Serial

Part One
Agnes

Rationally, I knew I was drunk. Somewhere in the back of my darling-ly logical mind was a little voice telling me to stop drinking and get my arse home.

Instead I slapped my hand on the bar, signally my bestie Flo to pour me another.

“You’re drunk.” The voice came from the big brute beside me.

“Yep.” Flo plonked the shot in-front of me, her face showing her amusement. Future Agnes would regret this tomorrow. Drunk Aggie was ready to down it. I lifted the glass, throwing a grin at the guy beside me. “I’m drunk as a skunk in a…. in a…” I frowned, dropping my arm as I tried to work out what rhymed with skunk. Punk? Bunk? Monk? I shrugged. “Drunk as a skunk!” I declared and tipped the shot, letting the liquid flow straight down my throat to hit my belly. I slammed the glass on the bar and looked over at Flo.

“Another?” Her right eyebrow lifted in question.

“A cider, my lady.” I burped a little, then giggled. I twirled on the barstool to looking back at the giant guy beside me. “Where were we?”

“You were about to tell me about my Cut.”

“Nah.” I waved a floppy hand, nearly slipping off my seat. His arm shot out, steadying me. I ignored the flutter in my belly at the contact. “I was asking why you motorcycle people have an obsession with death and hell and super-nat-a-ru-al-“ the word sounded not quite right coming out of my mouth but I pushed through. “-beings. Like hell and devil and grim reaper and shit. You know what’s scary?” I narrowed my eyes on him, hearing the chuckles around me. “Raptors.”

“Raptors?”

I nodded my head earnestly. “Raptors. That shit is terrifying.” Flo handed me my drink and I decided to use my mouth to pick it up and chug it rather than my hands. Impressively I managed to get a quarter of the bottle down before the need for air became a requirement. I dropped my head and replaced the bottle, hands still on my legs. A bunch of whistles and catcalling behind me let me know my impressive feat had been witnessed. I ignored them, now on a roll.

“Raptors. I have door knobs all over my house. Not handles. You know why? Cause they learn. They learn shit, Ice. They know how to open doors!” I swung my hands out, knocking my beer. He snatched it, righting the bottle. “And once they know that, they can get to you and rip you open from here.” I lifted my shirt pointing at my belly and dragging both my shirt and my finger up my body. “to here.” I finger rested just under my collar bone, shirt bunched right up.

A hand tugged my shirt down. “Pretty sure they’re extinct.”

“But people are trying to bring them back. It’s genetic manipulation, Ice.”

“Did you watch Jurassic Park again?”

I shook my head. “Nah-uh. I read it. They want to try and do it. Bring shit that’s extinct back. Dangerous.” I declared, slapping my hand against the bar. “They do that, before you know it we’ll be surrounded by Zombies and ain’t nobody got time for that.”

His lip quirked up at the side. For Ice, that was the equivalent of laughing. I grinned brightly at him before lifting my beer to my lips. “Just saying.”

“Mmm. You done yet?”

I shook my head. “No. I’m gonna play pool.” I swung, beer still in hand and went to leave the bar then stopped. “Damn. Dog’s using it.” I tilted my head, squinting. “Is that Leslie? I thought she was banned after John-gate.”

Ice glanced over his normal don’t fuck with me look back on his face. “She is.”

“Well Dog’s doing her on the table.” I hopped down. “I’ll dance till their done.” I started moving over to jukebox.

“What the fuck has gotten into her?” Ace, who’d been sitting on the other-side of Ice, asked Flo. I heard her, even over the thumping music, I heard her.

“She got the letter. The Will stands.” I didn’t glance back, just stumbled over to the jukebox beside the bar. I started flipping through, looking for a suitable song.

“Her lawyer said-“

“Her lawyer was wrong. Xavier gets it all.”

“Fuck.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“No wonder she’s looking to get fucked up.”

“No, she’s already had that happen today. She’s just looking to forget.”

I hit the numbers for the song and grinned when the intro to Ice Ice Baby pumped out over the loudspeakers. Every eye in the bar swung to me, smiles and laughter accompanying it. I started swaying, my hips swishing as to moved onto the small wooden dancefloor, mouthing the lyrics as I stared over at Ice. I wiggled and ran hands over my body before I started white girl rap hand movements. The boys were laughing uproariously as I shuffled my way over to Ice’s seat. His face remained impassive as I laughingly swung my arse at him – drunk Aggie could twerk with the best of them. I twirled back shuffling in place as the song wound up. At its end I collapsed into him, laughing as wolf-whistles, cheers and suggestions were thrown my way. Ice’s face was stone cold, not a glint of humour in it.

