I put my hands on my hips and glared up at him.
“Then why the hell did you let him ride off with her?”
“Because he’ll do what I say,” he told me. “And I told him to take her out to my place and keep her safe. He’ll die before he lets anything happen to her. He’s my brother and I trust him.”
“I don’t care if he’s an Orthodox rabbi,” I said, my voice cold. “He’ll keep his filthy hands off Melanie or he’ll answer to me.”
“Just because he fucked Jess—”
“I don’t want to have this conversation,” I said tightly. “I’m protective of her. Unlike Jessica, Melanie works hard to avoid trouble. I hear you’re protective of your girls, too, so I bet you know exactly how I’m feeling right now.”
“Yeah, babe, I get it. Just remember—he’s a big boy and he doesn’t have to take any lip from you. Bein’ with me doesn’t give you the right to say shit to him, so be glad you made him laugh instead of pissin’ him off.”
I stepped forward and threaded my hands up and around his neck. Then I gave him a sweet, sugary smile, staring deep into his blue eyes.
“I didn’t do it because I’m with you,” I said softly, my voice deadlier than arsenic. “I did it because that child’s mama ran off yesterday and I’m her emergency backup mother. It’s a job I take seriously. Don’t fuck with a mama bear, Reese. Doesn’t end well for anyone—not even big, bad bikers.”
He burst out laughing, then shook his head.
“I guess it doesn’t.” He leaned down and gave my nose a quick kiss. “I’ll be careful not to piss you off in the future.”
“You do that. I’m small, Reese, but I’m persistent. Like a rabid ferret. Don’t make me bite you, because my teeth are very sharp.”
“Didn’t know you were into that,” he whispered. “You keep surprisin’ me, London.”
I started giggling, sounding more like Melanie than myself. But Reese made me feel that way. Young and vibrant and alive. I’d forgotten just how much fun it felt to fall in love.
I was falling in lust. Possibly infatuation. Love was something else entirely. I needed to pull my head out of my ass before I got hurt.
“Yeah, it’s fine. Let’s get going, though. I’ve got a lot to do today—Oh, crap. I don’t have a car.”
“We’ll stop by the shop, pick up that loaner.”
“If you say you can’t accept any help, I’m going to strangle you.”
I stared at him, shocked. Reese shrugged, holding out his hands.
“It’s a guy thing,” he told me. “We like taking care of our women. You don’t let me help you, the other boys’ll make fun of me and then I’ll have to cry. Are you trying to make me cry, London?”
He blinked at me like an innocent puppy, and I couldn’t help it. I started laughing, and we both knew he’d won.
“You suck,” I told him.
“You like it.”
He was right—I totally did.
Thursday passed in a blur.
We started out with a quick trip by Target so I could grab something clean to wear. I’d rebuild my wardrobe down the line, but for now just having fresh panties and jeans that weren’t covered in dirt and soot was a huge improvement—not to mention a new bra. Reese seemed a little disappointed by that, but he’d get over it. The girls liked their support.
Then I met with the cops and the fire investigators. Reese made some phone calls, and a lawyer I didn’t know sat in on the meetings with me, which seemed a bit excessive. Then again, what did I know about exploding-house procedure? Not that it mattered. The suited assassin (seriously—this lawyer wore a black suit and looked exactly like a hit man) just listened with a blank face, occasionally cutting off a line of questioning for reasons I never quite figured out. The official types didn’t seem overly concerned by this, so I decided not to worry about it, either.
I was more worried about how I’d pay the guy but apparently it was a non-issue. According to Reese, “He’s on retainer with the club, babe. Part of his job. Don’t think about it.”
The sheriff—Bud Tyrell—and the fire investigator wanted to know about my history with the house (long), whether I’d ever had issues with the oven (occasionally), and if I had any large, outstanding debts (always).
The latter got the most attention from them, because despite the fact that business was thriving, I was always a step behind financially. It wasn’t that I blew money. Not at all. But there were six years of medical bills built up from Jessica’s ongoing surgeries and treatment, which added up fast even with insurance.
When they asked for specifics, I couldn’t tell them anything. All my records burned up in the fire. They’d see plenty if they pulled my credit report, though. Maybe I could use the insurance settlement to pay off my debts? Tempting …
That’s when I realized having a lawyer in the room might not be such a bad idea after all.
It’s all about motive, right?
Meeting with the insurance agent was easier. I’d never really paid attention to my coverage, but he’d been my mother’s agent for years and he’d known what he was doing when he set everything up. Not only did I have fantastic coverage to rebuild the house, but I had coverage for living expenses for the duration.
I could move out of Reese’s place any time I wanted.
The idea was less appealing than it should’ve been. I mentioned looking for an apartment and he shut me down, so I figured that was an argument I’d tackle tomorrow. The thought of one more night in his bed wasn’t exactly unappealing under normal circumstances—as things stood, I was more than happy to stay put for a couple of days.
Thursday night Reese took me and Melanie out to dinner, with the ever-present Painter tagging along for good measure. I glared at him every time he talked to Mellie, which seemed to give him perverse pleasure, and when I complained about him to Reese after we locked ourselves in the bedroom, he rolled me over and shut me up with his mouth.
It was an impressive argument in favor of silence, all things considered.
In the midst of all this, they called on Friday to let us know my van was ready. I drove the loaner over to the shop, where I was handed my keys by a gruff, overweight man who ignored me when I asked about a bill. He wouldn’t even tell me what’d been wrong with the vehicle, which seemed a bit excessive. I would’ve been pissed if I weren’t so thankful that it was up and running without me having to blow my savings completely. Sure, I had insurance money coming. Theoretically. But I’d need that to rebuild, and those medical bills were always waiting for me.