Page 16

 R.J. Lewis

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Jaxon made sure to keep his eyes drawn away. Making eye contact had landed him in a fair amount of whacks. He was learning prison language well.
“You’ve been starting a lot of fights around here. Saw the last one with them swastika men over there, almost earned yourself a death sentence.”
From his observations, Jaxon had learned that the only way to capture someone’s attention was to lay down the law and not consent to anybody. He’d watched a man get picked up by a gang for starting fights, and the funny thing was he was a shit fighter. Jaxon, on the other hand, was not.
After seeing this, he partook in many one on one fights. If someone pushed him, he beat them to a pulp. If someone even looked at him, they were down on the ground, spitting blood from their mouths as he pounded into them. It was survival of the fittest in this sick cesspool of a place and he was going to be the damn fittest of them all.
His last fight had earned him a week in the “hole.” He riled a gang up, and while he’d managed to tackle a few men down, the entire gang had eventually pounced on him. And then, amid one very painful beat down, every gang exploded around him. Ten minutes later and the yard had descended into chaos.
Unfortunately, the guards had witnessed the whole thing, and being unable to bribe them with anything, he’d earned himself a week of isolation. But it didn’t fuss him so much. He knew this had bridged the gap somehow. He’d proven his balls were big, he just hoped he was approached quickly before that same gang put him in his grave.
“What are you in here for, kid?” Finley asked.
Jaxon, still looking away, said, “Some bullshit drug charges.”
It was important to be vague. He wouldn’t tell him he was innocent. He wouldn’t tell them a damn thing. He preferred to let them figure him out based on their own interpretation.
“I don’t like drugs,” Finley responded in distaste. “I’m a businessman. I wouldn’t work with that stuff with my own hands outside of here. Would you?”
“To be honest, I don’t give a fuck anymore what I do,” Jaxon answered, and that was strangely the truth.
The man smiled. “You play the tough act well, but you performed the way you did last week because you’re desperate.”
Jaxon couldn’t resist looking at him now, and he glowered.
“I admire what you did, though,” Finley continued, ignoring Jaxon’s defensiveness. “You’re a damn good fighter. Quick and soundless. I’ve seen the way you move. You’re experienced. I’m looking for someone like you. I got shit that needs to get done within these walls, and I need someone I can count on. I’ve got too many guys occupied and a position available. I may not like handling drugs, but that’s business in these walls that makes the most income. Since you’re Mr Druggie, I imagine that doesn’t bother you at all.”
Jaxon didn’t respond. He just waited for the proposition that he knew was coming. The man was going to make him into an errand boy. He knew the drill. If he did what he was told and did it well, he’d be welcomed in.
Then the question that stumped him came.
“Just how far are you willing to go for your protection?”
Jaxon didn’t know what he was capable of. All he wanted to do was live until he was free again. He was fucking empty on the inside. His heart had been cut clean out of his chest and the girl had taken off without a word; his friend had betrayed him and didn’t even serve jail time; a police officer of the law had planted evidence against him and he had no idea why… His life was fucked. He didn’t have a reason to live anymore.
Except for Lucinda. She had been there for him through thick and thin and never doubted his innocence for a second.
How far would he go for her?
The answer came out tasting bitter on his tongue. “As far as it takes.”            
He had moved on. It had been a hard image to swallow, but it happened; my worst fear had been realized. The shock was still there, migrating from one brain cell to the next, trying to work through what this meant.
If he could do it, so could I.
I spent the days that followed painstakingly making more of an effort to be there for Remy. I kissed him more and tried to feel every inch of his torso in the process. Surely the more I did it, the more my body would grow to wanting his.
I fought every day the guilt that always surfaced, but the image of that woman with Jaxon… It filled me with turmoil and the perseverance to try harder with Remy. He took it slow. Very, very slow.
When a few weeks passed, his hands explored me, roaming up and down my body, trailing his fingers in the valley between my breasts, over the slants of my collar bone, then back down the curves of my body and to my thighs. One night, I’d shook so hard my teeth chattered from the need. When this happened, he always pulled away and tucked me into his chest, murmuring sweet words into my ear.
I quickly caught on to what was happening. He wanted to build me up until I couldn’t take any more of it. Until I begged him to have all of me.
“Are you gonna let me in?” he’d ask frequently.
My silence was answer enough for him. I wasn’t going to let him in. No matter how heavy the need for him was, the apprehension still lingered on the surface, fighting against my body.
That didn’t knock him back. He pushed the boundaries that said, if I can’t have inside of you, I’ll take what I can. So he’d build me up and leave me aching for more until I needily kissed him, searching for satiation through our mouths and knowing it would never be enough.
Emotion ranging from good to bad burst through me, and all I wanted to do was cry in guilt at liking this and wanting more of it. My heart was taken. It was taken, taken… and yet he was creating something else within me, a separate heart that was reserved especially for him. I hated him. I loved him. Goddamn his patience, his protectiveness, his overall desperate attachment to me that I’d grown to depend on. Damn him. Damn him…
“You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” he’d say to me in the quiet of the night. Sometimes I didn’t even think he knew I was listening. “I just want you.”
And I… I wanted him, but not in the way he did. I may not have been using him sexually, but I wondered if I’d subconsciously been using him emotionally. He was desperate to have me, and I was desperate to fill the ache.
Melancholy churned my insides as I thought of the three men that had captured me in some way. Three very different men with very different purposes. One was love. The other lust. And the third… the third was need.
Most days I thought about the mole.
Day in, day out, I’d watch every Jackal go about their business. I couldn’t find a motive to any of them. Maybe Jaxon had blackmailed one of them to get that note to me and that was all there was to it.
Once again I remembered that day. The only person that had gotten anywhere near me was Remy and Darcy. Darcy could have slipped the note into my pocket with her hug, but how could she risk losing her relationship with her children and Barge?
