“It’s lovely. Who took care of it for you while you were locked up?”
He grunted, his standard response when I asked him anything he didn’t want to answer.
“Same person that took care of my car.”
I wanted to ask who that was, considering the only friend he seemed to have was on the run and in hiding right now, but I didn’t want to push my luck and I really wanted to see inside the house.
“Are you leaving me here alone?” I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I was worn out from being in his presence for the last few hours. Being around him was like constantly getting shocked by a jolt of electricity. I just couldn’t find solid footing around him, and yet, besides Race, I had never felt more like someone wouldn’t let anything hurt me.
Those dark eyes were fathomless. I wished he was easier to read.
“For tonight I’ll crash on the couch.”
I wasn’t going to ask where he typically spent the night. I was sure the answer had to do with the impressive package I had felt pressed against me when he kissed me earlier. It wasn’t my business and I didn’t want to start feeling like it should be.
As he cracked open the door and walked inside, I asked, “What did you set up with that guy at the rave? A race or something?”
“No, I wish. No one will run a street race with me anymore. I never lose, so they stopped asking.”
I had seen him drive, so that wasn’t really a surprise.
He cocked an eyebrow at me and flipped on a light switch. It looked like a model home. Everything inside was pristine and untouched, all cool, neutral colors that reeked of professional design. It was so lovely it almost hurt. I looked at Bax and noticed he was taking it all in with a more cynical eye.
“The master bedroom is in the back, off the kitchen. It has a bed in it and I think the sheets and stuff might be in the closet. I’m sure everything is covered in dust, but it’ll do for a night or two.”
I could hear the disdain in his gruff voice. He pulled out a cigarette and headed toward the front door.
“A fight. I set up a fight.”
I frowned at his back. “Like a fistfight?”
He chuckled, but it had no humor in it. “One can hope only fists will be used. Try and get some sleep, Copper-Top. If my luck holds, shit is going to get way worse before it gets better.”
I bit my bottom lip and noticed his eyes followed the movement intently. That made something hot and tingly slide down my spine. I wasn’t used to overt male attention and Shane Baxter was most assuredly overtly male.
“That’s an awful attitude to have.”
“It makes for less disappointment later. Go to bed, Dovie.”
It was the first time he called me by my name. As I turned and went to find the room he had indicated I could use, I couldn’t deny that the sound of it in his raspy, rough voice made me remember I was a girl, with all kinds of girl parts that reacted to a hot guy. Even if my head was screaming RUN AWAY! as loudly as it could.
What had Race gotten me into?
I WAS A LIGHT sleeper. Always had been, but being locked up made me even more so. Not to mention this house made my skin crawl. It just reminded me that even when I tried to do good, it blew up in my face and ended up bad. I lifted my head up at the barest sound of feet on the floor. I was sprawled out on the couch; I hadn’t bothered to go find a blanket or anything¸ so I hoped if Dovie was making her way toward me, she was ready to handle me in nothing but a pair of boxer briefs. I wasn’t motivated enough or gentlemanly enough to bother to scramble for my pants. I didn’t embarrass easily, and since she was the one all up in my space, she could deal with me in my skivvies.
The footsteps drew closer and I leaned around the arm of the couch enough to see her lingering in the walk-through between the kitchen and the living room. None of the lights were on but there was no missing the minimal light glowing off her white skin. She was luminous, and missing her pants as well. She still had on that gigantic sweater, but the expanse of leg sticking out from the hem that hit her at midthigh was all toned and elegantly curved. If I was a leg man, hers would’ve been in the top of those I had ever seen for sure.
“What’s wrong?” I saw her jump a little and twirl a curl around her finger. I noticed it was what she did when she was nervous or uneasy.
“Did I wake you up?”
I ran my hands roughly over my face and swung my legs so my feet were on the floor. I leaned my neck back on the cushion and stared at the darkened ceiling.
“No,” I lied. “I don’t like being here.”
She came around the side of the couch and flopped down next to me, close but not touching. She curled her bare legs up under her and I tried not to watch. I felt as her eyes skated over my mostly naked form and then snapped back up to my face. My body was a road map of a short life lived hard and too fast. I had a nasty scar on my ribs from a dirt-bike accident when I was ten. I had a wicked scar that ran the entire length of my bicep from putting my hand through a car window when I was first starting out. There was also a lovely battle wound on my back to match the scar on my head from the one and only time I hadn’t been fast enough to get away from an angry cop and his baton. Not to mention I had a giant tattoo of the classic V8 logo on my stomach, and BAX in huge letters that ran across my upper back from shoulder blade to shoulder blade. On the opposite side of my ribs I had a naked hot-rod girl straddling a spark plug, and in places that it was too dark and too private to see, I had twin checkered flags indicating that whoever was lucky enough to see them had indeed reached the finish line.
I was sure she was appalled by it all, appalled by me in general, but she tapped her fingers on her naked knee and told me, “That sucks. It’s a really nice house. My mom was messed up too. That’s how I ended up in the system. She wanted to do drugs, not be a parent.”
I wasn’t big on talking, much less on sharing, but she didn’t seem like she was going anywhere, so I sighed and closed my eyes and crossed my hands over my flat stomach.
“She gets dry. She tries. It just never sticks, and I’ve learned to stop pushing. It’s not like a guy with a prison record and no legitimate means of employment can cast judgment on what anyone else is doing right or wrong. I love her, she’s my mom, so this is the kind of relationship we have.”
She made a little noise of sympathy and it twisted something inside my chest. If it had been pity I would’ve just shut her out, but since it was empathy, I wasn’t sure what to do with it.