I AM THIS EXCITED ABOUT SHARING THESE CHAPTERS WITH YOU GUYS!!!
Alright, guys, here as promised is your little treat! Now, I know there has been some serious confusion over these chapters. Let me explain. Back before Rebel was released, I announced on facebook that there would be extra surprise chapters at the end of Rebel, and that they were going to be about our boy, Michael.
Now, when I posted links to the extra chapters in the back of Rebel, I didn’t make myself very clear and a lot of people thought I had cut Rebel’s story short, and to finish the book you had to find the extra chapters. That obviously wasn’t the case. When we leave Rebel and Sophia at the end of Rebel, that is the current ending of their story. The next book, Hellion, is coming out really, really soon, so you won’t have to wait long to find out what happens next.
I’ve since posted multiple times to Facebook and to my newsletter, explaining the mixup, but there are still people out there who are confuddled by what’s happened. I am SO sorry for the confusion.
I hope you can forgive me, and I also hope you enjoy my little thank you gift from me to you. I’d LOVE to see some comments below, especially if they show me pics of who you think would make the very best Michael.
Love you guys!
***PLEASE NOTE, THE FOLLOWING IS UNEDITED AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE! ***
Growing up a half of something is a problem. As a rule, society is fairly accepting if you want to pour half cream, half milk on your cereal in the morning. But being half black and also half white? That’s not as okay. See, people need to put other people into boxes. The preppy guy, the jock, the nerd, the token black guy. Life is simple if everyone conforms and dutifully compresses themselves into the box they’ve been assigned, uncomplaining and accepting. As a person of mixed race, I’ve always been expected to identify with one side of my heritage or the other in order to make the people around me more comfortable.
When I was a kid, that felt like choosing which one of my parents I loved more—my mom, because she was white and being white was even more socially acceptable than knowing exactly who you were, or my dad, because he was black, and my skin was never going to be pure as the driven snow anyway, so why not?
In the end, it’s always the same. My skin is lighter than most. I’ve been described as coffee or mocha or honey, but those terms don’t usually fly with your smarter than average person of color. To be edible, to be actually fucking eaten, is to be dominated. Overpowered. And coffee and cocoa? Those two particular items fuelled a once thriving slave trade that can still make a lot of African American people understandably awkward. So yeah…perhaps you could say my skin is a warm golden color. Or Tawny. Or a deep tan? Whatever you want to label it, should you feel the need, my skin tone could never be described as Caucasian. That’s the only thing that seemed to matter when I was young. So. Even if I did identify with my mother’s heritage and her side of my family tree more than my father’s, if I wanted to do stereotypically white things like wear socks and sandals, or listen to Kenny Rogers, it wouldn’t have made a difference. To an onlooker, impatiently waiting to shove me into one of those boxes, I would still have been maybe-white-with-a-hint-of-something-else.
The scattering of freckles—thankfully gone now that I’m older—and the bright green of my eyes only served to confuse people even further. Seemed whatever I did, however I acted, whatever I wore or listened to or watched, I was always going to make people scratch their heads. It took me a while to realize that there was nothing I could do about that—the head scratching and the raised eyebrows. It was going to happen regardless, so I figured fuck it. Let it be their problem. As long as I knew who I was, that’s all that mattered.
Through high school, I was the jock, I was the nerd, I was preppy guy and I was the token black friend. In my early twenties, I was smart and studious, a college guy, and I was also stealing cars. Not cars that could get me arrested. Leave the Mercs and Jags and Beamers to punks who wanted to go to jail. No, I was stealing the Toyotas and the Camrys and the Fords. Average cars that flood the highways and streets of America, so hard to identify as stolen. Did I sell them on? Boost them and drop them at a cutting shop to have their VIN numbers ground out and replaced and then sold on to some other poor unsuspecting sap? Nope. I was earning enough money running gambling and odd jobs out of my apartment. I didn’t steal the cars to make profit. I did it because I loved the thrill of taking something that didn’t belong to me and then not getting caught. I also loved the thrill of driving the Average-Joe cars out into the wilds of Louisiana and setting the things on fire.
