Twenty-Four

Cam strode through the crowd, grasped Jags by the elbow and yanked him from the stool. "Let's go."

"What happened?" Jags asked then toppled forward into Cam. "Whoa!"

Cam caught Jags and lowered him to the floor. "Talk to me."

Jags took a breath. "I don't know." He grasped Cam's wrist and cried out, "Cupcake!"

Cam cupped Jags' chin. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Cupcake!" Jags curled into a ball on the hardwood floor. "It feels like a thousand needles stabbing me all over my body." He groaned and clutched his stomach. "It's coming from you. You're doing it to me. I can't explain it."

Cam scooped Jags off the floor, one arm under his neck and one arm under his legs. "I'm getting you out of here." He shoved his way through the crowd.

"Make it stop!"

Cam sprinted toward the exit, screaming and cursing at people to get out of his way.

As they neared the door, Jags whispered, "I'm okay. Put me down."

"The fuck I will." Cam ran faster.

Jags wiggled from Cam's hold and brought his feet to the floor. "I'm okay."

When Jags' body swayed Cam gripped his shoulders and righted him. "The fuck you are."

"Really. Just give me a sec."

Cam slid his arm around Jags' waist and helped him to the nearest table then—as if Jags was a complete invalid—lifted him off his feet and placed him in the chair.

Jags gripped the seat of the high back chair and gave Cam a thumbs-up. "Rock solid."

Cam took a seat next to him. "I've seen corpses with more color. We need to get you to a hospital."

Jags gripped his brother's wrist. "A hospital can't help me."

"Then what?"

As if a switch had been flipped, Jags straightened his posture, clapped his hands and said, "Fantastic."

"Jags?"

"I swear. I'm good."

"If you're lying—"

Jags tapped him on the hand and tilted his head toward the door. "Come on. Let's head home. I want to hear what happened with Maggie."

Some days Cam really hated what Jags' supposed gifts did to his stepbrother. The outcome of the visions he had couldn't be changed, making them fucking useless. Some days, it seemed Jags' gifts were more trouble than they were worth.

Jags was a lot of things, but a liar wasn't one of them. If he said he was okay, then he was okay.

Cam stood from the chair and noticed a man at the table where Maggie and Star were seated. The man talked with Maggie but she never looked him in the face, just stared at her hands, which were wringing a napkin.

This man had extinguished his little fireball's spark. He instilled her with something he'd recently seen. The night Cam kidnapped her in her own car.

Fear!

Cam snatched Jags' forearm and started toward them.

"I thought we were leaving," Jags said.

Cam snaked through the crowd. When he reached the table, Maggie gave him a small smile. He didn't return the gesture, just cocked his head.

"This is Cam," Maggie said. "That's his brother Jags. You know Star. Guys. This is Steven."

Steven inclined his head toward each of them. He turned his focus back on Maggie. "We should get together. Sometime soon. Call me."

"I don't think so." Maggie slid off her tall chair and nudged her way under Cam's arm.

Her body trembled against his. A piercing pain shot from the back his skull, erupting behind his eyes. He rubbed her arm. Maggie's cool skin pebbled beneath his warm fingers.

"Sure," Steven said. "I understand."

"Let's call it a night," Star said.

When Steven took a step, Cam put his hand on Steven's arm. "Wait. You look familiar. Did you play football in high school?"

"Yes. Did you go to Trenton High?"

"The Hornets?" Cam asked.

"Yeah."

Cam forced a smile. "Did you know Maggie used to be a cheerleader in high school?"

"Sure. We were rivals. Played against each other all the time."

Maggie pushed against Cam, gesturing toward the exit. "We should get going."

Cam grabbed Jags' wrist and yanked him toward Steven. He forced Jags' hand onto his shoulder. Before Steven could protest, Jags' body convulsed. He collapsed onto the wood floor.

Cam's body temperature soared. The most horrific migraine he'd ever experienced slammed behind his eyes. He stepped away from Maggie and Jags, who was slowly regaining composure, and grabbed Steven by the front of his polo shirt. He tossed him over two tables, crashing him into the third. The girls at the table jumped back. Their drinks crashed to the floor.

Cam leapt onto Steven's back, pushed his face into the floor and twisted Steven's arm behind his back until he heard him groan.

Maggie fell to her knees. "Cam!"

He turned to her. "Tell me he's not one of them."

"He's not!"

Cam pulled tighter on Steven's twisted arm until he groaned again.

Maggie would never tell him who hurt her and the only way he could get his revenge would be to put a hurt on each member of the team, or maybe that was just his way of justifying fucking this guy up.

"I don't want this." She clawed at Cam's arm but he never budged. "I don't want this!"

Cam leaned down and whispered in Steven's ear. "I never want to see you near Maggie again. That means if you walk into a restaurant and she's there, then you eat elsewhere."

"Fuck you!"

