Rough Hard Fierce (Chicago Underground Boxed Set)(118)

By: Skye Warren


I’d wanted to know more about Colin’s past. I’d wished he would tell me, but it was clear that never would have happened. Bad enough that he was naturally taciturn, but telling something like this, it was impossible. There would be no way to explain the quiet horror of that place, the matter-of-fact evil of that woman, or the brokenness of his family.

But even as I ached for the boy-Colin, I worried over the man-Colin. She’d hit a little too close to home, that woman, with all her talk of paying me off. Not just that he’d done it before, but that he seemed to be doing it now. After all, he’d said I could stay in the house, that he didn’t want me to go.

I’d hoped it was because he’d meant to come back, but he’d offered her a house too. He felt some obligation to her for raising him. That was so like him. Did he also feel an obligation to me? Is that why he wanted me to keep living there?

He would pay the bills or send me money. I would live in his house but never see him. Did he think I would sit meekly in his house, growing old and crazy?

Like hell.

I picked up the phone and dialed. “Rose? It’s Allie. I need your help.”

Chapter Thirteen

I stumbled in my too-high heels as I wove my way to the bar. The thin fabric did little to shield my body from the dancers around me. Plus, it itched. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find I’d broken out in hives from the stretchy synthetic stuff.

I’d even filled out a little, eating real meals instead of Bailey’s leftovers. I’d plumped up too, in places that attracted attention from the men I passed.

The stools were full, so I shuffled to the side to wait for my drink. Too far over and I’d get groped. On the other side the bar was crusted with black stuff I didn’t want to speculate about. It was like one of those medieval torture chambers where the person had to stand in the middle or fall on spikes.

I wouldn’t leave, of course. My purpose was too important.

Between the strobing lights and grind of bodies, I’d never find him. He would already be here. What if he didn’t come at all?

He had to.

“Hey, sweetheart,” a low voice said. My heart thumped, and I turned. It wasn’t him.

This guy wore a wifebeater and hair spiked into a Mohawk. I hadn’t even known that was in style. I was too old for this scene, though that had little to do with the pitter-patter of the calendar. I’d grown into a woman, or at least my own version of that ideal. I had a ways to go, but I had the time to do it in. And hope. I had hope now.

“I’m waiting for someone,” I said.

He smiled, flashing white teeth. “I can be your someone.”

Ugh, what did I expect at a bar?

“Sorry,” I said. And I was. There wasn’t anything wrong with him. He was the kind of guy I could date, but there wasn’t any chance of that.

He melted back into the throng of dancers.

A space opened at the bar, so I sat down. The bartender slid me my drink.

At least the alcohol was the same. Watery, the way I liked it. I never wanted to be out of control, never again.

A hand closed around my arm, and I jumped. The briefest of flashbacks assailed me, of another man grabbing me from behind at this bar, but it faded as I turned to Colin.

He’d come! His familiar face drowned out the rest of the club.

It had been a test, I saw now. Not that I’d wanted to hurt him or stick it to him, but I had to know how he felt about me. If he could let me come here to sleep with another guy, coupled with the fact that he’d moved out, I’d have to assume he really didn’t want me. And then I’d have to move out, because I couldn’t remain a squatter in his house.

Rose had done her part and told Colin that I was back on the prowl, heading to the club to pick up some random guy for rough sex. I’d played my part, but I wouldn’t have followed through. If Colin hadn’t shown up, I definitely wouldn’t have had sex with any of these guys.

But he’d come, looking angry and fierce and everything perfect.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he raged. “You’re leaving. Now!”

“Thank God,” I said. “Let’s go.”

I hopped off the stool and grabbed his hand, then beelined for the exit, practically shoving people out of my way in my haste. Once outside I put my hand against the brick wall and sucked in air, but it stank. We needed to get away from here.