The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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Hot water ran down Jase’s body, rinsing the blood from his knuckles. They were bust from the last pick up. Frowning at the sharp pain, he turned the shower off and wrapped a towel around his waist. He shaved, letting his body air dry before pulling on a pair of grey joggers.

Madison was still curled up on the bed when he went into the room.

“You still hurting?” he asked, taking his phone from his pocket and sitting at the end of the bed, his back to her.

“I’ve never had this much pain from cramps before,” she mumbled. He chewed the inside of his lip as he messaged Benny to let him know they’d collected all the money.

“We can smoke a joint if you want?” He looked over his shoulder. She hummed in thought.

“Will it make me feel better?” Jase shrugged.

“Only one way to find out,” he said. Madison rolled onto her back.

“Am I going to get an addiction?” she asked. He sniggered, shaking his head as he stood up, walking to his side of the bed and opening a drawer, pulling out his grinder and skins.

“No, I wouldn’t let you become a fiend for anything. It’s just to take the edge off,” he assured.

She watched as he pressed two green nuggets onto the spikes of the grinder. Mindlessly, her eyes drifted to his bare upper half. He was sat with one leg on the bed, with a king skin resting on his knee, the other foot on the floor, side on to Madison.

“Give that a couple of twists,” he said, handing her the grinder. She did as he said. There was something about the way Jase did things, regular things, that made him attractive. Janine was right, he was a good-looking man. It was only now that she was really thinking about it. Jase flicked his lighter, burning away fibres on the ripped card he was using as roach before taking the grinder back and tapping the contents into the paper. That’s when she noticed his knuckles.

“Who pissed you off?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” She nodded at his hand. “Someone didn’t want to pay their tick,” he mumbled, running his tongue along the sticky line on the paper and folding it over.

“What does that mean?” Madison continued. He tapped the joint down on the desk before taking his lighter apart, poking the contents in and twisting the end. He lit it before answering, blowing thick clouds of smoke out and swinging his other leg up on the bed, putting one arm behind his head as he leaned back against the headboard.

“It’s like when people get drugs on loan. They still have to pay for them, just at a later date. Sometimes we have people that do their best to avoid paying it.” He took another drag.

“What do you do?” Madison asked, sitting up and crossing her legs. Jase looked at her from the corner of his eyes, exhaling the smoke through a small gap between his lips slowly. Her wide brown eyes shadowed by dark lashes, gazed at him curiously. She wore a neutral expression, there wasn’t as much sadness today as he’d seen previously.

“Don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answer to, Bunny,” he said, looking away. She sucked in her lower lip and he avoided eye contact. For whatever reason, he didn’t particularly like enlightening Madison about the things he did. She was too nice for her own good, it could possibly even cause her to close off to him and he’d come too far to risk that. There were some things that would not benefit either of them by her knowing about them. After another lungful, he handed the joint over.

The silence they shared was comfortable. Every day he spent with her it was as though the unspoken understanding they had became less threatening. He didn’t feel like they were walking a tight rope so much anymore. They’d built up a rapport. Of course, that was exactly what Jase had intended to do. Though, he hadn’t foreseen himself enjoying her company as much as he was. Not that he’d ever admit it to anyone. Madison handed him back the joint.

“Do you enjoy what you do?” she asked, Jase was staring directly ahead, his vision blurred as he let himself zone out.

“I feel indifferent to it all.” Unsure how to feel and heeding his previous words about not actually wanting to know the answers, she didn’t press on how someone could be so detached from reality. They finished smoking and she looked around.

“Is there a drink in here?”

“I’ll get one,” he replied. Madison sat in her high whilst Jase was gone. Her vision was softer, bones lighter, the weight of the world temporarily lifted from her shoulders. It was almost too easy to see why Jase smoked so much. He returned with two cold bottles, handing the fruity drink to Madison.

“How did I get upstairs the first time I smoked?” she asked once he was sat back down.

“I carried you.”

“Don’t do that.” Jase’s face scrunched up as he looked at her,

“Why?” he asked.

“I’m heavy,” she mumbled, he scoffed.

“Madison, you’re about 5′3 and 120 pounds at most. I can bench more than you.” They stared at each other.

“Go on then,” she said. Jase raised his bottle to his lips, his eyes running over her to see if she was joking.

“What?” Madison shrugged.

“Bench me, if you think you can,” she said. A smile of disbelief stretched across his lips.

“I know I can,” he corrected. She frowned at him.

“I’m not believing it until I see it.” Jase laughed as if it were still a joke but when she didn’t join in, he stopped.

“You’re being serious?” She was too brave to be making jokes like this and he knew he shouldn’t encourage it, but he’d enjoyed seeing her smile last night and it had been a long day. Laughter was a rare occurrence in the house, for obvious reasons - there was nothing to be happy about. He wasn’t about to stub out the atmosphere in the room yet.

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