“I’ll come and get you,” I told her, feeling suddenly exhausted. “But the doctor’s right—better to be safe. You were unconscious for several minutes.”
“All right,” Melanie agreed, and I smiled, leaning over to tuck a strand of her hair behind her ear. Such a sweet girl. Whatever else Jessica had gotten wrong, she’d definitely hit the jackpot the day she dragged Mellie home with her.
An hour later we had Mel all tucked into a room upstairs, and she was starting to drift off into sleep. Reese walked me downstairs, where I was startled to see several of his club brothers waiting for him, including Gage and both of the prospects I’d met that night I’d driven out to the Armory.
There were also the two men I’d seen with Jessica that same evening. Painter and Banks? Hard to remember their names, although I’d never forget the sight of them in that little room with her. Hateful night.
I smiled at them weakly but opted not to say anything. I didn’t have the energy.
“I’m takin’ London home,” Reese announced. “Painter, you’re with me.”
“I’ll come out, too,” Gage said. “We should talk.”
“Everything okay?” I asked, wondering what could possibly be more important than sleep at this point. A giant of a man with shoulder-length dark hair gave me a quick, charming smile. The patch on his leather vest said “Horse.” Funny name.
“All good, babe,” he said. “No worries. We’ll talk to the boss and then get out of your hair.”
I shrugged, because I was past curiosity. We all walked out to the parking lot, where Reese carefully helped me onto his bike. I wrapped my arms around his waist and leaned my head against his back, utterly spent.
The sun kissed the mountains through the darkness as we pulled out of the parking lot, sending pink streaking through the sky for my second ride with Reese. Same colors as last night—this time it was sunrise, the start of a new day.
My whole world was changing faster than I could keep up with, and it scared me a little. I hugged him tighter, thankful that in the midst of all this mess I had someone solid to anchor me.
Probably. I didn’t care—all I wanted were his arms around me while I slept. Warm. Strong.
I sat at the head of my dining room table, wondering how many times over the years we’d had meetings in here just like this one.
Too many to count.
Back in the day, Heather always kept the fridge fully stocked with beer and snacks for when the guys came over. My girl Em had done the same as she grew up, although not as efficiently.
Now I took a deep, cold drink of the beer London had gotten at the grocery. Hadn’t asked her to do it, she just noticed what I liked and then bought more of it when I got low. Felt good to have a woman in the house, even if she only took care of me because I hired her to do it.
I wasn’t paying her to fuck me, though.
Thinking about her in my bedroom right now, wrapped tight in my sheets, waiting for me? That gave me a satisfaction and sense of rightness that I hadn’t even realized I was missing.
“So, what’s the report?” I asked Gage. Ruger, Horse, Bolt, and Painter sat back, waiting patiently. I had a feeling they’d had this discussion at least once already, probably in the hospital parking lot.
“They’ll be checking it out, and whatever goes in the final report gets run by us first,” Gage said slowly. “Off the record? Fire investigator told me it might not be an accident. Houses explode sometimes, of course. Faulty valves let the gas build up and then when something touches it off, boom. But he doesn’t think it fits the pattern of an accidental explosion.”
“Interesting …” I murmured. “Bud said he thought it was an accident. Said that’s what the firefighters were sayin’. He full of shit?”
“Could be. He’s gettin’ a lot of pressure from the Evans family. They’re out for blood, and this shit with London dumping the crown prince for you puts us in their sights. But I think what’s really happening is they’re cuttin’ Bud out of the loop. Everyone knows he’s on borrowed time, so they’re pickin’ sides. Fire department is with us, always has been. They’ll report to us first, then tell him what he needs to hear.”
Painter grunted in agreement, his young face grim. Once upon a time, I thought he might end up my son-in-law. Still couldn’t decide how I felt about that. He didn’t love Em, not the way I wanted her loved by her old man—that meant he wasn’t the right one for her. But now she was living with Hunter Blake, a nomad with the Devil’s Jacks. Hated that fucker. I’d come to respect him, but that’s where it ended. Too much bad blood between us.
“I talked to Jeff Bradley,” Painter said. “Went to high school together, he’s one of the firefighters who was there tonight. He’s pretty new, but one of the older guys told him it looked wrong for an accident. I think we need to at least consider that this was a planned hit.”
“But why London?” I asked. “Wasn’t ’til today that I finally nailed her. Not like she’s an old lady.”
“No, but she belongs to the club,” Ruger said thoughtfully. “Works for us, been comin’ out to your place. From the outside, probably looks like you’ve been bangin’ her for a few weeks now.”
He raised a good point.
“So we assume it’s a strike at the club until we learn otherwise. Thoughts?”
“Wait and watch,” Horse said. “Smells like the cartel to me—they love blowin’ shit up. See if they tip their hand moving forward. Let the cops play with it for now, see how it goes.”
“Yeah, I’ll keep London out here with me until we know for sure,” I said. “Want her safe.”
“So it’s like that?” Ruger asked.
I shrugged. “Dunno what it is. But I know that I don’t want her caught in the crossfire, assuming this is about the club. I got a bad feelin’ about this shit tonight. Way too coincidental, doesn’t add up. Whatever happens between me and her, don’t want her hurt because she caught my eye.”
“Since when do you care?” Painter asked, his eyes sharp. “You in the market for an old lady?”
Tension filled the air, because the older brothers knew better than to suggest I’d ever replace Heather. I’d laid good men out for less. Somehow the question didn’t piss me off like it normally would. Probably because this time it made sense. I’d never moved a woman into my place before—he had a good reason for asking. I realized they had all stilled, waiting for an answer. Might as well clear it up.