Copyright © 2018 Christine M. Butler / Christine Michelle
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Any similarities to persons, organizations, or places written about within these pages is purely coincidental, as this is a work of fiction.
This work is intended for an adult audience (18 and older) due to strong language, violence, and sexual situations.
I followed my heart from San Diego, California to Cedar Falls, West Virginia. Too bad that heart wasn’t worth the trip.
Thankfully, I had my job, new friends - which consisted of an entire motorcycle club I’d fallen into - and my new found responsibility for a family that was torn apart by needless tragedy.
As luck, fate, or whatever crazy force made such things occur would happen, I had followed my heart straight to Cedar Falls. I just didn’t realize I hadn’t met my heart yet.
Once there, I found myself lost in a woman named Gillie-Bean, a boy named Kade, and what was left of the family I’d helped save from the aftermath of a drunk driver.
As the former me - Daniel “Gray” Grayson - became “Surfer” in the Aces High MC, I realized my own heart had been worth the trip. I was brought here for a reason.
For a new family.
If you haven't read week one of Proven yet, you should check that out first!
Two months after first being introduced to the dudes in Aces High we were invited back again for a family barbecue of some sort. It hadn’t been the only event we’d attended in those two months, and I was happy to see that Kayla actually seemed to enjoy being around the bikers and their families. She even seemed to admire the old ladies she had met, which I supposed was a good thing if I ever thought seriously about prospecting and patching in with them. She didn’t even seem concerned about the fact that the guys wore the one percent patches on their kuttes.
I was guessing she hadn’t failed to notice the amount of money all the guys seemed to have to throw around, especially at their women. Even knowing that she noticed that I couldn’t help second guessing my decision to leave Kayla since she had been a lot better about things over the course of the two months since the accident where I met Beth and her daughter. Once Kayla had realized what my ongoing nightmares were about she decided to go with me one of the times I went to see Beth. She was in physical therapy now working on getting full use of her leg back after being damaged in the accident. Kayla sat with me through the trial of the man who had decimated Beth’s family too. He was currently behind bars serving a minimum of 15 years for vehicular homicide for each person he killed. Sadly, the judge allowed him to serve those sentences concurrently.
I was watching Kayla interacting with one of the club’s women when Smoke, Ghost, and Hopper sat down around me. “How’s everything going?” Ghost asked while the other two just sat and waited.
“It’s all going great.”
“Heard about the sentencing. That asshole needed to go down hard for what he did to that family,” Ghost lamented. I found out not long ago that he had lost his wife to a car accident. I imagined my talking about Beth and her daughter all the time had to hit him hard since there was a woman currently living his history, only worse because she lost kids in the accident too.
“Agreed,” I huffed out before sipping my beer and watching the three men warily. There was a cloud of tension around them that I couldn’t place, and it had me sitting on edge, though I tried to keep it from notice.
“We wanted to talk to you about the state of things,” Hopper finally spoke up.
“The state of things?” I questioned.
He nodded, but it was Ghost who spoke up next after tipping his head toward Kayla. “Your woman seems to have taken a shine to the life, and you fit in here well.” I nodded my agreement to both statements. “We’d like to extend an official offer for you to prospect with the club.”
I couldn’t hold back my emotions that well, so the grin that threatened to spread across my face bloomed right there in front of them. “That’s awesome, dude. I know prospecting takes a bit of time to get through, and takes up a lot of time on a daily basis as well. With me working at fire and rescue…” I started, but Smoke held up his hand to stave off my question.
“We know what your schedule is like, and it actually helps your case that you have a career. We’ll work around your hours. When you’re not there, you’ll be here for the most part. Obviously, we’re not talking 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We know you need time with Kayla too and getting your house straightened out, but prospecting will be time consuming. Kayla is welcome to come hang around when you’re here so long as she isn’t interfering with your duties.” He gave me a knowing look before continuing on. “And if you find you don’t want her hanging around so much you can always tell her to stay away, because we have club business.”
That made me laugh. I’d confided in Smoke about my feelings for Kayla, and how I’d been ready to leave her a couple months ago. Hell I was still on the fence about it. “Dude, I hear that!” I laughed out. “I’m in,” I informed them as I looked at each man in turn. They all smiled openly at me. “When do I start?” Ghost had signaled someone while I was talking and the man walked over to us and handed him what appeared to be a black leather kutte.
“Seems like now is as good a time as any,” Ghost told me as he signaled for me to stand up. He came around the picnic table and stretched out the hand holding the leather. “This is yours. From the moment you take it into your hands you guard it with your life, just as you would a club brother, because it is the symbol of our club and your loyalty to it. When the time comes the prospect rocker on the back will be removed and a Cedar Falls rocker will be put in its place. You’ll also get a name patch sewn in on the front when we decide what to call you beyond prospect. As of now, that is your name here. Someone yells, ‘Prospect’ you come running. You do as you’re told. You prove your worth, work ethic, and ability to do what so while keeping your mouth shut, and the official patches will be yours along with all the perks and promises we make as a brothers and as a club.”
My hand snaked out to reverently run across the leather still sitting in Ghost’s arms. Holy shit! I was actually doing this. I was becoming a member of another brotherhood, and now I might get the chance to feel as though I belonged somewhere again, for the first time since I left the Army.
“Stop molesting the damn thing, and take it already,” Smoke called out to a round of laughter. It was then that I realized we had a widespread audience. Everyone had stopped what they were doing to watch as I took the kutte and put it on over the plain black t-shirt I’d worn that day.
“Fuck, dude, heavier than I thought it’d be.” The words were spoken low, but Ghost heard me loud and clear.
“That’s the weight of the brotherhood resting on your shoulders,” he told me just as quietly as he clapped a hand to my shoulder and squeezed a moment before letting go and calling out to everyone. “Let’s give our newest prospect a night to remember, because tomorrow the shit details start, and he’s going to need the memories to get him through!” They all laughed, because they’d all been there and knew the score.
