Mouse: A Steel Paragons MC Novel (The Coast: Book 7), page 8
She’d been standoffish with Chry. I got it, she didn’t really know him, though this wasn’t the first day she’d hung out while I had him with me. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe she wasn’t a fan of kids. I didn’t have a clue because there had never been a reason to talk about things like that.
“Are you hungry?” I asked her knowing that there were plenty of leftovers in the fridge.
“No,” she said with a shake of her head.
“You want to go grab something after Ingram picks up Chry?”
I stopped and handed the spoon to Chry. I figured he could try and work on his applesauce by himself. He needed the practice anyway.
“Something up?” I asked as I gave her my attention.
“No. I just don’t feel like going out tonight. It’s kind of been a long day and the kid doesn’t stop.”
Oh, I knew that. While I felt a little worn out after my days with Chry, it was a good kind of exhausted. I couldn’t explain it but it was a wariness that I didn’t mind being left with at all.
Since I could tell she was in a mood, I decided not to voice any of that.
“I can go out and get something and we can just chill in my room. Maybe watch a movie,” I suggested hoping it would make her happy.
“Sure,” she said with a tight smile. “Sounds good.”
“Mouse?” Ingram’s voice called out from the front of the clubhouse.
“In the kitchen,” I called out knowing she was here to pick up Chry.
“Oh, hi, Amber,” Ingram greeted in a friendly tone.
“Hey,” Amber said back with a little nod of her head.
“I think he’s pretty much done,” I cut in with a little laugh because there was applesauce everywhere.
I quickly got him cleaned up and everything good to go. As always, I took him out and got him settled into his car seat.
“Still liking the job?” I asked Ingram as she stood there next to the car. I knew she trusted me but she still waited until I was done to see for herself that he was buckled in right. There was something in that simple thing that made me smile.
“Yes. It’s fairly simple, so that is good for me.” She opened her door and flashed me a smile. “Have a good night, Mouse.”
“You too,” I said and waited until she was behind the wheel to shut the door.
She drove off and a minute later I turned to go back inside to find Amber. Only as I turned around, she was standing there in front of the door watching me with a look on her face that I couldn’t decipher.
Without a word, she walked away and up the stairs in the direction of my room. I followed behind her.
The air felt strange as I shut the door to my room behind us.
“Um,” Amber said as she flopped down onto my bed. “So, I’m just going to say this.”
She paused and I stared at her waiting for whatever the hell she had to say.
“You’ve got some weird thing going on with that kid,” she said and I couldn’t read anything in her tone.
“Chry?” I asked. I had no fucking clue what the hell she was trying to say.
“Yeah. And there is something up with you and Ingram, too.”
“No,” I said with a little shake of my head. “Ingram is Ky’s sister and we take care of each other around here. I figured you got that by now.”
“No, Mouse, this is more than that.”
I let out a long sigh. I was tired and was ready to sit down and relax. But she needed to talk so I was going to listen.
“Whatever, it doesn’t matter.” She let out a little huff before she spoke again. “Look, I like you and this has been fun,” she said and then forced a small smile.
“I like you too. And yeah, but I’m not seeing a point here.”
I was super confused at what she was trying to get at.
“Mouse,” she said pointedly. “I am not looking to settle down. I’m certainly not wanting to share my time with you. I mean, I get that the club comes first, so I’m not even trying to throw that in there. But I feel like half the time we’re together lately, that kid is here with you. I get the feeling that isn’t going to change. Do you get what I’m saying?”
“Well, I’m not going to tell Ingram that I can’t watch him. I’d rather have him here with people he knows than at some strange daycare where we don’t know what the hell goes on.”
“I get that. I do. But…”
“But what, Amber?” I tried really hard to hold back the sigh that was pressing against my lungs.
“Do you not see it? Ingram comes into your life, or back into your life or whatever, and you just jump in and start playing dad to her son.”
I looked at her like I didn’t know who she was. I couldn’t believe she was giving me shit about this. And I hadn’t jumped in and did the dad thing.
Only now that I thought about it, I might have seen how I did.
I knew all the shit that Ingram had gone through.
I was there when Chry took his first breath.
It may have left this connection between us that I hadn’t really realized was there.
I felt a choice coming soon. Like now.
And it told me a lot that I knew instantly what I would choose.
“Mouse, I don’t want to feel like a third wheel or almost step-mom or whatever in this thing we have going.”
“First of all, it’s a relationship,” I deadpanned. “And if you can’t even call it that, well, that tells me a lot. And second, I never asked anything of you when it came to Chry.”
“I know. And it’s just that… ugh, this isn’t fun anymore.”
