VOLUME ONE: MAX
"How long you going to keep starring at that damn picture Stone?" I look up at Matthews' ugly mug with a smirk on my face.
"As long as it will take for me to memorize her face."
"Ahhh, your making me want to puke." He smiles but I know for a fact he is still living on cloud nine. His daughter was born a few weeks ago and although born premature, yesterday he got a letter and a picture of her officially home.
In one week, our unit will be flying home and we are all eager. Even Jones' cranky ass is happy to be going home. Shawna's letters helped get me through these last six months and I couldn't be happier. The picture she sent me yesterday however, is too naughty not to be looked at every few moments, although I don't plan on letting these assholes see it, I'll stab their eyes out with a dull knife before I let them have what's mine.
"When you going to put a ring on that finger by the way?" Wells calls out from the back of the Humvee. His thick Missouri accent heaves as he speaks. Wells is one huge fucker, and although he can kick all of our ass in training, and spends most of his days pumping iron, he is as delicate as a flower. We all pick on him when he skypes his girlfriend Joanna back home because they make those baby noises at each other.
We have been driving for a little over an hour. Our job today is an easy one, look through the town to see if we can find anything out of place. Our unit has a certain technique for finding IED's in the desert, and Jones is our leader. He drives, I'm look out, and Peterson, Wells, Matthews and Tolino are backup.
It's strange being on a unit with Tolino. He's the son of my dad's enemy back home, but here, he is my brother. The man that would protect my life, as I would protect his.
"Same day you do brother." I smile when I turn to him shaking his head. Wells and his girl have been together for over ten years and I honestly don't know what the hell he is waiting on. As for me, I plan on asking Shawna as soon as I get back.
This is my last tour, I am finally done.
"Up ahead." I look over to the building in front of us, as the Humvee slows down.
"Got something?" I ask, looking over to Jones.
"Don't know. Thought I saw some movement." I catch his eyes moving up and down and all around us, then turn and do the same.
"Should we check it out?" Tolino asks.
"Let's do it, don't necessarily like being a sitting duck." Wells calls out.
We exit the Humvee and begin walking towards the building.
I wake in a cold sweat, clothes sticking to my body as I jump out of bed, and rush straight to the bathroom attached to my room. Lifting the toilet lid, I expose the dinner I had last night then lay back against the bathtub, taking deep breaths.
Three nights in a row that dream has haunted me.
Once my breathing is more calm and collected, I lift myself up and lean into the sink. Turning the cold water on, full blast, I rinse out my mouth and brush my teeth. When done, I splash some cold water on my face and look at my reflection in the mirror.
I feel nothing but pain in my body as it begins to shake violently. I drank last night, something I know I shouldn't do, but do anyways. Although I know it's not the alcohol that does this to my body, it certainly doesn't help the situation either.
The nightmares are getting worse, and as it gets closer and closer to the anniversary of the day I wish to never remember, my body is reacting violently. I grab a towel, wipe my face and head out of my bathroom and head straight for the kitchen.
My house isn't much, but it's home. It's where I thought home would be for me and Shawna, but that ship sailed long ago when she lied to me.
A small two-bedroom, two bath bungalow. It was a rare house in the east coast but when I saw it, it reminded me of Shawna, so I bought it. It was where I saw coming home from work to her cooking dinner. It was where I saw us making love in our bedroom, on our anniversary. It was where I saw bringing her home and carrying her over the threshold with a small little bundle in her arms.
Now it's just a lonely small house with too many big holes.
The one good thing about the house that I live in with ghosts, is that I am only fifteen minutes away from the clubhouse.
Being a part of the Nightmare Warriors MC has given me pride and confidence. It was the club my daddy and his friends started, and the club my brother and I now controlled. I never thought my life would revolve around a bunch of leather clad wearing men, but I have to say, I couldn't be happier.
Well, maybe a little happier, if I had a certain feisty woman in my life that didn't hate me.
Thirty minutes later after having a nice hot cup of coffee inside one of the most obnoxious looking mugs I have ever seen, I sit down and turn on the television to the world-wide news channel and chuckle when I glance back down at my mug.
Mom loves to come and do things around my brother Austin and I's house. Having only boys made mom a little stir crazy, especially given the fact that neither of us couldn't care less what the hell our houses looked like. My mug collection is one of the things she likes to add to and this one happens to say 'Maximus' in giant bold black font.
Mom named me after a Roman Cognomen from the Latin word meaning greatest. My father was happy enough with the name since it had much to do with power, unlike my brother Austin, who was named after where they conceived him. I would later hate the damn name because they would make a damn movie with the main character named Maximum. Since I was in sixth grade when the movie gladiator came out, I was mocked all day, every day. From then on, I only wanted to be called Max.
