UPDATED, March 12
Please note: There are things in this teaser that might be considered spoilers for the first book. It’s not about the same couple, but they are still mentioned.
Wise from my previous mistake with naming the book too early, I haven’t officially named this one yet. I’ll let you know when I do.
Good to know before reading this: This starts around 1-1,5 years after the epilogue in the first one and the first years in this goes by pretty darn fast.
14 years, 5 months
I WAS STARTING TO suspect that I would never fully forgive my parents for giving me the name Violet.
Seriously, who did that to their kid? It sounded like the name of an old hag. An old hag with a pet lizard ’cause I was pretty damn sure there was some type of lizard called Warren—or something close to that.
My big sister’s name was Lisa; she looked a lot like our mom. Which meant she was beautiful. She had long blond hair, a nice big mouth, almost black eyes, and big boobs. She was smart, always did well in school, friendly, and in general just fucking perfect. She’d moved to California to become a doctor. That’s how smart she was. And Lisa was a good name. It sounded… sexy and cute. Kind of like she was.
My hair was mouse-colored. I had no boobs, a small mouth, blunt, chubby nose, and my eyes were sort of beer-colored. I hated school, wasn’t doing well in anything except art, and I was in no way perfect.
My mom kept saying that stuff would change, that I’d open up, get friends and boobs. I doubted any of that would happen. Lisa’s were a lot bigger when she was fourteen, and I wasn’t sure I wanted friends. I mean, it would be cool to have people that, like, got me, but I didn’t think there was anyone in school that could. I mean—if I didn’t understand them, it was hard to imagine them understanding me.
The fact that my dad, Brian Warren—better known as Bear, was the VP in the local MC didn’t help me get friends at school. It did however mean that I had club kid friends; we stuck together, like family. I didn’t exactly talk to them. I was sort of the odd cousin in the family, but at least they didn’t bother me.
Not that other kids bothered me that often, besides, like… existing. They mostly didn’t notice me, and I was fine with that. I didn’t want to be noticed.
I was sort of the odd cousin when it came to Mom as well. She didn’t get me, and we didn’t get along at all. She always said I’d been daddy’s girl since the day I was born and that he’d let me get away with anything. ‘Murder’, she usually said. ‘You’d let the girl get away with murder’. He probably would, but he wouldn’t let me get away with being lazy, which is what she thought he did. He understood me, what I found hard in school, how I had to close my eyes to be able to focus on the teacher, things like that. He knew why I didn’t like people, or being around people, or just generally talking to them. I always blushed and stuttered like a moron when people tried to talk to me.
According to a shrink, I displayed ‘several traits that indicated that I was socially awkward’. That’s the exact quote. He said it just like that. With those words, and he seemed all concerned that I’d be upset about it. But really—it wasn’t like I hadn’t noticed.
At the moment, I was leaning over the edge of the bathtub, rinsing my hair. The water was clear and had been for a while, so I turned it off and straighten my back. It hurt a bit; I’d been standing hunched over the edge of the bathtub for quite a while. I walked over to look into the mirror above the sink and the word ‘fuck’ came to mind. That was pretty much what went through my head over and over again.
It had seemed like a pretty cool idea when I came up with it, but it seemed idiotic when I saw the result.
When the phone rang, I took it from the small shelf underneath the mirror and answered it, still staring at my own reflection in horror.
“Violet, honey. We just came back from the airport with Lisa, but she wanted to meet everyone, and we thought we’d have lunch at the clubhouse.”
Mom. Hearing Mom’s voice did not calm me down. Not that it ever did, but this time it was a little worse than usual. Going to the clubhouse today had not been the plan at all. I wasn’t sure I’d really had a plan, but showing up at the clubhouse, looking like this, would sure as shit not have been a part of any plan I might have come up with. Not in front of Lisa. And Mac. He was there as well, visiting. I hadn’t seen him much since he left, but I knew he was here for Easter. Now I’d have to walk intothe clubhouse, looking like this, being yelled at by Mom, while standing next to Lisa.
