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Introduction:

Jessica learns that there really is evil in the world.
And that was the last thing Jessica clearly remembered happening.

She popped up, aimed at the bearded man’s head and fired. And she barely had time to feel relief when her shot hit its target. She turned and fired at the man nearest Riley. She wanted them dead. All of them dead. With a growl she tossed the spent rifle aside and ran toward the gunmen.

Jim heard the shot and squeezed his eyes shut, but moments later realized that he was still alive. Then he heard Josh gasp “Jessica!”

Jim opened his eyes and couldn’t believe what he saw. Jessica running toward them in her bikini, gun belt around her waist. She had a six shooter in each hand and she was firing at the men around them, and they were falling.

“No!” he heard Angus yell and Jim noticed a gunman near him raising his gun at Jessica. Jim threw himself forward, hitting the gunman and forcing his gun to fire wide. But Jim fell to the ground, and struggled to turn over so he could see Jessica. She was still firing. He looked around. Josh was struggling to get to his feet, Scott was trying to roll to his knees. Angus and Riley writhed on the ground trying to roll over and get up too. When he looked back at Jessica, he realized that she no longer had her six shooters and had miraculously pulled a rifle from behind her.

She fired and for a moment it looked like all the gunmen were down but then to Jim’s horror a couple popped up. Christ … she’d been shooting at their torsos, like they’d taught her. But these guys must have been wearing bullet proof vests.

Jessica seemed to realize it too because she slid to a stop, dropped to a knee and fired at one man’s head, brain and blood flying out the back of his head when she hit her mark.

She tossed her rifle, pulled a shotgun from nowhere and fired but the man she was firing at fired at the same time and Jim screamed “No!” when Jessica’s right shoulder bucked and she flew back.

Jim heard the other men yell “Jessica!”

Angus couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was surreal. He felt terror grip him, he was sure Jessica was dead but then she sat up, pointed the shot gun at the man who’d shot her. She pulled the trigger but there was nothing but a click. She pulled it over and over. Then she seemed to realize that the gunman’s gun was empty too. She slid her eyes over to the gun that lay near Daryl. She made a move toward it but the man whose gun was empty moved to block her.

“Well, well, looky here.” He said, tossing his empty gun and looking at the other two men that were still left standing with him. “Looks like we’ll get our fun afterall.” He wiped his hand over his mouth and stepped forward. Jessica looked around at the three men surrounding her. Her left arm hung by her side, blood from her shoulder soaking her shirt, but Scott was relieved to see that she was still able to use her arm. She held her hands up and near her body in the fighting stance the men had taught her.

“Run Jess, run!” Scott yelled. And to his horror she did, she ran right at the man. The man hadn’t expected it and looked completely surprised when Jessica drop kicked him. When he got up she spun around and kicked his head, punched him in the nose, and landed a fist to his Adams apple. He clutched his neck and dropped to his knees.

The other two men who were watching laughed, dropped their guns and moved toward Jessica.

“Got beatin’ up by a girl Troy?” one of the men demanded.

“For God sakes Jessica, run!” Riley yelled through clenched jaws.

“Jessica!” Josh yelled when she advanced on Troy kicked him in his nuts, and connected a right hook to his nose.

“Behind you!” Angus yelled when the third man came up behind her. Jessica threw her elbow back catching the man in the sternum. Stomping on his toe she threw herself forward just as his arms were about to close around her. She scrambled toward Daryl’s gun. Jim turned himself and nudged the gun toward Jessica.

“Thank you!” Jessica whispered, grabbing the gun, turning and firing right in the man’s forehead. He dropped and Jessica screamed, but she didn’t have long to register what she’d done. Still holding his throat, the first man lunged at her. Jessica grabbed the barrel of the rifle, swung the gun like a baseball bat and smashed it against his head. And he dropped.

“That’s it bitch.” The third man said and Jessica turned to see him advancing on her, a huge knife in his hands which he tossed back and forth as he moved forward. “I don’t give a shit if I fuck you when you’re alive or dead. I’m going to slice up that fucking whore face of yours …” and he swung the knife out at her. Jessica moved back, just a moment too slow and the knife sliced her chest. Jessica cried out with pain.

“God no …” Scott moaned, “Jessica run …”

But Jessica opted for a roundhouse kick hitting the man’s hand that held the knife. It didn’t knock it out of his hand but it was enough impact for him to step back. Riley wiggled and twisted and dragged himself toward the man.

“Again Jess!” he yelled as he maneuvered himself directly behind the man. Jessica kicked him again and he stumbled over Riley. Without a seconds pause Jessica threw herself on him, grabbed the hand that clutched the knife with both her hands and bashed it against the ground. The knife fell away the second time she hit the ground, but he raised his free arm and punched Jessica in the back of the head. Jessica swooned for a moment, reached for the knife, and ducking another punch, raised her arms in the air, knife clenched between her hands and thrust the knife down as hard as she could into his throat. Jessica scrambled off the man and fell on her butt on the ground. The man clutched his throat, blood gargling out, a strange sound escaping him, he lunged toward her, but then fell face down on the ground.

“Crap!” She yelled as the man she’d hit with the rifle started to moan and move on the ground. She pushed to her feet and ran past Riley and the two bodies lying near him to one of the rifles on the ground. She cracked it open, look inside, shut it and moved to stand over the moaning man. Pointing the gun at his head she closed her eyes and pulled the trigger.

Jessica stood with her eyes clenched for a minute, letting the rifle drop.

Opening her eyes she looked at the shattered skull of the man at her feet, turned and vomited.

“Jess …” Josh said, stunned.

Jessica straightened, looked around and when none of the gunmen seemed to be moving she dropped to her knees next to Riley. He turned on his stomach and Jessica pulled on the rope binding his hands and feet.

“The knife …” she panted, “I need the knife.” She pushed up.

“Where are you going?” Riley demanded, looking up he saw Jessica kneel over the man she’d stabbed.

“Oh yuck.” She said as she pulled the knife out of his throat. Returning to Riley she sawed the rope until it snapped. As he sat up and pulled the rope off his ankles and wrists Jessica went to Jim, Josh, Angus and Scott cutting all of their ropes.

When she moved to stand-up Scott grabbed her arm and pulled her down against him.
Jessica pressed her face into his chest, and then lifted her head to kiss his lips.

“Are you okay?’ she asked.

“Am I okay?” he asked with a laugh, “I guess I am now. Are you okay?”

“Fine … now.” Jessica said.

“Oh fuck!” Angus swore when cars pulled into the driveway. He struggled to get up. “Run Jessica!” he growled.

“It’s Sean and Corey.” Jessica said.

“Sean?” Angus asked.

“Holy shit.” Corey said, moving toward them, holding a rifle in his hands. Sean, Leah, a few men Jessica had met at the jam session and Beth emerged from the cars.

“I guess you guys managed okay on your own.” Sean said walking around and looking at the dead bodies.

“Not us.” Riley said, struggling to his feet. “Jess saved us.”

“Jess?” Corey repeated.

“Yup.” Josh said moving to where Scott stood with an arm draped around Jessica.

The men limped toward Jessica. Angus moved up and pressed his forehead against hers … the others closed in forming a group hug.

“I thought we were fucking toast.” Angus said. “God I thought we were dead.”

“We were dead. As good as …” Riley said.

“And then you … you crazy, insane, stupid girl … I couldn’t believe my eyes.” Jim muttered.

“In a fucking bikini?” Scott said, using the nook of his elbow to pull her head to his lips. “A fucking bikini …”

“And we told you to run when there was trouble.” Angus grumbled.

“You were supposed to run!” Josh said, awe and disbelief playing across his face.

“But as usual you didn’t listen to us.” Riley added. “And I’ve never been more glad that you didn’t.” he added just as Jessica thought her heart couldn’t pound any harder. She felt cold, weak and dizzy and the thought that the men were going to be mad at her was just something she didn’t want to deal with right then.

Jessica blinked. It wasn’t until Riley’s face split into a huge smile and he grasped her head in his hands, pulled her forward and kissed her that she realized that he wasn’t really angry.

Jessica looked around at the men and relief flooded over her as she saw them all smiling at her. They were bloodied and bruised, but their expressions were unmistakable … they were happy.

“I’ve never been so fucking proud of you.” Scott said kissing her cheek.

Angus grabbed her head, and stared into her eyes.

“You kicked their fucking asses. You did it.” He growled. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Jessica said, blinking her eyes a few times, she started feeling dizzy.

“You’re one bad ass chick Jess.” Josh said clutching her hand. “You can have your privileges back. All of them, and then some. Unfucking believable.”

“Really?” Jessica asked.
“Really.” Jim said.

“Great, thanks …” Jessica said and collapsed against Scott.

“Jess!” Angus yelled.

“Her shoulder!” Riley said reaching for her blood covered shoulder. “She was shot in the shoulder.”

“Ow …” Jessica mumbled when Riley felt her shoulder.

“Sorry babe.” Riley said. “I can’t believe you fought with a bullet in your shoulder. Didn’t it hurt like a son of a bitch?”

“Just a little …” Jessica said quietly. “I feel dizzy …”

“She got slashed on her chest too.” Jim said.

Riley lifted her shirt. “It looks superficial.” He said.

“I can’t see properly …” Jessica whispered and fainted.

“Jessica … Jessica!” Jim elbowed his way past Angus and Riley and tapped her cheek.

“She’s lost a lot of blood.” Riley said. “Get her inside.” He said bending to pick her up.

“I got her.” Corey said handing his gun to Sean.

“I got her.” Riley said.

“You’ve been shot too.” Corey observed, pointing at the blood pouring out of Riley’s right leg.

“We’ve all been shot.” Riley said, “But I’m okay.”

“Give her to me.” Corey said grabbing her out of Riley’s arms when he lost his balance and almost fell over. “None of you should be carrying her.” He added when the other men began to protest. “When Jessica called me I called Paul. He’s sending his doctor … I figure he should be here any time now. The doc and I can patch you guys up, and Sean and the others will bury the bodies.”

“Shit.” Josh said looking around at the dead men that littered the yard. “I can’t believe Jessica did this ….”
“Christ … what happens when it gets out that we killed Daryl and his … clan? This has to be pretty much what’s left of his clan.” Scott asked.

“No one can know.” Corey said. “That’s why we’re going to bury the bodies and all anyone will know is that they disappeared into thin air …”

Riley nodded.

Just then an SUV pulled into the driveway.

A man got out with a black bag in hand. Following him were Abe and Rick … Paul’ bodyguards, guns in hand.

“What the fuck?” Abe asked looking around at the carnage.

The man with the bag surveyed the bodies then zeroed in on Corey with Jessica in his arms. He strode toward her with purpose. Abe and Rick following him. The men shuffled to close ranks around Corey and Jessica halting the men.

“They attacked us.” Riley said. Now there was no way to keep it quiet. His heart pounding from the fear of having to fight Abe and Rick in his condition, making him feel light headed. It terrified him to think that after all of this they would fail to protect Jessica from their own allies.

“So I hear.” Abe said.

“We’re burying the bodies.”

Abe looked around at Sean and the others. Swung his gaze back at Riley and nodded.

“We won’t stop you.” Abe said. “In fact, we’ll even help but our primary purpose for being here is her.” Abe nodded at Jessica.

“What do you mean?” Angus growled.

“Excuse me gentlemen.” The man with the black bag said and his strong Scottish accent surprised them. “I have one purpose to being here and that is to help that lass there. From the look of her, if you don’t let me through, you will be burying one more body.”

Angus blinked and then stepped aside. “She’s been shot in her shoulder. Christ, hurry please!” he said when he saw how pale Jessica looked.

The man strode past him. He placed a hand on her neck.

“I’ve gotta get some plasma into her.” The doctor said. “Take her in the house.” He said to Corey. Looking around at the men quickly he said, “when I’m done with her I’ll look you lads over … if you can make it into the house.” And then he followed Corey. And Abe and Rick followed him.

“Shovels are in the barn.” Scott said to Sean.

Angus glanced around at the bodies again, and froze. He hadn’t registered that Beth was there. And she stood now staring after Jessica and she looked worried. He looked away. That was a complication he didn’t need. When he’d called Corey that morning as he’d told Jessica he would, he hadn’t expected Beth to be so bold as to show up at his house. He didn’t know how to feel about her and he didn’t have time to think about it now so he limped toward the house with the other men hoping she’d keep her distance.

In the house the doctor and Paul’s bodyguards were buzzing around Jessica, whom they’d laid onto the coffee table. They moved in what looked like orchestrated perfection. They looked professional, and serious. Their somber expressions froze the men in their places. There was little doubt that the situation was serious. So serious that none of the men took issue when one of the bodyguards, Abe, Jessica had called him, cut Jessica’s bikini top with a pair of surgical scissors.

“Pulse is faint.” The other bodyguard told the doctor, who had just finished sticking a tube into her arm, taping it, and hanging a bag with clear liquid in it from a portable stand he’d quickly snapped into place.

The men let out a collective gasp of relief when Jessica whispered, “Doc?”

“Lass.” The doctor replied. “Can’t keep out of trouble can you?”

“Sorry …” Jessica murmured and closed her eyes.

“I don’t feel a pulse.” Rick said.

“Lass, lass …” the doctor repeated, tapping her cheek progressively harder.

“What’s happening?” Jim demanded.

“Initiate CPR.” The doctor commanded and began compressing her chest. Rick dropped and began breathing into her mouth. “You!” the doctor turned his head to Josh who stood closest to him. “Apply pressure to the bullet wound. Now!” He yelled. Josh moved by Jessica’s head and dropped to his knees, ignoring the pain shooting from the bullet wounds in his thighs.

“Come on Jess.” He begged, pressing his hand on the hole where blood oozed. Tears ran down his face and he made no attempt to hide them.
“We’re losing her.” The doctor said, “Plasma’s not enough. She needs a transfusion. What’s her blood type?” he asked. Josh looked up at him, terror in his eyes. Shaking his head he looked around at the other men.

“I don’t know …” he mumbled.

“Blood type? Anyone?” The doctor demanded, never once missing a compression.

The men shook their heads. “Jim?” Riley asked in desperation.

“I never had reason to ask. Scott? You were researching her …”

Scott shook his head, unable to take his eyes off Jessica’s lifeless form. He couldn’t speak.

“Fucking hell.” The doctor exclaimed. “Fine, I need a universal donor.” He said to Abe. “Anyone with blood type O. Get me some blood now!”

Abe stood and looked at the men. They all shook their heads. None had type O. Abe headed for the door.

“Come on lass, come on.” The doctor murmured and continued his compressions.

“One of you come here.” He said over his shoulder. Riley moved closer. “Take over for me. Do exactly what I’m doing.”

“What?” Riley asked in a strangled voice.

“She’s dead right now. You have to keep the blood flowing in her while I get the defibrillator. Hurry up man, or she’s going to have brain damage!”

“Oh God!” Riley said, dropping to his knees, almost passing out from the pain.

“Let me.” Scott said.

Riley shook his head, both to clear it and indicate no. And he began to imitate the doctor’s compressions on Jessica’s chest. “Jessica, please … please.” He kept repeating, tears clouded his vision but even so he could see that she was as white as a ghost.

“Move back.” The doctor ordered. Scott had to grab Riley by his shoulders and move him back.

“Clear …” The doctor said and placed the paddles on Jessica’s chest, there was a short beep and Jessica’s body convulsed.

“No pulse.” Rick said.

“No!” Jim said as he sank to his knees. He watched the doctor prep the paddles again. Inching forward he took Jessica’s cold, clammy hand in his and kissed it. Squeezed it, patted it. “Please Jess … come back, fight. Fight like you always do, please!”

The other men were murmuring encouragement also as Jessica’s body convulsed and then Rick placed his fingers on her neck.

“Thank God!” Jim exclaimed when Rick said “It’s weak, but there’s a pulse.”

“Where’s my Goddamn blood?” The doctor looked around the room. The men did too and for the first time noticed Leah sitting on a kitchen chair, Abe draining blood from her into a bag.

“Only two O type donors.” Abe reported, indicating Leah on the chair and Corey standing next to her.

“No time for that.” The doctor said, “Bring her here.” He said indicating the other side of Jessica, “We’ll have to hook her up directly to Jessica. They’ll need food.” He said turning his gaze to Angus who hadn’t moved from his frozen stance since entering the house. “Hey!” he yelled, “snap out of it. You have to keep the donors fed or we’ll run out of blood.”

Angus nodded slowly, blinking he brought his hands to his eyes, wiped away the tears.

“These two.” The doctor pointed at Leah, who was now sitting next to Jessica, watching the blood flow from her arm into Jessica’s, and Corey, who was seated next to Leah. Both looked sweaty and dirty. They’d obviously been busy burying the bodies. “Get them anything with carbs, sugar, and liquids.”

“I’ll help.” Scott said and limped behind Angus into the kitchen.

“Are you okay?” Scott asked Angus when he found him leaning on the counter. Angus whipped his head back and forth a few times, like he was trying to shake something off his head.

“I feel light headed.” Angus said. “I think I was holding my breath that whole time.” He said indicating the living room with his head.

“You’re pale.” Scott said. “Probably lost too much blood. You and me both, I feel weird too. Let’s get back out there and sit down before we fall down.”

Angus nodded and handed a loaf of bread to Scott.
“Best we can do. But help yourselves to whatevers in the kitchen.” Scott said quietly to the doctor when he looked up from Josh’s leg. He was busy tightening gauze around Josh’s thigh.

“Sit down.” The doctor said, “I’ll get to you in a minute.”

Scott and Angus limped to the sofa, handing the bread to Rick.

Scott barely registered the gasp that came from the doorway, or Jessica’s name cried out but Angus’ furious bellow got his attention.

“Get the fuck out!” Angus yelled.

Scott looked up to see Beth staring at Jessica, her face etched in grief. She was moving forward but then Sean caught her from behind, looking past Scott with a shocked expression. Scott turned to see Angus, face bright red, veins bulging, lurching toward Beth. He raised a clenched fist. Beth didn’t resist when Sean pulled her back out the front door.

“Bitch!” Angus spat and then dropped face first on the floor.

“Angus!” Riley said, trying to stand.

“Shit.” Abe said, pushing Riley back onto the sofa. He’d been working on Riley’s leg.

“I think he broke his nose.” Jim said. Sitting on the floor next to Angus, Rick tying a tourniquet around his leg he grimaced as he remembered the sickening crack that had accompanied Angus’ fall.

“Change of plans.” The doctor said standing. “I’ve got to operate to get the bullets out of all of you lads. I’m going to start with him …” he said pointing at Angus, “I’m not sure I have enough anesthetic to go around and he’s down for the count. The rest of you lie down and don’t move. We don’t need any more face plants or blood transfusions today.”

Scott nodded as he lowered himself onto the sofa. He closed his eyes, the world was spinning. Relief flooded through him. Jessica was alive. He and the men were alive. He felt so tired. Just as he was about to drift off to sleep the image of Jessica’s shoulder snapping back with the impact of the bullet popped into his mind. Then the knife grazing her chest … her body convulsing with the charge of the defibrillator. Scott’s eyes flew open and he looked to the coffee table. Leah sat between him and Jessica but he could see Jessica’s hair hanging off the table. Another flash. The night before. Jessica on the table in a completely different position. The fuck machines pounding her …Scott bolted up. He scanned the room. And there they were. At opposite ends of the couch, as plain as day. There was no chance the other men in the room hadn’t seen them. He groaned when he saw Leah eyeing the one nearest her, and Corey who sat next to her, doing the same. Scott didn’t personally care but he knew Jessica’s face would turn bright red and she’d be mortified if she knew that everyone knew that they’d used those kinds of things on her. He had to move them. He swung his legs off the sofa.

“What are you doing?”

Scott looked up and saw Corey leaning back in his chair, looking at him expectantly.

“I’ve gotta move those …” Scott inclined his head to one of the machines.

Corey shifted his eyes for a moment to Jessica and then looked back at Scott with a knowing grin. Scott’s stomach dropped. She was going to be devastated.

