“Some men say a brother who’s afraid to enjoy pu**y at a party is a pu**y himself,” Picnic replied. “Who’s in charge, you or the old lady?”

Horse laughed.


“You’re full of shit,” he replied. “When your old lady was alive, you were a monk. I saw how it was.”

Picnic looked thoughtful and took a long pull of his beer. Then he looked up and held Horse’s gaze.

“Caught a lot of shit for that,” he said. “But I’m telling you, I’d give every piece of ass I’ve had in my life for another day with that woman. This,” he continued, gesturing toward the party. “This is good fun. But it’s not the real thing. We’ll do our best to protect your girl. And if we take out Jensen, we’ll do it quiet. Want you to know that.”

“Thanks,” Horse said. “You’re a good brother.”

“That’s what it’s all about,” Picnic replied. He smiled. “What I said aside, my old lady may not be here, but remembering her makes me horny as f**k. Girl in the office only took the edge off. Think I’ll do something about that.”

Picnic got up, moving toward another group of giggling women. Hands came around Horse’s head from behind, covering his eyes as a warm body pressed into his back.

“Hey sexy,” said a woman’s voice. He recognized it instantly and smiled broadly. Serena. He pulled her hands off and stood to hug her.

“Haven’t seen you in a while,” he said, stepping back to take her in. “Fantastic like always. Haven’t been around at all lately, what’s up with that?”

She offered a knowing smile.

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“I’ve got a new man, I think. Guy from California, comes up here on his private jet, that kind of thing. Been seeing him for a while, but his divorce is final now, so he’s got a little more freedom. We’ve been hanging out. I’m thinking about heading south with him, unless there’s a better reason for me to stay around here…”

Horse caught the unasked question and shook his head ruefully.

“I’m taken, babe.”

She nodded, looking a little wistful but not unhappy or surprised. That was Serena—always a realist, and a good friend too. He’d been hooking up with her on and off since high school, and she was one of the few women he’d slept with that he actually liked and trusted.

“I heard rumors,” she replied. “Kind of scary rumors, to be honest. Answer me one question and I’ll leave you alone. She a prisoner?”

Horse shrugged.

“I told her she can leave, but her brother’s under a sentence. It’s way beyond her now, he’s on his own at this point.”

Serena studied his face, then shook her head.

“You’re tricky,” she replied. “You ‘told’ her she can leave? Does she know you lied?”

“We’re not having this conversation,” Horse said, his voice firm. Serena laughed.

“Okay, big boy. Just asking. I always thought the two of us might make something of it, that kind of thing. But I’m happy for you, Horse, I really am. You’re one of the good ones. Buy a lady a drink, for old times’ sake?”

He offered her his arm as they headed toward the bar. Just one girl danced on top now, and she’d lost her clothes. The other was down on a couch, one of the brothers from LeGrande eating her out while she gave a blowjob to another. It didn’t interest him much, which made Horse feel sort of old and jaded. He might be taken, but a man could still look. But honestly, it just seemed so boring.

He snagged a couple of beers for them from the bar and looked around for a spot quiet enough to talk, but it wasn’t happening.

“Let’s go upstairs to the game room.”

Nearly half of the armory’s the second floor was a large, open room where they’d set up pool tables, an air hockey table and a bunch of old couches. There was a big-screen TV up against one wall hooked to the satellite and about six different kinds of video consoles. Later on people might bed down in here, but for now it was quiet. Down the hallway was a series of rooms they used for all kinds of things, from storing extra inventory for the businesses to privacy for a quickie. He escorted Serena to the couch in front of the TV. She looked around, eyes lingering on the hallway.

“The room in use tonight?”

Horse grimaced and shrugged.

“Who knows,” he said. “Nobody makes ’em do it. You starting to judge?”

She shook her head and laughed, leaning toward him to brush her hand along his cut.

“Babe, I’ve spent a night or two in there myself,” she replied, winking. “I think you were off with the Marines or something.”

“You mean you were with someone else while I was gone?” he asked, clutching a hand to his heart, pretending to be offended. She burst out laughing.

“You know me. I’ll stand by my man so long as he’s in the room and has a pile of cash.”

Horse laughed with her, loving her honesty. Being with Serena was comfortable, no question. A part of him wished he could care about her the way he did about Marie. They would’ve been a good pair, and she sure as shit knew her way around the club. Intimately. Yeah, that wouldn’t work, he decided. Someone took her as property the other old ladies would probably kill her.

Or she’d kill them, he decided, eyeing the long, red talons she called fingernails.

“What’s the look for?” she asked, arching a brow.

“Just wondering who’d win if you got into it with the old ladies,” he answered. “I’m not sure.”

She burst out laughing so hard that she snorted beer out her nose, which made her laugh more. That’s what he loved about Serena—whatever she did, she did it openly and without any pretense. He took the glass from her, looking around to find something to help her clean up. There was an old sweatshirt tucked into the end of the couch, so he snagged it and leaned toward her, helping to wipe off her chest and lap. Serena didn’t help, giggling and slapping at him.

“You’re just trying to cop a feel, you dirty bastard!” she exclaimed. He grinned at her.

“Yeah, you know me. Always looking for my next lay.”

Then a voice cut through his laughter and it was his turn to choke.

“I can see why you t-t-t-told me to wait upst-t-t-t-tairs.”

Horse turned his head to see Marie standing behind the couch, wrapped in a blanket, face pale and teeth chattering.

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