“No, it’s not a gang,” Mercy told her in a testy tone of voice. “It’s a club. It’s a group of men, a bunch of guys who share a passion for motorcycles. They happen to want to live a certain kind of lifestyle most other people don’t understand, and honestly most folks don’t have any desire to learn. These men have mortgages, families, jobs…they are no more or less than regular people.”
“Okay, okay. Clearly, I hit a nerve. Sorry. I don’t know the terminology. I didn’t mean anything derogatory by it.” Hope backtracked quickly because she didn’t want to offend, and could see these men meant a lot to her sister. “I want to understand what your role in their club is, where you fit, so I can find where Sam and I fit.” Mercy tilted her head, a question on her face. Hope shrugged, and said, “Sammy told me Hoss said you were theirs, and it meant we were theirs by association. Sounds like something I need to understand. If for no other reason, so I don’t do what I just did by putting my foot in it, and in doing so, offend someone important to you.”
Sammy had been a little cautious with his responses when she questioned him, and she suspected there was more to the encounter between Hoss and Mercy this morning. At least Sam and Mercy seemed to have hit it off, and he had spoken without wariness about seeing Hoss, more interested in telling her about his exotic breakfast.
With a shake of her head, Mercy lifted one hand, raising her palm to Hope. “No, it’s not that big a deal. Just don’t use the word around the guys. What Hoss said was he’s going to see if he can get us a bed from the club. They have some stuff in storage, and he’s going to ask the chapter president’s wife about it.”
Hope frowned. “Just like that? They have furniture laying around, waiting for someone to need it?”
“Kinda.” Mercy poured a mug of coffee and slid it across the counter to where Hope was standing. “The club owns a house here in town, and they furnish that and some apartments for members, or other folks, like me.” She swung her hand out, indicating the apartment. “Like this place. The need fluctuates, so they store things in between times.”
“What did he mean about you belonging to them?” Picking up the mug, she blew across the top of the liquid and then cautiously took a sip, walking alongside Mercy to the couch, the two women sitting on either end, facing each other.
“I know a bunch of the members. We’re friends. I’ve been around the club for a long time, and now I work at Slinky’s.” Mercy shrugged, but a blush spread up her neck to her face.
“What does Slinky’s have to do with it?” Hope sipped her coffee again, looking at Mercy intently.
“The club owns the place.” Mercy set her cup down and twisted, glancing towards the back of the room. “Did you sleep okay?”
“Yeah, I did.” She smiled, reaching up to rub the back of her neck. “I’m still crazy stiff from driving, but it was the best sleep I’ve had in a long time.”
Turning back to her with a smile, Mercy said, “I’m glad. Means you felt safe here, and that makes me real happy, hon.”
She took a breath, then said, “Next thing to do is for me to find a job, so I can help make ends meet around here.”
“No rush on that,” Mercy said, picking up her cup of coffee. “It was a long drive, Hope. You should take it easy a couple weeks, get yourself rested up and ready.”
Hope snorted a laugh. “That’s sweet, but not realistic. I’ll start figuring out a job today. I can look online, and there’s probably a temp service or two I can call. I…I have a little cash left, so you won’t have to carry us, Mercy. I’m not at all afraid of working hard. Most of the time, I juggle two or three part-time jobs. It’s about all I can do with no schooling, since I’m not qualified for anything that’s full-time and pays enough to support Sammy and me.”
She jumped and shrieked, nearly spilling her coffee when a low, growling voice came from directly behind her. “Working two or three jobs don’t leave much time for motherin’, sweetheart.”
Twisting around on the sofa, she saw the big man from last night was standing in the doorway to the kitchen. From the other end of the couch, she heard Mercy’s amused voice, “Hossman, you gotta start announcing yourself. Stop scaring my family.”
“Sammy needs his momma.” His eyes were boring into her and she felt her shoulders tighten, drawing in. He thinks I’m a bad mother, she thought, and was immediately near tears. She swallowed hard and opened her mouth to refute his words, when he shook his head, saying, “Like son, like mother, looks like, always thinkin’ the worst. Relax, sweetheart. I didn’t mean anything other than Sammy loves his momma and wants her around. Seein’ you with him last night, it’s clear you love him, too. Working two or three jobs means shuffling shifts and daycare. Let me help you find a job that can take care of you guys, without doin’ you in.” He walked across the room and leaned forward, placing his hands on the back of the couch and turning his head to look her in the face. “Now, relax those shoulders and take a breath. I was looking forward to seein’ that little smile again.”
Hope stared at him wordlessly. The man was gorgeous, and with his brown-eyed focus solely on her, she couldn’t look away, couldn’t speak, could only stare back at him. She watched as one corner of his mouth quirked upwards, pulling his lips sideways into a small, pleased smile. Without thought, she returned the expression back to him, which only caused his satisfied smile to widen. “Beautiful,” he murmured and lifted a hand to cup her cheek. The feel of his hand on her face broke whatever spell he had woven around her and she jerked back, dropping her gaze to the cushion in front of her folded legs as soon as his tender smile faded into a scowl.
Copyright © 2015 – MariaLisa deMora