Dear fucking diary,
There’s only one day until my parole hearing. I got my hair cut for it as though I’m going on a date with lady luck. And I definitely need some luck to get out of here. I’ve been in this hell hole for ten years now. Iron bars, concrete, and the constant worry that someone is going to shank me because they think I’m a paedo. But I’m not. If I was a paedo I wouldn’t still be interested in Ash. I wonder what he looks like now at twenty-five. I've been told he's tall and built like his father, although, from memory, he resembled his mother more. She was a pretty thing. I didn’t mean to kill her. I didn’t mean to hurt Ash either. I loved that boy. Still do. I want to make it up to him when I get out. If everything goes to plan, I’ll take him up north and we can start a new life—away from everyone, especially from Dante. God!!! It makes me want to trash my cell just thinking about Ash’s brother. I HATE that shite! He should be in fucking jail, not me! He brought the knife into the room, not me! If he hadn’t done that then his bloody mother wouldn’t have taken it off him and tried to stab me. All I did was defend myself, but because of Dante no one believed me. He even got up on the stand and cried, like he was some scared kid. Dante doesn’t cry; he has no fucking feelings. All he was doing was buying the jury’s sympathy. Everything is about Dante with him. He always did what he wanted and never thought about anyone but himself. I don’t regret hurting him one bit, not one fucking bit! I’d kick the shit out of him again in a heartbeat, destroy the little prick—or even better—I heard he looks like Ash now, which means he must be a right handsome fucker. Ha! I know exactly what I can do to the arsehole.
Beth peered through the window of the police cell. Her boyfriend was pacing the small enclosure like a caged animal, the menace practically rolling off him. She wasn’t being melodramatic either; the blood on Ash’s knuckles and face adding to the effect along with his vicious glare. But despite the situation Ash was in, he wasn’t a criminal... Okay, maybe he was sort of, but it wasn’t like he was a bad one.
Ash’s angry gaze shifted to Beth, making her a little afraid of what was to come. Although she had no reason to be, because he’d never hurt her. He was just so... intense, yeah, that was the right word. It was thrilling at times, but also unnerving. He was definitely a hard man, but that was what attracted her to the oldest of the Rata brothers. And with the Maori-styled tattoo circling his neck, his wavy black hair and a body gift-wrapped in leather, he was definitely an impressive package. That sounded almost rude, although it was apt, because just looking at him got her we—
The police officer unlocked the cell. Beth stepped aside to allow Ash room to exit, tensing as he headed past. “I’ll see you at home,” Ash muttered, then disappeared through the gate further down the corridor. She continued to stare at the empty space he’d left behind, anger now mixing with disbelief. “A ‘thanks’ would’ve been nice,” she mumbled, wishing she’d said it before he’d left. He’d called her at work, making her close early, which she knew would get her into trouble with her boss.
“Thanks, Bethy-babe,” came a slurred response.
Beth turned to Ash’s brother. Dante was slumped on a bench inside the cell with his eyes half-closed. Despite his different tattoos, he looked the same as Ash, just with an irreverent personality and a smile that made her blush, like she’d gotten caught watching porn.
Beth went inside and coaxed him to stand.
Dante put an arm around her shoulders and got to his feet. “You love me,” he said as they walked out of the cell.
She wrinkled her nose. “Your breath stinks.”
“You still love me, everyone loves me.” He stopped outside the neighbouring cell and looked through the window. “Matty loves me; he said he’d suck my dick.” Dante raised his middle finger and placed it against the window. “Suck on this, twat-face!” He let go of Beth and staggered out of the holding area.
She followed him to the police counter, where a woman with a bruised face was yelling at a man, who was being forced into the holding area by two cops. A group of scruffy teenagers sat watching, their smiles suggesting they were high. Supposedly the worst neighbourhood in New Zealand, Claydon was situated on the south side of Auckland. The media portrayed it as gang-ridden, but Beth didn’t think it was that bad. Her workmates disagreed, saying she wouldn’t see trouble if it smacked her in the face, but they were wrong, they didn’t live here, plus she knew what trouble looked like, and right now it was staggering towards the front door of the police station.
Dante wobbled down the steps, looking like he was going to kiss the pavement at any moment. He laughed and wolf-whistled at a transvestite getting out of a police van. Beth apologised to the tranny, but the he-woman ignored her, instead blowing a kiss to Dante, who pretended to catch it and throw it back.
Beth steered Dante towards her car, momentarily distracted by the loud rock music blasting from the pub across the main road, where Dante would’ve gone earlier to fill up on booze and women.
“Bethy-babe,” Dante said, snapping her attention back to him. He leaned against her Volkswagen, giving her a devilish grin and again proving her point that he was trouble with a capital T. The street lights made his dark eyes shine like onyx, the Maori tattoo around his left one adding to his cheeky allure.
If she’d used that word in front of her own brothers they would’ve put their fingers down their throats and gagged. They always complained about her “pukeable” use of language, saying that she lived in a world of romance novels.
Dante waggled his eyebrows comically and grabbed his crotch. “I wouldn’t say no to you.”