Smoke approached me then and clapped me on the shoulder in much the same way Ghost just had. “Welcome to the brotherhood man, because I have no doubts you’ll make it all the way.” I nodded to him, trying to hold in the emotion that wanted to bubble up. Obviously, it wouldn’t do to get fuckin’ misty-eyed about belonging to something again right here in front of a yard full of bikers. I stood there as Hopper came up with the same gesture, clapping my shoulder, a welcoming sentiment, the squeeze, and then he moved on so the next brother could take his place. They all came and welcomed me. A few promised to make my life hell over the coming months, and while they said it in good fun the glint in their eyes told me they also weren’t lying. I wasn’t blind. I had seen how the prospects were treated. They weren’t abused in any physical manner, but they were definitely workhorses for the club, and took their fair share of verbal abuse along the way. Prospecting was hazing at its best.
Several shots were handed to me, but before I could even get the second one down Kayla was there by my side, hugging onto my middle. “You did it! You’re going to be a member soon. I’m thinking if you work really hard it won’t take long, and we’ll be able to have some status here, not to mention you’ll be pulling in your share of the club take that the women keep telling me about.” I could see the gleam in her eyes as she mentioned the money. It brought back all my doubts about her. She wasn’t with me for how she felt; it was more about what I could do for her. I glanced over at Smoke, who had been in earshot of her comment, and he just shook his head back and forth a moment before giving me a look that said, ‘you already knew this’ and walking off. I did know. I thought she was changing, but now everything was clouded up again, and all it took was one fucking sentence to throw everything out of whack.
Instead of dealing with it like I should I snatched up one of the shots that had been lined up in front of me and took it, letting out a hiss at the end, because that had been straight vodka and not the good kind. “Dude, someone’s trying to fuckin’ poison me before I can have one official day of prospecting,” I lamented out loud to a round of loud, ruckus laughter.
“Trial by gut rot,” one of the older guys – Tuck, I think – called out. “You survive the night with that fire in your belly, you’re fit to prospect.” More laughter rang out with his words, and more shots were passed my way. I wasn’t a big drinker. A few beers here and there were my thing. This was going to hurt in the morning, and I didn’t think the guys were going to go easy on me tomorrow when they started handing out duties.
I lost track of Kayla sometime in the night after she went off to celebrate with some of the women. Sadly, I think she got along better with the few women who were invited to the club as entertainment than she did the actual old ladies of members. Most of the old ladies left as the night went on. More shots and drinks were delivered to me each time I was found with my hand empty. I don’t know when things started to blur and become heavy, but I didn’t remember much after the room started spinning and I had the fleeting memory of the question, ‘how did I get inside?’ before everything went dark and nothing existed.
I woke the next morning to the world still spinning and my guts revolting against me in the worst way. Looking around, I had no clue where I was, or for that matter where the nearest bathroom was; so I glanced around quickly and located a trashcan just to the right of the bed. I made it without a moment to spare before I threw up everything that had been on my stomach before I passed out. I had never in my life been so drunk that I passed out, never been so drunk the room was still spinning when I woke, and certainly never to the point where I had to hunt down an emergency can to puke in. “Fuck!” The word rumbled from somewhere deep inside me as I flipped onto my back in the strange bed.
Once again I began trying to assess my situation. I was in a strange bed, not at the house I shared with Kayla. That couldn’t be good. Glancing around, I noted there wasn’t any evidence that I had been in this room with anyone else. That was good, at least. I might be on the fence where Kayla and I staying together was concerned, but I sure as fuck was never one to cheat.
“Rise and shine, surfer-boy!” A boisterous voice called out as the door to the room I was in was flung open. I groaned loudly at the sound as the door banged into the doorstop on the wall and then bounced back only to be kicked and held open again by Smoke’s booted foot. Smoke took in the stench of the room and the most likely gray pallor I had to be rocking this morning and grimaced. “Damn shame about your condition, Prospect, because it’s time to get up and get to work. Last night’s party mess waits for no man.”
I scrubbed my hand down across the heavy stubble lining my jaw this morning. “Where the fuck am I?”
“Clubhouse. We have rooms for guests, which don’t usually include prospects, but we made an exception for your lightweight ass.”
“Kayla?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Took off sometime last night with one of the girls when she realized you wouldn’t be capable of driving home.”
“So, she just left me here?”
He nodded. “I let her know I’d see to your ass, but she was already on her way out the door at that point. Man, I’m telling you, that woman…” he shook his head again. “I don’t usually get involved in other people’s shit, but are you sure you want to stick that out?”
I shook my head slowly so as not to induce any more tilt-o-whirl action in the room. “Not at all,” I managed to get out before the acid burning up from my stomach rolled right into me heaving into the trash can again despite my best efforts to keep it from happening. Smoke cringed visibly as I heaved nothing but bile and regrets into the can then leaned back again on another moan.
“First duty as prospect is to get this room, and definitely that trash can cleaned up. You have 15 minutes. Get dressed, rinse your mouth, get this shithole smelling lemon fresh instead of puketastic, and then get your ass out to the main room for your list of shit to do. Welcome to prospecting 101, surfer!”
“Dude,” I called out in one long drawn out word as my arm thrown over my face shielded me from the brightness of the room’s overhead light. “I’ve never fuckin’ surfed a day in my life.”
Smoke just chuckled. “That’s bogus, man!” He was laughing as he closed the door on his way out.
“I never say bogus, asshole!” I shouted out. Of course, I immediately regretted shouting as my head set to throbbing all over again. “Damn!” I’d never been one to bitch and moan about my circumstances so instead I got up, found another door in the room that apparently led to a bathroom – which would have been nice to know about 20 minutes ago – and took my can in there to wash it out. Once I was done the dirty deeds the room required to be refreshed I took a few minutes to splash some water on my face, rinse my mouth, and pray for time to take a shower at some point in the day. I stunk to high heaven with the amount of alcohol fumes seeping from my pores. I wished I had access to my rig right about now, because the best thing to cure a hangover was hydration, and a quick infusion of liquids into my system through an IV would be just the ticket. I’d done it for plenty of guys during my time in the Army, but it looked like I was just everyone else’s hangover savior. My dumbass was going to have to trudge through the day hydrating the old fashioned way.
“Prospect!” Hopper yelled as I made my not so grand, slump-shouldered entrance into the main room. “You get that room clean? Smoke said you stunk it up good and proper and managed to yak in the trashcan too.” All of this was said good-naturedly, even if overly loud in delivery.
