Eight Months Later
The music in this club is so loud that it literally thumps in my chest, rattling into my rib cage. What the hell do people see in places like this? I cough from the fog-maker’s smoke, then strain my neck as I try to find my friend Jacey among the hundreds of sweaty people crammed in this room.
The last I saw, she’d disappeared into a dark corner with her loser boyfriend.
“Have you seen my friend? The blonde in the tight red shirt?” I yell to the random guy who has been intently watching me like a creeper for ten minutes. He smiles a piranha grin and inches toward me.
“No,” he yells back. “But we don’t need her for what I have in mind.”
“Not now, not ever,” I answer coldly, turning my back on him to search the crush of people on the dance floor. I seriously just want to go home.
How I let Jacey talk me into coming into the city to celebrate her birthday is far, far beyond me right now. I’m supposed to finally meet her brother tonight, but Jacey disappeared with her boyfriend over an hour ago and I haven’t seen them since. My feet hurt, I’m exhausted from working sixty hours this week and I need something to eat before I stab someone’s eye out.
Knowing my limitations, I make my way through the bar and onto the sidewalk out front. I’ve got to get out of here. I’m the one who drove us, but I’m sure Jacey can get a ride home with Peter if she needs to. Her boyfriend can’t hold down a job, but at least he can drive.
I pull my phone out. I’m leaving. Can you catch a ride home with Peter?
As soon as I send the text, I realize that she’s not going to be able to hear it. So who knows when she’ll see it? With a sigh, I decide I have to hunt for her. At least for a few minutes. It wouldn’t be right to just leave her here.
“If I wanted to have public sex with my boyfriend, where would I be?” I muse aloud, trying to think like Jacey as I walk around to the side of the club. Jacey is pathetically bad about PDA. She doesn’t give a flying eff what people think about her. It’s one thing that I both admire about her and get annoyed at.
As I get farther and farther away from the sidewalk and into the shadows, it seems more and more like someplace Jacey and Peter might be getting it on against the building. But at the same time, it also seems like the perfect place to get mugged. It makes me instantly nervous and I glance around quickly.
I’m in an alley now, a narrow wet street that is littered with trash and graffiti. My heels click on the glistening asphalt and I take a deep breath, enjoying the fresh air as the inky darkness swallows me.
Thank God I’m out of that club. That’s my main thought as I walk farther into the darkness, but even still, I reach into my purse and grip my little can of pepper-spray. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
There’s nobody here. That much is apparent as I take in the dirty building, the heaping trash bins and the empty shadows. Well, I’m hoping the shadows are empty, anyway. They seem to be. And I seem to be all alone. While that’s comforting on the one hand, it’s frustrating on the other.
“Jacey, where the fuck are you?” I mutter.
Just as I’m getting ready to give up and head back into the club, I catch sight of something that snags my attention and I stop.
A guy is leaning against the building a little ways from me, half in the darkness, half in the light. Normally that wouldn’t give me pause, especially since I’m in an alley alone. But something about his posture intrigues me, something that I can’t quite put my finger on.
I peer at him more closely.
His long legs are crossed gracefully in front of him as he leans against the building. And holy cow, he’s big. He’s got to be a few inches over six feet tall with a broad chest and wide shoulders that narrow into a slender waist.
It’s chilly outside, but he’s not wearing a jacket, only a snug black T-shirt and a pair of perfectly fitting jeans. There isn’t a trace of fat on him. He’s lean and muscled, with short darkish hair. From the side his features are chiseled and from what I can tell, he’s got just the barest hint of stubble along his strong jaw. That’s an instant turn-on for me. It seems so rugged.
And this guy…he definitely seems rugged. Everything about him screams strength and power. That’s an instant turn-on for me too. I decide that this is what intrigues me. He’s like power personified. He holds himself with purpose.
As I watch, he lights up a cigarette and takes a drag, releasing the smoke slowly into the night. His lips are full and masculine and he’s got a cleft in his chin. He’s undeniably sexy. Normally I would stay far away from someone like him, someone sinfully sexy but so…forceful. A guy like that is trouble. That’s for sure.
But I didn’t come to the club tonight to run away.
I came here to hook up. To blow off my responsibilities and be reckless for a night. To act my age. To be someone I’m not.
I eye the guy again.
Normally I would run away from him.
But maybe…just tonight…I won’t.
I don’t have to be me tonight. I can be anyone I want to be because he’ll never see me again.
Just for tonight.
I hesitate, trying to decide what to do.
