“I like how you change the subject.”
“Glad I could be of service. Let’s get this cleaned up, there’s something else I wanna use the blanket for.”
Worked for me.
I rolled off his lap to my knees, collecting everything up and putting it back into the bag.
“Hey, why aren’t you helping?” I demanded playfully.
“Enjoying the view. Love that sweet ass of yours.”
I shook it at him, smirking, and he crawled over to me, cupping my cheeks in his hands, rubbing the inside curves where they met my thighs with the pads of his thumbs.
“Fuckin’ hot, babe. Can’t wait to get inside.”
I shivered, pushing back at him.
“So goddamn sweet,” he muttered, dropping his head down to kiss the small of my back.
“Horse, what does sweet butt mean?” I asked suddenly. He stilled. “I know you said you call me that to piss me off, but it means more. I know it does. Tell me.”
“Doesn’t matter, babe, you’re not one of them.”
Uh-oh. I pulled away from him, cooling a little. Didn’t like the sound of that at all. I sat down, facing him, knees up to my chest, arms wrapped around them pointedly, and waited.
“Drop it, babe,” Horse muttered, sitting back on his heels. “We’re in a good place, let’s just let this flow like it should. You’re thinking too much.”
“When a man tells me I shouldn’t think, that’s a bad sign,” I said, narrowing my eyes. “Explain. Now.”
Horse ran a hand through his hair and shrugged.
“You don’t know much about the Reapers, do you? Or motorcycle clubs in general?”
“I don’t know anything about them,” I said.
“Well, bikers—bikers like us, part of a club for life—are a different culture,” he said after a short pause. “We’re not regular citizens, we’re more like a tribe that shares territory with citizens but only answers to our own kind. Everyone who’s part of the tribe has their place.”
“Okay,” I replied, wondering where this was going.
“Fuck, this is gonna piss you off and then you aren’t gonna let me stick my dick in you,” he muttered.
“Do you have to be so crude?” I snapped.
“Have you met me?”
“Who says I’d let you do it anyway?”
“Babe,” he replied in a low, rough voice, raising his eyebrow at me. I blushed. Okay, yes, I’d planned on it.
But that could change.
“So tell me.”
“Well, there’s two kinds of people, those who are in the club and those who aren’t,” he said. “If you’re in the club, you’re family, and we’ve got each other’s backs. You got a cut and three patches, you’re a member and you vote. We got prospects too, who aren’t full members yet, but if they don’t punk out, they will be eventually.”
“What about women?”
“No women in the club,” he said, shaking his head. “Women hang around the club, but they aren’t part of it.”
“Sounds pretty sexist.”
“It is what it is,” he replied with a shrug. “Don’t have to like it, but that’s the reality in the MC world. Remember, we don’t live in your world, we live in ours and the rules are different. Some clubs let women ride, ours doesn’t. We’re old school. Seriously old school. But that doesn’t mean women aren’t important to us.”
I didn’t like the direction this was headed.
“A man takes a woman, means to keep her, she becomes his property,” Horse continued. “We covered that before—it’s a sign of commitment, of respect. It means he’ll protect her and everyone else better keep their f**king hands off her or be ready to fight him and all his brothers. You do not want to f**k with a man’s old lady.”
“Sounds messed up, Horse.”
He shook his head, clearly frustrated.
“You’re judging it by citizen standards, but we’re not like you,” he said. “Remember, we’re a tribe. We live together, we die together and what’s ours is ours. When times are good, we’re all good. Bad times, we may eat shit but we eat it together. Most people can’t handle that level of commitment. It’s like when you’re in combat and taking fire—you have to trust that your brothers would rather die than let you down. You feel that kind of brotherhood during war but when you come back home people expect you to sit down and work in an office like it never happened. Men—at least men like me—don’t work like that. I turned into something else in Afghanistan and I can’t just pretend it didn’t happen. In the club, they don’t ask me to.”
“That’s intense,” I murmured.
“No shit,” he said. “I know this is hard for you, but I want you to understand. This is a different life, and we have our own rules and our own justice, but it’s not bad. In fact, it’s pretty f**kin’ good. I got a nice house, make good money, have a great time almost every f**kin’ day of my life. I’m alive, babe. Ninety-nine percent of men are okay with following the rules and doing what they’re told. We’re the other one percent, so we built our own world with our own rules. You don’t f**k with us, we won’t f**k with you. But once you f**k us, you will pay.”
I shivered, even though the air was warm. I reached over and grabbed my shirt, pulling it over my head. Horse’s eyes followed me, holding an expression I couldn’t begin to fathom.
“So finish it,” I said, breaking the silence. “You’re telling me this for a reason, I guess. What does sweet butt mean?”
“Well, not all women attached to the club are old ladies,” he said bluntly. “Being an old lady is a big deal, like I said. You don’t want to take some skank as your property if you aren’t ready to throw down for her. But a man’s still gotta get laid. That’s what sweet butts are for.”
Oh, I didn’t like the sound of that.
“Continue,” I said, my voice cooling.
“We got women who want to be old ladies,” he said. “Or just like hanging around bikers. Maybe they want a place to crash for a while. They come around the club house and if they make themselves friendly enough we let them hang around. They clean up, take care of shit, and we sort of—”