Strip You Bare

By: Maisey Yates

“Because,” Micah answered, “I could put your head through a wall.”

“You won’t, though,” Travis said. “It isn’t you. It isn’t who you are. As you’ve made very clear the past couple of months. You don’t want to be here. You don’t belong. You aren’t part of the club anymore.”

“You know as well as I do that you don’t leave,” Micah said. “At least not permanently. Unless it’s in a body bag. I’ll go on enjoying the extended vacation you allow me to take in San Francisco,” he continued dryly, “after we finish here. But I’m not acting blindly. I’m not putting myself in the same position we were in with Priest ten years ago. We did what we were told. And when shit went down we didn’t even know what we’d done. Hell, we still don’t. I’m not playing that game, Ajax. Not again. So whatever you know I want to know.”

“I don’t know anything you don’t. We know someone was paid to off Priest, and the Graveyard Ministry claims no knowledge of it, beyond the actions of some rogue members. That makes the Delacroix property suspicious.”

“I’d be fine with you playing Nancy Drew on your own time, but I have an issue with it cutting into mine,” Micah said. “But I’m not a recreational badass like the rest of you. I’m not here for fun. I’m here to figure out what happened to Priest so that I can get back to my real life. This isn’t me. Not going to be like Travis over here and change my mind just because I got a piece of southern-transplant ass I decided to keep.”

He knew he was pushing the line talking about Billie like that. Cash’s Australian artist girl had been enough to convince him to leave behind the new life he’d created for himself and come back to New Orleans permanently. But that wasn’t a decision Micah would be making.

Blue rubbed his knuckles, looking up at Micah with sharp, dark eyes. “You think this is recreational? It isn’t for me. Unlike you I haven’t forgotten who made me. Priest made me. He’s dead. Six feet under because of someone who’s walking around aboveground. I’m going to make sure he ends up in a swamp somewhere, without even the benefit of a burial. That matters to me. If it doesn’t matter to you, you might as well fucking leave.”

Micah looked at Ajax.

Ajax shrugged. “We could scalp your back right now. I have time.”

Blue arched a brow. “I wouldn’t even bother. Let him keep it. So he can remember that he’s a traitor.”

Ajax flicked Leon a glance. “Yeah, but you see, Blue, you’re an idealist. You have principles and shit. I just like to fuck people up.”

“Rich coming from you, Blue,” Micah said. “It’s your fucking family name on this deed.”

Blue leveled his ice-cold gaze at him. “I have a tattoo on my back that means this is my family. I haven’t forgotten what it means, motherfucker.”

Sophie, who was wiping a glass behind the bar, turned her attention back to the men, her brown eyes glittering with rage. “There’s no point. If Prince doesn’t want to be here, he can go. Priest was my dad. And whatever our relationship was doesn’t matter. He was blood. If it’s not blood for Prince, then he can take his ass back to San Francisco and return to spending his days in gridlock on the freeway in his Prius.”

Travis laughed. “He could do that. Or he could stay here and ride a bike like a real man. If he hasn’t forgotten how.”

Micah was beyond the point of caring about digs at his manhood. Blue and Ajax didn’t know life beyond this sad, swampy sinkhole. Beyond being on the other side of society. Travis should know better. Travis, like him, had gone out and made a normal life for himself. As normal as either of them could have. But Micah hadn’t just achieved normal. He had achieved success. They could market all they wanted, but he had a nice apartment in SoMa. A real job. He had some actual respect, not this bullshit brotherhood.

“I’m not leaving. Sorry, Ajax, I know that disappoints you. You were really looking for a chance to write me off, I know.”

“I don’t need a chance, Prince. I’ll write you off the minute you prove you’re as much of a pussy as I think you are.”

“I’m in this.” He looked at Sophie. “Your father is the only reason. Because he did save my life.” Or more accurately he had given Micah a stay of execution. Micah had gone on to save his own life. But there was no question in his mind that he would have died down here in this godforsaken swamp if not for Priest. If not at the hand of his drunk of a father, then at the hand of the person that he’d crossed.

Doing petty errands. Running drugs. Handling money for back-alley massage parlors. It had all been a good way for a skinny teenage boy to make some money. Also, pretty dangerous when you didn’t have any muscle to back you up. That’s what the Deacons had given him. Muscle. Brotherhood. A place to belong. Something he’d never had growing up.

“You’re a little late to save his,” Sophie responded.

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