All thoughts of having him the moment we were away from the crowd disappeared in favor of getting him into bed and healing. Arthur followed my train of thought. “I’m well enough to fuck you tonight, Buttercup. Don’t think you’re getting out of it that easily.”

Untangling my hand from his, I crossed my arms. “You know what the doctor said. No sex or strenuous exercise until you’re better.”

“We had sex before. Therefore, I am better.”

I snorted. “No, you’re not.”

Anger painted his face. “I don’t have time to be sick. I have a shitload of stuff to do—once it’s done, then I can focus on taking a few days off.”

I rolled my eyes. He needed a good punch to realize how stupid he was. “If you die on me, I’ll curse you forever.”


He chuckled. “You already died on me, so I guess fair’s fair, right?” He meant it as a joke, but it was the worst, most tasteless punch line I’d ever heard.

It killed me.

I gasped. “Seriously?” My voice turned to a thread. “Did you seriously just say that?”

Instantly, his anger and temper disappeared. He jerked me close. “Fuck, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.”

I squirmed in his arms, trying to get away. But he held me tight. “Look at me, Buttercup.”

I refused, staring at the ground instead.

How could he even jest about something like that?

“I’m an asshole.” His fingers trembled around my hips. “Forgive me, please. I can’t do this without you.”

I looked up. His nostrils flared, his eyes wide and full of turmoil.

I didn’t have time to accept his apology. His lips planted on mine and his tongue tore into my mouth—almost as if he wanted to steal the past few seconds and replace them with something so much better.

I tensed in his arms. But then … I opened for him—how could I not? Despite my hurt, I kissed him back.

As our tongues met, our bodies relaxed and forgiveness webbed around us. My heart fluttered with affection and frustration.

By the time Arthur pulled away, my bruised feelings dismissed and only the rawest form of love remained.

Arthur’s eyes darted over my head, a frown furrowing his forehead. “Where the fuck did everyone go?”

I looked around. Uh, that’s strange.

The garden, where multiple couples had been making out, whispering, and staring entranced into the fire, was empty. The evening was late, but no one had made moves to leave before now.

Movement by the door caught my eye. “There.” I pointed to the Clubhouse as Grasshopper appeared, a large grin splitting his face, something hidden behind his back.

“What the hell are they up to?” Arthur tilted his head, never taking his eyes off the procession of bikers and their women as they emptied out from the Clubhouse, coming to ring around us.

“Whatever you’re up to, quit it,” Arthur growled.

Grasshopper and Mo joined us in the center of the ring created by Pure Corruption. My muscles vibrated. I couldn’t understand what was going on. Was this a mutiny? A double cross?

You only think that because you’ve lived through an uprising. Not all Clubs go against authority—especially the Club Arthur has created.

Crossing his arms, Arthur stood to his full height. “I’m not into séances or whatever shit this is.” His voice bordered on aggression and amusement.

“Calm your fucking tits, Kill. Let us do this.” Mo grinned.

The Club traded their fussy, foggy drunkenness and sobered with secrecy. Everyone beamed, conspiring as one entity to deliver earth-shattering news.

Mo clasped his hands together as if preparing for a sermon. “Seeing as tonight is the last night we have until all of this is done—a war waged on both bikers and politicians alike—we thought it was a good opportunity.”

“Hopper?” Mo moved to the side, giving Grasshopper lots of room to swing his hidden treasure from behind his back and present it. The parcel rested heavily in his raised hands.

My eyes widened as I looked at Melanie.

She winked.

I think I know what this is …

Grasshopper closed the last few steps and shoved the item into Arthur’s chest. “It’s all you need to make an honest woman out of her.”

I covered my mouth with my hands.

At Dagger Rose, I’d been too young to appreciate the bonds of love and the tether of a family group—even though I’d loved Arthur with all my heart. But this … this was more than just love for one person. This was a welcome, an initiation—an acceptance into a world I knew and forgot for so long.

I belonged here.

I was no longer a stranger.

“Fuck.” Arthur glanced at me, understanding slowly smoking his eyes. He looked at Mo and Grasshopper, then the rest of Pure Corruption. His hands shook a little as he tore open the package.

Forgetting the circle of gawking people, I drifted closer to Arthur, never taking my eyes off his strong fingers as he tore at the cello tape and scrunched up the paper. Tossing the wrapping in the direction of the fire, he revealed a tan leather jacket.

My heart stopped beating.

Grasshopper laughed. “Couldn’t have a Dagger hanging out with us. No offense.”

Arthur cleared his throat as he shook out the jacket, dangling it in his arms. The back faced me and I gasped at the perfection.

Reaching out, I traced the emblem for Pure Corruption with its skull and abacas. Peering closer, I noticed the filigree circle encompassing the logo, threading with Sagittarius and Libra star signs.

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