“I saved your life…in case you’ve forgotten.” As always, Balto hinted at threats without actually making them.
“And you hurt my sister…in case you’ve forgotten.”
“Trust me,” Balto answered. “I haven’t forgotten.”
There was an enormous period of silence. Neither of the men moved. They probably stared at each other, the testosterone rising in the room like heat to the ceiling.
“Is she here?” Balto asked.
“No.” Case blurted out the lie and seemed convincing.
“She told me she gets a cut of this place. I assumed this was where she would work.”
“You asked if she was here, not if she worked here.” Case continued to let his hatred be known. “And it’s really none of your business where she works. I don’t see why you care anyway. All you care about is money—and there’s a big bag of it right there. Get the fuck out.”
Just listening to this conversation made me uneasy. I imagined the two strong men standing tall and proud. With equal pride, they stared each other down.
Balto spoke again. “How is she?”
“She’s great. Never better.”
Balto was quiet again. “Is she seeing anyone?”
Case didn’t answer. “Get out. I’m done with this conversation.”
“I just want to know if she’s okay—”
“And that’s none of your concern, Balto. You dumped her, so she’s not your problem.”
“Call it what you want. She’s doing great without you. It took a while for her to get there, but she made it. Whether she’s seeing someone or not, she’s in a good place. From now on, we only discuss money. So take your tax and get out of my face.”
Balto grabbed the bag, then his footsteps sounded as he walked out. They grew fainter and fainter until he was gone.
I waited another moment before I returned to the main room. My brother stood next to the table, his arms crossed over his chest. He stared at the hallway where Balto had just disappeared, as if he expected him to reappear any moment.
I slowly came to his side.
“It seems like he’s having second thoughts.”
“Or maybe he just feels guilty.” Balto was a bigger asshole than Lucian ever was.
“I think he was hoping to see you.”
He saw me when I came to his apartment, and he didn’t care at all.
“Asking if you’re seeing someone…seems like he’s jealous.”
“Well, I’m not seeing anyone but a pint of ice cream at night, so there’s nothing to be jealous of.”
He turned to me. “He came here for money, but all he wanted to talk about was you. For a man who doesn’t care, it seems like he cares a lot. It seems like he misses you.”
He didn’t miss me. And I didn’t miss him.
I’d have to make sure to avoid him until I had the baby. He could never know about my pregnancy. It would make everything complicated if he did. I didn’t want him bothering me out of obligation, only in case he wanted to be there.
But that ship had sailed.
Denise brought another drink.
Heath tried to shoo her away. “He’s had enough, Denise.”
“No, he hasn’t.” I snatched the drink from her hand and let the liquid drip down my throat.
She walked away, not caring if I had too much to drink or not. She wouldn’t question me.
When I set the glass down, Heath took it away. “I’m cutting you off.”
“No one cuts me off.”
“There’s a first time for everything.” He swirled my drink before he downed the rest of it, like consuming it himself would ensure I couldn’t get my hands on more liquor. “I’ve never seen you drink like this.”
“I drink like this all the time.”
“Well, you’ve raised the bar.”
My vision was slightly blurry, and I had a hard time focusing my thoughts. “I’m exactly the same. You’re exaggerating.”
“You aren’t exactly the same. Your eyes are fading.” He continued to study me, like he could see other signs of my drunkenness. “I should get you home before the other guys notice. They’ve never seen you drunk. Don’t want tonight to be the first time.”
“I’m not drunk. I don’t get drunk.”
He pulled out his phone and held it so I could see the screen. “Cooperate with me, or I’ll call Cassini.”
I slowly turned to him, provoked by the threat. “And say what?”
“Everything you don’t want me to say.” He continued to hold the phone. “Now, get your ass up and come with me. Call my bluff, and you’ll regret it.”
I sighed to myself and rubbed the migraine at my temple. Alcohol usually stopped my headaches, so I’d obviously drunk too much. Even though my thoughts were cloudy, I knew I had overdone it. I knew I’d been drinking too much every single day. I’d always been a heavy drinker, but these new habits were destroying my liver even more. “Alright. Put your phone away.”
He placed his phone in his pocket. “Let’s go.”
He drove me home then rose in the elevator to my floor. The doors opened, and we both stepped inside.