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Authors: Raen Smith

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House of Steel

BOOK: House of Steel
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House of Steel
Raen Smith
Copyright © 2013 Smashwords Edition.

 

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is
entirely coincidental.

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

Proverbs 15:3:
The eyes of the Lord
are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.

 

Life has a way of coming undone. It could be
one single moment or a series of moments that set the undoing in
motion. Our neat, tiny stitch of life slowly unravels, perpetuating
into a reckless spiral toward death. At first, we are unaware and
unflinching, watching as days, weeks and years are deducted from
our already borrowed time. One day, we are awakened to the light,
to the moment that makes us question who we truly are - to the
significance of our own lives in this constant world of a forward
moving life. We question humanity and the greater purpose. We
question who is truly watching us, keeping vigil of the dangers.
The line between good and evil becomes infected, blurs. Or maybe,
just maybe, there is no line at all.

 

1

 

DAY 1: Thursday, December 18 –2:00 a.m.

 

Delaney Jones stepped outside the door of
Atlas Pub just before bar close. Three more inches of snow had
accumulated on the ground during her five-hour stay at the bar,
making a cool foot of blanketed frost. A Wisconsin winter.
Twenty-eight years of this shit was getting old. She stumbled into
the night as her breath was cut short, inhaling the icy air. With
only five blocks to walk, she had convinced her university
colleagues and the sober bartender that she would be more than
capable to walk the short distance home. It was Appleton, the
shining community voted as one of the best small towns in the
United States to raise children. The approval ribbon gleamed across
the town, prompting feverish chatter and boasting from its
residents. Delaney had reminded them of this before she had leaned
across the sheen of the dark mahogany wood to flash the bartender -
a man with a thick neck, chiseled jawline and muscles bursting from
his inexplicably small shirt - a strap of black lace underneath her
low-cut sweater. It had worked. It always did.

As she moved through the snow, the fresh air
invigorated her. It was the first time in fourteen years that she
had walked alone in the blackness of the night. Wrapped in the down
jacket her father Michael Jones had given her during her first year
of college, wool hat, and sub-zero boots, she moved in and out of
the glow of the streetlamps, feeling the crunch of the fresh snow
beneath her boot. She finally felt safe. A sense of euphoric
liberation buzzed through her legs as she trudged forward passed
the last few bars lining the main street that coursed through the
tight community’s revitalized downtown.

Atlas Pub. Anduzzi’s. The Bar. There were
thirty-eight bars in Appleton for its population of seventy
thousand. That was including the residents under twenty-one. A
handful of Leighton students toppled out of the door in front of
her, apologizing through laughter as they stumbled to follow the
street back to campus.
God, they look young.

Delaney turned, passing St. Mary’s towering
and ominous steeple on the second block, knowing that she would
never walk the concrete steps to the entrance. Michael Jones had
noted the church on their first visit to Delaney’s house only weeks
after moving in six months ago. She had venomously refuted the
notion of attendance through her customary, polite smile. Her
mother, Ann Jones, had nodded in agreement.

The brittle frigidness of deep winter sunk
into Delaney’s bones by the fourth block as she rounded the corner
to her street. In front of her house, stood a man, dressed in a
black wool jacket and hat beneath the soft haze of the streetlamp;
a light dusting of snow fell off the lamp and onto him with each
gust of wind. Her heart thudded underneath her layers as she slid
her hand into her pocket, wrapping her fingers around the long
cylinder of pepper spray.

The silhouette lifted his gloved hand with a
short salute; Delaney’s grip released around the cylinder as the
air released from her lungs. The playful gesture he had executed
after every class had always sent a thrill pumping through her
despite the mental anguish that screamed at her body to stop.
Delaney moved forward, her hands clasped together in front of her
chest to huddle any ounce of warmth she had close to her body,
inching herself to him.

“Ms. Jones.”

“Theron.”

“The semester is over, you’re not my
professor anymore,” he said. His eyebrows raised beneath his LU hat
before he smiled. Her legs weakened beneath her.

“And?”

“And here I am. I’ve seen you watching
me.”

“You’re still a student.”

“Not
your
student.” He put his hands
in the air, the large flakes melting into his knit gloves.

“True.” Her lips curled. It was a
technicality. The words of Leighton’s President Givens stung in the
back of her head.
Once a student, always a student
. The
mantra taunted her.

“Let me take you out.” He reached to touch
her clutched hands still wound tightly to her chest. She let him
cover her hands with his, feeling her body flood with eagerness
spawning from the heat of his gloves.

The alcohol disoriented her, taking the edge
off the plaguing feeling of regret. She closed her eyes as her body
swayed beneath her, feeling the cool wetness of a single snowflake
that landed on her flushed cheek. As her eyes fluttered open, she
could see his face leaning into her. His lips brushed against her
cheek where the snowflake had landed, replacing the coolness with
warmth. He paused before moving his lips onto hers. Her body became
instantly gratified by his lips and as she pulled him closer to
her, the chill previously around her body vanished. They stood
kissing underneath the soft glow long enough for dozens of flakes
to speckle her wool hat when his hand reached for her face. She
pulled a few inches away to look at him.

“It’s cold out here, why don’t you come in?”
she whispered. The words had come out before she could stop them.
There was no going back.

She grabbed his hand, led him to the front
porch and through the front door into the warmth of her house. As
Theron shut the door behind them, he moved to kiss her again,
frantically peeling off her layers. Delaney mimicked the movements,
feeling his hard body underneath his clothes. They staggered down
the hallway, their lips moving hard and fast against each other,
until they both stood naked in her bedroom. Her eyes settled on the
pink mask and laptop lying on her desk before Theron interrupted
her as he pulled her close into his body.

