Don't LookBy: Jessa Kane
I need to blow off some fucking steam. Now. Tonight.
There are a lot of FBI agents that would be thrilled with my circumstances. Sitting pretty in a Hollywood Hills mansion with an infinity pool, private chef and a movie theater at my fingertips. Not me. I’m a man who thrives in the field. I like getting my hands dirty—the filthier the better. But I’ve been sitting here in a monogrammed silk robe like an asshole for a month with no action. So time’s up. I’m going out for a Budweiser.
Decision made, I finger comb my beard and shove both feet into some boots. There’s a dive bar sandwiched between a taco shop and a ninety-nine cent store less than a few miles from here. None of my uber-rich neighbors would set a shiny wingtip in the place, so my cover will be more than safe. Not to mention, it’s well after midnight and the bigger, tackier mansion across the canyon I’m staking out is dark and silent.
Most nights, the white European-style enclave is a riot of activity, luxury cars parked in the driveway, women arriving by the bus load to service the seemingly endless revolving door of men. Russian mob, to be exact—thieves and murderers—living the high life of Hollywood royalty.
Not for long. I’m here because I’m the best agent for the job. By the time I ditch this eccentric billionaire cover, there will be a For Sale sign outside that monstrosity of a house. And I can go back to stretching my legs with more active investigations.
I lock the frosted glass door of the house behind me, keeping my head down as I stride for my Mercedes. Parking the sports car in a shitty part of town is probably not the best idea, but I’m desperate to shake this pampered lifestyle for a few hours. If the shiny silver doors get keyed, so be it. Hazards of the job.
It takes me half an hour to leave the hills and hit the highway. Before I know it, I’m taking a darkened turnoff and driving through a completely different world. One I’m much more accustomed to, having grown up in South Boston. A million miles from the land of spray tans, whitened teeth and backpacks designed to carry yoga mats. The flickering, blue Bud Light sign in the distance is a much better welcome than ten thousand thread count sheets, in my opinion. I’m already mentally reciting my beer order as I leave the car parked right outside the dive bar—aptly named Kerplunk—and walk inside.
“Damn.” I laugh under my breath, because this place is even more depressing than I expected. None of the lights are on, the only illumination coming from several melting candles and a neon pink jukebox. That girly color fills the whole establishment with a glow, a stark contrast to the dangerous-looking occupants. There is a certain charm to the bar, though, as if someone plans to take pride in its appearance until it gasps its final breath.
With a dozen pairs of assessing eyes on me, I sit down at the end of the bar and nod to the gray-mustached bartender. “Bud. Bottle’s fine.”
He roots through the ice for my order, uncapping it in slow motion, his eyes on the grainy television. When he sets it down in front of me, I put a twenty on the bar and tip back my beer, draining half the thing in one gulp. God, that’s good. Part of maintaining my cover is stocking the fridge with expensive wine and organic juice, on the off chance someone stops by to introduce themselves. Yeah, I have to walk the walk and talk the talk. So my beer consumption has been sadly lacking and I’ve been forced to trade mixed martial arts for swimming laps in my crystal-clear pool. Like a proper billionaire.
Christ, I can’t wait until this job is over.
The bartender sets my change on the bar. I leave a few singles beside my faded coaster and I’m pocketing the rest when a girl walks in.
I call her a girl, because that’s exactly what she is. Petite as shit, her stature overwhelmed by the full, messy brown hair that reaches her waist. A slash of bangs covers her eyes, but she must be able to see, because her reaction to the bar is an accurate one. Her scuffed boots come to a halt, her hands lift to clutch her oversized coat tighter to her chest. For a few counts, that’s all she is. Hair and a coat.
Until she shifts my direction and I catch sight of that mouth.