“Fuck my life!” Almost ten o’clock. I was sitting at the bar alone waiting for my older brothers Patrick and Angus to show up. They were twins and only a year older than me, but acted like they were still in high school, partying and playing as much as possible. After finishing up work at the job site today, both pushed me into meeting them here to drink a little, hang out, and check out the live music. The Dragon Runners Motorcycle Club had rented this empty storefront in Bryson City to serve as a temporary River’s Edge bar until the new and improved one could be finished. I had been looking forward to a night alone in my tiny house, but of course I showed up on time at the bar, and of course I was still waiting for them forty minutes later. I glanced at my watch again. Make that forty-five minutes. Useless fecks the both of them!
I sipped on the whisky shot I’d bought along with the pint of Guinness. It burned with a smooth, smoky fire down the back of my throat. Da always said it was a waste of good whisky to shoot it all back at once.
“Sip it with respect, lads!” he would say before he tapped the glass on the bar top and took his first taste of the night. My father was full-blooded Irish, born in America to parents of the old country who came over to Ellis Island decades ago. He’d been taught Gaelic as a kid and even though he’d never set foot in Ireland, he still insisted on talking with a slight brogue, touted all things Irish, including naming all his children with Irish names. I had five brothers. Conner was the oldest and the one I was closest to. Next were Owen and Garrett the first set of twins. Angus and Patrick were the second set and the bane of my existence with their pranks and tricks. My name is Eva and I got the dubious pleasure of being the youngest and only girl. Fergus MacAteer was our father.
Da rarely came to the bars anymore, usually only after the job was finished. He’d buy a round for us saying a job well done and smoke one of his smelly cigars. Connor came out once in a while, but that too was rare. Garrett and Owen headed out to a different bar, as they only wanted to drink and didn’t want music to disturb that activity. Therefore, I was left with Patrick and Angus, neither of them with me at the moment. They probably stopped after work and spent more time than I did getting spiffed up, hoping to impress someone enough to get laid tonight. I briefly wondered how pathetic I looked, sitting at the bar alone, still dressed in what amounted to work clothes, drinking by myself. It didn’t particularly bother me that I was alone, but my preference would have been to stay in and enjoy my own company. After spending all day at a job site with my brothers, I’d usually had all the loving family time I could stand without punching someone. However, I did like live music. I’d showered off the grime and sweat from the day, but just thrown on what I planned to wear tomorrow. I hadn’t had a chance to go to the laundromat, and I didn’t have a lot of choices at the moment—or at least ones that would fit with a biker bar. Jeans, a plain dark blue tank top, and a light green chambray work shirt with our company name “Pub Builders” across the back just above a dark green shamrock. I occasionally called it a clover just to watch Da get spitting mad.
My father, brothers, and I were a family business of pub and bar builders. It was what we were known for and what we traveled most of the East Coast doing. Sometimes we got hired to remodel and sometimes for a complete rebuild, like the one we were doing now for this motorcycle club. I’d heard from some of the locals the place blew up in some sort of biker war. I didn’t know a lot of details, only hoped the war was over and no one would be trying to blow up the new bar. Especially while we were at the job site building it! I don’t do drama.
I finished sipping the shot and lightly pushed the glass toward the bar edge. I could see from the corner of my eye the band setting up for the night. The lead singer and bass player, Stud, caught my attention and I quickly looked away. I met him the first day we were on the job site. There was no other way to describe him other than Viking god. Tall, broad shoulders, long blond hair with just enough wave, ice-blue eyes, and just plain hot. Even better, he was smart! College degrees in accounting and law. I was lucky just to have a high school diploma. The bar’s owner, Betsey, and her business partner, Mute, were the ones who hired us to rebuild it. Stud was the one who was taking care of getting us paid. I’d seen a few of the other club members and heard a few other names but hadn’t met them yet to put faces with them. I knew Stud was a road name and he had a different one on his driver’s license, but I didn’t know what it was. From what I’d seen so far, Stud definitely fit him.
We’d been here for about a week. The cleanup of what was left of the old building was complete and the new foundation laid. Stud and Betsey had met us at the site on the day we arrived. Betsey quickly became one of my favorite people with her dyed red hair, high-heeled boots, her loud Southern accent, and her no-nonsense attitude. She was super friendly, super nice, had a super strong personality, and was the club’s matriarch. I had thought on more than one occasion that I wanted to be her when I grew up. Stud had shown up on his tricked-out Harley. I’d felt its rumble in my gut and immediately had the urge to jump on the machine to see how much power it had.
