“You’re too sweet,” she replied, smiling up at him flirtatiously. He smiled back, and I wondered if there might be a little more going on with Max and Em than I realized. Painter came up next to us, standing tall as he and Max shared a look. Then Painter shook his head and stepped back, and he didn’t look happy about it.

That was interesting.


Max followed us back to the table, where Maggs put him in his place, telling him to buy us drinks and stay out of our way, “because it’s laaadddieess niiighhttt!” Everyone howled with approval as he grinned and took orders, bringing back a round of shots. Despite my earlier conviction that I needed more booze, looking at the little cup of vodka made me feel sick so I pulled out my phone to see what time it was. Almost two. Horse had texted about four hours ago.

Going to the Line with the guys. Don’t wait up.

The Line. Why did that sound familiar? My brain was all fogged up.

“What’s the Line?” I asked Cookie, who sat next to me. She’d put on a leather vest before coming into the bar, and her patches said “Property of Bagger, Reapers MC”. The whole property thing still made me uncomfortable but she seemed happy enough wearing it. And Cookie wasn’t exactly oppressed. I’d figured that out by chatting between the jello shots she poured down my throat. She was way too busy running her coffee shop and taking care of her and Bagger’s three-year-old daughter to be oppressed.

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“Oh that’s the club’s titty bar,” she said. “Makes a fortune, although those strippers can be such sluts. But some of them are okay. I always tell Bagger I’m gonna start working there while he’s deployed and it pisses him off. I love doing that,” she laughed.

“What are you talking about?” yelled Darcy from across the table.

“The Line!” Cookie yelled back. Darcy got a huge grin on her face.

“We should go there!”

“What?” I asked, startled. Cookie clapped her hands.

“Oh that’s a great idea!” she said. “We can play on one of the poles. I need pictures for Bagger!”

“Are you serious? Why would we go there?” I demanded, mystified.

“Well, for one thing, if the guys are at the Line, it’s fun to show up without warning,” said Darcy, winking at me. “Scare ’em straight, you know? Plus it’s kind of interesting to watch the dancers. Some of them are really good, I’ve learned some excellent tricks from them. Boonie can testify to that.”

She leaned over and gave Maggs a high five for emphasis.

“Not to mention that if your man is gonna spend the night around naked bitches that aren’t you, it’s not a bad thing to make sure he brings his hard-on back home, you know?” added Maggs. That was a good point. I didn’t like the idea of Horse with another woman, I didn’t like it at all. I scowled down at the phone and the offending text.

“And the shop has support merchandise,” she added. “I need to pick up a new tank top. Gonna go see Bolt this week, want to give him something to look forward to.”

“Oh I hate that place,” whined Em. “And if Dad’s there I’ll have to watch some stripper rub all over him and it’s gross. No girl should have to watch her dad screw so many different women, especially when he won’t let me date anyone at all! I’d rather go home.”

“Have Painter give you a ride,” said Max, coming up behind me and leaning against the back of my chair. He was kind of in my space, but nobody else seemed to notice so I just scooted forward, frowning. “It’s almost last call anyway. I’ll take everyone else to the Line, give him a break.”

Dancer smiled at him.

“That’s sweet, Max,” she said. “Let’s do it.”

Ten minutes later I was crammed in the back of her car with the others, Max following us on his bike. I expected Em to complain about catching a ride home with Painter, but she seemed happy enough with the situation. That surprised me because I thought I’d caught a hint of something between her and Max earlier. Apparently I’d imagined it.

It was almost two-thirty in the morning when we pulled up to the strip club. We stumbled and giggled our way across the parking lot, which was mostly empty. Then the sign flickered and turned off.

“It’s closed,” I said, stopping in my tracks. “We can’t go in.”

“Oh that’s the best part,” Darcy said, grinning at me. “It’s closed to the public, but we aren’t the public, babe. We can party as long as we want.”

“What about the dancers?” I asked dumbly. Max laughed behind me, putting a hand on the small of my back and pushing me forward.

“Don’t worry about them,” he said. “They’re not old ladies. They won’t get in your way.”

“Last time we were here, Dancer got up on stage and showed us her moves,” said Cookie, giggling. “It kicked ass. Well, it kicked ass for everyone but Horse. He looked kinda sick to his stomach.”

“I’m sober this time,” Dancer replied. “It’s your turn tonight.”

“You know, I think I will,” said Cookie with a grin. “I could do a little show in one of the private rooms. You film it for me and I’ll send it to Bagger on the computer. He’s always asking me to send him pictures. This’ll blow his mind!”

“He’ll definitely blow something,” Maggs replied, cackling.

A big black guy stood guard by the bar’s main entrance. He let us in without a word. I’d been inside with Horse the day before, but things were different tonight. For one, the lights were dim, which gave the whole place a completely different feel. Sort of murky and dirty. There were a few waitresses bussing tables and two bartenders restocking and cleaning up. A man wearing a Reapers’ cut sat in a booth counting money. Music still played and the center stage held one dancer working the pole. Below her sat several of the guys nursing beers, including Picnic, Ruger, Bam Bam, Boonie and a couple of others. I didn’t see Horse.

“Hey, baby,” yelled Darcy, sauntering down toward them. Just like the night before, Boonie’s face lit up when he saw her and he stood, turning his back on the naked chick slithering around the pole. He wrapped his arms around Darcy and they fell into another of those all-consuming kisses, oblivious to the world. Dancer and Bam Bam were a little more subdued with their greeting, but they disappeared off into a darkened booth without a backward glance.

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