I lifted a hand and rubbed it across the back of my neck to see if I could release some of the tension there.
“I’m sure Chuck told you about the stuff happening at the club, but how did you know about the car accident last night?”
He snorted and lifted his gold-colored eyebrows up to his hairline. “All the cops were talking about the Bentley getting totaled and how you looked like hammered dog shit but refused medical treatment. Titus overheard and mentioned it to Reeve. Reeve told Booker, and since I can’t keep Karsen away from that guy no matter how hard I try, she overheard it and told me. Which pisses me off. I should’ve heard it from you, asshole.”
Karsen was Race’s girlfriend’s little sister. She was seventeen going on thirty. He had taken them both in, built them an impenetrable castle right in the center of the Point, and was doing his damnedest to keep the teenager from getting her heart broken by the rough ex-con we had put in charge of security at the strip club. The pretty young thing had a crush on the scarred man that wouldn’t seem to quit even though Race did everything in his power to squash it.
“I kicked a couple out of the club and the wife took exception. The Bentley is worse off than I am, and all I wanted to do after the crash was come home and clean myself up. I was asleep when you called, but I would’ve touched base with you when I got up and moving for the day.”
He looked skeptical but relaxed some of the tension in his stance.
“I don’t have the time or the patience to break in a new partner.” He said it flippantly, but underneath his easy charm I could see that he was actually worried about me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that.
“I’m going over every inch of surveillance I can find on the club. I don’t know how the person is getting away with all these little acts of sabotage, but I’ll find out.” I didn’t share my feeling that it all felt like some kind of twisted juvenile retaliation for something.
“It has to be someone on the inside. One of the club members or one of the new staff.”
I nodded a little bit in agreement. “Yeah. But I ran background checks on all of them and nothing popped up.”
He cocked his head to the side. “Want me to have Stark dig a little deeper? His time isn’t cheap, but if there’s anything hiding anywhere, he’ll find it.”
I knew he would. The computer hacker was the one who had tracked Key down in Denver for me after Titus refused to help me pinpoint her exact location. Stark looked like a biker or a professional cage fighter, but he really was just a bulked-up and heavily tattooed computer nerd. He’d ended up on my payroll more than once.
“Yeah. That might be a good place to start. Maybe he can find some kind of connection I missed.” I pushed off the counter and turned to the fridge. My stomach growled at me, letting me know that man could not live on water and mind-blowing sex alone. “You want something to eat?”
Race shook his head. “No. I’m picking the girls up and taking them to look at a couple of colleges out of town. Karsen graduates at the end of the school year and I want her out of this hellhole. I want her to have a shot at a normal life.”
Now it was my turn to shake my head. “You really think she’s going to leave the Point? Her sister is here. Her life is here . . .” I trailed off and he narrowed his eyes at me until they were nothing more than green slits.
“Booker is here.”
I shrugged. “She’s had her sights on him for a long time.”
“He’s too old for her. He’s too hard for her. He’s too deep into this life for her. He’s too fucked up for her. He’s too . . . everything for her. She can go to college and meet a nice kid that plays lacrosse or digs comic books or something. She deserves better than what she can get here. She’s young enough to have a shot at something better than what’s waiting for her here.”
I pulled out a cast-iron skillet and some bacon and eggs and set them next to the stove. Key’s words about making choices for her floated around in my head.
“You can force her to go, but you can’t ever change her mind about who or what she wants. If you push her too hard you’ll lose her altogether, and I bet you can figure out right where she’ll run.”
He swore under his breath. “She has a little while until she turns eighteen. Maybe I can change her mind before then.”
“What does Booker have to say about it?” The big man wasn’t exactly talkative, and since I let Reeve take over the reins at the strip club, I hardly saw either of them anymore except for brief moments when I stuck my head in to check on business.
“Booker wants to keep his job and wants to keep breathing, so he keeps his distance from her. But he knows she has a thing for him, and he went out of his way to risk his own neck to try to keep that creep Roark from hurting her. It’s a nightmare is what it is.”
He sounded so much like a disgruntled parent that it made me chuckle. “She’s a sharp girl, and she got thrown into the deep end really young. Maybe she knows more about what’s best for her than you give her credit for. I’m sure any responsible person out there would advise Brysen that you aren’t exactly a knight in shining armor and yet you take care of her like she’s some kind of precious jewel. No one is going to love her better than you, and you’re a criminal, Race. We are no better or worse than Booker.” That wasn’t really true—I knew for a fact I was way worse than the scarred ex-con—but I didn’t need to share that with the man I needed to run my enterprise with. He already didn’t trust me. I didn’t want him to be too scared of me and my past, just cautiously leery like he already was.
I thought maybe he needed a reminder that just because we were bad men and did business with bad men, it didn’t mean we weren’t capable of taking care of the good in our lives when we got our hands on it.
“Whatever. There is nothing wrong with wanting something more for those we care about. Isn’t that why you let Keelyn run from you? You’ve always been twisted up about her, but you gave her a shot at something more.”
I looked over his shoulder because I heard movement from the other side of the house. It was like he had summoned her from her slumber by saying her name. I tossed the bacon into the pan so I could feed her and take her back to bed when she finally decided to make an appearance.
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