Oh my god, she was doing all of them. I studied her face, wondering why she wasn’t screaming for them to get off her, but if anything she looked satisfied. Not so much sexually satisfied but triumphant. I shook my head, backing away and shuffling down the hallway, feeling disgusted and sick. Horse might not have been in there, but this was his clubhouse and his club. Did he know about stuff like this? Did it happen often? I couldn’t wrap my head around it, didn’t want to wrap my head around it. I just wanted to run down to my car and get in and drive as far and as fast as I could.

But I remembered Jeff’s email. I couldn’t do that. They might find me, or they might find him. They could even go after Mom. She was stuck in jail, and God only knew what kind of connections guys like this had in jail. I’d watched Oz on Netflix last winter, I’d seen how prisons worked. Were jails the same way? I didn’t think so, but could I bet Mama’s life on that? You can do this, I chanted under my breath. You can do this, you’re strong and smart and you’re going to figure everything out. Just put on your big-girl panties and get on with it.


I continued down the hall, taking deep breaths and forcing myself to stay calm. It was a lot warmer on the second floor, which felt incredible. I was still freezing and shivering in my jacket and blanket, but I’d survive. I’d already survived losing my dad, not to mention Gary. I walked into the game room to see a couple sitting on the couch, very close to each other. Their posture was intimate, like people who’d known each other for years and were comfortable together. The woman was laughing.

It was Horse and some girl I didn’t recognize.

“Just wondering who’d win if you got into it with the old ladies,” Horse was saying to her. “I’m not sure.”

She burst out laughing even harder, snorting and spilling her beer. Horse chuckled, grabbing the beer and fumbling around on the couch. I saw him lean into her, rubbing her chest, his hands disappearing lower. The woman giggled and slapped 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.”

Wow. The cold in my body was nothing compared to the ice filling my heart. Jeff was right. I didn’t know this man and I certainly couldn’t trust him. He’d promised. I’d been an idiot and now I had to stay with him and do what he said and pretend not to know he might have murdered women and children in some remote village in Afghanistan. I felt myself starting to panic, so I clamped down on my emotions, withdrawing deep inside where I’d be safe. I couldn’t even run away and hide—I had nowhere to go. Then I spoke.

“I can see why you t-t-t-told me to wait upst-t-t-t-tairs,” I said, startled by how much my teeth chattered when I spoke. Horse turned and looked at me, his face hardening, eyes full of guilt. I wondered why he bothered.

“Well, shit,” he muttered. The woman next to him looked rapidly between us, eyebrows raised.

-- Advertisement --

“I take it this is the old lady?” she asked.

“Fuck,” said Horse, pushing up from the couch so hard it slid back a foot across the old wooden floor, stalking toward me. I thought maybe I should run but I couldn’t seem to move. He grabbed my shoulders and shook them, punctuating his words. “I told you to stay in your room. What are you doing down here? You realize what could happen to you at a party like this? Jesus!”

I didn’t reply, just let him shake me and mused at how truly insane my life had become.

“What’s wrong with you?” he said finally, anger disappearing as he reached out and felt my face. “Shit, you’re freezing! What the f**k? Talk to me, Marie.”

“M-m-my wind-d-dow is st-tuck,” I managed to say. “I t-tried to c-c-call you.”

He dug into his pocket, pulling out his phone, punching it on and finding the notifications. He winced.

“Shit,” he said, pulling me into his arms, rubbing my back hard. “I couldn’t hear it. I’m so sorry, I can’t believe how cold you are. You need to get warmed up. Serena, run to the office and grab the apartment keys. Meet me upstairs.”

He swung me up into his arms and carried me back to the third floor. Thankfully we didn’t go back down the long hallway, past the crazy woman and the group of men taking turns screwing her. I don’t think I could’ve handled that. The woman—Serena—was fast, because she came rushing up with the keys right behind us. Horse stopped by a room on the other end of the hallway from my original one, waiting impatiently as she fumbled the door open. He set me down on the bed and stripped me methodically, ignoring my protests. Then I was totally naked and under the covers.

“Go down to the room on the far end and get her stuff,” he said to Serena. “All of it, bring it down here and then lock up. We’ll deal with the window situation tomorrow.”

Serena disappeared and I wanted to protest. I didn’t want Horse’s whore touching my things. I bit my lip, remembering Jeff’s email. Horse killed people. Maybe women like me. Children. I thought about his guns, how easily he handled them, how he’d made me practice for hours with my little .22. I remembered our first night together, when we’d watched the Johnny Depp flick and he’d talked about how the hand-to-hand combat was all wrong.

I guess he’d know.

Horse crawled into bed beside me, buck-naked, spooning me and wrapping around my body like a big, warm blanket. My body craved his heat, soaking it up even as my mind stayed cool and detached. The more I warmed up the harder I shivered until my jaw hurt from clenching my teeth and I ached. Serena bustled in with my things at some point, then closed the door and disappeared. The entire time Horse made soothing noises and rubbed me softly, and for once he didn’t try to touch my br**sts or reach between my legs. Finally I stopped shivering and I drowsed.

“Babe,” he whispered, kissing the top of my head softly. “Babe,” he said again, shaking me gently. I stirred against him, and he rolled me over and onto my back, rising over me on his elbows. “Why was the window open? What happened?”

He sounded so worried, so loving. Would a murderer be able to fake that kind of emotion? But how many times had I looked at Horse and thought he was more like two different men—good and bad—stuck in one body? I couldn’t explore that right now, I couldn’t let him know what I’d found out.

“I just needed some fresh air,” I said, deliberately keeping my voice soft and weak. It wasn’t much of a stretch. “It got stuck and I couldn’t get it closed again. The room got colder and colder and I waited too long before I left to get help. It’s okay, I’m fine, Horse. Honestly.”

-- Advertisement --