Elizabeth rubbed the chalk against the top of the pool cue and smirked at the men gathered around her. “You boys sure haven’t learned your lesson yet.”
“Maybe we just like seeing you in action,” a blonde college student remarked. “I don’t mind paying twenty bucks for a show.”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “As long as you lose fairly, I don’t give a damn.” She set her pool cue on the table and removed her leather jacket to reveal a tight lacy black tank top underneath. “Let’s do this.”
Across the room, Jason ordered a beer and peered over at the table. “She always got a crowd like this?” he asked Jake.
The woman nodded. “Yeah. Let me tell you, I sure am glad Sonny finally sent over some protection for her.”
“Don’t tell her,” Jason replied, sipping the beer Jake handed him. “He doesn’t want her to know.” Looking back at the pool table, he watched the petite brunette line up a shot and sink three balls in perfect succession. “Joey Jr. come around here often?”
“About once a night. She’s usually got enough men around her to take care of him. That’s why Sonny called you home? Cuz a little pest was bothering his kid sister?”
Jason’s jaw clenched as he watched Elizabeth smile victoriously at one of the men she’d just beaten. Had the little shit left a bruise when he hit her? “Sonny just likes his family safe.”
“He’s never brought you home for Courtney,” Jake observed. “And she’s had her fair share of idiot choices.”
“I think Sonny feels more responsible because Elizabeth grew up in the foster system,” Jason told her. “He feels guilty even though he didn’t know she existed.”
“He feels guilty when an earthquake hits Turkey,” Jake remarked. “He’s got an addiction to guilt.”
“Has Junior been in yet?” Jason asked.
“Nope.” As soon as the words left him mouth, Joseph Sorel, Jr. entered the bar. He looked every bit the weasel his father was–from his greasy slicked back hair to his beady little eyes. His gaze focused on Elizabeth and he started his trek across the room.
“Excuse me for a second,” Jason murmured. He slid off the stool and got across the bar to the pool table before Joey Jr. reached the pool table. He was quick to keep out of sight of Sonny’s sister.
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes as she slipped a roll of bills into the back pocket of her tight black jeans. “Go away, Joey.”
“Aw, come on, don’t be like that.” Joey Jr. moved closer to her and trailed a finger down her bare shoulder.
“I said go away,” Elizabeth snapped.
“The lady said to leave,” her blonde admirer barked attempting to step in between them. Joey Jr. shoved him back and the side of his jacket slid away, revealing a small pistol.
Immediately, most of the crowd kind of shied away and without making a fuss, left the two alone.
“What are you doing with that?” Elizabeth asked, still unruffled. She reached for her jacket but he stopped her, wrapping his hand around her wrist and tightening it. She winced. “Joey, go away.”
“Come on, honey. You shouldn’t tease me like this.” He jerked her towards him, eliciting a squeal from her.
Jason stepped forward then, right behind Joey. “I think it would be in your best interest to let her go. Now.” His voice was quiet and low in Joey’s ear but the younger man immediately recognized the voice of Sonny’s top enforcer.
He released Elizabeth’s wrist and the brunette stepped back quickly, rubbing her hand lightly. “Sorry,” Joey Jr. muttered.
He moved past Jason and was out of the door quickly. Elizabeth smoothed her brown hair, trying to hide her shaking hands. “I suppose Michael told you about Joey,” she said softly.
“He might have mentioned something about it,” Jason admitted, leaning against the pool table. “He was a little worried about you.” He tilted his head to the side and his blue eyes filled with amusement. “You call him Michael?”
“Yes. Sonny is a ridiculous name and well…it’s what our mother named him,” Elizabeth remarked. She slid her jacket on. “So did he send you here or are you here in your own?”
“I always rent a room when I’m in town,” Jason told her.
“So, tell me the truth,” Elizabeth said, moving in front him and sliding her hands into the back pockets of her jeans. “Am I always just going to be Sonny’s sister to you?”
He shrugged. “You are his sister.”
“Yeah, but I’m only his half-sister,” Elizabeth reminded him. “And there was a whole eighteen years where I wasn’t even that.”
“What does it matter?” he asked.
“Well, I’ve only lived here for a year and so far, thanks to Michael, I haven’t made a lot of friends.”
“I can’t imagine why,” Jason remarked. Without intending to, his eyes swept up and down her lithe form.
“I’m not interested in those types of friendships,” Elizabeth said, coolly. She tossed her hair over her shoulder and glared at him. “I may be close to Courtney but none of her traits have rubbed off on me.”
“I sure hope not. She’s a nice girl but I know Sonny worries about her,” Jason replied. “She’s a little….”
“She’s a slut,” Elizabeth filled in easily. “And that’s by her own description.” She smiled slowly. “In fact, Courtney claims that’s she bedded every eligible man in town. Except for one.”
“I have no interest in making that list,” he told her. “She’s more Sonny’s sister than you are.”
“Well, that’s definitely good to hear,” she replied. “So…what’s it gonna be? Sonny’s sister or just plain old Elizabeth?”
