Now it was Friday evening, and I was about to experience my first real biker party out at the Armory. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this—before all the drama with the house, I’d promised Reese that he could have Friday night and I wanted to keep my word. On the other hand, I’d watched my house blow up and I didn’t have anything to wear.
Reese laughed at me and suggested I go naked.
I went shopping instead, both for clothing and for several large containers of baked beans and fruit salad, because exploding house or not, I’d be damned if I’d show up to a potluck empty-handed. The gravel parking lot outside the Armory was about half full when I pulled in, with the same two young prospects I’d met on my first trip out there directing traffic.
Did those poor guys ever get a break?
This time they didn’t question me as I walked toward the building, just waved me through a side gate in the wall. I followed a narrow passage between the wall and the looming mass of the fortress itself, leading to a large courtyard in the back. It was a mixture of pavement, open grass, and outbuildings that had to cover a good acre or two.
It felt like being inside a castle courtyard, but instead of knights and ladies there were big, scary guys with beards and more cleavage than I’d ever seen outside a girls’ locker room. People bustled around everywhere and they all seemed to know each other or have a job to do. Feeling awkward, I glanced around for Reese. Maybe coming out here had been a mistake. Then a tall, curvy woman in tight jeans came up to me, smiling broadly. She looked about my age and very friendly.
“Hey, I’m Darcy,” she said, reaching out to take the container of beans from me. “I’m Boonie’s old lady. He’s president of the Silver Bastards. I don’t think we’ve met before?”
“London Armstrong,” I said, putting on my game face. “I’m friends with Reese Hayes.”
“Picnic?” she asked, looking startled. “Um, don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t look like his usual type. Are you … together?”
A heavy arm came down around my shoulders, startling me so much I squeaked. I looked up to find Painter grinning at Darcy, a hint of the devil in his pale blue eyes. His white-blond hair was newly spiked and he wasn’t wearing a shirt under his leather cut. Made me feel kind of pervy to notice, but between the muscles and the tattoos he was actually very attractive. He smelled good, too.
Oh, I definitely needed to keep his handsome ass away from Melanie … Boys like this one were dangerous, and not just because of the whole prison thing.
“London’s playing house with Pic,” he said blandly. Darcy’s eyes opened wide.
“You don’t say?”
“Yup, they’re shacked up,” he said. “Expectin’ him to get down on one knee and propose soon. It’s all so beautiful we could just cry.”
Her mouth dropped and he burst out laughing.
“Fuckin’ priceless,” he said, shaking his head and dropping his arm. “She’s his newest piece of ass. Seems to be sticking more than the usual, but we all know how he is. She doesn’t like me much for some reason, do you, babe?”
I glared at him, trying to decide whether kicking him in the nuts on Reaper property was a bad idea.
“Reese and I are dating,” I said to Darcy, pulling my dignity around me like a queen. “I had a problem with my house, and he graciously offered to let me stay as his guest until I get things worked out. Anything else is baseless speculation.”
With those words I scowled at Painter for emphasis. He held his hands up in surrender, a look of blatantly fake empathy taking over his features.
“Wow, guess I’m not wanted here. I’ll go. You bring Melanie with you? I’d love to show her the clubhouse.”
I growled and he burst out laughing again before swaggering off.
“I see …” Darcy said slowly. “Well, you must be something special, because Pic doesn’t date women. He fucks ’em and dumps ’em. I should know. Enough of his leftovers have shown up at my place crying over the years.”
“Well, that’s very interesting,” I replied, because what else could you say? Darcy shook her head, frowning.
“I’m so sorry. I wasn’t thinking—that was so rude and I didn’t mean it that way. We must seem like the strangest people you’ve ever met.”
I didn’t respond to that, and she shrugged sheepishly.
“Don’t worry. Painter”—she paused to glare at him across the courtyard—“just has a strange sense of humor, and I’m sure he didn’t mean to offend you. And I know all the other old ladies will be thrilled to meet you. This is a special party, because we’ve got people coming in from five different states. Montana, Idaho, Oregon, California, and Washington. Three different clubs. You’ll have a great time, although you might want to stick close to either Pic or one of us, seeing as you don’t have a property patch.”
“What’s a property patch?”
“Wow, you really are new,” she said, eyes widening. “It’s when a man marks you as his, so the others know to keep their hands off. See mine?”
She turned around and for the first time I noticed she was wearing a leather vest, just like one of the guys. On the back it read “Property of Silver Bastards. Boonie.”
Once again, I had no idea what to say. She seemed proud and pleased with it, although I couldn’t quite imagine calling myself property. Of course, I couldn’t imagine my house blowing up, either. Sometimes life throws you a curve. Darcy turned back toward me, eyes assessing my face carefully.
“In club culture, being a man’s property is like being married to him,” she said. “It means he’s my old man, and that’s a special bond. The others respect it.”
“I see …”
“No, you don’t, but you’re being polite and I like that,” she told me. “More polite than I was. Here, come on over and meet some of the other girls. You’ll like them, and while you may not be Pic’s old lady, you’re obviously someone special. Otherwise you wouldn’t be sleeping over at his place. Don’t listen to Painter—he’s just fuckin’ with your head, okay?”
I shrugged, because I hadn’t planned on listening to Painter anyway. I liked Darcy, though. She was a little different, but she seemed genuine and kind. That went a long way in my book.