“S’all good,” I managed to mumble out.
“Right then,” he stated as he hopped down off the stool he’d been seated on. “First order of business is getting all the trash off the lawn from last night.” He led me to the back door and all but pushed my sluggish body outside. He did, at least, hand me a bottle of water as I was shoved onto the multi-level back deck. It looked like no one in this whole damn place new what a trashcan was for. There were left over plates, beer cans, bottles, and fuckin’ condoms – not empty – all over the damn place.
“The guys can be some seriously nasty bastards, especially when a new prospect is chosen,” one of the other prospects for the MC stated as he too glanced over the fresh hell we’d been pushed into this morning.
“Fuck!” That was pretty much all I had the energy to say. “We have gloves or some shit? I’m not picking up nasty fuckin’ condoms with my bare hands.” The kid beside me frowned, and then shook his head back and forth slowly as if just realizing it was going to be down to one of us to do just that. “Right, then we’re just going to have to get creative. Use the plates to scoop them up and pray like hell nothing spills out in the process.”
I was off to work as the kid stood there turning green behind the gills. The one leg up I had in this was that I wasn’t squeamish. I couldn’t be in order to do the job I did. I’d seen a lot in my years of working as a battlefield medic, but I’d seen the lowest, most disturbing aspects of humanity on the job with EMS over the years. You do not want to know the kinds of shit people stick in orifices that weren’t meant to house those things. I shook off the thought before my hangover weakened stomach called me out as a liar today. Damn all those shots straight to hell!
It took the two of us damn near three hours to clean up the mess just on the outside of the clubhouse. It probably would have gone quicker if the wind hadn’t decided to go from stagnant to summer breeze worthy blowing all the loose plates, napkins, and other questionable shit all over the fucking yard. Some of the guys even came out and placed bets on whether or not the wind would win in scooping away the mess before we managed to chase it down. Of course, we weren’t really in danger of the wind winning in that regard, because there was a damn ten-foot tall privacy fence surrounding the entire property. That didn’t mean the wind didn’t blow that shit hell and far gone from where the vast majority of the mess had been located on the deck.
Day one of prospecting sucked balls, but I was no quitter, so the job got done. The other prospect hadn’t quit either, but he also hadn’t exactly been energetic in getting shit done. He was the other reason we got finished so slowly. I’m not a big fan of having to pick up other people’s slack, so I took the lead, even as he bitched and complained that he had seniority since he’d been prospecting for four months already.
“Yeah, well, guess what, kid?”
“They call me Mouth,” he stated angrily, clearly not like being called kid.
“Guess what kid?” I asked again, because fuck him. “Your four months don’t mean shit to me when you don’t take charge and get shit done on your own. Now, get the lead out of your ass and let’s get this finished, because I’m hungry, tired, and hung over. The longer this takes, the longer I go without food. The longer I go without food, the worse I am to deal with, you feel, dude?”
“Whatever, man!” The guy mumbled. He seriously couldn’t have been more than 19, and I honestly wasn’t certain why they would have chosen him to prospect in the first place. He did not strike me as a go-getter. Then again, I supposed you didn’t really need to be in an MC. You just had to be loyal. Although, his bitching attitude explained why he already had the name Mouth.
Two other prospects were due in that evening to take over for Mouth and me. I had to work the next day so Smoke made sure the guys knew I needed my rest before shift started. Considering rest mattered in whether I did my job well or not, and that job was literally life or death sometimes, they didn’t give me any shit about it. Mouth, however, gave me plenty of shit.
“Why the fuck are you so special?” He had asked me when the guys told him he had to stay after I was dismissed. I didn’t get to answer, because Ghost beat me to it.
“He gets to leave because he has an important job to get to tomorrow in the real world, and he didn’t fuck around here today. He took charge, got shit done, and didn’t slack the fuck off. Maybe, you should pay attention to the new guy and how he operates and see how to make life easier on yourself.”
The kid’s face had burned into several different shades of red as he ground his teeth so hard to fight back his own temper that I knew he must be doing some kind of damage to his teeth or jaw. I didn’t stick around to see how that played out, because I was still starving, and I honesty wasn’t sure if I had the energy to even bother fixing that issue at this point, because my body was ready to give out. Still, I got on my bike, headed to the diner to nab a bite, and then went home to see that Kayla had it completely destroyed. Apparently she had taken some kind of party home with her the night before and didn’t bother cleaning up. It was like walking onto the club’s deck this morning all over again. Only this time it was my living room.
“Kayla, what the fuck?” I yelled as she stumbled out of the bedroom looking completely wrecked and holding on to her head.
“Shh,” she hissed out. “My head is killing me!”
“Why the fuck does our house look worse than the clubhouse did this morning?”
She glared in my direction then looked around the living room and winced. “The girls and I left the clubhouse and came here last night.”
“Yeah? I’ve spent all day getting the clubhouse straightened up, why haven’t you cleaned this shit up yet?”
She stared at me, mouth agape. “What was I supposed to do? Most of it isn’t my mess.”
“And what? Why should I be responsible for cleaning it when most of it wasn’t my mess?” She shouted, and then winced as the sound went to her head.
“Who the fuck do you think is supposed to clean it?”
“I don’t know, you?”
I laughed. She didn’t.
“You’re the prospect. It’s your job to clean up messes left behind by club events.”
“This wasn’t a club event. The only club event took place at the clubhouse last night, and I did clean that shit up. Took all fuckin’ day. This,” I pointed at the mess all over the place. “This is your mess, and you will clean it the fuck up! You invited people over; you’re responsible for the messes they make. You don’t want to clean it all by yourself, you make sure they help out before they bail on you.” I moved to go around her toward the bedroom.
“That’s not fair,” she whined.
“Oh? But it’s fair that I have to clean up after a party I didn’t even attend when I was up cleaning and hung over all day at the clubhouse, and have to work a 24 hour shift tomorrow?”
“I… You don’t get it…” she huffed.
“Nope, I sure as fuck do not. Get this shit cleaned up, Kay, because I’m not fuckin’ doing it.”
