Motherfucker. “On my way.”
“What’s wrong? What happened?” McKenna’s worried gaze met mine.
“Jaxon’s in trouble again. Can you stay here with the boys?”
Her hand flew to her mouth and she nodded.
Adjusting my raging boner, I fled down the stairs.
When Jaxon and I arrived home, I didn’t care that he could hardly walk or see out of eyes nearly swollen shut—I made him march up the stairs to his room. I didn’t want him sleeping on the couch and the sorry sight of him to be the first thing Tucker saw when he woke up in the morning.
“Get to bed. We’ll talk about this in the morning.”
Jaxon huffed. “If I don’t get them their money, there will be nothing to talk about. I’m telling you, man, this crew is ruthless.”
I fisted my hands at my sides, fighting the urge to punch the wall. “We’ll figure it out.” I had no idea how, but of course the responsibility would fall on me.
Apparently we’d made enough of a racket that we’d woken McKenna. She peeked inside the room, gazing in with wide eyes. “Oh God.” Her hand flew to her mouth. “Jax…” She crossed the room and pressed one hand to his cheek. He winced at the contact and she withdrew. “What happened?” A lone tear rolled down her face and I took a deep breath, fighting to calm myself down.
“He was beaten within an inch of his life over a gambling debt. They dropped him off at the emergency room and promised this time was just a warning if he doesn’t pay back what he owes,” I answered for him.
McKenna’s gaze left mine and searched Jaxon’s. He looked guilty. I knew he felt as terrible as he looked, which was the only thing helping me contain my rage.
“Jax…why?” she asked.
“I was trying to help.”
I cursed under my breath and pressed my fingers against my temples.
Jaxon hobbled closer, scowling as he met my gaze. He looked every bit as pissed off as I felt. “I’m not a kid, Knox. I know you’re struggling with the money for Luke’s college, and that shouldn’t be what ruins this for him. Or for you and McKenna. You’re a dick when you get stressed out and you make stupid f**king decisions. You’re happy, like actually happy for the first time in a long time, and Luke…Luke deserves to go to college. I was doing my part. You’re not the only one who can take care of this family.”
“This was your way of taking care of things? Fuck. Next time, get a job. You know, something actually legal that’s not going to end up costing me money to bail your ass out.”
“Don’t be mad at Jax,” McKenna chimed in. “He was trying to help. Even if it wasn’t in the right way, his intentions were in the right place.”
“He’s f**king eighteen years old, McKenna. He’s an adult. He knows better.”
Jaxon collapsed onto his unmade bed, lying back and releasing a heavy sigh. “If I don’t pay them back…”
“I know.” I clenched my jaw. I knew the group of guys he’d bet and lost against. A local street gang of thugs. Even if I didn’t like the idea of caving to their demands, I knew he was right. They wouldn’t stop until they had f**ked us over, and this beating was the tip of the iceberg in terms of what they were capable of. I couldn’t have them going after Luke or Tuck. We needed to take care of this.
“How much do you owe?” McKenna asked, her voice whisper soft.
“Twenty-five thousand,” Jaxon said, not meeting my eyes.
“Fuck, no, McKenna. This isn’t on you to fix.” This was not what I envisioned when I told her she could help Luke.
Luke entered the room and closed the door behind him. “You guys need to lower your voices unless we want to turn this into a family meeting.” He grimaced when he saw Jaxon. “Shit, bro.”
Christ, the last thing we needed was Tucker getting up. Although if I was being honest, I knew Jaxon’s injuries would look worse tomorrow. His eyes were already nearly swollen shut and his lip was busted apart and huge. By morning the bruises would begin to turn purple. He clutched his ribs and toed off his shoes. McKenna knelt beside his bed to help him.
“Everyone out. Jaxon needs his sleep.” Luke and I started for the door when McKenna’s hand flew up, stopping us.
“Wait.” She swallowed and straightened her shoulders. “I have the money. I was going to give it to Luke for college…”
Luke’s gaze flew to hers and a smile blossomed on his mouth.
“But…” she continued. “It sounds like at the moment, making sure Jax doesn’t end up dead is more important.”
Luke’s smile fell and he shot a murderous look at Jaxon. Jax closed his eyes, obviously unable to watch the disappointment looming in Luke’s expression.
“We don’t have health insurance, so this little adventure at the hospital tonight is going to cost us, too,” Luke added.
Shit, he was right. As much as I hated the idea of McKenna bailing us out, I realized we had little choice. I might have been okay with her helping Luke out, giving him money toward his education, but I hated the idea of her throwing away her money toward Jaxon’s criminal enterprises. I would pay her back every penny. And I would make sure Luke still got to go to college too. Somehow.
“We’ll figure this out tomorrow.”
My tone was final and McKenna nodded. I doubted sleep would come tonight, as wound up as I was, but we headed up the stairs and climbed into bed, deafening silence hanging all around us.
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