Rich Prick

Page 33

Her eyes got big. “Oh! Oh. Sorry. I—no one else orders that pizza. Cilantro, mozzarella, caramelized onions, Roma tomatoes, and pineapple aren’t ordered everyday. With an egg in the middle of the pie.” She looked me over and then moved to Zeke before telling us our total. Once I paid, she printed off my receipt and handed it over. “I like Aspen. That’s all.”

I eyed her, putting the receipt in my pocket. “Who are you?”

“Ava, but Aspen wouldn’t know me. I’ve just been here when she picked up her pizza.”

Oh. Well. Then I was fine with this Ava girl.

“Yeah. She’s cool.”

Ava handed the order to the guys in the back and returned. She cocked her head to the side. “Are you her boyfriend or something?”

Zeke barked out a laugh.

Her eyes grew noticeably unfriendly.

He just laughed harder.

From the side, I heard a voice. “Ava, it’s cool.”

Ava looked. I looked.

Bren, my brother’s girlfriend, stood glaring at us. “He actually cares about her.” She raised her chin, her eyes cold. “And he better be good to her, or I’ll slice him.”

I smirked back, noting Cross behind her. “Keep your woman in check, brother. She’s showing her fangs. If she keeps at it, I’m going to think she’s jealous. Wouldn’t want to start thinking she wants to be me or have my hands—”

I was interrupted by a fist across my face.

And that’s why I’d said it.

Maybe I’d started to get the itch when Aspen said her favorite pizza place was in Roussou. Maybe the idea had begun to form then and grew as we drove. Or maybe it was just always there, nestled under my chest, waiting to come out every time I saw him.

Either way, I welcomed his punch.

I loved it.

He hit me, and I reacted, wrapping an arm around his waist. I dragged him outside, the doors bursting open, and then it was on.

There was yelling around us.

At first there were hands trying to drag us away, but this was more than a school rivalry. We were brothers, and we hated each other, and I think this was something we needed to do.

After a bit, a circle formed around us. Bren and their friends held Zeke back.

Cross and I were trading punches.

I was relishing this moment.

He hit me. I hit him.

He threw an uppercut, so did I.

After the sixth punch, he realized what I was doing, and he started to falter.

I was grinning like a madman, and I loved even that. I rushed him, tackling him to the ground.

He didn’t know anything about me. He didn’t know who’d tucked me in when I was younger. He didn’t know I played soccer like a goddamn badass. He didn’t know where I was going to college or that I felt almost as much loyalty to Zeke as he and his friends did to each other. He didn’t know any of that shit.

And he didn’t deserve to know.

I was done with him, and even though the sky was starting to spin and I tasted more blood than I wanted to, it was time to knock his ass out.

I twisted, prepared to take out his knee when I heard a sudden yell, “Hell no, you don’t!”

That’s when I felt a shove from behind. I went down, and when I looked up, some guy was there—some big motherfucker, and he reared back.

Well, fuck.

Then I saw nothing.


They should’ve been back by now. It was almost nine. I paced.

I was a mess, and I didn’t like this. The pizzeria was not that far. After calling Blaise’s phone twenty times, he finally answered.

“Oh my God! Where are you?” I shouted.

I shouldn’t shout. I needed to calm down.

I heard a voice, but it wasn’t his. “Who is this?”

“Who are you, and where is my boyfriend?” I demanded.

The person on the other end sighed. He sounded older. “Your boyfriend got into a fight with his brother.”

“His brother?”

“Yeah. Look, you’re not going to lose it if you come here, are you? We don’t want another fight to break out. We’re having a hard time keeping him and his brother apart.”

What?! “Where?”

He told me the address, and I wrote it down. “Okay. I’ll be there soon.”

“Hey, uh—maybe bring a new shirt for him or something. There’s a lot of blood.”

My stomach clenched. I swayed on my feet, but new shirt. Got it. Check. The blood? I’d think on that later. “I will.”

I hung up, and I didn’t think about where I was going, or who I was going to see. Those would’ve been my normal concerns. I wasn’t alarmed as my GPS took me out of Fallen Crest and toward Roussou. The pizzeria was in Roussou. I’d expected that.

But I didn’t expect to find myself parking in front of a bounty hunting office.

