“Ruger’s really good,” Em said shortly. “He’ll slaughter Painter.”
“Is that the one …?”
“Yeah,” she said, her voice grim. “That’s him. The guy who won’t put out for me. I hope Ruger kicks his ass.”
Ruger chose that moment to plow his fist into Painter’s stomach, and the crowd roared. Painter gasped but he stayed upright, recovering surprisingly fast, at least to my uneducated eye.
“He’s over there,” Maggs said, grabbing my arm again. I looked at her blankly.
“Who’s over there?”
“Buck,” she said. “You wanted to talk to him about a job, right?”
“Oh, yeah,” I said, forcing myself to look away from the circling boxers. What kind of idiots fought like this on purpose? Maggs dragged me through the crowd some more, coming to a halt next to a big man watching the fight with his arms crossed. He didn’t look too happy.
“Hey, Buck,” Maggs said brightly. He glanced down at her and raised a brow. I swallowed.
“Um, we can do this a different time,” I leaned in and whispered to Maggs. “He doesn’t look like he’s in a good mood.”
“He’s just like that,” she said. “Right, Buck? You’re always kind of a dick, aren’t you?”
The big man actually smiled.
“And you’re always kind of a bitch, but I like you anyway,” he said. “You ready to ditch Bolt’s ass and f**k a real man?”
“I think Jade might have a problem with that, and she’s a helluva good shot.”
This time the smile reached his eyes.
“That’s the f**kin’ truth,” he said. “God, but she can be a bitch. Never boring. So who’s this?”
“This is Sophie,” she said, jerking me forward. From the ring I heard the crack of flesh hitting flesh, and saw Painter staggering in the corner of my eye. Ruger circled him like a cat playing with its food. I forced myself not to pay attention, focusing on Buck instead. Talking to him couldn’t hurt.
“Sophie’s looking for a job,” Maggs added.
“Dancing?” he asked, raising a brow. His eyes crawled down my figure, assessing me closely in a new way—all business now.
“I want to waitress,” I said. “I’ve waited tables in bars before. Never a strip club, but I’m a hard worker. I hear it’s a good place to work.”
He studied me, face thoughtful.
“You belong to anyone?”
Maggs and I looked at each other, and I shook my head.
“Not really,” I answered.
“What the f**k’s that supposed to mean?”
“Shut up, Maggs,” he said, although his tone wasn’t mean. “She can’t talk for herself, she’s got no place in my bar. So what’s the story, you belong to someone or not?”
There was a sudden flurry of activity between the fighters, a series of fast blows that I couldn’t quite follow in my peripheral vision. Based on the crowd’s reaction, things were getting interesting.
“You this slow takin’ drink orders?” Buck asked. “’Cause I don’t need a slow waitress.”
“Sorry,” I said, gathering myself. “Ruger is my son’s uncle.”
“He give you that ring around your neck?”
“Um, yeah,” I said, grimacing. “And I live with him. Nothing between us, though. I just really need a job.”
Buck eyed me speculatively, then glanced at Maggs. She smirked and rolled her eyes. Buck nodded slowly, then leaned over to the man next to him.
“Hundred bucks on Painter?”
The man stared at him, brows raising.
“You f**kin’ insane?”
“Nope,” Buck said. “We got a bet?”
“Sure, I’ll take your money. Kid’s almost finished.”
Buck turned back to me.
“Show me your tits,” he said.
My eyes widened.
“I’m not looking to dance,” I said quickly. “Just wait tables.”
“Yeah, I get that,” he replied. “But I need to make sure you’ll fill out the uniform right. You can leave your bra, but lift that shirt if you want a job.”
I glanced at Maggs, who nodded reassuringly.
“Don’t worry,” she said, bright eyes darting between me, Buck, and the men fighting. “You need a decent rack to waitress at The Line. Go ahead, nobody will care.”
I took a deep breath, reached down, and pulled up my shirt all the way.
Two seconds later I heard a huge crash. Suddenly Ruger was between me and Buck, fist slamming into his face. Buck went down and Ruger followed, pounding him brutally.
I screamed as Maggs jerked me to the side, both of us ducking our heads and huddling together. Three guys jumped on Ruger, pulling him off Buck. He fought against them, cussing and growling. Picnic appeared, followed by Gage, who carried a bat.
“Shut the f**k up, everyone,” Picnic yelled. “Ruger, pull your shit together! You’re out of the ring, you forfeit. Now stop thinkin’ with your dick, jackass.”
“Let me go,” Ruger growled.
“You gonna pull your shit together?” Gage asked. Ruger nodded tightly and the guys let him go. Gage reached down to Buck, giving him a hand up. “We got a problem here?”
Buck spat out some blood and grinned, the bright red outlining his teeth horrifically and dripping down his chin. He looked like a serial killer.
“It’s all good,” he said, licking his lips. “Asshole just won a bet for me. Too f**kin’ easy.”
Then he glanced at me, still crouched next to Maggs, utterly stunned.
“No job,” he said. “Got enough bitch drama at the bar already. At a fight, though? Perfect. Ruger always wins, f**kin’ beautiful moment. Thanks, sweetheart.”
“Um, okay,” I said quickly. “I think I’d do better working somewhere else anyway.”
Ruger glared at me, chest heaving, his entire body covered with a sheen of sweat.
“You asked him for a job?” he demanded, grabbing my arm and jerking me through the crowd. I tried to break away, but he didn’t even notice.
“Let me go!”
Ruger dragged me over to the courtyard wall and pinned me up against it, putting a hand on either side of my head as he got down into my face.
“What part of this is so f**kin’ complicated?” he asked, as angry as I’d ever seen him. Well, almost … “You don’t just go around flashing your tits. It’s not a difficult concept, Sophie.”