“I’m gonna go back out and finish my game while you send your e-mail.”
“Sure.” I try to smile, but I know that it’s one that doesn’t meet my eyes. I wiggle the mouse around until the screen lights back up and press reply on Sid’s e-mail.
I don’t want you to think that I haven’t appreciated you or your friendship over the last few years. I also don’t want you to think that I don’t care about you, but I don’t think we have anything else to talk about.
I wish you all the best,
I press send and hope that he understands. I know he may think that he cares about me or wants a relationship with me, but I’ve had a front-row seat to Sid’s dating life over the last few years, and if he really wanted something serious with me, I doubt he would’ve paraded all of those women in front of me.
I close down the computer and yell to Justin as I’m passing the living room that I’m going to get ready for work. He says something back that I don’t really understand due to the loud sounds coming from the TV.
“Fuck, man. Good to see you,” Link says as soon as he spots me when I exit the airport.
I pull him in for a one-armed hug and pat him on the back, and he does the same before we separate. He pops the trunk for his SUV. I toss my duffel bag in and then walk around and climb into the passenger’s seat.
“I wish you were here under different circumstances,” he says, running a hand over his head and using the other to start up the car.
“Me too, brother.” I pull out my phone and see a message from Justin letting me know that he’s at the house and Autumn is home safe from work. I don’t think it’ll be long before she messages me, telling me off about Justin being there.
“The police really wanted to call Autumn, but I told them she’s in Europe and I would get a message to her as soon as possible,” Link says.
“Fuck,” I clip. “I don’t want her to know her place was broken into.”
Yesterday, while I was still wrapped around her in bed, Justin called and woke me up to tell me that Link had been trying to get ahold of me to let me know that Autumn’s condo had been broken into. I didn’t want her to know what was going on, but I needed to see for myself if I could find out what had gone down and if the break-in had anything to do with the shooting at the club.
“Chances are the two things are completely separate. Someone probably noticed that her place has been empty for a while and wanted to see if they could find anything worth pawning,” Link deduces.
Those are my thoughts too, but I’m not going to chance it. I know the local PD is trying to find out what’s going on, but they’re taking way too f**king long. “I’m not leaving this shit to chance. While I’m here, I need to see the tapes from the night of the shooting.”
“They’re at the club,” he says, pulling onto the highway. “Sid’s there tonight. He’ll let you look them over. I figure you can sleep for a while, and then we can head to the club later.”
We drive in silence for a few minutes, and I know that he’s dying to ask about Autumn. I’m just waiting for him to say something, hoping it doesn’t piss me off when he does.
I smirk, looking over at him. “A pain in my ass.”
“She got to you, didn’t she?” he asks softly, tapping his thumbs on the top of the steering wheel.
“Yeah, man.” I shake my head. “She’s not what I expected.”
“She’s thinkin’ about movin’ to Tennessee.”
“I know,” I reply, feeling a hint of jealousy that she talked to Link about it.
“Don’t hurt her, man. She’s a good woman,” he says.
I feel a growl start to vibrate my chest. I know there’s never been anything between them, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t piss me right the f**k off that he feels like he can look out for her.
“Don’t,” I say, hoping he gets it.
“There’s a lot you don’t know.”
“I know she has a sadness inside her that she tries to fight, but it’s so deep that she gets lost in it and has a hard time finding her way out. I know she freaks when she’s tickled and has a hard time letting people in. I know she has a boy she lost, and the loss still haunts her. But I also know that she smells like flowers, loves to be held even if she denies it, is cute as f**k when she’s angry, and is funny as hell when she lets down her walls. I may not know everything, but I know enough that I want to know more,” I tell him, hoping he gets that this isn’t some passing f**k to me.
I also hope that he understands that, yes, he may know more than I do, but she is mine to worry about now. I don’t like explaining myself to people, but I want him to comprehend that she is not a conquest; she is mine, and I take looking out for her very seriously.
“When she’s ready for me to know everything, she will open up to me.”
“Right,” he replies, no sarcasm to be found in his tone.
“Tell me about Sid.” I know that Autumn worked for him, but I don’t know what kind of man he is or if he keeps his business on the up-and-up.
“He’s a good dude. I’ve known him for the last five years. He’s good to the girls at the club, always willing to help them out.” He pauses and takes a breath. “He has a soft spot for Autumn.”
“Have they had a relationship?” I grit out.
“Autumn doesn’t date. Sid’s been tryin’ to get in there for years, but she hasn’t ever clued in or returned any of his feelings.”
That makes me feel somewhat better about meeting him, but it doesn’t mean I want to sit back and have a beer with the guy. “Do you think he was in on what went down?”
“Nah. He wouldn’t put anyone in that kind of danger. He knew three of the men who came into the club for the meeting, but the fourth was not someone he planned for. From what I understand, the fourth man was a guy by the name of Terry Waters. He was the owner of two of the largest strip clubs in Vegas. The police had been working on building a case against him for sex trafficking and prostitution.”
“Jesus.” I shake my head, wondering what the f**k to do with this information.
“They think he was the target,” Link explains, and I see that his knuckles turning white on the steering wheel.