I looked over the vehicles parked outside, clenching Blaise’s marijuana shirt, which I’d started to sleep in. It was the only one he left at my house.

I lingered on a distinct Hummer.

Oh, crap, crappier, crappiest.

Maybe it was a different Hummer. I really, really hoped so, because I knew he’d recently gotten a new Hummer.

And this one looked new. It looked brand new.

Was it…?

I quelled my nerves and walked past it, ignoring the Massachusetts license plate. I was trying to tell myself it wasn’t him, but then I walked inside.

There were guys everywhere.

I heard shouting from the back. Blaise’s voice, and laughter after.

There was a big mammoth guy, and a shorter mammoth guy. There was a guy with a scar on his face. A lean guy with tattoos all over him was coming out of a room in the back. He had his arms crossed over his chest.

I heard the tattoo guy saying, “Only you, Matteo.” He laughed, and one of the mammoth guys grinned at him.

I turned, and despite all my hoping and wishing, there he was.

The guy who I knew owned the Hummer outside looked over. He saw me, kept going, then did a double take. He jerked forward. “Aspen?!”


I heard Blaise in the background. “Who did he say?”

And I said, “Hi, Nate.”



Oh, boy. I was not ready for this.

The tattoo guy gave Nate a sharp look, but my brother was coming toward me. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

The tattoo guy came with him, but the rest stayed back, and I was thankful. There were a lot of guys in here—a lot of big guys, and they all looked scary. Time sort of slowed down as Nate approached, and I saw movement from a back room.

“What the fuck?” Blaise demanded.

He’d come out of a room, another guy trying to hold him back.

The breath left my lungs.

I swayed, gulping. His face was a mess of bruises. There was tape over one of his eyes, around the side of his eye, and still more at the corner of his mouth. The other side of his mouth was all black and blue. His shirt was bloody. All of it. There might’ve been a dry end or a corner, but for the most part: dark blood red.

That was my boyfriend, all broken.

He saw me, and a fire lit in his eyes.

“Aspen,” he gasped.

Cross’ head popped out of another room. He saw me and disappeared back into his room.

“Aspen?” Nate said.

The tattoo guy turned to look at me. “We talked on the phone?”

Nate frowned. “You did?”

I ignored them as I watched Blaise leave his room. He stalked past the guys to take my hand. He took the shirt in his other hand.

“Let’s go,” he said.


“Hold up.”

“I don’t think so.”

A chorus of voices rose in protest.

“Aspen, wait.” Nate focused on my hand in Blaise’s. His jaw clenched. “The fuck is going on?!”

Blaise tugged me after him, opening the door. “Let’s go.”

“I said hold up!” That was the tattoo guy.

He reached out toward me, but Blaise growled and blocked him.

“Don’t grab her,” Blaise said, putting a firm hand on my hip. He turned his back on everyone and gentled his tone. “Let’s go.”

I glanced at my brother, but Blaise opened the door, and we were outside.

“Aspen, wait. Please,” Nate called. He jogged after us.

The tattoo guy remained on the doorstep, his arms crossed. That’s when I noticed he was gorgeous. But he seemed older, and I had a guy, so it didn’t really matter. But if I hadn’t been with Blaise, then whoa. You know?

As if reading my mind, the tattoo guy grinned.

“Aspen!” Nate barked. “I can just follow you home. It’s technically my house too.”

I cast a look over at Blaise. Nope. No room for compromise. He had to go. He couldn’t stay. I could see that in the way he kept clenching his jaw. A vein stuck out in his neck, and his hair was crazy, like he hadn’t been able to stop raking his hand through it. That wasn’t a good sign.

I called over my shoulder, “Find me there. Until then…” I motioned to Blaise as we cut over to where Maisie was parked. “I gotta go.”

At the car, I unlocked the doors and looked back. The tattoo guy was still watching.

Nate was at the edge of the sidewalk, his hands on his head. He looked perplexed.

I waved. “It’s nice seeing you.”

He held his hands in the air in a WTF motion, and then dropped them as I slid inside, shutting the door.

Blaise pulled off his very bloodied shirt and tossed it on the seat, dragging the one I’d given to him over his head. He tugged the hem down as he got inside. A second later, Maisie pulled out into the street, and we were off.

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