Authors: Kathryn Thomas
This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons--living or dead--is entirely coincidental.
Survivor’s Remorse: Brothers of Ink and Steel copyright @ 2015 by Kathryn Thomas. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews.
Book 2 of the
Leo put his razor away and leaned into his hands, propping on the sink in Jamie’s bathroom as he stared into the mirror and thought about all that has happened in the last month. He had been doing a lot of that the last couple of weeks. Even with Jamie’s calming influence, the darkness stalked him. He knew from past experience if he did too much thinking about friends lost, the demons came calling. His eyes shifted and he watched the female form moving in the mirror, the outline softened and blurred behind the frosted glass of the shower door. If it weren’t for her, he was certain he would have ended it all by now.
The Lima 6 Motorcycle Club had gone to war with the Prieto Cartel. They had taken their lumps, but they had dealt some out as well. After the cartel had burned down their clubhouse, they had taken out the cartel’s primary drug lab. It had cost them… cost them dearly, with eight dead and five wounded.
The cartel had hit back with an attack on
He’s Not Here,
the bar and grille favored by Lima 6 and owned by Jamie. He, along with his best friends Charles “Tuck” Tucker, and Tomas “Two-Tone” Marro, had fended off the attack with no loss of life. No loss of life for the good guys anyway. After the attack he had gone against Ron and convinced the club that they should pull back and wait for the cartel to make the next move. That had been a mistake. Only a few days later the cartel had come at them again, trying to kill him, and succeeding in killing Tuck and Two-Tone, as they rode to the bar after a club meeting.
Lima 6’s reprisal had been swift and vicious. He and Ron, the President of Lima 6, had led a party into Mexico where they had waited in ambush outside another of the cartel’s drug processing labs. The Prieto Cartel ran their drug empire with business like efficiency, and when the second shift began arriving, Lima 6 had moved in and killed everyone in the facility—over fifty men and women—then burned the place to the ground. Tuck and Two-Tone’s deaths had been paid in full, with interest.
But things have settled down since then. The Prieto Cartel must still be reeling from the double hit dealt by Lima 6 and their war with the Cuervo Cartel to their south.
Leo heard the water shut off. With a mental shake, he dragged himself back to the present. Today was her day and he pushed the dark thoughts aside, something that seemed to be easier and easier for him to do. With a smile he snagged the towel from the bar and wrapped her in it as she stepped from the shower.
“Thank you,” Jamie said as he folded the towel around her. He was still naked from his own shower and she admired the trim, cut lines of his body. “It’s too bad we have to leave for El Paso so soon,” she purred as she stepped in close and took him into her embrace as the towel fell away.
“You don’t mean that, and you know it,” he said after he kissed her on the lips.
“I do mean it. I wanted to go and spend the night in El Paso last night, remember? That would have given us more time this morning.”
“I need to ride with the club. Things are still a little strained between Ron and me and I need to show the club that I’m still part of it.”
“I know,” she said softly.
He pulled her to him and held her close and tight as he enjoyed her warmth. “Hey… it’s okay. Things have cooled off with the cartel and things are getting back to normal with the club. Doing this for Will is a good thing. It’s something we all agree on.”
“I understand,” she said. “I just worry that you will be hurt again. You’ve been hurt enough.”
“It’s okay. With you… I wouldn’t have made it without you,” he murmured as he leaned his cheek against her head and breathed deep to take in her scent of apples and soap. “You’re all that has made it bearable… and kept me sane.”
She smiled as she held him, her eyes closed, as she felt the connection they shared strengthen just a tiny bit more. She knew he still fought the darkness that was inside of him, but he won his battles more often now… and she was glad, glad she could be there for him.
He tipped her head up and kissed her once more, with meaning. “We have to get ready. Lima 6 will be here soon,” he murmured when he pulled slowly back.
“I know.” She reached up and touched his cheek, a slow light caress that she had discovered he liked so well. He closed his eyes, smiling slightly, as he stood still and allowed her to touch him. As she finished the soft caress, she stepped out of his embrace, bent to pick up her towel from the floor, and began to dry herself. There would be plenty of time for more caresses later.
Jamie began to bounce on her toes as tall, dark, and handsome strode down the concourse of the El Paso airport toward her. The moment the man was past the security checkpoint she flung herself into his arms. He caught her and hugged her tight.
“Welcome home,” she sniffed as she hugged William Boyles tight. It had been over three years since she had last seen her brother and she was having a hard time holding her tears.
