| 18 | Scholars & Blood ||

“Happy fucking Valentine’s day!” Stitch slammed the newspaper on Devlin’s desk, startling him from his thoughts about Lacey.

He frowned and touched his aching side, disturbed by the interruption.

“How the fuck do I go through my entire life under the got damn radar and then, the biggest fuck up of my life, front fucking page!” Stitch started pacing in front of Devlin’s desk.

Devlin looked at the front-page story covering their failed weapons exchange in the warehouse district. He wasn’t meant to be a part of the situation but was called in when things went to shit.

“You’re a fucking pussy.” Lucas drawled, abandoning his lean on the window on the other side of the room.

“Fuck you, Luke.” Stitch retorted, not even bothering to look at the other man.

Luke laughed and walked back over to the window. Stitch was so worked up because he organized the job.

Devlin cocked his head to the side, examining the image. “I mean, and you’ll probably never hear me say this shit again, but Luke’s right. You’re acting like a chick who missed her rag.”

Stitch frowned. “Fuck both you bastards.”

“You can’t make out any of the faces.” Devlin turned the newspaper toward his friend.

He got closer on the image. “How the fuck can’t you see that? I’m raising my eyebrow.”

“Seriously, the image is blurry as hell. Look at it on the bright side. At least you don’t have a permanent reminder of how big of a fuck up you are.” Devlin lifted his shirt, exposing the wrapping around his body.

“Got damn, Prez,” Stitch said, leaning down to examine the damage.

“I mean, that’s going to leave a hell of a scar.”

“Yeah, that prick came out of nowhere. If I hadn’t had cat-like reflexes, he would have gutted me with that knife.”

Stitch ran his fingers through his hair. “This shit is on me.”

“It’s on us.”

“Nah, I did this. I fucked up somewhere. It was a standard exchange that we’ve been doing every month for years, but I must have missed something.”

“What, afraid you won’t make it in prison?” Luke drawled, then looked back at them from his lean at the window.

“Why the fuck are you even here?”

He turned to face them with a smirk on his lips. “I was invited. What’s your excuse?”

“You know you got a slick ass mouth on you―”

“Okay, okay, let’s not be yapping bitches in a pen. I called you both here because I have reason to believe the warehouse gig was set to explode in our fucking faces.”

Stitch crossed his arms with a deep frown. “We’ve been doing deals with the Johnson Riders forever. Some of their guys got shot too.”

“I don’t think it was them. We were scoped by their rivals.”

Stitch let out a sound of distaste. “The Wolves of Wall Street. Fucking turtleneck-wearing pussy boys.”

“That beat your ass.”

“Hey!” Devlin pressed a hand on Stitch’s chest before he could retaliate against Luke. The man was usually the calm one of the bunch. Getting rattled like they had, really shook him up. “Focus. About six years ago, the leader, Tyson Bronx, his sister married…” Devlin slid his interpretation of the ciphered text that he extrapolated from his father’s paperwork.

“Byron Johnson? What the fuck is this?”

“It’s from my dad.”

“The fuck?”

“It’s good info.”

Stitch’s face said everything in that split moment than a string of words would ever be able to express.

“Your dad’s dead. How the fuck did he give you this information?”

“It was in his will.”

The man stopped to massage his temple. “What?”

Devlin sighed, annoyed with the doubts. “An underlying message in the will, like a puzzle.”

“Like a secret code?”

Devlin nodded.

“I just can’t see Luscious Sinn sitting the fuck down behind that desk and creating code. He’s just not the cypher-writing type.”

“No, but my mom was. It was a cypher that she created to share secret letters with my dad, fuck! Why am I explaining myself to you?”

“Because this shit doesn’t make any fucking sense. What, are you talking to ghosts now?”

“No, Duprey paid me a visit a couple days ago.”

Stitch’s face contorted in a look of confusion. “CONNOR DUPREY, the fucking scum of the― gah!” Stitch started pacing. His arms were resting on top of his head while he steamed. “That grimy rat bastard got your father dead. DEAD! HE AIN’T coming back! And you’re making secret ass meetings with him?”

“He said he had information on my dad. I had to meet with him.” That and the hair comb that got to Lacey. That was even more upsetting than his father’s grave being robbed.

“Got damn, Devlin!” He took a deep breath. “How do you know this isn’t some elaborate bullshit that Duprey made up? Fuck!”

“It’s not.”

“Do you even hear your fucking self? We’re not the Illuminati. We’re bikers.”

“I was skeptical too, but Duprey didn’t send the paperwork. It was forwarded to me from my dad’s lawyer after he died, signed, sealed, and notarized a few weeks before my dad died. I found a couple of my mom’s letters to him in the basement to work out the code. What I’m saying is, it checked out.”

“He’s a clever ass bastard, Prez.”

He slammed his hand on the table. “Don’t you think I fucking know that shit?!” He took a deep breath. “I know he is a slick motherfucker, which is why I need you. There are a few things my father mentioned in his letter about Duprey that I want you to verify with Clem’s old man.”

Stitch took the piece of paper that Devlin handed him. “I owe the old bastard a visit, anyway. Ain’t been the same since he couldn’t ride.”

“None of us ever will be.” He set back in the chair behind the desk.

