Defiant Dodge by Naomi Porter
Life went on, day in and day out, like I hadn’t had my heart ripped from my chest after my girl was taken from me. I couldn’t draw in a single breath without my lungs burning. Sleep was pointless. All I did was dream about them: Emilee and my son.
I’d been going through the motions of living without them, filled with anger, sadness, and hate. I hated everyone in this goddamn club, the town, in the world… even my uncle Raul, who’d taken me in all those years ago. I hated him for keeping me on a short leash, and I hated my cousin Track for babysitting me. It was like they couldn’t trust me. Hypocrites, they were, after everything that had happened in the last year. Hell, in my whole life.
Then there was my president, who’d ordered me to stay away from Emilee or he’d lock my ass up in the quiet room, where unstable brothers went until they calmed down. There hadn’t been anyone to go there since I’d been a member of Knight’s Legion. Storm might as well have threatened the dungeon. I felt like the enemy, like I was tortured daily by my so-called brothers.
Why not just get it over with and kill me like the evil bastards we never let see the light of day again?
This was supposed to be my club. My crew. My brothers.
As a member of the Knight’s Legion MC, we lived by a code. We respected and obeyed our president and each other. And I had, even though it fucking killed me.
Bitterness flooded my veins as I took in the festivities around me. A couple of bonfires blazed off to the side behind the clubhouse. It was the middle of July. It was the first summer party we’d had this season.
Many of the brothers had gone to Vegas for Boxer and Snow’s wedding on a private plane Prez had chartered a few weeks ago.
Not me. I had stayed behind with my babysitter, Track. I’d been in a bad way since I’d found out my son was born at the end of April. Then Madeline had had her baby a month later. I’d dreaded the day Storm brought home his bundle of joy.
Sure enough, I’d gone off the rails the first time I saw Prez cooing at his baby girl, holding her protectively in his arms. I’d drunk myself into the toilet that night, then spent my days away from the clubhouse as much as possible to avoid the happy family.
With each passing day, my respect for Storm and the club as a whole dwindled. They didn’t have my back as I had theirs. They should’ve been outraged over Justin taking Emilee and my child away from me.
What the fuck were they thinking?
Justin had turned in his cut. He’d bolted after the shit with the Dirty Hunters, turning his back on the club. I honestly understood his over-the-top response. He could’ve lost his only daughter. Emilee was all he had left after his wife had lost her battle with breast cancer.
It’d killed me when he took my girl away, but I’d listened to Storm and my uncle. Trusted them when they said Justin would eventually come to his senses. Eleven months later, nothing had changed.
Justin wasn’t a KLMC member anymore. But did it matter? Fuck no.
Almost a year later, I questioned why I was doing as I was told. Why I’d let a man take my pregnant girlfriend away from me. Why I’d let my so-called “family” tell me what to do regarding my girl and son.
Why, why, why?
I swept my tired eyes around the backyard. We were celebrating Copper getting patched, Ire’s promotion to enforcer, and Storm and Maddy’s baby girl, Melody—or rather Birdie as Storm called her.
I searched for the baby in the crowd and found her in her daddy’s arms. She was always in his arms when I was around. It was probably a coincidence, though it felt like a slap in the face. Storm had been the happiest I’d ever seen him after Birdie’s birth. When she was in his arms, he looked at peace.
However, calmness didn’t mean he wouldn’t tear a person to shreds if they dared to harm his wife or child or his brothers and club. Prez would release his inner savage and destroy anyone and everything in his path like a category five hurricane. His protectiveness was something I’d admired. There was a time I’d wanted to be like him. Not anymore.
I viewed the scene before me with a beer in hand, biting down on my back molars. This party was more like a gathering, a large family get-together. It all left a sour taste in my mouth.