Nothing more liberating that stealing something and watching it burn, after all.
Now, as a man in my late twenties, I’m still smart. I’m still studious. I still steal cars. But I do a lot of other things, too. I’ve taken people’s lives when I’ve had to. I’ve learned how to fight properly. I’ve done away with gambling. I don’t hire myself out to random criminals anymore. It’s in my interests to be smarter than that now. I contract for organizations or individuals who follow a code—a strict one that means they won’t be sloppy in their business dealings, and I will act with the same discretion.
Discretion isn’t the word that springs to mind as I climb the stairs of the tall building on Seattle’s West Ave. Building number 515. Apartment 12c. I don’t get things wrong, but I still pull out the neatly folded piece of paper from my pants pocket, just to make sure. As I approach the correct floor, the sound of loud music and laughter spills out into the hallways, unmistakably a party of some description. Parties aren’t normally something that go hand in hand with covert criminal activity, but the address on the paper is correct. Awesome. If Jamie were here right now, he’d be lifting one eyebrow at me and giving me that look of his. The one that says he thinks I should be turning the fuck around and heading back home. As I shoulder open the door that gives access to the hallway, I almost do it. Be easy enough to head back the way I came and refuse the work that’s being offered to me.
I’m a stubborn motherfucker, though. I carry on, maybe because my cousin, the blue-eyed devil, hasn’t been picking up my phone calls for the past two weeks. I’m hardly going to act according to what I think he would or wouldn’t approve of if the bastard can’t even pick up the goddamn phone.
The hallway is filled with people, all dressed up and apparently waiting to be let into the apartment at the end of the walkway. I don’t even bother checking; of course it’s the apartment I’m headed for as well. Am I the kind of guy to join the back of a queue? Fuck no. I didn’t come here to party, for starters. And secondly, I have other jobs that need to be completed. Other jobs that have to be tidied up before I can accept the role this guy is offering me, one of which is time sensitive and needs to be finished tonight. I can’t afford to be loitering in hallways with admittedly very attractive, barely-dressed women and equally attractive, suited-up guys. I gotta get the fuck out of here. Also, I think I’m probably a little insulted. I haven’t had to attend what might pass for a job interview in a long fucking time. This guy, this Mr. Mayfair, wants to vet me first before he takes me on.
I felt like telling the woman who phoned to go fuck herself. But then she mentioned the compensation for my time and I held my tongue. Ten thousand just to meet and talk is a lot of money.
I shove my way past the people waiting in a disordered line, my back pressed against the wall, headed in the direction of the entrance. People give me sideways looks, not complaining. Just checking me out. Studying me. Wondering who I am. Their eyes feel hungry, like they’re tearing at my clothes. I’m expecting disgruntled comments, but instead I get salacious grins and the tall guy at the front of the queue stepping back so I can line up ahead of him.
“More than welcome to come stand in front of me,” he says, smiling. I recognize the tone of his offer immediately. He’s hitting on me. I make a point of not flirting with men or women I know nothing about, especially when they’re waiting to gain entry into what I’m beginning to suspect is a sex club.
“You’re okay, man. I’m not hanging around.”
“Shame,” the tall blond guy sighs. The woman on his arm, also tall, with raven-black hair and a slash of crimson lipstick pouts, too.
“Yeah. Real shame.”
I’m not in the habit of letting people read my reactions. Ever. On the outside I’m maintaining my blank expression, however on the inside I’m allowing myself a most evil smirk. “Maybe next time,” I tell them, sliding past until I reach a tall, burly guy in a suit at the front door.
He assesses me with cool, quick eyes, getting a read on me pretty quick. He knows I’m not here to fuck. I’m here to see if I can fuck things up on behalf of his employer. “Mr. Aubertin?” he asks. “Thank you for coming. Please… if you’ll follow me.”
Strange to hear such niceties as please and thank you coming out of the man’s mouth. He looks like he mixes cement in that massive barrel chest of his. He’s gotta be in his late fifties at least. Turning away from the gathering crowd, he ushers me inside the apartment. I can still feel the intense gaze of the tall guy and his femme fatale partner burning into my back as the guy pulls the door closed behind us.
