Ace of Hearts (Blind Jacks MC Book 3)
~ Ace ~
Rolling onto his side, Ace stuffed his pillow under his head. In the dark of night, he braced himself to fight the battle none of his brothers knew about. Dark thoughts circled around in his brain, and there were just so damned many of them. Each swooped down to peck at him, slowly robbing him of his sanity as they took their never-ending pound of flesh.
Images of his childhood flooded his mind. His old man had been part of a club his entire life, and under the former club president, things had been harsh. The poor slob was gone more than he was at home.
Ace’s mother mentally checked out when he was about nine or ten, leaving him to try and manage his brother on his own. The one image that haunted him most of all was coming upon his mother sitting by the fire pit in their backyard. She was holding a stick with a gigantic marshmallow stuffed squarely on the end. For a split second, he thought that she’d snapped out of it and was back to being her old self. Then he saw the vacant expression in her eyes and knew that wasn’t true.
Movement caught his attention, and that’s when his world fractured. Joe was sitting right there in front of her, skinning Sparky like he was wild rabbit. Looking from the one to the other of them, Ace tried to work out what was creepier: that his twin brother had killed their family pet or that his mother hadn’t noticed.
The argument that erupted between his brother and him was all kinds of epic. Not that it mattered, ‘cause he continued to grow into a delinquent of biblical proportions.
Chasing away the horror of his childhood provided little comfort. Letting out a frustrated growl, Ace tossed and turned in a vain effort to get comfortable in his own skin.
His mother hadn’t lasted long after that night, and his father was gunned down in a gang shootout before Ace came of age. His brother had ended up committing the ultimate act of evil on a fourteen-year-old girl. Ace couldn’t even find it in his heart to hate the man who finally killed the evil bastard. Ryder was protecting little Rose, and if Ace had been out…well, he might have saved Ryder the damn trouble. Unfortunately, he’d been locked behind bars for another one of his brother’s hijinks at the time.
A knock sounded at his door, drawing him from his little trip down memory lane. Bolting upright, Ace shouted angrily, “Go the hell away! I’m trying to sleep.”
Alyssa’s voice sounded softly through the door. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
Rolling out of bed, his long legs ate up the distance to the door. Jerking it open, he watched the petite blonde take a staggering step back. Her gaze skittered up and down his body, and her eyes got big. Cursing under his breath, he realized that he’d forgotten to cover himself. All his old battle scars were on full display and apparently scaring the hell of her. Looking down, he saw the bandage on his leg wound was bloody again. Fuck, he really needed to stay off his leg for a bit.
“You’re bleeding again,” her trembling voice pointed out the obvious, gnawing away at his irritability.
“Ryder thought you might need some company.”
Unsuccessfully trying to dial it down a notch, he barked, “I don’t fucking see Ryder anywhere.”
Flinching, she took a second to pull herself together before speaking. “He noticed that you seemed real uptight.”
Sighing, he dropped his hand from the door. “Why the hell are you here, Lys?”
“He sent me to see if you need…serviced.”
“Do you want to stay the night?”
“If you want me, I’ll stay.”
He glared. “In that case, no, thank you. Have a nice fuckin’ night.”
Slamming the door in her pretty face, he made a mental not to punch Ryder in the fucking face for trying to pimp women his way. It was shitty to a man like him. Like the other club women, Alyssa didn’t want any part of the man wearing a child molester’s face. He tried to imagine how looking up at him during intercourse would feel to one of them. Probably pretty fuckin’ disturbing, he imagined.
Flinging himself back down onto the bed, he rolled over with his back to the door. Fuck them all for making it abundantly clear that he was the one and only brother that even club whores didn’t want. The way she’d stared at his body was unnerving. She didn’t look quite disgusted, more like appalled.
In his own defense, Ace had come up hard. Joe had been sneaky and vicious when they were kids. His younger-by-three-minutes twin had shot him with pellets and BBs, burned him with a cattle branding iron, pierced his skin with various sharp objects, and ran him over with his dirt bike all before the age of fourteen. Add to that getting shanked in prison a couple of times over a ten-year period and his shootout with Ryder. The bottom line was, Ace knew damn good and well he looked monstrous.
A line from a children’s fairy tale jumped to the forefront of his mind. Say there, monstrosity, do you know the time?
Punching his pillow, he shifted to get comfortable. Fuck them all. He was lucky to even be alive.
His mind drifted to the pretty redhead who had tended to his needs at the clinic. She hadn’t seemed put-off by his body. She’d been all kinds of interested in him and touched him easily—eagerly, in fact. Her tender touch was just what he’d needed to take the edge off during his time of suffering.
She’d written her phone number on his arm in bold, black letters with a marker, and then promptly never answered his calls or texts. If she wasn’t interested, why bother giving him her number? Maybe she’d acted impulsively and didn’t want to risk a repeat performance.
Something ugly churned up in his gut at the thought of her mistaking him for his brother. That was something that happened regularly when his brother was alive, but not so much anymore.
Closing his eyes, Ace forced himself to quiet. He went to his happy place. Lying in a field of fresh-smelling wildflowers where nothing could touch him, he stared up at the imaginary sky. Big, fluffy clouds drifted by. Hearing a bee buzzing nearby, he imagined it flying from flower to flower, gathering pollen. A far-away dog barking joined the soft buzzing sound.
Anxiety crept forward from the back of his mind. That wasn’t supposed to happen when he went to his happy place. Suddenly, the buzzing got louder, and a jolt of electricity surged through his body. Sitting up in his wonderful dream world, he saw his brother with a cattle prod in his hand. Shaking his head, Ace felt the fury building in his gut. This was supposed to be his safe place. Yet, here was Jo, invading it, just like he had every other aspect of his life.
The clouds turned dark as his brother cackled maniacally, approaching him with the electronic cattle prod. As the storm gathered overhead, Ace realized the barking was getting closer. His subconscious mind knew what that meant. A chill crept up his spine and he braced himself for what was to come. Why is it that there is no getting out of a fight with the crazy bastard, even now that he’s dead?
Movement and sound converged to alert him to Sparky’s presence. Tonight, like in all his other nightmares, the poor animal presented sans his skin. Barking furiously, he acted more like his deranged brother than the pet Ace once knew and loved.
With the dark clouds circling in one direction and his brother the other, Ace knew he was in for a rough night.