Woozy from the crowbar I’d taken to the back of the head—which of course came with a splitting headache straight from Satan’s own asshole—I was disoriented and sluggish. It was a chemical sluggishness, though, which suggested someone had either roofied me—and if it was a woman, she shouldn’t have bothered; I’d have fucked her without the drugs—or someone had tranked me. Which wasn’t the brightest idea, because I was slowly coming out of it. And what with the headache, and the fact that I was hungry, it didn’t exactly spell rousing games of charades and shuffleboard once I got my bearings and figured out who I had to hit.
I tried to blink, but that didn’t accomplish much; either it was pitch black and there wasn’t anything to see, or I was blindfolded.
I focused hard, which hurt. Then I tried to subtly flex my muscles. I tested my toes and fingers and wrists, and tried to see if I was simply bound, or drugged into paralysis. I had feeling in my limbs so I knew I wasn’t paralyzed. The bad news was that my wrists were tied; the good news was my ankles weren’t bound, and they hadn’t gagged me, either. Stupid move—I can fuck you up with just my feet, let me tell you. I learned Muai Thai in Thailand, from some seriously scary little motherfuckers, the kind of dudes who go out and kick trees just to toughen their shins.
I kept my breathing slow and steady, something I did out of long habit. I listened hard and I heard nothing that gave anything away. The floor was cold and hard underneath my shoulder, hip, and knee. I was pretty sure it was a cement floor. I was lying on my side, hands bound in front of me—another mistake.
Struggling to push past my haze, I figured I was in a room, cement of some sort. I kept listening, but there wasn’t much to hear.
Now that my faculties were returning, I could feel the blindfold around my head and it felt like a folded bunch of cloth. It would be easy enough to remove when I was ready.
Staying still and quiet I kept listening, focusing on breathing slow and steady as if I was still unconscious. The bonds around my wrists were zip-ties, and they were wrenched tight to my skin which, while painful, was actually good news. Zip-ties are plastic, which means their overall tensile strength isn’t that great. One hard wrench of my arms, or bashing them against my knee, and they’d be gone. It would take me ten seconds max, a number I quote from experience.
I was about to start the process of determining whether to play this out a bit longer or start my escape when I heard a muffled whimper. Definitely female, close by.
“Pssst,” I hissed.
“Gnnnhhh?” Definitely a chick, definitely gagged.
“Keep still. Pretend you’re still knocked out. No matter what you hear, no matter what happens, keep playing possum. Got it, babe?”
“Ugh-oo, doh gah ee ay.”
I stifled a chuckle; she sounded pissed, and if I was anything like a decent translator of pissed-off, gagged females, she said something like fuck you, don’t call me babe. Better for her that she had a bit of spark. If she could cuss me out while bound and gagged, it meant she had spark, which meant spirit, which meant whatever was going on, she wasn’t as likely to flake out if shit got weird.
I tried to think back and remember; what was the last thing I remembered?
Some shitty dive bar in…Denver? Probably Denver. I remember that after Nevada, Thresh had gone to find that doctor chick he was so hung up on—which I understood because, seriously, that chica had curves for fucking days, and she’d pushed back at Thresh, which was the fastest way to get him horny short of reaching into his shorts. Plus, all that exotic Islander skin, and that thick fucking hair? No wonder Thresh wanted to take her for a tumble. I’d hit it, if he hadn’t had dibs. And no, we weren’t so juvenile as to call dibs out loud, but when you spent enough time hunting tail with your bro, you know when he’s interested, and you don’t go after that chick, even after he’s done.
So…I had been in a Denver dive bar, alone. I remembered that much, at least. I’d been on the prowl, going slow on the drinks, ready for any sign of my two favorite activities: fucking and fighting. I’d gotten a whiff of some kind of sweet floral perfume while exiting the head, and followed the scent to an out-of-place honey with a tight body and a serious attitude problem—in short, exactly my kinda girl.
I hadn’t really made a move, not as such, just sort of scoping her out, getting a feel for her. Hadn’t even started with the charm-and-flirt routine yet, but she wasn’t playing. Shut me down cold, even though she had no wing girls with her, no bling ring, and no sign of a guy, just sort of drinking alone.
Now, I ain’t one to buy into the gender stereotypes much, okay? I served with some chicks in the Army, and some of ’em were just as much my bros as BangBang and Gutierrez had been. I may be a shameless manwhore of the worst kind, but I take people as they are. I don’t fuck chicks with diamonds on their left hand, and no means no…except when I sniff out that no means chase me, and that’s always obvious.