Two hours later, my nap was disturbed by Kayla’s shouting. “You’re not working fast enough!” I walked out into the living room to find her sitting on the couch, flipping through something on her phone, and a sweet older lady was standing there glaring at her with a trash bag in her hands.
“You didn’t say the job would be this big or I would have brought help, and the quote I gave you for cleaning three rooms of the house did not cover cleaning up after a major party. There are specific charges for that, and it takes more time.”
“Oh no! You are not going to fleece me out of more money just because you’re too lazy to work faster.”
“Kayla!” I shouted causing both women to jump and turn to look at me as I stood there in nothing but boxer briefs and the frown that was becoming a permanent fixture on my face. “What in the absolute fuck is going on here?”
“Um,” she started, but I held up my hand in the air to silence her bullshit.
“How much did she pay you for your services?” I questioned the woman.
“She hasn’t paid me yet, but I told her it would be $75 for the three rooms. That was before I saw the condition they were in. She didn’t inform me that there had been a party here.”
I glanced around and noted the room was about half done. “One moment,” I held a finger up as I went back to the room to grab my wallet. I snagged $75 out of it and handed it to the woman. “That should cover what you’ve already done. Thank you, and if she ever calls again, just tell her no.” The woman grinned, gathered her things, and left.
“What did you do that for? She wasn’t done cleaning.”
“I told you to clean up your own fuckin’ mess. I meant it.” I turned to go back to the room, but added, “and you owe me $75.”
“How about I take it out of your rent?” She asked snidely. Since there wasn’t a mortgage on the house there wasn’t any rent due.
“How about I start calculating all the work and money I’ve put into the house and property and put a lien on the house for the amount owed back to me, and we can fight it out in court if that’s how you want to be? Maybe, instead of all that noise you could just try taking responsibility for yourself and your actions for once, Kay, because I gotta tell you, this shit is getting old as fuck!”
I’d like to think I was getting through to her when I saw the momentary panic in her eyes, but I knew better. She might play nice today, and get her shit together momentarily, but it would never last. She’d proven that by having the night she did and expecting me to be the one to clean up after her.
“I’m sorry, I’m just bitchy, because this hang over is epic.”
“You think mine isn’t?” She just looked at me missing the point. “Mine was hard to deal with all day, but I dealt. You need to start learning to deal with real life and not the fantasy you lived with as a child. You’re not a child, and you were cut off from that life. At some point you have to grow up and start living in the life you have. If you don’t like it, find a way to make it better, but don’t expect everyone else in the world to do it for you. That’s not how shit works, Kay.”
Again, she just stared, and I wondered if anything I ever said to her got through. Instead of commenting she just turned on her heels and walked away, once again leaving the mess she made behind. I had work to get to in the morning so instead of worrying about it I left the mess, forgot about Kayla, got a shower, and went back to bed.
The next two months of prospecting went just about the same, minus the shots from the first night. I was a slave to the club 3 days out the week, had one off to myself, and the other three were spent working at the station and saving lives. Kayla was a mixed bag. Some days weren’t as bad as others, but her party messes the days I would come home from work or from prospecting duties started to become a problem. I let them slide since I was hardly there to deal with any of it, and Smoke was kind enough to let me store all of my important shit at his house, just in case one of the people Kay had around was up to no good.
The thing I had been doing with my days off was what had me at the clubhouse today. I had been going to see Beth and Abby, the woman and child who survived the car wreck the night I was asked to think about joining the MC. They were doing okay, struggling a bit without the rest of their family though, which was why I showed up to see if Beth needed anything done that her husband used to do. Some days I found myself doing the lawn, once I was unclogging a sink, another time I took care of Abby while her mom did physical therapy. Yesterday I had walked in to Beth sobbing over bills. There were medical bills, bills from the funeral home, and then her normal household bills sitting piled up along with a calculator, a sheet of paper, and a bunch of scribbled out numbers.
Ghost noticed me when I walked in the clubhouse afterward and he did a double take before he tipped his chin up at me. “What can we do for you today, or did you decide to sign on for another round of abuse from the guys on your day off?”
I shook my head and the look on my face must have tipped him off to the serious nature of my visit. “Please, tell me you haven’t come to quit on us,” he huffed out which made me smile.
“Nah, nothing like that. I do have a favor to ask of the club though, and I don’t know if I have the right to do that since I’m only a prospect, but it’s important.”
“Come back to my office, let’s talk.” Ghost led me down a hallway lined with photos taken throughout the years of club members, their families, and tons of bikes. The walls back here were like a time capsule keeping the history of the club alive for everyone. Once we ducked into Ghost’s office he motioned for me to have a seat on the leather couch under the barred window. “Have a seat and tell me what’s on your mind.”
“The first night we met here,” I started. Ghost appeared lost in thought for a moment, and then nodded his head for me to continue. “Smoke and I had worked a pretty nasty accident that night.”
“Drunk driver, woman lost her husband and two kids, right?” He asked.
I nodded. “Beth,” I informed him. “I’ve been spending my days off going over to help her out. It’s just her and her little girl, Abby now; and there’s no one to do all the things her husband used to.”
Ghost cocked his head to the side and looked at me a little differently then. “That’s, shit, I want to say that is a fuckin’ great thing you’re doing, but I’m pretty sure you’re trained not to get that involved. You can’t help all the people you’ll treat over the years.”
“No, but every once in a while there’s a special case. I dream of that accident still, and its been months. I can’t imagine what it was like for Beth. Seeing her kid, and her husband, then waking up in the hospital to find out what really happened, and all she lost.” I shuttered, and it manifested physically. “Anyway, I go there and mow the lawn, fix the plumbing, the shit the man of the house usually takes care of, you know?”
Ghost again tipped his head. “You’re not getting involved with her in a romantic way are you?” It was a legitimate enough question.
“No, no way. Beth is a sweet lady, but it’s not like that. She’s just drowning man. There’s a lot going on with her physical therapy, caring for her daughter who still doesn’t grasp that her siblings and dad aren’t coming back, you know how it is.”
“I do,” Ghost informed me, and I remembered hearing stories about the wife he had lost, and then the years he had lost with his own daughter as a result of how he chose to deal with his grief.
