An Aces Christmas by Nicole Jacquelyn
“I’m nervous,” I muttered, glaring at my husband as I tore off another shirt and threw it on the bed. “Why the hell am I nervous to see my own son? I’ve seen him every fucking week for the last three years and nine months.”
“You’re not nervous to see him,” Cam replied, shaking his head. I paused to watch him pull a flannel over his undershirt, his fingers moving to each button unerringly, even though his eyes were on me.
His hands weren’t shaking the way mine were.
“You’re nervous that we’re gonna get there and they’re gonna say there was some sort of mistake and not let him out.”
I dropped to the edge of the bed as the truth of his comment sunk deep. He was right, as usual, but it didn’t irritate me the way it normally did. I was too busy being stunned that he’d actually said the words out loud. It seemed like it would jinx things somehow. Now that the words were out there, floating in the universe, my fear tripled.
“It’s gonna be fine,” he assured me, coming over to run his fingers through my hair. “It’s all gonna go off without a hitch, and your dad’s gonna bitch at me for weeks for havin’ you on the back of my bike.”
I scoffed as I stood back up. “He can fuck right off if he thinks I won’t be there when my son breathes fresh air for the first time in years.”
“I’ll let him know you said that,” Cam replied, grinning. He gestured to the bed covered in discarded shirts. “Wear the green one. It makes your tits look great.”
I stared at him in disbelief and shoved him toward the doorway. As soon as he was in the hall, laughing, I shut the door in his face.
“I don’t care how my tits look today!” I yelled.
“I always care how your tits look!” he yelled back, before I heard him stomping down the hallway.
Facing the bed, I sighed and randomly picked up a sweater and pulled it on. It wasn’t the green one. I wouldn’t give that lecher the satisfaction. Looking down at myself, I smiled. I didn’t believe in holding onto clothes that didn’t fit or were no longer flattering. My tits looked good in anything I owned, thank you very much.
I curled my toes into the carpet as I made my way toward the master bath. The feeling centered me, but my hands still shook.
I was scared that somehow, some way, they would tell us tough luck, that my baby boy wouldn’t be coming home with us. And that wasn’t my only fear, not by a long shot. I worried that he’d be different. That the short visits we’d had every Sunday for far too long hadn’t been enough to really know my own son. That he wouldn’t be the same thoughtful, caring, pain in the ass he’d always been. That he would have a hard time adjusting to life on the outside, and I’d find myself watching him go back inside. I was terrified that if he did go back inside, I wouldn’t be able to stop his other half from following him there and next time, I’d lose both my sons. Alternately, I was afraid that the bond between my twin sons would never be the same, like their connection had changed the same way their looks had with the time apart.
My boys were identical and they’d looked it. Sometimes, they had different haircuts, and Draco’s acne had been worse than Curtis’s their entire eighth grade year, but if you didn’t know them, they were impossible to tell apart.
It wasn’t like that anymore.
I shook my hands out and reached for a brush, smoothing my hair back to the nape of my neck so I could braid it. After we got home that afternoon, I’d let it hang loose, but I was too anxious to deal with it flying around my head when we were on the bike. A quick glance out the window told me the sun was still out—an unexpected bonus on December 23 in Oregon. At least we wouldn’t have to ride in the rain. That was one less thing I had to worry about.
“Let’s go,” Cam said a few minutes later, swinging open the bedroom door as I pulled on my socks.
“We don’t have to leave for fifteen more minutes,” I argued, checking the clock.
“Baby, it takes you exactly fifteen minutes to leave the house.”
“It does not,” I said, glaring at him. The argument was almost as old as our relationship.
“It does,” he said in exasperation. “No shit, fifteen minutes on the fuckin’ dot. Started when the boys were born—and I got it then. Gettin’ two babies outta the house is a nightmare. But once they started standin’ at the door waitin’ on your ass, it got a little old.”
“Whatever,” I mumbled, walking past him to get my jacket out of the closet.
“Jesus,” he said as I came back out wearing the beat up leather. “You needed to condition that about five years ago.”
“You worry about your leather, I’ll worry about mine,” I huffed.
It hadn’t actually been five years. We both knew the leather had been conditioned in the spring, and we both knew he was the one who’d pulled it out of the closet and spent hours rubbing oil into the leather. I hadn’t ever had to take care of my jacket or my boots. When he was in the mood to baby his leathers, mine got the royal treatment, too. It was like he couldn’t stand to leave them in the shape they were in.
I followed him to the garage and pulled on a pair of gloves while he opened the door, flooding the space with light.
“I’m glad we don’t have to go to the club tonight,” I said as he rolled his bike outside.
“You got lucky with that one,” Cam replied. “You know they only agreed to that because tomorrow is Christmas Eve and we’ll be there then.”