No. It wasn’t Darcy.
“Do you trust everyone here?” I’d asked Remy one night.
“I did,” he answered honestly. “Not anymore.”
“What changed?”
He was hiding something from me. I read him well now and knew him more than he realized. “I trust them as far as my life is concerned, but I can’t say they’d consider my interests before their own.”
I didn’t even try to pretend I understood what he was saying, but I nodded anyway. Sometimes Remy liked to think more than he liked to talk. Right now something was unsettling him, something that he wasn’t ready to open up about. He’d talk to me when he was ready.
Everything had been going great. Aside from the mole, I was happy with the Jackals. Even Prez was nice to me...sometimes. Life was finally smoothening out and I was accepting it…
Until fate decided to be a bitch again when Darcy threw a birthday party for her son, Jake, and my life crumbled once more.
It was at an open park that backed the forest. I helped her set up the tables and birthday decorations, blowing up balloons ‘til my head felt like it would float away. His friends from school were there, running around and playing. Crowded with parents and families, most of the Jackals joined, too, and stuck out like sore thumbs in their patched vests. Prez was seated in a comfortable picnic chair with a beer in his hand. The beer itself was being distributed by… wait for it… none other than Fritz.
Remy was standing absurdly far back next to Logan. They didn’t like kids. Every time one approached them, they stiffened at the spine and waited for the kid to pass on by. I teased Remy relentlessly, sending kids his way just for the fun of it.
“Here you go, Sara,” said Broom, handing me a paper plate. “They’re going to cut the cake soon.”
“Thanks,” I smiled.
He nodded and stood beside me holding a handful of paper plates in his hands. The guy was super awkward. His confidence was low, his body uncomfortably still in his surroundings. I wondered why he wanted to be a Jackal, and whether this awkwardness was due to the fact he was a low level prospect trying to earn his stripes.
“How old are you, Broom?” I asked curiously.
“Eighteen,” he answered and looked at me questionably. “Why?”
“Why do you want to be a Jackal?”
“My brother was one.”
He nodded once. “Yeah, in another chapter. He died. Shot in the chest after a… business arrangement went bad.” Business arrangement was code for: illegal shit you are not allowed to know about.
I patted his back. “Sorry to hear that.”
He shrugged. “Yeah, well, shit happens. He was my only family, and the Jackals came to me and offered me a place. So I said sure. Figured I’d get treated like shit for a while, but I’ll be equal to them one day.” He motioned to Remy and Logan.
Right on cue, Remy whistled at him. “Come here, Broom!”
Like a puppy, Broom obeyed. He speedily walked to him with his shoulders slumped and his head down. Awkward kid. Then he stopped in front of Remy and nodded at whatever he was saying.
I sighed warily when I caught Fritz making his way to me, already stinking drunk. He held out an unopened bottle of beer. “Take it, Sara. Drink up.”
I rolled my eyes and shook my head. “Not going to be drinking at a kid’s birthday party, Fritz.”
“You haven’t been drinking in fucking ages,” he complained. “What kind of old lady does that?”
I didn’t reply. I hated being called an old lady, and Fritz did it all the time. It was as if he happily basked in the discomfort I felt.
“You happy bein’ Reaper’s old lady, Sara-bara?” Ugh, damn Logan for passing along that nickname. Everybody was using it on me now.
“Sure,” I answered tightly, looking over his shoulder.
“Do you even wanna be his old lady?”
I gave him a peculiar look. “What do you want, Fritz?”
“Just want an answer, Sara-bara.” Fritz looked at me, in his obnoxiously drunken state, seriously.
“Why don’t you go and harass some mother over there?”
“Because I don’t wanna.”
“Then I’ll let Remy know you’re bothering me.”
He chuckled. “You’re always hiding behind him. Remy’s been through a lot as it is. I hope you’re as serious with him as he is with you. None of us would like it if you aren’t, and we’d be really angry with you. You ever seen us angry, Sara-bara?”
I sighed. “Do me a favour, Fritz, and go drink somewhere else.”
His amusement faded. “I’m already neck deep in favours I owe, Sara-bara, and I don’t owe you shit.”
The solemnity in his face made me uncomfortable. I shrivelled away from him and continued to pretend to watch the kids play. He eventually stalked back, taking with him his alcoholic stench. The guy had some serious loose screws in that head of his.
Finally, after a long half hour, Darcy called everyone over. Jake was seated on a chair in front of a giant Iron Man cake. We crowded around him and sang Happy Birthday. When he blew the candles, we clapped and cheered. Darcy pointed to the mountain of presents and he grabbed the biggest he could find and tore it apart.
I watched, excited for Jake, with a smile on my face when I felt my shirt get tugged. I looked down at a dark haired little boy no older than six.
“I dropped something,” he said to me.
O…kay. “What did you drop?”
“My toy. Can you help me find it?”
“Um. Alright.”
He took my hand in his and steered me away from the crowd. I looked back and called for Remy. He was talking to Logan with a bored expression on his face and didn’t hear me amidst the noise as everyone centred their attention on the birthday boy.
“Did you come with your mom and dad?” I asked the little boy. He’d taken me a good distance away, until the voices were like whispers in the air. He could have asked the adult he came here with to get his damn toy, but on that damn note, how did his toy even get this far lost in the first place?
The boy, on a determined walk, didn’t respond to me. He gripped my hand tighter by the second as he led me into the start of the forest. I looked at him more closely. I hadn’t noticed him at the party before. Suddenly this felt all wrong.
He’s just a kid. He’s just a kid.
He stopped abruptly ten feet into the bush and let go of my hand. Then he looked up at me, pressing his lips down hard as if he was trying to keep his mouth shut.