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Cross Your Heart:Inked Angels MC

By:Zoey Parker

Chapter 1


Croak



"I'll tell you one thing," Jax growled, setting his mug of beer down on the table and letting out a raucous burp. "If that smug son of a bitch ever tried to pull some bullshit like that on me, I'd beat his ass six ways ‘til Sunday. He'd end up in a hospital, sucking on a goddamn feeding tube."



Laughter burst out from my brothers gathered around the booth we were sitting in. It was me, Jax, Big Tuna, Crash, and Steezy, lazing around and throwing back beer like it was going out of style. Shots of whiskey littered the tabletop, too, just in case one of us felt like mixing up the alcohol every once in a while.



The bar was dim and grungy, exactly the way I liked it. The way I liked everything, really. I preferred my hands to be greasy, my women to be dirty, and my liquor to be straight. Simple man, simple tastes. Don't fuck it up and I won't have to fuck you up. That's what I'd said to every bartender in this county at one point or another. Needless to say, they quickly learned to get my orders right.



"Jax," I drawled, "you walk around actin' like you got balls of steel. But I saw your old lady reamin' you out just last week, and you just stood there and took it, you poor sap. Couldn't even get a word in edgewise. She owns your ass."



Jax scowled, but the others doubled over, laughing even harder. I took a sip of beer and chuckled to myself as he turned ten different shades of red. He wanted to retort, but he knew I was a damn sight smarter than him and he'd never win a war of words. He knew what I was saying was true, too. He'd gotten wifed up recently and the ugly bastard was having a rough go of it.



Married life wasn't for everyone. Damn sure wasn't for me. The mere thought of an old lady bearing my ink made my skin crawl. My bike was for me and me alone. I didn't plan on ever sharing it with some broad perched on the back and chirping in my ear about what she wanted to do and where she wanted to go. The way I saw it, this life was about staying away from all that shit. No sir, I wanted no part of it. I'd rather stick to my liquor and my one-night-only women. They were both dependable, in their kind of own way.



I saw Steezy snorting with laughter into his drink on the far side of the booth. He was a fresh-faced teenager, barely tall enough to throw his leg over a bike, much less know anything about fucking women, but he walked like he was the biggest swinging dick around. I liked him in spite of it. He would eventually grow into the attitude, and the kid was sharp enough to pick up on things real quick. I'd never had to explain anything to him twice.



Still, I'd be damned if I was gonna let a prospect get away without a little bit of hazing. Call it part of the process. We'd all been there before. Jax, Big Tuna, Crash, and I had all come up together, going through initiation around the same time and getting our chops busted on the regular by the grizzled old vets who made up a big chunk of the club membership. Going through the hell they liked to impose on new recruits made us closer than kin. We were more than comrades; we were brothers.



"Steezy, what are you laughin' at, greenhorn?" I snapped. I kept my face deadly serious. Let him sweat a little bit. He went whiter than a ghost at the sudden, unexpected attention. He froze with his mug halfway to his mouth, eyes fixated on me. "You ain't been close enough to fuck a female with a ten-foot pole," I finished. "And that ain't for lack of trying, neither."



The laughter went up one more notch, this time at Steezy's expense. His cheeks burned and I could see him wilt a little in his seat. The boys on either side of me busted up, hooting, hollering, and smacking the table with big, goofy smiles plastered on their faces. We were more than a little drunk; well, they were, at least. Ever since I'd started drinking at the tender age of twelve, I'd always had to take my time getting going. Alcohol just seemed to work slower on me.



"I'm just playin' with you, kiddo," I said after a long pause. I shot him a wink. "No reason to look like your dog just got run over."



In spite of the teasing, I wasn't a malicious kind of guy. The kid just had to learn his place, that's all. It'd come in time. Cockiness turned into confidence if a man had it tested enough. Steezy had all the makings of a strong Inked Angel, and I had no doubt that he'd turn out fine. Matter of fact, more than fine. It was good to have promising talent in the pipeline.



"Lemme out. I gotta hit the head," I said. I swept a hand through my hair as Big Tuna slid out of the seat to let me stand up. He was still chuckling with that foghorn bass voice of his, shaking his head and wiping a tear out of his eye from laughing so hard.   





