I woke up sticky, naked, and sprawled out on the floor. That would have been a promising start on another day, but today it was the fault of another stupid-hot night on the second floor of a house with no air conditioning. I peeled one of my socks off my face, then climbed to my feet and dug around something clean to wear. Someone should clean this mess up.
After throwing something on, I stepped out and walked down the hall to my idiot brother’s room. I checked the door, to find the hair I’d left wedged between it and the frame hadn’t budged an inch. Dammit, Domenic, Nanna’s going to have a heart attack and then kill you. If I don’t do it first.
Shit. I went back to my room, then looked out the window. His truck wasn’t out there, either. Okay, it’s not the end of the world. Not yet. I went straight for my computer next. I closed my eyes and prayed to a God I was certain either didn’t exist, or was an evil bastard. It didn’t take long to find the news on vidme. Gang violence in Raleigh rising. Great, as if this city wasn’t shit enough.
With a click, I got to see a video of over a dozen cop cars surrounding a parking garage. I knew the spot, even been there a couple times when the guys thought they could sneak a party in without anyone noticing. Guy not too far from there had some of the best ex that wasn’t from Heritage. No one smart ever bought their shit anyway; couldn’t be sure they didn’t mix in some freaky poison that gave black people cancer or something. I leaned forward, hoping they didn’t kill my family in a more direct way last night.
“This was the scene downtown last night, where a shootout occured between two as yet unidentified gangs.” The cheerful white bitch sounded like she was announcing the winner of a beauty contest. No doubt, she’d never had to wonder if anyone she gave a fuck about might never come home. “Witnesses claim shooting started only a few minutes after ten, and continued for around five minutes, and ending not long before police arrived.”
While she talked, the camera changed to where ambulances were lined up. Six of them, as well as four SWAT vans, the extra-heavy ones they brought out for Imbued. Rumor had it, they were remote controlled by drivers a hundred miles away, just to block Infiltrators and in case they set off the bombs inside. I couldn’t decide if that was a good sign or a bad one.
“Well, the cops show up.” Now they’d picked out a witness, an old guy who either had a habit or a tapeworm. “Wouldn’t let me git closer, so I watched from there.” He pointed offscreen. “An’ they go in ‘n bring out people. Saw Arclight, with some guy dressed like a fruity angel.”
All I give a shit about. I turned off the computer and rushed for my shower. He’s alive, so I can kill his dumb ass. Washing black-girl hair with one hand is a struggle worthy of its own novel, but I’d had plenty of practice. Later than I’d like, I tromped down the stairs; I only bothered to sneak when I didn’t want to get caught.
“Domenic?” Nanna couldn’t see the stairs from her chair, but she could hear my steps.
“No, Nanna,” he’s off doing stupid hero tricks. “He’s out for a minute, something to do with the job.” I stopped at the base of the stairs to check out the TV, which had some early morning talkshow host interviewing a b-list celebrity about some crappy remake of some 80s movie I’d never seen. The actor was pretty hot, though, so maybe I’d get Ty or somebody to take me this weekend.
“That boy needs to learn to remember he has family to worry about.” Tell me about it. “Well, guess I can’t fault him for working hard.” And here it comes. “When are you going ta git a job?”
“I told you, already, nobody hires gimps.” Not that I tried very hard to find anyone who would. I wasn’t stupid, I planned to milk my broken hand bullshit for all it was worth. I went for the door before Nanna could come up with something else to complain about. “I’mma go do some stuff before it gets too hot.”
I walked for my car as fast as I could, then stopped at the last moment, backed up, and checked the garage door. It was locked, of course, but had it been opened since the last time I checked? If he crashed in the garage, that means that bitch is with him. What’d Nanna call her? A tramp? Nanna had her number from day one.
I should have trusted her instincts, but like a dumbass I jumped in and saved Chloe’s skinny ass, and then for her to turn around and use Dom like that. Fucking bitch. I know, sounds rich coming from me, but at least I had some principles. For one, I gave something more than a smile back to the guys who helped me out, and for another I didn’t use the good ones like Domenic. Plenty of guys out there whose hearts you didn’t have to step all over to get things from, and some who’d deserve it if you did. My brother was different, better, and he didn’t deserve to be played that way.
