Home > Dignity (The Breaking Point #2)(4)

Dignity (The Breaking Point #2)(4)
Author: Jay Crownover

Her powerful and paranoid stepfather wanted her back and his dirty secrets buried. He would stop at nothing until he achieved both.

Stark lifted his other eyebrow and raised a finger to push at his glasses as the motion made them slip down the bridge of his nose. “You’re good at making valuable things vanish, so I’m unsure why you are standing at my front door.”

Shit. There was detachment and ice wrapped around every syllable. I swallowed and looked down at the ground. It was time to appeal to that rumored streak of righteousness I’d heard so much about. “Stark, the Mayor has been molesting his underage stepdaughter. For years. She found me. I don’t know how, but she did. She begged me to get her out of the city and as far away from the Hill as she could go. She cried and told me all the things that monster did to her. He knocked her up. She’s just a baby, herself. There was so much wrong with all of it, I had to do what I could to make it right.” I lifted my head and stabbed my fingernails even deeper into my palms so I wouldn’t cry. I refused to show that kind of weakness in front of him. In front of anyone. “He’s been looking for me. He has resources and reach that I can’t outrun. I’m out of places to hide.”

He cocked his head to the side and silently considered me for an annoyingly long moment. When he spoke, his voice still lacked any kind of real emotion or investment. “Why haven’t you done for yourself what you do for everyone else? You could be in the wind, gone, and no one would be able to track you down, not even Jonathan Goddard.” It was a shock to hear him call the bastard Mayor by his given name. I’d taken to thinking of his title as more of a supervillain name, like the Joker, or the Riddler . . . he was the Mayor.

Frustrated, I blew out a breath and tugged on my multi-colored hair. I was used to having it tucked under a beanie or hidden under a ball cap, so the loose strands bugged me. I had to remember how to be a girl half the time. “You’re right. I can go. I could have a new identity, a new name, and place to call home in under five minutes. But why should he be allowed to get away with what he did to Julia? Why should he have the opportunity to do that to any other girl who’s too young and too scared to fight back? Someone needs to stop him. I need to stop him . . . but I can’t do it on my own.” I really couldn’t. The man had too many people on his payroll, too many dirty cops who wouldn’t hesitate to hurt me. I’d spent so many years telling myself I wasn’t scared anymore, that I was the one in control. I hated that it was all slipping away, and once again, I felt trapped. It would have been so easy to send an email blast to the media with the accusations, but with Julia in hiding, there was no proof. I wanted to protect her almost as much as I wanted to stop the Mayor in his tracks. “I need you to help me.”

He was shaking his dark head before I even finished speaking. The tattoos on the sides of his neck flexed as he clenched his jaw, sending a muscle in his cheek twitching. “I learned a long time ago not to pick fights I can’t win.”

I snorted and then slapped a hand over my face to muffle the sound. He watched me as I cleared my throat. I couldn’t stop an eye roll when I muttered drily, “I’m having a hard time picturing any fight you can’t win, Stark.” He was too big, too smart, too shrewd, and too controlled not to come out on top time and time again. He didn’t strike me as a guy who ever lost at anything.

He shook his head again and pushed off the frame, one hand reaching out to grab the edge of the door like he was ready to close it in my face. “I don’t mess with people who have their hands in politics, Noe. It’s a bad idea. They have too much to lose and know how to keep their secrets buried deep. They play by a different set of rules and they don’t share the playbook. They have an army of very rich, very entitled people at their disposal who have too much to lose when they fail. They leave graves all over the place, and they might be just as good as you are at making people disappear. I was dumped in one of their holes when I was stupider and younger. There was no climbing out of it no matter how hard I tried. I barely made it out with my sanity intact, and I have no intention of ever going back. You might as well pack a bag and hit the road before he really gets desperate to find you.”

I knew he had things in his past that built up the enigma of who he was, but I had no idea that they still scared him. He didn’t seem like the type of man who was afraid of anything.

“I can’t let this go. I’m so sick of guys like Goddard thinking they can do whatever they want with no repercussions. Everyone should be held accountable for the bad things they do.”

“When you have money and influence, there’s no need for accountability.” He sounded like he knew that from first-hand experience. I gasped as he fell back a step and started to close the door.

“Wait!” I shoved my battered boot into the swinging door and slapped a hand on the surface as it inched closer to shutting out my last hope and lingering resolve. “That’s it? You’re really going to ignore everything I just told you? You’re going to throw me to the wolves and let a guy like Goddard get away with doing despicable things?” I couldn’t believe it. That’s not who he was rumored to be. He was supposed to fight for the little guy. He was supposed to believe in justice and fairness.

He was a lie.

He frowned at me and looked pointedly at my hand on the door and my foot bracing it open. “I don’t have a dog in this fight, Noe, and I know you’re smart enough to know exactly what you were getting into when you helped that girl ghost out of town. You knew the risk and you took it anyway. You’re a smart girl who made a very dumb choice.”

Of course I did. I was a fucking human being and not a machine like he apparently was. I had a heart. It was a used one, one that didn’t run right half the time, one I had to wind up every single day if I wanted to feel any damn thing, but it was there. Tiny but beating furiously. His seemed to have been replaced by circuit boards and wires somewhere along the way.

I fell back a step and threw my hands up in aggravation. “You’re unbelievable, and not in the way I was hoping you were.” I was no longer impressed . . . I was devastated.

He nodded in agreement, mouth dipped low in a fierce frown. “It’s good not to have expectations. When you do, you’re bound to be disappointed. Keep your head down, Noe. Buy a bus ticket and put the Point in your rearview. You can start over somewhere else. You can get off the streets and do something useful with that big, sexy brain of yours.”

I wanted to tell him to take his advice and stick it so far up his ass he choked on it. I came here for help, not for a lecture on all the ways I’d gone wrong in my life. I was very aware of just how badly I had screwed up, but before I could say anything else, the door was unceremoniously shut in my face. It was a definitive ‘go-away’ and I couldn’t have been more disappointed if I tried. I felt like he sucked all the optimism and confidence out of me, leaving me deflated and empty.

Swearing, I kicked the closed door, taking immense satisfaction in the greasy, black streaks that my boot left on the white surface. I thumped a balled-up fist on the hardwood as well and swallowed hard so the threat of tears wouldn’t spill over. I hated feeling defeated. I was a survivor. I was a fighter and a master at making any situation work for me. Over the years, I’d had no choice. In this moment, his closed door mocking me, I hated that not only did I no longer have the upper hand, but that I was barely holding on as things were spiraling quickly out of control around me.

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