Better When He's Bold(9)

By: Jay Crownover

I might have agreed with him if I hadn’t kissed her. There was more to her than the perfect, flawless exterior she presented to the world. There was desperation on the tip of her tongue, there was passion in her breath, and there was want in the way her hands had pulled at me. At least there had been until I had bailed on her, because while we might have once been on the same playing field, we were now from two totally different worlds. I couldn’t stay with her, couldn’t wait around until she found her friend, and a girl like Brysen wouldn’t stand for a guy who had his priorities all fucked up like that.

“Doesn’t matter. She’s hot and I like the way she looks at me like I’m something she scraped off her shoe. It makes chasing after her so much more fun.”

He laughed and pulled the keys to his Hemi ’Cuda that he had just finished the restoration on out of his pocket.

“You are so screwed up.”

After everything that had happened to us in the last five years, I don’t know how we could be anything but screwed up.

“Tell Dovie I said ‘hey.’ ”

He nodded and made his way to his car. When he pulled out of the garage it was with a roar that shook all the metal that filled the place against the concrete. That motor was something else. The car wasn’t street legal; it could outrun anything else on the road and was big, loud, and nasty, and was a perfect chrome and steel representation of the man who drove it.

I made sure to reset all the security alarms, walked up the metal stairs to the loft, and took a minute to shove the frat dude’s money into the safe I’d built into the wall. The safe was nicer than all the furniture in the entire loft. It was also full of ill-gotten gains that I was waiting on Nassir to filter through his clubs and turn into usable money.

I didn’t love being in business with Nassir Gates. I didn’t trust him, hated the way he manipulated and used people to his own ends, but he was the only person who could take the money I was earning from running numbers and make it clean. Nassir ran every club, every bed of sin and debauchery, that existed in the Point. He set up illegal fights, had a legion of girls he ran out the back door of his businesses, and as much as I didn’t like him, I needed him. I wouldn’t mess with girls—with selling sex—but someone had to, and Nassir had no morals and zero qualms about getting his hands dirty. We had an uneasy alliance going, and so far, it was working. Dealing with Nassir was like walking through a minefield every day—dangerous, deadly, and filled with hidden threats I would never see coming. I was always waiting for him to turn on me.

I went to the freezer, took out a bottle of Oban I had stashed in there, poured a healthy amount into the bottom of a rocks glass, and threw myself onto the couch that doubled as my bed. Sure, I could move, find a place that was cleaner, farther out of the heart of the city, but I liked it here. I felt safe here. No one was coming into the garage, breaching the compound without me knowing about it, and after the beating, the way my body had broken when Novak and his goons had found me, I needed that sense of security to sleep at night.

This was so far from the life I was born into, so different from where most people who knew my parents and knew my past ever thought I would be. I hadn’t been born with a silver spoon shoved in my face, but an entire goddamn platinum service set choking me from the get-go. My parents were rich. Disgustingly, filthy, unholy rich. They lived a life a luxury, untouched by need and struggle, uncaring of what was happening to those not so well-to-do.

Until I was sixteen, I was numb. Entitled, spoiled rotten, stuffed full of self-importance and overindulgence. I didn’t feel anything. I existed in a bubble where anything I wanted, anything I needed, was handed directly to me and I never questioned the greater world, things beyond my mommy and daddy’s fat wallet.

One night I had been on a date. The girl I chose not to remember, but everything else was crystal clear. My dad had given me a Roush Mustang for my birthday. I was showing off, thought I was the shit, untouchable and unbeatable, until I took a wrong turn and somehow ended up lost on a road that trailed between the Hill and the Point. I was at a stoplight, trying to find directions on my phone, when the window on the driver’s side shattered and hard hands had reached in to pull me out of the car. I remembered the girl screaming, remembered smelling my own blood as I scrambled against flying fists, but more than anything, I remembered feeling alive.

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