“You can help me get this shithole whipped into shape,” Serena replied sharply. “There’s going to be a funeral, and they’ll have tons of people coming in from out of town. Three states worth of bikers will be here to show their respects. We have to get ready. It’s something you can do for Cookie, she knows Bagger would want a hell of a wake. This is where it’ll happen. We have to get it cleaned up and ready, you up for that?”
I looked around. She was right. The place needed cleaning in a big way. And we’d need food too. Lots of it. I knew there was a kitchen somewhere on the ground floor, but I wasn’t sure how good it was. Could it handle that many people?
“That’s better,” she said, smiling at me. “Nice to have you join us this morning. I knew there was a reason Horse shelled out so much for you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, caught off guard.
She tilted her head at me, eyes speculative.
“Horse paid a shitload of money for you, girl,” she said softly. “Didn’t you know that? Maybe not, that’s not part of the public story…”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said, eyeing her suspiciously. I wasn’t sure I could handle another shock, I really wasn’t. But I needed to know what she meant by that comment.
“Horse paid the club $50,000 out of his own pocket to give your brother another chance,” she said bluntly. “They were going to kill him outright, but Horse wanted you for his old lady and he knew how much your brother means to you. He paid the club to give your brother another chance. How do you not know this?”
I shook my head, feeling dizzy.
Horse paid the club to save my brother. Horse was a murderer who killed women and children. Horse offered to send me to college, knew how to fight hand to hand and taught me to shoot. Multiple personalities? Two certainly weren’t enough… But I’m a practical girl. I’d spent a good chunk of the past day feeling dazed and confused, but now I had a job.
“Okay,” I said, pushing all that away. I’d think about it later, like so many other things piling up. “So how do we want to do this?”
“Let’s get the girls together in the game room,” she said. “We’ll figure out who’s just party leftovers and who’s willing to pitch in and help.”
Eventually we rounded up about twenty women in various states of undress, a few of the guys watching in interest without interfering. Serena stood up and introduced me as Horse’s old lady, which made all of them sit up a little straighter. Then she looked over toward me, obviously waiting for me to speak. That was a surprise, I thought she’d take the lead but apparently not. Clearly, as the only old lady in the room, I was supposed to be in charge.
“Okay, so it sounds like most of you heard the news,” I said. “Bagger is dead, he died in Afghanistan. I didn’t know Bagger, but I know his wife and daughter. Obviously this is a big deal, and if you want to do something to help, I need to get the clubhouse clean and ready for company. I don’t know how much time you have or how much work you can do, but anything is a help. Who can stay and clean?”
A few raised their hands, but most of them looked away, unwilling to meet my eyes. One, definitely not a girl but a woman, walked over to me.
“I’ll be in charge of getting the guest rooms and studios ready,” she said. She was a tall brunette who looked to be in her early thirties, with tight jeans and a lot of swagger. Unlike the others, she looked sexy but not slutty, which was impressive considering how many were sporting giant raccoon hangover eyes. “A lot of them are full right now, but we’ll need to find room for more people to camp out. Some’ll get hotel rooms, but a lot will stay here. What’s your name? Aside from Horse’s old lady?”
She offered me a genuine, if sad, smile, and I decided I liked her. This sweet butt situation was more complicated than I’d realized, because obviously they weren’t all brainless sluts.
“I’m Marie. What’s yours?”
“I’m Claire,” she replied, holding out her hand for me to shake. Her grip was firm and reassuring. “I’ve been a friend of the club since high school but I’m not with any of the guys. Just came by last night to see some friends from out of town, you know how that is.”
I shrugged, not quite sure what she meant and not too worried about it. Her obvious respect surprised me, although I was starting to realize it shouldn’t have. There seemed to be a hierarchy of Reaper women, with old ladies at the top, but right now I didn’t care what their status was if they’d help me get the armory ready for Bagger’s funeral.
“I’m glad to meet you,” she said, genuine kindness in her eyes, tempered with a fatigue that had nothing to do with being hung over. “We’ll get this done, don’t worry. Don’t take shit from anyone, okay? You’re an old lady, and not one of these girls has a right to tell you a damn thing. Not even me,” she added ruefully. “But if you don’t mind, I think some asses could use a little kicking and that’s one of my favorite things to do. You mind?”
I glanced at Serena.
“Works for me,” she said. “She takes the upstairs, I’ll take the main floor and you can coordinate food. Sound like a plan?”
“Sounds great,” I said, feeling grateful.
Claire turned the group and clapped her hands for attention.
“You heard Marie,” she said loudly. “She’s nice and polite, but I’m not. Get off your asses and get working, or get the hell out.”
Nobody moved for a minute, and she put her hands on her hips and glared around the room.
“I’m serious, bitches!” she yelled, and I believed her. “If you’re a friend of the club, now’s the time to show it. Otherwise get the f**k out and don’t come back. You won’t be welcome. Got me?”
About four girls got up and left quickly, but the rest seemed to break out of their stupor, sorting themselves out quickly enough and breaking into teams. Within minutes half had followed Claire upstairs and most of the others followed Serena downstairs. I found myself alone with a woman I recognized with horror—she’d been the one on the second floor, screwing an entire room full of men.
“Hey, I’m Candace,” she said quietly. “I’m a caterer. Can I help you get the food situation figured out? I know my way around the kitchen and have a pretty good idea what to expect.”