It is in darkness that we find true nature. We fight over the battle of good and evil. One will take us on a path we can live with, the other will take us on a path we can’t. There is no in-between. There is no right, or wrong. In that moment when our world is closing in on us, there is only ever really one way out.
Evil will always prevail.
In evil we find power. To escape the black pit of nothingness, it is a quality we need the most. To seek revenge, we will need all of it. It intertwines in a twisted spiral that can’t be backed away from—a spiral that will change our worlds, a spiral that will re-create who we are, a spiral that will leave us hanging on the edge of insanity.
These things combined will lead me to do the one thing that will direct my path forever. When my choice is made, I’m ready. What I’m not ready for is her. I’ve gone a long time without feeling, but she’ll be the one to change that. In fact, she’ll change everything I ever believed in with one simple smile.
Ahead of the darkness is where I’ll find him.
My boots thud on the stark, tiled floor as I make my way down the long, narrow halls. This place is familiar to me; I’ve spent the last five years of my life working here. I’m a prison guard. It’s not always the nicest job; I’m faced daily with scenes that would send a normal person over the edge.
But to give up, to back down, has never been something I was good at. I’m as stubborn as I am headstrong, and that’s exactly why I’m good at my job. I’m thorough, I’m professional and I give the prisoners something that no one else can—I give them thought. I am always sure to leave them with something that will change a part of them permanently.
They call me Wildcard, for more reasons than one: the first reason being they find it utterly hilarious that I’m a woman in a world that is so heavily dominated by men. The second reason is because I can take a man double my size down on a good day. I’m fierce, I’m wild, and that’s why they keep me here.
I’m here for one reason and one reason only: to do my job. I paint my face with a mask that is rarely broken, making sure my eyes show no fear, making sure my expression doesn’t give away emotion. After all, it isn’t about me—it’s about them. They’re the ones in the cold, lonely cells for crimes they chose to commit. I’m just here to make sure they stay in line.
I round the corner to the security gates, and smile when I see the Control Officer, Tristan. He’s a friend, both inside and outside of work. His job, basically, is to make sure the guards are always doing their jobs correctly. He’s fantastic at what he does, and he’s a great person to work with.
“Good morning, Ash.” He smiles as I approach.
“Morning, Tris. How are things this morning?”
He shrugs. “Same as they were yesterday; hectic.”
I laugh, reaching up to tuck a strand of chocolate-brown hair behind my ear. “It’s what we thrive on. Anything I need to know about this morning?”
He runs a scanner over a fellow guard who is starting his shift for the day. It doesn’t matter if you’re a guard or a visitor; you go through intensive security every visit. They can’t risk allowing weapons, or any items that can be used as weapons, inside the prison.
“You’re on Ward D.” He winks. “They’re behaving so far.”
I let out a snort, before stepping forward and putting my purse down. I lift my arms above my head and he runs he scanner over me.
“Henry is on that ward,” I say. “How has be been behaving?”
He shakes his head, running the scanner down over my legs. “How does he always behave? Nice shoes.”
I grin down at my boots. I’m not the kind of girl to go for heels. I live in boots—knee-highs, ankle boots, Doc Martens, you name it. The ones I’m wearing today are black ankle boots that match my skinny jeans. Of course I don’t get to wear them long. As soon as I’m inside I have to get into uniform, but I don’t leave the house without looking sassy. “Thanks, they were a bargain.”
“You’re good,” he says, waving me through. “Have a good day. Meet me for lunch?”
I nod. “Absolutely.”
I go through quite a long process just to get into Ward D. Even though we’re not a maximum-security prison, this is still where our worst inmates are kept. I am never without another two guards by my side when I’m working in that section, purely for safety reasons, and they’re usually male. There are only four female guards in the entire prison.
The prisoners up here are problematic. They spend a great deal of time with our prison psychologist because of the crimes they’re in here for. It’s her job to decide if they need further treatment in a mental facility. There have been countless suicides. They’re criminals, and in most cases their minds are challenged in some way, shape, or form. It’s why they choose to do the sick and deranged things they do. In a majority of cases, there is pain that stems from childhood that leads to such activities.
“Morning, Ash,” Luke, the guard standing outside the ward, says when I approach.
Luke is only slightly older than me, with wavy brown hair and blue eyes. He seems nice enough, but he doesn’t usually say a great deal. It’s probably perfect with this job, because he’s always straight to the point and doesn’t get caught up in any drama.
“Hey Josh. How are things this morning?”
He shrugs, staring down the hall. “Fine. You ready to do your rounds?”
I nod. Usually rounds are what I do first. I go around, check out the cells and the prisoners, and then I’m usually sectioned in a certain area where I’ll spend the day. Sometimes it’s in the break room, other times it’s in the yard, and there are also times when I do paperwork in the office. It just depends on the behavior of the prisoners that day.
I head in to get changed, gather my weapons, and then join Luke back at the gates, ready for our rounds.
Our uniform is quite simple. We wear a dark green pair of pants, a light green button-up, long-sleeved shirt, and a pair of solid boots. Our hair—in a female’s case—needs to be either short or tied up tightly. No jewelry.
“We’ll check Maximus first, and move down from there.”
I nod, following him down.
Maximus is one of our more difficult prisoners. He’s been behind bars for only about a year after murdering his wife in a rage. He’s an angry, bitter man who barely makes progress, spending most of his time cramped in his cell.
Maximus is serving life in prison. He’s in his early thirties, and has a history of violence. His first crime was at the tender age of fifteen, when he held up a gas station with a gun. He beat the woman behind the counter so badly she had to have reconstructive surgery to her face. That was just that start of his spiral into a violent life.
Maximus is tall, bulky and bald. He’s got a range of tattoos on his body, running down his arms, and even over his fingers. He has got stark blue eyes, and a cold smile. His inner thoughts are quite disturbing, and I feel it has a lot to do with his life as a boy. His father was sent to prison when Maximus was only four for sexual assault. His mother was a drug-using whore, and spent most of her time high and in the arms of other men.
