Page 23

Author: Pepper Winters


A chill darted down my back.


Why exactly did you come back?


Fox’s silver eyes entered my mind again, tugging me against my will, bringing me back to finish what we started.


My hands clenched, but I forced myself to smile sweetly. My skinny jeans, suede boots, and grey shirt were a polar opposite of the monstrosity I showed up in last night. At least all my extremities were covered and not on show to gawk at.


“She isn’t coming. Just me.” When he didn’t open the door wide enough to let me pass, I snapped, “Let me in.”


He shook his head, slouching against the frame. “Nuh uh. Club doesn’t open for another eight hours. Unless you’re a VIP who has access to the facilities prior to opening, you’re shit outta luck. Come back when the moon rises if you want to get laid by a champion.” He thrust his hips like an ignoramus. “Unless you want a freebie here and now?”


I rolled my eyes. “I would rather stab myself in the eye.”


He clutched his chest dramatically, staggering as if I’d shot him. “Cruel bitch. You sure know how to wound a guy.”


Standing as straight as possible, I demanded, “Call Obsidian Fox. He’ll let me in. I guarantee it.” Crossing my arms over my chest, I flinched as the silver chain around my stomach pinched my flesh.


I’d honoured Fox’s command to keep it on. I’d been tempted to find a pair of pliers and tear the jewellery off, but if my plan worked, I needed it. It was yet another weapon in my arsenal. My temper being my first artillery. My tongue was ready to give that man a lashing.


He needed to know just what I thought of him. And how I would not put up with his bullshit.


He’d promised me two hundred thousand dollars. I wanted my daughter to survive, and he was my only hope.


The bouncer scowled. “He’s not to be disturbed.” He pointed to the sky with a chubby finger. “The bossman sleeps like the nocturnal. No sluts till club hours.”


It took every inch of my self-control not to pull the small blade free from my hair and stab him in his jugular. “Just call him, will you?”


He crossed his muscular arms, shaking his head. “Nope.”


There was only one thing left to do. Pulling my large handbag around to my front, I rummaged inside, pushing aside an extra set of underwear and spare blouse. Pulling out the black t-shirt I’d stolen from Fox’s wardrobe, I found the embroidered silver emblem and shoved the whole thing in the bouncer’s face. “What’s this?”


His forehead furrowed, squinting at the fox stitched into the shirt. “Hey, that’s—”


“Your boss’s clothing? Yep.” I dropped my arm. “I took it from him last night after we made an agreement. I’m staying with him for a month. He let me run a few errands this morning, and now I need to return to him.” The lie spilled effortlessly from my tongue.


The bouncer scowled, gnawing on his lip in deliberation. “I dunno…”


Shoving the t-shirt back into my bag, I snapped, “What do you think he’ll do if I tell him I had to wait on the doorstep for eight hours because his lunatic bouncer didn’t get the memo?”


His eyes widened, dilating with anxiety. It seemed everyone had a fear about their capricious boss. Finally, he shoved the door wider and motioned me in. “If you’re telling lies, I’ll make sure to pay you back.”


His tone didn’t scare me—Fox had reminded me that fear wasn’t in my repertoire.


Storming down the long corridor, I ignored the artwork and statues. For a house painted all in black with black upholstery and haberdashery, the sun had a strong-willed determination to warm every crevice. The glass ceiling above meant it was as bright inside as it was out.


Making sure to only touch the metal door with the child in wonderland and not the child with dead body parts at his feet, I entered Obsidian’s fighting floor.


I slammed to a stop. I’d expected the arena to be abandoned—to have the place to myself, but the boxing ring was occupied by four men, pairing up to spar. The cage held a man in a spandex body suit practicing jabs and throws at an imagery opponent.


A cleaning crew worked industriously around the fighters, disinfecting floors and wiping down rigging. Even medics stood attentive and waiting at their stations, watching the preliminary warm-ups, no doubt ready to receive a patient.


Keeping my bag tucked close to my side, I bee-lined for the black carpeted stairs. Even though members were early, it didn’t mean the boss would be ready to work. The large clock on the wall said it was only midday. I knew where I would find him.


In bed.


Vulnerable.


Hopefully asleep, so I could have the pleasure of screaming him awake.


Walking straight and with purpose, I refused to make eye contact with anyone. I cursed the bruising between my legs. Every step made my heart race, knowing I was about to face the man who hurt me.


I passed the Muay Thai ring, but slammed to a halt when a large man stepped purposely in my way. I didn’t know what he wanted, and I wasn’t in the mood.


“Move, please,” I said, glaring.


He chuckled, stroking his five o’ clock shadow. His body flexed with thick muscles and tribal tattoos. “That’s no way to be polite.” His voice sounded like a drum full of gravel. “I didn’t know entertainment arrived early.” He stepped closer, forcing himself into my bubble. “You fancy serving a winner after his fight?” He licked his lips, dragging icy blue eyes up and down my figure. “I’ll fuck you real good.”


“No thanks.” I sniffed, keeping calm. “I’m busy; please let me pass.”


He chuckled. “Oh, you used the magic word. Was that please let me suck your dick, baby doll? I think that’s what I heard.” His arm came forward, landing on my shoulder. His touch didn’t scare me, but the use of the pet name did.


My body tensed, looking for a weakness to exploit. “Get. Your. Hands. Off. Me.”


