“Now, that’s not very nice,” he said, throwing an arm over my shoulder. “Especially since you’re a bigger slut than all of them combined.”
I fucking hated it when he was right.
“Was there a reason you made me drive all the way across the state?” I asked. “I was in the middle of something.”
“Fucking some skank? We have skanks here, too. You’ll get over it.”
“Actually, I was with Melanie,” I confessed. “I spent the night at her place.”
Gage raised a brow.
“I thought she was your new princess,” he said. “Since when do you touch those?”
“Since last night, apparently,” I admitted. “She was good, Gage. Really good. I think this might be the real thing.”
“Give it a week and you’ll be over her. C’mon inside. I need to fill you in on some shit.”
He was all business now, and I followed him into the room, wondering what’d happened.
“Beer?” he asked. I shook my head, flopping back on one of the sagging full-size beds, propping my hands behind my neck. Hadn’t gotten much sleep last night—might as well relax while I could. From the look on Gage’s face, we’d have a shit storm to deal with soon enough.
“We’re going to a party out at the Nighthawks’ clubhouse in a few hours,” he said, sitting down across from me. “Talia was at the bar again last night. We danced for a while and I bought her a few drinks. Then her brother showed up with his crew and I finally got an introduction. We started talking and I fed him my line about being an independent rider. Bought a couple rounds and the next thing I know, I’m taking Talia to the party tonight. She wants you along for her girl.”
“I’m not gonna fuck her,” I told him without a second thought. Huh.
“Pussy-whipped?” he asked, his voice serious. “Club needs you on this, Painter. You think I wanna screw that bitch Talia? Fuck no, not with a sweet piece like Tinker around. We all gotta do our part, bro.”
I shook my head, frowning.
“I’m serious about Mel.”
“She doesn’t need to know.”
“How ’bout this—I’ll take it one step at a time, see how it plays out.”
Gage cocked his head. “You’ll do what needs to be done?”
“Don’t I always?”
“Always have before. There’s more.”
“This morning I saw someone I recognized,” he said, his tone grim. “Someone who will recognize me.”
“That’s no good. Passing through?”
“It’s possible,” he said. “He was by himself. Could be a coincidence.”
“Who was it? Anyone I know?”
“Unlikely—this shit went down before your time. Few years back, we had a hangaround whose girlfriend worked at The Line. Turned out he was a snitch, and it’s ’cause of him and that bitch of his that Bolt served time. She set him up—they were working with the Feds. The snitch pulled a runner. Called himself Hands, no idea what his real name is.”
“You don’t think it’s a coincidence he turned up here?”
“I got a bad feeling about it,” he admitted. “Can’t think of a good reason for him to be in Hallies Falls. If he’s still workin’ with the cops, he may be targeting Marsh and his boys now. Much as I hate the fucker, last thing we need is LEO sniffing out the cross-border trade and shutting it down. Throw in the fact that he could blow my cover and we got a big problem.”
“You didn’t just call me because of a party,” I said flatly, forcing my body to stay relaxed. Gage shook his head, looking almost regretful.
“Hopin’ it won’t come to that, but we can’t let him talk. Assuming he’s even here—could be he was passing through. But if he’s after Marsh, odds are good he’ll be at the party tonight.”
“He knows we have a complication,” Gage replied. “Couldn’t risk giving any details—when Bolt hears, he’ll lose his shit, so I’d like to handle it before that happens. It’s on you and me. I see him at the party, you’ll have to find a way to get him out of there without raising suspicions. On the bright side, Rance is ready and waiting—we get Hands, we’ll haul his ass to Bellingham for questioning. After they get as much info as they can, they’ll take care of him for us.”
“It’s never simple, is it?”
“Never has been before, so no reason to expect it to start now,” he said, shrugging. “I need to ask you something.”
“You sure you’re up for something this heavy? I know you take a big risk every time you come over here, but they catch you with Hands, you’ll go away for a long fuckin’ time. Doesn’t matter how much money we give Torres, he wouldn’t be able to cover up something this serious.”
“Then I won’t get caught,” I said. “Whoever does the job takes the same risk, and it’s not like I have kids.”
“Yeah, but it sounds like you’ve got something goin’ on with Melanie.”
“I didn’t see Horse or Ruger turning soft when they met their old ladies.”
“I don’t see them in this hotel room, either.”
“I’m here,” I told him, my voice steady. “The club comes first—that’s the way it is. We’ll handle this situation, no worries.”