All that Matters will be released on the 18th of April, so I figured it was time I stopped procrastinating and shared the cover and a teaser with everyone. Enjoy 🙂
Train could see his breath in the air even before he exhaled a stream of smoke from his cigar. He took a healthy swig from the bottle of whiskey he’d brought out onto the porch with him. Why bother with a glass that he’d just have to wash? Fuck that. He shut his eyes and savored the quiet of the night. Quiet nights were good. He loved his Brothers with all that he was but there were times when he just need to not have to talk to anyone, to be free to read, play a video game or just sit and think the way that he was now. Soon it would be too bitterly cold to sit outside and time to put up his bike for the winter. No matter how nice his pick up was, it made him feel like he was trapped inside even if he drove with the windows down.
The wind blew and he took another gulp from the bottle to fight off the chill. The bottle was getting pretty light. He’d been drinking for the better part of the day. There was another empty bottle inside. He might as well finish this one off. Train debated lighting the joint he’d brought out with him but realized he’d rather get high where it was warm. He got to his feet, stretched his arms out and dropped the bottle when someone screamed. It took him only a split second to recognize the voice. It was one of those out of control kids from down the street. “Joshua, get your ass in this house. Now!” The barked order carried as well. Must have been his mother. It was about time she got off of her ass and shut them up.
Train ignored the broken bottle on the porch, it would still be there in the morning and went inside the house. There were times when he’d missed his attic apartment at the bar. Hell, he hadn’t needed to lift a finger to keep it clean. Pass arounds had done that but he had no intention of inviting a pass around to his home. They’d read something into that. Since he didn’t want to stop getting laid, he was shelling out a fuck ton of cash for hotels when he wanted to get off because going to one of their places would also send the wrong message. He couldn’t have that.
He took his phone out, contemplated calling Claire, one of his favorite pass arounds, and having her meet him at a motel but the thought of having to ride, or drive, to get there wasn’t a smart idea. Train knew that he was pretty wasted. Tonight, he’d handle shit himself. He chuckled at his own wit, shut off the kitchen lights and headed upstairs where his computer, and extensive porn collection, resided in his spare room. It tickled him that he even had a spare room.
The space of the house made him like it more than the attic apartment. And it was nice to walk downstairs to get a drink in the middle off the night naked and not have someone get surprised by it. It was nice to walk around and know that there was no one around but him. The upkeep was a lot more work than the attic apartment but he figured it to be a fair trade. He’d never lived truly on his own before. He liked it.
His phone vibrated in the pocket of his jeans. It was nearly midnight, most likely a call at this time indicated there was a problem. “Yeah.”
“Open your door. I’m coming up the walk way.” Caroline’s voice was a surprise.
“What happened?” Train stalked to the door and pulled it open. He hung up the phone at the sight of her with a covered tray of brownies. “Why are you bringing me brownies?”
“You’re welcome,” Caroline replied with a wink. “And they aren’t just any brownies for your information, they’re special brownies.”
“Thank you.” Train took the tray. Caroline had started baking pot brownies for Jillian and they’d all gotten sort of hooked on them. “Why are you bringing them to me this late?”
“My husband is taking me to a midnight movie.”
“What movie?” Train asked as he tried to think of what was being released. “Wait, that car thing? With the explosions, tanks and a million other things that would never happen?” He’d rather shoot himself than sit through it and was sure that Buster felt the same. “Poor bastard.”
“Hey! Don’t make me take my brownies back.” She did her best to look imposing which really didn’t work very well. He wasn’t intimated by her in any way. “We’ve got room in the truck if you want to come with us.”
“Fuck no. And it’s too late on the brownies, I’ve already got ’em and I’ve got no intention of giving them back. Now get out of here before you miss your movie.” Train felt a little awkward as she stretched up and kissed him on the cheek. “Have fun. Give Buster a hand job or something, he’s gonna deserve it watching that shit.” Train laughed when she just shook her head and walked away. He waited until she was back in the truck before he shut the door and attacked the brownies.
Train opened one eye and groaned at the stream of bright sunlight intent on blinding him. Maybe he should have stopped at two brownies. From what he could remember, he’d had four and he’d found another bottle of whiskey. Brownies and whiskey together were an acquired taste, at least he hadn’t thrown them up.
He forced his other eye open and looked around the living room. At least he’d made it to his favorite chair. He checked the time and saw that it was just before noon. It didn’t matter, he had no place to be. He’d taken a couple of days off from Nightshade Construction to work on the last little details of the house but that wasn’t going to happen today or at least not any time soon.
