It was like that for two nights, and on the morning of day three, I was being discharged to go home and take it easy. The nurses had given me permission in the morning to wash my hair while Jax made the trip back to the house to grab some clothes for me. Sponge baths weren’t cutting it, but the angry little scar on top of the faded scars and the twinge of pain if I turned too quickly or breathed too deeply told me that I needed to be careful.
Even now I couldn’t believe I’d been shot.
My friends were still in town and I had no idea how long they planned on staying, but I knew they were going to swing by tomorrow since I’d been ordered to not do crap today, so I guessed they’d turned their second trip into a mini vacation.
As the doctor checked me over, and Jax was back, waiting by the door, the thoughts I’d been avoiding since the first night in the hospital crept into my mind.
I closed my eyes as the doctor took my blood pressure.
My own flesh-and-blood mother had left me lying in my blood. That hurt like having a rusty nail driven into your heart. Repeatedly. No matter what excuses she had or how scared she might’ve been, there was no justification for that, and that was such a hard wake-up call to go through, because I didn’t understand until the moment I realized she’d left me that I still fostered a little bit of hope that one day she’d be like she was before the fire, the deaths, and the drugs.
There was no hope now.
I’d done the right thing when I’d spoken to Detective Anders. I told him that I’d seen my mom, and he hadn’t looked too happy to hear that and I wasn’t too thrilled to even be talking about it.
Right now, I couldn’t let myself think about her, because even though getting shot sucked and being forced into debt wasn’t too great, either, I was alive and I had a lot to be thankful for.
I glanced over my shoulder at Jax as the doc slipped the pressure cuff off. He winked, and I grinned.
Almost dying really did put things into perspective.
I was cleared to go and we made a pit stop at Clyde’s room before heading to Jax’s townhome. From what we learned, Clyde would be released by the end of the week, maybe even tomorrow if the tests were positive.
When we got to Jax’s townhome, I made it to the couch and plopped down there, tired from a freaking car ride.
“You okay?” Jax knelt in front of me.
I nodded. “Yeah, I’m just tired. Not sleepy.”
He didn’t look convinced. “Your stomach doesn’t hurt?”
I smiled. “Only if I do something stupid.”
His eyes searched mine and then he rose, placing one hand on the arm of the couch. He brushed his lips over mine. “You think you can eat something? They said bland food, right? Like chicken noodle soup?”
“That would be nice.”
He drew back, his eyes still clouded with worry. He grabbed one of those ultracomfy blankets off the back of the couch and draped it around me. “Stay there.”
As he moved away, I clawed my way out of the blanket and grabbed his arm. “Thank you.”
An eyebrow rose. “For what?”
“Everything and anything.”
His lips twitched and then he swooped down, kissing me once more. “There’s nothing you need to thank me for, honey. If anything, it’s the other way around.”
Confused, I frowned. “How so?”
Before he answered, he eased that frown right off my lips and created a series of shivers low in my belly. “You’re sitting here on my couch and there’s nothing I could do that will outdo that.”
Wow. My chest got all mushy, which was just another reason to be thankful for him. When he left to go fix the soup, I snuggled deep into the blanket and then we ate soup while watching a marathon of Property Brothers, which made me want to buy an old house and have them renovate it into pure awesomeness. And the fact that they were hot twins might have a little to do it with, too.
It was early in the evening when there was a knock on Jax’s door. I was stretched out on the couch, my back to Jax’s front, and had almost dozed off. I craned my neck and saw the frown on his full lips.
“Not expecting anyone?” I asked.
He shook his head as he carefully slid his arm out from under my shoulders. “Stay here, okay?”
Nodding, I gingerly sat up after he virtually climbed over me. He stalked around the couch, heading to the door, where he peered through the peephole. “What the f**k?”
Unease exploded in my gut and I jerked to my feet, pulling tender skin. I placed my hand over the wound. “What is it?”
His head cocked to the side as I heard a muffled voice coming from the other side of the door. I had no idea what was being said, but several moments passed and then Jax wheeled around. My jaw dropped open as he went to a hutch in the dining room, opened it, and pulled out a handgun. The unease spiked to a whole new level.
Even though I knew he had a gun and I’d seen it before, it still came as a shock whenever he whipped it out. “Jax . . .”
“It’s okay,” he said, stopping by where I stood. His free hand wrapped around the back of my neck and he tipped my head back, kissing me quickly. “Just precautionary.”
In my book, there was nothing okay about a gun being a precautionary measure, and my heart was pounding as he went back to the door, throwing the lock. My muscles tensed as he opened the door, holding the gun in plain sight.
“I don’t give a f**k who you are, make one move I don’t like, and you won’t be walking out of this house,” Jax warned in a low voice as he stepped aside.
There was a beat of silence and then a response in a male voice. “I’d like to think I’m smart enough not to cause you to use the gun in your hand.”
“And I’m smart enough to know that you probably got my place f**king surrounded and if I didn’t let you in, you would’ve found your way in.”
What the f**kity f**k was going on?
A deep masculine chuckle resonated. “That may be true, but I’m not here to cause any trouble, Jackson. I’m here to end it.”
Those words were like ice being drilled down my spine.
Jax stood there for a moment and then he nodded curtly.
A second passed and then a man walked into the house. Hell, he glided in. Dressed in a deep gray suit that was obviously tailored to fit his narrow h*ps and broad shoulders, hair shiny black and combed back from a high forehead and cheekbones, he reeked of money and power.
