Helping with the ol’ ladies had put me on the shit list of more than a few of the sheep though. I’d learned that Spider hadn’t touched any of them in years, which had surprised me as well as secretly delighted me. That hadn’t kept them from wanting his attention though. That he had officially claimed me as his had pushed some buttons and the claws had been sharpened and were aimed at my back now.
For two weeks now I’d been subjected to bitchy cattiness from those skank ho cunt monkeys. For two Saturdays, ever since Spider had come in one night and just kissed the breath out of me in front of everyone, I’d been subjected to taunts, supposedly accidental elbows to the stomach, and more than a few spilled drinks on me. Last Saturday I’d even seen some slut trying to work her charms on my man, only to be shot down quick and humiliatingly hard in front of her friends. That same sheep was causing trouble tonight and I was one bitchy comment away from tearing her hair out of her not-so-pretty head.
I stood behind the bar, trying to get my anger under control. Spider and Bash hadn’t come in yet tonight, although I knew that Spider would be here any time now. He always came in when I was working and stayed until closing so that he could drive me home. In the two weeks since he had basically b
egged me with his eyes to make whatever was between us more than just sex, he had been the most amazing boyfriend any girl could want. Which made holding the past up between us like a shield around my heart hard as hell.
A hand touched my arm and I flinched at the contact of callused fingers on my skin. I knew it wasn’t Spider so I naturally shied away from it, knowing he would be jealous if he saw some guy touching me. I might have told him that I wanted him to be jealous, but honestly I didn’t want him to hurt like that because I knew how bad it could feel.
Raider’s hand wrapped around my wrist and tugged me away from the bar a little so he could speak in my ear without having to shout over the loudness of the three ol’ ladies and their men cutting it up. “You okay?”
I didn’t look up at him but let my eyes go over his shoulder to the blonde with the fried out hair and washout face. Glassy, bloodshot blue eyes met mine and she glared at me like I had killed her puppy, or stolen her man. “Nothing I can’t deal with myself,” I assured him before turning away to grab a pitcher of draft and a bottle of Jameson. “I’m good.”
“Don’t do something that will get yourself hurt. Raven will kill us all,” Raider called after me and I had to grin.
Raven had officially warmed up to me. We’d become pretty close in the last two weeks, and I was glad. I didn’t want her to hate me, and I really didn’t want her to continue to hold me against Bash. She’d calmed down about it, and Bash was looking happier every time I saw him. The only problem was that Raven’s brothers and Spider were pressuring Bash to propose to Raven. I didn’t understand why he didn’t just do it because I knew he wanted that girl to have his last name more than anything in the world right now. Luckily, Raven didn’t seem to mind that Bash hadn’t put his ring on her finger yet.
With my tray loaded down with the big pitcher of beer and the biggest bottle of Jameson in the bar, I weaved my way through the crowded bar toward the back. Tanner and Matt were back there playing pool with a few college boys. They were hustling the two rich boys and making bank doing it. I wasn’t sure what the two brothers did for a living. Bash worked at Uncle Jack’s car and motorcycle garage, all of the Hannigans worked here, and Spider of course ran his uncle’s tattoo shop. I knew that some of the MC worked outside of Creswell Springs, and even outside of Trinity County. I also knew better than to ask what exactly they did do that took them away from home. Tanner and Matt sometimes fell into that latter category and had just gotten back from wherever it was that they had been working.
Seeing me coming with the beer and whisky, Matt rubbed his hands together and grinned at the two men he and his brother had hustled tonight. “Pay the lady, boys.”
The two college boys were handsome with rich-boy clothes and over gelled hair. They were huge though, with ink peeking out from under their designer polo shirts. They obviously had some huge balls to have walked into Hannigans’ tonight. But they would be leaving with empty pockets for the experience. One of them handed me a hundred dollar bill, told me to keep the change then tapped me on the ass as I turned to walk away.
I couldn’t contain the yelp that left my lips and I felt the air behind me tense. Next thing I knew Matt was on top of the college boy who had smacked my rear. “Don’t you fucking touch her again, dipshit. She is not club property. She’s an ol’ lady.”
I didn’t stick around to watch the show, but I would have to remember to thank Matt later. It was the first time I’d been called an ol’ lady, and while I hated that label it still put a smile on my lips as I collected empties from various tables on the way back to the bar. The next hour passed without incident and I was starting to relax a little.
