Better When He's Bad (Welcome to the Point 1) - Page 55

“I’m going to take Novak down.”

Silence met the bold declaration, but I expected nothing less. My brother was a law-abiding citizen, a cop, a man who saw things clearly as right or wrong, which is why we could never really operate on the same wavelength. His world was all solid shades of black and white; mine was a muddy gray, tinted with vibrant shades of red and green. Red for blood, green for dirty money.

I was surprised he didn’t immediately launch into a lecture or give me the runaround about how it was the law’s job to handle Novak, to protect the Point. Instead he grumbled something foul and asked, “Wanna grab breakfast in a couple?”

My eyebrows shot up. “Sure, why not.”

We made plans to meet at a diner close to the precinct Titus worked out of, and I finished trying to wash Dovie’s memory and scent off of my skin. The cut on my side was open again and Race had gotten a couple good blows to my ribs, so I was moving a little slower than normal. It wasn’t until I went to get dressed that I realized Dovie had left still wrapped up in my new hoodie. I didn’t want to admit that the idea of her holding on to something of mine made something in my gut settle down. I had never really been possessive of anything in my life, aside from my car and my friendship with Race. Whatever I was feeling for Dovie trumped all of it. It felt like hope and promise and all the things in life I had never imagined would apply to me.

I found a place to leave the Runner where I thought it would be inconspicuous and not draw attention to either me or my brother. Titus was already seated in a booth at the back, a plastic menu covering his face. He flicked the edge of it to the side when I sat down across from him and grunted a greeting at me. He looked tired and older than his twenty-nine years. His bright blue eyes were rimmed in red and his dark hair looked like he had used motor oil and a ceiling fan to style it. He had also ditched his cop wear of a pressed white shirt and tie. The guy sitting across from me looked like he could give me a run for my money in the pit at Nassir’s—or be found riding shotgun next to me in one of my boosted rides. We always kind of looked alike, apart from the eye color, but now there was no denying we were built from the same stock. He looked just as rough and dangerous as I typically did.

The waitress came over and Titus asked her to just leave the pot of coffee she was holding. He ordered a massive breakfast and I just got some bacon and eggs. I wasn’t hungry, I was anxious to get the ball rolling.

“What’s up, Officer King?”

He cut me a look. “Race beat the crap out of you. You got a wicked bruise on the side of your face.”

“I know. He got me in the ribs even worse. Can’t say I blame him. I was all over Dovie, and there were no clothes involved.”

“What’s the story with you and her anyway? She doesn’t really strike me as your type.”

I chomped on a piece of the bacon and gave him a considering look. “How would you know what my type is, Titus? It’s not like you were around when I finally figured out what girls were for.”

He looked at me and frowned, his mug of coffee stilled halfway to his mouth. “Just because I wasn’t around didn’t mean I wasn’t keeping tabs on you. If I hadn’t kept a finger on the pulse of the felonies and misdemeanors of the infamous Shane Baxter, your ass would’ve been in prison a lot sooner than when you turned eighteen.”

I’d had run-ins with the law on and off since I was old enough to remember, but really, luck had always been on my side. Sure, I spent a month or two in juvie and was way more familiar with the back of a squad car than anyone should be, but my record was mostly clean, except for the last big f**kup that had kept me on lockdown for five wasted years.

“Why? Why interfere? Why pretend like I mattered when you were off being supercop? Those two things don’t seem to go hand in hand.”

“Because you’re my little brother and have always been a pain in the ass. I wondered all the time if things would have been different if Mom had managed to get her shit together when you were younger. I wonder if you had never been forced to steal, forced to break the law, if you would’ve just finished school and ended up a regular douchebag like most twenty-three-year-olds.”

I snorted. “Doubt it.”

Titus smiled around the coffee mug. “Yeah, I doubt it too. So about the girl?”

I grunted and leaned back in the booth. “She’s sweet and hot. She grew up the same way I did—rough—but it didn’t seem to touch her at all. She’s as loyal as I have ever seen one person be, and right now she’s right in the center of this mess with Novak. I sent her off with Race because I don’t know where else she’ll be safe. Once I let Benny know I have the video, he’ll tell Novak and all the dominoes are going to start to fall.”

“Shane . . .” I was getting real tired of people calling me that. I felt like every time they did, it was chipping away at the solid steel armor that was Bax. “I need you to take one second and look at this from the other side of things for once in your life. I know for you it’s easier to go in with guns blazing, ready to cause a riot, but I’m telling you that isn’t how things are going to work out.”

I flicked my gaze away from him and looked out the grimy window of the diner.

“As soon as Novak knows you have the tape, he’s going to try and destroy everything you care about, and I’m not talking about the Runner.”

“What are you talking about? I don’t think anyone qualifies for that list.”

“You’re an idiot.”

I scowled at him. “Fuck you.”

“Mom, Race, Gus, me, and now the girl. That’s a long enough list to put the ball solidly in Novak’s court. You might not see it, Bax, but you do not exist in the world unaffected by those of us who love you despite yourself.”

I just stared at him. I couldn’t argue his point. I thought it would be me and Novak in one epic showdown, but the reality was probably much gorier, with a far higher body count than I was seeing.

“So what then, Titus? I just hand the video over, and you and the boys in blue waltz in and arrest him for a murder that happened over five years ago? We both know some slick lawyer will get him off before it even goes to trial, and then he’ll just get rid of anyone and everyone who can speak out against him. You tell me how this ends on the side of all that is good and right. The only way to deal with a man like Novak is to get your hands dirty. You know that, Titus.”