Walking toward the bar, I saw Pic and the others across the street, looking over a line of custom choppers. They stood out from the crowd, of course—a motorcycle club in full colors always did—but they were keeping as low-key as possible. Pic caught my eye, but we didn’t acknowledge each other. Then I reached the old Banner Bank building, all brick and cut stone from the town’s earliest days. The bar made the most of the historic atmosphere, done up to look like an old-time saloon. I passed all the way through and out the side door to the beer garden, a fenced-off area they’d set up on the street.
Loud music played and a few people were dancing in the center of the tables. A girl caught my eye, jumping up and down, waving at me.
“Levi!” she shouted, running to meet me. Just past her I saw Talia hanging all over Gage. Marsh and the others were off to one side, taking up more than their fair share of tables. At least they were somewhat isolated . . . A quick glance showed me that a group of cops was gathered just outside the fenced area, watching the Nighthawks closely. More seemed to be inside, although they weren’t in uniform. They gave off that law enforcement vibe, though, and I saw the way they clocked me the instant I walked in.
Not only was Marsh drunk and tweaking, the fucker was doing it at a cop bar.
“Good to see you,” I told Sadie, pulling her in for a hug. She tried to kiss me, but I managed to turn my head just enough that she’d miss my lips. Even if it wasn’t for Mel, I didn’t think I could touch her—not after seeing her barf like a fountain. “Gage said he’d be here, suggested I come over to join you guys.”
“Where have you been?” she asked, frowning. “You just disappeared that night.”
“Jail,” I said shortly. Might as well stick to the truth. “Violated the terms of my parole, so they locked me up to teach me a lesson.”
She reached up, rubbing a hand up and down my chest.
“Levi!” Gage shouted, waving me over. Thank fuck. I sauntered over to him, Sadie in tow. He welcomed me with a hug, taking the opportunity to whisper a warning. “Shit’s ugly. We gotta contain Marsh or he’s gonna blow everything.”
Pulling back, I surveyed the group, nodding to the Nighthawk Raiders’ president.
“Nice to see you again,” I said. “Looks like a good time.”
Marsh smiled at me, but I saw something dark behind his eyes. Talia slithered up, then plopped herself on his lap.
“Were you really in jail?” she asked me, reaching for Marsh’s drink, chugging it.
“Yup,” I said. “Got out this morning. Parole violation.”
Her eyes widened.
“What’d you go down for?”
“Weapons charge,” I said shortly. Marsh frowned.
“How long was your sentence?”
“That’s too long for a weapons charge,” he said, narrowing his eyes.
“It’s complicated,” I said, which was the truth. “Let’s just say it could’ve been a hell of a lot worse. Had priors, too.”
An overworked waitress came hustling up to us.
“You guys need anything?” she asked.
“We needed something half an hour ago,” Talia said, standing back up. She stepped forward into the woman’s space, thrusting her chest out. “Where the fuck have you been?”
“I’m real sorry,” she said. “We’re just slammed. I’m sure we can—”
“We deserve a free round,” Talia said. “This is your fault, not ours.”
Gage shot me a look.
“Baby, let’s go dance,” he said, reaching for her hand. “I want to feel you up against me.”
“I’m busy,” Talia said, and while she didn’t flip him off, she might as well have. She glared at the waitress. “Are you going to get us the drinks?”
The woman glanced at Marsh, then nodded her head quickly. “Sure, I’ll be right back.”
She backed away, making for the bar door.
“See, it’s all about how you talk to them,” Talia declared, and Marsh started laughing. “I’m ready for that dance now.”
She grabbed Gage’s hand, dragging him toward the dance floor. My eyes followed them. Ah fuck. There was a big guy wearing a bar T-shirt talking to the group of off-duty cops, pointing toward our group. Bouncer.
The men stood up and started walking toward us. I needed to do something. Fast.
“Marsh,” I said in a low voice, leaning into the seated man. “We gotta get out of here.”
He stood slowly, stepping into my space.
“Did you just give me an order?”
Seriously? The cops were coming and he wanted to play bullshit games?
“No, but those guys are police, and they’re headed this way,” I said urgently. “This is trouble none of us needs.”
Marsh narrowed his eyes. “How do you know they’re cops? You’re working for them, aren’t you?”
From the corners of my eyes, I saw his crew crowding in. Then Marsh was on me, his fist catching me hard in the stomach. I lunged for him, a sudden rush of adrenaline pushing me through the pain as people started shouting all around us. The Nighthawk brothers jumped in, punching and kicking me from every side. I was vaguely aware of Gage shouting, trying to reach me. More hits and then I went down, catching a foot in my kidney.