Don’t do this.
She ignored her own
words.

 

2

 

DAY 1: Thursday, December 18 – 2:00 a.m.

 

Be vigilant
. The words coiled in her
mind, leaving stinging marks in her skull. V crouched deeper and
rested against the house as she watched the woman stagger toward
the man beneath the streetlamp. He had been waiting on the front
porch since 1:00 a.m. He arrived only minutes after V had made her
final lap around the house. After several empty bangs on the front
door, his hard body had settled onto the porch steps, waiting for
the last hour. V, tucked behind the twigs of a bush, and the man,
huddled on the steps with his hands shoved in his jacket, were both
waiting for Delaney Jones.

The man now stood in the middle of the
sidewalk, the letters LU splashed across his knit hat. His smooth,
vibrant skin was taut against his face. He was young, maybe in his
early twenties. As V studied his muscular body, she predicted he
was an athlete; a wrestler or a football player. He was definitely
a student. She adjusted her own body, feeling the burn in her quads
as she bent further against the wall. No one had seen her, and they
never would. At 4’11”, she was astute at this line of work.

Her eyes narrowed beneath the black ski mask
as she watched Delaney address the man waiting for her. Delaney’s
body swayed, her movements telling of too many drinks. V felt the
sprawling crucifix tattooed across her shoulders flex as her arms
hunched upward. The ink seared into her back as she watched the man
bend down and swallow Delaney’s lips. Despite the burning desire to
look away, her eyes penetrated the couple as they stood embraced,
kissing underneath the light. It was wrong. All wrong.

V’s mind raced to her employer. The
dedication. The time. He had scrutinized Delaney’s every move for
months. V’s eyes scanned the quiet street just a few blocks from
campus. The brisk air was silent, unmoving, as large snowflakes
hung momentously in the air as though the embrace had been
encapsulated in a snow globe. She breathed in, trying to escape the
tingling sensations that ran through her back when she caught sight
of the familiar black sedan across the street. V slipped her hand
inside the pocket of her leather jacket and lifted the night vision
scope. 135-HP3. The number on the license plate pricked her eyes.
She hesitated, knowing that she didn’t need to see the man behind
the black Buick to know it was the Neanderthal with his Icelandic
blue eyes and platinum white hair, but she moved the scope higher
anyway, capturing the outline of his square jaw. His eyes glowed
back a neon yellow, deep into her scope. The penetrating gaze
looked passed the couple embracing on the street, digging layers
into her skin.

It had been twelve years since she had seen
Gunnar last. She had been fifteen then. Pure. Unsuspecting.
Submissive. Everything she wasn’t at the ripe age of twenty-seven.
Gunnar had morphed her with his smoking .22 hand gun and tonight,
he had walked back into her life. She had been waiting for this, a
diligent student preparing for this moment. Gunnar only meant one
thing. Her employer was closing in on Delaney. He was ready to make
his move. Delaney Jones was now the target.

Adrenaline coursed through her veins as she
scanned back to Delaney and the student now making their way up to
the house. V had sensed the time was coming, but she hadn’t known
it would be this soon. Her employer wouldn’t let Delaney get away
with this calloused lack of judgment. The disgusting fall from
grace. Whatever pedestal Delaney had been on, she had fallen.
Hard.

 

3

 

DAY 1: Thursday, December 18 – 10:45
a.m.

 

Huddled against the warmth of his body,
Delaney’s eyes sprung open at the sound of a knock echoing from the
front door. She shot up to see the mid-morning sun shining through
a crack in the half-closed curtains. Her eyes followed the stream
of white light radiating from the window to the rough stubble lying
on the pillow next to her. His wrinkle-free skin was stretched firm
over his face as his nostrils flared with oxygen.
Damn.
She
nudged him with her elbow, stirring him to release a low grumble
from his throat. Delaney shoved harder, driving the elbow deep into
his ribs. Theron’s eyes flashed open, his pupils dilating before
they focused on her waiting face. This wasn’t the way it was
supposed to happen. Not with her student.

“You have to go,” Delaney whispered as she
swung her legs from beneath the covers. “Mark is here.” Her eyes
caught the grey heap of clothes lying on the chair. She tossed a
tattered sweatshirt over her head and hopped on one leg, pulling
the sweatpants up. A second knock.

“Who the hell is Mark?” Theron prodded as he
leaned one elbow on the pillow, exposing the bulge of his
bicep.

Delaney spun back, feeling her stomach
tighten at the sight of his packed chest poking out from the
blanket. “My brother,” she replied as she turned toward the hall to
scoop up his jeans, thrusting them behind her back. She moved
forward to grab the Leighton football sweatshirt and ran back to
the bedroom. Delaney wavered in the doorway, letting the blue
fabric fall between her toes on the beaten, wooden floor before she
cast her eyes down. Theron stood naked alongside her bed, posing
like the Statue of David in all his glory. He had cast his face at
the slightest angle, exposing the thickness of his neck. His eyes
gazed outward in a pure mockery of serious contemplation. The
military dog tags around his neck swayed, clinking together before
they stopped to rest on his defined chest. His dead father’s tags,
he had told her last night. She kicked her leg forward, lifting the
sweatshirt into the air. Theron reached his arm out, snagging the
cotton in his ready hands.

BOOK: House of Steel
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