And finally, he popped her lock and put an envelope with her name on it right at the front, propped on her books.
After he did that, he left.
In it was one of his sketches of her. His favorite because she had her head thrown back and she was laughing.
On the back he'd written, "You'll get a beautiful life too. Because you deserve it."
He didn't sign it.
* * *
When Carissa Teodoro opened her locker and saw the envelope, she knew exactly who it was from.
And it made her smile.
Because she believed down deep in her heart that the cute, mysterious, smart, sweet Carson Steele was right.
She was going to have a beautiful life.
Losing her sister. Enduring her parents' mourning. Watching her mother fade away.
She'd earned it.
Didn't matter if she did, she'd work for it.
And she was going to get it.
But she wouldn't tell anyone, not a single soul, that she didn't really want it with Aaron.
He was great and all, but when it happened, really happened, she wanted it with someone like Carson Steele.
Someone who had earned it too.
No, she wouldn't tell anyone that.
Because she actually didn't want it with someone like Carson Steele.
She just wanted it with Carson.
He'd sketched her.
Even with her mom so sick and him having run away (she knew and she worried for him but she was glad he was finally getting away), that made her happy.
Because that said a lot.
That said maybe one day he'd come back.
And then it would happen.
* * *
She was very, very wrong.
Seven years later...
"IT HIM?" KANE "Tack" Allen, president of the Chaos Motorcycle Club, sitting at the head of the table, asked the men sitting around him.
The table was made of shining wood at the edges, the middle of it Plexiglas under which was an old Chaos flag, the first of its kind, stitched by Hammer's old lady, a stripper who was good with a needle.
Hammer was in the ground. His old lady was a great-grandmother.
The flag remained.
The only ones at the meeting were the elders. The ones who'd been around when the man had been a kid hanging around their fence. The ones who saw. The ones who knew.
Tack knew the answer to his question before Dog answered, "Yup."
"Anyone know what took him so long?" Big Petey asked.
He got no answers.
Tack looked to the chair that had been vacated by Carson Steele.
Tack had fucked up years ago. He'd seen it in the man's eyes as he'd sat down across from him, among the brothers he wanted to make his brothers, casting his lot to become a recruit of the Chaos MC.
Nothing in those eyes but secrets.
Yeah, Tack had fucked up. They all had. They'd seen the kid hanging around. They saw him do it a lot. Too much.
They should have taken him in.
Shit was swirling, they didn't have the time.
Then he'd disappeared.
Tack hadn't forgotten. None of them had.
They all had their reasons for joining the brotherhood.
And they read those reasons years ago in Carson Steele.
Too late, Tack had looked into it
. And he hadn't liked what he'd found.
This was why he turned his head, locked eyes with Brick, and asked, "Jefferson Steele?"
"Same house, three miles away, same asshole as ever," Brick answered.
"Our guy have anything to do with his old man?" Tack went on.
Embedded in his big, red beard, Brick's lips twitched. He knew what Tack saying "our guy" meant.
Tack had made his decision.
The vote would follow.
"Haven't been there 'round the clock, but from what the brothers have seen since he made his first approach, nope," Brick told him.
"You know where he's been?" Tack asked.
Brick shook his head.
"Brother," Hound cut in and Tack looked his way. "You want any info, you ask. He wants his patch, he'll tell."
"Don't make a man like that share his secrets," Tack muttered.
Hound nodded. He knew that to be true.
"Saw his work and it's fuckin' top notch," Hop put in, and Tack gave his brother his attention. "He can build bikes and cars like that, we should take him on as brother just for him to make us a mint."
"We don't take on brothers because they can build bikes," Big Petey stated.
"Then you haven't seen his drawings," Boz entered the conversation. "He could be a weak-ass runt still tied to his momma's apron and I'd vote him brother, he could do those builds. They're wild." Boz looked to Tack. "They're Chaos."
"Lucky for us, he ain't no weak-ass runt but looks like a man who'd carve your eyes out and do it smilin', you looked at him funny," High noted.
He wouldn't do it smiling, Tack thought. The man didn't smile. The man had a look about him that said he never had.
This troubled Tack.
And made him believe even more it was time to bring Chaos to Carson Steele's life.
And, if he was lucky, he'd find a bitch who'd lay to waste that shield Carson Steele had up and bring him bliss.
"More talk, or vote?" Tack asked the table.
"Got nothin' to say, he's got my vote," Hop said.
"Had my vote when he was watchin' from the fence," Dog muttered.
"He's in for me," Boz added.
Pete, High, Arlo, Hound, and Brick weighed in the same.
As it had to be, it was unanimous when Tack grabbed the gavel and lowered it.
"Preliminary vote done, call the rest of the brothers. The vote stays true, we got ourselves a new recruit," Tack announced.
Boz pushed back his chair, his hand to his pocket to grab his phone.
Brick leaned forward to nab the bottle of tequila. Men started shooting the shit.
Tack felt Dog's eyes and looked to the man sitting to his right.
"Warm, red blood flows in Chaos veins, brother," Dog said quietly. "That boy's got nothin' but ice. Stone cold."
"We'll see," Tack replied.
"We will but we got problems, Tack, the kind that get solved with loyalty, balls, and fire. Lived a fair bit a' life. Done a lot. Seen a lot more. Still, I'd check I had my blade and my gun, I ran up against that guy in a bad mood in a dark alley. So I reckon he's got the balls. But not sure he's got the other two in him."