Valiant: Joker's Wrath MC, page 9
“What happened to you to make your eyes so sad?”
I flinch, and I know he notices.
“Nothing,” I say quickly.
Part of me, a big part, wants to tell Jack everything about York, but my safety is on the line, and so is Rae’s. I can’t tell him that. I can’t tell anyone. As far as anyone is concerned, Maddie is dead and buried. At least, that’s what I want them to think. If York ever found me ... I shudder at the thought. I’m not so sure I could get away a second time.
“Something happened,” he says carefully. “You know you can trust me.”
I can’t, though.
I can’t trust anyone.
“Look, it’s not that I don’t trust you, but some things I just don’t talk about.”
That seems like a valid explanation.
“Yeah, I understand that, I won’t push. Just know I’m always here if you ever need me.”
I look to him. “Why me, Jack?”
“What do you mean?”
“What is it about me that makes you try so hard? I know you’re doing things you don’t usually do. I can tell by the way your family is with me. So, why me?”
He studies my face for a moment before saying in a low, husky voice. “You’re the first real girl I’ve ever met. Sure, I won’t lie, at first you were a challenge because you wouldn’t give in to me, but then I realised it wasn’t because you were playing some game, or trying to make me chase you, but that you were actually real and had some respect. That drew me to you, in a big way. I’ve never met a girl, outside of my family, that’s so incredibly real.”
My heart aches, but in the most incredible way. It’s an ache that starts deep in my chest and radiates out. It’s something I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before, and maybe that’s because Jack is real, too. I’ve met a lot of men, but Jack radiates something genuine, and strong, and incredibly trustworthy.
Can I trust him?
“Thank you,” I say softly. It’s the only thing that I can think of to say.
“It’s the truth. Don’t change, Baylee. Girls like you are hard to find.”
I think he’s wrong about that.
He doesn’t know the whole story, maybe if he did he wouldn’t think that.
“Have you had many girlfriends?” I ask him, changing the subject.
“Nah, I’ve slept around a bit, but I’ve never met anyone I’ve really clicked with. What about you?”
My blood goes cold, and I know I have to answer. If I say none, he’ll think there is something wrong with me for sure. I can’t use the old “I just slept around” excuse like he just did, because it’ll make me seem ... slutty. So, I’m going to have to just play it down, for now.
“I had a couple of relationships. They didn’t work out.”
Seems like a fairly common answer.
“Did you love any of them?”
I swallow the lump forming in my throat. “One,” I admit. “But I’m over it now.”
I might not love York, but the damage he did, I feel like it’ll live with me forever.
“I think that’s part of the reason I don’t get into relationships,” he says, his voice husky. “I don’t think I could handle the heartbreak that comes if it didn’t work out and you were in love.”
“Heartbreak sucks,” I admit with a nod. “But I think it also helps define you. Life isn’t always meant to be easy. It’s the hard times that shape our character the most, I think.”
“I think you might be right.”
“Yo! Where’s the party at!” Quinn calls, and there is a thump on the roof.
“Dude, they might be making babies.” Phoenix chuckles.
“God, you two are so gross,” Molly mutters. “Seriously.”
“Well, the kid has a point,” Roman adds. “They might be doing the horizontal—”
“Roman!” Molly scoffs.
I giggle, and Jack chuckles.
“Guess our quiet time is over.”
I smile up at the stars and whisper, “I don’t mind.”
And I don’t.
I really don’t.
THEN – MADDIE
“Rae, stop,” I say, holding a hand out in front of me. “Seriously, just stop.”
She laughs wildly, throwing her head back. “You’re so dramatic, Mad. I’m just mucking around.”
She swings the knife in her hand around, as if it’s nothing more than a stuffed toy.
“You could hurt yourself, put it down.”
She waves the knife in my face, then laughs hysterically again. “With this old thing? I don’t think so. I’m making dinner. You should try it.”
I stare at the horrible mess on the counter.
No. The girl is making a freaking big mess, that’s what she’s making. I know she won’t eat it, either. No, she’ll cook it and waste it. She’s fading away to a shadow. I know she’s using. I know it. York denies it. She denies it. But I’m not stupid. Every time I raise the subject, though, she goes off on me. York just dismisses it, saying he’d know if she was using.
But how would he know, when he’s just as bad?
“Well, I’ll finish it for you. Give me the knife.”
She swings the knife in my direction, chirping an, “Okay.”
I reach out automatically and grab it without thinking, curling my hand around the blade. Pain shoots through my palm and I cry out, dropping the knife to the ground with a clang. Rae starts laughing harder as she stares at my hand. Blood pools and then starts flowing down my wrist and arm. I can feel right away it’s a bad cut.
“That was so funny!” Rae giggles.
I want to beat her.
“Get me a towel, Rae,” I snap.
She just keeps laughing, head thrown back. “Nah, I’m going out. Good luck with that.”
She turns and practically skips out the front door. I stare down at my hand, which is now covered in blood. I reach for a dish towel and wrap it around, wincing in pain.
