I was hundreds of miles from home, at least a two hour ride. I hadn’t meant to come this far by myself. Hopefully I hadn’t been stupid enough to ride out of non neutral territory.
My head was usually a mess, one too many hits without head protection when I’d been boxing, but it’d been worse since I did what I did.
I killed a woman.
Nathan had ordered it. And it had to be done. Those crazy bitches would have killed Rachel, the club’s First Lady.
Honestly, I didn’t even remember if it was Stacy or Rain who I’d ended. I’d never killed anyone like that before, straight shot to the head, and especially not a woman.
When Striker had me prisoner in the underground boxing ring, I’d put a couple guys’ lights out for good. But that was different. It was kill or be killed.
But now, guilt ate at me.
I’d broken the rule I valued most- never hurt a woman.
And none of my brothers knew how much I was struggling with this. Seal had pulled the other trigger. He seemed to be dealing with it better than I was, but even on a good day he was an emotionless robot, a government trained assassin. If a woman was deemed a threat it didn’t go against his code to end her.
And the club’s.
But I guess now we were making exceptions when the women were sociopaths and psychopaths and threatened one of our women.
But that didn’t make it any easier.
Seal and I had pulled the triggers while Bear and Tank had been the ones to dispose of the bodies.
It’d been nearly three months. Prez and Rachel had gotten married and were currently on their honeymoon. They’d left Hawk in charge of the club, and watching him flounder had been my only solace in the last few weeks.
Pulling to the shoulder of the highway, I parked my bike and pulled out my burner phone. Luckily there were no missed calls. Hawk would have killed me if he’d needed me and I was this far away.
Looking out over the lookout, I could see mountains and valleys for endless miles. It was a damn good view. But it was too quiet out here all by myself. The quiet let my mind wander, took me back to all those years ago.
No matter how far and how fast I ran I couldn’t escape it. I was free now. My body was anyway. But my mind. My mind would never be free from the things that haunted me.
The guys knew as little about my past as I got away with telling them. My fighting history was what sold Hawk’s old man on me and gave me a chance to prospect. I’d told him the bare bones of it. He hadn’t been President anymore at the time, but he’d still vouched for me.
But nobody knew about the nightmares. That weed wasn’t just a hobby but a way to keep them at bay.
All my brothers had come from unstable home lives. It just came with the territory.
And I’m sure mine wasn’t worse than some of them but I’d never know.
We weren’t known to sit around in a circle trading stories and talking about our feelings.
As much as I tried to fight it, the ride did not keep my mind clear like it usually did.
Instead, I was pulled back twelve years and was a fourteen year old kid all over again. I’d been as big then as I was now, never having gone through those awkward lanky years. I went from a kid covered in baby fat to looking like I was a fully grown man in what seemed like overnight.
My mom had been an addict. And I hadn’t seen her in more than ten years. My old man was never around. Hell, my mom probably didn’t even know who she was. We were on the verge of homelessness, her addiction finally taking all of our money, even what she earned selling her body.
That’s when Striker had come to my rescue. Or so I thought at the time.
He was my mom’s pimp, dealer and sometimes boyfriend. He was the reason she was always black and blue. If it wasn’t her arms from the track marks it was her eyes from his hands. One time I’d come home from school and found him beating the hell out of her in our shitty apartment. Finally big enough to defend her, I’d snapped.
Charging him from the doorway I’d pulled him off her and threw him to the ground. Jumping on top of him I’d pummeled him into the floor, breaking his nose, busting his lip and blackening both his eyes.
It still wasn’t enough. Not after all he’d put my mother through. She may have been an addict. A junkie. But she was still my mom. And the only parent I had.
When he’d finally managed to throw me off of him, he’d pulled a gun from the waistband of his pants, cocked it back and pushed it to the middle of my forehead.
Like I’d done with Rain or Stacy.
I was convinced that was going to be the end of my young life. My murder would go unsolved, just like every other murder in the projects I’d grown up in.
Instead, he’d smirked at me and pulled the gun away from my head and spit blood onto the linoleum kitchen floor.
“That’s quite a punch kid. You interested in making some cash?”
“Yes.” I’d answered without thinking about the potential consequences. What did a fourteen year old kid know about potential consequences anyways?
Not a damn thing.
Striker had given me a business card with an address written on the back. “Tomorrow. Nine p.m. Dont be late.”
I’d nodded, studying the card before pocketing it. He’d left me in the middle of the bloodied kitchen, my mom still bleeding from her head while she was passed out from the drugs or knocked out from the beating. I couldn’t be sure which.
The white powder on the counter was a usual site, but I did something for the first time I’d never dared do before. I brushed it into the sink before washing it down the drain and washing my hands.
When mom had finally come to, she’d been so out of if that she thought she’d already snorted all the blow before she passed out.
