I glanced over at Jeff, who offered me a placating smile.
“Do you mind, sis?” he asked. I shook my head, although I felt a twinge at leaving without even learning their names. Somehow over the course of dinner they’d stopped scaring me, turning alarmingly human. I knew when I wasn’t wanted though, and I owed it to Jeff not to cause trouble. I smiled brightly at everyone and went to the door, grabbing my purse off the rack next to it.
“Well, nice to meet all of you, um…”
Mr. Blue Eyes, who I noticed had the word “President” written on his vest, grinned.
“I’m Picnic, and these are my brothers, Horse and Max,” he said.
I glanced over at Big Guy. Horse? What kind of name was that? And they really didn’t look like brothers…
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Picnic,” I said, holding back my questions.
“Just Picnic. Thanks again for the food.”
“I’ll walk you out to your car,” he said, his voice low and rumbly. Jeff’s eyes opened wide, and he jerked his head, then stilled. Picnic smirked at me knowingly.
“Take your time, we can wait,” he said to Horse, reaching down and pulling my keys out of his pocket, tossing them to me. I walked out into the warm sun of the late-summer evening, Horse following me. He snagged my hand, leading me to the table. My heart raced with every step. I had no idea what was about to happen, but part of me really wanted him to touch me.
Horse tucked his hands under my arms, popping me up onto the table. Then he slid them down my sides, wedging them between my legs and pushing my knees gently apart. He stepped between them and leaned into me.
I’m pretty sure I came close to stroking out.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” I said, glancing back at the house, heart hammering. Jeff wouldn’t like it. Horse was dangerous. I could smell it on him. Seriously. Under the delicious scent of leather, light sweat and man was a pungent strain of pure trouble. “I mean, everyone is waiting for you, right? I can just go, let’s just forget this, okay?”
He didn’t say anything, just studying me with that cool, expressionless face of his.
“That how you gonna play it, sweet butt?”
“I’m not your sweet butt,” I snapped, narrowing my eyes. I hated getting called things like that. Gary did it all the time. Why did they keep calling me that?
To hell with him and to hell with Gary too.
“Fuck off,” I said, glaring at him.
Horse gave a bark of laughter, the sound sudden and loud in the silence, which pulled me back to reality. His hands tucked around my waist, jerking me into his body where my crotch immediately came up against what had to be a pretty healthy erection.
He swiveled his hips into mine, slowly dragging it up and across my clit. I’m ashamed to admit that I creamed my pants right then and there instead of kicking him in the nuts like a sensible girl. He leaned over and I held my breath, waiting for him to kiss me. Instead he whispered in my ear.
“Nice ass. Sweet. Butt.”
I didn’t like his tone, so I bit his ear. Hard.
He jumped back, and I wondered if he was going to kill me. Instead he started laughing so hard I thought he might pull a muscle. I scowled, and he held up his arms to each side in pointed surrender.
“I get it, hands off,” he said, shaking his head, bemused. “Play it the way you like. And you’re right, we’ve got business. Go drive for an hour, that should be enough time.”
I slid off the table and darted around him. He trailed me as I went to my car. I opened the door and almost got in, then the same stupid streak of curiosity that’d caused me trouble all my life drowned out my sense of self-preservation. I stopped in the doorway, looking at him across the roof.
“Horse isn’t your real name, is it?”
He smiled at me, his teeth white in the darkness, like a wolf’s.
“Road name,” he replied, leaning against the roof of my car. “That’s the way things work in my world. Citizens have names. We have road names.”
“What does that mean?”
“People give them to you when you start riding,” he said casually. “They can mean all kinds of things. Picnic got his name because he went all out planning some pansy-assed picnic for a bitch who had him twisted up in knots. She ate his food and drank his booze, then called her f**kwad boyfriend to come and pick her up while he took a leak.”
I grimaced at his crudity, trying to understand.
“That seems…unpleasant. Why would he want to remember that?”
“Because when the f**kwad showed up, Picnic shoved his head through a picnic table.”
I caught my breath. That didn’t sound good. I wanted to ask if the guy had been all right but decided I probably didn’t want to know the answer.
“When he gets drunk, sometimes his eyes go all wide and he looks f**kin’ crazy, like Mad Max.”
“I see,” I replied, thinking about the man. I guess he did look sort of like Mad Max… I decided I didn’t want to see him drunk.
Silence hung heavy between us.
“So aren’t you gonna ask?”
I studied him, narrowing my eyes. I had a bad feeling about this. But the words came out of my mouth, completely beyond my control.
“So why are you called Horse?”
“’Cause I’m hung like one,” he replied, smirking.
I dropped down into my car and slammed the door shut. I heard him laughing through the open window as I peeled out of the driveway.
Sept. 17—Present Day
“I’m so sorry, sis,” Jeff said, the words muffled from his bloody, swollen lips. Was he missing a tooth? I looked around the room, unable to believe that these men—two of whom I’d cooked for, one of whom I’d done a lot more than cooking for—were actually threatening to kill my brother. Could this really be happening?
Picnic looked right at me and winked.
“Little brother’s been a bad boy,” he said. “He’s been stealing from us. You know anything about that?”
I shook my head quickly. A bag fell off my arm, apples bouncing out and rolling across the floor. One of them hit Horse’s foot. He didn’t glance down, just maintained that cool, thoughtful expression I’d seen on his face so many times. It frustrated me—I wanted to scream at him to show some f**king emotions. I knew he had them. Unless that had been a lie too.