I didn’t miss that she recoiled from my touch and walked as far away from me as she could on the sidewalk when we got outside. I had to hide an amused grin as she glared at me. That red hair wasn’t a lie. She was all kinds of fiery and full of fight. I shouldn’t like that nearly as much as I did, and I shouldn’t want to see her in my car, but that’s exactly what I was thinking as I led her silently to the Runner.
I WAS SHAKING. I wasn’t sure if it was from fear, anger, adrenaline, or the fact that Bax didn’t seem to think posted speed limits and things like stop signs applied to him or his loud, wickedly fast car. I checked my seat belt every few seconds and gripped the dash in front of me with fingers that were white. We hadn’t said a word since leaving the strip club. He hadn’t mentioned what happened when he went in the back, the brush with Benny, or the fact I had practically mauled him in front of the sleazy mobster.
That was so unlike me. I was reserved, shy even, when it came to the opposite sex. I never trusted their motivations and I had seen too many girls my age knocked up and abandoned because of pretty words rattled off a talented tongue. I didn’t want that for myself. I tried to make smart choices, choices that would eventually lead me out of places like the Point. That meant most boys who came from the streets were boys I didn’t waste my time on. Not to mention I dressed like a boy most of the time and didn’t bother to doll up. It wasn’t like they were pounding down the front door to get after me . . . but that kiss with Bax was different.
When he had kissed me for show, I knew it was an act, a way to stake his claim and get the guy in the suit to back off. His nearly midnight gaze never wavered and it was like pressing my mouth against the unrelenting surface of a statue. Sure, he tasted like enticement and all the things dark and dangerous that oozed out of him, but it was all a game to him and I could feel it. I wished that had been enough to stop my skin from tingling and my lips from desperately wanting to spring open and pull him in. Being kissed by a guy like Bax for whatever reason was enough to mess with my already spinning head, and I didn’t like it, so when Benny had pushed, I needed to take the control back.
Only it backfired, and kissing Bax for real was like getting sucked into a vortex of desire and not being able to tell up from down. The guy had skills. He had a touch. It was no wonder tramps across town were bummed about his recent incarceration. Everything about him screamed that he knew his way around a good time and anyone would be a fool to pass up the opportunity to have one with him.
I couldn’t hold back a gasp as the muscle car squealed around the corner of the street in front of the diner and whipped into the parking lot. He drove like he was running away from the police, and even though the car stood out like a sore thumb, no one, the police included, seemed inclined to stop him.
“Christ! Are you in a hurry?” I didn’t mean to sound terrified, that wasn’t how I wanted him to think of me, but it couldn’t be helped.
He grinned in the dim interior of the car and I watched the way it made that star on his face crinkle up on the edges. It shouldn’t make him attractive—it was impossible to miss and screamed “troubled-and-trouble”—but it was hot. I hated to admit it, but he was all sorts of sexy felon. God, what was wrong with me? That kiss had made me stupid.
“I need to take you home and hit up a couple other places. Race say anything to you about a rich guy tied into Novak?”
I scowled at him and crossed my arms over my chest. “If you’re going someplace else, then I’m going with you. I thought that was the deal.”
He looked at me, and I sucked in a breath as he leaned over me and shoved open my door. He smelled like lingering cigarette smoke and cheap perfume from the half-naked girl who had dry-humped him.
“There was no deal. I have things to take care of not related to Race. My entire life was put on hold for years. I’m trying to put it back together and find your brother at the same time. Plus, girls who kiss with their mouths closed aren’t really my thing.”
He smirked at me as I snapped the seat belt off.
“I think anything with a heartbeat and a vagina might be your thing.”
He leaned back and put his arm along the back of the seat. His dark eyes glittered against the darker interior of the car. They were like raw pieces of onyx, polished and put in his brutally attractive face. I wondered how he got that scar that bisected the dark stubble of hair on his scalp.
“Two things I’m particular about. My ride and my women.” He winged an eyebrow up at me and kicked his mouth up into a half grin. “I like both to run smooth and be easy to handle. Neither of those things applies to you, Copper-Top. Even if I need a quick fix, I don’t tangle with complicated pu**y.”
I was going to snap a retort at him when I shrieked and spun around because a heavy hand landed on my shoulder and pulled me the rest of the way out of the car. I stifled a scream when I looked into Lester’s dirty and slightly deranged face. I put a hand to my racing heart, but before I could catch my breath, Bax was out of the car and between me and the veteran. I wanted to warn him that Lester wasn’t quite right, but he pushed me back so I was behind him and shoved Lester back with a hand on his chest. Lester stumbled a little and screwed his face up.
I grabbed Bax’s elbow and tugged until I could peek around him.
“Sorry, Les. This is Bax. Remember I asked you to let him come up into the building last night? He’s friends with Race.”
“He tried to break in?” Lester’s mind had gaps. Carmen thought it was from too much acid in the seventies. I thought it was from the war, but regardless, he carried a machete under his dirty overcoat and wasn’t scared to use it.
“Yes . . . well, no. He’s trying to find Race. He’s okay, all right, buddy?”
Lester and Bax had a standoff going on and I was scared one of them was going to get hurt before the other backed down.
“Why are you over here, Les? You never leave the stoop after dark.”
I tried to keep my voice soothing and mellow. Unwittingly I leaned my weight into Bax’s side, trying to show Lester that he was okay, not a threat. What a load of bull that was. I had never met any one single person in my life who broadcasted that he was a threat like this guy.
“Bad things. Too many people. They made me leave. Gave me a bottle of whiskey.”
“What kind of bad things, buddy?”