He smiled slowly, sending tiny little shivers up and down her spine. “I don’t think anyone could call you plain.”
“Well, that’s certainly the answer I was hoping for,” she laughed.
“Come on, Sonny,” Courtney whined. She set his coffee down in front of him. “Just tell me if Jason’s staying at Jake’s again.”
Sonny sighed. “Look, I know what you’ve been trying to do every time he’s in town and I’d appreciate if you’d lay off of him. Hasn’t he turned you down enough?”
She glared at him. “That’s hardly the way you should talk to your sister.”
“Well if my sister had any self-respect–”
“I’m sorry that I’m not your perfect sister Elizabeth but damn it, Sonny, I’ve done exactly what you’ve asked. I’ve been nice to her, I’ve treated like she was my own sister but if you’re going to compare me to her again, so help me God, I’ll smack you.” She slapped the counter. “Now I’m sick of being treated as inferior.”
Sonny sighed. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to do it.”
“It doesn’t seem to stop you any,” she said nastily. “If you’ll excuse me, Penny will ring you up.”
She moved away to serve a new customer.
“He put another hand on her?” Sonny demanded. “That son of bitch, I’m going to kill him!”
“Sonny, it’s okay,” Jason told her. He closed the door to Sonny’s office. “I took care of it and she’s fine. I’m gonna pay Joey Jr. a visit tonight and make sure he knows that if he touches or goes near her again…” he trailed off. “It’s going to be over soon.”
“Courtney’s pressing me on details for where you’re staying,” Sonny told him, changing the subject. “I haven’t told her because quite frankly, I’m trying to keep you from making that list.”
“Even if she knew I was at Jake’s, nothing would happen,” Jason promised him. “She’s your sister.”
Sonny waved him away. “That has nothing to do with it. You’re a good man–and if I thought she really cared about you and that you cared about her–it wouldn’t matter to me. Either one of my sisters would be lucky to be involved with you.”
“Well, thanks…” Jason paused. “I think.”
“But she’s just going to add another name,” Sonny told him. “You’re somewhat of a challenge now, I guess.” He sighed and sat down. “I wish she was more like Elizabeth. I mean, she’s made bad mistakes, but she hasn’t slept with half the town either. Elizabeth’s a good girl–she’d make anyone happy.”
“I think the incident with Joey Jr. is going to help her straighten out,” Jason told her. “But if you want, I’ll keep an eye on her anyway.”
“Nah. I’m not going to shove that on you. As soon as you’re sure he’s not a threat anymore, don’t worry about it. I’ll assign her a guard.”
Jason put his hands on his hips. “It’s not…I…Well, I asked her out.”
Sonny frowned. “What’s that?”
“Elizabeth. I asked her out.”
The corners of his boss’s mouth started to twitch. “You mean to tell me that you’re going on anactual date?”
“Why is that so funny?” Jason demanded defensively. “We were at Jake’s and she was arguing with me about Eli’s ribs being better than Kelly’s so…” he shrugged. “I thought it wouldn’t bother you.”
“Well, before it was an abstract idea.” Sonny folded his arms across his chest. “You know Courtney’s not going to be happy about this.”
“Why should I give a damn about what she thinks? I’ve never led her on for a moment,” Jason replied.
“I know. But I’m worried about Courtney’s relationship with Elizabeth. They’re close. A lot of people don’t realize it, but they’re extremely close. They call each other sisters even though they’re not blood related.”
“I’ll talk to Elizabeth about it but it’s not like it’s anything serious. We’re just going out to settle a bet,” Jason told him. “If it turns out to be a thing, we’ll handle it.”
“A thing?” Sonny questioned. “Like if one date turns into two or three?”
“Yeah. If it goes that way, then I guess I’ll think about the impact. But I don’t think it’s going to be a problem, Sonny. I really don’t.”
“Could you…do you want to tell me that again?”
Elizabeth slid open her closet door and started sifting through her clothes. “Jason’s taking me out tonight. So…I think that’s Webber: One and Matthews: Zero, eh?”
Courtney glared at her sister’s back. “How is that possible? You’ve known him two days! How’d you get further in two days than I’ve gotten in four years?”
“I think it has something to do with the fact that you were only seventeen when you tried to seduce him the first time,” Elizabeth murmured. She pulled out a black leather skirt. She shook her head and hung it back up. “I think I’m gonna go with this cute dress I got at Wyndhams last week.”
“You haven’t won this yet, Elizabeth,” Courtney warned her. “You have to do the deed.”
“I don’t think that’ll be a problem,” Elizabeth mused. “I mean…he’s a man. They usually only want one thing.”
“If he were interested in just one thing, I would have gotten him ages ago,” Courtney told her. “He’s not. He’s different.”
“I’m serious, honey. He’s different. You’re not going to get him in bed on the first date,” Courtney said.
“Maybe not,” Elizabeth allowed, “but I’m certainly going to have fun trying.”