She rubbed her hands together, as if she were shaking them off. Bolstered by a fresh aura, Penni dressed, and by the time she had come downstairs where Shade was now waiting with Lily, she was in a better mood.
“The others are waiting in the parking lot,” Shade said as he carried John and Lily packed the diaper bag.
Penni raised her eyebrows when she saw Winter sitting in one of the backseats with Genny. Beth and Razer were sitting in a car with their two children, parked alongside Lily’s van.
Penni climbed into one of the backseats as Shade buckled John’s car seat.
“I didn’t know Beth was coming.” Lily waved at Beth as she got in the front seat.
Shade slid behind the steering wheel, and Cash got in the back seat. Then Shade drove out of the parking lot with Razer following behind.
“We thought you women deserved a break,” Shade commented.
Penni saw Winter’s frozen expression.
Lily and Shade talked as the car traveled out of town.
“What about Willa?” Penni asked as they passed the church.
“Willa and Lucky are ahead of us,” Cash answered from the seat behind hers.
Penni and Lily talked during the drive while Genny and Winter remained silent. When she tried to talk either of the women, their replies were monosyllabic. It was a relief when they reached the shopping mall.
“I hope you’re ready for me to spend all your money?” Penni teased her brother.
“Viper is financing this shopping trip, so buy whatever you want,” Winter chimed in before Shade could answer.
“Which store should we hit first?” Penni asked Genny.
“Let’s start at the end and work our way back down to where the cars are parked,” Winter voiced her opinion.
“That sounds good.” Genny showed her first smile since they had left Treepoint when Willa and Lucky rose from a bench.
The large group walked through the streaming crowds, coming to a stop in front of a department store.
“Why don’t you men go take the kids to the food court while we shop here?” Winter asked Shade who was closest to her.
“We stay together.” Shade started past Winter who remained standing still.
“This store has security at both entrances. It’ll be easier for us to shop without the kids.”
“That’s a good idea.” Beth nodded, agreeing with Winter. “I can text you when we’re ready to go to another store.”
Shade looked down at the twin stroller that Chance was already trying to climb out of. “Text me when you’re in the checkout line,” Shade gave in, taking the stroller from Lily as Razer wheeled the twins to the food court.
Lucky and Cash looked relieved to get away from the store.
“I know he wasn’t looking forward to waiting for us to shop.” Willa smiled at the women as they walked into the store.
They found the women’s department, each going their own way to look at the multitude of clothes. Penni and Winter took the same rack, sliding the clothes as they looked.
“You don’t find it strange that the men were so ready for us to go shopping on a Friday night?”
Penni looked up from the clothes to see Winter staring at her. “Why does it matter that it’s Friday?”
Penni saw the women move from their rack to the one she was at, giving Winter strange looks.
“Well?” Penni asked, seeing the women’s eyes warring with each other.
Winter jerked her gaze away from the other women. “Friday night is party night.”
“Every night is a party with The Last Riders,” Penni scoffed, pulling out a red flaring skirt she was thinking about trying on.
“Not like Friday. Look around us, Penni? Do you see Viper here, even though he asked me to get off early? It was when I was in the van that I found out he wasn’t coming.” Winter’s eyes stared fixedly on the clothes.
“So you think he is going to use the opportunity of you being gone to cheat?” Willa whispered.
Winter lifted her gaze. “Yes or … Jackal.”
“Jackal was as disappointed as I that we couldn’t be together to night. We had plans ... until Genny asked me to come.”
Genny shook her head. “I didn’t ask you. Willa called and asked me this morning. I’m glad you’re here, but I didn’t ask.”
The women looked at Willa.
“Lucky suggested I ask Genny today. He said we could make a day out of it.”
“That’s what Razer told me when Lily asked me if I wanted to come.”
Penni thought about how Jackal had looked so sincere when he had told her about his childhood …
“I’m sure it was just a misunderstanding.”
“Want to find out?” Winter dropped any pretenses that she was looking at clothes.
“How?” all of the women answered, their suspicions making her nervous.
Winter looked Penni straight on. “We can leave and go back to Treepoint while they’re busy with the kids. They won’t even know we’re missing until the store closes.”