| 25| Ax to the Wood ||

“I’m so curious to know how you met.”

Lacey brought her attention from Devlin, chopping wood outside with the older man, to the man’s wife who was working diligently on a chicken pot pie.

“You don’t really seem like the biker boy type.”

Lacey covered her giggle with the hand that wasn’t holding her cup of tea. “I’m not, but Devlin’s―” She was back looking at him through the window. She knew if he looked at the window, he’d see her creeping on him, but somehow, she felt safe enough to stare.

To her own surprise, she wasn’t even staring because of his dark beauty. She was more tangled up in his complexity. She was so certain who he was when she first met him, but he’d shaken her assumptions to the core the last couple times she’d spent with him.

Where there was only difference, she now found common ground. Well, with some things. Other things were completely different, but even in that, she found peace.

He placed another piece of wood on the tree stump, and with one swing, split the log into several pieces.

“Michael is a sight. Isn’t he?”

Lacey looked at the woman again with furrowed brows. “Why do you call him that? Michael?”

“Oooo, you’re good. I’ll tell if you do.”

Lacey smiled at the play in the woman’s voice. She could tell the woman was beautiful in her youth because she was pretty even in her older age with her startling blue eyes, slim nose, and mouth. Her face had fallen with age, but her high cheekbones did not go unnoticed. Her milky white skin was wrinkled and had spots that delineated her time on the earth was lengthy.

“We met at a single’s mixer that I host every year.” She adjusted her lean on the window sill and let out a long breath. “That was five years ago now.”

“Hmm,” the woman said, with frowned up eyebrows. “A single’s mixer? That doesn’t sound like Michael at all.”

Lacey laughed. “It wasn’t. Came in the door arguing with a woman who owned a shop next door to the art gallery I was hosting at that year because he parked his bike on the sidewalk.”

The older woman let out an infectious little laugh. “Now that’s my boy.” She gently placed the dough she’d been rolling out over the filled pie crust and started trimming the excess. “I’m such a fan of the meet-cute. Gah.” A pleasant smile crinkled the corner of her eyes. “I met Benny at the diner I worked at. He was in town on a job, worked for the railroad. We both were hesitant with him not planning on sticking around, but when he got to tellin’ his stories―” She paused and gazed into space for a moment. “I wasn’t really the smart type back then. He was handsome, I was bored of my life in the little town, so, I told my mama I was leavin’ and wasn’t plannin’ to come back.”

“Your mom was okay with that?”

“She ain’t have much of a choice. I was walking out the door with a bag of my belongings in a pillowcase over my shoulder. Benny was waiting in his truck for me. Haven’t looked back since.”

“You haven’t seen your mom since you left?”

“I’ve been back to visit, but haven’t looked back and regretted that moment. The best damn decision I made in my life. The next best thing was meeting Michael’s mother.”

Lacey was looking back out the window at the woman’s mention of her handsome companion.

“Emilia Sinn, she became. When Benny first started working at her car shop, she wasn’t married yet.” The woman pressed the edges of her pie together with practiced ease. “I can’t think of her last name too― Oh, yes, Mason. Emilia Mason. There were three of them. She had an older brother and younger sister.” She opened the oven and placed her pie inside. “She was a beautiful woman. Pretty to look at, but she had a calm warmth to her. That’s what I was drawn to. I didn’t understand her relationship with Luscious Sinn. I was a religious woman at that point. I warned her against the man, but he was a charming bastard, if you’re into that gruff, rough sort of rugged charm.” The woman winked at Lacey who was certainly blushing.

She would have laughed the woman off the stage five years ago. She wanted someone just like Jacob, but Devlin found her first. “It doesn’t always make sense, does it?”

“That’s why it’s so fun.” The woman worked to clean up the countertop she used to roll out the dough. “Michael is Devlin’s middle name. It was Luscious that pushed Devlin on Emilia, and if anyone knew the man, they knew he usually got his way. Anyway, I said it as a warning, but that message was too late. His name embodies the dichotomy of Emilia and Luscious’ energetic forces to the tee, if I do say so myself.”

