Home > Beneath Dark Waters (New Orleans #2)

Beneath Dark Waters (New Orleans #2)
Author: Karen Rose




   Mid-City, New Orleans, Louisiana

   MONDAY, OCTOBER 24, 6:45 P.M.

   WHY ARE WE here again?” Jace asked Rick, nervously checking traffic as he drove down a quiet street in a suburb he’d never been to before. Most of the buildings were small businesses that had already closed for the day. A few people walked the streets, most seeming to have been shopping at the corner store, which, other than a laundromat, was the only place still open. It didn’t feel dangerous, though. The streets were well lit and no one looked nervous walking around. “Rick?” he prodded when Rick didn’t answer.

   Rick should have been behind the wheel, but he’d shoved the keys to their brother Corey’s van into Jace’s hand, telling him to shut up and drive. Jace knew how to drive, but he didn’t have a license because he was only fifteen. All he needed was to get stopped by a cop. He would have his license in six months, but he didn’t think a cop would accept that excuse.

   Plus, the cops weren’t too happy with the Gates family right now. Jace couldn’t say that he blamed them. What his oldest brother Aaron had done . . .

   Jace might have believed it of his brother Corey, because Corey beat the shit out of Jace and his other brother Rick on the regular. But he wouldn’t have thought Aaron capable of beating a man to death.

   Except Jace had watched the video with his own eyes. Several times, because he hadn’t been able to believe what he’d seen at first. Aaron had beaten that doctor to death with his fists.

   Jace understood Aaron’s grief. They’d all loved Aaron’s little boy, Liam. The doctor hadn’t cured Liam of his leukemia and the little boy had finally died.

   But Jace didn’t understand Aaron’s rage. A week later, he was still in shock.

   “Rick?” Jace asked again, because Rick still hadn’t answered. “Why are we here?”

   Of his three brothers, Jace was closest to Rick. They were less than a year apart, and Rick took care of him. Had always taken care of him, ever since their mother had died.

   Sure, Aaron and Corey had been made their legal guardians because they were a lot older—both in their early thirties—but it was Rick who’d looked out for Jace. They lived with Corey, but it was Rick who’d fixed his breakfast, made his lunch. Bandaged his skinned knees and tucked him into bed at night when he’d still been young enough. Rick had even done his homework because Jace couldn’t do it on his own.

   Aaron’s arrest had hit Rick the hardest, Jace thought. Corey was furious with their oldest brother, but Rick had been devastated.

   “We’re picking something up for Aaron,” Rick said.

   “What?” Jace insisted.

   “Slow down,” Rick ordered, pointing to the sidewalk. “See that woman there?”

   Tapping the brake, Jace squinted at the woman who was about fifty feet ahead of them. “The pregnant one?” Because, wow, the woman was really pregnant.

   “Yeah, her. Didn’t you read Corey’s email? Oh right,” Rick said sarcastically. He’d been sarcastic a lot lately. Mean, even. And more jittery than usual. But they were all stressed out. “You can’t, because you’re so stupid you can’t even read.”

   Jace winced. It wasn’t like the words were lies. He was stupid and he couldn’t read. Corey told him that every day. But the words hurt a lot more coming from Rick.

   “Sorry,” he mumbled.

   Rick huffed. “Whatever. Just . . . do what I say, okay?”

   Jace hunched in on himself, feeling small even though he was bigger than Rick. At six-one, he was only a few inches shorter than Corey, but it didn’t matter. He couldn’t read and could barely write his own name. It sucked to be the stupid one in the family. “Okay. Can you tell me what we’re picking up for Aaron?”

   Rick pointed at the pregnant lady. “Him.”

   Jace frowned. There was a little boy walking next to the pregnant lady. He looked like he was only eight or nine years old. “Why?”

   “Because he can get Aaron out of jail,” Rick spat. “He’s currency.”

   Jace blinked, confused. “What?”

   “Currency,” Rick repeated. “That fucking no-name public defender Aaron got can’t help him, so we need to do something. We need Aaron back. We need him.” Jace was struck by the desperation in his brother’s tone. “We can’t—” Rick cut himself off, shaking his head hard. “Somebody needs to do something. You’re either with me or you’re against me.”

   Jace was still back on “currency.” “What are you talking—”

   “Shut up and listen. If you don’t want to do this, then back the fuck out right now,” Rick snapped. “I need to be able to depend on you.”

   “You can,” Jace said, hating his own desperation. “But—”

   “Shut up,” Rick hissed. He shoved something black and soft into Jace’s hand.

   Jace stared at it. A ski mask, just like the one Rick was pulling over his own head.

   “Put it on,” Rick ordered. “Now.”

   And then Rick pulled a gun from the waistband of his jeans.

   Jace gaped. “What the fuck?”

   “Stop the van.” Wild-eyed, Rick grabbed at Jace’s arm, making him jerk the steering wheel to one side, and the van veered into the curb. “Put it on if you don’t want to live in prison with Aaron. I mean it, Jace. Now.”

   Stunned into obedience, Jace pulled the ski mask over his head as Rick yanked the passenger-side door open and jumped out of the van. The kid on the sidewalk stopped abruptly, turning to look up at the pregnant woman. She looked around with a frown.

   Don’t hurt her. She’s pregnant. Please don’t hurt her.

   Dazed, Jace watched as Rick, still holding the gun in one hand, ran up to the pair and grabbed the boy, shoving him under his arm like a football. He’d made it two steps when everything went to shit.

   Rick screamed and dropped to the ground a second before a siren began to wail.

   Jace looked around, trying to figure out what had happened. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I have to get out of here. Drive. Leave him.

   But Jace couldn’t do that. Rick was his brother.

   He’d leave you in a heartbeat.

   True. But if Jace left Rick and the cops picked him up, two of his brothers would be behind bars. And Corey would be even madder.

   Jace couldn’t make Corey even madder. He just couldn’t.

   Making his decision, he burst from the driver’s seat and rounded the van. By the time he got to the curb, the kid had rolled out from under Rick’s arm and was kneeling on the sidewalk, visibly trembling—and holding Rick’s ski mask in his small hand.

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