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when trouble comes in town

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He’s looking at her boobs. 

She’s kicking his ass. Showing him to be completely and utterly incompetent.

And he’s looking at her boobs. Mouth slightly parted, eyes a little glazed over.

And maybe if it was someone else—if it was Rio—she would be flattered in a fucked up way. Might play it up, use it to her advantage.

But not with this guy. Not with Bobby the creepy drug dealer.

No. With him there isn’t molten heat dripping down her spine like honey. With him, there’s a sinister chill running through her limbs, a churn in her stomach telling her she doesn’t want these eyes to wander too far and catch something in their trap. The fight or flight instinct telling her to run far, far away.

And it’s not that Beth is anti-all drug dealers. She’s met enough now through their pill business that she knows some of them are lovely people. Isaiah is her favorite drug dealer. They talk knitting techniques whenever they cross paths on a drop or a meeting.

But just like with any job, you get some creeps. Some men that walk into the room and you think you maybe wouldn’t be entirely surprised if it came out that they were full-on Ted Bundy-style serial killers.

And does she think Bobby is actually a serial killer? Probably not. All she knows is she wouldn’t wanna be alone in a room with him, his greasy hair, and his pants that have far too many pockets and zippers for something that she’s sure costs upwards of a grand. And she’s not alone with him.

She’s in a damn tufted swivel chair struggling to keep all her lady bits covered in the slinky black dress she hasn’t worn since before Jane was born. She’s yanking her dress down her thighs in the backroom of Bobby’s club with Rio—who’s in a suit—for what was supposed to be a simple meet and greet where Bobby would “meet the bitch whose cars I’ve been running my pills through.”

But a simple meet and greet turned into a poker game because, apparently, Bobby is an avid gambler and his “backroom” is actually an elaborately decorated luxury casino replica complete with slot machines, a few poker and blackjack tables, lavish chandeliers, and no windows.

She’s not sure what time it is. It was already late when she left a suspicious Dean at home, pacified with a lie about a girls’ night sleepover at Annie’s. And they must have been here for hours by now.

“What could it hurt to play a game?” Bobby had asked with a shrug and an insincere lightness to his voice.

Bobby’s game of choice is poker and he’s decent. But Beth? She’s better.

And Bobby? Well, he wasn’t expecting that.

She can tell by the increasing frustration seeping into the edges of his voice, the tension in his every movement. She can sense he’s nearing his breaking point.

And Rio? He wasn’t expecting her to be so good either. She knew just by the expression on his face when he turned to look at her after she crushed them for the second time in a row.

Because one round? Could have been luck. But the second one? That’s a pattern.

A pattern that’s continued round after round. And she’s not sure how much they’re playing for or how much she’s won, but she’s sure it’s a hell of a lot more than the old Folgers jar full of pennies her father taught her to play with.

When he would break out the folding table from the hall closet, setting it up in the den, teaching her the suits of cards and the worth of a full house that wasn’t starring John Stamos while he sipped on his second or third scotch.

The sound of the pennies eerily dissimilar to the sound of Bobby clinking his chips. That’s his tell. She picked up on that right away. Whenever he thinks he’s got a good hand, he funnels his energy into fidgeting with his chips.

Bobby and his shitty poker face are looking at her boobs and she’s looking at her hand. And she’s not the only one, she can feel the eyes of Bobby’s boy—Travis or was it Trent?—who's orbiting the table trying to get a peek.

And, sure, it could be innocent, but she’s known enough cheaters in her life to know one when she sees one.

So she keeps her cards out of sight and struggles to maintain her poker face with the giddiness building. Because she’s about to beat out whatever has Bobby jittery with excitement. She can feel it. The desperation radiating off of him. Needing this hand—probably a three of a kind, maybe a straight—to be the hand that gets him back in.

All Beth can do is try not to smirk or roll her eyes as she looks down at her hand. Four of a kind.

Solid, but not extraordinary. But it doesn’t have to be.

Despite the confident way Bobby splays out his hand—a straight, good for him—she beats him and Rio handily. And that pisses Bobby off, gripping onto his cards hard enough to bend as he gathers them, clearing his throat as his nostrils flare.

“Next round,” Beth coos with her head tilted and her best motherly encouragement.

