soulful kiss of a real man. This would stay in my heart and soul until I returned to the memory of bliss from whence I’d come, and nothing, not even Allred Lee Chiles, could take it from me. He gave me my bottle of pills. It had another girl’s name on it, Chelsea McTavish, and I asked him, “Who is she?” He literally waved the bottle away. “Oh. No one. No one important.” I knew right away. “Is she the reason you’re here? I figured you must’ve done something wrong in the eyes of your club to get sent on such an awful mission.” “Ah…” He sucked on his empty beer bottle and set it down. “Yeah. You’re probably right. See? Like I said. I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” “But she must’ve been someone important for you to take such risks.” “Hey.” Gideon looked utterly charming when he smiled like this, his eyes crinkling, his dimples deepening. “What can I say? I’m a sucker for a damsel in distress.” My heart fell. “Oh. So it’s just your nature, then, to try and ‘save’ me. Well, believe you me, I can save myself.” He held my upper arms. He had to bend at the knees to look me in the eye. “It’s my nature when I see a woman suffering to try and help, yes. I understand if you don’t want to take me up on my offer. It’s a big change for you. But trust me when I say, worse things are coming, Mahalia. Your daughter might tolerate this sealing bullshit. Young kids are resilient. Look at Dingo. He’s been through the most sordid sort of dirt imaginable and he still laughs and finds joy in things. But I’m telling you now. There are worse things ahead with Allred Chiles.” We seemed to share a connection then, but it was broken when the front door downstairs opened and slammed shut. “Gideon!” Jonah’s voice rang out. “You wouldn’t believe what we talked about in class tonight. Quantum physics! Events occur on a timeline but not necessarily in order!” His shoes thumped up the steps, but he came to an abrupt halt when he saw his boss gripping me. “Oh.” His voice was suddenly small. “I didn’t mean to intrude. May I take your laptop to my room?” “So Jonah has a room now,” I marveled. He bowed. “Call me Dingo. That’s my MC handle. I’m only a Prospect, so Gideon might want me to polish his chrome…or do the dishes.” I saw he was wearing a new leather vest with a PROSPECT patch over the breast pocket. Gideon truly did like to save the downtrodden, and not just women. I left then, because it was past time for me to have gone to St. George and come back with a load of donated clothing. Also, I’d seen that strange, hulking Vice President heading for the breezeway that led to the kitchen. I presumed he lived there too and didn’t want anything to do with him. It was only then that it hit me—I had no load of clothing in my truck. How stupid could I be? I sat in the truck in the street below Gideon’s house and laughed maniacally. I texted him some more John Keats: Why did I laugh tonight? No voice will tell No God, no demon of severe response Deigns to reply from heaven or from hell. Then to my human heart I turn at once. Heart! Thou and I are here sad and alone. I say, why did I laugh? O mortal pain! O Darkness! Darkness! Ever must I moan, To question Heaven and Hell and Heart in vain. I almost added, “Love, Mahalia” before I realized I truly had gone bonkers. What was I thinking? The stress of recent events was getting to my brain. Or maybe it was the kiss.
CHAPTER EIGHT GIDEON “S o Allred Chiles owns this mine. You’re just the manager.” I prickled at that “just.” Sax Saxonberg was a solid old associate of The Assassins of Youth from way back. He was currently the Prez of The Bare Bones MC out of Pure and Easy, Arizona. He was also a Ph.D. in geology, so he was technically a doctor. He was one brawny, hard-as-nails guy, and I’d asked him up to the mine to give me sage advice. But now he was