Twinkling lights illuminated the gazebo, where I was sure Prez’s Angel would grace us with her phenomenal voice. Karaoke became a thing here at the clubhouse on weekends and at parties. Some kittens even participated, shaking their asses in their bootie shorts. Prez had forbidden them to dress in bikinis when his baby girl was present. I’d overheard him telling Hero that the party could get raunchy like our previous orgies after the kids left—kids meaning Prez’s baby, of course, and my little cousins Raymond and Valerie.
The kids ran around wild, blowing bubbles and jumping on a bounce house. Since I arrived five years ago, there hadn’t ever been an inflatable toy that wasn’t a woman my brothers had dicked around with. A bounce house was a sure sign the club was changing.
I dropped my chin to my chest. It hurt to see Storm kiss Birdie’s head, rubbing his hand up and down her back. I had no idea what it was like to hold such a tiny person against my chest or cradled in my arms.
Fuck, my heart ached.
I didn’t even know what my son looked like. The day he was born, Raul had come to me late in the evening. He’d put his hand on my shoulder, squeezed it firmly, and said, “Emilee had the baby this morning. Congratulations, you have a healthy son.” He didn’t tell me anything else.
I hadn’t heard any other information about my child since his birth. I had no idea what Emilee had named him. We’d never got the chance to talk about names.
Life went on no matter how much I suffered. The world was a heartless place, my MC family included.
“You doing all right?” Track took a seat beside me on the bench. I’d found a spot tucked off to the side, away from all the action, so people would leave me the hell alone.
Of course, Track didn’t give a shit. He constantly invaded my space, doing his daily duty of checking up on me, as if the asshole didn’t know my mental and emotional state.
“Stop fucking asking me that,” I bit back, glowering at him for a long second. “Just leave me the fuck alone.”
“Hey, I’m not the enemy here.”
“The fuck you aren’t. All of you are my goddamn enemies.” I guzzled my beer. “I’m tired as fuck listening to you. Not one of you understands what I’m going through.”
“You’re wrong, cuz. I get it.”
“Cuz?” I spat the word at the grass. “We ain’t family no more. You and me”—I pointed between us—“we’re nothing to each other.”
He shook his head. “Jesus Christ, Danny. Don’t say that. I know—”
“You don’t know shit!” I launched off the picnic table, threw my beer bottle against the clubhouse wall, not giving a fuck if I disrupted the celebration, and stomped away.
“Dodge!” Track’s heavy steps followed me. “Calm the fuck down. You don’t want to give Storm a reason to punish you.”
“Fuck Storm! Fuck all you motherfucking brothers,” I hissed, barreling through the gate so I could get on my bike and head to Fargo. I’d search high and low for Emilee and my son. I would never give up until I found them.
I was so done being patient. Done waiting for that asshole Justin to have mercy on me. Finished being a little bitch, listening to everyone around me.
Suddenly I was hit from behind and tackled to the ground.
“Get the fuck off me,” I growled, trying to get up.
“Going somewhere, Dodge?” Fucking Ire pushed the side of my face into the dirt with his elbow, his massive body pinning me down as he would an opponent in an MMA fight. The prick put all his strength into keeping me down.
“Yeah, to get my woman and son. Now get the fuck off!”
“Can’t do that. Prez’s orders.” He eased his elbow off my head, but not enough for me to turn and punch him in his ugly face.
Rage burst through every one of my veins. “You lousy piece of shit! As if you would’ve stayed away. As if any of you motherfuckers would’ve stayed away. I was just the stupid bitch who obeyed. I never should’ve listened to any of you heartless fuckers.”
“Enough!” Storm’s voice boomed like thunder. “Get him up.”
Ire and Track, gripping my biceps with anaconda strength, pulled me to my feet.
Storm stepped forward. Birdie wasn’t in his arms anymore. Too bad for me. There was nothing to keep him calm. “It seems you need some time alone to get your head fuckin’ straight.”
“All I’ve had is time alone, asshole!”
Storm’s fist connected with my jaw, knocking my head back. “Show your president the respect he deserves.”
I lifted my head, seething venom. “I would if he actually deserved my respect.” I spat on his boot. It earned me a punch in the gut. I held firm, not letting myself barf like a weak man, even though I felt like one.
