Jester: No Prisoners MC Book 2
Bile burned its way up Emily’s esophagus, then straight back down when she refused to give in to her body’s need to revolt. She was in trouble. Serious trouble. The kind of trouble that could result in her being wheeled from her house in a body bag.
“Johnny,” she whispered. Her heart broke a little as the reality set in of how low he’d sunk.
Across the living room, her brother was bound to one of their kitchen chairs. Purple bruising mottled his face, which was swollen like a balloon, displaying the evidence of what must have been an awful beating. Each time Johnny inhaled, a pain-filled wheeze hit her ears. Rivers of sweat ran down his face and despite his limp posture, he quivered, no doubt craving the heroin that ran his life.
Her lower lip stung and she forced her jaw to relax and end the punishment her teeth inflicted. Whenever she was nervous, she bit her bottom lip, and right now she could have bitten straight through.
Four gun-toting, tattooed bikers took up residence in her living room. The house she’d spent her hard-earned time and money turning into a home had been violated. She racked her brain, trying to think of a solution, a way out of this terrifying situation, but fear clogged her mind and nothing came to her.
“Well, Emily, what’s it gonna be? We ain’t got all fuckin’ day.” Snake’s voice was dark and threatening. He towered over her, all six-foot-three of him. A single muscle in his jaw twitched and his eyes narrowed. But it was the way he stared at her that sent chills down her spine, like he took pleasure in her fear, got off on it even.
“I—” The words stuck in her arid throat, and she coughed. “I’ll do whatever you need me to do. Just don’t hurt Johnny anymore.”
“There you go, boys. At least one of the Carver siblings ain’t a complete fuckin’ moron. She’s pretty too.” Snake winked at her. His tongue darted out and flicked back and forth before disappearing into his mouth.
Her breath stilled. The end of his tongue was forked and each half wiggled independently.
“Emily, shut up. Don’t—” Johnny’s slurred protest was cut short by a quick blow to his already battered face.
She winced as the short, wiry man, whose pale bald head resembled an egg, connected his fist with Johnny’s face. Johnny’s head snapped back, and blood sprayed from his mouth across the beige carpet like a geyser, seeping into the fibers. The crimson splatter would stay there, deep inside the wool, no matter how much she scrubbed. She’d never forget this moment—one more thing ruined by the trauma of the day.
“Stop,” she cried out. “Please, don’t hurt him anymore. I said I’d help you.” Her voice cracked with the effort to hold back a sob.
Twenty minutes ago, Emily had bounced into the house she shared with Johnny, elated that school was out for the summer. Teaching first grade was her true passion, but by the end of May she was beyond ready for the decompression time the summer months afforded.
Instead of beginning her much anticipated vacation, she’d been cast as a character in Johnny’s nightmare.
Two steps into her home and a man grabbed her arm. She’d fought against his hold, but was no match for his strength. Snake then invited her to sit on her own couch while he presented her options. Comply with his demands, or watch Johnny die. Not much of a choice for someone who was more a mother to Johnny than a sister.
A firm hand took hold of her chin with a vice grip. Snake’s eyes bore into hers, like two windows to nothingness. Black, soulless orbs that didn’t reveal a hint of what was brewing behind them. He made a sound she swore was a hiss, and she prayed she wouldn’t see fangs when he smiled.
“This is all very touching.” Snake laughed and drew away, waving his hand back and forth between Emily and her brother.
He turned his head, the motion making the snake tattoo on his neck look like it was slithering. The inked reptile rose from his shirt and climbed up his neck. Johnny had talked about a man nicknamed Snake—before Emily knew Johnny was part of an outlaw biker gang—saying the man had a tattoo of a three-foot-long rattlesnake from his neck to his groin. The serpent’s head moved as its master did, its mouth open wide, revealing two fangs that dripped with venom, ready to strike at any time. Even the way Snake moved resembled a reptile studying its prey, looking for weaknesses and an opportunity to attack.
“Perhaps, Johnny, you should’ve given more of a shit about your sister when you were stealing from me.” He shook his head and tsked, much as Emily would when one of her first graders broke a classroom rule, except the consequences here were far worse. “If you’d done your job, and sold the merchandise instead of snorting it, we wouldn’t have ever known you had a sister. But, lucky for you, she seems willing to step in and clean up your mess.”
Story of her life. She’d been cleaning up after Johnny since he was a kid, years before their parents died.
Johnny was thirteen when their parents were killed in a devastating motor vehicle accident, just three miles from their L.A. home. Even as a young teen, he’d set a precedent for trouble. Small time offenses mostly; petty theft, smoking, hanging with a rough crowd. Life took a turn for the worse when, at seventeen, he was initiated into a gang. The Killing Machines, or KMs to Los Angeles natives.
Hours after she found out, Emily had them packed and heading east, finally stopping in the tiny, off-the-grid town of Sandy Springs, Arizona. They resided here for the past four years. Emily thought she’d been successful in removing Johnny from the temptation of drugs and gangs. For a while, he even held down a steady job busing tables at a local restaurant. But, at twenty-six, she was apparently still very naïve.
A few months prior, she discovered a wad of cash in his dresser drawer. After snooping around, she learned he’d quit his job, and was now a prospect for the Grimm Brothers MC. Dealing drugs, no less.