“I didn’t get lucky, I put my damn foot down. He wasn’t even a prospect when he went inside—he still belongs to me.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” he said with a laugh. “Our boys were born belonging to the club. Only a matter of time before he’s wearin’ a cut.”
“Well, it hasn’t happened yet,” I said stubbornly. “Plus, I’m my dad’s favorite and everyone knows it. If I want to have a small family dinner for our son, without fifty people getting in my space, he’d never say no.”
“You keep sayin’ you’re the favorite and Leo is gonna get a complex,” Cam said, pointing at me as he grabbed our helmets off a shelf.
“My brother knows how the wind blows.”
“It’s all good,” Cam said, gently pulling my helmet onto my head. His eyes met mine. “Because he’s definitely your mom’s favorite.”
I laughed. “You’re right,” I replied. “I don’t know why. I’m clearly the better child.”
“You good?” he asked softly, resting his hands on my shoulders. “You didn’t forget anything inside? Got your ID?”
“It’s in my pocket.”
“Jacket or jeans?” he asked dryly.
“Jacket, smartass,” I replied.
Once, years before, I’d idiotically put my ID and bank card in the ass pocket of my jeans, and by the time we’d gotten where we were going, Sacramento maybe? I couldn’t remember. Anyway, I’d lost both cards somewhere on the highway. Back then, I was still getting carded and with no ID, it wasn’t a very fun road trip.
I climbed on the back of my man’s bike while he shut the garage door, and flexed my fingers against the cold. It may have been sunny, but it sure as hell wasn’t warm.
My heart raced in anticipation as I thought about summer. Barbeques and bonfires and swimming at the river and a thousand other things my baby had missed out on. We were going to make up for every missed opportunity if it killed me.
As soon as Cam was seated in front of me, I wrapped my arms around his waist and gently tapped the front of my helmet against his broad back—my version of a kiss when I couldn’t actually reach him with my lips. Then, with little fanfare, we headed toward the club.
I could see the clubhouse from our front porch, but because of the way the land was situated, we had to drive down our driveway and fifty feet down the road before we reached the gates to the club. On days like today, when I was anxious to get going, it drove me crazy—but most of the time, I liked that there was a little separation between our home and the common area for all of our friends and family. It gave us a little privacy, which we needed, especially since everyone knew everyone else’s business ninety-nine percent of the time.
Inhaling a long breath, I forced myself not to snap at Cam when he parked and shut off the bike instead of letting it idle. I didn’t want to stop. Not now. I wanted to go.
“I told you we had time,” I mumbled under my breath.
As my brother strode out of the clubhouse, I flipped up the face shield on my helmet and glared, gesturing with the universal motion of hurry the hell up.
He flipped me off as he sauntered even slower toward his bike, making me grit my teeth. I wasn’t going to start shit. Not today. It was a happy day. An exciting one.
I watched as the rest of our family poured out of the clubhouse, clocking a familiar set of shoulders before I saw my son’s bright eyes and grim mouth striding toward his bike. God, I was thankful that all of us would be under the same roof tonight, even if it was only temporary. I needed my boys, all of them. It felt like I was a balloon that had been filling up slowly with panic and sadness and rage—and if things hadn’t changed, I would have popped, spilling those emotions everywhere.
“You need me to pick up anything at the store?” my mom called out, waving her arms as she hurried toward us. “Let me know if you forgot something and I can pop by while you guys are gone.”
“I don’t think so,” I replied loudly so she could hear me through the helmet. “We’re having spaghetti. Pretty easy and I already had most of the ingredients in the cupboard.”
“Did you remember some garlic bread?”
“I got some fresh this morning.”
“Mom, who do you think you’re talking to?” I asked jokingly as she reached out to grab my braid, running her fist down the length of it.
“It’s a good day,” she said, her eyes shining. “Soak it all in and enjoy it.”
“I’m trying.” I looked around at the men climbing onto their motorcycles. “If everyone would hurry up and we could actually get going.”
Mom laughed and gave my braid a tug. “Love you.”
“Love you, too,” I replied, reaching out to hold her hand for a moment.
“Now go get our boy,” she said, her words drowned out by the sound of a dozen bikes firing up around us.
She strode back toward the clubhouse and I raised my eyebrows in surprise as she was almost plowed down by someone racing out the doorway. Mack’s daughter Kara was pale and wide eyed and barely stopped to apologize to my mom before she turned, her eyes on the columns of bikes as we started toward the road. She seemed paralyzed for a long moment, then as if the hounds of hell were on her heels, she sprinted for the old Jeep that Rose had given her years ago.
Leaning my head against Cam’s back, I forced myself not to worry about the poor girl. We all had our demons, and I couldn’t change the fact that soon she was going to have to face one of hers.