“I need to dry my hair. I’ll be there soon.”
“I can come and pick you up. Or Dad, that way you’ll get a ride with him.”
“No!” I almost yelled. “No, that’s okay. I’ll take my bicycle, that’s fine.”
I knew I was just trying to avoid something that would eventually happen anyway, but I needed to get used to the thought of how much shit I’d get for this.
“Okay, honey. I’ll see you soon.”
I hung up the phone, shoved it into the back pocket of my cut-offs, while I kept staring into the mirror. And it hit me.
I was dead.
Mom was going to kill me. Maybe even Dad. Or they might just give me to the big, shaved, tattooed, and extremely intimidating Bull and have him do it.
I dried my hair and tried to get it straight, but that was futile. It didn’t matter what I did, within ten minutes it would have those curls again. And while looking at my already curly hair a while later, I sighed. Yup. I was so dead.
That’s when I realized that I should’ve accepted Mom’s offer to get a ride from Dad. Because now, I was gonna have to face Mom’s gut reaction at the clubhouse, in front of everyone. Which was what I had worried about to begin with. It didn’t matter what those doctors had said, I was not smart. I put on a t-shirt and my boots.
Dead woman walking, I thought to myself while I put my bag over my shoulder. Or, more like, dead girl walking.
Biking, I corrected myself as I sat up on my bike and started towards the clubhouse.
Dead girl biking.
Bear relaxed on the couch and smiled as he listened to Lisa blabbing to her mom. She seemed happy, and it was nice to see her. He didn’t think she came home often enough. He missed his oldest daughter and her sunshine mood.
“Holy mother of god! What the fuck have you done?” his wife suddenly yelled, and when he looked towards the door, he saw why.
Vi, their youngest daughter, was standing just inside the door, her eyes closed and her long, thick, beautiful hair was… violet. As in purple. He swallowed a laugh and realized that his wife was running towards Vi, and he got up to stop her from killing the kid right then and there.
Vi and Ella had a difficult relationship, to put it mildly. They argued constantly. Or more, Ella yelled at Vi, about everything, and Vi quietly glared at her mom as her only response. Lisa’d been a surprisingly easy teenager; she liked school, had a lot of friends and was a generally happy kid.
Vi, on the other hand, struggled in school—struggled with everything. They’d done some tests a few years back, and she had ADD. According to the docs, she was smart, really fucking smart, she just couldn’t focus long enough to use it. To top it off she had dyslexia.
The ADD, the kind she had which was without the hyperactivity, meant she never acted out. In fact, she had an extremely even mood, and it was sometimes almost unsettling. He’d been worried that she was depressed, but according to the shrink she wasn’t. She was just calm, like he was. Vi was his girl, he understood her and even if there hadn’t been any tests or diagnoses for it when he was a kid, he knew she’d inherited her shit from him.
To save Vi the embarrassment of having the fight in public, something he knew would mortify her, he headed over to his still screaming wife and took Vi’s arm as he looked at Ella.
“Go to Lisa, babe. I’ll handle this.”
“Do you see what she’s done?!”
“It’s hard to miss. Go to Lisa,” he said to her and started walking Vi towards the door. “You’re coming with me, Katze.”
He didn’t even wait to hear his wife’s reply and simply pulled Vi with him outside, walked her over to his bike and gave her the helmet he always had with him.
“Dad, I’m wearing shorts.”
“We’re not going far, honey. You know that.” That’s when he noticed that she looked scared, and he pulled her in for a hug and kissed the top of her now violet head. “I’m not angry.”
He leaned back and smiled, picked up one of her curls and looked at it. “Nah, kinda like it.”
She rewarded him with one of those far too rare smiles, and he hugged her again.
He took her to their spot. It was along the road, nothing special, just a big tree that gave them some shade. They sat down underneath it, then he lit a smoke and looked at his daughter.
