I closed my eyes, trying to think.
“Will you help me?” I finally asked. Shade shrugged.
“Maybe later,” he said. “But right now I’m more interested in gettin’ my dick sucked. I was under the impression you had a happy ending for me.”
I shivered, torn between disgust and a sick curiosity about what a happy ending with Shade would feel like. God knew I wouldn’t be having any happy endings with Rebel any time soon—whatever else came out of tonight, our relationship was over.
“Tell you what,” Shade said slowly. “I’ll make you a deal.”
I didn’t want to trust him, but it wasn’t like I had a lot of choices here. “I’m listening…”
“We’ll compromise,” he continued. “Tonight didn’t go right for either of us. Let’s have a drink and relax for a while, then I’ll go find someone to suck my dick and you can crash here. You’ll be fine. Not a man in this building is stupid enough to fuck with my woman.”
“I’m not your woman,” I insisted quickly, and he cocked that brow again.
“You’re in my room and you’re gonna sleep in my bed tonight. You’re under my protection. Makes you my woman, at least in their eyes. That means nobody’ll touch you without my permission, and tomorrow I’ll take you home, safe and sound.”
“And what do you get out of this?” I asked, suspicious. Shade turned away, walking over to a dresser I hadn’t noticed before. On the top was a bottle of what looked like whiskey, along with some plastic cups.
“I’m not getting jack shit,” he said, opening the bottle and pouring a drink. “Which is why you should take me up on it before I change my mind. You wanna be pissed at someone, save it for your loser boyfriend.”
He filled the second cup, then turned to me, holding it out. I considered, wondering if he was planning to drug me or something. God, how had I gotten into this?
How many times do you have to get screwed over before you learn, Mandy?
“What, you scared I’m gonna roofie you?” Shade asked. The words were ugly but he seemed more amused than anything. “Sorry to disappoint you, sweetheart, but you aren’t worth a felony. I mean, you got a nice ass, but life is too fuckin’ short to spend it in jail. Not only that, unlike your boyfriend, I’m not a fuckin’ liar. I’m gonna do something to you, I’ll tell you because I’m not a little bitch.”
While I wasn’t a huge fan of the “little bitch” reference, I had to admit it summed up my feelings toward Rebel pretty well. And a drink really would be good… I reached for the cup, knocking it back quickly. Its smooth burn startled me because it was good—really good. Whiskey wasn’t my favorite, but I’d served enough of it to know this wasn’t the cheap-ass shit Bone kept on the bottom shelf. Shade gave a low laugh, knocking back his own shot. I felt the alcohol warm me as he refilled the glasses. Drinking any more was probably a bad idea, but I could probably sip at it without getting wasted.
There’s a time and a place for liquid courage.
Shade turned and sat down on the bed, leaning against the backboard. He took another swallow of whiskey while I searched for a place to sit. My options were the bed or the floor, so I leaned back against the door instead.
“So…” I said, wondering what the hell to talk about. Shade eyed me, and while there was still heat in his gaze, I wasn’t getting the same sense of threat from him. He’d relaxed, I realized. He really wasn’t coming after me.
Disappointed? I asked myself. Don’t be a moron. This is a gift. Take it.
Maybe Shade and I could become friends and he’d help me hide Rebel’s body. He probably knows all the best ways to kill someone without making a mess.
This was the kind of information I needed.
“What the hell are you doing with a piece of shit like Rebel?” Shade asked, raising one of his legs and resting the arm holding the glass across his knee. The fabric of his jeans pulled tight between his legs and—
I looked away, suddenly fascinated by the hole where he’d punched the wall.
“You gonna answer the question?” Shade asked, sounding amused. I glanced back toward him.
“I don’t suppose you’d believe we’re soul mates,” I said, taking a sip of my drink. Damn, that was really smooth. Shade cocked a brow and laughed.
“No, probably not. Seriously—why the hell are you with him? Rebel’s a piece of shit.”
“He’s cute,” I said, flushing because the answer was so stupid. “I’m shallow, all right? And he’s fun. I never thought there was any potential for a future there, but that’s not what I’m looking for. I just wanted someone to hang out with. And…okay, this part is really embarrassing.”
I shot another look at him. Shade waited patiently. No pressure. I felt myself relaxing more.
“I thought he was sexy on his bike,” I admitted. “He asked me out and we had fun. I started hanging around with his riding club a lot, and I liked them, too. That’s how I got the job at the Pit.”
“You know he’s cheating on you, right?” Shade asked casually. My stomach clenched, although I didn’t know why. I’d suspected it already, and considering the guy had tried to trade me for a motorcycle, it wasn’t like I had any illusions that he was a keeper.
“Let’s talk about something else.”
“Sure,” Shade said. “You’re new to the area. How’d you end up in Violetta?”
“How do you know I’m new?” I asked, startled.
“Because I made it my business to know,” he replied. “Hand me the bottle.”
I stepped over to the dresser and grabbed it, walking hesitantly toward the bed. I expected him to take it but he held out his glass instead. Pouring carefully, I gave him a refill.
“You can sit down,” he said, glancing toward the empty space beside him. “If I was going to pull something, I would’ve by now.”
“You sure you aren’t just trying to get me drunk so I’ll have sex with you?” I asked. Then I gave myself a mental kick, because that’s the kind of thing you think, not the kind of thing you say. Shade burst out laughing and for once the sound wasn’t mocking.
“Of course I’m trying to get you drunk,” he said. “I want to fuck you—this isn’t a secret. But I’m also not a fuckin’ rapist—think we covered that already—so all you have to do is say no and you’ll be fine. In the meantime, you might as well take a break, because I’m not getting up and you’re gonna get tired of standing eventually.”