We stop at his cell and look in. As always he’s staring at the wall, fists balled tightly.
We are guards, but we are also sent here to be role models for the prisoners. They notice how we behave and how well we interact; we can hold our own, but we also show them a certain level of respect that is said to help them cope.
“Good morning, Maximus,” I say.
He turns and locks eyes with me, narrowing them just slightly.
“Did you get any sleep last night?” I ask him, returning his stare, holding his gaze.
He glares at me. “I don’t fuckin’ sleep.”
“Any reason why?”
He growls. “Because I don’t trust any fucker in this place. They’re all out for blood.”
Did I mention Maximus has a bad case of paranoia? He’s probably not entirely wrong. There is a certain ranking within the inmates; certain groups that stick together, and certain people who tend to be targeted. Anyone who murders or rapes children barely ever make it through their sentence alive. It’s like a secret code. The next in that line are men who hurt women. There are a lot of those, but they too seem to be a target.
“Has something happened we need to know about?” Luke asks, his voice firm but kind.
Maximus shifts, his big body extremely daunting.
“I see them lookin’ at me. They’re just waitin’ for the right time to wrap their hands around my throat and squeeze the fuckin’ life out of me.”
“Why would you think they want to do that?” I ask. “Has something happened? You know you should report anything that happens.”
His eyes narrow and his whole body rattles. “I killed my fuckin’ wife. I put my hands around her throat and took her life. They’re just gettin’ back what she lost.”
“Perhaps you need to speak to Mandy again,” I say, referring to our Prison Psychologist. “It would seem you’re still struggling to deal with—”
“Listen to me, bitch,” he hisses, cutting me off. “Hows about you go back to your hoity-toity little palace and leave us here to live with what we’ve created. I don’t regret killing her; I don’t regret watching the life fade from her eyes as I held her to the floor. Nothing your little psychologist will say can change that, so give it up.”
I get this a lot, too. The name-calling, the ‘give it up, you can’t help me’. I guess, in a sense, they’re right. I can’t truly help them if they don’t want to be helped. After all, they’re in prison because of the crimes they committed; I’m just here to make sure it all runs smoothly, however I do try to make it as comfortable as possible for them. I make a note to tell Mandy about his comments, though.
“Fine,” I say, keeping my voice calm. “Are you eating? Joining in the other activities?”
His eyes flash. “No.”
“Because I don’t fuckin’ want to. Because I want to get out of here alive.”
“Why do you want to get out of here alive?”
He clenches his fists. “Because I have unfinished business.”
I raise my brows and he snorts. “Don’t look at me like that, Wildcard. I know what you’re thinkin’.”
Oh yeah, did I mention the nickname has spread? The prisoners learned it very quickly the day I put one of the inmates on his ass for lunging at me. It was in the yard, and he decided he’d had enough and tried to take me out. It lasted a matter of seconds before he was on his back. I don’t like to go down easily.
“What is it you think I’m thinking?” I ask, leaning my hip against the cell.
“That I’m goin’ to do something bad and get back in here. Well, you’re wrong. I will never come back in here.”
“I hope that’s true,” I say, pushing back. “Good to see you again, Maximus.”
Luke gives me a half-smirk and we move down the hall to the next cell. This one holds Jimmy. He’s only twenty-eight years old. Jimmy suffers from schizophrenia, and so far is dealing with prison life, however Mandy is working on getting him moved to a better-equipped mental facility. We like to check on him, make sure he’s doing okay, but he rarely comes out.
He’s serving fifteen years for pulling off an armed robbery at a bank. He shot three people, killing one. He got away with a whole lot of cash, and was caught only weeks later. To look at him you’d think Jimmy was just a normal man, with his sandy-blond hair and green eyes, but there’s so much going on behind that exterior.
“Good morning, Jimmy,” I say, staring into his cell where he’s sitting on his bed, staring at the wall. He does this most days.
He looks up at me, his eyes empty.
“It’s good to see you,” I say, my voice strong.
I am tough when it comes down to needing to control one, but otherwise I speak to prisoners in a calm, respectful tone. There is no need to make matters worse.
Jimmy begins murmuring to himself, answering questions and making out like he’s speaking to another person.
“Do you know what Bill told me?” he asks, finally focusing on me.
Bill is one of the voices that haunt Jimmy.
“What did he tell you, Jimmy?”
“He told me how to escape. He showed me how to kill the guards and get out.”
Slightly concerning, but mostly talk. It would be extremely difficult to escape. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s impossible.
“But you know what would happen if you escaped, Jimmy. Don’t you?”
He shakes his head from side to side. “Bill will keep me safe.”
“Have you talked to Mandy this week?” I ask.
He presses his cuffed hands to his chest, suddenly changing the subject. “It hurts right here, like I can’t breathe.”
Jimmy also suffers from severe nightmares. Jimmy’s mother tried to drown him in the bath when he was five. He remembers it clearly and tells me often, repeating her exact words.
“My momma tried to drown me,” he says, his eyes going vacant as he repeats the same words she told him, words he’s told me so many times over. “Jimmy, you’re a bad child, and bad children go to hell. I can’t look after a bad child anymore. You make me angry because you’re such a bad, fat, ugly child. I am doing you a favor. This is where you’re meant to be.”
The words still give me the chills, and it breaks my heart to know that a child of only five could be treated so badly.
“I’ll talk to Mandy, okay, Jimmy?”
He nods. “I like Mandy.”
“She likes you, too. Have a good day,” I say, staring at him for a second longer before leaving.
We continue down the halls. We finish up with the last six prisoners in the ward. By the time I’m done, it’s already lunchtime. I make my way into the break-room and see Tristan right away, coffee cup under the machine. My stomach grumbles as I walk up and stop beside him.
“Do me one while you’re there,” I say.
“Ash,” he murmurs, turning to look down at me. He looks edgy about something; his jaw is tight and his eyes fly past me a few times before he focuses. “How’s it going?”
