Authors: Marci Fawn
Cherie behind is the toughest thing I’ve ever done. The sight of her in that bed, messy hair laying on the pillow and her lips slightly pursed as she breathes deeply… It will be the last sight on my mind before I fall to sleep. My last conscious moment will be spent thinking about her.
My sweet, innocent princess.
My pouty dirty girl.
She changed my world in a matter of days, and I’ll never regret what I’m doing, if only it serves to protect from her harm. That’s the one thing I can’t handle – thinking about Cherie being hurt. And that’s why I’ll do what I have to… even handle whatever that prick Ryder throws at me.
With gritted teeth, I pick up my ratty bag and throw it over my shoulder.
I said goodbye to my bike this morning, after calling in a favor from a friend. Seeing it go into some random biker’s greedy hands made me itch wildly, but I ignored the urge to smack the smug grin off the guy’s face. I swallowed it and I moved the fuck on.
For Cherie. That’s what I keep telling myself.
I get on the bus and give the driver my fare in crumpled bills. The rest of my money. That son of a bitch Ryder better start paying me soon, or I’ll be broke as hell.
The ride is excruciatingly slow, and sleep eludes me. She’s on my mind, always. The way her bottom lip juts out when she’s offended, the way her hair smells after she washes it. Always that intoxicating scent, even when she uses cheap motel supplies.
My thoughts circle around Cherie for hours, all the way to the next state. I’m safe now. It’s a strange thought, to be able to tell my name to anyone. Sure, I’d probably get some freaked out looks, but officially, I’ve been pardoned. I’m not a murderer.
I didn’t kill Hunter.
When I disembark the bus, my head is pounding with a horrible headache, and my hands have formed fists at my sides. I look around the deserted parking lot. All of the other passengers have skittered away, off to their warm homes, their dinner waiting on the table. I’m alone, save for a few trash bags blowing in the wind.
It’s then that I hear a whistle.
I whip my head around like a predator ready to pounce. A figure emerges from the shadows, a woman. She’s tall and curvy, the opposite of Cherie. My cock doesn’t move as she comes into view, a stunning beauty with a hardened look to her features.
“You Axel?” she asks, popping her bubblegum. It’s such a strange contrast to her tough exterior it catches me off guard and I forget to answer as I drink the female in.
Tall, still shorter than me. Long curly black hair, cold brown eyes. Pretty face, mangled by hurt of some kind she tries hard to hide. Beautiful. Does nothing for me.
“Yeah,” I growl in reply. “And who the fuck are you?”
She grins, exposing two rows of perfect white teeth. “I’m your boss. Name’s Rosa. Come with me, we have a drive ahead of us.”
I stare at her reluctantly, but Rosa has already turned her back to me and walked away. I realize I don’t really have a choice, so I follow her with gritted teeth. Call me a sexist, but I don’t like a woman above me. Unless she’s riding me and I’ve got my hands on her hips, guiding her.
Fuck. I’m thinking about Cherie again.
I stop in my tracks and scowl at my fate. Rosa finally notices I’m not following, turns around and whistles for me, like I’m a fucking dog.
“Come on,” she says in annoyance. “We ain’t got all day.”
I remind myself why I’m doing all of this. Why I’ve taken this job from hell, away from the other half of my heart. It’s all for her, for Cherie. I need to go with Rosa. I need to follow directions and do as I’m told.
I walk up to her car, such a ridiculous one it makes me grin despite myself. “You a soccer mom in your free time?” I ask Rosa jokingly, and she glares at me, so I shut it.
Instead, I sit in the passenger seat and wait for her to join me.
“Strap in,” she tells me, and I give her a weird look before putting on my seatbelt. In moments, it becomes painfully obvious why she wants me to wear a strap. The woman drives like a mad person, turning corners with such ferocity it’s a wonder I don’t barf all over her car seats.
She’s a quiet one, Rosa is. It probably doesn’t help I’m clutching the door handle like I’ll bolt out of the moving car any second. She notices my green face and laughs merrily, the motion making her face pretty. I stare at her for a second, drinking in her features as she attempts to kill us with her driving.
“Rule number one,” she says, keeping her eyes on the road. “Do not fall in love with me.”
I snort. “Think you’re that special?” I want to know.
“Yeah,” she replies with a grin, looking away from the road and right into my eyes. We’re driving extremely fast and this mad woman isn’t even looking ahead of herself. Instead, her eyes are challenging me, digging into my skull.
