’s staring at us as we approach. That must be Trista.
“Whoa whoa whoa! Wait!” Flynn yells. “Just wait!”
I raise a hand and hear my Chains all stop at my command. Flynn is staring at me and he looks scared, about to bolt. No worries. I’ll get him before he can run two steps.
“What’s this about, Jake?” he asks me, and for a moment I feel like I really have caught them unawares. I furrow my brow and tilt my head to the side.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I ask him. “You fuckers attacked us. In the middle of a truce!”
I can hear my Chains eager to get to the action. The Bullets are all behind cover, waiting for something to happen. All except Flynn and this woman. Trista. He takes a step closer to her, but she still seems frozen in fear. My hackles raise.
“Don’t move!” I shout, and Flynn stops.
I glare at him. “That was unforgivable, what you all did.”
But Flynn looks at me, almost in surrender. “It wasn’t our idea,” he says. “It was Will’s. He was the one who wanted to break the truce. He wanted to fuck you over, not us! We were just following orders.”
The thought of Merryn flashes through my head, but I shake it away.
“Yeah? Well this is my idea. And my Chains here? They’re just following orders too.”
Their guns rustle to either side of me and I smile at their allegiance. I rack my shotgun and smile at the look on Flynn’s face.
“Wait, Jake!” he shouts, panic painting his features. “We have to talk! We … I have a plan!”
“The time for talk is over,” I say, feeling like I’m in the calm before a storm. “See you in hell.”
My finger squeezes the trigger.
Flynn dives for the woman.
And it begins.