Empty Bargains [Jason McCann]

"I have nothing else to offer you," Markus barked through gritted teeth, his fists clenched hard at his sides. Jason shook his head, chuckling. "I only want one thing, and it's in this room," he sneered. My brother took a step closer to me, trying to push me toward the door. Jason's eyes flashed over and caught mine, a glint in his eye while a shiver went down my spine. "What do you want?" Markus asked, impatient. Jason's head nodded in my direction. I froze and the room fell deafeningly silent. "I want her."


21. ~10.25~



Sorry, I didn't get around to editing this chapter just yet.  I'll work on proofing the past few on Sunday.  I was just extra excited about getting this update in for the weekend!  Hope you all enjoy.Xx


    “You go ahead,” I told Jason, patting his stomach.  He was standing beside me at the bathroom counter, watching me brush mascara onto my eyes.  The bass coming from downstairs was already causing the floor to vibrate.  “It’s your party, you should be down there.”


    “Don’t make me wait too long,” he said, squeezing my waist before exiting the small tiled room.  The bedroom door opened and shut, letting in a few seconds of music before an abrupt cut off.  I wrinkled my nose, already able to smell the marijuana burning in joints on the level below.


    Parties had always seemed obnoxious to me, but Jason always seemed so adamant on hosting them.  I supposed they were good for making deals and ties with other people, but Markus never really bothered with them while I was under his roof.  Personally, I didn’t like the drug use going on.  Pot seemed bad by it’s secondhand smell alone; how people could inhale it, I didn’t know.  God knew what else was going on in other rooms of the house.


    After deciding I’d put enough of my almost-empty mascara on, I walked out into Jason’s — ours, really — room and began to dig in my closet.  Having two was extremely nice, since I no longer had to worry about my clothes being wrinkled in a heap on the floor.  My hands ran over the multiple fabrics, landing on a royal blue dress.  I tugged it off the hanger and slipped it over my head after stripping from my other clothes, then pushed my feet into black wedges.  The dress fell to mid-thigh, loose near my legs but tight on my torso.  Sleeves covered my shoulders and ended just underneath my elbow, and I rolled my shoulders to make the slick fabric sit more comfortably against my skin.  As I stepped back into the room I spotted one of Jason’s beanies lying on the floor.  I picked it up and slipped the black hat over my straight hair instead of tossing it into his closet.


    I could tell by the volume of the party that there were a lot more people here than the last time.  It made sense, since this house was quite a bit bigger than the last, even with only two floors.  Seeing people again made me feel a little nervous; I hadn’t been out of the house since Jason and I had gone shopping for our bed — which now stood low against the far wall of the room — just over a week ago.  Even then, there hadn’t been that many bodies where we’d gone.  I was beginning to think being holed up in a house for that long was having an effect on my social skills.


    Before I could convince myself not to descend into the haze of smoke downstairs, I closed the bedroom door behind me and made my way through the crowd.  I spotted Jason almost right away.  He was sat at a long table in the middle of the main room, something Xander had brought in a  few days ago.  The house had quickly filled with furniture as we’d settled in; a small table in the study and another long one in the dining room; the bean bags tossed every which way in the main room, along with two leather arm chairs; stools for the kitchen and patio chairs for the back deck; and beds for each of the guys.


    I pushed through the small crowd that had gathered around the gambling table and put my hand on Jason’s shoulder.  He looked up and smiled as I played with the collar of his shirt.  Acting as if it were habit, he craned his neck to place a kiss to my fingers, and my stomach flushed with warmth.  He hadn’t been one to show affection while in front of multiple people, and I was surprised at his action.  It was a small gesture, but everyone sitting around the table had seen it, if not more.


    “That’s my hat,” Jason said.


    “I know,” I replied, flashing a smile.  “Don’t try telling me to take it off, because I won’t.”


    “I wasn’t going to,” he answered.  “It looks good on you.”


    I let the dim lighting of the room hide my blush as I watched the next round of poker.  An unfamiliar face served as the dealer, flipping over the center cards and watching as chips were tossed into the accumulating pile.  After a few times around the table, I looked down and noticed Jason didn’t have any cards in his hands.  He must not have been playing, simply observing the game taking place in his house.  Something about it made me smile.


