The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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Madison looked up when the bedroom door opened, Jase had returned from the hospital, his hand bandaged.

“You were right, I needed stitches,” he muttered, closing the door quietly behind him.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Tired.” He pulled his t-shirt off, leaving it on the desk as he walked round to his side of the bed, picking up his rolling accessories from his bedside cabinet. He looked at her where she was sat cross-legged in the middle of the bed then looked back down to the paper he was pulling from the card packet. “Thanks for reacting so quickly. The others are fucking useless,” he said. Madison shrugged.

“Perks of growing up with a dodgy dad. I got scared of him getting stabbed or shot when I was younger so I researched how to tend to all the wounds.”

“How young?”

“About ten.” He nodded, placing the roach between his lips as he twisted his grinder.

“Sorry you grew up around stuff like that.” His words were sincere. The adrenalin had taken it out of him, causing his movements to be slow and voice gravelly.

“It had its advantages. He taught me how to pick a lock,” Madison replied. Jase raised his brows slightly.

“Yeah, what else did he teach you?” She watched him open the grinder and tap the contents into the paper, tucking the roach in at the end and rolling it up.

“How to hotwire a car, lie to a police officer, read body language - well, the basics. How to load a gun-”

“Your dad taught you to load a gun at ten years old?” he interrupted, Madison frowned,

“Your childhood wasn’t perfect either,” she replied defensively. Jase tilted his head, considering his words before he nodded.

“You’re right. That explains how you knew how to deal with Tommy’s jam. I forgot to ask you about that.” They sat in silence for a few seconds.

“Who do you think did it?” Madison asked. Jase sighed,

“I know who did it. We’re sorting it tomorrow.” Madison rolled her eyes,

“Do you not think you should just leave it now? That could have gone a lot worse, Jase. You’re not bulletproof, or stab proof for that matter.” She nodded at his bandaged hand. Jase smiled sleepily, licking the edge of the paper.

“If I didn’t know any better, Bunny, I’d say you were worried about me.” Madison sucked in her lips and avoided eye contact. He looked at her, his smile fading. What Sam had said about Janine saying Madison didn’t think he was that bad came to mind and he wondered if that still stood. He sighed, lighting the joint and shifting the utensils from his lap to the chest of draws before he sank down. “Save yourself the trouble of worrying about me. Things like this are occupational hazards,” he said, exhaling a thick cloud of smoke. Madison glowered at him. It was inevitable, feeling how she felt considering the amount of time they spent around each other but she hated it.

This wasn’t how she had planned things to go. She hadn’t planned to worry about him.

“You should be more careful,” she murmured, irritation dusting her words. He breathed a short laugh.

“I didn’t go out with the intention of getting stabbed.”

“But you know it’s a possibility. Every time you go outside, you know it’s a possibility,” she replied, looking at her nails as if they were the most interesting thing in the room. The red polish Janine had coated on them had almost completely chipped off. Jase huffed, tipping his head back and staring at the ceiling.

“What am I supposed to do? Sit indoors all the time? Hide from people?” She stared down at him, and he rolled his eyes. “It’s just part of the job Madison. But I’m fine, see, I’m here in one piece.” She didn’t know how to feel. It made her uncomfortable to worry about him. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. It was never supposed to go this far internally. Now she knew why her mum and dad had argued so much. She sniffed and Jase’s brows furrowed as she quickly wiped at her eyes. He sat up, brushing at her tears with his thumb. “Hey, why are you crying?” he asked gently. Madison took a deep breath, looking up.

“When I came downstairs there was just so much blood and I thought it might be worse than it actually was and-” she shook her head. “I just… it was scary. I’ve never seen a stab wound in real life before and no one was doing anything.” This was more like the Madison he knew from when she first came into the house. He smiled, letting himself soften towards her momentarily.

“It’s frightening, I know. You’re probably in shock. That’s why I ended up sending you upstairs when we dealt with Harvey because the idea of something is very different to actually seeing it. But you did good, you were quick to try and stop the bleeding.” She sniffled, nodding.

“You look after me, I’ll look after you. It’s only fair.” Jase closed his eyes, shaking his head a little and holding the joint out to her.

“Have some of that, breathe. Everything’s okay. I’m not dying anytime soon. I’m a big boy, I can handle myself. It’s going to take more than someone slicing my hand to get rid of me.” He brushed her hair back. He wanted to tell himself that he had no idea why he was comforting her but he knew, he knew all too well. And it was only reinforced by his reaction to seeing her cry again. It wasn’t like when he had felt sorry for her being in the house like last time. This time, he felt a strong urge to protect her. It was deep in the pit of his stomach. It wasn’t just the sexual tension or the thrill she gave him, it had become more than that now.

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