“I’m not going to hurt you.” He went behind the bar and reached for two glasses. “I asked you out, remember?”
As he began filling the two shot glasses with rum, I moved closer. “Do you know who I am?”
He finished pouring and put the bottle to the side, then lifted his hooded eyes back to me. “I know you were dating Mason Kade. That was a nice surprise when I put it together.” He paused, frowning at me. “Are you still dating him?”
“I—” had no idea what to say.
He added, “Because he’s been having another girl all over him. Did you know about that?”
The air left me, and I sagged forward. My heart dropped to the bottom of my feet and new pain sliced through me. Hearing Mason’s plan and knowing Kate would think she was his girlfriend was different from hearing it was happening, and hearing it from Mason’s enemy. I couldn’t answer him. I felt rubbed raw from the inside out.
His tone didn’t soften. It hardened. “I asked around. It’s that same bitch that beat you up.”
“And he’s letting her crawl all over him? He tossed you aside? For her?” The threat of violence was swimming in his depths. He tossed the shot down his throat and refilled it again. Nudging mine towards me, he waited for me this time.
I took it. I didn’t feel a thing.
“More?” He lifted the rum again.
I nodded. I needed all I could get.
We took two more shots before I moved my glass to the side. No more for me, but he still downed two more. Then he leaned against the far wall behind the bar, and I slid onto a stool. The alcohol was beginning to work. I was beginning to feel warm again.
“You never answered my question. Are you still with the guy?”
“I don’t know.”
Disappointment flared over him, followed by pity. “That’s too bad.”
“You’re not going to tell your brother?”
Pushing away from the wall, he reached for the rum again. He spoke with a savage tone, “Are you kidding me? You know what my brother does? He hurts people.”
I frowned. Didn’t he?
“I know what you’re thinking.” He held his glass towards me, the shot ready to go. “I hurt people, too, but I don’t hurt girls, and I don’t hurt people weaker than me. I don’t stop my brother either. I can’t. I tried but people only get hurt worse.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because my brother really wants to hurt you.” He downed his shot and filled it again. “No, he wants to hurt whoever Mason Kade cares about. Good thing that bitch has been all over him this weekend. Budd thinks it’s her that he cares about, but it’s not. Is it? It’s you. He almost drove over my brother when he found out you were hurt. I was too stunned. I almost let it happen. Shit.”
Mason almost drove over Budd? I couldn’t think about that. Grabbing my shot glass, I pushed it to him. “One more.”
He grinned, but his eyes were hungry. They were angry.
I didn’t care. I was starting to relax. He wasn’t going to hurt me. He said it and I was beginning to trust him. “You’re not going to tell your brother?”
“No.” He set the bottle down. It landed with a thud and he held onto it for a second. His head hung down.
The moment grew tense suddenly.
Then he lifted his head again; his eyes were so haunted. “I’m going to let my brother do what he wants to. I know what Kade’s doing with that whore that hurt you. It’s f**king genius. It’s cold, too.”
He pinned me down with his gaze. I glanced away. For some reason, I didn’t want to see what he was thinking.
“You don’t know, do you?” He tone softened. “Or you don’t want to know.”
I swallowed over a knot. It felt like glue, and it wouldn’t go away.
“That’s it. You don’t want to know.”
“Why do you care?” I snapped at him. I was stretched too thin. My need to keep control was beginning to unravel. “Why do you even give a damn?”
“Because of you.”
I stopped. There was that raw honesty again, and I felt ashamed. “Why?”
“Because you don’t deserve what Budd’s going to do to that girl. That’s why.”
“You’re lying to your brother. You’re lying about Mason. I’m supposed to believe you’re doing it for me? You asked me out once. You don’t know me.”
He let out a deep breath. His hand gripped the bottle tighter, and he shrugged, but he wouldn’t look me in the eyes anymore. His went back down. “I know two things. I can’t stop my brother. He’s obsessed with hurting Kade’s girlfriend, and he won’t stop until he does. The other thing I know is that it can’t be you. You’re a good person. There aren’t many around anymore.”
Then I damned us both. “Thanks.”
He looked up now and our gazes locked.
“But you’re wrong,” I said. “I’m starting to figure it out.”
“Don’t,” he rushed out. “Stop thinking and go back home. You’ll be safer, and the regret won’t eat at you then.”
I shook my head. “You’re too late.” It was rising in me, and it was going to eat at my soul. I felt the darkness closing in.
“Brett!” someone called from the hallway. “They’re here.”