    What? he mouthed at me, I simply shook my head, leaving the grin on my face.  He narrowed his eyes playfully and took hold of my hand that’d been resting on his arm.  Before I could say anything, he stood and pulled me away from the table.  I kept up, even on the three-inch wedges, as he weaved us through the mass of people in the main room.  We somehow ended up in the kitchen, where Jason snagged a bottle of scotch off the island and then began dragging me toward the back deck.


    I sucked in a breath as the cool October air hit my uncovered skin and guessed the temperature to be around forty degrees.  My body wasn’t used to the colder weather, since I’d spent almost my entire life in the southern parts of California.  The night seemed almost too cool for me, and I was proven right when my teeth began to chatter.  Jason had been smart, wearing dark jeans and a gray hoodie.  As we sat down on the steps leading down from the deck to the patio surrounding the pool he seemed to notice my lack of clothing.


    “Do you want my jacket?” he asked, setting the bottle of scotch next to him.  Even after rubbing my arms and shaking my head, Jason rolled his eyes and shrugged his outer layer off.  “Take it.”


    I didn’t complain when I slid into it, still warm from his body.  He was left in a long-sleeved maroon v-neck that looked incredibly good on him.  My grin was my thanks and he returned the smile before gripping the bottle next to him.  He held out the bottle to offer me a drink but I waved him off.  Drinking wasn’t something I liked to do, even though the option had been given to me plenty of times.  The sting alcohol left behind wasn’t worth the amount of time it took for the numbness to set in.  Plus, I had no idea who’d taken a drink straight from that same bottle over the course of the night.


    Jason shrugged and tipped it back, taking to drinks before wincing and setting the bottle aside.  “Someone mixed it,” he explained.  “There’s something else in here, and it’s got a hell of a kick.”  A smirk played at his lips.  “Sure you don’t want any?”


    “I’m fine,” I replied, looking over at the pool.  There were several people splashing around, though I didn’t understand how they could stand the cold.  Even with Jason’s jacket I was still shuddering from the temperature.


    “Do you want to swim?”


    I glanced over at him.  “I’m wearing a dress.  The water is probably freezing, anyway.”


    He leaned over and kissed me where my jaw met my neck.  “It’s heated,” Jason mumbled into my skin.  “And you don’t have to wear the dress.”


    I leaned away from him, laughing.  “You want me to take it off?  Right now?”


    “Not now,” he shook his head with a laugh.  “Later, though.”


    Rolling my eyes, I hugged Jason’s jacket tighter to me.  “We’ll see.”


    “That’s good enough for me,” he said, wrapping his arm around my waist and tugging me closer.  I leaned into him and rested my head against his shoulder.


    The music was muted behind the closed back door, and I could see flashes from a strobe light someone had brought.  It wasn’t nearly dark enough inside for it to work well, but I didn’t know what went through a person’s head when they were drunk and high at the same time.


    My gaze landed on a house about three down from where we were.  A silhouette was standing on the back deck, hands on hips.  I could tell whether the figure was male or female, but their body language said they weren’t happy.  Huffing, I turned my head up to Jason.


    “I guess the neighbors here aren’t as tolerant as they were in the last neighborhood,” I said.  When he gave me a questioning look I nodded my head in the direction of the form.  “They don’t look happy.”


    “They can shove it up their–“


    “Jason,” Xander’s voice came from behind us, cutting him off.  We both swiveled our heads to where Xander stood, the back door open and being leaned against by him.  There was a change in songs and the background noise grew quieter for a moment.




    “Uriah’s here,” Xander replied.  “He wants to talk to you — soon.”


    I saw Jason glance at me in my peripheral, then back at Xander.  “Tell him I’ll be there in two minutes.”


    Xander nodded and closed himself back in the house.  I sat up, making room for Jason to stand.  He pulled me up with him, tugging me to his chest.  My head lifted to meet his gaze, torsos pressed together as he placed another kiss to my face.  He was being incredibly adamant about keeping a touch on me.  Since I’d gotten to the main level, there hadn’t been a time I hadn’t been in contact with Jason.


