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“Why?” I asked, not understanding what he was trying to get at.

“’Cause they’re kids. Want them to just be kids. Play with toy guns and not have to worry about using the real deal before they’re old enough to drive. I want their biggest worry to be about whether we’re having pizza or hot dogs for dinner. You and me? We didn’t get the chance to be kids. It was stolen from us by our shit parents, and instead of a childhood we were given a big plate of harsh fucking reality. Not gonna do that to them. I won’t.”

Since I’d gotten back to Logan’s Beach I was under the assumption that King had gotten soft, but I was wrong. Wanting to protect his kids didn’t make him soft. It made him even more fucking crazy, just in a different way.

Because he had a different purpose.

“You’ll get it one day. You’ll have your own to worry about, and then you’ll realize that the psycho you thought you were, the one no one was stupid enough to fuck with, should be very fucking afraid of the psycho you will become to protect your family.”

“Right now I can’t see past tomorrow, never mind that far into the future. My days are numbered anyway. The MC is gunning for me the second I step out onto their turf. May not live long enough to knock someone up.”

King tossed me a small ziplock bag and I shoved it into my back pocket. He closed the safe and leaned against his desk, crossing his arms over his chest. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you’d turned into a big fucking pussy while you were gone.”

“Fuck you,” I spat.

“The old Bear would have phrased that shit differently. Tell me something, man. You still want it? The gavel? Because a few months ago you said you didn’t want it yet you’re wandering around here like you’re a lost fucking puppy dog.”

“Now the answer is ‘I don’t know,’” I said honestly. “Been asking myself the same fucking thing.”

“Ain’t gonna find your answer at the bottom of a bottle of Jack.”

“Oh yeah, since when did you become my fucking mama?”

“Since an old friend asked me if I remembered who I was and I realized I’d lost touch. Thought you might like the same kind of reminder,” King said, throwing my words back at me that I’d told him months ago. “Do you want to know what that old friend would have just said?”

“Sure,” I said, because I did want to know.

“The old Bear wouldn’t have said that the MC was gunning for him the second he stepped on their turf, the old Bear wouldn’t have said shit, but he would have reigned down hellfire on them until it wasn’t their fucking turf anymore,” King said.

“How the fuck am I supposed to do that? I’m just me. All of my brothers besides one, take their orders from Chop. I’m only one soldier when they have dozens. Going into the MC would be fucking suicide and shit’s fucked up but I’m not ready to go out just yet.”

“That’s funny, because a second ago it sounded like you were giving up.”

“I’m not, just doing what I gotta do to get through life, man.”

“That’s even more funny,” King said, lighting a cigarette.

“What is?” I asked, growing annoyed with my friend.

“That you think what you’re doing is living,” King pointed out.

“Shit is so easy to say coming from someone who’s gone civilian.”

“I’ll soldier for you,” King said. I was just about to light a cigarette but his words made me pause, the flame flickering inches away from my smoke, swaying in the air while I took in the gravity of what he’d just said.

“No,” I said finally. “You’ve got Ray and the kids. If she found out you were gonna soldier for me so we could take back the MC she would fucking kill you before they had a chance to.”

“See? That’s how I know that you don’t know shit,” King said, pointing up to the house through the window. “Ray and my kids are my everything, but she knows and accepts me for who I am and what I need to do. When the time comes, and you see your way clear of all the bullshit you’re insisting in stewing in, I’m in. I’ll soldier. No fucking questions.”

King had finally lost his goddamned mind. “No. And I’m not saying it just to say it man. I couldn’t let you. If Ray doesn’t kill you, she would most definitely kill me.”

“Oh yeah?” King said, sitting back down at his desk and turning his back to me. He picked up his pencil and began another sketch. “Then why did she suggest it?”

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