I rubbed my forehead and looked at her out of the corner of my eye. “What kind of name is ‘Honor’ for a stripper anyway?”
She took a couple of beers the bartender handed her. “Honor . . . on-her . . . get it?” She laughed a little. “My real name is Keelyn.”
I let my head drop back down. How did I end up here?
“I don’t know what I’m doing here.” I didn’t mean to blurt it out to her, she didn’t like me. She had been naked with the two most important men in my life and I didn’t really think she was any kind of ally, but the words just tumbled out. She tilted her head a little to the side and her artfully painted mouth kicked up in a grin on one side.
“When you are connected, even in the most basic way, to a guy like Bax, this is where you end up, honey. I know he makes the ride worthwhile, but the destination leaves a lot to be desired. Do yourself a favor and remember falling in love with a guy like him is about the stupidest thing you could do. It’ll make your life here even harder, and we all know how rough it is already just to get by.”
“I’m not going to fall in love with him.” I wished I’d sounded stronger, more sure of the fact.
She just gave me a look that was full of knowing and pity. Great, like I needed a stripper to feel sorry for me.
“Honey, you’re already halfway there if you forced yourself to come back here.”
“What’s going on?” Bax’s deep voice was hard and suspicious as his hands landed on my shoulders.
“Just making nice.” I sounded like I had been sucking on a lemon.
Honor laughed and sauntered away, making sure to shake her ass in Bax’s direction as she left.
“Yep. You have so many charming friends, Bax.”
He grunted at me and took my arm in his hand. “Let’s go before the welcoming committee shows up.”
I slid off the bar stool and my knees wobbled a little so he had to hold me up.
“Did he help you? Do you have all the answers?” Like there was ever a justifiable reason for wanting your own flesh and blood dead.
“Some of them.” I let him pull me out of the club like a rag doll. “Granted it took a little force and he doesn’t look so much like the king of the castle anymore.”
I looked at his hands and noticed that his knuckles were bloody. My stomach should turn at the thought of him beating the answers out of the man that was half of my DNA, but all I could feel was a solid ball of anxiety and disappointment. “Tell me.”
He looked down at me and sighed as he pushed some of my wild hair away from my face. “It isn’t pretty.”
“It never is.”
“Let’s go to the house.”
I recoiled at the idea. The cute little bungalow was so nice, so removed from all the ugliness that filled the Point. I felt like hearing all about my father’s plans to off me would somehow taint it.
“Let’s go to my apartment. I cleaned it and it’s closer.”
“Your furniture was trashed.”
I rubbed my arms and shivered even though I wasn’t cold. “Fine; let’s go to your place in the city.”
He pulled back and narrowed his eyes at me. “Why?”
“Why not?” Maybe seeing his crash pad, I would get the idea that there really was no Shane, that he was always just Bax and I would never, ever be foolish enough to hand my heart over to that guy. Maybe he knew exactly what I was doing, because all his barriers snapped into place.
“Fine. Let’s go.”
I DIDN’T WANT TO know what Dovie thought about the place that I called home, but really it was just a place to store all my stuff and catch a few z’s in between all the stuff I usually had going on. It was a crap hole. A studio in an apartment complex that was only half a step up from her own. I actually had a security door that worked, but other than that, between the dirty hallways and loud, disruptive neighbors, the two places could’ve been on the same block.
I didn’t have much. Just a bed that hadn’t been made, ever, a flat screen that I was always amazed to see when I opened the door, a black leather chair that had rips in the arms, and posters on the walls that were of mostly naked chicks and badass cars. I liked the cars better than the girls most of the time. It was dirty, musty, and I felt like she was seeing inside of who I really was as she followed me in the door, those wide green eyes taking it all in. This was where I belonged; not that bungalow so far out of the city.
“Have a seat. You want a beer or something?”
She shook her head, those red curls slipping and sliding across her pale face. She surprised me by sitting on the edge of the bed instead of taking the worn-out chair.
“Who paid for this place while you were in prison?”
I looked at her over my shoulder and got myself a beer out of the tiny fridge. I didn’t like her here. She didn’t fit in, just like she deserved something better than that shithole she lived in at the Skylark.
She made a noise in her throat and caught all of her hair in one hand and pulled it off of her neck. She looked so young, so lost. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t just let her go when I knew I was going to end up taking all of that shine off of her.
She lifted her eyebrows at me and bit her lip. I wasn’t going to like what she had to say. I was starting to recognize that as her tell.
“Your mom . . . who can’t even pull it together enough to get sober and live in that amazing house you bought her somehow managed, for five years, to make sure the rent was paid on this place? And what about your car? That thing had to have been somewhere secure, somewhere expensive. You really think she was the one paying the bills, staying on top of things when you couldn’t?”
I glared at her and flopped down in the chair. It groaned under my weight as she continued to watch me unwaveringly.
“Who then? Race?”
She gave her head a tiny shake and fiddled with her hair. “No. He didn’t have any extra money and we were laying pretty low after he first came and got me. I don’t think he would’ve risked drawing Novak’s attention by taking care of your car.”
My eyes narrowed even more as she verbally led me to the only possible conclusion, which she was drawing.
“You think it was Titus?” I asked.
She shrugged. “Maybe.”
“Titus doesn’t give a f**k about anyone but himself. He dropped out of sight before I could figure out how to survive on my own and all he’s done since is make my life hell because I didn’t end up all perfect and law-abiding like he did. We didn’t have the same opportunities, and I think it’s bullshit that he thinks he can judge me for making do the only way I know how.”