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Bear shoved me aside and left the room first, leading the way toward the back staircase, the opposite of how I’d come. The sound of boots coming up the stairs on the other end of the courtyard echoed underneath the flimsy overhangs.

“I guess it doesn’t matter what rules I set, boy. You ain’t gonna listen to a damn one of them anyway.” Chop stood at the bottom of the stairs. “Had high hopes for you. But how the fuck am I supposed to pass the gavel to a VP who doesn’t respect his brothers, his president, or the rules we live by?”

“We can argue about all this shit later, Pops,” Bear said dismissively. “King’s girl’s is going to get herself dead in about an hour if we don’t get to her, so we can have our little heart to heart when I get back from making sure that doesn’t happen.”

“In trouble again? Girl looked spooked when she came here a few weeks ago, too.” Chop said, sucking on his upper teeth.

“She was here?” Bear asked, stepping back up to Chop. Two of his men flanked his sides when they saw me approach, pushing back their cuts to show me a flash of their pistols, reminding me they were armed.

But so the fuck was I.

“Yeah, she was here. Wanted to talk to Bear,” chimed Wolf, who was standing beside Chop. His arms decorated with colorful graphic tattoos of Jack the Ripper, along with the hookers he was famous for murdering in varying levels of dismemberment. It was some sick shit to put on your arms for the world to see, but it was great work.

Some of my best.

“Why didn’t anyone tell me she came looking for me?” Bear asked, his chest heaving with anger.

“First off, ’cause we were on lockdown while you were out doing fuck knows what with this one.” He waved his hand at me. “And ’cause I gave orders. This is still my club,” Chop said. “And the simple truth is that she ain’t club business, son. She ain’t no one’s ole lady, and she ain’t coming here to suck anyone’s cock. So I sent her packin’.”

“Yeah, you also told her I was fucking dead.” I said, feeling the rage building.

Chop had the fucking audacity to laugh. “So fucking what? I told her both of you were dead.”

“Fuck you!” Bear roared, launching himself at his father. If Pup weren’t in immediate danger, I’d of thrown caution to the wind and taken them out. Biker by biker. But this wasn’t my fight and even if it were, I didn’t have fucking time for it. “That ain’t your call to make.”

“Yes, it is my call! That’s what you don’t seem to fucking get! Every decision involving this club is my decision to make! I’m the fucking President, but you don’t seem to remember what that title means these days! I want to pass you the fucking gavel but you spit in my face every time you turn it down.”

Bear turned down being president?

I grabbed Bear by the shoulders, catching him before he reached Chop. He shook me off but stopped. I looked around to the various bikers standing straight faced, watching our confrontation unfold. “I’ve known most of you my entire fucking life,” I said. “I’ve know all of you bitches longer than most of you have known each other. I’ve never asked you for special favors. I’ve never asked you for anything I’ve not paid back tenfold. But my girl comes here looking for help, and you turn her the fuck away because Prez here is pissed that I didn’t patch in when he wanted me too?” I shook my head and looked at Chop. “If this is how you treat someone you’ve known for decades then I made the right fucking decision by not patching in. You’re mad at me because some blood was spilled on your doorstep? Be mad at me. But it’s not your fucking blood that got spilled. It was mine. My friend. My family. So you can take this self righteous brotherhood and go fuck yourself with it. Because I know what brotherhood is.” I took one last glance at the men around me. “When any of you have ever needed something, I’ve never turned a single one of you motherfuckers away from my doorstep. Preppy knew what brotherhood was. Bear knows what brotherhood is. You?” I pointed to Chop. “You don’t know shit.”

“You better watch your fucking mouth, boy.” Chop seethed. He pointed to Bear. “Whatever his girl’s got troubling her doesn’t concern you, or us for that matter. Neither does he.” Chop turned his attention to me. “You had a chance to be a Beach Bastard, boy. Lots of chances. But you didn’t want this life. You turned your back on the chance to have the loyalty and protection of this club.” He turned back to Bear. “Yet you still give it to him like he walks around wearing a god damned invisible cut!” He looked me up and down like I disgusted him then turned back to his son. “He don’t deserve your loyalty, boy. Your brothers could’ve been meeting their makers because of him and you either don’t fucking get that or you don’t fucking care, and honestly, I don’t fucking know which one pisses me off more!” Chop stepped up into Bear’s face. They were shoulder to shoulder, staring into identical blue eyes as they both puffed out their chests and shifted their weight from side to side.

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