Home > Dignity (The Breaking Point #2)(7)

Dignity (The Breaking Point #2)(7)
Author: Jay Crownover

“I’m hard to kill.” Benny grinned at me and tilted his head slightly so I could see the long, thin scar that ran across the entire width of his neck. It looked like someone had tried to take his cocky head clear off.

Two minutes in his company and I could see why. There was something about him that made me very uneasy. That was also a new emotion. I was big enough and intimidating enough that it was usually the other way around. I was the one who made people uncomfortable, and I typically didn’t give a shit about it.

I rubbed a hand over my short, dark hair and sighed. “I wouldn’t tell Bax that. He’ll see it as a challenge.”

Nassir Gates, my de facto boss, the man who now called the shots in the Point, lifted his hand and gave his dark head a little shake. His voice had the faint trace of an accent. The more time I spent around him and the more I listened to him, I was confident that his original home was somewhere in Israel. I was good with dialects. Hell, I was good with a lot of useless shit that would put a price on my head at a very early age. Nassir never mentioned where he was from, and I never asked, but he slipped into Arabic when he was frustrated or annoyed, which somehow made his quiet, intense anger even more intimidating when it was directed at you.

“Bax doesn’t need to know about this little visit. Neither does Race. That won’t end well . . . for any of us.”

Chuck, Nassir’s head of security and quite possibly his only friend, chuckled from where he had sprawled on my sofa. “Personally, I’d like to see just how creative our boy would get if we let him loose on you, Ben.”

Bax was our boy. All of ours, even though he was only tied directly to Race. Nassir tolerated him since he was Race’s best friend, Chuck considered him one of his flock, and I hesitantly considered the guy a friend. We’d gotten tight when the deep muck of the Point sucked me in, and Bax was the only one who bothered to warn me that struggling only made guys our size sink faster. He was full of good advice when it came to dealing with the shit the Point could throw, and sometimes he seemed just as emotionless and detached as I was. He cared about his girl, his car, his city, and not much else. He was slowly softening toward his older brother and the cop’s growing family, but even that was hit or miss.

Benny flipped Chuck off and watched me warily as I climbed to my feet. Chuck was big; I was bigger. None of the guys filling up my tastefully decorated space were exactly petite, but I had at least a couple of inches and fifty pounds on all of them. Nassir had asked me more than once to bust heads in his underground fight ring. I always told him no, but with Noe missing and nowhere to put the new rage and loathing I was feeling, I was starting to reconsider bloodshed as an outlet. My recently awakened anger was a powerful thing and I had no idea what to do with it.

“You don’t look like a ghost, even if that’s what you are. People are going to notice you and word will get back to Bax and Race.” Logic. I couldn’t escape it even when I wanted to. It was coiled around my brain like a squeezing fist. Race and Nassir might be the shot callers in the Point, but Shane Baxter—Bax, to those in the know—was the Point. All the others might make things happen, but those things didn’t happen unless Bax let them. The Point was all he knew, and the worst part of the city ran through his blood. If he didn’t want Benny back, then Benny wouldn’t be back, and whatever plan Nassir had would go up in a puff of smoke, even if it meant that Noe died.

“Race and Bax are with their women in Colorado for a long weekend. Something happened between the giant and the teenager . . . something . . . not good, I would guess.” The teenager was Race’s fiancée’s little sister, Karsen. The giant was Noah Booker, another bruiser on Nassir’s payroll. There had been something tenuous and unnamed going on for years between the ex-con and the quiet, shy teenager. Race hated it; everyone else was waiting cautiously to see what would happen when the girl hit legal age.

But something went sideways right after her graduation, and Karsen Carter decided to go out-of-state for college after months of declaring that she would never leave the Point. She’d been gone for a couple months and now it was her first winter break. I wasn’t surprised her family was checking up on her. Nassir’s eyes narrowed slightly. “If you ask me, she’s running away and that only makes a predator want to chase, but that’s neither here nor there. We have a small window to work with and we’re wasting time worrying about Benny’s longevity.” Nassir didn’t mind logic, especially when it worked in his favor. His tone was even and steady when he explained why Benny was allowed in the last place he should be.

I narrowed my eyes at Nassir and snapped, “The only person’s longevity I care about is Noe’s. It’s been two weeks, Gates. Fourteen fucking days. I don’t have to tell you what kind of hell she could have endured in that time if she’s still alive.” I already knew that Goddard liked to hurt women and had no qualms about forcing himself on someone who couldn’t fight back. If he did that to Noe, if he let his rich goons defile and degrade her, I was going to take him apart with my bare hands. But I needed to know where she was first, before I could give the fury that was pulsing through me an outlet.

Nassir dipped his chin in acknowledgement. “I am aware that the clock has been ticking every day, Stark. That is why I found Benny.” His gold eyes narrowed and his mouth tightened into a line of annoyance as he muttered, “Men who look like Jonathan Goddard, who bleed blue blood and come from where he comes from, do not do business with men who look like me and come from where I come from. There are some doors that even a shitload of dirty money and well-placed threats cannot open. I could not get inside that gilded cage, but Benny, he’s been sliding into places he doesn’t belong for a very long time.”

I felt my eyes widen as I turned to the quiet, bearded man who was watching me thoughtfully. I could tell he wasn’t sure what to make of me, but I didn’t have time to worry about it. No one was ever really sure if I was friend or foe. That’s what happened when you were dead on the inside, when you were robotic and stiff. The best parts of me were dead and buried with my sister, so I could be either friend or foe, depending on the circumstances. Not that the two were much different. I treated pretty much everyone exactly the same. Like they were an annoyance and a distraction. But I wanted to treat Noe differently.

“You know where she is? Is she okay? What’s he doing to her?” The questions came out rapid fire, each moving me closer to the man in the flashy suit. By the time I was done asking them, I was right up in his face and I had his lapels clasped in each hand. I pulled him up so that he was balanced on his tiptoes. His fingers wrapped around my wrists, the metal of his rings biting into my skin.

“All right genius, if you shake me to death, you aren’t going to get her back, so I need you to take a step in the other direction before you break me.” There was a thread of amusement in his tone, but I could also tell he understood that my panic and my fear were completely new to me, and I had no way to control them. Somewhere along the line, Benny Truman had found someone who forced him to think about things other than himself. He actually gave a shit, and that made a man a little bit unhinged. I assumed that was happening to me.

I let him go with more force than necessary and raked my hands through my hair in aggravation. “Sorry, but like I said, it’s been two fucking weeks. That’s a long time.”

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