“Look.” He said eyeing the front door. He had to get them moved before anyone else came in. It was going to be hard enough to contain with the people already in this room. “I’m really embarrassed.” He leaned closer to Corey. “I really don’t want the whole world knowing that I like it kinky like that.”

It took all Scott’s self-control to not laugh at the expression on Corey’s face. He looked like he’d swallowed his tongue. Beside Corey, Leah’s mouth hung open. Scanning the other men Scott was glad to see that the doctor and the bodyguards weren’t paying attention at all, busy working on Angus. Riley, Jim and Josh seemed to just remember the machines and all three struggled to get to their feet.

“What can I say.” Scott added, wanting to make sure there was no doubt in anyone’s mind about who used the machines, “I like to be fucked by machines, but does everyone need to know about it?” he finished, inclining his head to the door.

Finally Corey seemed to snap out of his shock. The smirk slid off his face. He stood up quickly.

“I’ll move them for you. Where do you want them?”

“Thanks man.” Scott said, falling back against the sofa. “Downstairs, thanks.”

When Corey moved to the first machine Leah’s eyes met Scott’s. Scott winked and Leah looked away quickly.

“What?” Scott asked when Corey was in the basement with the first machine. Josh and Riley, next to him on the sofa, and Jim, still on the floor, were staring at him in disbelief.

“You’re a genius.” Jim said.

“I never would’ve confessed to something like that.” Riley said shaking his head.

“You realize it’s going to get around.” Josh said quietly.

“Better me than her.” Scott said with a shrug but his face turned a light pink despite his blood loss.

“Amen.” Jim said.

“Right.” The doctor said standing, covered in blood and looking at Jim. “I’ve removed his bullets. Now it’s your turn. I only have local anesthetic. You got something to bite down on or something?”

“I’ll be fine.” Jim said.

The doctor looked around. Scott was relieved that Corey had already disappeared downstairs again, with the second machine.

“Get him on the kitchen table.” The doctor said to Abe and Rick.

***********************************************************

“How is she?” Angus asked in a muffled voice.

“The same.” The doctor reported.

It had been a day since the surgeries. In addition to bandages on his thighs, Angus had a bandage on his nose. It had been broken. When he spoke, Angus sounded like he had a pillow firmly pressed over his face and his eyes were black, bruised from the beating and his fall.

The men were in pain and weak, but they were conscious. Jessica however had remained weak and unconscious the whole time.

The doctor had drained Leah and Corey into her twice before he felt she had enough blood but despite his calm demeanor, Angus still had the impression that the doctor was unsure of Jessica’s recovery.

Jessica had been moved to the sofa, the mattresses had been setup and the men lay on them, next to the sofa. The doctor had told them that it was vital that they talk to her. They spent as much time holding her hand and talking to her as they could. They had Leah, and the other girls do the same. Even Corey, Sean, Abe and Rick. But she hadn’t woken up once.

“Come on Jess …” Angus said, holding her hand to his lips. A chair had been placed between the sofa and the mattress and he sat on it now. He ran his hand across her forehead, pushing sweat stained hair out of her eyes. “What else can we do?” He asked the doctor.

“Just keep doing the same.” The doctor said, laying his hand on Angus’ shoulder and squeezing. “So,” The doc said straightening and looking around at the men, Rick and Abe. “She can’t be moved for a while. I’ve given her a catheter. Abe and Rick will change it as needed.” The doctor shifted his attention to Abe and Rick. “And she’ll have to be sponge bathed. It’s important that she be kept as clean as possible. Once a day should be good.”

“We can do that.” Riley interrupted. He’d been feeling light headed but the horrifying idea of Abe and Rick running their hands, sponge or no sponge, all over Jessica’s body cut through the fog. He looked at the doctor, Abe and Rick, “We’ve got it.”
The doctor looked Riley up and down. He looked white as a sheet and about ready to fall over.

“We got it.” Josh confirmed when the doctor scanned his eyes past him.

The doctor shook his head, “Okay, fine. I want to give her a stronger antibiotic and pain killer. Is she allergic to anything?”

The men looked at each other.

“Fuck …” Scott hissed. “How can we be so fucking clueless about her?”

Jim groaned. He’d been lying on the mattress but had dragged himself to the sofa, next to Angus. He dropped his head against Jessica’s leg. “So fucking stupid …”

Angus looked at Jim. “I asked her a million questions … none of them the right ones.”

“Okay then, here’s an easier question.” The doctor said, “Is she on any medication?”

“No,” Riley said, shaking his head. “Just … shit!”

“Jesus Christ!” Scott bellowed, having followed Riley’s line of thought.

“What the fuck!” Rick demanded.

“Birth control pills …” Josh whispered and he suddenly felt like vomiting.

“That’s not a problem.” The doctor said confused by the tortured expressions on the men’s faces. “They don’t interfere with one another … birth control and the meds I want to give her.”

“That’s not it.” Riley said shaking his head.

Scott had been leaning on the back of the sofa, trying to keep from falling down. Now he pushed himself to his feet. “Where’d she keep them?”

“In her purse.” Jim said struggling to get to his feet.

“I’ll get the pills.” Scott said and lurched toward the bedrooms.

“We think she’s missed some pills.” Riley said when the doctor looked dumbfounded.

“And that’s a problem?” The doctor asked. “I thought you were married.”

Riley nodded. “But we don’t want kids.”

“She … she doesn’t want kids.” Angus corrected. “She’s going to be so … she’ll think we betrayed her.”

“Well?” Josh asked from his prone position on the mattress as Scott shuffled back into the living room, pill container in his hand.

“She’s missed yesterday and today for sure.” Scott said looking at the container, “and she has at least a weeks worth here before the placebos.”

“Shit, shit, shit!” Jim said. “Doc, can we give her the rest, while she’s resting?”

The doctor shook his head. “She won’t swallow it.”

“Can you give it to her some other way?” Angus asked.

“I could give her something but I don’t have it with me. And quite frankly, in her condition, I don’t recommend it.”

“Come on Doc, please …” Riley begged.

“Given the trauma she’s had, and the meds she’s taking now, I highly doubt she’d be pregnant. I suggest waiting to see if she menstruates. If she doesn’t, there’s still plenty of time to take other measures.”

“Other measures …” Angus mumbled, lowering his head.

“You don’t understand Doc.” Scott said, “She doesn’t want this. She doesn’t want to be pregnant, period.”

“It can be taken care of. Don’t worry.” The doctor said.

“She’ll think we did it on purpose.” Riley said.

“I don’t see how she can.” The doctor said, looking over his shoulder at Abe and Rick both of whom shrugged their shoulders, not understanding why the men were so upset either. “Did you plan on getting shot? Plan on her getting shot? So how can she blame you. Trust me. Wait a week, she should start to menstruate not long after that. In fact she may start sooner given what she’s been through. If she doesn’t, we’ll deal with it. Okay?”

The men didn’t answer, staring at Jessica in silence.

“Okay then. I’ll give her the meds and I’ll be back later today to change your dressings. If there are any problems Abe will page me.”

“Thanks Doc.” Josh said. He’d slowly and painfully moved himself from the mattress to stand next to Angus’ chair. He lowered himself slowly to his knees by Jessica’s head.

When the doctor left, Angus looked around the room. Abe and Rick had moved to the kitchen.

“I can’t believe what we did to her, with the hook and everything.” Angus muttered. “And God, what if she’s pregnant? She’ll never forgive us!”

“I know. It’s all our fault.” Riley said.

“I kind of thought she’d enjoyed what we did to her.” Scott said.

Angus nodded. “Some of it she did. But we went too far. Trying once again to prove that we were right and she was wrong.”

“But, it was the other way around.” Josh said and leaned in to kiss her forehead.

“It’s always been the other way around.” Jim said.

“She sure knows when she’s right.” Riley said, “And never backs down.”

“Thank God. Or we’d be dead.” Angus said and gripping Jessica’s hand tighter he leaned toward her. “What are we going to do? If she’s pregnant?”

Angus looked up when no one responded.

“The doc said there were options.” Jim said slowly each word weighted down with dread. “We’ll have to let her decide which one she wants to take. Will you be able to live with that Angus?”

Angus slid his eyes back to Jessica. “I’ll have to. Nothing matters but her happiness. And … and I don’t want her to hate us. She will if she thinks we made her get pregnant on purpose.”

“She did make it pretty clear that she expected that of us.” Riley added.

“Like Doc said, this couldn’t be helped.” Scott said. He’d pulled a kitchen chair over and now sagged in it. “She’s a reasonable person. If we explain everything to her when she wakes up she’ll understand that we didn’t do it intentionally.”

Angus nodded. “Come on Jess. Wake up, please? I want to thank you, explain about the pills … make amends … come on.”

“You know there is a way for you to start making amends before she even wakes up.” Jim said.

“Well?” Angus prompted when Jim didn’t say anything else.

“There’s one person who Jessica really likes but hasn’t yet come to talk to her.” Jim said.

For a moment Angus had no idea what Jim meant but then it dawned on him and anger began to course through him.

“Before you say no.” Jim said as Angus’ face began to turn crimson. “Think about what you just said to her. You want to make amends. Doing only what you feel like doing isn’t making amends. If you really want to make it up to her, you’ll let Beth come be with her. Jessica really likes her. Do what’s right for Jessica, even if it’s not right for you.”
Angus opened his mouth to say something but then closed it.

“If Scott can tell the entire clan that he gets fucked up the ass and in the mouth by machines to avoid embarrassing Jessica then you can let your ex in.” Riley said. “It’s for Jessica, not you, and you don’t have to be here.”

Angus nodded. He didn’t like it, not one bit, but he knew it was the right thing to do.

“Okay. For a few minutes. But that bitch can’t look at me, talk to me, talk about me. Nothing. Got it?”

“Got it.” Josh said, groaning as he pushed himself to his feet. “I’ll go get her.”
“Just make sure she understands…” Angus said.

Twenty minutes later Beth stepped through the front door. She paused, saw Angus glowering by the kitchen table and immediately dropped her eyes. She moved to the now empty chair next to Jessica. Sitting down, she took Jessica’s hand and began murmuring to her.

“How can Jessica like her?” Angus asked when Jim moved next to him.

“I don’t know. But you don’t have to stay to watch this. Why don’t you go lie down in your room?”

Angus shook his head. “No way am I leaving that bitch alone with Jessica.”

“She’s not alone …” Jim began but clamped his mouth shut when Angus glared at him.

“Suit yourself.” Jim said and limped to stand next to Beth.

“Do you think it will work?” Riley asked replacing Jim at Angus’ side.

“It better.”

For half an hour Beth talked gibberish to Jessica at which point Angus couldn’t take it anymore.

“It’s not making a difference.” Angus growled to Riley. “Get her out of here.”

Taking far too long by Angus’ standards, Beth finally left.

Angus returned to the sofa and hesitated before sitting on the chair that was still warm from Beth. Angus shuddered and forced his attention to Jessica.

“Wake up Jess.” He muttered and caught his breath when Jessica’s eyes snapped open.

“Angus?” She whispered, and then she looked around.

“Jess, thank God!” Angus said, dropping to his knees, barely registering the pain shooting through his legs, and pressing his forehead to her stomach.

“She’s awake!” Riley exclaimed from behind Angus. Stumbling around the chair Riley dropped to his knees next to Angus, right by her head. .

“I thought … “ she said looking around again, glad to see the other men moving toward her. “Are you okay?” she added noticing how slowly they moved.
“We’re fine because of you.” Jim said.

“It worked.” Josh exclaimed a smile splitting his face as he nudged closer to Jessica. “Beth worked!”

“Beth?” Jessica asked, her eyes snapping from Josh to Angus. “Oh!” she exclaimed really noticing Angus’ face for the first time. “What did they do to you?” She tried to raise her hand but she could only lift it a little. Angus saw it hovering, took it and brought it to his lips.

“The floor and I had a disagreement,” he said but when Jessica looked at him in confusion he added, “I did a face plant. It’s nothing serious.”

“Your nose …”

“Broken. But it’ll be okay. But never mind me, how are you feeling?”

Jessica paused to take stock.

“Tired.” She finally said and sudden fatigue overwhelmed her. Her eyes started to close.

“Get Abe or Rick.” Riley said to Scott who was closest to the door.

“Stay with us.” Josh muttered from behind the sofa, caressing her head.

“Abe?” Jessica muttered though her eyes were closed.

“Yup. He and Rick helped Doc fix us up. The three of them plus Leah and Corey’s blood saved your life.” Jim said.

“If they hadn’t I don’t know what I’d do. What we’d do.” Riley added.

“I’m sorry …” Jessica said the pain in Riley’s voice cutting through her grogginess.

“No, don’t. Don’t apologize …” Riley began but was interrupted by Abe trying to get close to Jessica.

“How long has she been awake?” Abe asked taking Riley’s spot.

“A few minutes.” Jim said. “Her eyes were open … she just ran out of energy.”

“I think Beth’s visit helped.” Scott added.

“Beth …” Jessica murmured fighting to open her eyes but she couldn’t. She rolled her head in Angus’ direction, “I thought I was dreaming about Beth. I’m sorry Angus.”

“Don’t be.” Angus said, kissing her hand again. “Don’t worry about anything Jessica. Don’t worry and don’t apologize. You never have to apologize for anything again …”

“She looks good.” Abe said despite the fact that Jessica had obviously passed out again. “I’ll give her more fluids.” He said looking at the IV that hung at the head of the sofa, “And change her dressings. She should be just fine now.”

Relief made the men giddy as they watched Abe work.

“How long do you figure it will take her to completely recover?” Josh asked.

“The doc can tell you better than me.” Abe said, “but I’m guessing a few weeks in terms of her energy. But it may take a few months before she’s back to normal.”

“Do you think it’d be okay for her to have a dog in here?” Jim asked. “Baby.” He said when the men looked at him like he was crazy, “Beth helped and I think if Baby could lie up on the sofa with her, she’d feel a lot better.”

“That’s a good idea.” Abe said standing when he finished his work. “I think it’d be fine.”

“I’ll go get her.” Riley said wishing he could think like that but somehow these kind of great ideas never came to him.

“Hold on there cowboy.” Abe said, “you, all of you, need as much rest as she does. I’ll get Corey or Sean to get the dog.”

“But they won’t know which one she is.” Riley said.

“I’m sure she’ll come to her name Riley. Sit down will you? The best thing you can do for Jessica right now is to get better yourself. If you don’t heal to one hundred percent, everything she’s gone through will be pointless.”

Riley nodded, suddenly feeling pretty tired himself.

“She has brown on her snout. She’s in the third cage from the right, assuming the dogs are still in their cages.”

Abe nodded and headed for the door.

Riley returned to his spot next to Angus, near Jessica’s head, and sank down with a groan. “I can’t wait to hold her again.” He muttered, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the sofa.

“Amen.” Scott said as he made his way to the armchair.

Josh and Jim shuffled to the mattresses that had become permanent fixtures in the living room and with a great deal of pain lowered themselves onto them.

“I’m never going to let go.” Angus said.

Jim nodded and Josh muttered, “Ditto.”

With the brief interruption when Corey brought Baby and the few minutes it took her to lick Jessica’s face, and then settle on the sofa, on Jessica’s legs, the men joined Jessica in slumber. With Sean, Corey, a couple of Sean and Corey’s clan, and Abe, Rick guarding them, the men felt safe enough to take the rest necessary to heal.

******************************************************

Jessica giggled. The wet tongue lapping between her toes pulled her from the deep and peaceful sleep she was having, but her eyes didn’t want to open. The licking moved from one foot to the other. Jessica concentrated on it, confused by the fact that it didn’t feel like either Scott or Angus. It didn’t feel like Riley, Jim or Josh either, though none of them were likely to be licking her feet.

Finally curiosity got the best of her and she forced her eyes open.

“Baby …” she whispered. The dog whined and crawled up Jessica’s body. Jessica laughed when Baby’s pink tongue lapped over Jessica’s lips. “I missed you too …” she sputtered, trying to avoid the dog’s bad breath.

“Jess!” Jim exclaimed, “Down Baby, down.” He said, pulling the dog away from her face. Baby lay down on Jessica’s stomach and whined again. “You’re awake!” Jim said with a huge grin, seating himself on the edge of the sofa.

“Hey.” Jessica said.

“Right back at you. How are you feeling?” he asked, cupping her cheek.

“I’m good.” She said, and smiled up at Riley who appeared behind the sofa and leaned over the back to look at her.

Scott appeared at the foot of the sofa, Josh and Angus next to Jim. They looked good. Really good. Jessica sagged into the sofa with relief. Everyone was okay.

“Hey there lady … “ Leah appeared next to Riley, “You look awake for real this time.”

“Let me through, let me through …” Abe said wedging his way between Angus and Jim, “How’s the patient?” he asked replacing Jim on the sofa.

“Great. I heard it’s all thanks to you. And you,” Jessica said looking at Rick who’d appeared next to Scott, “and you,” she said to Leah, “and you.” She added when Corey appeared next to her. “Thanks.”

“Hey, it’s all in a day’s work …” Abe said taking her hand and placing his finger on the inside of her wrist. “But it helps to have a patient who’s a real fighter. You keep it up and you’ll be up and about in no time.”

“How much longer till she’s stable? Till she doesn’t need as much care?” Angus asked.

Abe looked at him and laughed. “Ready for us to get out of your life are you?” He asked. And then turned his attention to unwrapping Jessica’s bandages. “I don’t blame you actually. It shouldn’t be too long. Probably a week or two more of rest. But there’ll be several weeks of physiotherapy required after that … for all of you.”

“Physiotherapy.” Riley stated a blank look on his face.

“Yeah, to get your strength and flexibility back. It won’t be easy, but it’s necessary if you ever want to be the same again. And quite frankly I can’t see how you’ll protect yourselves again without it.”

“Physiotherapy …” Riley said again. Abe looked at Riley like he was a simpleton.

“I think what Riley is trying to say in his tongue tied, over simplified way,” Jim said, earning a narrow eyed glare from Riley, “is, where the hell are we supposed to get physiotherapy from?”

Jessica looked from Riley’s glare to Jim’s strangely goofy expression. For a moment Riley really looked mad, but then a smile cracked across his face and he shook his head.

“A physiotherapist would be my guess.” Abe replied and laughed when he found Riley glaring at him in obvious impatience. “Paul is sending a couple of his guys out next week. You’ll be in good hands. What?” he asked when he was the recipient of surprised stares.

Jessica was glad he asked, she was wondering about the astounded looks on their faces too. Not only did the men looked completely floored by the news but Leah and Corey did too. Obviously sending out physiotherapists was not common practice for Paul.

“That’s, ah, unexpected.” Riley said and he seemed completely baffled.

“And why exactly is Paul doing this?” Scott asked, looking between Rick who stood next to him and Abe.

“Out of the goodness of his heart of course.” Rick said with a snicker. To Jessica he seemed to be playing around but from the way the men and even Leah and Corey looked at him, it wasn’t a shared joke. “Why do I get the feeling that you find that hard to believe?”

“Paul isn’t known for doing things out of the goodness of his heart.” Corey said.

“Nor is he known for sending out his personal doctor, or his body guards to take care of and protect men in his own clan much less someone else’s.” Riley added.

“That’s where you’re wrong.” Abe said, his face suddenly serious. “On two counts. One, it has happened before, and two, we are in the same clan. You seem to keep forgetting that.”

Silence hung in the air. Jessica scanned the faces around her and was disturbed to find that the tension she thought she felt around her was evident on the faces of the people around her. When the tension dragged, Leah opened her mouth to say something but Corey grabbed her arm and shook his head. And the expression on his face was undeniable. Beneath the tension was something Jessica recognized from when the men looked at her. Proprietorship, dominance, lust. Jessica blinked. Since when were Leah and Corey dating? Maybe they had been all along and she just hadn’t known. Jessica felt thrown off by it. When Leah pressed her lips firmly together, not looking pleased about being muzzled, and the silence continued, Jessica squeezed her eyes shut. She felt confused. The men’s concern about the help from Paul, the need for protection when Jessica was pretty sure she’d killed everyone who’d come after them, and for some reason Leah and Corey’s relationship added to the blur that was twisting through her head.

