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

By:Jay Crownover

n who had nothing that wouldn't put up a fight.

"How do I find the girl?"

"I dunno, Bax. Google that shit."

I pulled the phone away from my ear and frowned at it. It looked like knocking heads might have to happen after all.

"You better have an address or I suggest you put on some pants. I'll be over there in ten to drag your happy ass on a tour of the city if I can't find the spot on my own."

There was some swearing and some more rustling and I heard a lighter flare up.

"Check the Skylark, that crappy apartment building downtown. I think that's where I heard."

"I'm supposed to just go knock on every door in the middle of the night?" I was getting frustrated and pissed off, and I think he could tell. He really didn't want me to pay him a visit in the middle of the night in the mood I was in.

"There's a diner across the street. Stick your head in there and ask. The chick is a carrot top. Like orange and young. Benny's guys picked her out of a crowd no problem, and you know he doesn't hire the best and brightest."

I snorted in agreement and fired up my baby. God, how I missed that sexy growl.

"I also heard you jacked his face all up."

"He started it."

"Benny's not the type to let something like that go."

"Fuck Benny."

There was a dry laugh on the other end of the phone. "Still think you're the baddest dude on the block? A lot has changed in five years, Bax."

I didn't think the obvious needed an answer, so I hung up and tossed the phone on the seat next to me. I was already in the Point. Roxie lived right downtown, so it only took a couple minutes to find the Skylark and locate the diner. I pulled the Runner into a spot in the parking lot under a light and pulled a beanie on over my shaved head. I got out of the car and looked at a group of kids that had no reason to be out this late in this part of town, other than they were looking for trouble. I gave them all a hard stare, waited until each and every single one of them looked away, and went inside.

I was tired. I had just walked out of the barbed-wire gates of a prison a few hours ago, but it already felt like months. I was just as tired of my life and of myself, but that didn't stop me from having things I needed to take care of. I waited to catch the eye of a harried-looking waitress, and when I did, she gave me a slow once-over and indicated that she would be with me in just a second. Waiting tables sucked. Waiting tables at a greasy spoon in the crap part of town in a place that was open twenty-four hours sucked even worse. I felt bad for her.

"What can I do for you, hon?"

I saw her eyes flick over the bruise that was flowering on the side of my face from Benny's sucker punch and over the blood his uppercut had left on my bottom lip. I'm sure I wasn't a pretty sight at the moment, but she was pleasant all the same.

"I'm looking for a friend."

"A table for two?"

"No. He might've been in here a few times. Big guy. About my height, but skinny. Blond hair, green eyes, looks kinda like he should be modeling for Abercrombie and Fitch. He might've been hanging around with a redhead who lives close by."

She tilted her head to the side and hollered at some drunks who were throwing napkins at each other in a back booth.

"No hot blondes have been in on my watch, but I know a redhead. Dovie Pryce. She's in every morning. We usually grab coffee as I'm getting off my shift. She lives across the way."

"You sure you've never seen my buddy? Word is he might've had a thing with her."

"With Dovie? No way. That girl lives like a nun. Goes to night school, works a full-time job, and a part-time one on the weekends. She doesn't have time for a guy." She slid her gaze back across me. "No matter how cute."

I smiled at her and rubbed a thumb along the line of my jaw. I was going to have a nasty bruise there.

"Are you always so forthcoming with your friends' information?" If so, no wonder Benny's guys had found the redhead so easily.

"No. In fact the last guy who came looking for her found out the hard way. No one wearing a suit around these parts has any kind of good intentions. Our cook is an ex-Marine. I had him handle the last guy."

"You think I have an honest face?" There was no humor in my tone and she got my drift right away.

She just shook her head at me and clicked her tongue. "No, hon, you look like you had a bad day."

I barked out a laugh with zero humor in it. "Believe it or not, today is the best day I've had in a long time."

"Hmm . . ." She ran her eyes over my battered face one last time. "Good luck finding your friend, hon, but leave Dovie alone. She's a good girl who doesn't need your kind of trouble."

"How do you know what kind of trouble I am?"

She waved a hand dismissively in front of me. "I've been around a long time, sweetheart. Any boy with that many secrets in eyes that dark is the worst kind of trouble. The kind you can't ever get out of."

I couldn't argue with her and I had the info I needed for now. I tipped my chin at her and let the grimy glass door swing shut behind me as I walked back to the parking lot. I glanced at the Runner to make sure the kids hadn't touched her and then back at the building that held my prey.

"Hey, man, you got a smoke?"

The biggest of the kids grew some balls and approached me. He was probably all of thirteen years old. Too bad I saw so much of a younger me in him.

"You're too young to smoke."

"Are you shitting me?"

I lifted an eyebrow and he took a step back.

"No, I'm not." I pointed at the Skylark. "You know a redhead that lives there?"

His eyes narrowed at me suspiciously.


" 'Cause I'm asking is why." Little punk. I wondered if I was that annoying when I was running the streets off the leash.

"Will you give me a smoke if I do?"

I fought an eye roll. "Sure, kid."

He grunted and shuffled his worn-out tennis