She propped her tiny chin on her hand and blinked long lashes at me, despite my grouchy mood and warning look.
“So what’s up with the hottie in the hotrod? You go get a boyfriend on us?”
I frowned at her and helped a couple of the little kids with some cereal.
“No. I don’t have time for a boyfriend. You brats keep me too busy.”
“He kissed you like he was your boyfriend.” I winced because I forgot they had witnessed that. Reeve chose just that moment to walk in, and I didn’t miss the hard look she gave me.
“Guys like him . . .” I looked at Blake and purposely avoided Reeve’s glower. “When they kiss you they do it because they want to, not because you’re important or special to them like a girlfriend.”
She lifted an eyebrow at me, and it was easy to see how far beyond her years she was in the “yeah, right” look she leveled at me.
“When a guy like that kisses you, it doesn’t matter if you’re important or special. All that matters is that it’s you he’s kissing, and man, was he kissing the shit out of you.”
“Language!” Reeve’s voice was sharp as I rolled my eyes.
“It’s not like that. He’s friends with my brother.”
Blake sighed. “I wish I knew someone that had friends like that.”
That set all the kids . . . well, the girls, off on a tangent about their dream guys. Even when you grew up hard and had little faith in the world around you, every little girl still wanted her prince to come to her rescue, even if that prince had a star tattooed on his face and charged in under horsepower instead of on a white stallion. I let them chatter and ignored Reeve’s censure, even though it followed me heavily throughout the day.
I didn’t hear from Bax all day, and I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. I would also be damned if I was going to let him know it bugged me that I didn’t hear from him at all that night or the next morning. After we gave the full-time staff the rundown of activities, I was walking out the front door with every intention of seeing if I could con Carmen and the boys into helping me set the apartment back to rights before my classes started in the evening. I couldn’t live in hiding forever, and the sooner I took my life back, the less likely I was to drown in the mystery that was Shane Baxter. I was going to take the bus when Reeve surprised me by asking me if I wanted a ride. Considering her chilly demeanor all weekend, I was hesitant to say yes, but sitting on the bus for a half an hour really wasn’t ever awesome, so I took her up on the offer.
It only took five minutes before her real motivation became known.
“Dove.” Her tone was stern and made me look at her. “I know we aren’t friends and I don’t really know anything about you, but I feel like I have to tell you; you need to watch yourself. I don’t think you know what you’re doing getting entangled with a guy like Bax. I know you love Race and believe the best of your brother, but if Bax is the kind of guy he keeps in his inner circle”—she shook her head and her dark hair slashed over her serious face—“you need to be looking out for yourself.”
I gave her a rueful grin and tucked my hair behind my ears. “I understand where you’re coming from, Reeve, but you don’t know Race and you don’t know Bax, even if his reputation leaves little to be desired. I’ll be okay.”
“I hope so. Guys like him . . .” She trailed off, and I turned fully in my seat to look at her.
“You said he would destroy me. I have no intention of letting that happen.”
“You sleep with him?”
I stiffened automatically, because like she said, we weren’t even really more than coworkers.
“Because you’ve worked at the home for a year and have never even mentioned going on a date with a guy, and yet this guy rolls into your life and all of a sudden you’re rumpled and sucking face in front of the house. That’s what they do . . . make you do things you normally wouldn’t. First it’s sex, and then it’s stuff like drinking or maybe a line of blow, and then the next thing you know, they have you so wound up and backward you’re willing to break the law for them. You turn into a pawn in their game, because, Dovie, that’s all it will ever be to him, a game.”
“Are you sure you don’t know Bax, Reeve? You sound like you’re speaking from experience.”
“I told you I don’t know him, but I know of him and I know all about guys like him. I know what it looks like after they’re done with you. It’s ugly and almost impossible to come back from, and I would hate that for you.”
I would hate that for me too. “I don’t drink, my mom was a junkie, so there isn’t even a slight chance—regardless, if I let him in my pants or not—that Bax is getting me to do blow or anything else. As for the rest . . .” I let my shoulder rise and fall in a careless shrug. “Right now I need him, so I have to take the good with the bad. He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t try and fool me into thinking he’s safe or that he has my best interest at heart. He terrifies me and I tell him that on a pretty regular basis, but he can also be sweet and gentle when he wants to be. I don’t know that I have any other choice but to play the game with him for now. He seems to be the only one that knows how to win it.”
His words about having the balls to make the wrong choice and being strong enough to deal with the fallout danced through my head.
“Just keep your eyes peeled, and if anything seems off, run.”
I nodded, because really, it was sound advice. If I had stayed away, I wouldn’t know what it felt like to have him touch me, to have him move over me with those black eyes burning into my soul. I wouldn’t know what it was like to want.
In my life I had never had much, never needed much. Sure, once Race came into the picture, things got easier. I felt more comfortable admitting that I wanted things, a family, someone to rely on, security, to finish school and help other people, but I had never wanted the way Bax made me want. Considering the kind of guy he was, that wasn’t only foolish, it was also bound to leave me, just like Reeve said, destroyed.
We finished the rest of the ride to my apartment complex in silence, her warning hanging heavy between us. I wanted to ask how she knew, what the story was behind her certainty that Bax was everything bad, but I think the reality of it would be too much to bear when I still hadn’t heard from him. I thanked her for the ride and promised I would keep my eyes open and do my best to watch my back. I don’t think she believed me, but as it was in this world, there was nothing more she could do, because I was my own person, bound to make my own mistakes.