I drew in a deep breath as I reached up and brushed the still damp hair back behind my right ear. “Got it. Thanks for hand-delivering your message. Now you can . . .” I trailed off, eyes widening.
A scary look entered his eyes, and then he was right in front of me, moving like he had in the office earlier in the night. I backed up, hitting the wall, and there was no other place to go. The tips of two of his fingers pressed lightly under my right temple. His gaze, troubled and stormy, was fixed to that area.
My heart was pounding as fast as it had when Greasy Guy had busted up into the house. “Jax . . . ?”
His gaze swept over to mine. “Did he hit you?”
“No,” I whispered.
“Then what happened to your temple? It’s red and swollen.” His voice was icy and hard.
“It was the door. When he pushed it open, I was kind of standing in the way.” Anger flashed in those eyes, and his jaw tightened. “He actually didn’t try to hurt me, Jax. He just wanted to get to what was in this house.”
The tension in his jaw didn’t ease and a long moment passed where I didn’t think I took one single breath. “Are you okay?”
Our gazes were locked. “Yeah. It just . . . it shook me up. I didn’t expect that.” It sounded stupid considering what he’d warned me about. “I didn’t know that stuff was in the house.”
“I know.” His voice dropped, softened, and the longer he stared at me, the more tiny flutters grew in my chest, which caused a dozen or so warnings to fire off. “Clyde said you told him that the guy found stuff?”
I nodded. “Yeah. Upstairs in my old bedroom. The closet.”
“Shit,” he muttered, clearly disgusted. His fingers slowly trailed off the side of my head, and then he pivoted around, moving deeper into the house.
A moment passed where I just stood there, the hand holding the phone pressed close between my br**sts. Then I forced myself away from the wall. Still having no idea why it was Jax who had come instead of Clyde, I followed him. He was halfway up the stairs, and neither of us spoke until he was crouched down in front of the closet, holding the piece of drywall.
“Did you see exactly what he got?” he asked.
“It was several bags of something that looked like brown sugar. I’m guessing that wasn’t it.”
“Fuck,” he muttered, sounding distracted. “Sounds like heroin. Little bags or big?”
Heroin. God, was Mom doing that shit now? “What do you mean by little? Like sandwich-bag size?”
“No.” He coughed out a laugh as he rose, facing me. “A sandwich bag of he**in would not be little. Talking this small?” He held up his finger and thumb, changing the space between them to a couple of inches. “What about that?”
“It was several Ziploc-sized bags, Jax. There were about eight of them, and they were full.” My heart skipped a beat when his face went blank. “That’s . . . that’s bad, right?”
“Fuck yeah.” He thrust his hands through his hair. “Sounds like there could’ve been a kilo or more in those bags. And, by the way you describe it, sounds like black tar heroin.”
I knew what a kilo was due to the kind of classes I took, but I had no idea what that translated into in the drug world. “Black tar?”
“More expensive shit from what I hear.”
The walls shifted suddenly. “How expensive?”
“Shit. Anywhere from seventy thousand to over a hundred thousand per kilo,” he explained, drawing in a deep breath. “Really depends on how pure it is—if it was high-end shit or not. Could even be worth a couple of million.”
“Oh my God.” My knees suddenly felt weak. “How do you know this stuff?”
His gaze landed on me. “Been around the block a few times.”
“You did heroin?”
“Hell no.” He didn’t elaborate. “Tell me what this guy looked like.” After I finished describing Greasy Guy, Jax looked even tenser. “Doubt that it was his shit he was retrieving. And I don’t think it was Mona’s, either.”
My stomach flopped. “You think she was . . . holding it for someone?”
He nodded. “Let’s f**king pray that this guy was who she was holding it for. If not . . .”
Oh God, I didn’t need to be a drug kingpin to figure out what he meant. If Mom was holding drugs of that kind of value, the owner would eventually come looking for it, and with the drugs being gone, she was beyond being in hot water. She was drowning. All I could hope, like Jax had said, was that the crap belonged to Greasy Guy. He seemed to know exactly where it was.
As we headed downstairs, my phone rang in my hand. Lifting it, I saw that it was Clyde calling. “Hello?”
“You doing okay, baby girl?” came his deep, gravelly voice.
He expelled a long breath. “He’s a good boy. He’ll protect you.”
I frowned, not just because of Clyde’s words, but because Jax was in the bedroom, picking up the stuff Greasy Guy had thrown around, which included a couple of pairs of undies. “Uh, Uncle Clyde . . . I got to go.”
“I mean it, baby girl, he’ll do good by you,” Clyde went on, and his words caused the flutter to return to my chest, more powerful than before. “You hear me?”
“Yeah,” I whispered. “I hear you.”
“Good. Call me in the morning. Okay?”
“Will do.” I hung up and slowly entered the bedroom, my heart skipping around in my chest. I stopped just inside the door. “Jax, what are you doing?”
“What does it look like?” He righted the mattress. “I doubt this was your idea of rearranging a room.”
“No, but I can take care of it. You don’t—”
“I am helping, so don’t argue with me about it.” He bent down and grabbed a sheet, tossing it toward me. “And I’m staying the night.”
The sheet hit the floor. “What?”
“I’m staying with you.” He went about fitting the other sheet to the mattress. “I can take the couch.” His thick lashes lifted, and his eyes were back to the warm brown. “Or I can stay in here . . .”
I had no words.
He took the other sheet from where it lay in a pile, and I just stood there as he finished the bed and went back to picking up the strewn-about clothes. As he grabbed a handful of colorful, silky items, I snapped out of it.
I stormed over, snatching my undies out of his hand. “You’re not staying here.”
“Then you’re coming to stay with me.”
A minute went by before I could even process that. “I am not staying with you.”
