Scooping her too-thin frame in my arms, I pulled back the black sheets and settled her underneath, smoothing her hair from her face, watching as her full lips tilted into a peaceful smile.

Fuck me, she was beyond beautiful. Even at eleven, I thought that shit true, but now she was way more than a goddamned ten.

Leaving my room, turning the lock, I headed to the lounge and over to the bar. Only a few brothers were left, most gone home or to their bedrooms with their bitches for the night. Lois’d clearly split too. Good. Didn’t want no questions flying my way. Had no answers to give her anyhow.

Walking behind the bar, I poured myself a large bourbon, Ky and Rider sitting around a table, watching my every move. Pit ran across the room and jumped behind the bar. “Fuck, Prez, I’ll get that.” I waved him away with my hand, but the brother took his place as bartender, one of his prospect duties.

I took a seat beside Rider and Ky, meeting their eyes.

“Prez,” Ky greeted.

Frowning at the f**kers, I saw them shift in their seats—they’d been talking.

Out with it, I signed.

Ky rubbed his hand over his mouth. “Styx, man. What the f**k’s up with the bitch?”

Edging forward, I met his gaze head on, my eyes twitching in annoyance.

“I’m not ripping on her. What I mean is that she’s clueless, naïve. She didn’t even know what a f**kin’ biker was or even a motherfuckin’ bike! She don’t speak, looked at the brothers like she was staring at the face of evil. Turns up outta nowhere, bleeding out. We don’t know where she’s from or if someone wants her back. She could be trouble. In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re over-occupied with that shit right now. Don’t need no more.”

Ky shook his head at me, like he didn’t even recognize the man next to him. The man who’d been his best friend for f**kin’ years. “Feds are watching our ass twenty-four-seven. We walk out with a timid, bruised bitch… they’ll be on us and no f**ker will believe the truth ’bout her. I mean, f**k! We got the Chechen run tomorrow. We’re gonna be on the road weeks reclaiming our turf. Don’t need this now.”

Downing my bourbon in one, I savored the smooth, peaty taste. I let the alcohol numb my throat. Slowly opening my eyes, I dropped my glass to the table and buried my hands in my hair. It’d been one… long… fuckin’… day.

“Where’s she now?” Rider asked as he tightened his black Hangmen bandana ’round his head. “Do you need me to check on her?”

Shaking my head, I inhaled and signed out, Sleeping.

Rider nodded. I swear the f**ker looked disappointed. Then he skittered his eyes around the room before they landed back on me. He looked like a man who wanted to say something.

“Look, Styx. When I was younger and my folks died, I was left alone. Wandered for years, scared shitless at first, then hardened up pretty damn quick. Life on the road, y’know? This club was my second chance.”

“What you sayin’, brother?” Ky asked as he placed a hand on Rider’s shoulder.

“Just that she may be scared shitless now, but she might come ’round at some point. I was brought up in a strict religious household. Never told anyone here that before. Never felt the need. That’s not my life anymore, f**kin’ far from it. Anyhow, when my folks died, I had to relearn life all over again. Lost my faith, my church, my support network. Lost my way for a while. I found my family here again with the Hangmen.”

You think she’s a Bible nut? I signed. It made some serious f**kin’ sense.

He shrugged. “Not sure exactly. Maybe? Just saying that was my path. But she ran from something; that’s for damn sure. She turned up confused, mute, bleeding. She had tattooed scripture on her wrist ’bout the end of days. She needs protecting by the look of things. She’s obviously been sheltered. She don’t know shit about life, like she’s been locked up in solitary for twenty years.”

Leaning back, I stared at the brown-stained ceiling. I sighed and rubbed my head. What if I didn’t come on the run? You take the lead and I stay with the bitch, get to the bottom of her deal? I signed and looked at Ky.

He laughed and shook his head in disbelief. “You’re kidding me, right? Fuck that! Don’t even think it, Styx. You gotta be there. You’re the f**kin’ Prez! Chechen’s are expecting you to be there. Club first.”

Fuck! If I ever see the bastard Russians again I’ll f**kin’ slit their throats. I’ll be gone nearly a f**kin’ month, had to go. Needed someone I could trust. Someone who’ll watch out for her while I’m gone, then sort through this shit when I get back.

Clearing my throat, I glanced to Rider and exhaled. He paled.

You take responsibility for her. Don’t come on the run to the Chechen deal. Stay here with her. You protect her until I get back.

I watched him swallow, then shake his head. “Prez, I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

Not asking you, brother. It’s a f**kin’ order. Need someone I trust watching over her while I’m gone. Someone who ain’t gonna f**k her while she sleeps.

His face twitched in nerves. “I… I’m not good with bitches, Styx. Never know how to talk to ’em. I’m not the right guy…” He trailed off apologetically.

That’s exactly why you’re the right brother for this job. While she’s here, you watch out for her, fix her leg. I don’t know, teach her shit, rules and such. Hell, what about f**kin’ life? You know the brothers will chase her tail if she isn’t owned. Can’t keep her here with no protection. Last thing we want is a f**kin’ rape. She’s already been through enough shit.