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that’s on the back of yours.”
G abriel rose from his seat. “I gotta go.”
Adrian got up to let him out. I stared helplessly at him, at a loss. Finally, I decided I should go with him.
“I’ll just...I’ll catch up with you later, okay?” I said.
Adrian stopped me before I rushed out the door. “Here’s my card if you need anything.”
“Thanks.” I slipped it into my pocket as I followed Gabriel’s retreating back up the stone steps. The skull on his back leered back at me, and Anna’s high, ironic laugh echoed in my head.
I burst out onto the sidewalk. Gabriel loped slowly, scanning the road for taxis.
“It’s got to be a brother from the Laughlin chapter. Who else could it have been?” I said.
“I know,” Gabriel said. His brow was furrowed against the sun, but he looked troubled nonetheless.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
Gabriel exhaled loudly. “Fuck.”
I squeezed his arm.
“I can’t.” He shook his head. “I fucking can’t.”
“You can’t what?”
To my surprise, Gabriel grabbed me. He squeezed me to his chest so hard that I couldn’t breathe. I felt dizzy when he finally let me go. There was a wild confusion in his eyes when he looked at me again.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said.
* * *
W e took a cab back to Sarah’s to pick up Gabriel’s ride. Then, having nowhere else to go, we just went to the Strip. There was something soothing about coming back here in the daytime, when the crowd was mostly soft grandmothers and families toting children with cameras hanging from their necks. I let Gabriel lead me by the hand to Bellagio, afraid to say anything.
Once inside, we silently contemplated the glass sculptures mounted to the ceiling in the main entryway. I stuck to Gabriel’s side when he wandered away into the casino.
“What are we doing?” I finally asked.
Gabriel spun around, the same confused look in his eyes. “I don’t know, Lisbeth. I...I...” He bit his lip. “I need a drink.”
He was scaring me. I followed him into an oaken lounge area and bought us a couple of double vodkas with lime.
“Is it what Anna said?” I finally asked.
“About the Kings? Pretty much.” He took a long drink. “Laughlin is my home chapter.”
I choked on a mouthful of vodka, sending a burning lick through my nose. “What?” I coughed.
“I’m originally from Laughlin,” he said. “Patched in by my brother.”
I got an uncomfortable, slimy feeling in the pit of my stomach. “Is your brother, by chance, Jameson?”
Gabriel only responded by taking another drink. “If you know my brother, you probably understand why I left to go nomad.”
I nodded. I did understand. I’d only encountered Jameson once, during the brief time the Laughlin Kings had been holding onto me while waiting for my brother to show up. He was tall and wide, built like a tank, with these crazy tattoos of spitting cobras on his arms. Unlike Canyon City’s own gentle giant Noah, the Laughlin club president was frighteningly intense, like a dictator. With him as the leader, it was no wonder they’d accepted True North’s invitation for an alliance.
The fact that Gabriel was his actual brother made me feel ill.
“This is one hell of a coincidence” I said. “The fact that we even crossed paths is amazing. You’re Jameson’s brother, you’re from Laughlin...” The people I hoped to avoid, I mentally added.
Gabriel made a fist and slammed it onto the table, alarming some nearby patrons. “I’m not like him,” he growled.
I finished my drink quickly. When I put my glass down, Gabriel grabbed for my hands. There was a pleading look in his eyes.
“I was afraid to tell you, Lisbeth. Especially when you told me that your brother is the VP of Canyon City.” He lowered his gaze. “I wanted you to trust me.”
“I did,” I said carefully. But did I trust him now?
Without another word, Gabriel pulled me against his body,