I sipped the Jack straight from the glass, my eyes roaming the bar, seeing a sea of black leather, various-colored headbands, and a lot of long hair and beards. The biker bar I favored was outside the city limits. It was where we could hang out without the dirty looks and judgmental stares from those uppity types passing by. We could park our bikes in an actual dirt parking lot and not have to worry about some jackass in a Prius bumping one of our most prized possessions.
My baby, a seventy-six Shovelhead Harley with all the customizations to make it my own, was sitting out there. I could afford a brand-new Harley, but that wasn’t the same. My bike had miles on it and was as much a part of me as my right arm. I wouldn’t trade it in for the world. I did have a pretty sweet Icon Sheene in my garage for those days I wanted speed. I loved motorcycles. Always had much to my parents’ disgust. My Harley was my baby. I was always working on the damn thing to keep it running in tip-top shape.
“Trusty, you’re up next,” someone called out from the pool table area.
I held up my glass, indicating I had heard them. Trusty was my road name. I earned it years ago after some of the guys I rode with had learned I was actually a very wealthy man, thanks to a healthy trust fund. They’d called me Trusty ever since. I didn’t mind. A road name meant I was one of them. I finished off the glass and left it empty on the table, getting up and heading for the bathroom before I started my game of pool. A small hand snaked out, grabbing my arm.
“Hey, where are you going?” the pretty blonde asked, her dark eye makeup slightly smudged under her eyes.
“I’m going to take a piss,” I replied.
“Want some company?” she cooed.
I leaned down, my six four stature requiring me to practically bend all the way over to whisper in the petite woman’s ear. “Not this time.”
I stood up and winked, shrugging off the exaggerated pout. She had come with another man. Biker code forbade me from fucking around with her, no matter how much she begged. She wasn’t anyone’s old lady and she never would be with that kind of bullshit. I didn’t expect to see her around again after tonight. It wouldn’t be long before she hit on another woman’s man. The women who hung out in the bar didn’t mess around. They’d show her the door.
I did a quick check in the bathroom mirror that was scarred and only had about a triangle of actual mirror left in it. I used my fingers to push back my shaggy brown hair that was too long for the corporate world my brothers lived in. My hair had long layers that tended to curl, giving me a very unkempt look, according to my mom. That combined with the ever-present beard stubble aided the bad-boy thing that went with my lifestyle. I had once been told I looked like Jason Momoa with short hair, before the dreads and a lot less beard. Oddly enough, we were the same height, but I didn’t have his body. I was far leaner and had a lot more tats. My hazel eyes—more green than blue—that held a hint of danger stared back at me. I wanted to be my own man, but every time I looked in the mirror, really looked, I saw my brothers. We had all damn near been clones, the same color of brown hair, hazel eyes, tall, and the same square jawline. I kept my jaw covered with stubble in an effort to separate myself from them.
I headed back out into the very lively bar, ordering another Jack before making my way to the pool tables. It was a warm night and the packed bar was a little on the rank side, but I didn’t mind. It was basically my second home. I wasn’t in a club like most of the others in the bar. I was my own man. I didn’t want to deal with the bullshit that went with being in a club. People saw a motorcycle club as a gang. Most weren’t. There were monthly meetings, officers, fundraisers, and specific requirements to stay in good standing.
That wasn’t my bag. I brushed past a guy I knew of but wasn’t on great terms with him. He was an asshole who thought he ran the world. He turned around and shot me a glare. I stopped walking, staring back at him, daring him to pull something. I could hold my own. I had proven that plenty of times in this very bar.
“You gonna play or you gonna stand there and look pretty?” one of my buddies said, interrupting the stare-off between me and the short, older man.
“Do you need more time to admire me?” I growled, not breaking eye contact.
“Fuck you, Trusty.” He glowered before turning back around.
“Not even on your luckiest day,” I shot back, moving to pick up the pool cue.
My friend, Roadblock, watched me, or rather, watched behind me to make sure the other dude didn’t try to jump me from behind. He always had my back, and I always had his.
“When are you going to grow that thing on your face into a real beard?” he teased, breaking the tension.
It was the running joke. “I don’t want to look like I’m ninety and have all kinds of shit caught in my beard. The ladies don’t like that,” I said with a wink.
He groaned. “My old lady loves my beard, it gives her a good tickle,” he said with a wink.
It was my turn to groan. “Thanks for that.”
We started our game, both of us downing drinks, making any actual aiming next to impossible. I had too much. I could feel it in the heaviness of my arms. There was no way I was riding my bike home. I would be calling an Uber.
“I feel like dancing,” I mumbled, tossing my stick onto the table after winning the game.
