A high-pitched buzz sounded. The magnetic door latch released and with a violent push, Zak stepped out into the sunlight.
Not even six feet from the building, he stopped, closed his eyes, flared his nostrils and inhaled a deep breath.
Smelled like freedom.
He opened his eyes, spun on his heels and raised his arms to give the double middle finger salute to the guards watching him on the cameras. He threw his head back and laughed.
Fuck them all.
His breath condensed in the frigid air and he wore no jacket but he didn’t care.
Life. Was. Good.
A horn honked and he turned to see who it was. Though, it wasn’t who he’d hoped, he wouldn’t gripe about it. A brother was a brother, whether blood or not.
He picked up the small bag of personal items from where he dropped it in his haste to flip the guards the bird and jogged to the curb where his chariot awaited.
Diesel tossed him his leather cut, as well as a hooded sweatshirt. After pulling the sweatshirt over his T, he raised his colors to his nose and inhaled.
Yeah. His vest smelled like leather, smoke, booze and pussy. Best combination in the world.
The patch was dirty and worn but still made a clear statement. He was a fucking Dirty Angel and after ten years in the joint, that still hadn’t changed.
This was his homecoming. And it would be his last one because he swore to himself he would never go into that concrete box again.
Diesel, the club’s Enforcer, wore a huge grin when they clasped hands and bumped chests. “Good to see you, brother.”
The man’s smile was infectious. “Same, brother. Been too fuckin’ long.” He jabbed a finger at the Sergeant at Arms patch on the man’s cut. “See nothin’s changed. Still bustin’ heads?”
Diesel only grunted and moved around the hood of the car to the driver’s side.
Zak yanked open the door of the classic Pontiac GTO—Diesel’s baby after his bike—and slid onto the seat, holding his cut on his lap like it was precious. Before climbing in, Diesel shrugged out of his, turned it inside out and slipped it back over his shoulders.
You never wore your colors when riding in a “cage,” and if you did, you turned your colors in. Because DAMC was a damn bike club, not a car club. That was a lesson not to be forgotten. Zak smiled at the memory of kicking a prospect’s ass for disrespecting the club by wearing his vest colors out while in a car.
As Diesel pulled away from the parking lot, the larger man’s head swiveled to study him, but Zak wasn’t in the mood to talk about his time inside so he said, “Let’s get the fuck outta here.”
“Sounds like a plan. Need to get to church anyway, everyone’s gettin’ together for your homecomin’ celebration.”
Zak glanced at him in surprise. “Yeah?”
“Fuck yeah. Want to welcome home our president.”
Zak shook his head and frowned. “I’m no longer president, D. Even I’m aware of that.”
Diesel grunted, then said, “That’ll change,” and turned the key.
The throaty roar of the big block engine was music to Zak’s ears. He couldn’t wait to get the power of his bike between his thighs again. He’d missed it.
He’d missed the open road.
He’d missed doing shit on his timetable and not the warden’s.
Even so, he hadn’t missed being the club president and didn’t know if he even wanted the hassle anymore. He wanted to enjoy his newly found freedom for a while. And being constantly saddled with club business choked that freedom.
But as his gaze slid to Diesel, he didn’t think the time was right to talk about it.
They had a party to go to.
Beer to drink.
He needed to reconnect with his brothers.
And, almost as important, he needed to fuck some pussy. Because ten years was way too long to go without.
First order of business back at the club was to make his rounds. Second was to drain his clogged pipes.
And if it took more than one woman to do it? So be it.
When Diesel pulled the GTO through the gate into the rear parking lot of the clubhouse, a sense of relief overcame Zak. He breathed easier and felt himself automatically settling back into the old ways. He was home. Really fucking home.
He’d noticed there were no bikes or cars parked out front on the public side of the clubhouse, The Iron Horse Roadhouse. Hawk must have shut the bar down so everyone could attend the pig roast, which would be held out back, the private side of church.
“Got the girls to clean out one of the larger rooms upstairs so you got somewhere to crash tonight. Stay as long as you want. You know the deal.”
Zak didn’t answer, he only nodded, amazed at the sight of how packed the back lot was with vehicles.
Large fucking turnout.
