Dear Readers,

I'm sorry I haven't written in such a long time. It's taken much longer than expected to finish this chapter. Things are getting serious for me in the real world with college, work, and home, but I will continue to write and update as much as possible. Thank you everyone for your continued support of my work. I do hope you enjoy reading this update as much as I enjoyed writing it. As always, please leave your comments and/or your constructive criticisms below!

- Shannon


Chapter 22

Jax:

It was dark when we finally rolled up to the scene. Parking on the next block over, I was sure we could stay out of sight if we crossed the two yards discreetly. Opie's hearing had begun to show some sign of recovery over the last few days, so as Clay insisted, he ran point.

"Alright guys. We clear the perimeter, make sure no one else is home, and enter through the back door." He said, as we made our way along the fence line and into the back yard of our lucky judge. With Bobby on my back, everything would be fine.

Ope nodded the signal to me to kick in the door. We entered all together, armed to the T, in ski masks. The grey haired man, startled, began to run. Opie quickly snatched him by his shirt and forced him into one of the kitchen table chairs.

"What is this?" he spat. "In all my years…I never—" he was cut off with a smack to the face.

"This case, you need to get rid of it." He said, slapping the manila folder on the table.

"Is that what this is about?" he scoffed, shaking his head. "I've never been swayed. Especially by a few punks like you." I knew that was the wrong thing for him to say to Opie, but we were all taken aback by a key in the front door.

A young guy walked in, early twenties. I concluded that he was the son, and our leverage. Things were about to get dirty. The son pleaded for his life when I snatched him by his hair and jammed my pistol into his back as I walked him into the kitchen with his father.

"What the fuck, dad? Who are these people?" he cried upon seeing his father bound to a chair with a fat .45 placed at his temple.

"Shut up, son. Don't say another word." He told the young man, who did exactly as he was told. The situation was less than ideal, but with the son as leverage, I was sure I could get the job done.

"What do we have here?" I asked, chuckling as I tugged on a piece of the boy's dark hair. He winced although I didn't tug hard enough to cause any pain. "A scared little boy. Let's see what daddy's gonna do about it." Before I could draw my knife, Ope had a blade to his throat. He quivered, forcing the blade against the thin skin of his neck.

"Careful, boy, don't squirm. Wouldn't want you getting cut now would we?" Bobby teased, his smile spreading clean across his face.

"Do what you want, I'll never give you what you came for." Said the old judge. Opie snarled and holstered his knife.

"So you'll just sit there and let me kill him?" Ope asked, pulling his gun. The old mad shook his head.

"You won't shoot him." He said. This time, it was the corners of my lips to curve into a grin. The old bastard had no idea to what he had just sentenced his son.

"You think I won't? You don't know me. You have no idea. I'd say you're too confident. I'd say you want me to shoot him."

"No!" he cried out. Tears began to fall from his eyes.

"You can make this stop you know, protect your family. All you have to do is give us what we want." The judge stared intently on Opie's gun.

"I will never." He whispered, hanging his head to the ground. The boy squirmed, shaking in fear as he heard the sound of a bullet being loaded into the chamber.

"Is this how it's going to be? You're going to sit there and let your son die so that you can avoid tainting your career? Is this how you protect your family?" said Opie as he pressed the barrel of the pistol to the young man's temple. The judge, still facing the ground did not move. His son pleaded for his life. Pleaded to his father to save him, but the judge didn't move.

"Look at me!" Opie shouted. "Look at me and see what you're doing! Is this how you are protecting your family?!" The man lifted his head for a moment to peer at his son through tear drenched eyes before allowing it to fall back down.

"Is this how you protect the ones you love?" Opie asked before firing a shot into the boy's foot. He screamed in agony. Opie ran out the back door and to the porch. I followed.

"I'm sorry bro. I just need a second." He said, removing his mask and wiping his brow.

"Take a minute, collect yourself. Then get upstairs and find something we can use. This boy's not worth shit to him." I told him, patting his back and heading back in.

Autumn:

Evening rolled in faster than I could get the yard work done. I had intended to weed all the flower beds, but I had at least managed to get the front ones spruced up. The sun was beginning to sink behind the trees and Abel was getting fussy, so I dusted myself off and went inside to cook some dinner.

The freezer was stocked full of red meat. Veal, beef, venison. I had no idea how to cook deer, but I was sure I could find a recipe online. I thought it would be a nice surprise for Jax. There was so much of it, perhaps I would invite Gemma and the crew for dinner.

After sifting through countless recipes and thawing the meat, I finally found the perfect recipe in an online cajun cookbook. After reading and realizing that I had everything I needed in house for the recipe, I decided to make a corn dish and some mashed potatoes.

Abel was upset, so I made him a palate of pillows on the floor in front of the television and he seemed to quiet down. I sent a text message to Gemma and let her know I was cooking a big dinner. She quickly responded that she would be over in an hour with dessert. I smiled at my first attempt at having a family dinner at the house. I made seating for 10 at the table and hoped it would be enough. 'If not, the patio is always an option.' I reminded myself.

I sent a text to Jax and let him know he could bring a few of the guys home for dinner before making my way to the kitchen to begin cooking.

