“Don’t be stupid, it’s already f**ked up,” she told me. “I was all in favor of avoiding him, but then you crossed the Rubicon!”

“What the hell does that mean?” I asked.


“Means we need to adjust our plan of action. Avoidance is no longer an option.”

“No, what the hell is a Rubicon?” I asked her. Kimber sighed heavily, clearly frustrated.

“It’s the river that separates Cisalpine Gaul from Italy,” she said. “It’s where Roman generals used to leave their armies before returning home, as a sign they weren’t a threat to the Roman Republic. Two thousand years ago, Julius Caesar had to make a decision whether to obey the Senate or bring his troops home with him, starting a civil war. His legions crossed the Rubicon, which led to the end of the Republic. Not officially, of course. Augustus was the first to acknowledge dicatorship openly. Fuckin’ turning point in Western civilization, dumbass.”

We all stared at her, eyes wide.

“Where the hell did you learn all that?” I asked her. Kimber rolled her eyes.

“College,” she said. “I have a history minor. Christ, is there a law that strippers can’t read or something? Now, please, focus. All of you.”

“My mom would like you,” Dancer said. “She would like you a lot.”

Kimber shrugged.

“This whole situation is like a great big zit that needs popping,” she continued. “The damage is already done—your face looks like shit and no concealer’s gonna cover it. You might as well squeeze hard and get your money shot. You’ll both feel better afterward.”

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“Ewwwww …”

“That is the least sexy thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about sex,” Maggs announced. “For the first time in two years, I’m kind of glad Bolt’s in jail, because there’s no damned way I’d touch his c**k tonight after that.”

“I call it like I see it,” Kimber declared. “Now, let’s figure out the best way for Sophie to start screwing Ruger without letting him think he’s won.”

“Kimber,” I growled, lunging toward her. I bumped the pitcher of huckleberry margaritas instead, which splashed across the table, dousing Maggs, Dancer, and Marie with sticky, sugary, boozey deliciousness.

Everyone burst out laughing again, and this time Dancer actually did fall off her chair, which made it even funnier.

“That’s what you get for making fun of my historical analogies!” Kimber howled at us gleefully. “I am the QUEEN. You do what I tell you, bitches!”

“You’re crazy,” I announced, dipping a finger into the puddle on the table and tasting it. Sooo good. What a waste. “But you’re right about one thing. I may be a petty, selfish person, but I don’t want him to win. He always wins. I think you might be right about popping the zit, though.”

“This is an important discussion,” Maggs said solemnly, holding up a hand to halt us. “And as the senior old ladies present, Dancer and I will moderate it as soon as we get changed. Is it okay if we dig through your closet?”

“Sure,” I said. “Here, let me come help you find something.”

“No worries,” Dancer said, giggling. “We’ll find it. We know our way around the apartment already.”

I smiled at her happily.

“Thanks again,” I told them all. “I can’t tell you how amazing it was to come here and find everything all fixed up. Noah loves his room, too.”

“It’s what we do,” Maggs said. Marie grinned at me, then shivered, rubbing her arms up and down.

“This stuff is cold. Let’s get changed,” she said, and the three women took off down the outside stairs.

“I’m going to get some hot water to pour over this mess,” I said, contemplating the Great Margarita Lake. “There’s got to be something we can use in the kitchen.”

We trooped into the house, and I rummaged through Ruger’s kitchen cupboards until I found two big mixing bowls, which we used to pour hot water over the table. Then we flopped back in the chairs and Kimber made herself useful for once, asking the question that’d been eating at me all night.

“So, you really a virgin?”

“Mostly,” Em said, rolling her eyes.

“Oooh, mostly,” Kimber said, leaning forward, practically quivering with curiosity. “We’ll get back to that in a minute. Now tell me what’s up with the V-card. How old are you, anyway?”

“I’m twenty-two,” Em said. She didn’t seem to mind the questions at all. Kimber wasn’t the only one with boundary issues. “And I’m a virgin because I haven’t wanted to just do it with some random guy to get it over with. But every non-random guy I meet is scared of my dad. To be fair, he really is scary. My sister stands up to him, but it seems like I never can. Now I’m stuck at home, while she’s loving life in Olympia. She’s my little sister—still can’t figure out how that happened.”

“Have you always lived at home?” Kimber asked, her eyes wide with something like horror. “No wonder you’re a virgin!”

“No, I lived in Seattle for my first semester of college,” Em explained. “But I didn’t really know what I wanted to be, and as soon as word about my dad got out, the guys stayed away from me. Didn’t help that he showed up at my dorm one day and made a public announcement that any guy who tried to get me naked would lose his dick.”

“Holy shit,” I muttered, eyes wide. Kimber swallowed.

“That’s hard-core,” she admitted.

Em rolled her eyes and threw up her hands in disgust.

“That’s my dad. Mom used to keep him under control, but she’s been gone for a while now. He’s the club president, so it’s not like there’s anyone to stand up to him.”

“What about this Painter guy?” I asked. Em groaned and dropped her head to the table, banging it dramatically.

“Painter,” she said. “Painter is a pain in my ass. He was a Reapers prospect until a few months ago. Got his patch now. He seems to like me, he’s flirted with me, and he’ll scare off other guys who come around me, yet when I tried to jump his bones in the dark he ran away like a f**king chicken. Every. Single. Time.”

Kimber shook her head knowingly.

“Yup, scared of daddy,” she said. “Lost cause, babe. You need to find someone else.”

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