That I could understand—after all, my mama was more than a little crazy and sitting in the county jail as we spoke. I still loved her to pieces.

I told him about the brochures I had in my bedroom from the community college in the Tri-Cities. They had a culinary arts program, and the people at the Women’s Center had encouraged me to look into going back to school.


“It’s a good idea,” he said. “I know you like the daycare, but that’s not a long-term thing unless you decide to open a center yourself.”

I shook my head, laughing.

“No way,” I said. “The kids are fun, but I can’t imagine doing that for the rest of my life. Too many diapers.”

“So you don’t want kids of your own? Had enough diapers?”

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I shrugged.

“Well, I don’t want to be a single mom, that’s for sure,” I replied. “My mom’s in jail right now for assault with a deadly weapon, which was pretty stupid of her, I admit. But she took good care of us growing up. She worked her ass off before she blew out her back and started drinking. Chronic pain, you know? But she never would have tried to run over that cop if she’d stuck it out in the anger management program. I’m still not sure why she went after the second guy, he’s not the one who wrote the parking ticket…”

Horse burst out laughing, biting it back quick.

I shook my head, narrowing my eyes. He wouldn’t meet my eye, taking a quick drink of his tea. Then I reached over and poked his side and another laugh escaped, which he tried to hide with a cough. I decided to let him off the hook.

“It’s okay,” I said with a smile. “Even Mom laughed when she finally calmed down, and thankfully she never came close to actually hitting them. It wasn’t her finest moment, that’s for sure. She’s got another four months ahead of her though, which isn’t nearly as funny.”

We fell silent for a few minutes. Then he spoke again.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“Oh, the kids,” I looked up at the clouds. One of them looked kind of like my mom holding a cigarette. I smiled. “Actually, I think I’d like kids. But not by myself and not if I can’t stay home with them. Jeff and I had to be on our own way too much, and while I don’t blame Mom for that, I want something better for my own family.”

I looked over to find him staring at me intently. I blushed, though I couldn’t say why.

“What about you?”

“I want kids,” he said. “My mom would kill me if I didn’t give her at least a couple of grandbabies. Never had an old lady though, not a keeper at least. Kinda hard to have one without the other.”

“That’s the truth,” I replied, feeling more uncomfortable by the minute. “Tell me something. What’s with the ‘old lady’ thing? Seems like a nasty thing to call someone you care about.”

“It’s a term of respect,” he replied. I shrugged, but he reached out and touched my shoulder, getting me to look at him. His expression was intent and focused. “Seriously, a biker’s old lady is like his wife. She’s his woman, his property, and if anyone f**ks with her the entire club will come down on them. Hard.”

“Property?” I asked, wrinkling my nose. “That sounds even worse.”

“You don’t get it,” he said, shaking his head. “Things are different in the outside world, but the club is a tribe. If a woman isn’t claimed, she’s fair game. But when a biker brands her as his property, she’s untouchable.”

“I still can’t imagine being called property,” I snapped. He blew out his breath, exasperated.

Before he could reply, we heard the roar of pipes in the distance. For once, his friends had good timing. They pulled into the yard with a rumble, carrying bags full of KFC chicken and biscuits. I don’t usually eat stuff like that, but as the sun faded and they laid out their bedrolls, I couldn’t imagine anything tastier than the plate of junk food balanced on my knees.

None of them mentioned my bruises, which I appreciated. Picnic brought me a box of chocolate-covered dried cherries. They built a bonfire and we all sat around drinking beer and laughing until my head drooped. When I got up to go to bed, Horse followed me in and it felt natural for him to climb in beside me. He seemed to understand how sore I was and didn’t so much as kiss me, although I felt his erection several times during the night. I felt safe in his arms. The next day they took off at first light while I was still half asleep.

That afternoon I got a text from Horse, telling me to look at the “favorites” list on my phone.

He’d programmed himself into it, right at the top.

Aug. 23

Horse: How’s it going?

Me: Good. Kid barfed at me at work, but I managed to jump out of the way :)

Horse: Sounds like fun. Bike broke down here

Me: That sucks. You have a car?

Horse: SUV. Good for getting around, esp in snow. Hate feeling caged tho. What you doing?

Me: In yard, catching sun.

Horse: What you wearing?

Me: Nothing. Working on tan all over

Horse: !!!! You f**king me????

Me: LOL I’m wearing a tee and shorts :->

Horse: Too good to be true. Going to try to make it down next week

Me: Give me heads up

Horse: I will. TTYL

Aug. 27

Me: Bored. Hows the bike?

Horse: Bored is better than barfed on. Bike up and running again.

Me: Congrats! Kind of excited, going out tonight. Friend Cara from HS came to visit from NY. Like old times

Horse: Out?

Me: Dancing in tri-cities. Some club. Gonna slut up and everything!

Horse: Huh. Be careful

Me: Always. Excited tho. Haven’t gone out since Gary

Horse: Looking for new man?

Me: Um…not really. Just fun

Horse: Watch out and don’t dress too slutty. Don’t want trouble

Me: Had enough trouble, trust me

Horse: True. Send me a pic later

Me: OK

Me: So what you think? Too slutty?

Horse: Hot. Definitely too slutty. Go change.

Me: Prude :-P

Horse: Text me when you get home

Me: Night gone to shit

Horse: ?

Me: Jeff is sick, really sick. Asked me to stay home with him. Thought I might have to take him to the hosp but all right now

Horse: That sucks. He okay?

Me: Think so. Getting checked tomorrow, stomach pain

Horse: Sorry

Me: Me too. Cara leaving tomorrow, so no party for me…

Aug. 28

Horse: Hows Jeff?

Me: Fine, like nothing happened. Doc says must have been gas

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