Instead of letting Bubbles know how much her words had affected me I turned my gaze on Bash. He had been looking down at his phone, frowning as he texted away. Something must have alerted him to my gaze. We’d become as close as siblings when we had bonded over learning to take care of Lexa. Having shared some frightening experiences such as a weeklong vigil in the hospital the first time Lexa had come into contact with peanut butter just days after her mother had died, had forced us to learn to love each other for the sake of that little girl. Bash had seen me at my best, which was when I had been with Spider the first time, and he had definitely seen me at my worst, when I had to bury my father.
The look on my face must have reflected everything that I was feeling inside. He stood and pushed his way toward me. Larger than life bikers stepped out of their club president’s way as he hurried toward me. “Willa?”
“Is it the same Topaz?” I whispered it and I knew he couldn’t hear me over the noise in the bar, but he must have been able to read my lips or maybe he just knew what my question was going to be. I saw the hesitation in his unusual blue eyes, the indecision on his god-like face and knew even before he nodded his head in the affirmative that the answer was yes.
“How…” My voice broke and I cleared my throat before starting again. “How long has she been in Creswell Springs?”
Bash grimaced and ran a hand over his face. For him, hurting me was like hurting Lexa and I knew he didn’t want to say anything, but he also knew that I needed the answers. Obviously Spider hadn’t planned on ever telling me. Regret at letting our relationship be more th
an just sex was starting to make my heart twist and my gut churn. “She came to us looking for a job a few months after Lexa was born. Tasha had beaten her up pretty badly and your dad told her she would be safe with us. We offered her the job of managing Paradise City.”
“Does Raven know you own a strip club?” Because I sure as hell had never known that. In over a year of living with this man I thought we knew each other well, but now I realized I had probably barely cracked the ice around his outer shell. That made me kind of sad.
“She’s always known. She does the books over there on Tuesdays.” He sighed. “Look Willa, after your breakup with Spider the first time, he was in bad shape. It was a long time before he got his shit straight after you just left him. Some things came to light about that night that you really need to know about. So before you go off the deep end again, let him explain this time, okay?”
“Why the hell is he over there now?” I demanded, trying to keep my anger in check. My entire body was one big ache right then. Last time had nearly killed me, but I’d had to push all of that down to take care of my dying mother. This time, if he shattered me, there would be nothing to keep me distracted from the pain.
“A bunch of the college kids that spend the summer at the frat houses were causing trouble. There was a fight that took all of the bouncers to deal with and while that was going on one of the girls was assaulted in the back. Spider went to deal with the guy who hurt her.” He bent his knees so that he was on my eye level a little more. I felt like he was talking to me like he talked to Lexa, trying to explain something that he didn’t want to but that needed saying. “I want you to remember something though, okay?” He waited for me to nod before continuing. “Spider doesn’t deal with females very well. He doesn’t have soft spots for them. Not even his mother. There have only ever been two females that he’s cared about. Raven is one of them. He would kill for her. It took me a little while but I realize that he has turned into another brother to her, and while their relationship still has the tendency to piss me off, I’m glad she has him.”
Bash reached for my hands and gave them a tight squeeze. People were shooting us curious stares but I didn’t notice. All I could focus on was what Bash was saying. “The other female is you, Willa. You switch something on inside of Spider that makes him different, a good different. I knew it four years ago. I know it now. So just listen to him… Okay?”
As badly as I was hurting right then, I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to make any promises. If I saw Spider just then I was going to scratch his eyes out. “I can’t listen right now. I just want to be alone.”
“Willa…” When he saw the tears shimmering in my eyes he muttered a curse. “Fine. You don’t have to do it tonight. Take a few days to calm down. But that doesn’t mean I can stop him from hunting you down, Willa. He’s going to want to see you.”
“If he can find me.” I pulled my apron off and tossed it into his arms. “I’m going to drive up to Seattle.” His eyes narrowed on me and I shrugged. “Stop worrying. I’ll be back. Lexa is here. I can’t go more than a few days without seeing that kid. I need to sign some papers anyway since the sale of the house is closing soon.”
Bash followed me out of the bar. “Your birthday is next week. Raven wants to do something special for it.”
“I’ll be back before my birthday.” I was turning twenty-two on Friday. I hadn’t even thought about my birthday, but that Raven wanted to celebrate it made a tiny fraction of the pain that was making it hard to take a deep breath ease up.