Then, almost as though my feet have a mind of their own, I take a step toward him. And then another.
My cigarette burns red in the dark as I take a nice long drag. I suck in the city air and the nicotine, then exhale the toxic waste. I know that smokes are bad for me, that they’re shit for my lungs, but I don’t particularly care right now.
From inside the club, I can feel the bass thumping against the wall, vibrating my spine. Inside, women are mindlessly mashing together on the dance floor in time to those drums, waiting for guys like me to take them home and fuck them.
I don’t care about that either. I had to get some fresh air, to get away from the claustrophobic club smoke and sweat before I fucking exploded.
If I were a normal person, I’d be nervous in a dark Chicago alley by myself. I’m not a normal person, though, and the shit I saw in Afghanistan rendered my ability to feel fear impotent.
But not the rest of me.
I shift my weight and adjust the boys and my semi-hard dick. I’d have to be inhuman to not be horny after watching the half-dressed drunk girls rub themselves on anyone who might buy them a drink. I should feel bad about that, but I don’t.
Before my tour overseas, I wouldn’t have been caught dead with any of them. But after being overseas for three years, my penis isn’t listening to reason anymore. It knows what I need.
I sigh and adjust the constraining crotch of my jeans again, before taking another deep breath, then another. My dick starts to calm down and my claustrophobic feelings begin to fade. Thank God. One of the many things I brought home was claustrophobia, and it’s not even the predictable kind where I’m afraid of small spaces. It’s the random kind that can strike at the strangest times, like in the middle of a crowd.
I toss down the cigarette and grind it out with my heel, then pull out another, lighting it up. It’s a bad habit I brought back with me, along with a couple tattoos and the tendency to wake up in a cold sweat from crazy-ass nightmares.
“You know those will kill you, right?”
I startle to attention, my head snapping around to find the soft voice in the dark.
A woman steps closer and I can’t believe that I didn’t see her approach.
We’re the only two people in an isolated alley. How could I have missed her? My senses have seriously dulled since I’ve been back stateside. She’s a tall, willowy bombshell, the kind of woman who stands out in a crowd, let alone an abandoned street.
Blonde hair falls halfway down her back and wide eyes stare at me. Her full lips are pursed, as though she’s trying to decide if it’s safe to be out here. And it’s not, especially for a woman who looks like she does.
“Don’t you know walking alone in a dark Chicago alley is more dangerous than a cigarette?”
I gaze at her levelly as I take another drag on my smoke.
She doesn’t look afraid at all as she shrugs.
“Either of those things has to be better than being crushed to death in there.”
She gestures toward the closed club door in disdain. I examine her again. She’s wearing the right clothes to be here…tight pink leather pants, a cream-colored halter top, equally tight, and a pair of extremely high glittery heels. As I examine her, I notice that she’s not wearing a bra under her light-colored shirt. Somehow that looks out of place on her, as though she doesn’t fit the slutty clothes.
The problem is, the slutty clothes definitely fit her, in all the right places. My dick lurches back to life as my gaze skims over her curved hips and tight ass.
“In that case, want one?” I offer her the pack.
She looks surprised, then chuckles, shaking her head.
“No, thanks. I’m already in the alley alone. I think that’s enough of a risk tonight.”
I grin back as I tuck the smokes into my pocket. “But you’re not alone now. I’m here.”
She eyes me and I can see now that her eyes are blue.
“Somehow,” she says thoughtfully, “I doubt I’m any safer.”
I smile. “Somehow, I think you’re right.”
The funny thing is, she doesn’t look worried. In fact, she steps closer and leans against the filthy brick wall beside me. Even under the yellowed dingy streetlight, she looks flawless.
“You’re going to get dirty,” I point out. She looks up at me innocently, her blue eyes wide.
“I like getting dirty sometimes.”
And then she grins a wicked grin.
I feel like I’ve been sucker-punched as all the air whooshes out of my body. A suggestive grin like that on this runway model is too much for my logical thought processes to overcome. My good sense has apparently been hijacked by my hormones.
Tossing the smoke down on the sidewalk, I grind the heel of my boot into it. I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, but I don’t much care at this point. I’m horny and she’s gorgeous. That’s a perfect arrangement if I ever saw one. The air between us practically crackles with sexual attraction.
I look down at her and as I do, I let myself lean into her. She’s soft and she smells even softer.
“I’m Madison,” she answers. She hasn’t looked away from me even once. She’s definitely into me, although God knows why. I’m as different from her as I can be.
