“Who the hell is Jase?”
“Jase Cross,” I tell her, gauging her expression when I mention “Cross.” Everyone knows about the brothers and I can see the exact moment when it sinks in.
“You’re with Jase?” she questions me softly and then swallows so loud, looking between me and Seth, that I’m sure even he can hear it. I only nod.
“With him? Like what does that even mean?”
My hands turn clammy and I have to wring my fingers around one another in my lap. “I can’t even look you in the eyes,” I tell her and then cover my face with my hands as my head sinks back into the seat.
“No, Bethy, no. Don’t cry.”
“I’m not going to cry,” I protest, forcing my hands down and staring straight ahead at the back of the black leather seat in front of me. “I’m just…” I can’t finish. “I don’t even know what I feel. Ashamed, I think.”
“Ashamed because you’re with him? Or ashamed at what you’ve done?” she asks cautiously. She whispers, “Did he make you do anything? I will fuck him up. I don’t care who he is.”
“No, stop. No, he didn’t make me do anything.” Although I tell her that, the first time we met flashes in my memory. I think I’ll leave that out of this conversation.
I have to shake out my hands, feeling them turn numb and having a wave of anxiousness hit me. “I’m ashamed because of both… neither. I don’t know. I’m confused.”
“Okay.” Laura’s patient with me although she keeps looking at Seth like he’s not to be trusted.
The way she looks at Seth, questioning him and his intentions gives me an uncomfortable feeling. More than that, I feel like I should be defending them. Which is outrageous, yet it’s exactly how I feel in this moment.
“He’s a good guy,” I tell her to ease her worries. “Jase treats me really, really good.” Emotions tickle up my throat and I have to swallow them before I tell her, “Seth watches out for me for him.”
She asks the obvious question. “Watches out for what?”
With Seth as my witness, I tell her everything.
I don’t even leave out the part where I almost shot Jase. I tell her literally everything that I can remember. Including the part where I think I love him. Fuck my life.
It’s not every day that I feel like a prick.
Taking advantage of someone’s weakness is how I survived, how my brothers and I rose to the top.
There’s not a single doubt that I’m taking advantage of Bethany. It’s easy when you’re hurting to fall for someone, to trust them, to want there to be a way out of the pain.
Listening in on her conversation in the car, listening to her recount the events with Laura Devin, makes me feel like the worst fucking prick alive.
I made her love me. I made sure she had no other option. And worse than that, I don’t know that I will ever say the words back to her.
“Boss.” Seth nods when I see him and I nod back although my gaze travels to Bethany. Watching her climb the steps as I open the door for her.
Her cheeks are tearstained but there’s a sense of lightness around her. Even more than that, her small body brushes against my chest as she walks in. She did it on purpose. She wanted to touch me and I fucking love it. Prick or not.
“Have a good night,” I tell him and he smirks at me as he replies, “You too.”
Bethany rocks from one foot to the other, watching me as I close to the door to the cold and then turn to her fully.
“Let me help you,” I tell her and then act like a gentleman, helping her out of her coat.
With my fingertips lingering on her bare skin, I lower my lips to the shell of her ear and whisper, “Seth put you on speaker from the moment you knocked on his window.”
She shudders from my touch and lets her head fall back into my chest. “Are you angry?” she asks with her eyes still open, staring past me at the now closed door.
“No, I’m not.”
“I had to tell her.” Her words slur slightly and I can smell the hint of alcohol on her.
“Of course you did.”
“And you heard everything?” she asks and that’s when her expression falls. No doubt she’s questioning where my opinions lie. When I nod in response, she doesn’t voice her question.
She takes a different approach, changing the subject altogether.
“What were you talking to Seth about before I went to him?” she asks me, her own curiosity showing.
“Maybe about you?” I give her a flirtatious response that’s only a half lie, rather than telling her about Marcus.
“Oh… and what about me?” she asks although the flirtation isn’t quite there.