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Ruin Me, Page 11

Jessica Sorensen

  "Wow, I feel so honored." I manage to crack a small joke.

  "There's my girl," he says with pride.

  My heart leaps in my chest. After telling him what I just did, I'm surprised it can still beat at all. After Mack, it broke, but somehow, Jax has made it feel more whole.

  Chapter Eleven


  We spend most of the next day asking about my mother and Marcus around town. The problem is most of the people who know them aren't the most reliable sources.

  "I feel like I'm on crackhead/prostitute overload." A shiver courses through Clara's body as we sit in the car, eating ice cream and taking a much needed break from our search.

  "I completely agree." I suck the vanilla ice cream off the spoon, noting from my peripheral vision that Clara is observing my every movement.

  "Want to tell me what's on your mind?" I ask, scooping up another spoonful of vanilla goodness.

  She shrugs with her eyes still glued on me. "I was just thinking... about us."

  "How did you go from talking about crackheads and prostitutes to us?"

  "I don't know. I think I've been thinking about us the entire day. My head's only really been half into finding your mom."

  "I wish mine was." I set down the cup of ice cream and lay my arm on the back of her seat. "So, what exactly are you thinking about?"

  She shrugs, stuffing her mouth with a bite of chocolate ice cream. "I was just wondering how things were going to go when we got back home."

  I tangle my fingers through her hair and try not to smile when she doesn't pull away. After she opened up to me last night, she seems to be a bit more affectionate. "That's really up to you. I've always been pretty clear on what I want."

  "But you still want that?" She seems so positive I've somehow changed my mind about wanting her, just because she told me about her family.

  I still can't believe she was so worried over telling me about her mother. That she thought I'd leave her like her ex-boyfriend did. Seriously, what a fucking asshole. Clearly, he's never experienced the pain of life before.

  "Of course I do." I resist an eye roll at her silliness. "I should probably tell you something, though. Something you might freak out over."

  She stirs her ice cream with the spoon, growing anxious. "Okay."

  I cross my fingers she doesn't freak out, but I feel like I need to tell her.

  "I'm going to be living really close to you soon," I divulge then hold my breath and wait for her response.

  "How close?"

  "Right next door close."

  Her brows dip. "You mean..."

  "I mean, I rented a place in your apartment complex. The place right next door to yours, actually."

  Her lips part but no sound comes out. She shovels up a spoonful of ice cream and stuffs it into her mouth.

  "Are you okay?" I slip my fingers from her hair to the back of her neck and trace circles on her skin.

  "I'm fine. I just... you've looked at the place, right? I mean, they're not nice apartments."

  "You've seen where I grew up, right?" I remind her. "And yes, I have looked at the places. They look fine to me. Cheap but livable. And affordable, which is the best part."

  "And right next to where I live." She doesn't sound as upset as I expected her to be.

  "Another added bonus."

  She absentmindedly stirs her ice cream. "When do you move in?"

  "A few weeks after we get back." I move my hand away from her neck to pick up my ice cream cup. "Are you going to be okay with that?"

  She shrugs, licking a drop of ice cream off the spoon. "What would you do if I said I wasn't?" She locks gazes with me. "Would you not move there?"

  I feel like I'm walking into a trap. "I don't know... probably not. There's no place else I can afford, and I'm really ready to move out of Avery's."

  She considers what I've said. "Well, if you need to live there then you need to live there."

  "So, you're okay with me being so close?"

  "I'm sure having you so close will have some perks."

  "Are you being dirty right now?" I question.

  "Maybe," she replies vaguely.

  I smile and relax, feeling a weight lift off my chest. But the pressure builds right back up when I spot one of my mother's old friends, Melinda, ducking behind the ice cream shop.

  "Wait here. I see someone my mom knows," I tell Clara then scramble out of the car and chase after Melinda.

  I hurry around the back of the building and find her leaning against the back door, smoking a joint right out in the open.

  "Hey, baby." She grins when she sees me then adjusts her boobs in her neon pink top. "You looking for a good time?"

  "Melinda, it's me, Jax." When she doesn't seem to recognize me I add, "Jax Hensley."

  "Jax." She smiles genuinely this time as she stands up straight. "Holy shit. How the hell have you been?"

  "Good." I hold my breath as she moves in for a hug and only breathe again when she steps away.

  "What have you been up to?" She pinches the joint between her fingers. "I heard you moved to North Carolina or some shit."

  "Yeah, I'm going to school. So's Avery."

  "Good. It's so good you two got out." She glances at the street at a group of people I'm fairly certain are dealing drugs. "Not a lot of people do."

  "Yeah, I know." I scratch at the back of my neck. "Look, have you by chance seen my mom around? I've been meaning to talk to her."

  She suddenly grows twitchy, scratching her scabbed arms and biting on her dry lips. "Oh honey, I don't think so... Is that why you're here? Are you looking for her?" I nod, and she shakes her head. "Do yourself a favor and go home."

