“Yeah, I know,” Em said, her voice wistful. “I could kind of understand it back when he was a prospect, so I cut him some slack. Prospecting’s hard work. But he’s got his colors now. He needed to put up or shut up, so that’s over.”
“Damned straight,” Kimber said, banging her fist down on the deck table. The whole thing rattled and we all jumped a little. “Let’s go to Spokane next weekend, the three of us. The way I see it, Maggs, Marie, and Dancer have to rat you out, because they’re part of the club. But me and Sophie? We’re free agents. Let’s get your card punched with someone disposable, and then work on finding you a man who’s not a f**king pu**y. This Painter guy is full of shit.”
“Actually, I’ve been talking to someone online,” Em admitted, flushing a little. “I really like him. A lot. We’ve been chatting for a couple months, but we just started calling each other sometimes. I’m pretty into him, but I kept hoping Painter—”
“Screw Painter,” Kimber declared. “He’s not a real man. Maybe your online guy isn’t either, but we’ve got your back. See if he’s available next week, let’s get this thing done. We’ll meet up in a public place. Get our own hotel rooms, so we can make sure you’re safe.”
Em’s eyes grew bright. The whole idea seemed sort of half-cocked to me, and I frowned.
“Okay …” she said. “Wow, I can’t believe we’re going to do this. But what about Sophie? I don’t think Ruger would want her going out like that.”
Suddenly I didn’t care how stupid it sounded. Ruger wasn’t in charge. Fuck him. Nothing quite like flaming shots to give a girl courage.
“I’m in,” I declared. “He doesn’t tell me what to do.”
“Seriously?” Em asked, peering at me in the darkness. “We’d really just go out and do this?”
“Why not? Ruger’s not my boss. And Kimber needs to get out sometimes, too. We’ll check this guy out and make a call for you about whether he’s worthy. There’s always more guys if he’s not. Trust me, if Kimber can’t find you a man, he doesn’t exist. She’s like a sexual bloodhound. Always has been.”
“Damned straight,” Kimber said without a trace of embarrassment. “I’ll ask Ryan if he can watch Noah for you, Soph. He owes me. He gets to play poker every single week, and when I was pregnant I told him that if I was sober, he should be sober, too. He totally ignored me. Also, he bought me a minivan. A f**king minivan. What kind of man does that to a woman?”
I started giggling. Em joined me, and then all three of us were laughing, and I’m still not entirely sure why. We were still cackling like drunken hyenas when Marie, Dancer, and Maggs got back. They looked funny in my clothes, particularly Dancer, who was way too tall and more than a little too curvy. She’d found some yoga pants and an old T-shirt, both of which were extremely tight in critical areas.
“Bam is going to love this,” she said, twirling for us and shaking her ass dramatically. “If he’s home tonight. Anyone know the schedule?”
“Party tonight for the brothers coming in,” Marie said. “Guess some kind of big club meeting is going down? Horse will be here in about an hour to give us rides home. Me and Maggs are throwing together breakfast tomorrow, if anyone wants to help. They’ve already lined up a pig to roast for the afternoon, so all we need to worry about is snacks and sides.”
“I can do a Costco run in the morning,” Dancer said. “Em, wanna come with?”
“Sure,” she said. “Dad said they’ll be done with church around four. You can come out anytime after that, Sophie.”
“Church?” I asked, startled. Dancer snickered.
“That’s what they call their meetings,” she told me. “No idea why, just always been that way as long as anyone can remember. Nothing to do with us, though—club business. Don’t worry about that. Your job is to have fun at the party.”
“I’m not sure I’m going to the party,” I said, losing some of my bravado. “After Ruger’s little tantrum, I think it might better if I stayed home.”
“Not happening,” Dancer said firmly. “Whatever’s between you two—and don’t think we’ve forgotten, that conversation was interrupted just when it was getting interesting—needs to be resolved. Otherwise you’ll kill each other at this rate. Going to the party is perfect.”
“Because he’ll either lose his shit or he won’t,” she replied. “I mean, some guy is going to talk to you at some point. Ruger loses it, we’ll see some action and you’ll get things figured out. He doesn’t, you’re off the hook and life can get back to normal. Either way, we’ll be there to watch it all, and in the end, it’s really all about us, right?”
“Um, this may shock you, but Ruger can be scary,” I said. “I don’t want him losing his shit. It’s happened before and it wasn’t nice.”
“It’ll be okay,” Maggs assured me. “These things work out at the Armory, no worries there. Maybe a good fight will clear his head.”
“I agree,” Marie said. “Get it out in the open. If you’re in front of the club, he’ll have to claim you as his property or let you go. That’s how it works.”
“You don’t find it even a little bit creepy to be called property?” I asked. They all burst out laughing again.
“It’s a different world, Sophie,” Marie said finally. “Trust me, I get how weird it sounds. When Horse first asked me to be his property, I dumped his ass. I didn’t get it back then—it’s like their own language. To bikers, being property means you’re important, special. Being an old lady is an honor and they treat it with huge respect.”
“Here’s what I wonder,” Kimber broke in. “I know a little about club life from working at The Line, but I’ve never figured this one out. If your whole identity depends on your relationship to a man, isn’t that a little f**ked up?”
Pretty good question.
“Maybe,” Dancer admitted. “But I’m not too worried about it. My identity is all my own. Always has been, always will be. It’s true that the club is for men and they usually call the shots when they’re playing with their friends. At home, though? Not so much. Bam pisses me off, I’m not suffering from a shortage of ways to make him pay.”