“Please, Styx. Don’t do this to me. You’re all I have left. I wanna be with you… just you. You know this,” she begged, checking no one was watching. But we all were. They were causing quite the scene. My heart broke at the utter devastation in her voice, the gutting expression on her pretty face.

Styx’s hands moved again, a tired, defeated look on his face, until he glanced over at me and it softened a fraction.

Reality dawned: he was giving her up for me.

Oh… no… Lois…

Lois followed the line of his vision and all hope seemed to drain from her body. She turned back to Styx. “It’s because of Mae, ain’t it?”

Styx did not answer. Lois reached out for his arm, but he stepped back, a harsh coldness in his glare.

I suddenly felt warmth at my sides as Letti and Beauty joined me. Beauty laid a hand on my shoulder as she watched the scene play out. “Poor bitch. She’s loved Prez forever. Was a club brat with him and Ky. Known him her whole life and always wanted him. This’ll f**kin’ kill her,” she whispered and tears, this time, did drop down my cheeks. I was the cause of her pain. I hated myself at that moment. Maybe I was a Cursed after all.

“Styx, please. Listen to me,” Lois pleaded, but Styx turned his back and walked away.

Lois wiped at her cheeks and turned to face the watching club. She faltered slightly at the attention, then began to walk right toward me. My heart beat furiously the closer she got. I expected her wrath, her disdain but, instead, a wash of tears streamed down her cheeks and she trembled.

Standing before me, her eyes ran over every inch of my face and she stroked a hand down the length of my hair. “So soft,” she whispered, and I swallowed back my nerves, not daring to move.

Leaning down to my ear, she said, “He never forgot you, Mae. Growing up, I watched him sign to Ky about you all the time, his chick with the wolf eyes. The chick behind the fence, the chick he kissed. It was constant. His precious number three, whatever that meant.”

She drew back to stare me down and offered me a small smile, taking my hand in hers. “I think it was always you he wanted. Of course, no one believed you were real. His pop thought he was not only mute but insane, for a while, when we were kids. But now here you are, in the flesh, dropped on the club outta nowhere, answering all his prayers. You’re the one thing he couldn’t ever let go.” Her head tilted to the side in appraisal and her eyes saddened. “You’re a sweet, sweet girl, Mae, but why did you have to come here? Why couldn’t you just’ve stayed away? I’ve loved him forever, and then you turn up and take him away with a single flash of those beautiful wolf eyes he adores so much. First my daddy leaves me, now Styx. I have absolutely no one left. There’s no point to life anymore…”

Swallowing back the lump in my throat, I started to answer her, when all of a sudden I heard a screech of brakes and gunshots fired. Before I had a chance to turn around and see what was happening, a bullet pierced Lois’s forehead, her stunned face frozen in time as her body crumpled to the ground, her soft hand slipping from mine.

Spinning round, I panicked. Bullets sprayed around our area, the trees shaking with the impact of the metal shells. Chunks of bark splintered into wooden chips. Beauty and Letti fell to the ground for cover.

I froze, well out of my depth. My pulse beating at a frightening speed, I glanced sideward. Styx, Rider, and Ky sheltered behind the provisions truck, Styx rapidly signing orders, Ky shouting the commands. They pulled out concealed weapons and, rising up through gaps between attacking shots, fired back. The red truck holding the attackers slowed, two men wearing balaclavas took aim, and my arm suddenly burned. When I looked down, blood was seeping from my arm where I had been grazed by a bullet.

But I felt no pain.

I looked for Styx and his wild eyes met mine. He saw my blood as it trickled down my arm, saw Lois dead on the dry ground, eyes still open.

“MAE!” He screamed in full fury. Styx stood up, intending to run to me when Ky hauled him back to ground, a bullet narrowly missing his head as he scrambled behind the shield of the large wheel.

“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! he shouted again. Even in the madness of gunfire, several of the brothers paused to look at Styx in disbelief. He had spoken out loud.

Spoken my name.

Acting only on instinct, I ran for the shelter of the trees. But something made me turn, the sound of a commanding male voice screaming something from behind. I glanced back at the attacking gunmen and I froze as a masked man appeared out of a hole in the roof of the truck. He aimed his gun straight at me.

“NO!” I heard Styx roar. But I could not look away from the man before me.

I watched as the attacker flipped the safety and fired. As if everything were half-speed, I saw the trigger pull and smoke pop from the chamber. I closed my eyes, preparing for the worst, catching snippets of Styx’s tormented screams and the noisy hail from his gun. My body braced for impact.

Suddenly, I was tackled to the ground and the breath knocked out of my lungs with the force of the contact. A heavy body lay still, pinning me to the sandy ground and the stench of burning flesh instantly filled my nostrils.

“Shit. SHIT!” somebody hissed above me, as though in pain, and within seconds, the heavy man was moved.

It was Rider. Rider had been shot in the shoulder… Good Lord! Rider had saved me.

Styx and Ky came running over, Styx’s face ashen as he saw my bleeding arm and Rider rolling on the floor, clutching his left side.