“Can we make a pit stop?” I asked.

“Sure,” she replied, pushing open the door for me. I don’t know what I expected, some kind of setup with stalls and a couple of sinks. Instead I found a single, dingy room with a toilet and sink. She followed me in, which surprised me. I must’ve had a funny look on my face because she laughed softly. Of course, I usually hit the bathroom with my friends when we went out, but I didn’t even know this chick.


“Oh, sugar, we got no secrets here and privacy’s hard to find. What’s a girl like you doing with Horse?”

I stood there, uncertain whether to answer or pee first. I decided to multitask, pulling down my panties.

“I’m with him because my brother owes the club a lot of money,” I said, going as quickly as I could. I pulled up my panties and found her staring at me.

“You’re with him because your brother owes money?” she asked very carefully, crossing her arms over her chest. “Explain. Now.”

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“Um, I guess my brother was working with the Reapers on something, I don’t know what,” I said, feeling incredibly uncomfortable. “They found out he was stealing from them. They decided to kill him, but Horse wanted to f**k me and so they gave him another shot to pay the money back. I’m the collateral. Something about paying in blood.”

She just looked at me for a minute, eyebrows raised, and I shuffled nervously, wondering if I’d said too much. Then her face softened.

“Oh you poor baby,” she said, reaching out and pulling me into her arms. I started telling her everything about me and Horse in a disjointed tumble of words. I didn’t know this woman, but it felt so good to talk about it. At some point I cried, and she just held on and rubbed my back, making soothing noises until I settled down into snuffles and hiccups. A woman’s voice called through the door, demanding that we get our asses out. Now. Darcy yelled back, “Go pee outside, you f**king skank!”

That startled me out of my little pity party. I pulled away, wiping my eyes, fingers dark with mascara. I’d piled on the makeup just like Horse’d asked. Wasn’t going to be easy to fix that.

“Um, how did you know she was a skank?” I asked, voice wavering. Darcy smiled at me encouragingly, holding my shoulders and looking down into my face with a grin.

“Darlin’, they’re all skanks,” she replied, smiling. “You and I are the only females in the entire place that aren’t human petri dishes. Old ladies aren’t into bullshit parties like this, and despite what the boys might pretend in public, a man who f**ks around on his old lady at one is gonna discover just how cold things can get at home. We don’t tell them what to do. We just tell them what we’re gonna do and let them figure it out for themselves. The system works.”

I giggled a little bit at that, feeling better than I had since arriving.

“What I don’t get is why he brought you here,” she said, grabbing some paper towels and dabbing at my face. I turned toward the mirror, but she stopped me. “Trust me, babe, you don’t wanna see what you look like right now.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I don’t know why I’m here either. And I really don’t know what’s going on with me and Horse. For a while things were great. Well, great on and off.”

“So why are you ‘off’ at the moment?” she asked, biting her lip as she carefully wiped below my eye.”

“Well, I think I hurt his feelings,” I said. She stopped, giving me a look of patent disbelief.

“You hurt his feelings?”

“I told him I wouldn’t be his old lady for a million bucks. By text.”

“Shit. That’s a big deal, kid.”

I nodded.

“He told me it was, but I blew him off when he tried to explain. He stopped talking to me and I got drunk and sent him a bunch of texts and that’s when things really fell apart. Then I found the Reapers holding a gun to my brother’s head and Horse told me they’d give Jeff another chance if I came with him, so I did.”

Amazingly, Darcy didn’t accuse me of making it all up or some other normal, reasonable reaction to my crazy story.

“Okay, you can look now,” she said. I was impressed with what she’d accomplished. My eyes were smudged from the mascara but she’d blended it so they looked more smoky than scary. Darcy put her hands on my shoulders, meeting my gaze in the mirror as she stood behind me.

“Horse is a good man,” she said, and I didn’t doubt her sincerity. “But he’s clearly f**ked in the head. This is not good shit.”

“Tell me about it,” I replied. “He told me that if I didn’t want to be an old lady he wouldn’t treat me like one. I apologized for the texts I sent but I don’t think it mattered.”

She gave a little laugh then shook her head.

“Sounds like you’re right—you bruised his precious little man feelings. But he can’t just acknowledge that, they never do.”

I smiled back at her, but it died as I thought about Jeff.

“What about my brother?” I asked. “Got any insight into that one?”

She sobered and shook her head.

“He’s in deep shit. Wish I could tell you something else, but the Reapers don’t f**k around when it comes to their rep. They lose that, we’re all at war. Lotta clubs just waiting to step in and take over this territory.”

“That’s what Horse said.”

“Here’s a piece of advice, whether you want it or not. Your brother’s a dead man unless he makes things right with the club. Horse can’t change that and you can’t either. Sounds like you’re buying him some time, but don’t think for a minute that they won’t follow through if he doesn’t pay them. So remember—it’s not your fault if things don’t go well for him.”

“But it is,” I replied. “I’m the only reason he’s still alive. Horse told me I can leave any time, but if I do, that’s it for Jeff.”

“So don’t leave,” she replied. “But don’t fool yourself either. This isn’t about you. Now we’re going back out, so put on your game face. Horse brought you for a reason, probably to scare the crap out of every guy here who’s got a sister. They see you, they won’t think Jeff is getting off easy. I know Horse well enough to know this isn’t his usual thing. I doubt you’ll get dragged out like this again unless your brother tries to make trouble. Think he will?”

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