My parents aggravated me with the bullshit. Thomas would want to know if something happened to any of us. He was going to be pissed when he found out he was kept out of the loop.

“We’ll see, that’s for your father and I to decide. Get your butt up here.”

Thomas had been able to use his job to avoid Sunday dinners and family events that would bore any breathing human. My parents never harped on him.

Lucky bastard.

“Let me get off the phone and I can get there quicker, Ma.”

Her soft laughter filled my ear. I loved the woman, but at times she drove me berserk. “Very true. See you soon, baby.”

She called all of us baby. Guess it was better than jackass.

My parents smothered us with love at times. Suffocated us, but at least we knew where they stood. We loved them unconditionally and whole-heartedly.

“Bye, Ma,” I said, as I tapped end before she could get another word out.

I walked in the bathroom, thinking about Tommy as I turned the phone over in my palm. I couldn’t keep this from him. It just wasn’t right.

I sent him a messaged before climbing in the shower.

Me: Call when you have time, got news.

I showered quickly, wanting to get to the hospital before my ma called again to chew my ass out.

As I grabbed my keys to walk out the door, my phone began to ring.

“Hey.”

“Hi, Mike. What’s going on? I don’t have much time, but I wanted to check in,” Tommy said quietly.

“It’s Joe. He’s alright now, but he got into a bike accident on Sunday.”

He sucked in a breath before replying, “How bad?”

“Fucked up leg and a broken hand. He was thrown, but he had on a helmet or else we’d be planning a funeral right now.”

“Fuck, I’m going crazy not being able to see everyone and know what the fuck is going on.” He sucked in another breath before exhaling.

“You smoking again?” I asked.

“Yeah, when in Rome, brother.” I shook my head. I couldn’t imagine the life he led or what he had to do to blend in with MC that he’d been assigned. “Should I come home?”

“Nah, I just wanted you to know.”

“What the fuck took so long to get me the word?” he bit out.

“Ma and Pop didn’t want to bother you and make you worry,” I said as I climbed in my truck.

“Mike, text me anytime to tell me when bad shit’s going down. I’ll always call as soon as I can. Don’t let them hide shit from me, ya hear me, brother?”

“Yeah. Are you okay, Tommy?”

I felt relieved talking to him. Every day I wondered if he was okay or even if he was alive. Being cut off from him was scary as fuck.

“I’m okay, just some crazy shit going down. I got it, though. Don’t worry about me, Mike. Give my love to everyone. I gotta run.”

“Take care of yourself, man. Watch your back.”

“Tell everyone I love them, Mike, please give Ma a kiss for me.” His breathing had grown a little more uneven.

“Love ya too, Thomas,” I said, tearing up as the line went dead.

I hadn’t cried since I was a kid and got hurt on the school playground, but hearing Thomas’ voice made it hard to keep my composure. It had been over a year since I’d seen him and I felt relieved knowing he was okay and ready to fight another day.

Wiping the mist from my eyes, I threw the phone on the passenger seat and headed toward the hospital.

Walking down the halls of the hospital I kept my guard up, expecting psycho Tammy to pop out of nowhere. I’m sure she was stalking the halls looking for me.

Walking into Joe’s room I said, “I’ve arrived.”

Izzy looked at me and rolled her eyes. “About time, you ass.”

“Love you too, sis.” I blew her a kiss and smiled.

“Thank god for a private room,” I laughed as I looked at them all.

Poor Joe, they were here staring at him all day.

“Joe, how ya feelin’ man?” I approached his bed and kissed him on the cheek.

He puffed out a breath, adjusting his body. “Bored to death and ready to get the hell out of here.”

“I can only imagine, but I think you’re going to be here a while. Sorry I wasn’t here sooner.”

“Don’t worry about it. You have shit to do. When’s the fight?”

Sitting on the edge of his bed, I replied, “Couple weeks.”

“I want a front row seat. I’m so pumped for you. Going to win this one?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Hell yeah. I got this shit in the bag if I stay on track. Have you ever seen me lose a fight?”

He shook his head. “Never and you never answered about the front row.”

“I have tickets for everyone. I grabbed a couple extra too.” I bent my knee, pulling it on the bed.

The room was filled with chatter. Izzy and Suzy were talking about clothes or some girl shit. My parents talked to Anthony in a whispered tone that I couldn’t make out. I never knew my family could talk this quiet.

There was a brief lull in the conversations around us as Joe said, “What did you want to talk to me about?”

I hung my head and rubbed my eyes with my thumb and index finger. Fuck, bring on the Gallo Inquisition.

“What’s he talking about?” Izzy asked behind me. Naturally she’d be the one person to pipe up after hearing that statement.

Turning around, I looked her straight in the eye and showed no fear. “Male shit, Iz. Don’t concern yourself with it.”

Her eyes became slits as she glared at me. Izzy knew me as well as anyone sitting in this room and I prayed she knew when to drop the subject. “Always playing the penis card. Such bullshit.”

“Isabella,” my ma chimed in. “Did I raise you to speak that way?”

“I’m a grown woman, Ma, and yes you did. You had four boys and a girl. How else would I talk?”

My ma and Izzy broke into a fit of laughter.

I looked at Joe and I mouthed ‘later’ to him.

He tipped his chin, not making any other movements. He knew as well as I did how nosey this group was and I needed to deal with Tammy on the down low.

“Why


don’t we all go to the cafeteria and let the boys have their talk?” My ma always tried to be diplomatic.

“Great idea, my legs could use a stretch,” Pop said. “Come on, baby girl.” Standing, my pop held his hand out to Izzy.

She sighed and put her fingers in his palm. “For you, Dad, anything you ask.” She had him wrapped around her little finger.

They worked each other well and knew how to get their way. Izzy gave in on the small things because she knew my pop would always have her back; she’d always be his little girl.

“I’m going to stay here,” Anthony said as he looked at my parents. “I’m playing my penis card.” He smirked at Izzy.

I swear to shit I could see a vein pop out of her forehead.

“We’ll be back in ten minutes,” Pop said, yanking Izzy out by the arm.

We sat in silence as we waited for them to walk far enough that we wouldn’t be overhead. Anthony poked his head out of the doorway. “All clear,” he said.

“What the fuck is up, man?” Joe asked.

“Tammy has gone off the rails.” I shook my head, still not believing her bullshit.

His eyebrows scrunched as he looked at me. “Tammy?”

“Scrapbook crazy girl? Did you hit your head harder than we thought?”

He laughed and grabbed his side. “Fuck, I remember her now. I’ve had other things on my mind than your women.”

“She isn’t one of my women. She saw me in the cafeteria here and she claimed we were engage, dude.”

“No fucking way.” His mouth hung open as he looked at me.

“Yes, I told her to leave me the hell alone and she said how could I just leave her since we were engaged. When I denied her and I went to walk away…” I didn’t want to finish the sentence. The mere thought of her words made my stomach churn. “She yelled out that she was pregnant.”

His body stilled as his eyebrows drew together. “With whose kid?” Joe asked.

“Mine, dumbass.” I shrugged.

“Is that even possible?” Joe asked, trying to sit up.

“Fuck no. I don’t think so. I mean I’m not a doctor, but if I remember my human bio class there’s zero chance.”

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