I stared ahead, my eyes scanning the rows of bottles that lined the wall behind the bar. I couldn't see what any of them were, the dim light only allowing me to see that they varied in color from green to brown to red. All glass. Anything less and Anya would have thrown them at Clive's head, called him a creative combination of cheap and useless. Anya was always good at telling people off, especially her no-account bartender. 'Only the best. Anything less is bad for business.' How many times had she said that? I'd lost count.
A sudden commotion caught my attention and I looked over my shoulder just in time to watch one guy knock another across a table, spilling drinks and disturbing the table's occupants. Before another punch could be thrown, people were cheering them on and calling out bets. They were desperate for entertainment in this place, ever since Brodie shot Trevor Dean, the singer, for taking his girl. Rina, I think her name was. She was attracted to danger, that girl. I never had been able to understand it but, then, I didn't really have any excuse myself.
"Jen." A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth at the sound of Reise's voice, just barely audible over the noise of the fighting. Turning on my stool, I watched as he slipped up beside me. Blue eyes were partially covered by rogue locks of blond hair. He looked as gorgeous as ever. A long-sleeved white shirt with vertical gray stripes under a black jacket and matching pants. Far too classy for a place like McCay's but that was Reise in a nutshell, save for the razor scar on his cheek and the pistol he kept stashed under his jacket.
"Took you long enough," I said, reaching back to pick up my half empty glass from the bar. After taking a sip, I added, "Thought you weren't going to show."
Riese raised an eyebrow. "You kidding? I wouldn't miss it for the world."
Rumor had it that Marie Hoyland, Anya Willson's biggest rival, was going to make a pass for the club, if it could be called that. In the twenties, it had been a speakeasy, a bar that sold alcohol during prohibition. Now, it doubled as a gambling den, a place where people could come to make bets without having to worry about some government officer sticking their nose in and wondering what exactly it was they were betting on.
"What makes you think they're going to show up at all?" I asked, casting a glance at the fight that had come to an end. One man lay unconscious, bleeding, on the ground while the other stumbled over to another table and reclaimed his drink, or whatever was left of it. Around the loser, men were either grumbling under their breaths or proclaiming their victory.
"Oh, they'll come alright," Riese told him, following my line of vision before looking towards the door. "You know Marie. She can't resist a challenge and these two have been blowing wind up each other for months. It's only a matter of time before someone throws the first punch."
Now it was my turn to raise an eyebrow. "And what about the punches they threw at Darling Street? From what I heard, Anya broke Marie's nose."
He scoffed. "That was nothing more than a cat fight but you know Marie's been looking for a way to get back at Anya for that."
I snorted before downing the rest of my drink. Putting the glass aside, I said, "That was why Marie poisoned Anya's cat. Then Anya pointed the police in the direction of Marie's crack den, Marie pointed them to Anya's pickpocket pawn shop and Anya had one of Marie's brothels lit on fire. It's only a matter of time until their feud comes to a climax and I don't particularly want to be around when it does." I watched Reise out of the corner of my eye but kept my face straight ahead. "That's your thing."
Reise shot me a half-grin. "And you'll sift through the pieces when they've destroyed each other. But that doesn't quite answer the question of why you're here if there's a chance they'll show up and you don't want to get caught in it."
I smirked. "If I'm not here, who's going to make sure you don't do something stupid like getting yourself killed?"
Before he could give me an answer, the front door swung open, hitting the wall and making such a noise that everyone stopped where they were. I wasn't at all surprised as I watched Marie walk in, her short blond hair curled around her shoulders. She was a small person, only just taller than five foot, but she had a power of persuasion that never failed to deliver. Behind her were seven guys, only six of them hers. One I recognized as the video shop guy that doubled as hired muscle at night but had no loyalty to anyone but himself.
"Anya, you filthy little whore!" Marie screeched.
"Oh, that's real rich coming from the likes of you!" I turned my head, watching as the tall, brunette Anya descended the stairs.
Both women had a taste for fine jewelry and clothes, for furs and expensive perfumes, for power and men who favored guns and knives over words. I looked back to Reise and saw in his expression what I very well knew. This was no longer just a feud. The battle for Slivton had begun.
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