“Well, when I went yesterday Beth had all these bills strewn about across the table. Medical, funeral, household stuff, you know. She said her husband’s life insurance only paid out $30,000. He had cancelled the other policy they had because they couldn’t afford it at the time. It was the one that would have covered the rest of the mortgage and whatnot. She used it to get out from under most of the mortgage and the car payment. She paid most of the funeral expenses, but not all. There’s nothing left, and the drunk that hit her didn’t have insurance, the family only had the minimum required by law, because of things being tight with money. Anyway, she owes a shit ton of money, and her health insurance got cut off this month. It had been extended, but she can’t afford the payouts to keep it any longer, which is where the rest of that 30k went. I helped get her set up with an interview to apply for Medicaid, but until it goes through she’s just kind of stuck.”
“I get that. Where is all this going as far as the club is concerned?”
“I was hoping that you could talk the guys into doing a fundraiser, maybe a poker run or something like that, in order to raise money for Beth and her daughter to help them get back on their feet. It’s not fair that this woman lost most of her family in one accident, and she’s having to stress daily over how to feed her daughter and pay these bills that are looming.” I sighed as I took in Ghost’s blank expression. “I’ll help with whatever I can. I’ll take time off work to organize it, work it, do whatever I can to take as much burden off the club as possible, but I obviously can’t do it all on my own.”
Ghost held his hand up to me. “Son, I gotta tell you, from the moment I met you I had a feeling about you. Hearing Smoke praise you the way he did about that night, well, it kind of cemented that feeling I got. I can not express how much what you’re asking of the club has me questioning my initial assessment of you.”
Fuck, what the hell did that mean? Had I asked too much of them while still being a prospect. “I just thought…” I started to say, but he cut me off again.
“I don’t think you’re understanding what I’m putting out there. You have blown away my expectations from day one, Gray. Blown them away completely, and you continue to do so. We need me more men in the club who think like you. You’re quick on your feet, intelligent, watchful, and fuckin’ compassionate. Compassion is missing in a lot of the shit we do, so it humbles me when one of my men brings it to the table as a matter of importance. You want a fun run to make money for Beth and her girl? We will make it happen. I’ll get the guys into church later today, and we’ll discuss logistics and see how quickly we can put shit together. No need in that woman stressing any longer than she has to.”
I leaned my head back on the couch and let the breath I’d been holding blow out harshly. The tension in my shoulders released with the knowledge that I had good men at my back who were willing to step up and help me help someone else. “I can’t tell you how fuckin’ grateful I am, dude. That’s just… Fuck! Thank you!” I attempted to swallow back the knot of emotion lodged in my throat as I lifted my head and glanced back over at Ghost.
“Wish that I had someone with your heart around when I lost my old lady. I think you’re just what I would have needed to kick my ass in gear so I wouldn’t have lost my Jamie too. Beth and Abby are lucky you were the one responding that night. You make me proud, Gray. You make this club proud. We’ll get shit together, and let you know how we need you to help.” We both stood then as he clapped me on my shoulder and squeezed just as he had done after I donned my kutte for the first time. “Lookin’ forward to the day you patch in, because I have high hopes for what you’ll bring to this club.”
“Thanks,” I managed to get out.
“Now, get out of here and enjoy the rest of your day off before someone puts your ass to work.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice,” I laughed out, and then I took off. At least one thing was going well in my life right now, and that shit was worth celebrating so I texted Smoke on my way out to let him know we had something to celebrate that night. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it because his ass was at a hockey game in Pennsylvania of all things. The crazy ass bastard was seeing the sister of one our club brothers. I just hoped that shit worked out for him, because that was dangerous water to be treading in.
The club more than exceeded my expectations while putting the event together in order to help Beth out. Aces High organized a poker run in two weeks, invited a bunch of guys from chapters out of town as well as from some of the clubs they associated with outside of Aces High. Civilians were also encouraged to join in if they had a ride. The turnout was phenomenal. I was manning a booth in the middle of town where the guys would stop to pick up their last card before heading on to the clubhouse to see who had the winning hand.
Hopper had donated a private chopper ride as part of the prizes and one of the guys donated a custom Bobber motorcycle with satin black paint, black and chrome engine, and 12-inch ape hanger bars. The bike was a beauty, and held a certain appeal for the guys who loved the style. It certainly made the $100 per ticket buy-in for the poker run worth it to whomever won the thing. The old ladies had also set up an auction and bake sale for participants who were unable to ride, but wanted to help contribute to the cause.
The town of Cedar Falls rallied as well, emptying their wallets in some seriously generous donations. Some of the donations were monetary, but others were for services like free basic maintenance on Beth’s vehicle for two years. The event wasn’t even half way over and we had already managed to raise around $35,000 in cash in addition to extra services. I was fuckin’ ecstatic, and I was beyond grateful to everyone in the club and this little town for stepping up and getting shit done. This kind of thing wouldn’t have gone half as well in my hometown and Cedar Falls was a fraction of its size and population. There was something to be said for a tight knit community.
I glanced up from where I was organizing the table to find Beth standing there with tears in her eyes as she held Abby, who was busy eating a popsicle, propped on her hip. “Gray,” she whispered before coming around the table to wrap me in a hug that Abby joined in on, sticky fingers and all. “I don’t know what to say. This is so much.”
“Just wait until you see how much we’ve raised so far,” I informed her with a wink as she swiped at a stray tear that had fallen.
“I don’t know how we can ever thank you and the club.”
“Just be happy, Beth. That’s all we want.”
She nodded her head and then glanced back over her shoulder at someone. When I tore my gaze from the girls I had been looking after I was socked in the gut by the beauty standing there smiling so brightly over at me. Auburn hair was pulled back into a strange looking braid while bright green eyes took me in from top to toe. The freckles across the bridge of her nose and cheeks stood out in the sunshine, but did not distract from the complete package. The woman was taller than Beth, though probably half a foot or more shorter than I was. She wore a light blue sundress that hung from her shoulders thanks to the spaghetti straps I could make out under the sweater she wore over top the dress. The dress itself draped down her slender body to pool just above her sandaled feet.