The deer meat was thawed now and cubed prior to freezing, so I began browning it in a large skillet. As it sizzled, I began roasting my peppers on another burner. After they had sufficiently browned, I peeled and deseeded them before chopping them up along with my onions, garlic and celery. Then I threw my vegetables in the skillet with the meat and gave it a nice stir. The kitchen began to smell wonderful. I began my roux in a large cast iron pot. I had never made a roux before, but the recipe had been very detailed, I was confident I could cook oil and flour until it looked a little darker than peanut butter.

After a few minutes, I noticed the color had begun to change and the mixture was coming together. I added my water and soon, my concoction had become a sauce similar to a gravy. Then I added in my deer meat, my roasted peppers and onions and a can of diced tomatoes with green chilis and simmered the liquid for an hour while I prepared my side dishes.

It wasn't long after I finished the corn that I heard Abel in the living room crying. He had gotten himself wrapped up in the fleece throw from the sofa. I detangled him and he continued to watch his television happily.

Gemma came along about half an hour before the rest of the crew, carrying in some crescent rolls and a fruit tart.

"Smells great in here honey, whatcha cookin?" she asked as she sat down her load and made her way to the stove.

"Thanks," I laughed, biting my lip as she stared critically at the dark brown mixture with a texture between gravy and stew.

"Its deer sauce piquant" I told her. Her eyes told me she had no idea. "It's a cajun recipe. We had a lot of cut up deer meat, I didn't know what to do with it. All the recipes online were for vegetable soup, or venison stew and I came across a website that specializes in wild game and southern home cooking."

"Well, smells good. I'm sure the guys will enjoy something cajun for a change." She said, giving me a warm smile. Abel seemed to be really enthralled by the television as he squirmed on the blanket beneath him, all while sucking on his thumb.

"Thumb sucking is a new thing. When did that start?" Gemma asked observantly. I shrugged.

"Well last week he wouldn't take his pacifier, and then I noticed he found a new preference." I told her. She sighed.

"Jax did the same thing. Thankfully, I nipped that habit in the ass before it gave him crooked teeth. If he's as much like his father as I think he is, the old hot sauce on the thumb won't work. I think I still have those mittens at the house, I'll bring them over tomorrow." She replied, going toward him to whisk him into her arms. Giggling, he embraced her.

"I have a sweet potato in the oven for him, and a bit of the deer meat. Do you think he's hungry? I have to put it in the food processor for him." I asked. She nodded and I proceeded to the kitchen.

Club members started arriving sooner than I expected, but Jax wasn't with them, nor was Opie or Bobby. Just as I was plating Abel's dinner of deer meat and sweet potato, Jax entered through the back door. I brought the plate of food to Gemma and found Jax in the bathroom.

The door, cracked open a few inches revealed him washing his face and removing a blood stained t shirt. Drops of blood tainted his white shoes. I watched as he dried his face and before he turned around, I let myself in.

"Hey," he said in that gruff, stressed tone as he pulled me in. I turned my head at his kiss, unsure of how I was supposed to react.

"What's wrong?" he asked immediately. I shook my head, I couldn't let this affect me, at least not now. I didn't have time. I quickly scooped up the dirty clothes and excused myself to the laundry room.

Quite puzzled, I threw the clothes in the washer and just sank down beside the machine for a few moments. I wasn't sure whether to cry or vomit, but both feelings collided in my stomach.

After I spent a while collecting myself, I hurried back to the kitchen and turned the rice cooker on. In fifteen minutes we could all eat and everyone could go home.

Abel's food was cooled down enough to eat, so I set up a spot at the table to feed him real quick. Gemma sat him in my lap. He was excited at the sight of his favorite food, the sweet potato.

Sloppily, he lipped and gummed on a tender piece of deer meet before deciding it was small enough to eat whole.

"That's my boy!" shouted Jax from across the island. Abel gave him a toothless grin.

Patches walked around everywhere, tracking mud inside from out on the soles of their boots. I sighed as is fed Abel another spoonful of sweet potato knowing that tomorrow I would spend all day getting the house back in order.

"Somebody grab me a beer please. It's been a long one." I said, directing toward Jax and Gemma. Jax happily obliged and retrieved a budweiser from the fridge.

"You know you aren't going to like this. I can make you a mixed drink" he suggested, but I wasn't interested, the beer was cold and soothed my dry throat as I took a big gulp.

Abel began to whine as I had stopped feeding him for a moment. "I'll take him sweetie. How about you and Jax roll up a few doobies and we will all get hazy after we put Abel to sleep." I nodded and thanked her, grabbing my beer before excusing myself to the bedroom. Jax followed although I hadn't asked him to.

"You seem tense. Are you okay?" he asked, walking closer. I wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel at that moment. My entire body was wracked with fear that he had done something unspeakable.

"I'm fine." I said as I removed the stash box from the bedside drawer.

"You're not. I never see you rolling joints. Something isn't right." He whispered.

"No, its not right. You come home in blood soaked clothes and I'm supposed to be okay? Jax I don't know what to say." I finally spewed. His comforting smile contorted into an uncomfortable scowl.

