Hunter watched Claire’s automatic movements and frowned.
“Claire…let me do that.” He stood up and pulled his chair out for her and gently pushed her away from the grill.
“Are you sure we have enough food? I can always order pizza.”
“We’re fine, I promise.”
“I have so much stuff for breakfast still. I should send it back.”
Hunter knew he would be back in the morning and this would be a good excuse. “You keep feeding us and were libel to show up like stray dogs looking for a hot meal.”
“Gives me something to do besides playing with dusty furniture.” Her stomach clenched at the thought of the baby furniture. “What do you think of the name Claire’s Attic for the shop?”
“I thought it was Stewart’s Stuff?”
“So did I until I was told a little while ago it constitutes as an endorsement.” She stood up and dabbed the corner of her eyes and fussed with hair. She could hear bikes coming in the distance. “Party time. Should we put some music on?” She smiled at him. It didn’t reach her eyes and she didn’t crinkle her nose.
Hunter picked up on it immediately. “Want me to tell everyone to leave?”
“Good lord no! We’re going to have a party.” She shook her hands out and cleared her throat. “Thank you Hunter…I appreciate it.”
They worked in tandem with the ribs and sausage. The food was hot as everyone started to show up. Miss Betty and her red truck appeared with both macaroni and potato salad. Several of the guys came with women on the backs of their bikes. Gabe included. Hunter found it curious that he brought Maggie, one of the club goodtime girls. Stella and Max showed up soon after and the music started.
Everyone loved the food and Hunter ate two plates of everything. He watched as Claire kept drinking but not eating. She was going back and forth, checking on everyone. He finally caught her coming out of the house and blocked her in the door. Her cheeks were pink and she smiled at him.
“Hi…are you looking for more salsa?”
“Nope…lookin for you to come sit while I eat.”
“Oh…okay. Let me just see if anyone needs anything.”
“You just did and everyone is fine. These guys will drink out of a hose if needed. Come…sit.”
Betty nudged Stella who watched the two interact.
“Miss Betty…I think we have a jawin session comin.”
The two women quietly giggled watching as Hunter made Claire a plate while she was talking animatedly with one of the club goodtime girls name Cherry. He slid it in front of her and she smiled at him and thanked him. She ate a few bites and continued talking. One of the guys farther down the table asked about the beans and Hunter groaned. He and Claire busted up and it was obvious they had shared an inside joke.
Hunter leaned into Claire when he saw everyone was occupied. “Thank you…for tonight. Food is excellent.”
“You’re welcome. I cook simple country food. Don’t know much about fancy stuff.” It irritated Toby that she couldn’t leave the country bumpkin behind.
“I think all of it’s my favorite.” He smiled at her. He put another scoop of potato salad on her plate. She had eaten all of it and Miss Betty noticed. She would make sure to leave her a container.
“Don’t forget your salsa.”
He was trying to figure out a way to come back over. “I should leave it here for safe keeping.”
“I got plenty breakfast fixins. Could always come back, will be weird to not be cookin for a bunch of folks.”
“I was thinking you were going to put some of that bacon on the mac n cheese.” He grinned at her.
“That’s a good idea. I was thinkin rib meat might hit the spot.” Her drawl was coming out hard as the whiskey hit her blood.
“Oh Jesus woman...Is that for lunch tomorrow?”
She laughed and drained her beer. She took the water he casually put in front of her.
“I recon you could come round. If ya lookin for supper, you should tell me now.”
“Supper.” It had been a long time since he had that phrase.
“Is that an option?”
She burst out laughing. “Do they not feed ya'll at that fancy club?”
Cherry was watching in interest. She liked the girl with the funny accent. “We just don’t know what to make and sandwiches are easy. Sorry Prez.”
Claire looked at Hunter with a funny look. “Prez?”
“President.” He grinned at her. The look on her face was hilarious.
“Is that why ya'll got them matchin tattoos?”
The group started laughing. And Hunter hung his head. “Yes…” He was trying not to laugh at the look on her face.
“So the club ain't a country club?”
The laugh that erupted was heard down the street. Even Miss Betty wiped her eyes from laughing so hard. Her husband was one of the founders of the Fallen Angels. They lost Papa Bear almost fifteen years earlier.
“No…it’s a motor cycle club.”
“Well…I reckon the club portion of it makes sense with them motorcycles.”
The group burst out laughing and Hunter leaned back and watched as they relaxed and accepted her as a friendly.
“I feel rightly stupid.” She laughed and put her hands to her cheeks. “I just didn’t put it together. I get lost in my own world and don’t pay no mind to what’s goin on ’round me.”
“Would you want to go for a ride?” Hunter’s mouth was moving before he knew what he was saying.
“What kind of ride?”
“A motorcycle ride.” He grinned at her.
“I don’t know how.” She could drive a Ferrari though.
Cherry piped up. “All you have to do is hold on.”
“To him honey!” Cherry started giggling.
“Oh!” Claire felt like an idiot and turned beet red. She hadn’t paid attention to much and she should have focused better. “I feel stupid as all git out right now.”
Hunter leaned over as the group went back to chatting. “Ride with me…tomorrow morning, when it’s cool.”
The thought of it scared her and excited her at the same time. She idly wondered what the wind would feel like. She looked into his dark eyes. “I think that’d be all-rite.”
Miss Betty was thrilled. “Do you need a helmet for her Hunter?”
“I have my spare. Come pick it up in the morning.”
Miss Betty started laughing at the look on Claire’s face when she realized she had a spare helmet.
“Miss Betty…I’ll be damned. You got a motorcycle helmet? Do you have a fancy club motorcycle too?”
Everyone was rolling as Claire leaned forward. Her hazel eyes were huge.
“Oh child…your face is priceless. Hunter…”
“Yes ma’am. I’ll take care of it.” He grinned at the older women he thought of as a grandmother.
“Ya’ll faces look better from your fight.”
“I’m glad to hear that.” He grinned at her and she crinkled her nose.
Gabe pulled Maggie, onto his lap and took a shot of whiskey.
Hunter looked around at a couple of prospects. “Who’s sober?”
Several raised their hands. “You drive tonight. Day off tomorrow on the club.”
“Thanks Prez!” All of them said in unison.
Claire watched as the guys pulled out their phones and started texting. “You need to leave any bikes here, the garage is empty.”
“Do you mind?”
“Nope. Be mighty cross of me to not let ya’ll keep ya stuff safe. Especially bein’ responsible an all.”
“That southern drawl is comin out.”
“It’s the bumpkin in my blood. I ain’t apologizin for it neither.” She could never understand why Toby was so mad about her country side. He liked it when he first met her.
“Don’t reckon I was askin ya.” He matched her drawl.
His fake southern drawl caught her off guard and made her laugh so hard she spit her water out.