I laughed. “I’m gonna pass out now.”

“What?”

“Night.” And then I closed my eyes and slipped.

Part Two
Agnes

When I was younger, I was abnormally tall. Too tall for my age, all legs and feet and awkward limbs. My brother and his friends would pick on me at school. Kids are cruel, and I was an easy target. Years of guys and girls lumping shit on me taught me that I was worth nothing. I was smart but I was awkward, no easy come back or defence ever sprang to my lips. Instead I’d shuffle away, hunched shoulders, blushing and trying not to cry.

Easy prey.

My parents were also bikers – my dad an enforcer for the Rebel Reapers MC, my mum his old lady – which, despite us living in a good area, made me white trash. Or at least in the eyes of the school world.

I was dreaming, I knew I was. I’d experienced this dream before. It was a flash between three separate memories. The worst memories of my life.

The first was me at fourteen, being shoved down a set of concrete stairs at school. My body thumping loudly and thacking painfully as I rolled to a stop. I’d picked myself up, tears streaming down my face. At the top of the staircase, arms crossed stood my brother, eyes cold as he glared down at me.

“Guess I didn’t push her hard enough. She’s still walking.” The people around him, the popular people, the ones who hung off his every word, chuckled nervously as they watched me scramble to collect my things. I felt something wet hit the side of my face. Looking up I reached for my cheek. Spit.

Laughter came from the stairs.

“Get out of here, Agnes. No one wants you here.” I scrambled, books, papers, backpack and ran. I got to the gym owned by our MC, body hurting. Inside Syd, one of the old fella’s had taken one look at me and grown silent. I’d scrubbed my face clean of tears and looked up at him. “I want to learn to fight.”

The dream moved ahead a few years. Prom. Blake Jimson had asked me. I was excited, thrilled. Mum had taken me shopping, Dad had handed me cash. Blake had picked me up, we’d done photos, my Dad had given him a curfew and off he’d gone. Dinner first, then off to the dance.

We’d never made it to the dinner. Instead he’d taken me to my brother’s girlfriend’s house. They’d pulled me out of the limo. In a flouncy jade dress and kitten heels, I’d been no match for them. They’d pulled me into the middle of her yard and proceeded to hold me down as each of the guys pissed on me. Five of them, one after another. Then they’d zipped their pants, grabbed their watching dates, and taken the limo to the dance.

I’d sat on the curb. My phone was in the clutch they’d tossed at me as they drove off. I pulled it out, debating. Mum and Dad would kill someone. Probably my brother. I’d already had enough of them trying to intervene. I could call Syd, but he’d also lose his mind. Instead I called the Prospects. Three of them arrived. Despite my asking for a car they’d come on bikes. Stinking of piss I’d mounted Ice’s bike. 25 year old Ice. He hadn’t complained. Hadn’t said a word as I’d pressed my face into his shoulder and cried.

They’d taken me to the gym, I’d washed and changed into workout clothes from my locker and then strapped my hands. I’d exited the change rooms, starting to warm my body up before heading for a punching bag.

“You want me to take you home?” I shook my head, eyes on the bag not on the big boy-man beside me. “I’m good.”

“Agnes-“

“Dad said curfew at 1am. I’m meant to be at dinner with Blake till 7 then prom at 7.30 till whenever then afterparty. Then I’m meant to be home by 1am. I am not going home until that time.” I glanced up at him then back down at the bag, pulling my hands up into sparring position. “They can’t know about this.”

“Why?”

I didn’t answer, just started beating the shit out of the bag.

The dream shifted again, this time moving forward to last year. I was home, dancing in my underwear, singing at the top of my lungs as I tidied my house. It was something I did regularly. Underwear, old loose t-shirt and the rocking tones of whatever band I felt in the mood for. The knock on the door was unexpected but not unwelcome. I threw it open with a grin expecting my parents or Flo. No one else every came.

“I didn’t lock it you could have-“ I stuttered to a stop. Eyes blank, Ice looked me up and down. The shirt was long enough to hit me mid-thigh, shielding anything.

