“Well, take her out tonight and see if you can get an intro to one of them. Better yet, get an invite to their clubhouse and see for yourself what’s really happening out there. They’re bringing in new brothers like crazy right now—standards are probably low enough to let someone like you through the door.”
“Usually I’d take that as an insult,” I replied, snorting. “But I probably deserve it right now. You’ll never guess what I spent my day doing.”
“Knitting,” he said flatly. “I think we all know you have a secret love of the womanly arts. I’m assuming you’re working on a nice motorcycle cozy for my Christmas present? You know, something to go with the embroidered Reapers pillow you gave me last year?”
I closed my eyes, counting to ten. Don’t engage. That’ll just make him happy. The dick.
“I spent the day on a roof repairing an air conditioner. It was a thousand degrees up there—fucking tar melted all over everything.”
“Why the hell would you do that?”
“Because I’ve got a new job. Maintenance for one Tinker Garrett. She owns an apartment building, and in exchange for doing some work around the place, I’ll have a place to stay, park my truck, all that good shit.”
“Sounds like a great cover,” Picnic said. “Gives you a reason to stick around town, not to mention saving some cash.”
“Yup. She bought my story about the divorce. I thought convincing Talia might be a problem, but she hasn’t even bothered to ask why an independent trucker would suddenly move to a town in the middle of nowhere. Too busy talking about herself.”
“You really don’t like her, do you?”
“What gave it away?”
Picnic snorted again.
“Anyway, I think we’re on track. Only one complication. Well, aside from the fact that they’ll probably kill me if they figure out I’m a Reaper.”
“Talia Jackson may be a total cunt, but Tinker Garrett is looking damned fuckable. It’s distracting.”
“You’ve got the hots for the landlady?” Picnic asked, and I could practically see the shit-eating grin on his face. “That’s fuckin’ hysterical. Club’s worst player is cock-blocked by duty to his brothers . . . Brings a tear to my eye, Gage. Really does. I’ll be sure to tell everyone, make sure they understand the depths of your dick’s sacrifice.”
“This is why nobody likes you,” I said, reaching up to scratch the back of my neck as the asshole laughed. I caught a whiff under my arm in the process and flinched. “Jesus Christ, but I stink. Gonna head back to the hotel and get cleaned up before I have to see Her Bitchness tonight.”
“Have fun with that,” Picnic replied. “And save your receipts. Club’ll cover the cost of your condoms.”
“You’re a giver, boss. Inspiration to us all.”
“You love me and you know it.”
“Let’s just say I have strong feelings and leave it at that.”
Fucker was still laughing when I hung up on him.
• • •
It was nearly ten that night before I showed my face at the bar. I’d arranged to meet Talia there, and while I definitely wanted her thinking I was into her, I didn’t want to make it too easy. It was like fishing—always a mistake to try reeling them in the first time they nibble the bait. It’s better to let them get a good taste and then set the hook.
Jack’s Roadhouse was like every other small-town dive I’d ever been in—populated almost entirely by locals, ranging in age from the newly minted twenty-one-year-olds (or at least those who’d managed to get fake IDs, although in a town this small it was more about plausible deniability than anything else) to a few old men who had to be in their seventies. The music was classic rock, the beer was strictly domestic, and the battered tables had seen better days. Wasn’t a half-bad place, though—people seemed to be enjoying themselves, and there were some girls on the dance floor strutting their stuff.
Talia and her posse had staked out a table about halfway back, near the dance floor. The table was littered with empty shot glasses and several untouched glasses of water—guess they weren’t into pacing themselves. I recognized a couple of the women from earlier in the week. Talia spent a lot of time in the bar, which made my job that much easier. Totally natural for a man who’s new to town to visit the local watering hole, and even more natural to home in on a woman who looked like Talia Jackson. On paper she was a perfect ten.
In the flesh? Not so much.
The girl had no curves, for one thing. She was also hard—aged beyond her years with a nasty, calculating air in everything she did. Fucking her would be like fucking a strip of jerky. I watched as the girls raised their glasses, polishing off another round of shots before slamming them back down on the table with a crash. Talia looked up, catching a glimpse of me.
“Cooper!” she shrieked, jumping up and running over toward me. My arms rose to catch her, and then her legs were wrapped around my waist, clutching me tightly. Her mouth covered mine for a kiss that burned with alcohol and the lingering taste of buffalo wings.
You’re doing this for the Reapers, I reminded myself. No different than one of our club whores fucking a guy to get information. Somehow I managed to kiss her back, hands gripping her ass. My hungry dick responded, which was something of a blessing. Maybe having Tinker around would be a good thing after all—I could just think of her anytime I had to touch Talia.
After what felt like a thousand years, Marsh’s sister pulled away, catching my face with both hands.
“I have great news!”
“What’s that?” I asked, wondering how drunk she was.
“My brother wants to meet you,” she slurred, blinking owlishly. Fucking hell, that was good news. The sooner I got in with Marsh Jackson and figured out what was going on, the sooner I’d be able to get the hell out of this shithole.
Of course, then I’d never get my chance with Tinker. In that instant I remembered why I didn’t like women my own age—they complicated things.
They were interesting instead of interchangeable.
“That’s great,” I told Talia, making sure I didn’t sound too enthusiastic. Just ’cause this was her turf didn’t mean I had to give her full custody of my balls. “He’s a biker, right?”