Broken but Breathing (Jinx Tattoos Book 2) (10 page)

BOOK: Broken but Breathing (Jinx Tattoos Book 2)
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“Seriously, Kali, it’s nine o’clock in the morning, I’m exhausted, and worried I might fuck this task I’ve been given up. I don’t know what the hell Snake likes, and his ‘I’ll live anywhere as long as I have a place to sleep, eat, and shit’ isn’t helpful.” She lowered her voice, mimicking Snake.

Kali laughed. “Sounds about right. Look, he’s used to living in a dorm, so when he said that he meant it. Use your own discretion. Besides, I get the feeling you’ll be spending a lot of time there.”

“Yes, because I have to decorate it, too.” She threw her hands up in the air.

“No wonder he gave you access to his money. It makes it easier on him. The lazy bastard,” Kali scoffed.

Es snickered despite her exhaustion. “Yeah, he’s getting the better end of the deal.”

“You better make sure you throw in some nice things for you, too,” Kali said with a wink.

“Now you’re encouraging me to abuse his money?” Es asked.

“Yes, because I know you don’t want to. Always make sure you’re getting a little bit back because men get so caught up in what they have going they can be neglectful.”

“I’m not even going to try to decipher Kali logic. Right now I need a real estate agent and a coffee, not in that order.”

“Well let’s get you a coffee while I call the club real estate person. They know how to get shit done fast. You need to put that beautiful brain of yours to work because they’re going to ask you what you’re looking for and where.”

“I feel a migraine coming on,” Es muttered, rubbing her throbbing temples.

“Come on, I’ll feed you. I was instructed not to let you miss any meals.”

“That man is trying to make me a giant.”

“Only your ass,” Kali said.

“What?”

“It’s your ass he wants to get fat.”

“What?”

“Your ass,” Kali replied, grinning. “You’re…umm, a little fair for his taste.”

“Fair-skinned?” Es guessed.

Kali nodded.

What is it he sees in me? I’m not even his type.

“Everyone has a type, and Snake is no exception. There’s a reason I asked you if you had the Midas touch earlier. That being said, I think you’re good for him. He’s obviously trying to get his shit together now.”

Es bit the inside of her cheek to keep her silence. If he hadn’t told Kali, it wasn’t her place to update her.
She’s going to start wondering when I buy things for a little girl. I need to talk to Xavier about that.

“We’re not like that you know. I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea,” Es said. She thought back to the night before. The kiss had placed butterflies in her belly and a flood between her legs.
Too bad I have no clue if it meant anything.
She woke to find him gone and a lengthy note in his place.

Kali shook her head. “Honey, not even you believe that.”

Es looked away.

“Come on, coffee, food, and research,” Kali said, pulling her from the chair.

§

She was on overload when the phone rang and Snake’s name flashed on the screen.

“It’s Snake, I’m going to take this outside,” Es said, stepping out onto the back patio of Kali’s home.

“Hey, how are you doing?”

“I’m feeling a bit murderous.”

“Shit. What happened?”

“You! Power of Attorney and adding me to your bank info. Talk about blindsiding me.”

“How else can you do what needs to be done? I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get the information we need or where she’ll be. I trust you with this.”

“What if I’m horrible with money?” she asked. He was so nonchalant about this thing.

“You’re not.”

She narrowed her gaze. “How do you know that?”

“I see how you live, and Data.”

“Hacking fucker.”

He laughed out loud. “Are you that upset?”

“No, I’m stressed. These are huge decisions you want me to make. What if I screw up?”

“Impossible. I know your taste. We’ve talked about the kind of place you’d get if you moved into a house again. I’m onboard with that. Relax. It’s not the rooms, windows, and floors that really make a home. It’s the emotions of those inside them. I know I’m asking a lot, but you get me on this level most people never will.”

His words thawed her icy disposition.
Damn you.
She sighed. “I hear you. How are things going there?”

“Shitty. I hate negotiating with this son of a bitch.”

“I’m sorry, Xav. Just remember the end will justify the means tenfold.”

“How do you always know what to say?” he asked.

“Pure luck,” she suggested.

“Naw, I don’t believe that.”

Are we going to talk about what happened last night?
The question lingered on the tip of her tongue.
Now’s not the time to ask.
She held off. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“You’re doing more than enough. I know I’m imposing on you—”

She could hear the men yelling for him in the background.

“Damn. I need to get back, girl. I’ll call you when I can.” He hung up.

She whispered, “Bye,” to the dial tone. The man was a life-changing event.