    “You should go find Uriah,” I said, though I didn’t know who he was.  “A deal, I assume?  You live off of that money, you know.”


    “I know,” he gave me a sly smile.  “But I always negotiate better with him when there’s a girl on my arm.  It distracts him.”


    I swatted at his arm, looped around my body and pressed to my back.  “I’m not going to let you use me like that.”


    “I wouldn’t,” Jason assured me, then began moving us to the door.  “But that doesn’t mean I don’t want you with me.


    Rolling my eyes, I sigh.  “Fine.  Lead the way.”


    He starts walking toward the door, then pauses.  Without missing a beat he goes back to the bottle of scotch, sitting where he’d left it on the deck beside him.  He jiggles it at me, then tips it bad to take another swig.  “Liquid courage,” he explains, and we disappear inside the party.


    Just like the last party, dancing bodies are all in a horde in the main room.  I didn’t notice the heat coming from them when I’d first come down, but with the comparison of the outside temperature it seemed almost overwhelming.  Working around Jason’s arm, I managed to slide his jacket off.


    “Take it,” I said, pushing it against his chest.  “There’s enough heat in here to last probably into next week.”


    He smiled, then tossed the hoodie to the side.  It landed in a heap on the floor, where an incredibly drunk guy tripped over it and doused the fabric with beer.  My mouth dropped open, but Jason shrugged.


    “I can get a new one.”


    As we continued through the house, I began to see quite a few people gathered in the entry way.  There were definitely less than in the room behind us, where the drinks were, but as we rounded the corner and faced the study I noticed the crowd was gathering in there.  I shared a look with Jason and he just smiled, while I was confused.


    “Uriah Crowe is one of the most powerful people in this area,” Jason explained after leaning to speak in my ear.  “Drugs and weapon wise, of course.  People like us don’t bother with industry.”


    My front lip was taken between my teeth.  My brother had always told me Oakland was dangerous, and I knew from news stories and other people that Sam was right.  Where we used to live looked nice compared to here.  I could only assume that the same went for people.  I wasn’t afraid of much, but I was cautious about the kind of power people could hold over my head.  Jason throwing himself right into the thick of it when we only got into town a little over a week before might not have been the smartest move.


    As we approached, Carter and Xander began pushing people out of the study.  Some were drunk, others seeming simply curious — probably wondering why Uriah was sitting in the new kid on the block’s house.  When a majority of the people had cleared, the table came into view.  Sitting at its head was a dark skinned, well-built man who looked to be about twenty-five.  His hair was trimmed close to his head and the edges of multiple tattoos peeked out from the collar of his white tee.  He wore one extremely thin, barely noticeable silver chain around his neck that ended in a celtic knot pendant.  His fingers were weaved together and set on top of the table, staring at Jason and I with an unreadable expression.


    I grew uneasy as I noticed two other guys of the same stature, one to each side of him against the wall.  Their arms were crossed and their eyes were constantly scanning the room.  I leaned further into Jason and felt him squeeze my waist before turning to say something in my ear.


    “He’s also my oldest friend.”


    With that he left my side, shoving the bottle of scotch into Carter’s hand before going with a wide smile to clap Uriah in a handshake.  Uriah stood and beamed, enveloping Jason in a hug that suggested they hadn’t seen each other in ages.  By the way they talked to each other, I knew it’d been a long time.


    “Good to see you, McCann,” Uriah said, his voice easily overshadowing the music blaring in the background.  “How long has it been?  Three years?”


    “Almost four,” Jason answered, stepping away to find a place across the table.  He sat, and I moved to stand behind him.  I didn’t feel comfortable, even knowing Jason was friends with this man.  People changed, especially over four years.


    Uriah’s eyes flicked to me and I held a neutral expression, hoping to not come off scared or hostile.  I knew this was important to Jason.  If I harmed whatever opportunity he was getting, I’d feel guilty for as long as I could see forward into the future.  The pressure lifted off my shoulders when Uriah looked back at Jason and began to speak.