“Nice to meet you, Eva,” he had said in a low, seductive voice while looking directly into my eyes. He’d clasped my hand and shook it firmly. His beautiful face had a half smile on it that was meant to be part real and part flirty. I merely nodded and smiled back. “Player,” my inner voice said in a bitchy tone. I’d been around a lot of beautiful men in my travels with my family and had grown immune to them. I could appreciate beautiful men, but there was always a big scene when they were around. Did I mention I don’t do drama?
Stud had come by several times this past week and would always greet us. He would set up his computer and papers in the work trailer, and spent the day working on whatever stuff he worked on. Why he didn’t do this at the club’s compound, the Lair, I didn’t know. Women came by to see him constantly, some bringing him food or coffee. He did his smiley thing and flirted a lot, and I watched how he touched and treated them. He really was a player, but when he was with a woman, she had all his attention. I never saw him talk down to one, or treat them with anything less than respect, but it was clear (at least to me) that he was not going to settle on just one. My brothers certainly didn’t mind the constant flow of females at the job site, and frankly, they could take lessons from Stud. Did I mention the twins had taken the art of “player” to a new level?
The screech of feedback had me looking up at the tiny raised stage. Stud was frowning. He turned and bent over to make an adjustment to the sound equipment. I got an eyeful of his finely sculpted ass—until the skank blocked me. I had seen her come by the job site often, and decided she was not one of the beautiful people. Her hair was huge and blonde, but it looked like the fried blonde you got from a bottle and huge because it was teased up and lacquered into place. It didn’t move around a lot. Her clothes were biker-slut chic. Short jean skirt, black cowboy boots, tiny white tank top two sizes too small with a Harley logo on the front, and a black push-up bra showing through the thin material.
I watched as she placed her hand right on his fine ass and copped a feel. He turned with a frown and said something to her. She responded back, leaning into the stage, her arms close together and I imagine her cleavage was pushed up. Apparently she’d been doing some serious drinking already as she was wobbling a bit on her stacked heels. Stud shook his head and said something else. She responded again, tilting her head and almost falling over. This went on for a few minutes until I saw him close his eyes, relax his face, and chuckle as if saying “I give up,” and nod. She jumped and clapped, and I heard her let out a squeal of triumph. I took another sip of beer to keep from rolling my eyes. There’s no way I’d ever squeal for anything.
I looked at my watch again and growled. I’d been sitting there waiting for my brothers for over an hour. Fuck this! I downed the last of my beer. I was about to leave when the bar noise got deafeningly louder. The band started playing an old Garth Brooks song about friends in low places. Stud was the front man, singing into a mic, thumping his bass, and winking at the crowd. He was really putting on a show, drawing everyone’s attention and had a bevy of young women dancing, whooping, and shaking in front of him, including the bleached blonde—surprise!
The band was good, and it had been a long time since I got to hear live music. I raised my hand to the bartender for another beer, deciding to stick around for a little longer.
Stud had the crowd eating out of his hand as the band moved from song to song. I watched him work the instrument, stroking the neck lovingly, smiling at the women around him with those Nordic blue eyes. He wore jeans, like 90 percent of the crowd, but topped it with a burgundy Henley that showed off his broad shoulders and gave a hint of how defined his chest and abs were. He wore his leather club cut over that but I expected he’d lose it eventually. Those stage lights were hot and he was probably sweating. He wasn’t muscle-bound huge, but he was definitely built, as my brothers would say, like a brick house.
The band segued into another country tune by Rascal Flatts this time. I sipped at my fresh beer and stared. He really was magnificent. I was far enough into my own head that he caught me watching him. His blue eyes met mine and he gave me that half smile like he knew I’d been admiring him and shared a special secret with only me. He jerked his chin and winked at me. I nearly choked and ended up swallowing more than I wanted.
I gave him a nod back, trying to play it cool. He turned his attention to the bouncing woman in front of him, one with black hair on the top of her head and bright blue from her ears down. I pondered for a bit if that was by design or if she was growing it out.
The band was really good, not just because of the appeal of the Viking front man. The guitarist ran riffs like nobody’s business and the drummer was tight in sync with Stud on the bass. All of them had nice voices and when they harmonized together, I bet more than one set of panties melted. Before I knew it, another forty-five minutes had passed and my fucking brothers still hadn’t shown up.
“We’re going to take a short break,” Stud said into the mic, smiling at the crowd and winking. Damn, he really knew how to work it! Even slightly sweaty from the heat on the stage, he was beautiful. He exited the stage through the back, disappearing to the screams and whoops of the bouncing biker bunnies at the front.
I glanced at my watch again.