“Everything okay out here? You look lost,” Kali said.

“Yes. He… uh, had to go.”

Kali smiled. “Yeah, being with them is a lot of waiting at times. It takes an understanding, strong woman. Seeing as how you’re here taking on this momentous task for a man you’re
not dating,
I think you’d be one hell of an old lady. And that’s nothing I say lightly. Enjoy that praise.”

Es laughed.

“I was serious.”

“That’s why it’s funny because it’s true. Since it’s just us two, can I pick your brain?”

“About Snake?” Kali asked, wagging her eyebrows.

“Maybe,” Es murmured as her cheeks grew warm.

Kali smirked. “You can ask. I’ll tell you what I can.”

“Is he a playboy?”

“No, he’s actually really discrete. Sometimes the girls get it in their head that fucking them is the same as dating them and hang all over their member of choice. He’s always avoided that trap. I’m not saying his celibate, but he doesn’t bring anyone around the way he did you. It’s why we were all sort of fascinated when he started bringing you around and made it clear you were off limits. I thought maybe it was some big brother thing at first. Then I saw how he looked at you when he thought no one was watching.”

“How was that?” she asked.

“Like you hung the moon, Sprite.”

“You must be mistaken,” she said.

“I think the question is, why would you want me to be?”

Es shook her head. “It’s been a long time since I was in a place to even think about something romantic. I don’t know that I’m ready.”
Here I am so excited about last night I forgot all about Everett.
Her stomach ached.
Is that all it takes? Someone to show me a bit of attention and kiss me?

“You’re a million miles away right now,” Kali remarked.

Her new friend brought her back to the present. “Just thinking about how I should work on this and get it out of the way.”
So I can come back to Earth. Once this is over we’ll both return to our lives and occasionally see one another as we lend support.
The thought pacified her. The guilt ebbed and her ability to breathe returned. She walked into the house determined to get him settled so she could take a few steps back.

CHAPTER EIGHT

Snake

“Do you have eyes on him?” Snake asked, popping his knuckles as he waited in the hotel room. Hiram insisted Snake stay behind while the others took him to the Greyhound station. The exchange was being made, Hiram’s freedom for Jocelyn’s location. Data sat at the desk with his computer at the ready.

“Everything is going as planned. He’s purchased his ticket to Nashville, Tennessee. It leaves in another hour. He’ll give the information to Sick, and we’ll look it up and walk.” He could hear the anger in Sharp’s voice over speakerphone.

“Trust me, I hate that he’s getting away, too. But this is about my daughter.”

“I get you, Veep. Here they come now.”

Snake held his breath. “And Roland and Sharon Miles of Lexington, Kentucky.”

Snake repeated the information and Data’s fingers flew over the keys.

“I got them. All three of them.”

Three!

Data turned the computer around and the image on the screen damn near stopped his heart. Jocelyn. She was a miniature version of her mother with her slender limbs, and light-brown curls that tumbled to her shoulders. Her golden eyes reminded him of a lion—fierce and intelligent beyond her years.
She got that fight in her from me along with her broad forehead and strong jawline. The button nose and small lips are all Jade.
“Is that her?” Data asked.

“Yeah, brother, that’s my baby girl,” he answered, grinning so hard his mouth ached.

“The information is right, Veep?” Sharp said.

“Yeah, brother, let that motherfucker go for now. We’ll meet up with him again one day. Count on that.”

“All right, brother, we’re coming back now.”

Snake turned to Data. “I want to know everything you have on them.”

“On it,” Data said.

Euphoria set in. His baby girl was alive and well. He could tell by the high-quality family pictures the Miles were wealthy.
Had they given her the best of everything? Could he continue her lifestyle? How would he get her back? I need to talk to Es.

“I’m going to step out for a minute,” Snake said.

Data nodded to show he’d heard, and he slipped outside with his phone.

“Hello.”

“I found her, Es, and she’s so fucking beautiful.”

“Tell me everything.”

“She was adopted by a wealthy couple in Lexington. That’s all I know so far, but I had to call.”

“That’s excellent, Snake! I am so excited for you. I knew you’d find her.”

“Now I have to figure out how to get her.”

“Hey, one step at a time, remember?”

“Yeah.” He shook his head.
Is this really happening?
“If this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up.”

“Maybe today is a lucky day. I have a couple of houses I feel really good about seeing.”

“How many bedrooms?” Snake asked.

“Four.”

“Good, that’ll give you your own.”

“What?”