“Why … “ Jessica began but had to clear her throat. It felt so dry.

“Jess?” Jim asked. “What’s wrong?”

Jessica opened her eyes. “Can I have some water please?”

“Got it.” Scott said heading for the kitchen. “Here you go.” He said returning and with one hand behind Jessica’s head for support, he put the glass to her lips.

The silence continued but when Jessica looked around again the tension seemed to have faded.

Abe cleared his throat. “At any rate, Paul is indebted to you Jessica. This is how he’s paying the debt back. And besides …” he added when it looked like no one in the room bought that as an explanation. “His sister likes you. That doesn’t happen every day. Trust me.”

“I didn’t do all that much for him.” Jessica said, thinking his words over. “Not any more than the people in the clan do for him pretty regularly I’m sure. I mean I just rode a bike, you …” She said glancing around at the men, Leah, Corey, Abe and Rick, “risk your lives every time you …” she paused looking for a polite way to say ‘murder people’. She finally settled on, “go to work. But I am grateful. For the help. We should all be.” She added giving the men a pointed look.

“I’ll pass that on to Paul.” Abe said with a nod of his head. “So like I said, physiotherapy won’t start for a while and when it does it’s hard to tell how long it’ll be needed.”

“Translation …” Rick said with a smug smile on his face, “we’ll be here for a while.”

Scott nodded. “You’re right Jess we should be thankful. We appreciate your help.” He added, glancing at Abe and Rick. “And to you and the others.” He added looking at Leah and Corey, “Thanks for taking care of everything while we can’t.”

Leah and Corey nodded their acknowledgment but they shifted their eyes back to Abe and Rick. Jessica read mistrust in their expressions. That seemed odd.

“What others?” Jessica asked.

“Sean, Mark, Amanda, Justine, Don, Stan, Chris, and Sara.” Scott said, “They’re all here. Doing chores, cooking, cleaning, guarding. They’ve really helped a lot.”

“We’re family,” Corey said looking pointedly at Abe, “and that’s what family does for one another. We’ve got your back.”

“Why do we need to be guarded?” Jessica asked.

“Some of Daryl’s friends have been asking questions.” Josh said.

“And they’ve been pretty persistent.” Jim added.

“So, what did you tell them?” Jessica asked.

Riley shrugged, “That we haven’t seen them.”
Jessica started to laugh but had to control it when a searing pain shot through her shoulder.

“Jess?” Riley asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Hurts to laugh …” Jessica muttered.

“What’s so funny?” Angus asked bewildered as she continued to vibrate in silent controlled laughter.

“You guys.” Jessica muttered and then managed to calm herself, “Haven’t seen them … funny. What did you really tell them?” The men looked at one another with lost expressions on their faces. “For real?” she demanded, “That’s the best you could come up with, that you haven’t seen them?”

“What would you suggest?” Jim asked.

“I don’t know … something that would have Daryl’s friends looking somewhere else. Maybe Daryl and his goons just decided to quit.”

“People don’t quit the clan Jessica.” Riley said, “It just isn’t done.”

Jessica looked around at everyone with complete disbelief.

“That doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s never happened before, but there is always the possibility that it could. And you need to convince these guys that for Daryl and his family, it did.”

“That won’t work.” Abe said when no one else looked like they were going to say anything.

“Of course it will. Better than saying you didn’t see them. Think about it, if you were Daryl’s friends would you fall for that?”

“More than I would believe that they left the clan.” Corey said.

“Okay. Well, then you have to find some way to convince them. Some proof.” Jessica said. “You guys are letting yourselves be limited by your own beliefs. Come on … if it’s so unbelievable that they left, couldn’t they have gone on vacation?” Jessica asked. “So no one goes on vacation?” she groaned when no one looked excited by the possible excuse.

Angus shook his head when her eyes finally settled on him.

“So what would you believe, if you were Daryl’s friend?”

“That we killed them. We may end up having to take Daryl’s friends out in order to get any peace.” Angus answered.

“Oh great.” Jessica whispered and closed her eyes. “I wonder how many friends will come looking for them?”

“I know it seems hopeless.” Riley said, taking Jessica’s hand, “But you don’t need to worry about it. Nothing’s going to happen for now and maybe they’ll just give up.”
“Would you give up?”

“I guess not.”

Jessica opened her mouth to further her point but hesitated when she saw the expressions on the men’s faces. They looked confused, and kind of clueless. They looked at one another and the longer the silence continued, the more distressed they looked. And then she noticed how Corey and Leah were still looking at Abe and Rick with distrust. Obviously this wasn’t a discussion to be had in front of Paul’s men.

Jessica relaxed back against the sofa and eyed the bag hanging on a stand next to the sofa and the tube that ran down to her arm.

“It looks worse than it is.” Abe said taking her hand and squeezing. “Doc will be back tomorrow and if you get even stronger by then I bet he’ll take the bag off. So you need to rest, got it?”

Jessica nodded. Abe brushed her bangs off her forehead and smiled.

Angus cleared his throat.

Leah stood up, “You get some rest girlie. We have some work to do outside but I’ll call the rest of the girls to come over later and we’ll hang out tonight. Watch some movies maybe? I’m really getting tired of those ridiculous video games the guys keep playing …”

“Hey, hey, don’t hate the games Leah, don’t hate the games …” Corey said moving toward the door.

“Abe …” Leah said when he hadn’t moved.

“Right.” Abe said and winked at Jessica, “There’s so so much to do outside.” He said standing. The glares the men were throwing at him made it obvious that there had been a pre-arranged agreement that the men would have time alone with Jessica when she woke up.

“I hate that guy …” Angus grumbled when Abe finally walked out the door.
Jessica tried to sit up but when she tried to move her legs she couldn’t. It wasn’t just that her legs were numb but she simply couldn’t feel them. In a panic Jessica bolted upright, the blanket falling from her chest. She looked down to see a bandage wrapped around her torso and her injured shoulder.

“Jess, what’s wrong?” Jim asked, the look of horror on her face scaring him.

“I …” Jessica began while she threw the blanket off her legs, “can’t feel my …” and she paused when she saw that she was completely naked, “legs.” She finished quietly.

“It’s the medication,” Scott said, “The doctor gave you pain killers. I guess they numb you.”

“So … so … I’m not paralyzed?”

“No sweetheart, you’re not.” Riley said reaching down and wiggling her big toe. “You’re perfectly fine.”

“Why am I naked?” Jessica asked.

“It was easier to clean you.” Josh said, “don’t worry, don’t worry …” he said raising his palms to Jessica when Jessica looked up at him in complete mortification … her face flaming red, “we were the only ones to touch you. The only ones to see you, the only ones to clean you … only us.”

‘Thank God,’ Angus thought as Jessica exhaled and fell back against the sofa. Not only couldn’t he have stood the thought of anyone else being that … intimate with Jessica but even now, days later, evidence of the sexual consequences meted out to Jessica were obvious on her body. Hickies on her inner thighs glared up at him, bruises, rope burns, welts … even bruises in distinct patterns of fingers grasping her hips and her legs were evident. Scott’s instinct to protect her with the fuck machines had been bang on and had anyone other than them seen her used body, Angus was certain she would have been beyond humiliated. Thank God the ones on her torso had been camouflaged by blood. At least, neither the doctor or the ‘nurses’ mentioned anything if they’d noticed them.

The men shifted around the sofa. Jim moved to the end, next her head. Scott, Angus, and Josh next. Riley leaned across the back of the sofa. Jessica pulled the blanket back onto her legs, Scott, Angus and Scott helping and then slowly, painfully, they lowered themselves to their knees.

“Get chairs!” Jessica ordered in horror as the men’s faces contorted in grimaces and turned white as sheets.

Jim shook his head, “Can’t get close enough with chairs.”
“You’re sweating …” Jessica said as beads of perspiration beaded on Jim’s forehead. She lifted her hand to brush his forehead, and then ran her fingers gently over the bruises on his cheeks that were now turning an ugly yellow/green.

“I’m fine.” Jim said and turned his head so he could kiss her palm.

“Thanks for saving our lives Jess.” Scott said resting his forehead on her abdomen.

“Thanks … and I’m so sorry about that night … the consequences.” Angus said.

“That damn hook …” Jim groaned and lowered his forehead to Jessica’s cheek.

“Goddamn hook, I’m so sorry Jess.” Scott said, his voice breaking.

“No, no …” Jessica said when Riley seemed to deflate onto the back of the sofa next to her and Josh dropped his head to her feet. She looked between Riley and Jim, Scott, Angus and Josh who all hung their heads and pressed them into her. “I enjoyed it. Really, I did …” she insisted when they looked up at her with ‘give me a break’ expressions. “Okay so maybe it went on a bit too long, but other than that I did enjoy it. And …” she added when the men looked even less convinced, “I guess I could have lived without losing my privileges.”

“You have them back,” Josh said, “all of them. And more. Anything, you can do anything you want, any time … honest.” He added when Jessica looked like she was humoring him.

“And when you’re better you can give me the same consequences.” Angus said. “Yes Jessica …” he added when she began to protest, “Fuck machines, ropes, hooks and all, you do it back to me.”

“Me too.” Riley said. The others were nodding.

“I don’t want to.” Jessica said, “Um, unless you’d enjoy it.” Jessica said when the men looked at her like she was disappointing them. “Would you?” she asked in surprise because with the exception of the time she’d used the anal vibrator on Scott none of the men had indicated they’d enjoy being entered anally. But the expressions on their faces made it clear that they would not enjoy it. Not at all. Not even Scott who had cum with an anal vibrator.

“Jessica, what we did to you, we didn’t do it to pleasure you.” Angus said, “We did it to … to control you. As a consequence. We wanted to make sure that you’d never, ever, do anything like deal with, ride for, or even look at Paul again. And, to prove that you were wrong. Wrong about dealing with Paul, wrong about trying to protect us.”

“But we were wrong.” Riley said.
“Really wrong.” Angus agreed.

“We would have fought with Paul’s men and people would have died. Maybe even some of us.” Josh said. “You were right.”

“At the very least our kill counts would have gone up … so, you need to give us consequences back.” Scott said.

“It’s the only way to make it right.” Jim added.

“Kill what?” Angus demanded.

“Did … did you say kill counts?” Riley asked in a hushed tone.

“Shit, I knew there was something we forgot to tell you.” Jim said.

“How in God’s name did that come up?” Angus asked and rather than sound angry there was despair in his voice.

“It’s not important.” Jessica said worried by how broken Riley and Angus looked.

“Yes it is.” Riley said, “How did it come up?”

“Jessica told me that she loved me.” Jim said, “And to prove a point I told her my kill count … the other guys did too.”

“And what did you tell her our kill counts were?” Angus asked staring at the blankets covering her legs, unable to look at Jessica.

“We didn’t.” Scott said.

“But ours are higher, way higher than any of yours.” Riley said.

“But you’ve stopped.” Jessica interrupted, “You’ve stopped and that’s all that matters. I love you all, equally, and I don’t care about your past kill counts only your future ones. And I don’t want to give you consequences. Can we please just be happy to be alive? Alive and together? Please?”

“You saved our lives Jessica, we’ll do whatever you want.” Angus said, “But I want you to know, to be totally honest. My kill count is …”

“Don’t …” Jessica interrupted.

“But Jess …” Riley said.

“No, I don’t want to know.”
“Why?” Angus said, “Why did you want to know their kill counts and not ours? You need to know or you don’t know everything.”

“Or do you think you’ll stop loving us if you know?” Riley asked.

Jessica closed her eyes.

“I’m not afraid I won’t love you anymore. I know I will love you now no matter what.” She opened her eyes and found Angus and Riley hadn’t lifted their bowed heads. Worse than that they seemed to be slumping. “But I think telling me will hurt you. You’re obviously not happy about it. Angus, Riley, will you look at me please?” They lifted their eyes simultaneously and Jessica felt her heart squeeze in her chest. Shame was written all over their faces.

“I don’t need to know, really.” She added.

“I need to tell you Jessica. I need you to know so I can say you know everything and I need to be the same as these guys.” Angus tilted his head to Jim and then the other way to Scott and Josh.

Riley nodded.

“You’re not doing this to punish yourselves?” Jessica asked.

“Maybe a little.” Riley said, “But I think it’s justified, especially if you won’t give us sexual consequences for what we did to you.”

“Guys, maybe we should do this another time. Jessica is tired.” Jim said. Jessica smiled at Jim. She was starting to get a headache.

“What other time?” Riley asked. “We’re surrounded by people all the time and we’ll continue to be for at least another couple of weeks. We asked them to leave us alone when Jessica woke up … I’m not sure how easy it’ll be for them to find things to do on a regular basis …”

“No, it’s okay.” Jessica said. “Tell me your kill counts, and you’ll see that it makes no difference. And then you can go easier on yourselves … okay? ‘Cause honestly, the sex … it was good. I enjoyed it.”

“Ninety-five …” Angus said and this time he didn’t lower his gaze when Jessica brought hers to his.

“Ninety.” Riley added and didn’t get much comfort from having a lower number than Angus. Especially when Angus groaned.

Jessica looked from one to the other, and then to Jim, Scott and Josh.
“Hard to love us now, isn’t it?” Angus asked.

“Those are large numbers.” Jessica said quietly, “But you don’t intend to kill anyone anymore, right?”

Riley and Angus shook their heads.

“Good, then that’s all that matters.” Jessica said and smiled.

Silence hung in the air while Riley and Angus searched her face.

“You’re serious.” Angus said with disbelief.

“Yes.”

Riley exhaled. “So, if you won’t return the consequences, what can we do to make things up to you?”

“That’s easy, you can believe me that we need to convince Daryl’s friends that Daryl and his family left. Telling them that you haven’t seen them is not good enough.”

“We do believe you.” Josh said.

“But Jess, I just can’t think of a way to do it. Honest to God.” Scott said.

“Okay. Well, if it were me, and I were to go to a friend’s house and find their clothes and toiletries missing, I’d see that as a clue that maybe they’d gone somewhere.” Jessica said.

“That …” Jim said after a few minutes of silence, “is good. But I’m sure that by now they’ve checked their houses.”

“True …” Jessica said, “but …” she said excited by an idea that came to her, “if I were trying to quit something that had never been quit before I’d try to do it without making it obvious.”

“Yes …” Scott prompted when Jessica became lost in thought.

“So, I’d leave my things alone, but I’d still need supplies to survive. I’d have to get those supplies somewhere else.”

“So you’d buy some.” Jim said.

“I could …” Jessica said. “Money. That’s it … if they’d drained their bank accounts then it would be obvious that they left.”

“We don’t have bank accounts though.” Angus said, “We deal in cash.”

“Really?” Jessica asked, disappointed. “But how does that work when you’re far away from each other? That’s not very convenient.”

“Emergency fund …” Riley said bolting upright. “We have an emergency bank account. We don’t use it much, at least I haven’t. But it’s there.”

“Emergency …” Jessica said. “Exactly. In all the movies the spies have safe houses. You know, where they go if things go wrong. Doesn’t the clan have something like that? Did I say something wrong?” She asked when the men stared at her.

“No. You’re just a fucking genius Jessica.” Riley said and a huge grin split his face. “We do have safe houses. But I don’t know where any of Daryl’s safe houses are.”

“And the money?” Jessica asked. All the men were smiling at her now, and she grinned back at them.

“We could take the money.” Riley said, “But how would we make it look like Daryl took it?”

“There has to be a way.” Jessica said.

“There is.” Josh said, “Don is a computer whiz. He’ll know how to do it, I’m sure of it. He hacks into the government computer systems all the time.”

“Okay but will the money be enough? I’m not sure how we’d figure out where Daryl’s safe houses are.” Jim asked.

“No, we need the safe house too. If we take the clothes and toiletries from there it will make it look like they ran away. And if Don is a computer whiz he can help there too. We still have Daryl’s car, somewhere, right?” Jessica asked.

“Corey and Sean took care of their cars but I guess they’re around somewhere.” Riley said.

“And it’s likely they have GPS systems in them?” Jessica asked.

“They did have an emergency …” Jim said, “They may have gone to a safe house, we could probably find it with their GPS. Jess, that’s just … amazing.”

“You’re amazing …” Scott said.

Jessica smiled and despite the pride she felt swell up in her she also felt her cheeks burn red.

“Why are you embarrassed?” Jim asked, gently running his thumb over her red cheeks.

Jessica shrugged and searched her mind for a diversion. It was embarrassing to get flattery for some reason.

“Are we going to keep this a secret from Abe and Rick?” She asked willing the red on her face to disappear.

“As much as I’d like to,” Riley said, caressing her other cheek, “I don’t think it’d be a good idea. They’re here all the time, if we try to keep it from them they’ll know something is up. And as much as I distrust Paul, he has been good to you … to us. He may even be able to help.”

Jessica nodded. “I don’t know about Paul, but I like Abe and Rick. I think they’ll help.”

“You look tired Jess. You should rest for a bit.” Jim said.

“You guys look pretty tired too.” Jessica said.

“We’ve been resting on the mattresses here in the living room. We can pull them closer to the sofa and watch a movie.” Josh said hitching his thumb over his shoulder. Jessica looked between Jim and Scott and saw their bed on the floor.

“Good idea.” Jessica said beginning to feel fatigue flood over her.

“Before that though, there’s something else we have to tell you.” Angus said and his tone cut through Jessica’s drowsiness. He sounded and looked despondent.

“Shit yeah,” Scott said. Angus’ demeanor made it clear to Scott that Angus was talking about the birth control pills.

“What is it?”

“You’ve missed almost a week of your pills. The doc said there was no way to give them to you while you were unconscious. He doesn’t think it’s likely you’d get pregnant but he said to wait and see if you get your period.” Angus said.

“Oh.” Jessica said, stunned.

“But he has no idea how much sex we’ve had … I don’t think he realizes how likely it is that you were inseminated. ” Riley added.

“But he really didn’t think you could get pregnant with the trauma you’ve had, and the meds he’s given you.” Jim added when Jessica grew paler than she had been.
“And if you are pregnant there are options …” Angus said quietly and Jessica groaned and closed her eyes.

“We’re sorry Jess. Doc said there was nothing we could do.” Jim said.

“Jessica,” Angus said and when she looked at him he continued, “If you’re pregnant we’ll support whatever you want to do. Whatever choice you make, I’ll stand behind you.”

Jessica stretched her hand down to try and take Angus’ hand. She couldn’t quite reach, but Scott leaned back and Angus leaned forward, laying his head on her stomach. Jessica rubbed his head, running her fingers through his short gold hair.

“I won’t lie.” She said, “I’m … terrified.”

“Six armed psychopaths, no problem, one potential baby and you’re scared …” Josh said shaking his head.

“Ha, ha …” Jessica said. “The six armed psychopaths are dead and gone, a baby would be completely dependent on us and be with us forever.”

“Forever?” Angus asked, turning his head to look at her.

“Forever.” Jessica said brushing his hair back off his forehead.

“Do you mean …?”

“Yes. I do.”

“Jess …” Angus murmured, a smile splitting his face.

“You still look terrified.” Riley observed.

“I am.” Jessica said, “I’m not ready to be a mother.”

“You probably don’t have to be.” Jim said, “Let’s just wait and see.”

“To be honest, I’m pretty terrified too.” Scott said.

“Yeah, me too.” Angus said.

“Christ … I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to your period before.” Riley said with a forced laugh.

A knock at the door interrupted them.

“Time must be up.” Jim said when Jessica looked at the door in surprise, “They’ve run out of things to do out there.”

“You guys set up the bed and the movie … I’ll go find Don and ask him about the money and safe house.” Scott said.

“I’d sure be curious to see how he does it …” Jessica said, watching Scott struggle to his feet.

