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Ryan (Mallick Brothers #2)
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It was a long fucking day.
To be fair, most of them were.
You didn’t get into the loansharking business and expect donut holes in the conference room and bullshitting over the water cooler about some show everyone was currently obsessed with. It was always tense and problematic and continually marred your outlook on the general population as a whole.
I sighed as I brought my arm up to check my watch and saw a smatter of blood on the cuff of my off-white suit. Luckily, my dry cleaner had stopped asking questions a long damn time ago.
I wasn’t usually the one doing the blood spilling to be perfectly honest. I handled more of the business-end of things. I did the fucking paperwork and kept the books and paid that first ‘you owe us, pay up, or else’ visits to clients. From there, I would send Mark. If Mark wasn’t effective, then Shane stepped up. And, if after Shane was done with you and you still didn’t find the money to pay off your debts, then we would sic Eli on your poor ass.
But, what can I say, I was in a bad mood and the client got mouthy and things escalated. I didn’t like having to spill blood on a first visit. I avoided it at all costs, wanting to keep things amicable so long as the client did as well.
That being said, disrespect would never be tolerated.
I stepped out of the elevator and dug for the key to my apartment, looking at the door across the hall from mine, ours being the only two apartments on the floor, and seeing something I didn’t often see there, but every time I did, I got that hairs on the back of the neck feeling- I saw men standing at her door.
See, the thing is, I only knew it was a her because I caught sight of blonde hair once when she was picking up one of the dozens of packages she had delivered outside her door every week. How she got the mailman to bring them up to the floor instead of leaving them on the desk by the mailboxes in the lobby was completely beyond me, but the damn guy did it every single time for her.
My neighbor, well, she was some kind of shut-in.
She didn’t leave for work. She didn’t go out at night. She didn’t even run errands.
And she very rarely had any kind of company.
When she did though, it was the guys who gave every appearance of being bad news.
I was a criminal. I spent my life around fellow criminals. I could spot one when I saw one.
The two guys in their leather jackets and their scarred knuckles and their tense stances, yeah, they were fucking criminals.
Hearing the doors of the elevator slide closed, their heads snapped in my direction, looking me over.
They knew me.
I wasn’t being cocky, but fact of the matter was, everyone who was anyone in the criminal underbelly in Navesink Bank knew Charlie Mallick. And if you knew my father, you knew his sons. We all looked just like him. Also, if you knew Charlie Mallick, you knew our reputation and that we deserved some respect. Which was why one of the guys inclined their chin at me and the other nodded and said “Mallick” as I walked to my door and slid the key in.
“Dusty, come the fuck on already,” the one who inclined his chin to me growled at the closed door.
I froze halfway in my door, turning back, brow raised.
I’d put up with a lot of shit from a lot of organizations, but threatening women would never fucking fly. I didn’t give a fuck who they were.
“I’m coming, Bry!” a soft, sweet voice called from inside as something slammed and crashed and a loud meow could be heard. “I have to put Rocky away!” she added, followed by a loud, objecting noise from the cat and a hiss from her as it, presumably, scratched the fuck out of her.
“Stupid fucking cat,” the guy I assumed was Bry said, shaking his head.
“Alright alright,” Dusty’s sweet voice said and I could hear the locks sliding before it finally pulled open and I got my first look at my neighbor who had shared a floor with me for well over a year.
I’d been missing the hell out.
Generally, you think “shut-in” and you think older with a crazy vibe, maybe disheveled hair and wild eyes.
There was none of that in Dusty Rose McRae whose name I knew from those endless packages I mentioned.
Dusty was a mother fucking knockout.
She was about average height for a woman and ran toward slender, all her curves somewhat understated, but there nonetheless in her light wash bluejeans and a light pink tee. Her blonde hair was long and wavy around her oval face with her perfect nose, slightly oversized lower lip and huge green eyes with a shitton of lashes that, if I put my money on, I’d bet they were hers, not fakes.