“Ice?”

“Agnes.” His voice was soft, “let me in.”

“Agnes.” His voice was distant as I stared at him, knowing. Knowing they were gone.

“Agnes.”

“No.” My voice was soft. “No. No, no, no, no.”

“Agnes!” I sat-up, jerking and rolling away from the hand on my arm. I rolled off the bed, hit the floor and came up swinging.

“Whoa.” Ice held up his hands. “It’s okay.”

“Ice?” I shuddered, my eyes flicking from him to the room at large then back. “What?”

“You passed out. I took you home.”

I straightened, eyebrow raised.

“My home.” He amended.

“Right.” I ran a hand through my hair. “What am I wearing?”

“Flo helped.” He gestured to my outfit. “It’s the only thing I had on hand.”

I huffed out a laugh. “A negligee? You just happened to have that hanging around?”

He didn’t respond, just stood on the other side of the bed, his blank dark eyes on me.

“Right.” I pushed to my feet, groaning. “God. My mouth tastes like arse.”

“You know that for a fact?”

I raised my middle finger in reply.

“Come on.” He shifted, moving to the bedroom door. “Let’s get you fed.”

In the kitchen he made me bacon, eggs and toast. Despite my best efforts I wasn’t hungover. In fact, apart from the taste in my mouth, I was feeling good.

He leaned against the bench sipping coffee and watching me. Warmth pooled in my belly.

“So.” I swallowed another bite. “Did we…?”

“No.”

“Damn.” I winked at him.

His eyes watched me as I shoveled food into my mouth. I didn’t know what that look was. For years I’d watched him. Ice was hot. Like H.A.W.T hot. He was massive, his size belying his ability to move without sound. He’d done some fucked up shit in his life – I knew that. People whispered about it. Recruited as a kid, used in war zones, doing shit that gave him a shit ton of money. Got out when he was only in his mid-twenties but with the look in his eye that said he was a lifetime older.

I wanted to hump him into next week. I wanted to ride him until that look left his eyes and all I could see reflected back was his need for me.

But it was never going to happen. I’d been dropping hints for years and he’d never once taken me up on it.

Damn.

I took a shower, found a spare tooth brush in his medicine cabinet and got dressed. My clothes reeked of sweat and booze. I didn’t care. Ice handed me a helmet and off we roared. His custom chopper was a sweet ride. Sexy, sleek, it was huge like the man riding it and loud as a cannon. The vibrations under my butt made me nostalgic. My Dad’s ride had gone to my brother and he’d sold her the same week to a rival club.

The bastard.

I held on to Ice, enjoying the play of muscles under my fingertips as he guided me home. Coming up to my house the motorcycle slowed and I felt his loose muscles tense.

I straightened, moving to look over his shoulder. “Jesus.”

My things were out on the lawn, a bunch of neighbours picking over them. Ice pulled up and I leapt off, running up to the clutter.

“What the fuck!” I ripped the helmet off my head. “Get off my lawn!”

Part Three
Agnes

“It’s a garage sale, sister.” My brother’s lazy drawl came from the porch. I swung, seeing him lounging on a chair with a beer and bunch of his friends. Guys from school. Guys who had no business being in my house.

“Xavier?” I stepped closer. “What are you doing?”

“It’s my house sis. Has been for the last 12 months. Means you’ve been squatting illegally. I’m recouping the money you owe me.”

My heart stuttered to a stop. “What?”

He held up the letter, the same fucking letter I’d received yesterday, and waved it at me. “Don’t you remember? The judge wrote it down for us. It’s all mine. The house, the garage, the cars, the bikes, the money. All mine.”

Helpless rage simmered in my belly. “You can’t do this.”

He lifted his bottle and pointed it at one of his friends. “Remember Tim? Tim’s a cop now. And he says this is all legal-like. Doncha Tim?”

Tim nodded, lifting his own bottle. “Yep. Squatting is illegal in this county. Could end up real bad for you.”

I clenched my fists. “I’ll pay you-“

“No.” Xavier dropped his feet from the fence and leaned forward, arms going to his knees. “Get off my property.”

“But Xavier-“

“First warning. Second and I call the cops. And fancy that, they’re already here.” They all started laughing.

I felt a strong presence behind me. Ice. His hand settled on my shoulder.

“Xavier.”

