“Not when it’s part of this war,” he said. “And she’s right in the middle of it.”
“That’s a serious charge,” Duck growled. I felt Gage behind me as he pushed off the wall, coming to stand next to my chair.
“I’m not sayin’ she’s a spy,” Hunter started. “But I did some diggin’ on her. There’s things about her you don’t know, deep shit. Could be she’s an innocent woman in the wrong place at the wrong time. Could also be you’re sleepin’ with the cartel. Needs to be addressed.”
Gage put a hand on my shoulder, squeezing it tight.
“Since when are you interested in who I’m sleepin’ with?” I asked. “Thought we were allies. You spyin’ on me?”
Hunter shook his head.
“Your daughter loves you for reasons that occasionally confuse me, so I’m tryin’ to show a little respect,” he said slowly. “I know this shit with you and London is recent, but there’ve been rumors for a while now. Heard you let her walk into the Armory and pull out a girl, all with your blessing. That shit’s not normal and it got me thinkin’. Did a little background work on your girl. You aware that her cousin is shacked up with the cartel’s number two man north of the border?”
“Explain,” Shade snapped.
“She’s been with him for more than a year now,” Hunter said. “Guess he’s married to some poor bitch down in Mexico, but he won’t let her come north to enjoy the good life. Not while he has his pretty girlfriend to play house with … And guess who’s living with him now, too? The daughter. That Jessica kid London’s so protective of is in his house, eatin’ his food and probably tellin’ him all about Auntie London and how much the president of the Reapers comes runnin’ when she calls. Then suddenly—right after you finally close the deal—her house blows up and she needs a hero to rescue her. Now she’s livin’ in your house with full access to whatever the hell you might have hidden there. Still sure she’s innocent?”
I shook my head.
“No way,” I said. “She’s got no clue.”
“You aware that Nate Evans is on the cartel payroll?”
“That’s a fuckin’ joke,” Ruger said quietly. “Nate Evans answers to his daddy, nobody else.”
“I disagree,” Boonie said, which shocked the hell out of me. “We’ve been hearing things in the Valley. The Evans family gets their money from the White Baker mine, and according to the union, it’s near played out. They’re tryin’ to keep it quiet, but you can’t fool the men underground. The ore’s no good. Means Natey-boy needs a new backer if he wants to run the show around here.”
“That’s a game changer,” I said slowly. “Not that I think London’s in on anything, but I had no idea the Evans family was short of cash.”
“Think about it,” Hunter said, his voice quietly intense. “You got an out-of-the-way mountain pass, one the feds don’t watch too close. Cartel wants Montana, the Dakotas—hell, anything between here and Chicago? They gotta get through the mountains somehow and there’s not many places better than right here. Straight shot east, straight shot north. It makes sense strategically, and if they control local law enforcement, they’ve got it made once they take us out. It all starts with you, Pic. London may be a victim who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, or she may be one of them, but either way she’s dangerous as fuck. You gotta cut her loose.”
I stood so fast my chair fell over backward.
“Not gonna happen.”
Silence fell over the room. Shade sighed.
“Okay, so we got that information,” he said. “It’s on you, Pic. You and the Coeur d’Alene brothers. Now you know, so you use it the best you can. Hell, might be a good thing. You feed her bad intel, see if it gets through. If it does, then we have a way to fuck up their game. Doesn’t really change anything in the end, so long as you keep your shit tight. Might not be a bad idea to put some extra security on her, though. Rest of the women, too, seein’ as things are gonna heat up fast. We all gotta cover our asses.”
I nodded tightly.
“Anyone else?” Shade asked. Nobody spoke. “Okay, then. Hunter, I know you’re standin’ in for Burke, so take time to consult with him if you need to.”
Hunter shook his head.
“Burke’s on board,” he said. “So’s the rest of the club. We’re under fire already—can’t hold out much longer. We want blood.”
“Okay, adjourned,” Shade announced. A quiet murmur broke out, and I felt my brothers surround me. I looked to Ruger.
“Double-check the cousin,” I told him. “I don’t want to believe Hunter, but we gotta know what we’re lookin’ at here.”
“She’s not in on it,” Bolt said quietly. “She didn’t even meet Evans until a couple months ago. I did a full background on her before she started at Pawns.”
“You missed the cousin,” I said.
“She’s a distant relative livin’ a thousand miles away,” he said. “I tracked down all of those, we’d never finish a background check in under ten years. But no way I’d miss a boyfriend, or even a fuck buddy. She met Evans for the first time at a fund-raiser two months ago—talked to one of the bitches on her cleaning crew about it. Listened to her go on about him through the closed circuit one night. She had no idea I was even there.”
“Okay,” I said, rubbing the back of my neck. “But if they’ve got Jess, they’ve got a hostage she won’t be able to ignore. Let’s confirm where the girl is, okay?”
“You got it,” Ruger said. “Shouldn’t take too long. I’ll make some phone calls, see what I can come up with.”
“And Evans?” Gage asked. “What about him? You think he’s in bed with the cartel?”
“No idea,” I said slowly. “It’s possible. He’s got no morals, no sense of loyalty to the community or the job. You might start thinkin’ of ways to get him off alone, maybe think of a permanent solution to our problems with him.”
Ruger’s mouth tightened, but he nodded.
“Thinkin’ that’s gonna be how it goes,” he said. “Fuckload of trouble, takin’ out a cop.”