“That you won’t leave!” I shouted. “That you won’t cut and run when something goes wrong, because something always goes wrong—”
“No shit!” he snarled. “I’m in the fucking mafia. Everything goes wrong with us, and we’re the ones who do it. We do that. I do that. I give orders to kill. And sometimes I want to be the one who pulls the trigger.”
“You’re being a dick.”
“I am a dick.”
I met him face-to-face, toe-to-toe. “Tell me something I don’t know.”
He reached up, his hand curling around the back of my neck, and he pulled me close. I went up on my tiptoes, my lips square against his, but we weren’t kissing. We were both breathing hard.
I couldn’t look him in the eyes, not this time. “Tell me something new. I know who you are, and I know what you’re doing right now.” I reached up and grabbed ahold of his shirt. I yanked him against me. “You cannot scare me, so stop fucking insulting me by trying. Again. You don’t want me to shoot my father, fine. I won’t, but let’s not pretend that’s what this temper tantrum is about.” I shoved him back, making him let go of me. “You’re falling in love with me, and you’re pissing your pants because for once in your life, you don’t feel in control.”
He stared at me, long and hard, and as I could’ve predicted, he turned and walked out.
The door slammed shut behind him, causing me to jump.
I started to turn, but there was nowhere I could go. Instead, I picked up a glass and threw it against the wall.
But as it shattered and fell beside the other, it did nothing to make me feel better. If anything, I had a sudden compulsion to glue both glasses back together.
Kai hadn’t been back since he’d stalked out, but exactly eight hours later, Brooke arrived. Didn’t take a genius to figure out he’d called in a replacement. Jonah had come too. He gave me a quick assessment and declared it’d be my last one. I was healthy once again.
Brooke and I spent the first hour catching up. She told me how she’d called the guards from the woods, and they’d found her and had her checked by a local doctor. Brooke said the doctor had been “gorgeous beyond words.” Though it was only a strained ankle, it was still painful and “so worth it.” Her words. Not mine.
Afterward, she said they’d grilled her about my whereabouts for a few minutes, and that was it.
She shook her head. “I swear, they broke speed limits getting me to you. What happened?”
There was a sour taste in my mouth, but I only shrugged. “I’d rather just get drunk than talk about it.”
And she didn’t push. Jonah either.
As we opened the first bottle of wine, Brooke said Tanner had been sent north again. As we finished the second bottle, she went on to say that since she was here, she wanted to sneak around Kai’s properties. She was convinced he still had Levi somewhere and was “bound and determined” to save the love of her life.
I frowned. “Not to second-guess you, but you’re awfully flirtatious with Eric and a certain doctor.”
“Doctor?” She glanced at Jonah, who was working on his computer next to us.
He didn’t look at her. “She’s talking about Mr. Gorgeous Local Doc you were raving about earlier.”
“Oh!” She laughed, slapping her hand on the table. “That’s funny. No, no. Levi is the love of my life. I’m just flirty. That’s all.” She glanced over her shoulder, but there were no guards on our floor.
I had no doubt they were standing outside the door.
“I like flirting with Eric. He messes up if I really push him. How do you think I get half the information I do?”
Jonah sighed, closing his computer. He pushed his glasses up his nose. “Brooke likes to act as if she’s being held hostage by our brother, but that’s not the case. We’re Bennetts. There’s a responsibility that comes with our family surname. All of us hate it, but if we have to step up and bear it, we will. Brooke’s constant flirting is her rebelling against those responsibilities.”
Brooke glared at her glass of wine.
“I know.” I nodded. “Kai told me about the council.”
Both of their eyes widened.
“He did?” Brooke asked.
Jonah frowned. “Why would he tell you that?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know, but he did. Is that bad?”
They shared a look.
Brooke lifted a shoulder. “I guess, I mean, I hope not. I’m sure it’s fine.”