“And then I’m staying with you.” He started grabbing what was left of my clothes on the floor as I shoved my undies in a drawer. “This house isn’t safe, obviously, especially when you’re opening the door to random thugs—”
“I’m not going to open the door again!” I shouted.
Pausing while closing a dresser drawer, he straightened, and as he did so, his lips tipped up at one corner. “What are you wearing?”
“What?” I glanced down at myself. The shirt was black, with a built-in bra, thank God, because I didn’t want to be all boobalicious, and the sleep shorts were a soft pink. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“Nothing.” Grinning, he closed the drawer. “Like the socks. It’s cute. You’re cute.”
The socks were a blue and pink plaid, and they were cute. “Thanks,” I muttered, distracted by the pleasant buzz invading my thoughts. Which was bad. Very bad. Like very, very bad, because there didn’t need to be any buzzing of anything. I bitch-smacked the buzz into next week. “You’re not staying—”
“Then you’re coming to my place? Awesome.”
My temples began to pound. “I’m not going to your place.”
Jax moved to the foot of the bed, near the mountain of pillows. That was one thing about Mom that never changed. She always had at least five pillows on a bed, and the pillows were never more than a month old. “Are you always so argumentative?”
I squinted at him. “Are you always so bossy?”
He cast a grin in my direction. “Honey, you haven’t seen bossy yet.”
“Yay . . .” I blessed him with some unenthused jazz fingers.
Smirking, he grabbed two pillows, and then rounded the bed. His long-legged pace carried him right to me, and he stopped only a few inches from my face. “You can tell me not to stay here all you want. Yell. Wiggle your fingers at me. Whatever. It’s not going to change anything because I seriously doubt you can make me leave this house. You get what I’m saying?”
I felt my eyes widen. Yeah, I got what he was saying, and I didn’t like it, so I wondered if I kicked him in the balls, if that would help him get what I was saying.
Jax tipped his chin down, and by doing so, his lips were within the same breathing space as mine. In spite of the irritation marching across my skin like an army of fire ants, my heart jumped in my chest. “I know deep down, you get why I’m here and why Clyde isn’t.”
Uh. Actually, I didn’t. I started to tell him that, but then he went on.
“I want to make sure you’re safe since you’re staying for . . . however long.” He shifted slightly, tilting his head to the side as he did. A heartbeat passed, and his eyes locked with mine. “And being here by yourself isn’t safe, so I’m going to make it safe for you.”
A breath pushed out between my now-parted lips. An urge rose out of nowhere. My body wanted to lean into his. Damn. That was the strangest thing ever. Never before had I wanted to lean into a guy. I’d read about the need, but never really believed in it. But it would feel safe to lean on him and to be close. The desire rode me hard, and worse yet, I knew his body would be warm, and it would be hard in all the right and interesting places.
Oh man, my thoughts were going down the wrong road—the pervy road—but I couldn’t stop it. Jax . . . he was beautiful in a way that seemed impossible, untouchable, and he also had great eyebrows. Seriously. Darker than his wavy hair. Naturally slanted. Striking. They were just eyebrows, but they were hot.
But it was more than that.
God Almighty, I might’ve just committed a cardinal sin just by thinking it, but he was like Cam 2.0.
Because from what I knew about Jax, he was nice, really nice, which made him oh so very dangerous to my mental well-being, but I imagined going crazy for him would be a fun adventure.
I just knew I probably wouldn’t recover from something like that.
But I could almost feel his lips on mine. When he’d kissed me earlier, it had been brief and to prove a point, but I could feel them now.
Something deep and warm stirred in his eyes, and I wondered if he knew what I was thinking. Oh God, I prayed to a chubby baby Jesus that he didn’t. His lashes lowered, and my lips tingled from the weight of his gaze.
“Yeah, I think you’re starting to get me.” Then he swaggered past me into the living room.
“I need an adult,” I muttered, slowly turning around to see him by the couch in the living room.
“Oh, before I forget—”
“Don’t change the subject!” I stomped my foot and was damn proud of it, too.
He looked over his shoulder at me, brows raised. “Did you just stomp your foot?”
Heat crept across my cheeks as I grumbled, “Maybe.”
Jax’s lips twitched. “Cute.”
“It’s not cute! And you’re not staying here. And I’m—”
“And you’re going to give me a ride home tomorrow morning when you head to the bar,” he finished, stopping in front of the couch.
“I’m not going . . .” My shriek faded off as his words sunk in. “What?”
“I’m going to need a ride tomorrow,” he repeated, dropping the pillows against one arm of the couch. “I drove your car here. The windshield’s been fixed.”
I stared at him for so long he probably thought something was wrong with me, and then I hurried past him to the window near the TV. I yanked the curtains and there it was, my Focus sitting in the driveway.
“Let me guess. No cable?” asked Jax.
“What?” I gazed out the window, my heart racing.
“The TV? Mona probably didn’t keep up on the cable bill.” What sounded like the remote dropped onto the coffee table. “I have cable at my place. HBO. Starz. Just saying.”
There was a knot in my throat as I faced him. “How . . . how much do I owe you for the windshield.”
“I need to pay you for that. It’s not the same thing as you getting me fast food. I’m not that broke. I can pay—”
“I didn’t pay for it.” He ran his fingers through his hair as he eyed me. “Like I said, the guy—his name’s Brent—owed me a favor. He took care of the windshield. No charge.”
“He owed you a favor?” I repeated dumbly. “Are you, like, in the mob?”
He tipped his head back and let out a deep, rumbling laugh that caused my tummy to twist. “No.”
I liked his laugh.
Inching away from the window, I suddenly felt . . . I didn’t know how I felt. Relieved? Tense? Stunned? I felt all those things at once, but I knew not to look a gift horse in the mouth. “Thank you.”
One broad shoulder rose. “It’s no big deal.”