She was so much like him, so much it sometimes made it pretty fucking obvious that Lisa wasn’t his biological kid. Lisa was his kid too, make no mistake; he’d been her father since she was three years old, and he loved her just like he loved the girl sitting next to him. But it was painful for him to see what Vi was going through. He understood it all too well since he’d been going though the same thing when he grew up. The same feeling of being an outsider, not belonging, and not understanding or being understood by other people.
He thought Ella was treating Vi bad at times, but when he brought it up, she instead argued that he was more lenient with Vi since she was his ‘real kid’. He fucking hated it when she said that. That wasn’t it, but he couldn’t figure out why she insisted on comparing Vi to Lisa instead of seeing Vi for the girl she was. He’d tried to ask, but they always ended up discussing him instead, how it was him treating them differently. Of course he did! They were different people! Ella was expecting Vi to be something she wasn’t and it pissed him off. And more importantly, it made Vi feel bad about herself. Or rather, worse about herself.
“Drawn anything?” he asked and she nodded, searched through her bag, and handed him her black sketchbook.
Vi loved drawing. When they did those tests, it turned out that her sense of pictures was uncanny. Her capability of visualizing, seeing patterns, and remembering all those things was way off the charts. They’d shown her pictures and asked her what was missing in them. She noticed instantly. In a picture full of stuff, she immediately saw the dog missing a leg, the board missing in a fence, or the stairs that were shaped wrong. They’d given her a picture to copy, and then asked her to copy the same picture five and twenty minutes later without having the original in front of her, and she did it. Obviously not to perfection, but pretty damn close. She saw patterns where he saw blur, she could see a picture, imagine it in 3D and draw it from another angle as easy as breathing. That wasn’t from him, and he had no fucking idea where she got it from. Ella said it was the same with him and engines, that he just knew how they worked, and he guessed she had a point.
He opened Vi’s sketchbook and flipped past the pictures he’d already seen. He knew that this was almost like a journal to her, and no one else got to see these pictures. She had other things that she showed if someone asked, which rarely happened, but never these. It was just pencil or charcoal, no colors at all; she wasn’t much for colors.
The first new drawing was a view of the compound. Bikes and people sitting around. She’d been there, waiting for him a few days back; this could’ve been done then, and he remembered her sitting at a table drawing. He hadn’t reacted at the time since she always did that.
The next was Mel sitting by her desk, talking on the phone, with Brick standing next to her. Bear’d seen Vi’s drawings for years, but he was still impressed with how it was always so obvious who the people in them were, even if it was just simple sketches like this. She somehow managed to catch a person’s stance or just a few things that immediately made it clear who it was. Mel with her curves, leaning her elbow on the table, playing with her hair like she always did, and Brick with his ponytail and big mustache, holding a hand on the backrest of Mel’s chair, leaning over her. It almost looked as if he was looking down Mel’s cleavage, and knowing Brick, he’d probably been doing just that.
The last drawing was Edie, lying on the couch at her and Dawg’s place. Vi had spent the night there just a few days earlier, when she and Ella’d had a bad fight. Edie was Vi’s escape, a place where she could go and relax for a while.
“Did you have a girls’ night?” he asked, pointing at the picture.
“Yeah. Dawg came later, but he brought some pink cotton candy so we said it was okay.”
He could’ve told her how fucking amazing the pictures were, but she didn’t like to hear it, and she already knew he thought so. Instead, he pulled her closer and kissed her cheek, then he held up a strand of her hair.
“Wanna tell me what the thought was with this?”
“I don’t know, Dad.” Deep sigh. “She’s gonna kill me.”
And then she started to cry. He pulled her onto his lap and held her close. He hated her crying; every fucking sob tore through his heart like a dull knife.
“Oh, baby girl.”
“Especially now, when the perfect daughter is home. Her pride and joy, and then she’s got me… such a fucking disappointment.”