“Ice.” The men on the porch were silent now, their eyes watchful. “Got nothing to do with you, man.”

Ice moved to block me with his body. “Way I see it, it does.”

They all got tight. I glanced around, the people who’d come to pick over my things were making themselves scarce. I’d say it was Ice’s Cut rather than the scene with my brother. People around here got mighty antsy seeing a biker.

“We got no issue with you or the club.”

Ice rubbed his chin. “Well see, here’s the thing. Your sister is part of the club. Issue with her, issue with me, issue with us.”

Xavier’s face went red, mottling with rage. I recognized that look, it’s the same one he gave me when Dad had told him to get out.

“She fucking you?”

“Yep. Old Lady.” Ice returned. He glanced over. “Call the Prez. Tell him we need a truck and some guys.”

I nodded, already reaching for my phone.

The voices behind me rose, yelling. I left that for Ice to handle. Instead I called, the Prez – Flo’s husband Lincoln – listened as I filled him in.

“Fucker. Your Dad’s Cut still there?”

“Don’t know. Hope so.”

“Be there 20. Hold tight Aggie.” I clicked off, tucking the phone back in my pocket.

Tim was standing before Ice, his badge on display. They were talking in hushed tones, Tim looking pissed off.

Xavier’s eyes were on me. I glanced at my brother and then looked away. Dad’s Will had been the same as his father and his father’s father. All goes to the boy child, who is expected to look after everyone else.

Only my brother was the type who never looked out for anyone but himself. We were twins, but we’d never been blood.

Twenty minutes later a pissed off Lincoln rolled up to the curb in a truck he’d obviously borrow from the depot. A rumble of bikes in the distance let me know that he’d called in the cavalry. He kicked the door open, swinging out. He twisted, pulled his Cut from inside, and shrugged it on. No man worth his weight would be caught dead wearing colours while driving a cage.

Settled, he stalked over to us, eyes going to me. “You good?”

I nodded. His eyes flicked to Ice then over to Xavier. “We got a problem?”

Tim stepped forward. “As Ice has kindly reminded me, rules in this county state that squatters have one hour to remove their things.” I could see the frustration on his face. “Time starts now, Agnes.”

I headed straight for my Dad’s room. Located at the back of the house, it was a den-come-study. Above his desk, nestled in its frame sat his Cut. I pulled it down, handing it over to Lincoln.

“This belongs on the wall in the club house.” He nodded, pivoting on his heel and leaving the room. He’d get it out past Xavier. It was the clubs, not for me or my brothers.

The Prospects had all arrived and were wandering around the house, shoving items into boxes and generally attempting to move things. More and more people arrived- all of them trying to get what I needed, what was mine, out of the house before the hour was up. Most of my stuff sat on the lawn, but the photos and memorabilia my parents had collected over a lifetime was personal.

I headed up the stairs to my room, Ice hot on my heels. It had been trashed. Clothes were slashed to pieces, draws pulled out, bedding destroyed. I paused for a moment looking at the carnage of hate.

“Aggie?” I shook my head.

“I’m good. I knew it wouldn’t be pretty. It’s all good.” I turned to the dressed and started to shuffle it away from the wall. Ice gently moved me out of the way, before heaving it forward in two quick movements. Seated into the plaster was my wall safe. Dad had installed it when I was in my mid-teens. Xavier had been stealing from me and, despite all efforts, Dad had felt this was the best option at the time.

Nothing had really changed since then, all my valuables, paperwork and important items were kept in there. I entered the code, spinning the dial this way and that before it sprang open. Money, jewelry my mum had left me, paperwork, birth certificates and what-not, and two guns. I didn’t openly carry, but I knew how to use a gun – dad had made sure of that.

I handed the guns over to Ice who tucked them into his waist band. A small backpack was slouched against the wall – its contents strewn about the room. I pulled it over and started loading up my items. This was the important stuff. Photos on USB sticks, insurance and cash. I was about to start my life over and this was what I would need to do it.

The rest of the hour went quickly, guys were pulling anything they could into the van. Tools from the garage, Mum’s clothes, pictures and photoframes, couches. The big screen TV and projector. Xavier didn’t say a word as the club lugged items to the truck. I saw his eyes, he was angry. The only thing preventing him from hitting me was Ice’s claim that I was club property.

I knew what that meant. It meant I’d now have to become that. A worry for tomorrow.