I shrug. “The usual day. How are you? You look stressed.”
He shakes his head. “Just a stressful day.”
“Hey,” one of the newer guards says, turning up the television. “Check it out.”
I turn and watch the screen. There are police cars and crying people standing outside a building. I squint and see it’s a local café, just down the road from my house. My heartbeat picks up as I listen.
“This afternoon, tragedy broke out in a local café. A gunman, believed to be from the Joker’s Wrath Motorcycle Club, killed four innocent people who were enjoying their lunch out. Witnesses say it was a bloody massacre. Security cameras were down, so information at this point is still sketchy. It is said the victims were a family, the father being multi-billionaire businessman, Johan Reed.”
My throat tightens as the reporter goes on.
“Nobody else was hurt and investigations are underway.”
“Shit,” the guard at the table says. “What the hell would cause someone to go in and kill an innocent family?”
I shake my head, still staring at the screen. “The question is, why only the one family? It’s as if he knew them.”
I turn to Tristan, who is still staring at the screen, his jaw tight. Luke enters the room and the two give each other what seems to come across as a secretive look – their eyes are stern and their mouths are tight. Tristan even gives a sharp little nod. I narrow my eyes and step closer to Tristan. “Is everything okay?”
He jerks and turns to me. “Fine. I just hate fuckers like that.”
My eyes widen. “Ah, yeah, it’s never nice.”
“No,” he mutters. “I gotta run.”
That was weird, but I shake it off and turn to the other guards. I don’t feel hungry anymore. “Well, back to work, then.”
“Later, Ash,” Jock, one of the other guards says as I exit the room.
Just another hectic day.
I spend the remainder of my afternoon in the dining hall with the prisoners. It’s fairly quiet and my shift ends on a good note after the disturbing news earlier.
After I’ve packed my things, I make my way out. Commotion catches me at the exit, and I turn to see guards bringing in a new prisoner. I step to the side, making sure I’m not in anyone’s way. Tristan approaches me as six guards lead a handcuffed man down the hall.
“That’s the shooter,” he growls, glaring at the man.
As they approach, I catch a glimpse of the man head on, and my breathing stops. I’ve spent a lot of years in this prison, but I’ve never witnessed a man as beautiful as he is. Criminal or not, it jumps out and screams at you to look at him. He’s tall, at least six feet, and is a hard wall of muscle. Thick shoulders, a lean narrow waist . . . he’s all male, strong and sturdy.
That’s not where his beauty lies, though. His beauty is in his face: a pair of stark grey eyes, a slightly crooked nose, big, full lips, and a square, masculine jaw. He’s got a rugged face, yet it’s so incredibly handsome. His hair is dark brown, maybe even black, and it’s a few inches long and messy, strands of it fall over his forehead. He’s got a tattoo running up his neck, and piercing in his lower lip.
I’ve no doubt this man is a bad, bad boy. It’s written all over him. He’s powerful, he’s scary and he’s utterly mesmerizing. I quickly drop my eyes to his attire. He’s wearing black boots, black jeans with chains dipping off the sides, and a heavy leather jacket that has numerous patches on the front. The one that stands out is one that says 1%.
As the guards pass Tristan and I, the man’s eyes meet mine and I forget how to breathe. He’s got a few days’ growth on his jaw, and fierceness in his eyes that tugs at me. How can someone that looks like him go into a café and kill an innocent family? He holds my eyes as he passes, sharing something with me, only I can’t quite decipher what it is.
“Piece of shit shouldn’t even live for what he’s done,” Tristan mutters as he gets closer to me.
I turn to him. “You’re not usually so vocal. Is everything okay?”
He shakes his head, as if righting himself. “Fine, just a long day. You can leave now.”
I nod quickly and turn to rush off, staring down the hall again before I go. I see the back of the man, and I can read his jacket from here. He’s got a massive patch with a picture of a scary-looking joker skull. In bold, white letters is the words Joker’s Wrath MC. I stare at it for a long moment before turning and rushing out.
He’ll be the first biker I’ve ever had to work with.
I won’t say I’m not curious.
Unlocking my front door, I step into my large apartment. I have two housemates, so I got myself a bigger place. I enjoy the company, and could never seem to accept a small, one-bedroom home that I could only share with . . . well . . . maybe a goldfish. If I were lucky.
We managed to get ourselves a fully furnished apartment for a little extra per month. The furniture is nice and fairly modern, so it seemed like a better deal. I occupy the main bedroom, and my housemates, Leo and Claire, occupy the other rooms.
I get along with both of them exceptionally well. Claire is a gorgeous, fun-loving blonde who is somewhat like my light after a dark day. She’s bubbly and carefree, and extremely refreshing.
Leo is broody, sexy as hell, and runs his own tattoo parlor up town through the day, and is a fighter at night. He’s a bad boy, but he keeps to himself, and having him around is like having a guard dog.
“I got milk duds!” Claire squeals, skipping into the kitchen just as I place my purse down.
“You and your addictions.” I grin at her.
“I can’t help it. I’m so damned in love with them. Can you tell?” she asks, twirling around, and twisting to stare at her ass. “Is it fat?”
I roll my eyes. Claire has the kind of ass most men would drop to their knees for.
“Why don’t you ask Leo?” I chuckle.
She slaps my arm as she passes me, heading towards the fridge. “Quit teasing me about Leo. So what he walked in on me showering? He’s got a bevvy of babes, and I’m sure seeing me naked was the equivalent to a gynecologist seeing a vagina—an every-day occurrence that is barely worth batting an eyelid at.”
I snort and laugh softly. “God, you give the most . . . interesting descriptions.”
She slides her backside up onto the counter and crosses her legs, popping a milk dud into her mouth. “Did you see the news?”
“About the shooting?” I ask, pouring myself an orange juice.
“Yeah, it’s so sad.”
I can’t give Claire any information from my job, but I do tell her, “I saw him being brought into the prison as I was leaving.”
