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Dex:Great Wolves M.C. Book One

By:Jayne Blue

Chapter One

For thirteen years, I've done nothing but dream about a day like this. The roar of my Harley ran through my body, heated my blood and seemed to work its way into my soul. A light, late summer rain started to fall, filling my nostrils with a whiff of ozone and wet asphalt as I rounded the curve toward home.

Thirteen years of only seeing the horizon over coiled razor wire and watch towers.

Now, a thin fog settled over the jutting peaks of Mount Shasta. The road before me stretched for miles. For a moment, I thought about simply staying on it. Everyone that mattered already knew how to live without me. It hurt like hell, but I knew how to live without them now too. The pain of the loss had scabbed over and hardened over the years. Going back to Green Bluff could rip it all open again. The easy thing to do would be to leave them in peace. Find somewhere else to settle. Start over.

Except I've never been a man to choose the easiest path.

Charlie's engine revved behind me, as if he could sense where my thoughts headed. He pulled up alongside me, his curly gray hair flying straight behind him, his cut flapping wildly. He lifted his chin and smiled at me. I could see my own face in his mirrored shades. God, I looked cold and hard. How could I think I belonged back in the light?

But when Charlie veered off toward the exit to Green Bluff, I followed. On the back roads into town, nothing had changed much. We passed the same cattle pastures and rolling hills that had always been there. In that way, the years seemed like they passed in a minute. They hadn't though, and I knew the greatest challenge of my life wasn't behind me, but ahead. It was time to find out what was left of Dex McLain. How much of that man could still be in there after all those years of hard time and rage I'd had to swallow. Only I would ever know what it had taken to survive. I couldn't let myself think about what I'd lost. Not yet. Not without giving into the darkness that had put me away. That could wait.

I followed Charlie. He let the throttle out and picked up speed as we hit the straightaway toward town. There was still nothing out here but cattle and dust, with the mountains in the distance. I knew that Green Bluff itself was nothing like I'd left it. I'd spend the next few days seeing just how much. For now though, we were headed for familiar ground and the place I used to call home.

I realized I had no idea where I would even lay my head tonight. The club would provide, I knew this. Since I stepped foot outside the gates of Marion Penitentiary six weeks ago, the members of the Great Wolves M.C. had made sure I had a place to crash on my journey from Chicago all the way to northern Cali. But now it was time to step back into the arms of my own chapter. The men I'd called brothers were calling me home. Charlie and I turned one final time and headed for the clubhouse.

The Wolf Den started out as a converted barn. My father, his cousin Blackie Murphy, Charlie, and the rest of the Great Wolves originals had built the bar and clubhouse from the ground up. When we pulled into the parking lot, I got my first taste of the changes to come. The old barn was gone. In its place was a large two-story brick and stone building. The black silhouette of a howling wolf's head was inlaid on the roof. The same symbol was inked on my back, just like it was for every member of the Great Wolves M.C. Thirty or more Harleys were parked around the building. Charlie cut his engine and I pulled in next to him and cut mine.

"Looks like the welcoming committee's all here," Charlie said. He threw his head back and laughed. His eyes shone with mirth and it did my heart good to see some of the pain gone from his eyes. Every other month for the last thirteen years, I'd watched him age with the torment of seeing me behind bars. In some ways I thought it was harder on him than it was on me. Since my Da passed, and Uncle Blackie after him, Charlie was the last of the old guard. That last of the Great Wolves originals.

"I can see that," I said. I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I had been hoping for a quiet reunion    with some of the club members I'd been closest to. I didn't know probably more than half of the new members in there.

"Relax." Charlie slapped my back with the force of a damn grizzly bear. Hell, he looked like one with his round belly, full beard and steel gray hair that curled in ringlets halfway down his back. "This is your family, Dex. I'll take you through the back to the table. It'll just be Sly and Billy back there. They're waiting for you."

I looked back at Charlie. His eyes glistened with fresh tears. For as gruff as he was, he was also a big sap.

"Take it easy. No more blubbering, Charlotte." I wrapped my arm around his shoulders. No easy feat. What Charlie lacked in height, he made up for in width. He was solid as a tree trunk but for his wobbling gait. He needed a hip replacement that he'd been putting off because he didn't want to give up smoking for the time he'd be in the hospital.   





