“That money doesn’t compare. You know, I know, and everyone else knows it.” He speaks hurriedly like he can’t wait to make his point, but I drag it out. Just to torture him.
“We’re moving into Crescent Hills,” I tell him.
“Because you want to take on that place, not because there’s money there.” His voice is flat, his expression expectant.
I can’t argue that truth. “It’ll be worth it to be closer to the docks,” I tell him, and he shakes his head in disagreement. My patience ebbs as I tap my razor again on the sink and hold it under the running water.
“I think we need to go north. A true expansion,” he tells me and waits with bated breath.
“Talvery territory?” I question him, my eyes on his in the mirror and he nods his head. “I already gave it to Romano.”
“It hasn’t been taken yet, and Romano can go fuck himself.” Jase’s voice is harsh and his persistence shines through. Jase keeps his gaze on me even though he’s breathing harder with excitement. “We were going to give Fallbrook to Romano and he already has the entire upper east. Talvery turf should be ours.”
His eyes dart over to mine, waiting for a reaction but I give him none. I didn’t sleep for shit and I don’t give a fuck about expanding.
“Are you that bored?” I ask him dully. I remember what it was like to take control, what was required to have my name permanently carved into this territory. The sickness of it all and the risk. It’s not worth the money it makes.
“Bored?” Jase breathes out forcefully. “It’s a lost opportunity.” I don’t respond. Instead, I finish shaving, careful not to react when Jase adds, “And what about Aria?”
I rip the hand towel from where it hangs at my right and dampen it under the faucet. It’s hard to contain what I feel for her. The loss is too real. It’s too close.
“What about her?” As I clean off my face, ignoring the screaming pain in my chest, he tells me, “I heard about how she’s handling things.” I grip the towel tighter, praying my brother doesn’t say something that drives me to break his fucking jaw. Last night… I can’t even think about how the truth stabbed me in the heart like nothing else has before.
He tells me, “I think she’d want this.”
My brow furrows and I focus on breathing and controlling my expressions. “Want what?” Speaking hurts. Even breathing hurts. Everything fucking hurts.
“I think she’d want to still have the territory… maybe for her?” he offers, tilting his head and raising his brow. “Can you imagine how she’d react if we killed her family and gave her land to Romano?”
Using the dry section of the towel, I run it over my jaw, knowing exactly how she’s going to react and hating it. I swallow thickly, knowing I can keep her here. Physically, I have the means to keep her here, but that will only add to her hate. And I want her to love me. I need her to love me.
“What if, instead, we do as little damage as possible?” He moves out of the doorway as I toss the towel into the sink and make my way past him to my dresser for my cufflinks. I’m running through the motions, focused on every mundane detail that’s led me to this point in life.
“Any damage we do will break her, Jase,” I tell him halfheartedly.
“I’m telling you, this is a good idea, Carter.”
He stands a few feet from me, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. “We already told Romano, but I say we hit them back to back. Talvery, then Romano and we take it all.”
“With what men?” I ask him, feeling the tingling rage creep up my spine. “Do you remember the cost of it all? How many men have to die for you to be satisfied?” My voice is raised, and my pulse quickens. I swallow back the anger when he doesn’t respond.
He flinches at the severity of my tone.
I add, “This isn’t a game and every move has consequences.”
“It’s all a game, brother.” He looks me in the eyes as he says, “A well-played and thought-out game.”
He stares at me and I him as he tells me, “If Aria was able to convince those men to do what she suggested yesterday, we would have the upper hand. Talvery and Romano would lose men, and we’d be waiting to take out the rest,” he talks with an evenness that sounds so reassuring.
“Only Aria doesn’t know that,” I tell him while taking a step forward and reaching for my jacket, which is draped across the dresser. “She doesn’t know how many will die. And she will never be okay with wiping out her family.”
The hint of a smile that was on his lips falters. “She has more to learn,” is all he can say.