“Head fuckery is a noble goal,” Kit declared, stepping into the room to join us. “London’s gonna be here soon—she’s our ride. She’s doing a Costco run for more ice and chips—you can never have too much of those. Nice work on the outfit, Mel.”
“It was all Jessica.”
“Figures. Now let’s go. We’re out of sangria again and Em’s looking thirsty. God only knows what she’ll do once she realizes I drank it all while she was talking to lover boy on the phone. That bitch is violent when she’s sober. We need more to drink—safety first, you know?”
• • •
“This is Mel,” Kit announced proudly, pushing me toward a tall guy with dark hair pulled back in a man bun. (Those always confuse me—they really shouldn’t be sexy yet on some guys they just work.) He wore a denim Devil’s Jacks MC cut, and I would’ve been interested in studying the patches if he weren’t completely bare chested underneath it . . . and what a chest. Damn.
I know it’s shallow, but if you asked me to pick his face out of a police lineup I would’ve drawn a blank. Those pecs? I think they were burned on my soul.
“Mel’s connected to London, my dad’s old lady,” Kit continued. “She’s nice, so try not to break her.”
“Hey, Mel,” he said, his voice smooth with just a hint of humor. “I’m Taz. Over from Portland.”
“Taz is in the same chapter as Hunter, Em’s old man,” Kit informed me. “He’s a great guy, aren’t you, Taz?”
“Fuckin’ prince,” he agreed. “You want a drink, Mel?”
I nodded, mesmerized. Taz was very, very pretty. No, “pretty” was the wrong word. Hot. Yeah, that was better. Taz was hot—like, on the alphabet of hotness I’d give him an “H” for Hemsworth. I wanted to lick him, to see if he tasted as good as he smelled, although that may have been the sangria talking . . . His eyes were green and sparkling, his lips were quirked in this adorable half smile, and when he put his hand against the small of my back, guiding me gently toward the kegs, I nearly fainted.
Fuck Painter—he had his chance.
In all fairness, I’m not usually that shallow . . . but I’d been at the party for nearly two hours now, and while I’d seen Mr. Brooks in the distance, he hadn’t even bothered acknowledging me with a friendly wave, let alone talked to me. He’d glared for a minute, then stomped off toward Reese without a second look.
At least London had been happy to see me, although I could tell she was disappointed Jess wasn’t here. I knew she’d been banned from the Armory for a while last summer after she’d gotten herself in trouble at one of their parties. But she’d really pulled her shit together since then. Reese had even started inviting her to some of the club’s family events last winter.
So far as I knew, she’d never been back out here, and I’d only been out once, helping London with some groceries. Today, Loni had warned me to stay outside in the courtyard with the main group and to let her know when I wanted to go home so she could arrange a ride. Then she’d given me a hug and a kiss before setting me free to run around with Kit.
Em had already ditched us by then, glued to her old man, Hunter.
“She’s dick-whipped,” Kit had confided. “Pathetic. If I ever fall for some guy like that, please shoot me. My dad has lots of guns—you can borrow one if you need to.”
We’d spent the next two hours wandering around together. Kit had grown up playing at the Armory and she gave me the full scoop on everyone we saw. She seemed to agree with London about staying outside with the main crowd in the courtyard, rather than exploring the big, three-story building behind us. It looked sort of like a castle to me—apparently they’d bought it from the National Guard.
Surprisingly, the party really was family-friendly.
There was loud music and plenty of booze, but there were also kids running around laughing and screaming, stealing cookies and drinking endless lemonade.
It wasn’t all sunshine and light, though. There were lots of big, scary-looking guys surrounded by women wearing a lot less clothing than I was used to seeing. Something told me the whole family-friendly vibe would end once the sun went down. At least Jess made the right call on the boots—the few women I’d seen wearing slutty heels were having a really hard time getting around, given the mixture of cracked concrete, gravel, and grass that blanketed the area.
My boots made me feel strong and tall and capable.
That’s why—when Taz poured me a drink and smiled big at me—I didn’t even notice Painter watching us. I also didn’t notice him after the second drink, which was really more like my . . . well, I’d sort of lost track at the house, to be honest. (Let’s just say I was feeling festive.) That’s also why I completely forgot what London told me about staying in the courtyard. To be fair, I’d pretty much forgotten about everything by then—I’d been drunk before, but never quite like this.
It was fun. No wonder Jessica used to do it so much.
“You want to go for a walk?” Taz asked me after we’d been talking for what felt like forever and no time at all. I looked around, realizing that the sun had started to set. There were a lot fewer kids running around. Someone had lit a bonfire, and the music was louder.
“Sure,” I said, feeling adventurous. Maybe he’d kiss me. That would show Levi Fucking Painter Brooks a thing, now, wouldn’t it? Just because he wasn’t interested in me didn’t mean I wasn’t sexy and fun.