“Come on, she’ll be scared of me at first. You’re sweet, tiny, and skillful with children.”

“I’m not a live-in nanny.”

“No, you’re my best friend, which automatically makes you Godmother.”

“I don’t think that’s how it works.”

“It’s how it works for me, Sprite. You think I’d give just anyone the Power of Attorney?”

“I think I’m a convenience.”

“The fuck you say?” he asked.

“I’m here, I have the time, and I’m willing to help you. Let’s make sure we’re not turning this into something else.”

“What the hell, Es?”

“Listen, I need to go. I have to be there on time to meet the realtor.”

The dial tone felt like a slap in the face. They were working toward more.
What happened over the past few days to make her close herself off?
Worry for the woman who held him down sprung up
. We need to get out of here anyway. The longer we stay, the more fingers may point our way.
They’d moved to a hotel outside of town a few days back, but he wouldn’t put it past the people here to remember the face or cars of strangers. He returned to the room and rounded up his crew, giving the direction to head back home. The van and the borrowed plates would be retired. They pulled out of the hotel forty-five minutes later, and he swore to himself Es had little to do with it.

§

The rain was coming down heavily as he pulled up in front of Es’s apartment. She’d made an offer on a beautiful four-bedroom, walking distance from an established private school. He hadn’t seen it in person, but that was the last thing in his mind. Tomorrow he, Mike, and the club lawyer would get together to talk about options. Right now was all about Es. After he knocked on the door, he shoved his hands in his pockets. A chill had settled into his bones and his belly. She opened the door in an off the shoulder dark grey sleep outfit that made him drool. Her legs were exposed up to her upper thighs, and her collar bone looked good enough to eat.

“What are you doing here?”

He stepped in, forcing her to back up.

“I didn’t like the way you sounded on the phone. What the hell happened over the past few days, Es?”

“Nothing.” She shook her head, refusing to look at him.

“Bullshit.”

She looked up at him with her lips parted.

“You shocked that I’m calling you out?”

“You can’t tell me how I feel,” she said bristling. Good, he wanted a reaction from her.

“No, but I can tell when you’re lying. Whether it’s to yourself or just to me I can’t say.” He ducked down and caught her gaze. “A few days ago we were fine. What happened?”

She shrugged.

“Was it Jole?”

“No. I should close the door.” She moved to step around him, but he snaked his arm around her waist, stopping her. “Fuck the door. You know that avoidance shit doesn’t work with me, sweet girl. I give two shits about political correctness.”

She swallowed hard.

“Are you going to start talking or do I need to make you?”

Fire sparked to life in her eyes. “I’d like to see you try, big man.”

“Remember, you asked for this.”

“Asked for w—”

He gripped her hips and lifted her to him, swallowing her protests down. She gasped. He took advantage of the opening, plunging his tongue into her sweetness. She had a complex flavor that hinted at alcohol and dessert.
Two of my favorite things
. Her fist pounded his back. He stroked her tongue with his, and she melted against him, wrapping her legs around his waist, and fisting his cut. He hummed his approval. Her heat seared him through their layers of clothing. He spun and walked to the door, closing it with her body as he pinned her to it.

“You taste so damn good. Like candy.”

He rocked his hips into her and nipped his way down her jawline to her neck. The urge to mark her stunned him. She whimpered, and he studied her swollen lips and tousled hair, proud of the mess he made.

“I can keep at this all night. But I can’t promise to hold myself in check. A taste of you is never going to be enough. I want the entire thing.”

Her eyes dilated further, and he moaned. “You ready to talk now, or do you want me to continue?”

“I-I—”

“I’ll take that as a no,” he said, lowering his head and sucking on the tender skin of her neck. She arched her back, and he rolled his hips.

“Oh, Xavier.”

Her cries pushed him past the point of return. “I can’t stop until you’re crying my name now, little girl. I want to see your face when you come for me.”

Her eyes widened, and her jaw dropped. He thrust harder.

“Oh, sweet Jesus.”

She began to ride him, moving in time with his rhythm. Her body shook.

“That’s it, Sprite, let go for me.” He ignored the tightness in his jeans and continued to stimulate what he knew to be the sweet spot.

“I-I’m going to…” Her voice splintered as it yielded to a scream. She convulsed; her legs went limp and slid down. He hiked her up, supporting her thickening ass he walked to her couch and sank onto the cushion, placing a gentle kiss on her forehead.

“What did we just do?” she breathed.

“Rocked your world.”

She smirked. “That you did, big man. I don’t think it was smart.”

