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“Okay,” I replied.

“Or at all,” he kept going.

“Um…” I mumbled. “Okay.” I said this because I didn’t want anyone to take a blade to me for Ginger or at all either and I didn’t want that in a big way.

His fingers curved deeper into my neck and he pulled me up a bit so I was almost on my toes and his face was closer. Way closer. Too close. Shiver close.

“I don’t think you get what I’m sayin’ to you.” He was still talking quietly. “This Ginger shit heats up, you get on radar, you mention my name, yeah?”

Oh no. This didn’t sound good. This sounded worse than owing a biker gang two million dollars. And I suspected there weren’t a lot of things worse than that but, if there were, Ginger would find them.

“Um…if you’re asking ‘yeah?’ as in, ‘Yeah, I get you’, then no, I don’t get you,” I told him honestly because I was thinking with Tack honesty was the best policy.

“All right, peaches, what I’m sayin’ is, you get in a situation, you mention my name. That means protection. Now do you get me?”

“Um… kind of,” I answered, “but why would I get in a situation?”

“Your sister has shit where she lived, she’s shit where she didn’t live, she’s shit everywhere. You walked in here and had no clue. Don’t bumble into another situation because others…” he paused, “they might not find you cute like I do.”

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“Okay,” I whispered, liking that he found me cute at the same time regretting my decision not to call my father or, say, get on a plane and fly to France. “If I um… have to use your name… um, what does that mean?”

“It means you owe me.”

Oh boy.

“Owe you what?”

He grinned but didn’t answer.

Oh boy!

“Owe you what?” I repeated.

“I gotta get on my bike and get you out of a situation, we’ll talk about it then.”

“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” I assured him and said a short prayer in hopes of making that true.

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His grin got bigger.

Then he let me go but slid my purse off my arm and before I could make a peep, he dug into it. I decided to let him have at it. He’d already touched me and I wasn’t certain I wanted that to happen again because I wasn’t certain what my response would be but I was certain that jumping his bones was high up on the list of possibles. I also figured he could best me in a fight for my purse so I was going to let him take what he wanted. My best lip gloss was in that purse but at that point, if he wanted it to give to one of his bitches, I was willing to let it go.

He came out with my cell, flipped it open, his thumb hit buttons, he flipped it closed, dropped it into my purse, then slid it back on my arm.

“You got my number, darlin’. You need it, use it. You don’t need it, you still wanna use it, don’t hesitate. Now, do you get that?”

I hitched my purse further up on my shoulder and nodded. I got that. He thought I was cute.

I fought back another shiver.

“Nice t’meet ya, Gwen,” he said softly.

“Yeah,” I whispered, “later.” Then I turned to see Dog grinning down at me and I said, “Later.”

“Later, babe,” Dog replied in a way that made it sound like he’d actually see me later which made me have to fight back another shiver.

I turned to the silent biker boys behind me, saw them all smiling, found this scarier than them being scary, lifted a hand and called, “Later.”

I got a bunch of chin lifts and one, “Later, darlin’.”

Then I got the hell out of there.

Chapter Two

I Keep Tabs

I drove home with a lot on my mind.

First and foremost, my sister and why I didn’t disown her like my father and Meredith. She wasn’t even my full sister. She was my half sister. I’d never found her in my living room giving an unconscious man a blowjob but she’d done worse to me, way worse, so, seriously, I should just give it up and let it go.

In a cruel twist of fate, my father married my mother, who was a wild child then he got married to an angel and they’d created a hell child.

Mom had left when I was three but she came back occasionally and when she did we had fun. I didn’t remember much but I remembered she was a blast. She wasn’t about rules or discipline; she was about sticky food that made a lot of mess, fun places and good times.

That was until one visit, while she had me for the weekend, she met a guy she liked and she liked him a lot. She took him back to her hotel, gave me a bunch of candy and sent me outside to sit and wait for her to call me back in.

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The manager of the motel saw me sitting out on a bench, swinging my legs, eating candy, daydreaming and doing it for ages, so he called the police. By the time they came I’d wandered off because I was bored and the police found me. I told the policeman my phone number that Dad made me memorize and they called. Then Dad came to get me, he had a rip roarin’ with Mom at the hotel while her one-day-stand kept shouting at them to keep it down, he was trying to sleep and I never saw Mom again. Ever.

I missed her for awhile but I didn’t know her very well and anyway, at that time Meredith was already in our lives.

Meredith was awesome. She was the coolest stepmom ever. She was sweet and funny and she loved my Dad, like, loads. She also kept homemade cookies in the cookie jar all the time and for a kid, a girl who was being raised by a man who was all man, that meant she was practically perfect

She and Dad got married and I was the flower girl but not like normal flower girls. She walked down the aisle with one hand through the crook of her father’s arm, one hand clutching mine. She made her special day our special day. She was making a public statement that she was walking down the aisle not only to take a man in marriage but to build a family. I was six and I never forgot how special she made me feel, never, not to this day.

But that was Meredith. It wasn’t the first time she’d done it and it wouldn’t be the last.

Then she and Dad had Ginger who was my Mom times, about, five million.

This was the cruel twist of fate. For Dad, Meredith and me.

The second thing I was thinking about was all things Tack. What he said, the way he looked and how he made me feel.

I was already regularly sleeping with a man whose name I didn’t know. A man I met at a restaurant just under a year and a half ago, took him to my home, slept with him, had the best sex in the history of womanhood and, fortunately or unfortunately depending on when I looked at it, he kept coming back for more, proving again and again that first time wasn’t a fluke but, instead, a sneak preview of better things to come.

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