She hears Rio let out a breath through his nose next to her in what she thinks is amusement. He shifts in his seat, his black pant leg brushing against her bare thigh, sending a jolt of electricity through her at contact.

God, even if she hadn’t walked into this meeting with him, even if she hadn’t felt his eyes drifting over her curves as she climbed into his car, even if she hadn’t smelled him all around her on the drive over, even if she had her eyes closed, even if she couldn’t feel his leg covered in his perfectly fitted pants touching her skin, she would know that Rio was right next to her.

She can sense his presence, feel it in her veins like her blood runs through her body differently when he’s near. Like its current is screaming at her, surrounding her with noise until she feels out of her mind. Pushing her to do wholly irrational things.

“Oh, and maybe your boy could play, too. You know, if he’s bored of circling the table,” Beth chides, whirling her pointer finger in a mocking gesture.

Bobby clears his throat, eyeing her with a new sense of suspicion like he may be onto her about something instead of the other way around.

She knows that she—a mother of four in the backroom of a club with her tattooed whatever Rio is to her these days playing a poker game she’s sure is off the books—is pushing her luck here. She knows the smart thing to do would be to let a guy like Bobby win, build up his ego, get him to like her.

But her father—ever the cheater in life, in poker, in his marriage—always taught her not to put up with that behavior, despite always exhibiting it himself. And she’s spent too much of her life ignoring it.

She sees a flash of something in Bobby’s eyes at her implication that he may be anything but a clean player before he plasters on a smile and says, “So...Beth,” name gliding out of his mouth like he’s not convinced it's true.

“When I talked to Rio here after our last round of tennis, and I kicked his ass by the way, I presumed you and I may get some one-on-one time.”

She feels herself start to freeze up, even senses Rio stiffening next to her for just a second as the beginnings of Bobby’s plan start to come into focus for both of them. But then she feels fingers playing with the slit in her dress, Rio just barely brushing her skin, but sizzling nonetheless and something in her starts to unspool.

Bobby’s abrasive voice distracts her from the brushfire on her leg.

“Why don’t you join me in my office for a moment? We can have a drink. Get to know each other. You know, without, uh, our friend here watching over us like some sort of goth hawk.”

He’s charming. Or, at least the version of him he’s presenting at the moment is. She has to give him that.

Rio sneers, mouth pulling into a forced smile as he says, “Yeah, man, I don’t think we-”

“Unless, you’ve got something to hide,” Bobby interrupts, eyebrows drawing together and looking over to his boy next to him.

And Beth knows.

She knows it’s a bad idea. She knows she shouldn’t purposefully be alone in a room with him. It's just--it's just that they need this to go well. And this “partnership” of theirs seems very one-sided when it comes to power and this is her chance to prove to herself—and to him—that she can handle things on her own. Maybe she can gain the upper hand here and Bobby can become her contact instead of Rio’s and she could be one step closer to having something that’s hers.

Not Rio’s. Not her husband’s—a man that turned out a lot more like her father than she would’ve hoped. But her’s.

She opens her mouth to respond and then suddenly it’s like her leg is scorched because Rio’s whole hand is sliding along her thigh, displacing the fabric of her dress in clear sight of everyone in the room.

And there it is. The molten honey.

And, god, what is he doing? What is she doing? This is a business meeting. And he’s acting like a possessive b--

“Nope. Nothing to hide,” she squeaks out.

“Excellent,” Bobby responds, showing all of his too-perfect teeth.

She goes to get up, carefully uncrossing her legs, and Rio’s hand shifts before digging in, indenting her skin, trying to keep her in place. She looks over to Rio and meets his eyes and sees a darkness, like she's disobeying him, but also something else. Almost...concern? But no-- that’s--

It can’t be concern for her. It has to be about what she may do in that room to mess up his business.

His money.

“Shall we?” Bobby asks, interrupting their staredown.

Beth lifts her chin, squares her shoulders, and gets up to follow Bobby without another word.

And if she feels Rio’s gaze gliding from her shoulders down to where Bobby’s clammy hand is on her back and even further down to her ass as she walks away with a swing in her step, and if the knowledge of his eyes on her makes even more of that molten honey drip down, down, then she simply ignores it.

