Horse snorted, his eyes wandering down my body, lingering on my boobs, then trailing back up to my face. I realized the rest of the groceries had fallen to the floor and my fists were clenched tightly.

“Don’t you want to ask what it is first?” he said dryly.


“Um, sure,” I said, studying him. How could such a beautiful man be so cruel? I’d felt how gentle his hands could be, where was this coming from? Real people, people who laughed and shared meals together, didn’t act this way. Not in my world. “What do I have to do?”

“It seems Horse here wants a house mouse,” Picnic said. I looked at him blankly. He shot an annoyed look at Horse. “She’s clueless, you sure about this? Seems like work to me.”

Mohawk guy smirked as Horse narrowed his eyes at Picnic. Tension filled the room and I realized that contrary to what I would have thought, things could probably get a lot worse pretty fast. What if they turned on each other? Then Picnic shrugged.

“This is your option,” Horse said to me abruptly. “You want to keep dumbass alive, pack a bag and climb on my bike when we leave. You do what I tell you, when I tell you, no questions and no bitching.”

“Why?” I asked blankly.

“So you can cook dessert for me,” he snapped. Mohawk man burst out laughing. My mouth dropped open—all this for dessert? I knew he liked sweets, but I didn’t get it. Horse shook his head at me, wearing that frustrated look he got around me sometimes, like he thought I was a crazy woman.

“Why the hell do you think?” he said, voice strained. “So I can f**k you.”

Chapter Three

July 8—Nine weeks earlier

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My phone buzzed. I grabbed it to find a message from Jeff.

Krissys 2nite. Dont wait up

If a text could give a shit-eating grin, this one would do it. I shook my head and laughed silently, shoving my phone back into my pocket. Jeff was getting laid tonight and feeling pretty pleased about it.

That worked out nicely for me too.

It was the end of the day and only three kids were left on the playground. Gabby had started cleaning already so closing would be easy, and now I would have the trailer to myself. I decided I’d stop and get a Redbox video on the way home, and maybe some ice cream. Life was a lot better now that I’d gotten my first paycheck. When the last kid left, I checked with Gabby and discovered the cleaning was all done, as I’d suspected. We waved goodbye to each other and I went out to my car. The Redbox was outside of Walmart, which was busy this time of night but not busy enough for me to give up on the ice cream. I settled on slow-churned French silk, which I assumed was practically a health food because the package said it had half the fat and one-third fewer calories than the regular kind. This, combined with the Johnny Depp flick in my purse, almost guaranteed an orgasmic evening.

My mood just kept improving as I drove home.

One of my favorite dance songs came on the radio, which kicked ass because I didn’t have a plug for an iPod or even a CD player in my little junker (thus the Def Leppard incident when the Reapers had come to call). I almost got caught behind a slow-moving farm truck, but they pulled off to let me by. I car-danced my way down our long driveway through the orchard to find a single low-slung, black motorcycle parked outside the house.

Not part of the plan.

I got out of the car and looked around cautiously but didn’t see anyone. Nobody near the table, nobody in the folding chairs I’d set out in the newly cleared lawn area (I couldn’t call it a lawn in good conscience). What the hell?

I walked cautiously to the front door, clutching my cell phone like a weapon. What I planned to do with it I wasn’t sure, because if a murderer was waiting inside I wouldn’t exactly have time to call for help. I debated getting back in my car and driving away, but part of me wondered if Horse had come back. You know which part—that little nub between my legs, the bitch. The door swung open at a touch and I found Horse sitting at my counter, texting, all muscular and tattooed and incredibly hot.

I opened my mouth then snapped it shut.

“You need to get better locks,” Horse said casually. “It took me about ten seconds to get in here.”

I shook my head, looking around the room, although I had no idea what I was looking for. Some kind of magical leprechaun to jump out and explain what the hell was going on?

“I’m here to see Jeff,” he said, setting down his phone. “He’s got something for me. Where is he?”

“He’s off with some girl,” I replied, still dazed. “Her name is Krissy, he said he’d be late. I’ll try calling him.”

He watched as I dialed Jeff. Straight to voicemail. I sent a text, hoping he was just busy and didn’t want to answer. More nothing. I looked at Horse and shrugged.

“I don’t think his phone is on,” I said. “I can let him know you came by though.”

Horse gave a short, harsh laugh that had nothing to do with humor.

“I rode three and a half hours to see him,” he replied. “He knew I was coming.”

I smiled weakly.

“Um, you know he’s a great guy, but he smokes out a lot and can be kind of forgetful…”

Horse narrowed his eyes.

“I’ll wait.”

I didn’t know how to deal with that, so I decided to put away the ice cream. Then my stomach growled audibly. I’d planned on eating a sandwich, but it felt weird not to offer him something.

“You want an omelet?” I asked, figuring everyone loves breakfast for dinner.

“Sounds good,” he replied. “Beer?”

“Um, yeah,” I said, opening the fridge. I was kind of surprised he hadn’t just helped himself, considering he’d already broken into the place. I handed him a bottle and started on the omelet. I’d made some cinnamon rolls last week and froze half of them, so I pulled those out too, along with a frozen thing of orange juice concentrate.

I glanced up to watch him taking a long pull on his bottle, eyes following me, throat muscles working as he swallowed. I could lick right from that little dip at the base of his throat up to his jawline…

Maybe not juice, I decided. Now I needed a beer.

Horse just watched me as I cooked, not saying anything, which creeped me out and turned me on at the same time.

“What kind of work are you guys doing with Jeff?” I asked.

“That’s club business,” he replied. “Don’t ask questions like that, you’ll get yourself in trouble.”

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