The car had been in Dad’s name, so I left it. As much as I wanted to take her, I knew Xavier would try something. Cherry Red, the Convertible had been a labour of love between Dad and I. I took a few minutes to say goodbye.

“Times up.”

The voice came from outside. I pressed a hand to her bonnet and followed Ice as he led me out. The Prospects were closing the doors to the truck.

“Let’s roll.” This came from Lincoln, who was standing at the curb. Ice looked back at the house then shook his head. “Wait.”

He jogged back to my front porch and moved to the windowbox I’d just planted. It took him two heaves before it ripped loose of the railing. He strode back to the truck, handing it to a laughing Lincoln.

“Now we’re good.” I nodded but paused. Turning to Tim and held out a hand.

“Thank you Officer, for your assistance.” He hesitated then shook it once before turning away. My eyes landed on Xavier and his band of merry-men. “Gentleman.” I nodded at them before looking directly at my brother.

“Have a nice life, Xavier. I hope you find the happiness you’re looking for.”

Ignoring his muttered cursing, I turned and followed Ice to his bike. Swinging on, I strapped the helmet down as I looked back at my childhood home. Ice’s hand came to my leg.

“We good?”

I breathed deeply then nodded. “Yeah, let’s go.”

Part Four
Ice

I watched as Aggie wandered through my house. Earlier, her mood had been light, playful. Watching her eat breakfast and joke had made me burn. I’d wanted her in my bed, between my legs, watching her take my cock. I’d been feeling a heavy pull as it begged to be in her wet cunt. As much as it had killed me, I’d let her get dressed and had loaded her up to take her home.

The club came first.

Last night had been an anomaly. Aggie didn’t do drunk. She did tipsy, she did playful, she laughed and teased and brought everyone in the room up when shit was down. Last year, after I’d delivered the news of her parents deaths, she’d been the one to offer comfort to everyone. She’d stayed strong. She’d held herself up and gently reminded people of how much they loved life. When grown-ass men and their old ladies had been wailing and sobbing, Aggie had simply let them speak and smiled her sad, understanding smile. She was motherfucking Teflon.

I’d wanted to wring the neck of every single person at that goddamn funeral. I’d stood by, not close enough to draw attention, but close enough to watch her – ready for the moment she’d crack. She hadn’t. For months after, every night, I’d snuck into her house like some motherfucking stalker, listening to see if she was ok. I’d heard her singing, her muttering to herself, and her getting herself off.

Fuck. It had been torture. Every time I’d heard the whirl of her vibrator, her hiccupping little moans and sighs as she made herself come – fucking torture. But I’d gone back. Again and again. Without her knowing. I’d memorized every damn part of that house. And every one of her breaths.

The boys had arrived with the truck. Grill and Beat walking in carrying boxes. They were laughing.

“Oh don’t worry about bringing anything in.” Aggie hurried over. “God knows where I’m going to end up.”

Here. I wanted to say. You’re going to be here.

Grill grinned, “This stuff needs a freezer.” He brushed past, heading for my kitchen. I went, opening the fridge and noting that there wasn’t a heck of a lot in there. Wasn’t here often enough to be fucked.

“You took my food?”

“Yeah.” This came from Beat who dropped his box on the counter. “The fridge, freezer and cupboards. You been living there for over a year. We figured it was your food, your money that paid for it – not his.”

I watched her looking for a reaction. Slowly the corners of her mouth began to turn up.

“Told Edge to get the batteries.” They all looked over at me. I shrugged. “Took most of the electronics, but whatever’s left he’s gonna be inconvenienced for a while.”

Aggie was now grinning, her beautiful smile lighting her face.

“Did you one better.” This came from the entry way. Smiling like a loon, Edge held up a plastic bag. “All the lightbulbs I could manage.”

My eyes darted to Aggie in time to see her throw her head back and start laughing.

My fingers twitched. I wanted to reach out, haul her against me and capture that laughter against my lips.

“You guys are evil.” She sounded delighted.

She had no fucking clue.

She moved over fussing around with the boxes of food they’d brought in. “Go, sit. I’ll whip up some lunch. Least I can do after today.”

Edge and Grill moved to my lounge, they’d settle finding a game on my big screen. I stayed.

Aggie crossed to my fridge, pulled out a six pack and handed three bottles off to me with a smile. I took them without a word but didn’t move to leave.