Her eyes widen. “Really?”
I nod, stealing a milk dud for myself. “Yep.”
“What was he like?”
My cheeks heat as I think about the gorgeous, rugged biker. “He was, ah, just a normal criminal.”
“I just can’t believe he killed that family. So cold and twisted.”
I nod. “You’re right about that.”
The front door slams and we both turn to see Leo charging in. Damn, he’s good looking. Even Claire’s eyes move over his body. He’s built; I mean, mega built. He’s all muscle. His shoulders are broad and he’s got abs that go far and beyond a six-pack. His messy brown hair often falls over his face, sometimes getting too long and covering those stunning hazel eyes.
He’s covered in tattoos. They run up his arms and over his shoulders. He’s got one down his belly that snakes around to his back. He’s even got a few on his thighs. The man is an ink machine. His hazel eyes, which are more yellow than green, swing to us and narrow. Claire looks to me, then back to him.
He grunts, and walks past us.
“Good to see you, too,” I yell out after him.
We hear him throw his bag down with another grunt, and we both turn back to each other and giggle softly.
“He’s such a stiff sometimes. He needs a good woman to get him out of his shell. Maybe you can work your magic on him?”
I shake my head. “No thank you; been there, done that, Leo isn’t the man for me.”
“Ah, the drunken night between Leo and Ash.”
“Shut up.” I smile. “Don’t remind me.”
She jumps off the counter and wiggles her hips. “Oh, la la.”
I roll my eyes. I used to have a major crush on Leo; something to do with the silent, angry type. My crush only lasted for about six months. The reason for that is because one night we both got drunk, really, really drunk, and ended up in bed. I was in a low place and it wasn’t the best choice I’ve ever made.
It’s not that Leo wasn’t great in bed, because he was. Even drunk, he blew my mind. It was just that things got awkward—like, super awkward. We have nothing in common, and it just made things weird between us. It took a few months for us to be able to look each other in the eye again, but we’ve managed to get there.
“I’m going to shower before you spontaneously combust,” I chide her, disappearing down the hall.
“Ohhhh, all nakie and wet,” she sings.
I laugh and walk towards my room. I stop when I see Leo in his, the door just slightly ajar. He’s pacing backwards and forwards, running his hands through his hair. I can’t help it; I stop walking and knock on his open door.
“Leo?” I ask, stepping in.
He stops pacing, and turns to look at me. “What do you want?”
“Don’t be an ass. I’m just seeing if you’re okay.”
He stares at me, then sighs loudly. “No, I’m not fuckin’ okay.”
“Want to tell me why?”
“Don’t talk to me like I’m one of your prisoners, Ash.”
“Okay . . . What’s happenin’, yo?”
His lips twitch with a smile, and I give him a full-blown one in return.
“It’s Evelyn,” he mutters.
Ah, Evelyn. The girl he’s been dating on and off. She’s easy, she’s expensive and she’s up herself, in a big way. She’s bad for him all round, but she’s gorgeous. So he keeps going back.
“What’s she doing now?” I ask, sitting on the small sofa in his room.
He raises a brow at me.
“What?” I say, throwing my hands up. “I’m trying to help.”
He starts pacing again. “It’s fucked up.”
“And . . .”
“She’s saying she’s pregnant.”
“Oh boy,” I say, letting a puff of air whoosh out of my lips. “That is bad.”
“You’re fuckin’ tellin’ me. I got shit in my life. I’m a fighter. I don’t have time for babies.”
“Okay, take a few steps back. Are you sure it’s yours?”
His eyes flash to me. “You sayin’ she’s fuckin’ around?”
“What I’m saying is that unless you’re sure she’s not, then you might not be the father.”
He mulls this over. “How am I supposed to find out?”
“Simple. If she’s really pregnant, ask for a DNA test.”
“If she’s pregnant?”
“You need to see proof, Leo. You’d be crazy not to ask for it. Women make that stuff up all the time.”
His eyes widen. “Why?”
I shrug. “Because they’re desperate.”
A look of disgust contorts his features, causing his lips to purse and his eyes to narrow. “That’s fuckin’ sick.”
I laugh softly, standing. “Women can do crazy things if they fear they’re losing something they want.”
“Would you do that?”
I snort. “Oh no. No, no, no, I know how it ends.”
“How?” he says, taking the hem of his shirt and pulling it off.
I stare for a moment before feeling heat creep up the back of my neck. I stare down at my hands. “I’m a girl. I’ve seen it go down plenty of times. I’m sure you can figure out how something like that would end.”
“Yeah,” he says, pulling on another shirt.
“Well.” I clap my hands together, and turn towards the door. “Good chatting.”
He chuckles. “Yeah, always fun.”
I flash him a smile before exiting his room. I slip into my own room and sigh as my eyes go towards the shower in the en suite. Oh, I need one of those. I kick my door closed behind me, strip off and walk towards the shower. After turning the water on, I tuck my hair up and step in.
I sigh loudly as the warm water slides over my body. I wash my hair, shave my legs, and then reluctantly turn the shower off. I dry myself and then throw on a pair of grey sweats and a tank before joining Claire and Leo in the kitchen. They’re arguing over what to cook for supper.
“Steak,” Leo growls, shoving her out of the way and taking out the steak.
“Chicken,” she snaps back, shoving him. He doesn’t move.
“How about,” I yell loudly, causing them both to turn, “you have both.”
Claire rolls her eyes. “That ruins the fun.”
Leo gives her a lusty expression, one that she always seems to miss. I don’t miss it; it’s loud and clear to me.
“Stop being difficult,” I chastise her playfully.
“Fine,” she sulks. “Let the Incredible Hulk have his steak.”
Leo snorts and turns to her. “I’m glad you’ve finally learned your place.”
Claire opens her mouth to respond, but I put my hand up. “Children, that’s enough.”
They both give me pouty expressions that have me smiling. I wave my hand. “Carry on, then.”
