“You gonna give us back Sophie and Em?” Ruger asked.
The question hung heavy between them as Hunter leaned back and took another drink, face blank.
“Yes,” he said. “I’m doin’ it to prove we’re serious about the truce. Toke’s situation still isn’t resolved. But I’m willing to accept he wasn’t acting on behalf of the Reapers, pull that out of the equation.”
Ruger felt the band around his chest loosen for the first time since he’d gotten that panicked call from Sophie.
“When?” Picnic asked.
“Soon,” Hunter replied. “But I’m getting out of here alive first, I think. I’m sure you’ll see my concern?”
Duck snorted, almost a laugh.
“Yeah, I’d be concerned in your place, too,” he said. “We won’t forget this. Not sure that truce is gonna last after this little adventure.”
“Me neither,” Hunter admitted. “I’ll do my best. Hope you will, too. Skid’ll let the girls go once I give him the word. Won’t happen until I’m sure I’m safe, so you start trailing me, your girls stay locked up longer.”
“Understood,” Picnic said. “Make it fast.”
“One more thing,” Duck said. “The Toke situation—you got any pull with those witnesses? We’d like to handle this within the club as much as possible. Toke’ll keep his mouth shut, sure your boys will, too.”
“We’ll see what happens.”
“Right,” Duck said. “Keep Em and Sophie safe, got me? Otherwise I’ll personally skin you and use it to make lamp shades for the Armory.”
Sometimes your brain tells you to do something and you know it’s wrong.
My brain told me to run faster when I heard Skid’s gun go off, to follow Em’s plan like a good little girl. I was supposed to get out and get help. No turning back. My son needed me … We agreed on it.
Not only that, saving Em was Picnic and Ruger’s job.
This wasn’t my fight.
But somehow I knew—in my gut and in my soul—that if I kept running, Skid would kill Em. Maybe he already had.
I couldn’t leave her behind.
So I stopped running and turned back toward the house, creeping up on it as quickly as I could, taking cover underneath a window on the living-room side. I listened for a second, hearing the muffled sound of Skid’s voice. Em answered him, her tone pleading. I figured that meant he was distracted, so I popped up for a quick peek.
Em lay on the floor, pressing against the outside of her left thigh with both hands. Bright red blood seeped between her fingers. Skid stood over her, gun pointed and ready, and the look on his face wasn’t friendly. This guy would be happy to kill her.
I looked around frantically, trying to think of a plan. I needed to stop him, and I needed to do it in a way that wouldn’t end with someone dead. I crawled quickly around the side of the house, where the open front porch held two wooden chairs and a small table. I tried peeking in the front window to see what was happening, but shades covered it.
Then I heard Em scream.
No more time.
I grabbed one of the chairs, pleased to find that it was solid wood and had a nice heft. Then I rang the doorbell and waited, holding my chair ready.
“Who’s out there?” Skid called.
I stayed quiet—I mean, what the hell was I supposed to say? Please come out so I can hit you? Using my elbow, I rang the bell again. My muscles started to burn from holding the chair. Hurry up, ass**le.
“Fuck off!” Skid yelled. Em must’ve done something to mess with him because I heard a crashing noise. I rang the bell five or six times in a row with my elbow like an annoying kid.
Skid threw the door open.
I clocked him hard in the face with the chair. He staggered and the gun went off, thankfully missing me. I ignored the ringing in my ears and swung the chair around and hit him again. He shuddered, then lunged toward me, blood running down his face from his smashed nose. I screamed as he grabbed the chair by its legs, jerking it away and raising it high.
Then Em was on him from behind.
She attacked like a rabid ferret, arms tightening around his neck as she bit and scratched and kicked. He lurched forward and I joined in, grabbing the second chair and swinging it at his knees. He gave a high scream as he pitched forward off the porch, Em riding him down into the dirt. I jumped after them, landing between his legs and kicking him in the crotch over and over again. Hopefully there wouldn’t be any little Skidlets in his future to carry on the family legacy.
Skid screamed like a baby the whole time.
And Em? I couldn’t tell if she was laughing or crying.
Ten minutes later, we’d handcuffed Skid’s bruised, bleeding body to a porch pillar. He’d passed out from the pain, which was probably a good thing. I didn’t want to look into his evil eyes or listen to whatever bullshit he might spew.
Now I sat in one of the porch chairs, his confiscated gun carefully braced against my leg, cocked and ready to shoot. I didn’t want to kill him, but I’d do it if I had to. I didn’t doubt that for a second.
Em hobbled out of the house, her leg bandaged in strips of sheet from the bedroom. Thankfully, the bullet had just lightly grazed her thigh. Still, her face was white and drawn from the pain.
Despite it all, she managed a small smile, holding up a cell phone in triumph.
“Dumbass has Google maps installed,” she said. “I know exactly where we are. I’m calling Dad to come and get us.”
“Hey, Dad? It’s me. We’re okay. Could use a ride, though.”
Her eyes flickered toward Skid as Picnic’s muffled voice burst out of the phone.
“No, it’s all good,” she answered. “But you might want to bring the van. We may need some cargo space.”
She gave them directions and hung up.
“They’ll be here in about twenty minutes,” Em told me. “They sounded pretty happy to hear from us.”
“Was Hunter with them?” I asked. As soon as the question left my mouth, I regretted it. Did I really want the answer? Em swallowed and looked away.
“No,” she said. “The meet was already over. I guess we missed him by maybe five minutes. He’s got good luck.”
I raised a brow, but kept my mouth shut. Em dropped the phone to the ground, then stomped on it, and I heard the crunch of glass and plastic.
“What the hell?” I asked, startled. “Why’d you do that?”