Beneath These Lies (Beneath #5)(9)


by Meghan March

And then he was gone.

I tumbled to the floor, landing on my butt. Pain shot through my wrists as they caught the brunt of the impact. It was the pain that snapped me back to reality.

Wincing, I lifted my hands and reached for my purse, ready to defend myself against him, but a glance up in the direction of the man revealed an unlikely rescuer.

Rix.

Their voices were masked by the music, making it impossible to hear what they were yelling at each other, but Rix’s face twisted into an angry expression as his fist flew. It connected with the man’s jaw, and his knees bent as he crumpled to the floor. Out. Cold.

Holy shit.

The door to my right opened and a girl stumbled out. The bright light illuminated the pale yellow tile of a bathroom behind me, and I scuttled back into the room and slammed the door shut with my foot. I pushed up onto my knees, my hand shaking as I pushed in the flimsy button lock.

He’d told me not to come back.

Oh. Shit. Why was he here?

My brain flipped into survival mode and I scanned the room, looking for something to barricade the door. Nothing. Instead, I reached into my bag and wrapped my hand around the grip of my pistol and sagged against the water-stained wall, forcing the images of Jay out of my brain. Every time I thought I was over it, something came back and yanked my past right up into my present.

I sucked in breath after breath, filling my lungs with oxygen as my heart slowed by degrees.

My present. Trinity. She might have called me from this very same bathroom, but she wasn’t here.

I have to find her. Latching onto my sole purpose for coming here, I fought to gather myself. I couldn’t stay locked inside. I had to go out, and when I did, I would have to face Rix.

I’ve got this.

I’m okay.

No, I don’t. I’m screwed.

Someone banged on the bathroom door, jarring me from my thoughts. I slammed my head back against the wall in surprise. Thank God I had the presence of mind to keep my finger off the trigger.

The music died, and a voice came from outside the door.

“Let me in.”

It was Rix.

Did I open the door? Aside from Trinity, he might be the only other possible ally I had in this house, no matter how unlikely. I was still debating whether to open the door when the button on the lock popped out and my choice ceased to matter.

Strangely enough, I didn’t panic. Probably because I wasn’t capable of panicking again so soon. Besides, now I had my hand wrapped around the grip of my pistol. If anyone tried to touch me, I’d shoot them.

The door swung open and Rix’s tall frame and wide shoulders filled the doorway. His eyes were unreadable as he took me in, sitting on the bathroom floor, knees pulled up to my chest, one hand wrapped around my legs and the other hand buried in my purse.

He didn’t ask me if I was okay. He didn’t ask me what the hell I was doing there. I assumed he either knew or didn’t care about the answers to those questions. Instead, all he said was, “He won’t bother you again.”

I thought of the man he’d knocked out with one punch. I couldn’t be upset about it. If I could have, I would have done worse to him in that moment to protect myself.

It was a perfect reminder that I shouldn’t even be here. As Rix had made perfectly clear this afternoon, this wasn’t my world, and I probably shouldn’t even know it existed. Trinity shouldn’t be here either.

Rix’s stare intensified, and he stepped inside the room and shut the door. The room seemed to shrink to half size, and I was hyperaware of his proximity to me.

“He hurt you?”

I mentally assessed myself. “No,” I replied, shaking my head. “He didn’t have a chance.”

“He scared you.”

Rix’s words weren’t a question. And nor should they be. Of course he’d freaking scared me. It would have scared anyone, even someone without my messed-up past. I could admit that without shame.

I nodded.

“He’ll hurt for a week. If that ain’t enough, you say the word, and I’ll make him hurt longer.”

I shook my head, trying to wrap my brain around what Rix had just said. Had he really just offered to hurt someone for me? The twisted side of my brain took strange comfort in that. He’d defended me.

Stilling my shaking hands, I babbled. “I’m fine. I guess I thought I was over it. Maybe I’ll never be over it.”

Rix’s gaze sharpened on me. “Over what?”

Once again, my only reply was to shake my head.

“Over what, duchess?” The nickname caught my attention and drew me off the path that led down memory lane.

“Why would you call me that?”

“Answer my question first.” He crossed his arms over his chest.

“A thing that happened years ago. It’s fine. No big deal.” Again, I sounded like I was babbling.

“You’re talking about that politician’s kid. The one you sent to prison. He fucked you up.”

My eyes cut to his. “You know who I am.” Shock colored my words and icy coldness spread through my limbs. He shouldn’t know that.

“Didn’t take me long to find out. And I’ll call you whatever I want. You’re back in my world. Thought we covered this already. You don’t belong here.”

I’d address his declaration another time, like when I wasn’t cowering on a bathroom floor and needing to find my girl.

And enough cowering. Not in front of this man. No, since he was here, he was going to help me whether he wanted to or not.

“I’m looking for Trinity. She called me from here. Scared, said something was going on and people were fighting. She wanted to leave, but someone wouldn’t let her.”

A cold ruthlessness settled over Rix as soon as my words were out. “She called you and told you this?”

“Yes. Otherwise, trust me, there’s no way I’d be here.”

He held out a hand. “Come on.” When I didn’t reach for it, he snapped his fingers at me, his impatience clear. “Don’t have time to wait around. Let’s go.”

“I am not a dog. Don’t snap at me.” As soon as the words were out, I remembered who I was talking to. The scary head of a gang. I needed to take more care before I spoke.

A deep rumble filled the tiled bathroom, and it took me a second to realize it was laughter. Rix’s whole body shook with it.