"Jesus, fuck, who gives a shit about the pie?" Joker bit off.
"You should," Shy said quietly. Before Joker could return, Shy went on, "You're settled. You've got your patch. You do your thing. You got your brothers' backs. But it's not lost on anyone, man, that you are here and you still aren't. You give what you need to give to your brothers to keep you here and that's it. You want this family, same's we all do." He flipped out a hand. "You earned your place in it. We know it means something to you. But outside what you need to give, you don't give back jack."
Joker didn't like that shit.
"You got a problem with me havin' my patch?" he asked low.
"I got a problem with a brother I like, a brother I respect, a brother I see reachin' for somethin', he gets the dregs, and he's good with that," Shy answered. "You haven't told me, which is part of the problem, but my guess is, whatever family you had sucked. I get that. My parents were murdered, lost the family I liked, got stuck in one I hated. So I found one that worked for me. You found one that worked for you. Time for you to go all in, Joke. And time for you to stop accepting the dregs, reach for what you deserve, and take hold of butterflies."
Joker turned to Rush. "Does it hit you," he glanced to Shy, "either a' you, that this shit is whacked?"
"What shit?" Rush asked.
"This chat," Joker answered tersely. "I'm not feelin' it. It's none of your fuckin' business, and I'm not good with you makin' it your business."
"Then that tells us you've never had anyone around that gives a shit enough to make your business theirs so they can do their bit to lead you to happy," Rush retorted.
Joker clenched his teeth.
"Just to lay it all out," Rush kept at him. "You can tell yourself, brother, that you don't wanna catch butterflies, and that might work for you. That might stop you from takin' a shot at gettin' what you want. I hope like fuck it doesn't. That's up to you. This chat is part about us doin' what's right by you and doin' what we can to open your eyes. You wanna keep 'em closed, your call. But in the meantime, while the Club wades in to Carissa Teodoro's problems, you keep your shit sharp. You were actin' like a caged lion today, Joker, ready to go for the throat of anyone that got in your way. She didn't ask for it, but the Club's all in because they know what you're denying. She's something to you. Since she's something to you and you're family, she's family. So, while the brothers and the old ladies sort her shit, you got one job. Not fuckin' that up."
"No one asked the Club to wade in," Joker pointed out.
"You did, by puttin' her name in at the garage and tellin' the boys to give her VIP on a fuckin' twenty-year-old Toyota Tercel," Shy stated. "You can deny that too, but I wouldn't waste the effort. We saw her. We saw you. We know."
Joker had had enough.
"We done?" he asked.
"I hope you're not, but I'm guessin' we are," Shy answered.
Joker grabbed the bottle, didn't bother pouring, but threw back a long slug.
He slammed it down on the bar, and without looking at either of them, prowled to the back hall.
He went to his room, turned on the light, and put that conversation out of his head.
He might have thought about it. He might have considered butterflies.
But he didn't.
Because she didn't remember him.
He thought she did, out on I-25 when he first got close, recognized her, and she peered up at him with those big brown eyes. He thought there was something there.
Then there wasn't.
It happened again after he was done with her tire. He was sure she recognized him.
Then she didn't.
In fact, when he first approached her, she looked like she didn't know whether to scream or run away.
It was low to pretend he didn't remember her name that day. He saw her hurt. Fuck, he felt it. And he wouldn't do that kinda shit again.
But that was as far as he'd go.
Her life was fucked and that sucked. Her kid was cute. Unlike her, he didn't mind bikers, and he looked like her, which was good since her asshole ex was an asshole and that shit was written all over him. Joker was not going to stop the Club from taking her back. Seemed she needed good people in her life, and it was about time she had them. She'd never been good with that, a sworn member of the bitch girls without having the number one quality needed for that crew, being a bitch.
But she'd get her shit sorted. If she was looking to get laid, she'd find that too. With her bigger tits and sweet round ass, all that fucking hair, those eyes, she was the one who just had to crook her finger.
And when she was ready to find a man who wanted butterflies in his bed and wanted to keep them there, she'd find that too. Not a problem.
It just wasn't going to be him.
If she'd given him a smile and said his name, anytime it hit her while he was changing her tire that she remembered him, maybe.
But that was also doubtful.
He couldn't deny it sucked, she didn't recognize him. He couldn't deny that took a bite out of him. But he wasn't surprised.
Carson Steele was gone. The only place that name existed was on his license. He was Joker. He knew since he'd last seen her that he'd grown taller. He knew he'd put on more muscle. He didn't shave and hadn't cut his hair in years so that wasn't the same either. And he'd seen a lot, done a lot, fucked a lot, fought a lot since then. He was not the kid she knew.
But bottom line, Joker only did empty pussy, and he didn't foresee a day that was going to change. There was no denying what Tack had with Cherry, Hop with Lanie, Shy with Tabby was good. That was as clear as it could get. They got what they needed in their beds and their lives, and they didn't fuck around in letting their women know they appreciated it.
But Joker was not Tack, Hop, or Shy. No matter he turned his back on the name given him, he was Jefferson Steele's son.
And he always would be.
He took Shy and Rush's point that he didn't give back to his brothers, and they were right. That shit had to change. This was solid. It was good. It was real. It was his. He'd gone for it. He'd earned it. Finally, he had a family, one he wanted.