Anxiety crept through him, his stomach churning a bit. He’d been gone a long time. A whole fucking decade. Things looked the same so far, but he knew there had been changes. Hopefully for the better.
Club life hadn’t stood still waiting for Zak to do his time. His fingers fisted in his cut as it laid on his lap.
Diesel parked directly in front of the back entrance to the clubhouse—it was almost as if the spot had been reserved for him—and shut the car off, not moving to get out.
Zak didn’t, either. Instead, he rolled his gaze up to read the sign over the grey steel-metal door.
Dirty Angels MC.
Under that, in smaller letters… Down & Dirty ‘til Dead.
His nostrils flared as he sucked in oxygen.
This was his family. They would welcome him home with open arms.
Well, they would.
His dad and brother… not so much.
He mentally shook that problem out of his head and shot a look at Diesel before pushing the door open and unfolding from the passenger seat. As soon as he was on his feet, he shrugged his cut over his shoulders.
That was more like it. Now he was home.
He glanced down to where the rectangular patch was missing, where it had been ripped free from the leather, just a few stray threads left behind as a reminder.
He was no longer president. Someone else wore that patch now.
More power to Pierce for taking on the headache.
Though, some of the brothers weren’t thrilled with Pierce taking the head of the table. Even though they were all brothers at heart, Pierce didn’t come from either bloodline of the two club founders, Doc and Bear.
And Pierce didn’t always agree with all of the club’s business staying on the upside, staying legit. He tended to lean toward the old ways.
But the old ways had gotten way too many of them locked up. And when a brother was doing time, that meant less money in the coffers. One less member paying dues, one less member working in the businesses.
And that was not good. Not good for the club in general. Not good for the brothers who remained on the outside because they had to step up to fill in the financial gaps.
“Gonna just stand there, or gonna take your ass inside?” Diesel prodded, making Zak shake himself mentally to get himself out of his head, his thoughts.
With a smile to his brother, he kissed the tips of his fingers then leapt straight up, tagging the club’s entryway sign with his hand.
Good to be home.
Diesel grunted, yanked open the door, and shoved Zak past the threshold into the dim interior.
Then the sound was deafening. The hooting, the hollering, the cat calls, the whistles, and “fuck yeah’s,” as Zak parted the crowd like the Red Sea. The common area was packed. Familiar faces became a blur as he fought his way through the back pats, shoulder bumps, forearms clasps. His face began to ache from the smile he wore; it couldn’t get any bigger, any wider.
He pushed his way to the club’s private bar and stared at Hawk stationed behind it. The big man had his thick arms crossed over his chest and a serious expression on his face. He looked the same as Z remembered, just ten years older. A few lines at the corners of his dark brown eyes, his dark hair in a short mohawk. That hadn’t changed, either. Both sides of his head were shaved, his bare scalp sporting tattoos.
His right-hand man.
Or used to be, anyway. Zak’s gaze dropped to the man’s rectangular patch and was pleased to see the man was still VP.
But Zak knew that. He had been kept up to date for the most part during his stint at the State Correctional Institution in Fayette county. Most of the brothers had taken turns visiting when they could. Not that Zak expected them to, but it was good when they did.
It took everything in his power not to leap over the bar and grab the man only two years his senior into a bear hug. No matter what shit went down, Hawk always had his back.
Through thick and thin. Maybe not true brothers, but brothers all the same.
“Still as ugly as ever, chicken hawk,” Zak growled at him. “Bet your hair is stiffer than your dick ever gets.”
“Give me limp dick just thinkin’ ‘bout how many salads you tossed in the joint.”
Zak realized how quiet the room became around them. All eyes on them.
“What’s a man gotta do to get a damn drink ‘round here?”
Hawk grabbed his junk. “Suck my cock. Probably good at doin’ that now. Probably a pro.”
“Fucker,” Zak grumbled, struggling to keep a straight face.
Izzy walked behind the bar and in between the two men having a stare down. “Boys. Just kiss and get it over with. And then get the man a damn drink.”
Zak’s eyes slid to Isabella. “Damn, Izzy, you’re lookin’ good.”
