“Wait—” Jaycee pulled back. “Who is that guy?”
“Someone I really don’t want to see right now.” Alec’s reply gave him more questions than answers. It would be silly to expect otherwise. He should have known that fact by now.
Jaycee chanced a glimpse over his shoulder, only to discover the archer approaching a table on the other side. The window next to him, nailed shut, kept any light from entering. The patrons hanging out, once they noticed him, immediately shot up and offered their spot, hands motioning to the empty chair. After looking at each other, the once rowdy group dashed off and out of the bar. All that remained was the blonde archer, hands folded, with his weapon resting on the table.
“Let’s leave before he notices us.” Alec got up and Jaycee followed. To exit, they’d have to pass by him. Upon closer inspection, the man’s eyes were closed, blonde strands falling in front of his eyelids. Without pausing or looking his way, Alec continued past him.
Just when he assumed they were home free, a deep voice called out from behind them. “Alec.”
He halted. “There’s no getting past you.” Alec’s tone sounded familiar yet condescending, as if there was an understanding concealed in his words. “Your vision is like a hawk, ears like a dog. You never miss a beat.”
The man narrowed his eyes. “Why are you here? I thought we had a deal. I see you can’t hold up your end of the bargain. No surprise there.” The archer finally acknowledged Jaycee. “Who is this?”
“None of your business,” said Alec. He put himself in front of Jaycee, arm out with his lengthy red sleeves covering him like a blanket.
“Ah, wait, is he–” He never had the chance to finish his sentence, however, for Alec’s fan found itself mere inches from the archer’s face. The two stared each other down. Jaycee wasn’t sure who was more formidable, but both would be disastrous to take on alone.
“Nice to see you again, Alessio.” Alec’s weapon remained unmoving, the threat unspoken. “Jaycee, let’s go.”
His companion gave one last look at Alessio. Even though Alec’s fan was close enough to kill, Alessio’s gaze never wavered. Jaycee picked up the same vibe from him as he did from Alec. Dangerous. What the hell was going on?
“See you soon, dear friend.” Alessio’s last words reached them as only a whisper striking their ears.
With nothing more to say, they weaved between the tables and around to the back, behind the counter, and through a massive steel door. The bartender established eye contact, but made no move to stop them. The door slammed shut. A hallway brought them outside, and a blast of dust whipped Jaycee in the face. It burned his lungs. He could feel a cough rising as his eyes watered.
The area behind the bar housed more homes with another road leading further in. Alec led them down the path at a swift pace, only slowing when the streets filled with families. Briefly, they paused at a food stall, and the aroma of cooked meat assaulted his senses. A chubby older woman stood there, hair tied up in a bun and hands waving as she hailed for people passing by to come browse her selection. Slabs of steaming meat encompassed the stand. Jaycee didn’t realize how hungry he was until that moment.
While Alec sweet-talked the woman, Jaycee scanned the surrounding area. As far as he could tell, Alessio didn’t follow them, nor did he send anyone to do it for him. Since they had captured Leon, keeping tabs on them was most likely unnecessary. He took a quick peek at Alec, only to look at his smile and worry-less features. He either had a plan, or was too carefree for his own good.
Lost in his thoughts, Jaycee startled back when a stick of cooked, smokey food entered his line of sight. His stomach grumbled as the spice drifted towards him. One bite was all it took for him to gobble the rest down like a starved animal who hadn’t eaten in days. Prison meals lacked compared to the juicy treasure he currently chomped down on.
“Now that Alessio knows we’re here, it’s time for Plan B.” Jaycee watched Alec as he covered his mouth with his sleeve and tasted his snack. He ate like someone who came from money, respectful to those near him.
“We have one?” Jaycee did not know there was a plan at all. Not like he was a part of their decision-making process, nor would it matter if he had been. Although he considered everything would run a little smoother if he had knowledge of their plans.
“First, we’re going to find Kyla. If she ran into Alessio, then she knows what to do next.” Alec took another bite of his food and then they were off, stick carelessly thrown to the wayside.
A few minutes later, they halted again. Before them, a wide building spanned out. The roads overflowed to the brim with people moving in and out of it, chatting and laughing. Huge smiles embellished their faces, while others showed the contrary, exhausted and distressed.
“Hey, long time no see!” Jaycee felt a light weight on his shoulders, an arm draped over him. His curiosity calmed when he caught Kyla’s features in his peripherals. “Hey, Boss.”
Alec frowned. “Why am I not the first person you greet? Did you forget who raised you?”
“Yeah, yeah. Whatever.” The pressure on him disappeared. “Are we going in or not? I was really hoping it would turn out this way. You know I have the best luck, right?”
Jaycee, perplexed as always with their coded phrases, peered at the enormous sign hanging over the entrance. The name ‘Rusticus Casino’ in large, bold letters splayed out. “We’re going to gamble?”
“Duh. Why else would we come to a casino?” Her comments were matter-of-fact, and Jaycee was starting to believe he was turning insane. What did gambling have to do with finding Leon?
Jaycee opened his mouth and then closed it again like a fish out of water. What was he supposed to do in this situation? All their constant moving was becoming wearying. All he wanted was to cuddle up in a warm bed and take a nap.
“This is the one and only place in Rusticus where you can make a shitload of money.” Kyla grabbed Jaycee’s hand and then Alec’s with her other free one. “Alright, time to show these losers who’s boss.”
Alec shook himself free of her grip and stepped back. “I’m not coming in with you. There is something I need to do. I’ll meet up with you guys in a little while. Don’t cause too much trouble while I’m away, brat. And don’t forget why we’re here.”
She clicked her tongue. “I know, I know. And don’t worry, your man is safe with me.”
“Okay, I’m done. We’re leaving now.”
Their cryptic remarks stressed to Jaycee that he was a pawn in their game, a means to an end. As they walked inside, with Alec staring at them from behind, he reminded himself of that fact.