  "I can't until I find her. The last I heard, she was working for this Marcus guy."

  "Go home, Jax." She backs toward the group on the corner of the street. "You'll regret it if you don't."

  I'm not sure if it's a threat or not, but I'm annoyed because I'm pretty certain she probably knows where my mother is and isn't telling me.

  By the time I climb back in the car, I'm stewing in irritation. Another dead end. Another person who doesn't want to tell me anything.

  "I'm guessing that didn't go very well," Clara says when she catches a glimpse of my face.

  I shake my head and rev up the engine. "Nope. This place is driving me crazy."

  "You look like maybe you could use a nap." Clara collects a napkin from the glove box and cleans the sticky ice cream off her fingers. "You even have dark circles under your eyes." She balls the napkin up and stuffs it in the cup holder.

  "Is that your not so subtle way of telling me I look like shit?" I twist around in the seat to look out the rear window while I back out of the parking space.

  "No, that was my unsubtle way of saying maybe we should go back to the motel and get some rest. It's been a long day." She checks her messages on her phone, something I've noticed she does a lot. Maybe because she worries about her mother.

  I tap on the brakes and shift into first gear. "It's only five o'clock, though. We still have a lot of daylight left."

  "How about this." She tugs an elastic band out of her hair and runs her finger through the braid. "We go back for like an hour and take a nap? Then we can come back out. The sun will still be up." She peers up at the crystal blue sky. "The sun stays up freakishly late here."

  "Only in the summer." The tires skid as I pull out onto the street. "In the winter, it seems dark twenty-four-seven--" My foot slams down on the brakes as a man skitters out into the road. "Holy fucking shit." I breathe with wide eyes as we miss hitting him by an inch.

  The man is dressed in rags, his shoes have holes in the soles, and his overly long beard and hair are matted with dirt and God knows what else.

  Instead of hurrying out of the street, he rounds to the driver side of the Jeep and raps on the window. "Hey, can you spare some change? I'm in a real bad place, man, and I'd greatly appreciate it."

  A beat skips by as I slowly realize who th
e man hidden underneath the beard and baggy clothes is.

  "Lester?" My hands stiffen on the wheel at the sight of the man who was one of the main causes for me moving to North Carolina. He was my mother's husband at the time. He'd tried to beat my mother one night for no reason other than he was trippin' balls. When I'd stepped in, he'd come at me swinging, and I'd swung back.

  "Who's Lester?" Clara hisses under her breath. "That name sounds familiar."

  "The man I got into the fight with... the one I told you about."

  Her lips form an O. "Maybe we should just go."

  We probably should, but Lester did a lot of messed up shit to me when I was younger and I couldn't defend myself. Seeing him now, at such a low point in his life, I want to witness his suffering for a little longer. That might make me a really shitty person, but I can't help how I feel. The man caused me a lot of pain, broken bones, bruises. He had this thing with beating me with a belt too, which not only hurt but was humiliating since I was fifteen years old. He also mentally fucked me up, always telling me what a useless piece of shit I was.

  Lester tilts his head to the side as he studies me through the glass. "Jax Hensley?" He lets out a nervous laugh, itching at the backs of his hands. "I thought you moved or some shit."

  "I did," I reply tightly. "I'm just looking for my mother. Have you seen her?" I hate asking him--hate him--but he might know where she is.

  His eyelids lower as he stares at me. "That all depends."

  I resist an eye roll. "How much do you want?"

  He leans up to the window and fogs up the glass with his breathing. "How much you got?"

  "Not a lot."

  "How about fifty bucks."

  I shake my head. "Twenty."

  "Twenty-five." He makes a grabby hand. "Yeah, twenty-five will get me a lot."

  I remove my wallet from my pocket and grab twenty-five dollars.

  "Are you sure you want to do that?" Clara whispers so Lester won't hear her. "He doesn't look very reliable."

  "Yeah, but the two of them hang out with the same crowd so he could know where she is." I roll the window down, and the stench of garbage mixed with smoke and booze whisks inside the cab. I'm fairly positive he is the culprit of the stench.

  "Thanks, Jax." He steals the money from my hands, his bloodshot eyes lighting up like a kid opening presents on Christmas morning.

  "Tell me what you know, or I'll take it back," I warn, pulling the emergency brake.

  He stuffs the cash into the pocket of his oversized coat then glances up and down the road before shuffling closer. "The last I heard, she was with that Marcus guy everyone's been talking about."

  "Yeah, so I've heard."

  He lowers his voice. "He's not someone you want to piss off, you know."

  "And my mother pissed him off."

  His shifty gaze darts to a car driving by in the lane next to us. "You know how your mother gets. She's always thinking about herself. That kind of attitude is what gets people into trouble with big shots like Marcus." He rests his arms on the windowsill and leans in. "He even has his own bodyguards and everything."

