“Nobody leaves,” he announced. “Not until I find the traitor.”
That didn’t have a good ring to it. Rome cleared his throat nervously, and Marsh’s eyes snapped to us.
“Cooper was out back,” Rome said. “Wasn’t trying to sneak off, Marsh. Just getting some air.”
Marsh nodded sharply. “We gotta talk, Coop. Chapel. Now.”
Then he pulled his semiautomatic out of his shoulder holster, holding it casually as he glanced around the room.
“Nobody leaves. Nobody talks. Do not fuck with me.”
He started walking across the room toward the chapel, men jumping out of his way so fast one of them fell over. I followed him into the small room, noting the two brothers at my back. One of them shut the door as Marsh raised the pistol, pointing it at my chest.
“You got somethin’ you wanna tell me?”
Saturday morning was . . . unpleasant.
That’s because I’d drunk more the previous night than I had since—well, since Margarita’s bachelorette party. Now I had the hangover from hell, except hell wasn’t really a strong enough description. I had the hangover from whatever was worse than hell. Justin Bieber concert?
I blamed Margarita for this.
Every time we went out together, I got drunk and made a fool of myself. Not that last night hadn’t been a lot of fun. The three of us girls had closed the bar down, dancing until our feet hurt, shouting slurred song requests at the band. Joel bought me drinks between every set, and by the end of the night I’d decided to go home with him after all.
Then he’d pulled out some pictures of his kids, including an adorable baby girl not much older than Tricia would’ve been. Sexy, flirty Tinker dissolved and I ended up telling him all about Tricia’s death, ugly crying all over his shirt.
Big turn-on, right?
To his credit, Joel took it in stride, listening to what I had to say without making it into a thing. Then he’d offered me a ride home, walked me up to my door, and gave me a very sweet, very platonic kiss on the forehead.
So much for raging passion.
Now it was the next day, and because God is cruel I’d gotten a rush order from a caterer in Bellevue. This was good news financially but bad in terms of production capacity. Fortunately, Randi agreed to help me, and I recruited Mrs. Webbly to keep an eye on Dad.
Things would be groovy once the fucking Tylenol kicked in.
“I think I’m in love,” Randi announced as we started our prep. I blinked at her, wondering what this had to do with making candy. She giggled, the sound grating painfully around the interior of my skull.
This. This is why you shouldn’t go out with Carrie and Margarita. Why do you never learn?
“Again?” I asked, hoping desperately she’d get distracted and shut up.
Randi sighed happily, oblivious to my pain.
“His name is Rome, and he’s perfect,” she said, oblivious to my pain.
“Is he new to Hallies Falls?” I forced myself to ask, reaching for the sugar.
“Yes, I think so,” she replied. “I mean, I don’t really know for sure. We only talked for a couple minutes, but he wanted my phone number. It was at a party over in Omak last weekend. I didn’t hear anything from him, so I figured he was blowing me off, but yesterday afternoon he called and asked me out! We’re supposed to see a movie after he gets off work tonight. Do you think he knows that guy who does work around your building? Rome spends a lot of time with the Nighthawks, and I’ve see Cooper with them, too.”
That broke through my mental fog, and I glanced up at her.
“How old is this boy?” I asked, suspicious.
“Well, I wouldn’t really call him a boy,” she said, giggling. “I mean, that’s part of what I like about him. He’s been around, you know?”
My stomach soured.
“No, I don’t know. Enlighten me.”
“Okay, so he’s maybe four years older than me,” she told me, sighing happily. She was so sweet and earnest that I threw up a little in the back of my throat, choking as I swallowed it back down. (In all fairness, it was probably hangover related. Still, that much perky, youthful enthusiasm is a lot to swallow first thing in the morning.) “He’s got dark brown hair, and he’s all tan from riding his bike, you know? He’s kind of messy and rough, but he got me a drink and sat next to me at the party. We just hung out and laughed and it was really fantastic. I probably would’ve kissed him, but my mom called and asked if I could come home. She had to go into work at the hospital and she needed someone to watch the kids.”
“Huh,” I said, wishing my brain would kick into gear. Usually I felt frustrated with Randi’s mom over stuff like this. The woman had a good job, and it didn’t seem fair that she constantly guilted her oldest daughter into babysitting. When I’d first hired her, Randi had been planning to go to college at Central. Then she’d come in one morning a few months back and told me she’d decided to take online classes instead.
I still didn’t like her mother very much, but maybe this time it was a good thing she’d dragged her out of the party. I wasn’t so sure about an older guy connected to the Nighthawks.
“I think you need to be careful,” I said, frowning as I pulled a container of heavy cream out of the cooler. “You don’t know anything about him, and we’ve got no idea how dangerous the Nighthawks really are. And yes, I know I hired Cooper, but it’s not like I’m dating him. He’s just another tenant.”
Randi rolled her eyes.
“You don’t understand.”
Oh, I understood a hell of a lot better than she realized, poor kid. She wasn’t the only one stupid enough to fall for a biker’s crap.
The sound of someone pounding on the main shop’s locked door interrupted us, the string of bells ringing painfully. For an instant I thought it was Talia coming to kill me, then I remembered Carrie and Margarita planned to stop by before Margarita left town. Seeing as I’d caught a ride home with Joel, they were probably dying to hear the details.
Randi peered through the kitchen door.
“It’s Carrie and some other lady,” she confirmed. “Are you going to be talking to them for a while?”
“Probably,” I said, head throbbing.