Alexei (Her Russian Protector #8)(2)

By: Roxie Rivera


“Even after the dog fighting?”

She glared at me. “You just have to keep bringing that up, don’t you? You just have to rub it in my face that Ruben made a mistake.”

“A mistake?” I scoffed. “Shannon, he got busted and now the DA and the cops are digging around in his boss’s business. Lalo thinks he’s a kingpin. He thinks he’s some hotshot mob boss—and one of his soldiers just embarrassed him in front of the whole city.”

“Shut up, Shay. Just shut your mouth,” Shannon snarled. “Enough!”

I didn’t know what else I could say. She wasn’t going to listen to me. She believed that Ruben’s connections to the cartel’s top man in Houston would protect her. I wanted to believe it because I loved my sister and wanted her safe but I wasn’t naïve. I knew the score—and I suspected she did too.

Exhaling slowly, I counted back from four. “Just promise me that you aren’t carrying anything in your purse. If you get popped with drugs in your possession, you are screwed. They will hit you with every charge they can to make your arrest painful, Shan. They’ll hurt you so you’ll turn on Ruben—”

“I would never turn on Ruben. I fucking love him. He’s my bae, and I’ll go do my time before I betray him.”

“Lord,” I grumbled and sat back in a huff. I couldn’t stand it when she called Ruben her bae and her boo. “Will you listen to yourself, Shannon?”

“You know what, Shay? I didn’t come in here for a lecture from my baby sister that I raised through junior high and high school. I came in here to ask you to work my damn cleaning shift. That’s it.”

I scowled. “Why do you always do that?”

“Do what?”

“Why do you always have to throw it in my face that you had to raise me after Mom bailed?”

“I don’t!”

“Yes, you do.” I hated fighting with Shannon, but I was getting tired of hearing how much she had sacrificed to keep me out of foster homes. “I love you, Shannon, and I will never forget what you did for me, but I would really, really appreciate it if you would stop using it as a stick to beat me with whenever you’re pissed or frustrated with me.”

She swallowed and glanced away from me. “I don’t mean to do it, Shay. Sometimes it just comes out before I can stop it. I don’t regret any of the choices I’ve made.” For a moment, she met my gaze, and I could see the sincerity reflected in her eyes. “You fought like hell to get into college. You started this business on no debt and you’ve done it your way. I’m proud of you, Shay. Even when I’m a jerk,” she added with a lopsided smile.

My frustration with her faded. I reached out and touched her hand. “You’re not a jerk.”

“Softie,” she murmured and poked my arm. “Does this mean you’re going to work for me?”

I rolled my eyes and poked right back at her. “Yes, I’ll work for you.”

“Thank you.” She squeezed my fingers as if to let me know that all was forgiven and bent down to noisily peck my cheek. “Kylee is working tonight. At least you get to work with your best friend, right?”

She had a point. “Be careful, okay?”

“I will. I’m going to be late so don’t wait up for me.”

“Okay.”

She took one step out the door before turning back toward me. “Can you spot me a few hundred bucks?” She pressed her hands together. “Please?”

“You just got paid on Monday!”

“And I’ve got bills!”

“So do I, Shan.”

She rolled her eyes at me again. “Oh please! What bills do you have?”

“Rent, utilities, groceries, cell phone, car insurance, health insurance,” I said and ticked them off on my fingers. I didn’t add that I had had to cover her half of the household bills for the last four months. She was going to snap at me, I was sure, but I still said, “The diner is hiring for the morning shift. The tips are good there.”

“Not happening,” she replied and shot me a withering look. “I’m done cleaning offices and waiting tables.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I’m put in my notice yesterday.”

That was the first I had heard of this so I sagged with shock. “When did you get a different job?”

“I didn’t.”

I bit my lip to stop myself from shouting at her. What the hell are you thinking? “Shannon, don’t you think you should have had a better job lined up before you quit?”

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