“Just a quick phone call,” I told him, pushing out the front door and into the parking lot.
The phone rang three times before Jessica picked up.
“Hey, baby, what’s wrong? Do you need to see the doctor? You left without your insurance card, but I can send all the information right now if you need it.”
“No, it’s nothing like that,” she said quickly, and I felt myself unclench a little. “I had a little fever last night, but I think it’s just the flu. I’ve been coughing.”
“Be careful,” I warned her, as if she needed the reminder. She knew darned well—damned well—not to play around with infection. The last time she’d wound up in the ICU for three days on an antibiotic drip, with a surgical follow-up just for fun.
“I am,” she replied hesitantly.
“What is it?” I asked, careful to keep my voice neutral. “You can tell me.”
“I think you might’ve been right about Mom,” she said quietly. “Last night they had a big party. A lot of guys came over and they weren’t very nice.”
“Not nice in what way?”
“Two of them cornered me in the guest house,” she whispered. “I’m not exactly a virgin, but this was different, Loni. I’ve never had anyone treat me like that. They didn’t do too much, but only because I ran off and locked myself in a closet. It was horrible.”
She fell silent. I wanted to demand more information but sensed she was about three seconds away from falling apart completely.
At least she’d called me.
“Do you want to come home?” I asked, forcing my voice to stay calm and steady. “I know we’ve had our differences, but you’ll be safe here. Maybe we can figure out a way for you to live on your own, where you can be independent and safe at the same time.”
She gave a snuffling sob, and I realized she was crying.
“I’m so sorry, Loni,” she whispered. “I didn’t want to believe you. I was really stupid.”
“Let’s not worry about that right now. I can fly down there this afternoon, pick you up, and bring you home.”
“You don’t need to do that,” she said. “But if you buy me a ticket home, I’ll find a way to pay you back. I can get a cab to the airport, I still have a little cash. But not until tomorrow. Mom said she wanted me to go out with her today, shopping or something. She’s going on a trip, I guess. I’d rather leave when she’s not around. I don’t think I can handle a big fight with her—she’s not going to like it. She’s been acting really strange.”
I desperately wanted to leap into full rescue mode but forced myself to back off. Just calling me for help was huge—Jessica didn’t need any more pressure. God, I hated this. All of it.
“Okay. I’ll get you a flight home tomorrow, first thing?”
“Maybe around noon?” she asked quietly. “That would be better. She’ll be gone by then. There are all these guys around here … Some of them have guns, Loni. I think her boyfriend might be a drug dealer or something. He’s really rich, but I can’t figure out how he earns his money.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
“Entirely possible,” I said. “She’s never had the best taste in men. Don’t go asking questions, all right? You don’t want to do anything to catch attention from people like that.”
“Are you mad at me?”
How to answer a question like that?
“I’m more worried about you,” I said finally. “I want you to be safe and happy. You didn’t pick the best way to accomplish that, but I’m incredibly thankful you’re all right. Let’s leave it at that, okay?”
“I love you, Loni.”
“I love you, too, baby. Take care today and text me every couple of hours, got it? Just stay in touch and let me know you’re all right. And keep an eye on the fever, too. If anything feels off, call nine one one and get an ambulance. Don’t worry about the bills or anything. Just take care of yourself.”
“All right,” she whispered. I ended the call and rubbed the back of my neck.
“Fucking great,” I muttered, resisting the urge to throw my phone across the parking lot. I wanted to hit something, or punch a car. Instead I leaned back against the wall, banging my head on it a couple of times, just enough to center myself.
“You doin’ okay?” Gage asked, stepping out the door. His pose was casual, but his eyes were sharp. I shrugged.
“Just the usual,” I said. “Family drama, that kind of thing. Don’t worry—it has nothing to do with the business and won’t impact our ability to perform.”
He nodded slowly, then held the door open for me. I smiled at him and walked through, ready to go inspect the back rooms. I might not be able to control anything else in my life, but I could control cleaning this strip club.
Too bad I’d already cleaned my oven.
Maybe Reese’s oven needed a good scrub? I could go out there later and check … Might as well text him and see if a schedule change would work, because I’d be out at the airport tomorrow afternoon anyway. If he wanted me to come out a second time this week, he’d just have to be flexible.
Family first—even a big, dumbass biker like Reese Hayes would understand that, right?
“Your girl did good today.”
Gage’s words echoed in my head as I drove home. I wasn’t quite sure if London qualified as my girl or not, but I wanted her—and not for a quick fuck. She’d been pretty damned upset yesterday and I couldn’t blame her.
I’d rubbed Sharon in her face like an asshole.
But the thought of London and Evans rolling around naked together had lodged in my head like a virus. I’d wanted to break shit every time I pictured it, and I couldn’t stop picturing it … A little petty revenge had seemed fair at the time, given I’m a fuckwit. Then she announced she’d broken up with him. Blew me away, because apparently London wasn’t the kind of woman to play men off each other. I’d sort of forgotten what that felt like. Now I respected her even more and felt like a tool in comparison. Screwing Sharon had been juvenile and stupid.
London was turning me into a dumbass kid again, and not in a good way. At least it seemed to go both ways—she wasn’t winning any maturity awards for that toilet prank … Laughed my ass off when I finally figured it out, though. Heather used to pull shit like that, too.