But there are a few clichés and stereotypes that tend to hold true. Like, if you see a dude sitting by himself in a smoky shithole dive bar, you’re better off leaving him alone, ’cause he don’t want to talk. And the other one that’s almost always true is, if you see a lady, like a real-deal lady, with Louboutins and Chanel clutch purses and expensive perfume and two-carat diamond earrings, the kind of lady who wears that fancy shit like it ain’t no thing, in a LoDo dive bar, no less…well, partner, that shit there spells trouble.
What? I’ve hooked up with some ladies in my time, and I like nice shit, so I know one-percenter name brands when I see them, okay?
Anyway, she’d gotten up and gone outside to smoke. Pall Mall Lights lit with a snazzy looking fancy-ass electric flameless lighter.
You know how they say you are what you eat? And you know how they say curiosity killed the cat? Well, I eat a lot of pussy…
I was curious and went out after her. I lit my one-hitter and took a quick toke of some fine-ass herb I’d picked up—a habit I only indulge in when I’m off-duty. I opened my mouth to talk to her, and then her eyes had gone wide, surprised, but she’d been looking behind me, not at me.
Then, bam, everything went black.
And now, here I am, bound, blindfolded, and fighting a headache and a wicked chemical haze.
So, if I had to guess, that lonely fancy chick was the same person now bound and gagged behind me.
Who the fuck would take me prisoner like this? And why?
The events in Nevada floated through my head and I remembered Harris’s warning about Cain reappearing and being bent on revenge…and now I have an inkling as to what is going on.
I was still working through the situation in my head when I heard voices in the distance followed by footsteps shuffling down the stairs.
“Play possum, okay?” I hissed, quiet as I could. “Trust me.”
“Nnnnng?” She sounded less sparky, and more fearful.
“You’ve got my word, Fancy. I’ll get you out of this. But you gotta listen to me real carefully. Breathe like
you’re still asleep. Relax your muscles. Don’t react to anything.”
“Yeah, Fancy, that’s you. Now shut up and play possum.”
I followed my own orders as the voices got closer, the footsteps just on the other side of the wall. I heard a lock twist, then hinges protested, and feet—two pair, three—three, I’d wager—scuffed across the floor. Definitely a cement floor. European voices, thick Eastern Bloc accents. Definitely Cain’s group.
“Still out,” a voice said, in heavily accented English.
A pair of feet shuffled toward me. “Should be. We hit this big one with enough tranquilizer to take out a pair of elephants.” This from a second voice.
“And the girl?” The first guy again.
“Cain said no witnesses, no chances.” Third voice, sounding like he had a bit of authority.
“Think we could have some fun, first?” First voice again.
They were baiting me, I realized. They’d be talking in Czech or Ukrainian or whatever if this discussion were meant for their ears only. This was for us, to see if we were awake.
“After she wakes up,” said voice number three, the one that sounded in charge. “No hurry. Cain won’t be here for a few days yet. We have time for fun later.”
The feet shuffled even closer to me. My heart hammered, but I kept my breathing steady and slow, my muscles loose. There was a moment of silence, and then a shock of agony and a loud thud as a big boot slammed full force into my gut. No warning, no way to tense against it, I couldn’t breathe, shit—
I forced myself not to react, struggling through the lack of oxygen, the wind knocked so far out of me stars burst behind my eyes and panic clutched at my instincts. I stayed still, as if the tranquilizer was still working in my bloodstream; and when I didn’t react they must have assumed, logically, that I was still under.
You don’t survive alone on the streets for as long as I did and not learn to take a kick or ten to the gut.
I heard their feet retreat; they were speaking in their own language now. The door closed, the lock turned, boots ascended, and then I heard the floorboards overhead creak, followed by a loud squeal like rusty screen door hinges slamming shut.
Finally, I let myself gulp oxygen, gagging on it as it flooded through me. “Fucker’s…gonna…pay…for that,” I gasped.
“Just fine, Fancy, just fine. Gotta catch my breath, and then I’ll do some commando shit or something.” My head was still thick, aching, my mouth was dry, and now my stomach throbbed.
Thinking was hard.
I gave myself a thirty count, and then I brought my hands up and used my thumbs to rip off the blindfold. Yep: basement, bare concrete floor, metal posts holding up the low ceiling, open rafters and ductwork, an old box fan in one corner, along with a stationary bike. There was an old weight bench with a single barbell bar on it but no weights, a freestanding heavy bag, and a shelving unit with aging canned goods. In short, this was the basement of a tired, old suburban house. I rolled onto my back, then onto my other side.
And there was Fancy, in all her glory. She was on her side too, perpendicular to me, the top of her head near my stomach. Five-six or five-seven, sleek, svelte, tight round ass in a knee-length dove-gray skirt, black wedge heels, and a white blouse cupping a sensational pair of high, plump, firm tits, not super huge, but enough to fill even my big ol’ paws. She looked just like I remembered her from last night.
