Better When He's Bad (Welcome to the Point 1) - Page 10

Bar after bar. Strip club after strip club. Men and women making a living in a way that had been around since the dawn of time colored every block, every bend in the District. Trying to find a place called Spanky’s when every other joint was named something similar with the same thinly veiled innuendo was a lot harder than I thought it would be. When I finally did locate it, I was loath to go in.

It was neon. It was pink. It screamed debauchery and dirty things. Just standing on the sidewalk made my skin crawl. My life wasn’t pretty and rosy, but I had never been low enough to think that getting naked and selling myself was a way out. I gave myself a mental pep talk and forced myself to open the door. I couldn’t stop from rubbing my hand on the thigh of my jeans after I was inside. It was just as pink and gaudy on the interior. My eyes darted around, trying to figure out the best place to hide out and be unobtrusive, when a hand clamped down on my arm and whipped me around.

“You old enough to be in here, girly?” The behemoth African-American man gave me a little shake. His bald head gleamed under the neon-pink lights and I felt my heart lodge in my throat. Aside from the diamond in his front tooth and the snarl on his face, there was no missing the gun he had snuggled to his side in a leather holster. I was used to violence and the unsavory things that happened in this part of town, but guys with guns was new, and I wasn’t sure how to proceed without making a fool of myself or blowing my shot at checking up on Bax.

“I am.”

“You aren’t here to work or to watch.” It wasn’t a question. “What are you doing here?”

I tried to pry my arm loose, but didn’t get anywhere. “I’m looking for someone.”

That was the wrong thing to say because his ebony brows slammed down and he gave me another little shake. My teeth clicked together and I tasted blood.

“Look, little girl, if your man stepped out on you, that’s your problem. You got a beef with one of the girls, you handle that on your own time and not during working hours. Understand?”

That must be a regular problem if they had this guy here to prevent catfights before they started.

“Run along. Go buy some lipstick or something, and maybe next time your fella won’t have to come looking for a good time down here.”

My pride made me bristle against my will and I pulled on my captured arm again. I was about to tell him to go to hell when the door behind me opened. The brisk night air wafted in, along with an electrical charge that was only carried by a force darker and heavier than the air around it.

“Hey, Chuck. I need to see Honor.” There was no mistaking that rough voice that crackled with authority and cigarette smoke.

“Hold on a sec, Bax. Gotta escort the riffraff out.”

Oh, great. Now, if I had been hoping to slide by unnoticed, there was no chance. I could practically feel those dark eyes burning a hole through the back of my head. My other arm was grasped in a steel-like grip, and I was hauled mercilessly around. My hat went flying and my ponytail sprang free and smacked me in the face. I blew on a curl and met a blazing black stare. The star next to his eye throbbed in time to the muscle twitching in his cheek. It was as terrifying as it was fascinating to watch.

The large bouncer took a step away from me, which sent me falling all the way into Bax. He caught me with his other hand and shook me so hard that my neck made an alarming crack.

“What in the f**k are you doing here?”

“You know her?” the bouncer asked drily.

Bax’s gaze narrowed on me and he gave me a shove that had me scrambling to stay upright on my feet. I felt like a little child being punished for not finishing my dinner. I snatched my hat up and shoved it back on my head and crossed my arms over my chest.

“No. Race knows her.”

“Ahhh . . . well, I have to say, he used to have better taste,” the bouncer drawled, just as drily as before. I wanted to smack him. Too bad he was the size of a house.

“She’s his sister. Lay off.”

“Sorry.” Only the apology went to Bax, not to me. Go figure.

“Honor is on the main stage for five more minutes. I told her you were coming by tonight to see her. She didn’t know you were out.”

“It’s been a busy few days. Just trying to touch base now.”

“That was a raw deal you got, Bax. We were all sad to see you go down for it.”

Bax bit out a bitter-sounding laugh that had no humor in it, and jerked me around to his side.

“I was in the car when the cops stopped me. No getting out of that kind of thing, plus I was a habitual offender. I was lucky all they saddled me with was a nickel.”

“I heard there was way more to it than that.”

Those dark eyes flicked to me and then back up to the bouncer. “You heard wrong. I got busted running cars for Novak. That’s all there was to it. Now I’m out and Novak can go f**k himself. I just want to touch base with Race and get on with my life. Five years is a long time to sit on your hands.”

The bouncer nodded like he understood and I subtly tried to pull myself free. Bax wasn’t having any of it and tightened his grip on me. It hurt, and I think he knew it, if the way those dark eyes narrowed at me indicated.

“Tell Honor I’ll be there in just a second. I gotta handle this first.” This was me, as he turned around and hauled me back out the door. I squeaked in surprise because I wasn’t used to being manhandled, and I wasn’t used to having that kind of unbridled anger directed at me. I minded my own business, I kept my head down, and I stayed out of the way. That was how I survived as long as I had. Getting right in Bax’s way flew in the face of all that, and now this was the consequence.

“What are you doing here? How do you know about this place?”

I wasn’t going to answer that, and I also wasn’t going to let him intimidate me. I yanked free and spun around with every intention of walking away from him. Only I forgot that I wasn’t dealing with just some guy. This guy, he didn’t get ignored or dismissed, and I subsequently found myself backed up against the crumbling brick of the strip club in a scary part of town with an even scarier man all up in my face. I gasped and put my hands around his thick wrists as he hauled me up to the very tips of my toes and got nose to nose with me. The anger in that midnight gaze was hot enough to burn.

“You think you can play games with me, Copper-Top? Do I strike you as the kind of guy that’s carefree and easygoing? Now, I’ll ask once more, and that’s as nice as I get, because if you make me ask again, neither one of us is going to be happy about it. What in the f**k are you doing here?”