The girls liked me because I got what I was after and left them in peace. I didn’t want to hang around and bitch about my day or discuss my work, I just wanted to get off and go home. Fortunately for them, I was fairly considerate in the sack. I always tried to make sure I gave as good as I got, unless I was in a hurry.
“Right now Novak’s business and my business are one and the same. Tell me what you know, Ernie.”
I cracked my knuckles and let my hands curl into fists as he lumbered to his feet and leaned on the desk.
“Saw that you brought Race’s redhead in with you. I don’t know what it is about that girl that has you boys all in a lather, but I think Benny and his boys would love to know you somehow managed to hook up with her right after Race disappeared. Maybe, just maybe, she’s the key to getting him to pop back up.”
I didn’t like being threatened. I liked him threatening a seemingly innocent young woman even less. Dovie might live the hard life, might be familiar with the sacrifice and struggle it took to live on this side of the fence, but everything about her was soft and untouched. She didn’t need Ernie or Benny dirtying her up.
It took two steps and a single lunge to get Ernie around his sweaty collar. He swore at me and I used all my upper-body strength to pull his flabby bulk over the desk. He didn’t have the strength or the leverage to fight me as he swore and scraped at my wrists to get purchase.
“She is off the table. Do you understand?”
He swore at me again and tried to knee me in the balls. A totally pu**y move by a guy who had others do his dirty work.
“I don’t have pull, Ernie, but I still have a temper. You might want to pass along to Benny and to Novak when you see them that nobody wants to be on the wrong side of it after five years on the inside. That’s a really long time to stew in your own fury.” I gave his hefty body a violent shake, which had his teeth snapping together. “What was the rich guy’s business with Novak?”
“I don’t know. He wanted something done and came looking for someone to handle it. If he was looking in the Point, it wasn’t something legal, and Novak never met a rich person he didn’t want to exploit and have in his back pocket.”
I stared at him hard, until I determined he was giving me as much information as he had. I shoved him away and took immense satisfaction in watching him hit his office floor assfirst. He swore and glared up at me as I went to pull the door back open.
“You’re useless now, Bax. You aren’t in the game anymore, and Novak thinks you’re a loose end. Your days are numbered. You might want to consider how you want to spend your last days. Race let you go away without a fight. Novak would’ve let you burn. Any normal guy would walk away, hook up a few times, and go out with a smile. Why you gotta stir shit up and piss everyone off?”
This time when I smiled, it actually had humor in it.
“It’s what I’m best at. If you hear anything about Race, you better pass it along, or our next visit will be far less enjoyable for both of us.”
In the hallway, I rolled over what Ernie had told me. Race came from money. His family was tied into a lot of really wealthy families and charities on the Hill. He knew a lot of really powerful men from his life before. He could’ve been asking about any one of them and if the guy he was asking about was in Novak’s pocket, that meant whatever he wanted done was big and all kinds of bad. It was a shame I couldn’t just go to the source and ask. If I got in a room with Novak, one of us wasn’t coming out alive and I wasn’t cocky enough to automatically assume I would be the one walking away unscathed.
“Hey, Bax. Benny and his boys just rolled in and headed right for your redhead. You didn’t tell me you broke the old guy’s nose. Bet he was pissed.” I liked Chuck. He was a solid dude who just followed orders, and I think he was a pretty good judge of character.
I pointed to my black eye. “He sucker-punched me not even a minute after I got my first taste of pu**y in longer than I want to think about. He’s lucky the only thing I broke was his nose.”
“I always said none of those boys knew what they were doing messing around with you. Even when you were a kid, you were still twice as scary as the lot of them together.” Chuck sounded proud of that fact.
I lifted an eyebrow and nodded.
“I tried to tell them that. They never wanted to listen.”
I made my way back into the club and immediately saw Benny and two of his guys hovering at the edge of the booth where I had left Dovie. Honor caught my eye and gave me a wink from the stage. I rolled my eyes and shoved past Benny to slide back in the booth next to the redhead.
Those eyes, so green and leafy-colored, were hard, but I could see the fear lurking in the darker veins. I didn’t want to know exactly what Benny had done to her last time, but I wanted to make it clear that he wasn’t going to put his hands on her again without facing blowback from me. I pulled her so that she was flush up against my side. I ran a hand across the back of her neck and got a fistful of all that orange-red hair. The curls were soft and springy where it was gathered up off the elegant curve of her face. Her freckles were dark against the pale canvas of her skin and her mouth looked like all the things I had dreamed about while I was locked up. She wasn’t going to like what I was about to do, but I hoped she was smart enough to just roll with it. If not, it was every man for themselves and she could figure out her own way to get Benny to leave her alone. I didn’t need her to like me or respect me when all this was said and done, I just needed her to do what I wanted and stay out of my way while I handled business.
I brushed my thumb along the full sweep of her lower lip and saw her eyes widen in a flash of understanding right before I claimed her mouth with my own. I held her still with the hand I had wrapped around the back of her neck and held her face with my other hand so she couldn’t jerk away and set Benny off. She was stiff as a board and her hand was digging into my thigh like a claw. I was right, though; she was every kind of sweet and unsullied. She tasted like fresh strawberries and purity, and good God, that mouth, I could press my own to it forever and never get tired of it. The last thing she needed was a guy like me pawing at her. She didn’t open her lips, didn’t let me invade the moist heat of her mouth with my tongue, which I totally would have taken advantage of and done if she’d let me. It was probably a good thing. If Honor’s little bump and grind had elicited an unwanted erection, this closed-lip, virginal kiss with this bothersome girl had me ready to come in my jeans like a kid. I couldn’t feel anything other than the plush press of her mouth against my own, but it was erotic and a total turn-on, which was just one more surprise Race’s little sister had in store for me. I could only imagine what it would be like if she loosened up and actually let me kiss her for real.