Only now her fine blond hair, which I remembered being done in a casually elegant up-do, was now tangled and messy, lank strings hanging in her eyes and sticking to her neck and cheeks. And holy mother of fucks, the woman’s skin…damn. Pale as pearls, flawless, enticing. Except her cheeks, which were flushed bright pink. She was glaring at me, and her eyes were…fuck, her eyes were like nothing I’d ever seen before. Cerulean blue shot through with streaks of green and hints of hazel. Wide eyes, full of fierce personality. Beautiful, hypnotizing eyes.
“Hey, ahh-hoh. Geh a mooh on.”
Clear enough, I supposed.
I rolled forward to my knees, stood up, worked the kinks out of my stiff joints, then laced my fingers together, flexed my wrists away from each other to put tension on the zip-tie, swung my arms up and then back down hard as I could while swinging my knee up. My wrists hit my knee with crushing force, and the zip-tie snapped, freeing my hands. Ten seconds or less, motherfucker.
I knelt beside the girl who flinched away from me, automatically, it seemed. I frowned down at her. “Hey now, Fancy, don’t be hatin’. I’m on your side, okay? I’m not gonna hurt you. I’m gonna get that gag off, and then you can cuss me out all you want, as long as you do it quiet, all right?”
She held still, but kept wary eyes fixed on me as I knelt closer to her, leaned forward, reached around behind her head to untie the knot. Yeah, I could’ve knelt behind her to do it, and where’s the fun in that? She smelled like jasmine; I got a good whiff as I worked at the knot, and good fucking goddamn, that scent, on that woman? Made me dizzy. I swear I could get hard just sniffing her.
I acted like I was having trouble with the knot, pausing, leaning a little closer to peer over her shoulder. It was an act, since it was a fairly simple knot loosely tied, and I could have gotten it free with my eyes closed, but it got me another subtle nose-full of her intoxicating scent, which was its own reward, and well worth the glare of daggers I got from Fancy when I pulled back to work on the knot a bit more.
Once it was free, I tossed the handkerchief aside…
And Fancy promptly set to complaining. “My god, that thing tasted like old sweat. I think I’m going to vomit.”
“Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, sugar, and it’ll pass. The nausea is more from whatever they used to knock us out.”
She shot me that patented death-and-daggers glare. “My name is Temple. Not sugar, or babe, or fancy.” She was breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth, I noticed. “Temple Kennedy.”
Damn—that was a name I knew. Hell, everybody knew that name. She was one of those “famous for being famous” celebrity honeys. Daddy was a retired rock star and her mom was an A-list actress with multiple Oscar noms and at least one Golden Globe that I knew of. Beyond wealthy, spoiled, she had lived her whole life in the spotlight. Has a reality show where cameras follow her around as she trots the globe and suns herself on yachts in the Mediterranean, yells at servers, and insults her mom and sucks up to her dad. She turned all that into a lucrative career doing…I wasn’t sure what. She had an app which did who knew what, clothing lines, makeup, a tell-all book or two, and any number of other bits and pieces of merchandising with her name and likeness on it.
So what the ever-loving fuck was a high-class lady-lady like Temple Kennedy doing in a dive bar in LoDo?
That was the million-dollar question.
Or, actually, shit—a hundred million dollar question, given how much her parents were worth.
I leaned down and put my face inches from hers, reached out an index finger, brushed her sunshine-and-honey hair out of her face. “So, Temple Kennedy. Think these dick-knobs know who they’ve got in their basement?”
One plucked eyebrow lowered, the other arched upward. “I would assume so.”
She had a little smudge of dirt on her forehead from the floor. I rubbed my thumb over it, gently, wiping it away. She was breathing hard by the time I finished, tension written in every line of her body and face. She did not like my proximity. Funny, most honeys are tripping over themselves to get closer to me, to get my hands on them. But then, Temple Kennedy was way above even my pay grade.
“See, I don’t think they do.”
She struggled to sit up, but her hands and feet were both bound, her hands behind her back leaving her helpless. Bound hand and foot, and gagged? She must have put up a fight.
“Why wouldn’t they? I assume they’re kidnappers looking for a ransom.”
I laughed quietly, and then lifted her to a sitting position, keeping a grip on her until she was steady. “Oh, sweetpea, not everything is about you. Unfortunately, the situation is a lot worse than that.”
“Why is it so hard for you to use my name?” She wavered and I caught her, keeping her upright. “And how could it be worse than me being kidnapped? And can you please do something about these restraints? They’re beginning to chafe.”
