I had left the MC to pursue a different life and to become a different person. And I did just that. I was nothing like the carefree, rebel chick in that photograph. I was grown up and responsible.

I glanced back at the album. It represented a life I had buried.

One that needed to stay buried.

Pushing it aside, I stood up and collected our empty coffee cups. As I walked into the kitchen, my eyes caught on the series of dashes and dates marked into the doorjamb, and I stopped.

Childhood height charts.

I remembered standing there as a child, restlessly complaining to my mom as she recorded my height with a pencil and wooden ruler. I ran my finger up the doorjamb stopping at each age until I reached the last two. Indy age 12. Bolt age 14. There were none after that.

I took the coffee cups to the sink to wash. The rumble of a motorcycle broke into the early morning quiet, and when I looked out the kitchen window I saw Cade pull into the Calley driveway, wearing his Kings of Mayhem cut and looking like the devil he was in his aviators and well-fitted t-shirt.

He was just getting home.

“Old Mavis will have a field day over him revving his bike like that at seven o’clock in the morning,” my mom said as she came down the stairs.

“She’s still alive?” I asked. Old Mavis was the cranky old lady who lived across the street. “She was a hundred years old when I was eight.”

“Yeah, that one is too stubborn to die,” Mom said, looking for her keys in her purse.

Old Mavis dressed in floaty, Stevie Nicks-style clothing, circa Tell Me Lies, and had lashings of greying dark hair. When we were kids, Bolt convinced me she was a witch.

“Does she still think she is married to a three-hundred-year-old pirate?” I asked, remembering the stories about her. Old Mavis was batshit crazy and honestly believed she was married to a ghost. A pirate ghost. Some nights you could hear her arguing with him, although it was very one-sided.

Mom laughed. “Yep. They’re still together and just as much in love as the day they met via a Ouija board.” She dug deeper into her purse for her keys. I smiled and felt a sudden pang, knowing that my mom was going to be just fine. I took in her black pants and Sticky Fingers pastry shirt.

“You’re going to work?”

“Life goes on, Indy.” She gave up on finding her keys in her purse and sighed. I leaned over and grabbed them off the ceramic pineapple key holder on the counter and handed them to her.

“It’s Bob Ellis’ sixtieth birthday celebration tomorrow and he still needs his cake,” she said. Bob Ellis was the town mayor. “Plus, it’s Joker’s birthday celebration at the clubhouse tonight, and who else in town is going to make him a cake with a burlesque girl popping out of the top?”

A cake of a stripper bursting out of a cake. Of course.

“Do you want to come with me?” she asked. But we both knew it was a question asked out of obligation. I was a disaster when it came to baking, and my mom had given up teaching me years ago. I might be great with a suture, but I was a nightmare with an icing bag.

Plus, once she got to her shop, I knew she would lose herself in her work for hours, and that was exactly what she needed. If I hung around, I would only distract her.

“I might drop by and see Bolt,” I said.

My mom smiled softly. “It’ll do you some good to see your brother.”

I wasn’t sure about that. It hurt to see Bolt. But I returned her smile, because God knows she didn’t need something else to worry about. “It’s long overdue.”

“Sure, baby girl.” Mom paused at the door and turned back to me. “Are you okay going to see him by yourself?”

“Yes, of course,” I said. It was a lie. I didn’t know how it was going to feel standing in front of my brother after all these years.

“It’s been a few years,” she said.

I gave her a reassuring smile. “Then we’ll have a lot to catch up on.”

She nodded. “Okay, baby. I’ll see you here later and we’ll go to the clubhouse together, okay?”

We shared a smile before she walked out and closed the door behind her. My mom may be small in stature, but she was a tough cookie. She was no stranger to grief. She knew how to cope. I watched her hop into her Mercedes convertible and disappear down the road. She was going to be just fine.

I didn’t go to see my brother because I wasn’t ready. Or I was a coward. Either way, it wasn’t time. Instead, I headed to the morgue to drop off the photo of my father. As soon as I entered the little building beneath the hospital, the hairs on my arms stood on end. It was funny how I could see death everyday, but the moment I had to step into a morgue or a funeral home, I got the creeps.

Tags: Penny Dee Kings of Mayhem MC Romance
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