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“I don’t want to do it this way, Ray,” Tanner says although something stiffening in his jeans tells me otherwise. He must read my face. “No, I want to. Of course I fucking want to.” Tanner never cursed, but there was excitement in his voice. “Roll over.” He pushes me off of him until I am flat on my back. He stands up and removes his shirt. His once muscled and tanned body has been replaced with pale skin over protruding bones. He is still beautiful to me.

He would always be beautiful to me.

I lift my hips and pull off my panties. His boxers tent as he gazes down at me. “Under the covers,” he says. I shift and raise up my comforter and sheet, scooting underneath. He pushes down his boxers and I lift up the covers so he can join me. I spread my legs and he settles himself on top of me, his arousal pressed up against my stomach.

For the first time in our lives we are skin to skin.

“Are you nervous?” Tanner asks. He could probably feel my heart pounding like a hammer and fluttering at break neck speeds in my chest. Because I feel his and it is doing the exact same thing.

“No,” I lie.

“Me either,” he lies.

Tanner kisses me and after a few minutes, he positions himself with his hand and slowly enters me. It hurts at first. Just a little pinch of pain, but then it’s gone. It doesn’t feel good, it’s uncomfortable at best, but it feels good to be sharing this with him.

It is over in just a few minutes. He collapses on top of me and kisses my neck. “I love you, Ray. I love you so much it hurts.”

And it did hurt.

So much.

“Holy Shit!”

I clasped my hands over my mouth in surprise.

“What? Did you remember something?” Tanner asked eagerly, searching my eyes for his answer.

I nodded slowly, unable to explain to him what it was I just experienced.

Tanner shook my shoulders like he was trying to shake my answer from me. “Ray! What did you remember? What is it? Tell me!”

“I just remembered…”

“What? What did you just remember?”

“I just remembered—that I love you.”

Chapter Twelve

King

I heard Bear before I saw him. His muffled scream ripped through the air, the breeze carrying it over the lake and right to my face as if he were standing there screaming at me.

I’d raided one of Preppy’s storage houses in the woods and found exactly what I’d needed.

Zombie apocalypse supply center, Preppy corrected.

I’d even found a charged burner in the shed, but when I’d called the MC and asked for Bear’s old man, the kid who answered told me Chop wasn’t taking calls. When I dialed Chop’s cell, it went to right to voicemail. I called every single member of Bear’s MC whose number I had memorized, but as soon as they heard it was me calling, they’d all hung up without even letting me explain that Bear was in trouble.

I left voicemails. I sent texts.

Nothing.

The Beach Bastards MC, with the exception of Bear, were working their way onto the top of my list of motherfuckers who need to be taught a lesson in manners.

In respect.

In fucking brotherhood.

We don’t need those motherfuckers, Boss Man. Preppy chimed in. We got this shit. Well, we’d have this shit if I could hold my gun, or had a body, or was fucking alive. Then we would sooooo totally have this shit.

“But you had to go and fucking die,” I snapped, angry that Preppy wasn’t there with me, and angry with myself for talking out loud to my dead best friend, and angry that I was angry at him for being fucking dead for Christ’s sake.

I loaded everything into a duffel bag that I rolled in a tarp. I carried it above my head as I waded back through the water, staying close to the edge so that I wouldn’t be spotted because even though it was dark out, the center of the open bay always looked as it were lit up, reflecting the light of the moon and stars.

I made my way back into the woods. I could see the light from the fire pit was almost as tall as the house. Bear’s scream once again tore through the air. When I finally had eyes on him, I found that what they were doing to him, was actually much, much worse than what I’d imagined.

Bear was tied up in sections. One rope kept his arms tucked into his sides. One kept his hands tied behind his back. One was tied around his head, tucked into his open mouth like a gag. Bear was biting down on it so hard his teeth were almost meeting in the middle of the thick rope. Tears of pain ran down the side of his face. He was on his stomach, laid out across several chairs. His pants pulled down around his ankles, his ass high up in the air. Eli’s men stood behind him and prodded at him with some sort of broken off handle. They laughed every time Bear screamed. One held Bear’s ass cheeks open as another forcefully rammed the object in and out of him.

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