Alamo stood in the middle of a sea of boxes that filled his new house. He was no stranger to moving. Growing up, he’d been rousted from his bed more times than he could count to move to a new place in the middle of the night. His mother would let the back rent build up as far as she could, and then they’d skip out. Mix in a few turns in foster care over the years when she was arrested, and he’d become something of a pro at traveling light and moving quickly. This time, though, he was moving everything he’d accumulated over several years of stability. He had absolutely no desire to put it to rights in a new place.
Truth be told, this new house was the nicest place he’d ever lived. It wasn’t home, though. Home was a modest-sized apartment in Durham, North Carolina. Home was having his sister Zoe in the house, badly imitating his Spanish cusswords and singing like a cat in a surly mood—and he missed it.
He’d lost that right when he’d lost his temper. He knew it, but that didn’t make it any less frustrating. He’d done the right thing, and there wasn’t a minute of it that he regretted. The man deserved every punch, but that was neither here nor there. Truth didn’t change facts, and the facts were that Alamo was a big man, and his long-gone father wasn’t as white as his mama had been. Race shouldn’t matter, but sometimes having darker skin still did, especially in a city where drug traffic was as common as it was in Durham. The police tended to blame it on one segment of the population, those with darker skin. He was a large man with darker skin. To add to that, once the police saw the motorcycle club patches on his jacket, Alamo was far too likely to end up in jail if he stayed in North Carolina.
This time they had a reason of sorts. He had put that pendejo in the hospital. And an uptown white boy in his expensive clothes could afford the sort of lawyers who twisted truth until it looked nothing like reality. Alamo knew it, had known it before he’d taken the first swing. Sometimes, though, a man had to stand up for a woman regardless of the cost. Zoe’s friend had no one else to stand up for her, so Alamo did what needed doing. It was that simple.
“You can’t just do that!” Zoe snapped at him when he’d walked into the little apartment they shared. “I might not be a kid, but I still don’t need my brother in the lockup.”
“He hurt Ana.”
“You are not the law, Alejandro. You wear that jacket”—she pointed at the vest with the Southern Wolves patches prominently displayed—“and you forget that you’re not above the law.”
“Lobita,” he started.
“Don’t you ‘little wolf’ me, mister!” His sister’s hands landed on their customary position on her hips. She was a tiny little thing, but she had the attitude of a dozen girls. “If you end up in jail, I’ll . . . I’ll find someone big enough to kick your ass. Then where will you be, eh?”
Alamo bowed his head, as much to hide his smile as to let her know he was listening to her chastisement.
“You call Nicky, you hear me? You find out where you can move because you’re not staying here. That boy . . . he has friends. I don’t want this to get worse.”
“Lobita . . .”
“No! You call your Wolves, and you move. We talked about it for next year, anyhow. Clean start.” Zoe took a shaky breath, let it out, and looked at him. “Ana says thank you and that she’s okay. She’s . . . sorry.”
“Don’t need to be sorry. She did nothing wrong, Zoe. You make sure she gets that.” His hands fisted despite his intention to keep calm, and the already bloodied knuckles smarted.
Alamo might not have had a father most of his life, but he knew what a man was supposed to be like just the same. Growing up, he’d just studied what his mother’s long list of lovers did. Whatever they did, he did the opposite. That was all the guidance he’d needed. That was why Alamo went after the buttoned-up man-boy who’d gotten Ana drunk and taken what wasn’t his right to take.
“Call Nicky,” Zoe said, and then she turned away. “And put ointment on those cuts.”
She was right. Being the stand-in parent for Zoe had always been harder because she was right more often than not. Her excesses of common sense made her awfully hard to handle. Of course it also meant that it was less worrisome to leave her behind with Ana. She’d be okay; he knew that. Both of the Díaz siblings were survivors.
So far there hadn’t been any charges filed, and the jackass who hurt Ana claimed never to have seen Alamo’s face. He did see Alamo’s jacket, though, and it was best for everyone if there was no reason for the police to be looking too closely at the Wolves. The local chapter president, Nicky, agreed with Zoe, so he’d made a call to another chapter. Within forty-eight hours, Alamo’s things had been boxed, and he was in Tennessee. Between a move and a stay in jail, moving was a better choice—but that still didn’t mean Alamo was happy with it.
He looked around the cluttered house. Boxes and furniture sat in a jumble, but he needed to get out. Being here, being alone with his thoughts, wasn’t going to do anything but make him think about the mess he’d gotten mixed up in. He didn’t regret it. He didn’t think he was wrong to defend Ana. That didn’t mean the consequences were easy to take.
He walked outside, pulled the door shut behind him, and headed to the bar that the Tennessee chapter frequented. Getting to know his new brothers was the best thing he could do now. The Southern Wolves were the only family he had other than Zoe, and while Zoe would visit, she was still in North Carolina while she finished up her college degree.
By the time he pulled his Harley into the parking lot of Whiskey & Wolves, he felt more like himself. All he needed was to stay focused. No distractions. No trouble. No fights unless they were ordered by the club. He had to focus on his job, the Wolves, and not let himself get invested in anyone else’s life. He could keep his distance from everyone. That was the one surefire way to keep his temper under control.
No more bad habits. No more mistakes—regardless of how good the reason for them was. Tennessee was going to be the beginning of a new lifestyle, one that would keep him out of trouble and able to build a stable home for his sister once she finished college.