I turn to see York coming through the front door, looking drawn out and tired.
“Ask your damned sister what happened. She’s using, York. I wish you’d see it. I’m so tired of running around after the both of you. You’re like fucking children. Dammit.”
And just tired.
“I beg your pardon?” York says, his voice an icy whip. “What did you just say to me?”
I snap my mouth closed instantly. York storms towards me, and before I know it, his hand is curled around my shoulder and he’s slamming my back against the counter, towering over me. “I said,” he barks, “what the fuck did you just say to me?”
“I’m sorry,” I squeak. “I was just angry. I cut my hand because Rae was swinging around a knife. I’m just worried about her, and you, and I feel like no one is listening to me.”
He shakes me a little, hissing through his teeth, “We’re not children. She isn’t your problem. You’re the only one complaining around here, Maddie. No one else.”
“I know you’re doing drugs, and I just want to help you. I just want my man back. I just—”
It comes hard and fast, straight across my cheek.
My head swings to the side, and my mouth drops open.
“You watch yourself. Don’t you ever accuse me of anything again.”
His voice is terrifying.
He’s so close. So big. So scary. I used to be the girl who wondered why people stayed in abusive relationships, why they put up with it, but with him leaning over me, terrifying me the way he is, I suddenly understand it. The fear. The horrible, chest-clenching fear.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper. “I didn’t mean it.”
“I’m getting tired of your attitude. Stay out of my fucking business, and leave my sister alon
He steps back, glares at the blood all over the ground, and barks, “Clean this shit up.”
Then he turns and storms down the hallway.
A tear rolls down my cheek, and with a muffled sob, I drop to my hands and knees, ignoring the pain in my palm, and I start cleaning the floor.
What the hell am I becoming?
“I’m sorry, baby.”
A warm hand caresses down my back, and my eyelids flutter open. It takes me a moment to realise it’s York. The sun is shining down over me, and I wonder what time it is? Midday, maybe. I didn’t get to sleep until sometime in the morning. I was exhausted after cleaning the kitchen, Rae’s mess, and then my hand, which, probably needed stitches.
“York?” I croak sleepily.
“I’m sorry I hit you. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Please forgive me.”
I turn my head to the side and stare at him. He’s looking down at me, and the expression on his face seems genuine. His eyes are light. His face is not angry. I know, deep down in my belly, that it’s the drugs. He probably had a hit while I was sleeping and feels good again. This is what happens. He is good when he’s high and then angry and aggressive when he’s coming down.
“You said that last time,” I dare to say, worried about his reaction.
“I know, but I just lost my temper. I didn’t mean it. I swear it won’t happen again. I love you. I love you, baby.”
My heart thumps, but I’m not so sure it’s in a good way anymore.
“You hurt me.”
“I know.” He strokes my hair, and it feels so nice. So nice. “I know, and I’m sorry. Believe me, I’m so sorry.”
“I can’t keep living like this, York. You have to change. I’ll forgive you, but if it happens again ...”
“I know,” he murmurs, kissing my shoulder. “You’ll leave, and you’ll have every right to. It won’t happen again. I won’t lose you. You’re mine. I can’t live without you. You know I love you, don’t you, baby?”
“I love you, too,” I say, but even I don’t believe my voice anymore.
Let alone my heart.
“How is your hand? Show me. Let me clean it up for you.”
He rolls and comes up with a first-aid kit. He’s going to clean it up? It’s been so long since he’s helped me in any way. I let him take my hand and unravel the bandage, which is soaked in blood. He glances down at the cut, and his face goes blank. “This is deep, Maddie. You should have gone to the hospital.”
What, before or after he hit me and then demanded I clean up?
My body goes stiff.
“Sorry,” he says, studying my face. “This is all my fault. Let me clean it up.”
He gets out some wipes and starts cleaning around the wound. It hurts, but it feels so nice to have his hands on me, it feels so nice to feel wanted, even for a little while. I stare at him as he cleans and rebandages my hand then clears all the mess up.
“I’m taking you to lunch, I wanted to let you sleep in. I cleaned the house. Come with me?”
His eyes are pleading.
Maybe he really does want to change.
People come out of this kind of thing all the time, right?
“Okay.” I smile, it’s weak, but it’s a smile.
His face brightens.
“Have a shower, don’t get that hand wet. I’ll meet you out in the kitchen when you’re done. I’ll have a coffee ready.”
He leans over and places a soft kiss against my lips, then he turns and disappears out of the room.
Could this be too good to be true?
Or is he really changing?
My phone rings, waking me from my sleep. It’s late, really late, possibly even early morning. It’s the first time I’ve managed to get any sleep for the last two weeks, and of course someone decides to call and ruin that. I roll to my side and reach over, lifting my phone into my hand and glancing at the screen. Private caller. Odd. Maybe something has happened with someone at work?
I decide to answer it.
“Hello?” I croak, sleepily.
