“Hey, Cooper!” Sadie said, and I turned to get my first good look at her since last night. Thick, pancake makeup covered a swollen face, and her eyes were glazed. Painkillers, probably. She’d had at least one shiner forming—probably two—and yet here she was, nodding and smiling like nothing had happened. Christ, I hoped it was just an act to get through this fucked up, crazy-ass day. “I hear your cousin is coming! I had so much fun with him last time he was in town . . .”
“Yeah, he said he’d head over. Should be here soon. I’m sure he’ll be happy to see you.”
Unlikely, considering last time she saw Painter, she spent the night puking on him. Behind her, I noticed one of the cops leaning over, speaking quietly into his shoulder radio.
“Wanna dance?” Sadie asked.
“Not really my thing,” I told her, reaching to take a pitcher from the bartender. “Can you grab me some glasses?”
Talia met me halfway, catching my free hand and dragging me toward a table. I nearly dropped the damned pitcher as she shoved me into a chair, then straddled me.
“I am so fucking horny right now,” she whispered in my ear, because apparently the situation wasn’t ridiculous enough already.
“Levi!” Sadie shouted excitedly, and I looked over to see Painter strolling toward us. His tall frame looked tired and his light blond hair was matted from the ride. I glanced around at the cops, hoping to hell none of them gave him any shit. He so much as coughed in the wrong direction, his ass would go back to prison.
“Good to see you,” he said, catching Sadie as she ran over to him. She tried to pull him in for a kiss, but he turned his head, so she caught his cheek instead. “Coop said he’d be here, suggested I come over to join you guys.”
“Where have you been?” she asked. “You just disappeared that night.”
“Jail,” he said shortly, surprising me. Guess he figured the truth was easiest—certainly wouldn’t hurt him in Marsh’s eyes. “Violated the terms of my parole, so they locked me up to teach me a lesson.”
Sadie’s eyes widened, and she reached up to rub his chest. “Sounds dangerous.”
Poor fucker. He’d risked going back to prison and had left his girl behind all to help me out. I decided I should throw him a lifeline.
“Levi!” I shouted, pushing Talia off my lap. Pulling him in for a hug, I took the opportunity to give him an update. “Shit’s ugly. We gotta contain Marsh or he’s gonna blow everything.”
He nodded, then pulled away, nodding toward Marsh.
“Nice to see you again,” he said. “Looks like a good time.”
Marsh smiled at him, but there was something ugly in his eyes. I watched as Talia slithered over to him, settling herself across his lap like a little girl.
“Were you really in jail?” she asked Painter, coyly licking the edge of a shot glass.
“Yup,” Painter said. “Got out this morning. Parole violation.”
“What’d you go down for?”
Marsh frowned. “How long was your sentence?”
“That’s too long for a weapons charge,” Marsh said, his voice suspicious. One of the brothers stood up, moving to stand behind Painter. I glanced over to see two of the off-duty cops watching us.
“It’s complicated,” Painter replied shortly. “Let’s just say it could’ve been a hell of a lot worse. Had priors, too.”
A waitress came over, looking at us warily. “You guys need anything?”
“We needed something half an hour ago,” Talia snapped, glaring at her. Jesus fucking Christ, the woman was crazy. “Where the fuck have you been?”
“I’m real sorry I wasn’t over earlier,” the waitress said. “We’re just slammed. I’m sure we can—”
“We deserve a free round,” Talia said, standing up and taking a threatening step toward the poor woman. Everything had to be about her winning. Always. “This is your fault, not ours.”
Painter and I shared a glance. We had a bar full of cops, more on the street, and now Talia had decided to pick a fight with a waitress.
Just shoot her. No jury would convict you.
“Baby, let’s go dance,” I said, reaching for her hand. “I want to feel you up against me.”
“I’m busy,” she snarled, glaring at the waitress. “Are you going to get us the drinks?”
The poor woman nodded her head, obviously terrified. “Sure, I’ll be right back.”
“See?” Talia said triumphantly. “It’s all about how you talk to them. I’m ready for that dance now.”
Grabbing my hand, she dragged me toward the small dance floor. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a big guy wearing a bar T-shirt talking to the cops, pointing toward our group.
Yeah. This wasn’t gonna end well.
Painter leaned toward Marsh, probably suggesting we clear out. I watched as Marsh snarled something in reply, then several of the Nighthawks moved in on them, and I had one of those moments of blinding, crystal clarity.
My brother Painter had put his ass on the line to protect me, and unless I pulled off a miracle in the next ten seconds, he’d be going back to jail for violating his parole. There were too many witnesses.
Turned out I didn’t even have that long.
Marsh exploded toward him, punching him in the stomach, and his pet Nighthawks pounced like a bunch of rabid dogs. Painter went down as I threw myself into the group. I wasn’t the only one. The bouncer and the cops charged into the mess. Then Marsh decided a knife would make the situation better.
Was he trying to get arrested?
I grabbed Painter by the arms, determined to get him out of the bar as Marsh launched himself toward the off-duty cops. A spray of bright red blood hit us, and then a body slammed into me, knocking me over.
It was one of the cops.
Jesus fucking Christ.
I watched in horror as a geyser of blood exploded from him, pumping in time with his heartbeat. Motherfucking moron had just shanked one of the off-duty cops. In a cop bar. That’s when Rome appeared—somehow shoving two men almost twice his size out of the way—and slammed a wad of something down over the wound.
“You! Call EMS,” Rome ordered the bouncer as a dazed Painter pulled himself to his knees next to me. Talia appeared behind him, slamming a glass pitcher over his head. Then Sadie and the other girls were screaming at her to run as Painter pitched forward. I caught him, dragging him back again as uniformed cops swarmed us.