Better When He's Bad (Welcome to the Point 1) - Page 8

“Well, I’ve never been on a farm in my life and I will do whatever it takes to keep Race safe and bring him home, with or without you.”

I wanted to sound strong. I wanted to sound like I would be valuable to him. I didn’t. I sounded scared and unsure. He heard it.

“Without me, Copper-Top.” And then he was gone. Just vanished. Disappeared into the night like the thief he was.

I sighed and went back up to my apartment. I wasn’t worried about any more unwanted visitors. Lester, the homeless guy who lived on the stoop, didn’t let anyone in the building that wasn’t supposed to be there. All I did was bring him a plate of food and pass along a six-pack every now and then and he kept an eagle eye on me. The only way Benny and his goons had managed to find me was because they had ambushed me on an early Sunday morning when Lester took his stinking self to church. They were lucky. I was not. I was also scared.

I was scared for Race—scared for me. And if I was being honest, I was one hundred percent terrified of Bax. I was street-smart. I knew how to take care of myself, but there was nothing in my bag of tricks that made me think I was capable of dealing with a guy like him. He was a very scary wild card, but I needed him. I had never needed anyone in my life before Race showed up at my door.

My cell phone was ringing just as I was twisting the locks shut on the front door, even though I now knew they were useless, thanks to my midnight visitor. I snatched it up and went to the window to wave down at Carmen.

She laughed in my ear and I flopped down on the couch. She was sweet. A single mom . . . Marco and Paulie kept her busy. They were good kids. She was a good mom but this wasn’t a fairy tale, so I knew life was hard for all of them, especially since Marco was thirteen and Carmen was only six years older than me. We tried to watch out for each other, but living like this was every man and woman for themselves, and the sooner you learned that, the better off you were. Expectations were foolish to have. The reality of the situation kept all of us honest and allowed us to form loose bonds with each other.

“So? What did he say?”

I sighed and twisted one of my orange curls around my finger and stared up at the yellowish-tinted ceiling. It wasn’t a great apartment, but it was far from the worst place I had ever lived.

“Not a whole lot.”

“He have any idea where Race might be?”

“No, but he didn’t seem overly concerned that something bad had happened to him either.”

“Your brother told you that he was all kinds of ‘take care of business.’ You should’ve believed him. Race was always up front with you, even when you didn’t want to hear it.”

She was right, so I sighed again.

“He’s not going to be back. I’m not going to know what’s going on. Race could be out there anywhere. Hurt, in trouble, or worse, and I’ll never know.”

She muttered something over her shoulder and there was the clatter of dishes in the background. She got back on the line and sighed.

“This Novak guy is no joke. He’s a bad man and Race told you all along that getting tangled up with him was the worst thing he had ever let happen in his life. I hate to tell you this, honey, but this might just be a situation for the bad guys to outdo each other. Heroes have no place in this kind of fight. It takes nasty to fight nasty, and the word around the Point is that nobody is nastier than Novak.”

I knew Race wasn’t perfect, that he had made a lot of really bad decisions, decisions that had life-changing consequences, but despite that, he was MY hero, and if that meant hitching my wagon to the devil’s black horse to see this through, then that’s just what I would do.

“If Novak is that bad, I don’t understand how some two-bit criminal who’s hardly old enough to drink legally can stand a chance against him. Not only that, how does he have enough clout to do anything about Race? He’s been locked up for the last five years, how does he even have a leg to stand on in this kind of fight?”

Now, having just spent an hour in his presence, I had to admit Bax radiated all kinds of scary, bad things that made me want to believe he could be my brother’s saving grace, but I couldn’t get over those eyes. If he didn’t feel anything, anything at all, how was he going to care enough about Race to find him and help him? I needed to make him understand how important helping find my brother was. No one had more invested in Race’s safe return than me.

“Honey, you heard the way your brother talked about this guy, like he’s some kind of superhero. This guy is your brother’s best friend. They had a bond strong enough that he was willing to go to prison for Race. That means something, Dovie.”

Logically I knew she was right, but I was having a hard time separating fear, adrenaline, and panic from rationality.

“I gotta go. I just had a big group of kids walk in. I wonder if their parents know they’re out this late.” It was said ironically because she knew good and well that Marco and Paulie were anywhere but in bed, sound asleep, where they should be. “I tell you all the time, hon, people are going to ultimately be who they are. If this guy is bad news, then maybe he’s bad enough news to tangle with Novak. You just keep your head up and watch your back. I don’t trust the suit, and I don’t trust a boy with that kind of trouble in his eyes.”

I snorted. “There was nothing in those eyes, Carmen.”

“Oh, honey, if you look close enough, everything is in those eyes. That’s why they’re so dark. They are full. Full of every secret, every promise, and every temptation that can make a good girl do really bad things and enjoy every second of it. Watch yourself, Dove. This could get ugly for you really fast.”

My place had already been broken into twice, a known gangster knew my name and where I lived, and my brother was missing and a convicted criminal was my only hope to find him. It was already as ugly as it could be in my mind. I told Carmen good-bye and walked into my room so I could curl up in a ball on top of the thin comforter. I didn’t like to feel out of control. Ever since I was little, it had been up to me to make sure I survived, that I was safe, that I had what I needed to make it in this world. Race showed up and blew all that to hell. I relied on my brother. I trusted him and I loved him, two things I had never felt for another human being, ever. Not being able to do anything, just throwing all my eggs in the Bax basket, made me nervous and entirely exasperated.

I heard a knock on my front door and roused myself from my moping. It could only be the kids; everyone else lately seemed to think breaking and entering was the best way to get inside my place. I pulled the door back open and looked down at Marco and his younger brother. He was a future badass in the making, no doubt, but he was also a sweet kid who looked out for his little brother and treated me like family because I made him cookies occasionally.