I’m used to getting my hands dirty. During the day it’s mud and grime on the construction site. At night…it’s the blood I spill. A drug lord’s enforcer does what needs to be done. It’s my obedience, my loyalty to the boss that keeps my family alive.
I know I’m teetering on the edge. I’m losing my humanity, I can feel it. It’s changing me, and it’s only a matter of time before the darkness takes over.
Then I meet her. Liv. The only person who sees past my busted knuckles and brutal exterior. She sees…me. But being with me will get her killed. The only way I can keep her safe is by staying away. Until her own actions catapult her into the center of my world—a world which will swallow her whole.
Now I’m forced to be the ruthless bastard I’ve been for so long. Only this time it’s not to destroy…but to defend.
Brick slammed his fist into the side of Pete’s head, knocking the sniveling junkie into a heap on the floor.
“I’ll get the money for you. I swear. Please, God.” Pete climbed to his knees, his dark hands laced together like he was praying. But prayer couldn’t help him now. Brick had a job to do.
With an unforgiving backhand, he laid Pete flat. The guy lay, unmoving, on the filthy carpet of his cheap-ass apartment, surrounded by cigarette butts, empty beer cans, and the carcass of a giant cockroach.
They always thought if they could fake unconsciousness, the beating would stop. They were wrong.
“Get up.” His voice was bored. “If I have to come down there, it’s going to get worse for you.” He didn’t have to try to be intimidating anymore. Being a big motherfucker had its perks. No one wanted to fight a guy over six feet tall, carrying the kind of muscles you’d see on a pro-wrestler. Even worse for the punks who got in his way, he’d lost his soul a lifetime ago.
He wouldn’t think twice about crushing Pete’s body or spirit. He wouldn’t kill him—not yet, not while the piece of shit owed Sucre money—but he’d make him wish he were dead. The years Brick spent cultivating his status as a legend in this neighborhood guaranteed one thing: everyone knew if he paid you a visit, there was no escape from the punishment you were due.
“I’m getting up, man.” Pete groaned as he climbed to his feet, clutching his head.
He delivered a hard punch to the guy’s stomach. Pete’s breath left his body with a pained exhale.
“The money was due yesterday, Pete.” A powerful right hook followed next. Blood dribbled from the corner of the gaunt man’s mouth. And now he was crying, for fuck’s sake.
“I’ll do anything, Brick,” Pete blubbered. “You want a blow job? I’ll suck your dick, man.”
He wrinkled his nose. This was always the worst part.
Panic flaring in his eyes, Pete held out his hands. “No. No. You want a girl? Yeah, you do. I’ve got a daughter. She—”
His fist shut down the offer more effectively than words ever could. He welcomed the sting in his knuckles as he knocked out a couple of the guy’s teeth in the process. Pete clawed at his own neck, wheezing as he choked.
The little girl with light brown skin and braids, whom Pete had shoved into the bathroom when he got here, couldn’t have been more than ten years old. Sick bastard.
He didn’t hurt kids. Ever. It was the only line he refused to cross. Nobody knew it, and they never would. The second he revealed a weakness for anything, someone would use it against him. He learned that lesson the hard way. It paid not to care about much of anything—or anyone—which wasn’t too hard, since nobody gave a shit about him, either.
The unmistakable scent of piss wafted to his nose, though it was a miracle he could smell anything over the stench of rotting garbage overflowing from the can near the kitchen sink. At least Pete hadn’t shit himself.
“You’ll deliver Sucre’s money tomorrow. With interest. Or I’m going to have to come back here.” He wrapped his hand around Pete’s jaw and squeezed. “You don’t want me to come back here.”
Pete shook his head, but he only moved a fraction of an inch in the vise of Brick’s fingers.
Satisfied he’d made his point, he dropped Pete to the floor and turned his back on the pathetic excuse for a man left crying in a soggy heap. Despite his warning, he knew how all of this would end. Pete didn’t have the money today, and he wouldn’t have it tomorrow.
So, Brick would return in less than twenty-four hours to do this all again. Tomorrow it would be worse. Tomorrow, he’d leave Pete nursing broken bones. The next night, he’d leave Pete dead on the floor. There would be no deals, no pardons. None of Pete’s prayers would make a difference. God didn’t listen to prayers in this neighborhood, and even if He did, the Savior himself couldn’t stop what Pete had coming to him.
The smell outside the tenement apartment wasn’t much better than inside. It still stank of piss, although it was fainter and cut with the heartier scents coming from the dumpsters, and a whiff of marijuana. In one deep breath, anyone could pick up the stench of his world.
A dozen guys stood on the blacktop between the buildings, most of them smoking or shooting the shit. One ran a dark cloth over his Glock, as though he expected to see his reflection in the damn thing. But he shoved his weapon into the waistband of his jeans when he saw Brick coming.
The crowd parted as he made his way to his second-hand half-ton Chevy pick-up truck.
The reason you build a hard-core reputation is for moments like this. Where everyone’s eyes turn away as you walk past. Where no one dares lift a hand against you because they know you would cut it off.
Even the scariest fuckers kept their distance. Because he was the thing that went bump in the night.
He held his stony expression as he cranked the engine and drove to his apartment. He rarely had to fake the Boogeyman routine these days…except when it involved kids. This life had scooped out whatever humanity he’d been born with a long time ago.
Still, he sighed when he made it inside his apartment and locked the door. His little one-bedroom wasn’t much bigger than Pete’s place, but it was clean. And it was his.
Nothing about the apartment made it special. A drab, gray paint shadowed the walls, barely a shade darker than the low grade, bristly carpet. Threadbare fabric covered the couch cushions—green—or it had been, before age leeched all the color away years ago. The sofa could seat two, but he wasn’t even sure why he had it. He always sat in the recliner when he was home, and he didn’t invite company. Home was the only place he could relax his guard, or at least stop looking over his shoulder.
No photos. No decorations. Nothing anyone could use to get to know him or use against him. He didn’t even own a TV. The only nods to the life he once had hid beneath the false bottom of a drawer in his nightstand. Even if someone ever found the broken toy racecar, they wouldn’t know why it mattered to him—he wasn’t sure himself. The picture of him with his grandmother couldn’t cause trouble, either. Sucre worked tirelessly, exploiting that weakness for all it was worth. But he kept them hidden. The last tiny vestiges of his humanity.
Bone tired, he shuffled to the bathroom to wash his hands and face. As he dried his skin with a hand towel, frayed and ragged from years of use, he avoided the mirror over the sink.
He didn’t need his reflection to tell him what an ugly bastard he was. A face only a mother could love.
Too bad his mother was dead. His father too. Sucre had seen to it. And now he worked for the son-of-a-bitch loan shark and drug dealer who ran Atlanta’s underbelly. He was the number one enforcer in a stable of muscle growing larger and more brutal every day.
He used to dream of getting out, but he didn’t dream anymore. All dreaming ever did was leave you hurt and disappointed. He bashed heads, he earned his money, and he squirreled it away so one day he’d have enough to move his grandmother far out of Sucre’s reach. Then, his very last known weakness would be off the table, and God have mercy on any man who tried to control him again.
Because Brick would have none.
Brick (Cooper’s Construction #1) by Jen Davis releases on February 5th.