I turn and walk out of the room, deciding to find a good book and curl up on the couch while they battle it out in the kitchen.
That’s just a normal day for me.
Just how I like it.
The prison is quiet this morning. People are fluttering about, keeping to themselves, and the inmates aren’t saying a great deal. They’re all in their cells, most of them staring blankly at walls. The very idea of being trapped in a space like that for years on end has my heart tightening. It’s one of my biggest fears.
There are a few prisoners in here who are wrongly convicted; it happens. It’s a sad fact of life, but it’s just how it goes. I don’t see it a lot, and even when I do there’s nothing I can do to help – after all, what could I do? It’s not my job, and it’s something that can’t be changed. I just can’t imagine how horrible it would feel. To be forever trapped for something you didn’t do.
“Another early one, Ash?” Tristan says, appearing beside me as I reach security.
“You’re here early,” I say, checking the time. He doesn’t usually do the morning shifts.
“Yeah. Just wanted to make sure the new prisoner was secured.”
“Right.” I yawn. “How’s all that going?”
We reach security and start the long process of going through.
“You will see him today. You can check it all out when you go down there. He isn’t saying a word.”
“He doesn’t really have to. Well, not to us, anyway.”
“No, but it all helps,” Tristan mutters.
“That’s true. You want me to see what I can get?” I ask, shrugging off my jacket.
“Yeah. He won’t speak, and I’m trying to assess him. His court appearance isn’t for another few weeks.”
“What have you got on him so far?”
“Not a great deal,” he says, stepping through and stretching his arms out for scanning. “His name is Beau Dawson. He’s the vice president of the Joker’s Wrath MC. Not married. No family. His sister died when they were both fifteen. They were twins.”
“That’s interesting,” I say, stepping through after him. “Do you know what happened?”
He shakes his head. “Details are sketchy at this point, but I’ve got someone looking into it.”
Someone looking into it? It’s not really his job to have someone look into details such as that.
“Who is looking into it?” I ask.
He stiffens and shakes his head quickly. “Oh, just some other guards.”
Something doesn’t feel quite right, but there’s nothing obvious enough standing out that I have the grounds to do something about it.
“Fair enough. Well, I’ll stop by and see if I can get anything else.”
He pats my shoulder. “You’re awesome. Thanks.”
I go through my usual routine of changing, logging in and pairing up with some other guards. Then I begin my rounds. We stop at Beau’s cell first, because Tristan wanted me to see his reaction. I peer in, and my lips part as I suck in a breath, God, will it get easier to look at him? Surely it will?
“Beau,” I say, though my voice doesn’t come out as firm as it usually would.
Beau lifts his head, revealing those incredible grey eyes. They’re lighter grey, like a storm cloud that has given off all its rain and is fading into the blue sky. His black hair drops over his forehead and his expression is almost murderous as he glares at me. They don’t like being here; it’s not abnormal.
“My name is Ash,” I begin, “I just came to check in on you. I’m a guard here.”
His glare doesn’t waver; in fact, it’s a little intimidating. He’s lethal; it seeps off him.
“Have you had any troubles overnight?”
He doesn’t answer; he just keeps his killer expression trained on me.
He doesn’t move. It’s unnerving.
“You’re the vice president of the Joker’s Wrath MC. That must be a different kind of lifestyle?”
His eyes narrow, but he still says nothing. Interesting. It clearly gets a reaction out of him, even if he refuses to speak.
“I know you have no family. I suppose that’s what they are? Would I be correct?”
His eyes flash and then harden. His jaw tics and it’s clear family is a touchy subject. Just to test my theory, I ask a difficult question. I wouldn’t usually do this, but Tristan has instructed that I get as much as I can out of him, so I go ahead.
“I was informed you lost your sister at a young age. Is that why you did what you did?
Like a flip is switched, he thrashes in his chains, his eyes wild and frantic.
“Shit,” I curse under my breath.
He jerks, his large body arching upwards in what is clearly anguish. His entire frame is straining, his wrists jerking on the chains, his face going a dark shade of red with emotion.
“You’re going to hurt yourself,” I say, my voice tough, even though I feel horrible. “Calm down, Beau.”
His fists are clenched so tightly they’re white; his arms are bulging, ropes of muscle pulsing beneath his skin. He thrashes harder, panting. I turn to the Jeremy, who is already radioing it in. Only minutes later more guards arrive and we all step in. Blood is running heavily down Beau’s wrists. If we don’t stop him, it will get worse.
I take one of his arms, and the muscles flex beneath my fingers as I hold him firmly. Three other guards take different parts of his body. He growls and snaps, then he barks, “Fuck off, you cunts.”
Well, then. It would appear Beau can talk.
“You don’t settle down, you’ll end up in bigger trouble than it’s worth,” Luke growls at him.
I didn’t even see Luke come in.
Beau turns his eyes to me and bares his teeth. I glare at him, not showing any kind of emotion. He swings his body to the side, sending me flying backwards onto my ass. He did it on purpose, I know he did, and that makes me angry. It’s not the first time this has happened; I’m always being knocked over. Anger swells in my chest all the same, because I still hate it. I might have upset him, but he doesn’t need to push me around.
I get to my feet and walk forward, pressing my fingers down onto his shoulder and pinching a nerve there—I learned this in training. He roars in pain and lurches forward, landing on the floor. It hurts, I know it hurts, but it’s an easy and effective way to take a prisoner down without the need for weapons.
I lean down, rocking on my heels as he stares up at me with rage in his features. In a low, growling tone, I say, “Don’t touch me again.”
Then I get up and leave.
They can deal with Beau Dawson.
“You look exhausted,” Claire says when I drag my backside into the house that night.
I throw my purse down and shrug my jacket off. “Mentally exhausted, perhaps.”
She pours a glass of the red wine she’s drinking, and brings it over to me as I drop down onto the couch. “Here you are.”
“Ohh, you’re a champ.”
She smiles and flops down beside me on the couch.
“Can I ask you something?”
