The days during the week were beginning to run together like vivid watercolor, and I more or less got caught up in the routine of it. Morning alarm. Coffee. Classes. Studying with Elsie. Monitoring Gio. Dinner with Ryker. Homework. Sleep. Nightmares. Ryker consoling me. And repeat. It was a loop that started fresh at three in the morning. The birds wouldn’t even be out. The moon still shining. I didn’t know whether I liked the routine, but I followed it damn well for Giovanni’s sake. I thought monitoring him would be an around the clock gig. But he didn’t really go anywhere on his own. He mostly stuck close to Ryker, probably at the push of his brother, but he never strayed too far from the group. He had as many parties as the next guy, but he always had them at his apartment instead of going out. Part of me wondered if he knew about the cameras I had set up.
The weekends were just the same. Friday nights at Tony’s for the evening, but we decided leaving earlier would be better at least while we had to be present for football on Saturdays. Sunday’s were spent in Elsie’s company. Leo purring away on my lap. Somehow, Ryker always managed to give me the slip on Friday’s after we would reach home, but I had a plan to see what he was up to. I just had to wait for the right moment. Gio would leave with him and at first, I didn’t think anything of it, but now I was curious.
Elsie and I were becoming closer and closer. I didn’t really mean for it to happen, but she was more than just a cover for information now. We spent most of our free-time together, and her cat, Leo, has a fondness for me. Before I knew it, October was already turning the leaves in the trees. You couldn’t go anywhere without the autumn chill settling in your bones, and less and less students were caught outside without sweaters or coats. The Northeastern corner of our world was a cruel mistress when it came to the cold.
This particular Friday was no exception to the rest as Ryker made the same quiet escape as he always did when he thought I was sleeping, and Giovanni’s front door pinged on my computer. I uncovered myself from my blanket, having chosen to hide being fully clothed in case Ryker ever thought to stop and see if I was actually sleeping or not. I tightened my boot strings and grabbed the keys to my bike, along with my helmet just in case they were leaving campus.
When I made it downstairs, I froze around the corner from hushed voices and peered around the edge, trying to keep quiet to not raise any alarms. Ryker and Giovanni stood in the archway of the entrance, casually talking. Ryker had a set of keys in his hand that he was looping around one finger and I had to physically think back. I had never seen him drive. I didn’t even know he owned a car. I mean it wasn’t that unusual, but it’s been over a month since the semester started and I still hadn’t known that he had a vehicle.
My breath hitched when another familiar face joined them.
My eyes narrowed as I studied the man I didn’t really care for. He was tall, about the same height as Ryker, but his hair was curly and full. It probably hung lower than mine if he took it down, but it was up in its usual bun at the back of his head. He was tan compared to us natives that were born and bred up here. I never really got any information from Elsie other than that she agreed with me that he was a complete douche. It was in the air around him. It demanded obedience and submission. Exactly the type of man I try to stay away from, albeit
They all seemed curiously friendly with one another, so I assumed this was the regular meet up. It was a wonder why Giovanni never mentioned it to me, but as a double-edged sword, he probably didn’t want me to spoil all of his fun. My presence looming over an evening; well, I could see why he wouldn’t. Black would have me gutted if he knew I was letting his youngest son sneak away every weekend right under my very nose.
They all departed together and hopped into a truck. I could only figure that it had to be Abraham’s. Ryker had jumped into the passenger seat. When they slowly made their way to the entrance of the parking lot, I bolted for my bike, throwing my helmet on quickly before my bike purred with life. I took off after them, trying to keep enough distance that they wouldn’t notice me, but I could still keep them in my sights.
We left the university city and made it on a highway. I let a car cut me off and put itself right in between us as not to raise their suspicions. What could they possibly be doing in the middle of the night, leaving the city? I swear, if it was a strip club, I was going to punch Giovanni for wasting my time.
When we finally exited the highway sometime later, I had to try really hard to keep up without getting found out. Abraham was taking short cuts and twists and turns through alleyways I wasn’t familiar with. Hell, I hadn’t even paid any attention to what exit we took or what town we were in. I have no idea why Dominik thought I would make a good bodyguard besides my ability to fight people. I was obviously no super sleuth and I was basically learning everything as I went, but that didn’t seem to affect his decision when he forced me into this position in the first place.
When the dark truck finally pulled over and parked along an abandoned street, I stayed hidden in the alley adjacent to them and hurried to shut my bike down before they got out and could hear the engine. I locked my helmet to her and pocketed my keys, knowing that my usual hook would cause them to jingle too much for my liking. I stayed hidden in the shadows, away from the singular lonely streetlight and watched as they disappeared into a tiny garage.
And then I heard it.
The absolute roar of an engine breathing to life.
It wasn’t a normal purr, but an all-out war cry.
I watched as Abraham used a chain to levy open the garage door and a sleek mustang rumbled out. Ryker was driving. Those are what his keys belonged to. I couldn’t keep my eyes from bugging out as the midnight beauty paused in the middle of the road and he revved the engine, waiting for Abraham to close the door and Gio and him disappeared in the passenger seats. I ran back to my bike, knowing that our travels weren’t over and hurried to catch up with them.
This ride was shorter than the previous one, but I could hear the roars of other engines as the mustang slowed and we approached a hidden alcove between abandoned buildings. I parked my bike away from the crowd, hidden behind a dumpster that reeked of month-old trash; at least no one would come over this way intentionally. The boys already jumped into the crowd and I couldn’t raise myself on my toes high enough to be able to spot them. This was the worst kind of hide and seek. Onlookers were staring at me awkwardly as I pushed through, but I didn’t give them much attention in response.
