The meeting was over, and I immediately started directing people in the last-minute preps for the party. Our Patchover party now doubled as a mating celebration for Adam and Eve, plus a marriage reception for Steven and Meghan. I think the happiest guy in the room was Hammer; with his only daughter now married off in what was for him a zero-dollar wedding bill, and zero time spent planning? Huge guy win.
I made sure the prospects had the ice around the kegs topped off, and checked all the outside decorations and preps. Snake and Mia were handling the food, and Kelly was making sure the kids were settled in the rooms upstairs. We’d hired some of the older kids to be babysitters, feeling better if everyone was in one place. They’d watch movies and play games all night, and we had plenty of mats and sleeping bags for them to spend the night. The party promised to go well into Saturday morning.
I’d put my manager in charge of the restaurant and bar, something I was doing more often now. Moose was no longer Master at Arms, and I was mulling over an offer to buy me out. We had talked about it, neither of us were getting older, and since I had fertility issues, we’d never had children. He was in his mid-fifties now, I was eight years younger than him, and we were starting to think of what we might do if we retired. Twenty-three years of running a bar had taken a toll on me and our marriage.
The one thing I would miss about it was the people. I had a huge number of friends, in and out of the club, and I’d introduced eighteen of them to their current spouses. It was like I had a sense for who might get along with who, so when the Knights gave up their chastity vow, I made a few phone calls. I had to twist a few arms, more difficult when one was a Krav Maga master and former Secret Service agent, but I got them to come. I’d introduce them to the guys I thought they’d be perfect for tonight. Others I didn’t have a sense for, but if they were good people. in their thirties or forties, and open to the motorcycle culture, I asked them to come too. They were reluctant until I showed them a few pics of the guys and mentioned they were single.
It was my way of making sure the party was truly epic. I didn’t want the dance floor to be empty all night.
The portable dance floor I had for weddings and such was set up in the middle of the lot; additional lighting made sure there were no spots that were too dark. The night was good for this, it was in the eighties today before a front had come through, knocking the humidity down, and a refreshing breeze would keep the mosquitos down. After forty more frantic minutes, I told Snake we were ready and he had the Prospects open the gates.
Donuts was on security tonight, in his Deputy uniform. It was punishment for his lapses in operational security, he would get to police the drunks but not drink himself. Viper was still pissed at him, and since it affected Snake’s daughter, he wasn’t getting an early pardon. “Everything going all right?”
“No problem, Sheri. We’ve got plenty of parking in the next lot and on the street, and it looks like it will be a good crowd.”
I had to agree; I’d already seen a bunch of friends come in, and with the representatives of most of the Twin Cities motorcycle clubs attending, it should be a fun party. “Don’t let things get out of hand, this is a family joint,” I said. It was true, our club was structured like an outlaw club but was far different. I walked towards two motorcyclists who were just backing their Harleys into their spots, nose out on the side of the road. “Zee! Lee!”
The two cut their engines and put the kickstands down, getting off and leaving their gloves and helmets on their bikes. “Sheri!” I hugged them both, which annoyed the hell out of Mackenzie but Natalie loved. The two sisters were two halves of the same coin. Zee was the toughest woman I’d ever met; former Secret Service agent, martial arts expert, and owner of an executive protection service here in the Twin Cities. No one would expect that the beautiful, five-foot-five brunette in a clingy dress and heels was the most dangerous person in the room, but she always was. She exploited that in her business, often posing as a girlfriend or assistant. She was far more effective than the hulking bodyguards she employed, and was the best at protecting women. The girls at the bar called her Cleopatra, because guys were always trying to hit on her, and she was the Queen of Denial.
Lee was the girly girl, who wore a hot pink biker jacket and oozed sex appeal. She looked the part, with Daisy Duke shorts, a halter top and knee-high leather boots. Her blonde hair cascaded over her shoulder in tight curls as she pulled it free of the ponytail. She was a great woman with no luck in finding a guy to match. She’d left a trail of disappointment behind, including three failed marriages. “Sheri, those hot guys better be here tonight,” she said. “I need to change my luck.”
“They are, Lee. It’s like a buffet in there.” I hooked my arm around hers. “Come on, I’ll make introductions.”
“They better not get grabby,” Zee said. “One reason I don’t go to motorcycle club parties is because the guys seem to think any girl attending is their personal whore.”
“I told you, my club isn’t like that. These are good guys, I’d be happy if you liked any of them. They are a different breed, very dedicated and chivalrous. You’ll be fine.”
