Chapter 6: New Beginnings
First day to work is just great. So great that I wait everything to collapse around me any moment. There is no way I am getting out so easily. That is not for me. And yet here I am, in a garage, in an overall, free to do as I please and most of all free to work without looking over my shoulder all the time.
“Iris.” Bjorn’s voice echoes in the garage and I look over the hood of the SUV at him.
“We are selling this one. Make sure everything is OK. I’ll check after you.” he frowns.
I shake my head. It is our first day working together but I already feel at ease. Bjorn doesn’t talk much. He showed me to my station and my tools and had me working on the SUV straight away. He then focused on the classic truck putting some hard rock music on. I have heard people talk about paradise and I am sure few think of it as a messy garage with music blasting and a tall, taciturn man as your boss. But I am in heaven.
When I met Daniel the day before I was agitated and scared. But the gray, older man just smiled at me and asked me two things: how old was I and if I had eaten anything lately. Easy answers. 18 and no. A flash of compassion flashed over his face. He called out a name and the man I had seen behind the bar came in. He had him make me a sandwich.
“He makes killer sandwich. I think we might patch him in just for that!” Daniel smiled at me.
I didn’t know what to say or how to react. I nodded at the man and was glad he didn’t lose his smile.
“So, Iris. You’ll start assisting at the garage. Your day pay would be 40 dollars. Is that OK?”
My eyes widened and so did Daniel’s smile when he looked at me. He chuckled softly.
I shook my head. Daniel’s eyes fell on me and examined me swiftly.
I swallowed hard and looked over his head.
“I see.” Daniel said simply.
He shifted uneasily on his chair and fussed with his beard. He looked at me thoughtfully as if he was assessing me. The same way Ava had done.
“Is Ava your daughter?” the question slipped out.
They looked nothing alike but Ava might take after her mother. The way they behaved and looked was almost the same. My words put a smile on his face and I knew I was right.
“No, she is not. But I really wish she was!” Daniel’s smile was warm.
I felt the bitter sting of jealousy. That man loved Ava like a daughter. And she had Bjorn, too. Me? I had nothing. No one. Not anymore. Well, I did just get a job. I should be grateful for the small wins.
“You know Ava?”
“She sent me here.”
“You should have told me earlier.” Daniel laughed.
That moment, the man came back with the sandwich. When he left the plate before me, my mouth watered. He sure did make killer sandwiches by the looks of it. I looked at him, then at Daniel and then at the sandwich. I felt ashamed of my hunger but I needed to eat. So I grabbed the plate and took one big bite. It was the best thing I had ever eaten.
“This is really good. Thank you.” I said still chewing.
“Glad you like it, girl.” the sandwich-maker said “My name is Wood, by the way.”
“Wood? That is a strange name.” I answered with my mouth full.
Daniel and Wood looked at each other and smiled cocking a brow. I am sure there was a joke somewhere there but I wasn’t in the mood to find out what it was.
“Anytime you want, girl, you let me know if I can fix you another sandwich.”
“Thanks.” I looked up.
He, too, was a good-looking man with dark hair and black eyes. His face was long but elegant in complete contrast to his bulky body. Still in my eyes he didn’t look half as good as the tattooed man. It wasn’t the looks of that man that had me so captivated. It was something else, something I saw in those big blue eyes of his that made me think of him constantly. Wood left the room and I came back to reality as Daniel turned to me. He watched me as I finished my sandwich and I felt a bit embarrassed.
“Iris.” he said after I put the plate down “I have a proposition for you.”
“There has been a...development and the club currently has no Queen to take care of the place. I mean make sure it’s clean and stuff like that. There are a few rooms downstairs. The club uses them when we have emergencies, other charters coming over or lockdowns.”
I nodded trying hard not to look stupid. Queen? Lockdowns? I had no idea what a lockdown was but it didn’t sound good. As to what kind of emergencies that club had, I knew better than to ask.
“You can use one of the rooms downstairs. For free. Our kitchen and other facilities here, as well. If you agree to take up the task of keeping this place more or less tidy. You can make the rotters help you.”
I blinked far too many times not knowing where to begin unraveling what he had just asked me.
“Rotters?” I picked one question.
“Club whores. They are here to fuck. I am sure they can clean up after.”
I shifted uneasily and looked around nervously. Whores. That’s how men show all women and I would be a fool to think that these hardened bikers were any different. Was I to be a...rotter too? My fingers went to the ridiculous small weapon I had against these men but it calmed me knowing it was there.
“Don’t worry.” Daniel read my thoughts.
But all I could do was worry. All I ever did was worry and look over my shoulder and sleep with one eye open. It wouldn’t stop, I knew it wouldn’t. There was no place in the world that would make me feel safe. I would never, never feel safe in my life. But I could survive. I thought about Daniel’s proposal.
“The rooms...” I wetted my throat “Do they...have locks?”
Daniel’s look darkened. I had angered him, I had proposed the unthinkable. I was given protection and protection came at a price. No locked doors was part of that price. My whole body was wound up like a coil, my nerves were like a rubber band barely holding it together, ready to snap. I was ready to fight.
“Damn it, Iris. Who do you think we are, girl?” Daniel’s face was flashed with anger but he went back to his soft gaze quickly “There are fucking locks but you won’t need them. No one will touch you if you don’t want to. You can even change the locks if that makes you feel better.”
I looked into his eyes and as far as I could tell he was honest. Living with these men was the opposite of safe but being on the streets was not safer.
“I...would like to try this.” I finally said.
“Well, that is great news. I’ll have Wood show you around. If you don’t like the bunker, then you can check out the apartment over the garage. It’s been closed for a while and I don’t know its shape but...Your call.”
After Daniel and I were done, he called Wood and asked him to show me around. Wood showed me down the stairs and opened all the rooms in the underground compound. There were several rooms there, some with bunkers some with single beds. They were plain, bare rooms but that was not the reason I didn’t like them. They had no windows, no other way out but the door. I asked Wood to show me the room above the garage.
It was a small room, filthy with years of uselessness. It had just enough room for a bed and a wardrobe and a small bathroom with a shower in it. But it had a window. And a view on the bay that almost made me cry. It was decided that that would be my room. No one minded. Bjorn was happy to have someone on call for emergencies, the others had forgotten the room altogether. But even that was not the highlight of last night’s events.
It was seeing him again. I had been cleaning the little room all day and then I went back to the bunkers to pick some of the furniture to take to the empty room that was to be mine. I was coming up from the underground compound and there he was at the top of the stairs. He had blood all over his arms and his beautiful face was smeared with blood. He didn’t speak, he just looked at me with those big blue eyes and I just forgot about the blood and the wounds and everything. I tried to talk to him but he said nothing, he just stood there. I could see it in his eyes that he wanted to talk but something was holding him back. Fear. Not the kind of fear that ruled my life. He wasn’t afraid of me hurting him. But he seemed afraid of him hurting me.
Tor called him a “psycho” and I could see how a guy with dirty bloodied clothes, bloodied face and self-inflicted wounds would be called that. I knew that I had to get away from him but there was something in those eyes. Underneath all that rage and pain. Something that draws me.
“Break!” Bjorn’s bark cuts off the wonderings of my mind and I step away from the SUV.