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My old man wasn’t stupid enough to take our fight to the streets, but he was stupid enough to send me a message by beating on a girl he knew I’d given my promise of protection to.

How long ago was that? Six, seven years?

It seemed like another lifetime.

One where I was so sure of my place within the club. One where I was content being a naive soldier whose main concern was pussy and a party.

Pussy.

I’d been knee deep in it since I was twelve.

De-virginized the same way all the other preteen boys were who grew up in the club. An older member, for me it was my old man, sat me down in the middle of a room full of brothers already drunk or high or both, while a half-naked club whore twice my age gave me a sad excuse for a strip tease to an old Bon Jovi song, every brother I’d known since I was born looked on. She dropped to her knees and sucked me before sitting back up and turning her back to me. She held onto the armrest for support when she sank down onto me, taking my cock inside her pussy.

The crowd cheered and my old man’s right-hand man, Tank, shook a bottle of Bud, popping the top off with his knife, spraying beer all over me and the club whore after I blew my load in under twenty seconds.

Best fucking day of my life.

I’d give anything to have those days back. To be blissfully unaware of all the fucked up shit that made me eventually turn on my brothers and take off my cut.

I was happy being just another ant in his mound, doing his bidding without question.

My life outside the club always grated on Chop. The fact that I was close to civilians, namely Preppy and King, never sat well with him. He took every chance he had to warn me of letting them in and reminding me of where loyalties needed to lie and how outsiders caused nothing but problems in our world.

I never saw it that way. King and Preppy were useful to the club. The Bastards leaned on them when something was too high profile for us, and they leaned on us when they needed a cleanup. They embraced my brothers and opened up their houses to us and our wild partying ways.

Chop even went as far as offering them cuts. Patching them in. I think he did that because the fact that he had no power over them was driving him ballistic.

Of course they said no. King was a bull who ran in his own direction and Preppy was the wild donkey, running amongst bulls with no direction at all.

I went out of my way and took every opportunity to show Chop that my loyalties were with him. With the club. I pulled triggers on demand. Buried his problems deep in the woods without hesitation. Lived my life according to our code and no one else’s.

But it was never enough.

The more he pushed me on his idea that in order to take the gavel I needed to lose my friends, the less I wanted it. I started spending less and less nights at the compound and more nights in the makeshift apartment in King’s garage. We’d throw parties in his backyard for my brothers who embraced King and Prep, not just as my friends, but as friends of the club.

Preppy died at our clubhouse several months back because there was a traitor amongst my brothers.

A rat.

Chop was more concerned about the blood on the concrete than Preppy’s death or the traitor in his midst. And that’s when it hit me. The reason Chop was worried about my loyalties was because he had a reason to be worried.

When it came down to it. Life or death. A gun held on Chop and one held on my friends. I had to play God and choose whose life I would save, I would choose my friends, the only real family I’d ever had, over Chop.

I think he knew this long before I did.

When he refused to let me help King save his girl he made the choice easy for me. King or the cut.

It wasn’t even a decision that was hard to make. King had saved my life at a time when not a single Bastard came to my rescue, when Eli and his gang of pussy ass motherfuckers tied me down and tortured me.

Chop talked a big game about loyalty, but he’d never done a goddamn thing to earn it.

I felt naked without the soft leather of my cut against my skin. And not a good kind of naked. The shameful kind of naked.

I missed it.

I missed my club.

I missed my brothers.

I missed knowing my place in the world and knowing who I was because driving that truck back into the gates of my hell, I had no fucking idea.

All I knew was that I didn’t miss Chop.

I may have given that little girl my ring as a joke, but this wasn’t a joke anymore.

This was fucking war.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Bear

The day I met King was a bloody one.

I chipped two teeth and gained the scar that runs across my left elbow.

We’d gotten into a fight over—over I don’t even remember what. Whatever fourteen-year-old kids fight about. Well, fourteen-year-old kids who dealt dope, stole cars, stripped them for parts, and ran from the law.

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