 


 

Bobby takes his sweet time showing her around his office, unnecessarily touching her back, her waist, her hips every chance he gets. But she lets that slide, not wanting to start something.

The harshness of the fluorescent lights of his office hurts her eyes after the dim mood lighting in the casino and it works to bring out the intensity of Bobby’s spray tan, but she politely ignores that.

Just like she politely ignores the dust collecting on the surfaces, signaling just how little this workspace actually gets worked in.

He pours her a drink—the wrong one. Not bourbon like she’d ordered outside. Scotch like her father, far more expensive scotch than he had been able to afford, but scotch regardless.

She’s wandering around the room doing her best impression of a woman that’s completely comfortable and not at all on edge.

She’s feigning interest in his bookshelf full of books she’s sure he’s never read when she feels him glide up next to her and put his hand on her hip once again. But instead of a lingering graze like before, this time it’s a grope. Something with intent behind it.

Beth startles and steps back, trying to laugh it off, but he follows and reaches for her other hip.

“What are you doing?” Beth asks through a breathy laugh.

He ignores her question as his hands continue to try to roam, almost...patting her down?

When he doesn’t seem to find what he’s looking for he stops his pawing and takes a step back, remaining too close.

“So...where do you keep it?” he interrogates with a suggestive tone.

“I--I don’t...keep what?” she stutters out.

“Your piece,” he replies matter of fact, eyes dipping to her groin.

“My what?

“Your gun,” he states, voice now gravely serious.

Before she can stop herself from stupidly revealing that she’s unarmed, she blurts out, “I don’t have one.”

He laughs, shaking his head like he just heard a silly joke from a child.

“Yeah. Okay. So you think I’m stupid?”

“I--no,” she utters out, but she hasn’t even convinced herself with that denial.

And, god, this is bad. This is so, so bad. She needs to get out of here. And, shit, she left her phone out there on the table in her clutch.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Just when she makes a move towards the door, Bobby lurches forward, body moving about as gracefully as a four-year-old ballerina, but she finds out quickly that his strength outweighs his grace. Because the fingers that had gripped onto his shitty hands of cards earlier are suddenly wrapped around her wrist. Grip so tight like a lion that’s finally gotten ahold of its prey.

She meets his eyes and finally sees him. The whole man. Insecure and small. Building a world of opulence around him to make up for the fact that, in reality, he’s perfectly minuscule like everyone else.

“So what are you? Huh?! Some kinda cop or something? That fed that’s been following Rio around to get to him?” Bobby accuses, eyes wide and feral.

He’s getting in her space. She can feel his breath and flecks of his spit on her face, smell his pungent cologne—something he must have picked out based on price alone.

God, she needs to get a hold of herself, talk herself out of this somehow, but her brain is freezing up and all she can focus on is the bruising hold he has on her wrist.

“Tell me. You a cop?”

Jesus. She can smell the whiskey on his breath. And something about this whole thing brings her right back to those nights spent around a folding table. Because, yeah, her father was fun a few drinks in, but on drink six or seven, he wasn’t so fun. She’d have to hide his keys when the playful teases turned derisive and the inevitable yelling woke a young Annie.

She can practically hear her father’s voice in Bobby’s, feel his hand on her instead, knuckles always so dry they looked like they may crack from the strength of his grasp on his daughter’s wrist.

But she’s not a little girl. Her dad wasn’t coming to save her from himself then and he’s not going to now.

Bobby must take her silence as affirmation because his hand that's not pinching her flesh like a handcuff is reaching into the back of his pants and pulling out his piece.

It’s platinum. Of course it is.

Something about the glint of the gun kickstarts her brain.

“No, I’m not! I--I swear!”

“Oh yeah?” Bobby goads, gun digging into her abdomen, the chill of the metal bleeding through the thin material of her dress.

“Then how come Rio’s coming in here with some soccer mom type of bitch? You really expect me to believe you two are partners?”

He sneers out the word like it's some kind of joke and maybe it is.

“And you’re what? Some sorta money-laundering, drug-dealing genius?”

She takes a deep breath in, then out, and does her best to settle her voice into some semblance of calm.

She paints on a smile, the same innocent one she would put on when her belligerent father would accuse her of hiding his keys.

“I’m not a genius. I’m not a cop. I’m just a mom who’s gotten into some...trouble.”