The man stopped just inside, his dark brown eyes settling on me, and I couldn’t suppress the shiver that accompanied his acute, sharp stare.
Cursing under his breath, Jax closed the door and faced us. Shoving the gun in the back of his jeans, he sighed. I was rooted to where I stood, breathing shallowly as the man waited until Jax returned to my side and wrapped a careful, protective arm around my waist.
The man drifted forward and stopped a foot from us, extending a hand. “Calla Fritz, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
My gaze dipped from his handsome face to the hand in front of me. I gave him a weak handshake and immediately dropped his hand. “Hi. Um, and you are?”
He smiled then, flashing perfect straight, white teeth. “Some call me Mr. Vakhrov.”
Mr. what the what? I had no idea how to spell that or even repeat what he said.
“But other people know me as Isaiah.”
My eyes widened until they felt like they were going to pop out of my face. Holy crap. This was Isaiah? And he was standing in front of me, in Jax’s house? And Jax had let him into said house?
Panic dug its icy fingers into my side as my head swung sharply toward Jax. His arm tightened. “It’s fine,” Jax reassured me. “Isaiah never does his own dirty work.”
My gaze bounced back at him.
Isaiah’s smile widened, and that really creeped me the hell out. “There are times I make an exception. Rare, but it does happen.”
Uh, that really didn’t reassure me one bit.
“May I?” Isaiah jerked his chin at the worn recliner, and when Jax nodded, he sat.
I almost laughed, because he looked so out of place sitting in a chair that had definitely seen better times, wearing a suit that probably cost more than every piece of furniture in the living room. But laughing would’ve made me sound crazy, and I was feeling pretty crazy. The man that my mom owed potentially millions to and the man who might have something to do with the new hole in my body was sitting across from me.
Jax guided me down on the couch, keeping his arm around me. He got to the point. “What’s up, Isaiah.”
He tilted his head to the side and the smile was still there, but it never really reached his eyes. The legendary Isaiah was younger than I imagined for a drug and God knows what else overlord. Maybe in his mid-thirties? “First,” he said, unbuttoning his suit jacket, and I could feel Jax tense beside me, but Isaiah folded his hands together, “I would like to apologize for Mo.”
Mo? Who was . . . ? “The guy who tried to kidnap me?”
“I’m not a fan of the word kidnap, my dear.”
Really? What did he want me to call it?
“My associate was supposed to bring you to me and not under duress, but I needed to speak with you. Unfortunately, he was a little overeager when it came to his task.”
“Overeager?” I repeated dumbly.
“He hit her,” Jax said, voice clipped. “I wouldn’t call that overeager.”
He nodded in agreement. “And that has been dealt with. I abhor violence against innocent women.”
My brows crept up my forehead. Innocent women versus . . . ?
“I needed to speak with you about what has been happening. He was just supposed to bring you to me. That was all, and I sincerely apologize for his actions that evening,” Isaiah said. “As I’ve said, that has been taken care of. Just as another problem of yours has been . . . or will be shortly . . . taken care of.”
My spine stiffened and I whispered, “Which problem?”
Isaiah watched me for a moment and then sat back, folding one knee over the other as he draped his arm along the recliner. “I have many businesses, Miss Fritz, some you may not know about and others you might speculate on, and I have even more responsibility. Furthermore, I do have an image to maintain and whenever my image is threatened, well, I do take those situations fairly seriously.”
I found myself nodding even though I wasn’t quite sure where this was heading. I got what he was saying without really saying it. In other words, he had legit businesses and not so legit, as I’d already known.
“A certain associate of mine was responsible for a very large transaction. He outsourced some of that responsibility to people who frankly should not have been trusted,” he explained, his dark gaze holding mine. I totally knew who he was talking about—Mack, Rooster, and my mom—and I also knew what that transaction was. “Ultimately, when this transaction fell apart”—again, in other words, crashed and burned in the form of Greasy Guy stealing the her**n—“my associate was the one responsible for it and he was well aware of how much I loathe when things fall apart.”
I shivered, knowing I never wanted to be on the end of Isaiah’s disappointment.
“Not only has my associate failed in securing the transaction, he has also impacted my image. Not forty-eight hours go by without a member of our esteemed police forces breathing down my neck.” That easy, albeit cold smile slipped off his face and his expression became glacial. “And once my associate realized that, he became fairly noncommunicative, and from what I can gather, figured the best way to rectify this situation was by threatening you, an innocent in all of this, and taking measures into his own hands. Apparently, he thought that taking out those to whom he’d outsourced his own responsibility would somehow make me happy. He was wrong.”
“So you’re telling me you’ve had nothing to do with Mack messing with Calla or her getting shot a few days ago?” Jax asked.
“Like I said, Jackson, I abhor violence of any kind against innocent women. My associate was desperate. He messed up. He continued messing up, making it very hard for me to continue with my business dealings without interference, and of course, their impact on you, Miss Fritz. I am sincerely grateful to see you sitting here today. I know it could’ve ended in a much more sad way.”
Again, I found myself nodding and wondering if this was all really happening. I wasn’t sure why Isaiah would care what happened to me, and honestly, he probably didn’t and it was more a case of not getting dragged into what Mack was doing.
“With that being said,” Isaiah continued, smiling in that creeptastic way, “my associate will no longer be a problem.”
“What?” I blinked.
Jax’s arm slid off my shoulders and his hand ended up around mine. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
He inclined his head. “What I’m saying is that he will no longer pose a problem. You will no longer have to worry about anyone showing up at Mona’s or at your home or about random drive-bys.”