But she seemed to be reassuring her brother more than me. Her dark eyes fixed on me, almost accusing. “Aren’t you just sleeping with Kai? I mean…” She leaned forward, pushing her wine aside and dropping her elbows on the table. “Kai doesn’t spill the beans about anything when it comes to our family. At all. Even to us. We only know half the shit because we’re Bennetts. We have to know. You know?”
I nodded. “Mmm-hmmm.” A closed smile. “We’re just…having fun together.”
Jonah snorted, sounding like his sister for the first time ever.
As if reading my mind, Brooke flashed him a smile. “Ha! What was that?!”
Jonah reddened before gathering his computer and making up some excuse to leave us for the night. After sharing another bottle of wine, Brooke took the bed, and I took the couch. Jonah went somewhere else. I didn’t know where.
? ? ?
In the morning I woke to Kai frowning over me. “Why are you on the couch?”
I yawned and pointed. “Because yoooour sistah clai-ahed the bed.”
I finished my yawn, remembered why this was even an issue, and glared at him. “Why do you care? You left.”
And I might’ve been a bit hungover. There was a definite pounding just behind my forehead.
He ground his teeth together, glaring toward the bed while he answered me, “I had work to do. Don’t take it personally.”
I rolled to my feet, then whoosh. Head rush. I sat back down and waited for it to pass. “You took off at an opportune time, you know.”
He was heading to the kitchen, but shot me an annoyed look over his shoulder. “If I’d stayed, we just would’ve been in bed all day and night. You know it. I couldn’t risk that.”
Maybe. But the words I’d said to him were still hanging there, uncomfortably.
Brooke sat up in bed. “Hey, big brother.” She smiled wide, scratching her head, messing her hair further. “Man, wine sleep is the best sleep. I only need a few hours, but those hours are efficient, you know? It’s like.” She snapped her fingers. “Get to sleep. Sleep. Sleep. And bam, wake up. And here we are.” She held her arms out toward Kai, whose back was to her. “Big badass brother is here to order us all around some more.”
She gazed around, frowning. “Where’s Jonah?”
Kai answered, his back still turned to her, “He’s at a hotel.”
“A hotel?! Can I go there too?”
“No.” He finished getting the coffee ready and hit the button, before sending his sister that same annoyed look. “I wanted to give you a chance at saving the love of your life. He’s in Milwaukee, you know.”
She gasped, scrambling to her knees over the blankets. “Really? You’ll let me see him?”
“I said save him, not see him.” He raised an eyebrow, mocking her. “Isn’t that your mission in life? Save the traitor to both our families?”
Her head moved back and her mouth closed. “Why are you being mean?”
“Being mean?” His eyes grew chilled. “How am I being mean? Maybe I’m annoyed that you keep professing your love to a guy who was turning evidence on his family.”
Her cheeks grew red. “They’re barely illegal,” she mumbled.
“Doesn’t matter,” he countered. “That makes it worse. Have you asked yourself why he was doing that? He’s not in line for any power in the Barnes family. He’s not affected by anything they do. He’s far removed, and yet he weaseled his way in just to get dirt on them. Why don’t you ask yourself that question: why would he do that?”
“Stop it, Kai.” She picked at her shirt.
“Brooke,” he said firmly.
And as if feeling the same beckoning I did when he spoke, she raised her eyes. They were filled with pain now.
“I can only think of two reasons why he’d go out of his way to do what he did. Either he’s hoping to open up some positions where he can step in and take over or he’s being blackmailed. Which do you think is the realistic answer?”
She looked down. Her bottom lip trembled. “You’re being mean.”
“Well, I’m also pissed off that you convinced Riley she needed to run from me to come down here.” His jaw clenched again. “You know that’s not the truth.”
She looked up at him, eyes blazing. “It’s not so clear cut, and you know it. You’re not letting me see Levi—”
“Because he’s turning evidence against his family, and I don’t want you to get pulled into that! What do you think they would do? It’s really easy for his deal to go from just his family to being about ours too. Turn in the mafia princess—or better yet, give us dirt on her so we can blackmail her. You were doing something stupid, and you know it.”
“I never would’ve. You have to know that.”