“You and me both.” He said, moving to kiss Jessica on the lips. “Come in!” He called out when a knock sounded on the door again … “I swear we can’t get a moments peace these days.” He muttered, pecked Jessica’s lips again and with a wink and a huge smile he shuffled his way toward the door that was now open, admitting Corey, Sean, Abe and Leah.

Several hours later Jessica blinked as the living room light went on. The men had arranged their mattresses near the sofa, the others had sat on chairs from the kitchen and the armchair, and Leah had folded herself onto the sofa at Jessica’s feet. The men had been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and watch Twilight again but Jessica had talked them out of it. She’d been certain that Sean, Corey, Abe, Rick, Mark, Stan and Chris would have no desire to watch Twilight and she was certain that she’d doze in and out anyway so there was no reason to play it on her account. And she’d been right, she’d slept on and off even though the men had picked the Die Hard movie and explosions and gunfire erupted constantly.

Neither Scott or Don had come to watch the movie and now as the light went on she saw Don come in, grab the coffee table that had been moved off to the side put it just under the front window. Scott limped through the front door, white as a ghost, carrying a couple of small boxes and a bag. Don, took the boxes and bag from Scott and when Scott noticed Jessica watching him he nodded and then limped over to the sofa. Despite how pale and clammy he looked, Scott was grinning from ear to ear.
“Scott, you have to sit down … you’re going to pass out.” Jessica said, trying to sit up.
“I am going to sit, over there with Don.” Scott said tilting his head toward the table that Don had put under the window. “Don can do the money and the safe house. I told him that we wanted to see how he did it so I bought us a lap top and router. He’s going to set us up and do everything right from here so we can see.”

“Not only is this a brilliant idea but I finally get to bring you guys into the twenty first century.” Don said standing next to Scott.

“What idea?” Mark asked.

“Jessica had a kick-ass idea for getting Daryl’s people off our backs.” Don replied and Jessica felt her cheeks turning red again.

“And it is?” Corey asked.

“You didn’t tell them?” Don asked Riley, “Okay, this is great,” Don said when Riley shook his head, “so we’re going to take supplies from one of Daryl’s safe houses and money from the emergency reserve. It’ll make it look like they took off.”

“You can do that?” Rick asked.

“I’ve gotta do some snooping but once I have a few pieces of info I can transfer the funds online. Once I find one of their safe houses we can clear that out too. Shouldn’t be too hard.”

“Well,” Abe said getting up from the chair he had next to the mattresses and moving next to Don to stand by Jessica’s feet. Jessica had looked down at her hands so he paused until she looked up, “that is a brilliant idea. I knew you were a clever one. Now, if you’ll all excuse me for a minute I should check over my patient.”

The men shifted the mattresses back a little, and Jim, Josh and Riley followed Scott and Don back to the table under the window. Leah stayed near Jessica’s feet and Angus lay back on the mattress, leaning on his elbows and watching every move Abe was making. Corey, Sean, and Mark moved to the kitchen and rummaged in the fridge emitting the sounds of glass clinking on glass.

“Anyone want a beer?” Mark called out. Jessica watched her fingers play with the blanket edge as she felt Abe settle next to her on the sofa and listened to the chorus of beer confirmations sounding around her.

It was embarrassing enough to be praised like that, in front the men, additionally embarrassing to be praised in front of a roomful of acquaintances but it was especially embarrassing to turn bright red in front of them. Jessica closed her eyes and wished her face to pale.

Suddenly a finger slid under her chin and lifted. Jessica found herself looking at Abe.
“Beautiful, brave, brainy and bashful … quite the package Jessica. Don’t be embarrassed about having it all.” Abe said with a wink.

“Can you please stick to nursing …” Angus grumbled.

“How are you feeling?” Abe asked, ignoring Angus.

“Fine, but I don’t like not feeling my legs.” Jessica replied.

“Doc will be back tomorrow, I’m sure he’ll wean you off the anesthetic, don’t worry.”
Jessica nodded.
“Everything looks good.” Abe said after examining the bandages and feeling Jessica’s forehead. “Just keep relaxing. I’m going to whip up some Shepherd’s Pie for dinner, so make sure you eat to keep your strength up. ‘K?”

Jessica nodded, “I love Shepherd’s Pie. Thanks.”

Angus watched Abe move to the kitchen. When he looked back Jessica was looking at him.

“I was rude, I know, sorry. He’s just way too friendly for my liking.” Angus said.

“I love you Angus,” Jessica said laying back against the arm rest, “no amount of friendliness from anyone else is going to change that you know.”

Angus laughed. “I still don’t like him … but he is right about the package thing. You shouldn’t be embarrassed about that.”

“It just kind of happens.” Jessica said.

“Angus, you up for some annihilation with Call of Duty?” Mark asked.

“Jess, did you want to watch or play anything?” Angus asked.

“No, you go ahead.”

“That’s truly unbelievable …” Leah said stretching out next to Jessica. Leah was watching Angus move closer to the TV with Mark. “He really has changed. Are you okay if I squeeze in here?”

Jessica nodded and tried to shift closer to the edge as Leah arranged herself around Jessica’s tubes.

“The girls are gonna come over after dinner.” Leah said, and then lowered her voice, “I have to tell you that I love being here. The men actually cook! Back at home us girls get stuck with it … how’d you pull it off?”

“I guess that’s one of the perks of not being trusted in the kitchen.” Jessica said and laughed when Leah looked at her funny. “Not because I can’t cook … early on they thought I’d stab them with a kitchen knife. But it looks like Abe must cook a lot too and I had absolutely no influence on him.”

“You know what Beth told me?” Leah said in an even more hushed voice.

“No, what?” Jessica whispered back.

“That she had the distinct feeling that Abe and Rick were bumping boots with Paul’s sister.”
“Stasia?” Jessica asked and thought back to the night at the bar. “I guess they did seem pretty close. I wonder what Stasia’s husband would think of that if he knew …”
“I wonder what it means to us if he ever finds out.” Leah said her voice going cold, “I doubt things would be settled on a race track.”
Jessica shivered.
“Never mind, hopefully they have the good sense to not be so obvious around her husband.” Leah said patting her arm. “Though they are good looking men …” Leah tossed in, popping her head up to watch Abe in the kitchen.
“Leah, you are so bad …” Jessica said laughing.
“Just a healthy hot blooded female …” Leah said. “That reminds me …” Leah said settling back on the sofa and lowering her voice. “Does Scott really … does he enjoy …”
“Enjoy …?” Jessica asked when Leah was clearly struggling with how to word her question.
“Machines … you know, sex with machines?”
“What?” Jessica gasped, “How, why, where …” she sputtered, “Did you get an idea like that?”
“Scott told us, Corey and me, when we came in to give you blood.”
“He what?!” Jessica demanded, “Why would he do that?”
“He was hurt and couldn’t move those … machines. He had to ask Corey for help.”
“So he said they were for him?”
Leah nodded.
Jessica couldn’t believe it. Scott had humiliated himself to protect her.
“You’re the only ones that know right?” Jessica asked, embarrassed for him.
“No,” Leah said and hung her head, “we kind of told Sean and them.”
“No …” Jessica groaned.
“I know, I know, it’s bad. I’m sorry, but we just couldn’t seem to keep it to ourselves. So, it’s true then?”
Jessica looked over at the men by the window and while the others were huddled around Don and the laptop, Scott was standing slightly apart from them. To Jessica he looked left out, alone. Jessica felt an ache in her chest. She couldn’t believe he’d done that. Embarrassed himself for her. She couldn’t leave it like that.
“Actually Leah, it’s not true.” She said and she felt her face burn red, “Scott was protecting me. I’m the one who uses the machines.”
“Really?” Leah asked in a hushed voice. Jessica nodded. “I won’t tell anyone.” She added.
“No, you have to. Tell everyone who thinks it’s Scott. Please, it’s not fair to him.”
“But you’re turning bright red Jess which is quite the feat given how low your blood pressure probably is.”
“I always turn red … I’ll get over it. Please just tell them the truth.”
Leah looked over at Scott. “He must really love you …” she said in a dreamy voice and sighed, “to do something like that for you.”
Jessica looked at Leah in surprise. She looked sad.
“I’m sure Corey would do that for you.” Jessica said.
“What?” Leah gasped swiveling her head back to Jessica so quickly Jessica was certain she’d given herself whiplash. “Why would you say that?”
“You and Corey are together, aren’t you?” Jessica asked confused by the panic that was rolling off Leah in waves. Jessica was certain that she’d picked up on something between them. Maybe it had been the medication. She certainly had been kind of out of it but she was sure of what she’d seen. “I thought … I was pretty sure that you two seemed … together. Sorry if I misinterpreted things.” Jessica said.
Leah’s eyes strayed to Corey and Sean sitting at the dining room table, drinking beer and laughing. She seemed to turn green.
“Are you okay?” Jessica asked.
“No.” Leah said and dropped her head against the back of the sofa. “How did you know?” she whispered.
“It was kind of obvious.” Jessica said, “maybe I’m wrong …” she added when Leah groaned and collapsed on top of her, holding her head. “Why is it a bad thing?”
“Sean doesn’t know.” Leah said. “And he can’t know …” she said suddenly sitting up and grabbing Jessica’s hand.
“Why?”
“I don’t know what he’d do but I can guess and it wouldn’t be pretty.” Leah said.
“Sean and Corey are best friends aren’t they?”
Leah nodded her head, “But I think that may change when Sean finds out about us.”
“Why wouldn’t he want his sister and his best friend to get together?”
Leah shrugged. “I don’t think Corey himself would be the problem. Sean doesn’t want me to date anyone in the clan. I don’t know why, but he’s made that pretty clear.”
“So he’d let you date someone outside the clan?”
Leah snorted, “Not likely.”
“So he expects you to never date anyone? Ever?”
“Seems that way.”
“Well, that sucks.” Jessica said.
“Tell me about it.” Leah said.
“So you’re going to keep it secret forever?”
“I guess so. But if you could tell then maybe we won’t be able to.”
“How long have you been together?”
“A month. Tonight is our first monthevsary.” Leah sat up, “To celebrate Corey’s rented us a room in a hotel. We’re sneaking out later. It’ll be our first time …” Leah said looking nervous again. She looked up at Jessica, “Actually, it’ll be my first time. And I know it’s lame,” Leah added when Jessica looked at her in stunned silence, “since you had five to deal with and I only have one … and you were way younger than I am your first time, but do you have any advice?”
“Uh, yeah, use protection.” Jessica said her mind spinning. “No seriously,” she added when Leah looked at her like she’d lost it, “especially if you don’t think Sean will approve. The last thing you want is to get pregnant.”
“I’m sure Corey will have protection.” Leah said. “I didn’t mean that kind of advice. Corey has experience so I think it will be … great for me.” Leah said, pink coming to her cheeks, “But what should I … do … to make it great for Corey?”
“Oh,” Jessica said. In her mind she ran through the multiple first times that she’d had with the men and decided to discount the rapes and even the later consensual sex and only count the sex they’d had after the oath. “Well. You need to use your hands and your mouth a lot … on their, you know, cocks.” Now Jessica’s face was burning. She felt a little uncomfortable too … what she and the men did was private to her. Discussing it with anyone else seemed wrong.
Leah nodded, turned pinker too, and then winced. “I’ve heard of that, using your mouth. Do you really have to … swallow? Because, I don’t think I can …”
“I guess you don’t have to. But men sure seem to like it.”
“I really don’t think I can …” Leah said with a look of terror.
“It’s not supposed to be scary …” Jessica said. “If it’s scary then it’s not being done right. Two minutes ago you were excited about the whole thing. Look, when you see Corey, or think about him, do you get all tingly … everywhere? I mean everywhere?” Jessica said when Leah was nodding her head. After a pause and some thought, Leah nodded again. “Then just go with that feeling. Believe me, it’ll make you do things you never, ever, imagined you’d do. And don’t worry, Corey will do the same. Are you okay?”
Leah nodded while observing Corey. “I definitely do get the tingles when I see him.”
Settling back onto the sofa Leah looked over at Jessica’s men crowded around Don and the laptop.
“I guess you know all about tingles.” Leah said and then looked back at Jessica. “All the girls in the clan have the hots for Scott, Jim and Josh. And now that Riley and Angus aren’t assholes, them too. They’re terrifying, but hot. I get so tongue tied I act like an idiot around them. No I ‘m serious.” Leah added when Jessica laughed like she didn’t believe her. “My brain goes to mush.”
“Your brain sure wasn’t mush when you told Jim and Josh off at the jam session.” Jessica said.
“Yeah. I don’t know what happened there. That was unusual, really threw me for a loop.” She laughed, “And that’s probably why they looked at me like I’d grown a second head … I really never talk to them.”
Jessica giggled remembering the expressions on Jim and Josh’s faces.
“Dinner’s ready!” Abe called and appeared next to the sofa holding a plate, and placing a chair behind him he sat down.
“I got it.” Jim said limping toward them, hand out to Abe. “I’ll feed her.”
“You should go eat first.” Jessica said when he switched places with Abe, “I’m really not that hungry …”
“You have to eat Jess … I’ll get my food after.” Jim said.
Sean and Corey had brought extra folding chairs over to accommodate everyone and Angus, Riley, Scott and Josh were setting some up around the sofa and settling onto them.
“All of you?” Jessica asked, “there won’t be any food left.”
“There’s plenty.” Abe said, “I made a huge batch.”
There was a knock at the door and Mark opened it to let Sara, Amanda and Justine in. They made a beeline for the sofa.
“Hey Jess, how you doing?” Amanda asked.
“Better thanks.”
“I guess we made it in time for dinner, huh?” Justine asked eyeing the plate that Jim held in his hand.
“Help yourselves.” Abe said, nodding to the kitchen.
“You’d better get some food.” Jessica said to the men when Sara, Amanda and Justine left for the kitchen.
“Nah, there’ll be enough.” Abe said, “I made enough for an army.” And he followed the girls.
“Well I guess I’ll get my dinner,” Leah said struggling to get off the sofa, “Thanks …” she said to Josh in a hushed voice when he took her hand to assist her.
Leah really hadn’t been kidding. Once off the sofa Leah lowered her eyes and almost ran to the kitchen.
Jessica looked at the men, and they were looking at her. And although she was numb from her waist down she felt an odd phantom tingle. To say they were hot was a major understatement. Even weak and tired from their wounds their bodies were perfectly sculpted muscle. Coiled muscle. Seeming to strain at her. Jessica’s phantom tingle roared and the men seemed to notice because a look of surprise crossed each of their faces as they looked from one another to Jessica, and then leaned forward in unison. Silence hung between them as the men’s eyes moved over Jessica. Her face, her body, down to her blanket covered toes. Jessica took her time looking them over too … faces, chests, arms, legs. Finally Josh looked over at the group of noisy eaters in the kitchen.
“Figures that for years we barely saw them …” and he nodded at the group, “and now we never don’t see them.”
Jim cleared his throat, “We can tell them we need time alone.”
“They could patrol the grounds … they need to patrol the grounds.” Angus added.
Jessica looked from Jim, who didn’t seem to notice that he was holding a plate out in one hand and a fork mid-air in the other to Angus who looked as aroused as he’d sounded. But weak. Jessica looked Scott, Riley and Josh over too. Forcing herself to ignore her desires it was obvious that none of the men were physically fit enough to walk much less ravish her despite how much she or they may have wanted it.
She sighed and shook her head, “I can’t do anything anyway. I’m completely numb, can’t even feel or move my legs.”
“You sure look like you feel something.” Riley said, “You look really … horny.”
“I am … kind of. It’s weird, I want you and I remember what it feels like to want you … but I can’t actually feel anything. I don’t think I can even move my legs.”
“And, you’re on an IV and a catheter.” Scott said quietly, “Is it wrong that I want you anyway?”
“What the hell is wrong with us?” Jim demanded, “Christ.” He shook his head and then suddenly realized that he was holding Jessica’s food and fork. He scooped the food onto the fork, “Here, Jess have some before it gets cold.”
“Nothing is wrong with you …” Jessica said, “I want you too, remember? I mean, I guess we could ask for some time alone ...” she paused eyeing the IV hanging next to the sofa, “and work around the IV …” and then she looked at the tube next to it where yellow liquid streamed by, “and the catheter …”
“You wouldn’t feel anything Jess … what would be the point?” Angus asked looking at the tube filled with yellow too.
“But you would.”
“Yeah, a whole lot of guilt.” Riley said. “Thanks Jess, but no way would I let you do that, no way would any of us let you do that.”
“Guilt?” Jessica demanded, “Why would you feel guilt?”
“Because. Despite what some of our history may suggest, we don’t like to … use you. We don’t just need your body for sex. We want to pleasure you. And you can’t be pleasured like this.” Angus said waving his hand at the tubes attached to her.
“It wouldn’t be using me if I wanted you to, but I know what you’re saying. And, thank you.”
Angus picked her hand up and kissed it.
“Besides,” Jessica said when Jim started moving the fork toward her mouth again, “we won’t have visitors forever, right? Once Don moves the money, and we find the safe house we won’t need protection anymore. And it won’t be long before we’re better … right? What’s wrong?” Jessica asked when the men looked less than confident about things.
“Don ran into a small problem with the money transfer.” Josh said.
“What problem?”
“Jess, eat this please, come on …’ Jim said. No sooner had Jessica accepted the food than Jim was back with another forkful.
“He’s going to have to go to Daryl’s place. His computer’s not on so he can’t find the info he needs.” Scott said.
“Isn’t that dangerous?” Jessica asked, “I can’t eat anymore Jim. Have the rest, please …”
“You barely ate.” Jim said, “But don’t worry about Don, he’ll be in and out. And he won’t be alone. Have some more, please …”
Jessica accepted another forkful but then pressed her mouth shut and shook her head when Jim tried another. Jim sighed and ate it himself.
“I’ll be fine.” Don said. Don stood behind Riley, laptop in hand.
“You guys go eat, I’ll show Jessica how to find Daryl’s safe house.” He said, lifting the laptop higher. Jessica looked around and noticed that everyone from the kitchen was now behind the sofa. Leah, Justine, Amanda and Sara were leaning on the back of it.
“Have a seat.” Jim said getting off the chair, but rather than go get some food he, like the other men, tried to see what Don was doing on the computer.
“So, I have software that will go on the site of the company that supports Daryl’s car’s navigation system and allow us to see all of his previous destinations.” Don said.
“Did you write the software yourself?” Jessica asked while Don typed and the laptop screen flickered.
“You betcha.” Don said. “There, we’re in.” he said turning the laptop more toward Jessica. “Now I’ll put in his license plate … like I thought it was fake. Okay, that’s fine…” he muttered to himself, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat …” he his fingers flew over the keyboard. Soon a list of addresses, dates and times scrolled over the screen. “And now we find the date of the attack. There.” He said pointing at an address. “That’s rural. That has to be it.”
“But how do you know that it’s not a friend’s place?” Jessica asked.
“Two ways to be sure.” Don said with a smile. “One, I’ll search through this listing to see if he’s been there before. CTRL F, put the address, ENTER … nothing. Second,” he said opening a new browser window, “I’ll Google the site and see what it’s listed as … there it’s a condemned farm house. You don’t always get so lucky with that kind of search, but this time we did.”
“That’s … amazing. Someday would you mind teaching me how you wrote that software? That was really cool.” Jessica asked.
“Sure.” Don said surprised and clearly pleased.
“You want to learn to code?” Scott asked.
Jessica nodded. “It looks really interesting … and powerful.”
“It looks really complicated.” Angus said.
“I’m sure Jessica is smart enough.” Don said, “It’s not rocket science.”
Riley’d been leaning over Jessica’s head to see the laptop. He brought his hand to her good shoulder and squeezed. Jessica looked up, and smiled.
“That safe house is pretty far away.” Riley said bringing his attention back to the laptop and squinting at the screen.
“Yeah.” Don said typing something into the computer again, “It’ll take us a couple of days to get there.” He turned to Mark, “I think we should transfer the money while we’re at Daryl’s place. It won’t take long.” Then turning to Riley he said, “And we should head to the safe house right from there. It’ll be faster.”
Riley nodded.
“So we leave tomorrow.” Angus said.
“What?” Jessica demanded.
“It’ll just be a few days.” Angus said.
“Where exactly are you going?” Jessica asked and her tone made everyone freeze. Angus looked from Jessica to Riley and then around the room. Everyone looked as surprised as he felt.
“To the safe house …” Angus finally said, “with Don and Mark.”
“No you’re not.” Jessica said and neither her tone or her expression left any room for argument.
“Jess …” Riley began.
“No.” she said snapping her eyes to Riley’s and then back at Angus. “Neither of you are going anywhere.”
“But Jess, Don and Mark need help.” Scott said.
Jessica pinned Scott with her eyes and then swung them to Angus.
“You can barely walk. You would be more of a hindrance than a help. If Don and Mark need help someone else can go.”
“We can still shoot a gun Jess,” Riley said .
“But you can’t run away. You go on at me about self-preservation. Now take your own advice. You are not going anywhere.” Jessica said. Silence hung in the air. Jim looked around the room. Riley and Angus looked shocked, everyone else looked like they wanted to crawl under a rock, and Jessica looked as if she had every intention of getting up and making them stay.
The silence dragged. Jessica and Angus stared at one another. Jessica couldn’t read Angus’ expression. Her mind raced. What would she do if they didn’t listen to her? Beg, plead, blackmail. She wasn’t beyond making them stay in lieu of the sexual consequences that they said they’d let her have.
“Jess …” Jim said finding his voice but completely unsure what to say.
“You’re right.” Angus said and nodded his head. He looked at Don “You’ll have to go without us. Maybe Sean or Corey could go too.” Turning his eyes back to Jessica he said, “Sorry Jess. Are you okay?”
Any color that Jessica had begun to get back in her cheeks had gone and she looked like she’d pass out.
“Jess?” Riley asked, shaking her shoulder.
Eventually she nodded but in truth she wasn’t sure. Her heart thudded against her chest and the feeling of terror subsided. She had no idea what she would have done if Angus and Riley had insisted on going.
“Well. We have to go check on the animals … check the parameter …” Sean said. It was like he’d shot a starter pistol. Don shot off the sofa, everyone other than Riley, Angus, Scott, Josh and Jim disappeared.
Angus winced as he dropped to his knees next to the sofa. He cupped Jessica’s cheek in his hand.
“I’m really sorry Jess. It was a stupid idea.” Angus said.
“A really stupid idea.” Jessica agreed.
“You guys sure know how to clear a room.” Josh said with a laugh.
“Yeah Jessica you were pretty scary …” Scott said.
“Me?” Jessica demanded, “I was scary … I’m pretty sure that Angus cleared the room, not me.”
“I don’t think so.” Angus said, “Even I was scared … seriously!” he added when Jessica gave him a ‘give me a break’ look. “Honest Jess, I thought I was going to have my ass handed to me.”
“By me …” Jessica said, doubt evident in her voice.
“By you. I was half expecting your head to spin around …” Riley said.
“Ha, ha.” Jessica said.
“So, are we okay?” Angus asked.
“That depends. Do you have any other stupid ideas?”
“Ouch …” Riley said, “We’re not going to live this down are we?”
“I’m sure you will … eventually.” Jessica said and smiled. “Do you really think it will be that dangerous for Don, Stan and Mark?”
“So long as they don’t run into any of Daryl’s friends it should be a piece of cake.” Josh said lowering himself onto a chair.
“Someone else should go with them then.” Jessica said.
Scott nodded, “We’ll make sure someone does. Don’t worry.”
“Um, Jess.” Riley said looking toward the door when voices could be heard just outside it. “They must be done. The girls brought some movies and some magazines … “ he shook his head, “some of those fashion and gossip magazines that I’m not at all sure Sean would approve them having. Do you have enough energy for all that?”
Jessica nodded vigorously.
“I honestly never thought there’d be a day when we had the whole clan here.” Angus said.
“The whole clan?” Jessica asked, her heart dropping. Beth wasn’t here. She hoped she wasn’t home all alone.
“Caleb isn’t here.” Jim said when Jessica’s smile disappeared. It was obvious to everyone who Jessica was thinking about and Angus’ face contorted in anguish.
“He’s out of town.” Josh said, “sorry …” he added when Jim glared at him.
“Will he be back soon?” Jessica asked.
“I don’t know.” Scott said adding his own glare at Josh.
“Where exactly is he?” Jim asked curiosity getting the better of him.
Josh shrugged. “Paul called him out to take care of part of the clan out west … some kind of flu has knocked them out.”
“He is a doctor right?” Jessica asked, looking around at the stunned looks on the other men’s faces.
“Not officially.” Riley said.
“And he’s not Paul’s doctor.” Scott added, “Paul’s doctor is here.”
“Is that weird?” Jessica asked.
“He had them both at the race …” Jim said making a fake scowl at Jessica when he said race.
“But he called Caleb out after … Kept doc here. I guess maybe he figured a flu epidemic wasn’t doctor worthy.” Angus said.
Jessica and the men sat in silence mulling that over.
Scott was already looking at Jessica when her eyes met his. His face melted into a smile and his eyes softened in a way that made her heart ache. Once again she couldn’t believe what he’d done for her … taking the embarrassment of those machines onto himself. She opened her mouth to say thank you when the front door opened and Sean stuck his head in.
“Everything okay in here?” he asked.
“Yeah. Come on in.” Riley said and suddenly they were surrounded by pandemonium as the men’s places were taken over by Leah, Amanda, Sara and Justine.
Jessica looked around her in disappointment. She wanted to thank Scott but not with a ton of people around. It was embarrassing enough knowing that they probably all knew by now. When Jessica looked back at Scott he was cocking an eyebrow at her. Jessica inhaled. Well, he’d humiliated himself for her … she could do the same.
“You okay?” he asked. Jessica nodded. “You sure?”
“Yes. But, Scott I know about …” Jessica paused, looking around at the people around her and turned bright red.
“Jess, Jess, stop.” Scott said, obviously confused by the red tinge to Jessica’s cheeks but unwilling to let her embarrass herself.
“But I have to say thank …”
“Wait, I’ll get us a few minutes alone.”
“Come on man,” Corey said planting a hand on Scott’s shoulder. The other men had already gravitated to the kitchen, “We’re playing some poker.”
“It’s okay.” Jessica said forcing a smile, “We can talk later. Honest, go play.”
“But …”
“I love you Scott. And, thank you.”
“Huh?” but it only took a few seconds for Jessica to be surrounded by giggling women.
Jessica smiled and blew Scott a kiss. He blew one back, shook his head and headed for the kitchen. To Scott, winning money off these suckers wasn’t quite as enjoyable as spending time with Jessica, but at least he could keep an eye on her while he did it. And when she had a moments peace he could go find out what she’d wanted to tell him.
“What the hell kind of noise is that?” Riley asked half an hour later. The men were in the kitchen. Corey and Sean had also brought a folding table which supplemented the kitchen table and all the men sat around it, cards in hand. The other men followed Riley’s gaze to the sofa where the girls had arranged themselves into a shrieking, giggling, mass. Justine was combing Jessica’s hair, Sara was holding some magazine and seemed to be reading something from it that caused ongoing shrieks and laughter from the others … most notably, Jessica.
“They seem to be having fun.” Abe said, looking up from his cards.
“Do they do this at home?” Scott asked Corey.
“No, not really. Every once in a while they get in a mood.” Corey said.
“They just seem happy.” Sean added. “Jessica seems happy.”
“And that surprises you?” Jim asked, Sean’s tone leaving no doubt that it did.
“Not anymore.” Sean said. “When I first heard that you got married I was pretty sure it was against her will. I mean, how do you go from being someone’s prisoner to marrying your captors … not just one but five? But she saved your asses, and it’s obvious you love each other … with this whole safe house thing …”
“And the machines … don’t forget the fucking machines.” Corey added with a shake of his head.
“The what?” Scott asked. “What about the machines?”
“Leah told us.” Corey said and shook his head again, “The fact that you’d let us all think … and then that Jessica would want everyone to know that it was her not you that used them … that’s gotta be love.”
“What?” Scott demanded.
“She didn’t tell you?” Sean asked. “Leah asked her about you and those machines. Jessica set the record straight.”
“Jesus Christ.” Jim whispered.
“Leah should have kept that to herself.” Scott said.
Sean shook his head, “Jessica told Leah to tell everyone. Even though she turned as red as a tomato, she wanted us to know the truth. That my friend is love. Even I can see that.”
Jessica and the girls squealed again.
“Why does happiness have to sound like pigs being butchered?” Riley asked in mock seriousness.
“One day I hope I have that kind of love …” Corey said and purposely ignored the questioning look from Sean.
“So are you in or out?” Rick asked Riley, looking back at his cards.
“In.” Riley said forcing his mind back to the game. Scott folded and spent the rest of the night staring at the back of Jessica’s head.

