“He’s right,” Horse said, voice deadly serious. “I may not always be right, but I am always your brother—or at least I thought I was. A Reaper takes what he wants. You got my back?”
“You’re an idiot, you know that?” he said. “She isn’t part of our world, she’s got no idea what to expect and she doesn’t even want to try. It’s not gonna end well.”
“That’s my problem, now isn’t it?”
“It’s your problem so long as you keep it controlled and out of club business,” Picnic replied. “She’s a nice kid, I like her. Good cook, f**king love that potato salad of hers. Puts bacon in it. It’d be nice to have some of that shit with dinner next time we roast a pig. But that still leaves us to deal with her brother. Makes things more complicated.”
Horse smiled. He’d won—this was just details.
“So she’s our insurance,” he answered. “Let the brother know that if he doesn’t pay us back, he’ll never see her again. Give him a few months, see how things play out.”
“You think he’ll find a way to pay us back?” asked Picnic.
“No idea,” Horse admitted. “The guy practically prints money when he’s focused and sober. Enough motivation, he may come through for us.”
“Hasn’t so far.”
“He loves his sister,” Bam Bam said quietly. “He’s a weasel and a bastard, but he really does care about her. Seen it with my own eyes. I don’t think he’ll hang her out to dry.”
“We make sure he knows—he doesn’t pay, she’s in big trouble,” Horse said. “He pays up, great. He blows this deal, we put him in the ground. Everybody wins.”
Except Marie. But Jensen was a big boy and he’d chosen to do business with and then screw over the Reapers MC. If it wasn’t for her, f**ker’d be dead already.
“And the issue of respect?” asked Ruger. “We have to cover our bases here. Can’t look weak.”
“That’s the truth,” Picnic said. “But taking a man’s sister, holding her hostage? That’s payment in blood, we spread it ’round the right places. It should do.”
“You’re forgetting one thing,” said Max. Horse looked at him, trying to read his mind. Something was up with Max. They all cared about club business, but this was a step beyond. Almost personal.
“The money,” Max continued. “It’s one thing to let Horse have his little f**k toy, I don’t give a shit about that. It’s another to just sit back and lose fifty large. You guys may have money stashed somewhere, but I don’t. We sure we want to risk that kind of cash on this asshat pulling through for us, on top of the risk of him running to LEO?”
Horse narrowed his eyes at Max, who met them straight on. The man didn’t flinch.
“It’s a good point,” Bam Bam said, his voice mild. “Of course, we take him out now, we never see that money again anyway, Max.”
“Well maybe we wouldn’t have our asses hanging out so far if Horse’d done a better job watching him.”
Picnic sat up.
“Careful, brother,” he said, his voice cold. “Horse did his job. It was my call to let this play out, and I had good reason. That little shit made half a million bucks for this club, easy, in the last two years. You don’t just throw something like that away if you don’t have to. Fucker’s got a gift, can’t just replace him. That’s why I like this idea, maybe we can still save the situation.”
“I’m not voting for it,” Max said. “We need to put him down.”
“Why don’t I buy her?” Horse said. Everyone turned to look at him, startled. “I’ll buy Marie from the club, and we give Jensen another shot. Fifty grand, outta my pocket and into the club account. We wait and see if Jensen comes up with the money and interest. He does, I get paid back, the club makes a profit. He doesn’t, it’s on me.”
“That’s f**ked up,” muttered Bam Bam. “No cunt worth that.”
“She’s not a cunt.”
“They’re all cunts,” Max snapped. Horse caught his eye, staring him down.
“Play nice, boys,” said Picnic. “I think you’re crazy, Horse, but this works for me. That good enough for you, Max?”
Max dipped his head in agreement.
“I’m with Picnic, you’re crazy,” said Bam Bam. “Should be a hell of a show. She hates you, Horse. Jensen told me.”
“Well, I’m pretty pissed at her myself,” Horse said. “We gotta work through that. But she’s mine and that’s the way it is.”
Picnic rolled his eyes and Ruger snorted.
“Nice to see youngsters acting like men instead of chorus girls,” Duck grunted, looking around the table in approval. “Let’s vote. I want beer.”
Horse left the meeting feeling pretty good. Paying out the money was gonna hurt, no question. But he’d been thinking about putting up a new shop on the property, so he had the cash. He damned sure wanted Marie more than a shop. He couldn’t wait to come home to her after a tough day, the smell of her cooking in the house, the sight of her in an apron and nothing else.
Horse grabbed his phone out of the box, thinking he should have called her before now. He’d gotten her sweet little text messages and knew she was hurting. Hell, he’d wanted her to hurt, he could admit it. She’d hurt him, so he let her dangle for a few days…
But now that them being together was a reality? Time to let it go. He stepped out of the clubhouse and into the sunlight, powering up the phone. It pinged repeatedly, letting him know he’d missed a bunch of text messages from the night before.
Marie: Horse, muss yu
Marie: Why dont anser?
Marie: Horse like yur name. Horsey. I’d like to rid u horsey, LOL. You sleeping? Or busy with someone?
Marie: I know yur there. I bet you got a new gurl alredy. Screw you.
Marie: Screw you and your slut. I hate you. Take yur club and shove it up yur ass I wudn’t be yoor old lady for ten milion dollrs.
She’d been drunk, no question. And when people were drunk they said stupid shit, but they also told the truth. Marie might want his body, but she definitely didn’t want to be his old lady, despite all her sweet little texts to him trying to mend fences.
“Goddamit!” he yelled, throwing the phone at the concrete block wall of the clubhouse. It hit hard, shattering, as Ruger stepped outside.