Zee snorted. “Chivalry? In a motorcycle gang?”
“Club. Come on.” I walked them through the gate, leading them to where our new officers were all standing around. A steady stream of people had been coming through to meet and congratulate them, it would be a while before they could sit and eat. Seeing Snake with a woman for the first time in eighteen years, and Meghan together with Steven, was reason for more congratulations. “Guy, these are our new Club officers. There are my friends Mackenzie Paulson, who goes by Zee, and her little sister Natalie, who goes by Lee. Zee, Lee, this is our President, Snake, and his girlfriend Mouse. Don’t ask how she got that name.”
“How did you get that name,” Zee asked as she shook their hands.
“I’m the favorite thing for Snake to eat,” she said with a grin. Lee cracked up at that.
“This is our Vice President, Dagger, and his fiance’ Sara, who goes by Shadow.” They had been together almost a year now, and I knew it wasn’t going to be much longer before it was official. My guests shook their hands, Lee complimenting her on her glossy black hair. “And finally, Steven, our Master-At-Arms, and his brand-new bride Meghan, who is also our Club Doctor. They had a surprise wedding less than an hour ago.”
“Congratulations,” Zee said as she shook their hands. I could see the pain flash through her eyes, she had never married; her fiancé had been in the Diplomatic Security Service and had been killed in an automobile accident in Iraq. She’d taken it hard, Lee told me she had given up on love, thinking it wasn’t for her. She’d thrown herself into her work instead.
“That’s SO cool,” Lee said as she hugged them both. “Nice catch,” she said in each of their ears.
“Welcome to the party, ladies.” Snake pointed around. “Do you two ride?”
“All the time,” Lee said.
“You’ll fit right in. Food is inside that door along with the bar, beer is out here, and bathrooms are in the back of the bar and through the garage. Enjoy the night.” We moved on, more people were waiting to talk to them.
“They seem nice,” Lee said.
“They are. They’ve all been part of the club for about twenty years. We don’t get much turnover, Meghan grew up in the Club.” I saw the guys I wanted to introduce them to, they were standing over by the kegs, and I walked them over.
Michael and I were manning the kegs, making sure the guests had their drinks. It was weird; for the first time since I put the Knights together, I wasn’t in charge, I didn’t have responsibility for people, and I was at a loss for what to do. “Do you feel different now?”
“I feel free,” he said. “I know we still will protect them, but the weight of the curse is broken now. Our vow of celibacy is gone, and honestly, I’m hoping to find what Abaddon… I mean what Steven found. A woman to make a life with.”
“I’m not interested in getting laid, I want the whole package,” I agreed. “I waited for my mate, I can wait for my wife. I just wish I could find her now, not in ten years.”
“Heads up, ladies coming,” he said. I looked up, smiling at Sheri as she approached with two women I hadn’t seen before. “I got dibs on the blonde.”
“Fine, the other is more my type.” Watching her walk, I picked up the subtle things that most people would miss. She walked smoothly, noiselessly, her eyes flicking back and forth and missing nothing. Her belt was slightly lower on the right side, the leather jacket didn’t quite touch her jeans. Her right hand was part open, and her head was up. She had training, training she had a hard time turning off. Either that, or she thought she might be in danger here.
“Gabriel! Michael!” Sheri came over to us, leading the two ladies on each side. She hugged us both. “Gabriel here is the former President of the Knights of the Moon, the club that we just patched over. Michael was the Vice President. Guys, this is Mackenzie and Natalie Paulson, they are friends of mine.”
“A pleasure,” I said as I shook Natalie’s hand before my eyes fixed on Mackenzie’s. I took her hand and lifted it to my lips, taking a sniff and kissing it softly. “Former military?”
“Secret Service,” she said. “How’d you know?”
“Your walk and you’re carrying a pistol on your right hip, extra magazines on the left hip, and what looks like a baby Glock on your left ankle,” I said.
“You’re good,” she said. “I’m just shocked there are still guys out there that think a 1911 is a good carry gun, and even fewer carry it under their cut in a shoulder holster.” I smiled, she was as observant as I thought. “What’s on tap?”
“Leinenkugel’s, we have Oktoberfest, Summer Shandy and Light.” I held out the stack of Solo cups, and they each took one, then we poured their beers. Mackenzie took the tap from me, pouring for her and her sister. “It’s all right, no one is going to drug you here.”
“I don’t know you, no offense,” she said. “I pour my own, and if I set it down I toss it out. I had a bad experience once, never again.”
