Living With Shame
The Irish Bastards Volume One
Copyright © 2017 by KJ Bell.
All rights reserved.
There are two versions to every story, the right version and the wrong version, the truth and the lie. It is often hard to distinguish, because the people who believe their tale superior have manipulated both versions.
Our love survived a battle of legality and morality. However, fate proved impossible to outrun. Despite brief victories, a hurdle always remained, one infinitely higher to jump. At some point, I can’t even remember, we stopped trying.
I thought he quit.
I thought I gave up …
I thought wrong.
The moment I thought I finally moved on, Shame showed up, begging for another chance.
I caved, like I always did.
This time would be different. I could feel it, or at least I wanted to believe it. I convinced myself the past owned the worst parts of us.
I loved him and he loved me. Nothing would keep us apart this time.
“That’s it,” Shame coaxed. “Scream for me, baby. Give in.”
“Oh, God,” I cried out.
Shame’s grip on my waist tightened. I held his intense stare and smiled. The beautiful way our bodies fit together, and how we moved with the graceful rhythm of a lover’s ballad, made our hearts seemingly beat as one.
Our gazes remained locked, while we shared the raw intensity of our fated reunion, and absorbed an undeniable connection we felt from the instant we met.
The moment felt right, only amidst the passion, existed something unequivocally wrong. We should not have been making love, especially not in the bed I shared with my boyfriend. But there were two versions to every story … even a love story.
Our love had created so much sorrow, avoiding each other became our only solace. Yet ending up together seemed an inevitable disaster. We never had any control. I had never been able to resist Shame. He fought even harder than me to prevent a love affair and failed all the same.
I blamed it on First Love Syndrome.
Is that a thing?
I thought it was. Maybe it had never been deemed a medical diagnosis, but it should be.
A first love felt terminal.
A first love captivated you and refused to let go. No matter how far removed, the smallest reminder warmed you to your soul, brought a smile to your lips and caused your heart to flutter.
Whenever I saw Shame, I surrendered. His hold on me knew no moral bounds. It could not be relinquished.
As I continued to ride him, his hands rose to massage my breasts. His warm touch set my skin on fire. The pleasurable ascent felt unbearable as the fall drew closer. He felt it too. Of course, he would never admit it. The deepening crease between his eyebrows and the rapid breaths he tried to control gave him away.
“Come on, baby. You first,” he breathed, smirking.
Each and every time, Shame saw to my satisfaction before his own. Only this time, I struggled to get Collin out of my head.
How could I let go of an amazing guy, a good boyfriend, and a guy who didn’t make my head spin like it did with Shame?
I knew the answer, even if it made me a horrible person and a bit deranged. The lack of turmoil represented why Collin and I wouldn’t last. I craved chaos, preferred the mayhem of spiraling out of control.
Doubt swam throughout my thoughts without a clear destination, but crashed into brief moments of justification, where my mind refused to believe a truth existed beyond the one I lived right now. I felt like I could drown in the uncertainty, but I also knew Shame would save me. He always did, and his devotion became my biggest fear.
What would happen when I no longer needed rescuing?
The way Shame’s gaze moved over my face told me he knew my thoughts were elsewhere. With a sexy grin, he brought his chest up from the bed and held me at the waist. “Oh, you’re gonna come, Dimples,” he rasped before sealing his hot mouth over my nipple.
Each upward thrust of his hips, Shame hit a spot that brought me right back to him and forced me to submit. I tipped my head back, cried out his name, and clawed the back of his neck. Not too much longer, my body jerked with his as we simultaneously climaxed. My legs vibrated and my mind clouded with mixed emotions of love and remorse, happiness and sorrow.
Collin would be devastated and it would be entirely my fault.
Shame collapsed back onto the bed, his eyes gleaming with deep satisfaction. God, I loved him. No matter how wrong, no matter how relentless the guilt, I loved him.
I exhaled a final blissful moan as Shame’s hands gingerly caressed my thighs. My eyes never left his, which caused my heart to ache. The silence stretched out. I was afraid I was going to cry, or worse Shame knew I was going to cry, which was equally as awful.
Why did our love have to be so complicated?
Why did it hurt?
With a ragged breath, I curled my body forward and settled on Shame’s hard chest. I craved the reassurance his warmth provided me. My eyes welled with tears, but I felt happy. My joy resonated in the way he always looked at me, like he would cherish me for a lifetime and then some. I wanted him to, no, I needed him to.
But with our history, could it ever work out for us?
We were perfect when we gave up control and allowed our bodies to do the talking. The rest of the time, though … we were severely flawed.
His strong hands massaging my shoulders made me relax.
“What’s on your mind?” he asked.
I sat up and shrugged, a small smile tugging at my lips. He knew me so well, knew I was toying with the idea of bolting from the bed, from him.
Perhaps our past defined exactly why we would last.
“I’m fine,” I answered.
His forehead creased. “I’m worried about you.”
