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I didn’t want to be friends…
Let me back track.
All I wanted was some peace when I got back from Iraq.
She’s mine, and I’m going to make damn sure she knows it.
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“And the grand total comes to two twenty-five seventy-five,” I printed out the bill hand handed it to the man standing in front of the counter.
“Are you sure? That’s a lot less than what any of the other shops in town are charging. There must be some mistake,” the man said.
“No mistake, Fred, you’ve been through here a lot, and we’re happy to give our most loyal customers a break,” I said with a grin.
“You’re a good man, Slade, I thank you,” the old man replied. He took off his hat and wiped the back of his hand over his brow, caught up with emotion. “Things haven’t been easy with Molly–”
His voice trailed off, and I nodded. I knew his wife was struggling with her chemo, and the financial burden on the old couple had been monumental. There wasn’t much we could do for them; Frank was a stubborn man whose parents endured the Depression and taught him never to take a handout from anyone.
So, I found ways to help where I could, and giving him a break for services through my shop was one of them.
“How’s she doing?” I asked.
“Oh, you know how it goes. Some days are good, some aren’t so good. We get through them all with a smile on our faces,” he waived his hand as he spoke, not wanting to go into too many details. I understood the pain of losing a loved one, and I respected his wishes.
“Well, you tell her I said hello, will you?” I asked.
“Will do. Have a good one, Slade,” he shook my hand before heading out the door, and I stood for a moment, reflecting before putting my copy of the bill in the drawer. I had no doubt he’d pay it when he was able, but I wasn’t going to harass him for the money.
The shop was doing well. With all the business we got from doing both car and bike repairs, we had more work than we knew what to do with. I had many of the guys from the MC down at the shop on the daily, helping out where they could if they didn’t know how to do the repairs themselves.
“He’s a cool guy,” a voice behind me said. I turned to see Odie, the youngest member of the Avenging Angels, leaning against the door frame.
“Frank’s good shit,” I agreed. “How’s the Harley?”
“Coming along. We’re waiting for Greg to get back with a part we need, then we’ll be back on track,” he replied. “Anything else on the books?”
“Not much. Axle will get the Pontiac done, and we need to get that Ford on the rack and see what’s going on there, then don’t forget that we have Church tonight,” I said.
“Yes, Sir,” Odie replied. He pushed himself away from the door frame and headed back into the shop, leaving me alone in the office once more. I didn’t usually like bringing the guys together for meetings. The only reason I called them was when there was some shit going down that we had to address, and these days I preferred to maintain order than fight for peace.
But, if the rumors floating around town were true, then there was shit that definitely needed to be addressed. And I would rather address it sooner than later. The longer I let shit go in my town, the worse it got.
Before I knew it, I could have had a real problem on my hands, and I’d worked too long and too hard to make sure that didn’t happen. I’d learned a lot in the twelve years since I turned twenty-one; perhaps the biggest lesson of all being that problems just don’t go away on their own, no matter how much you wish they would.
I glanced down at the rose tattoo on my right wrist. Talking to Frank brought up memories of pain that I often tried to forget but could never quite let go. The tattoo had faded some over the years, but Mercedes’ name was still visible, etched in a script intertwined throughout the thorns of the black rose.
It was just one of many tattoos I had running up my muscular arms. I worked out a lot, keeping in shape not only so I could maintain my shop without any trouble, but keep the streets free and clear for the people in town.
I liked my tattoos. They were all dark, matching my dark shock of hair and piercing blue eyes. I’d kept them on my arms and torso primarily, but there were times I thought I had room for one or two more.
Closing my eyes, I put my hand over the tattoo for a second, refusing to let the emotions take over. I was so lost in thought, caught up in the moment, I nearly jumped out of my skin when the phone rang right next to me.