“This way, please, Mr. Aubertin.”
I have about thirty questions slamming around my head right now, but it’s not appropriate for me to ask this guy. I keep my mouth shut as I follow him through a surprisingly large, luxuriously decked out, elegant apartment. My shoes make hollow ringing sounds as they hit the polished marble. Reminds me of Jamie’s family home, but on a smaller scale. This guy must have money. A lot of money. Especially if he’s willing to pony up 10k just to have a ten-minute conversation with me.
I’m lead all the way down a long corridor—three doors to my right, four to my left—and the big bruiser knocks his meaty hand against the final door to the right. There’s a grunt from the room beyond, and then the big guy is giving me a warning look. “He’s not in the best of moods. I’d be careful not to piss him off any further if I were you.”
The door opens, and then there’s a tank of a guy standing in front of me, barely visible with the minimal light coming from a small table lamp behind him. He’s tall, broad, stacked with muscles, his skin covered in tattoos. And the rest of him covered in blood. It’s everywhere—all over his face, down his neck. His arms and chest are stained bright red. He’s wearing nothing more than boxer shorts and a grim look on his face. He holds out his hand and lifts an eyebrow, waiting for me to shake with him. Normally I do my best to avoid contact with other people’s blood, but in this particular instance it seems like a bad idea to refuse. The guy looks fucking unhinged.
“Hello. You’ve been told to call me Mr. Mayfair but fuck that. We can dispense with formalities. My name’s Zeth. Zee. Good to meet you.” He squeezes my hand, not in that ridiculous way most guys insist on posturing when they meet for the first time. It’s a subconscious action as he tilts his head to one side, a good look at me. After a few seconds, a broad smile pulls at his mouth. His teeth are a brilliant white against all of that quickly darkening blood. “Know why you’re here?” he asks.
“Know how much I pay?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Anything you want to know?”
I look at him, this monster of a man, covered in blood and violence, while a hoard of people wait outside his apartment for god knows what. Narrowing my eyes, I lean against the doorframe, considering him. “Yeah. Why me?”
“Well,” he says, grinning even harder. “I’ve been told you’re really good at killing people. I could use a guy like that around here.”
I’m horny as fuck, but I’ve also just been shot in the shoulder. And now I’ve got this guy standing in front of me, unblinking, unfazed by the people now inside the apartment, or by how I look. He’s watching me like he’s trying to take me apart in his head, just to see how I work. It’d be polite to warn him not to bother. There should be a warning that must be read by anyone wishing to glimpse inside my head: This Way Be Dragons. Or murders and an assortment of other vile monsters who have all helped form and shape me into the man I am today.
I walk over to the sideboard and grab the bottle of whiskey I’ve left uncorked there. I take a deep, deep pull on the stuff—nothing can dull the pain of a bullet wound quite like a thirty-year-old single malt. The liquor hits my stomach and burns there. Feels like it’s fucking boiling inside me. I hold the bottle out to Michael, wondering with faint interest whether he’ll take it. Some people are funny about sharing a bottle. And this guy, in his pristine suit with his clean-shaven face looks like he cares about things like hygiene. He accepts the bottle, though, smirking when he takes a look at the brand. “What?” I ask. “You don’t like the good stuff?”
“Nope. It’s just…Lagavulin. My cousin and I drink this.” He’s not lying, either. Not many people can skull whiskey the way he does, his throat muscles shifting as he takes one, two, three, four mouthfuls of the stuff. I’m the one who’s in pain right now, but this guy’s gonna be feeling comfortably numb pretty soon. He hands the bottle back, eyes full of steel, his gut probably full of fire now, and I already know I’m gonna hire him. He’s a ball breaker. I can tell by the way he’s not bowing and scraping to me. I like that. I like that a lot.
“So you got a cousin, huh?” I ask.
“I do. Just one.”
“Any other family I should know about? Anyone in Seattle in particular?”
“No. No one. Parents are both dead. I have an uncle in Alabama. You should know, he’s a governor.”
“A United States Governor?” I raise my brows, scanning Michael’s face to see what this means for me. Could be nothing, but could also be really fucking bad news if the bastard’s close with his nephew. Michael nods.
