A week later, Tess was at Cheerful Valley Campground in Phelps, New York. It was four hours away from Harlem and Nitro had decided that it was a good time to be away from all the stress and drama from the previous week. He had invited his brother along with them so that they could try to get to know each other away from the motorcycles and the accusations as well, and so far things had been going pretty well.
It was night time and they were just finishing up with dinner. Brad had cooked some filleted fish and french fries which had been delicious. Kris was washing the dishes inside the two-bedroom cabin they'd rented for the weekend while Tess and Brad started a campfire.
"I'm glad we got a chance to talk alone," Brad said as he threw another log on the fire. "I'm really sorry about last week. I had people watching my every move and I had no choice in the matter. They said that I had to take you away from the MC to be alone. They didn't care how I did it."
"It is what it is," Tess shrugged. "I knew you weren't actually going to hurt me."
"How did you know that?"
"I figured if you love your brother at all like he loves you, then you weren't gonna do anything to me." Tess leaned back in the chair and looked at him.
"You really think he still cares about me that much?" Brad went to sit down in the chair beside her.
"He wouldn't have suggested this trip if he didn't," Tess said. "And he wouldn't have suggested to give you protection from your old MC."
"Yeah, that was above and beyond."
"How did they take the news?"
"They definitely weren't pleased. Prez. told me that I couldn't patch into another MC for a month. It's ridiculous that even though I'm out, I am still being controlled by him."
"It kinda makes sense though. It stops people from just hopping from one MC to another."
"I guess, it just… sorry. I sound like a winey little four year old."
"No, you just got dragged into a situation that gave you no control over your life. It would make anyone upset." She tried to hide the bitterness, but she knew that it wasn't working well.
Brad looked over at her with a sigh. "You're never gonna forgive me, are you?"
"You had a gun to my back. That's not something anyone gets over easily." She wasn't going to lie to him. She hadn't been sleeping well all week.
"I know," he sighed and looked out at the lake. "It wasn't all that fun for me either. If it helps…" he hesitated and looked over at her. "The gun wasn't loaded."
Tess blinked and stood up then. "It wasn't loaded?! Are you kidding me?"
Kris came out of the cabin then and looked between them with concern. "What's wrong?"
"Your BROTHER'S gun wasn't even bloody loaded, that's what's wrong! Something he could have told me when it was pressed against my damn back!" Tess was furious and didn't even give Brad a chance to reply as she walked down to the lake.
The shoreline of the lake was a beach and Tess took off her sandals, walking along with her shoes in her hand. The cool evening breeze surrounded her. She'd only come on this weekend trip because Kris had insisted that it would help ease the tension. It seemed, though, that the more time she spent with the man, she wanted to be farther away from him.
"Tess…" Kris' voice interrupted her thoughts and she turned towards him. She brushed away the emotion from her eyes and he said, "Talk to me, sweetheart."
"I…" she tried, but shook her head and leaned into his arms. "I'm sorry."
"Baby, it's okay. I don't expect the two of you to get along after what happened. I just thought…"
"It was a good thought, hon, just… too soon."
"I completely understand," he insisted and leaned in to kiss her forehead. "He's leaving tonight. He'll find a place to stay in Harlem. We're not going to force this, Tess."
"Okay…" she exhaled with relief, not knowing what else to say.
"He's family, yes, but you're the woman I love," Kris said softly. "Let's stay a few days still? Just you and me?"
"I'd really like that." Tess held him closer, looking up at the stars above them. Even though things had been chaotic lately, and she was overwhelmed by everything that happened, Tess also knew that she was loved, safe, and protected for the first time in her life.