She coos out the word like it could explain away why someone like her is here and there’s a change in his face like something has started to slot into place.

“You’ve gotten into some trouble? Or some trouble has gotten into you?”

Which—gross. And it’s not any of his business anyway.

“What?” she questions as if the suggestion is preposterous.

But her poker face must slip a little, and Bobby must be more observant than she thought because he seems to take that denial as confirmation and he seems delighted.

He’s looking at her boobs again when he says, “Yeah...I can see it.”

And her stomach churns and her cheeks burn because it seems like his assumption of her and Rio being involved wouldn’t stop him from making a move.

He’s eyeing her like his shiny new prize—his hand the claw that retrieved her.

“I’ll tell you what...you let me see what all the fuss is about, and you can forget about Rio. You and me. We can have a deal.”

And that’s what she wanted. To be out from under Rio’s thumb. She didn’t even have to ask. But she doesn’t want it like this.

He’s lowering his gun, but his hand is still on her wrist and maybe she won’t be able to talk her way out of this one because he knows who she is and just doesn't seem to care.

Just as she’s blurting out that she’s married—as if her attachment to another man may stop him from whatever he has planned—there’s a commotion outside the wooden door of his office.

“I’m married!” she nearly yells as the door bursts open.

Bobby looks behind him to find Rio standing just inside the archway, the solid door swinging on its hinges. He has what looks like blood on his knuckles, though it's unclear whether it's his or if it belongs to someone else.

There’s a wild look in Rio’s eyes. His nostrils are flared, his chest is heaving under a black dress shirt that had looked pristinely ironed earlier, but is now a mess with one collar popped. Rio, ever the most annoyingly calm and cool, looks almost disheveled?

Which—what?

Using the distraction to her advantage, Beth rears back and knocks Bobby’s gun out of his loosened grip with her free hand using all the strength she can muster and it hits the carpeted floor with a dull thud a few feet away.

And Rio must have clocked just what he walked in on because when her eyes shift back to him, he’s taken a few more steps into the room and has his golden gun out and pointing directly at Bobby’s skull.

His eyes are on Bobby’s hand still bolted to her wrist, holding her hostage in his personal space.

“Ahhh, Rio! We were just talking about you,” Bobby declares with a false sense of calm.

He says it with a friendly smile on his face, but Rio doesn’t seem to accept Bobby’s shoddy attempt at diffusion.

“Yeah?” Rio questions, his seamless mask of indifference and perpetual tone of mockery slipping back into place. “That what got you waving that ugly-ass piece around?”

“Just a little...misunderstanding.”

Beth takes a chance and tries to pull out of his grip, but he holds steady and grabs onto her other wrist, jerking her back to him.

She tries to stifle it. She does. But she can’t help the little yelp she lets out at the force of his movements.

Rio glances back down to Bobby’s hands and his jaw clenches before he smooths out any reaction.

“Tell me. That misunderstanding got anything to do with you gettin’ your feelings hurt over losing out there?” Rio asks, eyebrows furrowed and voice dripping with condescension.

A wicked smile sprouts on Bobby’s face as he breathes out a laugh through his teeth.

“No, you tell me,” Bobby replies shaking his head. “How long have you been fucking my distributor without sharing with the rest of the class?”

Rio clears his throat, irritation now clear on his face.

“She ain’t your distributor,” he grinds out.

“Really? My pills. Her dealership. From where I’m standing, looks like you’re just the middleman.”

The smile drops from Bobby’s face, no longer bothering with the performance of civility.

“Yeah, well this thing you’re in the middle of right here...how you think it’s gonna end for you, man? Well?” Rio questions, waving his gun casually.

“Cause from where I’m standing, looks like you’re the one staring down the barrel of a gun,” he continues.

Rio flexes his finger on the trigger, and Beth can practically feel the alarm ricochet through Bobby’s muscles. And she hates herself for it, but something about the sight of his fingers crooking around the metal, playing with death as if it's a toy, hits something in her gut. Something warm spreading.

“You wouldn’t,” Bobby responds, with a lackluster bravado.

Rio laughs irreverently, throws his head back as an almost diabolical sound leaves his mouth.

“You can think whatever you want, bro, but if I were you, I’d let go of our distributor so we can all keep on making money. Cool?”

