The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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A warmth rested on Jase’s chest and across his legs and waist. His fingers mindlessly traced Madison’s bare skin where her t-shirt had ridden up. She was still sleeping, the morning light pouring in through the window, accompanied by a cooling breeze.

Careful not to move his shoulder and disturb her, Jase used his free arm to find his cigarettes, looking around the room as he lit one. A pizza box rested on the desk beside a pile of clothes. Next to him was the lamp, four empty bottles, cigarettes and the grinder and ashtray. Unable to help it, he coughed and Madison stirred.

And then she stiffened.

They weren’t high any more, they couldn’t justify any comfortable behaviour by blaming it on substances. She moved.

“Sorry, I didn’t realise...” she trailed off, unsure of what to say. Jase lifted his arm that had been released from underneath her head, placing it behind his own.

“It’s fine,” he replied, not looking at her as he smoked. Madison took herself to the bathroom, switching the shower on in an attempt to liven herself up. The bed was empty when she came back.

Last night had been so different and for a moment, she’d allowed herself to relax into it. It was almost as if she could still feel Jase’s fingers in her hair, see his smile at the back of her mind, hear him calling her Bunny; a name that had started to grow on her.

But those things were left in the early hours of the morning, only welcome when the world was silent and no one would suspect a thing.

Jase folded the pizza box up, pushing it down in the bin.

“We got anything to do today?” Sam asked, walking over to the fridge and taking a slice of pizza from the plate Jase had just put in there. He’d usually finish it but he wasn’t sure on the texture of a gluten-free base.

“I’ve got to go to pick up from Ramon, other than that, no,” Jase replied, “get me an apple out.” Sam tossed him the fruit.

“How’s Madison after the other night?” Sam’s words were cautious. After how Jase had lashed out on Mike, it was evident Madison was a touchy subject. Going as far as to bottle a punter wasn’t just ‘part of a plan’ but no one in the house was ready for that talk. He shrugged,

“She’s alright. I gave her a Xanax so she could sleep. We haven’t spoken about it since.” Sam grunted,

“I doubt he’ll be showing his face around here anytime soon,” he said. Jase just smirked before he jogged back upstairs, tossing Madison the apple. She caught it mid-air as he was closing the door behind him and leaving her slightly disheartened that he hadn’t offered her any leftover pizza for breakfast instead.

“I’ll be back in a bit. Madison’s door’s unlocked, so you don’t need to let her out to go to the bathroom or anything,” he told Sam as he put his shoes on.

“Is Benny back today?” Sam asked. Jase shook his head,

“Tomorrow.” Once he’d left, Sam headed to Janine’s room. She was still in bed, but awake.

“Was that Jase just leave?” she asked, Sam nodded, placing the plate of left-over pizza on her dresser. She reached over and took a slice, biting in and grimacing, “why is the dough like that?” She tossed it back on to the plate. Sam ignored her.

“I think you were right to question whether Madison likes Jase or not,” he said. Janine sat up, moving her legs so he could sit down at the end of the bed.

“Why do you say that?” Sam looked at her, rolling his eyes,

“Come on. You saw everything I did the other night. That’s not Jase. That’s never been Jase, for as long as we’ve known him.” Janine rubbed her lips together. They were dry and cracked. She reached for the miniature tub of Vaseline, coating them.

“So, what are you saying?” she asked, he sighed, falling backwards and dragging his hands down his face.

“I’m saying he’s in too deep.”

“You think he has a soft spot for her?” she asked. Sam raised his brows.

“Do you?” She looked away, not wanting to say anything that might risk getting Madison into trouble. She rolled her shoulders.

“I think there’s plenty going on that we don’t know about and knowing Jase, he won’t take well to being questioned about it,” Sam groaned, closing his eyes. “But,” Janine continued, “so what if he does? Look at us.”

“Yeah J, look at us.” His words stung. Neither of them were happy about their position, but they did what they could. “You don’t get it. Jase holds this entire thing together. It’s his reputation that allows us to do what we do. It’s bad enough we’ve got McKinney trying to get his foot in the door. We don’t need him getting distracted over a little girl. No one has ever challenged Jase; what he says goes, that’s how it’s always been. Now Madison crops up and there are rumours going around about him losing his grip on everything because of shit that McKinney’s saying. This is bad, really bad.”

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