"I prefer my lovers a little more butch. To continue, if you're in a restaurant, not even halfway through your meal and she walks in, you pay your bill and leave. Immediately. Get me?"

Steven eyed Maggie. "What did you tell him?"

Cam slammed Steven's face into the floor. Blood poured from Steven's nose and puddled on the hardwood floor. Cam twisted his fingers in Steven's hair and yanked his head back. "I'm goin' to fuck you up. Bad. When they carry you out of here, just remember, I went easy on you. The next time you won't be so lucky."

Maggie grappled at Cam's arms. "Stop this now!" When Cam didn't budge, she said, "You promised. You promised!"

Cam rolled off Steven, grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, yanked him to his feet and slugged him across the face. Blood spat from between Steven's lips. Cam punched him in the stomach. Steven swung and hit Cam's jaw.

Cam grinned. "That the best you can do?" He grabbed Steven by the scruff of his shirt and tossed him into a neighboring table.

As Steven shook his head, trying to focus his vision, Cam pushed him back to the floor, flipped him to his back and sat across his hips. Cam hit him in the stomach and the head, again in the stomach, again in the head.

A crowd gathered.

Another punch.

Another.

In the side of his ribcage.

The side of his head.

In the face.

In the face again.

And again.

Jags gripped Cam under his arms and yanked but Cam barely noticed. He never slowed. Jags wrapped his arms around Cam's flailing limbs, creating a human straight jacket. Saliva dripped from the side of Cam's mouth. His chest heaved with his every breath.

Jags whispered in his ear. "I think you got him."

Through a bloody mask, Steven's breath wheezed from his flattened nose and bloody lips. The guy seemed to struggle to breath.

Good, Cam thought.

"Enough," Jags said.

"Not yet," Cam growled.

"Get off him," Jags said. "Or I'll make you get off him."

"I'll never forgive you," Cam snarled.

"Get. Off. Him," Jags said.

Two police officers burst through the front door of the bar, their guns drawn. Jags released Cam.

Cam stood and laced his fingers behind his head. He bent over a table and pressed his forehead against the shiny tabletop.

A policeman cuffed him.

Maggie crossed her arms over her chest and scowled.

She was furious.

Cam hung his head and laughed. She's so damn sexy when she's mad.

A policeman took Cam by the elbow and led him to the door. Jags followed.

"Jags," Maggie called out.

"I know," Jags said. "I'll take care of him."

JAGS LEANED INTO the steel bars separating him from Cam, his forehead pressed between two pipes.

"I can't get you out tonight. Court's not in session on Saturdays either so I'm not even sure tomorrow is an option. Might have to wait until Monday."

Cam dipped his head forward. "Sorry about . . . you know."

"You suspected he was a bad man?"

"Yup."

"Good enough."

"Any more cupcake episodes?"

Jags shook his head. "You mind telling me what that was about?"

Cam leaned his back against a side wall and propped a foot behind him. "I can't."

"Can't or won't."

Cam always suspected his temper was dangerous and bordered on uncontrollable but since he'd met Maggie, his suspicion had turned to clarity. Cam was a menace, he had no doubt. Before he met Maggie, he struggled to control his anger, but that paled in comparison to the fight within him now.

"I need you to promise me something," Cam said.

"Anything."

"Never pull another stunt like this, setting me and Maggie up. I never want to see her again."

"Why?" The question lingered in a pathetic whine.

"Did you not see me beat that man half to death? If you weren't there, I probably would've killed him." Cam paced to the back of cell and dropped onto the cot. "She's not safe with me. Nobody is." He punched the yellowed thin mattress. "I can't control it. I don't understand why you don't get that."

"You're telling me that you're a monster. And you want me to agree with you? Are you fucking kidding me?"

Cam lay on the cot, his hands clasped behind his head. "You see what you want to see. You'll never see the real me. I'm beginning to realize that now. Some empath you are."

"Such bullshit!" Jags kicked the steel bars with his orange sneaker.

"Promise me you'll give up your obsession with getting me together with Maggie."

Jags squeezed his face between two bars. "She's really getting to you, isn't she?"

"Promise me."

"Admit that she's getting to you."

Cam rolled off the cot and stepped up to the steel bars. Gripping two of the steel pipes, he squeezed his face between them. "You want to hear me say it? Yeah. Maggie's getting to me. And if I hurt her, you're the first person I'm coming after. Get me?"

"You're not going to hurt her."

"Promise me that you won't pull anything like this again." Cam took a step back, paced around in a tight circle and gripped two of the cold metal bars. "Or I swear we're no longer brothers."

Jags shook his head, his mouth twisted into a snarl of disgust.

Cam slapped his open palms against the steel pipes. "Promise me!" He slapped his palms against the metal pipes again. "Promise me!"

Jags stepped backward. He dropped onto the wooden bench across from the cell, his hands on his thighs. "I promise."

Cam hung his head. "Good man."