“You’re going to be okay,” London said, her voice firm and strong. From the table her phone buzzed again, but she ignored it, 100 percent focused on me. “Whatever happens with Painter, me and Jessica are your family. We’ll be here for you. I promise. Do you understand?”
I nodded, feeling a little stronger.
“I’m great with kids,” Jess broke in. “Probably because I think like them . . . Mixed blessing. But Loni’s right—you aren’t alone in this. I hope he pulls his head out of his ass and does the right thing, but if he doesn’t you’re better off without him.”
“And what’s the right thing?” I asked. “Like he’s supposed to marry me or something? I’m not ready to be married.”
Wasn’t ready to be a mother, either.
“The right thing is pulling his shit together and fathering his child,” Loni said bluntly. “I know you’re worried about raising a child in the club, but Reese did it, and he did it well. Bam Bam and Dancer are great parents. It’s possible, but only if Painter makes that choice—that’s on him, and nobody else. I’d love it if you two managed to work things out romantically, but even that isn’t the issue here. Taking care of your baby is the issue and you don’t need him to do that.”
She was right.
“I can do this, can’t I?” I whispered, looking between them. Jessica smiled and nodded.
“You’re the strongest, smartest person I know,” she said. “And even when things get hard, you keep fighting. That’s a lot more than you and I got from our mothers.”
Loni’s phone went off for what had to be the tenth time.
“You know, if I wanted to answer the fucking phone, I would’ve already,” she said, her voice soft, yet somehow deadly. As if to taunt her, the phone buzzed again. Abruptly, she picked it up and threw it across the room, shattering it against the wall.
What the hell?
Jess and I gaped. Loni stared back at us, then gave a little shrug.
“Just because I’m not threatening to skin Painter’s balls doesn’t mean I’m in my happy place. I’ll call Reese when I’m damned good and ready.”
“Loni, you sort of kick ass,” I whispered. She gave me a grim smile.
“I have my moments.”
A loud pounding noise filled the air—someone at the door.
“If he has even an ounce of sense, that’s Painter with two dozen roses and a ring,” Jess growled. Loni and I shared a glance.
“I’m not ready to get married,” I reminded her.
“It’s not about you saying yes, it’s about him offering.”
The pounding came again, so I dragged my rear out of the chair and walked over to the window. I don’t know who I was expecting—maybe Painter, or even Reese.
Instead I saw BB, a big lumbering bear of a prospect.
“What is it?” I asked, opening the door.
“We need all of you back out at the Armory,” he said. “Picnic tried to call but nobody answered.”
Loni came to stand behind me. “We’re busy.”
He shook his head. “No, ma’am. Something’s going on and they want all the women out there where it’s safe. You have to come with me.”
“Oh shit,” Loni said, her face going pale. “Okay, girls, grab a change of clothes. I’ll drive.”
I rode to Ellensburg twenty minutes behind the pack, figuring it would be safer. They’d be more likely to attract police attention than a lone rider would. Not only that, if they arrived first they could scope out the situation with Marsh, warning me off if Gage couldn’t. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that—when I’d messaged him saying I was on my way he hadn’t given any indication that there was trouble, but he didn’t answer when I called, either. Just a texted acknowledgment. Could’ve been anyone sending it.
The three-hour ride gave me plenty of time to think about the situation with Melanie, though. I’d fucked it up. Fucked it up big-time and was almost certainly making it worse by going to Ellensburg instead of dealing with her right now. I couldn’t just leave Gage hanging, though . . . and much as Mel meant to me, talking to her now or talking to her tomorrow wasn’t a matter of life and death.
Gage might not have that luxury.
When I finally pulled into Ellensburg, I found a string of messages on my phone between me, Gage, and Picnic.
GAGE: Downtown at the Banner Bank Tavern. They have a beer garden on one of the side streets—closed to traffic. Marsh and his crew are drunk as fuck and he’s tweaking. Paranoid. Got six cops watching us. Worried that Marsh will blow it
PICNIC: Across the street. Don’t want to come over unless we need to. Think it might set Marsh off?
GAGE: Hang back for now. Painter you anywhere near yet?
PICNIC: He’s behind us, should be here soon.
That last message was ten minutes ago, so things must still be under control . . . or else they’d fallen to utter shit and they were too busy fighting to message me. Either way, I needed to get my ass over there ASAP.
Ellensburg was a relatively small town, so it wasn’t that hard to find the bar. Took a while to get there because the streets were choked with what felt like a thousand hot rods. Had to leave my bike parked down the street, too—didn’t much like that. Although to be fair, the bike was probably the least of my worries today.