We did not know… my people were living in ignorance.
I felt an infuriating tidal wave of anger at how I had been living my whole life. It all felt like such a waste. Twenty-three years of living a lie. Living under strict rules and stern men.
It almost brought me to tears.
My life over the last month, however, had been so different. At commune, my days were hard and mundane, but I suppose I had purpose: to serve the brothers in any way they saw fit. At the clubhouse of the Hangmen, my days and nights were spent locked in Rider’s room, healing and hiding from the world on the other side of the door—no purpose.
Only at certain times was I permitted to leave the room—when women were allowed to be at the compound—mostly Friday and Saturday nights. In the two short trips I had made into the lounge area, with Rider glued to my side, I had been horrified. Most of the men were gone on the long run with Styx, but a few remained to protect the compound. The men I saw used women in indescribable ways, the women happy to be of service, high on opiates… on show for all to see. One woman even invited me to join in, to engage in explicit sexual acts with the other girls in the center of the room. Before I could react, Rider appeared as if from nowhere, chasing them away, just a simple nod of his head in my direction in acknowledgement. That was enough to usher me back to the safety of his bedroom.
Rider visited often, checking my wound and redressing the bandage. Sometimes he would disappear for short periods of time. In fact, most of the men did, out on something they called “handling business.” I got the feeling there was more to it than simply riding their bikes somewhere, but I knew from the club rules, explained to me by Rider, that women “don’t ask no questions.”
Rider and I had become close. He was always kind to me and I never saw him with the loose women, much to my relief. In fact, he would spend his time sitting in this room with me, quietly reading or patiently teaching me about the world outside. I thanked the Lord every day that he had been given the task of caring for me while Styx was gone, and not one of the other brothers.
A knock sounded at the door, pulling me from my daze, and closing the Bible, I jumped up in excitement. It would be Rider. He had left early this morning to get some things from the store for me to try.
Racing to the door, I pulled it open, smiling wide in excitement, but I faltered at who was before me and my heart immediately began racing in my chest.
Styx was back… leaning against the doorframe, staring at the floor, deep in thought. When clearly sensing me before him, he slowly lifted his gaze. His nostrils flared and his tongue licked along his bottom lip as his eyes drifted over my body.
“Styx,” I whispered, and standing up straight, he brushed past me and walked into the bedroom. I moved out of his way and quickly closed the door, turning and leaning against the wood, just watching him look about the sparse room. He eventually turned back to me. His dark, messy hair had grown over the last few weeks, wayward stands flopping over his beautifully warm hazel eyes. The dark stubble on his cheeks was longer, making him look harsh and rough and, if possible, he seemed even bigger in size than the last time we spoke. He was so rugged and unkempt, but he was still the most handsome man I had ever laid my eyes on. And his scent, Lord, his scent had me inhaling in long, deep breaths. I had not realized how much I had missed him being close.
Styx cleared his throat, his fists clenched at his sides, and his eyes blinked quickly, almost twitching in nerves. I watched his throat swallow repeatedly before he pointed at my leg and managed to ask, “L-l-leg?”
A small, proud smile spread on my lips as he managed to speak to me, and his chest heaved at my reaction. He watched me like a hawk as I moved before him, and I lifted my floor-length dress and revealed my almost-healed calf. “It is much better, thank you.”
Styx crouched down and ran his finger softly along the pink scar, and I stopped breathing, my cheeks heating as I blushed. Clearly noticing me freeze, Styx looked up and met my eyes, his upper lip hooking up in a smirk, then he stood, just staring at me once more. The air around us almost crackled with electric tension, like magic. I was hypnotized by him, completely and utterly enthralled.
“How was your run?” I asked quietly, and he nodded curtly, shrugging his shoulders. I took from that response that it went well.
Styx ran his hand through his hair and stepped forward even closer to me. His warm breath blanketed my skin, and I closed my eyes, that strange swirling feeling in my stomach appearing again and I lost any control I had over my breathing. Eventually opening my eyes, Styx’s lips parted and he tucked a long strand of my hair behind my ears. His lips closed together and his eyes began to twitch again; he was going to speak.
“M-M-Ma—” He stopped, exhaled, and his fist clenched my hair as he worked himself up to speak. I laid a hand on his and stroked my finger over his rough, callused skin.
Inhaling through his nose, he asked, “M-Mae—”
“Mae?” a deep voice called from outside the door, and a second later, Rider walked in to the bedroom, holding a bag, routing through its contents, paying no attention to what was happening before him. “I got you some things you need to try—” His voice cut off and he ground to a halt when he saw Styx standing before me in the center of the room—hand wrapped in my hair and his body only a hairsbreadth from mine.
“Prez,” Rider greeted, wary. His eyes narrowed just a fraction as he darted his gaze between Styx and me, as if assessing what he had just interrupted.