“In my bedroom,” he wheezes.

Pulling Jayce away from the wall, I spin him toward the hallway and give him a hard push. He stumbles and rights himself before turning to look at me.

“Go get it,” I tell him.

“It’s mine,” he says as he tries to straighten all the way, but he can’t because he’s probably got major spasms running through his stomach. “You agreed to twenty-five grand as part of the favor you owed me.”

“No,” I say slowly as I walk toward him. He starts backing down the hallway. “I promised Trista twenty-five in exchange for working for me for thirty days, but only when I thought she owed that amount to a loan shark. Now I find out it was her brother who loaned her thirteen grand from money he got from a loan shark, and he’s gouging her so he can repay it and make a little money too.”

Jayce’s eyes go round with surprise that I know this information. His mouth opens and closes like a gasping fish out of water, but no words come out.

“Go get the money,” I tell him again, and I’m prepared to kick his ass all the way down the hall if he doesn’t move. Fortunately for him, he turns around and ambles that way.

Because I don’t trust the man as far as I can throw his fat ass, I follow. He’d be the type to pull a weapon on me if he’s got the figurative balls to do it, but I’m thinking not. This guy is pathetic.

I watch as he enters his bedroom, which has dirty clothes all over the floor and just a battered old blanket on the bed with no sheets or pillow. He goes to the closet and reaches up to a shoebox on the shelf.

“Stop,” I command, and he goes still. “Give me the box.”

“What?” he says as he turns slowly and hands it over. “You think I got a gun in there or something?”

“I sincerely hope not,” I tell him candidly. “Because if you do, that means you were going to pull it on me and I’m going to beat the living fuck out of you if so.”

“The money’s in there,” he grumbles.

When I flip the top off, there’s an envelope with a small stack of cash in it. I take it and toss the box on the floor. “How much is left of it?”

Jayce glares at me. “All of it.”

“I don’t believe you,” I say as I throw the envelope on the bed. “Count it out. And if you are one penny short of ten thousand, it’s going to hurt.”

“Fine,” he snaps at me. “I spent about a thousand of it.”

Nodding, I pick the envelope up and jerk my head toward the door. “Back in the living room.”

Jayce doesn’t argue with me, but I can feel the rage vibrating off him. I follow him through the hallway, and then give him a hard push toward the couch. “Sit.”

Jayce glares at me over his shoulder, but he turns and sets his bulky frame on the couch.

“Trista is no longer working for me,” I tell him as I take a position near the door. “She didn’t fulfill her contract.”

“That fucking bitch,” Jayce growls.

My voice is low and filled with menace when I say, “Talk about her like that again, and I’ll cut your balls off and make you eat them.”

Jayce’s mouth snaps shut.

“Now I want you to listen, and listen well, because this is the only warning you will ever get from me.” I take a few steps toward him, and his head tilts up to look at me. “I’m paying off the loan in full, and then you and I are square.”

Jayce’s eyes sparkle with opportunity. “That will work. You give me the money and I’ll go pay it off today.”

I react so fast Jayce doesn’t know what hit him, but it’s the back of my hand as I smack him hard across his face. It’s not enough to knock him silly, but it stuns him.

“Do you think I’m fucking stupid, Jayce?” I ask him calmly. He just stares at me with wide eyes as his hand covers the spot on his cheek. “I know you were charging Trista more than what you owed to the shark, so I’m going to hand the correct amount over to him. And then, as I said, you and I are square. Agreed?”

He doesn’t answer me at first. I can practically hear the wheels grinding in his head as he tries to figure a way to make something out of this. The way it’s turning out for him, he’s not getting anything from the favor I owe him.

Finally, he gives me a short nod. “Agreed. Now get the fuck out of my house.”

I look around with disgust. “Not much of a house.”

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