Vradin, Chapter Three

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Brawn held out his seat for Neveah and trailed his fingers up her arm. Tank noted how his second’s gaze lingered on the goosebumps his touch raised on her chest. Shame about her being a stripper and all.

Brawn gathered his jacket and said to Tank, “Looks like Clare Bear needs to run an errand during her break. I’m just going to ride along, make sure she stays safe considering the time and all. Should be back in half an hour.”

Tank started to scoot back. Brawn quickly added, “She was nervous enough letting me ride along, and she tells me you scare her. I think if you’re with me, she’s likely enough to just decide to leave us both behind.”

Tank leaned back in his seat and gave the larger man a long, considering look. “I scare her?” he finally asked.

Neveah chuckled. “Even when you were waiving around limp wrists you scared my girl. She thought you were a little insane and insane people do insane, random things.”

Tank felt his eye sockets twitch, the tension fueled by a reflexive desire to sharpen his night vision. He squashed the reflex, but it was enough to put the rest of the pack on guard. “I see you remember me now. I do regret my behavior during our first meeting.”

Neveah waved it off. “Carl explained it, and I get that sometimes when you’re feeling pissy you just need a good scrap to get the blood flowing again. Clare, she’s just not like that. She’s almost too sweet sometimes. I mean, I swear, there are times I am convinced she lived under a rock until she turned eighteen.”

“Oh, really?” Jimmy asked.

“Mm-hmm,” Neveah said. “There are a few beggars who hang around the area, and they’ll pan handle out front. Girlfriend decides to come to work one day with a sack full of hamburgers to give to them. Because, you know, they’re probably hungry, right? And she had no clue why this one guy threw it back at her. If Jorge hadn’t seen the whole thing and come up scowling at the guy, she might have wound up in the emergency room. I mean, dude was crazy coming down from his high and she totally never even clued into that. She still says the guy was just psycho and poor thing needed to be set up in a hospital.”

Brawn and Tank both scowled at that. “I need to get going, make sure she doesn’t take off without me,” Brawn said and suited actions to words.

Tank scooted closer to Neveah. “She’s really that clueless?” he asked.

Neveah smiled fondly and glanced around the table. “She’s gotten to you all, too, hasn’t she?”

Jimmy shrugged. “What do you mean?”

“She’s just such a sweet heart it makes you want to wrap her up in bubble wrap and protect her from the big bad world. No, I get it. She had me when she quoted this line from Pride and Prejudice. I mean, literature in a strip club? So, when her and her old man got into it about her working here to pay for college of course I invited her to crash on my couch. Best damn move I ever made. She makes utterly sinful crepes.” Neveah made sure she was giving a good show, expressive gestures making her breasts shimmy and sway. “Uh-oh. Joe’s giving me an eye full. If none of you gentlemen care for a trip to the VIP lounge, I’ll have to make my rounds.”

Tank glanced at Mike, who quickly said, “Well, darling, it’s been a while for me. Maybe you could refresh my memory on what the rooms look like.” He pulled out his wallet and extracted enough cash for a couple of private dances.

Neveah leaned forward, sliding her hand up Mike’s thigh and giving him easy access to slide the cash into her cleavage. “I’d be more than happy to, darling.”

The two of them sauntered off in the direction of the private rooms, and Jimmy scooted closer to his alpha.

“So, boss man. Should I be on the lookout for blood suckers?”

Tank growled. “Not yet, but I’m not the only one that Silas is pissing off. He’s courting a coup attempt, and if Malcolm manages to come out on top we’re taking the fucker out before he consolidates his power base.”

“Amen to that.” Jimmy took a swallow of his drink and grimaced. “Earth below, this shit’s sweet! So, uh, about Clare….”

Tank just looked at Jimmy, waiting for the rest of it.

Jimmy squirmed a bit, then said in a rush, “She’s really a lot more Peaceful than she’s been tonight. And she never smells of drugs or acts whacked or anything.” He drew a breath and finished, “I like her. I just … I thought you should know. That she’s clean and all.”

Tank nodded. “She is a Peaceful one. Subtle and more powerful for it. It’s good to know that you haven’t smelled drugs on her. Makes it less likely that her Peace is tied to tripping. But she’s trading on her looks and that does not speak well for her ethics.”

Jimmy looked deep into his cup. “Tanak, we have all had to sell ourselves in one way or another over the years. This is not a world that lets women sell the strength of their arms or their backs. To the best of my knowledge, she is no whore, but she is very young and she lacks the kind of skills that have nothing to do with the things God put between our legs. I don’t know that she has many choices.”

“I will bear that in mind.”