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Ride Steady


PAGE 59


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That did suck.

"Next day, you're off?" he asked. I nodded, my forehead moving on his chest then I tipped my head back and caught his eyes. "You want, we'll do something."

"I want," I said quietly.

He wanted it too. He didn't lock that away behind his eyes. He gave it right to me.

And it felt like a gift.

He leaned in, touched his lips to my nose, my mouth, then he shifted and slid them along my cheek to my jaw.

He settled back beside me and caught my eyes.

"Now, I gotta go home, Carrie."

Bummer.

"All right."

He gave me a squeeze, and before I wanted it (way before) we were off the couch and on our feet. He took my hand and did the getting his jacket and going to the door taking me with him drill.

He cupped my cheek, brushed his lips to mine, and gave me his, "Later," but this time, he added, "I'll check in tomorrow."

"Okay."

"'Night, babe."

"'Night, sweetheart."

His face got soft before he moved into the walkway and out of sight.

I sighed, closed the door and put my back to it.

I wondered what his plans were the next night.

Then I decided to ask when he checked in the next day.

After that, I went to my room, took off my ruffly blouse and my jeans, hit the bathroom, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and went to bed.

I lay in the massive king with its gazillion thread count sheets thinking, without the promise of Joker being part of my day, I didn't have as much to look forward to tomorrow.

I still looked forward to tomorrow.

And especially the next day.

But mostly the night next week where I got to dress up, have dinner with Joker...

Then get what I need.

Chapter Twelve

Chaos Is Pussy

Joker

THE NEXT MORNING, Joker stood at the sink in the small bathroom that was attached to his room at the Compound and looked at himself in the mirror.

He'd fucked up, and if he didn't sort it out soon, he knew he'd be fucked.

There was no doubt Carissa liked him. There was no doubt what they had was going somewhere, and this was because there was no doubt he was going to take it there.

The problem was, to do that, she'd eventually need to know his name.

Then she'd know him.

He did not like to think about how that shit would go down.

And he knew she recognized him, as did her ex.

More than once, he saw her studying him in a way where she wasn't just looking at him. In a way he had to cover that shit, take her mind off it, lead her away from a realization that would be uncomfortable for both of them.

In a way that in part was now on him.

It was Joker who pretended he didn't know her name. It was Joker who knew the beard, the hair, the bulk, the life he led, the easy openness he was giving her was not the Carson Steele she once semi-knew from high school. It was Joker who was deliberately guiding her into seeing Joker, and not Carson Steele. It was Joker who knew he had it to give it to her. It was Joker who knew he should.

So it was Joker who was playing a game.

Carissa was not.

If it was him, some bitch played it like that, he'd walk away and not look back.

But Carissa was steady.

It was whacked, but with all that had happened to her, she had it going on .

There was nothing in her fridge or cupboards that had a brand label, not even the fucking ketchup, and she didn't seem to care.

Not to mention she had a kid, it was her first kid, but she handled him and the responsibility of having him not like he was her first but like he was her fifth.

And as he remembered it, unlike her friends, back in high school she wasn't rolling in it, but her family was comfortable. She'd had nice clothes. She drove a used but decent car to school. She didn't seem to want for anything.

Now, it was not close to the same.

Last, her ex came from a family who was rolling in it, and still looked like he was far from hurting. But Carissa lived in a jacked apartment with generic shit in the fridge and stuff all around that reminded her of her failed marriage and all she lost and she didn't seem to give a shit.

What mattered to her was her son. He didn't eat generic. He didn't wear cheap clothes.

And that was all she needed.

So maybe, if she could roll so easily with all that had happened to her, if Joker explained, she'd get it and he wouldn't lose her.

He just had no fucking clue how to tell her.

"Joke?"

He looked toward the door and then went to it to see High standing just inside his room.

"Yo."

High jerked up his chin and asked, "Heidi touch base with you?"

Joker shook his head. "Nope."

"Fuck," High muttered.

Heidi's departure meant the Club was uneasy. The woman didn't give them much, but at least they had a clue where Valenzuela's attention was leaning. Now they didn't have that.

"Hop's lookin' into turnin' one," Joker shared.

"Yeah. He spoke to one, she refused," High briefed him. "He's gotta be careful. The more he approaches, the more it opens it up to one of them givin' that to Valenzuela."

Joker had no reply because what High said was true.

"Pisses me off we hand cash to these bitches, they give us a shade above dick and the cloud remains," High muttered. "We need to get proactive with this shit."

High had not been totally on board with Tack's change in direction with the Club. But then they'd all learned the hard way with the extreme shit that went down with Cherry years ago that they needed to focus on taking each other's backs, not fighting within the ranks.

That didn't mean High was the kind of man who preferred sitting around with his thumb up his ass.

"It'll eventually play out one way or another, brother," Joker told him.

"Yeah, and it'd be good that happens now rather than when I'm in the position of havin' to stick a Valenzuela soldier with my knife, doin' it from my wheelchair in a nursing home."

Joker grinned at him.

High's head jerked as he caught it.

Then he crossed his arms on his chest and asked, "Things good with your Butterfly?"

Joker leaned against the jamb and held his gaze. "Mostly."

"Not lettin' you in her pants?" High asked.

Joker nearly laughed.

Never in his life did he think he would be in the position of putting the brakes on a hot little piece, especially that piece being Carissa.

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