Focus (Le Corbeau, #1) ✓

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16. Shock

Well, my plan failed. Not only did I record Tony’s partial confession, but there was dirt on me. I couldn’t give this to the Sherriff! Bruce emerged from the changing rooms with a towel slung over his shoulder, exposing his defined upper body and wore gym shorts. I ogled him, forgetting the recorder in my hands but that quickly ended when he frowned at it.

“What’s that?” He asked and I shoved it in my gym bag.

“Nothing,” I smiled and stood, following him to the punching bags. “Am I here to be your cheerleader or are you gonna teach me something?”

He smirked. “Why can’t you do both?”

“I don’t cheer, I’m too morbid for that and growing up, I learned a few things along the way,”

He angled his head to the side, narrowing his eyes, interested. “Your father, right?”

“There were times he would come to me and …” I shrugged. “I’d find ways to dodge his blows, can’t say the same for my ma, though. I tried to help her but he’d hit her when I wasn’t around,”

He cursed under his breath, sucking his lips inward with his jaw tense. He faced the punching bag, slipping on his gloves. Leaning against the wall, I folded my arms, trying to find a way to ask my next question. There was no easier way to say it, so I took the plunge.

“Was your dad abusive?”

Immediately, he punched the bag with so much force, I backed in shock. He sighed, eyeing me apologetically. “No, but there were times I thought he would. His reliance on alcohol was a coping mechanism after my ma left. He was more neglectful,”

“Neglect? Like he didn’t feed you?”

“Yeah, something like that,” His attention never swayed from the punching bag. “He spent so much time drinking. All the responsibility was shifted to me.”

“That’s a burden you weren’t supposed to take. Didn’t anybody help you?”

He shrugged off the years of pent-up resentment. “Yeah, but dad was generous enough to leave some money behind. It was enough to start up the gym and for Salice to go to college,”

“Did the alcohol kill him?”

He sneered grimly. “Drank himself into death’s arms,”

Chills crawled my skin at the truth of his words. I could relate to how I saw Yusuf with his drug overdose. He relied on the drugs to control his mood swings. At times, he confused his outburst with his disorder than the alcohol itself. Perhaps they went hand in hand. Bruce stopped punching, closing the distance as he cupped my face with his glove-covered hands. Nuzzling my nose, he pressed his lips to mine tenderly.

“We’re more alike than you think,”

“Because of our dads?” I inquired.

Slowly, his fingers skated across my collarbone. My body succumbed to the pleasurable sensation coursing through my body. He knew my weakness and he grinned.

“Aside from our similar pasts, personality wise, we’ve got a lot of anger stored inside here,” He pointed at my chest, right on top of my heart. “There are some things we can’t let go of,”

“I did let go when I left,”

“No, you ran instead of confronting what bothered you,”

I never thought of it like that. I believed isolation was best when I spiralled out of control after my father's death. I mean, I put Gladys in the hospital; she was the first person I assaulted so violently and was the last until recently. I ran from it all whilst Bruce confronted it, channelling everything into his fights. In those aspects, we weren’t completely alike. I changed the subject quickly.

“Your sister and I are going clubbing tonight,”

“You don’t drink,” He pointed.

“I don’t need to drink to have a good time,”

“You don’t but it’s not a very popular opinion,” He chuckled, returning to the punching bag.

“I was never popular in the first place,” I lifted my shoulders helplessly. “Are you gonna take Jonah tonight?”

His front pocket vibrated with an incoming call and he dug his cell out and skimmed the text. He dropped it by a nearby bench without explaining what it was about.

“No, I’ve got things to do,” He said distractedly, his brows knitting into a frown.

“Oh, what is it?”

“Business affairs involving the gym,” He answered elusively. “Don’t worry. I’ll see you tonight after you’ve had your fun,”

Getting ready for the nightclub on my own was a one-way ticket to failure. So, I asked Salice to help me and Caitlin with Alice tagging along. Alice and I had a mutual agreement on playing dress up – it wasn’t our thing.

I couldn’t stop staring at the mirror. Caitlin must’ve been my long, lost godmother because I had no idea who the hell I was staring at. My red lips emphasised my stark blonde hair, matching my crimson bodice. I was… hot

“Ken, are you okay?” Salice asked.

“Yeah… I… never knew I could look this good,”

“That’s the power of makeup. Although, it was a hassle to buy your cosmetics,” Caitlin said, turning to her girlfriend with a pout. “You see? McKenna likes it why won’t you try a smudge of foundation?”

Alice crossed her arms. “No, it’s already bad enough I’m wearing heels,”

“Your loss,” She flicked her hair with a huff. “Oh! By the way, my sister is like, dating the bouncer so we’ll get in faster,”

“Sweet,” Salice murmured, glancing at her phone. “Thanks for asking your mom to take care of Jonah tonight. I really needed this,”

“It’s alright,” I waved my hand sheepishly. “She was excited to take care of him. John too,”

I snatched Alice’s car keys from the bedside table, twirling it on my index finger. I didn’t drink so I was the predestined designated driver. “Let’s head out before Alice decides to change into sneakers,”

Her glower was hazardous and we all shuffled out the door to the car in minutes. It was very late in the evening, making the nightclub thirty-minutes away when the road was free of traffic. As promised, the bouncer allowed us to enter the club when he recognised Caitlin. She smiled at him in gratitude.

“Thanks, Viktor,”

“No problem,” He replied gruffly.

The music was so loud, the walls were vibrating. My body pulsed rhythmically to the beat. It was considerately crowded but there was enough space to walk through without any guy ‘accidently’ touching your ass. Salice threw up her hands and shimmed to the music.

