The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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“Another party?” Madison sighed, laying on the bed staring up at the ceiling. Jase sniggered. He was sat on the desk on his phone.

“You don’t have to come,” he replied.

“I’m not just going to sit up here on my own,” she said. Her eyes went to his bandaged hand. “The dressing on that needs changing.” He looked up, his bottom lip between his teeth and brows furrowed in question. The cut on his hand had escaped his mind. It had been two days since it happened. “It should have been changed yesterday,” Madison continued. He looked down at it.

“You can do it in a minute,” he said.

“I can do it?” Jase smirked, not looking back up from his phone screen.

“You look after me. I look after you, remember?” She rolled her eyes.

“Go and get the first aid kit then and I’ll do it now,” she said. Jase slid off the desk and went to grab the bandages and wipes, sitting on the edge of the bed when he returned. Madison pulled his hand over, unravelling the dressing. He jerked away slightly as she gently wiped at the gash, placing another cotton pad over it and rewrapping it.

“Cheers,” he said, examining the fresh binding.

“Why do you throw so many parties?” she asked. Jase rolled his shoulders.

“Something to do, helps us sell gear quicker, get new customers.”

“I haven’t seen Benny in a while, is he going to be there tonight?” She asked.

“His mum’s ill, he’s just taken a step back for a little while so no, he won’t be there. Why?”

“Because you have to act differently around him,” she replied, picking up her hairbrush and running it through her long waves. Jase hummed in response but didn’t continue the conversation, changing the topic.

“Did you want chicken nuggets for dinner?” He asked, falling back onto the bed. Madison nodded and put her brush down. Jase reached up, playing with the ends of her hair. “Did you want anything with them?”

“Just ketchup.”

“Just ketchup,” he repeated as he got up and left. He’d been softer with her since the night his hand got sliced. Just as Janine had told her, she needed to prove to him that she was worth his time and it seemed she’d done exactly that.

By half ten, the party was in full swing and the girls joined everyone. The boys were in their usual place, at the table. There was no cocaine being passed around this evening, however.

“You not doing anything tonight?” Madison asked as Jase pulled her onto his lap. He shrugged.

“Not really, we’ve got to be on the lookout in case anyone starts with everything that’s going on at the minute. Can never be too careful.” She noted the familiar tin box beside him. He wasn’t doing drugs, but it felt like every ten minutes, someone was buying them.

The atmosphere of the evening was strange, Madison wasn’t feeling like dancing, or moving away from Jase for any amount of time for that matter. She remained sat with him, her head resting on his shoulder as he spoke to Sam, mostly about work. Not in detail, just about jobs they had coming up and such. Madison tuned out for a majority of it. She looked up at him as he spoke. Watching how his lips moved, his smile. His arm was around her, hand resting on the outside of her thigh as he brushed at it rhythmically with his thumb.

After a little while, she got up to use the bathroom, returning and being pulled by Janine to dance with her. Jase had his arms folded, nodding along to whatever Sam was saying. He must have felt Madison’s eyes on him because he looked over, a small smile curved at his lips as he winked at her. She felt herself blush, turning away. It was a subtle reminder that she was safe so long as he was around which was comforting in the house considering all the men had grabby hands.

“I’m getting another drink,” Janine called over the music, leading her out into the kitchen by her hand. As Madison was stood next to Janine in the kitchen whilst she pulled bottles out of the fridge, a pair of arms slivered around her waist. She jumped out of the strangers hold, turning to face them.

“Don’t be coy, sweetheart. I don’t bite,” the guy said. Madison tensed her jaw.

“I do so leave me alone.” His grin widened,

“Maybe I’m into that.” He pulled her closer by the waistband of her jeans. Janine widened her eyes and winced, shaking her head.

“You don’t want to do that,” she said, he scowled at her.

“Who asked for your input?” The girls looked at each other and Janine shrugged, stepping away to go and retrieve Jase. Madison shoved the guy away from her but he grabbed her hands.

“Jase, Madison’s been cornered again,” Janine said, interrupting his conversation. He sighed, putting his beer on the table and getting to his feet. When he walked into the kitchen his eyes immediately zoned in on the guy that had Madison by the throat as she stared him down. She wasn’t struggling.

“What’s going on?” Jase asked. The guy didn’t move, glaring at Madison. His nose was gushing blood.

“She fucking headbutted me,” he growled. Jase looked at Madison. He didn’t look too happy but she was trying to keep herself from gauging the guy’s eyes out so it was currently the least of her worries.

“How come whenever there’s trouble, you’re always at the centre of it?” Jase questioned. She looked up at him. He stared back. The seriousness in his expression faded as fondness pooled in his eyes. Madison smiled, suddenly finding the fact that the man who had her by the throat had no idea who she was and what the rules concerning her were very amusing. “I can’t stay mad at you,” he sighed. The guy looked at Jase, then Madison and back.

“She fucking headbutted me,” he repeated. Jase nodded.

“Yeah, she’s known to do that. Now let her go,” he said calmly. The guy slowly released her and Jase cupped her chin. “You okay?” She nodded, and he turned his attention to the offender. “If you touch her again, I will kill you. This is your only warning. Go clean your nose up before you get blood all over the floor. You,” he pointed at Madison, “get upstairs.” She smirked, looking at the damage she’d done to the man’s nose and sticking her middle finger up at him. He tensed his jaw and went to step forward but Jase placed a hand on his chest as he shook his head, “don’t even think about it. Madison, go on.” She glared at the man as she walked past.

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