But in the house I’d grown up in, surrounded by people I’d known my entire life.
I had no idea who I was.
Maybe it was all the marriage talk. Maybe it was me feeling alone all the time, even though I was surrounded by people. But I was started to fucking lose it.
It had been four weeks with no word. No sign. No nothing from King. And I was wearing a hole in the carpet of my room pacing back and forth until a reckless idea hit me.
King had said it wasn’t safe for him to contact me, or for me to contact him. But if I tried to get word to him through Bear’s MC, then it wouldn’t directly link me to King in the eyes of anyone looking in from the outside.
No sooner did the idea take hold was I running downstairs. I grabbed a set of keys off the rack hanging by the door and sprinted to the garage, hopping into a big beige Lexus that reeked of floral perfume.
A scent I knew that was familiar to me.
A scent I knew I hated.
I put the key in the ignition and turned the engine on. And then I paused.
I don’t know how to fucking drive!
I pounded my fist on the steering wheel and then my forehead in frustration. But when I’d just about given up hope I glanced up from the wheel and saw something leaning on the wall of the garage that I knew instantly I could drive.
By the time I pulled up to the Beach Bastards’ clubhouse, my anxiety had me out of breath, but I wasn’t the least bit deterred.
I jumped off and let the moped fall to the dirt. I ran up to the gate where a skinny kid was manning the door. His cut read Prospect in huge letters. He didn’t have a name patch. “You lost or something?” he asked.
I rested my hands on my knees and held up a finger, still catching my breath. “I need to speak with Bear, if he’s here,” I huffed, “and if he’s not, I just need to talk to someone who can get a message to him, or to King.”
“Oh, I remember you. From the party, before all the shit went down. Glad to see you ain’t full of bullet holes.” He hopped of his stool. “Hang on.” He slid the gate open and disappeared behind it.
He was gone for what seemed like an eternity. Although the sun had gone down, the humidity had wrapped me in a pool of water suspended in the air and there wasn’t a single spot on my body that wasn’t soaking wet. I looked like I’d peddled through a rainstorm, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
I waited on the prospect’s abandoned stool, kicking the gravel around under my sneakers. When he finally reappeared, he wore an apologetic look on his face. A man with a grey beard, older version of Bear, except slightly shorter and rounder, followed him through the gate. The patch on his cut said President. He lit a cigarette and shoved the lighter into the pocket of his shirt. His face was heavily lined with the signs of age, but there was no mistaking the freckles under his eyes. The same ones Bear had.
“Good, you must be Bear’s dad. I need to talk to him…,” I hesitated, unsure of Bear’s dad’s name.
“Chop,” the man filled in the blank, pointing to his name patch. “You the one King claimed?”
“Claimed?” I paused, remembering that Bear had used the same term on the dock months before. “Um, yeah. I think so.”
“You’re the girl they sprayed bullets in my house over,” Chop said, shifting the toothpick that hung out of his mouth with his tongue. “’Cause we got our own trouble here without you bringing that shit to my door.”
“No, that was Isaac. He cornered us, he tried…” I shook my head. “Please, I just need to speak with Bear, just for a minute—”
“Ain’t here.” Chop shrugged.
I dropped my shoulders in disappointment. “Then can you please just get a message to him or King for me?” I asked, hopefully.
Chop narrowed his gaze at me like I’d just stepped on his foot. He pointed a finger at me accusingly. “Like I’d told my son a million fucking times, Brantley King was not a member of this MC and therefore was no concern of mine.”
Chop turned around but then he stopped and looked back at me over his shoulder. “King’s dead. Him and Bear both.” He didn’t wait around for my reaction before disappearing back behind the gate.
I dropped to my knees, the gravel slicing into my skin as my world came crashing down around me.
They’re. All. Dead.
“Nooooo!!” I wailed.
The prospect lit a cigarette and looked down at me with pity. He turned away from me, refocusing his eyes on the empty street.