You do realize you’re crazy, right?
At least crazy worked for me. Always had.
“Reese? Are you okay?”
Shit. Poor woman was scared and alone, and now I was growling at her because I’d lost my fucking mind, apparently. I rubbed my chin, thinking quickly. I needed to play things smart, nudge her in the right direction if I wanted to do this right. All Evans really needed was enough rope to hang himself. He’d do the rest for me …
“There’s some truth to what he said,” I said, trying to sound somewhat sane and sympathetic. “Although it’s not exactly a comfort. Is there anything I can do to help?”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “I’ve already talked to all her friends. I can’t imagine where she went.”
“She’s probably holed up with some boy somewhere. Jess is a pretty girl—wouldn’t be hard for her to find someone to take her in.”
“She would’ve told one of her friends, though. None of them have heard from her.”
I sighed, rubbing the bridge of my nose, torn between laughter, frustration, and a hint of crazed exaltation. Christ, but London was naive. No idea how she’d pulled that off at her age, but there was no question the woman was clueless. I wondered if that cluelessness extended to her sexual experience, too. Might be fun to teach her new things. Of course, if she already had some tricks, that’d be nice, too.
“They won’t tell you, honey. They’ll cover for her because that’s what teenage girls do.”
“Maybe most of them, but not Melanie,” London said. “She’s the one Jessica relies on the most, and she’s completely freaked out. Said she got some weird text from her about heading south.”
“What’s down south?”
“Nothing that I can think of,” London said. “I mean, the last time I heard from her mother, she was living near San Diego, but I can’t imagine she’d lift a finger for Jess, let alone invite her to come and stay with her. Amber is a selfish bitch who doesn’t want the men in her life to know she’s old enough to have an adult daughter. Jess doesn’t have the money to get down there anyway.”
“You want me to come over?” I asked her, and in that moment my intentions were almost decent. Didn’t like her being scared, and not even I was such a dick that I’d use her little cousin running away to fuck her. Probably. Maybe.
Who was I kidding? Of course I would.
“So you aren’t alone,” I said. “I have daughters, remember? They’re good kids but sometimes it’s hell—that’s when things are going right. I’ll grab some food and we can hang out for a while, help pass the time. Unless you have other plans?”
“I was planning to pace and look at my phone,” she murmured. “It’s a bad idea, I think.”
“You can pace and look at your phone while we eat. I’ll be over around seven, need to unload my truck and get a shower first. Sound good?”
“I don’t know … I don’t want anything happening between us, Reese. Seriously.”
“I’ll behave,” I told her. Unlikely. “And try calling your cousin, see if she’s heard anything. Never hurts to check.”
“Okay,” she said, sounding defeated.
I hung up and climbed back into the truck, considering the situation. No idea where the kid was, but Nate Evans was sure as hell making things easy for me.
Fuckin’ idiot to leave his woman open and ripe for the taking.
London needed sympathy, someone to take care of her. Dumbass should’ve picked up on that. Of course, Deputy Dick didn’t have a reputation for being the most sensitive of guys. He’d put the pressure on more than one of our dancers during late-night “traffic stops” before we’d come to an understanding about his behavior.
We’d come to an understanding about London, too. Soon.
“All good?” Bolt asked.
“Good enough,” I told him. “Gotta bail on tonight, though. Something came up.”
“Business or pleasure?”
“Both. Stopping by to see London Armstrong.”
Bolt grinned. “I knew you were into her.”
“Not exactly a secret I’m lookin’ to fuck her.”
“That what you’ll be doing tonight? Fuckin’ her?”
I laughed, because I honestly had no idea. Last time I’d felt this way, I’d been eighteen years old and crazy over Heather.
“Depends. She’s havin’ a shitty weekend. Not sure what the best strategy is just yet.”
“Usually your strategy involves getting them naked and then pushing them out the door.”
“The situation with London is a little more complicated than that,” I admitted.
“Is this the point where I sing the little song about Pic and London sittin’ in a tree?”
“Only if you want the tree shoved up your ass.”
“Might be worth it,” Bolt said, his voice sly. I flipped him off, suddenly in a very good mood.
No fool like an old one, I guess, but damned if I didn’t feel like I was eighteen all over again.
“I’m her mother—she belongs with me,” Amber declared, her voice smug with triumph. I’d called her knowing Reese had to be wrong. Jessica would never go to Amber, even if she was furious with me. She knew better … But apparently she didn’t.
Nothing made sense anymore.
“I thought you didn’t want your boyfriend to know you’re old enough to have a grown daughter?”
“He knows I got pregnant young.”
“You got pregnant at twenty-two, not twelve.”
“Did she at least take her health insurance card with her? You have to keep a close eye on her—things can go south so fast. I really think you should send her—”
“Shove it up your ass, Loni,” she said, just like we were in middle school again. I could almost see her rolling her eyes. “I’m sick of your lectures and bullshit. Go back to your boring life cleaning up other people’s shit. I have a maid now, you know. My boyfriend hired her for me. Guess you were wrong about how I’d turn out, hmmm?”
“Can I at least talk to her?”
Instead of replying, Amber hung up. I sighed, studying my phone with mixed emotions. Jess was safe. Somehow she’d gotten a flight down to San Diego, something I would’ve said was impossible. The last time we’d spoken, my cousin made it clear she had no interest in seeing her daughter. None.