Ruger was nowhere to be seen. I spotted a row of long folding tables near the back wall of the building covered with a mismatched series of tablecloths. Off to one side stood a black-barreled BBQ smoker almost as big as my car, mounted on a trailer. Smoke drifted out and the scent of roasting pig filled the air.
“Sophie!” Marie called, waving me over toward one of the tables. I moved quickly toward her, trying not to stare at anyone, but it was hard. The guys were almost all at least a little scary-looking. I mean, some of them were regular enough, I guess, but somehow rougher. They had tanned skin and a disproportionate number of beards. Others were less normal-looking. I saw a lot of tattoos and piercings, and very few shirts, although they all seemed to be wearing their leather vests. All of them were Reapers and most seemed to be in a pretty good mood.
I also noticed a few of the little boys wearing their own tiny vests. Not real ones, but play ones clearly meant to copy their daddies’. Shit. Knowing my luck, Noah would be begging for one of those if he saw them. Good thing I hadn’t brought him along.
“Want some help with the bags?” a man asked. I opened my mouth to refuse, then looked up and realized it was Horse. I smiled, relieved to recognize someone besides just the girls I’d met last night.
“Yeah, thanks,” I said. “I met Marie. She’s great.”
“No shit,” he replied, offering me a movie-star grin. Damn, but he was beautiful. “Worth every penny I paid for her.”
That caught me short. I stopped, wondering if he could possibly be serious. He didn’t look like he was joking.
“You coming?” he asked, glancing back at me. I pulled myself together and started walking again. What the hell had he meant by that?
“Sophie!” Em called, spotting me from behind one of the tables. She darted forward and gave me a big hug.
“I’m so glad we’re going out next weekend,” she whispered in my ear. “I talked to Liam this morning about meeting in real life, and he’s all over it. Thank you so much!”
“That’s fantastic!” I replied, pulling back to look at her. She was so pretty this afternoon, the excitement in her eyes bright and shining. “Just remember, we’re going to stay safe. Don’t tell him where you live or anything. We’ll check him out, and if he’s a creeper, we’ll ditch his ass.”
“Actually, telling him my address would be perfectly safe,” she answered. “Remember who I live with? Our house is a fortress. Which reminds me, I want to introduce you to my dad.”
She took my hand and pulled me across the courtyard to the giant black BBQ. Several men stood around it drinking from red plastic cups. They turned as we walked up, openly checking me out. Clearly, subtlety wasn’t a highly valued trait here at the Armory.
“This is my dad, Picnic,” Em said, stepping forward to wrap her arm around the one standing closest to us. He pulled her close, offering her an indulgent smile. He was tall and fairly well-built. He shared her piercing light blue eyes and his hair was a couple months overdue for a trim. I could tell he was older by the faint lines around his eyes, but his hair held only a hint of gray at the temples. And his body? Nice. Em’s dad was hot for an old guy.
Not that I’d tell her that—who wants to hear that their dad’s hot?
The most compelling thing about Picnic, though, was his air of command, mixed with just a hint of menace. I would’ve known he was club president even without the patch on his cut to tell me.
No wonder guys were scared to ask her out.
“Dad, this is Sophie,” Em continued. “She’s Ruger’s … Um, what are you, anyway?”
“I’m sort of his stepsister-in-law,” I said, smiling awkwardly. “His stepbrother, Zach, is my son’s father.”
“He mentioned you were back in town,” Picnic said. His face gave away nothing, and I couldn’t tell if he was happy to meet me or annoyed I’d crashed their party.
“This is Slide and Gage,” Em continued, nodding toward the other men.
“Nice to meet you,” I said. Slide was a short, middle-aged guy with a bit of a gut and a beard that wasn’t totally white, but close. He didn’t actually look old enough for such white hair, so maybe he was just one of those guys whose hair changes early? He had a real Santa vibe going for him. Well, if Santa wore ripped jeans and carried a giant knife on his belt.
Gage was another hottie. He had dark hair, so dark it was almost black, and his skin held just enough color to make me think his ancestors hadn’t all been of the milky-white variety. Latino or Indian, most likely. Because sometimes God is generous and kind, Gage wasn’t wearing a shirt, offering me glimpses of his bare chest, which was every bit as ripped as Ruger’s. He had fewer tattoos, though. His cut had a little patch under his name that said “Sgt. at Arms,” which surprised me. I guess I hadn’t expected bikers to have so many officers and such. It just seemed so … organized?
Not only that, they obviously had to pass some sort of minimum hotness test to join up.
“You Ruger’s woman?” he asked, breaking the spell I’d fallen into. I blushed, hoping my pervy thoughts weren’t totally written all over my face. The smirk on his face wasn’t comforting.
“Um, no,” I said, glancing over at Em. She grinned. “But he’s letting us stay in his basement. I have a seven-year-old. Our old place in Seattle wasn’t working out.”
That was the understatement of the year, for sure.
“Where’s the kid?” he asked, glancing around.
“He’s with a sitter,” I said. “This is my first club event, and I sort of wanted to check things out for myself before dragging him along.”
Picnic raised a brow, and I realized I’d probably just insulted them. Great.
“Also, I hear the parties go pretty late,” I added quickly. “I didn’t want to have to leave just when things were getting fun. A friend offered to watch him, so here I am.”
Em grinned at me and I gave a sigh of relief. Okay, apparently my quick save had actually worked.
“Well, you get bored, come and see me,” Gage said, offering a slow smile. “I’d be happy to show you around, maybe even take you for a ride later.”
“Um, thanks,” I replied, Ruger’s warning ringing through my head. Gage was cute, but despite the fact that I didn’t acknowledge Ruger’s right to give orders, I also didn’t want to get into a huge fight with him. “Nice to meet you all. I’m gonna go find Marie and Dancer now. I want to make sure they don’t need any help setting things up or something.”