He needed coffee, aspirin and for the world to stop spinning long enough for him to get something in his stomach to settle it down. In the kitchen, he started the coffee, dry swallowed some aspirin and took out two frozen breakfast sandwiches. He threw them in the microwave and headed up the stairs to his bedroom. It took him under five minutes to shower, brush his teeth and feel a little more human.
The sandwiches were done and smelled pretty damn good. Plus, he spotted the tray of brownies next to the television and there were at least four left. It was going to be a good day. Tomorrow he’d buckle down and do the work that needed to be done. For today, he just wanted a nice day. The sound of glass breaking shattered the calm he’d been enjoying.
The source of the broken glass was a baseball which had come to a rest just in front of the couch. Train looked out the window and saw no one but he knew. He knew just how that ball had come to break up a window he’d actually installed himself. It was those two little shits from down the street. He went upstairs and dressed quickly. He left his cut inside and walked the two houses down in just a black tee shirt.
The house the boys lived in looked pretty shitty from the outside. It needed to be painted, shutters needed to be replaced and it looked like the porch roof was going to fall down in the next stiff wind. Train walked up on to the porch, hoped it didn’t fall on him because then he was going to be really pissed. He banged his knuckles against the door then his fists. Finally, the door opened to reveal a pissed off looking brunette.
“Is there a reason you’re knocking on my door like the place is on fire or you’re a cop?” She was just a few inches shorter than he was with short dark hair cut in what he thought of as a slut style. It was supposed to look messy, easy to fix after sex. “If you’re just going to stand there and stare at me, you should get off my porch.”
Train realized that his mind had wandered. “Your boys put a baseball through my front window.” He glared down at her until she shifted uncomfortably. “It’s gonna cost me at least four hundred dollars to replace it, not to mention the time it’s going to take.” She didn’t ask if he was sure that it was them. Instead, she sighed.
“You might as well come on in. I’m Meg. The tween terrors are Joshua and Leo.” She shut the door behind him. “Joshua and Leo, get down here. Now.” It took a moment but the boys did come down the stairs. They looked like they wanted to run right back up at the sight of him. Train grinned at their obvious fear. “You been outside?” Meg demanded.
“No, ma’am.” The taller of the two spoke up. “We’ve been upstairs, finishing our homework so that we can go outside and play.”
The little shit was obviously lying through his teeth. Before Train could open his mouth to point that out, the woman spoke again. “Really? If you’re going to lie at least try and make it reasonable. Who threw the ball?” Neither boy spoke and part of Train had to admire that. “Well, if that’s how you want to play it, you can both go upstairs and get the money you’re saving for that new game system. Go. Now!” She turned to Train, sighed again. “I’m sorry about your window. I’m sure that what they have isn’t all the money, I can get you the rest at the end of the week when I get paid.”
Train had come over spoiling for a fight, expecting for her to defend the kids and say they didn’t do it so he could go off about all they did, all she let them do, but she hadn’t. Obviously, even she knew that her kids were bad asses. “The end of the week is fine. Just try and keep a leash on them. I’m sick of hearing ’em screeching all hours of the night.”
“You deaf? You don’t hear them out there?” Train asked. He was ready to give her a whole list of their transgressions but stopped at the look on her face.
“At night? No. I don’t hear them at night. At night I’m at work and their father is supposed to be…” she stopped, sucked in a deep breath. “And you don’t care about any of that. Don’t worry. They’re not going to be roaming the streets anymore. Boys!”
Train knew anger when he heard it. He could see it on her face too with the way her eyes narrowed. She began to tap her foot and she had her hand on her hip, it was a nice hip. Her curves were obvious under the leggings and tee shirt she was wearing. She was curvier than the women he normally went with, thicker around the thighs and hips but it was a nice thickness. Her tits were outstanding, he could see that even through the somewhat baggy shirt. He realized his gaze was focused on her ass when he felt his cock stiffen in his pants.
His attention was diverted by the boys coming down the stairs. They moved slowly, eyes down and body language hostile. They knew that they were in shit deeper than just breaking his window. “Here.” The taller of the two, maybe he was Joshua, held out a wooden box to Maggie… no wait, her name was Meg. She took it and her lips pressed together in a firm line when she opened it up. “There was more but Dad needed…”
“What did I tell you about…” she trailed off, obviously remembering that there was a stranger standing with them. “Go upstairs to your room. I’ll deal with the two of you in a minute.”
