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Melanie wanted to stomp her foot like a child, but she heard and saw the truth in what he said.
“Tell them I’m your girlfriend if you want, but I’m living here.”
The biker gave her a small smile and shook his head. “Ain’t gonna work that way, sugar. They need to see you with me.”
“But I don’t want—”
“Do you want to see your father and sister hurt and your livestock killed?”
She blanched. “Surely, you don’t think they’d do that?”
“You hurt their pride, girl. Men like that—”
“You mean men like you,” she accused.
He continued speaking as though she hadn’t interrupted. “—won’t take that lying down.”
“That greasy fool killed my sister’s prized steer,” she insisted. “We’re the ones insulted, not them.”
He pulled a thick envelope from his back pocket and handed it to Melanie’s father. “Sir, here’s the money for the steer. Prez of Satan’s Dogs ain’t entirely unreasonable.”
That last sentence was a lie. The president of Satan’s Dogs refused to part with so much as a dollar in recompense for the steer Lowball killed. Hammer’s bank account absorbed the expense. His honor demanded it.
The old man took the envelope from his hand, but didn’t open it. His faded blue eyes flickered over the tattoo on the biker’s upper arm. Something flickered in his gaze. He gave a curt nod and murmured, “Semper fi.”
Hammer nodded, knowing that the old man accept- ed his word and counted upon his honor as a fellow Marine and veteran. He repeated the acknowledgement, “Semper fi.”
Melanie groaned and her knees weakened. “Oh, God, Daddy, you’re not going to trust him just because he used to be a Marine?”
“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” her father muttered, the words almost lost beneath the sound of impatient neighs coming from the barn.
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