This was bad.
Beth moved through the streets cautiously as possible. She was on high alert.
She could see people watching her as she passed. It felt like she had a giant billboard floating above her head that said ‘DOES NOT BELONG’
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” she muttered to herself as she picked up a tiny bit of speed, looking at the street signs for any that she may have recognized.
The day had started well enough. She had gotten the children up and ready for school, headed into the city to have a fancy brunch with Annie and Ruby and then proceeded to run some errands. She hadn’t been to the city in ages, so it had only made sense to knock off something from her to-do list.
At some point however, she must have taken a wrong turn as she window shopped, and ended up in an area of the city she was unfamiliar with. It was a little more rundown than areas she had been in earlier, as if the city had decided to stop bothering with repairs in these neighbourhoods. Various bars lined the street, but none look all that inviting or safe, with their dark windows and unruly patrons smoking just outside the doors.
Doing her damnedest to not look utterly terrified, she continued down the street with her chin up, as if she had wanted to be in these parts. As if she had a purpose for being here.
“You’re not from around here, are you lady?”
Beth kept walking, trying to ignore the trio of guys that were now following her.
“You deaf or something?” one of the other guys called out, jogging up until he was along side her. A quick glance at him showed that the kid was probably in his mid to late teens. It made her want to scream. She took the first turn that she approached, but the boys followed along, making suggestive comments and cracking each other up.
In her haste to ditch them, she winded up on a darkened street with no visible exit. She let out a string of curses in her head.
Before she could think of a new strategy, something was yanked out of her hand. One of the boys had taken her purse while another one pushed her up against the wall, and held her in place with his arm against her neck, while his other hand tightly gripped her waist.
She watched helplessly as the boy with her purse rummaged through the contents. She blanched as he pulled out a wad of bills she had hidden in a secret pocket.
“Jackpot,” he shouted with a grin, holding it up for his friends to see.
Beth gritted her teeth.
“Bitch also has some credit cards and that new phone that just came out. We could probably pawn that shit off for another grand.”
The kid holding her gave a look, before pulling away, running off with his friends as they laughed about their good fortune.
Beth sank down to the ground, her legs giving out, unable to hold her up. There were still people on the street, watching her. None of them had stepped in to help. None of them seemed to care much at all, as if they saw this type of thing all the time. It was common place here.
With thoughts of her children running through her mind, she forced herself back up. She needed to find her way back to safety. Her kids needed her, and that was more than enough to force her shaky legs to take that first step, and then the next, and then the next. She could wait to break down when she was home. Safe.
- - -
Beth let out a irritated huff as she slammed down the phone. She rubbed her temples in an attempt to ease the throbbing pain in her head. This was the third time in as many days that she had spent well over an hour on the phone with her credit card company. A company who still struggled to comprehend the fact that the purchases made on her card in last three days had not been her, considering she had reported it stolen literally the moment she had had the chance. It was not her fault that they hadn’t frozen the account as she had asked.
“What did that phone do to you?”
Beth jumped at the sudden intrusion, heart beating a mile a minute. She turned to see Rio standing there with his hands in his pockets, a questioning look on his face.
“Nothing,” Beth replied, looking away. “Just credit card stuff.”
Rio took a step forward, his expression thoughtful, as he appeared to be reading every unspoken feeling in the room.
“What are you not telling me?”
Beth crossed her arms defensively. She hadn’t told anyone what had happened to her that day. She was angry and embarrassed and she knew that no one in her life would be able to handle it…except maybe Rio.
“I was robbed,” Beth confessed after a lengthy silence.
That seemed to throw Rio off for a split second before his expression turned dark, “Where?”
“What the fuck were you doing on Hewitt?” Rio questioned, his brows furrowing together as his expression grew darker still.
“I don’t know,” Beth replied defensively, “I got carried away with my shopping and before I realize it, I’m on Hewitt and then there are these kids following me. Next thing I know, I’m shoved up against a wall and they run off with my purse and everything in it. Those assholes stole $3000 and my new phone, not to mention a bunch of other stuff.”
Tears of anger were welling up in her eyes, hands fisted at her sides as she met Rio’s gaze.
His face was unreadable.
“It wasn’t your money,” Beth added hastily, she knew that Rio prioritized his business above all else, “It was a part of my cut.”
Wordlessly, he turned on his heels and walked out.
- - -
Beth let out a groan as she felt herself being nudged awake. “Emma, just come and cuddle, baby. You don’t need to wake up Mommy.”
“Tempting,” A gravelly voice replied, one that definitely did not belong to her four-year-old.
Beth shot up in bed, wide awake. Her eyes adjusted to darkness quickly, to find Rio kneeling at the side of her bed with a lopsided grin on his face. It was all just too disorienting.
