The dark-haired man edged closer still, now only mere inches from my chest. Even in my weakened state, his scent stirred something in my stomach; he was intoxicating, dangerous but intoxicating.

I lifted my wary eyes to meet his and his hands began to move once more.

“You have nothing to be afraid of. No one will hurt you. You have my word,” the blond man said, continuing to watch his friend’s busy hands.

He seemed to be translating.

I wanted to scream out in confusion. I did not understand anything that was happening, did not understand where I was, who I was with, and why the man before me did not speak. In a flash, I suddenly remembered the boy I met at the fence when I was eight. He too spoke with his hands. Maybe some people talked with their hands on the outside? I rubbed my hand down my face and squeezed my eyes shut. I was delirious, my mind wandering to silly, idle thoughts.

“Styx, man. What the hell? Who the f**k’s this bitch? Why’s she freaking out?”

My gaze was drawn to a man with straight, long black hair that dropped to the middle of his back. His features were so different from mine, his width so, so… big. He was almost as wide as he was tall. His skin was a caramel brown, eyes almost black, mouth fuller. Strange dark patterns were etched into his entire face… a large tattoo of swirling black lines and symbols.

“Bull, not f**kin’ now,” the blond man snapped, but Bull had addressed the dark-haired man. The man before me with hazel eyes was named Styx?

Styx leaned even closer and I let him. What other choice was there? I was no stranger to men taking from me what they wanted. I learned at a very early stage in life that a person can do just about anything to survive.

Placing a hand over his chest, he moved it over his heart, and the blond man stood beside him. “My name’s Ky. His name’s Styx. He found you behind the dumpster a few days ago, bleeding out. You were dying. You remember?”

A few days ago! I looked down to my leg, now covered in bandages, feeling the tightness of my damaged skin and the nauseating pain when I moved.

Guard dogs. Of course, a guard dog bit me. Gabriel’s dog mauled my left leg when I was trying to escape. I had been unconscious for a few days?

“This is a clubhouse, for bikers. The Hangmen.” Ky gestured around the room.

I frowned. His face reflected my own expression. “You do know what a bike is, yeah? A motorbike?”

M-o-t-o-r-b-i-k-e. I sounded the word in my head, but it was not familiar. Someone laughed loudly in the background, mocking me. Styx turned his head slowly and he glared at the mocking man, whose laugher immediately stopped. At that moment, I feared him. His expression was intense, severe, his dark, sharp features hard and steely. As I shifted on the spot in obvious discomfort, his gaze met mine once again.

His hands moved. “No one laughs at you, right,” Ky verbalized the message with appropriate emphasis.

For some reason, I relaxed on hearing Styx’s vow of protection. Ky cleared his throat and continued. “A bike is something you ride, travel on. You know what a car is?”

I nodded my head once. Styx’s nostrils flared and his lips twitched.

“It’s like a car but with two wheels instead of four,” Ky explained.

There was a deathly hush in the room as I tried to picture such a machine. I turned, looking each person in the eyes. They were all so different. I felt like I was in another world, so different to the one I had known all my life. It was a darker world, a sinful world. I supposed now I was sinful. I no longer had the protection of the great fence against outsiders.

A pretty blond-haired woman smiled as she moved to the front of the crowd. She waved at me, then stopped beside a huge man with no hair, taking his hand in hers. He unsettled me tremendously. He sported more tattoos on his skin than anyone else; even his neck and head were covered in bright, intricate images. He was menacing; in contrast, the woman seemed kind. She reminded me of Delilah.

I flinched and almost screamed.

Lilah… Maddie!

“Listen to me.” I faced Styx once more as his hands began their intricate dance. Ky’s voice gave the command. The significance of what I had done began to seep through the barriers of my mind. In sympathy, my limbs started to tremble.

“Do you remember me?” Ky said, pointing to Styx.

Did I remember Styx? What a strange question, I thought through my mind’s thick fog.

As I looked into those large, hazel eyes, Styx suddenly seemed nervous. His gaze broke and he anxiously glanced around the room. People began to murmur, giving him quizzical looks. A woman with long brown hair approached him, laying a hand on his shoulder, and without even looking back, he shrugged off her gesture of comfort. Her pretty face fell and she stared at the floor.

Styx’s hands moved once more, this time quicker but also seeming more intense.

“Do you?” Ky pushed.

But I could not take my eyes off the woman behind Styx, nor she off me. I could see by the way she hovered around the man that she wanted to belong to him. It was the same way Sister Eve reacted around Prophet David: longingly… unrequited.

She was in love with Styx.

“Look at me!” Ky snapped impatiently, giving Styx a voice. “Do you remember me?” Styx pounded at his chest with his finger.

I studied Styx’s face more deeply. He was even larger than I first realized, his neck and shoulders wide and strong, his arms bulging in the sleeves of his black shirt. But those eyes… green with flecks of brown mostly sprinkled around the outside… beautiful. Styx’s eyes reminded me of the forest, of fall colors and fallen leaves. I watched as he swallowed under my attention, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he stared me down.