If you think bad boys on Harleys are hot, you're not alone. But the criminal element of biker clubs like the Outlaws and Hell's Angels are not a place for any woman to hang with. When I discussed this underbelly of the criminal world with an ATF agent acquaintance who went undercover inside one of these gangs, he took any notion of romance right out of the equation. Women associated with these groups are not considered to be anything but property. They are less than the club they're affiliated with, less than the men's motorcycles, less than the brotherhood of bikers. They are objects to be owned and used, period.
Blood Potion No. 9 explores this grim world in the guise of the shapeshifting Beasts Motorcyle Club (these groups don't call themselves gangs; they are clubs). Brandilynn gets her eyes opened wide when she's prepped to infiltrate the Beasts' lair to search out criminal activity:
First things first. Playing spy sounded fun, especially since weres can’t see ghosts. No real danger there.
“Sure. What am I doing?”
“Just keep your ears and eyes out for anything unsavory.”
“By unsavory, you mean illegal?”
Tristan’s eyes narrowed. His fists clenched and opened, clenched and opened. Good heavens, what had his dander up tonight? “The leader of the Beasts is very careful, even among his own people. Only his closest lieutenants know anything about what his exact undertakings involve. The majority of the group is mainly concerned with collecting protection money, beating up others, murder, the smaller time stuff.”
I raised my eyebrows at him. “Murder is small time?”
He scowled. “For this group, I’m afraid so. Gerald, will you fill Brandilynn in?”
I stared at Tristan. He was on edge tonight, his usually cultured voice snapping words like whips.
Before I could call him on it, tall, dark and purrfect (hey, I never claimed to be funny) stepped forward. As if the werepanther wasn’t sexy enough, Gerald’s deep rolling voice sealed the deal. Cool and smooth, it was the kind of voice you’d want to rub all over your naked body.
He smiled, his catman face wearing it well. I realized I rarely saw this hired muscle smile. “Hi Brandilynn.”
“Hi Gerald. You doing okay?”
“Just fine, thanks.” His ears twitched this way and that, forever patrolling for trouble. His nose, hinting at the triangular shape of the big cat he turned into on occasion, flared as he tested the air, as if he tried to scent me on Isabella’s body. “Here’s the lowdown on the Beasts. They’re organized crime, pure and simple. Human trafficking, drug and arms smuggling, contracted killings … you name it, they do it. They swear loyalty to their organization above all else. Once a part of the Beasts, no one leaves, not alive anyway.”
I couldn’t help myself, not even in Isabella’s body. I batted my eyes a little and made her voice high, light and happy. Flirt should have been my middle name. “What a lovely sounding bunch.”
He went down on one knee in front of me, like he was going to propose. Of course he was only being polite; he knows full well it’s hard for a spirit to move around in a channel’s body. That’s why I stayed sitting, and he was doing me the kindness of sinking his six feet plus frame down to where I wasn’t breaking Isabella’s neck to look him in the face. But boy, it made my heart go pitty-pat to have such a handsome man at my feet.
Steady girl, I reminded myself. You’ve already got one boyfriend too many, and Gerald is head over tail about Patricia.
He eyed me seriously. “What you’re going to see, it’s going to be plenty ugly. I want you to be prepared. Their women are all human and regarded as property if not outright slaves. It’s nothing to them to slap ‘em around or make them do –” here he paused and took a deep breath, “—acts of a personal nature in front of others.”
Okay. Message received. Eww and gross. I don’t mind watching people put on a show, but it has to be consensual. I had the feeling what Gerald described wasn’t always that way.
Tristan stepped closer, his hand briefly touching on Gerald’s shoulder. Dismissed, the werepanther gave me another rare smile, rose, and went back to leaning gorgeously on the desk.
Tristan said, “The Beasts themselves are all werecreatures, mostly alligators and hogs. Besides the women, there’s only one non-shifter in the group. He’s a witch. Every chapter of the Beasts has one to keep their club warded.”
Oops. The danger factor just went up a millionfold. “He’ll be able to see me.” All witches have second sight that allow them to see the dead. I’d run afoul of a particularly nasty one a few months back.
From his oak perch, Gerald rumbled, “You’ll have to hide when he’s around. This guy is a really good witch and really bad news.”