Bad to Be Worthy (Bad to Be Good #2) - Andrew Grey

Chapter 1

THE MAN now known as Gerome Meadows prowled the beach near his apartment. The sun was so low, its rays just skimmed off the water, turning the tips of the waves red. Gerome wished he could say that this was his favorite part of the day, but he didn’t have one. Not here, away from home. Okay, he liked the weather here for the most part. It was February, and back in Detroit they were snowed in under a raging blizzard. But on Longboat Key, Florida, he was strolling the beach in jeans and a light sweatshirt at sundown. This place did have its advantages, but it wasn’t home and would probably never feel like home.

The sun dipped farther, now over half gone, the light of the day fading fast. Gerome didn’t really care. He knew how to get back to his place, and no one was going to mess with him. Not if they didn’t want to get their nose or legs broken. He was perfectly safe. Hell, on this beach right now, he was the top predator, the one everyone had to watch out for, the caged lion ready to lash out at anything and anyone. Unease crawled under his skin, and he wanted it to go away. Gerome wished he could just accept that his life had changed so much in the past year, but accepting meant giving up the fight. One that, if he really thought about it, he had already lost anyway.

Gerome paused in his stomping gait to watch the sun sink lower behind the water. He bent down and grabbed some shells, which he threw with all his might as though he were trying to hit the damned thing and kill it, send it away. Not that the sun had done anything to him—he just had to try to let go of this unending frustration that hung on like a houseguest who refused to fucking leave. Shell after shell in rapid succession ended up in the water, and nothing changed. Nothing was going to. He turned around to walk back the way he’d come, returning to the life he couldn’t escape.

At the path off the beach, with the last of the sun’s rays gone, he paused, turning to look out at the blackness of the ocean. A small set of lights bobbed on the water, out far enough that the light itself was all he saw. But as he watched, they came in closer. Another set appeared, exiting the channel to the inner bay, drawing nearer to the other until they met straight out from where Gerome was standing. He crouched, watching and doing his best to blend in with the undulating sand. He could hear nothing over the rolling waves, but the two boats remained near each other for a good ten minutes.

A shout just reached his ears, followed by another, and then they were gone. The boats stayed together for a few minutes after that before separating and going in opposite directions, the first one speeding off into the darkness, the second returning to the bay. Gerome knew he had just seen some sort of rendezvous, and he could only imagine the type of deal that had gone down.

Gerome sat on the sand, the breeze having died to almost nothing, the tiny waves lapping the shore. He closed his eyes.

“Is someone there?” a young voice asked from off to the side.

Gerome didn’t move. He just wanted to be left alone. He continued watching, with just enough light to illuminate the figure of a man tentatively approaching the water. The moon must have been rising, providing he could see the outlines of the world around him. “Hello,” the guy said again nervously, and then turned back toward the water, continuing his path north along the beach.

The guy was someone to watch as Gerome contemplated his fucking boring, workaday, miserable life—a life that made him want to scream. Back in Detroit, he had been someone important, someone with power and authority. Now he was nothing, the manager of a gift shop. He was once the creative mind behind some of the best gay nightclubs in Detroit. He’d helped build an unwanted part of Detroit’s lucrative vice market into a thriving business, until Garvic Senior died and his idiot son took over and decided Gerome and his brothers had to go.

Gerome seethed for the millionth time, knowing he had to let it go and get on with his life. But fuck, what he really wanted