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I then get out and go around to pull him out of the car and shove him toward the old bar-turned-warehouse where tonight’s Underground fights will take place.

“You can’t hang out with our fighters, much less with that twisted motherfucker Scorpion,” I growl as C.C. climbs out of the front-passenger seat and follows us. “There’s no such thing as friendship between them and us—only business. Do you understand me, Wyatt?”

“I understand you’re a f**king ass**le, Grey,” he says, wiping blood from his nose.

“I’m not running a grade school here. You either get the gist of things or get off my f**king floor. C.C. won’t be bailing out your ass anymore—nor will I. I’ve got f**king stuff to do.”

“Yeah, why don’t we talk a little bit about that because you’re moodier than a chick with f**king PMS!” He smirks. “So, what’s her f**king name, huh?”

I grab him by the shirt and lift him so our eyes are level, my patience at its limit. “You can’t rough up the police chief’s son over a f**king cockfight! He was drunk, you were drunk, and the Scorpion was stoned out of his mind. We’ve got something much bigger going on here, Wyatt, and you’re going to get us all exposed.” I let go and jerk the door open while Wyatt storms inside.

“Those weren’t even my f**king roosters, I was just helping attach the bladed claws.”

“That’s just sick, Wyatt,” C.C. says as we enter.

“Nobody gives a shit what you think, C.C.,” Wyatt snaps.

I look at my half brother. Banged up. Reckless. Careless. If it weren’t for C.C. bailing his ass out the years I was gone, Wyatt would be either dead or in jail. “I’m so sick of you trying to prove yourself to him,” I tell him with an angry shove. “Now get inside and get to work before our father finds out about this.”

“You won’t tell him?”

I clamp my jaw and shake my head in angry silence. God knows I should. I should tell him. But watching the kind of punishments my father would dole out to him would give me no pleasure.

“Don’t tell the Big E either, bastard hates my guts. Hell, I can’t see why since you’re the one who poked his goddamn eye out.”

We watch him storm away, and C.C. looks at me. “Sorry I called. Figured he needed to get the ultimatum from you or E. But E’s got his hands full with your father as it is.”

I head over to stash the cash from two of my latest marks into the accounting records in the vault, ready to get out of there and work on some of my last targets.

I need the job done, and I needed it done yesterday.

Outside the long hall where we’re set up, the screeching of dragged scaffolding blends with the noise of men working to set up the space. The Underground’s fighting season has started. Two or three fights per week, each week a different location. Before my flight to Portland, home of one of my last targets, I check on the team.

Wyatt is surveying the cameras while a half dozen men set up the fighting ring.

Through the monitors, I see Leon is helping make sure the stands are set.

I can also see Zedd is out by the entrance, making sure the exit doors work.

Harley, he’s eating pizza.

Thomas’s voice is audible down the hall, along with some female voices of a couple of groupies, I suppose.

In one of the biggest rooms, Father sits quietly, all his medical equipment surrounding him. I pause as I walk by. A nurse is feeding him, and he looks slimmer. A slither of remorse hits me as I wonder if this man—a man I saw torture and kill, yet also protect me—is actually dying. I stand by the door and Eric rises. He’s been by my father’s side for days, and he looks beat. “Didn’t expect you here.”

“How is he?”

Why do I f**king ask?

Why do I f**king care?

“Weak. But still hanging on. He really wants to see you succeed,” Eric says.

I feel my jaw muscles work at that, because I don’t want the Underground, I want my mother’s location. But I walk over and say, surprised by the f**king mercy in my voice, mercy he certainly didn’t teach me, “I’m almost done, Father. Only four more and you get every name and what you’re owed. And I’m waiting to hear from my mother most of all.”

He smiles weakly. “This place was your home. We lived like gypsies, but it was your home. My dream is for you to show me . . . you’re man enough to make it yours. Good or bad. You’ve shown me you’re my son . . . but you’re also your mother’s son, aren’t you? Which is why Wyatt doesn’t cut it. Only you do.”

Once again, I see the respect in his eyes, and I grind my molars.