“Is that your way of saying you love me?” A slight giggle tickled my throat.
With the earnest of expressions, he rose from the bed and held me by the waist with one arm. “Nah,” he replied. I hugged his neck and caught his sincere gaze. “When I want to tell you I love you, I’ll hold your face—” His other hand came up to caress my cheek. I leaned into his touch as my smile grew. “Like this, and say, ‘I love you, Breeze Clery.’ I’ve always loved you.”
I placed my hand over his. “I love you, too.”
“Good,” he whispered and softly grazed his nose over mine.
I pressed a single finger to his lips. “Good.”
His soft lips kissed my finger and then he held my hand close to his prickly cheek. “You gotta quit runnin’.”
I adored the playfulness in his voice. “Well then, you gotta quit making me run,”
His head tipped back with an indulgent laugh. I loved the sound. “Oh, I thought we already established I’ll always give you a reason to run.”
“But I have to trust you,” I finished his sentence for him.
“No matter how things seem, I’ll always do right by you, Dimples.”
My smile widened. “I know. I’m here … aren’t I? No more runnin’.” I held my palm up. “Swear.”
He promptly swept me underneath him, until his body covered me like a warm blanket of security I desperately needed. “It ain’t ever felt like this.”
“I know,” I whispered, hugging him with my arms and legs as tight as I could. He would have to go soon, and I would have to confess everything to Collin. I belonged to Shame, and no amount of pretending otherwise would ever change that. It never had.
Something took Shame’s attention away from me and to the window. His body tensed and mine followed.
“Someone’s outside,” he asserted, leaping from the bed.
I grabbed the sheet to cover myself as my nerves spiked. We were caught. I felt awful. I never wanted to break Collin’s heart. I didn’t want him to find out about my betrayal on accident. He deserved to hear the truth from me, and now I would never get the chance to explain.
Shame scrambled for his clothes. In a mad rush, he slipped on his jeans and fastened them. As he hovered near the window, I followed his lead, leaped out of bed and got dressed.
“Fuck!” Shame roared.
He retrieved his gun from the nightstand and tucked it in the back of his jeans. I focused on his tightened jaw. A sick, uneasy feeling settled in my gut. Collin’s presence wouldn’t elicit that kind of anger in Shame. Before I could ask, he strode away to the front room.
Everything hit me all at once as I followed him. When he spun around, the rage in his eyes made everything clear.
“It’s E, isn’t it?” I whispered, barely able to catch my breath. My legs weakened and my stomach churned. Anger surged hot through my veins. E had violated me in a string of ways I hated him for, and I was sick to death of living in fear.
Why couldn’t he leave me alone?
Shame didn’t have to answer me because I heard Eddie’s voice singing outside the door. “I’m here, Shame … Come on out … Time to settle this shit.”
Horrified, I glanced at Shame. His eyes avoided mine as he stepped close and tightly gripped my arms. Then, he looked right at me, his expression so concerned tears burned my eyes. “I promise he won’t hurt you.”
That was it … my breaking point. I no longer needed Shame, not to make promises or shelter me from anything. The time had come for me to take control of my own safety.
Feigning need for affection, I wrapped my arms around his waist. Instead of embracing the man I loved, I grabbed the gun.
Before Shame could react, I flung the door open and fired two shots at Eddie’s chest. As I watched Eddie stumble backward, the sound of casings bouncing along the tiled floor echoed in my ears. With the gun still pointed at him, I relished in his struggle to keep his feet beneath him. I debated firing another shot. Before I decided, he collapsed at my feet. While lowering the weapon, a victorious smile spread my face. I never expected it to be so easy. E had become untouchable. He eluded death so often, I had begun to wonder if he was even human.
“No! Jesus,” Shame bellowed. “What did you do? You … fuck—”
Shame raked his fingers through his hair a few times, glancing around. Eddie stretched his hand up to me, as if begging for mercy. I offered none and stared at him with the satisfaction of knowing my face would be the last he would ever see. His eyes appeared to cloud over before they closed and his hand fell to his side. Shame immediately took the gun from my hand and fired two more shots at Eddie’s chest. He retrieved a gun from Eddie’s waistband and fired a single bullet at the wall.
“What are you doing?” I asked, panic finally settling in as I watched him position the gun near Eddie’s hand.
“Protecting you.” He always protected me, and Eddie Dixon had always been who he protected me from. Only he didn’t understand. Eddie could no longer hurt me. I didn’t need protecting. They could send me to prison and I wouldn’t care. That animal was finally dead. “Five-o’s gonna be here any minute. Don’t say anything.” I stared, my thoughts a haze as if what I did finally registered. “Breeze. Do you hear me? Not a word.”
I nodded. Suddenly I realized Shame set the scene to look like he killed Eddie.
Eddie Dixon had taken everything from me … my innocence, my self-worth … absolutely everything. Shame was the only thing I had left, and now, Eddie was going to take him, too.
No. I couldn’t allow that to happen.
I refused to lose Shame again.
