“Tell me about Race. I need to understand why you’re doing this, making people mad, rattling cages. Clearly you’re putting yourself in danger for him. Why?”
I tilted my head and pried my eyes open to look at her. Her head was bent and she was staring intently at the stack of my hands on my abdomen and the Road Runner tattoo perched there. If she looked any lower, she would be blushing, because right or wrong, we were both missing enough clothes in the dark to make my dick interested in what was going on.
“I got us into trouble, Race got us out.” She snorted and I had to grin. “When Nassir said Race didn’t like the way he did business, he wasn’t lying, but that was because his business normally ended up with me risking my neck or getting my ass kicked, and Race hated it. When I first started boosting cars, Nassir was the middleman between me and Novak. He took a cut of everything I did and it bugged Race to no end that I was the one on the line, the one breaking the law, and Nassir could just sit back with clean hands and let me do it.”
I shifted my leg to give my burgeoning erection some room and saw her blink. I bit back a grin.
“Race was the one who told me to cut out the middleman and go right to Novak. He was a big-picture guy and competitive as hell. It didn’t matter how much I wanted to party, Race partied harder. It didn’t matter how many chicks I wanted to plow through, Race wanted more. It was like he was trying to prove who he was despite his background, instead of because of it. It was like that with breaking the law. I did what I did because I was good at it, loved the cars and the thrill. Race wanted it to be a business, wanted to be smart about it. At first it was awesome, and then we started to realize just how deep in we were. I never wanted to be owned by anybody, and Race was still tied to the Hill and the Hartman fortune. We got disillusioned, stuck, risking bigger and bigger scores, and he had enough. He was supposed to be working on a way to get us out when I got busted.”
She cleared her throat and I watched as she had to drag her eyes up from what was happening below my waist.
“How did you get caught if you were so good?”
That was dangerous territory and I wasn’t sure she was ready to hear it.
“I was set up.”
She blew out a breath that sent her red curls dancing.
I lifted my hands up off my stomach and pushed them out in front of me until my knuckles popped loud in the quiet house.
Dead silence met my words. More for shock value than anything else, I reached down between my legs and adjusted my junk. I heard her make a strangled noise.
“No way. He loved you like a brother. He never would’ve done that to you. He never would’ve told me to trust you if you came looking for him if he thought you were going to use me or seek out revenge.”
I got to my feet and went to where I had tossed my discarded pants. I yanked them on and fished out a cigarette from the pocket.
“You also never thought he would bang a stripper, when I know for a fact he used to do that very thing on a regular basis. We never really know anyone all the way through and through, and it is ultimately every man for himself on the street.”
“I just don’t understand. He must’ve had a reason. He never would betray you like that. I told you he talked endlessly about how guilty he felt that you went away.”
I stuck the smoke in the edge of my mouth and moved to the couch. I put one hand on the arm and the other on the cushion behind her head so that she was caged in between them. I looked down at her. Those green eyes were full of a mixture of compassion, disbelief, and fear. I could see the delicate flare of her nose expand when I leaned down so that we were almost nose to nose.
“No one can ever know a man’s motivations when he’s desperate. I don’t know why he did it, but I’m going to find out.”
She gulped a little and put a shaky hand to her throat.
“And then what?” It was barely a whisper from her full, trembling lips.
“Depends on his answer.” I shoved up off the couch. “Go back to bed.”
She nodded mutely and I went out the front door to suck some calming toxins into my lungs. I stayed outside for a few minutes, long enough to get my raging hormones under control. I needed to stop associating Race’s sister with anything sexual. That was a whole bag of “not going to happen.” I didn’t need to be wrestling with blue balls until I figured out my buddy’s agenda.
I locked the front door and went to kick my pants back off when I noticed she had listened to me, only instead of going back into the bedroom, she was curled in a little ball on the end of the sofa. I just stared at her, dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to do with her. She didn’t look comfortable, but I wasn’t sure she would stay asleep if I snatched her up and dumped her back in the room. I scratched my head and decided I would just leave her and go take the bed for myself for the rest of the night. I was in the kitchen when I heard her whimper. Whatever had woken her up originally obviously hadn’t worked its way out of her system.
I whispered a litany of swearwords and sat down next to her on the sofa. I got an arm around her shoulders and wiggled so I could put her back against the cushions, and stretched out in front of her. I was more than likely going to end up on the floor. I wasn’t tiny and it was already a tight fit, but she wound an arm around my neck, situated a leg between my own, and settled into a much more comfortable- and restful-sounding sleep. I was glad one of us could rest. Being this close to any girl, but really being almost on top of this intriguing and surprising girl, was doing a number not only on my restraint but on my willpower. I shouldn’t be interested in anything about her; instead, I was interested in everything about her, and I didn’t like it one bit.
Her soft breath feathered against my neck and I groaned out loud and resigned myself to a long, sleepless night.
“I WAS JUST GOING to wait until I saw you at work to ask, but the situation is more serious than I thought.”
I groaned and threw an arm over my eyes as all my stiff muscles tried to straighten out. I was by myself on the couch and Dovie was obviously on the phone. Morning light was smacking me right in the face and I had a crick in my neck from holding Dovie close to my chest all night.
“Yeah, everything is gone. No clothes, no books, no anything. I’m not sure how long I’ll have to stay with you, but my place just isn’t safe.”
I heard her mutter something else and say a quiet “thank you,” then her footsteps as she came back into the living room. She perched on the arm of the couch and looked down at me. I lifted my arm to meet her leafy gaze. She was gnawing on her lower lip and messing with her hair, so I knew she was uncomfortable.