“Oh, I’ve got a gun,” she replied, her voice dark.

“I’ll walk you out,” Painter said, his expression cold. Something in him had changed, Ruger realized. He’d always been a good man, but he wore a new sense of purpose this morning. Maybe this would motivate him to pull his shit together. He’d always assumed Painter and Em would end up together. Clearly she’d gotten tired of waiting. Fucking Internet dating … might as well paint a bright red target on her head.


Ruger was seeing things pretty clearly this morning himself. He needed Sophie back, safe and sound. Needed her more than his own life. He didn’t give a flying f**k about any other woman. If he’d pulled his head out of his ass earlier, this wouldn’t have happened, because she’d have been safe at home with him, in his bed.

Once he got her back, he’d never let her go again.


She wanted commitment? He’d tattoo her f**king name on his forehead if he had to. Whatever it took to keep her safe.

“Any news from the boys in Portland?” Duck asked.

“Not so far,” Picnic replied. “They think Toke might have the Jack—goes by Clutch—out to the coast. They’re looking for him, but don’t exactly have a lot of leads.”

“How’s the one he shot?”

“Critical but stable, whatever the f**k that means,” Pic said. “Guess that’s something to be thankful for. Okay, let’s get going on this. We got two hours before our meet with Hunter. Thoughts?”

“Let me handle this one,” Duck said, crossing his arms. “You’re too involved, and that means your brain won’t be working. You and Ruger should stay here.”

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“No f**kin’ way,” Picnic said, shaking his head. “I’m the president. This is my job.”

“You’re a father and you’re running on fumes,” Duck replied. “You do this and f**k it up, your girl dies. You really believe you can look this f**kwad in the eye and play nice? ’Cause I don’t think you can. Be smart and let me handle it. You don’t want me, have Horse do it, or Bam Bam. We’re your brothers for a reason. We’ve got your back.”

Picnic shook his head again, face tense. He’d started methodically loading spare magazines for his new gun, which he’d been test-firing earlier. Ruger knew he planned to kill Hunter with that same gun, because they’d spent close to an hour together, carefully choosing just the right weapon to do it.

Something untraceable, with a small enough caliber to do slow, steady damage for a long, long time without ending the bastard’s life too quickly.

“Ruger, you need to stay back, too,” Horse said. Ruger glanced up at him and shook his head.

“Nope,” he said. “I’m going. Nonnegotiable. I don’t need to be lead, but I’ll be there.”

Horse and Duck exchanged looks.

“Okay, new plan,” Duck said. “I’ll be lead, you guys come along but keep back. We can’t let him f**k with you—he gets you worked up, you do something stupid, he wins. Got me?”

“Got it,” Pic said. “Just so long as you remember—in the end, he’s mine.”

“Ours,” Ruger corrected. “Him and his friend.”

“And Toke?” Bam Bam asked. “Thoughts on him?”

“Let him answer to the brothers,” Ruger said. “We voted, we made a decision for the club. He ignored that. Fucker needs to pay.”


“He’s going to go meet with Dad,” Em said, finally speaking.

Earlier Hunter had come and taken her away, only returning her about ten minutes ago. She’d been gone with him for what felt like an eternity. Realistically, it probably hadn’t been more than an hour. When she’d first come back she’d kept pretty quiet. Now she lay with me on the bed again, me cuffed by my right wrist and Em cuffed by her left.

“Why?” I asked.

“I think he’s trying to save the situation,” she said, her voice sounding a little mournful. “I think he actually cares about me, Soph.”

I widened my eyes.

“You can’t be serious,” I said. “He wants to screw you—I get that, he’s a guy and you’re hot. But a man who cares about a woman doesn’t kidnap her.”

“Ask Marie about that,” she said, sounding uncomfortable. “Horse totally kidnapped her. Now they’re getting married.”

That shut me up for a minute.

“Do I want to know the whole story?” I asked finally.

“It’s not going to make you feel any better.”

Motorcycle pipes roared outside the house and we heard the sound of someone riding away.

“That’s Hunter leaving,” she said. “If I get away and Dad finds out I’m safe, he’ll kill him for sure.”

“Don’t,” I said, looking over at her. She seemed downcast, thoughtful. Shit, we couldn’t afford this. “Don’t you dare have second thoughts. This guy is dangerous and we’re going to get seriously hurt if we stay here. We’re going to escape. In fact, we’re going to escape soon.”

“I know,” she said. “I just wish—”

“I don’t want to hear it.”

We gave it an hour, or at least we thought it was about an hour. We wanted to be sure Hunter was far away before we tried our escape. Em opened the knife and popped out a tiny, thin flat-head screwdriver. Five minutes later we were out of the cuffs and taking turns peeking out the window. Hunter hadn’t lied. We appeared to be in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by scruffy shrubs, open ground, and the occasional pine tree.

Only the van sat outside, no more bikes, which hopefully meant we’d only be dealing with Skid. Even so, there wasn’t a lot of ground cover.

“If he chases us we don’t have a chance,” I said, my voice grim.

“He won’t chase us,” she replied. “Here’s what we’ll do. We’re going to sneak downstairs. We’ll figure out where he is, then you go out one side of the house and I’ll go out the other. I can see a back door from here.”

“And if he sees us?”

“Whoever he sees has to slow him down long enough for the other one to get away and find help,” she told me. “No matter what it takes. And I’m going to be the one going closest to him.”

“Why?” I asked, startled. “Not that I want any extra risk, but—”

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