“Jessica’s completely out.” Leah said a couple of hours later. She stood next to Don at the kitchen table. “The girls are heading home and I think I’ll go with them.”
“’K …” Sean said trying to figure out why Leah seemed nervous and as if she were waiting for something. Leah nodded and headed out with the other girls.
“Well.” Corey said two minutes later throwing his cards down on the table, “I’m calling it a night. It’s late … we should all call it a night.”
“Late? Eleven o’clock?” Rick asked looking at his watch.
“We do have an early morning.” Sean said.
Half an hour later the cards had been cleaned up and everyone had gone to bed. The men were lying on the mattresses staring into the dark.
“I can’t believe Jessica told them the truth about the machines.” Scott said.
“I can.” Jim said.
“Okay … so can I.” Scott agreed, “But she must have been so embarrassed.”
“Not nearly as embarrassed as I should be.” Angus said. “She’s got a million tubes in her, can’t feel a thing below her waist and has a shoulder wound, but I still want to fuck her. How sick is that?”
“For the record she seems to want to fuck you too.” Josh said. “All of us … tubes, paralysis and all.”
“Whatever.” Riley said, “She can do whatever she wants. I’m so done with controlling her.”
“Ditto.” Josh said.
“She’s going to overdo it. You know that right? She’ll over-work herself.”
“Jim, she seems to know her limits.” Scott said, “She’s been right about everything so far. I think we have to trust her to stop when she needs to.”
“Maybe when she’s one hundred percent. Not when she’s still … hurt.” Jim said.
“Okay. Okay.” Angus said, “But there’s no way she’ll ever call me master again.”
“She doesn’t have to.” Jim said when the others nodded, “We don’t have to be explicit about things. Just elude to rules. She’ll assume she’s our slave and behave … until she’s better.”
“But what if that’s what gets her off?” Scott asked. “Being a slave? She sure as hell seems to enjoy it.”
“Well …” Riley said, “I guess if she likes it …”
There was a pause. Finally Angus exhaled. “I wish she was awake.”
“Ahuh.” Riley said shifting on the mattress. “I’m freaking exhausted but I just don’t feel like sleeping.”
“We should be glad she’s getting some rest.” Jim said.
“Good night.” Josh said trying to get comfortable. The others grunted but fell silent. They shifted around for what seemed like forever. Finally Josh could hear the men snoring.

Jessica awoke with a start. Her heart was pounding, and she felt cold and alone. Very alone. She heard a noise next to her. Looking into the darkness she could make out the outlines of the men’s bodies. She wanted to be with them. Warm, safe, comforted. An outline moved but then stilled. Jessica exhaled and looked at the ceiling. She hoped Don, Mark, Stan, Sean and Rick, would be safe over the next few days. During the evening they’d gradually packed what they needed and intended to leave first thing in the morning. ‘Shoot’, she mumbled to herself. She wondered how long it would take Daryl’s friends to realize that the money and items were missing and it occurred to her that both the money and the safe house were long shots. It could take months before anyone noticed. If at all. And it wasn’t the kind of thing you could call them up and tell them to look for.
“Not that brilliant an idea after all …” Jessica mumbled.
“Jessica?” a voice whispered from beside her and she jumped, a squeaky “Oh” escaping her. A hand grasped her arm. “It’s Josh … sorry I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Josh?”
“Yeah. Are you okay? Why are you up?”
“I’m okay. I can’t sleep.”
“Welcome to the club … but you were sound asleep earlier.”
“Yeah, well … apparently I don’t do well sleeping alone. And now I’ve been thinking and can’t fall back to sleep.”
“Yeah, when’s the last time you slept alone?” Josh asked with a chuckle, “but, uh, I don’t think you’re going to be getting down there on the floor with us tonight …” he said eyeing the tubes hanging by the sofa.
“I know.” Jessica said looking at the floor next to her with yearning.
“What if I sleep on the sofa with you?” Josh said.
“Will you fit?” Jessica asked when Josh moved to her feet and pulled the blanket back.
“Sure …” Josh said lifting her legs. “Does this hurt?”
“No … I still don’t feel anything.”
Josh put his legs around Jessica and lay her legs on his stomach and chest. “How’s that?” he asked tucking the blanket under his chin.
Jessica sighed, “Heavenly …” she closed her eyes. “Are you comfy?”
“As long as I’m with you I’m comfy. Jess?” Josh asked after a few minutes of quiet.
“Hmmm?”
“What were you thinking about?”
“Huh? Oh, um, our plan.” Jessica said with a yawn. Now that she had Josh’s warmth and physical presence she was having trouble staying awake. “It’s kind of a long shot isn’t it?” she murmured.
“I guess.” Josh said, “But it’s better than nothing.”
“We need to come up with something better …” Jessica mumbled followed by light snores.
Josh kissed her feet and closed his eyes, suddenly he had a hard time staying awake too.

Jessica heard Abe say, “Ah, isn’t that sweet?”
“Just darling.” The doctor’s accented response caught her attention. “It’s a miracle he didn’t pull her tubes out with his feet.”
Jessica brought her hands to her eyes and rubbed until she was awake enough to force them open. Lowering a hand she noticed Josh at the other end of the sofa cracking an eye open too. Following his gaze Jessica found the men arrayed around the sofa on kitchen chairs, drinking coffee. Abe and the doctor stood behind the sofa, the doctor inspecting the IV bag next to him.
“Morning sunshines.” Jim said with a laugh.
“Morning …” Josh and Jessica mumbled.
“And just how did you find yourselves in this … interesting … position?” Riley asked.
“Jess couldn’t sleep.” Josh said with a yawn.
“And somehow this helped?” Angus asked, “’Cause it sure doesn’t look comfortable.”
“She’s used to company at night.” Josh said flicking his eyes at the mattress. “Doc, when can Jessica start moving around?”
“Well, if my evaluation today is good then I can take her off everything. But we’ll have to be careful.”
“And when can we start training again? The soonest we can start training again?” Josh asked earning surprised looks from the men and Jessica.
“Let’s face it,” he said, “our plan isn’t exactly fool proof. Daryl’s people may never notice anything missing. We have to be able to defend ourselves. Jessica has to be able to defend herself.”
“And us.” Scott said quietly. His tone caught Jessica’s attention but nothing in his demeanor made it clear how he was feeling. He seemed to have adopted Jim’s ability to smile with his mouth and look uneasy with his eyes. But then he winked at Jessica and his eyes eased into what looked like melancholy acceptance.
“That’ll be a while. You’ll all need physiotherapy to get back your strength and flexibility. Now if you’ll get out of my way young man …” he said to Josh who unceremoniously rolled off the sofa.
“I’ll get you a coffee Josh.” Jim said, “And you too Jess, Doc, Abe when you’re done.”
“How are you feeling?” Doc asked Jessica.
“Fine.” Jessica said, “I really want to get up and start moving around but I can’t feel my legs and that’s really disturbing.”
“One step at a time … no pun intended …” the doctor said with a laugh as he began unwrapping Jessica’s bandages. “Well, you have a healthy dose of humor that’s for sure …” he added when Jessica laughed hard and couldn’t seem to stop.
“All punny jokes aside.” Riley said when Jessica finally got her laughter under control, “We need to get back into shape again. It’s too dangerous otherwise.”
“Is there an immediate threat that we’re not aware of?” Abe asked.
“I don’t think we can say we’re aware of very much.” Riley said, “There’s a threat that is unknown. It could happen any time.”
“The only thing we can be sure of is that it will.” Angus added. “I don’t think Daryl’s people will forgive and forget. I wouldn’t.” he added when Jessica gave him a questioning look.
“So doc?” Josh asked settling into the chair he’d added into the existing semi-circle the other men had made in front of the sofa, and nodding a thank you to Jim when he handed him a cup of coffee.
“Things look good.” Doc said putting Jessica’s blanket back in place. “I’ll take you off the intravenous and catheter but you have to take it easy. For at least another week or so. And just a word of warning …” the doctor said pulling the intravenous needle out of her arm, “as the meds wear off you may feel some sudden and … strange … sensations as things thaw out.”
“You mean my legs?” Jessica asked.
“Mostly.” He said, “Just trust me.” He added quietly when Jessica opened her mouth for a follow-up question, “It’s not something you want me to be explicit about with such a large audience around.” He said, inclining his head toward the semi-circle of men staring at them. “It’s all normal. Now, which one of you gentlemen is next?” he asked getting up.

