His wild eyes skimmed over me and then over Bax.
“Good he’s here. Good, good.”
I shivered and looked up at Bax, who was frowning and trying to follow Lester’s broken thinking pattern.
“Why did they give you whiskey, Les? Help me out here, big guy.”
“Don’t go home, Dovie. Bad things. You watch her. She’s a sweet girl.”
Lester nodded, like his business with us was done, and stumbled back toward the apartment building. I was full of apprehension, and shivered involuntarily.
“He’s a disabled vet. No one—and I mean no one—goes in or comes out of the building without his okay. The only time he leaves the stoop is for church on Sunday morning and if he gets the chance to go on a bender. He’s good people.”
“What did he mean by bad things?”
I sighed and shoved my seriously tangled hair over my shoulder. “I don’t know, but I have a really bad feeling I’m about to find out. Don’t let me keep you from your nightly conquest. I expect to hear from you tomorrow if you’ve got anything on Race. I expect you to keep your word, Bax.”
He grabbed my elbow and started hauling me mercilessly across the street. I struggled a little at first until I realized he was going up to the apartment with me. I really didn’t want to face whatever might be waiting for me up there alone.
“I always keep my word, Copper-Top. That’s not something you have to worry about with me.”
Great. He had already insinuated that if I kept getting in his way and making things tricky for him, he would use me in a way I couldn’t even imagine. I had never offered my body as a bargaining chip before, and I had no desire to start now. But I sensed he would push me if it got him what he wanted. He wasn’t scared of coming across like a total scumbag; in fact, I think he kind of liked it.
I pressed up against his back as we skulked up the stairs to my floor. He was all hard lines and coiled strength. I didn’t know how a guy as big as he was moved so silently. He just melted into the shadows and darkness around us. I felt clumsy and awkward behind him.
“Shit.” The swearword was breathed out more than spoken when we rounded the corner where my apartment was.
I guess I really should have put a move on those new locks because the door was standing wide open, and even from where I was partially hidden behind Bax, I could tell I didn’t really want to see what was inside.
“Benny?” My voice quivered a little.
Bax shook his dark head and I felt the muscles I was leaning against tense.
“No. Destruction isn’t his style. This was Novak, though. He wants me to know he has eyes on me. He waited until we were together to do this, not while you were here alone.”
He swore again.
“You have anything in there you absolutely need?”
I bit my bottom lip. “My stuff for school.”
He sighed and ran his hands over his head. “If this was a typical turn and burn, I doubt anything really made it. You can check, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.”
I was shaking. I seemed to be doing a lot of that tonight.
“The good thing about going without much is that there isn’t much to get attached to. Let me see what I can salvage and I’ll call Carmen to see if I can crash with her and the boys for a few days.”
He gave his head a violent shake. “Too close. You need to get farther away.”
I snorted. “Where do you suggest? This is the Point, not grammar school. I don’t have a hoard of besties in my back pocket to pull from in an emergency. The only other person I can rely on in the world is missing, in case you forgot, so Carmen’s will have to do.” Not that I was thrilled with the prospect of bringing any kind of danger to her door.
He sighed and his hands opened and closed into fists.
“I have a place I can take you for a few days.”
I barked out a laugh and tucked some hair behind my ear. “No, thanks. I’ve had enough of strippers and prostitutes for one night. Carmen’s will be fine.”
He glared down at me and started hauling me toward the door, which was hanging drunkenly off its hinges. Turn and burn indeed. Nothing escaped unscathed. My clothes, pots and pans, the stuff in the fridge, anything that wasn’t tied down was on the floor. The couch was upside down, the curtains were ripped off the broken window, and sure enough, every single book and piece of paper that was in the messenger bag I used for school was tossed and thrown all across the floor. It looked like someone had put the entire mess through a wood chipper. Disaster didn’t even begin to cover it. All I could do was stand there and try and take it in with my mouth hanging open.
“Come on. There’s nothing you can pull out of this mess.”
He sounded gruff and angry. When I numbly looked up at him, I was surprised to see black fire glowing in his eyes. I don’t know how I, for one second, ever thought those pitch-black orbs were emotionless. I felt like whatever rage was burning in them was tied to the very core of his corrupted soul.
I picked my way across the floor as delicately as I could to peek inside the tiny bedroom. It wasn’t like I had very much stuff or any kind of quality wardrobe, but what I did have was shredded and tossed around the room like fabric confetti. Whoever had done this had taken their time and enjoyed every second of it. I shook my head and jumped a little when Bax grabbed my arm from behind.
I didn’t struggle and didn’t argue when he dragged me past Carmen’s apartment and back down the stairs. There was no way I could put her and the kids at risk. This was my problem . . . well, Race’s problem, but since he was now literally all I had left in the world, it was my burden to figure out. If Bax wanted to dump me with one of his lady friends for a few days, I would just have to deal with it. My next shift at the restaurant was in a couple days and I would just ask Brysen if I could hang out at her place for a while. I was pretty sure she would be okay with it. That only solved one immediate problem. I had no idea what I was going to do about my schoolbooks or finding money to buy an entirely new wardrobe.
I felt like a rag doll as Bax ushered me back into his black-and-yellow monster and strapped the seat belt on around me. All I could do was stare blankly at him as he rounded the hood and slid in next to me. The engine sounded as angry as he looked as he peeled out of the parking lot and headed farther into the Point. It was well past midnight now, and nothing good ever happened here when the sun went down. I should demand to know where we were going, what his plan was, but I just couldn’t muster up the energy to care. I closed my eyes and tried to remind myself that Race had saved me, had changed my life, so little inconveniences like a totally trashed apartment and a disturbingly hot make-out session with a criminal were just small sacrifices I could suffer through in return.