“I’ll never have another old lady,” I said carefully. “I like London. She’s a good fuck, handy around the house. Cute. But that doesn’t mean I’m keepin’ her long term.”
“Just don’t fuck up so bad she drops the cleaning accounts,” Gage said, his voice serious. “I got high hopes for her at The Line.”
“No shit,” Bolt chimed in. “Best thing that ever happened to the pawn shop.”
“Since when we do let business come before pleasure?” I asked, cocking a brow.
“Since the night I had to scrub the fuckin’ toilets because the old cleaners were stealing shit and I had to fire them,” Gage said bluntly. “Not a fan, Pic. Anyone can suck your dick, but a woman who stays on top of the toilets is a goddamn treasure. I’d protect her from whoever blew up her place on that basis alone.”
I snorted, shaking my head because he was right. Gettin’ my dick sucked on a regular basis wasn’t exactly a challenge, but London was a fuckuva lot more than that.
And not just because she cleaned.
I liked having her under my roof. Sooner or later she’d talk to her insurance agent, maybe look into getting an apartment. To my surprise, I didn’t care for that idea much at all.
“Okay, so we’ll keep an eye out,” I said. “And I’ll keep her out here for the duration. She’s got a couple kids in tow, too—the girl who was at the house tonight and her little cousin. Guess they’ll be sleepin’ upstairs until we get this worked out.”
“Admit it. You hate living in a house that isn’t full of girls screechin’ and fighting over the bathroom, you fuckin’ masochist,” Horse said, evil glee in his eyes. “Em and Kit are gone, so you’re auditioning replacement daughters. Seek professional help, bro. Or at least go for a son this time. Somethin’ wrong with a man so eager to get pussy whipped.”
I rolled my eyes and flipped him off, standing up.
“Okay, we’re good here,” I said, glancing pointedly toward the door. London was waiting for me, which meant fightin’ with Horse wasn’t exactly a priority.
“Painter stays out here tonight,” Gage said. “Don’t want to step on your toes, prez, but you need backup. If that really was the cartel, we can’t leave you uncovered.”
I sighed, because I knew he was right. As sergeant at arms, it was Gage’s job to worry.
“Okay, kid,” I said to Painter. “You take the guest room. Tomorrow you head home, grab some shit. Might be stuck here for a while. If Jessica comes back from California, the hands stay off. Don’t care how convenient it would be. Got me?”
Painter gave a sharp nod, and then the meeting was over. Shitty night, but at least I’d be bedding down with London soon. Not sayin’ I was happy her house had blown up, but I guess there’s always good with the bad. Probably best not to share my theory with her under the circumstances, though.
Women get all touchy and shit sometimes.
I woke up in a man’s arms for the second time in twenty-four hours. Reese. His body surrounded mine, and I wore a T-shirt that was far too big for me. Not mine. Why was I here?
Then it came back to me.
My house was gone.
My clothing, my pictures, my books … All of it. Gone. For no good reason. I lay still in the early-morning light, wondering what the next move should be. What I really wanted to do was cry and feel sorry for myself, but I’ve always been practical. With my life, I’ve had to be—no point in wasting time whining when there’s work to be done.
First up, I needed to call Jessica.
I rolled over to grab my phone and felt Reese’s arm tighten on me. He pulled me back into his hips, the press of his morning erection sending tingles radiating up between my legs to my nipples.
“I need to make some phone calls,” I told him softly. He nuzzled the back of my neck and I squirmed, because I couldn’t just lie down and pretend last night hadn’t happened.
He sighed and loosened his grip.
“I’m here, babe,” he said softly, kissing my shoulder. Three little words, but they felt so good. He was here, with me. For once I wasn’t on my own, and while I wasn’t fool enough to think his presence changed anything in my big picture, just waking up in his arms meant more than I could have imagined.
“Thanks,” I whispered. Then I took my phone and pressed my finger to Jessica’s number. Surprisingly, she answered on the first ring, her voice alert, almost strained. Had Melanie called her already?
“Hey, Jess,” I said softly. “I have some bad news for you.”
“What’s that?” she asked.
“I don’t know how to say this …”
“Just spit it out,” she snapped. I heard a cracking noise and then she coughed suddenly, gasping.
“You all right?” I asked quickly.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she replied, her voice more subdued. “Sorry, just dropped something. What’s going on?”
“The house blew up.”
“The house blew up,” I repeated, the words sounding unreal even to me. “I don’t know how or why. Probably a gas leak. I’ll talk to the police later today, but it all burned down. There’s nothing left.”
“Is Melanie all right?” she asked, her voice full of dread. I paused, wondering how she knew about Mellie.
“She got out. They took her to the hospital because she hit her head. I’ll go get her in a bit, but I stayed with her long enough to know she’s going to be just fine. Nothing serious. You should know that her mother—”
“I know about her mom,” Jess said softly. “She called me last night after she got to our place. I’ve been thinking of her.”
“I’m just thankful she’s okay …” I said. “And I have a place for us to stay, at least until I get the insurance worked out.”
“With Nate?” she asked quickly. Awkward question … I hadn’t actually told her about the breakup. Oops.
“Yeah, I should probably talk to you about Nate,” I said, feeling Reese tense behind me. I decided not to worry about him for the moment. “I’m not actually with him anymore. I’m seeing Reese Hayes.”
“That’s fantastic,” Jess said, surprising me with her enthusiasm. She’d never approved of me dating anyone before. Huh. “You’ll be safe with the Reapers.”