“I’m sorry.” My wolf wanted to kill, he was already becoming slightly possessive of her.
“Don’t be, I killed him.”
“Good.” I saw Michael had taken Natalie away, I saw them heading inside towards the food. “Hungry? We’ve got quite a spread inside.”
“I could eat,” she said. I offered her my elbow, but she declined. “It will never work, both of us always want our right hands free,” she said with a laugh. “You’re more observant and in better shape than any guy I employ. You need a job?”
“I have one. Same one for the last twenty years. Private security.” I opened the door for her and admired her athletic body as she walked ahead of me. She wasn’t buxom, she was strong and capable. “Do you fight?” I saw the dark bruise on her arm.
“I win. Krav Maga isn’t about sparring, it’s about winning. I like it because it is direct and brutal, just like me.”
We got in line, the food smelled amazing. “We’re really lucky, but I don’t know how Snake is going to handle being our club chef and President. I’ve only know Mia a short time, but her food is amazing too. We’ve got the best food of any club you’ll ever visit.”
Ten minutes later, she was agreeing with me. We had joined Michael and Natalie at a table, and we quickly found how much we had in common. I was fascinated by her, and I could tell Michael was just as interested in Natalie. It turned out they worked together in a security company in Minneapolis, doing executive and celebrity protection and investigations. Mackenzie ran the company while Natalie ran the research and investigation.
The party went on for hours, and the four of us just sat there, eating and talking. Finally, Teri came over and put her hand on my shoulder. “We need to clean up the food, and Snake wants everyone outside in ten minutes.”
We got up and escorted them to the bathrooms while we ducked into the men’s room. “I think she might be the one,” Michael said.
“How lucky can two men be? Mackenzie is amazing, I feel like I miss her as soon as she walks away.”
We washed up, and both of us were checking our hair in the mirror. “Damn, I forgot what it was like to try to impress a girl,” I said.
“You’ll probably have to fight her to impress her,” he said.
“And the sad part is that if I don’t call upon my wolf, she might just beat me.” We laughed as we walked out, waiting for the girls to be done.
When they did, Natalie went right up to Michael and put her arms around his neck, pulling him down for a kiss. It quickly deepened, and Natalie and I turned away to give them privacy. “Wow,” Michael said.
“I couldn’t wait another minute for that,” she said. “Come on, let’s go see what the excitement is about.”
I looked at Mackenzie, I could smell she was aroused, but she put up these barriers to protect herself and make herself unapproachable. “Come on, let’s get a good spot,” I said. “Snake wants me onstage, will you stand with me?”
“Why not,” she said. “You’re good company.”
I offered her my right hand, and she took it with her left. “I’m safe here, this is family,” I said. We walked outside, stopping to get fresh beers and it was toast time. Everyone was gathering around the elevated stage next to the fence. I jumped up, Mackenzie didn’t wait, she jumped alongside me. We took a spot to the side as the new leaders gathered.
Snake took the microphone as everyone gathered around. “Thank you, family, club members, friends and guests, for being here tonight to celebrate the Knights of the Moon being patched over into the Northwoods Riders!” There was a loud cheer from the crowd. “As the new President, I’d first like to thank those men who led our Clubs so well over the past few decades. Would the former Officers please come forward.” I stepped to the front, keeping my hand on hers as she stayed slightly behind me. The crowd applauded us as we waved. “They have done so much, sacrificed so much time in building the Club to where we are now. I and every member of the Riders thank you for your service. Gentlemen, Ladies, we thank you. To the officers!” Everyone raised their cups, then took a swig.
I could tell Mackenzie was glad when we returned to the background. Snake got Steven and Meghan up next, leading them to the center. “Next, a toast to the sneakiest guy in the club. Yesterday he went public with their relationship, this afternoon he got engaged, and he got married before dinner. Meghan’s never been so happy, and we are all so happy you have each other. To Steven and Meghan!” We raised our glasses and took another swig, before the happy couple hopped back down.
“Finally, I hope you saved some of your drink, because my daughter Eve got married this week.” He took her hand as she and Adam climbed up on stage. “It’s amazing to see what true love can do, and I’m glad you found each other.” He kissed her, then hugged Adam. He went to raise his glass, and I saw a red dot start to dance around on Eve’s back.
“GUN,” Mackenzie shouted before she ran for Eve. I was a half-step behind her when I felt the impact, almost immediately followed by the sound of a rifle shot.