Beth refrained from smiling. “I would to you. And you’re lucky Ash didn’t hear you say that.”
He pulled a face. “I don’t care; you should be with me, not him.”
Beth hesitated, wondering whether he meant it, then shook her head, annoyed with herself for believing him. “You’re drunk, Dante, you don’t know what you’re saying.”
He lowered his head, peering out from under his messy hair. “Yes, I do, and I'll say it again: you should be with me.”
Feeling uncomfortable, Beth remained in the same spot. He’d never said anything like that before, only harmlessly flirted, but Dante flirted with everyone, including guys who showed interest in him, although he wasn’t that way inclined. He just liked to tease, then would walk away when someone he didn’t want pressed for more.
Dante gave her a cheeky smile, then slid down the side of the car, landing hard on his rear, his drunken state cushioning the blow for now, although it would be sore tomorrow.
Yeah, the sod was teasing. She opened the front passenger door and helped him inside, pulling the seatbelt down to buckle him in.
He grabbed her and kissed her head, slurring, “I do love you,” into her hair, then let go, one of his hands dropping onto his lap.
Unnerved, Beth clicked on his seatbelt then removed herself from the car, stopping to look down at him. He appeared to have fallen asleep. She reached out to brush his hair away from the tattoo, her hand lingering on his skin longer than she knew she should. He moved his head to the side, making her retract her hand quickly. He remained asleep, his hair falling back over the tattoo.
She continued to watch him for a few moments, then closed his door and walked around the car, guilt making her shiver more than the cold night air. She got in the driver’s seat and started the engine, the car coughing and spluttering like a sick old lady.
Dante jolted awake, mumbling, “Where are we?”
“On our way home.” She pulled out onto the main road and headed for the round-about, getting a feeling he was staring at her. She glanced at him, instantly regretting it. His dark gaze was latched onto her, his stare unflinching, as though he knew she’d touched him.
She focused on the road. “Why wuz Ash in jail with you?” Unlike Dante, it was a rarity for Ash to be picked up by the police.
“I called him for a lift. When he got to the pub he saw some underage kids being let in. He told the bouncer, but the prick just laughed and called the kids jailbait. Ash lost it, and attacked him. I tried to break it up, but the cops got the wrong idea and hauled us both in.”
“Dante,” she dragged out his name, exasperated with him. “You know he hates the pub, you should never have asked him for a lift.”
Looking guilty, Dante slumped in his seat. “I couldn’t get a hold of anyone else.”
“You could’ve taken a taxi.” Even though they didn’t live far from the pub, Dante had a bad habit of walking on busy roads when he was drunk, so she’d made him promise he’d always catch a ride home.
“I had no money left.”
“Then you shouldn’t have spent it all on booze,” she said, turning onto their road. “I distinctly told you to save some for a taxi fare before I went to work.”
Shaking her head, she drove into the driveway and parked on the grass next to Dante’s car, conscious not to block in Ash’s Chevy. The three-bedroom weatherboard house was shrouded in darkness, the street-lights on their road few and far between.
She got out of the car, and ran around to help Dante. She steered him inside the house and switched on the light. Her landscape paintings lined the lounge and adjoining dining-room walls, along with photos and a finely detailed portrait that Ash had drawn of his son, who he’d fathered at the age of sixteen, the little boy no longer living with him.
As Dante fumbled to get his boots off, she headed for her bedroom, surprised to find it locked. She knocked on the door. “Ash, lemme in.” No one answered. “Ash, open up.” Still no answer. She knocked again, now getting annoyed.
Dante brushed past her. She followed him to his room. He pulled off his jacket and threw it across his desk, the black singlet left behind showing off his inked skin. Maori tattoos with Croatian influences covered both biceps, the swirl of colours accentuating his muscular arms and captivating Beth’s attention. He fell onto the bed, breaking the spell.
Beth picked up his jacket and slipped it onto the back of his desk chair, smoothing it down. “Do ya know why Ash is angry at me? He’s locked me out.”
“I thought that wuz pretty obvious.”
“Well, obviously it’s not.”
He grunted and sat up, giving her a filthy look, all sign of his earlier friendliness washed away. “Some girlfriend you are. You complain ‘bout Ash not paying you enough attention, but you don’t even remember its Chaz’s parole hearing tomorrow.”
Beth inwardly cursed at the mention of Dante and Ash’s stepfather. She couldn’t believe she’d forgotten, but then again, the art gallery had been so busy the last couple of days that she’d barely had enough time to breathe, let alone think. “I took tomorrow off, so I didn’t completely forget,” she said, feeling bad.
“Good, cos he’ll need all your support if Chaz gets parole.”
“Isn’t there anything you can do to stop your stepfather from gettin’ out?”
“I’m goin’ to the hearing to give it a damn good try.”
“I didn’t think they allowed victims to attend that sort of thing.”
Dante winced. “Don’t call me that.”
“But, you are, and so is Ash. And what your stepfather did to your—”
“Don’t say it.”