There is music in the background, but nobody speaks.
“Hello?” I say again, trying to make my voice clearer. Maybe they didn’t hear me.
Still, nobody says anything.
“Is anyone there?”
The line goes dead. Strange. I place the phone back on the bedside table and roll to my back. It’s just past two in the morning. Yawning, I get up. I need some water and possibly some pain killers. My feet have been aching from all the work I’m doing. I slip out of my room and walk down the hall, stepping into the lounge room. The sight before me has my blood running cold.
Rae is sitting on the couch, something is strapped around her arm, and she’s injecting a needle into her skin.
For a moment, I feel like I can’t breathe. I knew she was using again, I knew it, but I just didn’t want to believe it.
“Rae?” I croak, my voice shaky.
She jerks and the needle goes flying from her hand. “Fuck. Baylee. What the hell is wrong with you?”
My voice is broken—sad, mostly disappointed.
Rae turns and glares at me. “Don’t tell me how to live my life. I’m doing the best I can.”
“You have a baby growing inside your belly. You’re doing drugs again. How ... how could you?”
My voice raises with every word.
“It’s not as easy as you think, to just stop. Not everyone is miss fucking perfect like you!”
“You have a baby!” I scream, shocking even myself.
Rae flinches, and then stands up, her hands are shaking. I ruined her fix, and I know it. She leans down, lifts the needle, and shoves it in her purse. “I don’t have to put up with this.”
“You can’t do this, Rae. You were clean. You were getting better. Do you care at all about the fact that you’re pregnant?”
“I never wanted this fucking baby!” she screams. “You made me keep it.”
“I didn’t make you do anything,” I yell back, fists clenched. “I protected you against him.”
“I was enjoying myself, you were the only one scared of him.”
I reel backwards. “I beg your pardon? You were terrified of him. He got you hooked on drugs, and he ...”
“He bashed us. Yeah. I remember. But you were the one that dragged me away, made me live here, made me have this stupid fucking baby. If you had just left me be, I might have fixed myself. Now I’m miserable, and lonely, and this is the only thing that makes me feel better.”
“It doesn’t make you feel better,” I protest. “It’s a damned lie, Rae, and you know it. You have a human life growing inside you. You’re being so incredibly selfish.”
She glares at me. “I fucking hate you. You ruined my life. If you care so much about this stupid baby, maybe you should have had one of your own...oh wait, you can’t.”
She hit me where it hurts, and she damn well knows it.
“Get out of my house,” I whisper-yell.
“Gladly, I’m sick of being here with you anyway.”
She turns and storms out the door, slamming it angrily behind her.
I slide down the wall, tucking my knees up to my chest.
Then I sob until I can’t breathe.
How much is one person honestly meant to deal with?
“What do I do, Shan?” I sigh, rubbing my temples.
Shania stares at me, legs crossed, sitting on my bed. “You can’t fix her forever, hon. I know she’s pregnant and you want to help, but she’s also old enough to fight you on that. What are you going to do? Tie her down and force her to stop? You can’t, and you know you can’t.”
“She’ll damage that baby.”
“Again, what can you do about it? Unless you can convince her to try and st
“Maybe I can find out who is sourcing her drugs?”
Shania frowns. “Be careful doing that, you could get into some messy stuff.”
“Jack might be able to help ...”
“Again, be careful. The drug world is messy, honey. You know it. Do you really want to step back into that?”
“She’s only a teenager, Shania. If I sit back and let this happen, it makes me no better than him.”
“He’s the damned reason she’s like this. Don’t you ever let me hear you compare yourself to him again.”
I drop my head in my hands. “I don’t know what to do.”
“I honestly don’t know either. Maybe you can go to a clinic, or a rehab centre, or one of those women’s shelters and talk to someone. See if they have any advice?”
I nod. “Yeah, I might do that.”
“Don’t let this run you into the ground; you’re working yourself to death as it is.”
She’s right. I know she’s right. So, why the hell can’t I stop?
Why am I constantly running after this girl, who clearly doesn’t care about me?
Because I refuse to be a horrible person. I refuse to be him. I need to be able to say I tried.
“What time do you start work today?”
I look up. “In about half an hour. Jack asked me to go away with him and his friends for the weekend. They go and rent out sail boats and go sailing.”
Shania’s eyes lighten. “Go. Seriously. Go or I’ll make you.”
“But Rae ...”
“I’ll come and stay here, if it means you’ll go. Honestly, I can handle the little shit for a few days.”
“I would never ask you to do that.”
Shania rolls her eyes. “Seriously, she won’t know what hit her with me around. She won’t give me lip for long.”
I can’t help it, I laugh. Shania is a pocket rocket, that’s for sure.
“Even so, I can’t go away and leave you with a drug-addicted pregnant woman.”
“Yes, you can. I’ll bring boyfriend over, and he’ll make sure nothing happens. Seriously, Baylee. Please go. I want you to start living your life again, even if I have to make you.”
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