“Hmm,” Lacey brought her attention back out the window. “We always focus so much on what made Michael and Lucifer so different but look at all they had in common.”

“Mhm.”

Lacey started when the woman was standing right behind her, looking out the window beside her.

“I can see someone’s rubbing off on you.”

“Maybe, that’s silly, right? He has such an influence on me, and I can only think he likes me―”

“Oh, my goodness, girl. Didn’t know you could be so blind. That man is beyond liking.”

“What? How do you― what would make you say that?”

“I held that boy in my arms when he was a few days old. In all that time, not once has he ever brought any woman up this way. Third, he won’t show it like you or I or even Ben, because we all have our own way of loving and expressing that love. Like Benny, he just can’t stop talking to the ones he loves.” The woman laughed out loud. “Just talking, and talking and talking. Some nights I have to tell him to just shut up Ben, you’re keeping up the mice in the barn.” She laughed again, more to herself. When she sobered up, she started talking again. “We’re so stuck seeing life through our own lens that we don’t realize how narrow our perspective is. Michael’s not like you or me, and that is a good thing. Imagine how boring the world would be without him.” The woman winked at Lacey who was certain she blushed, again.

She steadily gazed out the window and watched Devlin chop the wood while the other man set on a tree stump talking away. Devlin stopped, wiped his brow and said something back before continuing to lay ax to the wood. If she’d seen him isolated in that moment, she’d think he was just an ordinary, hardworking man helping a father or an uncle care for the homestead. He’d long ago taken off his leather jacket that had his brotherhood’s logo on it. He also removed his shirt and was, despite the cool air, in nothing but a t-shirt. She could see the air puffing out his mouth. He’d catch a cold if he kept on.

There was a silence that fell there, both women in their own minds for a while.

“Tell me about him. What was he like as a child?” Lacey wanted to know, bringing her attention back inside the house.

The other woman crossed her arms and chuckled a bit. “He and his sister were like cats and dogs. What might be a surprise to you is that Devlin was the kind, gentle dog. His sister, Katerina, on the other hand, that girl was a pistol, still is, I’d wager.”

“Hmm, he mentioned he had a sister, but he doesn’t talk about her much.” Lacey took a sip of the tea that was still steaming.

The woman grunted. “Doesn’t surprise me after the way Katerina left things when their mother died. Haven’t seen her around here in a long while. Growing up, because of all the M.C. violence, she spent a lot of time in Los Angeles with Emilia’s younger sister.” She snapped her fingers. “Oh, what was that girl’s name?” She rubbed her chin. “Emily. That’s right! Anyway,” The woman continued. “Kat is out in L.A. and hasn’t looked back since she and Devlin had a fallin’ out over her absence before their mother passed. Emilia was asking after her, you see, and she refused to come. The woman was on her deathbed. Sad really. How everything fell apart when Emilia left us all behind. She was the glue to that family.” The woman went back to cleaning.

“Do you need help with the dishes?” Lacey offered. She hated washing dishes, but it was the polite thing to do.

The woman laughed, literally laughed out loud. “With soft-looking hands like that, you probably couldn’t tell me when you last washed a dish.” She laughed some more.

“It’d be like riding a bike, right? Not something you actually forget.”

“I said this to Michael when he was younger and asked to help. Since you feel like helping, out why don’t we keep you to rinsing and stacking?”

Lacey laughed. “Fair enough. I guess.”

“I know Michael said y’all’d be leaving before dark, but there’s plenty of space if you want to stay, and not to mention a pie in the oven, cookies going in after that. It’s a long drive back into town, and it’s not the warmest out.”

Lacey laughed seeing the woman’s eyes sparkle with hope. “Thank you for the extended invitation.” She looked out the window once more and locked eyes with her handsome rogue. His intensity made her unsteady, but she didn’t mind it so much when he was around for her to lean on. She turned her attention back to the woman. “I’ll have a talk with Devlin.”

Triumph echoed on the woman’s face. “I’ll get the spare room ready then.”

Lacey laughed with hesitation. “I mean, I haven’t talked to him yet.”

Another laugh, but it was more a snicker. “Call it a hunch, but I have a feeling you’ll be taking me up on my offer.”  

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