“I haven’t seen him in four years. Not since my mother died.”
“Why not since then?
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” I say, leaning against the wall. Gonna be getting blood everywhere but I’ll have to deal with it in the morning. “If you haven’t seen your uncle for four years since your mother died, that means you had a bust up with him at the funeral. Or he didn’t go to the funeral. Or it could just mean that he lives in Alabama and you live in Washington State, and neither one of you can be fucked making the journey. Which is it?”
Michael smiles a small, rueful smile. “He’d say option C. I’d be more inclined to select option B.”
“So he didn’t go to your mother’s funeral?”
“Yeah. He didn’t go to his sister’s funeral. Didn’t approve of her marrying a black guy, or so I hear.”
I open up the dresser drawer, lifting out the sharp, curved blade that I keep there. The metal edge has been well honed until it’s wickedly sharp. Lethal. I hold it up, watching closely to gauge his reaction as I pass it back and forth in my hands. Again, I don’t get a reaction. I like that the guy is stone cold, but a part of me is disappointed. I can’t think of a single occasion when I’ve been covered in blood, holding a knife in an enclosed space and the other guy hasn’t blanched.
“You think you can do me a favor, Michael?”
He starts slipping off his suit jacket, his mouth pulling up at one side. “Where is it?” he asks. He already knows what I need from him, and I like that about him even more than the stone cold thing.
I tap the blade of the knife against my stomach, flashing him my teeth. “Somewhere round abouts in here.” You can’t see the entry wound for all the blood, but I can sure as hell feel it. That’s the thing about stomach wounds: they’re seriously fucking messy. So much blood. They hurt like a motherfucker but they take days to fucking kill you. Or they can. This one might kill me sooner. Who knows?
Michael takes the knife from me, and also the bottle of whiskey. “I’m gonna need more light if I’m gonna do this. That cool?”
I give him a nod and he flicks the light switch on behind him, illuminating the horror show that I’ve made of the room. Bloody hand prints everywhere. The sheets are fucking ruined. Michael gives me a dubious look—almost half amused. “This isn’t all yours, is it?” he asks, waving a hand in my general direction, at the blood all over my face, drying and cracking on my neck, making my hair stiff.
“No. Not all mine. Some of it belonged to an Albanian called Ermir.”
“You need me to take care of Ermir after I’ve taken care of you?” He jerks his head toward the bed—get on. He’s taking the initiative, ticking more boxes. I only wanted to meet the guy, to get a vibe off him, but right now I’m beginning to wonder how I ever lived without him. Not that I’d ever say that out loud, of course. This must be how single working mothers feel when they find the perfect nanny.
“I’ve already dealt with that issue, but thanks for the offer.” I lie flat on the bed, throwing my hands up underneath my head, getting ready. This is gonna suck. I’ve had shit dug out of me before but the stomach is new. Been stabbed there a couple of times. The good thing about a knife is that there’s nothing left behind when it’s pulled out. A bullet…a bullet is a whole different ballgame.
Michael smiles grimly at me and then upends the bottle of whiskey over my torso, clearing back the blood, searching for the entry wound. He finds it pretty quick and then bends down to inspect it. He frowns, staring at the hole. I grind my teeth together, allowing the sting of the alcohol to stab through me.
“Was it a straight shot?” he asks.
I shake my head. “He was on the ground, I was standing. Gun was pointing up.”
Michael thinks about that some. “Hmm. Okay.” He pours whiskey all over his hands and the knife. I expect him to slide the tip of the knife in first, to go rummaging around with the sharpened steel in search of that nasty little bastard, but he doesn’t. He uses his finger.
It’s intensely fucking interesting how pain affects the body. I never make a lot of fuss when I’m suffering. For the most part I can let in the pain, absorb it, study it, accept it and ride it out, but finger probing around inside my body is nearly my goddamn breaking point. I’ll pass out before I complain, but I make a mental note: get the motherfucker back for this one day.
Michael’s brow creases with concentration as he jabs and prods inside me. I turn my head to the side, breathing deeply, getting ready to throw up. I feel him pause. “I think I got it.”
