Shane regarded Olga’s bare arse with an indifference borne of many years hanging around his father’s strip club.
“So what do you think?” she asked, staring at him upside down through her opened legs. “Should I bleach it?”
What she should do, in Shane’s opinion, was get the fuck away from his brother, Greg, her alleged boyfriend. “I dunno,” he said in a bored tone. “Does anal bleaching hurt?”
After whipping her long ponytail back over her shoulder, Olga straightened her back and yanked up her crystal thong. “My friend Petra burned the arse off herself doing it, but she said she had an allergic reaction to the cream.”
Shane shuddered. “Jaysus. If her experience was bad, why are you thinking of bleaching yours?”
“Greg likes the idea.” Olga wound a strand of dark hair around her index finger and batted her fake eyelashes. “He thinks it looks sexy.”
And what Greg liked, Greg got. His older brother was a mean son of a bitch to everyone, but utterly vile to his girlfriends. “If you want to do it, go for it, but make sure you’re doing it for you and not for my brother.”
“You’re sweet.” Olga placed a hand on his arm and brushed her impressive cleavage against him. “Are you seeing anyone at the moment?” she asked in a sultry whisper. “If you’re ever lonely, you know where to find me.”
Yeah, he knew where to find her—stripping at his father’s lap dancing club and fucking punters on the side. Hell no. Shane was no saint, but the appeal of screwing around with the girls at Valentine’s had worn off by the time he was out of his teens. His father and older brothers considered the female employees of Valentine’s to be their never-ending supply of blow jobs. Shane preferred women to sleep with him of their own free will, and not because he controlled their livelihood.
In Olga’s case, she was more out of bounds than the other girls. Every once in a while, Greg played the girls off one another, eventually picking one to be his official live-in girlfriend and temporarily removing her from circulation at the club. Olga was his most recent acquisition, although Greg had yet to seal the deal by inviting her to quit her job and share his apartment.
It would never last. Fickle was Greg’s middle name. Soon, Olga would find herself out on her bleached arse, probably with a broken jaw or swollen lip as a souvenir of the relationship.
Shane removed Olga’s hand from his arm. “I don’t think meeting up would be wise.”
She pouted, making her look like a sulky teenager wearing a bucket of makeup. Which she probably was. Shane’s father didn’t look too closely at the paperwork of the girls who applied to work at his club, and the probability that Olga’s papers were fake was high.
“Okay,” she demurred, turning the pout into a come-hither smile. “But if you’re ever at a loose end…”
He liked to live dangerously at times—his rival Adam Kowalski’s on-off girlfriend was one of his regular hook-ups—but a smart man didn’t crap in his backyard. And Shane was smart, apart from a weak spot for damsels in distress. “Listen, Olga, remember what I told you last week?”
“Yeah. So Greg gets a bit rough at times.” The girl shrugged. “Some of the punters do as well. I’m used to it.”
“His parting gift to his last girlfriend was a broken jaw and a dislocated shoulder,” Shane said gently. “That’s a lot more serious than ‘a bit rough.’”
Olga stared at him through her heavily made-up eyes. “Greg has never hurt me.”
Not yet, but he would. Shane sighed. There was no getting through to the girl. She’d been a lost cause the moment she’d set eyes on Greg’s Porsche and flash-with-the-cash swagger. “If you’re ever in trouble, give me a call. Not to hook up,” he added hastily, noting how her face had lit up, “but if you’re ever in need of a friend, you know where to find me.”
In other words, he’d be willing to help when, not if, Greg beat the crap out of her.
Olga’s pout returned, and she tossed her hair over her shoulder in a dismissive gesture. “You don’t know what you’re missing.”
He had a fair idea—practiced sex moves designed to appeal to the average paying client. He’d bet Olga was good at them, too.
However, Shane preferred to be the seducer, not the seduced. Only once in his life had he dropped his guard and allowed a woman to call the shots.
It hadn’t ended well.
He winced at the memory, as corrosive today as it had been the morning after. Even after all these years, he tasted the bitter dregs of regret whenever he thought of her.
Or maybe that was just the gap in his mouth where the tooth she’d knocked out used to be.
Ruthie Reynolds, the girl with the iron fists. The only person who’d ever succeeded in beating Shane to a pulp in the boxing ring. Happy days.
Shane left Olga sulking in the corridor and ambled toward his father’s office. One of Frank’s eejit security guards loitered outside the door, looking tough in an ill-fitting suit. “Hey, Mark,” Shane said in a breezy tone. “Is my dad in?”
Mark gave a slight inclination of his neckless head and jerked a thumb at the closed door. “He’s in a foul mood today. Just as a warning.”
Shane suppressed a laugh. When was Frank not in a bad mood these days? A visit from his least favorite son was unlikely to improve his temper, especially when Shane came bearing bad news. He rapped on the door and opened it without waiting for permission to enter.
