“I need to get Silvie out of here,” I said, filling my tone with ice.
“I know,” he said. “Look, I’m really sorry about what happened. What I did to you was out of line, so out of line, and there’s nothing I can do or say to make up for that. But I’m worried about you leaving by yourself. I just got a text from a friend who says he saw four of the Devil’s Jacks eating at Zip’s. There’s only one reason they’re in town and I don’t think you’ll be safe if you leave by yourself. Let me make sure you and Silvie get back to the armory okay.”
“You’re the last person I’d trust,” I said, shaking my head.
“I know,” he replied, face full of remorse that seemed real, but who could tell? “I deserve that. But Horse shouldn’t have to leave right now. If he had any idea the Jacks are already in town he’d be with you right now. But think about this—with the way everyone’s on edge, things could get pretty ugly if there’s a confrontation. Horse isn’t in a good place.”
He made a good point.
I didn’t want Horse to wind up in jail. I didn’t want any of them in jail and I definitely didn’t want Bagger’s funeral to turn into a debacle.
“Let me drive home with you,” he said. “I’ll keep my hands to myself and my mouth shut. Email Horse right now, so if I pull something he’ll know we’re together. Then text him as soon as we get there, once the service is over. That should make you feel safer. Please, if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for Silvie. If they spot you, they’ll move in and they’ll take her too. I can’t let that happen to Bagger’s kid. It’s one last thing I can do for him.”
That convinced me. Max was right—whatever was between us, Silvie needed to be safe and I really didn’t want to pull Horse away from the funeral. I might loathe Max, but he was loyal to the club. Horse hated him too, but he’d told me time and again that he’d trust any of the Reapers with his life. Max was still one of his brothers, and the only thing that scared me more than the thought of the Jacks catching me was the thought of them hurting Silvie. Even Max at his worst would be better than that.
“Get in the car,” I said, sighing. “Don’t talk to me or touch me.”
He nodded and walked around to the passenger’s side, sliding in as I sent Horse a quick email. The fact that he didn’t reach for the car keys impressed me—Horse never let me drive, and based on what the other girls said it was a common bone of contention. Reapers liked to be in control. I turned on the radio and drove straight to the armory. Max kept his word. No talking, no touching, nothing until I turned the car off.
“I’ll walk you in and make sure the prospects are on top of things,” he said. “Then I’m going back to talk with Picnic and the guys, give them a heads-up. Nobody will want to leave the reception or party but we need to be aware. Don’t go outside, okay?”
I nodded, still feeling nervous when he looked at me. I’d never feel safe around that man. We walked inside to find Painter and a couple other prospects from different charters hanging around. Painter didn’t look too thrilled when he glanced from me to Max, but I caught his eye and flashed him a quick thumbs-up. Then I took Silvie into the kitchen for a sandwich. While she tucked in her food, I texted Horse and let him know where I was and that Max had escorted me without incident. He didn’t respond, which wasn’t a surprise. I took Silvie up to my room and laid her down for a nap, thankful that I’d been able to help and bemused that Max had proven capable of decency.
Dancer came and took Silvie to a family friend’s house around seven that evening. People had been pouring into the armory for hours by then. Cookie pulled herself together enough to eat dinner with her daughter and read her stories before Silvie left. I went to find Horse and see how he was holding up.
I found him outside around yet another bonfire, with a mixed group of Reapers, Silver Bastards and family members. Like most wakes, it started off somber enough but was growing louder as people shared beer and stories. I came up behind him and wrapped my arms around his stomach, resting my face against his back. After a while he pulled me around to his front, draping his arms over my shoulder and leaning down to whisper in my ear.
“Thanks for everything today, babe,” he said. “I’m sorry you had to ride with Max. You made the right call though. We’ve spotted the Jacks a couple of times, they’re definitely planning something. It’ll be good to finish this out.”
I leaned back against him, drinking in his warmth and thinking about going back home together. I was tired of the armory. I just hoped they managed to get rid of the Jacks without hurting Jeff…
“Will it be dangerous?” I asked.
“Not if we do it right,” he said. “We’re not stupid and this isn’t the first time we’ve had to protect what’s ours. Don’t worry about it, babe. Tonight’s about Bagger.”
After a while I got cold, so I went inside to find Maggs and a bunch of women I didn’t know standing around the kitchen’s center island, passing a bottle of Jack Daniels. I didn’t feel much like drinking, but I joined the circle when Maggs waved me over. I was learning that the sisterhood of biker babes was bigger than I’d grasped. I saw respect and welcome in their eyes when she introduced me as Horse’s property, and for the first time the word didn’t bother me. It just meant something different to us than it did in the civilian world.
I was part of “us” now, I realized. These were my sisters, Horse was my man, and I could trust all the guys to keep an eye out for me, even Max. I still loathed him and he made my skin crawl, but he’d been watching out for me and Silvie in his own weird way today. It’d always been me and Mama and Jeff against the world—it felt good to have more.
An air horn sounded at nine, calling everyone outside to the bonfire. I followed the girls and found Horse again, tucking myself into his arms to keep warm as Picnic stepped out in front of everyone, solemn. Cookie stood not far away, flanked by Maggs and Dancer. She looked unsteady but determined. She still wore her black dress, but she’d put her “property” vest on over it, trading her heels for black leather boots.
“Tonight we say goodbye to a brother and a friend,” Picnic said, his voice hoarse. “He truly understood that brotherhood is forever and that no matter what happens in this life, a real man never walks away before the fight is finished. No matter what, we stand together. He gave his life standing with his brothers in Afghanistan and we’ll respect him for the rest of our lives.