Darrel didn’t look the least bit intimidated by Jax. He took an easy step forward, violating Jax’s personal space. My body tensed. Darrel studied Jax’s angry face for a moment. Then surprise gripped his expression. "That scar on your eyebrow . . . how’d you get it?"
Jax’s teeth ground audibly. His hands tightened into balls by his side. A spike of fear rippled through me from the thought that he was preparing to throw a punch. I grasped his arm, silently urging him not to. If there was a chance we could get out of here without having to fight again, we had to take it. I didn’t want anymore violence. I didn’t want Jax to get hurt.
"It's you, ain't it?" Darrel asked, his sunken eyes now wide.
Jax’s fists were coiled so hard they were shaking. But then I felt his leg tapping against mine and realized that his legs were shaking as well. I felt terrified and confused. I couldn’t tell whether Jax wanted to bash Darrel’s face into a bloody pulp or run far, far away from him.
Darrel smiled, the deep lines around his eyes and mouth twisting sinisterly. "After all these years, my good-for-nothing son that ran away from home has now come back. I’d been thinking that you would’ve been dead by now. Didn’t figure you’d last out there."
Son. The word Darrel used sliced into my brain. Oh god, Darrel is Jax’s dad.
The resemblance finally hit me. The two men were almost eerily similar. I could see it in their builds, in their facial structure, in the deepness of their voices, and most of all in the intensity of their dark eyes. Looking at Darrel was like looking at a future version of Jax, but a drug-worn, menacing version.
How long had it been since Jax last saw this man? Wasn’t he supposed to be in prison? If Jax had already run away from home by the time he was fourteen, it must’ve been at least ten years ago. My chest constricted as the weight of this unplanned reunion sunk in.
"I’m glad I could disappoint you," Jax snarled.
Darrel moved to within a foot in front of Jax, showing no fear of being hit by his son. "You've come to get back at me huh?"
I studied Jax’s reaction. I could see it in the tortured look on his face. He wanted to say no. He wanted to deny coming back here for revenge, to deny coming back to revisit the demons from his past. But the sight of his dad in front of him now, the man who’d tormented him as a child . . . a part of him did want to take revenge now. A part of him wanted to inflict all the things that were done to him back on to the man who did them.
"Look at you now," Darrel growled as he eyed his son from head to toe. "You’re a disgrace—a goddamn embarrassment. You make me sick, wearing those tight leather pants like some sort of faggot."
"Screw you," Jax roared. "You don’t know shit about me!"
"I know you’re weak," Darrel replied, staring Jax down. "Always were. Always will be."
"I’m not afraid of you anymore," Jax bit out, a swell of emotions billowing beneath the surface. "You can’t scare me like you used to."
Darrel’s eyes widened and his lips curved into a grin. "Oh, look at this. Seems like little Jacky boy has grown some balls on him now." Laughing in a way that sent shivers down my spine, he turned his head to look at the other guys. "The boy’s all grown up."
All the bikers laughed.
When Darrel turned back to face Jax, his arm came in a wide hook, bashing Jax across the face.
Jax, taken by surprise received the full force of the hit. He grunted in pain, inadvertently pushing me away as he staggered on his feet.
"Don’t you ever talk to me like that!" Darrel shouted, his eyes red with fury. "You hear me?! Didn’t you learn anything I taught you, boy? Respect your elders."
While Jax was bent-over, recovering, Darrel hopped a step raising his boot backward and kicked Jax in the gut. A gust of wind escaped Jax’s chest, and he collapsed to the ground, clutching at his stomach.
"Stop!" I cried, running to tackle Darrel before he had a chance to kick Jax again.
Just as I was about to tackle him, my head twisted violently.
For a brief moment, there had been enormous pressure on the side of my face, pushing my eye toward my nose until it felt like my eyeball was going to pop out of its socket. I faintly registered my feet lifting off the pavement and my body crashing to the ground like a rag doll. My cheek suddenly burned like a clothes iron had been pressed against it. Dazed, I faintly recalled the image of the back of Darrel’s hand coming out of nowhere and smashing into my cheek.
I recognized the roar of Jax’s voice above the ringing in my ears. Through blurry vision I watched Jax stagger toward me, spitting blood from his mouth.
Two other bikers immediately pounced on him. They began punching and kicking Jax on the ground.
"Teach him a lesson, guys," Darrel hollered.
Suddenly the two men attacking Jax went flying backward, and I saw Jax rising to his feet, crying out in rage. The other four men ran toward Jax with their fists raised. Jax knocked them back one by one, but taking a few hits himself in the process.
When Jax turned his attention to Darrel, Darrel reached behind his back and pulled out a gun. "I wouldn’t do that if I were you."
Jax froze when he noticed the gun pointing at him. Immediately, someone tackled him to the ground and started beating him. The other guys joined in. Jax tried to fight back, but he was being overpowered. He curled into a ball, desperately trying to protect his head with his hands as the bikers kicked him with their heavy boots.
Darrel walked over to Jax and pointed the gun down at him. There was an audible click as Darrel cocked the gun.
"No!" I screamed.
As Jax struggled to get to his feet, Darrel swung the butt of the pistol across the back of Jax’s head, knocking him facedown to the pavement. His body became still.
When I saw Jax wasn’t moving, I screamed.
Darrel spit on Jax. "You’re a pathetic excuse for a son," he said. "Makes me sick just looking at you again."
Fire boiled in my veins. I was going to kill him. I was going to kill Darrel.
Before I could scramble to my feet, hands grabbed each of my arms and another one yanked my head up by my hair. The bikers cackled like hyenas. "Let’s have some fun with her now," one of them said.
Darrel came over, knelt to eye-level, and squeezed my cheeks between his fingers, turning my face from side to side as he assessed me. I struggled with all the energy I had, thrashing my arms and legs to escape, but the bikers’ strong hands restrained my movements.