He ran his fingers through her hair. “Why not?”

“Because it confuses everything. I was trying to draw lines.”

His heart sank. “Draw lines? Is that what you want?”

“Isn’t it what you want?” she countered, her voice so soft he had to strain to hear her.

“Did I say that?” He tucked his pointer finger beneath her chin and forced her to look at him.

“That day after we first kissed you left without a word,” she said with a shrug.

“I wrote a note.”

“Yes, and we never spoke about it again. I thought maybe you regretted it.”

“This shit I’m knee deep in has had me all twisted up and distracted. If I had thought for one second you doubted me…” He trailed off sucking in a deep breath. “I want everything you’re willing to give. I’m trying like hell to pace myself. Neither of us has had a real relationship in a long time, and I know you’re not fully healed yet. I can’t be a rebound.”

She blinked up at him owlishly. He cursed the way he’d put himself out there.

“You want me?” she whispered.

“Sprite, if you haven’t realized this by now, I already have you. What I want is more.”

“I-I don’t.”

“So you’ll buy a house for me, decorate, help me raise my child, and be placed on my bank account, but won’t try for a relationship?”

“I didn’t have a choice there. You sprang that on me.”

“You always have a choice, Sprite.”

She narrowed her eyes. “I wanted to help you.”

“Why?”

“Because you needed me.”

“Why did that matter?”

She pursed her lips.

“Go ahead, say it.”

“Because I care about you.”

“And I care about you. We’ll go at snail’s pace. But I’ll be kissing those lips more, and if you try to pull back, I’m going to remind you of all the reasons why the risk is worth it.”

“You came straight to me?”

“Drove the entire trip through Mother Nature’s temper tantrum and made the prospects wait in the van.”

“Oh no. That’s awful, Snake.”

He laughed. “There’s the sweet girl I left behind.”

§

Estelle

Es scanned the crowded club, searching for a familiar face. When she came up empty, her spirits sank.
She’s not going to come
.

“What’s going on with you tonight?” Kali asked.

“I invited my sister-in-law here tonight. I thought if she came out and saw me on the job it might smooth things over.”

Kali sighed. “Honey, when you throw in with the Wild Ones, there are people you’ll lose because they don’t understand.”

“It shouldn’t be that way, Kal,” Es said, refusing to give up her best friend or her…man? Boyfriend sounded too silly as old as they were.

“No, but if wishes were fishes, the world would be an ocean.”

“You’re not helping.”

“What? You’re nicer than me extending that olive branch. You screw me over, and I might forgive, but I won’t forget.” She shook her head. “That’s how you get screwed repeatedly, and unless you’re my man, I’m not about that life.”

“She’s not just anyone. This woman saved my life a million times over and refused to give up on me when the rest of the world turned their back or tried to get their pound of flesh.”

“The real test comes when you no longer do the things they expect of you. Or can no longer do the things they want you to. If they stick around, the friendship is true. If they jump ship, you’re better off seeing them for who they’ve always been. They save you the trouble of removing them from your life.”

“Jesus, Kal. Is it all so black and white with you?” Es asked.

“Once you’re betrayed enough, you grow a thick skin and learn to see the signs on the wall for what they are. Good-byes are never easy. But there comes a point where hardening your heart becomes self-preservation. This world and the selfish people in it can break you down and drain you dry. You have to find that balance between understanding and flexibility and being a naïve doormat.”

“I’m not a doormat.”

“Never said you were. The fact is, sometimes you have to remind others of that fact and let the pieces fall where they may. For your sake, I hope she shows up tonight. But if she doesn’t, think about what that says and remember accepting any kind of treatment sends a message that it’s okay to treat you with disrespect. I can tell you now your man won’t be having that, and you do not want him to be the one to check her. He’s not as nice as you or me.”

Despite her harsh words, it felt good to have people in her corner. The year had been lonely for so many reasons. Snake came with a ready-made family who accepted her as she was, which was a rarity.

“Hey, Kal, can we get another bucket over here?” Stryker called.

“Sure thing, honey,” Kal cooed. She was a master at making every person she came into contact with feel like they were the only one who mattered. Es envied her natural charisma. She also recognized a wealth of pain lay hidden beneath her easygoing façade.

“I think your friend is showing her true colors,” Kali said as she tossed a couple of beers in a bucket and walked over to the rowdy table full of bikers Es didn’t recognize from the club.

BOOK: Broken but Breathing (Jinx Tattoos Book 2)
10.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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