“You okay?” Jim asked when Jessica sat up. The doctor had checked Jim and Scott over and with clean bills of health, Jim had squeezed himself onto the sofa so that she was leaning against him, and Scott sat next to him, Jessica’s legs over his lap. The doctor was working on Angus and in the twenty minutes or so that it had taken for him to check Jim and Scott over Jessica began to feel her legs.
“I can feel my legs … finally.” Jessica said relief evident in her tone. Scott, who had been running his hands up and down her legs, reached down to squeeze the big toe that Jessica wiggled. She fell back against Jim and he wrapped his arms around her again and held tight. “I want to try and walk.” She said and looked over at the doctor.
“You can give it a try lass, but just make sure you don’t overdo it. Make sure you rest.”
Jessica patted Jim’s arms in an excited message to let her go so she could get up but when he did she dropped back against him.
“Jess?” Jim asked.
“I, um, need some pants.”
“I’ll get them.” Riley said but as he limped in the direction of the bedrooms his phone vibrated. He opened it, scowled and shut it.
“Daryl’s man again?” Josh asked.
Riley nodded, “Tom is a pain in the ass.” Riley muttered as he went, “I guess he figures that if he asks about Daryl enough times our answer will suddenly change. What an ass … a-hole.”
Riley shook his head. It had occurred to him that one of the reasons that Jessica may not want children with him and the men was the amount of profanity that they used. Jessica never swore. Even at the worst of times, she’d never sworn. Obviously it wasn’t something she was used to.
He’d mentioned his thought to the other men and they’d agreed that it was not likely that Jessica had grown up in an environment where swearing was common place or permitted. They decided to tone it down. Even if Jessica wasn’t pregnant now, they were surprised to conclude that at some point they would want to have kids with her. And not only that, but, as Jim pointed out, in the world Jessica had grown up in, it wasn’t likely that husbands swore at their wives. It wasn’t going to be easy but they were determined to clean up their language. One small step toward making their world closer to the world Jessica was used to.
Jessica contemplated Tom’s persistence. Apparently someone didn’t consider Daryl to be a complete jerk. Someone loved him. Great. It was easier to not mind having killed him and his men when thinking of him as a monster who was determined to kill her men rather than someone who loved and was loved and was likely responding from a place of pain rather than evil.
“Just brought you some sweats … figured they’d be better than jeans.” Riley said returning.
“Baggy is good.” Angus muttered.
“Thanks.” Jessica said forcing a smile.
“Everything okay?” Riley asked, “I mean if you really want jeans I’ll go get them.”
“Those are great Riley, thanks.” Jessica said taking them from him.
“Why do you look so sad then?” Scott asked.
“I’m not. It was just easier to be okay with killing Daryl and his men when I thought of them as jerks.”
“And you don’t think they were jerks anymore?” Josh asked in obvious surprise.
“Oh I do … for what they were doing and going to do to you guys. But if this Tom guy is trying so hard to find them then they couldn’t have been that bad. I guess it would be easier to just think of them us unlovable.” She shrugged her good shoulder, “Though I guess it really shouldn’t matter. In any case, I’d do it again in a second. I just would really like to avoid having to massacre Tom and his friends.”
“Let’s hope they co-operate.” Jim said.
Angus snorted but cut it short when Jessica looked at him, “Sorry. Just not sure how high likely that is.”
“Yeah … I figured as much.” Jessica said. “Oh, speaking of friends … Jim, could you plug my cell phone in? It’s probably dead by now and I really should let Tracey and the others from the bar know that I’m okay. I kind of fell off the face of the earth …”
“Done. I plugged it in the other day. I figured you’d want it. Everyone from the bar called me. I told them you were out of the city for a while and not to worry but given the way I acted the last time they saw me I’m not sure they believed me. I think they’d really like to hear from you.”
“Thanks for charging it for me.” Jessica said lifting her face to nuzzle into Jim’s neck.
“You talking about that kick ass bar you were singing at?” Abe asked.
Jessica nodded, surprised by how excited Abe sounded.
His excitement hadn’t escaped the men’s notice either. Nor Jessica’s responding enthusiasm. Her face lit up in the most obvious way.
Jim looked around at the men. Scott and Josh seemed taken aback, looking back and forth between Jessica and Abe. But Riley and Angus were scowling at Abe. Neither Jessica or Abe seemed to notice and Jim didn’t know if that made things better or worse. He sighed. It seemed there was still work to do on the friend front for Jessica. Although it was possible that Riley and Angus objected to Abe personally but Jim suspected that Jessica having male friends was still going to be an issue for them. And possibly Scott and Josh too.
“Your band was awesome. I think Stasia’s going to want to go back. I sure will.”
“Thanks. Have you had dance lessons or something? You were really good too.”
Abe chuckled, “Yeah, you were expecting me and Rick to be big bumbling oafs weren’t you?”
“What? No…?” Jessica asked acting overly innocent.
“Yes you did. Your jaw practically hit the floor when we started dancing … I saw it. But yes, we’ve had some dance training. And so did you … I could tell.”
Jessica laughed and nodded and this time even Jim felt a stab of jealousy. She hadn’t mentioned anything about dance training to them.
“A little …” she said.
Jim cleared his throat. He had to get a grip, he was being childish. And the other men were starting to look dangerous. “Do you want your phone now?” he asked.
“Oh, no.” Jessica said in surprise when Angus moved to block her line of vision with Abe. Doc had finished with him, and moved to Josh. Angus stood staring down at Jessica and she couldn’t decipher his expression. She looked down at his thighs where he’d been shot. “Are you okay?”
Angus followed her gaze, “Physically, yes.”
Jessica did a double take. Looking at Riley she found him still scowling at Abe, Josh, Scott and even Jim looked pretty angry. Suddenly she realized that even though the men may have forgiven her for riding for Paul, they hadn’t necessarily forgiven Paul. Or it seemed, anyone who worked for him. The last thing she wanted was a scene. Especially with Abe … she liked him.
“Um, Jim I’ll call everyone later. But right now I’d like to try and walk a little. Will you help me Angus?”
Angus blinked. She gave him the sweetest smile she could muster. She was going to ask Riley also but Doc had just finished with Josh and began inspecting his wounds.
“Yeah, of course.” Angus said.
Jessica lifted the pants that Riley had given her. Scott took them and after some maneuvering and tugging he and Angus got Jessica into them while successfully blocking her nakedness from the doctor and Abe.
“Easy now …” Scott said as Jessica dangled between him and Angus, her legs barely holding her weight.
“My legs feel like rubber.” Jessica said trying to put more weight on them.
“That’s normal.” The doctor said, “you’ve got to get the muscles moving again.”
As Jessica hobbled a few steps between Scott and Angus the front door opened and Corey came in. He stopped in surprise when he saw Jessica. “Up and around … that’s great.” He said but his tone lacked enthusiasm. Jessica looked behind him, waiting for Leah but he pushed the door shut behind him.
“Where’s Leah?” Jessica asked.
“Oh …” Corey said clearly caught off guard. He looked at the door. “She’s not feeling too good right now … she said she’d be over later. Just gotta go to the bathroom.” He added and headed to the back of the house. Jessica exchanged looks with Scott and Angus. Clearly they’d found Corey’s answer and demeanor strange too.
“Maybe she’s worried about Sean.” Scott said.
“Maybe …” Jessica said, wondering if Scott knew about Corey and Leah. “Can we go to the window? I’d like to see the sun. Feels like forever since I last did.”
Just as they neared the window the sound of cars speeding up the driveway could be heard, and tires sliding on the gravel as breaks were hit hard.
“We got company!” Chris yelled from outside. Corey had been on his way back from the bathroom. He and Abe raced out the front door, guns in hand. As car door slammed Jessica found herself pushed to the floor, pressed between Scott who was leaning against the wall under the window and Angus crouching with a grimace next to her. Jim, Josh and Riley had moved faster than they should have to the gun rack. They tossed a hand gun to Scott, Jessica and Angus, and grabbed rifles themselves. Riley inched his way up to the door, Doc had crab walked over to Angus, Jessica and Scott and mouthed, “Are you okay?” to Jessica. She nodded and then everyone froze as footsteps could be heard outside.
“What’re you doing here?” Corey demanded when there’d been a moment or two of silence. Scott slid up the wall and peeked out the window. He held up his hands, five fingers on one, two on the other, scanned back and forth and then slid back down the wall.
“Seven …” he whispered, “armed.”
“Since no one’s returning my calls I decided to come out and check things out in person.” A deep voice replied.
“So you’d be Tom then …” Corey said in a cold tone that caused a shiver to run down Jessica’s spine. Angus felt it and pulled her tight against him. Jessica’s heart was pounding a mile a minute when she buried her face in his chest. Angus tightened his embrace and kissed the top of her head.
“It’ll be okay.” He grumbled.
Jessica shook her head, “Corey has no intention of negotiating with them.” She whispered, “He’s going to provoke a fight.”
“Maybe that’s a good thing.” Riley whispered from the door, “Get this over and done with.”
“No.” Jessica shook her head and peeked at Riley from Angus’ chest, “No more killing. We agreed. And besides which, they haven’t even had a chance to find evidence of Daryl and his clan leaving. This has to end peacefully …”
“I am.” The deep voice replied and there was an almost imperceptible shuffling of feet outside.
Riley nodded and reached for the doorknob.
“No, wait!” Jessica hissed, her arm stretched out toward him. Riley paused, looking at her, but Jessica couldn’t think of what to do or say next. She wanted someone to intervene but she didn’t want it to be Riley. She didn’t want it to be any of them.
“Well Tom, that sure was nice of you.” Abe said in an overly friendly tone, “But completely unnecessary. Your phone calls weren’t returned because there wasn’t anything more to say. We’ve told you everything that we can. We hope you find your friends but there’s nothing that we can do to help with that. So you best be on your way.”
“It’s funny that you should say that.” Tom said, “because I get the feeling that there’s a lot that you could do to help with that.”
A moment of silence passed before Abe said in a far less friendly tone, “And how do you figure that?”
“Well, I hear that Riley and his whole clan, including that wife of theirs, managed to get themselves shot up. Makes me wonder how that would come to happen. And I find it curious that this should happen right around the time that Daryl and his clan went missing. It doesn’t take a genius to see a likely link between the two incidents.”
Another moment of silence. “I think maybe you should get your facts straight before jumping to conclusions Tom.” Abe finally said. “And I’d be real curious to know who set you down this wrong path … to clear up the facts.”
“My sources are none of your concern.” Tom replied, angry now and not bothering to hide it, “But are you telling me that you’re going to deny that they’ve all been shot?”
“We don’t answer to you …” Corey broke in fury barely contained in his voice, “get the fuck out of here.”
“Shit …” Scott hissed from his position at the window as there was more shuffling of feet outside.
“Hold on there now …” Abe said, “everyone bring it down a notch. Tom, I don’t think you’re thinking this through real well. All of these folks are under Paul’s protection. You harm a one of us and you’ll bring the fires of hell down upon yourself. Is that something you really want to do when you can’t even be sure what happened to Daryl and his folk?”
“Not sure?” Tom demanded in outright rage, “Not sure? The last time I saw Daryl he was on his way here. Here, to settle things with those cowards, and then he was gone. So I’m pretty damn sure I know what happened to them.”
“Well, your men never made it here Tom.” Abe said, “That’s what I’m telling you … they never came. Daryl saw almost everyone he loved die.” Abe continued, “What makes you so sure that he didn’t decide that enough was enough, and that this shit wasn’t worth dying for anymore? What if he decided to get out while he still had folks to get out with?”
“Are you calling Daryl a coward?” Tom demanded. More shuffling of feet made Jessica flinch and press her face harder against Angus, she was sure there’d be gunfire at any moment.
“That depends on your point of view.” Abe said. “If you consider being willing to leave everything you know and go off on your own cowardice, then maybe. But walking away from your way of life and starting over again seems less like cowardice and more like bravery to me.”
More silence.
“Well, that’s real convenient ain’t it?” Tom finally asked. “Just how are we supposed to ever prove that they left?”
“And I’d ask, how are you supposed to prove that they didn’t? How do you think that killing us will prove to you that we killed them? You seem to be in a quandary here Tom. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We can have it out right now, right here, but you won’t be getting the men you want. They’re not on the premises right now. So you’ll kill three men who have nothing to do with anything and piss the hell out of Paul. Which means you’ll have a price on your head until he kills you. And he will. Paul gets everything he wants … everything. It seems to me that you’d be better off spending your time concluding definitively that Daryl didn’t just disappear into a new life. Can you honestly say that you investigated that option to its fullest potential? If so, and if you truly want to have it out, then fine, bring it. I just hope it’s worth it.”
Silence again. And it dragged. Jessica finally got a grip on herself, pushed herself off of Angus and turned toward the door, gun in hand. She was damned if she was going to let Corey, Chris and Abe get gunned down for them. The men came to the same conclusion. Angus, Jim and Josh moved closer to the door. Jessica dragged herself next to Scott. With determination she began slowly sliding herself up the wall, her legs shaking with the effort. Scott encircled her chest and lifted her so she could look out the window. Corey, Abe and Chris had fanned themselves out on the porch, facing off against seven men who had spread out in a semi-circle, practically encircling Corey, Abe and Chris. Jessica flattened her back against the wall. It was impossible. There was no way Corey, Abe or Chris would come out of a gun fight alive. Provoking Tom and his men was nothing but pure suicide.
Jessica’s eyes met the doctor’s. He was kneeling on the floor, looking pale. And he had no gun. She motioned him closer with her hand and held out her gun. “I’ll get another one.” She whispered when the doctor shook his head.
“I save lives, not take them.” He whispered back.
Jim grabbed a rifle, stalked over to the doctor and shoved it in his hands, “Take it.” He said, “You can’t save lives if you’re dead.” He added when the doctor tried to refuse. Finally the doctor took the gun but laid it on the floor before him. Jim shrugged and moved to the window on Jessica’s other side.
“It’ll be okay.” Jim whispered.
“Not for Corey, Chris and Abe … they’re surrounded.” Jessica said.
“Shit.” Jim said after looking out the window. “You can’t go through the door.” He hissed at Riley and Josh, “Chris, Corey and Abe are right there.”
Riley nodded. “Back door …” he motioned to Angus and Josh who nodded and the three of them disappeared down the hallway.
“For the sake of argument …” Tom finally said and to Jessica’s relief he sounded calmer, “If we were to accept that Daryl may have left, we’d be curious to know how exactly Riley and family get shot. Would you be willing to tell us?”
“What would be the point?” Abe asked, “You won’t believe me anyway.”
“Try me.”
“Hunting accident.”
“Hunting … accident …” Tom repeated.
“It’s embarrassing to say the least and therefore not something they like to talk about. But it was a hunting accident. Take it, or leave it.”
As more silence ensued Jessica swore to herself that if this would end peacefully she’d never find enjoyment in silence again.
“Fine.” Tom finally said. “We’ll investigate further. But if we don’t like what we find, we’ll be back. And this time there won’t be time for talking. We’ll come in shooting. I promise you that.”
“I’d expect nothing less.” Abe said. Moments later Tom and the men with him returned to their cars and with the same squeal of tires that had accompanied their arrival, they left.
Jessica sagged in relief, both Jim and Scott catching her before she fell onto the floor. They lowered her onto her butt and then slid down beside her one arm each around her. Jessica took Jim’s hand in hers, dropped her head against Scott’s chest and sighed. Moments later the door opened and Abe, Chris, Corey, Riley, Angus and Josh came in.
“Christ that was close.” Scott said.
“I thought we were dead.” Chris added and turned to Abe and extended his hand, “I don’t know how you did it, but I’m pretty sure you just saved our sorry asses.”
“I’m not sure how I did it either quite frankly … I mean, hunting accident? Please!” Abe said but shook Chris’ hand.
“They bought it.” Corey said extending his hand too, “I was of no help. I just wanted to kill the bastards. Thanks for stepping in.”
“No problem.”
“Thanks Abe.” Riley said also putting his hand out.
“I think I may have just postponed the inevitable.” Abe said when Angus and Josh followed behind Riley. Scott and Jim got to their feet, lifting Jessica with them. Abe moved to meet them half way as Jessica hobbled between them toward him.
“I think you should sit down.” Abe said when Jessica looked up at him, hanging between Jim and Scott, beads of perspiration on her forehead.
“I’m fine. But should we call Sean and the others? What if Tom gets it in his head to go to Daryl’s house, or the safe house?” Jessica said.
“I’ll call them.” Josh said pulling his cell phone out of his back pocket.
“Doc, are you okay?” Abe asked noticing how pale the doctor was for the first time.
“I’ve been better.” He said. “I usually come in after the mayhem has occurred and I think I like it better that way.” He said nudging the gun that still lay on the floor with his foot. “But I think that constitutes an imminent threat.” He added, nodding his head to Riley in thanks when Riley picked up the rifle and took it away. “I’ll have the physiotherapists here tomorrow. I don’t think it’d be prudent to wait too much longer.”
“Thanks Doc.” Jim said.
“Don’t mention it. I’ll be back tomorrow. Get some rest you’re going to need it. Abe and Rick will have to monitor your progress closely.”
“Before you go doc. Jessica is able to swallow now …” Jim said, “should she start taking birth control pills again?”
“Did you menstruate?” the doctor asked Jessica.
“I don’t think so.” She said.
“If she’s pregnant, taking the pills can harm the baby. Better to wait till you know one way or the other.”
“Um, doc …” Jessica said, “if I am pregnant, can anything I do with the physiotherapy hurt the baby?”
“No lass. Just don’t get overheated … stay hydrated and you and your baby will be fine.”
“Just in case I’ve given you reason to think otherwise,” Angus said when Jessica still looked concerned about the possible dangers to the baby, “my first priority … our first priority is you. Your health and your ability to protect yourself comes first. Over and above everything else. Do you understand?”
Jessica nodded, “I’m certain that can be accomplished for both me and the baby.” She said, surprised by how relieved Angus looked, seemingly at Jessica’s desire to keep the baby safe. Jessica reached her hand toward Angus and when he moved to take it she said, “In case I gave you reason to think otherwise … if I’m pregnant, I will love the baby with all of my heart.”
Angus kissed her hand, “I love you.”
“Ditto.” Jessica said.
“Mhhhmmm,” the doctor cleared his throat. “this is beyond the scope of what I’m here for …” he said, “but as a medical professional I have to ask. These birth control pills that you’ve been taking, they were prescribed by a doctor right? A real doctor.” He added.
The doctor followed Jessica’s lead when she looked around at the men.
“I don’t remember seeing a doctor.” She said when the men didn’t respond.
“And I presume that she’s had regular, annual physicals … again with a real doctor?”
Jessica shook her head when once again the men didn’t answer and the doctor turned his attention back to her. She scanned the men again. They had a vacant look on their faces as if they didn’t understand what the doctor was asking.
“Well, the thing with birth control pills is that they change hormone levels in a woman. Depending on a woman’s medical health or conditions, certain pills have the potential of causing blood clots, or heart attacks. And, without annual exams, cervical cancer can go undetected and therefore untreated.”
“What?” Jim muttered.
“I’m sure there’s been no harm done …” the doctor said quickly when the men looked sick with guilt. “But going forward, once she’s all better, I’d be happy to be her gynecologist if you don’t have one. Hold off on her pills until I get a chance to do a complete physical and prescribe the best kind of pill for her. Okay?”
Riley nodded. “Thanks Doc. Sorry Jess … I guess we screwed up in ways we never even realized.”
Jessica shook her head but couldn’t think of a single suitable thing to say to make that look disappear from their faces.
“Not to worry gentlemen, I’m sure everything’s fine. What about you?” he asked turning to Chris and Corey, “Are the women in your clan seeing a doctor regularly?”
“Rrrrr, I don’t know …” Corey said.
“See,” the doctor said cheerfully looking back at the men, “not an uncommon situation that you’re in. Everything will be fine, take my word for it.”
“Doc,” Jessica said taking advantage of the momentary silence, “While we’re talking about things that are unrelated to our current injuries … could you check Jim’s eyes?
Jim groaned.
“I take it you need glasses lad?” the doctor said with a laugh. “Yes my dear.” He said to Jessica while turning back and opening his bag, “I’ll take his measurements now and bring some glasses tomorrow.”
“Doc, any chance I could get some contacts too?” Jim asked noticeably depressed at the prospect of needing glasses or contacts.
“Sure, I can do that.”
“We should get the chores done in case those assholes decide to come back.” Chris said.
“Do you guys want some breakfast?” Abe asked.
“We’ll take care of it, thanks.” Riley said.
“I’ll walk you out Doc.” Abe said, “We’ll have you up and dancing again in no time.” Abe added with a wink at Jessica before heading out the front door with the doctor.
“You really do need to sit down.” Josh said when Jessica sagged between Jim and Scott. Scooping her into his arms he sat on the sofa, seating her on his lap and wrapping his arms around her.
“I’m so sorry about the pills and the doctor.” Josh said pressing his head against hers, “I had no idea …”
“It’s okay.” Jessica said. “You heard the doctor. It’s not a big deal.”
“It is.” Scott said.
“It really is.” Angus added.
“No more pills until the doc says it’s okay.” Jim said and the others nodded.
“Are you okay?” Josh asked when Jessica seemed to slump more against him.
“I’ll get you something to eat.” Jim said touching her now clammy forehead. “You need some energy.”
“I’m not hungry.” Jessica said, “Not yet anyway.” She added when Jim frowned at her.
“I’ll get you some water.” Jim said and headed to the kitchen.
“It’s not just me then.” Scott said when Riley and Angus stared at the front door where Abe had exited.
