He lay on top of me for several minutes, c**k slowly shrinking down, which was a very strange feeling. Then he pulled out and went into the bathroom. I heard the sink running and the toilet flush before he came out and climbed back into the bed. He pulled me into his arms and I lay against him like a limp doll, spent and sore and completely satisfied.

“That was incredible, Marie,” he whispered, kissing me deeply. I hardly had the energy to kiss him back and he pulled away, chuckling softly. “Sleep, babe.”


I tucked into him, body exhausted, thought processes long shut down. Sleep was instant and dreamless.

A phone rang in the early morning darkness. I grunted, pushing at Horse. It kept ringing and finally he moved, reaching over and grabbing it. I whimpered because he’d pulled the covers off me, letting in tendrils of hateful cold.

“Yeah?” he answered, voice rough and gravelly. He listened for a moment, and then I felt the air in the room change.

“Are you sure?” he asked, alert now, his voice utterly devoid of emotion. “No, I hear you. Is someone with Cookie?”

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That didn’t sound good. It really didn’t sound good. I sat up in bed, pulling the covers across my br**sts. Horse ignored me, utterly focused on the phone call. I felt a twinge in my ass but I ignored it. Last night felt like some surreal dream—a dream I wasn’t ready to remember just yet.

“Thanks,” Horse said finally. He dropped the phone down, then rolled away from me and stood up, reaching for his pants. Tension roiled off him, along with waves of anger so powerful it scared me.

Last night’s lover had left the building.

“What happened?” I asked, keeping my voice low and calm. He didn’t look at me as he spoke.

“Bagger’s dead,” he said, reaching down for his long-sleeved thermal shirt. Then he grabbed his cut. “Died two days ago, took them awhile to locate his body for confirmation. Cookie’s at the hospital, she collapsed when they told her last night. I’ve got to go. You can call the other girls but don’t leave the armory. We’re still on watch against the Jacks. You got it?”

He glanced at me, waiting for me to acknowledge his orders. I nodded and he left without another word.

Chapter Nineteen

I’ve never felt so helpless in my life.

I didn’t even know Bagger, aside from saying hi to him on Skype a couple of times. I didn’t have a right to mourn him, not like everyone else. But I mourned for Cookie and Silvie, his little girl who cried for her daddy at night and begged to perform for him in front of their webcam with her little stuffed dog. I wanted to do something to help, even if it was something stupid like cleaning her house or cooking. Instead I sat alone in my room and watched a stunning sunrise while everyone I’d come to know and love in Coeur d’Alene suffered.

Around nine Horse called me and told me I should go downstairs, find some food. He warned me that the place was a mess and told me that if any of the women gave me shit I could to throw their asses out. Um, right. I needed to stay in the building, other than that I’d be okay. I walked down the stairs cautiously, expecting to see wreckage and evidence of some kind of giant orgy. Instead I found subdued men drinking coffee and a bunch of tired, hungover-looking women. A few of them huddled in a corner, crying. One of them was Serena, the woman I’d seen last night sitting next to Horse. She approached me cautiously, like she expected me to go crazy on her. I didn’t have the energy and it just didn’t seem very important anymore.

“You hungry?” she asked, taking my shoulders and looking at me, clearly checking me over for I don’t know what…injury from Horse’s giant penis? She would know, I thought, feeling morose.

“Not really, but I should probably eat,” I answered.

“I know what you mean. C’mon, we got donuts over here.” She led me over to a table on the far side of the room, littered with donuts and a couple boxes of coffee to-go from Starbucks.

“Starbucks? Seriously?” I asked. She shook her head and grimaced.

“I knew the boys would need something,” she said, shrugging. “It’s what was easy. Eat something, hon. It’s gonna be a long day.”

“Do you know Cookie?” I asked. I’d tried to call Em a while ago, but she hadn’t answered and I didn’t want to bother anyone. The last thing they needed was to be worrying about me. But I really wanted to know how she was holding up. I couldn’t begin to imagine what she was going through. Serena shrugged.

“Yeah, although not well,” she said. “I’m not really the girl they parade in public, you know?”

“Does that bother you?” I asked. Then I bit my tongue, realizing how insensitive that was. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked that. Please forgive me.”

“Don’t worry about it,” she replied, giving me a small, weak smile. “I don’t want to be one of their old ladies, and despite what you might think, I’ve had more than one opportunity. I like my freedom. I’ve got my place and it’s worked for me. I’m moving on to something new now anyway. But this… This throws me. They always seem so strong, you don’t think of anything being able to kill them, you know?”

I nodded, knowing exactly what she meant. When I’d first met him, I’d half wondered if Horse was a Terminator.

“Did you know Bagger?” I asked. She nodded, pouring herself a cup of coffee.

“Yeah,” she said without elaborating. “He was crazy about Cookie, you know. He didn’t cheat on her. Horse isn’t a cheater either. Last night, that wasn’t anything, what you saw with us. We were just talking. I hope you believe that.”

I shrugged, not sure what to believe. Cookie’s life was in ruins and I supposed that at some point I should check my email to see what fresh games Jeff was playing. Things kept hitting so hard and fast I couldn’t keep up.

“Hey,” she said, shaking my shoulder a little. “Wake up, look at me. This is important.”

“What?” I asked, trying to make myself focus.

“He loves you,” she said, holding my gaze with hers. “I know all about what happened, everyone does. They spread it around, wanted to be sure people know they didn’t give your brother a pass. You’re collateral for him, and all that shit. But the reason you’re really here is that Horse loves you. Do you get that?”

“I honestly don’t know what to think about any of this,” I replied. “All I know is that Cookie is in hell and I can’t do anything for her.”

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