Animal Rage:Devil Dogs MC, Volume 3(8)

By: Kathryn Thomas


A week rolls by, then one week becomes two and two becomes three, until it has been a month since Wesley walked out of the boarding house. There’s still no sign of him coming back. Isabel has started to make her peace with that, or at least that’s what she tells herself.

Apart from the gut-wrenching loss she still feels whenever she thinks about him, which she knows is still far too often, things have started to look up for the boarding house. The Devil Dogs haven’t made a return, so it seems that, although they’re criminals, they’re criminals who keep their promises. Aside from that, there are more tenants coming through the doors and a few of them are even long-term. Although it is a little early to say her financial problems have disappeared, at least she is now able to make the mortgage repayments, just.

Isabel has settled into a kind of monotony that involves helping Rosa with the day to day chores of the boarding house, working on the books, the accounts and the marketing of the place, fielding inquiries, buying provisions, figuring out what the most urgent repairs are and trying to find a way to pay for them. The house is still falling apart, but at least she is starting to come up with a plan of how she will get around to fixing it, even if, by her calculations, it is going to take around five years.

She has become a little reclusive, though she wouldn’t have used that word. Aside from her daily calls from Jamie, her contact with the world outside of the boarding house is fairly minimal. And that’s just the way she likes it, or at least that’s what she tells herself. Even Rosa seems to have noticed.

“Why you no go out like other girls your age?” The stout Italian lady has never been very good at small talk.

Isabel sighs heavily, not wanting to repeat the same conversation they’ve been having on virtually a daily basis for the past few weeks. “Because I have responsibilities, Rosa. Besides, I don’t feel like it.” She shrugs, ignoring the older woman’s narrow-eyed gaze as they fold another load of what seems to be never-ending laundry.

“You have not been the same, not since your young man left.” Rosa shakes her head, telling Isabel something she already knows.

“I’ve already told you, Rosa. He wasn’t my young man.” Isabel doesn’t know what he was, but whatever it was, it doesn’t matter anymore; he isn’t coming back.

“No? Then why you walking around like someone punch you in the stomach?” Rosa plants her hands on her hips, the laundry forgotten.

“It’s ‘kicked in the gut,’ Rosa. And I’m not. I’m fine, see!” Isabel puts on a cheesy grin, as wide as she can possibly make it.

Rosa makes a disgusted sound at the back of her throat, telling Isabel exactly how much she buys that particular untruth. “I worry about you, Isabel.” The older woman lays a comforting hand on her shoulder and, for a brief moment, Isabel allows herself to be comforted.

In the past few weeks she and Rosa have gotten closer. Isabel has begun to understand why her mother kept the woman around even though she is more expensive than the going rate. Rosa is fiercely loyal; she just hasn’t been loyal to Isabel.

Rosa had loved her mother like a sister and when she died and Isabel took over the business, Isabel expected that allegiance to be inherited. But that’s not how Rosa works. It is something Isabel has only recently begun to understand. Rosa’s fidelity has to be earned and, now, after months of hard work, she seems to think Isabel is worthy of it. It makes her loyalty more valuable, knowing you had to work for it, that it isn’t something that is just freely given.

“Don’t worry, please. You have seven children and fifteen grandchildren to worry about! You don’t need me clogging up your brain, as well.” Isabel waves away the other woman’s concern.

“You love him, yes?” Rosa clearly has no inclination to let this conversation go.

“Who?” Isabel looks at the older woman, wide-eyed.

“You no funny, Isabel. I’m serious. I ask you a question. Do you love him?” Rosa waits, arms folded, making it obvious that she has no intention of doing anything else until Isabel answers.

“Why do you care? You said he was dangerous, that he had a dark cloud around his head.” Isabel looks pointedly at the other woman. “I thought you’d be happy he was gone. No more dark cloud.” Isabel makes a gesture as if she is a magician.