They weren’t my target.
When I finally found them, I had to take a giant side-step to avoid crashing into Abraham’s back as the merry trio stood side-by-side admiring other cars lined up. I turned away completely and only stayed close enough to overhear their conversation.
“It’s going to be a wild season this year.” Abraham said and I could hear the amusement in his voice.
“So, you’ll let me have a go at it, right, Ryker?” Gio sounded hopeful.
“Nick would have my head on a platter if I let you behind the wheel of Betty. She’s a mean one, and Nick doesn’t believe you’re ready anyway.” Ryker chuckled.
I could hear the shuffle of bodies together and mild laughter. “You’re definitely not ready, Giovanni.” It was the low voice of Nick Black that put me on edge.
“Stop treating me like a kid.” Gio’s temper was flaring and I could only imagine the look on his face.
“You’re still my kid brother whether you like it or not. You’re only here for the show, for now. You need to learn to walk before you can run. So, watch and learn.” Nick spoke with the same authority of his father.
That bothered me for some reason.
I kept my distance from them while they wandered from car to car, looking over the interior’s and the motor’s. They were comfortable here and it seemed harmless enough, but I would be damned if I was going to allow Giovanni to step foot behind the wheel of any of these cars. It would take a special kind of person to not realize what they were doing here. Underground racing. And as far as I knew, it was obviously illegal. But what didn’t make sense was why Nick Black would be out here racing with the others.
Unless Dominik Black had his hand dipped into the racing pool.
Now that made sense.
I honestly shouldn’t be surprised at all.
Dominik Black was a man of means. He dabbled in all forms and works of life; drugs, arms, street fighting, bars, alcohol shipments, and I suppose now, street racing. Apparently, I was late to the party. He had control over so many underground networks, it was hard to keep track of it all. Coast to coast.
Hiding among the crowd was easy enough, choosing random groups of people to stand beside and act interested in their conversations, all the while keeping my steady gaze on Giovanni’s back. When engines started to thunder to life, the crowds shifted to the sides to allow room for racers to line up against one another, one on one. I couldn’t imagine how they were going to race through the tightknit tunnels and alleys of this inner city, but to each their own.
I lost my ward in the shuffle, but didn’t allow myself to panic. The men weren’t going to let him race, and he had been going to these for at least three weeks. If there were a threat, it would have happened sooner than tonight.
I swallowed hard at the thought.
That was the last thing I needed.
Time passed by slowly as each race went on. I could admire some of the flashy colors and under glows, but truthfully, I knew very little about the rules of the road. I pulled my jacket tighter around me to fight off the chill; I could feel my nose getting colder and colder with each passing minute. Fans all around cheered for their favorite drivers, others fighting over lost bets. I took it all in and decided it wasn’t much different than being back at The Scorpion, fighting for a paycheck. I buried my hands in my pockets and just watched, minding my own business, until I could feel someone standing a little too close to my backside.
“Takes someone who has had a rough life to have those sorts of instincts.”
I didn’t grace him with turning around and just continued to watch the show.
“Jaylyn.” He said calmly. “So? What would a girl like you be doing in a place like this?”
“I find it interesting.” Not exactly a lie.
“So, that wasn’t you following me all the way here, then, was it?” I could hear the smirk.
“I don’t believe so.” Definite lie.
“Don’t worry, I didn’t say anything to Ryker or Giovanni.” He stepped forward to my side and looked down at me. “Figured you didn’t want them to know, especially since you had very little input in our earlier conversation.”
“I’m just looking out for Giovanni.” As close to the truth as I could get.
“Yeah.” He chuckled, and it was alarming how close it came to sounding like Ryker. “He said something about you practically being his sister.”
“Oh, he did, did he?” I pursed my lips.
“He mentioned inviting you to these...outings. But Nick assured him it wasn’t necessary, since he and Ryker and even I would be here. He looks up to you to keep him in line.”
“Jaylyn, I know we got off to a rough start.” He didn’t finish the thought.
“We can be friendly with one another if that’s what you’re getting at.” I finished it for him. “But I still don’t like you.”
“Really?” He feigned hurt.
“You’re an ass.”
“We’ve had all of one conversation, which you spent mostly yelling at me, and I’m the ass?” He laughed under his breath. “I don’t know how Gio deals with you.”
“Excuse me?” My eyes narrowed.
“I’m aware of your...position with the Black family. My father works under him. I overhear things.”
“Is this the part where you blackmail me then?” It was snipped.
“Of course not.” He stated firmly. “I’m many things, but suicidal is not one of them. I don’t think Nick is as aware of things as I am, but I’ve chosen to say nothing. If he was meant to know, his father would have told him. And as for Ryker...”
“What about Ryker?” I pressed.
“Nothing. He is clueless.” It seemed like he had meant to say more, but didn’t and it frayed at the edges of my mind.
Normally, under different circumstances, I would have been worried about someone knowing about my job, but with Abraham’s short explanation, it honestly didn’t bother me. I knew and he knew that if he were to try to out me, or jeopardize Giovanni in any way, it would come back on him and his family in ways I could only have nightmares about.
He chose to leave it at that. He only stayed close for couple more single races before someone called out for him to join the line-up. I could finally see Ryker, but he didn’t notice me even from the direction Abraham had come from. My anxiety spiked when I realized Ryker was getting ready to participate. It was one thing to watch strangers, but he wasn’t just a stranger to me anymore.
This was going to be a night spent on the edge of my seat.
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