The threat is crystal clear in his words if his waving of his gilded weapon didn’t make it transparent enough what Rio was willing to do.

Bobby seems almost shocked by Rio’s seeming willingness to follow through on his threat, but Beth isn’t surprised. Why would she be? It’s about his money.

A begrudging nod of his head is Bobby’s white flag. He squeezes her wrists one more time as if to say we’re not finished here before letting go of her limbs.

She clears her throat and lumbers over to Rio while flexing her hands. Rio doesn’t break his stare with Bobby, but he lowers one hand from his gun to grasp onto her arm, a sigh of something leaving him at contact as he seemingly instinctively pushes her frame slightly behind him.

She’s so busy analyzing just why Rio’s thumb is stroking over the skin of her arm, she must miss Bobby signal a possible reach for his own gun, still lying dormant on the rug.

Rio points to Bobby’s gun with his own and says, tone bored, “You pick that up, you spending the next 6 months learning how to walk again.”

Bobby sighs out in defeat and Rio smiles tight before confidently striding over to pick up Bobby’s weapon and shove it into the waistband of his pants. He grabs hold of her arm again, still feeling the need to usher her around, and moves them to turn towards the door, still not looking at her.

And Beth should feel an immense relief, but it’s like she’s a little girl again, sulking to her bedroom after her father finally passed out on the couch. The relief difficult to feel after what she just witnessed. A feeling of anticipation still in her gut. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. For her father’s second wave to hit him. For another round of hide-and-seek, hoping she wouldn't be found.

And as soon as they turn around, they’re met with the other shoe, a stumbling Travis or Trent with blood dripping from his eyebrow and an eye so bruised it looks almost swollen shut, and, well, that explains where the blood came from, but this other shoe has a gun.

She opens her mouth, already planning something she can spin to get her out of yet another situation where she’s on the wrong end of a gun before she ends up joining her father in the ground, but Rio beats her to the punch.

Right as the shoe is raising his arm to meet Rio’s still elevated weapon, right as Beth’s lips part, right as she hears Bobby cackling behind them, Rio’s toying ends.

The shot is a starter pistol, the noise tearing through the air just as it tears through the ligaments of TrentTravis’s knee.

And then it’s a race—a blur of doorways and bodies shoved aside in a crowded club and Rio’s hand on her bruising wrist and a ringing in her ear and Rio’s voice roughly breaking through telling her to move, mama. The adrenaline pumping through her veins making everything else fade until all she can feel is the muscles in her legs moving like she’s running. But is she? She must be. She’s out of breath.

She knows if she put her hand to chest, she’d feel the swift thrum of her heart that she can hear in her ears, or is that music from the club? She thinks she can vaguely hear Hot In Herre by Nelly. But they’re not in the club anymore. They’re outside and, god, the air is so much better out here and she can finally breathe.

And she just wants to stay out here in the glistening moonlight gasping in the fresh, wet air of the alleyway, but Rio’s clutching her arm, pulling her dragging feet towards his Cadillac, and she’s ducking her head and buckling her seatbelt on autopilot as Rio’s already peeling out onto the road.

 


 

The car ride is quiet. The kind of silence that gets down on its knees and begs you to break it.

It’s potent. Insurmountable. Every breath, every swallow, every shifting movement is ear-splitting.

The sky must take mercy on them by opening up its mouth and pouring down on them, a wall of white noise surrounding the vehicle on the last stretch of the drive as the buildings grow denser and nicer and sleeker.

Beth is looking down at her wrist, the blooming bruises spreading like ivy before her eyes when the car engine cuts the silence off at its knees.

She hears Rio sigh, something longsuffering as if he’s the victim here after he just shot someone. She wants to laugh, but she holds back.

He drops his head back against his headrest and turns to look at her, but she refuses to meet him in the middle.

She feels him shift, reaching into the backseat, digging around for something. She’s not sure what until she sees her clutch dropped down into her lap. And when had he--

She doesn’t even remember--

He sighs again and pops open his door, the car dipping as he slides out.

Alone, she finally looks up and is met with a concrete wall with a sign signifying that he’s parked in spot number 1—typical—of some sort of parking structure.

