Updated: Apr 25, 2021
A shot rang out in the late afternoon.
It did not alarm me. I’d been the one to shoot the rifle. It was hot in my hands, the metal warming my palms in the cold. An early snowfall was drifting down and covering my target. It was bleeding, falling to the cold forest floor.
“Father, you got it.”
I looked to my right and found a steel-eyed Jibril. It had been a near-impossible shot, but I’d been confident in my abilities; I needed to prove to my son that even the seemingly impossible was often possible. He lowered his Remington 700 chambered in .308 with a scope, same as mine, and beside him, two others followed suit. Ashley and Danny, each with the smaller .243 Winchesters, a good deer rifle with low kick. Both looked a little disturbed; they were not used to death, not as Jibril was. He’d spent eleven years in Pakistan, witnessing the sacrifice of animals every Eid. It did not faze him.
“Sick,” Danny whispered, sounding slightly impressed. Mostly, he was anxious, but he was doing his best to hide it. I felt a surge of pride for him. I’d been teaching him to obscure his weaknesses.
Ashley was quiet, her golden braids rippling in the cold wind, a determined look on her face. I’d told her to make the shot, and when she’d been unable to, I’d made it in her place. She was the best shot out of all the kids during target practice, but she was also most squeamish. She did not have it in her to kill, and that worried me. To survive, she’d have to learn.
I had not always planned to teach the children how to shoot, at least not in their youth, but as dangers loomed before us, I’d changed my mind. They needed to learn to defend themselves, to kill to keep from being killed. I kept tabs on our enemies; they searched for us, even now, three years later. Ayd Farooqi, once my esteemed teacher, the man I’d looked up to, was in the United States, trekking from state to state, torturing my old contacts for information on our whereabouts. Word came to me in snippets—often, he left them dead, so there was no news at all. It was when the communication went cold that I knew.
The kingpin in Los Angeles was not a professional. He’d put out feelers but hadn’t had much luck in following our trail. Still, I despised that my family was forced into hiding because of the likes of him.
Naeem Badrashi, my father-in-law and Jibril’s grandfather, sat upon his throne in Pakistan, now a corrupt politician, dirtying his hands with the drug trade. He was easiest to keep track of, now that he had gone public. I did not view him as an immediate threat—only his faithful dog, Ayd. Naeem couldn’t touch me, not in a million years, but a professional like Ayd could.
The kids needed to learn to defend themselves, and fast.
“It’s still alive,” Ashley said, breaking her silence. I glanced at the buck, and sure enough, it was struggling to get to its feet, its breathing labored.
“Put it out of its misery,” I said, and took the Glock from my hip. I held it out, pointed down at the ground. Ashley shook her head wildly.
“Don’t make me do it,” she whispered in horror.
“Very well,” I said, sighing. “Jibril.”
Jibril took the G17, stepping deeper into the forest, gun raised, his sights focused on the buck. Danny looked relieved to have not been called upon. I knew that he was not ready. He was only eleven. There would be other opportunities.
“Praise be to Allah,” Jibril said in the darkness of the trees. Now, the meat would be halal. Living in the Midwest, it was often hard to find halal meat unless we hunted or slaughtered it ourselves. There had been many times where Jibril and I had muttered a shameful “Bismillah” before our meals and then prayed for forgiveness later.
Another shot rang out. Jibril had shot the buck square between the eyes. He turned around, looking to me for my approval. I nodded, and he relaxed his shoulders, finally allowing the tension to leave his body. The children and I approached the buck. I checked that it was dead, and it was. Jibril had done well.
“Venison for dinner?” Danny asked hopefully as I lifted the buck onto my back.
“Venison for dinner,” I confirmed. I carried the carcass through the forest, the children following closely behind. Jibril kept the Glock, eyes alert. At fourteen, he understood the dangers, understood that we were never safe, not as long as our enemies lived. I’d told him to protect this family, and he took it seriously, always watchful, ever vigilant.