“Hey… hey, Squirt! No crying,” Will said with a loving smile as she placed her back on her feet and wiped at her eyes with a thumb.
Jamie began to giggle. “Nobody has called me Squirt since you were here last… you’re the only one that still does. Even dad finally quit.”
“Time to revive the family tradition, then, I think. How’s he doing?” Will asked as they walked toward baggage claim.
“He has his good days and his bad. We’ll go see him Sunday.”
“I know it has been tough for you. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this by yourself.”
She smiled. “It hasn’t been too bad. He seems happy enough where he is. What I pay him for the bar each month covers his care and leaves a little left over.”
“Yeah. Uh, Will… there’s another thing. There’s someone I want you to meet. His name is Leo, Lionel actually, Graves. He and I are… dating. You’ll meet him today.”
Will was just about to follow up on that when he spotted his duffle. “There’s my bag,” he said as he stepped through the crowd to grab a large green duffle and another leather suitcase.
“Is that it?” she asked as he stepped out of the crowd.
“That’s it. The rest will arrive in a few weeks.”
“Okay. Let’s go. I have a surprise waiting for you, so wait a second.” Jamie fished her phone out of her purse and pressed the speed dial. “We’re coming out,” she said before she canceled the call and dropped the phone back into her purse.
“What was that all about?”
“How’s the bar?” he asked as they made their way toward the exit, Will allowing Jamie to lead the way.
“It’s doing great! I’m waiting on final loan approval. I’m expanding… adding a restaurant.”
“Congratulations! I worried about it when you took over from dad… but I can see that was a waste of my time. I should have known you would make a go of it.”
“More than just a go of it. You should the place. I have done some more updates since you were here last. Changed the decor, had all the wood in the bar completely refinished. I think you will like it.
she added dramatically as they stepped out of the airport.
“Is that granddad’s truck?” Will asked breathlessly as he spotted the pristine 1950 Chevrolet pickup sitting in front of the door.
“It is. I had it completely redone just after you left last year.
He’s Not Here
paid for it. Think of it as rolling advertisement.”
“Oh my god, Jamie. It’s fantastic. Just look at…” he began then trailed off as he noticed all the men standing about.
“Will, I would like to introduce Ron Terrill, President of the Lima 6 Motorcycle Club. Ron, my brother, Will Boyles,” Jamie said.
“Nice to meet you, Will,” Ron said stepping forward. “First, speaking on behalf of all of Lima 6, I would like to welcome you home. This is my VP, Leo Graves,” Ron said, making introductions as Leo and Will shook hands. “My Sergeant at Arms, Rich Copperton,” he added, again pausing so the men could greet each other. “My Treasurer, Stuart Fitzgibbons…” It took a couple of minutes, but Ron introduced each member of Lima 6 as the men shook hands.
“Will, it would be our honor to escort you home to Vallecito de Grande.”
Will smiled at the man. At first he was taken aback by the club, but it had only taken a moment before he recognized fellow brothers in arms. “Thank you, Ron. The honor would be mine.”
“Mount up, boys!” Ron called as he circled a finger above his head.
“You want to drive?” Jamie asked Will.
“Would you mind?”
“It’s why I brought it. I thought you would like to see it.”
His face nearly split with his grin as he tossed his two bags into the back. “You know what... you’re okay… for a little sister.”
Will and Jamie exited Interstate 30 onto US Highway 90 West. Lima 6 was riding 21 bikes in front, 20 to the rear, all proudly flying a small American flag. On the Interstate they had to shout over the wind and motor noise as their un-air conditioned truck battered a hole in the air with the windows down. It was about all the old truck could do to maintain interstate speeds, but now, at the more sedate highway speeds, they could talk more easily.
“What’s up with the Hells Angels?” Will asked as the truck began to whine back up to speed.
“I mentioned to them that you were coming home and they wanted to give you an escort. They are, to a man, ex-military.”
“I noticed. That was Leo that I met? The VP guy.”
“That was him,” Jamie said. She wanted to ask him what he thought of Leo, but with only a “welcome home” and a handshake between them, he wouldn’t have much measure of the man.
“You’re in a biker gang?” he asked with a sidelong glance.
“First off, it’s not a gang. Not like you mean. It’s a club. Secondly, no, I’m not a member of the club. I’m not sure women are even allowed, but even if they were, you have to be ex-military. But they are some of my best customers.”
“So what does, Lima 6 was it, do?”
“They're just regular guys. Leo owns a landscaping company. Ron owns a heavy equipment repair shop in town. Fitz is the store manager at H-E-B. Like I said, just regular guys.”