“Hey, girl, long time no see.” I jumped and spun toward the sound of the voice. She was black, in her twenties, and a couple inches taller than I was. Body and smile to die for, too. “Sorry, didn’t mean to sneak up on you.”
“Oh, hey, yeah, I was just thinkin’ about something.” Who the hell are you and how do I know you? “What’s up?”
“Just wanted to see if Dom was in,” she said. “I was meeting with him and Chloe for lunch.”
Oh, now I know who you are. The other chick who’s going to fuck over my brother’s life. Now that I was paying attention, I noticed she had dirt and leaves on her pants, which I swear were painted on. “I don’t know if he’s home yet.” Bet money he is, though, and you know it. I put on my best smile, the one I knew turned men into blubbering idiots, and leaned against the door. “I was thinkin’ about your offer, by the way. Let’s say you an’ I go for a ride around town, just for fun?”
She looked at me for a moment, as her smile changed just a bit. Her eyes darted to the garage, then back to my face. “Know what? That sounds like fun. I, uh, kinda left my cash at home, though.”
“Call it my treat.” I made sure she was following me as I walked to my car. I threw a bit of extra sway to my step, not that I had any intent of following through. If I’d known the shit Chloe was gonna pull… well, this time I planned to have the upper hand. Maybe I could find some way to save my brother from himself, and I’d start with making nice and milking the new bitch for dirt.
“Cool. I’m kinda new around here, don’t know where to find shit.”
“Well, if you’re a party girl, you’ve come to the right tour guide.” Maybe a hit of something will get her talking, and I know just where to go. A blast of scorching heat hit me when I opened the door to my car. Even though I parked in the shade, the seats were hot enough to hurt. “So how’d you meet Domenic, anyway?”
“Work,” She showed no sign of caring about the heat of the car. “Like I said, I’m new, and I just sorta got wrapped up with Dom and Chloe. I’m kinda the third wheel, y’know?” She smiled at me almost as if she hoped for some sort of sympathy. “Bit of a pity case, you could say.”
Says the bitch who made out with the other bitch on camera. “That’s my brother for you, always there to help the less fortunate.”
“I can see that.” She adjusted her seat while I drove us out on to the road. “I’m not the first stray, huh?”
“Well, you met Chloe,” I said. Granted, she was the only other example I could think of. “Dude’s a bit of a doormat for a pretty face.” I shocked myself by how angry I sounded. Shit, Bea, dial it back before she figures out how much you know. “Well, I mean, he never even tries to get with his projects, y’know?”
“That, I don’t see.” She fidgeted some with her seatbelt, then studied the scenery outside. “Well, the doormat part at least. Domenic’s got more self control than anyone I’ve ever met before. As for getting with projects? Believe me, he gets plenty of action.”
What. Honks behind me warned me I almost drove off the road. “You mean you and he-” eww.
“Me? Nah. I’d be all for it, but he ain’t made a play.” That sounded like the brother I knew, though the idea a ten like her would look his way didn’t jive. Though that costume of his looked like it was designed to seduce women and make men feel inadequate. “But he and Chloe go at it twice a day, three if they get the chance.”
What! I pulled into a gas station, if only so I didn’t crash. “You have to be shittin’ me.”
“No shit.” She shifted some more, then looked out the window. “Sometimes, they forget I’m in the room with them. Talk about super awkward. I’d pry them apart with a crowbar, but I’d break the crowbar.”
“Sorry, gotta top up the tank.” Awkward was hearing how my brother had now apparently hooked up with the dyke. On one hand, at least Domenic was getting something out of this bullshit. On the other, it would be that much harder to keep him from ruining his life. I swiped Chloe’s card through the machine; she never took the card away from me, and spending her money was a fun form of revenge.
Denied? The fuck? I gave it a couple more swipes, then switched to my own debit rather than look stupid. Is that why she’s putting out? Because Daddy cut her off? I am going to destroy that bitch.
I took the time to force myself to smile again before I got back in the car. “Well, turns out I’m broke now, so our date is gonna have to be on the cheap.” I licked my lips that special way that never seemed to fail on men, in hopes it’d work here. “But I know some friends that are cool and owe me a freebie, if you read me.”