His father sat behind his desk, glowering at the computer screen. Funny to think he’d once been considered handsome. Years of cigarettes, alcohol, and hard living had taken their toll on Frank “Mad Dog” Delaney, and left him puffy-featured and acid-tongued. He glanced up when his son came in and drew his bushy eyebrows closer together. “What the fuck do you want?”
Frank never bothered to feign affection for his youngest child. When Shane was a kid, his father’s dislike of him had nagged at him, prompting him to try to please Frank. At nearly thirty, Shane was all out of fucks to give.
“Hello to you, too, Dad. You asked me to stop by, remember? You got Greg to call me.” His father’s avoidance of modern technology never failed to amuse him. Judging by the expression on Frank’s face, he was no more comfortable with his new computer than he was with mobile phones. Shane flopped into a chair across from his reluctant parent and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. “Holy crap, it’s hot in here. I don’t know why you won’t install air conditioning. The place is a furnace.”
“It’s not worth the investment. We’re in the middle of a heat wave, but it won’t last.” Frank pressed a key on his laptop and swore.
Shane settled back in his chair and grinned. “Problem?”
“Damn thing keeps crashing.” A beat passed. “Would you have a look at it for me?”
Shane smiled sweetly across the desk. “Don’t tell me you’re asking for my help? I thought I was wasting my time screwing around on computers.”
Frank’s nostrils flared, but he kept his annoyance in check. “Please.”
His father being polite? That was a first. Shane’s smile widened. “No problem.”
The last time Frank had experienced a computer crisis, he’d forgotten to plug it in. Shane had taken great pleasure in his father’s humiliation.
He got up and scooted behind the desk to take a look at the laptop. “What buttons are you pressing?”
Frank blinked. “Dunno. I hit a few keys, the way Greg showed me.”
What Greg knew about computers didn’t extend beyond looking up porn on the internet. Shane’s fingers flew over the keyboard. “You keep hitting restart. It should work now.”
His father grunted something that might have been akin to “thank you” had Shane not known better. “Want a drink?” Frank muttered.
It wasn’t a serious question. Shane was getting a drink whether he wanted one or not. Frank extracted a half-empty whiskey bottle from his desk drawer and sloshed two generous servings into chipped mugs. He shoved one across the desk to Shane. Given his father’s slurred speech, this wasn’t Frank’s first drink of the day.
Shane reclaimed his seat and picked up his mug, eyeing his father warily. Any moment now, he’d ask him for an update on The Lar Situation—capitals intended. Shane hadn’t a clue what to tell him. Whatever his father had been hoping to uncover on his wayward nephew, Shane was pretty sure it wasn’t Lar selling out Frank and their family. If Shane revealed that his cousin was—or had been—an informer, Lar would go for a swim in the River Liffey, wearing a pair of cement shoes. That was how Frank rolled. “Why did you want to talk to me, Dad? I’m assuming my summons to your office wasn’t for the love of my company.”
Frank glared at his youngest son. “You know why you’re here. What’s Lar up to? You installed bugs in his house weeks ago. Are you telling me you have nothing interesting to report?”
“So far, the recordings have given me a few leads to follow, but nothing concrete.” Total bollocks, but Frank didn’t have the brains or the technological know-how to check up on him.
“Nothing concrete?” His father’s voice was pure ice. “Are you sure about that? You wouldn’t be lying to me to protect your cousin, now would you?”
Maybe, whispered a voice in Shane’s head. “No,” he said out loud, meeting his father’s piercing gaze head on. “If I knew what to look for, it would help. Do you have any particular reason to suspect Lar’s up to something that could harm the family? From what I can see, he’s genuinely working hard to set up his new business in such a way as to honor the terms you and he negotiated. We talked about it at length during the Triskelion Team’s launch party last week.”
This much was true. What Shane failed to add was the info he’d uncovered regarding the deal Lar had brokered with Irish intelligence in return for an early release from prison. A searing heat burned his chest. Lar had lied to him—repeatedly. He was going to make damn sure his cousin paid for his disloyalty, but he’d do it his way, not Frank’s.
His father’s piercing gaze didn’t falter. “I want you to keep looking. Dig deeper, dammit. And while you’re at it, check out a rumor I heard about Lar clipping Jimmy Connolly.”
“What the fuck?” Shane jerked to attention. Jimmy Connolly, one of Frank’s rivals in the tits and arse trade, had been gunned down a couple of weeks ago in what the police presumed was part of a series of Dublin gangland killings. “Why would Lar kill Connolly? He never had much to do with the man.”
Frank’s smirk grated on Shane’s nerves. “Let’s just say he had a motive.”
“Are you sure? I didn’t hear anything about a dispute between him and Connolly.” And Shane “heard” things. Keeping tabs on all the wheelings and dealings that occurred in and around Kilpatrick was one of his talents. “Besides, Lar’s been busy with his new girlfriend and getting the Triskelion Team off the ground.”
His father’s lip curled. “The Triskelion Team. What sort of name is that? Lar always had notions.”