I crept from corner to corner, rummaging through the detritus, but found nothing useful for severing her wire bonds. Then I ducked under the stairs, remembering the basement of a foster house I’d stayed in for a bit, and how the drunken old bastard had kept an ancient toolbox under the stairs in the basement. Sure enough, I hit the jackpot. In a corner was a rusting Craftsman toolbox filled with screwdrivers, ratchets, a hammer, loose nails, and a pair of wire cutters. I returned to Temple with the wire cutters and knelt behind her.
“Hold still, Fancy, I’m gonna pop these ties.” I clipped between her wrists, and she immediately drew her hands around in front and massaged them. “As for how it could be worse? They didn’t snatch me because I was with you, they snatched you because you were with me.”
“I wasn’t with you. I was outside smoking.”
“And I went out after you. They saw you next to me and, as you heard, they had orders not to take chances or leave witnesses.” I moved to her feet and clipped her ankles free. “I’m not sure what they want, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest it ain’t a tickle fight, princess. They got no problem burying you if you cause trouble, trust me on that.
“And if they were to somehow find out who you are if, say, someone was to bust out with a ‘do you even know who I am?’, Baby-cakes…that would not be beneficial to your situation. They’d not only have a witness, but they’d have a hostage, and money to be made. The guy in charge of this whole mess, he ain’t a nice guy. He’d be the sort to send severed fingers to your dad until he got his money. So I suggest you keep your mouth shut and follow my lead.”
She paled at that, and considering her pearly complexion, that meant she went really pale. “They wouldn’t.”
I shrugged. “That’s my best guess. This Cain guy isn’t really my particular enemy, he’s more my boss’s enemy. But since I’m connected to him, they snatched me, and got you in a twofer. And, yeah, honey, they would absolutely hack off your pretty little manicured fingers.”
She was rolling her ankles, trying to get the feeling back, so I took her foot in my hand, slipped off her wedge sandal, and massaged her foot. A low, sultry groan of pleasure left her lips before she could stop herself, but then she yanked her foot back and shot me that glare again.
I let her go, and squatted next to her, watching her try to massage feeling back into her extremities and admiring her tight, toned body. “I happen to think you’ve got beautiful hands, and it’d be a shame to see them come to any harm, so you can relax. I won’t let anything happen to your fingers, or any other part of your fine-ass body.”
“Oh really? There were three of them, in case you didn’t notice.” She said this as if I should be afraid.
“Yeah, I noticed.”
“You were blindfolded, how could you tell?”
I shrugged, smirking. “I counted their voices, and heard their different footsteps.”
“And you can take on all three of them, can you?” Skeptical, sarcastic.
I stood up to my full height, which got her attention. I’m six-six and two-eighty, and there’s not an ounce of fat on me. And believe me, she fuckin’ noticed. There was no mistaking the way her eyes raked up and down my body several times, and then she blinked, shook her head, and looked away, those pretty pale cheeks blushing scarlet.
“Yeah, Fancy. I’m thinkin’ they only brought three guys, and that was their second mistake.”
“What was the first?”
“Not killing me outright,” I said. “’Cause now I’m inconvenienced. I’ve got a headache, and that makes me cranky. I’m hungry, which makes me hangry, and when I get hangry I tend to lose a bit of rationality and self-restraint. And they only brought three guys? They’re going to wish they had a whole lot more.”
She stared up at me, and her gaze reflected equal parts attraction, fascination, and revulsion.
I heard the screen door squeal, then footsteps on the floor above us, and then on the stairs.
I winked at Temple. “Fun’s about to start, honey-buns. You just sit there and be your pretty, innocent little self. Let them come in, and do not look at me. Then, when I give you the signal, you get your sexy ass out of the way.”
She looked panicked. “Wh—what’s the signal?”
“When I start hitting people, obviously.”
I started to turn away.
“Wait!” she called out.
I turned back, quirked an eyebrow. “What’s up?”
“What’s your name?”
I gave her my signature panty-melter grin. “Name’s Duke Silver.”
Snagging the barbell from the rack, I hefted it, swung it around a few times, and then positioned myself near the door as the footsteps clomped down the stairs.
The lock clicked, the doorknob twisted.
Temple sat frozen on the floor, like a deer caught in headlights and then, in the moments before the door swung open, she shook her hair out, fluffed it, and unbuttoned her blouse to show a cock-hardening amount of plump ivory cleavage.
A little too effective, since it cost me several seconds delay—I was staring too, right when the three cocksuckers ambled through the door with their guns at the ready.
Great, now I have to fight with hard-on.
To keep reading just click your favorite ebook retailer:
A1S reading order is Harris, Thresh, and Duke.
We will have a combined print omnibus of all three coming next week, so keep an eye out for it.
Have a wonderful weekend and happy reading,
Jasinda and Jack too!