Train could see the box from where he was standing. If there was fifty dollars in there, he’d be surprised. “Problem?” He questioned.
“Yeah. Look, this is less than it should be. I’m sorry for that. For all of this really. I will get you the money on Thursday, Friday at the latest. Four hundred, right?”
Her voice had shaken ever so slightly and her eyes looked suddenly shiny. She was going to cry. Fuck that. “Yeah, that’ll do it. And Friday is fine. I’m going to go, it looks like you’ve got some shit to handle here.”
“Yeah,” she let out a bitter laugh. “I’ll come by after work on Friday. And again, I’m really sorry for everything.”
“See you Friday,” he replied. Train got out of there as fast as he could. He had no interest in some chick he didn’t even know blubbering all over him even if that blubbering meant that he’d likely get his hands on her and her outstanding ass. It was a complication and he didn’t need complications.
Friday night used to mean something completely different to Train. It meant a party, even if it were just a few of them actually partying and it meant girls. Warm, willing girls who were all too eager to crawl all over him. By now, he’d have had at least one blow job. Instead he had his dick in his own hand. He’d seen the porno on the screen before but that didn’t lessen his enjoyment of it. He got to the good part and got off but it wasn’t the same.
The porno was still playing when the doorbell rang. Train cleaned himself up and muted the porn. He carried his gun with him to the door since he wasn’t expecting anyone. It was only once he looked out the peep hole that he remembered he was. It was the neighbor, Meg. He tucked his gun in the back of his pants and undid the locks. “Hey.”
“Hey. I’ve got that cash for you.” She dug in a purse roughly half the size of her body and pulled out an envelope. “It’s four hundred like you said.”
“Thanks,” he took the envelope. She wore what looked to be a uniform, unflattering black pants and a light blue button down shirt. “Where do you work?”
“I work at the hotel over at the casino.” She replied. “I should get home. The babysitter charges an extra five dollars an hour for every fifteen minutes I’m late.”
“They’ve been quiet the past few days,” Train didn’t know why he voiced the thought.
“They’ve been grounded but they’ll keep being quiet. I’m not working nights anymore.” She smiled. “And I’m sorry again that they broke your window and annoyed you.”
“You apologize a lot.” He pointed out.
“Yeah. I’ve heard that before.” The smile faded from her face and he played back what he’d said to figure out what part of that could have pissed her off. Women! Who could figure them out and who would want to? “I’m going to go. Good Night.”
“Night,” Train watched her turn and walk off the porch. He shut the door when she got to the sidewalk. He turned his attention to the envelope he’d taken from her. Inside was four hundred dollars in crisp twenties. He might not have known much about his new neighbor but he knew that she kept her word and that she had a really nice ass. It was too bad that she had kids and an old man or he’d have followed her out the door and tried to wrangle an invitation inside. He needed to get laid. Train grinned as he looked down at the money in his hands. Four hundred dollars would buy him a few lap dances and a happy ending if he played his cards right.
Instead of going upstairs and getting dressed, he found himself back in the living room. The window had cost him over four hundred dollars to replace, more when you considered the pizza and beer he bought to feed Monroe after they were done. The logical part of his brain had made the decision for him because it would be ridiculous to be out that much money just for the opportunity to get his dick wet.
Fuck, he missed the bar. The remote control he’d picked up when he sat back down on the couch flew out of his hand before he even thought of it. It missed the television, thankfully but shattered into a few pieces as it hit the wall. Train groaned and realized he wasn’t even sure how to manually change the channels on the flat screen. Great. The fact made him even madder and he got up. Train recognized the feelings swarming through him even though it had been a while. He knew that the mood swings weren’t gone, they’d always been there, always a part of him. He’d just been able to hold them off.
Not going out tonight was the right choice. He wasn’t fit for human company when his mood went down. It had taken a long time for him to realize it and now he accepted it. Nightshade knew and accepted it too but he knew that if he felt the need to reach out to any of them, they would be there. It was a comfort to him, a sharp contrast to what he’d been brought up believing. From the family who had spawned him, he’d learned anger. He’d learned to think that screaming was the same as talking, a fist to the face was a sign of affection and most important of all, when you needed help they wouldn’t be around. The anger that had bubbled up to the surface gave way to something else. Something darker and deeper. Something that dragged him down and held him under.