My eyes widened. I would have to lift my robe, to expose myself.
“I’m a doctor. I took care of you, fixed you up. Name’s Rider.”
He must have detected my shock. “In a previous life, I was a soldier and a medic. You’re in good hands. I ain’t gonna hurt you.”
Ducking his head, almost in nerves, he set back to his work.
He seemed so concerned for me, so sincere. He was not as hard-faced as Styx, not as abrupt in the way he spoke. I felt strangely at ease in his presence but his short beard looked too much like the disciples’ to be of any great comfort. However, Rider’s personality was completely different, his actions toward me kind.
“My name is Mae,” I said quietly.
He lifted his head, a timid smile ghosting across his lips. “Nice to meet you, Mae,” he said so politely. Then, with a stiff hand, he raked back his brown, shoulder-length hair. He sat back and quietly asked, “Can I check your leg, now that I know your name?”
Silently nodding, I lifted the robe, dipping my chin in embarrassment. Revealing my bandage, I could see small traces of blood seeping through. Rider’s large hands were as soft as feathers on my calf and he unwrapped the bandage, allowing me to see my wound for the first time since I had woken up.
“It’s healing real good. I’ll apply some more cream; rebandage.” Rider stood and walked to the large medical bag he had left on the table. He applied the ointment, the strong smell burning my nose. Then he applied new bandages, the medicine already taking away some of my discomfort.
When he closed the bag, he turned, leaning against the table, arms folded, and he watched me. I focused on the floor, no idea what to say, when he spoke.
“Gonna take you to my room, Mae. Gonna watch out for you while Styx is gone.”
He could obviously see the shock in my gaze and edged toward me, dropping down to sit on the bed. “Styx and I talked ’bout it. He’s off tomorrow morning on a long run. He ain’t gonna be around to protect you. So you’ll come to my room and I’ll watch out for you ’til he gets back.”
My stomach fell. “If I am such a burden, I can leave now. I do not want to stay where I am not wanted.”
“Not happening, Mae. The ATF are on our backs, the Feds just itching to haul us over the coals. Got agents stationed twenty-four-seven from here to downtown Austin. Explaining you bruised and battered, not knowing f**k about life, ain’t gonna do us no favors. Club has too many enemies to risk getting raided right now. Too many f**kers wanting to move on our turf. You’re here until Styx says so. And knowing Prez, you best do what he tells you to.”
I stared at him with incredulity. I did not really know who was watching the compound or understood much of anything he said, but I knew one thing: I was trapped… again. I had exchanged one perimeter fence for another. Rider just shrugged in response to my cold reaction.
Standing, he held out his hand. “Let’s go.”
“I am not sleeping with you. You are a stranger. Do not expect anything from me,” I warned in a shaky voice.
He laughed, a huge grin lighting up his face. “As tempting as that sounds, sugar, that’s not on my agenda. Not into raping bitches who know f**k all about this life. This is Styx’s private apartment and we’re moving you outta here. You crash in my room. I’ll stay at home. I ain’t wantin’ in your pu**y.”
My mouth gaped open. It was truly shocking how crass all the men spoke. Their words were harsh, but so far, their actions were nothing but kind.
With a heavy sigh, I stood up and followed Rider back to the clubhouse and into his room. It was sparse but clean. He stripped the bed and, from a drawer, removed fresh but discolored old linen.
Rider shrugged apologetically. “It ain’t much, but it’ll do.”
Wrapping my arms around my waist, I asked, “Why are you doing this?”
“What?” he asked in confusion.
“Helping me. Taking care of me?”
Rider moved beside me, his short, rough beard disguising what I imagined to be a friendly face. “Ordered to.”
My stomach flipped. I hated feeling like a problem they all had to deal with.
Rider sighed and leaned against the wall. “Let’s just say I’m paying it forward.” He pulled a tiny smirk at my confused frown. “Found myself in a similar situation to yours years back. This club pulled me out of it. I got my reasons for helping you that aren’t of your concern. All you need to do is heal. That okay?”
Exhaling a resolved breath, I nodded and dragged my tired body to the large bed, slumping down. “Looks like I have no choice. But I am thankful for your help, regardless.”
After a while, Rider left and I lay in a proper bed for the first time ever. As a Cursed, I was ordered to sleep on a hard mattress on the floor.
Surrounded by comfort, I quickly fell into a fitful, disturbed sleep. I tried to convince myself it was the visions of Prophet David, Gabriel, or even my poor Bella that kept me from a peaceful slumber. But that was a lie.
I could not stop thinking about Styx.
One month later…
I finished dressing in the long black dress and cardigan Beauty had given me and moved to sit on the bed. Picking up the Bible Rider had bought me, I continued reading and could not help but sigh. It had become apparent that The Order did not follow the teachings correctly. This book was not the one we would read from, learn from… believe with all our hearts. It was clear Prophet David had used passages and verses that suited his goal and his ideology.