“Wow,” I said. “I know I keep saying that, but I’m just trying to wrap my head around this. I hate to be too nosy, but how much were you making?”
She leaned over and whispered in my ear.
“No kidding, right?” she asked. “Now, I worked hard at it, took it seriously. And I didn’t get into drugs. A lot of the girls blow their money on drugs and stupid shit. But the smart ones? They save their cash and retire early. I covered our wedding, our honeymoon, and the down payment on this house. Ava’s got a college fund started, too.”
“Damn,” I murmured. “That’s amazing.”
“Well, it’s not a long-term career,” she said. “But think about it. A regular job keeps you away from Noah forty hours a week, at least. Maybe more. You start stripping, you’re only away from him two nights a week. What’s better? A mom with a lily-white reputation, or one who’s actually around to take care of her kid?”
“Hell of a good point,” I answered, bemused.
“No shit,” she replied. “And consider this—you start making good money, you’ll have your own place in no time. I don’t care how nice Ruger’s house is. So long as he’s living there, you’re up shit creek.”
Hard to argue with that.
“I’ve never seen a town with so many damned strip clubs,” Picnic muttered, sipping his beer. Ruger glanced over at his club president and shrugged. It was Wednesday afternoon, but they’d only been awake for a couple hours.
Last night Ruger had found a hot little blonde who’d done her best to make him forget all about his new roommate. Unfortunately, he’d f**ked himself over by pretending she was Sophie the entire time he’d pounded her slick pu**y.
He wasn’t a hundred percent sure, but he might’ve called Soph’s name when he came.
Shit, he needed to get a handle on this … But there was just something about the thought of her in his house, all available and at his mercy. It was too much power.
Ruger had never been one of the good guys.
He took a long, deep breath. This was a business trip, so time to pull his head out of his ass. He glanced over to the stage, where a nearly naked woman gyrated lifelessly around the pole. She could’ve been cleaning toilets for all the enthusiasm she showed.
“Too bad they’re more interested in quantity than quality,” Ruger said, nodding toward the stage. “Fire her ass, she worked at The Line.”
Deke gave a snort of laughter. Ruger glanced at him, noting the humor didn’t reach the Portland president’s eyes. Man was dead inside, so far as he could tell. He’d heard that Deke was national’s first choice for enforcement, and he had no trouble believing it. The former marine could probably pull off a hit in his sleep.
Good guy to have at your back in a fight.
“You bastards have it easy up there in Idaho,” Deke said. “Fuckin’ monopoly, so all the talent has to compete to work for you. We got more strip clubs here than anywhere else in the damned country, or so I hear. Market’s saturated, and that means owners gotta take what they can get. Some of these places barely break even. Crazy-ass shit.”
Ruger glanced around the room with new interest. Aside from their table, there couldn’t have been more than six customers total. No, make that seven. Some lucky bastard was getting a hand job back in the far corner.
“So it’s always this empty?” he asked. “That’s f**ked up. No wonder she isn’t trying. Why bother?”
“Can’t dance for shit, but at least she gives a hell of a blow job,” Deke responded. “Try her out later if you like. Any of the girls, for that matter.”
Deke glanced over at their waitress, jerking his chin toward their drinks. She carried over a tray of refills, smiling nervously. Ruger eyed her, considering Deke’s offer. The girl wore a black leather bustier, a short, tight skirt, and black fishnets. Long, reddish-brown hair, sort of like Sophie’s. And there his c**k went again, getting all hard.
Yeah, this good-guy bullshit wasn’t his gig at all.
Damn, but he’d wanted Soph in his bed a long time. Every inch of her hot little body was burned in his brain, starting that first night he’d seen her screwing Zach in his apartment, which officially classified him as one sick f**k. She’d been sixteen years old and scared shitless, and what’d his response been?
He’d jacked off in the damned shower while she hunted for her panties in his living room. Panties she’d never found, by the way, which he f**king well knew because he still had them. Pink and lacy, innocent as hell, and enough to get his ass thrown into jail back in those days.
Then he’d gone and really f**ked things up four years ago, f**ked them up so bad her entire life exploded. Not entirely his fault, but he still regretted how he’d handled Zach. Should’ve killed the cocksucker when he had the chance. Even with all his guilt and regret, though, one thing hadn’t changed.
He still jacked off to those panties sometimes.
“Where the f**k is Hunter?” he asked irritably.
Deke narrowed his eyes.
“Like I give a shit?” he answered. “I’m not on board with this. We don’t talk to Jacks. We hurt them. That’s how it’s done—there’s a system.”
Toke, one of the younger Portland guys, nodded in agreement, his face grim. He’d insisted on being part of this meet. Gracie was his old lady these days. Between him and Deke, they were sitting on a f**king powder keg …
“We’re talking to this one,” Picnic said, his voice soft but unyielding. At forty-two, he was the oldest man at the table. He and Deke might have equal rank, but Pic had been around a long time, and when he spoke, men listened. Ruger knew he’d been talked about for national president, but the man wasn’t interested. “Something’s going on. I want to hear what this ass**le has to say about it.”
“Fuckin’ simple,” Deke replied. “Little bastards are movin’ in on our territory. You know it, I know it. This shit needs to end.”
Pic shook his head and leaned forward, pale blue eyes intense.
“Doesn’t make sense, brother,” he said. “Four guys living in a house in Portland … Two of them going to f**king school here, like they’re citizens or something. Nomads. You seen them pull a goddamn thing these past nine months?”