She mirrored my gesture by licking her own lips. “Sounds like a good time.” The little smirk and way her eyes narrowed took my move to a whole new level. Damn, I could learn a trick or two from her.
I took her the few blocks to my usual guys while making only small talk about how boring the city was, and how much I was looking forward to winter. I left out school; rule number one of hooking up with older guys, if they were the type of perv who wanted to hear about high school, they’d bring it up. Seemed a good rule to follow here, and she didn’t bring it up.
Romeo and Tyrone were there, laughing at some joke or another. Ty saw my car first, and didn’t look too happy to see me. Fucker’s probably got a girl on the side around here. The only girl there was Monique, who looked even less happy to see me. Yup, that’s a thing, now. Asshole.
I took a breath, then called on my inner blackness before I popped the door. “Hay!” I acted like I didn’t know anything was wrong, and with the swivel of my hips reminded Ty of everything he was missing out running with her instead of me. “Sorry I ain’t been ’round, life ‘n shit, y’know?”
Ro gave me a long stare, but then that was what he always did. I didn’t even know the guy’s real name, he’d just been Romeo for as long as I’d known him, and he earned it by moving on every chick he saw. Almost every last one of them shot him down, but he played the numbers game so hard that he managed to get someone at least twice a week. I thought about flirting a bit, just to make Ty jealous, but he was staring past me.
Oh, right, I brought a friend. “Hey, guys, this is…” shit, I forgot her name. “One of Domenic’s friends.”
“Dayum!” Romeo was already heading toward her like I wasn’t even there. “What’s your name, beautiful? And where does Oreo find a babe like you? Does he do your boyfriend’s homework or some shit?”
“Oh, I’m Tia, and I don’t have a boyfriend.” She didn’t show any sign of being put off by Romeo’s advances. I reached for my cell. Filming her jumping on Ro’s dick wasn’t quite how I planned to get rid of her, but I’d take it. “I’d totally hook up with Dom, though. How do you know him?”
“Let’s not talk about him, baby. I’d much rather talk about us.” Ro stepped just a little closer. “I can be your dom.”
Behind me, Tyrone snickered. Sometimes, I wondered why Ro was even allowed in the crew, when he made an ass of himself like that. Oh well, I’d just have to find a different way to make Tia look bad. I was sure Tia wasn’t her real name, anyway.
“Funny.” Tia stepped forward, more or less rubbing up against Romeo. “I love a good joke. I’ve got one for you. What does a woman have when she’s juggling two balls in one hand?” As she spoke, her hand slid down Ro’s chest.
“I don’t know, maybe you can sh-” Romeo gasped and went rigid, as a squeal left his throat.
Tia had her hand between his legs, and by the looks of it she had him in a death grip. She growled next to his ear. “A man’s undivided attention. Touch me again, and I’ll use my teeth. Now do you promise to be a good boy for mommy?”
Another one?! Son of a bitch! I didn’t look at Ty or Monique, but I bet she was smiling. At this rate, I wouldn’t be able to show my face around here ever again, which freed her up to be alpha around here. I was not looking forward to the crap I’d have to go through to fix this mess.
“Yes!” Ro sounded like he was about to cry.
“Yes, what?” Tia had pushed Romeo up against a wall, and if not for the look on his face, you’d think they were having a wonderful time.
“I promise to be a good boy!” Romeo screamed loud enough that people a block away looked over at us. Tia pushed up harder against him. “Mommy!”
Tia whispered something in Ro’s ear, then let go and walk toward us. Behind her, Romeo just slumped down against the wall, his face blank. Tia didn’t even look back, instead she rubbed up against Tyrone. “So, Bea said something in the car about how you were cool and owed her a freebie?”
Despite being a foot taller and at least twice her weight, Ty kept his hands well away from Tia. “Yeah, got a couple in my pocket.” He fumbled a bit, but pulled out a couple tiny pills for the woman.
“Thank you.” Tia popped them in her mouth, but instead of swallowing she started chewing them. “Mmm, that’s the stuff.” She leaned against the wall of the store. “Y’know, whenever I pull shit like this on Dom, he hits me.” Tyrone and Monique both stepped away from the girl, while none of us quite knew what to make of what she just said about Domenic. “Gets me so fuckin’ wet.”
Christ, Domenic. What have you gotten into?