Cursing himself for leaving his distinctive Harley parked out front, Kozik padded quietly across the cabin, his gun locked in a two-handed grip and the barrel lowered towards the floor. Seeing a shadow pass the window and realising someone was headed for the porch. Someone who was going to a lot of effort not to be heard.
Getting there first, he decided being proactive would at least give him the upper hand and he reached over to unlock the door. Standing to one side, ready for whoever came through it.
Grim-faced, he watched the handle slowly move and then a pause, as if the person was surprised to find it unlocked. Not half as surprised as they were to feel cold steel pressed to their temple within seconds of stepping inside.
"Don't. Even. Twitch," Kozik growled, his finger on the trigger.
There had been a time when guns weren't ever a part of Tasha's world and, even though it had been years since Kozik had taught her how to use one, she didn't think it was something she'd ever get used to.
"You need to pull this, it ain't no time to get shy," he warned her, his arms braced along hers, his body cradling hers as he stood behind her to adjust her grip on the pistol. "I ain't having my girl getting into shit for the hell of it – it's my job to make sure you never need this. So if you ever do gotta pull this ... then we ain't gonna be talking warning shots."
"Ko-oz ..." she huffed a sigh, trying to blow a stray lock of hair out of her face as another shot went wide of the target. "I'm never gonna be any good at this! We've been out here since the crack of dawn and you know ... we could have been doing something much more fun ..."
Knowing what she was trying to do, pressing back against him like that, Kozik's stern sergeant's face held firm. But not for long. He never could resist her – the chick had him wrapped around her finger, tough guy or not.
"Fun, huh?" he drawled over her shoulder, leaving the gun in her sole grip as he snaked his arms around her waist. "This is fun, baby – you got any idea how hot you look right now, hands wrapped around that steel?"
"We are still talking guns, aren't we?" Tasha teased, tilting her head to allow him better access as his lips grazed her neck. A knowing smile quirking the corners of her previously pouty mouth upwards when he slid a hand down her arm to ease the gun from her grip. The lesson forgotten the moment he hoisted her easily over his shoulder, making her squeal with laughter.
But he'd been too much the trained military man, too much the SAA, to neglect his duty for long. And he'd fully intended she know how to protect herself just in case, a back-up plan for a scenario he never intended to allow – him not being there to put himself on the line for her.
So while the green eyes staring down the muzzle of the gun were wide with fear, the hands were steady. The aim sure. She barely flinched when she heard Kozik's angry shout. Even though her blood ran cold.
"Are you out of your motherfucking mind, shit-for-brains?" Kozik raged. "Sneaking up on a brother like that, I coulda blown your fucking head off – maybe I still will!"
"I'm s-s-sorry!" the unfortunate young man gasped, deathly pale. His eyes still squeezed shut tight, not at all convinced that he was going to make it out of the cabin alive. "I didn't t-think ..."
"No shit, Sherlock!" Kozik exclaimed, his fury all the deeper for the fear he had felt for his girl. But with the thought of her foremost in his mind, he tore his gun from its target with a scowl and tucked it into the waistband of his sweatpants. "You stay put," he warned Tacoma's newest Prospect, who showed zero inclination to even think of disobeying his sergeant.
Going to the bedroom door, Kozik froze with his hand on the wood, remembering his instructions to Tasha. It would be just his luck that he'd open the door and have her shoot him in the chest. "Tash?" he called, "Baby? It's me – everything's okay. I'm opening the door, darlin'. You can put down the gun ..."
But slowly opening the door, he saw her in front of him. Pale faced and frozen, the gun gripped tightly in both hands and pointing straight at him. "Just me, baby," he said carefully, hands up as if in surrender. "It's okay. It's all okay ..."
No fear, just caution in his movements, he walked towards her and reached out. Gently tilting the gun towards the floor and then easing it out of her hand, setting it on the windowsill and turning back just in time to wrap her in his arms as she visibly crumpled.
"I got ya, darlin'," Kozik soothed, one hand cradling the back of her head. Hating to see she had been so scared. Not that he could blame her - after everything they'd been through, even he'd been a little rattled. Too quick to jump to the wrong conclusion. And, while safe was better than sorry, he still wished he hadn't managed to terrify his girl in the process.
"Sorry for freaking out ..." Tasha whispered, her hands on his chest. Eyes cast downwards, until he firmly tilted her face up to his and dropped a kiss on her lips.
