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Cottonmouth: Conclusion


Four days later…

The ride on a motorcycle for a 200 mile trip had been something Tory would never forget. The freedom of it, the way she could snuggle up to Cotton for hours on end but not be in a bed doing so. The wind whipping along her body with all the scenery up close and live, not through a window of what Cotton had called a cage. The scent of leather and oil mixing with the breeze.

Her mind just floated half the time as her spirit finally eased. Pain and misery had been her best friends for more than a year. She knew it would never ease, but now it had dimmed to just a small ache.

Cotton had helped with that, not just by the wonderful loving he gave her, but by his steady support. He also understood her pain. He’d lived with his own for a long time.

They had several long conversations since Juan had been torn up. They discovered they had more in common than they ever guessed.

Wolf had to be left behind for now, much to Python’s disgruntlement. He had said, “Leave a few chew toys for him, would ya?”

Cotton, Cobra and Boone had laughed heartily. Until the older man gave them all that Python glare and they all stopped…of course.

She already missed Wolfie after just a couple of days too. But it was a very short separation until she went back.

Yes, Cotton had cornered her and got that promise from her. Just stay with him and be a part of his life. He’d said she could visit her family anytime she felt like it.

As for Cobra, they now had a temporary peace between the big man and her but he still got on her nerves. She smiled, but it was fun to take him down a notch whenever they had sparring sessions at the table. She’d found that his father and brothers seemed to enjoy the banter as well.

Python had even asked her to help with the quest of stopping the cartel as while she’d been on her hunt, she had made a lot of notes about them in a school notebook, which she’d handed over to Python.

They were now almost to her childhood home. This was where Travis had been staying. With her parents. His mother was in counseling and was having trouble still with the loss of Jeff.

Pulling up the long driveway with a loud Harley roar, Travis had been sitting in the swing out front. Not swinging, but just sitting.

Cotton parked the bike and kicked the stand. The loud roar of the engine ceasing.

Tory dismounted smoothly as she’d learned how to do on the trip. Taking her helmet off, she hung it on the loop on the back of the bike seat.

Her gaze then met Cotton’s.

He stared into her eyes and gave her a silent nod.

Tory took a deep breath as she brushed her messy hair back and walked over to where Travis sat.

His eyes so like Jeff’s watched her as she approached.

Looking up, she saw both her parents on the porch close by.

She met their tear filled gazes, then knelt down in front of Travis. “Hey, little man.”

He met her gaze but made no other move to show that he cared she was even there.

The look in his eyes burned her soul. Like a punch to the gut when you least expected it. She swallowed heavily and placed her trembling hand on his small hand. “Trav. I’ve come back to tell you that…” She cleared her throat and started again, “…the three bad men are gone.”

His eyes showed a little interest, but he still did nothing.

Taking another deep breath, Tory went on, “They all met with justice, just like I promised you.” She dug the little slip of tissue from her pocket, unwrapped it, and showed him the three large rings. “These are the rings they wore, a sign of the bad group they worked for. They won’t be needing them anymore.”

Travis stared down at the rings. Tears filled his eyes.

Tory’s heart felt like it was breaking piece by piece. She’d already decided to have the rings melted down, as they were all pure gold, then sell that to put into a trust fund for Travis. It had been a hard decision, as she’d just wanted to toss them in the trash.

She then heard bootsteps as Cotton approached but she did not look back as she waited for some sign, any sign that Travis might come back.

The boy simply sat staring at the rings as a lone tear slowly rolled down his cheek.

Tory tears filled her eyes, but she tried to hold them back. “So, now, your dad can be at peace,” she whispered. She somehow thought that this day would be…satisfying or that it would give them closure.

But the child sat there without speaking a word.

Cotton knelt down beside her and stretched his hand out to Travis.

The boy raised his gaze to him and interest flickered in his young eyes.

“I’m Cottonmouth but everyone calls me Cotton. I have heard a lot about you.”

Travis finally moved as he gingerly stretched his hand out to shake Cotton’s hand.

Tory swiped her tears away that had fallen despite, her vow not to cry.

Travis looked Cotton over and spoke, “How did you get that name?” His voice sounded scratchy and whispery.

Tory heard her parent’s gasps that matched her own intake of breath as they both moved down the steps, toward the swing.

Cotton smiled and raised his t-shirt sleeve. Showing him the cottonmouth snake tat.

Tory almost stopped him, as she did not want Travis to be startled.

Nothing of the sort happened as Travis leaned forward and looked the tatt over. “Cool!” he exclaimed in an awe filled but hoarse voice. “So, you are named after him?” He pointed at the snake.

Cotton chuckled. “Not really. In our family, we are all named after snakes.”

Travis’ eyes widened with excitement. “Like rattlesnake?”

Cotton grinned. “Python and Cobra.”

Travis seemed to forget all else as he stared at the big man in wonder. “So, they all have those tattoos and they ride big bikes like you?”

Nodding Cotton replied, “Yes, and don’t tell anyone but they are even bigger than me.”

Travis stood up then spotted his grandparents. “Wow. I’m gonna ask my Paw-Paw if I can go visit your family!

His grandparents and Tory were all smiling through their tears.

Cotton nodded and looked up at Tory. “See? Snakes aren’t scary.”

Tory laughed-cried. “And they can produce magic!” She looped her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly.


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