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."

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6. ~9.06...2~

    “You’re looking awfully confident for someone who just saw the person they were supposed to be holding hostage with a knife to your guy’s throat,” I growled, pressing the blade against Leo’s windpipe.  I didn’t want to kill him, but I’d never admit that to Jason.

    “You’re looking awfully confident for a hostage that’s outnumbered by five.  How long do you bet you’ll last, Little L?  You’re pretty feisty.  I’ll put three grand on two minutes.”

    “Fuck you,” I spat, keeping my hold on Leo.

    “Honestly, Little L, you don’t think we’d be prepared for someone twice your size to try to get a jump on us?  You’re the least of our worries right now.”

    Jason jutted out his chin, satisfied with letting me know just how screwed I was.  I ground my teeth.

    “I seriously doubt that,” I retorted.

    In one swift motion I kicked out Leo’s leg and landed my elbow to his temple on the way down.  He was out like a light, still breathing normally as he sprawled onto the ground.  As I moved away from him, the light fell onto his face.  I then recognized him as the guy we’d taken out when we raided Jason.  A laugh almost escaped me—this kid was too soft.  I let out a long breath, then focused my glare back to Jason.

    “Don’t call me Little L.”

    He laughed, holding up his hands.  “Fine.  Phoebe, then.  Welcome to the McCann abode.”

    I flipped him off and began to walk up the stairs.  Jason didn’t scare me in the least anymore, not after how easily I’d gotten out of my bonds and taken out one of his guys.  But I still had to stay on guard, just like Sam had told me.

    Jason held out his hand for me to take it, but I brushed right past him and strutted out into the hallway.  It smelled like cigarettes and stale bread, and the lighting was low.  The walls, bare and painted a dark brown, blended with the dark gray tiled floor.  The hall spread out to either side of me, and I flashed my gaze back and forth while Jason studied me.  I didn’t know my way around, but I’d find out soon enough.

    I led myself to the left, ignoring Jason and finding a door with a coded lock that I knew lead to a six-car garage.  I’d seen it from the outside, and it was on the left side of the house and below a majority of the upper levels.  They—being his group—all drove nice and new vehicles, a show of how much money they made from dealing.

    That was the end of the hallway, and I turned to go back the other way.  Jason was watching me casually, though closely.  I shot him a look, avoiding his body on my way past.

    “You’re just going to leave him?” I asked as I turned my head, looking in doors along the wall.  A bathroom, a laundry room, a closet (I’d opened the door to see, and was met by coats and shoes of varying sizes), and a locked door.  I eyed the door carefully before moving on, curious about the contents.

    “He’ll wake up in a little bit,” Jason answered.  I heard his feet begin to follow me.  “He’s fine.”

    The hallway ended in front of me with a heavy door, the handle bearing another coded lock.  A security system panel was embedded in the wall to the side of it, showing red letters across the screen that said ARMED.  They had to keep codes around somewhere.  I’d find them eventually.

    To the left was a staircase leading to the main level of the house.  I walked up, trying to get a view of what was at the top.  A kitchen, I realized as I stepped onto the tiled floor.  Cabinets were on one wall, a fridge and oven separated between them.  A microwave rested on the counter and a dishwasher was built into a rectangular island in the middle of the room.  A dining table sat about ten feet from the island, and one of Jason’s guys was sitting at it.  Xander, I realized, judging by his voice.  It had sounded like he’d been closer—I’d have to keep in mind that sound traveled in this house.

    “Where’s Leo?” Xander asked, eyeing me with suspicion.  A card game was spread out on the table in front of him.  Rolls of money laid in the middle of two hands of cards

    “She knocked him out,” Jason’s voice came from behind me.  “Little bit smarter than most people we leave in the basement.  She was almost out before I got there.  You’ll have to sleep with one eye open tonight.”

    Jason was mocking me.  I didn’t say anything, only for the reason that his words were very true.  I’d make my days with them a living hell.

    I shot Xander a glare and turned, leading myself into the only carpeted area of the house to the right.  It was littered with bean bags.  They were circled around a large flatscreen TV with an Xbox attached.  The screen was black, and the room unattended, but anyone could tell that six boys used it regularly.  Wrappers and cans were dropped haphazardly, no attempt at keeping the room nice evident at all.  This spread the length of the dining space and kitchen, leaving plenty of room for all of them to gather at the same time.

    Past this was another wall of doors, one leading to another bathroom, a room that looked fairly lived in, and two more closed doors.  I walked across the room and opened the first one, finding a closet full of vests—probably bulletproof—and heavy duty boots.  I closed the door and opened the next, finding a small room they looked to be using as storage.  Boxes were stacked high along the far wall and dispersed as they got to the door.  Nothing that interested me.

    “What’s she doing?” Xander asked.  “You’re supposed to have her on a tight leash, Jason.”

    I clenched my fists.  Tight leash, my ass.

    “She’s checking out the place,” Jason answered him lazily.  “I’m standing right here.  She’s not going anywhere.”

    A staircase on my right side caught my eye.  I moved toward it abruptly, carrying myself to the third level of the house.  I heard Jason moving across the floor, appearing at the bottom of the stairs as I stepped to the top.

    There was a large landing, wood flooring covering the expanse.  It was empty except for a threadbare sofa that had lost its original color.  Sitting against the dark walls, its light and faded color stood out, making it look a little sad.  My eyes traveled past the landing and found another hallway, about  ten feet across.  I walked along it, looking at each door I passed.

    The first was another bedroom, as was the second, third, and fourth.  The doors alternated sides, giving each room a great deal of space.  The last door in the hallway was shut.  There was a lock on it, but when I turned the knob it opened without resisting.