“I won’t fall in love with you,” I tell her pointedly, all of my thoughts going back to Cherie. Sweet, innocent, young Cherie. So wrong for me, yet so fucking right in every way. Mine. And I’m only hers.
“Let’s wait and see,” Rosa replies, still staring at me.
“Watch the fuck out!” I yell, and just in time, she swerves the car and stops us from hitting a tree. I pale and am about to yell at her when she throws her head back and laughs like she doesn’t have a care in the world.
And for some reason, it’s infectious. My life is utterly fucked, and something tells me this Rosa doesn’t have it easy, either. Yet I grin first, and in a few seconds, I’m laughing right the fuck along with her.
the benefit of gradually accommodating to my surroundings. I’m thrown in head-first, and it’s make it or break it. I have to familiarize myself with everything, from the job, to the people and right down to the damn paperwork.
If I had thought Rosa would be of any help, it is now obvious she doesn’t give a crap. She’s passionate about her job, sure, but she doesn’t want me stepping on her toes. One thing has become totally obvious to me since day one – Rosa has a massive crush on Ryder, and he enjoys exploiting it.
Sick fuck. I’ll always despise him, for taking away Cherie and what we could’ve had together. But the way he treats Rosa is like kicking a puppy aside. It’s shameful and I hate how self-entitled the prick is, thinking he can treat just about anyone as trash.
Thankfully, I don’t see too much of Ryder around these parts. Too hoity-toity to loiter in undesirable neighborhoods like the dregs of the city.
It’s been weeks now since I’ve been here. Long, arduous and horrid weeks. Every cell in my body screams her name, begs for her touch, and longs for her pussy. Yet I have done everything by the book, too scared to overstep or break rules and earn Ryder’s reprimand.
The job is just as I imagined it. Highly illegal, dangerous and dirty. I oversee an underground fighting ring where basically nothing is off limits. It’s been explained by Rosa that these guys just keep going, but I didn’t quite believe her. Not until my first night, the first time I saw blood being spilled and the crowd begging for more.
People are animals. Now I understand why Ryder wouldn’t let Cherie near this place. Doesn’t excuse the fact that he sentenced me to it, though.
I look to my side, where Rosa is squirming on her chair.
“Would you fucking hold still?” I growl at her and she flinches, then makes a grimace at me. We’ve got something going, Rosa and I. It’s not real friendship, but a sort of camaraderie that at least means we aren’t at each other’s necks all the time. I let her breathe and she lets me do my job, for the most part.
“Excited to see your imaginary boyfriend?” I tease her, and she punches my arm with a ferocity I don’t expect from her.
“Shut up, prick,” she mutters. She gets weirdly defensive sometimes, when it comes to Ryder. How the fuck she managed to develop a crush on that prick is beyond me. He’s about as desirable as a mangy cat.
“I don’t get it,” I tell her simply. “You’re so into him. Why don’t you…”
“You don’t know anything, Axel,” she tells me harshly, and I risk a look at her.
I haven’t gotten to know Rosa very well. Beneath her harsh exterior is… well, more hardness, more edges and more thorns. She’s feisty, loud and stubborn as fuck. The players all want her, yet no one has truly had her yet. It’s like she’s actually saving herself for Ryder, something that makes me want to gag. What she sees in that jackass, I’ll never understand.
“I do know something,” I finally groan in response, and as if on cue, my mind shifts back to Cherie. What is my darling doing these days?
It’s been weeks. She’s probably still mildly pissed about what happened, but I’m sure she’ll get over me. She’ll be dating and going out in no time, forgetting all about me.
My hands form fists at my sides and I actually growl out loud, earning a worried look from Rosa. I hate the fucking thought of my Cherie with another guy. She’s mine, and I should’ve staked my claim…
My thoughts are interrupted by the door to the room opening. Ryder strides inside like he fucking owns the place – which, actually, he does. It still annoys the heck out of me.
“Hello, love birds,” he tells us, making Rosa blush and me grit my teeth. He’s wearing expensive clothes again, a sharp contrast to my ratty jeans and a tee look. Rosa’s suddenly sitting up straight, gazing up at him adoringly. Disgusting.
“Any news for me?” Ryder asks sweetly, sitting down at a desk in the room. This is the so-called conference room, a windowless shithole, really. I can still see a faint bloodstain on the carpet where a security guard knocked some drunken prick’s tooth out a week ago. Yeah, this job isn’t sunshine and rainbows. More like sweat, gore and violence.