Bash came in around ten. He was alone and looking harassed as he sat down at the bar. When I put a bottle of his favorite beer down in front of him he gave me a grim smile and a nod before swallowing half of it in one gulp. “Rough day?” I said. I wouldn’t know how his day had been because I was basically living at Spider’s apartment these days.
“I’ve had worse,” he grumbled before chugging the rest of the beer. I nodded and placed another in front of him, chucking the other into the big trash bin behind me.
“Raven?” I asked, wondering what had the worried frown wrinkling his forehead so badly.
Bash shook his head. “No. Just club stuff. Thanks for the beers.” He stood and glanced around. “Spider not here yet?”
I grimaced. “Not yet.” I was starting to worry about him. He had told me that morning that he had a leg piece he needed to finish today and would be running late, but I’d expected him at least an hour ago, since the guy he had been working on had come in to show off the new ink.
Bash’s eyes filled with lightning but he didn’t say anything as he twisted his way through the crowd to the Original’s booth in the back. I went back to work, but kept an eye on him, making sure he didn’t need another beer or something stronger. Before I knew it another hour had passed and there was still no sign of Spider. I pulled my cellphone out of my apron pocket and saw that he hadn’t texted me. Not that I had expected him to. Spider was not technology friendly.
I hit connect on his name and listened to it ring half a dozen times before he finally picked up. “Hey,” he said, sounding winded, and I frowned as the background noise started to make sense to me. There was music—sultry music—and a few catcalls and whistles.
“I was starting to worry about you. Everything okay?” I didn’t want to be that girlfriend, the one who checked up on her boyfriend like she needed to make sure he wasn’t doing something that would break her heart. Even if I did have plenty of reasons to think that, I still didn’t want to be a nag… Or have my worst fears confirmed. Right now I was just concerned for him. He was normally at the bar by ten at the latest most nights. It was after eleven and I’d been worried that he might have wrecked his bike or something worse.
“Just had to take care of a few things, baby. I’ll be over in a little while. As soon as I clean up the mess here.” I heard someone calling his name in the background. A woman. He muttered a curse. “I have to go, Willa.”
“Okay… Bye—” But he had already hung up before I could finish. Where had he been?
“Uh-oh,” a nasal, sweet voice said from behind me and I turned around to find my self-appointed nemesis standing there with an evil grin on her face. I was positive that her mother hadn’t named her Bubbles, because who the hell would do that to their child? If she wanted a stupid nickname she should have went with something like Band-Aid because that was about as big as her waist was. Probably due to all the coke she snorted. The little vial around her neck was only half full compared to what it had been when she had first walked in the bar tonight. “Trouble in paradise? Three guesses where he is…” She held up her hand and wiggled three fingers. “But I’m sure I only need one.”
I turned back around, ready to walk away from her before I really did punch her face in. It might actually make it more appealing if I rearranged some of her features, but I was above that. Or so I kept telling myself. Bubbles didn’t take the hint and followed after me. “I would say he was at Angel’s Halo pussy farm.”
“Oh, you mean he went to your house?” I sneered at her over my shoulder, then bit my tongue as soon as it had left my mouth. Shit. I hadn’t meant to play her game. Now I had fallen right into her bony little hands.
“No way, baby doll. I might be a sheep, but I got standards. We stay at the compound or at our own houses. I’m talking about the actual whorehouse, or as they legally call it, their strip club. Things can get wild over there, because that is where all the college boys tend to head. The MC doesn’t go there as often. It’s Bash and Spider’s shameful secret, since Bash’s old man left it to him. Your man bought into it and has kept it up while our wonderful club pres. was off shacked up with you. If things get out of hand Spider gets called out there to take care of business… And then he takes care of business with Topaz.”
I had meant to ignore everything that was spewing out of Bubbles’ mouth. Instead my ears had opened up even more to hear her over the din of the crowded bar. So Spider was part owner of a sleazy strip club, I didn’t care. How could I be judgmental about something like that when I’d known for years that my father had at least three actual bunny ranches in Vegas as well as a few strip clubs? They had been high-end clubs and ranches—with the amount of money left to me and Lexa by my father it had been a very lucrative business—and I had no idea what had happened to them after more than half The Red Dragons’ MC was basically slaughtered by the feds.
What had my stomach suddenly in my throat and bile threatening to choke me was that very last part. Really just one word had cracked my chest open. Topaz. Sure there were plenty of strippers who used that as their stage name, but I knew deep down that it was the same Topaz from Vegas. The same stripper that had filled Spider’s bed along with someone else the night my world had come crumbling down.