Now it’s just after midnight, and I’m exhausted. Yet before I can make my way to my house, where my mom and Corinne will already be sound asleep, I decide to go ahead and drop the ten thousand off to the asshole I made the mistake of doing business with.

I pull my car up to the aluminum-sided trailer that sits off the highway on a barren and dusty lot. I note with relief that the lights are on.

Trudging wearily up the steps, I take deep breaths so I remain calm. Two sharp raps on the door, and then it’s opened.

And there before me stands my brother, Jayce.

The loan shark.

He doesn’t invite me in, which is fine because I don’t want to go in. Instead, I reach into my purse and hand him the stack of money—less the five hundred Jerico refunded me. “Here’s ten of the twenty-five I owe you.”

Jayce’s hand shoots out to snatch the money from me, and he counts it out quickly. When he looks back to me, I wonder how this man fell so far. His eyes are perpetually bloodshot and there are busted capillaries around his nose and cheeks, which tells me his dependence on alcohol has probably destroyed his liver as well. He’s now a con artist and a drug dealer as well as a small-time grifter. After Jayce got out of the military and went to work for Jerico, he made some pretty big money. Still, you’d never know it by the way he lives now.

As such, Jayce was the last person I turned to for help because I honestly didn’t think he had it. I was elated when he said he could give me the money, so I just assumed he’d saved it up and wasn’t spending it.

Of course, the real shock was when he made it clear it was a loan with steep interest. God forbid the man would do something to help his niece out of the goodness of his heart.

I look past him into his dingy abode, sure the carpet and furniture are from the seventies. It’s really old, and it smells that way too.

“Why only ten thousand?” he snaps at me.

“It’s a good faith effort to show you I’ll have the rest by your deadline.”

“So Jerico is going to give you the money?” he asks with an amused smile.

“Yes,” I tell him. “I’ve got to work at his club for thirty days, but then we’re square.”

Jayce looks at me like he doesn’t believe me for a moment, but then ultimately shrugs his shoulders in acceptance. He didn’t care how I got the money, just as long as he got repaid. Frankly, I’m surprised he gave up such a large favor to bail my ass out of hot water, but really… it benefits him. He got his money back, plus a hefty profit. I still can’t believe the asshole made me borrow it as Corinne is his niece too. You’d think he’d want to help save her life, but he’s sank so low in his assholish ways that he doesn’t care about anyone, including himself.

“How did he act when you told him who you were?” Jayce asks.

“What do you mean?”

“What was his reaction? Surprised?”

“I guess,” I say, trying to think back. I was so damn nervous I’m not sure. “He led me to his office to talk in private once I told him who I was.”

“Did he say anything about me?”


“Did he hesitate to pay the favor he owes me?”

“Not at all,” I assure him.

“Interesting,” Jayce mumbles. He starts to back up so he can close the door, and he does this without looking back at me again.


My brother is a certifiable, living, breathing asshole.

In fact, most of my family are assholes. The man who sired Jayce and me ran off with another woman. My mom kept Jayce and raised him with me and my older sister, Danielle, but she’s an asshole too. She left Corinne with me and Mom about six months ago, saying she was going on a short vacation, but she never came back. I suspect she knew Corinne was very sick with her heart condition, but didn’t know what to do about it. Luckily, Mom and I got her right into a doctor who referred us to a cardiologist.

When we were told she needed the surgery, we had no clue what to do. We didn’t even have formal guardianship papers on Corinne, much less insurance. According to the doctor, time was of the essence in fixing her valve, so I scraped the money together.

Cashed in the 401K and went to my brother, Corinne’s own uncle, and asked for help with the down payment. Of course, all I got from him was a “loan” with the agreement to let me wait until I could get the equity out of my house to pay him back. When that fell through, he gave me an additional ten days, which was impossible.

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