I laid my head down on his shoulder, fuming. Fucking stupid men, ruining everything again. Except Shade hadn’t actually ruined anything for me. Yeah, he’d taken a night with me in trade, but I guess technically it was acceptable within the rules of the club. He’d definitely thought I was on board with it. More importantly, he’d stopped when he learned that I’d been set up.
I raised my head again.
“Is that really true? What you said about Dopey’s old lady?”
“Naw,” Shade said, smiling. “I like her okay.”
“Seriously,” I said, rolling my eyes. “You’d die for some woman you hardly know, just ’cause she’s with this guy who’s part of your club?”
Shade’s smile faded and his face turned serious. “Yeah, it’s really true. I’d die for her because Dopey’s my brother and that’s what it means to be a Reaper.”
“Rebel and his club aren’t like that, are they?” I asked, the magnitude of his words finally sinking in.
“No, they aren’t. They’re great people and they’d do a hell of a lot for each other, but at the end of the day they aren’t an MC. And that’s perfectly fine—this life isn’t for everyone.”
“But it’s for you.”
Shade nodded. “Yeah, it’s for me.”
“Okay, then,” I told him.
“So, you wanna go eat burgers with some guys I’d die for and their women?” Shade asked. “I’m not trying to influence you either way, but I hear there’s gonna be cake.”
“Well, if they’re serving cake, I guess it’s only polite,” I replied. “I wouldn’t want to fuck up my very first one-night stand by being rude.”
“Fantastic. I’ll go see if I can find you something to wear. Let’s go.”
With that he gave my bare ass a smack. I shoved at him and he rolled me over, kissing me deep.
After that we needed another condom.
The barbecue was a mixture of fun and sheer torture because Mandy’s almost-naked ass was hanging out the whole damned time, taunting me.
I liked having her around, but I wasn’t a big fan of the looks she was getting. I hadn’t been specific enough when I asked McClane’s old lady, Pepper, to find her something to wear. It wasn’t Pepper’s fault that she was a couple sizes smaller than Mandy, but I’d never seen a pair of cut-offs cover less skin. The fact that I knew she wasn’t wearing anything under them wasn’t helping. Throw in the push-up bra, and my new girl might as well be in a bikini.
Not that she realized I’d claimed her, although everyone else at the fucking picnic sure as shit did. Wasn’t sure how long we’d last, but while she was sleepin’ with me, she wouldn’t be sleepin’ with anyone else. No fuckin’ way.
She’d be back in my bed, and damned soon, too.
“Just got word, boss,” said Dopey, sitting down next to me at the picnic table. He held a beer in one hand and a disposable cell in the other. “The brothers down south said they got eyes on Rebel. Want to know if we’re done with him.”
“We’ll see how he settles in,” I replied. “They can keep an eye on him, make sure he understands that going out bad isn’t a temporary state of being. He’s dead to the MC world.”
“Oh, I think he figured that out,” Dopey said, offering me a feral smile. “I thought you showed restraint, all things considered. None of the damage was permanent.”
I shrugged. “Doing more could’ve caused trouble for Mandy. Wasn’t necessary, which is a fuckin’ pity. I’d have loved to slit his throat.”
“Your girl seems to be doing all right for herself,” Dopey said, nodding toward a gaggle of women clustered near the food tables. Mandy might’ve been nervous about sticking around, but she’d managed to find a place for herself. She had an energy, a sense of busy-ness that I’d noticed before. I’d figured it was related to her work as a waitress. Now I saw there was more to it. She didn’t like sitting around or waiting for someone else to do the work. She’d volunteered to help with the food as soon as I officially introduced her to the old ladies, and not in a showy way. I’d caught several approving looks shared between Pepper and Jen, Dopey’s old lady.
They liked her.
Rebel’s club liked her, too. I’d been telling the truth when I’d said that it wasn’t about her—it really wasn’t. But if they’d only been tolerating her for his sake, they wouldn’t be so friendly toward her now that he was gone. Mandy might’ve joined the biker community by hooking up with Rebel, but more than one man here would be looking to pin her down when I cut her loose. I saw the way their eyes followed her, and I didn’t like it. Didn’t like it one damned bit.
Mandy turned to find me staring at her. I raised my beer, and she started across the courtyard.
“Hey, there!” she said when she reached the table. I swung one leg over the bench and caught her hand, pulling her down to sit in front of me.
“You havin’ fun?” I asked. She twisted her head to smile at me.
“Yeah, I really am. You know, I always had a good time with the bikers. It was only—”
She stopped talking abruptly, her face going red.
“What?” I asked.
“It’s stupid,” she replied, shaking her head.
“Promise you won’t laugh?”
“Promise I won’t make promises I can’t keep,” I told her. She shoved me playfully, then took a deep breath, glancing quickly at Dopey. The man was pretending not to listen. Poorly.
“Go away,” I told him.
“Jen’s gonna be pissy that I didn’t get the good gossip,” he muttered, and I made a whipping noise, pretending to crack one at him. He laughed and flipped me off, heading toward the keg. Mandy waited until he was out of earshot before speaking again.
“Okay, I was always sort of freaked out whenever the Reapers were around. Especially you,” she admitted. It didn’t really surprise me—we had that effect on a lot of people. Still, it took guts to admit it. “The way you were always watching me. And you kept trying to get me to…well, you know.”