I was brooding and lost track of time, so when the car pulled to a stop on the street in front of what looked like an abandoned warehouse, it could have been an hour or five minutes later. I rolled my head over to look at Bax, but he was already pocketing the keys and climbing out the door.
“Where are we?”
He gave me a weird look, like he suddenly remembered I was there, and pulled the hood of his sweatshirt up over his head.
“You can wait in the car. I’ll be back in a minute.”
I looked around the area where we were parked and threw open my door. No place in the Point was exactly safe, but just like in every bad part of any city, there were some areas that were worse than others. This was one of those places, and I had had enough of feeling rattled and shaken for one night. Right now, sticking by Bax was the only thing giving me a modicum of security.
“I’ll just go with you.”
He sighed and lit up a cigarette. It was a nasty habit, but considering the guy stole things for a living, I guess there were far worse things he could be lighting up in my presence.
“Just stick close, I mean in-my-back-pocket close. I need to talk to a guy about some money he owes me.”
“It can’t wait until later?” I was emotionally exhausted. I didn’t know how all this stuff after dark didn’t wear him out. It was like an entirely different life in the shadows.
Nothing more and nothing less. Just “no.” Clearly prison hadn’t offered Bax any kind of awesome communication skills. I just grumbled at him under my breath and trudged along behind him down a set of stairs that looked like they were going to collapse under our weight. In fact, the staircase was so rickety and dilapidated, I put a hand on the back of his sweatshirt so if we went down, there was a chance I could land on him instead of the concrete below. This was creepy and didn’t look like anyplace I wanted to be, but Bax acted like he knew just where he was going, so I dutifully followed along.
At the base of the stairway there was a bare lightbulb hanging over a metal door that was painted bright purple. It looked like the service entrance to the warehouse, but Bax punched in a numerical code on the little box to the side and the door swung open under the flat of his hand.
“What is this place?” I didn’t really expect an answer, but he looked over his shoulder at me, most of his face obscured by the hood.
“Just a bar.”
I couldn’t contain an eye roll or the sarcasm that colored my tone as he guided us down a narrow hallway toward the sounds and smells of what indeed seemed to be a bar.
“A bar doesn’t have a secret entrance down a back alley and a password to get in. A bar has PBR signs on the window and tired girls cocktailing the floor.”
He grunted. “It’s not that kind of bar.”
Loud electronic music was making the ground shake under my sneakers, and when we rounded a corner to finally come into a big, open space, which was obviously the old factory floor of the warehouse, we were in what definitely was not that kind of bar.
Neon lights swirled all around from the exposed metal rafters. Girls of all nationalities, in outfits more suited for a strip club or hip-hop video, were on platforms spread throughout the space dancing and writhing to the loud music. There had to be no less than two hundred people milling about. All of them holding drinks, smoking something other than cigarettes, and gyrating to the electronic thump and bass of the music. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before and totally not where I would picture Bax spending his time. It was too bright, too colorful, a complete sensory overload that made my head hurt and my eyes twitch.
“What are we doing here? My brother is still missing, my apartment is trashed, and I’m tired and cranky. Do you really think this is the best time for a rave?” I had to shout to be heard over the music.
He cut me a look and caught my wrist and dragged me over to where the bar was. He leaned on the Lucite bar top and hollered at the bikini-clad bartender, “Where’s Nassir?”
She was busy pouring drinks and looked like she was going to ignore him for a second. He lowered his hood and I saw her eyes flicker over that star inked on his face. It made him so identifiable. She wiped her hands on a bar towel and pointed to a set of wrought-iron stairs that coiled up behind the brightly lit bar.
“Up in the VIP section.”
He jerked a nod and dragged me along behind him. I tugged on my wrist to try and get free but he only curled his fingers tighter. I was getting sick and tired of being yanked around by this guy. In every sense of the word. I felt like I had been tangling with him for months—not just a few short days.
The VIP section was the converted catwalk of the factory. It was all metal and chains and looked like it was about to fall to the ground at any second. It was a good thing I wasn’t scared of heights because there was nothing but a twisted chain barrier between the edge of the metal platform and the drop to the dance floor below. Once again I gulped and scooted closer to Bax’s back. He stalked through grinding bodies, not stopping even when a couple called out to him or tried to stop him. He was clearly on a mission and nothing was going to deter him, not even me having a mild panic attack as I noticed that the entire platform moved and flexed with all the weight on it.
We made our way to a raised section at the very back of the platform that had several tables with black satin covers on them. It was less populated back here, and Bax headed straight for the table where a very good-looking man of obvious Middle Eastern descent was seated. He had a chilled bottle of champagne on the table in front of him as well as an open laptop. There was a really pretty blond girl seated on his right and an even prettier brunette seated on his left. Both girls were trying to get his attention, but whatever was on the computer had his undivided focus until Bax pulled out the chair opposite him and plopped down.
He let go of me finally, and I was at a loss as to what to do besides hover uneasily over his shoulder. I didn’t belong in a place like this with a guy like him. I was uncomfortable and doing nothing to hide the fact. The girls were watching me with curious eyes, and all I could do was fidget nervously with one of my curls.
The gorgeous man with the olive skin and jet-black hair lifted his head and skimmed his eyes over Bax and then flicked them to me. He offered a grin that literally made my heart trip over itself and I knew I was blushing.
“I heard you were out. Figured you would find your way here. It’s good to see you, Bax. Hard time looks good on you.”