Lucky for me because if she’d known, she would have beaten me. And despite being nearly a foot taller than she was and ninety pounds heavier, I wouldn’t defend myself against her. She had enough men who tossed her around. I wouldn’t allow her own son to be one of them.
The next night, the first night I’d fought in the cage, that was the night my life changed.
I still didn’t know if it was for better or worse.
If Striker hadn’t pulled me into the fighting ring, I probably would have ended up in jail. I wasn’t stupid, but I also wasn’t smart enough to earn a scholarship to college, which would have been my only other ticket out of the life path I was on.
If it weren’t for him, I may have ended up just like my mother. Strung out and waiting for death.
Instead, I was tossed into a caged ring with a man twice my age but no bigger than I was. The cage wasn’t a fight to the death, but you weren’t allowed to stop until somebody tapped out. And when their pride got in the way, men would rather get beat to death than tap out.
Two years later, and barely sixteen, I’d killed my first opponent.
When I’d gone to the ring for the first time my opponent tapped out in the first round. He’d underestimated me because of my age. He didn’t even land a hit.
I’d been so damn proud. I’d strutted around like a damn king at the after party. Been treated like one too.
Striker had one of his girls take me into a bedroom at his house and show me a good time. She took my virginity. She was twenty-four and I’d been fourteen. I didn’t realize at the time how fucked up the entire thing was.
I did now.
But despite everything it’d put me through, I couldn’t regret it. Because without all those experiences, good and bad, I never would have found the Rebel Souls. My brothers.
I hadn’t had a true family growing up. And as dysfunctional as we were- drinking and smoking and fucking- they were my family. We lived together and died together.
Even though I couldn’t regret the years I’d spent fighting for Striker, that didn’t mean it hadn’t left me completely fucked in the head.
I’d had more concussions than I could count. Nightmares made sleeping nearly impossible. And somedays the demons straight up won, making it too difficult for me to fight them. Those days I spent blazed out of my mind sitting in the clubhouse letting my soul sucker of the month do whatever she wanted to me under the table.
I wasn’t proud of it, but it was how I coped.
Forcing thoughts of my past from my mind I focused on the wide open rode in front of me.
Ever since Rachel came around Hawk had been less than subtle about his desire for an old lady.
I’d managed to keep mine hidden, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that too.
I’d never seen a healthy relationship growing up. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what Nathan and Rachel had could be qualified as healthy or normal. But I guess that was all relative anyways. They loved each other beyond reason. Hawk found it sickening making him jealous. I found it hopeful making me want the same thing. Either way you cut it, it was what we were both searching for.
I think what everyone was truly searching for.
But how were we ever supposed to meet anyone in this line of work? The only girls at the clubhouse were the soul suckers. Did it make me a hypocrite that I didn’t want to claim a woman who’d been with half my brothers when I’d slept with half of them too? Yup. But that didn’t stop it from being true.
Besides, they were all too skinny for my taste.
They never ate. At least not that I saw.
Don’t get me wrong, I fell solidly into the all bodies were beautiful line of thinking. I just preferred whoever was beneath me to have something for me to grab on to.
A lot of something.
Regardless of my personal taste and preference, where was I supposed to meet anyone? The girls that came on the weekends usually just wanted to say they’d slept with a brother. Bragging rights to their friends since our reputation was well known in town. Hell, the entire county and state.
The county line was finally coming into view, which meant I was almost home. The clubhouse had been home for three years, since I was nearly twenty-four and finally escaped Striker. Three years with the club and I’d climbed the ranks quicker than anybody ever had, earning my way to third in command. Nathan and Hawk had been destined for their ranks, but mine had been earned through loyalty, sweat, and blood.
The sun was starting to set by the time I got pulled into the driveway at the clubhouse. Parking my bike in line with the rest, I climbed off and headed inside. Barbara was bartending with Brenda. She hadn’t been around in awhile. Tank was nowhere to be seen which was probably why she was around.
Hawk was sitting in his usual spot, Bubbles and Hands with him.
Walking past the bar I took the three fingers of whiskey Brenda offered to me, “thanks sweetheart,” I smiled gratefully at her.
She was too good to us and we didn’t deserve her. Selfishly, I hoped she never figured that fact out.
“Where you been?” Hawk asked when I slid into the booth.
“Nowhere,” I shrugged. “Just riding.”
“No current danger,” I said.
That was true. Who knew how long it would remain true, but it was. We didn’t currently have any enemies coming after us.
Not that we knew about anyway.
Hawk grunted while I grunted in return.
Bubbles and Hands were gossiping about something. I didn’t care enough to pay attention. It probably had something to do with Bubbles doing something ridiculously stupid, per usual.
Hawk rubbed his temples, taking deep breaths like he was in pain.