“Thank God for the weather we had this weekend. Indian summers are a blessing for events like this.” I cringed a little because I wasn’t much for God or the bible thumping type, and wouldn’t that figure I meet a woman who is an absolutely stunning goddess only to be confronted by her religion.
“It is the perfect weather,” I responded having enjoyed the lows in the sixties and highs topping out in the mid seventies today. A gentle breeze blew every now and again, but there wasn’t a cloud to be seen in the skies above, just a solid sheet of blue for the guys to ride under. A small part of me wished I had been able to participate in the actual run, but then again, I was happy to just have the backing of the club for this so manning the booth was worth missing the perfect riding day.
“Gray, this is my best friend in the world, Gillian Thomas, or Gillie-Bean as Abby and I call her. Gillie, this is Daniel Grayson, but everyone calls him Gray for some reason.”
“That or surfer dude, surfer boy, or just plain surfer,” Smoke cut in as he walked up to the booth I was manning.
“Why surfer?” Gillie asked.
I laughed. “You got me. They’ve been calling me that since I first said ‘dude’ to them. I’m from So-Cal, and have long blond hair so they seem to think that means I surf when you put the it all together.”
Gillie laughed and I swear it was like angels were crying somewhere for the beauty of the sound she made. Then I noticed the little boy that was attempting to climb my bike and I grinned over at him. “You trying to steal my bike, little dude?” I asked. Gillie gasped when she glanced over and saw what was going on.
“Kade Thomas, you get your butt off that motorcycle right now!”
I walked over to the boy. “How about we take your picture first, since you already managed to climb on up?”
“Yeah!” The boy shouted excitedly. “Mommy, take my picture. I stoled the bike, so now it’s mine,” he explained with a giggle.
“Well, I guess it’s too bad you’re going to have to give it right back to the man then, because you’re not allowed to ride a motorcycle just yet.”
“Aww man,” the kid lamented while managing a full on pouty face. “That sucks!”
“Kade, you don’t say that something sucks,” Gillie corrected, and I was assuming at this point that she was definitely his mother. I also put two and two together that her last name was the same as the kid’s, and it made me wonder if she was married to his dad or if she was a single mom.
“If you want I can take a picture for you so that you can get in there with him?” I asked her and held my hand out for her cell phone. She relinquished it to me and simply scrunched down beside the bike instead of trying to mount the thing the way her son had. I took the picture and then added my information to her phone while she dealt with getting her boy off my bike. I texted the picture of the two of them to myself, and I couldn’t even have explained why I did it at the time except that the woman had stunned me stupid, and her kid was not only cute, but ballsy to be climbing on a biker’s ride. Apparently, his mom had warned him about touching motorcycles belonging to bikers, and the kid thought he could cute his way out of trouble with his dimpled grin.
Once his mom finished lecturing him she stood and held her hand out for her phone. I gently placed it in the palm she had outstretched, and as I let go my fingers trailed along her palm too. The gooseflesh it produced on her arms was satisfying since it meant I wasn’t the only one affected here.
“Hey, man, last biker doing the run came through about 15 minutes ago. Figured I’d give you a hand tearing things down here so you can get on over to the clubhouse for the prizes being awarded and to hear the final tally on what was raised.” Smoke had been standing there the whole time, and I’d forgotten all about it. Damn.
“Thanks man, I appreciate that. I thought Mouth was supposed to come help once they shut down the first two stops, but he never showed.”
“Yeah, he’s not as reliable as we’d hoped. He called and said he had a personal matter to attend to, and didn’t bother elaborating on what that was.” Smoke turned to the women and children then. “You ladies coming over to the clubhouse for the festivities?”
“Is it okay to bring the kids?” Beth asked.
“Sure, they’re welcome. There will be plenty of families there today so they won’t feel out of place at all. Fair warning though, some of the guys don’t always remember to sensor their language around the kids, so it’s an at your own risk thing, but I promise that will be the worst of it.”
“Okay, well, that shouldn’t be a problem,” Beth assured Smoke. “Thank you again for everything your club has done for us, and everything you and Gray did that night.” She choked up on the last and I pulled her in for a hug.
“No thanks necessary, Beth. I already told you that.” I noticed Gillie was smiling at me as I gave Beth a squeeze and released her. You guys driving over together?”
“Yeah, we’ll see you there soon,” Beth told me as they both started gathering the kids and backing away. Smoke and I packed up the table, chairs, and the drinks that had been left before he informed me that we were just to leave the van there, locked. I had ridden my bike here earlier in the day and one of the other guys had already parked the van full of supplies by the time I’d arrived.
As we packed the last of it into the van Smoke looked me over as if seeing me for the first time. “You don’t look at Kayla the way you were looking at Beth’s friend.”
“What are you talking about? I’m not a cheater, dude.”
“Not saying you are. I’m just pointing out that if things were ever really going to work with you and Kayla, you wouldn’t even have noticed little miss Gillie-Bean.” With that he hopped on his bike, started her up, and drove off while I stood there contemplating those words and wondering what the hell kind of look I’d given Gillian to prompt that bit of soul stirring honesty from my friend.
Before I could get on my bike two other prospects showed up and gave me a quick chin tip as they went about securing the van and hopping in. Holden – known by everyone as Hold ‘Em since he was such a ladies man – and Darryl fired the van up and took off for the clubhouse with me trailing behind them. I was more excited to get there than I should have been, and I didn’t want to even begin to exam the reasons for that. I was also starting to hate Smoke for putting it out there. I had enough women troubles as is, I certainly didn’t need to add perfect chemistry with a stranger to the mix in order to confuse things even more.
An hour after arriving I still hadn’t seen Beth or Gillie, and I began to worry about them. I had thought they were coming straight to the clubhouse when they left the last check-in point I’d been stationed at. I had swept the clubhouse, both inside and out numerous times now and still no sight of them. “Why don’t you just call and check on them?” A voice called out from just over my shoulder. I turned to see Smoke standing there with a woman I hadn’t met yet.
“I think maybe I should. I thought they were coming straight here.”