“Yeah. No, I get it,” I said throwing my hands up in the air. “I mean I was just in it for the fun too. I didn’t spend over a year trying to make something of what we have here and thinking that I had a partner in this.”
“I told you not to expect anything. You can’t put this on me.”
“You’re right,” I said and my head shook because I shouldn’t have expected anything else to come out of her mouth. Hope was a stupid thing sometimes.
“You haven’t even touched me in like three months. Do you remember the last time we fucked?” she asked me pointedly. I couldn’t remember. I knew we had, but I felt like it had been a while. “Well, let me refresh your memory. It was nearly three months ago. I found you downstairs drunk off your ass. I knew it wasn’t about me and I had a feeling you might not even remember it. Guess I was right.”
I stood there for a moment just looking at her. That night was hazy, but I seemed to remember her being there for me and my fucked up head. She knew something was off and she didn’t even ask questions.
“It was right before she came back,” Amber went on when I didn’t say anything. “Right before her welcome back home party or whatever. The one you didn’t even tell me about. The one I heard everyone talking about for the girl that I didn’t even know existed.”
“That has nothing to do with us,” I threw out there like it was some kind of verbal slap. But even as I said it I didn’t feel like it was true and by the narrowed eyes she was shooting my way, she wasn’t buying it either.
“Then why didn’t you invite me to it? Better yet, how come you didn’t even tell me about it— or her? Why did you call it club business?”
“Ingram and Chry are family. She’s—”
“Ky’s baby sister, yeah, I get it. Go ahead and lie to yourself but I’m kinda done with all this.”
Her tone was flat but not angry. It was like she had already accepted what was going to happen tonight. Or… she didn’t really care all that much. Deep down, I think I truly knew the answer but it hurt a little bit to admit it.
“So this is nothing. We aren’t a fucking thing?” I turned away from her with my words.
“Mouse,” she said like she couldn’t believe that I’d just said that. But it was the truth and I knew it when nothing followed my name.
I was a little pissed.
I couldn’t even turn and look at her.
“You know I can’t do the heavy,” she said softly.
I did. So maybe this was really all on me.
As the door closed with a soft clink, I knew she wouldn’t be back. At least not for me.
I flopped down on my bed wondering if I’d just messed up something good.
Should I have gone after her?
Should I maybe have fought harder for her?
But I was only fun so what was there really to fight for.
Had things changed for me? I mean, I didn’t mind what we had, or at least I hadn’t for a long time. It was close enough to a relationship that I felt content in not having the label. I hadn’t been out there looking for other women and I knew she’d stayed faithful to whatever it was that we had going on. A year was a long time to spend with someone. It was only natural that in my mind I’d come to think of it as something more. Something heavier than what she wanted.
I was such a damn idiot.
And instead of getting off my ass and chasing after Amber to try and talk to her, I got up and walked across the room to my dresser.
There was something going on with me. I knew it but didn’t want to acknowledge it. Amber knew it and didn’t want to deal with it. I wondered if anyone else was clued in too.
As my eyes scanned over the words Ingram had written to me, my mind drifted back to the time that I’d first read each of them. I thought back to the thoughts and feelings I’d had when I originally took the letters in. I had fought it so hard but the truth was right there in the words I’d sent back to her. In the times I’d reached out to her. I remembered each letter, each word I’d put down on paper for her, and I knew I’d forced myself to look the other way this entire time. My feelings had been there for a long while now.
When the hell had they changed though?
Truth was, the moment she walked into the clubhouse looking scared as all get out, I was struck with something. But I think that then it had been this sense to care for her. To look out for her. To make sure that nothing happened to the fragile, lost girl in front of me.
I looked down at the letter that was starting to crumble under my fisting hand. It fell from my grasp as I immediately released the tension in my hand. For some reason, I didn’t want to destroy any of the letters, not even a little bit.
What a fucking mess of a night it had turned out to be. But maybe it wasn’t all for nothing. Amber’s words might have cut a little but there had been truth there, even if I had been trying my damnedest to push it away and ignore it.
Not that I could do anything about it.
Ingram was Ky’s little sister.
And I couldn’t go there no matter what.
Amber had been gone from my life for over a month now.
She hadn’t tried to contact me and I didn’t bother to reach out to her.
It was shitty, I realized that. This wasn’t me. But at the same time, I had to let her go. She didn’t see me as the guy she could make a future with. She only saw me as someone that was passing the time. I wanted to be mad at her for those comments she’d said, but I couldn’t. I was torn between not even caring and trying to over analyze all the ways it went wrong.
I’d fucked up.
Amber had been here with me more than not and I’d somehow gotten it mixed up in my fucked up brain that we were a thing.