She paused, hand in a box. “Ice?”

I rolled one of the beers between my palms, the other two sitting discarded on the bench. “I want a dog.”

She blinked. “Ok?”

“Got to go interstate often for club shit. Can’t take a dog with me for that.”

Her eyes narrowed. “So get a dog sitter.”

“You move in, you can choose the dog if you look after if while I’m away.” I offered. “Condition is nothing smaller than my knee. I want a real fucking dog.”

Here eyebrows shot up, her head dropped to look at my knee, then up to my face. “Move in with you?”

I shrugged. “I got room. Not like I’m using all the space. Not even here that much.” Though I would be if she was.

Her hands had dropped to the kitchen bench and her longs fingers tapped out a quick tempo as she considered my offer. It was a tick of hers. “Rent? Utilities?”

“$150 a week, plus you make dinner cause I’m fucking awful at it. $200 if you won’t. Utilities we split.” Small steps.

“Ice!” Her tone told me what she thought of my offer. It was low, I knew it, she knew it. I didn’t care. I didn’t need the money but I knew she wouldn’t stay here if she didn’t feel like she was contributing.

“And you have to look after my dog when I’m away.” I saw her waiver. The dog thing was the bait.

“Fine. Deal.” She blew out a breath sending stray hairs flying. “You drive a hard bargain.”

I suppressed a smile. “We’ll go to the pound tomorrow.”

She grinned. “’Kay.”

I picked up the beers, winked at her, then turned for the lounge. “No mayo.”

“I know. You weirdo.”

I chuckled, entering my lounge area. I tossed the bottles to Grill and Edge then settled on the couch, kicking my boots off.

“You get it sorted?” The low question came from Grill.

“Hmm?”

“She staying here?” Edge clarified.

“Yeah.”

They both nodded, eyes still on the game.

“Good,” Grill murmured, wincing as a particularly brutal intercept took their chances of a late comeback to nil. “She’s good for you.”

“She ain’t for me.” I stated.

“Brother.” Edge looked over. “She’s been yours since you came back.”

“Dude, she sang Ice, Ice, Baby and all you did was stare at her like you wanted to fuck her against the jukebox. You fucking hate that song. Any of us play that shit you’d have us laid out faster than we could blink.” Grill agreed.

I shrugged. “She was drunk off her tits.”

Edge laughed, “Yeah she was. God, didn’t know Doctor Aggie could twerk.”

We all smirked. I shrugged again.
“Doesn’t matter. Not going there.”

“You don’t, only a matter of time before someone else will.”

I tipped back my beer, considering Grill’s words. I fet Edge’s eyes on me.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“What?”

He frowned. “Just saying, you’d be fuck load better for her than anyone to this point. One, you actually give a fuck about her. Two, you’d be able to protect her from her brother.”

He had a point.

“We going to gossip like grandma’s or watch the game?” I asked, uncomfortable with the attention. They both grinned and turned their attention to the TV screen.

I rolled the thought of me and Agnes around in my head. Sleeping with her would scratch an itch, one that had been there for a long fucking time. Making her my old lady? That was something else entirely.

I scratched my stomach, barely paying attention to the screen as I considered the idea. House, home, Agnes in my bed every fucking night. She was the kind of woman who wouldn’t stop at a dog. She’d want a kid or more eventually. Probably three. White picket fence. Monogamy. Fuck that shit.

“Lunch is ready.”

I looked up from my musing to see her enter, balancing three plates and a smile. “Nothing special just loaded sandwiches and chips, but I think it’ll tick to your guts.”

She dished them out, checked our beer levels and disappeared back into the kitchen leaving us to enjoy our meal in peace. I bit into the sandwich, the taste of it exploding on my tongue.

Edge and Grill both groaned in ecstasy beside me.

I chewed and swallowed. Monogamy. Kids. White picket fence.

I mulled it over as I chewed what was arguably one of the best sandwiches I’d ever eaten. Fuck, I’d see what her dinners were like then make a decision.

Part Five 
Aggie

Animal shelters were depressing forms of torture. I hated wandering their lengths seeing the desperate faces of abandoned animals staring up at me through the bars, knowing I’d never be able to save them all. I reached out, blindly clutching at Ice’s hand. He let me, squeezing it warmly when I needed the reassurance.

I hated animal shelters.