“Uh-huh,” he grunted.
“Come on, Will. Just give them a chance, okay? They do a lot of good works in Vallecito.”
“Well, for example, Leo gives a speech every year to the new eighth grade glass about drugs. They—”
“How to use them?”
“William Boyles! I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.”
“Well what do you expect? I come home and find out my sister is hanging out with a bunch of bikers.”
“You don’t know a damn thing about them, so until you do, you can just get off your high horse. I’ll have you know that if it weren’t for Leo—” she stopped before she said too much.
“If it weren’t for Leo, what?”
“I’m sorry, okay? You’re right, I shouldn’t judge. I’m sorry. Tell me about Leo.”
She stared out the window as the scenery rolled past, annoyed with Will’s attitude. Lima 6 had gone out of their way to provide him with an honor guard, and he didn’t know
about what they had done for the town. Instead he was judging them because they rode motorcycles.
“I’m sorry, Squirt. Really. You’re—”
“You just lost the right to call me Squirt,” Jamie snapped.
“Jamie. I’m sorry, okay? I was just surprised. I don’t want to fight. Not on my first day back. Forgive me?”
She let him stew a moment. “Okay. But I don’t want to hear any more shit out of you about them until you have at least gotten a chance to know them, okay?”
“You’re right. I’m sorry. Now, about Leo?”
“Cross my heart,” he said, making the motion with his finger.
“Do you remember how it was? With the drugs and the violence?”
“Yeah. I remember. But it was better the last time I was home.”
“It’s even better now. In the last couple of years things have really changed. Lima 6 has, well, cleaned up the town, and kept it clean. After they took on the drug runners and pushed the drug trade out of town, businesses started coming back. People have stopped leaving.”
“How did they do that?”
“They… do things that the police can’t.”
“Use your imagination.”
“They kill them?” he asked, his doubt and surprise clear in his voice.
“I think that is a reasonable assumption, though no one but them knows for sure.”
“I suppose you could call them that.”
“And the police don’t stop them?”
“Let’s just say that VGPD and Lima 6 have an understanding. If Lima 6 keeps their activities out of town, the police don’t meddle in affairs outside of their jurisdiction.”
“Jesus Christ, Jamie! How can you—”
“You promised! You listen to me, William Boyles… Lima 6 is the best thing that has ever happened Vallecito! The town is safe, safer now than anytime I can remember. They are a respected part of the community. They work with charities. They donate money and time to help the community, and they don’t ask for
If it weren’t for Leo, Tuck and Two-Tone I would be fucking
right now! So if you don’t like it, you can just shove it up your
She turned and looked out the window again as she wiped at tears, tears of frustration, anger… and sorrow. She knew how much Leo missed Tuck and Two-Tone, how hard their death had hit him, and she had felt his pain at their loss. To have her brother come in and begin to judge these men, men who had given their lives for the town, men he knew nothing about… She wiped at her eyes again.
“Jamie… I’m sorry. I didn’t know. Okay? Please? Did I meet Tuck and Two-Tone?”
“No. They’re dead. Killed by the cartel. Probably because they, and Leo, killed the gunmen the cartel sent to kill me and everyone else in the bar.”
“Jesus Christ…” Will breathed.
“Yeah… so just fuck off.”
“Jamie… I’m really sorry. I didn’t know. I don’t know what to… You’re right, I don’t know these men. Leo… is that when…?”
“No,” she sniffed. “We were already together before that happened.”
“Jamie. I’m sorry I have upset you. Really. Don’t be mad at me. I promise, not one more word about Lima 6 until I have a chance to get to know them. Okay? Forgive me? Again. Please?”
“There is supposed to be a party at the community center in your honor when we get home. Lima 6 set it up. But if you are going to be a complete asshole, maybe we should just forget it.”
“No. I would like to meet them… and thank the man that saved my little sister.”
“You can be such a jerk sometimes!” she snapped at him. At least he had the good graces to look ashamed. “Okay. But this is it William. I mean it. Not one more nasty comment from you about them until you’ve had a chance to get to know them and what they have done for Vallecito.”
“You have my word. It’s just a lot to take in. But… you have a good head on your shoulders. If you think they are okay then they probably are. So… tell me about Leo. Known him long?”
“Since he joined, about three years ago. But we didn’t become intimate until… recently. He’s a good man, Will. I think, hope, you will like him.”
Will reached over, took her hand, and gave it a squeeze. “He helped save your life. He has already gone way up in my estimation.”