“Baby, you know that’s not true. You’re amazing, smart, nice, and so extremely fucking talented.” He stroked some of the purple hair from her face and fastened it behind her ear. “And sweetie, even with bright violet hair, you’re so beautiful.”
Her light brown, almost amber, eyes hit his. “I’m not. Lisa’s beautiful. Mom is beautiful, I’m just… plain.”
“Katze, there is nothing plain about you.” He stroked the little dimple in her chin and up over her very full lower lip. “You’re beautiful, I wish you could see that.”
He stroked her hair from the top of her head and cradled her face between his hands, making her look at him.
“And I gotta admit, Katze, that hair color kind of suits you.”
It did. He would’ve thought a hair color like that would look horrible, but it made her skin look almost alabaster, her eyes brighter and… in general, it worked.
“You mean I can keep it?”
“Yup. You can keep it.”
He didn’t see the point in arguing about it. When it came to Vi, you had to chose your battles and making sure she went to school was the biggest priority.
Ella would go crazy about it, but he’d deal with her for Vi. He was so fucking fed up with all these fights, and at the moment he was mostly trying to keep Vi out of Ella’s way. He hadn’t come up with a long term plan yet, but he was getting very close to taking Vi and getting the fuck out of the house. She didn’t need all this shit, and neither did he.
Mac looked at Vi, sitting on the couch next to Edie. Edie seemed to be trying to encourage her, which was a very Edie thing to do. She’d always had a soft spot for Vi, and he’d seen her at Edie and Dawg’s place a few times. He’d been talking a lot to Dawg before he took off to prospect in Emporia, Kansas.
When Mac’d mentioned to his dad that he wanted to prospect in another charter, somewhere he wasn’t just ‘Brick’s kid’, his dad had told him to talk to Dawg since he had done the same thing when he became a Marauder. That’s how Dawg’d ended up in Greenville.
Mac didn’t really know Vi, he’d mostly hung out with her older sister, Lisa. With Vi being so much younger, she turned into one of those annoying younger siblings you did your best to avoid. To add to that, Vi hardly ever talked to anyone and tended to disappear among the other, more outgoing, kids in the club.
When Edie left her alone on the couch, Vi picked up a book and a well-used pencil from a worn bag. She seemed to scan the room for a while and then she started drawing. He turned to Mitch and Lisa.
“Is it me or is that hair color… surprising?” he asked them, and Lisa started laughing.
“Yeah. She usually tends to look as if she’s trying to blend in with the walls. Think she looks kind of cute, though.”
Lisa wasn’t that close to her sister, it was once again that age difference making it hard, but she always defended her.
“Well,” Mitch started, “you sure as shit notice her now.”
“Don’t think she’ll see that as a positive thing.” Lise kept studying her little sister with a small smile on her lips.
“What’s she drawing?” Mac asked Lisa, still looking at Vi and her focused expression.
“Only one who ever sees the drawings in that black sketchbook is Dad, but you could ask him,” Lisa answered with a sweet smile.
“I think I’ll pass.”
It wasn’t that he was scared of Bear, he’d pretty much been an extra dad to him and Mitch, but Bear was very protective of his daughters.
Mac kept looking at Vi. She was so focused, like she was the only person in the room, and he decided to go and have a look. When he started towards her, Mitch laughed.
“Are you pissed she’s not giving you those long, longing looks anymore?”
“Shut up,” Mac said and kept walking.
Vi’d had a bit of a crush on him a few years ago, and Mitch had found that hilarious. It might be because she was the only one of the female club kids that was crushing on him instead of Mitch, which was the normal thing. But it was more likely that he knew how uncomfortable it made Mac. Not because it was Vi, more because it was happening at all.
