“Did you see if it was a boy or a girl?” Hunter asked, his voice anguished.
“It was a girl,” he replied. “She was about fourteen weeks old. I’m very sorry for your loss. We’re very lucky to have saved the mother—it was close, maybe a matter of minutes that made the difference. The next few hours will be critical, but I’m hopeful she’ll make a full recovery.”
Horse threw his arm around me and squeezed me tight.
“Thanks for rescuing our Emmy girl,” he said softly. Ruger nodded at me, and I wasn’t sure what to do or say. Reese seemed lost in his own world and Hunter’s eyes had turned red.
“How soon until we can visit her?” Kelsey demanded.
“She’s in recovery right now,” he said. “It’ll be a while before she’s ready for company, and I’d like her to get as much rest as she can. Immediate family only, and the rest of you can visit tomorrow or the day after.”
“I’ll stay here tonight,” Hunter said. “Unless that’s a problem?”
The doctor smiled, although the expression didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“The waiting room is all yours,” he replied. “We’ll keep you posted.”
He turned and walked out, his mind obviously already on the next patient.
“So now what?” Ruger asked slowly. “This is fucked, but we got three hundred brothers travelin’ down to Cali for a major offensive. We gotta make a plan, because we can’t just leave them hanging.”
“I’m out,” Hunter said bluntly. He gave his friend a quick glance. “Skid can step up and take over for me. I already told Burke what’s happening.”
I looked at Reese, wondering if he’d say the same thing. Nobody could blame him if he decided not to go to California—but there was no way in hell I’d get a chance to save Jessica without him there. He looked at me and sighed, reaching up to rub the back of his neck.
“I’ll go,” he said to Hunter. “You take care of my girl for me, and I’ll make sure we got your club’s back.”
Hunter seemed surprised, and I saw Ruger and Horse exchange a glance I couldn’t interpret.
“Appreciate that,” Hunter said, turning toward Skid. “You need anything more from me?”
“Naw, I got it.”
“I’ll head back to the house,” Reese said slowly, although I could see it was killing him to leave Em. “Call me when she wakes up? I’ll come back and see her before we take off.”
“Sounds good,” Hunter said. “And Pic?”
“I’ll take good care of her. I promise.”
“Gonna hold you to that.”
The plane touched down at eleven that night.
I’d fallen asleep on top of Reese, which was comfortable and wonderful and probably more than I deserved, but I figured I’d take advantage while I could. He seemed to want me with him, and I even felt a slight stirring of hope at one point. Maybe I hadn’t killed everything between us when I pulled that trigger?
Then I wrestled my head out of my ass, because I couldn’t afford to let hope distract me.
Still, there was a noticeable change in attitude toward me after we got back from the hospital. Nobody had been at Em and Hunter’s place initially—apparently they’d cleared out in anticipation of a police raid.
A raid they’d expected because of me.
The combination of my silence and the fact that I’d saved Em had gone a long way toward rebuilding the club’s goodwill, and nobody bitched when Reese announced I’d be coming with. That meant everything, because if they found Jessica, I needed to be there for her. If they didn’t, I had other, less pleasant work ahead of me.
Now it was one a.m. and I was sitting in the dark. Waiting. We’d gone to a warehouse in the middle of bumfuck San Diego, which was apparently very similar to regular San Diego, but with more shootings and gang activity. It’d taken quite a bit to convince Reese to let me join them for the actual attack—I think he’d planned for me to hang with the women at someone’s clubhouse or something.
We’d compromised when I swore to stay outside in one of the vehicles (an anonymous-looking cargo van—something I was starting to think was MC standard issue) unless they called for me. Puck stayed, too. During the time we’d been stuck out here, he hadn’t said anything to me. Not. One. Word. I hunched down in the darkness, praying for something to happen. Anything.
I still wasn’t sure who our targets were or where the rest of the men had gone—we had about thirty in our group total, a mixture of Reapers, Silver Bastards, and some other club of locals who were apparently their allies. None of them wore their distinctive colors and everything was very hush-hush. All of them had ignored me completely, except for Puck, who radiated resentment at being stuck with babysitting duty.
Fair enough, because I was starting to resent his silent ass, too.
After what felt like hours, Puck’s phone vibrated. He answered it, grunted a few times, and hung up, turning to look at me with a frown marring his handsome features.
“They need me inside,” he said. “You’ll have to come, too—can’t leave you out here by yourself. Keep quiet and don’t say, do, or touch anything. Understand?”
I felt like telling him that he was young enough to be my son, and I wasn’t fucking stupid. Instead I said, “I understand.”
Another grunt. Some day he really was going to have to learn some real words, I decided.
We stepped out of the van and started around the side of the building. Around the corner we found a door guarded by a man I didn’t recognize. He opened it for Puck silently, eyeing me with suspicion as I followed the prospect inside.
The warehouse surprised me.
I don’t know what I was expecting … Maybe some kind of big, open space with catwalks and spotlights, and an evil genius laughing maniacally in the background.
A hairless cat or two?
Instead, dim security lights showed an interior that looked less like a crime lord’s fortress and more like a Costco. There were long stacks of boxes and bins and pallets forming alleys, some of them piled nearly to the ceiling. A perfectly normal forklift was parked near the door. It didn’t even have a machine gun mounted on the roof or anything.
Puck pulled out his gun and started down the second row of pallets, which my active imagination immediately pointed out would operate like a cattle chute. You know, the long, narrow paths they use to guide animals to their deaths in slaughterhouses?