They looked at Bax and then back at me. “We were just trying to have some fun.”
Bax snorted. “Fun has no place in this life. You might as well learn that now.”
Blake bared her teeth and pushed past me to the front door. “Your boyfriend is a dick, Dovie. You could do better, even if he is hot.”
I waited until the door slammed closed and I could hear Reeve’s irritated voice coming from the living room before making my way down the steps so I was standing toe-to-toe with Bax. I had to tilt my head back to look him in the eye, and when I did, all I could see was a darkness deeper and more liquid than the night sky.
“What are you doing here, Bax?”
“Nice sweatshirt, Copper-Top.” I hadn’t taken it off since the night I walked out of his apartment with it on—not that I was going to tell him that.
“Those girls have a rough enough time as it is. Sooner or later, they’re going to age out of the system and be on their own. You don’t have to remind them that life is always going to be an uphill battle. They should get to enjoy being teenagers.”
“Why? We didn’t.”
“And look how disgustingly well adjusted and happy we are.” I couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “What are you doing here?” I was going to keep asking until he gave me an answer.
“I was just in the neighborhood.”
“Yeah, right. I’m fine. No creepy-crawlers are coming out of the woodwork. You don’t need to be bothered keeping an eye out for me. I hear you have better ways to spend your time.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m hiding out in a tiny little apartment with Race while you’re arranging another fight with Nassir. Seems like you couldn’t wait to get back to right where you were. How’s Roxie? I’m sure she’s back on the agenda as well.”
I didn’t want the hurt I was feeling to come through in my voice, but there was no stopping it. I felt like he had cast me off, and it stung.
He looked at me like I was speaking to him in French. “What are you talking about, Dovie? I haven’t seen Roxie, and what I have going on with Nassir is keeping me from making a mistake we’ll both regret.”
I narrowed my eyes at him, not sure I believed him. “What kind of mistake?”
He threw his hands up in the air and tilted his head back so that he was practically yelling at the midnight-colored sky.
“Jesus, Dovie, are you serious right now?”
I was confused. I didn’t understand what his choice to suffer at one of Nassir’s rigged fights had to do with me. I wanted him to spell it out for me, to let me inside that complicated mind that had too many twists and turns for the average person to follow. He made it simple for me. He let loose a flurry of nasty swearwords and then closed the sparse distance between the two of us.
His hands slid into my hair at my temples and his mouth crashed down on mine with the force of everything that made him so dark and dangerous to begin with. I wrapped my fingers around those chains inked on his wrists and kissed him back. He was scary, he was overwhelming, and he was everything about this life that I wanted to get away from, but when he rubbed his tongue along the seam of my lips asking for entrance, it felt more like welcoming him home than it did like kissing him back. I groaned against the pressure and the bite of teeth on my lower lip. He was trying to eat me up and I had no desire to stop him. I missed him so much.
I felt his fingers curl around the back of my skull as he tried to pull me closer, but the front door swung open and Reeve’s heavy footsteps thudded behind us. I reluctantly pulled away and glanced at her over my shoulder. She looked mad.
“I put the girls in our room and looked at the alarm in their room. They cut the wires.”
I nodded and felt Bax try and untangle himself from my hair. I refused to let go of his tattooed wrists.
“Give me a couple minutes, Reeve. I’ll be in shortly.”
“He shouldn’t be here, Dovie, and he shouldn’t be here with you.”
“Just give me a minute.”
I heard her sigh and the door close behind her. Bax pulled at his hands but I still didn’t let him go. I could feel his pulse fluttering under the gentle pressure of my fingertips.
“I gotta go, Copper-Top, while I still can.”
I bit my bottom lip and looked up at him with beseeching eyes. “Did you miss me at all this week, Bax? Did you roll over and reach for me at night? Did you wake up and wonder why you were alone? Did you think about me at all when you went to see Nassir? Do you even care that it’ll break my heart if something happens to you in one of those dirty fights?”
My voice broke and I could feel a veil of moisture slide over my eyes.
“Do you want the truth, or do you want me to lie to you?”
I sort of hated and loved how he liked to throw all our earlier conversations back in my face.
“Lie to me.” I whispered it and he yanked me against his chest and buried his nose in the top of my head. I felt his chest expand and fall against my cheek.
“Not one time. I didn’t think about you one single time this entire week. Is that what you want me to say? Will that make you realize this isn’t what you want and most definitely not what you need?”
What it did was fill that hollow part inside of me that had been gaping and yawning open since he had sent me off with Race. I let go of his wrists and reached up to wrap my arms as tightly as I could around his neck. I saw his Adam’s apple slide up and down in his throat in response.
“Take me somewhere?”
“What? You can’t leave, you’ll get in trouble. The babe with the black hair clearly hates my guts and she’ll turn you in for ditching the kids.”
I blinked at him. As much as I loved the kids and appreciated my job here at the home, the time I had with him was fleeting and precious and I wasn’t going to be foolish and squander it.
“Don’t care. I want to be with you.”
I did, so bad. I felt like I had a fever. My skin was too tight, my breath was coming in short, hard pants, and all I wanted to do was melt into his dark gaze. For a second, I thought he was going to argue, to once again try and push me away from him for my own good, but he didn’t. He ran his hand from the back of my neck to the curve of my ass and gave the rounded flesh a smart smack with the flat of his hand.
“All right, rule breaker, let’s go.”
He gave me a quick, one-armed hug and hauled me off to the Runner. I slid into the passenger seat just in time to see Reeve shaking her head at me in the reflection of the front window. I would regret it later. Right now all I had was this moment and this man who was so hard to hold on to.