After a three-mile hike through the forest, we reached the clearing. The Jeep was parked on the side of the road. We secured the buck on the roof, the kids put their rifles in their cases, stowed them in the back, and then everyone got in the car, buckling in for the journey home. I blasted the heat to warm the kids, whose teeth had begun to chatter the last mile to the car.
Jibril was sitting up front, fiddling with the radio. Danny and Ashley were in the back, bickering quietly. The Glock was back in its holster on my hip, but I had another in the glove compartment, which Jibril was fully aware of. At home, the firearms were nearly endless, hidden conveniently under coffee tables, in shelves, under sinks. He’d been ordered to memorize the locations of all of them, as had Danny and Ashley.
Sophie, the baby of the family, now eight, was not allowed to touch the guns yet, but she too knew where they were. She was home with—Ellie. I felt a tug in my chest from the mere thought of her, the woman who’d claimed me and kept my heart hostage. A cruel woman, she slyly kept me tethered to her with unspoken promises of eternal happiness. I did not deserve it, but every time I’d try to walk away, she’d tighten the velvet leash, using new and creative ways to blackmail me into staying.
I was grateful for her efforts.
Three years ago, the first thing we’d done was rent a house. It was on a sprawling seven-acre parcel that was fully-wooded with only one small, off-road path to access it. The house itself was beautiful; freshly painted white as eggshells, it was a three-story, six-bedroom, four-bath home that had been built only two years prior. A beautiful white veranda surrounded the house, and a spring and stream ran through the property, close enough that it could lull Sophie to sleep. At night, the crickets came out to chirp, the frogs croaked, and the stars shone their white-hot flames, flickering in the distance. It was the opposite of the seedy part of Los Angeles where Ellie and her siblings had lived—which meant that it was ideal for raising the kids. Secluded enough that I could train them all, it was the perfect place to live.
When the house came into view, Ashley and Danny were fast asleep. Only Jibril was still awake, his eyes red and tired, but he was still alert. My young soldier, always ready to perform his duties. I’d have to make sure that he got proper rest tonight. Constant vigilance was exhausting.
The front door swung open as we were getting out of the car. Sophie came bounding down the porch steps, her blonde curls bouncing.
“Moody!” she squealed, running over to me and jumping up into my arms. She’d been five when I’d come into her life. Unable to pronounce Ahmad, she’d started calling me Moody, and it just kind of… stuck. Ellie always laughed and said it was a fitting name.
I pressed my lips to the top of Sophie’s head, hoisting her onto my hip. She was too big to be held like this now, but I spoiled her. I shouldn’t, but I did.
“Go inside, shower, and take a nap. I’ll wake you kids up for dinner,” I said to Ashley, Jibril and Danny. They nodded and trudged up the stairs, disappearing into the house.
“Did you bring me a deer?” Sophie asked excitedly. She loved venison. The entire family did.
“Yes,” I said just as the front door opened again and a slender figure stepped out. Long blonde hair, a pixie nose, plump lips and sparkling blue eyes—the woman of my dreams come to life. Ellie.
“Took you long enough,” she said, making her way down the porch steps. “Go inside, Soph. It’s cold out here.”
Sophie pouted but she obeyed when I put her down. She gave me a little wave and went back into the house.
“Whose glory?” Ellie asked, pointing to the buck.
“Mine and Jibril’s,” I replied.
“Did Danny puke again?”
“Not this time.”
“That’s good,” she said, walking up to me. She pulled her bottom lip into her mouth, biting it. As I’ve said, cruel woman.
“Don’t,” I warned her. “I’ve got a buck to butcher.”
“A quickie, then,” she said, reaching me and placing a hand on my cheek. I leaned into her touch, pulling in a deep breath through my nostrils. These were the types of moments that I lived for, quiet and comforting. Just me and Ellie, connecting.
“Kiss me, you brute,” she whispered softly. I took her face in my hands and leaned down, pressing my lips to hers. In the seconds that followed, my emotions caught on fire, exploding in a blazing heat as she opened her mouth, inviting my tongue inside. We tasted one another, kissing hungrily in the cold, warming each other. My hands left her face, traveling down her body to grip her ass. She moaned into my mouth, throwing her arms around my neck, deepening the kiss.