I sip the wine, closing my eyes and groaning with delight. “Sure,” I finally manage.
“I overheard Leo talking this afternoon.”
My eyes pop open and I turn to her. “And . . .”
“And I heard that . . . Queen of Whoretown is pregnant.”
I snort at her choice of words. “I don’t know a great deal about it, but I did warn him last night that he needs to be careful.”
“What does he see in a girl like her?” She pouts prettily.
“She’s easy.” I shrug. “Leo is complicated and she doesn’t question him, she just gives him what he wants.”
“Complicated is certainly what Leo is.”
I nod, pursing my lips. “Does it bother you?”
She shakes her head quickly, too quickly, if you ask me. “No, of course not.” She waves her hand and snorts. “He can do whatever he wants.
I grin at her, but choose to say nothing more. I wish those two would pull their heads out of their backsides and see that there’s a serious sexual connection there.
“Did you get to see the crazy gunman today?” she asks, turning towards me with a curious expression. Her eyes are wide, her lips pursed.
“I did, nothing major happened,” I sigh, leaning my head back.
“Your job sucks.”
I laugh. “Some days I could agree with you.”
“You up for pizza and movies tonight? I’m too lazy to cook.”
I groan, kicking my shoes off. “Absolutely. I’m stuffed.”
“I got that new movie, The Fault In Our Stars.”
“Oh no,” I groan, pressing a hand to my cheek. “I heard that one will make me ugly cry.”
“Ugly, snot-pouring-out-your-nose, wailing kind of cry,” she nods.
“Can’t we watch something happy?”
“Trust me,” she says, standing and skipping into the kitchen. “It’ll be fun.”
It’s not fun.
Halfway through the movie I’m blubbering, clutching my wine to my chest, and wishing I had protested harder. This movie is so beautiful, but so incredibly heartbreaking. I can’t deal with this sort of emotion. It’s ruining me. Claire is sitting beside me, making the occasional sobbing noise, her hand pressed to her mouth.
Damn her and her sad movies.
“In a better mood today, are we, Beau?” I say, leaning against the cell door and staring in at the broody biker.
It’s the third day, and they’re still trying to figure out what happened—there really aren’t enough details around it. He’s up for a sentence, but witnesses are being very unclear. Apparently one said Beau was arguing with the man, but didn’t shoot him. Another is saying that there was another man with him, and that he couldn’t pin who it was. Security cameras went down before the shooting, so it was absolutely planned.
Beau is saying nothing. His club is saying nothing. Beau rarely speaks at all, and if he does it’s to spit curses. Mandy said she couldn’t get a word out of him, that he won’t give her anything. He’s protecting himself; I get that. But I also think it has a lot to do with protecting his club.
I don’t know how, but it would make sense for him to keep quiet if they were trying to do something to change his sentence. After all, if he speaks, it could ruin anything them come up with. So, I continue on each day doing my rounds. Beau gives me the same, angry expression every time I stop at his cell.
I keep stopping there, though. Because, for some reason, I truly believe he likes it.
“The guards told me you don’t sleep a lot?” I say leaning against his cell door, “You bein’ picked on, Beau?”
He glares at me, and surprises me by muttering, “Do you ever go a-fucking-way?”
“That’s not a word,” I point out. “And no, it’s my job.”
“So I hear, Wildcard,” he sneers.
“It appears you have a problem with me, Beau.” I smile sweetly.
He smirks, his eyes growing even colder. “I have a problem with the fuckin’ law.”
“Well, that’s apparent.”
He shakes his head and turns away. “Maximus fuckin’ makes a lot of noise at night. Go and sort that shit out.”
“I’ll talk to him.”
“Do more than that, eh?” he grunts.
“Are you always so mean?”
He narrows his eyes and crosses his big arms. “Are you supposed to talk to me like that? Pretty sure you ain’t.”
I cross my arms, too. “I’m not disrespecting you, am I?”
He studies me. “What’s a girl like you workin’ in a place like this for, anyway?”
I tilt my head to the side. “I like it. It gives me something different to an everyday office job.”
“I hear you’re feisty,” he murmurs, letting his gaze travel down my body. “I like them like that.”
I shiver. Oh boy. I straighten and uncross my arms. “Good for you. I like mine outside of a cell.”
With that, I walk away.
Concentrate. Focus. Remain professional.
I’m not meant to be here. My shift is over, and it’s just past midnight. I’m running late, because I got caught up talking to Mandy about Beau. It seems to be a good thing, though, because if I wasn’t here I would have missed the commotion that starts I’m leaving. It begins with a faint noise, and it grows louder and louder as I near closer.
I step around the corner and into Ward D. I see Luke, Tristan and another guard named Peter in Beau’s cell. They are holding him down, and Tristan lifts his hand and drives his fist into Beau’s face. I yell out, not even thinking, and he spins around quickly, panting with rage.
“What are you doing, Tristan?” I cry.
He’s not allowed to hit prisoners unless there’s absolutely no way around it and he’s lying on the floor about to die from an attack – even then, we learned how to defend ourselves properly in our training. There’s no need for this.
“He attacked me when I came in here. I had no choice,” Tristan barks.
“You need to step out and call it in,” I demand. “I’ll wait with him. You know the rules. Get out, Tristan.”
Tristan turns, and Beau glares up at him. He has blood running down his mouth, so much so that it makes me wonder if he’s been hit more than once. Tristan cuffs his hands behind his back and steps back, nodding at the other two guards. They both stare at me, and then exit the cell. Tristan pulls out his radio and calls it in as he passes me.
When they’re gone, I step inside and stare over at Beau. He glares at me, his face a mess. I pull off my jacket and walk over, sitting beside him on the bed, and pressing the cotton material to his face. He growls but he doesn’t make any move to attack me, which seems strange, considering they accused him of attacking them.
“Do you want to stay in here?” I mutter, staring at the split in his lip.
“Why are you fuckin’ here?”
“Because you’re beating my guards.”
