“You want to be with someone you love,” I whispered knowingly.
Turning to face me, he shrugged his uninjured shoulder and ducked his eyes. “Way I was raised. Can’t shake it. My momma used to quote something all the damn time. Can’t seem to get it outta my head. Love is patient. Love is kind…’”
“It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud,” I whispered.
Rider’s eyes looked up, softened and he shifted all the way around to face me. “It does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs.”
“Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
We recited the scripture back and forth until the last line, when he spoke these words: “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Our eyes locked, our bodies unmoving, as the words took hold. He was just like me.
Lord, he was just like me… I did not know…
Letti shattered the moment. “What the f**k’re you two talking about?”
Coughing, Rider met Letti’s gaze. “It’s from the Bible, Letti. We were quoting scripture. First Corinthians.”
“Hell, I know Mae’s from some damn nut-job cult, but I didn’t know you were too!”
I flinched at Letti’s words. Nut-job cult? Is that what they all thought of me?
Rider gave nothing away. He never talked about where he had come from or how he had been raised. I was desperate to know. The fact that Rider was like me made me feel as if I had a friend, someone who truly understood. What I could not understand was why he was here, a part of a club like this, one of the Hangmen. Styx had told me himself that the brothers kill, trade in guns, use violence on an everyday basis. I could not see how that life fit with his faith. But then again, I concluded that he was just like me. I no longer wanted to be bound by my faith’s rigid bonds. I wanted to try new things, move on from that stifling existence. Part of me was not even sure I believed in a God anymore. Then again, hearing Rider recite that verse made me feel safe, whole again. Ugh! I just did not know who or what I was without The Order, without the duties of being a sister.
Beauty instantly jumped to her feet, looking down at me, smiling, but I could see it was forced. Her blue eyes were tight and she kept glancing to Rider on the floor.
“Come on, Mae. Let’s go.”
“We should leave Rider to rest. Now, come on!” Her voice raised in volume to emphasise what she wanted me to do.
“Oh, yes. Rider, I am sorry. We have probably outstayed our welcome. We should—”
“You haven’t outstayed your welcome.” He interrupted.
I paused; relieved, I sat back down. “Thank you.”
“Thanks for the offer, Rider, but we need to see Styx.” Beauty moved to grab my arm, but I held it back.
“I do not want to see him yet, Beauty.”
Holding up my hand, I asserted, “No, Beauty! You and Letti go. That is fine. I am not ready to go. I would prefer to stay here away from Styx. I cannot face him… yet.”
Beauty’s mouth dropped at my firm words, then she pointed to Rider. “You better watch out. When Prez hears you’re in here with Mae, he’ll go f**kin’ crazy.”
Rider smoldered. Only then did I see the biker shine through, the outlaw lurking beneath the surface. “We ain’t doing nothing wrong. She’s simply staying a while. Fuck, she’s been living in here for weeks anyhow. And now you choose to act shady ’bout it?”
Beauty cocked her eyebrow and laughed. “Right. You keep telling yourself that.” And walked out of the room. Letti tapped me affectionately on the shoulder as she passed and followed Beauty out into the corridor.
They left the door open and once we heard them leave the corridor for the bar, Rider stood and sat beside me on the sofa. He smelled of soap and outdoors, and I found myself leaning in closer.
“You still pissed about Styx and Dyson? That why you don’t wanna leave?”
I could not meet his eyes. “Yes and no. I know I do not know Styx well, but he hurt me being with her. I thought he was better than that. We share a… connection, but I feel he always pushes me away.”
“Styx is a biker. He makes his own rules, his own laws, and lives any way he chooses. As do I, as do all the brothers in this club. He’s not like these dicks on the sappy movies, Mae. This ain’t an easy life. You ain’t gonna get a happily ever after here. You stay for the love of the club. Prez was born to be in charge, but it ain’t easy on him either, not with…” He trailed off, clearly referring to Styx’s speech impediment.
Sighing, I said, “I know, but right now, I just cannot be near him. Plus…”
I shrugged. “I like being with you. I like spending time… with you.”
Rider’s hand landed gently on mine.
Reaching over, I ran my fingers down his long hair, catching a strand that fell over his eye. It was so soft and Rider’s bare stomach tightened in response and his breath paused.
Snatching back my hand, I said, “You look different with your hair like this.”
“Do I?” he said betraying a small smile.
“Mm-hmm. I like it free and wild. It suits you.”
I watched as Rider’s lips rubbed together, his chest erratically rising and falling. My hands began to shake as I stared at him and my nose twitched in nerves.