A sigh escaped my lips as I turned over onto my back in the bed. The room was dark and for once, there were no fading sounds of my brothers partying into the hours of dawn down below.
When I realized I wasn’t going to get any sleep, I rolled out of bed and got dressed.
For hours, I rode around town, weaving my way through the city at a normal speed. This usually helped me but tonight it did nothing to calm the demons in my head. It did nothing to quiet the thoughts pulling me out of my haze and in a direction I couldn’t go.
I didn’t mind watching Chry. In fact, I loved the hell out of the time I got with the little guy. But I tried my hardest to keep some distance between myself and Ingram. I’d ask her how her day was. I’d listen to what she had to say. Then I’d take Chry to the car. And after I got him buckled in, I’d nicely tell her bye. I didn’t linger. I didn’t go out of my way to touch her. I set boundaries for myself and I stuck to them.
Not that it helped any. My feelings were only growing stronger with each smile she gave me and soon, I knew that shit was going to blow up in my face.
I did my best to keep busy in an attempt to avoid all the stupid shit in my head.
One day, I’d figure it all out. I’d find a way to get over what I might wish I could have. But until then, I had a plan. Keep moving.
I had a feeling that would only work for so long.
A few nights later, I found myself at the clubhouse bar. I was tired of being an asshole and hiding myself away. I sat there and drank with my brothers like the world was right. I talked. I listened. I laughed like everything was normal. It should have been. I had no clue why it wasn’t.
“Yo,” Sketch said as he walked through the front door and pinned me with a hard stare.
I straightened immediately, the grip on my glass loosening.
His eyes moved to a few of the other brothers and I breathed a strange sigh of relief.
“Some fine fuckin’ bitches up at the bar,” he said with a shrug. “You’re missin’ out.”
I looked back down at my glass, tossed back its contents, then nodded to the prospect to fill me up again.
“Mouse,” Sketch said as he slung his oddly heavy arm over my shoulder. Was I that far gone? “Dude, I got this bitch up there wantin’ two brothers to take her. She said she’d do anything.”
His eyes lighted up with excitement.
I shook my head as a chuckle forced its way out of my throat because I really expected nothing less from him.
I’d never participated in one of his infamous threesomes, but I’d heard about him.
Even as I downed what felt like my millionth shot, I had no desire to help him out.
“Try Fire Beard,” I said referring to the newly patched in brother that I had a good feeling didn’t mind seeing dick while fucking.
“Nah,” Sketch said with a quick shake of his head. “Need a man that won’t look at my shit. Not judging, just particular.”
I looked at him with narrowed eyes. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was so drunk I couldn’t focus or because I was trying to understand.
I knew very little about Sketch. I had a good idea about his past, but I didn’t have the first clue how living on the streets had affected him. It didn’t really matter, he’d die for me same as I’d do for him.
“Fuck, you’re useless,” he said and then he was moving on.
Which was good because I had no desire to help him out.
While I may have known the reason deep down, I wasn’t ready to admit it.
Amber’s words rang out in my head. I hadn’t touched her in nearly three months before she ended things. She was dead right, I hadn’t touched her since Ingram had been back.
I hadn’t realized it until she’d said that.
That one thing had fucked with me in the deepest kind of way.
Her coming back had been something I kept in the back of my mind but I never really thought of her return.
I needed another drink because I didn’t want to deal with all of this shit. I knew alcohol wasn’t the answer, but it was the only thing that made sense right now.
Sometime later, when the room was on the verge of spinning, I slid off my stool and made my way outside. Bed, that was the plan, and the fresh air on the way to my room wouldn’t be all that bad either.
“Malcolm,” her soft voice said from the edge of my dark mind right before I lifted my foot to climb the
I froze and looked around. The night was dark, the moon barely casting any kind of light.
I was sure that it was my imagination playing tricks on me.
But then I swore I saw her small frame step out from the darkness of the back of the stairs. I shook my head because there was no way she was really there.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, sure that I was talking to my mind.
As her figure stepped closer to me, I closed my eyes and imagined that it was all real.
A hand— her hand— ghosted over my face and I tilted my head into the embrace.
“My Malcolm,” her voice practically whispered into my ear.
I was so fucked.
I wanted Ingram.
This was the first moment I let myself give up the fight. I let the feelings in and the realization hit me like a sledgehammer to the heart.
Something had changed through those letters.
Something had tugged at my soul and my heart, even now as I stood here in the dark of night.
I felt for Ingram.
I had missed her.
More than a friend should have.
I was convinced it wasn’t right.
Ingram was so…
I couldn’t touch her, I’d only taint her.
She deserved so much more than a man like me.
“Malcolm,” her voice whispered to my soul.