 

We walked into the back of the Wolf Den together. Charlie gave me another fat-fingered slap on the back before he reached out and pulled open the heavy steel service door. I walked in behind him, my heart heavy in my chest, unsure of the reception that awaited me.

It was just as Charlie said. A red banner with the Great Wolves emblem in black hung from the far wall. Only two men sat at the great oak conference table. At its head sat the closest person I had to a brother. Hell, he was my brother in everything but blood. And we'd shed enough of that with and for each other too.

"Dex." Sly rose slowly and came around the table to me. We stood before each other for a moment. We hadn't seen each other in over ten years. Sly was nearly as tall as me. His blond hair had dulled somewhat, but he still kept it smoothed down to combat a wild cowlick he had in the back that made him look like Dennis the Menace when we were kids. Girls always went for him because of his boyish face with deep set blue eyes, wide smile and a permanent dimple in his cheek. He looked the same, though his features had hardened a little. Lines creased his brow and shades of silver peppered his temples and the stubble of his chin, just like they did mine.

Sly grabbed me then, pulling me into a brotherly embrace, and the last decade seemed to wash away, if only for a moment. We slapped each other and squeezed hard. Sly's hand came around and clasped mine. We broke, still clenching each other's fists. Sly's eyes glinted as they locked with mine, searching for answers he knew wouldn't come from my words. I answered with a quick nod.

I'm okay. I'm whole.

Sly let go of my hand, slapped my arm and finally let his face split into the devilish grin that got him out of trouble with most of the women in his life, including my own mother. They were suckers for it and Sly milked every drop he got.

Billy came around the table and embraced me next. Billy Kincaid had just patched in when I went inside. In fact, my yes vote had been the last act I'd done as a free man in the club. Billy was a distant cousin of Sly's on his mother's side and I remembered him then as a skinny nineteen-year-old. The man who stood before me had changed more dramatically than either Sly or myself. Billy was tall, a solid wall of muscle, and he'd shaved off his wiry, brown hair in exchange for a gleaming, tanned bald head. He looked a little dangerous with a pointed goatee.

"Shit, Billy," I said. "Glad to see your balls finally dropped."

Billy smiled and stiffened. His chest puffed out a little as if I needed any help seeing the patch sewn into the breast pocket of his leather cut. Vice President. Then the air in the room seemed to grow a little thicker as Charlie, Sly and Billy stiffened. Billy now wore the patch I'd been given two months before I got arrested.

Billy cleared his throat. "Dex, I-"

I put a hand up. "It looks good on you," I said and Billy's shoulders relaxed. And it was good.

"Billy," Charlie barked. "Why don't you go and see about the new beer shipments and let these two lovebirds get reacquainted?"

Billy smiled and nodded, then he and Charlie went out the six-paneled door toward the front of the building. When they opened the door, the rising sound of laughter and clinking glasses hit my ears then fell to silence when it closed behind them. The walls were soundproof and that door was likely bulletproof too.

"Whew," I whistled low. "You've put some serious money into this place." I took a seat toward the center of the conference table. I wouldn't sit near the head of it. It was going to take some time for all of us to figure out where I fit and I had no desire to force anything yet. Prison teaches a man a hell of a lot of situational awareness.

Sly took his seat at the head of the table. Through Charlie, I'd known he'd been elected chapter president eight years ago. To protect the club, I'd been kept out of the loop on specific club politics or business. It chaffed me, but I understood it. It's also why we all decided Sly should stay far away from me. Hell, it's what I would have wanted too if he had been at Marion instead of me. Protect the club. Protect each other.

"It's good to see you, man," Sly said. He thumped his fist against the table.

"It's good to be back."

"You know you've got quite a party going on out there." Sly lifted his chin toward the door Charlie and Billy had just exited. "I can keep you back here for a while but pretty soon they're gonna break that damn door down."

"Thanks. For that and for this." I ran my hand against the polished oak of the table. "I was hoping we'd have a little bit of time to talk. I plan on getting good and plastered out there in a few minutes."   

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