    It was just another room, except the window on the far wall was larger than the ones in the other rooms.  Dark drapes were hung above the window’s frame, making the room seem more menacing than it was.  No sunlight came in, meaning it was probably late.  A large king size bed was settled against the wall, comforter and sheets unmade from this morning.  Closet doors hung open on the wall opposite the bed, revealing a walk-in with a mess of clothes that spilled onto the floor.  The floor was still all wood, but a dark rug spread across the majority of the room.

    I closed the door and turned, but gave a start at Jason’s close proximity.  He was less than two feet away, looking down at me with a smile.  I glared, backing up to the door.

    “My room,” he said in a low voice, taking a step toward me.  I didn’t flinch, but grew very uncomfortable when he lifted his arms to rest on either side of my head.  Jason lowered his face, close enough that I could feel his breath on mine.  “Yours, too.  If you want it.”

    I scoffed.  “The hell if I do.  I don’t want to be anywhere near you.”

    His lip curled into a smirk.  “I’m sure that’s why you left with me so willingly, even against your brother’s orders.”

    I planted my hands on his chest and shoved him away from me.  “You had a gun pointed at his head and you shot Emmett, asshole.  What else was I supposed to do?”

    Jason clucked his tongue.  “I guess having values has a down side.”

    I clenched my jaw and swung my fist, aiming for Jason’s stomach.  He caught my hand and cocked an eyebrow at me.  I let something close to a growl escape my throat and drove my knee into his thigh.  Jason’s jaw tightened and I heard him let out a grunt.  My lips curled at the corners, satisfied.

    “Don’t insult Markus, or Sam, or anyone associated with me,” I glowered.  “They’re all a hundred times the man you will ever be.”

    “You have me there,” Jason admitted, standing straighter.  He’d recovered quicker than I’d anticipated.  “Which is why you won’t hold it against me if I do this—“

    Jason’s hand connected with the side of my face, causing me to step out to catch myself.  A stinging sensation flourished across my cheek and I let out a surprised breath.  He’d hit me.

    “You stupid asshole,” I spat, whipping back to face him.  “Every time you hit me, Tyler will come back at you tenfold.”

    “I’m sure he will,” Jason said nonchalantly, starting back down the hall.  “You’re probably hungry.  You can get food in the kitchen, along with an ice pack for your face.”

    “Kiss my ass,” I mumbled, following him.

    Leo had woken up and returned to the table with Xander, where they continued playing their card game.  I watched as Jason rummaged through the kitchen, but couldn’t follow it.  I’d never seen it played before.

    Xander cursed as Leo took another one of his cards, laying them on the table beside his hand.  He looked over at me and snickered.

    “Son of a bitch hit you hard, didn’t he?”

    I could still feel Jason’s handprint on my cheek.  It was warm and tingling.  I glared at Xander and turned my face so he couldn’t see the mark.  Jason was returning with what looked like leftover sandwich meat and a bag of chips.  He held out a plate to me.  I wrinkled my nose and crossed my arms—I was a picky eater.  Cooked meals were the only things that interested me, beside a bowl of cereal once in a while.  Not that I would take food from Jason anyway.

    “You’re gonna go hungry,” Jason taunted, half tossing the plate onto the island.

    “I’d rather do that,” I answered, putting as much distaste as I could manage in my voice.

    He shrugged, lifting a bite to his mouth.  “Suit yourself.”

    “Damn it!” Xander shouted.  “Another card to the damn Ghost.”

    I shook my head, watching Leo’s response.  He smirked, pushing three cards over to the side of a lone deck.

    “Your strategy sucks, man,” Leo told him smugly, pulling a card from the top of the stack of cards in his hand.   He laid it down on the table face up—it was an ace.  “Have trouble beating that one.”

    “Fuck you, Leo,” Xander growled, pushing a king from his deck and a five from the third deck toward Leo.  “I need this money for my mom.”

    I snorted, letting my hair fall over the side of my face Jason hit.  Xander spun on me, eyes on fire.  I nearly rolled my eyes at him.  His temper was annoying.

    “What’s that, Little L?  Hasn’t your mom ever been in trouble?  Seems like everyone is around here, especially you.”

    I ground my teeth.  “I don’t have a mom.”

    Xander looked taken aback.  He shut up about it and turned back to cursing at the dumb game.  A dish clattered in a sink behind me.  I didn’t have to look back to know it was Jason.  I heard his footsteps lead up to right behind where I stood, and felt a warm hand on my waist.

    “Yeah, right,” I spoke through my teeth, shoving his hand away.

    Jason rose an eyebrow at me.  “The boys are changing shifts in an hour, which means it’s just after midnight.  Time for you to choose.  My room, or the basement?”

    “Not even a question,” I spat, walking toward the stairs leading to the lower level.

    I didn’t look back until I’d stepped down onto the concrete flooring of the basement.  Crossing my arms, I looked back up the stairs at Jason.  He was leaning against the doorframe, arm stretched out and fingers drumming on the opposite side.

    “The offer still stands,” he said.  “Just give a holler, and you can curl up with me tonight.”

    “It’ll keep standing,” I retorted.

    Jason shrugged, then moved to close the door.  But I remembered something just then.

    “Where’s my phone?” I shouted up at him.

    “I seemed to have misplaced it,” he mocked, showing me his empty hands.

    The door shut above as he chuckled to himself.  I ground my teeth, trying to figure out what I was going to do.  I’d just come out of about twenty-four hours of sleep, and I had a whole night ahead of me.  The light above my head flickered off and I cursed, immersed in near blackness.

    The lock on the door clicked into place.

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