Fuck my life, I’m done with this! I got up from the barstool, taking quick inventory of my condition. Three beers and two whisky shots wasn’t much in a hard-drinking Irish family, and I felt okay to drive my truck back to the job site where my tiny house was parked. Still, it was a lot and I needed to break the seal, so I went to find the restrooms.
I made my way through a side room, passing by some other bikers in Dragon Runners cuts shooting pool and playing darts, to a narrow hallway where the restrooms were located. A big bald member was lining up a difficult shot and I waited until he stroked his cue stick before moving around him. The nine ball sank in the side pocket with a click, and he raised his fist over his head with a crow of victory.
“Whoo! Take that, you fucker! Ha! Oops!” He finally noticed me. “’Scuse me, baby.”
He wore a tank under his club cut showing off his bulky arms and brightly colored tattooed sleeves. His head was shaved but his mouth was framed in a dark brown Fu Manchu with a chin duster. Not drop-dead gorgeous like Stud, but still good-looking.
“No problem, big guy. Nice shot by the way,” I commented, hoping he wouldn’t want to strike up a conversation. I just wanted to pee and get home.
“Thanks, baby.” His brown eyes roamed my plainly clad body from my head to my tooled leather toes. “You want to shoot a game later? I’ll be glad to teach you.”
I smiled and raised my eyebrows devilishly. Maybe I’d take him up on the offer sometime just to see his face when I cleared the table. In building bars for a living, well, let’s just say I knew a thing or two about pool.
“Maybe another night. I’m hitting the head and getting home. Gotta work tomorrow on getting your real bar finished so you can move back in,” I said, squeezing between him and the wall.
“You’re on the construction crew?” he shouted at my retreating back. Not the first time I’d heard the disbelief that a woman could work a crew.
I reached behind my back and tapped the logo between my shoulders, not bothering to turn around. I hoped he didn’t think I was being rude or disrespectful. I’d heard bikers could get mad about stuff like that, but I really needed to pee.
The restrooms were one-seaters and someone was already in the ladies’ room but thankfully there wasn’t a line waiting. I stood outside the locked door, my mind wandering through various work goals for tomorrow, when the noises on the left side of the hallway caught my attention. I looked over to see the men’s room door swing open a bit, and got a full-frontal view of the activity going on in there. Stud’s pants were down and the black/blue-haired girl was on her knees, rapidly bobbing her head as she sucked him eagerly. I thought the slurping, grunting noises she was making were overkill, but Stud seemed to be enjoying himself. His head was back, and his eyes were closed. One hand was on the top of the girl’s head and the other was behind him on the sink to steady him. The girl suddenly shook her head back and forth and growled. Yes, growled! Like a dog with a bone. Or should I say boner.
I slapped a hand over my mouth and stifled a laugh. Somehow through the loud show, Stud heard me and opened his baby blues to meet my amused gaze. His went wide at being caught getting a blowjob in the men’s bathroom and I choked back more laughter. I gave him a “carry-on” gesture along with a thumbs-up and a wink of my own, before reaching for the door and pulling it firmly closed.
The ladies’ room opened up and I was able to do my business, wash my hands, and get back to the bar, avoiding the pool-shooting biker as well.
I went to pay my tab and felt a tap on my shoulder. When I turned, my face met a flying hand. Make that a flying hand with claws and a whopping set of sharp rings on each finger. One of them scratched across my bottom lip, drawing a good amount of blood.
“You better stop flirting with my boyfriend, bitch!”
At least that’s what I think she said. It was the blonde who grabbed Stud’s ass earlier. She was so drunk her words came out more like, “Yoo-beddah schtop furtin wi’ mah bowie frenn, bish!” Southern accents were hard enough to decipher, drunk ones even worse.
I raised an eyebrow, giving her a really? look while I wiped the blood from my swelling lip with my thumb.
Being the youngest of six, the rest all brothers in a proclaimed Irish family, I was not one to back down from a fight. But however belligerent the woman was, she was weaving back and forth so much that the fight wouldn’t be very fair. These were the people my family were working for, and it wouldn’t be a good idea to get into a beatdown with one of their women. Besides, I had no idea who she was talking about, Stud or the pool shooter.
“Don’t know him or you. I’m just here having a beer and waiting for my brothers,” I imparted, hoping she would get the hint and move on. I lifted a finger to my bleeding lip. Damn! That hurt!
Her bleary, wandering eyes finally worked together and focused on me. She looked me up and down and sneered, “Whaddar yoo? One a them lezzbee wimmen?”
