Better When He's Bad (Welcome to the Point 1) - Page 48

I had the cigarette lit before my feet touched the sidewalk out in front of the apartment building. I flipped my phone around and stared at the darkened screen for a long minute while the smoke filled my lungs. For the second time that night, I called Titus. Just like the first call, he answered on the first ring.

“Shane.”

I didn’t bother to correct him. “The night I got busted, did you know what was going down? Did Race tell you Novak was trying to put me on the hook for murder?”

I heard him swear, heard some background noise as he obviously excused himself from whatever cop business he was doing. I squinted into the night and tried to figure out how I had gone, in the blink of an eye, from thinking I had all the answers to being so clueless.

“I didn’t know the whole story. Race told me if I didn’t have a SWAT team at the warehouse that night that you were going to be f**ked, that Novak was going to own you forever. He said you were both trying to get out, and that Novak didn’t want to let you go. I didn’t know about the kidnapping or the murder. It was all just a shit show. I think Race was trying to mitigate the damage, but he didn’t do anyone any favors by keeping us all in the dark. If you hadn’t run and got caught in the Aston Martin, chances are you would’ve never seen the inside of a cell.”

He sighed and swore again. Apparently foul language ran in the family.

“We tried to pin the murder on Novak, but there were too many people there and too many conflicting stories. He has too many people indebted to him, willing to do time for him, for us to make a case.”

“Race was trying to protect his sister. That’s why he kept it all quiet. Novak was holding her over his head, but he didn’t plan on Race going to you because he knew how I felt about you.”

“Well, you’re a grown-ass man now, Bax. Get over it. We’re family, and whether I agree with your choices or you with mine, we are all the other has.”

I snorted again and that tightness in my chest started to spread.

“Now you want to be family? What about when I was too young to take care of myself and actually needed you to give a shit?”

A long-drawn-out silence met my outburst and I could almost feel regret and something else coming across the phone connection.

“I was just a kid, too, Bax. I was bound to make mistakes. I was only trying to survive.”

I closed my eyes and forced myself to breathe in and out steadily before I chucked my phone into the street. I didn’t want to relate, but here, in the Point, survival was the only language we all spoke fluently.

“Did you take care of the Runner while I was locked up?”

He gave a dry little laugh that held anything but humor. “No, Gus did. I just made sure I paid the storage fees on it.”

“And the apartment?”

“Jesus, Bax. I know you hate my guts, but did you really think I was going to throw your ass behind bars and not make sure you had a place to go when you got out?”

I didn’t know what to say to any of that. Titus and I had never seemed to be on the same block, let alone the same side of the street. I didn’t know how to process all this new information.

“You need to be careful. All of this stuff with Race and Novak isn’t over, and for now they’re leaving the girl alone because they don’t want to tip their hand. But if Race doesn’t show soon, all bets will be off.”

“She stays out of it. Novak can come after me anytime he wants. I welcome the opportunity to let him know what I think of his plans.”

There was another sigh. “Bax, I don’t want to put you back in jail, or worse yet, have to identify you in the morgue.”

Now it was my turn to laugh without any kind of humor. “Funny how those are the same options I see. I never thought we would agree on anything.”

“That girl cares about you, Shane. You really gonna just keep living your life like it doesn’t matter?”

I pinched the bridge of my nose and squeezed my eyes shut like I could black out all the new insights I was forced to take in tonight.

“I don’t know, Titus, I’m just going to keep living it the only way I know how.”

“Learn from your mistakes, little brother. That’s all you can do. I gotta go, there was an armed robbery at a bar in the District.”

I didn’t bother to say good-bye, I just put the phone back in my pocket and meandered back upstairs. Now I didn’t want her here. Dovie saw too much, got too close to the heart of things. When I pushed open the door, I had to do a double take. In the fifteen minutes I had been outside, she had stripped and remade the bed, vacuumed the floor, wiped down the TV, straightened up the little kitchenette, and piled all the discarded clothes and junk on the floor into one pile by the closet. It looked like a normal person lived there, not like a place that was used primarily for sex and sleep.

I scraped my hands roughly across my head and made my way over to where she was lying on the bed. I sat down on the edge and looked down at her. She shrugged her shoulders and gave me an “oh well” look. I reached out a finger and moved one of her curls away from her face.

“You can clean it up, but that doesn’t change what it is, Dovie.”

“Are we talking about the apartment or you, Bax?”

I moved my finger down so I could run it across the plush pout of her bottom lip. “Either or. I’m not going to ever be a good guy, Copper-Top.”

She caught my hand in her own and it made my blood go hot when she put a soft kiss right in the center of my palm. “No, you’re not, but that doesn’t mean you always have to be a bad guy either. Why can’t you just be a little bit of both?”

Because for me it had always been all or nothing. Just like this situation with her. I could keep tabs on her, make sure everyone knew that I would jack them up if they messed with her and that they’d better not lay a finger on her, but no. Instead I was having a hard time figuring out where she started and I ended, and she was starting to look like a reward for all that I had missed in the last five years. Just like everything else in my life, going all in meant when it went bad, and when it was all over, there was a good chance it would leave me wrecked. I didn’t want to think about it anymore, didn’t want her to keep looking at me like she saw more to me than there was, so l leaned down and kissed her. I didn’t have to think about right or wrong when she made everything better.

CHAPTER 12

Dovie

THIS WASN’T WHAT IT was normally like when we were together like this. There was a level of intensity in him, a strand of danger that would have scared me had I not seen the struggle he was fighting in those fathomless eyes. I didn’t know if it was the location, the chat with his brother, or the idea that Lord Hartman was heartless and all shades of evil that had him so impatient and edgy, but whatever it was, I could feel the lash of it across each part of my flesh that he exposed with rough hands. He was trying to make a point, to teach a lesson. Only I don’t think he knew which one of us was supposed to be learning it, so instead of fighting him, instead of adding fuel to the fire, I just went still. I was naked and he was still fully clothed, a position I seemed to find myself in a lot around him.

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