His bushy eyebrows slammed into a frown. “That’s no way for a Fox Girl to talk to a paying client. Do you know the fucking fees I pay to come here? It’s extortion.”


I shrugged. “What you do with your money is your business. Now leave me the hell alone.”


Shaking his head, he muttered, “You’re not getting it, baby doll. I pay fees and included in those fees are the use of certain pleasurable activities.” His fingers slithered off my shoulder, dropping to my chest.


I flinched as he grabbed my breast hard and twisted. “Get in a private room. Now.”


Reaching automatically into my hair, I fumbled for my knife clip. My anxious fingers touched the blade, palming it discreetly.


A rush of power filled me holding the weapon. “Lay another finger on me and I’ll make you regret it.”


Two fighters nearby stopped towelling off and looked up. They murmured something to each other, watching our altercation. Their eyes dropped to my figure, glowing from confusion to interest.


Oh, shit, how could I get out of this without it turning into a bloodbath?


Deciding deception was the best way to go, I forced my body to relax. Placing a hand over my captors, I slipped into seductress and whispered, “Not here. You want me? You can have me, but your eyes only.” The moment I get you alone, I’m cutting your balls off.


He grinned, showing yellowing teeth. “Knew you’d come around, baby doll.”


A strong arm suddenly wrapped around my waist, yanking me backward into hard muscle. “What the fuck are you doing here?”


My nose swam with scents of sun and salt and wind. Whereas Fox smelled of the underworld he’d been birthed from, Oscar smelled of freedom.


“I came back as I made a deal with your boss.” Nodding at the guy in my way, I added, “This lunatic thinks he can order me around.”


Oscar breathed hard; his muscles pressed against my spine. I never relaxed even as his hard heat seeped into my body. I didn’t like how firmly he held me.


I squirmed a little, testing his hold. Oscar grunted. “Stop moving. I know Fox wants you. I didn’t deal with his bullshit last night for him to kill me today if he found out I didn’t return you. It’s your funeral for being stupid enough to come back.”


Where did Fox go last night?


My mind raced as Oscar clutched me harder. “Spiderweb, nice to see you so early. You know the rules. You want a fuck; you have to wait till official opening hours.”


Spiderweb bared his teeth. “I see a perfect little bug in front of me. She was all for it, weren’t you, baby doll?”


I couldn’t stop the shudder. I would never get over my hatred for that name.


Oscar stilled, a gust of hot air from his breath hit my neck. “She’s not for sale.”


My back stiffened, but I let him talk about me as a possession. He was trying to protect me after all.


“Whatever. Fair’s fair. She’s on the floor. I saw her. I want her.”


Oscar tugged me harder into him, staking a possessive claim with his hand on my hip. I couldn’t see him, but his voice seethed with authority. “She’s already bought.”


My temper flared. I wanted to disagree. I wasn’t a pet or a piece of crockery to be bought and traded. I’d agreed to sell something to Fox in return for hope. What we’d agreed to wasn’t just sex.


You want him as much as you want his money.


The reminder came from nowhere, bringing with it the heat simmering in my stomach. I’d wanted him before he took me so callously. The attraction was still there, frothing beneath my anger.


Spiderweb crossed his arms; his muscles jumped, making his spider tattoos seem like they were alive. “By who? I’ll pay extra. I want that fine piece of ass.” He blew me a disgusting kiss.


I bit my tongue against saying anything. Oscar’s muscles bunched behind me, rippling with energy. “By the owner of this fucking club. So beat it.”


Spiderweb sneered. “The owner can have anyone he wants.” Anger glowed in his eyes. “I want that one.” Pointing at me, he grabbed his crotch. “She’d feel real good. I can tell.”


I squeaked as Oscar grabbed my left breast. What the hell?


His breath blew hot on the side of my neck as he snapped, “See this?” Letting go, he added, “His. Not yours. His.”


His voice held an accent—American perhaps, even though he looked like a true-blue Aussie with his tanned skin, bright blue eyes, and salt-bleached hair.


Whispering in my ear, he said, “Why did you come back? I thought he hurt you?”


“He did hurt me.” I wanted to leave it at that, but I needed Oscar on my side if I had any chance of achieving what I wanted. “But he’s hurting more.”


Oscar didn’t say a word. Shit, I said the wrong thing. I was incorrect to think he cared about his boss.


Oscar muttered, “If you think he’ll change, you’re delusional, but I won’t stop you from destroying yourself.”


Spiderweb took a hasty step toward me. “Hey! Stop sweet talking my girl. I’m taking her.”


My temper exploded. I’d had enough of idiotic male testosterone. Shoving Oscar off me, I hissed, “I’m not yours. I’m not his. I’m mine. Now excuse me, Neanderthals, I came back for a reason, and I’m not done.”


Stalking away, I dashed up the stairs and thanked my one bit of luck: Fox’s office door stood open. Securing the knife clip into my hair, I entered.


I’d drawn my fair share of blood and hated the aftermath. The tremors, the constant questions, the wondering if I could’ve handled the situation better. I second-guessed every decision, looking for ways I could’ve prevented whatever happened.


The shakes began. They always did after a tense situation. My body, drenched in adrenaline, still wanted to fight.


My eyes fell to the carpet where Fox strangled me last night. My fingers flew to my neck, pressing lightly on the tender bruises. The memory of his hand around my throat made my heart pound harder.

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