“Then get it the fuck out of me, by all means,” I grit out.
“You’re the boss.”
The next few minutes are excruciating. When Michael finally digs in my gut with the blade and pulls out the metal, it’s only maybe sixty percent of the bullet. He has to go back in, searching for the rest of it. He finds two more pieces, placing each fragment into the palm of my hand. “I can’t feel any internal damage, but I’m not exactly a doctor,” he says, shrugging his shoulders. “You should get yourself one of those.”
I let out a hard laugh, reaching for the whiskey again. I need to pour some down my fucking throat instead of all over my bed sheets. “No, thanks. I’ve managed this far. I’ll think I’ll be fine for the foreseeable.”
“You realize that will get infected, right? You will need to see someone.”
I drink from the bottle, my head spinning, my body humming with adrenalin. Ripping a one hundred percent Egyptian cotton case off one of the pillows over my head, I hold the material to my stomach, staunching the wound. “We’ll see.”
I know my body. I know how it works. This isn’t the wound that will kill me. I’ll know it when it happens. I might be sore as fuck for a few weeks and I might be grumpy as hell about it, but other than that this injury will end up scarring nice and good and leaving me with another story to tell the girls.
I glance up at Michael, who’s standing with his hands on his hips with his head cocked to one side. “So, this is a pretty common occurrence. There’ll be a lot of blood involved. The hours are long. Mostly nights. I’ll ask you to do shit and I’ll expect you to do it without asking questions. Nearly everything will be illegal. You’ll probably get killed at some point. What do you say?” How could he possibly say no?
Michael nods, turning slightly to angle his body toward the laughter and chink of glassware out in the apartment. He seems to think about it for a second. And then he says, “Sure. Why not?” And that’s it. It’s a done deal. Michael now works for me. “You got bandages?” he asks.
I tell him where to find them in the bathroom cabinet across the hall. He’s gone for a moment and then he’s back with the whole first aid kit. He tells me he’s going to sew me up and I tell him I don’t need stitches. He doesn’t listen and does it anyway, which could be a problem in future, but I figure I’ll have time to mould him into the perfect employee as we go along. After that I’m bandaged up and slapped on the shoulder, and I realize that no one’s done that to me in…ever. It’s a brotherly thing. A sign of camaraderie that I’ve never been shown before. I’d probably murder any of Charlie’s other boys for even trying. I don’t try and kill Michael, though. I give him a hard nod—thank you—and jerk my head toward the party going on in my living room.
“You wanna stick around. I’m guessing you know what this is all about.”
He nods, laughing softly. “I had my suspicions. Which were confirmed when I risked the hallway just now.”
“It bother you?”
“Group sex? Voyeurism?”
“Any of it. Any possible sexual deviation you can imagine. You’ll see them all here.” Better to be honest right off the bat, I suppose. Once a month, this place is not for the faint of heart.
“I got my own things where that’s concerned,” he admits. “Not much fazes me these days.”
“No, I didn’t think it would.” I tense my abs and slowly stand, rising carefully, waiting to see if my intestines are about to tumble out of my body. Aside from hurting like a bitch, everything appears to be staying put, though.
“You didn’t think about calling this off?” Michael asks.
I laugh, enjoying the slightly manic edge I’m feeling as I make my way over to the walk in closet and stoop, collecting a black duffel from the ground. “Now why would I do that? I’m good to go, brother. And there are women out there I got business with.”
He has curiosity written all over his face. It’s the first time I’ve been able to read what he’s thinking properly. He eyes the bag. “Should I even bother asking what you got in there?”
“Take a look.” I hold it out to him. He takes it from me, unzips it, and his eyebrows hit his hairline.
“I see.” I consider laughing, but the whiskey’s making me feel sharp. I retrieve the bag and kick it under the bed. Michael slides his jacket on, cracking his neck. “You got a woman out there? Someone in particular?” he asks.
I place both of my hands on his shoulders, looking him square in the eye. “The day I bring a woman back here and tell you she’s mine to keep, Michael, is the day I’ve lost my mind. Put me the fuck down immediately.”