    “I’ve heard a lot about you, Jason,” he said, a grin playing at the corners of his mouth.  “Accomplished quite a bit in the last year?”


    Jason leaned back in his seat.  “I didn’t invite you to blow smoke up my ass,” he laughed.


    “I’m just asking about how you’ve been,” Uriah waved him off.  “I want to know all the places you’ve been, people you’ve shoved around, all the good stuff — from you, not other people.”


    “Rumors are more fun to hear,” Jason replied simply.


    I could sense a hint of tentativeness in his voice.  Hadn’t he said they were friends?  Maybe the pressure of having so many people around was making him uneasy.  The two males both had a lot of power where they were from, and even with their friendship there might have been a need to prove themselves.  Everyone wanted to be top dog, and Jason might’ve been letting the intimidation of Uriah’s control get to him.


    “Mikey was just telling me about this group you dealt with a while ago,” Uriah ignored Jason, continuing with a story.


    I felt a hand grab mine and I nearly jumped, looking down to find Jason looking up at me.  “Why don’t you go enjoy the party.”


    This was obviously meant to get me to leave the room.  I didn’t know why, since he’d said he wanted be there, but I trusted Jason enough to know it was for a reason.  Jason knew I could handle my own, but with unfamiliar people I didn’t know what I was going to get.  I smiled down at him and nodded, squeezing his hand before turning and leaving the study.  The doors closed behind me and I glanced over at the front entrance.


    Leo was leaned against the wall to the side of it, arms crossed and looking slightly annoyed.  I made my way over and gave him a look as I approached.


    “Door duty again?” I asked jokingly.


    He rolled his eyes.  “Always.”  His eyes traveled over to the study, where people shifted between their feet as Jason talked back and forth with Uriah.  “Did you get kicked out?”


    I shrugged.  “More or less.  What’s the deal with Uriah, anyway?”


    “I’m sure Jason told you he has a lot of influence over people here.”  When I nodded, he continued.  “He wants to establish his friendship with Uriah right away — make sure people know his name.  Smart, really, but kind of risky.  One move he doesn’t like, and we’re gone.”


    “Gone?” my eyebrow rose.


    “Either run out of town or at the bottom of a lake with cinder blocks chained to our ankles,” Leo laughed.


    “You take that a lot more lightly than you should,” I told him seriously.  Threats were a very real deal, and I sure as hell didn’t want to wind up dead at the end of this.


    “We’re not going to die,” Leo reassured me.  “As long as Jason makes a good impression, we’ll be fine.”


    “I hope so,” I bit the inside of my cheek.


    “Honestly, he’s got it under contr–“


    The front door banged open and I turned abruptly to see a cocky-looking girl waltz in.  Her hair was pitch black and ran the length of her back, ending in a point at her waist.  It was a blatant contrast from the white heels and dress she wore, loose only up by her chest.  She was obviously wearing a push-up bra, creating almost as much shadow on her breasts as there was on her cheekbones.  Her face was well constructed, and blue eyes cast a curious look around the room.  She paused only a few seconds before kicking the door closed behind her and striding into the crowd in the main area.


    I heaved a breath through my nose and turned back to Leo — only to find him looking like he’d seen a ghost.  He was staring after the girl, and I waved a hand in front of his face.


    “What’s the matter with you?” I asked.


    “That’s–“ he stuttered.  “That’s Leah.”


    My stomach dropped to my ankles and I whipped back around, trying to find the girl.  I could feel my face growing hot, combing the crowd with my eyes to spot her.  When I couldn’t see a trace of her, I began striding toward the main room.


    “Phoebe!” Leo called after me.  “Stop!”


    I ignored him, knowing Jason would kill him if he left the door.  Leo couldn’t follow me even if he wanted to.  I had to find Leah — had to find the girl who’d apparently messed Jason up so bad he wasn’t the same for weeks.  What kind of girl could have that power over him?  I ground my teeth together as I realized jealously was beginning to spike in me.  Why was she here?  What the hell did she want?