“What’s wrong with you?” I asked, taking a sip of my whiskey.
“When the hell is Prez coming back?”
“Next week,” I said. He should know that.
“I know!” He snapped.
“Who peed in your whiskey? The fuck is wrong with you.”
“These fuckers are killing me,” he motioned around the room.
The clubhouse was always home base for all types of fuckery. Public sex. Public group sex. Weed. Booze. But without Prez to keep everyone in line, there was even more craziness than usual.
“Payback?” I asked, quirking an eyebrow at him. When Nathan was in charge he was usually full steam ahead with the shenanigans, but now that he was in charge he hated it. “Karma?”
Flipping me the bird, he took a long swig of his whiskey while I laughed at him.
The clubhouse was covered in a light layer or smoke, making it difficult to see everything that was going on.
“Come on,” Hawk said. “We gotta go.”
Shit. Our weekly meeting. Prez usually went with us, but the task fell to me and Hawk with him out of town.
Why did they even need a honeymoon? Rachel was already knocked up.
“Keep everyone alive,” Hawk said to Hands before standing. Weaving our way through the mass of bodies that had collected on the dance floor, we walked towards the exit.
The cool late fall night air hit me smack in the face. During the day. With the sun warm and high the temperature was reasonable, but as soon as the sun set I froze my balls off.
Some days I missed the Florida heat.
But that was all I missed of that place.
Hawk was the first to pull out and I followed him, headlight shining down the two lane road.
The ride to the mayor’s didn’t take that long, but we had to come in from the back way. He didn’t have any direct neighbors, but if we were seen riding in from the main road it would raise questions.
Not that everyone in town didn’t already know he was in our pocket. As was the sheriff. And the district representative. And one of our senators. And the governor.
We had enough law enforcement on our side to prevent us from ever having to go to jail.
Not that we were involved in illegal activities.
Not anything that could be proved anyway.
Pulling up to the large house, we climbed off our bikes. My eyes were pulled to the upstairs bedroom window when I saw the curtain move.
Walking up the landing steps, Hawk rang the doorbell before putting his hands in his pockets, taking a relaxed, neutral stance while we waited for the mayor to open the front door.
“Davis,” Hawk greeted him with his last name only.
“Boys,” he said, opening the door and allowing us to enter.
We didn’t need to be shown around as we made our way through the familiar space and to the kitchen. The bottle of Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon was already sitting on the counter.
This was the only time we got to drink such expensive booze. Not because we couldn’t afford it but because the rest of the club would drink it like it was water.
And I’d learned the lesson of keeping good booze in my room at the club. As soon as someone knew about it, everyone knew about it. And then suddenly, everyone wanted to be drinking bodies.
Mayor Davis poured us each a glass of the bourbon before we sat on the bar stools at the breakfast bar. He stood standing on the opposite side.
“Here,” Hawk said, pulling an envelope out full of large bills and sliding it across the counter.
Mayor Davis peeked inside before tucking it into the inside of his suit jacket.
“Any trouble I should know about coming?” He asked.
“Nope. We’re all good,” Hawk answered.
“That’s what I like to hear,” he nodded, lifting his glass slightly in our direction. “When is Prez back?”
“Next week,” I said.
“You tired of doing business with me already?” Hawk asked, mock offense in his voice.
Mayor Davis snorted. “Course not. Just making conversation. It’s what we do. What sets us apart from the animals. We drink and make small talk while we do business.”
Said every gangster and outlaw and crooked law man in history. I chuckled at my own thoughts before clearing my throat to cover it up.
When we heard a stair squeak all three of our heads snapped in the direction of the staircase.
“What was that?” Hawk asked.
“My daughter is upstairs with a friend,” he replied quickly.
“Women,” Hawk said.
“Too nosy for their own good,” the mayor said. “Don’t worry. I’ll straighten her out.”
With those words Hawk and I finished our bourbon before.
Neither one of us agreed with the mayor’s words. But Prez had given us strict orders to behave. And that meant agreeing like mindless robots. So we did.
The mayor walked us to the front door, saying goodbye.
On my walk towards the bikes, I couldn’t help glancing at the window again. If you put a gun to my head, I wouldn’t be able to pick the mayor’s daughter out of a lineup. Or the friend who was apparently in the house with her.
But glancing up, I saw two silhouettes shadowed through the curtains. One short and petite, the other tall and thick. Very thick.
I couldn’t help but watch her body move as a shadow. She was talking quickly with her hands until her head snapped in the opposite direction and she disappeared from my view.
“You comin’?” Hawk asked, already on his bike.
“Yeah,” I said.
The entire ride back to the clubhouse I couldn’t help wondering if the girl that’d caught my eye was the mayor’s daughter. Or if it was her friend.
And whoever she was, how would I find her again?