“Thank you,” I said quietly.
“Trusting me again.”
“I don’t trust you for shit.”
“You trust me enough to come to Portland with you. I can’t change what happened, but I promise I won’t fuck up again, Reese.”
“You really expect me to fall for that?”
I sighed, so many thoughts running through my head that I couldn’t hardly catch them all …
“Just promise me one thing,” I said finally.
“If there’s a way for me to help you stop the cartel, let me do it. I don’t care if it’s dangerous. You can even use me for bait, if you think it’ll work. I just want the chance to fight back, for Jessica and for me.”
He exhaled hard. “We’ll see.”
Half an hour later I was dressed in biker babe clothing just a little too small for my generous curves. Marie and I were the same height, but my chest was a little more … substantial. At least I was warm and dry. They’d even found me a leather jacket somewhere, which was important because apparently I’d be riding to Portland on the back of Reese’s bike. This surprised me—I’d assumed he wouldn’t want me around, or that his brothers wouldn’t tolerate me.
Apparently the politics of biker betrayal were more complicated than I realized.
People had started gathering for the trip when Reese led me down the stairs and into the basement for a second time that night. I followed him down the hallway until we reached the same nasty, scary room where they’d hung me from the ceiling just a few hours earlier.
Things were moving so fast I could hardly keep up.
Reese pushed the door open, and I walked in to find Nate sitting in a battered metal chair, his arms and legs tied down tight. A dirty bandanna had been used to gag his mouth. Dried blood crusted his face and hair. It looked to me like one of his hands had been smashed with a mallet.
He wasn’t a happy camper.
The fire I felt died a little, because imagining Nate in pain and seeing him like this were two very different things. I didn’t feel sorry for him, exactly. Just sort of creeped out. I was determined, though. I wanted to personally make him pay and this was my big opportunity.
“You wanted to talk to him?” Bolt asked, and I glanced over to see he’d been waiting for us in the room. I nodded hesitantly.
“Nate, are you awake?” I asked. My former boyfriend’s eyes flickered open, catching on my face.
“You want the gag off?” Reese asked, his hand at the small of my back. I still had no idea what the club had planned for me in the next twenty-four hours, but at least they hadn’t beaten the shit out of me like this. Good thing, too. I had too much work to do before they killed me. Jessica needed saving and I wanted revenge, too. After that? Well, I’d probably be dead then, so I guess I wouldn’t worry about it.
“No, I don’t want to hear anything he has to say,” I answered. Then I took a deep breath, steeling myself. “Nate, I came down here because I want you to know I see exactly who and what you are. You’re a pathetic, evil little man, and I hope they kill you. I already asked Reese if I could shoot you and he said no. I found this very disappointing.”
Nate’s eyes widened and I smiled, understanding for the first time in my life how one person could enjoy hurting another, because for better or worse this felt kind of good.
I stepped closer, leaning down to examine his smashed hand.
“That’s never going to heal up right,” I said softly, then looked up at his face. One of his eyes was swollen nearly shut, and it took everything I had not to poke it, just to see him flinch. “So I’ve been trying to decide what I should do to make you pay … I could hit you, or poke you, or maybe just take those broken fingers of yours and start twisting them around for fun. Maybe cut them off? That’s what your friends did to Jessica.”
He grunted frantically and I spat in his face, which was vaguely satisfying, but nowhere near enough. I stood up, glancing around the room. In the corner was a pile of wood scraps, including a chunk of two-by-four about the length of a bat. Perfect. I walked over and grabbed it, hefting it experimentally. Felt good in my hand.
Gage gave a low, warning whistle.
“We need him alive,” he said. “And able to talk.”
I nodded thoughtfully, then walked back toward Nate, studying his frame. Drawing back the wood, I swung it at his right knee with everything I had. It hit with a crunch and he screamed through the gag. I felt a little sick to my stomach, but forced myself to speak.
“That’s for using Jessica, and sending her down to California.”
Taking a deep breath, I hit him again, this time on the other knee. He gave another piercing screech, then started a low, steady keening in pain.
“That’s for fucking things up with me and Reese.”
I paused to consider the situation. I wanted to hit him again. I’d planned one blow for each thing he’d done to ruin my life, which meant I still owed him for lying to me and for blowing up my house. Instead I dropped the two-by-four, because no matter how much the man deserved to suffer, a part of me realized I was sinking to his level.
Turning toward Reese, I spoke. “I’m good. Thanks for that.”
He raised a brow.
“Sure? You might not have another chance.”
“He’s like a vicious dog,” I told him softly, realizing it was true. “No point in torturing a dog, even one that’s a killer. Best to just shoot it in the head and dump the body.”
Nate made another noise and I heard the chair scrape against the concrete floor. Ignoring him, I focused on Reese, holding those ice-blue eyes of his steadily, savoring the sight of the little wrinkles at the corners as he gave me a strange little smile. In the background, I was vaguely aware that Gage watched us curiously. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore.
“You ready to go?” Reese asked me quietly. I nodded. Whatever happened next, I wasn’t lying or playing games. I’d made my decision and it filled me with a weird sense of peace.
By the time we hit Portland, I was exhausted but still absolutely determined to do whatever I could to help the club—not only were they my best hope for saving Jessica, they were also my best shot at some sort of revenge for what those cartel fuckers had done to my life.
I needed sleep first, though. In a big way.