Smoke shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe one of the kids got cranky, it happens with my nephew sometimes, and my sister has to cancel plans or rearrange shit at the last minute.” I nodded wondering if the woman standing with Smoke was his sister, but judging by the way they kept touching one another in a flirty way, I was thinking not. He caught me watching them and smiled. “Surfer-man, this is Poppy. She’s new around here, moved up to Cedar Falls from Georgia to be closer to her brother, Chief.”
“Chief’s pretty cool,” I stated before turning to her. “Nice to meet you, Poppy.” We shook hands as I noticed that Chief was watching Smoke and his sister from across the room with a smile on his face. I hadn’t had much interaction with him yet, as he’d been out of town helping a sister with moving. I was now guessing that had been Poppy. He had been one of the club brothers feeding me shots the first night I got my kutte though.
“I better go make a call,” I stated and walked away while Smoke and Poppy grinned at one another. Who knew what that shit was about.
I was standing there, dialing Beth’s phone when I heard someone’s phone blaring the ringtone Born to be Wild just behind me. I turned to see whom it was and Beth was standing there holding up her phone and smiling at me. “Well, I guess you know what your ringtone is now,” she offered with a shrug.
I just smiled at her. “I was just starting to get worried that I hadn’t seen you guys here.” He glanced around then, not seeing Gillie, Kade, or Abby. “Where is everyone else?”
“Gillie is getting us drinks from the bar, but we dropped Kade and Abby off with Kade’s grandma. Abby was cranky since she missed her nap, and Gillie didn’t even want to guess at what kind of trouble Kade would get into with all the bikers around. He’s been in heaven watching them all ride all over town all day.”
“I can imagine. If I’d been involved with something like this as a boy I would have been in heaven too,” I confirmed with a grin. “Just wait until he’s a teenager and comes around,” I told her with a wag of my brows as hers rose in surprise. I hadn’t even meant to sound like I would have a connection with Gillie and Kade that far in the future, but the words just slipped out as if it was a forgone conclusion. “I mean, you know, since he lives in a town with an MC in it, it’s bound to happen at some point.”
“Uh-huh,” Beth hummed out with a knowing grin. It was then that both Gillie – laden with two beers – and Kayla – full of attitude – showed up at the same time.
Kayla immediately snaked a hand around my arm, claiming me as her own and giving the stink-eye to Beth. She had grown increasingly jealous and pissed off about the time I spent helping the woman out, especially when I continued to refuse to help Kayla clean up after her numerous parties. “What are you doing over here, when you should have come and found me?” Kayla asked.
“I was just talking to Beth, and you’re perfectly capable of coming to me.”
Kayla narrowed her eyes at me. “It’s your job in this relationship to hunt me down, and fetch me drinks. You’re a prospect here anyway, so it’s your job period. Why are you standing around talking to her when you have shit to do to impress the guys?”
I was speechless for a moment, but found I didn’t need to say shit because Ghost had walked up in time to hear her spout off her bullshit. “Gray here put all the cogs in motion for this shindig, and worked a booth all day that I’ve heard you never showed up to, because you were too busy at one of the pre-parties. The women told me you didn’t even bother to bring anything for the auction or bake sale, let alone help out with either. Considering this was your man’s event he put together, I’m seriously wondering why you – as his soon to be old lady – didn’t help out with anything at all?”
“Well, I…” she started, looking around at all the people eyeing her now and growing red-faced with embarrassment. She then glanced back to me to help bail her out of the mess her mouth had just made, and when I didn’t she carried on. “I had things to do this morning, and I worked yesterday so it’s not like I could bake.”
“A lot of the women here worked yesterday, hell some of them had to work today, and still managed to contribute. Let me hear you talk to your man the way you just did one more time in my clubhouse and I will see you aren’t welcomed back. Whether Gray still wants to show up or not when that happens will be up to him.” With that, Ghost gave me a meaningful look before he wandered off again. Beth and Gillie had already slunk away into the crowd, though I noted both were still keeping an eye on the scene as they did so.
“Why in the hell did you stand there and let him embarrass me like that?” Kayla fumed at me after Ghost was no longer in earshot.
“Why the hell did you think it was okay to come to me and do the same? You’re supposed to be here to support the cause, the club, and me. If you can’t do those things you should leave.”
“What?” She hissed out through clenched teeth.
“You heard me.”
“But, you’ve been spending all your free time with that woman and her brat. I deserve that time. I don’t know why you can just up and go mow the lawn at her house, but you can’t clean our house up on your day off.”
“Kayla, I’m fuckin’ done with this bullshit of yours. Get the fuck out of here with that shit, right fuckin’ now.”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying if you’re not contributing anything more to the night than being an entitled bitch you can leave, because you aren’t wanted here. This day is important, and I won’t have you ruining it.”
Before she could say the word Ghost stood on one of the raised portions of the deck where the Bobber that would go to the poker run winner was sitting in pride of place. “All right everyone, first off, I want to thank our prospect, Gray for putting this little shindig together for us, in support of Beth Sayers and her daughter Abby. They lost far too much already when Beth’s husband and two of her children were taking in a tragic accident involving a drunk driver. They shouldn’t be left shouldering a burden that pulls them down further than grief can on its own.
“Times like these show the true character of people, and I have to say, our prospect is well on his way to becoming a brother we can all be proud of and one that we want at our sides. He’s been taking care of Beth and her daughter since he helped pull her from that wreck, and I want to put it out there to Beth tonight, that he will no longer be doing that alone. You have need of anything, from a shoulder to cry on to lawn service, or anything in between, you call on us. Aces High will be there to help. That is my promise today above all else that goes on here.”
I took note of Beth with rivers of tears running down her cheeks as her friend pulled her into a tight side-hug. Rounds of male agreement went up around the room along with some very vocal old ladies chiming in. My chest swelled with pride to be a part of this group that would embrace a stranger I had brought into their midst. If I ever had doubts about joining an MC they were quashed in that moment.