It was nightfall, the only light coming from the windows of the house, but we were obscured in the shadows of the trees that lined the driveway. I walked her back against one of them, quickly unsnapping the button of her jeans and pulling down the zipper.
“Ahmad,” she gasped as I turned her around a little more roughly than I intended to. She didn’t sound like she minded—she liked it when I manhandled her.
“Don’t make too much noise,” I said, and pulled her jeans down to her thighs, kicked her legs apart, and unbuckled my belt. A twisting, aching need filled me as I thought about what I was just about to do: fuck my wife against a tree. In seconds, I’d undone the button of my own jeans and pulled down the zipper, my breathing harsh as I braced myself for her tight heat. I fisted my cock, rock hard and thick, and shoved it inside of her from behind. It was—heaven. She was soaking wet, her pussy slippery, the heat engulfing my arousal.
“A quickie,” I reminded her, and she laughed, cut short by a cry as I began fucking her hard, my fingertips digging into her hips to hold her in place. The pleasure ate away at my bones, burning through every nerve in my body, leaving all the ends frayed. Her frantic gasps, the tightness of her velvety wet pussy, the curve of her little bubble bottom, her lithe body—it all drove me crazy. I closed her legs together, and it became a tighter squeeze, making us both groan in satisfaction.
“Don’t stop,” she moaned, pushing her ass back, trying to match my rhythm. I growled, and pounded into her, rasping out an “Ellie” when I felt her pussy begin to tighten around my cock. She was getting close—which was convenient because so was I. I snaked an arm around her, my hand traveling down between her legs to rub her clit. She inhaled sharply, caught off guard, and her legs turned to jelly as I quickened my pace. It took only seconds for her to choke out an “oh god, yes!” as she came, her pussy contracting around the thick length of my cock. I groaned as I came, jetting thick ropes of cum inside of her, each beat of my heart extended to an eternity. Time had slowed, and all I could do was support her body as she went limp, gasping for air.
When I’d recovered, I pulled her panties and jeans up, and zipped and buttoned myself back up. Ellie, in control of herself again, snapped her button and zipped up her pants too, a wide smile on her beautiful face.
“Nothing,” she said. “I’m just happy.”
I pulled her in for a chaste kiss and then took her hand, leading her back to the Jeep. She helped me with the buck, and I took it out back, hanging it up to butcher. I skinned and boned the carcass while Ellie trimmed the meat. It took two hours of working quietly together to finish. By then, I was starving.
“I’ll fry you up a quick steak,” Ellie said, noticing the hunger in my eyes.
“That’s not necessary,” I said. “We’ll make a stew like we always do. You go shower. I’ll get it started.”
Venison stew was a household favorite. We always made it after a fresh kill, using up the last of the meat from the previous kill while the new meat went up in the drying area to age. As Ellie went to shower, I ate a banana for a boost of energy and some potassium while I got the stew started. Sophie wandered into the kitchen, hugging a doll. She’d started saying that she was too old for them, but every now and then, she’d have one in her arms.
“Can I help?” she asked eagerly.
“Wash the vegetables.” I’d put out carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes on the counter. The frozen peas were in a bag, but she knew they didn’t need to be washed. Sophie had helped make this meal before.
Ellie walked into the kitchen while I was cutting the vegetables, her hair glistening and wet. Sophie was completing her next task, peeling the potatoes. She proudly showed Ellie, who gave her a double thumbs-up.
“I’ll get started on the meat,” Ellie said. She took out our large Dutch oven, placed it on the stove over medium-high heat, and began to brown the meat. The smell of freshly cooked game filled the air, and I felt the hunger pangs constrict in my belly. The stew wouldn’t be ready for another hour and a half.
“Why don’t you go shower?” Ellie suggested, looking me over from head to toe. I had animal blood all over me. I nodded, kissing Sophie’s cheek before making my way to the bathroom. Besides the sizzle of meat and quiet chatter of the girls in the kitchen, the house was silent. There was peace in our home. All was well—for a moment.
Glass shattered, the front door was busted open, and shots were fired.
They’d found us.
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