"Don't be," he told her, in that voice that left no room for argument. "Now, come on – I got a Prospect to educate on the rules against unexpected visits ..."
Curled on the couch, cosy in one of Kozik's hooded sweatshirts, Tasha watched the two bikers from over her steaming mug of hot sweet coffee. Her previously angry fiancé obviously thrown off course by whatever the still nervous young Prospect was telling him.
All she knew was that it had to be club business and, in that case, she would just have to wait to find out how much Kozik was prepared to tell her. When it came to MC dealings, old ladies were strictly on a need-to-know basis and their men considered there were a lot of things they just didn't need to know.
But, as it was, she didn't have to wait long before he sank down beside her. Sitting hunched over with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. She knew better than to ask. Instead, Tasha reached out to run her fingers gently through his hair, seeing it as her turn to be there for him. Even though her heart was already sinking.
"It ain't good, baby," Kozik sighed, knowing there was no way to sugar-coat the news.
"Tacoma?" Tasha ventured, concern etched across her face. Her mind already running through the possibilities. But he shook his head.
"Charming," he said. "That Prospect of theirs ... He's dead."
"Kip? Oh my god, no!" she gasped, horrified by the loss of the friendly young man who'd always seemed so keen to please. Had survived so much. "When? How?"
"The Irish – that Hayes bastard," Kozik told her, turning so he could wrap her in his arms. As much needing to have her close and know she was safe as offering comfort. "It gets worse, Tash ... Tara and Abel were there-"
"Oh no, no, no ..." she pleaded, tears quickly springing up her in eyes as she clung to him. "Please don't tell me-"
"Tara's okay," he said quickly. "Pretty shook up, but ... it's the kid – Hayes took him. Sack got stabbed trying to stop him. Shit, that little guy had more balls than any of us gave him credit for."
"Fuck ..." Tasha breathed shakily, trying to take it all in. "Jax must be going out of his mind!"
Kozik nodded slowly, leaning his forehead against hers. They both knew better than most what the vice-president must be going through and he hated putting this on his girl when she was still coming to terms with their own loss.
"And Clay and Gemma – god, their only grandkid ..."
"Gem don't know – she's ... she's on the fucking lam," he said, hardly able to believe the extent of the trouble piling up at the club's door. "Reckons she's been framed for murder by that crazy ATF bitch."
"Jesus Christ, Koz! What the hell is happening? Gemma on the run ... Kip dead – he's just a kid, he doesn't deserve this for protecting people! And Abel ... he's just a little baby, Koz – it's not fair, it's just not fair!"
"I know, darlin', I know ..." he said quietly, sliding a hand into her hair and pressing a kiss to her temple. Hating that there wasn't more he could do. That he couldn't promise her things would be okay.
"We have to go back, don't we?"
But Kozik shook his head. "No, you don't have to, Tash - you've been through enough shit for a lifetime. I'll take you somewhere safe until this is over. To your dad's maybe."
"What about you?"
He paused, torn loyalties clear. "It's Jax's kid, doll ..." he said finally. "If he needs my help, I gotta be there."
"Then we're going to Charming," Tasha said simply, cupping his face in her hands when it looked like he was about to interrupt. "No buts, Kozik. They need you and I'm not leaving you - not now, not ever. We can be packed in an hour."
Watching the Prospect peel away from the cabin, down the rough tree-lined, well-hidden, track that led to the road, Kozik swung a leg over his bike and waited for Tasha to slide into place behind him. Her arms wrapping around his waist, over the cut he hadn't worn since they'd arrived at their secluded getaway.
He covered her hands with his, raising one to his lips for a kiss before replacing it on his stomach. Feeling her lay her head against his back and knowing what the gesture meant. They were going to be okay, the two of them.
"Ready?" Kozik called over the roar of the powerful engine.
And with a last wistful look at what had been their own little sanctuary, Tasha knew she was. For whatever the future held for them.
Author's Note: That's it, guys - thanks to everyone who read and reviewed. Would love to know if you'd be interested in another sequel - I kinda thought it was nice to keep this confined to the cabin setting, but I'm considering covering Koz and Tasha's return to 'normal' life. And, of course, whether or not they do make things work when they get back to all the complications MC life has in store ... If they ever get to have the happy family they want ... Just hit review and let me know your thoughts! :)