“Now, for the announcements you’ve all been waiting for,” Ghost yelled out as Prospect Hold ‘Em handed him a clipboard with the results of the poker run. “We had 350 men and women participate in the poker run. The entry fees of $100 per person or $150 per couple added up to $24,000 for the 160 couples attending and $19,000 for the 190 single tickets that were sold. That’s a total of $43,000 for just the poker run entry fees. You guys outdid yourselves, and we want to say thank you to all the participants who purchased tickets even as only 217 riders were able to show up out of the 350 tickets purchased. Every little bit counts, and we are thankful. The old ladies put on a bake sale and auction today as well earning $782 from bake sale proceeds and $4,500 from the auction. We also had a few monetary donations come in from the citizens of Cedar Falls and those totaled $6750. The grand total for today’s event was $55,032. There are also promissory notes for services here for you Beth from Timberland Lawn Care, Aces Auto Garage, and a gift certificate worth $350 for Posh Kids Clothing down on Main Street.”
Ghost took note of the fact that Beth was a complete emotional mess and smiled sweetly down at her. “We’ll get it all straightened out for you with details tomorrow, sweetheart.” Ghost glanced around and held the clipboard over his head then. “As for the rest of you assholes. Let’s find out who won this beautiful Bobber that our Nomad, Bishop was kind enough to donate to the cause.” Ghost glanced down at the clipboard, rolled his eyes, lifted his head with a smirk planted firmly on his face. “Of course it would be you. Fuckin’ Rabbit of the Dakota Chapter, get your ass up here!”
Hooting and hollering exploded all around as a tall man with long golden brown hair started strutting his stuff up to the top deck where Ghost stood beside the bike he’d just won. It was good to see another biker with long wavy hair like my own. “Hell yeah,” Rabbit called out as he ran his hand over the ape bars. “This is one sweet fuckin’ ride, but I’m afraid I have no way to get her home, and my Lulu would be devastated if I rode anyone but her.” Rabbit glanced out into the crowd, pointed at Beth, and winked at her playfully. “This one is for you sweetheart!” He then held up a hand to quiet everyone down. “Since I have no way to get her home I want to offer the Bobber up for auction with the proceeds going toward rounding out the night’s take for Beth and her daughter. Serious bids only, and you bastards better be able to produce cash for her within 24 hours if you bid. Minimum opening bid is $15,000.”
A bidding war commenced and ended at $32,500. Everyone glanced around to see who had won the bike and a lanky man wearing wire-framed glasses stepped forward to claim his prize with the biggest, goofiest grin on his face I had ever seen. It was clear the dude was not a biker, but maybe it had been a long lost childhood dream to become one.
“And who do we have here?” Rabbit asked, obviously not knowing who the man was since he wasn’t from here.
“I’m Dr. Collins. Stewart Collins. I um, I worked on Beth when she was brought into the emergency room.” He looked out into the crowd then and found Beth standing there. Smoke and Poppy had moved in to stand beside her and Gillie, and Beth was leaning heavily into Smoke. “If I could have waived all the hospital fees for you, I would have. I did waive my personal fees for your surgery, but I hope this helps to ease the burden of the rest of it.”
Man, I could not even begin to process the amount of love and charity this town had to give. “I just got my motorcycle endorsement a few months ago, and this bike is way better than the one I had,” he announced to a ton of laughter as he lovingly stroked the leather seat of the Bobber.”
“Alrighty then,” Ghost shouted out. “Congrats to Doc Collins on winning the auction for the Bobber that Rabbit gave away to the cause and Bishop donated before that. You’re all some really charitable motherfuckers up in here today!”
More laughter ensued and helped to lighten the mood. Even Beth chuckled at that, which made me happy. “Next on the agenda is the runner up package that involves this asshole here,” Ghost patted Hopper on the back. “Taking one of you unlucky shits, or a couple, up in his chopper. No, I don’t mean the kind you ride bitch on. I mean he’s going to fly you around for a special time. If you get too excited and make his seats messy, you best believe you’ll be the ones cleaning up after yourselves.”
“Fuckin’ Christ!” Hopper added as he smacked his own forehead at the prospect of having someone cream all over the seats in his helicopter.
“Bender, you were the runner up in the poker run! Congrats, brother! I’m sure your old lady will be making you drag her along for that trip.” Ghost laughed then looked at Hopper. “Might want to get some seat covers! With those two up there together, they might come down with another baby on board.”
“Fuck that, my little man is a terror. We aren’t ready, but we sure as fuck will take that ride!” Bender called out to a slue of good-natured teasing as he went to collect the shiny certificate the guys had printed up for the winners. A few more awards were given out, including Das Boot – the glass boot full of room temperature beer – for the lowest scoring person.
“It’s a good thing he’s already known as Shameless, because otherwise he’d never live down that rotten ass hand of his,” Ghost called out to ruckus laughter. “Get on up here and take your boot, man! You deserve it, and hell, you need to drown your sorrows after this shit show of a hand you had. Let’s get Shameless a shot of something too! The boot won’t be enough to come back from this.”
Once the laughter over Shameless’ horrific loss died down it sunk in that we had managed to raise $87,532 plus some extras for Beth and her daughter. My heart felt light and full all at the same time as I went to her and gave her a giant hug.
“I don’t know how to thank you,” she managed to get out through hiccups brought on by her happy tears and sobbing.
“What did I tell you before? You don’t have to thank me, ever. I only do the things I want.”
“Yeah, but I’ve obviously caused trouble with your girlfriend,” she lamented and I noticed Kayla standing off by the bar shooting daggers in our direction.
“Sweetheart, that’s nothing that wasn’t there before. Don’t you worry about that. You enjoy the rest of your night, and the fact that some of those worries you had when I walked in a couple weeks ago are now gone.”
We hugged again and I noticed Gillie watching us, her emerald eyes shinning with unshed tears as she mouthed ‘thank you’ to me. I nodded and smiled back at her as I hugged Beth tighter. Then I went to collect my bitch of a girlfriend to get her out of there before she caused another scene, because judging by her body language she was already ramping up for it.
Proven Week One // Proven Week Three (available 4-29-18)
That's it for this week's installment. Come back next Sunday for Week 3 of Proven by Christine Michelle.
If you can't wait that long, you can check out Dancing With Danger (Aces High - Dakotas Book 1) by Christine Michelle. It takes place in the same MC World as Proven.
The e-book is currently only $0.99, or you can use coupon code AD82Y at the Smashwords link below to nab a free copy as long as you do so before May 19, 2018.
Thank you for reading!