She startles when the passenger side door abruptly opens and her eyes meet Rio’s hips.

“Get out of the car.”

He sounds angry. Why would he be angry? Shouldn’t she be the one that’s angry?

“I don’t appreciate you--”

“Get out of the car, Elizabeth,” he commands, the bass of his voice echoing in the parking garage.

Okay then. He’s angry.

She meticulously exits the passenger seat, not trying to flash anything to the seething man waiting for her.

He’s standing with his hands clasped behind his back, shiny elevator doors a couple yards behind him.

And just when she starts to wonder just where he’s driven them to, Rio steps forward, closing the gap between them.

She opens her mouth to question him when he doesn’t stop until the curve of her breasts brushes up against his shirt, but he unclasps his hands and brings one forward to delicately lift her hand towards him. Palm facing up, fingers curled, she watches as he inspects her wrist, while tenderly stroking his thumb over the bruises, goosebumps spreading up her arm in wake of his touch.

His eyes drift to the rest of her as he painstakingly looks over her like he’s taking inventory that all her limbs are intact, that all of her pieces are still where they should be. Seemingly satisfied, he looks down at her through his lashes and husks out, “You straight?”

Caught off guard, she lets out a breath through her mouth. She swallows and collects herself before nodding.

And, god, who is she right now? Who are they? How little must he think of her if he’s checking to make sure she’s okay?

She feels a cloud of shame arise and overtake her, crawl up her neck in time with a deep flush, slide down her esophagus and fill her lungs until she can barely breathe.

How did she allow herself to be so weak, such an easy target? Needing someone to come and save her. What would her father think of what's become of her? What she allows to be done to her?

Rio nods his head and steps back, his inspection completed.

“Okay,” he says, looking away and strolling in a circle, still nodding.

He turns back to face her, now a few feet away, and any gentleness has disappeared.

“Okay,” he repeats, resolutely, before continuing, “see I’m tryna figure something out, but something’s just not clicking for me.”

His mouth is quirked, eyebrows furrowed in faux confusion.

Beth clears her throat, clears a path through the shame for words.

“What’s that?”

“Why you went in that room in the first place,” he enquires, the anger reappearing in his features.

And, okay, this she can work with.

“I--He asked me to. It was a business meeting. I thought he wanted to do...business,” she says, flailing her hands in front of her.

And, sure, she’s lying and he probably knows it. Always seems to know it.

He laughs, something derisive, and shakes his head in disbelief.

“Tell me something, darlin’. You got a death wish?”

No--

“Nah, nah…” he cuts her off with a wave of his hand, “you were just tryna get one over on me, huh? Still wanna be me?”

He looks her over, sizes her up and she feels her cheeks heat up under his scrutiny.

“See, but I thought we were partners?” he questions, voice coated in sarcasm, a facade of a hurt man.

But she thinks underneath the veneer and the pouty lips, there's something real there. A glimpse at genuine betrayal in what his mask can’t hide.

“Ok, well you would’ve done the exact same thing,” she defends herself.

Because he would’ve. Because they both want the same thing in the end.

“Yeah. Yeah, but we ain’t the same,” he counters, stepping closer.

And he’s not yelling, but there’s a firmness in his voice, something steadfast that booms, filling the parking garage.

He’s close now, close enough to smell the cologne that stuck to her after she bent over for him in that bathroom. It’s just masculine enough and she’s not sure what it smells like except that it smells good. Distractingly so.

His voice breaks her out of her reverie.

“You know all that time ago when I called you a basic bitch after your lil speech?”

And she’s not sure what she was expecting, but it wasn’t that. Because this is right around the point where, normally, they’d never talk about it again. Move on and push every aching and festering thought and question down as far as they could. Hoping to crush them, incinerate them by pushing them down hard enough.

But right now he’s bringing up the past. Breaking their own unspoken rule of keeping their eyes ahead.

“Yes?” she breathes out.

“Yeah, well I was wrong.”

And that’s a first.

“Cause as much as you get away with shit better than I ever could down at that dealership with that dumbass husband of yours, you don’t blend in anywhere,” he says, and huffs out a laugh.

“Especially not in a place like that. With people like that. Not like I do. Not when you look like that,” he continues, hooded eyes gazing down at her.