“Wrong,” he growls. “They were beating me.”
“Because you attacked them.”
He leans in close, causing me to flinch, but I don’t move back. He’s trying to get into my space, trying to intimidate me. It won’t work.
“Tough little thing, aren’t ya?”
I shrug. “Just doing my job.”
“Let me tell you a little somethin’ about your job,” he murmurs. “You got a whole lot of fuckin’ criminals around you.”
“No shit,” I snort. “Last time I checked that’s what’s usually in a prison.”
He narrows his eyes into a full-throttle glare. “Not what I meant. It ain’t the criminals inside the cells you should be watchin’.”
“What are you talking about?” I say, even though I’ve already had the same thoughts cross my mind. “You’re hardly in a place to be making accusations.”
He raises his brows. “That so? If anything, I think I am in the perfect position to be making them.”
“How do you figure?”
He smirks. “Because I’m a criminal myself, remember?”
I say nothing; I just cross my arms.
“I’m guessing I have about five minutes before they come in here and lock me down, so here it is. Your boys, there, came in here and beat the fuck outta me. I was sleepin’ in my bed, doin’ nothin’. There is a reason for that, but it’s a reason I’m not discussing while I’m in here. Just know those boys are up to no fuckin’ good, and they’re doin’ some bad shit. Keep your eyes peeled.”
I open my mouth to say something, but a group of guards enter the room. I stand, meeting Beau’s eyes. He nods at me and I turn swiftly, exiting the room. His words play in my mind. Why would Tristan, Luke and Peter just go in and beat him? I’ve known Tristan a long time; he wouldn’t just do something like that.
I’m paying no attention as I walk down the halls until I smash into Tristan’s chest. His arms go around me, and he chuckles softly. “Are you okay, Ash? You were off in a world of your own.”
I step back. I study him, and it’s hard for me to see any change. However, the very fact that he’s been off the past week is running through my mind. Could Beau be right? Is there something going on?
“Why were you in there, Tristan?” I ask. I can’t help it.
His eyes harden, but he quickly wipes the expression away. “I told you, I went in there to check and he beat on me.”
“Then you should have defended yourself and stepped out, you had no reason to put your fists on him.”
He glares at me, showing me that I’ve hit a nerve and making me believe that Beau might just be right. “He’s a big man, far bigger than me. He overpowered me. Now, I have a report to file. Are you finished?”
I narrow my eyes and then force a smile. I think I need to step away from this for now, because it’s going to put me in a difficult situation if I get involved. My eyes are peeled, though. I’ll be watching.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I didn’t mean to jump on you. Is everything okay now?”
“No problem. Funniest thing, though,” he says, running his hands through his hair. “The security cameras went down an hour ago; technical problems. We can’t catch Beau attacking me, so there’s really not anything I can do except put a report in.”
My heart stammers. The security cameras never go down. It’s just not something that happens. The only way they turn off is if someone does it themselves. I blink rapidly, trying to keep my expression impassive as all the details swim in my head. What the hell is going on here?
“That’s too bad,” I say, shrugging. “Are they moving him?”
He nods. “Of course. Kent believes me.”
Kent is the head of the prison, and everything and anything goes through him. He makes most orders. Of course Kent would believe Tristan. Let’s face it, who is going to believe a prisoner? Especially a biker who is accused of shooting and killing innocent people.
“Where is he going?”
“Solitary confinement. Forty-eight hours.”
I nod, swallowing, trying to keep myself calm. “Well, I’m going to go. It’s about that time.”
He pats my shoulder. “Have a good night.”
“Yeah,” I say, turning. “You too.”
Something is going down. I can feel it.
I just don’t know what it is.
A week passes without any further drama. Beau comes out of solitary and goes back into his cell, and Tristan seems to keep his distance. He’s quieter than usual, and on the phone a lot, but otherwise it all seems to be going fine. There have been no more fights and no more issues between Tristan and Beau.
I’m busy doing my usual round on a Sunday morning, when I pass Beau’s cell. He’s staring down at his balled fists, panting. He seems angry about something, and I so desperately want to go in there and find out what but I don’t. I just wrap my fingers around the cell bars and lean in.
“Something wrong, Beau?”
He jerks his head up and his eyes burn into mine. “Go the fuck away.”
I narrow my eyes and see that he’s shaking, just slightly. “Are you okay?”
“Did you not hear me?” he bellows. “Fuck off.”
I meet his gaze and his eyes practically burn right through mine. His grey depths are turning a light shade of blue with his rage.
“I’m not the bad guy here. If there’s a problem you can tell me what it is.”
“So you can run to your supervisor, and tattle like the good little guard.”
I frown. “You underestimate me, Beau.”
“Stop fuckin’ callin’ me that.”
“It’s your name, isn’t it?”
“Doesn’t mean I want you to use it.”
I sigh, but I don’t argue. I just stand there, staring into his cell for long, long moments. He finally stands and walks over, stopping in front of the bars.
“Let me ask you somethin’, girl,” he says, his voice low. “Explain to me how you define a bad person, and a good person?”
I tilt my head to the side. “Bad people do bad things; good people don’t.”
“You think it’s that simple? Are you goin’ to tell me you’re as absent-minded as the rest of these fucktards?”
I bristle but I don’t react. Instead, I think about his question. Really think about it.
“It’s not easy to define if a person is good or bad. Sometimes good people do bad things, because they’re hurting, or because something bad has happened to them. Sometimes their minds play tricks on them, and sometimes their hearts don’t speak up in time. It’s not the same for a bad person.”
He nods at me to go on.
“I believe if you’re truly evil, then there isn’t much that can change you. If you’re sculpted into an malicious person from a young age, you have the hope of being better. If you’re just evil for the sake of being evil, for the sake of taking things that aren’t yours, such as others’ lives, then you’re unable to be saved.”
He’s studying me, his head tilted to the side. I keep going.
“Bad people choose to do the things they are doing, good people try hard to avoid being bad. They strive to be better, but, like I said, sometimes even good people can do bad things—it’s just that they do it with a different heart.”