We’d been here long enough for a girl to take our names, details and then hand us a clipboard and pen. She looked harried, explaining that today was half-off as they needed to clear the floor before they received a shipment of more animals tomorrow. Ice took the clipboard, and together we walked up and down the crowded shelter kennels, looking at the puppies, the dogs and then the older ones. None said pick me. None were quite right. But all deserved a home and a happy life.

I wanted to cry.

“It’s okay.” Ice’s voice was low, his head near my ear. “It doesn’t have to be here.”

“No.” I shook my head. “Your dog is here.”

The harried girl from earlier appeared at my elbow. “Made a decision?”

“No. Do you have like a,” I paused, looked over at Ice, then back at the volunteer, “a dog no one wanted. Like a trouble maker?”

She blinked at me a few times then frowned. “I… try the kennel second from the last row, third from the end. There are two in there, though and they go together. It’s why we haven’t been able to adopt them out.”

Ice turned me and we walked to the kennel she’d directed us to. Inside was the ugliest dog I’d ever seen in my life. It was some kind of wolf-hound cross mastiff cross something else. It was like an orgy of breeds had landed in this one poor animal and all of them had cast off their worst part in him. Or her. It.

I reached for the card on the kennel and laughed. “He’s called King.” I held it up to Ice who peered over my shoulder.

“Never seen a less regal looking dog in my life. Looks like he has a Queen with him as well.” He nodded at the card. The bottom half was a profile on the other dog, a small dachshund called Queen who was his bonded friend.

“Is she in there?” I asked, turning to look at the kennel. Ice dropped to a crouch and made soft soothing noises.

“Hey big guy. You ugly dog. I know you and your girlfriend don’t want to be here, hows about you come and meet me, see if you like us and then we bust you out?” Ice asked.

King looked up from his bed, his giant head and miss-matched ears perking. Slowly he stood, stretching, and padded over to where Ice was still murmuring at the fence. On the bed, curled in a ball was a still sleeping Queen.

I watched as King sniffed at Ice’s fingers. “You think he’s friendly?”

“I think he’s been abused, and just wants to trust people.” Ice said calmly. “I get that. Hey big guy? You want to come home with us?”

King sat, looking at us, then slowly lifted a paw to scratch at the door of the kennel. Ice stood, dusting off his hands. “Go get the volunteer. I’ll stay here. I want to meet him face-to-face, make sure he doesn’t have any behavioural issues when we touch his girlfriend and if we’re all good, we’re taking these two.”

My heart was full. “You said you wanted one. And a big one.”

He shrugged. “One for me, one for you. You deal with the midget.”

I couldn’t contain it, I threw myself at him, wrapping my arms around his neck and squeezing him tight. He gave me that, hugging me back for a moment before he disentangled himself.

“Go, get the volunteer. I want to get them home. God knows we need to get them food, bedding and toys, all that stuff too.”

I beamed at him – beamed! “‘kay!” Then ran off to see a lady about our dogs.

Part Six
Ice

Watching Aggie introduce our dogs to my house was a killing me. She was like a damn kid at Christmas, running around the house, the big dog and little one trailing her.
“And this is where you’ll sleep. And this is my room. And this is Ice’s room. And this is the bathroom. And this is the kitchen. And this-”

I settled on a kitchen stool and made a list of shit we’d need. Beds, bowls, food. The size of King meant I’d need to invest in a goddamned shovel to scoop his shit, but I was cool with that. Anyone coming would take one look at him and think twice.

The volunteers had given us collars and leads for them, but they were ratty and old. I added that to the list.

“Ice?” I looked up, seeing Aggie standing in the doorway, dancing from foot to foot. I raised an eyebrow, letting her know she had my attention.
“Umm… I… Ummm…” She looked nervous. “King won’t get off the couch.”

I shrugged. “And?”

She blinked. “Your couch is nice. Aren’t you worried about dog hair?”

I shrugged again. “Hair comes out. The dude ruins it, I buy a new one. It’s his house too, Aggie.” I looked back down at the list, ignoring her intake of breath.

“OK.” Her voice was warm. “Whatcha doing?”

“Shopping list.” I grunted. “Need shit for them.”

“Oh.” She came to me then, placing a hand on my back and looking over my shoulder. “You haven’t got toys on that list.”

I paused. “Do they need them?”