Riley shook his head. “I just can’t figure out what his angle is.”
“I hate the guy.” Angus added. Jessica looked up at Angus in surprise. “I know, I know.” He said holding his hands up in surrender and then sitting beside Jessica and Jim on the sofa. “It’s rude, but I can’t help it. Something about him just rubs me the wrong way.”
“Who are you talking about?” Jessica asked sagging against Josh, resting her head on his chest.
“Abe.” Scott said, sitting next to Angus.
“What’s wrong with Abe?” Jessica asked.
Josh shrugged, “It’s hard to say exactly.”
“You don’t like him either?” Jessica asked in surprise.
“Something just seems off with him.” Josh said.
Jim and Riley pulled a couple of dining room chairs over.
“You like him don’t you Jim?” Jessica asked when Jim leaned forward, hand under her chin and brought the glass of water to lips.
“Yeah, sure …” Jim said but his tone wasn’t very convincing. Jessica looked at him and then the others.
“What’s wrong with him?”
“Well, for one thing, he likes you too much.” Angus said.
“Oh.” Jessica said in a tone that sounded confused and sad at the same time. “Well, I didn’t realize that people weren’t allowed to like me.” She explained when the men looked like they were expecting her to expand on her statement.
“Well, you might recall a conversation that we had about other men.” Angus said, “And about our commitment to one another … in the barn … when you’d thought we were fucking around on you. I thought it was pretty clear and I’d assumed unforgettable but maybe I was wrong …”
“I remember it …” Jessica said her cheeks turning pink and a slight stirring making itself known between her legs. “But what does that have to do with this?”
“Well, you seem to like him quite a bit too.” Riley said.
“Sure I do. He’s nice. But that doesn’t mean I’d … he’s just a friend. Like Sean and Corey. I have lots of guy friends at the bar too.”
“We know.” Riley said and it was clear he wasn’t happy about it.
Jessica looked around at the men, an expression they couldn’t decipher on her face. “But … I … they …” she stuttered for a moment and then sighed and nodded. “Okay.” She said, her expression clearly showing how disappointed she was.
“Now hang on a minute.” Jim said, “Is this discussion about Abe or Jessica’s male friends because those are two completely different conversations to me.”
“This is about Abe.” Riley said planting his elbows on his thighs and leaning forward, “Jess, Jess …” he repeated until Jessica looked up at him. “we’re not trying to take your friends away from you. Okay?”
Jessica nodded, “Okay. But then, I really don’t understand your issue with Abe. He’s just like my other friends. No different.”
“Something’s different.” Scott said. “I don’t know what, but something is.”
“I think he likes you and not in a ‘friend’ way.” Angus grumbled.
Jessica shook her head.
“Jess …” Angus said with a sigh, “do you really think you can tell the difference?”
“Yes.” Jessica said but scanned Jim, Scott, Josh and Riley’s expressions. They all looked skeptical. “I know how the way you like me feels, and I know what it felt like when Jim loved me, before we started having sex. There’s a big difference and believe me, Abe does not like me that way. And besides,” she added, “it doesn’t matter anyway. He can like me any way he wants. It doesn’t change my love and commitment to you.”
“That I have a problem with.” Angus said, “He knows you’re married. He should stay the hell away from you.”
Jessica scanned the other men’s faces. They seemed to be in agreement with Angus.
“Why should he care?” Jessica asked wondering if maybe she was more light headed then she thought. Nothing they said about the topic made sense.
“Why should he care?” Angus demanded his face starting to turn red.
Jessica reached down to take his hand. “What I mean is that Abe isn’t in a relationship with you. He didn’t make the oath, but I did. From what I know of Abe he seems like a nice guy and I really don’t see him trying to wreck our marriage in any way. But even if he did want to try to, it’s up to me to say no and it’s up to me to keep my oath to you. No one else.”
“You’re right it is your responsibility.” Angus said when the other men were nodding in agreement, “But it’s just as much his responsibility to respect our marriage.”
“You don’t trust me …” Jessica said, the realization hitting her hard.
“I trust you with my life!” Angus said stunned that she’d come to that conclusion.
“But you don’t trust me with your heart.”
“What? I trust you one hundred percent but I don’t trust him as far as a I can throw him.”
“So you’re saying that we share the responsibility, he and I. Equally …”
Angus nodded. Something about the way Jessica said it and the way she looked at him made him think that maybe he was off track somewhere.
Jessica looked at the other men and to her relief they didn’t seem quite as sure as Angus. Not even Riley seemed in agreement.
“Okay, if you say so.” Jessica said and decided to stop the conversation right there. Beth, and Angus’ bungled handling of her rape was foremost in her mind and she didn’t care to cause Angus any pain by going down that road. In fact, thinking about Angus’ aversion to thinking, seeing or talking about Beth brought Jessica to a realization that she’d rather not have had. In fact she was so stunned by it that she couldn’t hide her shock and disillusionment.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Angus asked.
“Jess, are you okay?” Josh asked.
“Jess?” Scott prompted.
“I … I’m not sure.” She said.
“What’s wrong?” Angus asked quietly as if realizing that he probably didn’t want to hear the answer.
Jessica shook her head, “I think that maybe we should take a break from this conversation.”
“No secrets …” Riley reminded her.
Jessica looked back at Angus who had his eyes locked on hers. With obvious reluctance, Angus nodded his encouragement.
Jessica took a deep breath. There was no way to go but forward because no matter how much she wanted to, she couldn’t un-think her thought.
“So when … when Beth appeared to have transgressed your relationship you held her responsible and punished her for her part in it … and then you hunted down the man who broke your relationship up and you punished him too right? You made him a pariah in his own home … his own clan. Made everyone abandon him … left him lonely … right?”
As she spoke Jessica lowered her eyes. She could see surprise, pain, and horrified realization move across Angus’ face and it hurt her heart.
Silence hung in the air. No one moved. Josh was so still beneath her that were it not for his arms around her she would have forgotten that she was on his lap. Finally she forced herself to look up at Angus.
The guilt on his face brought the deepest feeling of sadness over her.
“And I guess I should have clued in that you still have intense feelings for Beth.”
That statement and the tears that filled Jessica’s eyes before she turned to bury her face in Josh’s chest shocked Angus out of his stunned stupor.
“You’re right Jess. I’m guilty. I say the responsibility is shared but I was horrible to Beth and I did nothing to confront the other man. You’ve made your point okay?” he asked pulling on her arm but when she didn’t respond in any way he slid off the sofa and knelt next to it. Bringing his face next to where Jessica pressed hers into Josh’s shirt. “I trust you, and if you say Abe has no romantic interest in you, then that’s good enough for me. But God Jess, how can you think, even for a second that I have any feelings for Beth at all?”
Jessica peeked at Angus with one eye.
“You can’t stand to be around her Angus. To think about her, to talk about her, to see her. That takes an awful lot of emotion. If you still feel that way after all these years then you have feelings for her.”
“N ..n …no …” Angus finally stuttered but he was horrified to realize that Jessica was right. Not about him having feelings for Beth, but about the amount of energy it took for him to hate her so much. If he were honest with himself he knew why he was so mad at Beth. Why he hadn’t bothered trying to find out who she’d been with. “Jess, it isn’t love or any strong feelings that I have for Beth.” He said, “It’s pride. I was so mad that she could do something like that to me. I was embarrassed, humiliated when it happened and I just never got over that. The only person I love is you. God, you have to know that … Jess, please.” He said dropping his head against hers.
“Okay.” Jessica said turning her face to kiss his forehead. “I trust you, and I love you.”
“Thank you …” Angus mumbled as Jessica turned around to face the others. Angus lay his head on her chest and she ran her fingers through his hair.
Riley exhaled, “From now on you pick your friends and we’ll stay out of it.”
“Now hold on a second … “Angus growled, sitting up.
“We agreed that we’d stop controlling her.” Riley said. “And you trust her to not go with another man. Didn’t you just say so?” Riley added when Angus began to argue.
“We have to figure out what’s wrong with Abe.” Angus said, “It has nothing to do with trust or jealousy but safety. Something isn’t right.”
Jessica nodded. “That’s fair.”
“About as fair as it’s going to get.” Jim mumbled and looked conflicted between shame and relief.
“You know,” Jessica said when the other men looked somewhat upset with themselves, “You have good instincts. I mean you wouldn’t have survived as long as you have if you didn’t.” she added when Riley gave her a questioning look. “There must be something about Abe that’s triggering your defenses. That’s good, right?”
“You don’t find anything strange about him.” Scott said.
“No …” Jessica said, trying to decipher the looks the men gave each other. “What? What’s wrong?” she asked.
“We’re just wondering what your survival instincts tell you about Abe?” Riley asked.
“I do have survival instincts you know!” Jessica said in indignation, understanding dawning on her.
“Sorry Jess.” Riley said. “We know you have survival instincts. They’re just different than ours. We’re just interested in what yours tell you about Abe, that’s all.”
“Okay.” She said when the men managed to look sufficiently earnest. “There’s nothing that worries me about Abe. But there must be something to worry about. I mean Jim doesn’t usually get worked up about friends that I have and he finds something wrong with Abe too.”
“Yeah, about that.” Jim said tapping his thighs with his hands, “I was actually kind of jealous that you told Abe about your dance lessons and not us ...”
Jessica’s chin dropped in shock.
“Oh come on!” she said, “Really? Geez Jim.”
“I know, I know.” Jim said putting his hands up, “It was petty and stupid. I’m really embarrassed … do me a favor and forget the whole thing, okay? Please?” he added when Jessica sat shaking her head at him.
“Fine.” Jessica said. “If that’s all that bothered you about him …” she said to Jim, “then I honestly don’t know what you may be sensing about him.”
“So, what is it exactly that you like about him so much?” Josh asked.
Jessica shrugged her good shoulder. “There’s something familiar about him I guess.”
“Does he remind you of your brother or God father ?” Riley asked.
Jessica thought about it before shaking her head.
“Not really. He’s just surprisingly easy going … for a bodyguard. He likes to dance, joke around. He’s just likable.”
“Mhmm.” Angus said, resting his elbows on his thighs and hanging his head.
“Speaking of embarrassment …” Jessica said realizing that it was a good time to change the topic. She reached for Scott’s hand. “Oh my God Scott. Leah told me what you told everyone about the … machines. You must have been so mortified … why would you do that?”
“Because of this …” Scott said, bringing his hand to her cheek and rubbing his thumb on the pink that inflamed it. “You turn red when we talk about it … I figured you’d be destroyed if others knew. And they shouldn’t know … that’s our private business.”
“Thank you. I love you so much.” Jessica said pressing her cheek into his hand.
“You’re welcome. But Jess, why did you tell Leah the truth? And tell her to tell everyone? You should have just left it.”
“These are your friends Scott. You’ve known them your whole life, I’ve known them a few days. It’s not right for them to think that about you when it’s not true. Are you mad at me?” Jessica asked when Scott closed his eyes and groaned.
“No. Not at all. No way …” Scott said.
“Then why …”
“I just can’t get over how far you’re willing to go for us. It’s too far. You risk your safety and your happiness. Sometimes you just have to let us take the risk.”
“I could say the same about you.” Jessica said. “But isn’t that what love is about? Caring more about the other person than you do about yourself?”
“Speaking about love … and the machines.” Josh said, shifting beneath her. Jessica realized that Josh had moved his hands from rubbing her sides to her pelvis and when he shifted again she felt something hard press against her back. “Do you like them … really like them?” he asked his voice becoming guttural.
“I do …” Jessica said, suddenly breathless. She pressed back against him.
“But the whole slave thing … do you still like that?” Scott asked while sliding his hand up her leg and pressing firmly on her crotch.
Jessica nodded, her eyes locked on Angus’ lips as he began to lean in to her.
“You don’t think it demeans you?” Riley asked, sliding off the chair to kneel next to Angus, lifting the bottom of her shirt and sliding his hand up under it. Even though he knew Jessica had a bandage wrapped around her chest he still found it disappointing to not be able to cup her flesh in his hand, to pull on her nipple. He satisfied himself with rubbing and squeezing over the bandage.
“Demeans me?” Jessica asked in confusion.
She looked up when she saw movement out of the corner of her eye. Jim had moved to the head of the sofa, kneeling he reached between Josh and Angus and slid his hand down her top. Finding her unoccupied breast he began to massage through the bandage.
“Being our slave, it doesn’t make you feel like we’re not respecting you?” Jim asked.
Jessica shook her head. “When we’re having sex, no … I like it. Oh.” She exclaimed when she turned back and found Angus closer to her face then she’d expected.
“You feeling something now?” Scott asked, probing where her hole should be under her pants with his finger.
“Still phantom …” Jessica whispered, finding it hard to breath.
“That’s a pretty damn good phantom.” Angus grumbled, flicking his tongue on her lips, “You look horny enough.”
“I am …” Jessica said and losing patience with Angus’ near kisses she lunged up to lock lips with him, caressing his tongue with hers when he slid it into her mouth. As if someone had fired a starter pistol all the men moved at once.
Scott pulled the elastic waist of Jessica’s track pants out and slid his hand down, the soft curls of her pubic hair bringing him to full erection. With his free hand he worked his pants open.
Josh slid his hand down her pants too, Riley pushed his head under her shirt, kissing her breast despite the barrier between his lips and her skin.
Jim tried to work his fingers under the bandage, and despite the fact the Angus was now pinning her against Josh with his kiss, Jessica managed to slide her hand to her left and between her and Josh and rub on the jeans that covered his erection.
They were all so involved in their pleasure that the words,
“Oh shit, sorry!” barely registered.
It wasn’t until another voice said, “We’ll come back.” And the sound of feet shuffling and then the front door closing that Jessica’s eyes popped open and she went rigid. She pulled her hand away from Josh’s cock … prompting him to groan and pull her tighter against him. She patted Angus’ chest with her hand but when he made no indication that he’d stop kissing her, she pushed and tried to turn her head away.
“Some … someone was just here.” She managed to mumble around Angus’ probing tongue and demanding lips.
The only person who seemed to register what she’d said was Jim. His hand had stilled.
“Shit.” He finally said. “I think it was Corey and Chris.”
Jessica groaned and tried to pull herself into a ball but the hands and bodies on and surrounding her made it nearly impossible. She felt her face burning red.
“Guys … guys …” Jim said, pushing on Angus’ shoulder, Josh’s head, “Stop. Pay attention. Jessica’s stopped participating … stop!”
He cuffed Josh and Angus on the head earning him disgusted looks from both of them.
He pointed at Jessica, “Look at her. She’s bright red.”
“What’s wrong?” Angus asked, elbowing Riley which earned him a withering look too.
“Somebody came in … I think it was Chris and Corey.” Jim said.
Jessica groaned again and covered her face with her hands.
Angus elbowed Scott.
“What the hell?” Scott demanded. He’d bent over so he could look at the v between Jessica’s legs as he poked and prodded. He glared up at Angus now.
Angus inclined his head toward Jessica.
“Jess, what’s wrong?” Scott asked.
Jessica looked at Scott from between her fingers.
“I forgot about our visitors … “she said.
“Damn … shit … crap.” Angus muttered short on polite ways to express his frustration.
Jessica dropped her hands but her face was still red … “Having guests isn’t very convenient for being intimate, is it?” she asked with a nervous laugh.
“No it’s not …” Angus agreed through gritted teeth, looking at the front door.
“Not at all …” Riley agreed.
“It’s okay …” Jessica said, bringing her hand up to Angus’ face and trying to caress the frown off his face, “We can wait for tonight … I can sleep on the floor with you now …” Her voice trailed off. From their expressions it was clear that postponing sexual release was not a favorable option for the men. “Or … um, we could go in a bedroom … and lock the door.”
There was silence as the men contemplated that option but Jessica’s eyes kept flicking toward the door and it was clear that she wasn’t relaxed at all.
Scott exhaled. “Good idea Jess.” He said, getting up, “but it can wait until later.”
Angus pecked her lips and stood up too, followed by Riley and Jim.
“You don’t look like you can wait until later …” Jessica said looking at the bulges in their pants. Scott’s cock was poking out from the zipper he’d undone.
“A little self-service and we’ll be fine.” Jim said, and Josh groaned, shifting beneath Jessica.
“I’m not sure about that …” Jessica said sitting up and looking over her shoulder at Josh.
“Rrrr, are you okay? I mean, you can’t really self-service …” Josh said nodding his head toward her shoulder.
“I’m okay … thanks.” She said.
“Okay. Well, I need to go take care of this before I do something I might regret.” Josh said. Jessica started trying to inch forward to let him up but she wasn’t able to move far.
“Allow me.” Riley said, and scooped Jessica up, replacing her on the sofa once Josh hauled himself off. “Be back in a minute.” Riley said and soon he and the other men disappeared down the hallway.
Jessica lay back on the sofa and closed her eyes, her phantom arousal lingering. She managed to banish it when she contemplated what Chris and Corey saw when they came in. It was embarrassing, but Jessica consoled herself, they’d all had their clothes on. It could have been worse. And they were married after all … wasn’t it normal for married people to fool around?
By the time the men drifted back into the living room she was feeling better about the whole thing.
“I think it’s definitely time to eat something.” Jim said moving to the kitchen.
“Maybe you should tell Chris and Corey that it’s safe for them to come in now.” Jessica said when Josh sat next to her on the sofa.
“I’ll get them.” Scott said and headed out the front door.
Jessica fell against Josh, who wrapped his arms around her again.
Riley sat on the sofa on Jessica’s other side, and when Angus pulled a chair up to the sofa, Jessica put her feet onto his lap.
“Hey …” Chris said when he and Corey followed Scott into the house, “Ah, sorry about earlier … we didn’t mean to mortify you or anything Jessica.”
“Thanks.” She said with a smile, a light shade of pink on her cheeks. “But it’s okay.”
“Did you get a hold of Sean and the others?” Corey asked Josh.
“Oh yeah, yeah. They’d finished at Daryl’s place. The money is transferred. They were on their way to the safe house. It’s not likely that Tom would go there, it’s pretty far.”
“Breakfast is ready … “ Jim said handing a plate to Josh, who proceeded to skewer a fork full and feed it to Jessica. “I’ll get Abe.”
Half an hour later everyone had finished breakfast and Corey and Scott had cleaned the dishes.
“Wanna watch a movie?” Jim asked Jessica, “Relax for a bit?”
“Okay. Maybe after I check my messages? Could you pass me my phone?”
To allow as many of the men to be as close to Jessica as possible, Josh had pulled Jessica onto his lap again. Angus sat on one side, Riley on the other. Jim next to him, and Scott sat on the floor, resting between Jessica’s legs.
Chris and Corey had arranged themselves on chairs on either side of the sofa. Abe went back outside to stand watch. Given Tom’s visit they decided it would be best to have someone on guard at all times.
Jessica spent an hour returning texts. She told everyone at the bar that she was out of town and would come visit when she got back. She had a few texts from Beth … most of them asking how she was doing but the last one made her look up at Angus in wonder. Beth had just sent “WTF did you do to Angus? He just called and told me to come over if I wanted to. He said he wasn’t mad anymore.”
Angus had been watching Jessica text and when she looked up at him he winked.
“You called Beth?” she asked, clearly surprised.
“Huh?” Josh asked, he like the other men including Chris and Corey looked equally taken aback.
“Yeah. I really don’t care enough anymore to be mad. If she wants to come hang out with you, she’s welcome.”
Jessica smiled, leaned over to kiss his cheek, and then texted, “Come over. Bring Leah with you.”
“Leah has a headache. She says she’ll come over later. I’m not sure I want to be around Angus … may come later with Leah.” Beth texted back.
“K. Later.” Jessica texted back and put her phone down.
“Movie?” Jim asked.
“I don’t know … maybe not right now. I feel like doing something.” Jessica said.
“Like what?” Riley asked.
“I don’t know.” Jessica said, “Something fun.”
“Play cards?” Chris asked.
“Yeah. Something like that.” Jessica said.
“I know!” Corey said his sudden excitement in stark contrast to the his earlier all consuming funk. “Abe’s been going about that bar that you two sing at …” he said looking between Jim and Jessica. “He said you’re really good. Why don’t we jam?”
“I’m not sure you know these songs.” Jim said.
Corey shrugged. “I can pick them up …”
“What do you think Jess?” Jim asked.
“That’s perfect!” she squealed. “Josh and Scott you have to play too.”
“We can try … not sure we’ll keep up.” Josh said.
“Who cares, it’s just for fun. We’ll stick to songs that you know.” Jessica said.
“Okay …” Scott said.
Scott and Josh went to their rooms to get their instruments and started setting up.
Corey and Jim disappeared down the hallway and returned with guitars. Jim had his and Jessica’s.
Corey and Jim helped Scott and Josh set-up the drums and the keyboard, and microphones. They set one up by the sofa in front of Jessica too. Angus and Riley watched, surprised by the extent of the setup.
“You think you can play?” Jim asked holding her guitar up.
Jessica nodded enthusiastically.
“Careful Jess, don’t nod your head off.” Scott said with a laugh.
Jim helped position the guitar on her lap and the music began.
They played for over two hours. They played some songs more than once, so Scott, Josh and Corey could pick up more of the notes. And Scott and Josh sang so well that Angus and Riley watched in stunned awe.
Chris rotated guard shifts with Abe a couple of times and by the end everyone was in great spirit.
“You look tired Jess.” Jim said when they finished what had to be the two hundredth song. “I think we should take a break.”
Jessica nodded.
“We have some stuff to check on with the horses.” Scott said.
“And I promised to deliver a car.” Angus said.
“You guys go ahead.” Riley said. “I’ll stay with Jess and we’ll rest a little.”
“We’ll be back soon.” Josh said.
Riley laid down on the sofa, Jessica stretched out on top of him and was asleep almost right away.