    I stopped just before I would’ve entered the horde of bodies and whipped my head in either direction.  Questions whipped through my mind as I tried to pinpoint her.  Jason had been in Poway earlier this year, when he supposedly met her — Leah couldn’t live in Oakland, it didn’t make sense.  How could she have even heard about this party, let alone have the nerve to show up?


    A flash of white fabric caught my eye and I caught her walking up the stairs on the opposite side of the room.  I ground my teeth, baffled that she had the audacity to search the house.  Before I could stop myself, I plunged through the crowd after her.  By the time I’d reached the stairs I had no doubt she was already up, no doubt going through the rooms to find Jason’s.  I looked there first, throwing open the door to see her running a manicured hand over the duvet.


    She jumped, throwing her head in my direction.  A glare formed on her features, and I assumed by the way she wore it that it was a habitual response to people.  She tossed a few loose hairs back over her shoulder and stood up straight.


    “I don’t think you’re supposed to be up here,” she said, her voice smooth but demanding.


    My temper flared.  “I don’t think you’re supposed to be here at all.”


    Her back straightened even more as my arms crossed over my chest.  Leah’s eyes darted over to the closet my clothes occupied and a flicker of recognition glanced her face.  She met my level gaze again, a small smirk breaking the surface of her mouth.


    “You know who I am,” she said, more of a statement than a question.  “May as well introduce myself formally, then.”  She stuck out her hand, though there was no way I could reach it from across the room.  “Leah Fowler.”


    “Get out,” I bit back.


    She cleared her throat loudly and dropped her hand to her side.  “I don’t believe it’s your place to tell me that.”


    Leah was beginning to make my blood boil.  I didn’t know why I was so angry, but I was almost blinded by the hatred that was stemming in me.  It took all I had in me not to throw myself at her and beat her to a pulp.  Who did she think she was?


    “This definitely isn’t your place,” I hissed, gesturing to Jason’s — our — room.


    Her smirk deepened.  “It used to be.”


    My jaw clenched, making me speak through my teeth.  “Hence the phrase, ‘used to be’.”


    Leah ignored me and began strolling about the room, knowing she’d make me even angrier as she cast mock-curious looks around.  “You know,” she said conversationally, clasping her hands behind her back.  “When I was told Jason had a new girl, I didn’t think they meant a girl.”  She spun on her heel and a look of fake concern covered her face.  “How old are you, hun?  Certainly not old enough for your little fling to be legal.”


    I scoffed.  “Get the fuck out of here.”


    Why was she here in the first place?  She left Jason.  How did Leah even find this place, and why did she think she could waltz into Jason’s room?  For what purpose?  My fists clenched as she mocked surprise at my words.


    “Honey, you don’t–“


    The door behind me banged open and I turned, surprised by the sudden noise.  I was even more shocked when Jason stumbled in, leaning against the door for support.  His face was pale and  his eyes seemed obstructed by an unknown barrier.  He never got drunk, so I was worried when I noticed the way he was tripping over himself.  Jason tried to move toward me, but thought better of it and leaned against the wall.


    “I saw you go upstairs,” he said, his words connecting a little more than they should.  “You looked upset, and I wanted to make sure everything was okay.  The music is kind of hurting my head, though.  I think I want to sleep.”


    Jason wasn’t being himself, that much was clear.  It couldn’t have been from the small amount of scotch he’d had, or even the secondhand weed-smoking.  There wasn’t enough of it in this house to effect him like that.


    I stepped toward him, intending to help him stand on his own.  If I knew anything about being high or drunk, it was to not let someone sleep when they couldn’t even keep their balance.  I was halfway to him, having forgotten Leah was even here, that she spoke up.


    “Jason,” she said simply.  Her tone was completely changed from the way she’d just been talking to me.  She sounded almost pleasant.  I could have vomited.


    Jason’s vacant eyes snapped up, focusing on the female across the room.  My stomach dropped for an unknown reason as I saw recognition flood through him.  His face then showed confusion before his face twisted in an expression I could only describe as highly uncomfortable.


    “Leah…?” was all he could manage before his eyes rolled back into his head and he dropped to the ground.










Feel free to leave comments, and have a lovely weekend. Xx

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