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“Why the fuck did you think you could steal my kid and live to fucking tell about it!” He shouts. He must have hit her because I hear my mother scream again. The leaves on the trees shake and I can’t take my attention away from where I know they are. Tank continues to lead me to his bike but I’m walking backwards.

“I had to try.” I hear my mother shout. “I had to try to give him a life where he wouldn’t end up…” She pauses.

“Say it, bitch. You know how this works. This ends the same way no matter what so you better get it out now…while you have the chance.” Chop says. I hear a click.

“I wanted to take him away from here so he wouldn’t end up like you!” My mom shouts and as soon as the last word leaves her mouth there is a popping sound.

And then nothing.

Tank puts me on the back of his bike and starts it up, the others that are with us do the same. Biggie, one of the younger guys, jumps into the Toyota and speeds off. Pager, one of the oldest in the Bastards, is waiting at the edge of the brush when Chop appears with blood splattered across his cheek, his gun still in his hand. He tosses the gun to Pager who wraps it in a rag.

Tank signals something with his hand to Chop, who sees him because he nods in response, but his eyes are locked on mine. He breaks our connection to wipe the blood from his cheek with his bare hand.

I wasn’t ever scared of him. Not when he beat my mom. Not when he beat me for any number of things I’d done that he didn’t like. Not when he brought me on his airboat and forced me to watch as he shot a man and dumped his body in the Everglades.

It’s this very moment when a shiver of fear snakes down my spine and for the very first time I’m afraid of my father. He looks down at his now red-coated palm. Shivers dance down my spine when his eyes again find mine…

And he smiles.

Heat exploded in my back, radiating through my shoulder, followed by the mind-numbing pain as the bullet connected with bone, tearing through the front of my shoulder. I’d been shot before, but it’s not a feeling you can get used to. Tiny grenades tearing through your skin and muscles then exploding once it’s sunk deep enough inside of you. Every nerve in my spine jumped and my arms contorted, steering the bike sideways, causing it to swerve all over the road. “FUUUUUUUUCCCCKKKKK” I screamed through my teeth while white-knuckling the handlebars, righting my bike just seconds before my front tire was about to dip into the ditch lining the side of the road. Grass and dirt fanned out from under my tires, mud rained down on top of me as my tires again took purchase of the road.

With bullets still whizzing around my head it took everything I had to keep the bike straight and keep up my speed. Just a few small ticks on the speedometer in the downward direction and I was a dead man.

I may not have been wearing a cut, but I wasn’t some bitch, I was running toward Thia, not running for my life.

I slammed on the breaks, spinning my bike around to face the bitches who were coming at me full speed. Tank and Cash. Two brothers I’d personally recruited as prospects.

Ungrateful motherfuckers.

Two brothers who were also about to learn the hard way that just because I wasn’t wearing my cut didn’t mean that I was weak.

Or that I forgot how to pull a motherfucking trigger.

My bike continued to spin as I lifted my hands off the handlebars and pulled both guns from my shoulder holsters. Pain ripped through my back at my sudden movement, but my aim was steady.

I enjoyed the look of shock on those motherfucker’s faces as they barreled toward me and I began firing. Cash went down first, his bike turning on its side as I put two in his chest. Tank followed, flipping over his handlebars after I put one through his right cheek.

My bike spun out of control, but it looked like it was the world around me spinning instead of me. Orange groves circled me and so did the smell of something rotting. I careened off the side of the road, smashing into the ditch I’d managed to avoid only minutes earlier. I sailed over my bike, flying through the air, smiling.

I might have been going out, but at least I was going out knowing that I took those two motherfuckers with me.

My last thought before I hit the ground was of a girl with pink hair.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Thia

Mr. Carson had wobbled away on his own accord and I ran into the orange grove before he could remember he had a gun of his own. I was disgusted with what I’d done, and even more disgusted with the fact that I didn’t regret it.

When my lungs burned and I couldn’t run any more I dropped down to my knees. “I’m so sorry, Dad. I’m so sorry I couldn’t save all this for you. For us. But most of all I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you,” I said into the trees. The leaves around me rustled with the wind, every so often I heard the THUD of a falling orange.

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