...mother. Beth sat down next to Dante. “I wish Ash would talk to me more about what happened. I’ve been with him for a while now, yet all I know is that your stepfather beat you guys up and stabbed—”
Beth flinched, shocked by his sudden outburst. “I’m not rude to you, so don’t be rude to me.”
He moved his face up to hers, his breath reminding her that he was drunk. “What a load of bull. You called me a slut yesterday. I consider that rude.”
“I never called you that.”
“Liar, you were on the phone to your bro. I heard everything you said. You told him I wuz a slut, then complained ‘bout me bringing women home. Well, it’s none of your bloody biz what I do—or who I do.”
More than embarrassed, she went to leave.
He grabbed her arm as she stood. “Why don’t you like me?”
Surprised by his question, she pulled her arm free. “I don’t dislike you,” far from it. I wouldn’t go out of my way to pick you up if I didn’t like you. I wouldn’t worry about you getting hurt all of the time, or feel sick when you bring horrible women home who aren’t good enough for you. She bit her lip to stop herself from saying it out loud.
“Bollocks, you can be a right bitch at times.”
She jerked back, feeling like he’d struck her. “Why’re you being so horrible? You were all nice before.”
He stood up. “I’m sick of being judged, plus you’re always sticking your nose into things that don’t concern you.”
“Don’t talk to me like that.”
“I can talk to you however I please, considering this is my room.”
“And you wonder why I get annoyed with you?”
“I rarely say boo to you, yet you’re always givin’ me disapproving looks. So fire away, hit me with what you really think, Miss Prim and Proper.”
“Okay, you asked for it.” Beyond annoyed, she crossed her arms over her chest. “You constantly call me to get you out of jail, you’re always gettin’ drunk or high, and worse, I don’t know whether I’m gonna find some woman goin’ through my stuff. You won’t keep your hands to yourself, and you don’t ever think about consequences, you just do what you want, then everyone’s s’posed to forgive you cos you’re Dante, the—” she made quote marks with her fingers. “—‘loveable rogue.’ Well, I don’t think you’re loveable, you’re just an arsehole.”
Dante stared back at her with wide eyes. She didn’t know how a tough guy covered with tattoos could look like a puppy dog that had just been kicked, but right now he was making her feel guilty for her outburst.
Beth lifted her chin. “Don’t look at me like that, it’s true. I feel like kicking you sometimes you annoy me so much.”
“You do kick me sometimes.”
“Only when you get too handsy.”
“No other chick complains.”
“Cos they’re pro’bly sluts, like you.”
The two of them glared at each other for what seemed like ages, then a slow smile crept across Dante’s face. He undid his leather pants and pushed them down to his feet, his green underwear flashing at her to run. But she was too shocked to move.
He grabbed his crotch. “You better close your big mouth, before I decide to fill it.”
“Dante! What’s wrong with you?”
“You!” He kicked his pants off, aiming them at her feet.
She stepped back, then spun around as he dropped his underwear. He walked past and grabbed the door handle, wearing only his singlet and socks. “The slut needs to wank, so unless you’re gonna gimme a helping hand, I suggest you leave.”
With her cheeks on fire, she took off out of his room. She ran into the lounge and closed the door, horrified with what Dante had done. She didn’t know why he had to be so in her face. She hadn’t meant for him to overhear her conversation, she’d just been so mad at him that day, after she’d found a female in the bathroom trying on her makeup. And it wasn’t like what she said wasn’t true, because almost every weekend he brought a different woman home, sometimes even more than one. She knew she shouldn’t judge him, but how could she not when he did things like that. And the noises that came from his room... Ugh! Calling him a slut was being polite.
When she was calm enough, she went back into the passage and knocked on her bedroom door, hoping Ash wasn’t going to make her sleep in the spare room. Shuffling sounded on the other side, then the door pulled open. She entered the room as Ash got back into bed. After shutting the door, she undressed and slipped under the covers, cuddling against his bare back. She didn’t want to tell him about what Dante had done, plus he had much more important things on his mind, things she wished he’d confide in her about.
“I’m sorry I forgot ‘bout the parole hearing, but at least I didn’t forget to take tomorrow off. We can do whatever you want...” She hesitated. “Or we could stay home, and you can tell me more about what happened with your stepfather. It might help to talk about it, cos I know it’s been bothering you lately. You’ve been yelling in your sleep again.”
His body tensed.
“C’mon, Ash, please don’t keep me in the dark. Half the time, I only learn things by accident, like when Dante let slip ‘bout your suicide attempt. I know it happened a long time ago, but I wish you had told me, not him.”
“We’ve already been over this,” he said, sounding more exasperated than angry. “And I’m tired.”
Tired of me? Upset, she removed her arm from around his waist and turned over, wishing he needed her like Dante seemed to. Even though Dante had been a right beep tonight, at least he didn’t ignore her. Sometimes she wondered whether Ash even loved her.
Dante’s earlier words came to mind, ‘I do love you.’
“I love you too,” she whispered. I love you both.
COMING SOON TO AMAZON.
Check out Behind the Tear's prequels:
Behind the Hood, the first in the Behind the Lives Series:
*Cover image is of Ash.
*Cover image is of Ash.