I was just supposed to be laying low, keeping my head down, staying out of trouble.
And “trouble” was exactly what Shane freaking Mallick was. Knee-cap breaker, loan shark enforcer, panty-dropper. Trouble with a capital T.
And the absolute last thing I needed in my life…Books in Series:Mallick Brothers Series by Jessica GadzialaBooks by Author:Jessica Gadziala Books
The blood swirled to a pink color as it circled the drain in the sink. The skin around my knuckles was raw but hadn"t broken open. That was thanks to the endless years of toughening them up. It was damn near impossible to make me bleed anymore.
I dried my hands on the guy"s towels and flicked the light off in the bathroom to find him just where I left him, curled up in a ball on the living room floor. He was being a bit of a pussy to be honest. It wasn"t that bad. A broken nose, a couple nasty bruises. At worst, a busted rib from the crowbar. He"d gotten off relatively easy but only because he"d been screaming loud enough for the neighbors to call the cops.
See, when you fucked over my father, you had a chance to make good. First, my brother Ryan would come pay a visit. He"d likely give you a warning, try to work with you, keep it amicable and blood-free. If that didn"t yield results, maybe Mark would come knocking. When that failed, my fucking shadow darkened your door.
And then there was blood.
Then, last course of action, if my ass-whopping didn"t make you fork over the money you owed, we sicced Eli on your sorry ass. If you were still able to move afterward, you sure as fucked coughed up the dough. Likely along with a shitton of blood and half your lungs.
I was a violent fuck; Eli was an animal.
That was how we were raised.
That was also how we managed to survive in a town crawling with crime like Navesink Bank. If you weren"t hard, if you weren"t a strong united front, you didn"t survive in the criminal underbelly.
If you wanted to be a big dog, you had to fucking fight when someone rattled your cage.
"You have until the fifteenth, Van, or I swear to fuck you"ll regret it."
With that, I closed the door and went down the hall, taking the stairs two at a time. I had just made it out onto the sidewalk when the squad car came to a halt out front.
"Shane," Collings said as he hefted himself out of the passenger side.
"Collings. They got you in a squad car" Not enough open cases to put your detective cap to work on""
"Let"s just say we got a call about someone who matched a description of several open assault cases I"ve had sitting on my desk for months. Figured I would cut to the chase and see if this was another one to add to the pile. You wouldn"t know anything about a call we got about screams in that building, now would you"" he asked, brow raised, knowing I sure as fuck did, but also knowing that he wouldn"t find much to pin on me.
"Nah, man. I was just taking a stroll."
"A stroll, huh" Wasn"t that your bike down half a block"" he asked and I swear his fucking lips twitched. I liked Collings. We all liked Collings. He knew how things were in our town and while he did his job, he didn"t go out of his way to create useless problems.
"What can I say," I started with a smirk, "my feet get tired easily."
"And that little stain on your neck"" the rookie street cop asked.
"Must have cut myself shaving," I mused.
"Must have," Collings nodded with a smirk, no doubt noticing that I hadn"t bothered to shave in at least two days, but letting it drop. "Well, we have doors to knock on and valuable time to waste on a useless errand. So we"ll let you get back to your" stroll."
"Catch you around, Collings," I said as I started away.
"Hey Shane," he called.
"Yeah"" I asked, looking over my shoulder.
To that, he gave me a rare full smile. "For those tired feet of yours," he added before turning and walking away.
With a laugh, I jogged the rest of the way to my bike, slipping on my helmet, and turning in the direction of Willow to the gym.
See, the loan sharking business, it was surprisingly profitable. But with a lot of dirty money came the need to try to make it seem like at least some of it came from legitimate sources. Dad had his bar. My brothers had liquor stores and tattoo shops and a whole slew of other ventures. Me, I had the gym, among another side thing or two. It worked for me because I spent a lot of time working out. It just made sense to siphon my bloodstained money into something that was useful to me.
"Did you call Mom back"" Mark asked after I changed and met up with him over by the weights. Looks-wise, all five of us were the spitting image of our father and therefore, one another. We were all tall, black-haired, and blue-eyed. The differences were in the small things. Me and my brother Hunter had a shitton of tattoos. Him, because he was a tattoo artist. Me, because I just fucking liked them. But I had a good fifty pounds of muscle on Hunt. Mark, Ryan, and Eli had a tat here or there but weren"t fully committed to being human canvases. Mark spent nearly as much time in the gym as I did and was therefore cut, but he liked to keep the muscle bulk down and I liked to pile it on. His hair was normal length and neat. Mine was whatever the fuck it looked like after I showered and whatever length it happened to be between when I remembered to get haircuts.