“Why are you here, Madison?” I ask. “You seem a little out of place.”
She suddenly looks self-conscious. “A friend talked me into coming. She thought I needed a night in the big city. But I really wish I was home instead. I’m tired and these heels hurt.”
I smile. Her shoes do look painful as hell. I’ve never understood why women wear shit like that.
“So you don’t live here?”
She shakes her head and as she does, her scent seems to envelop us, blocking out the pungent city smells. Her nearness is intoxicating and I brace myself against it so I don’t get sucked in any further.
“No. I’m from a little lake town, just an hour or so from here. But it seems like a world away. I’m not much of a big-city girl. Not anymore, anyway.”
I actually wouldn’t have guessed that. She’s got that perfectly put-together look that big-city girls have, that perfectly confident attitude.
She nudges me, her slender shoulder bumping mine. “Why are you here? You don’t look like you fit here either. Not here at this club, anyway.”
I cock an eyebrow. “Oh?”
The Underground is a trendy Chicago hot spot. And she’s right. I don’t fit in here. I fit in a Humvee in the hills of Afghanistan. Except I don’t. Not anymore.
Madison notices my expression and flushes.
“No offense. But you’re not wearing skinny jeans and hipster glasses. You seem more like…the football-playing type. Or the outdoors type, maybe.”
I smile down at her. “No offense taken. And I am more of the outdoors type.”
The gun-toting soldier type, to be exact, but I don’t say that.
Madison looks relieved. “I thought so. So what are you doing in the middle of the city?”
“What makes you think I don’t live here? Can’t I enjoy the outdoors but still live in the city? Or am I too uncool for that?” I raise my eyebrow again.
She flushes yet again. “I’m sorry. I guess I just assumed. Where do you live?”
I grin. “Here. Just call me a fish out of water.”
She shakes her head and swats at me, but I easily catch her wrist and pull her to me instead. It’s a ballsy move, but I’m feeling cocky. She doesn’t resist, which both pleases and surprises me.
She presses against me, looking into my eyes. She looks expectant and nervous, confident yet hesitant. Her tits are smashed against me, making it hard to form coherent thoughts, hard to examine our differences or even her motives. Her softness is the perfect contrast to my hardness. That’s all I can think about.
“To answer your question, I’m here at the club because my little sister thought I should come out and meet someone. To quote her, I’m ‘getting mean as hell and need a piece of ass.’”
Madison laughs, a low and husky sound.
“Do you? Need a piece of ass?”
She sounds anxious. And interested.
I hold her gaze.
“More than you can imagine.”
I slide my hands from her back down to her ass, cupping it, squeezing it.
“And I like yours,” I add. I’m being cocky again, but she seems to like it.
She practically purrs as she leans into me even closer, her nose almost touching mine. Her lips hover so close that I can feel them.
She slides her hands down to my ass, gripping it in her fingers.
“Yours will do.”
The air hangs heavy between us, charged and electric. Our eyes are locked and we each pause, waiting for the other to make a move.
The anticipation is killing me.
I take a breath.
Then she takes one.
Her lips graze mine and her mouth smells like mint. And then before I can think another agonizing thought, she covers my mouth with her own.
Her tongue slips into my mouth and she tastes like Heaven, like an icy drink of water at the end of a hot day in the desert. Our tongues tangle together and her lips consume mine. I find myself instantly rock-hard and she notices.
She smiles against my lips.
“I think you liked that.”
“What gave me away?” I ask with a grin, wedging myself even tighter against her.
Madison grins back and kisses me again. The second kiss is just as consuming as the first. She seems a little bit desperate, a little bit vulnerable. And a whole lot sexy.
She slides her hands back up my spine, wrapping her arms around my neck. As she does, I run my palms along her sides, feeling the skin of her back beneath my fingers.
“Remember when I told you that my feet hurt? I’d like to take my shoes off.”
I stare down at her. “So take them off.”
“At your place,” she adds.
I inhale sharply as I grip her hips even tighter.
“You don’t have to say that twice.”
And she doesn’t. I grab her hand and practically drag her toward the street, hailing a taxi.
In less than a minute we have tumbled into the back seat of a cab and we’re speeding toward my apartment.
Madison kisses my neck, tugging at my ear with her teeth as her hands skim my chest. “How far away do you live?”
“Not very,” I manage to say. I’m actually proud of myself for being able to speak at this point, since her hand has made its way down to my throbbing crotch. I arch my hips so that I am planted more firmly in her hand.
She licks my neck.