In Ireland, having “notions,” or aspiring to better oneself, was subject to derision.
“I think it works for a private security firm.” Shane didn’t add that the name referred to his and his cousins’ matching triskelion tattoos. No point in giving Frank more ammunition to sneer at them.
His father took a generous gulp of whiskey and slammed the mug down on his desk, causing papers to go flying. “I want you to look into Connolly’s killing,” he growled. “Find out who knows what. And I want a full report on Lar’s comings and goings on my desk in one week. Is that clear?”
“Crystal.” Why was his father convinced Lar was behind Connolly’s murder? As far as Shane knew, any hits Lar carried out were well paid and occurred abroad. If he’d taken out a man who lived nearby, his motive had to be personal. Shane opened his mouth to voice this observation, but his words were cut short by a loud knock on the office door.
His favorite uncle, Malachy, peered his gray head around the door and winked at Shane. “Greg said you were in, Francis. I need a word.”
Malachy was the only member of the Delaney clan who referred to Frank by his full name. He was the only person who dared. The media referred to Frank as “Mad Dog Delaney”, a moniker his father accepted with pride.
“What do you want?” Frank demanded. “Now’s not a good time.”
Unperturbed by his brother’s unenthusiastic greeting, Malachy cleared papers from the seat beside Shane’s and sat down with an air of a man under no pressing time constraints and a quiet but steely determination to stay. As the priest scanned the office, his lips twitched with amusement. “I see you haven’t found a replacement for Susie.”
Susie, Frank’s former secretary, had quit a few weeks ago following a presumed-but-never-confirmed run-in with Greg. Since the efficient Susie’s exit from his life, Frank’s office had devolved into a perpetual state of chaos. Papers were piled everywhere, willy-nilly. Folders that belonged in filing cabinets were stacked all around the room. Even Frank himself looked more disheveled than usual, as if taking his cue from his surroundings.
Frank narrowed his eyes at the priest. “You don’t usually come to see me at the club, Malachy. What’s up?”
His uncle adjusted his dog collar and smiled at Shane. “Do you mind giving us some privacy?”
Shane glanced at his father, but Frank was staring at Malachy, a guarded expression on his face.
“Sure thing.” Shane met Malachy’s eyes but could read little from their pale blue depths. “Let me know if there’s anything else you need me to do, Dad.”
Frank’s only response was a grunt.
“Come by the house one of these days, Shane,” Malachy said, his expression softening. “I miss our games of chess. I’ll have Mrs. Cryan make us her cottage pie.”
“Yeah, okay. I’ll send you a text after Max goes back to Berlin.”
“Siobhan mentioned he was staying with you for a few days.”
Shane exchanged an amused glance with Malachy. Max’s mother was less than thrilled that her younger son had chosen to spend his days in Dublin crashing on Shane’s sofa rather than staying with her. Mother and son had had a falling out on Max’s last visit home—something to do with Max’s father and Siobhan’s ex-husband. Shane didn’t know the details, and Max had been disinclined to share.
Happy fucking families, eh?
“Bye now, lads. Don’t go too wild with the ladies, Malachy.” Shane’s smile of farewell for his uncle was heartfelt, and a world away from the curt nod he gave his father. Not for the first time, he wished the men could trade personalities, but this was as unlikely as Malachy suddenly deciding to swap the church for a lap dancing club.
Outside the club, the sun beat down on Kilpatrick, one of Dublin’s less salubrious suburbs. Men perspired through their T-shirts, and some had opted for the bare-chested look. Women wore summer dresses and had traded their fake tans for the real deal. Shane laughed to himself. What the Irish considered a heat wave was nothing in comparison to the hot summers he’d experienced in Australia.
He hopped on his bike and revved the engine, his mind drifting back to the strange atmosphere in his father’s office. What was so urgent that Malachy would visit Frank at Valentine’s? The priest never came near the club. Whatever the reason, at least his uncle’s interruption meant he didn’t have to come up with more lies and excuses regarding his traitor of a cousin.
The now-familiar burning rage he experienced every time he thought of Lar swelled in his chest. His hands tightened around the handlebars of his bike, turning his knuckles white. Showing up to work at the Triskelion Team’s new offices was hell, but every day he forced himself to act as normally as his poor acting skills allowed.
Tonight, he didn’t have to worry about running into Lar and losing his cool, thank fuck. Shane was meeting an old pal for a drink and had deliberately chosen a pub that wasn’t among his cousin’s usual watering holes. Man, he needed something to take the edge off his week and get his thoughts far away from everything related to the Delaney family.
But first, he had to do more internet digging. Lar wanted him to search for info for a Triskelion Team assignment, and Frank wanted him to dig for dirt on Lar. How fucking ironic.
Shane’s jaw hardened. Then he flexed his shoulders, revved the engine, and pointed the bike in the direction of home.
From Kiss Shot by Zara Keane, Copyright 2016