As he got closer he saw it. Her drawing. It was Wolf and Bear by the table, and it was amazing. Wolf leaning back, with his leg resting on another chair in front of him, and his arm on the table holding a glass. Perfect down to the last detail, with the long hair in a messy ponytail, the goatee, and the drooping bad eye. On the other side of the table was Bear, leaning both his elbows on the table, looking into his glass. The long hair in a braid, disappearing into his beanie and finally, the beard all the way down to his chest. He’d never seen anything like it and definitely not from a fourteen year old girl.
“Wow!” he said before he could stop himself, and she immediately slammed the sketchbook shut.
“No!” he protest and sat down next to her. “That was fucking amazing. Let me see.”
She shook her head and put it back into her bag. He should’ve remembered what Lisa’d said not that many minutes earlier––no one ever got to see, except Bear. He would’ve loved to see the rest of those pictures; it must be like a diary showing biker life. That’s when he finally got it—it probably was her diary, but in pictures. He knew Vi’d had some problems in school. It seemed likely that she’d rather draw than write in her diary.
“It was good, what I had time to see. Looked just like them.”
“Okay?” he laughed. “You’re not good with compliments, are you?”
She shrugged and was looking at everything and everyone in the room but him. More than anything, she seemed embarrassed, and he could see a slight blush on her cheeks.
“Fine. I’ll leave you alone, but for the record—that hair color is fucking awesome.
He thought she should know, and considering Ella’s earlier reaction she probably needed some encouragement. But she just stared at him, glaring, as if he was making fun of her, which hadn’t been his intention at all.
“Not kidding you, Vi. It’s great.”
“Thanks,” she almost whispered. She always spoke in that low voice. When she spoke at all.
He gave her shoulder a slight nudge before getting up. “That’s how you respond to a compliment, girl.”
She shrugged again. He turned around as he walked back to Lisa and Mitch, and he saw her taking out the sketchbook from her bag again.
“What did you say to her?” Lisa asked when he was back next to them.
“Not much. Just that her drawing was good, and that I liked her new hair color.”
“Marcus Baxter, you are a good person.” Lisa got up on her toes and gave his cheek a kiss. “Thank you.”
“Hey!” Mitch yelled. “What the fuck, you didn’t give me a kiss.”
“I did, don’t get greedy.” Lisa lowered her voice. “I’m gonna have to be all nice with Mom and Dad tonight, but the roof tomorrow night, I bring the drink and you bring the smokes.”
They’d done that often, spent a night on the roof of the garage, smoking pot and having a few drinks. It had been a while since the three of them did it together, but he’d like it.
“Absolutely!” Mac agreed and looked at his brother who had a big smile.
16 years, 1 month
I RAN THROUGH THE apartment, trying to find my phone. It was just me and Dad living here. They’d separated over a year earlier, and now they were divorced. I had a feeling it was my fault.
They’d argued a lot, often about me. Mom thought he was too lenient with me, that I was just lazy. That if I just made an effort school wouldn’t be such a problem, and he kept blaming it all on my “diagnosis.” You could always clearly hear the quotation marks, like it was the alleged diagnosis; it made me feel like “the artist formally known as Prince”. She said that I was smart, and… she could go on forever about all the ways he was treating me wrong. And Dad defended me—always. Most of their fights started, or at least ended up, being about me. I hated it.
Dad swore it wasn’t my fault, that there was a lot of shit going on that didn’t have anything to do with me. I knew about those other things too. Staying out of the way, trying to not be noticed, meant that people eventually did stop noticing me, and they talked as if I weren’t there. Which meant I knew a lot of things I wasn’t supposed to know—that I would’ve preferred to not know. Like the fact that Dad roamed on Mom at times. And why he did it, besides probably not liking Mom all that much the last few years of their marriage.
I also knew what kind of business the club was in, but I kept quiet about it; it didn’t matter to me. I liked the club, I liked the guys, and what they did or didn’t do wasn’t my business or my concern.