“Uh, yeah.”

I wrote toys down.

“We should take them with us.”

“They ain’t going to let dogs in a store.”

“In a pet store they do. There are Youtube channels dedicated to it. You take your dog, let them pick whatever they want.”

I sighed. “Fine. Get the damn dogs.”

She beamed at me, turning, calling. “Puppies! Walkies!”

Kill me now, I was pussy whipped.

The store was more like a warehouse, large with concrete floors and rows of industrial shelving packed full of everything you could need for every type of domestic animal.

Aggie handed me the dogs and grabbed a trolley. They weren’t bad dogs, King was good on the lead, Queenie pulled, darting about wanting to get in everyone’s way. I bent down, scooped her up and tucked her into my chest, ignoring her tongue which immediately commenced to licking the bottom of my jaw.

“Lord have mercy.” I looked over at Aggie who had her phone out and was snapping a picture.

“What?”

“I’m sending that to Flo. You put that on Tinder as your profile picture and the girls will come flooding in.” She informed me, texting.

I rolled my eyes, heading to the bedding aisle, King lumbering beside me. People were giving us a wide birth, their eyes taking in my Cut and King’s size. Aggie followed, pushing the cart, throwing things in with wild abandon that caught her attention. My eyes scanned the bedding and I pulled three from the shelf, threw them down and then looked down at King.
“Bed.” I ordered. He looked at me, lumbered over to them, sniffed at each then settled into one.

“That works.” Aggie laughed. “Think it’ll work with Queenie?”

“Your dog, your rules.” I said, aware of the struggling bundle in my arms. I put her down, turning the lead over to Aggie.

She pulled some beds off the shelf while I put the rejected ones back and threw the chosen one into the trolley.

“Queenie, bed! Bed, Queenie! Bed!” She told her, gesturing towards to the bedding. Queenie ignored her, pulling towards the opposite end of the aisle. “No, Queenie. Bed! Bed!”

My mouth tugged up at the corner. “I’d say no is the answer.”

Aggie blew out a breath, causing loose hairs to flutter. “She’s poorly trained is all. It’ll be fine. She just needs more love and time.”

I smiled, “OK, babe.” I snagged one of the beds and threw it in.

“What is she doesn’t like that one?” Aggie asked, her nervous dance back.

“We come back and buy another one.”

She worried her lip. “But that’s time and money and I don’t have a car…”

I shrugged. “You use mine. I have the bike. It’s not a problem, babe.”

“‘Kay.” She didn’t sound convinced, but I was over it. I pushed us further into the rabbit warren, grabbing the food, bowls (where a store clerk informed us they could personalise them in-store, so of course Aggie insisted we do that shit), collars and leads and bones and dental stuff and shampoo and coats (dogs need coats? They have fucking fur.), before we ended in the toy aisle.

I don’t know what to say except I wasn’t expecting the reaction I got from either dog. Queenie went mental. She immediately dived into a pile of squeaker toys, emerging moments later to destroy it on the floor of the store. Turns out, little dogs are blood thirsty fuckers. I could grow to like that one.

King though. He sat at the entrance and looked at me. I crouched beside him, hand on his head. “You wanna play, buddy?” Slowly, as if not believing his luck he lifted up, taking on step forward, his head swinging back to look at me.

“Good boy. Go on. Fetch buddy.” I dropped the lead, but followed closely, watching to see what he would do. In a surprise move he ignored all the balls, frizbees, and squeakers to head straight to the soft toys. Gently he reached into a big and ruffled about pulling from it a stuffed fluffy bright pink lamb.

“Awww.” I heard Aggie melt behind me. I sighed.

“Really, bud?” He immediately lay down, licking at the lambs head. I closed my eyes, knowing I’d forever be losing face when the guys came over. “Fuck it. OK. But we’re getting you some goddamned tennis balls and shit. And you better make those mofos lose their shit first time they see you.”

King just kept licking.

“Let’s go.” I stood, collecting King’s lead and caught a glimpse of Aggie’s face. “What?”

“I want to kiss you right now.”

I rolled my eyes. “Over a pink lamb?”

“Panty-melting hotness.” She nodded.

“Your dog is murdering another toy.” I pointed out.

“Queenie!” She spun, turning to the vicious psychopath.

Decisions, decisions.

Kim_Congram_Final_1000px_for_dark_backgrounds

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