The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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Jase couldn’t stop thinking about the conversation he had had with Madison, although it was brief, he felt like he’d said too much. Telling her why he’d let her go wouldn’t have been such a problem if she hadn’t reacted the way she did. He expected more. Most girls would be flattered that he’d spared them, not Madison, however. She’d already known but wanted him to say it out loud and like a coked-up idiot, he’d quenched her thirst for answers.

Shaking the thought from his head, he remembered the bigger picture. She was softening towards him. How she was looking at his arms last night hadn’t gone amiss. There was at least one thing he knew indefinitely, she found him attractive. This was always something he could play to his advantage.

The men pulled into the pub car park; it was the kind of pub that you got stared at if you weren’t a familiar face. There were six of them in total, three in each Mercedes.

“Are you carrying?” Sam asked Jase who nodded,

“Switch and a handgun, you not bring yours?” Sam shook his head. Jase lit a cigarette, winding his window down halfway as he replied. “There’s a sawn-off under the boot cover,” he said, running his thumb over his stumble as he thought about what he was going to say.

“You going to give him time to consider your offer?” Adam asked from the passenger seat of Callum’s car. Jase nodded,

“Yeah, I don’t expect to get an answer out of him tonight. I’ll let him know the opportunity is there, give him a vague idea of who he’s dealing with and then chip. The only reason you lot are here is in case he does decide to kick up a fuss.” It wasn’t unheard of, unknown faces tried to take on the world with prison rules. You find the biggest, hardest fucker in the business and made them get on their knees. It was rare that it ever got them very far but it was a common enough occurrence that Jase wasn’t going to take the chance.

He flicked his cigarette butt and got out of the car, everyone followed suit. Sam took the sawn-off from him, sliding it through the loop he had sewn into his jacket to conceal the weapon. The aim wasn’t to go in guns blazing, people never responded well to that.

They were just there to talk.

The pub was practically empty except for the six men in the corner of the bar. They were laughing, relaxed, a few of them were even smoking. That was an arrogance that Jase took into account, the thought that they were above the law in such an open manner. He already knew this was going to prove a waste of time.

The guy in the middle, around Jase’s own age, took a long drag on his cigarette as his eyes settled on the unfamiliar faces. Smoke rested in the middle of the room, creating thick fog.

“McKinney?” Jase asked, looking at the men, waiting for an answer. He made sure to exude enough confidence to show them he wasn’t intimidated but kept a relaxed demeanour, hands in pockets, so as not to come across as a direct threat. The body language was read unsurely.

“Who’s asking?” the middle one asked, tilting his head up slightly and peering at Jase down his nose with suspicion. He took another lungful of his cigarette.

“Jase Davies,” he responded, and noted the flicker of recognition appear and disappear in the same second across the man’s face. He had dirty yellowish hair and light blue eyes, but he didn’t look as Jase had expected. Usually, when people were trying to build a reputation, they made sure they dressed the part as well but this guy looked like a regular punter.

Not exactly someone Jase would even want working for them.

“I’ve heard a bit about you, Jase,” Mitch said, purposefully outstretching the cigarette to tap ash by his shoes. Jase ignored the blatant portrayal of disrespect, sticking to his guns about not wanting to cause a scene, “apparently, you’ve got quite the rep around here.”

“I tend not to take too much notice about what others have to say.”

“Even when they’re saying you’ve gone soft?” Jase was careful not to react, he was being sized up and he didn’t appreciate it.

“People like to talk. I wouldn’t take everything you hear as gospel if you want to get anywhere in this business.” There was an underlying warning within his words, and it seemed to amuse Mitch who stubbed his cigarette out.

“This business! I’m going to take a shot in the dark and guess that’s what you’re here about?” Jase smiled,

“At least I know you’re not as dumb as you look then.” There were a few chuckles behind Jase from Sam and the others to which Mitch didn’t take too kindly. Sensitive ego, clearly. His smile faded and he sat on the bar stool behind him. “That is exactly what I’m here for. Word is you’ve been picking up and shipping off girls directly with the Russians rather than going through Ramon.” Mitch shrugged,

“When it’s that easy to make that kind of money, I’d be stupid not to.” Jase shook his head, a menacing smile on his face.

“You’re stepping on toes you don’t want to step on, McKinney. I’m here to offer you a deal. Any girls you get, they get given to Ramon and you get a cut. That’s how things work around here.” Mitch pursed his lips, mulling over Jase’s words. It was a demand toned as an offer, he got the message, but he didn’t like it. He took a mouthful of his beer, wiping the froth with the back of his hand and shaking his head.

“Afraid I can’t do that mate. I’m making too much money out here by myself to be satisfied with being under someone’s thumb so, thank you, but no thank you.” Jase rolled his shoulders, having predicted the rejection.

“I didn’t think you’d be interested. Sorry for intruding on your night fellas. If you change your mind, I’m sure you know where to find us.” With that, he turned, heading for the door, the others in tow.

“What now?” Sam asked, getting in the passenger side of the car.“We send him a little present,” Jase replied casually, turning the key in the ignition.

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