“Dodge, dial it back, cuz. You don’t want to do this,” Track muttered in my ear.
Storm heaved, flexing his hand, his stormy-gray eyes locked on mine. Why in the hell did I ever want to be like him? Why had I been proud to be part of the Knight’s Legion MC?
I panted through the pain, leveling my gaze at Storm. “Did it ever occur to any of you that Justin is in the wrong here? Did you ever think that I was the injured party? You want me to have your backs, take a bullet for you. Well, not one of you has done that for me!”
“Shut the fuck up,” Track hissed. “You don’t want to do this.”
I struggled to break free. To hell with being silent. “Nobody has had my back, not my blood family and not my club family. All you do is hurt me. Make me feel like a piece of shit on the bottom of your goddamn boots. Well, I’m done.”
Storm sighed, his jaw tight. “You have it wrong, Dodge.”
I shook my head, not wanting to hear his bullshit. “No, Prez. You have it wrong. I’m done. Take my fucking cut. Strip me of my colors. Just fucking put me out of my misery.”
“Christ,” Track muttered.
“I want no part of this club. I hate you all.” Traitorous tears escaped my eyes. “Just put a bullet in my head so I can be done.”
I meant it. Death was kinder than living without Emilee and my son.
Track loosened his grip on my arm. “He’s right. If Justin had stuck around, it would be different. But he turned in his cut and left.”
Storm considered my cousin’s words, his narrowed eyes boring into mine. Prez had always been a fair and just man, like Uncle Raul. It was why I’d listened to their orders after Justin took Emilee from me. It was why I’d trusted them all these months that Justin would come around.
A soft whimper and sniffling made us all turn to the side. Tears streamed down Madeline’s face as she clutched Birdie to her chest. I hadn’t seen her look this sad in a very long time.
“Angel, take Birdie back to the party,” Storm told her in a low, commanding tone.
She ignored him as she stepped toward me.
“Angel.” He reached for her.
Madeline stopped, shooting him a warning look. Anger rolled off her in massive waves. “Storm, don’t touch me. This might be your club, but this is my home and family. I’m your queen, so you’ll mind yourself.”
Storm stared dumbfounded at his wife.
Madeline hadn’t interfered all these months. There’d been rumors about them having words about Emilee and the baby. None of it had been confirmed, but I was sure Madeline didn’t like how the club supported Justin and not me. Still, she was loyal to Storm. But if she’d had enough, maybe he’d listen and help me.
She stepped in front of me. “I’m so sorry about all this. I would hate everyone around me too if they took Storm from me. I’m certain he’d destroy everyone and everything in his path if someone took Birdie from him.” She peered over her shoulder at Prez.
I nodded, staring at Birdie’s perfect little nose and the tiny finger she sucked on.
“Let go of him, please,” she told Track and Ire.
They sought Prez’s approval.
“I want to hug him properly.”
“Do it,” Storm grunted.
Once my arms were released, one of Madeline’s went around my waist. “I’m so sorry, Danny. I miss Emilee so damn much. Our children should be growing up together. I’m just so sorry this has happened.”
I held back a sob as I hugged her back, sniffing Birdie’s head. The sweet scent made me wonder if my son smelled the same.
“Angel, enough.” Storm curled his hand around her waist to pull her back. I’d bet he was going out of his mind seeing her comfort me. Good. Prez needed some sense knocked into him.
She shushed him, swatting his hand away. “Not yet.” She looked at me. “Hold Birdie. I know you want to, but you’ve been avoiding her.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think I should. I might hurt her.”
“No, you won’t. You’ll protect her with your life, won’t you?” Madeline took my hand and raised my big paw to Birdie’s back.
I nodded, my vision blurring.
“Because she’s innocent and helpless. She’s your family, and you’re loyal to your family.”
I wiped my runny nose on the back of my hand, bobbing my head. “I’d give my life to protect Birdie.”
