Page 21

She smiled at me and it lit her up from the inside out. She was a pretty woman normally, but now she was remarkable. She knew exactly what winning in this place looked like. "I missed you too."
I huffed out a sigh and fished my phone out of my bag as it pinged with a text message. I couldn't stop the shiver and warm glide across my skin when I saw Nassir's name in the box. I popped the message open.
Chuck is coming to get you and bring you to my house.
It was so like him. He didn't ask if I had other plans, if I was busy, if I needed anything. He just issued commands and orders, expecting his edicts to be blindly followed. I wanted to defy him and I would have, but unfortunately all I had with me were the essentials in the bag at my feet and no other prospects for shelter for the night.
Fine. I'm at the Empire.
Not even two seconds passed before my phone dinged again.
I know where you are. I always have.
That shiver turned into a mini earthquake that raced across my soul. I wanted to feel invaded, violated, but I also didn't. Even when they scared me, having those bronze eyes on me always made me feel safe and protected. I knew the Point was my playground because Nassir made it possible for me to play unfettered and unafraid. He was most definitely my devil, but he was also my guardian angel.
I put the phone away and told Reeve that Chuck was on his way. She had me help her back to her feet and we went back into the club. The dancer that was on the stage was doing her routine to something bluesy and slow, which was a nice change of pace from the typical electronic beats that filled the space. She was also completely naked and contorted in a way that made me a little bit envious. There was a field of green bills on the stage, an obvious reward for her impressive performance.
The big guy with the scar came over and tapped Reeve on the shoulder. He muttered something about a high roller getting too close to one of the girls in one of the private back rooms, so she squeezed me hard and told me to keep her updated. I nodded my agreement and kept my eyes locked on the girl onstage until a light touch landed on my shoulder. I would've jumped but I had spent so many years with Chuck watching my back that I would never miss his woodsy and fresh scent or his own special way of handling me. He was soft with me, gentle even. Maybe the only man that had offered me that in my entire life.
"The boss sent me to snatch you up. You sure playing house with him is a good idea, little girl?"
I hooked my arm through his and let him guide me out the door.
"It's the worst idea ever, but this has been a storm brewing for too long and the clouds can't handle the weight anymore. It's time for a downpour."
He huffed out a breath and took me to a huge black SUV that had windows tinted so dark they were almost impossible to see into or out of.
"You think you can handle the flood?"
"I can't be away from him and I can't live a life where I'm nothing more than his pretty bauble. Something has to give, Chuck. There has to be more than desire and denial between the two of us."
Chuck pulled open the door, but before I could climb up into the tall vehicle, he bent his head and brushed his lips across my forehead. I closed my eyes and let my forehead fall so that it rested in the center of his beefy chest.
"I would never bet against, Nassir . I've seen what the man can do and have watched him systematically rebuild this city on the bones of what Novak left behind. In this case, all my money is on you, little girl. You have always been scrappy and determined. You have bested him like no one else ever has. You keep him in check."
I pulled back with a laugh and lifted up on my toes so that I could kiss him on his cheek. "Your faith in me is greatly appreciated and grossly inflated, old man."
I hopped up into the seat as he swung the door closed and walked around to the driver's side of the vehicle. He got in with much less effort and wheeled us out of the parking lot. We made small talk on the way out of the city. Leave it to Nassir to build a kingdom in the gutter and not want to lay his head there. At first I thought we were headed to the affluent part of the city, simply called the Hill, but Chuck kept going past the burbs and past the Hill right out of town, toward the foothills that rested on the outskirts of the city. I asked him a few times where exactly we were headed but he just kept rambling about the new club, about what an amazing job Reeve had done with the place, and he even had heaps of praise to lay on Booker. I was shocked he wasn't sad to see his old position turned over to someone so much younger and someone obviously so much rougher than he had ever been. He kept up a steady stream of conversation until we suddenly stopped at a massive wrought-iron gate that looked like it had been carved into the side of the mountain.
I was struck speechless as a man in an all-black uniform armed with an assault rifle stepped out of someplace I didn't see and waited while Chuck rolled down the window. The guard and Chuck knocked fists like guys did and the other man's gaze flicked to me.
"Go ahead and head up. The boss just showed up a few minutes ago."
The window rolled back up and Chuck looked at me out of the corner of his eye as I sputtered, "He has armed guards watching his house?" Jesus, he really was like a Bond villain or something.
"You're surprised? Nassir has made a lot of enemies over the years and you would be shocked how many have nothing to do with his business in the city. He's earned a lot but he's taken even more. Armed guards at the gate are the least of the security measures he has around this place."
Another one that was obvious was the long, winding drive that led up to the house. It had to be at least a couple miles long, and even out of the darkened windows all I could see was a dense grouping of trees and foliage. It looked imposing and impenetrable. Nassir had gone and built himself a castle deep within the goddamn woods. It was unbelievable.
Once we rolled to a stop in front of the house, I was again surprised at what waited for me. I was expecting something modern, some kind of fortress of glass and steel hewn into the mountainside. I was expecting a monolith that proclaimed expense and extravagance . . . instead, what was waiting for me was a log cabin. Well, not a cabin exactly, but if there was such a thing as a log mansion, then that's what greeted me as I swung my legs out of the car.
It was sprawling, rustic, and blended into the forested setting perfectly. "Nassir does not live in a log house, Chuck." Disbelief was thick in my voice.

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