I play around with the name of the town in my head, but I can’t place it. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“Most people haven’t. It’s a small town that’s just building up. You’ll be safe there.” A big knot develops in my stomach.
“We might be followed,” I blurt out, panicking.
“Do you see anyone behind us?” He rolls his eyes at me like I’m acting too paranoid, but he doesn’t have a killer hunting him down.
“The nearest car is about half a mile behind,” I say, leaning back in my seat to get myself under control.
“It’s going to be okay,” he says, patting my hand. I nod, and then we settle into a silence. Although my mind hasn’t stopped spinning through all the possibilities of what’s to come.
After a few minutes, I’m back at my questions. “What am I supposed to be working as?”
Immediately I’m freaking out. “What? I don’t know how to do that! What if they come in there?” They couldn’t be more off base than a bartender. I’ve got zero skills making drinks, and I’m not a people person.
“Have you ever met a woman who ‘calm down’ actually worked on?” I’d punch him if he wasn’t driving.
“Nope, but I’d hoped it would work on you. Anyway, the town is guarded by a group of bikers. Their President owns the town. He and his brother built it. They are good people. You’ll be safe. They don’t know your predicament. Only my friend Will is aware of the reason you need to hide, but he doesn’t go by will in Steeleville. They call him Beast.”
I slap my hands on my thighs. “Beast? You’re expecting me to trust someone named Beast?”
“For someone in your predicament, you’re very picky. Yes. I think he gets that name from his size and his skills as a lawyer because he’s not even remotely like a beast. In fact, he’s quiet and calm when he’s not in a courtroom.” He emphasized the calm like a dick.
Rolling my eyes, I bite out through gritted teeth, “Wow, a lawyer named Beast. Interesting. Is there a welder there named Beauty?”
“Ha-ha. Be nice. These people are going to be looking after you. Once you’re protected by one, you’re protected by all. The man you are going to be working for at the bar is called Boss. I’m not sure his real name, but he served with some of them in the military.” Military men? Interesting.
“Really, okay. Well, it’s better than being hunted by drug dealers and their associates,” I sigh. Sliding down in my seat with my thoughts to myself, I’m finally resigned to my fate.
We reach the outskirts of Steeleville, and I swear I see a camera mounted on one of the utility poles. It’s an odd place for a police camera. Maybe it’s just a weather instrument. We do live in the wild west of weather. Speaking of weather, I’m glad I’m inside an air-conditioned vehicle because it’s a freaking scorcher.
Entering the town, I get the small-town feel. The main street is just like any other in the good old USA. Small shop buildings line the street although most of them seem vacant. Spencer mentioned that the town is new, so many of the businesses aren’t operational yet. We pass the bakery he mentioned, followed by a tattoo shop where he pulls into a small parking lot next door. That’s when I see the sign for a bar called Panhandles. “We’re here.”
“Yeah, can’t miss it.” I salute him. “Lead the way.”
“Calm down,” he barks out.
“Asshole,” I mutter under my breath, but he hears me and laughs, opening the door for me. We leave my things in his car while we step inside. It’s almost empty, but at this time of day, that’s a very good thing because I’m already a bundle of nerves. A large man with salt and pepper hair and matching beard looks at us and smiles. “Welcome to Panhandles. Come sit.” He taps the bar top, and we move to the stools in front of him.
“So what can I get you?” he asks, flipping a bar towel over his shoulder.
“I’m here for a job,” I say, taking a seat on the stool with my elbows on the counter. I’m trying to remain cool, but this is all new to me.
“Name, sweet girl?”
“Mary Sta…Baldwin.” Shit, I almost blew my cover. He knows it, but thankfully, he politely ignores my slip.
I’m Boss.” He sticks a hand out over the bar top and takes mine. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. You’re here sooner than I expected.” He looks toward the clock by the door. “So, where are your things?”
“I’ll be back with them.” Detective Spencer gets up and walks out.
Boss comes around the bar and says, “So, since you’re going to be working here, I’m going to give you a quick tour of my pride and joy. You’re training will actually start tomorrow. I don’t have time for it today because I’m supposed to drop you off at Beast’s place.” He starts to lead to the back room, but I freeze.