"You know what I do, Autumn. Sometimes it gets dirty. Sometimes I have to do things I don't want to do, things I can't tell you. Things that keep me up at night. I can't have you unable to sleep too, I need you to be at your best."

"I know. I'm sorry." I said, staring at my feet. "I know that what you do is dangerous, and I'm sure whoever it was deserved whatever he got, but goddamn, Jax. It's just a little unsettling." I admitted.

"This thing we have here, baby, is special. I couldn't live with myself if I left you here alone with my son. What I did tonight was to protect that. To protect us and our future." He said, placing his arm around my shoulder. "Now let me help you, you're doing a horrible rolling job." He chuckled.

I swigged my beer and tried to recompose myself. I couldn't let this life beat me down so soon. Jax needed me.

He rolled up a few fatties and kissed me before we went back out to the group. By that time, my rice was ready, biscuits were coming out of the oven and everyone was hungry.

"Okay ya'll. I cooked up an original down south recipe tonight. We are having deer sauce piquant." I announced, before letting everyone serve themselves and get seated at the table.

After I fixed a plate and Gemma rejoined us from putting Abel to sleep, we all made our way to the dinner table. Jax took his seat at the head of the table. I sat to his left, and Clay seated himself to Jax's right. Jax stood and began to speak.

"Thanks for coming, all of you. I'm proud to have you all over. My ol' lady has outdone herself today. Before preparing this meal for all of us, she cleaned our house, weeded our flowerbeds, and still managed to smell like milk and honey before I got here. I just want to thank Autumn for all her hard work." He said before the room was filled with a round of applause. I nodded as everyone was looking at me. Even Clay gave me a thumbs up.

Jax:

The night began with a rocky start, but after a couple beers, Autumn really warmed up again. She was working on number three when I sparked up the first joint on the patio.

"Thank god." She exhaled, "I've been waiting for this all day." I happily passed it to her first. Taking a long look at her, I couldn't shake the feeling that she was too good to be true.

Her long black hair was pulled up in a nest atop her head. Stray hairs escaped and hung in messy curls at her ears and the base of her neck. I stared as she inhaled and let out a big grey lungfull of smoke. Suddenly, her demeanor softened, and she sank into my chest.

The guys hung around for a few rounds around the circle, but bailed before it got too late. My mom was the last to leave.

"Dinner was exceptional." She complimented Autumn. "I didn't know deer meat could be that tender."

"Me either." I added.

"Thanks for having everyone over. We'll have to do it again sometime." She said before making her way to her caddy parked on the sidewalk.

I closed the door behind her. Autumn found her way to the kitchen for yet another beer.

"I didn't know you liked beer." I said, pushing a curl behind her ear.

"I don't hate it, now that I've had a few. I won't lie, the first one was rough." I laughed.

"I need a shower." I announced, she replied with a smile and a wink. Without a word, we both made our way to the bathroom.

"I need you." She whispered from behind me, wrapping her thin arms around my waist. Just the sound of her breathy voice had me ready. I turned around and picked her up, placing her bottom seated on the sink.

"Hard to believe when I'm the only one undressed." I noted, as I began unbuttoning her floral blouse.

"I wanted to let you do it." She said, her breathing increasing as it always did when I touched her. I could hear her heart racing over the sound of the shower.

"Are you okay? You seem nervous." I asked. She wouldn't have the talking, for she grabbed my face in both hands and pulled my lips to hers.

"I'm better now." She replied as I pulled away. "You sure are frisky tonight." I said, unlatching her bra and tossing it to the bedroom.

"I told you. I need you. My body craves you." She replied.

"I can satisfy that hunger." I said with a wink as I pulled the thin cotton panties from her thighs.

Then she sat there, naked before me. She had shaven her naughty bits, and I had never seen something more perfect. I immediately dropped to my knees and pulled her hips closer to my face.

"God, you're so beautiful, Autumn." I said, gently caressing the smooth skin that led to her core. She squirmed as I toyed with her, not giving her the relief she so desperately needed.

She tasted like sweet candy on my tongue and her cries were music to my ears as I brought her to a place where she was not in control. Her legs clamped around me as she shuddered.

"Fuck that shower, we can get clean after we finish getting dirty." She said, as she hopped down from the counter and pulled me to the bed before pushing me down and turning some Danzig on the stereo.

"I like when you get fiesty." I chuckled, until I was overwhelmed by the feeling of her body and mine coming together.

Glenn Danzig sang "She Rides" as she climbed on top of me and proceeded to give me the ride of my life. Her body moved in ways I didn't know were possible. She watched me writhe in ecstasy beneath her with a devilish look in her eyes.

I couldn't take it anymore, it was my turn. I flipped her onto her back and plunged deep inside her, I could feel her muscles contracting around me, but I was so lost in her that I let myself keep going until it was too late.

My seed filled her body and then some before I collapsed beside her.

"I think it's time to tell you something I've been wanting to say for months." I whispered into her ear as she lay there, spent and relaxed.

"I love you, too, Jax." She replied.

"How did you know?" I asked. She shrugged and turned to me.

"How could I not know? I felt it. This is real.