I checked the time on my cell and leaned against the wall. The desert heat was not in any way helping my already-tense mood and irritated disposition. A guy walked by, flicking his cigarette into the dirt. Note to self: you know you’re tense as hell when you’re halfway tempted to grab said cigarette and suck the nicotine dry from the remains.
And I didn’t even smoke.
My head hurt, my muscles were sore, and Trace was pissed. I closed my eyes and leaned back against the building.
“Hey there.” A flirty voice interrupted my self-inflicted torture session. I opened one eye, then two. A blond-haired girl in six-inch heels and something I can only assume at one point use to be a shirt, hanging over her shoulder, walked into my personal space. Her shirt-dress thing barely met her thighs.
“Yes?” I kept my sunglasses on. If I took them off and glared, she’d probably run screaming down the street, and I wasn’t into scaring females… at least not in that way. I knew I looked downright pissed as hell.
“Just thought you looked lonely.” She lifted her shoulder and offered a teasing smile. Did that really work on other guys?
“You thought wrong,” I said simply. “I’m holding the wall up — like Samson.”
“Samson?” She looked around as if waiting for another man to appear.
“From the Bible,” I clarified.
“Gotta love Vegas,” I muttered under my breath. “Look, I don’t want any.”
“Any what?” She ran a manicured nail down my chest, biting down on her lip at the same time. I could only imagine her point was to get me to stare at her lips, but all I felt was irritation. Damn Chase and Mil. I just wanted to go to bed, but I needed to talk with him before tomorrow.
“Sex.” My voice clipped. “I. Don’t. Want. Any.”
“But—” She twirled a piece of blond- hair in her fingers.
“Right.” She snorted.
“I’m into men.”
“Oh really?” She closed the distance between us. Just as I was ready to seriously put my hands on her and push, I felt an arm wrap around my shoulder.
“Hey there, hot stuff.” Tex said in a low voice as his hand grabbed my ass, cupping it with a little too much enthusiasm. “You ready?”
I ground my teeth together and forced a smile. “Yup.”
“Oh…” The girl stepped back. “Um, sorry, you guys, uh, enjoy your night.” She pushed past Tex so fast I was afraid she was going to teeter off her heels and get hit by a taxi.
“Tex.” I seethed.
“Hmm?” He took off his sunglasses and tilted his head as the girl hurried away.
“You can take your hand off my ass now.”
“Why? Afraid you like it too much?”
I pushed against him.
“Just embrace your feelings!” He shouted, earning the attention of a family walking by with their two little kids.
I grabbed him by the front of his shirt and threw him few feet away from me, trying my damnedest not to smile.
“Admit it. You keep me around for comic relief.” Tex nodded with a smirk.
“I admit nothing.” I lost the war against smiling and started laughing. “But I do keep your ass away from Campisi, so remember that next time you start yelling about me being your lover.”
“True.” Tex grinned. “Oh, and P.S., don’t knock it till you try it.”
“P.S.,” I repeated in the same voice. “Still pissed at you for screwing over my sister.”
“Yeah well.” Tex sobered. “It’s for the best.”
“Breaking her heart and bringing in whores is what’s best for her?”
Tex lifted his hands into the air. “Look, I didn’t say my methods were sound or that they were intelligent, just let us deal with it, okay? We’re big kids.”
“Kids.” I snorted. “That about sums it up.”
A town car pulled up next to the curb. Chase got out and then held out his hand to Mil. My eyes narrowed; she looked different. Happier.
Her mom had just died, and she’d survived a bombing.
And she was smiling like the Taliban had just declared world peace.
Chase gripped her so tight that I saw the white of his knuckles.
I tilted my head, still watching them when Tex said. “Dude, you get laid?”
“Tex,” I snapped. “Go get something for their luggage.”
Tex flipped me off, but ended up jogging over to the main entrance while I inspected both Mil and Chase. “I’m not saying this to be an ass—”
“Here we go.” Mil crossed her arms.
I licked my lips and tried to appear indifferent. “But if you guys start screwing each other now, I may have to shoot one or both of you. It’s not the time to play house, got it?”
“Play house,” Chase repeated in a deadpan voice as he dipped his free hand into his back pocket, most likely clenching a pair of brass knuckles.
“I know it’s your honeymoon,” I continued. “But this little scenario you’ve got going on with the whole hot and cold is going to have to wait until everyone’s safe. So Chase, keep it in your pants for once in your life, and Mil, stop trying to seduce the poor kid, alright? It’s like dangling a damn fry in front of a seagull.”
“Who’s a fry?” Tex asked, pulling the luggage cart with him.
“Are we eating dinner or something? Because I have to admit,” Tex leaned against the cart, “I’m freaking starving.” He eyed Chase and Mil. “Then again, I’m sure you both are too. All those extracurricular really take it out of ya.”
Chase took off his sunglasses, his face twisting in irritation and annoyance, no smile. Nothing. He was pissed.
“Chase,” I said slowly. “You know I’m right. You’re the best I have. I need your focus to be on The Family. Your family. Then you can screw all you want, okay?”
Mil looked like she wanted to punch me in the face. Chase took a step forward, but she stopped him.
“Good talk.” I exhaled. “Chase, I’ll see you down in the bar in a half-hour, okay? We have business to discuss. Mil, you can go find the girls. They’re having dinner out by the pool.”
After a few seconds of tense silence where I was pretty sure Chase was trying to convince himself not to strangle me to death, Tex cleared his throat and pointed to the luggage. “You guys need help, then?”
“Yeah,” Chase croaked. “Thanks.”
We loaded them up and sent them on their way.
“Tell me,” Tex asked once we were walking back toward the bar. “Is your only goal to see how far you can push Chase before he kills you in your sleep?”