  I trap my breath in my lungs as the stench of him stings my nostrils. "Do you know where I can find this Marcus?"

  "If I did, I wouldn't tell you," he says. "You don't want to mess around with him."

  "Let's not stand here and pretend you actually give as shit about me." I flex my fingers as my jaw ticks. "How much more do you want?"

  His eyes drift to the sky as he considers it. "Fifteen."



  Shaking my head, I snatch a ten and two ones from my wallet, and chuck the money at him. "Now where can I find this Marcus?" I ask Lester as he scrambles to collect the money as it gets blown away by the wind.

  "There's a club called Neon Madness. It's down in the main center of town." He catches the bills in his greedy little hands. "Go tomorrow, though. He's more likely to show up on a Friday night."

  "Neon Madness," I mutter under my breath as I roll the window back up. Then I unlock the emergency brake, press on the gas, and drive forward. "That must be a new place."

  "You think he was telling the truth?" Clara asks, side braiding her hair. "He seemed kind of shady."

  "He seemed like a meth head, which is what he is."

  "Hey, are you okay? I mean, it had to be hard seeing him."

  "I'm fine," I lie then sigh exhaustedly. "I'm just ready to go home. That's all."

  "Is there anything I can do to help?" She ties a band around her hair, securing the braid in place.

  "I can think of a few things you can do when we get back to the room that might cheer me up." I wiggle my brows suggestively.

  But truth is, after seeing Lester--after being reminded of my past and the pain he caused me--I'd rather her just hold me.

  Chapter Twelve


  Jax looks so sad after talking to Lester, and I want nothing more than to make him feel better. After I told him about my mother and my life, he was so understanding and made me feel at ease. I need to return the favor, which is exactly what I do when we get back to the motel.

  "I was thinking we could eat at this restaurant tonight," Jax says, shutting the motel room door. "It's not fancy or anything, but I'm getting burnt out on hamburgers and fries."

  I drop my purse on a table near the window. "Me too."

  "So it's a date then." He skims the screen of his phone before setting it down on the nightstand. Then he removes the ring from his finger and the wallet from his pocket and places them beside the phone.

  "It can be a date on one condition." I sink into a chair and slump back, worn out. While there have been good times on this trip, it's also been mentally draining.

  I almost can't wait to get home, back to my crazy world. I miss my mom. Nelli. I miss the warmth of my home. Funny, it took leaving and seeing such an ugly side of life to appreciate my world.

  "Bargaining time." Jax lies down on the mattress and stretches out his arms. His shirt rides up, and I get an eyeful of the lean muscles carving his stomach. "My favorite time of the day."

  "Mine too," I agree distractedly, gawking at him like he's delicious candy I want to take a bite out of.

  "Are you enjoying yourself?" he asks haughtily, raising the hem of his shirt higher.

  I could try to pretend I wasn't just eye fucking his body, but at this point the effort would be worthless. I'm pretty much drooling.

  "So, the bargain." I artlessly change the subject, leaning over to unbuckle my sandals. "I'll go to the restaurant with you and even let you call it a date, just as long as you'll let me pay for dinner."

  "Fuck no. I'm too much of a gentlemen to let you do that," he says, offended. When I give him a really look, he rolls over onto his stomach. "Are you saying I'm not a gentleman?"

  I wiggle my foot out of the sandal then move to unbuckle the other. "A gentleman would never say ninety percent of the stuff that comes out of your mouth."

  His jaw drops, and he mockingly places his hand over his mouth. "I can't believe you just said that to me. After all the door opening I've done for you. I even let you violate me when you insisted you had to be the boss. Some of the stuff you did made me feel so dirty."

  I stare blankly at him, racking my brain for a comeback. Laughter overcomes me, though, and my head falls forward as I bust up laughing. "Sometimes... I can't even..." After the hilarity settles, I wipe the happy tears from my eyes and raise my head back up. He's grinning at me from the bed, totally pleased with himself. "Gentleman or not, I still want to pay for dinner." After him forking out money to Lester, it's the least I can do.

  "I don't want you to do that." He straightens his arms, pushes up from the bed, and sits up. "I know you're struggling financially."

  "We both are," I remind him, slipping my foot out of my sandal.

  "Yeah, but," he hesitates, "you have your mom to take care of."

  "I know I do." It's strange talking about my mother
with him. It's been so long since I've discussed her situation with anyone besides Nelli. "But let me just pay this one time." I rise from the chair and move toward the bed. "You've paid for pretty much everything on this trip." I slide my knees onto the bed and kneel in front of him, wanting to tear his clothes off.

  His hands find my waist, and he pulls me onto his lap. "You have a very unlady-like look in your eyes right now."

  I clasp onto his shoulders. "So what? I never claimed to be a lady."

  "I know. I'm glad you're not. I'm too naughty to be with a lady."

  A quiet giggle escapes my lips. It's been a long time since I've been this relaxed and at ease.