I crossed my arms over my chest and forced my breathing to slow and my eyes to go flat. I could taste the need for his blood, for vengeance, burning up my throat. But Novak never made a move without thinking twenty steps ahead, and the fact that he was here and not hiding out, safe in his insulated compound, spoke volumes.
“What do you know about what’s on my plate, Novak?”
He laughed and crossed his arms over his massive chest. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Nassir take a few steps back and the same hallway I had just come down was suddenly full of Novak’s guys. Benny led the charge, the smile on his face enough to make my nerves start to shudder under my skin. Whatever was going on wasn’t good.
“Haven’t you figured out by now I know everything, son?”
I balked and felt my hands curl into fists that hurt at my sides. “Don’t.” My voice sounded like it was rattling through a bucket of rusty nails.
“What? This isn’t the family reunion you wanted? I was ready to offer you the entire world, and you spit on it. What kind of ungrateful bastard are you, Bax? Not one of my blood, that’s for sure.”
I tried to breathe through it, tried to get the pressure and the fury to go back in my gut, but they were pushing too hard and too fast to control. Before I could stop it, I lunged at him, ready to get my hands around his throat and never let him go. I was brought up short when Benny suddenly had the barrel of a gun shoved into my side. Novak shook his head and clicked his tongue at me.
“That’s always been your problem. You act without thinking, Bax. Really, it’s too bad. You have it in you to follow in your old man’s footsteps, to be even more ruthless than I ever was. I could have taught you how to be a legend.”
I felt the bile rise up and I reached down to shove Benny back. I wasn’t scared of him or of the gun.
“Be like you, Novak? I would rather die.”
His black eyes squinted at me. “That’s most definitely an option, son.”
“Stop saying that!” I was unhinged. My brain was going to break apart.
“I should’ve taken you from your mom the first time I saw you get behind the wheel of a car. You’ve always been able to make things run harder and faster than anyone else. I could have doubled the size of my empire on your back if you had been willing.”
“Willing to do what? Kill, maim, blackmail, extort, rape . . . I was already a thief, so what was pushing me just a little further, right? You wanted me to be tied to you in a way I could never escape, because blood was never thick enough to do it. I want to f**king kill you, but I won’t.” I let a breath out and felt my lungs deflate. “You can see what it feels like to sit in a cell and watch your life fade from one day to the other. It doesn’t matter what you do to me, Novak, but you, you’re done.”
He laughed and took a step closer to me. I shoved his hand away when he reached out to put it on my shoulder. I grunted when Benny cracked me over the back of the head with the butt of the gun. I felt the skin give and a trickle of blood work its way over my scalp and down into the collar of my shirt.
“The video? Come on, Bax, you know better than that. Do you really think I would have let Race live this entire time if I was scared of that video? Get real. Race is alive because of you, his sister is alive because of you, and your annoying cop brother is alive because of you, Bax. You get your stubbornness from my side of the family tree, but you get your foolish loyalty to those who care about you despite yourself from your drunk of a mother. My blood might not be enough of a motivating factor to keep you where I want you, but theirs is.”
Just then, a man in a patrolman’s uniform came down the hallway. Some of Novak’s muscle moved to the side and Benny walked over and squatted in front of Titus where he was forced to his knees by the hands of the obviously dirty other cop. His blue eyes were blazing as he looked up at the young cop standing behind him. I knew what it felt like to want to kill; I had no idea that my brother, in all his protecting of justice and what was right, was capable of that same kind of rage.
“Officer King, it’s been a long time.” Novak sounded so sure, so cocky about thinking he held all the cards. My jaw clenched shut as Titus’s gaze snapped from his betrayer to the city’s most feared criminal.
“How many dirty cops you got on the payroll, Novak?”
“Enough. How does it feel to be on your knees, in your own handcuffs, in front of me, Titus? Your mother sure knew how to foster illusions of false hope in you boys.”
Titus’s gaze swung to me and I felt my knuckles crack even harder as my fists turned into steel balls at my sides.
“Shut him the f**k up, Shane.”
We both swore as Benny got to his feet and used his knee to crack Titus’s jaw shut. My brother’s head snapped back at the impact and a spray of blood shot out of his mouth. I narrowed my eyes at Benny when he laughed as Titus groaned and let his head roll loosely on his shoulders.
“When I’m done with you, I’m going to make you wish the only bone I broke was your nose, ass**le.” I made sure Benny knew it was a promise and not a threat.
Benny snickered and shoved Titus over onto his side with his foot.
“You always had a big head. You’re nothing special, Bax. If you weren’t his blood, you would’ve died in the joint just like every other worthless thief we’ve put there over the years. You always got a free pass and you should appreciate it.”
I cut a nasty look at Novak and motioned to Titus. “What’s that supposed to prove? He locked me up, let me rot for five years, just like you did. I owe him even less than I owe you. You think you’re going to drag him in here, threaten him, and I’m going to roll over and play nice? You don’t own me, Novak, and you never will. Kill him, I don’t give a shit.”
It was a lie, a bald-faced lie, but I refused to give Novak the upper hand. Blood was going to paint the Point in rivers of red, and as long as Novak was one of the ones bleeding at the end of the night, I didn’t—couldn’t—care about anything else.
Novak shook his head and moved around me so he was standing in front of Titus.
“You thought you had me, cop. Just like Race thought he had me five years ago. A legend doesn’t die that easy.”
Titus worked himself up into a sitting position and spit out a mouthful of blood.
“Good thing you’re just a man, then.”
“I am the man who runs this town. I’ve known what you had cooking up since the second Bax got out of prison. Race is a smart kid, but he’s just a kid and he doesn’t have what it takes to see things through to the end. Not like he does.” Novak hooked a thumb over his shoulder and I growled. I didn’t want this man’s admiration or praise in any way.