Better When He's Bold(8)

By: Jay Crownover

Bax shoved the end of a cigarette in his mouth and lifted a black eyebrow up at me.

“You get the cash from the frat dude?”

I nodded and rolled my head around on my shoulders.

“He wasn’t happy about it.” One of the first lessons I had learned was people didn’t gamble because they thought they would win. They gambled because they were compelled to do it. It was an addiction like anything else.

“How not happy?”

I squinted at him through the smoke floating between us.

“He pulled a gun and popped off a few rounds.” In a house full of drunk college kids. What an idiot, and what a total waste of a threat. Getting hardware pulled on me was just a hazard of my job. Unless the gun was pointed at my face, I tended to just ignore it.

“Shit. Glad I asked Dovie not to go.”

I shook my head at him and crossed my arms over my chest. “You asked her not to go because you’re freaked out that she’s going to meet some charming undergrad that can promise her a better life and she’ll drop you on your ass.”

He grunted and flicked his cigarette butt into one of the drains on the floor and rolled his massive shoulders.

“She can always do better.”

I snorted. “Not according to her.” She loved him, scars, his shitty attitude, his rough past, and the fact he hovered really close to the line of being tamed and being wild—she loved every last bit of it. Bax was her perfect, and I was still surprised he didn’t seem to grasp it.

“What happened at the party?”

“I don’t know. I saw Brysen and got distracted. I already had the money, so I thought it was all good, then the idiot starts flashing a piece around and a clusterfuck broke loose.”

I had grabbed Brysen, headed for the back of the house because I couldn’t see the shooter, and everyone else was trying to shove through the front door. I wasn’t going to let anything happen to her, and I got the added bonus of getting to put my hands on her. I felt like a dick for having to bail on her, but the life I had now didn’t line up with sticking around to chat with the cops. I was more of a slink-into-the-shadows kind of guy nowadays.

“You roll into the party packing?”

Ever since I had made the decision to try and pick up where Novak had left off, Bax was on me to be more careful. He might be comfortable carrying a gun around, might be used to blood and gunfire, to fists breaking faces and people quaking in fear when he entered a room, but I was still adjusting to this new life and wasn’t really ready to give that much of myself over to the Point yet.

“No. It was just a bunch of kids. It was fine. He’ll just have to find a new way to pay for his books and beer this semester. He wasn’t really a threat.” People shouldn’t risk what they couldn’t afford to lose. I’d learned that lesson the hard way.

“Everyone is a threat when you have what they want or when they owe you something they don’t want to give. You need to take each and every situation you go into seriously. Kids have killed for less, Race.”

“Duly noted.”

“You still have a hard-on for the icy blonde?”

I barked out a laugh and lifted an eyebrow at him. He wasn’t a huge fan of Brysen, but I think it had more to do with the fact she lived closer to the Hill than the Point and Bax just didn’t trust anyone who didn’t know what life down here in the gutter was like. I was an exception to that rule, but I had had to earn my stripes through blood, sweat, and tears. I was still working my way back into the inner sanctum because I had made some hard choices a few years ago that resulted in Bax going to jail. We were tight, ran a business together, he was in love with my sister, but I don’t think all the open wounds I had left with my betrayal had fully healed over yet.

“Big-time. There is just something about her that gets to me. I want to do dirty, nasty things to her.”

He grunted and reached up to pull the hood of his black sweatshirt up over his shaved head. Like he needed anything to make him look any more menacing.

“She doesn’t look like the type. She almost cries whenever I walk into the room. I bet a broken fingernail would result in hysterics.”

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