“I know you would, Danny. You’re a good man. You’re just hurting, and rightly so. Now, open your arms.”
I cut my gaze to Storm’s.
“Do as my queen says, brother. But if you drop Birdie, I’ll mess you up.”
Madeline rolled her eyes. “He won’t drop her, but he does need to practice holding babies. So when he’s reunited with Emilee and his son, he’ll know exactly what to do. Right, Storm?”
Storm only growled. His wife was a badass. She was patient with him and respectful of his position in the club, never sticking her nose where it didn’t belong. Madeline was a force to be reckoned with. She had strong views of right and wrong compared to the rest of us outlaws.
Madeline placed Birdie in my arms, fixing my hands just right. “I want you to come see me every day to practice, okay? I’ll teach you how to care for your baby. It’ll be Daddy Boot Camp.” She gave me a sweet wink.
“Yes, ma’am.” I kissed Birdie’s head, a tear streaking down my cheek. She stared up at me, still sucking on her finger; the sound of it melted my heart. Her little body felt so good in my arms. Warm and soft. “Thank you, Madeline.”
“You betcha, daddy.” She smiled brightly, her sweetness wiping out the misery that had been consuming me.
Storm tugged his wife into his arms. “Angel, I see now.”
“About damn time.” She lifted onto her toes and kissed him, popping up one leg. Naturally, she had on her favorite brown boots with a cross stitched on them.
I smiled, feeling a little lighter as I cuddled Birdie.
The two pulled apart. Storm put his arm around my back. “Gimme some time to look into Justin. I’ll have Grizz see what he can find out. Then I’ll call church so we can put a plan together.”
A lump formed in my throat. “Appreciate it, Prez” was all I could muster. He just better not be fucking with me. I wouldn’t give him or anyone else another chance. I was hanging by a thread, ready to snap any second. No telling what I’d do if they let me down again.
Storm guided me to the backyard. “Let’s go enjoy the party.”
I spent the next couple of hours at a picnic table, this time with Ire and Wolf. The three of us were the downers in the club. I was for an obvious reason: my woman wasn’t there.
Ire hadn’t been the same since the attack at The Bullet. And well, Wolf… the brother was mourning his love. He attended functions like a trooper, but anyone could see how much pain he was in.
The couples in the club congregated at one table. Storm and Maddy had taken Birdie inside, and my younger cousins had been left with the babysitter, a.k.a. a prospect. Raul and Tina were sitting with Hero and Tara, Sugar, and Sugar’s twins, Maddox and Markey.
Several kittens had slipped into something a little more comfortable: bikinis.
“Guess the party is about to get less family-oriented and more orgy-focused,” I muttered to no one in particular.
Ire grunted, his thumbs flying across his cell phone screen. I couldn’t see who he was texting, but the tension usually on his face had disappeared. I’d noticed a change in him over the last couple of months. It made me wonder what or who to thank for my brother’s improved moods.
Wolf grunted. “Jill hated this part of the parties.”
“Was that why you’d leave early?” I asked him, raising my beer to my lips. I imagined Emilee wouldn’t like open sex displayed in front of her either. I didn’t care either way, but it didn’t put me off too much.
“Yeah.” The corner of Wolf’s lips curled. “We’d have our own sexfest in our room.”
“Fuck. Sounds amazing.” I scanned the yard. “I miss sex.”
“Me too,” Wolf admitted.
It was then Ire stopped texting and raised his gaze. “Why don’t you guys grab a kitten? That’s what they’re here for.”
“Because I’m taken,” I blurted, then cringed inside for sounding like an altar boy. I wasn’t like most of the patched members, who banged all the kittens. Even before Emilee, it didn’t feel right to sleep with a different woman all the time. I wasn’t a saint. I was a one-woman man. Once Emilee entered my life, she was all I wanted.
Wolf dragged his hands down the sides of his face. “It’d be a betrayal.”
“It’s been six months,” Ire told him. “She wouldn’t want you alone forever.”