“Anything with a pussy probably looks good to you right now. But,” she put both palms on the bar and leaned toward Zak, “it helped that I got rid of that rat bastard.” She slapped a shot glass in front of him and cocked an eyebrow.
Izzy nodded then turned to grab the Jack Daniels from the shelf behind the bar. “Call me Bella, Z. I’m trying to erase anything that reminds me of him.” She poured him a double.
He raised the glass up to her in a salute. “Here’s to freedom. For both of us.” Then downed the whiskey. The burn down his throat felt good. Real. A reminder that he was now free and needed to keep it that way.
“Amen to that,” she muttered.
But she did look good. Her wavy, long dark brown hair went past the middle of her back. Her dark brown eyes looked guarded, as they should with the shit she went through with her former husband. Even though it was chilly out, she wore a tight black tank top with the letters DAMC over her ample breasts with her pink bra straps showing. A wide black leather belt cinched her narrow waist, and her hips... Damn, they’d widened out perfectly. Grab worthy, hang on tight as she’s bucking wild on your lap worthy.
But even so, he wouldn’t fuck her with a ten-foot pole. And one reason was standing directly behind her, watching him check her out. The other reason sidled up next to him. Diesel. Both men were brothers for real. And both men were her cousins who now kept a close eye on her. Very close. And he certainly didn’t need a double ass-kicking fresh out of the joint.
“Know it’s been ten years, but don’t even think about it,” Diesel muttered near his ear.
Zak lifted both palms in surrender. “Wouldn’t even go there.”
They seemed to be more protective of her now than ever. And with good reason. He had heard what her ex had done to her. And he understood them getting their hackles up when a male showed interest. Though, she worked at The Iron Horse and he couldn’t imagine she didn’t get hit on a lot. Her curves had matured over the last ten years and he had to admit she was drop-dead gorgeous. He wondered how many asses Hawk and Diesel thumped because of that.
Izzy shifted down the bar to talk to someone else and Hawk stepped back up, pouring him another double then pouring one for Diesel and himself. They clinked shot glasses then downed them in one swallow.
Zak slapped the glass down on the bar top and got serious. “Anyone see my dad or Axel?”
He didn’t miss when Diesel and Hawk’s eyes met briefly, a silent message, then their gaze broke and went back to him.
“See ‘em ‘round town, but haven’t had any real run-ins with ‘em.”
“Guess they won’t be here tonight,” Zak said softly, trying to fight the disappointment, but having a hard time keeping it from his voice.
“You know how it is with those fuckin’ cops, Z,” Jag said, walking up behind him and pounding him a welcome on the back. “They stick with their own. Don’t wanna get dirt under their nails by fraternizin’ with us.”
Zak turned to his cousin, and they clasped hands as if they were about to arm wrestle and then bumped shoulders.
Jag muttered, “Fuck that,” and wrapped his muscular arms around Zak and squeezed him tight.
Zak thought he spotted a tear in his blood relative and the club Road Captain’s eye.
Nah. Couldn’t have been.
Dirty Angels never cried. Even when they did.
And if they did, no one noticed or talked about it. Ever.
One time a prospect made fun of a patched member who got emotional and he ended up disappearing. Just like that.
But then that was in the old days.
Even a hard-assed MC member shed some tears once in a while. But, again, somehow no one ever noticed.
“Uncle Mitch an’ your brother have been scarce. When the pigs show up here, for whatever reason they feel’s ‘necessary,’ they usually send anyone but them. An’ from what I heard, they’ve circled the wagons ‘round Jayde since she’s come home from college. Don’t want her gettin’ anywhere near the club or any of us dirty fuckers.”
“With good reason,” Zak joked. Or tried to. He missed his little sister. The last time he saw her she was around fourteen years old. His mother and she had sat in the back of the courtroom for his sentencing and once it was over, he turned to look at them and they were gone. Disappeared. It probably had been too much for them.
So, he didn’t blame them. And he tried not to take it to heart that no one from his immediate family had ever visited him once while he was at Fayette. He understood their desire to keep their lives separate.
Though, his grandfather would have been pissed if he’d still been alive. The club had been his grandfather’s heart and soul.
He was supposed to be celebrating, not getting morose.