“Good or bad, you’ll get every name on this list scratched off,” I vow.

♥ ♥ ♥

COCKFIGHTS, HANGING OUT with one of our most disreputable, dirtiest fighters, one who’d had Wyatt rough up the police chief’s son? I do not like this side of Wyatt.

My brother is still glaring. Guess we never got along. When I came on board, he was younger and had been my father’s toy until my father decided it was more fun to play with me. If I’d let him break me, maybe he’d have left me alone, but when I didn’t, he grew obsessed. Wyatt doesn’t know how lucky he was—he doesn’t get it.

“Tina stopped by,” he grumbles. “She’s got something for you but she refused to leave it with me.”

“I’ll make contact, but I can’t right now. Do me a favor and make yourself useful.” I want him out doing something, not sulking around here, nursing a grudge. “Book me a meeting with her for this weekend so she can deliver what I need.”

He glares and nods.

I steal a slice of cold pizza from Harley and chomp it down as I make sure Wyatt makes a note of it.

“All right, thanks,” I say, slapping his back. “Put some ice on that.” I signal to his nose.

“Fuck off.”

“Fine, Wyatt, have it your way.”

I slip on my gloves and head to the airport.

One flight later, just as the sun is about to start setting, I hop into the back of a cab while I stare unseeingly out at the street, wondering how my princess is. Suddenly I see an image of my mother being taken, Melanie’s face superimposed, and a new kind of rage simmers in me. I need to get back. I need to finish my marks and get back, soon. Derek is good—he can protect Melanie. But he’s not me. Now Wyatt is asking why the f**k I’m so wired—what her name is? Soon he’ll find out. They’ll all find out.

I pull out two of my phones, add her number to my newest prepaid device, and before I disable the old one, I text her, Got new number. Call you at 9.

Disabling the old phone, I text Derek a numerical code from the new one so that he knows it’s me and I have a new number. He answers with another number. Another code that says everything is good and Melanie is at work.

When the cab drops me off at my location, I ease out, pull the black hoodie over my head, keep my aviators hooked into my collar, and head into the office building. Harley and Wyatt are black-hat hackers. They’ve got me booked on my mark’s appointment list under one of his acquaintance’s names. The marks? They hate when you’re in their homes or their offices. They feel vulnerable and threatened that a man like you would steal into their space.

And that’s what you need to do: you need to make them feel unsafe. Like there’s nowhere to hide from you. No way to escape you because of the f**king money they owe.

I murmur my fake name to the receptionist, get a pass, and slip on my aviators as I head upstairs. I’m aware of the security cameras everywhere. I’m gloved, wearing new sneakers, clean clothes, my body scrubbed dry, my hair protected under my hood; no trace, I’m like a ghost. The key is to keep my head down so no camera can see my face.

Easing out of the elevator, I repeat the name to the tenth-floor secretary. By the time I enter my mark’s sumptuous office, he’s grinning behind the computer, thinking I’m a young college friend of his son who’s going to discuss internship.

He lifts his head and stands. “Daniel,” he explodes in glee, extending his arms.

My hand curls around my SIG. “Sorry, Daniel got caught up. Don’t even try it.” I’ve got my gun aimed straight at his skull. “Trust me, old man. You don’t want to die over this.”

His face paling somewhat, he slowly moves the hand he’d started to dip under the desk back to his side. “Who the f**k are you?”

“Sit down, relax,” I tell the man.

He sits down behind his desk, his back stiff as a board, and I sprawl comfortably before him on one of the two chairs facing him, my gun propped on my knee and aimed right at his heart.

“Who are you?” he asks in a combination of horror and dread.

“Nobody you should be concerned with. But this?” I pull out a copy of a paper with his signature on it and slide it across the desk surface. “This is why I’m here. It’s a paper my employers own. A paper where you promise them, and me, a lot of money. Two hundred grand to be exact. Today I’m collecting. You’ve had two months of warnings, so I hope you’re finally ready to pay.”

The guy goes mute.

He also doesn’t make any quick move to pay.

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