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The sultry Louisiana nights hold more than danger, they hold a ton of secrets…
Jessie-Lou Gaudet knows a thing or two about secrets. Her big brother is none other than Cypress, one of the Voodoo Bastards’ fiercest brothers. She’s never put much stock in the club, or her brother. Like any sister, she just views him as a big, darned idiot. One that’s brought a mess of trouble to her and her teenage son’s door.
When a call goes out that Cypress’ sister and nephew are in danger, Collier doesn’t hesitate to answer it. When he sees Jessie, white as a sheet and covered in blood, he has two thoughts. One is she all right, and two, she has to be one of the fiercest and most beautiful women he’s ever seen. He spends some time kicking himself for not noticing her far sooner, but not one to back down from a challenge, he’ll spend the rest of his life rectifying his oversight if he has to.
She was unsteady, her light brown eyes wide and dazed and her face shock white and pale, which made the blood stand out on her hands and at the side of her head all the more. She was determined to march forward and get into Hex’s truck in front of us, no matter how much I tried to slow her down and get her to stop so I could get a look at her. It was like she didn’t even hear me. Just kept screaming her son’s name and determined the only way a mama bear could be to get to her child.
I wasn’t fixin’ to stand in her way on that.
She got into the running truck and I got in too and kept right on going the direction the two mongrel mutts had fucked back off in when they seen us comin’ up the road.
We pulled into the front of Cy’s house and before I could even turn the dial to put the truck in ‘park,’ Jessie-Lou was out the passenger door, hit the ground runnin’ and was headed right for the smashed-in front door, screamin’ her head off for her boy Tate.
To his credit, Tate didn’t make his momma wait. He come pourin’ out the front door as I hit the ground myself. The kid was ungainly as fuck, all knees and elbows, reaching for his mom to wrap her up in a hug as much as she clung to him.
I threw chin at Hex, who come out the door and he jerked his head at me to leave Jessie and Tate to their hug-fest and to come on over to where he was at.
“They fucked off,” he growled. I looked past him onto the front porch, inside where Cy was on his burner.
“Yeah?” I asked.
He gave a nod.
“The boy was the priority. He did good. Didn’t come down until his uncle gave a codeword. Stayed quiet as a church mouse up there. Nearly gave me a heart attack, thinkin’ they’d got ‘im.”
I looked back at Jessie, who’d been all fire and brimstone right up until she got her kid back. Now she was cryin’ somethin’ fierce, but she was absolutely no less pissed.
She looked up at her boy and smoothed a hand over the side of his face, demanding if he was alright and lookin’ him over as he tried to pry her off of him. Red with embarrassment, he shot a sideways look in mine and Hex’s direction.
“Let your mamma have this, boy. Don’t matter how big y’ get – you’ll always be her baby,” I called out to him. He met my eyes and straightened up some and gave a nod in my direction. Hex and I turned and went into the house, through the shattered door just as Cy hung up the phone.
“She stuck him good,” Cy remarked, and I looked at the spatter of blood on the carpet between the living room and the combined kitchen and dining area. The blood was smeared on the tile of the kitchen floor, footprints – small ones – beatin’ feet in the direction of the back door.
“Jessie?” I asked.
“Fuckin’ right,” Cy said as a point of pride, but it was short lived as his sister came through the shattered door like a fuckin’ thunderhead, muscles coiled and eyes sparking lightning.
Her voice crashed into us about the same time she crashed into her brother as she shoved him violently and beat her small fists against his chest and screamed at him, “This is all your fault!”
Hex and I parted like the red sea before her onslaught. Neither one of us dared crack a smile. Nothing about this shit was funny.
“You and your fucking bullshit brought them into my house! I can’t believe you, John-Paul!”
“Easy, stop it! I ain’t playin’ Jessie-Lou, I said stop!” He shoved her back off of him and bellowed, “Go take your ass in the shower and get cleaned up! I’ll fuckin’ handle it!”
“You’re goddamn right you’ll handle it, you fucking prick!” she shrilled, and he raised his hand like he was gonna backhand her. She flinched but stood her ground.
I couldn’t help myself. I stepped in at that point and caught my brother by the wrist and looked up at him with a cold, hard glare.
“Go take a shower, honey,” I urged her calmly. “But go an’ get me your first-aid kit first.
His voice was soothing, melodic, and gentle with just a hidden depth and just a bit of husky rasp that had me sinking into it like a place of comfort. Hell, I could listen to this man read the contacts outta my phone or a grocery list or something.
Still, something about him reading my book to me was, well, something. He wasn’t trying to make fun of me or making me feel dumb for reading what I liked. He simply picked up my book and read to me and it was… sweet… soothing. I liked it.
I simply settled back in my seat, closed my eyes and listened. Within a few moments, I think I slept or he stopped. I was so comfortable in that state, just before drifting off, I didn’t notice that he’d stopped.
It was tranquil and relaxing, so of course, my brother had to ruin it like any doting sibling.
“Hey, what’re you two doing?” J.P.’s voice demanded and Collier jumped beside me.
“Ah, I just started reading and I think we both dozed off,” he said. He marked the page he left off on and gave me a wink that my brother couldn’t see, handing me my book and stiffly getting to his hands and knees to crawl backward off the bed.
“Weird, but whatever,” J.P. declared. I rolled my eyes and set my book aside.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” Collier said, and I nodded. He went out and into the living room.
“You crushing on him?” my brother demanded with a devilish grin. I pulled a pillow out from behind my back and threw it at his big dumb head. He caught it, laughing at me, and threw it back before walking out the door and going across into his room and shutting the door.
I sighed. Setting my book aside, I clicked off my bedside lamp to sleep.
Text Copyright © 2023 A.J. Downey
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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