 



I wove my way between a few rickety chairs and ducked into the bathroom. I took a quick piss, then turned to the sink. As I flipped on the faucet and started washing my hands, something in the mirror caught my eye. I leaned in and squinted to look close. When I realized what it was, a huge grin split my face in two. I'd thought those boots looked familiar.



"Skull, you dirty fuck, what the hell you doin' in there?" I roared with a laugh, turning around and kicking open the stall door behind me. I heard a panicked yelp and a slurp as it swung open to reveal a skinny, bald man in a leather jacket, seated on the toilet with his pants around his ankles and his eyes closed.



At first glance, I might've thought he was focusing real hard on shitting, if it weren't for the petite blond girl on her knees in front of him. Her hands were wrapped around the shaft of his cock. She was the one who'd done the yelping. She looked up at me in horror, but I only laughed harder when I saw the spit dangling from her lips like a string of pearls.



Skull opened his eyes and gave me a smooth smile and a wink. "Just meetin' the townfolk, Croak," he said in a thick Texan accent. He looked like he didn't have a care in the world.



"You couldn't even take this nice girl to a motel or somethin'?" I asked.



"When duty calls, a man's gotta work with what he's got," he said with a shrug. I noticed out of the corner of my eye the chick smoothing down her skirt and tugging her shirt back into place. She had a nice pair of tits for such a teeny little girl.



Chortling, I let the door swing shut so they could have their privacy. I walked out of the bathroom, whistling. Skull was a good guy, a real kindred spirit. He and I saw eye to eye on topics like the fairer sex. When it came to fucking, girls got one night each, no exceptions.



It wasn't like we were being cruel or nothing; we just didn't pretend to be anything we weren't. I wasn't a nice guy or a knight in shining armor and the ladies in my life damn sure weren't getting any flowers from me. That was fine with most of them. Lord knows I'd had plenty and I had yet to hear a word of complaint.



Maybe it was because I knew what they wanted: to let their inner slut loose. The world was chock full of people telling women to do this and not to do that. I was the exact opposite. All I had to say was, "Do what you feel," and they were jumping on my dick like it was the last train out of town. Hey, the way I saw it, I was just providing a service.



No doubt that it helped to look like me. Six foot, five inches tall and two hundred forty pounds of sculpted muscle, with dark brown eyes and a smile that made clouds look off-white in comparison. And that was just the wrapper. When girls got down beneath my jeans, they found something that made their jaw drop another notch farther.



I sauntered back to the table. The local girls gave me sidelong stares as I passed among them. It was easy to walk around here like I owned the place. Hell, I practically did. The Inked Angels had their hands in just about every piece of business in Harris County, so we were treated like royalty pretty much everywhere we went. I couldn't even remember the last time I'd paid for my own drinks. The patch I wore on my jacket was like a lifetime get-out-of-jail-free card. It drew respect from everyone who saw it - cops, townies, and strangers alike.



Walking up to our booth, I slapped my hands down on the table. "We need another round, boys?" I asked with a raised eyebrow. I checked my watch. "Looks like we're getting close to empty, and they'll be makin' last call pretty soon."



"I could use one more," Big Tuna boomed as he drained the last of the beer in his hands and thumped it down, completely empty.



"One more it is," I agreed. I started to straighten back up.



"Hey, Croak," Steezy said in a quiet voice. I turned to face him. "What do you know about this latest mess with Ricardo?"



I wrinkled my brow. I didn't know what the hell he was talking about. "Who?" I asked.



"Ricardo Suarez, the drug dealer," he answered. "The one running the warehouse towards the southeast of the city."



I racked my brains trying to remember. "Oh, yeah, I know that crazy fucker," I said, a vague memory swimming into place. "What about him?" Crash, Jax, and Big Tuna were all listening closely now.



"Well, I have a buddy who's done some odd jobs for him every now and then. I just saw him while you were in the can, and he told me Ricardo's been acting real psycho lately. Said the police know about it, too, and that if he keeps it up, they're gonna have to go down and investigate."   





 



I didn't like the sound of that, not one bit. In my head, I went over everything I knew about Ricardo. He was a half-Mexican drug shipper who fancied himself as a kingpin north of the border. He'd built up a steady business, thanks almost entirely to some crackhead half-brother of his who had a connection with one of the cartels down in Mexico. He was just another small-timer at first, hardly worth our attention, but when he started getting enough cash flow to become a minor threat to the Inked Angels business a couple years back, we'd made moves to rein him in.

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