“Everything is going as it should be,” Rosa manages to get out, blushing deeply. “Fights are scheduled for 90 days in advance now. We have the winnings deposited directly into the account you supplied every Monday by noon.”
Ryder nods, cracking his knuckles. “Thanks, Rosa.”
She beams like a fucking purring kitten. How the hell does a woman as independent as Rosa fall under the spell of a prick like Ryder? A mystery.
Now, the jackass has set his eyes on me.
“Rosa, would you excuse us for a moment?” he asks politely, getting up and showing his back to us. “I’d like to speak to Axel alone for a moment.”
“Oh.” She sounds disappointed, but nevertheless, she gets up and walks out of the room, shutting the door softly behind her.
I stare at Ryder’s back, envisioning putting a bullet right between his shoulder blades. Fuck, how good it would feel.
He’s rummaging in the crummy bar, finally pulling out a bottle of expensive whiskey that does not go with this rotting old room. He turns to face me like he doesn’t have a care in the world and it just sets me off even more.
“Care for a drink, Axel?” he asks out loud and I clench my fingers, but nod tightly nonetheless. What is it they say again? Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
I watch Ryder with gritted teeth as he pours us drinks and brings them over in expensive crystal glasses. He passes me mine with a smirk on his face, toasting me wordlessly. I follow suit, my mouth a thin line.
Ryder’s eyes are challenging mine, but I’m not letting him get to me. I stare right back, fighting him with a challenging gaze of my own. Finally, the bastard shakes his head and laughs like he just witnessed something funny. Stupid prick.
“So, what did you want to talk to me about?” I ask, already feeling on edge.
He takes a few long moments, leaving me hot-headed and nervous. Finally, Ryder speaks up and tells me what’s on his mind.
“I want to put you in the cage,” he says simply, and my eyes widen. Seeing my surprise, Ryder follows with an explanation. “I just think you’d do really well. In fact, I’ve set up a fight for you in a few weeks’ time. I’m sure you’ll do well, Axel. You wouldn’t want to disappoint me.”
He raises his glass to his lips, his eyes ice old. “Would you?”
I swallow the lump in my throat. Someday, I will hurt this bastard for what he has done to me and my Cherie. Someday.
“I’m not sure I’m up for that,” I say through gritted teeth. “That’s not the deal we made in your office, Ryder.”
“Deal’s changed,” he says easily, like it’s the simplest thing in the fucking world to do, just change the course of someone’s life like that. “New rules, new tasks for you. You know what happens if you don’t follow my rules, right?”
I think of the evidence he’d laid out for me before I’d left Cherie. Yes, he’d gotten the cops off my back, but only by calling in some favors. If he put in a bad word against me, I’d be back to square one and once again, wanted for a crime I did not commit.
“I know,” I say angrily, barely able to suppress my anger. Ryder gives me a victorious smile and leans closer, clinking his glass against mine. I’m furious, fucking fuming. The gall of this man is unbelievable.
“So, you fucking Rosa?” he asks easily, and I nearly choke on my own spit.
“No,” I reply harshly.
“Oh, how sweet.” Ryder gives me the smile of a predator, teeth bared. “Saving yourself up for your little darling back at home. Cherie, is it?”
My knuckles whiten and he grins, knowing he’s hit a soft spot.
“Maybe I’ll pay her a little visit.”
I’m out of the chair in a second, grabbing the bastard by his shirt and slamming him into a wall. “Don’t you fucking dare,” I growl, barely able to contain myself. “I’ll fucking murder you.”
“Relax,” Ryder manages to get out, barely able to catch his breath. “Relax, man.”
Finally, I let him drop down from my hands and he barely manages to stand on his own two feet. He glares at me, smooths down his shirt and clears his throat.
“You should fuck Rosa, though. She’s a hot piece of ass, and the nights ain’t getting any shorter,” he says with a wolfish grin.
“Fuck off, you know she wants you,” I spit out, massaging my whitened knuckles.
“I do.” Ryder laughs, a deep and dark sound that disturbs me. “Honestly, I prefer them younger… less willing.”
He winks at me, making me feel dirty as fuck. Poor Rosa, falling for this disgusting motherfucker. Something about what he said is so damn off for me, but I can’t put my finger on it… So I just settle for storming out of his office, slamming the door behind me.