Pushing myself to my feet was painful at best. Every single part of my body hurt, including my fingernails and hair. I was sore, scratched, cut, and shot. Astoundingly, none of these things had been fatal, or even particularly serious. I stumbled across the room and unzipped my leather bag, digging around for my phone. The battery was low, but it showed a missed call and a message from my neighbor.
DANICA: How are you doing? Still can’t believe what happened. Wanted to let you know that Hugh’s dad read about your house in the paper. They’ve got that cabin out on Kidd Island Bay road and not using it this year—was rented but the tenant fell thru. You can have if you want. Nothing special but decent. 2 bedrooms 1 bath, friends & family rate. Sitting empty and want to help.
I stared down at the text, considering the opportunity. I’d been out there a couple of summers ago with Danica and her sister for a girls’ weekend. She was right—it wasn’t anything special. But it would give me, Jess, and Melanie some space. Things were still up in the air with Reese, although I was starting to believe him when he said I was safe. The guys had been friendly enough on the plane, too. Well, as friendly as a bunch of exhausted men who’d just lost three of their brothers in a battle against a drug cartel could be.
That didn’t change the fact that Jess flinched whenever one of those big, scary men looked at her, or that I had no idea what kind of relationship Reese and I would have moving forward.
Sure, he’d offered us rooms at his house until I figured something out … before I tried to shoot him. Not only that, no matter how happy the two of us might be together, if he scared Jessie, his house wasn’t a good place for her.
Okay, then. Cabin it was.
ME: I’m interested. Call you later tonight?
DANICA: Sounds good. I’ll tell him. He says you can move in any time, he knows your good for the money. I have the keys and its furnished.
So. That was solved. We had a place to live.
Someone had scrounged up some clean clothing for us, including jeans that were a little too long and tight for me and a Reapers MC T-shirt. A plain sports bra and elaborately decorative thong completed the ensemble—dead giveaway that they’d been digging through the back of a closet. Probably Em’s.
Stepping quietly out of the room, I found the bathroom across the hall and got myself cleaned up, brushing my teeth with my finger and some toothpaste left on the counter. I looked like hell, which wasn’t exactly a surprise. Few women come through shootings looking fresh and energetic, and that wasn’t even taking my plunge through the shrubbery into consideration.
When I finished, I decided to go downstairs and get an update on Em.
I found Reese, Horse, Bam Bam, and Skid sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee. The clock over the oven said it was eight in the morning. They were all haggard, with bloodshot eyes and stubbled chins, and their faces weren’t particularly perky.
“Hey,” I said softly. Reese looked up at me, and something flickered in his gaze. Then he pushed his chair out just a bit and patted his knee. I went and sat on it, leaning into his comforting bulk.
“She’s good,” he said. “We’re gonna run back over to the hospital soon. Kicked me out earlier, guess they’re doing some tests or something. She wants to see you.”
I hardly knew what to say.
“You okay with me visiting her?”
“Yeah, sweetheart. Seein’ as you saved her fuckin’ life, she’s probably safer with you than with me. None of us even noticed something was wrong. Although I should warn you, her sister’s there. Kit’s hell on wheels and she’s been asking questions about you.”
Great. I’d get to meet his other daughter for the first time looking like something a cat puked out.
“Good enough,” Skid said. “Tough on him, though, hearin’ about our losses.”
“Em needed him,” Reese said, his voice firm. “Anyone has a problem with that, they can talk to me.”
“Nobody has a problem with it, Pic,” Skid replied, and I could tell from his tone that this wasn’t the first time they’d discussed the issue. Alrighty, then.
“You guys want breakfast?” I asked brightly. “Do we have time?”
“Hunter said he’d call,” Reese told me. Obviously it bothered him to be waiting on “permission” to see his daughter.
“Breakfast it is.”
I tugged free and walked over to the fridge, inspecting the contents. Options were limited … But there were eggs and bread. I hit the pantry and found some syrup. Twenty minutes later I had hot French toast coming off an electric skillet, which the guys seemed to appreciate. Then everyone but Reese left the kitchen, which was either convenient or extremely inconvenient, depending on how one interpreted things.
“So how’s Jessica?” he asked, as I started washing dishes. To my surprise he came over and picked up a towel to help dry. Didn’t fit the whole He-Man vibe of the past few days, but I guess even the manliest of men will pitch in if you feed him first.
“Still sleeping,” I said. “I don’t know how long it’ll be before she opens up about what happened. You notice how jumpy she was?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Not a good scene.”
That was the best opening I’d get, so I ran with it.
“We haven’t talked about what happens next,” I said hesitantly. “Crazy, but you realize it’s only been a little over a week since we first slept together?”
“Seems like longer,” he said, taking a plate from my hand. “Too much shit happenin’ too fast.”
“Hard to process all of it …” I said slowly. I turned to him, cocking my head. “I need to know—are we past what I did to you? Because I don’t understand how you could just let go of something like this. I’ve told you how sorry I am, but I can’t change what happened. I’ll understand if you can’t forgive me.”
“Let it go, babe.”
“I don’t like that you did it, but I understand why and I don’t think you’ll do it again. Let. It. Go.”
I blinked rapidly, my eyes filling with tears.
He grunted, and we continued washing dishes for a few more minutes. I couldn’t relax, though, because there was another piece of unfinished business—and his reaction to it would tell me a lot.