A screaming baby was not something I was going to complain about. Three screaming babies, however, was something that had me gritting my teeth, but I soldiered through as I lifted six-week-old Jagger Armstrong from his crib and quickly made my way to the changing table to get him dry after his hour long nap.
I didn’t know what I was thinking, promising to watch not only the two children that I was paid to, but also twins Luca and Lyric Thornton while Layla and Emmie took Lucy to her therapy session. I knew that Jesse and Nik would be home from the studio soon, so I would attempt to keep my sanity until then.
Normally watching Luca and Lyric wasn’t a problem for me. They were adventurous, loveable little beasts and I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that they had been born way too early. Once I had Jagger dry I carried him into the play room where Mia was sitting in the middle of the fenced-in play circle with a squalling Luca pulling at the little girl’s hair. Lyric was tugging and screaming baby talk at his brother, trying to get him to let her go. Luca was in a mood today, and it was days like this that I could see exactly whose personality each baby inherited from their parents.
Luca was completely his father made over even though both babies were identical in looks and favored Jesse Thorton even down to the eyes that changed as if they were the demons that the band was named for. Luca was aggressive at times, demanding, and rotten to the bone. But he was also loving, protective, and at times the sweetest little baby I’d ever come across. Lyric, or Ric as Emmie and some of the other family members tended to call him, was just like his mother, Layla. He was calm—mostly—and very caring even at his delicate age. Lyric was the peace keeper when his twin was rowdy. Of course if you got him angry, then there was nothing short of his mother’s cuddles that would calm him down.
Mia grasped Luca’s hand and tried to untangle her cousin’s fingers from her long, auburn hair. Luca was fascinated with her and Emmie’s hair. Any girl’s hair really. I’d learned quickly, that if Luca was around, to keep my hair up in a knot on top of my head. “Luca, that hurts. Stop.” Mia had tears in her eyes from the obvious pain Luca’s tugging was causing her, but she was still gentle with the baby.
In the two months that I had been working for the Armstrongs I had discovered that Mia was a lot like her mother in just looks. She had her micromanaging ability, which was going to help her through the life she would have to deal with as the “Rock Stars’ Princess Daughter,” or so a tabloid had called her and Neveah Stevenson two weeks ago when they had published a picture of Nik and Mia out with Drake Stevenson and his adorable daughter. She was also sassy, took nothing off of any of the people who walked through her house and her mother’s office. I’d seen her kick her Uncle Axton in the shin for teasing her, which had delighted her father so much that he had shot Diet Coke out of his nose. Mia was a joy to take care of because she kept me entertained just as much as I entertained her and her baby brother.
I placed Jagger in the swing he loved so much before stepping over the fence that, for the most part, kept Luca out of trouble while he was visiting. Crouching down, I gently but firmly enough to show the baby that I meant business, unlocked his chubby fingers from around Mia’s long hair. When she was free I saw that Luca had several strands still locked in his grip. Sighing, I stood with the little beast in my hands. Thankfully, with Mia now free, Lyric was calm and crawled onto her lap. He gave her a hug and started jabbering up a storm, pointing to Mia’s head.
I gave Luca a stern frown as I stepped out of the fenced-in area. “That isn’t nice, Luca. Don’t do it again.”
He glared back at me, as if telling me I wasn’t his boss, huge tears rolling down his cute face. I leaned forward until my nose was touching his. “Your poor mommy is going to have a time with you if you are this obsessed with long, pretty hair when you get older.”
I heard a deep chuckle and turned to find Jesse Thorton. The very scary and very sexy drummer for Demon’s Wings was leaning against the doorframe. Seeing his father, Luca let out a happy squeal and wiggled in my arms, making me have to tighten my hold around his thick body or risk dropping him. “I have a feeling you’re right, Felicity.” He stepped forward and took his oldest son from my arms. “Has he been rotten?”
“Nothing I couldn’t handle.” It was true. I could handle anything Luca or any of the other rocker babies threw my way. That didn’t mean it didn’t exhaust me. Some nights
I climbed into bed dragging. I was thankful for those nights because I fell asleep quickly. They kept my mind from wandering and hating myself because I was too chicken to so much as make a few phone calls to the people who mattered to me the most.