The mistakes he made didn’t matter. She’d do anything in her power to help him. He was her only family, and she loved him.
“Okay, kids. Here’s how this is gonna go.” Snake rubbed his hands together and slid his split tongue across his bottom lip as he paced the distance between Emily and Johnny.
The small, quiet man who’d beaten Johnny—Snake called him Casper—smiled so big each tooth was on display.
Emily swallowed a groan. Whatever they were about to make her do was not going to be pleasant.
“I know a broad who lives over in Crystal Rock. She’s gonna get you into a No Prisoners party tomorrow night. You, pretty Emily, are going to make friends, rub elbows, hell, rub cocks. I don’t give a fuck.”
Emily’s head spun. What the hell was he talking about? A No Prisoners party? Was he insane? “Wh-what?”
“Emily!” Snake clapped his hands in front of her face and laughed when her muscles jolted. “Focus. I need you to cozy up to the No Prisoners. I know they’re planning to fuck with me and I want to know how. You’re gonna find out. In two weeks we’ve got a very expensive deal going down. The No Prisoners would love to see it crash and burn, and I need to know if they are planning something to interfere.”
Emily shook her head, her mind racing with all the reasons this was a horrible idea. “I can’t do that.” This plan would never work. “Why can’t your friend just do it?”
“Two reasons, Emily.”
She hated the sound of her own name coming from his lips. Probably why he said it so frequently.
“She ain’t the type of girl they share secrets with. She’s the kind of girl they fuck. But you’re so sugary sweet they’ll be tripping over their dicks to get close to you. Besides, Trixie doesn’t have the strong motivation you do.” He grabbed Johnny by the hair and yanked his head back so Emily had a full view of his beaten face. “This is not a discussion. You need to concentrate on getting me what I need, so Johnny doesn’t end up as buzzard food in the desert.”
Why on earth would Johnny get involved with these men? One look at his dilated pupils, sweaty brow, and subtle tremors and the answer was obvious.
If only she’d been paying closer attention, maybe she would have noticed he was using again. Then she could have…what? He’d refused countless offers of rehab or counseling. His joining a gang had been the last straw after years on a never-ending merry-go-round of begging and pleading with him to get help. She’d thought moving was the answer, but his demons just followed them. She was clueless as to what else to do to help him.
“Two weeks, Emily.” Snake wiggled two fingers in her direction.
Emily shook her head and her stomach somersaulted.
“Maybe I haven’t made myself clear. You need a little more convincing?” Snake pulled a gun from the small of his back and pointed it at Johnny’s head.
Her heart nearly pounded out of her chest, but her brother didn’t react in any way. Had his self-worth decreased to the point where he no longer cared if he lived or died?
All background sounds blended together. Emily heard nothing but the rushing of blood in her ears. “No, no, no!” She leaped from the couch, hands out in front of her as though she could somehow prevent Snake from killing her only family. “I’ll do it. Just let him go and I’ll do it.”
Snake laughed again. “I like you, Emily.” He came to a stop in front of her and leaned down so his mouth was against her ear. His stale breath wafted across her skin and she shuddered in revulsion. The hand holding his gun wrapped around her waist, securing her in place. She froze as though she were standing on a landmine. “I’ll let him go when you get me what I want,” he whispered.
Tears flooded her eyes. She soaked in Johnny’s image, memorizing how he looked: vulnerable, damaged, and lifeless. That image would need to be burned in her brain to drive her over the upcoming days.
Snake straightened and paced the room, waving the gun as if he were a conductor in a symphony instead of a murderous sociopath. Emily swallowed, her attention glued to the movement of the weapon.“
Johnny will remain our guest for the next two weeks. If you get me what I need, he will be returned to you. Take your time. Don’t rush. Don’t think you’re gonna feed me some bullshit tomorrow, get your junkie brother back, and live happily ever after. He stays with me the entire time.”
Damnit. Her first instinct had been to fabricate a believable story and disappear with Johnny.
Snake halted in front of her and stroked the muzzle of his pistol down her cheek. A bead of sweat rolled down her spine, leaving an itchy path in its wake. Frozen in fear, she ignored the minor irritation.
He tapped the gun against her cheek twice, before turning to his henchmen. “We’re done here, boys. Load him in the van and let’s roll. Emily, Trixie will meet you at the No Prisoners’ clubhouse tomorrow night at ten. She’ll know who you are.”
Casper sliced at the zip ties that bound Johnny’s limbs to the chair, while two men she’d forgotten were in the room came from behind her and gathered him up. They ignored his grunts of pain as they dragged him by the arms toward the door.
Emily prayed he wouldn’t be stupid enough to try and fight them, but it wasn’t necessary. His knees buckled and his head lolled, not an ounce of rebellion left in him.
Snake nodded at her and started for the door. “You’ll be hearing from me,” he called out before following his goons out of her house.
The instant her door clicked closed, Emily bolted to the bathroom and emptied the contents of her stomach into the toilet. After many minutes, the violent heaving subsided, leaving her weakened and exhausted. Sweat ran down her face, mixing with her tears and stinging her eyes.
How would she ever survive the next few weeks? How would Johnny?