Zak cleared the thick out of his throat and said, “Proud of you for gettin’ voted in as Road Captain.”
Jag dropped his head, breaking eye contact, and murmured, “Nah, it was nothin’. Someone had to step up.”
“Glad it was you.”
Suddenly, he was body slammed from the back. Then slammed again. He turned to see Ace, Diesel and Hawk’s father, and Dex, their cousin and Izzy’s brother.
“Holy fuck, boy, you don’t look worse for wear,” Ace boomed. “C’mere, you fucker.”
Ace pulled Zak into his arms and squeezed tight, making it hard for Z to breathe, but before he let go, he murmured in his ear, “Thank fuck you’re out. Gotta get this club back on track.”
Zak schooled the surprise from his face before he turned to Dex, who only smiled at him and said, “Fuckin’ A, brother. You’ve been greatly missed.”
Zak’s lips thinned and he nodded. The back of his throat tickled with unshed tears and he blinked away any evidence of weakness.
To cover up his emotions, he pointed at Ace’s patch which read Treasurer, and shouted, “You assholes still trust this guy with our money?”
Laughter surrounded him. Then he spun on Dex and pointed to his patch. “Secretary? Who taught Dex how to read an’ write?”
Dex laughed, pounded him on the back and grabbed the shot glass Izzy shoved at him. He lifted it toward Zak in salute and then downed it.
Ace grabbed Zak’s arm and pulled him over to the side, leaning in. “Left a message on your father’s phone to let him know you were comin’ home today.” Ace shook his head, his face dropping. “Sorry, son. Didn’t even get a text back.”
“To be expected,” Zak said, then gave him a reassuring half smile. “Thanks for tryin’, though.”
Then a booming voice rose from out of the crowd. “Get the fuck outta my way.”
Goddamn. It was going to get even harder to hide his emotions once that old man got to him. The crowd of onlookers let him through and he stopped about five feet from Zak, inspecting him from head to toe.
“Don’t look worse for wear,” Grizz echoed Ace.
“Hell, no,” Zak answered. “Was like Club Fed in there. Couldn’t ask for a better vacation.”
“Boy, come give this ol’ man a bear hug.” And with that, he opened his thick arms wide and Zak, with a smile, stepped into them. “Fuckin’ A,” Grizzly mumbled and sniffed.
“Don’t you start,” Zak warned softly. “You start an’ I’m a goner.”
Grizz nodded and then shoved Zak away from him. Zak caught his balance before facing the older man who was like a grandfather to him. Hell, like a grandfather to most of the members of the club. He’d been around forever. Zak couldn’t remember this club without him. His beard was longer, bushier, and definitely greyer than the day Zak got locked up. But his light blue eyes twinkled. He was still as sharp as a tack.
“Ten years in the slammer, son. Earned your wings. I’ll get my ol’ lady to put ‘em on your cut. An’ get Crow to add ‘em to your tats.”
Zak nodded to avoid creating any drama, but he didn’t want the wings. On his cut, on his body, or otherwise. He wasn’t proud of being a convict. A felon.
And he didn’t need a permanent reminder of that, either. But he kept that to himself.
“Okay, enough of this fuckin’ mushy homecoming. It’s time to party like real men. Bonfire’s rollin’, pig’s turnin’, an’ there’s plenty of pussy for everyone. Even you, Z.”
Zak turned toward the bar and saw Pierce, the current club president, standing on the polished surface, high above everyone crowded around it. A collective shout went up at his announcement and the crowd started filing out the side door to the courtyard where they had an outdoor pavilion, picnic tables, and all the shit they needed to party like a club should.
More people patted him on the back as they passed him. Some he knew. Some he didn’t. Some wore cuts, and a few of the women wore them, too.
He wondered how many of the members were now saddled with a ball and chain.
Fresh out of the box, he was going to make sure he didn’t have any of the sweet butts or female hang-arounds dig her claws into him. When it was warm enough to drag his sled out, he wanted no one on the back clinging on to him. He had plenty of time for that later.
Now... Now, he was going to enjoy life.
But first, he was going to get shit-faced. Then get laid. Or vice versa.
Zak hooted loudly, then got swept outside with the rest of the crowd.
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