My swelling mouth tightened up. This was not the first time I had been questioned about my sexuality. I never cared about anyone thinking I was gay, but I hated it when I got judged on my appearance. I never knew my ma, as she died when I was a baby. I was raised by a pseudo-Irish father who had no clue what to do with a daughter. I worked in my da’s company since I was first able to hold a hammer, and growing up he had always treated me like one of the boys. I didn’t go dress shopping, I got my brothers’ hand-me-downs. When we got haircuts, Da would line us all up at the barbershop and I got the same short do as my brothers (that was one reason I insisted on wearing it long now). I also wasn’t small, dainty, and fairy-like. I was around five-foot-eight inches with heavy, muscular shoulders, thick arms, and hard, defined thighs. I was, as they say in the gyms, cut. That happened when you worked a jobsite, lifting, sawing, hammering, drilling, and the rest of the physical work when you’re expected to keep up with your brothers. I’d been on this earth for twenty-four years and a good part of that I was pushed to keep up by my brothers and my da.
I reached up and slipped the small silver hoops from my ears. I tucked them into the pocket of my work shirt. If I was going to have to fight, I didn’t want to take any chances of having my earlobes torn again. Growing up with five brothers, I was not immune to scraps with them or scraps with other people caused by them. When men fought, they threw punches at the face and gut, and the few times I’d been caught in one of the messes Patrick and Angus started, my male opponent gave up when he realized it was a woman he’d thrown punches at. It was pretty predictable. Women could get vicious, going for the hair and earrings when they fought. They’d grab, pull, slap, and claw at anything they could get to, and they certainly didn’t care about the gender of the person they were scrapping with. I was facing the drunk skank and bracing myself. Always best to let them make the first move.
“This is not a good idea. I suggest you move back. Don’t start something you can’t finish.” I hoped my size and low voice would intimidate the skank enough to make her back down. I really didn’t want or like to fight. My lip was still bleeding and was starting to burn.
She blinked at my height and thrust her chin out in a show of beer-soaked bravado.
“Ah ain’ scairda no man stealin’ bish! Yoo think yoo can suckem ov in da back an’ me nod find aout?” she declared, waving her hand in front of my face, palm up. I could see that the lethal red nail tips she wore needed new paint. “Ur a goddam freak iz whad yew are! Ah ain’ movin! Yew fuckin mooof!”
I sighed. I really needed an interpreter who could speak Southern drunk.
She attempted to place her hands on my shoulders to give me a shove. I blocked her arms easily, knocking them to the sides. She nearly fell over. I rolled my eyes. This was not going to end well.
“BISH!” she yelled, and came at me swinging hard, claws out ready to do some damage. I caught her wrist as it sailed toward my face and used her momentum to knock her to the floor on her knees. I twisted her arm straight back and put a lock on her elbow while she hollered in surprise and pain. Maybe I was going a bit far, but dammit, I was mad! First at my brothers for ditching me here, then at this drunk dumbass, and finally at that man of hers! Had to be Stud since he was the one getting some action in the bathroom.
“I don’t know your fucking boyfriend! I’m here in this town to do a job and that’s it. Not play around with locals. Not play around with their fuckin’ drunk girlfriends. Just a job. Now are you gonna back the fuck off or do I get to finish what you started?”
I finally noticed the silence from both the stage and the bar; the only real sounds were the whispers of the spectators and the drunken whimpering from the blonde I held on the floor. I looked up at Stud, who I assumed started this mess. Apparently he too had finished his business in the bathroom, and he was watching me handle his girlfriend with a fierce scowl on his beautiful face. Stupid cheating bastard! I dropped my eyes from his and looked around. Pool shooter was in the doorway leading to the game room with an amused look. I could see fear on the faces of some bar patrons, speculation on others, and a few sneers of disgust. I closed my eyes and sighed. Fuck my life!
“What the hell are you doing, Eva?”
Son of a bitch! Of course my brothers chose that particular moment to show up. I rolled my eyes and dropped the blonde’s arm to the floor. She pulled herself up, crying and dripping snot.
Patrick and Angus stood in front of me, both tall, whipcord lean and cut like me. We even shared the same ginger-colored hair.
“How many times have I told you to duck with the punches? Jesus on a bicycle, you know better than to let anyone get the drop on ya!” Patrick lectured, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. Angus just laughed and slapped his thighs with both hands. This was prime entertainment for both of them.
Me? I did what any younger sister would do when faced with such devoted brothers. I punched one in the gut and the other in the mouth. I nodded at Pool Shooter and gave the same carry-on gesture to Stud as I had earlier. Then I made my big exit, strutting out the door, head high, shoulders back, and swollen lip still oozing a bit of blood. Drama. Just how I wanted to end my night.