Heath waved me into the trailer, following me inside. Hannah closed the door behind us.
“Can I get you anything to drink?” she asked him, looking nervous. Not nervous in a I-did-something-wrong-and-the-cops-are-here kind of way. I knew all about that from my time with Trevor. No, this was cute-boy-is-talking-to-me-in-the-cafeteria-at-school nervous.
Oh. My. God.
Was my sister into the sheriff’s deputy?
Andrews smiled. “Nothing to drink. I appreciate the offer, but I just wanted to be sure you ladies were all right. I don’t usually see the Reapers around here. Figured I should check up on you.”
“That’s very nice,” Hannah replied awkwardly, and any doubts I might’ve had disappeared. She liked him. How did I not know this already? I’d told her everything about Rebel, and the whole story about Shade, too. We always spilled—always. How had this gotten by me?
Except she knew how uncomfortable I felt around cops. She’d probably been scared to talk to me. Andrews turned to look in my direction.
“You’ve got some bruising on your face,” he said quietly. “Do you feel safe with those men outside?”
“They’re fine,” I said quickly. “I got the bruises from falling…”
Gee, that sounded like a scene from a low budget PSA for battered women. Heath Andrews wasn’t fooled for a minute.
“You can tell me what happened,” he said. “I’ll help protect you. The Reapers have a lot of influence in the area, but you don’t have to put up—”
“No, it’s really not that,” I said, glancing between him and my sister. “Hannah, tell him. It wasn’t the Reapers.”
“It wasn’t,” she agreed. He caught her gaze and held it, assessing, then nodded.
“Then who was it?”
“I fell into a pickup truck,” I said. “I mean, the side of it. I hit my head on the mirror. I was drinking.”
Andrews studied me again. “You sure that’s the story you want to go with?”
“It’s the truth,” I insisted, reminding myself that it was. I had been drinking last night and I’d definitely fallen into the mirror. I’d just left out the part about the fall happening after Rebel threw me. And to be fair, I’d punched him. “There’s nothing here that needs investigating. I’m safe. Truly.”
“She is,” Hannah insisted. “I wouldn’t lie to you, Heath.”
Heath. Not Deputy Andrews. Heath. I shot my sister a look that promised we’d be talking later. She glanced away, blushing again.
“You sure you won’t fall into any more trucks?” he asked. “You have choices, Mandy. I can protect you. There’s a place where women can go.”
He obviously didn’t believe me… I needed to give him something more.
“Those bikers out there,” I said, nodding toward the door. “I think they’ll make sure there aren’t any more trucks in my future. I mean, if for some reason I had trouble again. Which I won’t.”
“The Reapers are considered a gang by law enforcement,” he told me, his voice serious. “Organized crime. Did you know that?”
“I understand, but they haven’t done anything to me. Truly. This little…accident…had nothing to do with them. If anything, they helped me out of a tough situation. I don’t have any reason to be afraid of them.”
“All right,” Andrews said. He looked to Hannah again. “I didn’t see you downtown this morning.”
Holy crap, they see each other often enough that he noticed she took a sick day! Hannah was a checker in Violetta’s only grocery store, which meant she saw everyone in town, but she wasn’t the only checker.
“You’re going to be late for work if you don’t head out soon,” Hannah said, looking at me. I pulled out my new phone and realized she was right. Crap.
“Let me grab my stuff,” I said. “Shade is giving me a ride.”
Andrews didn’t make any move to leave as I grabbed my bag, then ducked into the bathroom to check my hair and makeup. The bruise was still pretty obvious. Ugh. Hopefully it wouldn’t show as much in the dim shadows of the bar. I took a second to text Hannah a quick “U OK with him? If not, send SOS” and then ran out the door, leaving the deputy still inside.
Shade stood waiting for me outside, body language all angry alpha.
Great. Just what I needed.
“Everything is fine,” I told him. “He wanted to be sure you hadn’t given me the bruise.”
Shade snorted. “Fuckin’ asshole. Just ’cause I ride a bike doesn’t mean I beat up women.”
“Actually, I think he was more concerned about Hannah,” I replied. “Apparently they talk down at the grocery store or something. When he saw all of you here, he got worried.”
Shade cocked a brow.
“Interesting. He single?”
“No idea,” I said, shrugging.
“You tell him Rebel did it?” he asked, catching my hand and pulling me toward his bike. The other Reapers fell in beside us. I suddenly felt very short and small.
“I told him I fell into a truck, and that it wasn’t going to happen again. He offered to help me get away if I needed it. I don’t. That’s about it. You don’t need to worry—I didn’t drag the Reapers and Rebel into anything.”
“You think that’s what I’m worried about?” Shade said, pulling up short. “Mandy, I made you a promise—anything that happens with Rebel won’t come back on you. Not today, not ever. I don’t need you lying to protect me. I’m a big boy.”
“What makes you think I was trying to protect you?” I asked, trying to lighten the mood. “I’m the one who punched the asshole and smashed up his truck.”
One of the other bikers—Dopey—snorted, and Shade turned to glare at him. I glanced back toward the trailer, wondering if Andrews was watching us through the window. How had things gotten so complicated so fast?
“Can you just give me a ride to work?” I asked Shade. “I’m running late and I need to talk to my boss.”
“You got it, babe.”
“I’m really sorry about last night,” I told Bone. My boss sat behind his desk in the bar office looking grim and grumpy as usual. “I know you need to be able to count on me.”