"No, Key, like fighting the way Bax used to, and it's terrifying. No one has ever seen anything like it. He goes in the circle and doesn't come out until the other guy is almost dead. He took on this ringer, a professional fighter Race brought in from Vegas during the last one." She paused then made a noise that had me wanting to climb through the phone and shake her until she kept talking. "The guy was huge. Bigger than Titus, so way bigger than Nassir. And he was a pro. Bax said it was obvious he didn't care about the money he just wanted to fight. Apparently Nassir walked into the circle still wearing his slacks and his fancy shoes and the guy laughed at him."
"Oh, that was a mistake." The words whispered out.
"A big mistake. Race told me Nassir let him get in exactly two punches, one to either side of his face, before he took the other guy to his knees with some kind of crazy martial arts move and then proceeded to pummel him into pulp. The fight lasted maybe three minutes when Chuck waded in and pulled Nassir off the guy before he killed him. Race said if Chuck hadn't stepped in, Nassir wouldn't have stopped."
I wasn't surprised by the violence or power that she was describing. What shocked me was that he had purposely let the other man hurt him, had withstood injuries to that perfect face of his without defending himself. Nassir wasn't a man that would express his remorse and guilt at his misdeeds outwardly, but I had no doubt that he was regretting his decision to set the homeless man on me without being there to make sure his plans didn't take a violent turn. I hurt him, he hurt me, and then because we hurt each other, he let a stranger hurt him physically to leach the poison out. He sought punishment for the injuries he inflicted and doled it out for the ones I had left on him.
I told her what I had known was going to be the inevitable truth since he moved the menu away and I saw that unforgettable face after six months of missing it. "I think I'm coming back."
"Thank God. Maybe that will set him back to rights and he can go back to being his normal level of frightening and ruthless."
"I'm not coming back for him, Reeve. I'm coming back for me. I thought I could make a life here but I didn't even really try."
She hummed a little. "Why didn't you try, Key?"
I looked around the small apartment and gritted my teeth. "Because as much as I wanted my own life and my independence, as much as I wanted to do something good, when I saw Nassir I realized I didn't want to do it here and I never will. Denver isn't home."
"You can keep your own life and your independence and still love someone as long as it's the right someone, you know?" Her tone was quiet but it was sure and steady. "Hey, I need to go work. One of the girls just tried to go onstage drunk off her ass and that's a big no-no. Call me when you get back to town and let me know if you're going to take Nassir up on his offer."
She was about to hang up when I screamed her name like a crazy person. "What offer?"
"What are you talking about, Key? I really have to go."
"Take Nassir up on what offer, Reeve?"
"The business offer he went to Denver to tell you about. He wasn't just asking you to come home so he could fuck you, though I'm sure that was his primary reason. He's been sinking a ton of money into a new club and he wanted you to be a partial owner
. He knows you have a pretty hefty nest egg stacked away from dancing."
I was so dumbfounded I could barely speak. "A club?"
"Yeah. It's massive and super swanky. It's way too nice for the Point, but people are dying to get in already. He finally decided to open it next week. I think he realized you meant it when you said weren't coming back." She snorted. "Men are dumb."
"What kind of club?" His old club had been part dance club and part fight club. It was seedy and oily. It didn't fit him at all but it generated all kinds of cash, and he was pissed when someone burned it to the ground.
She laughed. "A sex club. What else? I gotta go for real. I miss you, bitch."
"I miss you too." I said it automatically as I hung up. I stared at the glowing screen and couldn't decide if I wanted to laugh or throw the thing across the room.
In my head I heard him as clear as if he had been in the bed next to me . . . "I have a business proposition for you, Key."
His voice, with its faintest hint of an accent as he looked at me with those candy-colored eyes, gave nothing away. Of course, when he offered me something other than sex and physical temptation, it was a chance to get into bed with him in a different way . . . a way that would probably be just as dirty and complicated as the traditional way. Only Nassir would take something people did anyway and charge for it. He was already making money from the strip club and from the working girls he looked out for, so why wouldn't he take that a step further and make money off of people chasing a chance to indulge in their kinky vices. It simply made good business sense.
I scrolled back up to the Ns in my contact list and stared at his name before pulling it up. It took another ten minutes before I could get my hands to stop shaking enough to type out a text message. I couldn't call him. The sound of his voice after what had happened with the guy from the bar tonight would be too much. I would be in my little Honda Civic racing back to the Point and throwing myself at him like a lunatic. I needed to keep the upper hand with him if I was going to go home, if I was going to even consider tying myself to him in any way.
I'm coming home, asshole.
I sent the message off and stared at the phone, expecting an immediate response. Expecting a "good" or an "about time." I got nothing. Zero. Zilch. The screen stared back at me, taunting me in silence for hours. When I couldn't stop hitting the message button to see if anything was there, and as dawn started to cross the sky, I finally gave in to frustration then and threw the thing across the room.
There had been good men and bad men in my past. There had been men I wanted to stay longer than they did and ones I couldn't get rid of fast enough, but in the background there was always Nassir . . . always. I couldn't escape his pull and not even time and distance had done anything to stop the irresistible attraction I felt toward him. I told Reeve he couldn't be the center of my world, but the reality was that he had been the core of everything from the get-go, and all I was doing was orbiting around him. Forever circling and trying to get as close as I could without succumbing to his gravitational pull and colliding into him.