“My heart won’t let me. She was my life.” Wolf never talked this much. Poor dude probably needed to get shit off his chest. “How can I have sex with another woman?”
“I feel you, brother.” I patted his back. “Don’t think I could either.” Not once had I considered taking a kitten into my room. As Wolf had said, it would’ve been a betrayal. I loved Emilee. We never broke up. As far as I was concerned, we were still a couple. I’d never cheat on her.
Ire stared at us from across the table. “I sort of understand. Sometimes I feel guilty too, but a man has needs, and it’s just sex, right? A release. No real feelings.”
I cocked my head to the side, totally confused. “You don’t have a woman. Do you?” I lowered my gaze to his phone. I’d seen Ire take a kitten to his room. Said kitten left his room not long after. I’d never given it any thought, but now he had me wondering what the hell was going on with him.
“No. Wanna another beer?” He stood, looking uncomfortable.
“Sure,” I replied.
Wolf nodded. “Yeah. Another beer is good.”
I watched Ire lumber away. He sure left in a hurry.
I turned toward Wolf, who stared ahead like he was zoning out. “Do you think he’s hiding a woman?”
He shrugged. “Ire has lots of secrets.”
“Oh yeah? Like what?” I was more curious than before about our new enforcer. He wasn’t promoted to replace Boxer. Storm had said the club was growing, and two enforcers were needed. I was sure he didn’t want to think Boxer was never coming back.
I thought about Wolf’s words. Could Ire be hiding a woman? If he was, why was he having sex with the kittens?
A hand brushed over my shoulder and to my chest. Plump breasts pushed against my back and a warm breath blew on my ear. “You look lonely over here, hot stuff. My God, you’re really bulking out.”
I looked sidelong at Wolf. He narrowed his eyes at the kitten pawing me.
“I’m not interested, Misty.” I removed her hands off me.
She plopped onto the bench in a huff. “But you are lonely.”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m not interested.” Hell yes, I was lonely. I missed my woman and kid. Everyone knew that.
She pouted as she adjusted her tits so they’d nearly fall out of her barely-there bikini top. “What would it take for you to be interested?”
I considered her question.
She was hot, without a doubt. All the kittens were eye candy on steroids. No mere mortal could resist admiring their curves and fake tits when they’d walk by. No guy would look the other way if he entered a room where a porn movie was on television; the eyes naturally wandered toward them.
But I wasn’t into that kind of shit. I wasn’t ever tempted to see what it would be like to be with one of the kittens. And Misty? She had a horrible personality and was conniving. Word had spread through the club that she’d tried to get brothers to fuck her without a condom. She wanted to be an old lady, but trapping a man was the wrong way to do it.
Besides, I had Emilee, my sweet, caring, loving woman who was everything and more I could ever dream of.
Cheesy as hell?
I didn’t give a shit what anyone thought of me. My heart was owned by my blonde beauty.
Misty’s hand went on my thigh. “Dodge…” she whispered into my ear. “What would it take for you to want me?”
I rolled my eyes, brushing her hand off again. Desperate much? It wasn’t my style to be a dick, so I’d let her down easy. “Emilee is all I need or want, Misty. But if for some reason she wasn’t in my life, then”—I shrugged—“who knows.”
“But she’s not in your life,” she bit back, claws out like a feline bitch.
I’d about had enough of her.
Ire appeared with the beers and set them on the table.
I took one. “Thanks, brother.” Then I turned toward Misty as I stood. “It ain’t ever gonna happen, so go find someone else.”
“You’re an asshole. Until you claim a woman in front of the club, you’re free game,” she hissed.
I pointed at her with my thumb as I looked at Ire. “Why do we keep her around?”
Ire glanced at Misty. “No idea.”
She launched off the bench and marched away, shouting, “Fuckers!”
The three of us laughed.
“I’m out.” I threw up my hand and took my beer to my room. Maybe I’d do some online shopping, buy some things for my girl and my son.
If Storm meant what he said, and I had every reason to believe he did, I’d have my family back before I knew it.