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“My brother.” She was still focused on cleaning the counter. “You know Logan? My brother. An inch shorter and leaner than me. Is this ringing a bell?”
She flushed. “I’m sorry. Yes. He’s in the back.”
“In the back?”
“He was really wasted so I told him he could lay down in the back.”
“He’s passed out?”
She nodded, her cheeks were red, but it spread to cover her entire face. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, looking nervous again. “I’m sorry. I texted Nate. Logan told me not to text you before he passed out. He said you needed to get laid so, um, I texted Nate instead. I’m sorry. I should’ve texted you or called you or I don’t know.”
“Is he okay?”
“Yeah. Yeah.” She started to leave the counter, but cursed and stopped. “I can’t leave. I’m sorry or I would show you. It’s just through the back door. He’s on the couch back there.”
“Okay.” I frowned at her.
She waved at me. “Go. Take care of your brother. My uncle is coming back now.” A sweep of headlights flashed in the window as a car pulled into the lot. “See. That’s him.”
“Okay.” I waited until I saw a guy hurrying inside. A harassed look was on his face, but it morphed into alarm when he saw me.
“What are you doing here?” he started forward.
Marissa hurried around the counter and held him back. “He’s a friend, Uncle Ben. He’s a friend. That’s it. His brother is sleeping in the back.”
“I know you.” He pointed at me. “You leave her alone. She’s a good girl.”
At the warning, the slight concern I had felt for Marissa left. In its place, the old emptiness and anger settled back in. They were like a second layer of skin, and it wasn’t until then that I realized they had lifted for a moment. It was because of Marissa. They didn’t press so hard on me when I was around her, but they were back and I’d gone back to being the bad guy.
“No, no. He’s going. He’s getting his brother and he’s going.” She waved at me. “Go.”
When I ducked into the back office, Logan was sitting up, cradling his head with his phone in the other hand. He saw me and blinked, dazed at me. “Mason? Did you just text me a bunch of times?”
“I’m surprised you heard them. Marissa said you were wasted when you got here.”
He groaned, then looked ready to puke. “I feel like shit.”
“What happened? I thought you were at that party.” Hearing Marissa’s uncle begin to yell, I took his arm. “Come on. Let’s go. We have to get out of here.”
Logan clutched his stomach. “Shit. What the f**k did I do?”
“I have no idea, but we need to go. The owner is going to call the cops.” When I helped him through the door and saw his face in the light, I almost dropped him. “Shit. What happened to your face?”
“What?” Logan touched his cheek and cursed. “It was throbbing in there, but it’s killing me now.”
His cheek and jawline were swollen. I touched the corner of his eye and Logan sucked in his breath. “Man. You’re going to have a black eye.”
Before I could fully comprehend that someone had done this to my little brother, Marissa’s uncle descended on us. He was pointing and shouting at the same time. “You! Get out. Get out of here! Now.”
Logan flinched from the harsh tone. When the guy got closer and closer and didn't look like he was stopping, I moved Logan behind me and shoved the guy backwards. “Back off.”
He paused, taking in my size and height, but shook his head again. “Him. I want him gone.”
“Uncle?” Marissa was standing behind the aisle. She looked confused. “What’s going on?”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” I bit out. “Logan?”
He shook his head. “I have no idea. I can’t remember a thing.”
“Him!” The uncle started again. His hand was up once more. He advanced again, his tone was irate. “He started this. Someone dropped him off.”
Logan groaned then. “I think I got laid. I can’t remember.”
The owner kept going as if he hadn’t said anything, “Then the Broudous showed up and they all started fighting.”
“Wait. What?”
“The Broudous. Budd and Brett Broudou, and their slob of a sister,” he spat out. His chest was heaving and the veins in his neck bulged out. “My son was here and he went to stop the fight. They started to hit this one, but this one hit my son. I had to take him to the hospital.”
“Oh my god,” Marissa muttered. She had paled. “I never saw the side of his face. He was sitting on the curb when I told him to go inside.” She raised horrified eyes to me. “I wasn’t looking at him close. I’m sorry, Mason. I would’ve called for an ambulance if I had known. I was more concerned about calling you and letting you know and then taking care of the store.”
“And your cousin.”
She turned to her uncle. “What?”
“You should’ve been concerned about your cousin. If he was okay or not.”
Her hands were twisting around each other and she gulped. “I was, but you called and told me he was fine. I’m sorry.”
I didn’t care. I didn’t give one iota about her cousin, about the owner, or anything else. I turned so my back was to them. I asked Logan, “You remember anything?”
He shook his head, frowning with his eyes narrowed. “Not really. Wait…something about their sister? They were saying you slept with her?”
“Their sister? I don’t even know who she is.” It didn’t matter. My decision was made. I was taking Logan home. I was calling Nate. I was calling anyone who wanted to come along and we were going to find the Broudous. This was going to be handled tonight. They hurt my brother. I was going to hurt them.
I looked at Logan. “What?”
He cleared his throat, wincing from the pain. “Wait. Whatever you’re planning, I want in. Wait until I’m healed. You’d want in too, if it had been you.”
I gritted my teeth. He had a point, but f**k, I hated it. “Fine.”