“Your girls are doing just fine,” Hunter said as the men sat down, and Ruger realized he wasn’t nearly as relaxed as he pretended. His eyes were like ice, and he looked almost feral. That wildness made Ruger damned uncomfortable. Man like that might do anything—no predicting his actions. “I’m planning to keep it that way, so long as you do your part. Where are we on that? You got news for me on your boy?”
“No, we got shit,” Duck said, his voice calm and matter-of-fact. “Here’s what you need to know. Toke—”
“Toke slashed Em with a knife,” Hunter said. “I saw the damage. He’s out of control, and not just with us. Am I right?”
“How did you see that?” Picnic demanded. “Why the f**k was her shirt off?”
“Shut up,” Hunter said. Picnic lurched to his feet, but Horse caught him, pushing him back down.
“Not now, Pic,” Horse murmured. “Hold it back.”
“Why was her shirt off?” Picnic repeated. Ruger felt his own temper rise, but he kept his mouth shut and his eyes open.
“I think a better question is, why she did she get cut in the first place?” Hunter asked, his voice full of carefully leashed anger. “Or maybe, why was she meeting a strange man in a bar without any kind of backup? You f**ked up, old man, and I’ve got her now. Looks like she needs someone new to protect her anyway.”
Fuck me, Ruger thought. He’s got a thing for Em.
“Let’s get back on track,” Duck said, his tone smooth and dangerous, which wasn’t like Duck at all. Usually he had a big mouth and a short temper, but the crisis seemed to have brought out something more calculating in him. He’d told them stories about Vietnam, about patrols in the backcountry and sneaking behind enemy lines, but Ruger had always thought he was full of shit.
Now he wasn’t so sure.
“We can’t give you what you want,” Duck told Hunter. “Believe me, we want to. We’ve been looking for him all week. And this shit—this goes against our whole club. We voted on the truce and the decision was made. He’ll answer for that to the national officers. But don’t go hurting two innocent girls trying to force us to do something impossible. I promise you, either of them gets a scratch and your life will end. Got me?”
Hunter sat back in his chair, studying each man in turn.
“You seriously expect me to believe you can’t track down your own man?” he asked, cocking his head. “Sounds like the Reapers got some problems of their own.”
“That may be,” Horse said. “But it’s a fact—we can’t tell you where he is. I can’t make you believe that, but no matter what you do to Em and Sophie, it doesn’t change reality. We’ve had guys looking for him all week.”
“Let me guess, his brothers in Portland? Deke?” Hunter asked sarcastically. “Because they’ll cover his ass.”
“Not just Deke,” Horse replied. “And trust me, they want his ass as much as you do. This isn’t just about you—he broke faith with all of us. We voted. We made a truce.”
“Seriously, Hunter. We know jack shit about Toke,” Ruger said, somehow staying calm and matter-of-fact, despite the fact he wanted to jump over the table and cut the prick’s heart out. “I think you get we’re lookin’ at a war starting, right here, right now. Toke’s out of control and we all know it. Whatever happens to him, he brought on himself. But you takin’ our girls? That’s different. When we come after you, we’ll bring the whole damned club with us.”
“Em and Sophie are safe,” Hunter said. “And I promise they’ll stay that way, at least for now. But you aren’t getting them back.”
“How ’bout giving us one?” Duck asked. “Sophie’s got a kid. Send her back.”
Picnic stiffened, but he kept his mouth shut. This wasn’t part of the plan. Ruger saw where Duck was going with it, though. One was better than none, and if Hunter had a thing for Em, he’d be motivated to protect her. Not only that, Em would definitely want Sophie back with Noah. Ruger glanced over at Pic and saw understanding written on his face.
Fuck … He couldn’t even imagine what Picnic was going through right now. It was bad enough they had Sophie. If somebody tried to take away Noah, he’d lose his shit all over the place. Rain goddamn hellfire on them.
“What’ll you give me if I let her go?” Hunter asked. “I want something to take back to my club.”
“How about a hostage?” Painter said suddenly. “They’ve got one of your brothers—you take one of ours and let both girls go.”
Hunter gave a short laugh.
“Fuck that,” he said. “Your ugly asses aren’t worth shit to me. We want a Reaper, we’ll pick one up in Portland.”
He leaned forward, his eyes intense.
“I want peace,” Hunter continued. “Even with all this, I still want peace. Nothing in our situation has changed, and if you’re tellin’ me Toke is rogue, give me something to take to my club and maybe we can still save the truce.”
He pulled out his phone, glancing down at it.
“Back in five,” Hunter said. He stood and walked away, holding it to his ear.
“This is a waste of time,” Picnic said. “Deke was right—no point making peace with these f**kwads.”
Ruger nodded, and he heard his brothers murmur agreement. The entire club needed to reevaluate their decision, no question. Didn’t excuse Toke going rogue, but Ruger understood his motivations.
Hunter hung up his phone and turned back toward them. Almost immediately it rang again and he answered, studying their table the entire time. While his face stayed carefully blank, Ruger caught a hint of something wild in his eyes.
Then the Devil’s Jack hung up the phone once more and walked toward them.
“Good news and bad,” he said slowly. Ruger tensed.
“What’s that?” Duck asked.
“Clutch is alive,” he said. “At least for now. We don’t have much information on him yet. They took him to the hospital. That’s the good.”
“And the bad?” said Picnic.
“It was cops that found him and Toke,” Hunter replied. “Someone heard something and called it in. They caught Toke hiding in a hotel, our guy chained up in the bathroom. The girls who were in our house when he attacked are cooperating, so the cops have witnesses. They’ll put Toke in protective custody. Out of our reach, for now. The brothers won’t be happy about that.”