I hated being separated from Shame. I hated the cold steel table, the dingy walls and the bright lights. I hated the musty air of mold in the room. Mostly, I hated myself for messing up. And I especially hated the inquisitive expression of the attorney Viv brought in to defend me. I didn’t need a defense. I did it. I killed Eddie Dixon. A crime so clear did not require a defense. Yet, there Mr. Stewart sat, waiting patiently for me to offer him something, anything to help me.
“I have nothing to say,” I told him as hostility vibrated my skin. “I did it and I won’t let Shame take the fall.”
My stare focused on the age spots and large veins on Mr. Stewart’s hands as he folded them together and placed them on the table. My head lifted until we made eye contact. I didn’t appreciate how his wrinkled and saggy old eyes studied me, so I glanced away. “Why don’t you start by telling me what happened?” he suggested.
I sighed, knowing my silence would never be accepted, and began with my boyfriend being out of town. His gray, bushy eyebrows rose, and I huffed a breath. “Oh, don’t judge me,” I spat. “You don’t know me! You don’t know what Shame and I have been through.”
“So explain it to me. I honestly don’t care about your boyfriend or your lack of monogamy. I want you to start with Mr. O’Rilley, from the beginning. In order to represent you, I need to know everything.”
He wanted me to go way back, dig up memories I purposefully kept buried, ones of monsters that could hurt me. “What’s the point?”
“The point is, Mr. O’Rilley is going to confess if I don’t get you off.”
“No!” I shouted, slamming my palm on the surface of the table. The sting brought pain to my eyes, and I squeezed them shut. When I opened them, I leaned forward and said, “You can’t let him … please.”
Mr. Stewart maintained his serious composure. “Then, you might want to start talking.”
Creating different versions of a story can be a struggle. Often we tell one lie after another until eventually we are buried in them. That is when we must accept we need help to sort it all out.
Once at the station, it didn’t take long for the cops to separate me and Breeze into different rooms. The only words out of my mouth were, “I want a lawyer.”
That little statement always thrilled the men in blue. The detective in charge kept shaking his head, but his annoyance didn’t faze me. I had a woman to protect.
After everything she had been through, I refused to let Breeze take the rap for Dixon. A worthless piece of shit like him deserved to be put down. I only wished it happened in Southie where The Bastards had clout. Up here in the sticks, I didn’t have any reach.
To say I struggled with the knowledge would be drastically understated. I felt like a caged animal. Thankfully before I lost it, Viv arrived with an old guy I didn’t know. His blue monkey suit had thin pinstripes and fit a size too big. The yellow tie clashed with his red cheeks and practically cut off his circulation. “Who’s this clown?” I asked her as they sat in the chairs across the table from me.
“Weston’s your lawyer,” she informed me.
“Weston,” I quietly mocked, glancing up at the fluorescent lights buzzing above my head. The constant flickering made me squint. “How ridiculously hoity-toity.” I brought my gaze back to Viv. “Seriously … A guy named Weston’s gonna represent me?”
“If you prefer, you can call me Wes,” the guy popped in.
“Oh, yeah, cause that’s so much better,” I joked, leaning back and scratching at the stubble on my cheeks. “Do you know who I am … Wes?”
“Yes, Mr. O’Rilley. I’m familiar with your family.”
I couldn’t decide how I felt about his confidence. So, I ignored the stiff and leaned over close to Viv. “Why aren’t you representing me?”
She sighed. “I don’t have enough experience. Wes is the best criminal defense attorney I know. You need him. This isn’t Southie. No one here in Podunk New Hampshire gives a damn about The Bastards. The club means nothing.”
I glanced sideways at Wes. “Do you have a last name?”
“Taylor,” he answered.
“Sounds vaguely familiar.”
“I’ve represented the Kilbride’s for nearly three decades. I assure you, Mr. O’Rilley, I’m more than capable of handling your case.”
Mr. Taylor working for Boston’s largest drug family calmed my reservations. Jacob Kilbride had gotten off on a couple of murder raps. “All right,” I agreed. “What about Breeze?”
“My partner’s with her now,” he responded. “She’s in good hands.”
I leaned forward, tugged on his tie, and aligned our faces. “No matter what she says, we go with my version of the story. Breeze doesn’t spend a day in jail. Got it?”
“Yes, I understand,” he replied. His confidence didn’t wane as he straightened. He smoothed his tie and cleared his throat before continuing. “But the goal is for neither of you to go to prison. Explain to me what happened.”
The stiffness of the chair seemed to magnify as I leaned back. Explaining meant dredging up a past better off buried. “That’s a long and complicated story.”
“It usually is. Start with Breeze. When did you meet? How did she come to get involved with this conflict between clubs?”
That was one hell of a story with a lot of history. But to sum it up, it was entirely my doing.
When two versions of a story have legal consequences, sorting out right and wrong gets tricky. Especially, if the wrong version is actually right, and the lie is safer than the truth.
Six years earlier …