I was marching to the door as I hissed, “Stop me.”
“Don’t make me regret telling you this. If Aaron knows you’re here without permission, he’s gonna be pissed. At me. But you know it’ll be more at you. And he’ll go off on you, Carissa.”
I had my hand to the door handle but I stopped at her words.
“No judge is going to take away my right to see my child when he’s ill,” I declared.
“Come on, Carissa,” she returned quietly, gently, but swiftly and resolutely. “By now you have to know his father knows a lot of judges and they golf together. They’ll do whatever he wants them to do.”
I closed my eyes and did it tightly, my fingers clutching the door handle even tighter.
I knew that. I’d learned that lesson, so far, twice.
“You can’t come over here,” Tory went on and I opened my eyes, staring unseeing at the door. “I don’t agree with him keeping this from you. I wanted him to call you last night. He refused. He’s at the office now, left Travis and me a little while ago to take some meetings at work. He said he’s going to come back, work from home. I don’t know when that’ll be. I just know if you’re here, he’ll lose it. You know it too. I’m sorry this is the way it is, but we both know it’s the way it is. I’m taking good care of Travis. The doctors say he’s going to be okay. He’s already better. He’s being looked after. And when Travis feels better and Aaron’s at work, I’ll bring him to your store so you can see him. Okay?”
That’s what I got.
That’s all I got.
My son was sick and in order to avoid a lawsuit and have more of him taken away from me, a lawsuit I couldn’t defend against because I couldn’t afford an attorney, I had to wait for my ex-husband’s young, beautiful fiancée to bring my baby boy to me at work. I closed my eyes again, leaned forward, and didn’t feel my forehead hitting the door.
“Carissa,” Tory prompted. “Okay?”
“Okay,” I whispered brokenly.
It wasn’t okay.
Nothing was okay.
And worst of that nothing, my baby was not okay and I couldn’t see him.
“Okay,” she whispered back. Then, “I’m so sorry.”
I really hated her, and right then I hated that she was making it hard for me to keep hating her even when she had my baby and I didn’t.
I also hated what I had to say next.
“Thank you for calling me.”
“If anything changes, I’ll find a way to call you again. But he’s good. I promise.”
“See you at the store tomorrow. Yeah?”
“ ’Bye, Carissa.”
I kept my phone to my ear, my forehead to the door, my hand clasping the handle, my eyes squeezed tight.
“What was that?’
The words came to me in a deep biker voice I knew but they didn’t penetrate.
My baby boy with his chubby cheeks and his granddad’s eyes was sick without me.
The words came again. “What was that?”
They again didn’t penetrate because as I stood there, I knew.
I had to do something. I had to put a stop to Aaron’s mission of misery.
I had no choice.
“Carissa, what was that?”
“I have to get on my knees,” I whispered.
I pulled away from the door and looked to my side.
Joker was close.
“I was wrong. I don’t need my car,” I announced. “But I’ll wait in the office or go and browse the store. I’ll just go on over to the garage first and let them know.” I hauled open the door. “Enjoy the pie.”
I didn’t get out because Joker curled his fingers around my upper arm and pulled me back.
That got my attention, slightly, and I distractedly noticed the two other men (one still holding his baby) and three women in the room were all gathered close behind Joker and they were watching me.
I looked up into Joker’s steel eyes.
“Is something wrong with Travis?” he asked.
“He has croup,” I said, my voice flat. “I’m assured he’s fine.”
“Darlin’, got my car here. While they work on yours, I can take you—” the black lady began.
I stopped her by shaking my head. “I’m not allowed at my ex-husband’s house without his permission.
“Your kid’s sick,” the mustachioed man told me something I very well knew.
I straightened my spine and met his eyes.
“My ex-husband is an attorney. As was his father, before he became a judge. As was his grandfather, ditto the judge part. All of them in Denver. This means if he doesn’t want me at his house, I don’t go.”
“You’re fuckin’ joking,” Joker bit out and I looked to him.
“I am not,” I stated curtly.
His hand tightened on my arm.
My eyes started stinging. “If you’ll release me, I’ll get out of your hair.”
“What’s it mean, get on your knees?” Joker asked.
Dirty water washed through me, and I felt an uncomfortable charge hit the air at his question.
I shook my head, pulling at my arm in his hold. “Doesn’t matter.”
“What does it mean?”
I could take no more.
I yanked out of his hold, leaned toward him, and shrieked, “It doesn’t matter!” I threw out both hands, still screeching. “Nothing matters! Nothing but him! Travis! That’s all that matters!”
Then I whirled, hauled open the door, and ran out.
“Joker, no. Red, go,” ’ I heard a gravelly voice say as I ran. Then, “Hop, lock ’im down. Red, go.”
I heard it.
But I just ran.
The door to the meeting room opened and Tack’s eyes, along with those of the boys who were with him, went to it.
He watched his woman strut through.
Normally, he would take the time to appreciate this. It was a habit. He did it daily.
Right then, he saw the expression on her face and he didn’t take that time.
He looked around the room. With Dog and Brick in Grand Junction opening up the Club’s new store, he’d made Hop and Shy his lieutenants. Hop had been a brother for decades. Shy was newer. Hop was married to his woman’s best girl, Lanie. Shy was married to Tack’s daughter, Tabitha.
The room was rounded out with his son, Rush, as well as Boz, Hound, Speck.