“I can take care of myself,” she rebuts, overwhelmed by the way he’s looking at her.

Something lewd, sure, but tender.

She takes in his features, his scent, his entire presence, and her breathing picks up, dragging her heart rate along with it.

“You ain’t ever heard of the phrase, “‘thank you?’,” he teases, voice now quiet.

“I had it under control,” she responds, nearly at a whisper.

She’s still arguing, but her heart’s not in it. A fragile ceasefire forming, a bubble of peace.

“That what you call that?” he asks, nodding to her bruised wrist. 

“What? Like you haven’t left bruises on me before?” she purrs, eyebrows raised.

Because he has. Because after the bathroom, she felt the aftermath of him everywhere. From his mouth and his teeth behind her ears, spots on her neck covered by her hair. Bruises from where he slammed into her from behind, from the sink, from his fingers when he hauled her up onto the wall and pinned her there with only his hips.

She feels a familiar warmth, the memories stoking the fire, but when she looks up into his eyes, she sees the wrong kind of blaze. The anger sparking and resurfacing.

“This ain’t funny,” he growls, eyes wide. “He could’ve--”

He takes in a deep breath and continues, “You could’ve--”

And something about the look on his face reminds her of Ruby when Stan had that scare a few years back. They’d thought it was his heart, but really it was just heartburn. And they’d all laughed about it later. When they were all on better terms. But Ruby. It took her the longest to find the humor. Because it was Stan and she thought she might lose him. But that’s stupid. Because that’s Ruby and Stan. And she and Rio...they’re--

Well, they're not--

She’s being stupid.

She reaches a hand out and runs it along the lapel of his jacket and peers up at him, wanting the bubble back. Hoping the touch of her hand reassures him that as much as something could’ve happened, it didn’t. Because she’s right here.

And she can see that every bat of her eyelashes, every run of her hands is mining away at his resolve to stay angry.

He breathes out a laugh and shakes his head in exasperation, but he’s smiling regardless. Something fond and shining in his eyes when he raises his hand up to her face and slowly traces his finger along the silhouette, tucking a curl behind her ear.

She shivers at the gesture and when his eyes return to hers, she grips her hand on the lapel and pulls him forward, backing them up until she bumps into the door of his car. She yelps when she meets the drops of rain, flinching when the cool water hits her skin.

Rio’s looking down at her with an eyebrow raised in question.

“It’s wet,” she explains.

He huffs out a laugh, lips parting, his tongue darting out like a snake, and then biting at his bottom lip as he nods.

And, oh god, she’s embarrassing. Such a spaz. She stares down at the concrete floor, doesn’t want to have to look at him.

But then.

Then he’s moving even closer, hands gliding over her hips, feeling the satin of her dress as he runs his hands over the curves he’s been eyeing all night. His head dips down, mouth close to her ear, now exposed to him until she can feel his lips brushing against it.

He whispers, “You got any idea how bad I want you right now?”

She closes her eyes, engulfed in him.

“How bad I’ve wanted you since you first kicked that fool’s ass in poker? Shit, kicked my ass too,” he husks, his voice doing that thing, his tongue teasing the shell of her ear.

And at that, he drags his nose across her cheek, eyes drifting downwards, peeking at her lips.

“How bad I always want you,” he breathes out, so close to her lips she can almost taste him.

Their chests are heaving, breathing each other’s air.

And he’s looking at her boobs.

But this time. This time she doesn’t feel the sinister chill. She feels the molten honey.

Because these are the eyes she wants on her. This is the trap she wants to be caught in.

She wants him. All the time. It’s all-consuming.

“Show me,” she begs.

And then he’s dipping his head down to kiss along her jaw, as he slots one of his legs between her thighs. He’s nipping his way behind her ear, lapping at the spot there that makes her insane, while she starts to grind down onto him.

He makes his way down to her shoulder, to her clavicle, grunting into her skin as he mouths at her breasts and she scratches her fingernails through his close-cropped hair.

And it's good. So good. She could probably come like this and she thinks he probably could too based on his reaction every time she grinds against his erection, but she wants more. She moves her hands down to the hem of her dress and starts to gather it up over her hips. Rio’s hands take over, pulling it up the rest of the way as his head drops down to bite at her nipple through her dress.