“Maybe ‘cept for you.” Stitch’s voice was like honey, which meant he was either trying to get some pussy or he was digging for information. “Sneaking around seeing Duprey isn’t the only thing you’ve been doing, ey?”

Devlin rolled his eyes. “Are you sure you weren’t born with a pussy? ‘Cause you gossip like a fucking chick.”

The other man laughed with his tongue hanging out his mouth. “It’s not that pretty one from the wedding, is it?”

“Don’t you have work to do?”

The man waved his friend off. “Don’t you know how I got my fucking name, bitch? I’m good at three things: fucking, drinking, and getting down to some answers.”

“Lucky I only give a shit about the last one.”

“I’ll tell Clem’s old man to send the lady a pumpkin pie.” The other man’s laughter echoed down the hall when he left Luke and Devlin alone.

It was quiet in the room for a while as Devlin tried to figure out how to address Luke. The message from Luscious was just as much Luke’s as it was Devlin’s

“I take it I’m not still here because you enjoy my stimulating company.” The man made his way over to Devlin’s desk from the window.

“Dad said the blood bond that he had with Duprey went beyond just the M.C.”

Luke raised his eyebrows. “Well, looks like apples don’t fall too far from the fucking tree.”

Devlin pulled up the interpreted version of his father’s message.

“You were six, I think, when we took that ride to see Lucas. You fought with him then, even though he was only two. Stubborn, skeptical. Not unlike me when I met my brother for the first time.

I was near out of high school. Ready to be a man by that time. Hell, thought I was one. I’d got into some kind of shit my Pa had to bail me out of. Once we got back to the clubhouse, he threw a helmet in my arms.

It was a nice long ride. We only stopped for gas, barely to rest, then at a diner outside Vegas. When I laid eyes on the bastard, I knew I hated him and that I’d give my life, so he’d breath free air. Looked like my sister Lily, ‘cept he was a boy.

Not sayin’ Lily looked like a man or that Connor looked like a ― Never mind.

When she died, I loved him harder, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow, I was betraying my Ma. I had to hold on to some hate for the bastard, and I did. My dad was good at holdin’ on to shit, and I took that from him.

When I die, and I will, sooner than I’d care to think about, take care of your sister, love your brother, or hate ‘im, either is ok, but never feel indifferent. Brotherhood and blood run deep to our soul. Deeper even than sin runs in the Devil’s.

Devlin frowned at his brother, whose face didn’t seem to be moved by the man’s words. They turned Devlin’s world upside down. “It don’t mean shit to you that Pa had a secret brother he ain’t tell no one about?”

“He told me,” Luke confessed.

The initial shock was quickly replaced with anger. “T-that changes everything, doesn’t it?”

Luke shrugged. “Why would it. Brotherhood is Brotherhood, right?” The man eyed Devlin from the side.

“Yes. That’s followed by a period.”

“And a big ass but.”

“Not a but, it just brings a lot of things into question. Like what other secrets was the bastard hiding? How much of what Duprey said was true?”

“Why did he reach out to you in the first place? Did you ever think of that? Why you and not any of us?”

“I don’t fucking know. Maybe because I had access to dad’s will. Maybe because dad told him. Maybe because I’m the fucking President. I don’t know. When I visited him in prison, I didn’t think about all that.”

“You visited him in prison?”

“He said he had information on dad. He was talking in riddles. I wasn’t at the prison for more than five minutes―”

“You don’t have to explain shit to me. I’m your brother. I get it.”

Devlin exhaled, not sure how Luke’s signoff mattered. “He’d been out for a while before I met up with him and he laid all this shit on me. I started paying the fuck attention, and when shit got dirty at the warehouse, it got me digging harder into this. When I found a marriage connection to the Hyanns’, it got me fucked up. I started thinking, what else is in history books that we don’t have access to? Seems like the Hyann brothers know what the fuck is going on.”

“I hate this shit as much as I love it.” Luke mused, crossing his arms. “So, what? What are you going to do? You realize they’re a Goliath and you’re David without a slingshot.”

“Fuck you.” Devlin still smiled.

“There has to be a way. So, we’ll find it.”

“I need you to verify Duprey’s blood. I need to know. Not some fucking pie in the sky cyphered message from dad, but the real fucking deal. Can you do that?”

The other man smirked. “Sure.” He grazed a hand over a wooden statue on the desk. “You know, your spitfire of a lady won’t forgive you if you miss that damn Valentine’s day thing she puts on.”

Devlin’s brows pulled deep together. “How the hell did you―” He broke off when his phone buzzed.

He grumbled at his own reaction to see that she’d finally responded to the text message he sent how many days ago. She was letting him stew real good, and then the other night when she all but kicked his ass out without even a second thought, he was sure she―

His joy quickly turned into anger when he read her message. He’d been debating whether to go or not with how he left things, but there was no fucking doubt he was going now.

He abandoned his conversation with Lucas and made his way downstairs.

“Brothers!” He shouted, into the energetic space with music and people playing pool, and cards, each with their drink of choice. The space went quiet, all eyes focused on him.

“Let’s ride.”

The masculine crescendo of cheers filled the space with a mighty roar. He didn’t even get to enjoy it because he was already out the door.

He’d be damned if he let her get away with this type of shit.

He’d be goddamned.

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