I stare at the screen in front of me as they go over why our troops are still in Afghanistan. My body cringes with the images that haunted me from my nightmares this morning. I turn the television off and rub my temples. Head pounding, I stand up to get some pain killers out of my bathroom but stop when I hear my phone chime beside me.
Austin: Church in 20. Get everyone here.
I respond, telling my brother that I am on my way, and send out a group text to everyone. The boys know better than not to show up, but since a text doesn't always work out, I call Shane and have him make sure they all got it. I know most of the assholes are at the clubhouse anyways.
He answers on the second ring.
"Fuckin' creepy when you answer like that. You know that right?" I smirk when I know the bastards is rolling his eyes right now.
"Got your text. I'm already here. I'll make sure they all show up."
"Appreciate that Shane. Although I figured your lonely ass would be at the clubhouse."
"f**k you." I laugh as he hangs up.
Shane has always been a moody bastard. Even when we were younger and watched our fathers dominate this town with the MC. Austin and I idolized what our father stood for, Shane just simply idolized his father. Shane lost his father, Gunner, when he was fifteen by the hands of the man we vowed never to get revenge on, Snake. Since then, he was always an asshole. We thought when he joined the MC and got married, that it would be better, but something happened with his ex-wife that caused his attitude to turn from brood to violent. Shane recently shacked up with Candice's coworker Lyla, but even that seems like it is going down the toilet. Candice is the beautiful red head that my brother is officially gaga over.
I check the time on my phone and see I only have five minutes to get ready and head over. I jump in the shower, washup, get dressed and head out. My bike meets me in the driveway when I come out and the memory of my first time being on a beast comes roaring through my mind.
I was ten years old, dad had just gotten a new bike, and against mom's wishes, took me and Austin out to ride it. Austin, being thirteen, was big for his age, so he was able to ride by himself. I was still on the small side so Dad simply hopped on and put me on the back of it. I will never forget the feeling of being on a bike, having the roar of the beast bellow my body. Since then, I have tried to find bikes that only remind me of my father. Even if I have to restore them myself.
I look up at the sky thinking dad would have liked my newest beauty.
I fell in love with repairing them when I was patched in. One of the original members Craze, taught me everything he knew and I loved every part of it. When dad got an idea to open up a mechanics shop, located not too far off the property of the club, I jumped at the idea. Although he passed before he could see any of my work, Austin has always filled the void of pride when he sees my newest creations.
"Mr. Stone heads up." I look up just in time to catch the falling pig's skin. My neighbor, Randall, comes jogging up my driveway with another football in his hand and sweat dripping down his face.
"Hey man, you know, normally the game is just played with one, right?" I laugh and toss the ball back over to him.
"Yeah, yeah, I know." He says chuckling as well. "Dad thought it would be a good idea to try my speed with two. If I can catch one, throw it, and catch another a second later, then my speed will increase."
Don't know much about football but it's nice to see Mr. Kellony and his son Randall, once again working on his game. After I moved in, I was angry with picking a place that I would now never start a family in. Losing Shawna was hard for me, but especially because I happen to move us somewhere where we would have neighbors, block parties, large birthday parties, even a Christmas lighting contest. I may not be happy being single, but it's nice to still be around people that don't see me as that MC biker guy.
"That's great man." I say then head to my bike, knowing if I'm late as VP of the club, Austin will have my ass. I may be a joker ninety-eight percent of the time, but I make sure the club always comes first.
"Hey Max." Mr. Kellony calls out and I wave back to him.
They certainly beat most of the neighbors that usually stare at me when I drive in and out of here. Mr. Kellony let me know straight away after I moved in that he always watched out for this neighborhood. He was a former, now retired, fireman, and I respected him for that.
Driving on my bike on the way to the clubhouse is bringing too many memories roaring through my mind. Like the first time I had Shawna on the back of my bike. We met at a bar that I frequented and she started working at. When I saw her, I knew I had to have her. She was five foot two, with a tiny waist and nice curves. Her smooth brown skin, wavy long black hair, and dark blue eyes called to me. It could have also have something to do with the fact that she was going off on some shmuck double her size for attempting to grope her. She had her hand on his throat in some kind of hold and looked hot as f**k cursing at him.
That night sealed the deal. I spoke with her all night, even though she figured I was just trying to get into her pants. At first, I was, but when she let me take her home, and invited me in, all we did was talk. All night long. From then on she was on the back of my bike and in my bed. I'll never forget her hands around my waist and the feel of her head laying on my back.
I press on the gas as I speed down to the clubhouse, intent on getting rid of the bad memories that accompany the good ones.