“You taste good,” she whispers.
I can’t take it. I wish she were wearing a skirt, but she’s not. So instead I cup my hand between her legs, moving my thumb in circles against the outside of her pants. She moves against me, moaning.
I thrust my hand into the front of her pants, finding her panties completely soaked.
I slip one finger in.
And then two.
Then I withdraw them both and slowly rake them into my mouth.
Her eyes widen, exhaling a tiny sigh as her fingers clutch me.
“Are you drunk?” I ask her. I don’t know why, but it feels like the right thing to do, to make sure that she’s not. Please say no, I silently urge her as her fingers spin circles around my nipple.
Thank Christ. I don’t ask again. Instead I lift her onto my lap and rock her against my body. The friction is both satisfying and frustrating.
Her eyes widen as I thrust against her through her clothes and she reaches her hand down to skim it over my throbbing dick.
“You’re enormous,” she breathes, her eyes widening in both apprehension and appreciation.
“When we get to my house, I’m going to fuck you with that,” I tell her in her ear. “And you’re going to like it.”
Her teeth graze my lip, her hips firmly planted against mine. “You’re pretty sure of yourself, aren’t you?”
I smile against her throat before I bite at it.
“Very sure. In fact, let’s make a deal. If you don’t end up screaming my name within the hour, I’ll buy you breakfast in the morning.”
She pauses, looking into my eyes. “Sounds like I win either way.”
“You do,” I manage to say before I plunge my tongue into her mouth again.
In between panting kisses, Madison manages to ask a question.
“I’ve never done this before. How do I know you’re not a crazy person?” she asks in a near whisper.
“You don’t,” I answer, as I pull up her shirt and suck at her bare nipple, my fingers splayed around her slender rib cage. She arches against me and gasps. “But I won’t hurt you.” I pause and look up at her. “And somehow, I get the feeling that you need this as much as I do. Am I right?”
Madison catches her breath and nods.
I don’t answer and I don’t ask why. I just wrap my arms around her shoulders and kiss her again.
I’m inhaling her feminine scent, sucking it down, when I’m startled by the squeal of tires. Before I can even see where it’s coming from, instinct raises the hair on the back of my neck. I shove Madison onto the floor of the taxi and duck down on top of her.
The impact is shockingly violent.
There is a crunch of shrieking metal as the door next to me is bashed in and our taxi is flung in a spin across the narrow city street, slamming to a stop against the wall of a nearby building. The car rocks to and fro for a moment, then it is still.
We‘re stunned as we sit for a scant second, trying to wrap our minds around what just happened. Steam and smoke begin to pour out from under the hood of the taxi and the driver stumbles from his seat, opening the door next to Madison.
“Quick, get out,” he says in a heavy Indian accent. “Hurry.”
I all but shove Madison out ahead of me and then pull her away from the crumpled car. There’s a hissing sound coming from the engine, then a strange crackle. I know what it means. I know from the acrid scent of gasoline that’s stinging my nose.
“Move,” I snap to Madison, and her heels click loudly on the pavement as we rush to the curb on the other side of the street. We turn when we reach the sidewalk, just in time to see the cabbie duck for cover as the front end of the cab bursts into flames.
“Oh my God,” Madison breathes, leaning into my arm, shielding her face from the waves of heat that roll over us even from this distance.
As I watch the orange flames licking the black night, as the heated breeze brushes across my face, it triggers a response in me.
I feel the now-familiar anxiety coming on and my gut clenches tighter than a vise grip. I can feel my throat begin to close up as it prevents me from getting a full breath.
“I’ve got to get out of here,” I mutter as my chest tightens. Sweat pours down my temples and I wipe at it, squinting as the salt stings my eyes. Madison stares up at me, her eyes filled with concern.
“Are you OK?” she asks, her fingers trembling as they curl around my arm. “We can’t leave. I’m pretty sure the police will want to talk to us.”
She gestures toward the crowd forming, to where cop cars have already begun to congregate. I can see uniformed officers milling about, a couple of them headed our way. Heat from the fire and from my own anxiety begins to overwhelm me.
“I’ve got to get out of here,” I mutter again. Her fingers are too tight now, along with everything else…my shirt, my waistband, my shoes. Everything bears down on me in blurs and smells and sounds. I can’t take it. I’m going to fucking explode. Or implode. I yank my arm from her grasp and stalk away.
The last thing I see before everything turns black is the astonished look on Madison’s face, backlit by the red-and-orange glow of the taxi fire.
The bad thing caught you.
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