“Do you know how insane this is? Bagger just died for this country in a war that’s gone on for ten f**king years, and people around here think they’re suffering if they can’t afford a new iPhone,” he said, looking up at me for the first time. The stark grief written all over his face tore through me and that’s when I knew. It wasn’t fake. Not this. Jeff was wrong about him. Horse might be many things, but he didn’t kill those people. The article said Marines were under investigation, but it didn’t say how the investigation ended. Even Jeff acknowledged Horse had an honorable discharge.

Horse didn’t kill those people. I knew it in my bones.


I felt such incredible relief that I trembled with it, but I didn’t say anything. Whatever else happened, I would protect Jeff. But that didn’t mean I’d give up on what I had with Horse. There had to be a way to walk the line between the two men I loved. I just had to find it. Horse leaned forward, pressing his head into my stomach, shuddering. His arms wrapped around my hips and he pulled me forward between his legs. I have no idea how long we sat there but it seemed like forever. He didn’t talk, just held me, shaking, as his grief poured out.

Finally the shudders eased and he pulled back. I looked down at him, running my fingers across the lines of his face, feeling the softness of his lips with my thumb. He reached up and caught my hand, tugging it to his mouth, kissing my palm. Heat flared in his eyes and he fell back on the bed, drawing me down to him.

We’d made love so many different ways in our time together. Urgent, slow, angry and laughing—but never like this. He held me like his life depended on it, hands digging into my hips and spreading my legs across his body as his hips ground up into mine urgently. I took his head between my hands and kissed him, long and deep, full of pain for his suffering and relief so intense I thought my heart might explode. I couldn’t believe I’d doubted him. I knew he was a violent man living a violent life. But what he’d told me, the way he suffered—that wasn’t a lie.

His c**k pressed into me, long and hard as I rubbed myself across it. I wore a tee and panties and all he had on were boxers, but that was way too much. I wanted to be naked so I could take him deep into my body, give him my love until the sadness in his eyes changed to something else. Instead we ground against each other, too desperate for sensation to stop long enough to pull off our clothes. I let his lips go, put my hands on either side of his head and arched my head back, maximizing the pressure between us.

“You’re going to kill me,” he gasped, hands digging into my ass so hard it hurt. “It’s worth it. I’ll take whatever you have. I never want it to stop.”

I ignored him, focusing now on the pressure and need growing between my legs. Everything in my body wound tight and I realized I might come dry humping him like a teenager in the back of a car—that’s how much his body called to mine. I ground harder, feeling it just beyond me, and then it burst and I moaned, shuddering over him.

I rolled off, reaching down to slide off my panties. Horse shoved down his boxers just enough to free his cock, which sprang up long and hard between us. He reached toward me, obviously planning to pull me on top of him, but I stopped him. Instead I leaned over his lower body, wrapping my lips around his erection and sucking him in deep.

He shuddered, wrapping the fingers of one hand in my hair as I swirled my tongue around his head and started stroking him with my hand down below. I couldn’t fix anything for him. I couldn’t bring back Bagger or change what had gone down overseas. But I could make him forget for a little while and I didn’t plan to do it halfway.

I sucked him and licked him, pulling away every once in a while to attack his balls with my mouth, drawing them in and rolling them around my tongue. Then I got creative, sliding one of my fingers up into his ass as I suctioned hard, squeezing and stroking him with my fingers until he groaned and twisted underneath me, captured and desperate for release. He tugged at my hair, trying to pull me away, but I wouldn’t let him. Instead I held him captive with my fingers and mouth, swallowing triumphantly when he exploded into me, hips jerking and trembling.

When he finished I pulled away and sat up, wiping my mouth off with the back of my hand. He smiled up at me, and while he still looked sad, his terrible tension had eased.

“Thanks,” he said softly, reaching up and tracing the line of my lips.

“No problem,” I whispered. “I’m going to brush my teeth. No offense, okay?”

He gave a low chuckle and nodded. When I came back to bed I found him naked. He pulled me close into the crook of his arm, bringing my leg up and over his. I felt peace. Nothing could undo what had happened, either to him or Bagger, but for tonight he could sleep.

I felt like a very, very good old lady.

Chapter Twenty

The morning of the funeral was cold. I wondered how much of it was the temperature and how much was the cloud of wrongness and grief hanging over all of us. Bagger hadn’t been a religious man but Cookie had asked a biker chaplain from Spokane to come over and do a graveside service. It would start with a viewing at the funeral home, followed by a procession to the cemetery for the interment.

Maggs and Darcy took charge of making arrangements because Cookie couldn’t handle the details. Her in-laws, who didn’t live locally, were elderly and utterly devastated. They were pathetically grateful for the support, unable to think of anything but their lost son. That’s why the night before the service, the women of the club held a strategy session at the armory. Apparently Cookie was particularly worried about Silvie coming to the cemetery. It would be cold and she’d started acting out, probably from all the tension and grief in the air. She still didn’t understand what had happened to her daddy, and would carry the laptop to any adult she could find so she could talk to him online.

Cookie asked me—as Silvie’s favorite babysitter—if I’d help watch her at the service. If Silvie couldn’t handle things, she wanted me to take her back to the armory rather than subject her daughter to something she couldn’t possibly comprehend. Of course I said yes, so the morning of the funeral Maggs parked my car around the back side of the cemetery. That way if Silvie needed me, I could take her and leave quickly and unobtrusively. Horse didn’t like the idea but even he had to admit that the Devil’s Jacks wouldn’t dare disrupt the funeral. Not with a hundred Reapers watching, not to mention half the veterans in north Idaho.