Styx’s faced abruptly hardened and he pulled back, glaring harshly at Rider. I watched as Styx began moving hands, informing Rider of something, and Rider nodded in understanding. Without another word Styx left the room and I winced as the slammed door shut.

I turned to Rider who was watching me curiously. “What did Styx say?”

Rider dropped the bag on the table and faced me. “Club’s riding out in thirty minutes.”

“What is—” My question was interrupted by another knock at the door and I rolled my eyes in exasperation. A moment later it flew open. Beauty and Letti entered, chatting loudly, carrying bags and dressed head to toe in leather. Letti was Bull’s old lady and had been visiting me over the last few weeks along with Beauty. I had never met anyone like Letti before, so big, so fierce. But she was lovely to me and very protective of our new friendship. She and Bull were Samoan, which only confused me—I had never been taught much about other cultures. In commune, it was not a top priority learning of the outside world. Letti showed me on a map where Samoa was and I loved being educated about new things, but I felt foolish that I did not know anything about her home country. Letti simply found it amusing.

“Mae! Get your ass in gear. You’re coming on the ride out,” Beauty said, planting the full bags down on the made bed. Rider shook his head, smiling, and ducked out of the room. Over the past few weeks Beauty had assigned herself as my personal protector and friend.

“A ride out?” I asked, confused again, refocusing on Beauty.

“Yeah! The Hangmen Ride Out. And you’re coming,” Beauty began pulling a mass of leather from the large white shopping bags and thrust them in my direction, Letti silently watching in amusement.

“Wait! I cannot! I do not know how to… ride.”

“Sure you can, girl. You’ll go with Rider. He ain’t got no one on the back of his bike. You just gotta hold on tight.”

“But Styx—”

“Styx’ll be fine with it. Mae, you gotta feel what it’s like on a bike—the wind in your hair, burning up road, the power, the freedom. Then relaxin’ at The Falls, eating barbeque and drinking beer. You’ve been cooped up in here for nearly a goddamned month. You’re getting out. You gotta start living, honey. The men are back and will protect you, and you’re gonna start having some f**kin’ fun!”

I held out the tight black leather clothing and my mouth gaped. The trousers were so small, the Hangmen motif emblazoned on the skimpy black tank top, and a fitted leather jacket to match. “Beauty, I cannot—”

“Girl, I swear if I hear that word outta your mouth anymore, I’ll be fixin’ to scream!”

Glancing at Letti, who simply smirked and pointed in the direction of the washroom, I gave in. Beauty beamed a smile at me and shouted, “We’re all outside in the yard. Catch ya out there!”

As I stared at myself in the mirror several minutes later, a mass of leather covering my body and my stomach sank. I fought with myself over wearing the skintight attire. It was not modest by any means. I was not covered as I had been taught to be my whole life. I was dressed sinfully, seductively, showing my every curve, but I had to tell myself I was no longer in commune and would not be punished by the brothers for being a temptress. You are free now, Mae, I assured my frantic and conflicted heart. You are free…

With a deep breath and another hesitant glance at my reflection, I could not help but expel a short, disbelieving laugh. If only Lilah, Maddie, and Bella could see me now. I looked so different. With my hair hanging down my back and black boots on my feet, I looked like one of them, a “biker bitch” as they were affectionately known, much to my utter confusion.

Shaking myself down, and with a long deep breath, I tentatively walked out of the bedroom and through to the empty lounge. The place looked so strange; deserted, now free of the hedonistic acts normally being carried out within its confines.

Clearly hearing the roar of bike engines and the deep graveled voices of the brothers itching to ride just beyond the door in the yard, I made my way outside. Over the last few weeks, I had noticed the brothers would become restless if they did not ride out at least a few times a week, especially Rider; hence, I supposed, his taken name.

Walking through the plane of the main door, I threw back my shoulders and stepped out into the boiling sun—Texas at midday. My eyes closed as I stood on the top step of the cement stairs and I relished the feeling of the warmth on my cheeks.

Smiling, I opened my eyes only to find a sea of bikers and their women all gaping in my direction. I spotted Beauty waving from near the front of the group, one arm wrapped around Tank, who flicked his chin in greeting.

Catcalls and wolf whistles bombarded me; some women curled their lips in distaste and several of the brothers gawped. But Rider was the one who really caught my eye as he observed my form and finery from his bike.

A long, loud whistle silenced the men and movement at the very front of the line caught my attention. Styx and Ky stepped forward and Rider dismounted and followed suit. I walked to meet them face to face, stopping at the bottom of the stairs, fidgeting with my hands in nerves.

Ky smiled and shook his head. “Fuck, Mae! You’re one hot bitch!”

I squirmed on the spot and risked a glance at Styx. His hungry stare was almost burning holes into me, and for the second time that day, I lost my breath. Styx’s hands moved and Ky dropped his smile. He cleared his throat and I could see the rapid fire of Styx’s hands, but instead, I drank in what he was wearing: typical blue faded jeans, black shirt, and leather cut. There was awe in his gaze and his chest heaved hard. I felt like an animal, caged, put on show for the masses.