What seemed like hours later Jessica and Riley were still lying on the sofa. They’d slept for a long time, and now Jessica lay staring at her phone. She’d texted Leah to ask her when she was coming over. Leah had read the text and Jessica waited for what seemed like forever for a reply. She texted again. Still no reply.
Corey came in the house and headed for the bathroom.
“Corey. Have you talked to Leah? When is she coming over?” Jessica asked, sitting up. Corey froze in place.
“Ah … I haven’t heard from her since this morning.” He said, turned on his heel and walked back out the door.
Jessica looked at Riley. Riley looked at her and shrugged.
Jessica dialed Leah’s phone number. It went straight to voicemail.
“Leah, it’s Jess. Call me. Right away.” She said. Hanging up she dropped the phone onto her lap in frustration.
“I’m sure she’s fine Jess.” Riley said his tone reflecting his bewilderment at Jessica’s desperate attempt to get a hold of Leah. “If she’s not feeling well, she’s probably asleep.”
“Something’s wrong Riley.” Jessica said.
“What makes you think that?” he asked, confused, looking from Jessica to the phone that she grabbed up in her hand again.
“Just a sec.” she said and began to text Leah. “Call me or come over here right away. Otherwise I’m going to tell Riley about you and Corey. I’m worried and I need to know you’re okay.”
Pressing send she turned to Riley and tried to assess how to get him to help Leah without giving up her secret.
“’K, you know how we agreed that if I knew someone’s secret I didn’t have to divulge it?”
“Yyyeesss …” Riley said slowly clearly not liking the direction the conversation was going in.
“So, Leah has a secret. I know about it, and now I’m worried. She’s suddenly not feeling well, she’s not answering my calls or texts, she’s not coming over. I think something bad may have happened.” As she’d spoken Jessica had worked her hand up Riley’s stomach to his chest. Now she clutched his shirt in her fist, tapping her fist against him.
“Jess, you know I don’t like secrets …”
“I can’t tell you. I promised.”
“Well, how can I help you to help Leah if I have no clue what’s going on?” Riley demanded.
“Okay.” Jessica said pulling her legs up under her on the sofa so that she was kneeling. “Leah has a boyfriend but Sean can’t know. He’d go beserk. And Leah and her boyfriend got together last night … ‘got together’” she added making quotation marks with her good hand. “And now suddenly she feels sick? She won’t return my calls? Something bad happened. Something really bad.”
Riley stared at Jessica. He wanted to yell, “What the hell?” shake her and make her tell him who Leah was seeing. But she was looking at him so earnestly. So expectantly. Like she thought he was the most important man in the world to her and she trusted him to help her. The fact that this was the perfect Jim moment didn’t escape him and he was worried that he’d mess it up.
“Okay. Just … just slow down a bit alright? Are you worried about the man she’s seeing? Do you think he’d hurt her?”
“I don’t think he would.” She said seeming to look inside herself for confirmation. “I’m not sure.”
“Do you know him? Is he part of the clan?”
Jessica nodded.
Riley relaxed with relief. “That’s good then. So Sean knows him then ….”
Jessica nodded.
“And Sean likes him?”
Jessica nodded again.
“Then what makes you think Sean would go beserk? It sounds to me like he should be glad that Leah likes someone in the clan. Someone he likes.”
“I don’t get it either but Leah insisted that Sean shouldn’t know or he’d flip out.”
Jessica’s phone vibrated. She looked down to see Leah’s text. “Don’t tell. Will come after dinner.”
“It’s from Leah.” She said looking up at Riley with excitement. And Riley’s insides melted. She was trusting him, turning to him, and there was no feeling like it.
“Is she okay?”
Jessica nodded, and fell against him.
“She says she is, says she’ll come over after dinner.”
“So you were worried for nothing.”
Jessica looked up at him. “I’m not sure it was nothing.” She said, “but I guess I’ll find out tonight.”
Riley nodded. The reality was that she was trusting him but not completely. He had little doubt that she would have told Jim who Leah’s boyfriend was. He supposed he’d have to resign himself to small steps.
“Riley?” Jessica asked noticing the corners of his mouth droop. He looked sad. When his eyes met hers she knew for a fact that he was sad and she also knew why. It was as plain as if he’d written it in black marker on his forehead. She brought her hand to his cheek. Maybe it wasn’t fair that she was gambling with Leah’s happiness but she had to tell Riley the truth. The whole truth. A small part of her believed that he’d flip out. Flip out and tell Sean everything. After all, Riley was in the same leadership position as Sean’s. No doubt he’d sympathize with Sean … maybe too much.
Jessica looked around the room with a conspiratorial air. Riley followed her gaze, smiling at the over dramatization she didn’t seem to realize she was making. Apparently satisfied that they were alone, she leaned closer to Riley.
“It’s Corey.” She whispered.
“Corey!” Riley exclaimed. He looked simultaneously shocked and revolted.
“Is there something wrong with him?” Jessica asked in a panic. Maybe he was a child molester or something.
“Hell yes there’s something wrong with him!” Riley grumbled, “He’s Sean’s best friend. He’s Sean’s best friend and he’s sneaking around with his sister behind his back. That’s just wrong. And you better believe Sean will freak out.”
“Oh no!” Jessica exclaimed, a worried expression on her face.
“Christ, what the hell was Corey thinking?” Riley demanded. Jessica felt Riley’s body go hard against her. A wave of fear swept over her.
“Hey Jess, what’s wrong?” Riley asked grabbing her face between his hands. And scanning her face. “Why do you look so scared?”
“What’s Sean going to do them?” Jessica said, “We have to warn them …”
“I don’t know Jess, but he’s not going to do anything to you. Why are you scared?”
“Riley, look how mad you got about this. If you’re this mad, Sean is going to be even madder. We have to help them! But how?”
Riley looked dumbfounded. When Jessica continued to implore him with her eyes he shrugged. “It’s not really any of our business Jess. I don’t think there’s much we can do. Especially if we’re not supposed to know about it.”
“There has to be something Riley. Leah really loves Corey. And it doesn’t make sense anyway. Sean doesn’t want her to date anyone. Not anyone in the clan, not anyone outside the clan. Does he want her to be a nun or something? You’d think that if she had to date someone, Sean’s best friend should be the best option.”
Riley sat in silence, studying Jessica. After a few minutes Jessica grabbed his shirt and tugged. “Well?” she demanded.
Riley shook his head. “I think we should stay out of this.”
“I know.” Jessica said nodding, “I don’t think there’s anything that we can do directly … but Riley, a nun? Really? I just need some advice to give Leah. Something that may make this go smoother than it would otherwise. If you were in Sean’s position what would make this easier for you to hear?”
Anger flashed in Riley’s eyes. “I would never be in Sean’s position because we don’t lie to each other … as you may remember.”
Jessica pushed up onto her knees and kissed Riley’s cheek, wrapping her good arm around his neck and pressing hard against him.
“I know. And you’d never expect your sister to be a nun either. But putting yourself into Sean’s position for a minute, what would make this easier for you to handle?”
“I don’t have a sister so I don’t know if that’s what I’d want. Maybe that’s what your brothers would have wanted for you …” his voice trailed off. Jessica leaned back and studied Riley. “Not much of a nun now are you?” he added with an attempt at a smile.
“I think my brothers would have wanted me to be happy. And I am.”
Riley nodded but he didn’t look like he really believed her.
“Riley …”
“The best thing Corey and Leah can do right now is to tell Sean everything, right away. The longer they keep it a secret, the worse it will be. You tell Leah that when she comes over and that’s the end of it. The best you can do. The rest is up to them to work out. Okay?”
Jessica nodded and brought her hand to Riley’s cheek. He still looked sad, disturbed.
“I love you.”
Riley forced a smile. “I love you too. And … I know this is a secret and everything but I think we should tell the other guys. We’ll tell them to keep it to themselves but it’s not good for me to know something that they don’t. Especially not a secret that you trusted me with.”
Jessica nodded.
Riley leaned in close to her, “I’m glad you did though. It means a lot to me.” He whispered and kissed her. Jessica kissed back. When Riley kissed harder, Jessica lay back on the sofa and Riley moved over top of her, holding himself off of her chest, his kisses became more urgent.
“God damn it I wish everyone would just go home …” Angus grumbled from beside the couch.
Riley jerked up in surprise. He and Jessica looked at Angus who was standing right next to the sofa completely ready to join in.
“We didn’t hear you come in …” Jessica panted.
“If I scared you, I’m sorry.” Angus said. “I’m, ah, done with the car. I thought maybe you’d want to go check on the dogs …” he said to Riley without looking at him, his eyes busy scanning Jessica from her head down to where Riley straddled her, just below her crotch.
“I guess I should.” Riley said, panting but he was looking at Jessica now too. Jessica stared back, swinging her eyes between Riley and Angus. No one seemed willing to move. “Do you feel anything yet …” Riley asked, sliding his hand down to Jessica’s crotch and rubbing.
“I do I guess.” She said in a breathless hiss, “but it’s not like before. It’s kind of … distant.”
Riley nodded, leaned over and pecked her lip, and slid his hand over her breast as he sat up again. “I want you to feel it when we have sex again Jess … so we’ll wait as long as we have to. Even if it kills me.”
“Fine.” Angus growled and looked anything but. “And when that time comes, guests or no guests we’re doing it. We’ll ask them to leave first …” he added when Jessica looked worried. “Before you go,” he said to Riley, “I’ve gotta take care of this.” He said pointing at the erection pressing against his pants.
“Me too.” Riley said.
Jessica grabbed his hand when he moved to get off the sofa.
“Wait …” she said, “Angus if you lock the door, I can take care of that for you … for both of you. This hand is fine, and my mouth …”
Angus looked at the door, at Jessica and then at Riley.
Riley shook his head.
“Shit …” Angus groaned.
“Thanks Jess, but the first time should be with all of us.” Riley said “And when you can get pleasure too.”
“I can do it for the others too.” Jessica said, the expressions of sexual frustrations on Riley and Angus’ faces making her feel bad.
Angus groaned again and looked away from Jessica.
“Jess, you agreed to be our slave during sex. And as our slave you’re not allowed to initiate these kinds of things. Remember?” Riley asked but he didn’t sound convincing at all.
“Master, please let me get you off. “ Jessica said, “You don’t need to suffer like this.”
“Jesus Christ …” Angus growled and limped off to the bathroom.
“We’ll be fine. But if you keep going like this you’ll be earning yourself some consequences. That shouldn’t be the way we start things off when you get your sensations back …” Riley said, caressing her crotch again. “Jesus.” He added and forced himself off the sofa. “Jess, we need to pleasure you, not the other way around. Being horny for you isn’t making us suffer but you offering to get us off when we can’t accept or reciprocate, is. Please just be a good slave and behave … okay?”
Jessica nodded. “Yes Master.”
A moment passed, Riley stood staring at Jessica. Just the way she said ‘Master’ sent him over the edge. Finally he forced himself to turn away from her. “Good. I’ll be back in a minute.” He said and shuffled down the hallway.
Jessica lay staring at the ceiling. Even though she couldn’t feel anything but her phantom desire, she was looking forward to when she would. And when she’d be with the men again. She missed them. Physically.
“Okay.” Riley said returning, with Angus behind him. He leaned over and pecked Jessica’s lips. “I’ll be back soon. Jess, I believe you have something to tell Angus, right? I’ll tell the other guys.”
Jessica nodded and when Riley left, Angus was left standing by the sofa looking simultaneously nervous and curious. He rubbed his hands on his thighs and eyed the arm chair.
“You know.” Jessica said, “You guys seem to think that getting you off is some kind of chore or punishment to me. But it’s not. I enjoy it … I want to do it. But if it makes you feel more comfortable, go ahead and sit in the armchair.”
“Coming from someone who let me sexually torture them in order to keep us from killing one another, you’ll excuse me if I don’t take your word as the absolute truth. We’ve agreed that the first time is going to be all together so I’m good waiting for that, and the only place I’m comfortable is with you.” He said sitting next to Jessica on the sofa, Jessica lifting her legs to make room for him and then laying them across his lap. He rubbed her legs, “I’m going to control myself, or go blind trying. So, what do you feel like doing?”
Jessica couldn’t help but smile at Angus.
“I love you.” She said.
“Ditto.” Angus said and grinned ear to ear.
“So what’s your pleasure? TV? Video game?”
“Well, I did want to take a bath but I can wait for Jim for that.” She said. “Why don’t we play a game?”
“Wait a minute. Do you honestly believe Jim is any more immune to getting horny than the rest of us?”
“Hmmm. Well, he used to be.”
“Those days baby are long gone. Besides I’m not a complete pig Jess, I can help you with a bath without wanting to jump you. What, I can!” Angus said when Jessica gave him a disbelieving look.
“Okay.” Jessica said, “I have heard that when you lose your sight the other senses compensate. You could end up with some spectacular hearing.”
“Ha, ha, ha, very funny!” Angus said tapping her thigh. “Good thing you don’t have a day job or I’d tell you not to quit it …”
Jessica laughed as Angus’ hand roamed up to her armpits and tickled.
“And what are we supposed to do about this bandage while you’re bathing?” he asked.
“Do you think I could take it off?”
“I’ll go ask Abe. Be right back.”
Ten minutes later Jessica was limping down the hallway, leaning on Angus.
“Hey, you’re getting stronger.” He said, “Earlier today your legs were like noodles.”
“I can feel them more now.” Jessica panted.
When they got to the bathroom, Angus helped Jessica remove her clothes, and then the bandage. Helped her into the tub and knelt next to the tub while it filled with water.
“Do you want to come in too?” Jessica asked.
“I’m strong baby girl but not that strong. In fact, where is that bubble bath you use all the time?” Jessica pointed to the cupboard under the sink. Getting the bottle Angus dumped practically the whole thing in the water. Jessica laughed while suds sprang up all around her. She had to flatten them to see Angus kneeling by the tub.
“Let me know when you’re ready for a rub down.” He said holding a wash cloth up.
“Do you mind if I soak for a bit?”
“Not at all. Soak for as long as you want.”
“Thanks.”
“So …” Angus said, dipping his hand in the water and scooping up some bubbles. “What was it you were supposed to tell me?”
“Oh yeah. Okay, so I was worried about Leah otherwise, you know, I never would have said anything …”
“Relax Jess. Your reign as Queen secret keeper will remain intact. Now spill it.” Angus’ said his lopsided grin eliciting a mock scathing look from Jessica followed by a spray of spittle when she stuck her tongue out at him.
“Honestly Angus, I really shouldn’t have said anything.”
“I know, I know. I get it, I won’t say a word.”
“Fine.” Jessica popped her head up over the tub to check that the bathroom door was closed and then she beckoned Angus closer with her finger.
Angus tried not to laugh as he moved closer. She looked so serious. It wasn’t until he was within inches of her lips that she explained everything to him in a whisper. It wasn’t until Angus whispered back,
“Hmmm, Leah and Corey … really?” that she realized how ridiculous it was to whisper.
“I know it’s bad.” She said a little louder. “Riley said Sean is probably going to flip because they’re sneaking behind his back.”
“Yeah. He’ll flip alright.” Angus said wondering where Jessica got weird phrases like ‘flip’. “But I can kind of see Leah and Corey together. They make a good couple.”
Jessica smiled a humongous smile and looked at Angus like he’d pleasantly surprised her.
“Me too. You know … I really like your romantic side.” She said.
Angus smiled back. “Thanks, but that’s as far as my romantic side goes. Yours too. We are not getting involved in this. They’ll have to work it out themselves.”
Jessica nodded. “That’s what Riley said too. He said that I should suggest to Leah that she and Corey tell Sean the truth and then stay out of it.”
“Perfect. And even more perfect would be if you listen to him.”
“Me? Of course I will.” Jessica said taken aback by the implication that she wouldn’t.
“Ahuh. We’ll see.”
“What?” Jessica demanded, “I’m about to get offended here.”
“We wouldn’t want that now would we?” Angus asked with a laugh. “Okay, change of topic. Listening to you and the guys sing … is amazing. But I’ve been thinking … I’d really like to learn how to sing too. So I could join in. I mean, if you think it’s possible for me to learn. I don’t ever expect to get up on stage or anything. Just, you know, carry a tune.”
“Angus that’s great!” Jessica exclaimed bursting with excitement. “Anyone can learn to sing. Vocal chords are muscles and can be trained just like any other muscle. Given how much you love to work out, it’ll be a snap for you.”
“You haven’t heard me yet.” Angus said, “You may want to reserve judgment. But, do you think you could teach me in private?”
“Um, Angus, you wouldn’t be suggesting that we keep your lessons a secret would you?” Jessica asked trying not to laugh when Angus’ mouth dropped open.
“No, not a secret … just private. As in, no one else has to hear me sing.”
“Sure, okay. Though we do seem to have something of a privacy issue these days. But we do have time alone now. I don’t know all the words to the songs that Corey and Sean know but we can look them up.”
“I don’t mean those songs.” Angus said, “I mean the ones that you sing with Jim. The ones you sang at the bar.”
“Okay … we can do that. You don’t know any of those songs though, right? Got it.” Jessica said snapping the fingers when Angus shook his head. “Bring the laptop here … and one of the kitchen chairs.”
Angus looked at her funny but went to get the laptop and chair.
“Now what?” he asked after setting the laptop up on the chair as Jessica directed him to.
“So it really helps with singing if you know the songs pretty well. We’ll start by watching some videos. We can get them with the lyrics shown. But basically you’ll have to listen to the songs over and over. When you feel like singing in public there’s a great singing game that we can play on the game box and it helps a lot too.”
“So let’s start with the songs we were singing earlier today.” Jessica said after ten minutes of instructing Angus on how to get to the internet and then to the video site.
“How do you know this shit?” Angus asked staring at the laptop screen.
“My brothers and I used to watch videos all the time.” Jessica said. “Let’s start with something fairly simple …in the search box type Blackeyed Peas.”
Jessica was in the middle of telling Angus how to spell the band name when there was a knock at the door.
“Who is it?” Angus asked, reaching for the shower curtain.
“It’s me.” Riley said.
“Come in.”
“Those are a lot of fuck … freakin’ bubbles.” Riley commented. “Good evasive action Angus …” he added, laughing.
“I thought so.” Angus said sharing in the laugh.
“What’s with the computer?” Riley asked. He’d asked it lightly but did a double take when Angus and Jessica exchanged a look. “Guys …” he started in a warning tone.
“Okay, okay.” Angus said when Jessica clamped her mouth shut and glared at him. “Don’t get your undies in a knot … Jessica is teaching me how to sing … in private.”
“Sing …” Riley repeated. “You …”
“Did you have something specific you came in here to do?” Angus demanded turning back to the computer. “Can you hurry it up? Jessica and I are busy.”
“I didn’t mean it like that …” Riley said moving to the toilet. “I actually like that idea.” He added as he shook off and moved to the sink. “Can I learn too?”
“So we’re going to have to listen to each other sing?” Angus demanded.
“Hey, you’re the one that sounds like a dying cat. If I can put up with that my slightly off key singing should be a pleasure for you. And besides … we get naked and awfully close to one another when we have sex with Jessica. You find singing in front of me more uncomfortable than that?”
“Fine … fine …” Angus grumbled when even Jessica smiled at him smugly, like Riley’s question settled everything. “We have to start by listening to the songs. Which one should I pick?” he asked Jessica when the Blackeyed Peas song list appeared on screen.
“The first one is good, but pick the one with the lyrics.” Jessica said.
... continued in 8b
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