Either way, it still felt like it was my fault. The divorce. There hadn’t been much discussion about who I should live with, and about three months after the separation, Mom moved out to California to be closer to Lisa. I didn’t mind. Things were easier when she wasn’t around. She still called and nagged, but her nagging over the phone was a lot easier to ignore than her nagging to my face. Mainly since it meant I didn’t have to see her expressions of contempt while she did it.
Once I’d found my phone, I grabbed my keys from the bowl in the hallway and ran outside, got on my bike and took off to the compound. I was a bit late; I’d promised to be there early to help Mel and the other women fix the food. I’d gotten really good at cooking since Mom moved out. Dad couldn’t cook for shit, and he’d lured me into learning by making some rather farfetched comparisons about art and cooking. But it was okay, it turned out I liked to cook, and I was quite good at it. Which had lead to Mel asking me to help her with the pre-Christmas dinner. The club had a combined Christmas and Brick’s birthday party every year. It was the biggest party of the year and a few of the kids had complained they weren’t allowed to it, which is why they now had the pre-Christmas dinner for members and their family the day before the big party.
Mel had been great; even if Mom was her best friend, she’d taken my side. Dad simply explained that Mom leaving him meant she left the club, and Mel was with the club. That didn’t seem to be all of it, though; it didn’t feel that simple to me. Mel had really backed me, just like Edie’d always done. It could be because they were sisters, but my guess was that Mel wasn’t too fond of how Mom had treated me.
Once Mom was gone, I realized that a lot of people had noticed Mom being pretty shitty with me. I didn’t understand why they didn’t do more about it while she was around, but I guessed you didn’t butt in on how other people raised their kids, as long as they weren’t, like, hitting them.
I walked into the clubhouse and was heading towards the kitchen, when someone grabbed my arm. Not hard, just to stop me.
“Vi? What the fuck!” And then he laughed. It was Mac. When I looked at him, he let go of my arm and held up a strand of my hair. “Still purple?”
I still wore it purple. That same day as I colored it the first time, Edie had suggested having it dyed two-toned, with a purple-black color in the bottom layer. It made it look great, really deep and thick. I liked it, and purple hair had somehow become me.
“Yeah.” I took the lock of my hair out of his hand. I hoped I wasn’t blushing as bad as it felt like I was. “Nice to see you.”
He hadn’t been home much. From what I’d heard, there was a lot going on in Emporia, and the few times he’d been home to visit, I hadn’t seen him.
I hadn’t even seen him the previous Christmas, since Dad and I had spent it in California with Mom and Lisa—which had sucked. It was some attempt by them to ‘act like grown ups’ and ‘do what was best for the girls’. On the way home, Dad had promised me they wouldn’t try anything like that again. I’d thought it was stupid from the very beginning since it was just a few months after the separation, and I’d told him that. Parents had a tendency not to listen to kids, though.
Whenever Mac’d been home, he’d mostly been with Mitch, just like always. They were really close, but still quite different. Both looked a lot like Brick, though, with their dark hair, brown eyes, and height. But they were skinnier that him, or… not as buff as he was. Mac had really short hair, almost a buzz. He was growing a beard. Or more trying to, it sort of was a beard, but not, like, a lot of it. Most seemed to think that Mitch was the cutest, but I’d always liked the way Mac looked better, and he was nicer––calmer.
Early on, I’d hoped that he’d come back from Kansas quickly, but he was a member in that club now. I guessed he liked it there. Which made me think that he might not come back. Dawg had done the same thing, prospected here instead of in his Dad’s charter in Englewood, and he was still here. Married and everything.
I’d sort of had a crush on Mac before he left. I’d had it for years, but I was totally over him now. Definitely.
Just as we were about to say something, we were interrupted by Dad, yelling at me.
“Katze! Get your ass into the kitchen, they’re waiting for you.”
“Gotta go,” I said to Mac, and he nodded with a smile.
“Hey!” he yelled just as I was about to walk into the kitchen, and when I turned around he smiled at me. “I still like the color.”