“Eventually,” Dad adds, picking up the thread, “when it was clear we weren’t handing Eli over to them, they sent the list.”

Cyrus slides a piece of paper in front of me and I recognize my father’s handwriting. Dad must have been the one to translate the Riot’s message. The name at the top is my mother’s. The next Olivia’s, and it goes down the line of the wives of club members. Anger ripples through me. “They were willing to go after women?”

Eli’s seat creaks when he adjusts. His legs are out straight, his arms crossed over his chest, and it’s one of the rare times he won’t make eye contact. “When holy hell broke out over Emily and her mom before I went to prison, the Riot went after club members. After I lost custody of Emily when I went to prison, they decided to make it personal.”

My hand slams on the table. “Why the fuck didn’t you take the warning shot seriously? I saw the message. Breanna broke it. They warned you this was coming.”

He lifts his dark eyes and the regret swimming in them smacks me in the stomach. “Both codes came together and we got it five minutes before your mother called. We didn’t even have it completely deciphered before your mother was being tailed out of the parking lot.”

“Why did they leave the code with Mom? She wasn’t Terror.”

The room falls silent and all eyes are on Dad. Finally, he speaks. “They wanted me to find it. Guess they figured she’d call, figured I would find it in her car if they abducted her, or if they did mean for her to go over the bridge, I guess they thought I’d find it in the aftermath. The Riot wanted me to know that I couldn’t save the woman I loved from them. They wanted to show that they were in control, that they held the power.”

“Razor,” Eli says, “I would have handed myself over on a damned platter for your mother, but I was never given the chance. Your mother was the warning shot.”

My body sways as if I’ve been sucked into an undertow. My mother never had a chance. She never had a fucking chance and she drove away from help to save me. My lips turn down and it’s hard as hell to ignore the raw ache in my throat. “Was she forced off or did she go over to save herself?”

Dad and Eli shrug their shoulders to show that they’re both haunted by the unknown.

“She died on impact,” Eli says. “Your dad stayed at the clubhouse talking with her while the rest of us tore off to try to catch up. She told your dad that they were coming up beside her. Our best guess is that they tried to cut her off at the bridge to force her out of the car and that’s when she went over. Maybe she lost control of the car. Maybe she saw that as her best chance at life. I’m sorry, but we don’t know.”


Fear. My mother’s last emotion was fear. My fingers tunnel in my hair and I pull, hoping the physical pain can somehow wipe this internal agony away. “Why not tell me? Why lie to me about how she died?”

“You were ten,” Dad says like he’s experiencing the same pain. “When I walked in Olivia’s house with your mother’s blood on my hands, I went down the hallway and found you on that bed with your friends and with your arm slung over that dog. You looked peaceful. I couldn’t wake you and look you in the eye and tell you that I fucking failed you. That your mother died because some asshole club ran her off the road and I failed to protect her.”

I thrust back the seat so that I’m no longer at the table and settle my elbows on my legs. My foot begins to bounce on the floor as the sadness and anger within me builds to the brink of explosion. “But I’m not ten anymore. I haven’t been ten for a long time.”

“No, son, you haven’t, but there were eight other names on that list and we had to make sure no one would suffer the same fate as your mother. We did what needed to be done and we secured everyone’s safety. Olivia, Rebecca—the two women you loved the most after your mother would have been next.”

It’s not an answer and this insanity that has always crawled along my skin demands the truth. “I spent eight years of my life thinking she left me on purpose. Eight years of thinking I wasn’t enough.”

“We didn’t know that’s what you thought. We—”

“Bullshit,” I shout. “That’s fucking bullshit, and you know it. Why didn’t you tell me?”

Dad collapses back in his seat. “Because I promised not to.”

“Because the board told you not to?” I demand.

A muscle in his jaw jerks and his eyes pierce me. “Because the last words your mother said to me were to make sure you never joined the club, and if I couldn’t promise her that, that I never tell you what happened, because she knew me.”

He pounds his hand to his chest. “She knew how broken I was on the inside. She knew how fucking crazy I’d become after her death, and she didn’t want those demons inside you. She knew what I would do if she died, and she sure as hell didn’t want you to grow up and become the dead man I am. She begged me before she went off that bridge to make sure this war did not become generational. You and I both know that if I told you, that if you grew up knowing that the Riot was responsible for your mother’s death, this entire club would be at war. She knew that when you became old enough, you would be leading the charge.”

“It’s too late.” All the anger, all the pain pours out. “I’m already dead. There’s nothing inside me. The first time someone told me she chose death over life, I died and it’s too damned late for me now.”

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