He stares at me for so long I shift uncomfortably. “And what do you think I am?”
I’m shocked by his question. Yet I’m sure of my answer. “I think you’re a good person who did a bad thing, because of something that happened.”
He swallows and takes a few steps back before turning and walking to his bed. “Good afternoon, Ash.”
His tone tells me we’re done.
But my heart says otherwise.
I hear the uproar before I see any movement. I stand from the desk in the office, where I’m doing paperwork, and poke my head out of to see the guards dragging a struggling Beau down the hall. His face is dripping with blood, his eyes are swollen, and his fists are raw. My mouth drops open as they pass me.
I stand and rush out, running into Tristan.
“Out of the way, Ash.”
“What happened?” I ask, pointing to Beau.
“He got into a fight. We’re taking him to get cleaned up. If you can come and help out, that would be appreciated, because I’m putting in to get him moved. He’s causing too many problems.”
Too many problems? He’s been rather quiet, to be honest. The only problem he caused was because Tristan apparently went in and flogged him. I don’t have time to think about it. I hurry down the hall after the guards. We arrive in the medical office, and I step back as they chain Beau to the table, forcing him to sit.
“Where’s the nurse?” a guard barks.
Tristan turns to me. “Have you seen Kaitlyn?”
I nod. “She was at lunch, last time I heard. Did you want me to clean him up while we wait?”
Tristan stares at me, then grunts, “Yeah, I need to attend to the other prisoner. Larry, Tuck, you two need to stay in here with her.”
The other two guards nod, and Tristan pats my shoulder before disappearing out the door. I can still hear the commotion outside as I walk forward, gathering everything I’ll need. I feel Beau’s eyes on me as I move.
I place a tray of items far enough away from him so that he can’t reach, and then I fill a bowl full of saltwater and dip in a washcloth, turning to him. He’s messed up in a big way; his face is battered and bruised, and there’s both dried and fresh blood coating his cheeks and his lips. His left eye is swollen, but still slightly opened. With a swallow, I step forward so I’m in front of him.
He’s got his eyes trained on my face as I take another shaky step. My heart hammers as I lift the warm cloth to his eyes, gently placing it against his skin and wiping the grime away. I’m finding it difficult to breathe, my skin is prickling, and the thought of his eyes on me is giving me a flood of emotions I’ve never felt before.
I’m fully aware he’s studying me. I try to concentrate on removing the dried blood, but it’s getting more and more difficult the longer his eyes stay locked on my face. His expression is so hard, yet there’s a depth to it that’s showing me more than he’s shown me in the last two weeks.
I reach down, taking his cuffed hands. I soak the washcloth, and then place it against his split knuckles. Whoever he beat, he did a good job of them, of that I’m sure. I notice as the blood is cleaned off his skin, that he’s got tattoos across his fingers that read, Lace.
“That’s a different tattoo,” I dare to say, as I continue cleaning.
“It ain’t none of your business,” he mutters.
Of course it isn’t.
I drop his hand and take the bowl, emptying it before refreshing the water. Then I take his other hand, cleaning it, too. I see he also has tattoos on these fingers, this hand saying Krypt. Interesting. I drop his hands and continue on with his face, focusing on the deep gash under his eye.
He flinches when I run the cloth over it, and I feel a puff of his warm breath hit my cheek. I realize I’m too close and go to step back, but he moves like lightning. His bound hands reach out and take one of mine, tugging me closer. His fingers are calloused and hard against my smooth flesh. I gasp and my eyes are wide as he brings me so close we’re nearly nose-to-nose.
He says nothing; he doesn’t need to. His eyes are on mine, his expression telling me everything he can’t. It screams don’t mess with me, as well as something else, something deeper—no doubt something about the guards that he wants me to know—and part of me wishes he could tell me. The guards jump into action quickly, jerking me backwards and securing him. His eyes don’t leave mine, even as they recuff his hands, this time behind his back.
“Don’t move again,” Larry barks.
With a swallow and trembling hands, I step back and continue cleaning his face. I decide while he’s here, and he can’t escape, I might as well ask some more questions. “Do you want to tell me why you got into a fight?”
He glares at me, but I continue. “Did he say something about your family?”
“About . . . your sister?”
He bares his teeth at me in a snarl that has me taking a step back. His look is murderous, and it stuns me for a moment. I catch my breath and take the step forward so I’m close and only he can hear me. “I get it. I understand how it feels to be angry at the world, to want revenge. You might think I’m here to make your life harder, but I’m not. I understand what you said—I’m taking notice. I hope you know that I’d never let anyone hurt you if I had a choice.”
Our eyes lock, and we don’t move until the door swings open and Tristan enters with Kaitlyn following closely behind. I drop the washcloth, giving Beau a determined stare before turning. “I got most of the blood, Kait,” I say, smiling at the young, redheaded nurse.
“Thanks Ash.” She smiles back, taking over.
I walk over to Tristan when he beckons me, and lean in close.
“He say what happened?” he asks.
“He nearly killed the other inmate. Neither of them will talk so a decision has been made that he needs to be transferred to a higher-security prison. We don’t have the facilities here to deal with this kind of violence. It won’t be the first fight he’ll get into.”
I turn and look at Beau, whose eyes are still on me. I don’t see this as being something he’s gotten himself into, and it worries me. He really has no reason to be transferred, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it. My argument is pointless in this situation.
“If you’ve got the morning free tomorrow, it would be good if you could accompany us. Two guards are off sick and we need extra hands. I know you don’t usually do transfers, but in this case we don’t really have a choice.”
“I’m happy to,” I say, giving him a forced smile.
At least I can get a feel of what’s going to go down if I go.
He pats my shoulder. “Thanks, Ash.”
I nod then glance back to Beau. He’s watching me still, his eyes narrowed.
Why has this prisoner gotten to me in such a way?
Maybe it’s because I truly don’t believe he’s a bad person.