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Better When He's Bad (Welcome to the Point #1)

By:Jay Crownover

years was a long-ass time to work on an apology. It was just as long to wait for one that was owed, one that when it came, I hoped would be enough to keep me from having to put my hands around my best friend's throat. We both had made some serious mistakes along the way that needed atoning for.

Trouble was, I had no idea where to start. When I went away, he had been enrolled in some Ivy League school out east. I wasn't sure if he made it to that place, I went away so he could, but there were no guarantees in life. I learned that lesson the hard way.

I shook out a smoke from the pack I had snagged from Roxie and dug out the prepaid cell phone I had picked up when I went and got my car. I walked up and around the block to where I had parked the beauty, far away from curious stares and hot hands. I knew what kind of cars thieves looked for and what kind of cars car guys wanted for their own. My bumblebee-yellow-and-black, race-striped, 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner with its tricked-out hemi and hood scoop was both. It was loud. It was tough. It was faster than fast, and it was the only thing I had left after I got locked up. I told my mom to sell it when I went down, but she refused. She knew how much work, how much sweat and tears I had put into that car, so if it meant rent or my baby, my baby won.

I sucked the noxious fumes into my lungs and squinted up at the sky. I would kill for some Tylenol to get rid of the pounding throb in my head, but there were more pressing matters I had to deal with at the moment. Not to mention, a few rounds with Roxie had done nothing to dull the burning want at the back of my throat. I liked girls and girls liked me. When you grew up poor and without any kind of parental supervision, sex was just something you did to kill time and to chase away the monotonous moments of despair and depression. Two people could make each other feel good, so that's what happened more often than it should. I wasn't used to going without . . . well, I was used to it now, but in my old life, getting laid was like breathing. It took no thought and zero effort.




I was tall, well over six feet. I had dark hair and dark eyes that chicks like to tell me made me mysterious. I didn't talk a lot, not unless I had something important to say, which led to my not-unjustified, badass aura. Plus I owned a mirror, so I knew what I had going on was pretty nice to look at. I wouldn't win a modeling contract anytime soon, but the chicks seemed to dig it just the same. Even with the scar across my scalp and my nose being twisted from being broken more than once. But possibly the most noticeable difference between me and every other decent-looking guy floating around was the tattoo of a small black star inked next to the outside corner of my left eye. I thought it was a brilliant idea when I was sixteen and high. Now I still thought it was cool in an intimidating and "I'm crazy enough to tattoo my face" kind of way. Like I said, I looked like a thug, an all-right-looking thug, but a thug nonetheless.

I needed to get a handle on Race and get back into some pretty young thing's bed. Roxie was off the table if she was going to sell me out as soon as I got my rocks off. I never did trust her. She played the role of innocent-girl-next-door too well. Especially since she was as far from innocent as any one person could be. Annoyed at how the first few hours of my freedom were playing out, I put in a call to an old contact.

"Hey."

Silence met my ears from the other end of the call. I tossed the smoke and slid behind the wheel of my car. It felt more like coming home than banging Roxie or knocking Benny around ever could.

"Who is this?" Everyone I knew was a suspicious bastard. That was especially true when the person on the other end of the call happened to be a rather successful drug dealer.

"It's Bax."

"When did you get out?"

"Today."

"Already looking for a score?"

Hell no. Five years without made me never want to mess with any of that stuff again. It made the bad choices I made even worse. If I was going to screw up now, I was going to do it clean and sober.

I told the dealer in a flat tone, "No. I'm looking for Race. I heard he dipped out when I got busted and showed up a little while ago making noise at Novak. No one's seen him. Have you?"

More silence. There was a fifty-fifty shot I was going to get an honest answer. I hoped my reputation still held enough weight to put the fear of God into people. If not, I would just have to go knock some heads together and earn it back.

"No. I tried to hit him up a few times after you got locked up. I thought he would get me into all those college parties and I could split the take with him. He stopped answering my calls."

Good for Race.

"He still at the school?"

"No one knows. I know Novak kept eyes on him after everything went to shit, but then he was just a ghost."

"I need to find him." I made sure the seriousness of the situation was hard in my voice.

There was some muttering on the other end of the phone, and the sound of rustling like he was getting out of bed. Even drug dealers need a good night's sleep, I guess.

"Look, last I heard he was staying with some chick in the Point. A redhead. Benny sent a crew to drag him back to Novak, and he was gone when they got there."

The Point was where I grew up. It was the opposite of the Hill, where Race grew up. I didn't like the sound of that at all.

"A working girl?"

"No. Just some girl. Not a fancy college girl or a skank. Just a girl. Benny's guys scared the crap out of her and that's why Race went postal on Novak. You taught that preppy little shit how to talk tough, and everybody wonders if you taught him how to follow through on it."

I didn't need to teach him. Race was smart. Brains beat brawn any day of the week, plus he actually had stuff to lose. That made a man dangerous. It was a ma

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