What the hell was wrong with these people?

Two hours after pulling into Ruger’s driveway, I’d nearly finished packing up our stuff. We’d only been at his house for a week, so it wasn’t exactly hard. I just threw shit into boxes and then hauled them out to my car. I could probably get it all in one trip, seeing as Noah was still at Kimber’s. I’d call her first thing in the morning and ask if she could put us up for a couple of days.


Fuck Ruger. Fuck his beautiful house and f**k the Reapers. Fuck their motorcycles, too. I hoped they all got food poisoning at one of their damned pig roasts.

I’d already finished packing my clothes, the living room, and the bathroom by the time I heard Ruger’s bike pulling into the driveway. Well, wasn’t that just craptastic … I’d planned to be gone before he got home, but if he wanted a fight, I’d give him one. I might not have my life entirely together, but I was pretty sure about one thing—parties that ended with stabbings weren’t part of the long-term plan.

Neither was being tied to a man in prison, working as a stripper, or worrying about whether or not I was safe without a goddamned brand across my back like a f**king cow.

I’d started throwing Noah’s clothes into the suitcase when Ruger’s boots thudded down the stairs. He paused in my kitchen and I heard the sound of water filling a glass. So, now it wasn’t good enough for him to put me in danger and invade my privacy? He had to get my glasses dirty, too? I threw Noah’s stuffed dragon, Puff, into the case with a disgusted thud.


Why the f**k should I care where he got water?

I wouldn’t be here to wash the damned dishes. Wasn’t my house. The ridiculousness of the night, the horrible way the party ended, packing to move God-knew-where at three in the morning—it all hit me at once. I grabbed Puff and slid down next to the bed, laughing at my own craziness.

Why had I ever, for even a second, thought we could live in Ruger’s basement?

I laughed as Ruger walked down the hall. I laughed as he came in the room, and I kept laughing when he knelt down in front of me. I ignored the waves of frustrated anger rolling off him because I just didn’t give a damn. He reached out and caught my chin, forcing me to look into his eyes. They cut through me accusingly—like he had the right to an opinion?

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I stopped laughing and gave him my most evil smile.

“What the hell is going on here?” he asked.

“I’m packing,” I told him, holding up the dragon for him to see. “We’re leaving. I’m not your whore and Noah’s not your son. Your club is insane and I don’t want a damned thing to do with any of you.”

“Do you remember when I said coming to the party was a bad idea?” he asked me, raising a brow.

“Yeah, I remember that,” I snapped. “But you know what would’ve really driven the point home? Mentioning that when your parties get wild, girls get stabbed … Because I’m pretty sure we didn’t cover that part. I would’ve remembered, Ruger.”

“She’ll get her justice,” he said, eyes darkening. “Toke will pay. Deke and Picnic are on it.”

“Um, hate to break it to you, but Em doesn’t need justice,” I pointed out, voice heavy with sarcasm. “She needs to not get cut with a knife in the first place. Women are finicky that way—we like not getting cut.”

“It was a horrible accident,” he said slowly. “And despite whatever crazy shit you’re imagining, it’s not something that’s ever happened before.”

“You’re telling me with a straight face that you never have fights at your clubhouse?”

“No,” he said, speaking slowly and clearly. “I’m telling you that they don’t usually involve innocent women. Two men want to fight, that’s their business.”

“And what about women who aren’t so innocent?” I asked. “Where do you draw the line on that one? Do you like to hit girls, Ruger? Is that okay in your stupid club?”

The air changed between us, growing cold. Oh, that got to him … A whole new level of angry rolled into the room between us, and I suddenly realized taunting him might not be such a great idea.

“Don’t talk about the club like that,” he said, face like stone. “Show respect if you want to be treated with respect. And you know what? Damned straight I’d hit a woman, if she hit me first. I’m not a knight in shining f**king armor, Sophie. What part of this don’t you get? I’ve been honest with you all along, no bullshit. And yeah, a woman who attacks a man deserves what she gets. She wants to act like a man, she can damned well fight like one.”

“And that doesn’t bother you?” I asked him. He shook his head.

“Not a bit. You want equality, babe? That’s equality.”

“Yeah, you’re practically a feminist,” I muttered. “Em wasn’t fighting, Ruger. She’ll have a scar the rest of her life. And how is it women have equality when it comes to taking a hit but the rest of the time they’re just some guy’s property?”

“Stop talking shit about things you don’t understand,” he growled. “‘Property’ is a term of respect. It’s part of our culture. You start judging us for that, you better start judging every woman who changes her name the day she gets married, because it’s the same damned thing.”

He stopped, running a hand through his hair, clearly frustrated.

“When you’re someone’s property, you’re a woman the brothers will die to protect,” he continued, his voice softening. “They’ll die to protect your kid, too. Don’t turn that kind of loyalty into something ugly because you don’t like the words we use. Dancer, Marie, Maggs? They’re proud to be property, because they know what it means. Nobody forcing them to do anything.”

I swallowed, processing that.

“So tell me this,” I asked. “Why did Horse tell me that Marie’s ‘worth every penny he paid for her’? Because that sounded a little f**ked up, and I don’t think he was joking.”

“You’re at the clubhouse for less than a day and you’ve already heard about that?” he muttered, almost to himself. “Jesus. A little f**kin’ discretion would be nice.”

“Yup, don’t want to scare away the new girls with reality, do we?”

“Don’t worry about it,” he replied. “Marie and Horse are fine, and they’re getting married next month, so I think it’s a moot point.”

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