Zoe Xavier has been taking care of her brother since they were kids, and now that he’s in debt to the richest and most dangerous family in Waterston, Kentucky, she will have to do more than just pay back Quint Lear with money.
Quint and his brothers are determined to carry on the nefarious family business, but his intentions with Zoe seem outside Quint’s normal behavior. When her life is in danger, will he continue to be the devil Zoe is afraid of, or will she be able to see beyond that to the man inside?
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Copyright ©2021 ML Uberti
“I can do this,” I told myself aloud, steering my car into a parking space on a dark street near a narrow alley. “I can do this. It’s important. I’m not afraid. I can do this.”
I was totally lying, but maybe my subconscious would be fooled into bravery and this whole knee-knocking, pants-pissing experience would be a breeze.
Unlikely, but I could dream.
I shoved open the door to my rusted-out Chevy truck, a hand-me-down that had been first passed on to my cousin Lita, who had it before me. You couldn’t have the headlights, radio, and windshield wipers on at the same time or it would blow a fuse. So if it was raining at night, you had to turn the music off. Which was really just a couple of AM stations that came in fuzzy.
But it ran so I kept it. Not that I could afford anything else — and thanks to my brother Tyler, I probably never would.
Tyler was the reason I was on this little errand, walking as quietly and swiftly as I could toward a dingy brick building affixed at the intersection of two off-map, seedy streets, with crumbling concrete steps and a pink neon sign that simply said: BEER. No clever tavern name or funky hipster décor. One window, the magenta light, and a brown wood door.
I took a deep breath, steeled my nerves, and threw the door open.
A few heads came up to look at me, but mostly I was largely unnoticed in the dim interior. A smattering of old-timers at the bar, a couple dry humping in a booth, a handful of bikers shooting pool. I didn’t see who I was there to find, so I figured I better ask. I wanted to get this over as quickly as possible.
The bartender was a surly-looking man with a long white beard and a shiny bald head. His face was affixed in a frown but I thought it might permanently look like that. Just years of shit life reflected back in his features.
“Hi.” I began to smile, then dialed it back when he sneered in reply. Okay, not a happy-go-lucky crowd. I could dig that. “I’m looking for someone.”
His head swiveled around as he took in the entirety of the room. “Well, then — look,” he stated, a brow raised in suggestion.
“Someone — uh, I don’t see him,” I took another cursory glance around. “His name is Quint Lear.”
It was like the proverbial record scratch as all chatter ceased instantly and every eye in the place swung to me.
“Quint Lear? What the hell you want with him?” one of the boomers at the bar asked in a ridiculously loud tone.
“Just — uh, a personal errand,” I fumbled. “I — he –” I paused. I should have rehearsed. “It’s a personal errand.” I repeated lamely.
“Chuckie!” the bartender bellowed loudly, not taking his eyes off me, and smirking when I jumped at little at his shout.
A gangly young guy with a shock of red hair poked his head out from the window that delineated the kitchen from the bar room. “Yeah?”
“Got a girl here wants to see Q. He around?” the man went on, still not looking away from me.
“Lemme see — she cute?” He peered deeper into the room and took me in top to toe. “Yeah, she’s cute,” he added with a lewd grin, then vanished.
I forced another smile — I had been cuter a few years back in high school, when I was a cheerleader, and homecoming queen, and had a hell of a lot less problems than I do now. But my father died, my mom started drowning herself in pills and booze and my little brother started selling drugs for a very, very bad man.
Mr. Quint Lear.
Who my only sibling Tyler owed ten thousand dollars to. And honestly, it may as well be ten million since I was just as likely to be able to raise that and hand it over to the man of the hour.
I had three hundred and eighteen bucks in the bank. My mom had an insurance policy worth maybe five hundred dollars if we cashed it in. Any savings we’d had had been wiped out by my dad’s medical bills. Which is why Tyler thought he would help out our little family slinging meth to addicts down by Lawson Avenue and up toward Davidson.
But he got greedy, listened to a stupid friend of his, and now he owed the Lear family ten grand. And the Lears weren’t known for their charity.
I tugged on my jean jacket, pulling it closer around me. I had thrown on a black top and jeans, not thinking maybe I should show a little more skin, entice Quint Lear. I didn’t want to go down that road, but I literally had nothing else to offer him besides my beat-up truck and three hundred and eighteen dollars.
The young guy appeared through a swinging door beside the bar, nodded his head at me then tipped it backwards, gesturing to follow.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Starbucks aficionado, lover of throw blankets and betrayer of all things kale, ML Uberti is a Wayne State University graduate and Metro Detroit author with a predilection for oddities and happy endings. She is mom to three autistic kids, 2 ridiculously stupid dogs and wife of a teacher and musician who has endless patience for her impeccably bad taste in Netflix shows and murder documentaries. She is thrilled to dip her toe into scifi romance from contemporary and hopes you enjoy her big, brooding alien alphas and resilient fairy tale queen