“Am I dreaming?” Beth questioned slowly.
“Dream about me often?”
Beth chose not to answer that. She shifted until she was sitting up in a more comfortable position. “What are you doing here at—” she glanced at her digital alarm clock, “One-thirty in the morning?!”
“Get up, we gotta go,” Rio answered, standing up, tugging the blankets off of the bed. “Need to run an errand. Has to be now.”
Bleary-eyed, Beth stood up, well aware of how juvenile her dancing cupcake sleep shorts looked. She just could not bring herself to care. She padded out of the room and into the main hallway with Rio not far behind.
Beth pulled on her wool coat, one that completely covered her pjs and a pair of flat ankle boots. A quick glance in the mirror confirmed that she now no longer looked like she had been woken up. She just looked like the idiot that didn’t wear pants in freezing cold weather as some sort of fashion statement. Her hair was more mused than she was comfortable with, but she didn’t care enough to fix it.
Outside, she walked to the passenger side of Rio’s car. It was a fancy one she had not seen before. It looked incredibly expensive. The inside was stripped of most amenities, and the bucket seats were hard and very low to the ground.
“Where are we going?” Beth asked finally as they merged onto the interstate.
Beth watched him as he drove. One hand on the wheel while the other was propped up against the window. He looked relaxed for once. It made Beth squirm a bit. The last time he had looked this relaxed, one of his cronies had a gun held up against her skull.
Twenty minutes later, they pulled up in front of another unmarked warehouse. The industrial garage doors opened enough for Rio to drive through them, before slamming shut behind them.
Beth followed Rio out of the car. Immediately she noticed how Rio had tucked in the side of his shirt to reveal his gun. It put her on edge, but she followed nonetheless. It wasn’t until she was in the middle of the vast, empty space that she noticed three people gagged and tied to some metal chairs. Her stomach sank even further.
As they closed the gap, her suspicions were confirmed. These were the same kids that had robbed her. They didn’t look to be hurt, but they had been a little roughed up. Their eyes widened when they saw her approach with Rio.
A few of Rio’s mean stood in a loose circle around the kids, brandishing their guns casually. Most likely as a reminder of what they could do.
“Rio,” Beth hissed softly, eyes bouncing between the man beside her and the three teenagers, “What the hell?”
He seemed to be ignoring her, his attention on the boys. He strolled forward with his hands in his pocket. He exchanged a glance with one of his men, who walked forward and ungagged the kid in the middle. The one that held Beth up against the wall.
“I swear,” the kid gasped, “We didn’t know she was— we thought she was just some rich bitch wandering around the hood.”
Rio looked absolutely lethal for a fraction of a second before his face became unreadable once more.
The kid kept talking, “We can get all the stuff back, we still have most of it.”
Beth stomped forward, not remotely comfortable with what was going on. Somehow, she would forget exactly who and what Rio was, but every once in a while, he would do something (such as this) that would make her halt, and consider how utterly ruthless this man was. He was by no means a good person, and she knew from the bottom of her soul that he would have no problem with making these kids ‘disappear’.
What did it say about her, that even knowing these things, she was still undeniably drawn to the man?
“Rio,” she stated as calmly as possible, her hand wrapped around his upper arm. He looked at her, and she had to try her hardest not to take several steps backwards. She met his gaze, “I never asked you to do this. Just…just let them go.”
A silent war went on between them, but then Rio looked away, his shoulders loosening. “It’s your lucky day, fellas.”
Beth let out a sigh of relief, glad not to have the lives these kids on her conscious.
“You got six hours to get back everything, plus an extra 25% for the hassle. You won’t be as lucky if you fail to deliver,” Rio stated, already turning his back to them, heading back to his car with Beth still holding on to his arm.
The silence seeped between them as they made the drive back to Beth’s house.
“Why would you do that?” Beth asked carefully. It wasn’t an accusation.
The silence persisted for so long that Beth assumed that he was pretending to not have heard the question. They pulled up to her house and Beth made a move to leave.
“I can’t let anyone fuck with you,” he answered finally. “I won’t let anyone fuck with you.”
Beth just looked at him over her shoulder, frozen half way out of the car. She was at war with herself. He was just so wrong for her, but God, did she want him. Even still.
She leaned back into the car, until she was close enough to place a chaste kiss on his lips before pulling away and exiting the car, “Good night, Rio,” she mumbled before closing the door behind her, a secret smile playing on her lips as she crept inside her house.
She tossed the coat aside and fell back into her bed, eyes closing immediately, a warm feeling settling over her. She was in way to deep, but she could not bring herself to regret it. At the end of the day, she finally had someone in her life that could handle the good and the bad. Someone she didn’t need to soften the blow for. Someone she could count on.