I turned to face the dance floor, looking for a target. I wanted to feel a woman’s body against mine. The southern rock pumping through the speakers had me swaying a little. I supposed it could have been the alcohol flowing through my system. I felt a vibration in my back pocket. It startled me at first until I realized it was my phone. I turned around, trying to fish the phone out of my pocket, feeling a lot like a dog chasing its tail.
“Fuck, I’m drunk,” I murmured aloud, finally managing to reach the phone.
“Mason?” I heard my name and looked around. “Mason! Are you there?”
I looked at the phone in my hand and realized I had answered the call when I had been fishing it out of my back pocket. “Hello?” I mumbled.
“Mason. What the hell?” I heard my best friend, Dalton Chevault, say.
“Dalton?” I asked with surprise.
He’d been out of the city for a month, on tour with his company, pedaling energy drinks. He was always on the road, but when he came home, we partied hard.
“Yes, it’s me. Holy shit, how drunk are you?” he joked.
I smirked, moving into the hall where the bathrooms were to try and hear a little better. I plugged one ear with my finger and focused on the call. “I’m not drunk,” I said, not sure why I was lying.
“Yes, you are.”
“Is that why you called me?” I asked irritably. “Are you my mother now?”
“No. I’m calling to tell you I’m coming back home tomorrow. I want to go out and party. Don’t get too wasted. I want to drink tomorrow night,” he scolded.
I chuckled. “Shit, I can handle two nights in a row of drinking.”
“I don’t know about that. The way you party is pretty rough.”
“Nah. Makes you stronger. Don’t act like you’re an old man,” I grumbled.
“Buddy, you’re thirty-two, you’re not exactly a young man anymore. You keep hanging out with those bikers, you’re going to start looking like them,” he warned.
I scoffed. “What’s wrong with that?”
“Look in the mirror. Your pretty boy looks are not meant to become grizzled and haggard. You wouldn’t know what to do if the ladies didn’t fall all over themselves to get a little piece of you,” he said with a laugh.
“Bullshit. They’ll still want me, trust me,” I said, staring at a woman walking toward me.
Her eyes were locked with mine. I gave her a thorough once-over before she moved along. She was pretty, but a little on the older side.
“I get in at four. Let’s do dinner and then drinks,” he said.
“Mason,” he said my name in a firm tone.
“Are you going to remember this conversation?” he asked.
I rolled my eyes. “Yes, I’m going to remember this conversation. I’m not that drunk. I’m still walking and I’m about to go get my groove on with one of these ladies,” I said, my eyes roaming the busy bar beyond.
“All right. I’ll see you tomorrow. Don’t be picking up one of your biker buddies’ women. The last time you nearly got your ass put in the hospital,” he warned.
“She didn’t tell me who she was. I was innocent and I was the one who almost put that asshole in the hospital. He was a punk,” I spat.
He laughed. “See you tomorrow,” he said and ended the call.
I slid my phone into my back pocket and walked back into the busy bar. My eyes were scanning the area, looking for someone new. I loved hanging at the bar, but it tended to be a lot of the same faces. I didn’t like to revisit past mistakes and usually, if I took someone home after a night of drinking, the only accurate way to describe the encounter was a mistake. It didn’t stop me from making them though.
A woman, looking a little out of place, caught my eye. She had jet-black hair, styled in a short bob, wearing a tight pair of jeans and a shirt that scraped over her midriff. She wasn’t a regular. I was sure she had come with a friend and was probably a little uncomfortable in the crowd. We could be a rough crowd. Things often got out of hand and there was always someone pissing someone else off. It was just the way I liked it.
I sauntered toward her, at least, I hoped I was sauntering and not stumbling like a fool. She looked up at me, a little smile playing over her lips that were painted a deep red. She was wearing a lot of eye makeup. To me, it looked overdone in an attempt to fit in with the other women in the bar.
“Hi,” I said.
“I want to dance.”
She shrugged a shoulder. “So, dance.”
I shook my head. “I want to dance with you.”
I grabbed her hand and pulled her toward me. She didn’t fight it, following me onto the dance floor. We began a slow rhythm, completely out of sync with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s music coming through the speakers. We were dancing to the beat of our own song. That’s what I wanted to believe anyway. Really, it was me being drunk, her obviously a little drunk, and us just bumping and grinding against each other. She was a tiny, little thing, the top of her head almost fitting under my chin.
“Are you here alone?” she asked when the song switched to something a little more upbeat.
“Alone? Have you looked around you?” I said sarcastically.
“Very funny. I don’t want to be messing with someone’s man. My friend warned me to keep my distance,” she said nervously.
“I’m no one’s man,” I told her.
She looked up and grinned. “Good, because I think I really like dancing with you.”
I pulled her lower body close to mine. “I think I might like it too.”
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