“It’s been a while,” She yelled and Caitlin joined in.

I was a fish out of the water, staring at the bar in disinterest then spotted an empty booth across the room. Alice and I took it before anyone else had the chance. I eyed her quizzically.

“I thought you’d want to dance with Caitlyn?”

“I need a couple of drinks to loosen up first,” She winked and waved a waiter over. “What about you?”

“I need to get comfortable with my surroundings first. I loosen up after quick observations,”

“I’ve noticed,” She ordered three shots and went through them all under ten seconds. Scrunching her face, I sensed the alcohol kicking in. “I’m going to dance now. Will you be okay by yourself?”

“Yeah, go have fun,”

Alice slid out of the booth and I sighed, resting my chin on my hands as I observed my surroundings. The walls were blood red, alluding to the gothic vampire vibe. I would say it reflected my dark soul or some shit like that, but recently, it brightened over the last two weeks.

“Un-fucking-believable,” I muttered, slanting on the cool leather of the booth when I recognised a figure a couple feet away from me. He slid into the booth, his grin sharp.

“I’m not too happy to see you too, princess, but I thought to give you a heads up,” Tony tipped his glass in a salute and drank every single last drop of his vodka. “I wasn’t too happy with your decision,”

“You know, your lack of acceptance of the word no is quite frightening,” I arched a perfectly plucked brow. “You’re really starting to tick me off,”

“I have that effect on people. Plus, not many women have said no to me,” Wasn’t he a charmer? He waved for another drink.

“What’s the ‘heads up’?” I swished the can of Fanta, bringing it to my lips.

“I spared your friend’s life and warned you away from a compulsive womanizer… and that makes me mad. Are you stupid?”

His flagrant question flared anger I wasn’t aware was that present that night. I resisted the urge to throw my drink in his face. Considering the amount of money I spent, he wasn’t worth it. Anxiously, he rubbed his cheek with a sardonic smile.

“There are consequences,” He gulped down another glass of vodka. “And you’re going to regret it,”

I sighed in frustration. “Stop talking riddles, Tony, get on with it,”

“What fun would that be?” His sneer formed into a full-blown grin. He released a throaty laugh, or more of a cackle to my ears, resting peacefully on the chair. “I will not give up until you leave with me. It’s only one job I need you for.” He said cajolingly.

“I’m not changing my mind. Find someone else,” My tone was clipped, drawing the finality of our conversation. He gritted his teeth and his right knee jittered impatiently.

“When I see you again, it won’t be in good circumstances.” With ease, he slithered out the booth, tipping a waitress walking by and grabbed another drink. “I would’ve said you looked beautiful. But right now, I feel like being in a dick mood,”

I stared at his retreating form, speechless. His comment was pointless as he did, in the end, manage to compliment my appearance. My chest swelled with pride as I twirled the ends of my hair. Finishing the last few drops of my drink, I left for the dance floor, moving my hips as Havana by Camila Cabello boomed through the speakers. The sultry rhythm inhabited my body and I saw Salice with her mouth wide open, her eyes threatening to pop.

“Shit, Ken, I didn’t know you could dance,” She said with awe.

“She’s going to attract all the sharks if she continues,” Caitlin bumped into me but I was confused.

“Sharks?” I voiced my question.

“Men,” Alice answered, grabbing Caitlin’s waist and they got off the dance floor. And then there were two.

More people filled the dance floor, making it difficult to see Salice. She was off in her own world, blissfully dancing away the stress weighing her down. Then again, she was drunk, which probably made it easier for her to let go. I made sure to keep an eye on her so no creepy guy would try to grope her or pull her aside to a place unknown. A part of my mind was occupied with her that I didn’t consider myself and lurched forward at the unexpected sensation of cool fingers grabbed the nape of my neck. I glanced over my shoulder to see more people dancing. What the hell? I touched my neck, sensing the lingering cool feeling on my skin. I wasn’t only touched but grabbed and I winced as I rolled my neck, relieving some tension. In those short, few seconds, I was uneasy and dancing wasn’t so appealing anymore.

Skimming the crowd for Salice, I made my way off the stage but stopped dead in my tracks, catching someone familiar from a distance. The temperature dropped ten degrees and my blood turned blue in horror.

Between the sea of people, I saw Kane. He sat next to a circular table, talking to someone, a man. I couldn’t see who it was as his back was facing me. Cautiously, as if he could hear me through the booming music, I backed away. I’d recognise him even if he was burned to the bones. His blonde her had specks of faded ginger, accentuating the light glow of tan he possessed but it was so faint, you wouldn’t notice from afar. He was lean, muscular and his charcoal eyes were strange. I thought they were disconnected from the world or humanity since he was a clinical sociopath.

What was he doing here? How the hell did he find Le Corbeau? Tony crossed my mind and I gritted my teeth. He said I’d regret it. Why didn’t I take his words seriously?

Salice appeared next to me, following my gaze. “Oh, it’s Bruce!”

Bruce? Blinking rapidly, I turned my eyes to the man Kane was talking to. I did a double take. The town was small enough I didn’t want to believe the world was as well. What were they talking about? How did they know each other?

Salice tripped over her feet in her drunken stupor. “Let’s say hi!”

“No!” I grabbed her arm, retreating to the exit carefully so she wouldn’t fall face first to the ground. My mind swam with questions dying for answers. But the most persistent was what the fuck? We passed the bouncers and others waiting in line to the car. Foolishly, I tried to open the door and shrieked in frustration, digging into Salice’s purse.

“What about Caitlyn and Alice? We were having so much fun!”

I pressed a button and the car beeped in response. “Get in the car! I’ll call them an Uber,”

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