He paused, looking away.

“You’re really not gonna like this,” he muttered.


“Tell me. Now.”

“Well, they’re pretty much public pu**y,” he said. “Man needs a woman, that’s what they’re for. Entertaining the brothers. Those are the sweet butts.”

I saw red.

“You jerk!”

I got up and went for my pants. He reached for me, but I slapped his hand away, yanking up my jeans.

“You think I’m a whore!”

“No. I do not think you’re a whore. I told you, I like pissing you off sometimes, it’s hot. You aren’t a sweet butt either. You see any other guys around here? Not exactly lookin’ to turn you into Chinese handcuffs, Marie!”

“WHAT?” I didn’t even know what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t good. I finished getting dressed and grabbed my purse, pulling out my phone. Great. No service.

“Fuck,” Horse muttered, pulling on his pants and tee, then grabbing his cut and jerking it on. “You won’t even listen to me. You aren’t like them, babe. I know that. The guys know that. It doesn’t mean anything.”

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“Then why did you all call me sweet butt the first time we met?” I demanded. “It’s not like we had anything between us then, so you didn’t do it just to piss me off. Explain that, Mr. Badass Reaper!”

He looked away, rubbing a hand along the stubble on his chin, then turned back to me.

“Because that’s what you looked like,” he said finally. “You were waiting outside that trailer decked out like a f**kin’ wet dream. We knew Jeff didn’t have a woman, at least not one in particular. Just assumed, babe.”

“Take me home.”

“Babe, please.”

“Take. Me. Home.”

He turned away and kicked a rock, sending it into the hot springs with a splash, running his hands through his hair again. I wished he’d stop doing that, because it just made him look sexier and I didn’t need to think about him being sexy right now.

I needed to remember the man was a pig.

“Okay, I’ll take you home,” he grunted, turning back toward me. “But I want to show you something first.”

“By all means!” I declared grandly, throwing my arms wide. “Please, do whatever it takes to get me out of here and away from you.”

Horse stalked over to the leather saddlebag he’d brought and opened it. He stood there, staring down inside it for what seemed an eternity, then glanced back at me.

“You need to know that I didn’t just bring you here to f**k you, Marie.”

I snorted, rolling my eyes.

“Don’t give me that shit,” he growled. “I can get laid whenever I want, I don’t have to drive four hundred miles round trip to get off. Women see the bike, they see the tats and the cut, they’re all over that shit. Pussy is just pu**y, but you’re different. That’s why I had this made for you—I wanted to ask you to come back with me, give club life a shot.”

He pulled out a black leather vest, much smaller than his, and held it up. On the back were two embroidered patches, reading “Property of Horse, Reapers MC.”

Holy shit.

“Are you kidding me?” I demanded.

His face tightened, eyes growing cold.

“Never offered this to anyone else, babe. Not a joke.”

“Well, don’t offer it to me,” I hissed. “I hardly know you, but what I do know is that you’re a sexist pig and you can go f**k yourself and your stupid club.”

“Don’t insult the club, Marie.”

Something in his tone stopped me mid-rant. All traces of my sweet Horse were gone and the scary biker stood in front of me in full standoff. My anger disappeared, replaced with terrible unease. I’d forgotten how terrifying he could be.

“Let’s stop this,” I said after a pause. “What we’re doing, there’s nothing good here. Let’s just stop talking and leave before things get worse.”

“Works for me. Get your shit.”

Funny, but hiking to the spring had taken about thirty minutes. Hiking back felt like ten hours. The ride home was even worse. I worried about falling off the bike the whole time, but I’d be damned if I was going to wrap my arms around him and rest my head on his back like before. I held the sides of his hips, trying to keep my lower body from touching his, which was all but impossible.

When we reached the trailer he didn’t even bother getting off his Harley, let alone watch to see if I got in the door all right.

Horse just roared away without looking back.

Chapter Eight

Sept. 7

Me: Are you there?

Sept. 9

Me: Horse, we should talk. I don’t want us to hate each other. I think we made a mistake, please call me. I miss you. Let’s fix this

Sept 10

Me: Are you even getting these? Please, even if you hate me, call me. I need to tell you something

Sept. 13

Me: Okay, you win. Bye

Sept. 15

Things got a little dark after our trip to the hot springs.

Work was okay, but it wasn’t like I loved what I was doing. Don’t get me wrong, the kids were awesome, but it’s tiring to be surrounded by little people constantly when they can’t even wipe their own rear ends. And sometimes diapers blow out, which means exactly what you’d think.

Good times.

Life with Jeff wasn’t going very well either. It’s not like we didn’t get along, because we did. We didn’t fight or anything. But he’d stopped talking to me, didn’t seem to work much and smoked more pot every day. I had my first hint of real trouble coming when he asked me how big my paycheck was. By this time I was buying all the food, which I didn’t mind. After all, he’d floated me when I first got here, and when I’d gotten hurt too. But it wasn’t like him to mooch, believe it or not. He’d always paid his way and I’m pretty sure he’d carried Mom a time or two.

Things came to a head right after the Reapers visited us again, this time without Horse. Jeff didn’t warn me and it was hard to tell whether the visit was planned or not. I’d learned my lesson—don’t ask questions unless you want to hear the answers. Honestly, I didn’t think there were any good answers to the questions I had about their business relationship.

I came home from work to find bikes in the driveway. Horse’s wasn’t there. We were totally out of food and beer because I hadn’t done my grocery shopping for the week, and I sighed in frustration. I decided to go and buy pizza instead of cooking because I had a little extra cash. I just didn’t feel up to whipping something together.

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