Life inside prison didn’t reform me; it just made me more determined to find justice. Every day inside the festering cesspool reminded me that when I got out, something had to change.
And I would be the one to do it. —Kill, age nineteen
Not only was the world no longer polluted with my kin, but I also had to take a step back from the Club.
For twelve days, I remained chained to a bed inside a motherfucking hospital. Every hour, I badgered doctors to give me honest to God statistics on how damaged I truly was. Every day, Cleo would spend as much time with me as possible, keeping my mind distracted from the awful thought of losing who I’d been. And every other day, I submitted to rehabilitation therapy—making sure my basic accomplishments were still intact.
While I was healing, Grasshopper became more than just my friend and VP; he stepped into his upcoming role with ease. We’d both known this day would happen … I just hoped I wouldn’t be a fucking invalid to celebrate it. He became a valuable second in command, and with me out of action, he postponed the interviews I’d had planned, kept Samson in the loop, and ferried funds where they needed to go. He kept Pure Corruption in order, ensured the books tallied and our turf remained protected.
Most of the day-to-day running he already knew, but occasionally I’d get a phone call asking my input on certain disputes or queries. He was no longer my helper but my equal and did his best to provide leadership as well as companionship for those who’d lost Beetle and Mo.
Wallstreet was almost out. It was time.
On the tenth night of being locked in an uncomfortable bed, Hopper came to visit.
I looked up from the So You Think You’re a Genius book, fuming and fucking pissed that simple equations that’d been so easy once upon a time were still giving me grief.
Beneath my fear, I did acknowledge that every day the sludge inside my brain crystalized. I was getting better. But I didn’t want to jinx myself. I wouldn’t admit it out loud—I couldn’t—not until I was back to full speed.
“You all good, dude?” Hopper came forward, his cut slung over his arm out of respect for terrified patients.
We shook hands. “Better.”
“Sweet. That’s great news.” Patrolling my box of a room, he rubbed the back of his nape. “So … I did what you asked. Clubhouse is sorted, funerals ready to go, and paperwork in order.”
I sat higher in my pillows. “We always knew this would happen. I’m still fine with it. You?”
He didn’t meet my eyes. “Honestly, not really.”
The past few years, I’d wondered how I’d react when it came time to honor my final vow to Wallstreet. I loved my Club. I’d devoted every waking moment turning it into a family. The men and women who served beneath me had given me something to fight for while I thought I’d lost Cleo.
They’d been my home.
But now I had another home and it didn’t hurt me to move.
I growled under my breath. “This was always the deal. Wallstreet made me promise.”
And I’d made Wallstreet promise in return. I’d had my own conditions when agreeing to his terms. This conclusion was a joint agreement—something benefiting both of us.
Pointing at him, I narrowed my eyes. “He made you promise. You, me, and Mo knew from day one that this was the plan.”
Hopper stomped forward, his mohawk catching the spotlights around my bed. “Just ’cause it was planned, doesn’t mean it’s any easier.”
Funny, it does to me. Always knowing this was my fate had given me structure and guidelines I needed.
I chuckled. “You’ll be fine. You’re more than capable.” Closing my eyes, I visualized my upcoming future. I’d been both dreading and looking forward to this, but now all I felt was freedom. Complete freedom—a fresh start. “I’ll be fine, too. It’s the best thing … for all of us.”
“Go head, Killian.”
I looked up, squinting in the high noon Florida sunshine at the sprawling highway before me.
The concrete shimmered with heat waves, slick with tire tracks and gasoline. Out here was our Church. The roads were our sermons. The wind our vespers. There was no better resting place for one of our brothers.
Nodding at Grasshopper and the row of Pure Corruption behind me, I took the urn and tucked the remains of Mo into my chest.
The past three weeks had been a marathon of healing, saying goodbye, and attending funerals.
Beetle had been first. His send-off was a heart-tugging affair as we all paid our respects and laid to rest a loyal member. He’d chosen to be buried out of state with his twin sister who’d died when she was young. Together, we drove in a snaking entourage to say goodbye to the youngest and most promising prospect. He had no family left to compensate or to speak his praises, so we donated his income from serving the Pures to a local research fund dealing with infant deaths.
The last and absolute hardest was Mo.
The only surviving relative was his father who’d been estranged from his son for decades. He refused to come to the funeral.
Tristan “Mo” Morgan, the man who’d put me through my paces when I first arrived, who kept his secrets close, and never truly lost the bastard veneer, was sent off with our engines roaring and plumes of smoke sending his soul to heaven.
It hurt to think of him gone. I didn’t realize what he meant to me until the moment he’d died in Grasshopper’s arms. I wished I could do more for him. A bigger send-off. A more soul-healing goodbye.