He moves his hand, the same hand that had held a gun not thirty minutes ago down to cup her through her panties. She moans when he starts to run the finger that pulled the trigger up and down, teasing her clit through the thin material.

Her moan turns into a yelp when his hand grips onto the lace of her panties and tears them off of her, leaving them in shreds. Thank god she hadn't worn the spanx.

She slides her hand to the groin of his pants, feeling his painfully hard length through them, and he groans at her touch, but when she goes to fumble with his belt, he stops her, softly grasping her wrists.

And she’s confused until he leans his forehead against hers, practically panting as he shakes his head and rasps, “Wanna taste you.”

She nods frantically and he drops down onto his knees, kneeling in front of her on the concrete as she holds up her dress, exposing her bare pussy to him.

He leans in and guides one of her legs over his shoulder, running his hands over her thighs, parting her folds to kiss and lick at her clit, dipping his tongue down to taste her, grunting into her when he feels just how wet she is. And he starts slow, but then he’s relentless, sucking her clit and gripping her ass and running a hand up to knead at her breast and groaning into her like he’s the one getting pleasure from it.

And the image must be obscene. This man—Rio—down on his knees, confessing his desire into her cunt.

And she can feel herself getting weak in the knees, feel the honey pooling as her moans go high and sweet, but as much as she’s enjoying herself with him down there, she wants him up here.

She goes to slide her leg off his shoulder, but he grips tighter, nuzzles deeper until she has to grab him by the ear and pull him up.

And it’s too much—him standing before her panting, glistening lips hanging open. The sight of him, pupils blown, absolutely wrecked, and desperate to continue devouring her, sends pulsing heat straight to her soaking wet pussy.

She can’t take it anymore. She needs it.

She tugs on his belt with shaking hands and looks into his eyes to tell him to, “Fuck me.”

He growls something animalistic, rushing to unbuckle his belt and shuck down his boxers and pants just enough before grabbing her and lifting her against the passenger side door.

Their eyes are locked in on each other, four of a kind, when she reaches down to run the head of his cock through her folds, coating him in her wetness and his saliva before slowly sinking down onto him. Both of their lips part and his eyes roll slightly back as he sucks in a wet breath.

“Oh god,” she moans out when he’s fully sheathed inside her, head dropping forward.

When he doesn’t move, she clenches, squeezing her pussy around him.

“Fuuuck,” he groans out, panting into her neck.

She gasps when he pulls her leg further up, tucking it up under his armpit, and then pulls back only to thrust back into her, filling her so completely. The feeling of his flesh inside her, stretching her so deliciously, is so much more satisfying than her own fingers or the new vibrator she got mailed to her in discreet packaging.

He’s fucking up into her and she’s grinding down onto him and her pussy is making embarrassing wet sounds, her stifled moans echoing in the parking garage from where they stand in the shadows.

And it's similar to the bathroom, but he’s talking more. Like his restraint has unfurled enough to loosen his lips.

“So good,” he chokes out.

“Yeah?” she breathes.

“So fucking good,” he grunts out, punctuating each word with a snap of his hips.

He’s nibbling and sucking on her skin while his cock drags inside her, marking her up. And she should tell him to stop with the hickies. Because how could she ever explain that away when she has to go home? When her excuse of staying at Annie’s after a girls’ night is over?

But the thing is...he knows how to give her discrete hickies. Gave her plenty during their bathroom break. But these ones? These ones are obvious. Right out in the open. Purposeful, like he wants people to see them. Just like he’d wanted Dean to know before settling for taking a crowbar to his ego.

There’s something about him suckling and nipping and lapping at every available inch of skin like she’s a sweet treat that he’s been deprived of. Something about the way he’s holding onto her, the way he’s telling her how good she feels, how perfect they fit, the way she swears she hears him whisper mine. It’s like he’s done holding his cards so close to his chest.

And she wants to say I think about you all the time, You drive me insane, I’ve never felt like this before, Don’t let go.

But she can’t seem to get herself to drop her poker face so completely, so she settles on scratching over his skull, down his neck, wanting to leave behind marks like he is on her. Wanting whoever else has him to see the scratches from her nails and to know that he’s hers.

And maybe he agrees because the sting of her nails makes the movements of his hips go sloppy. She knows she’s close too, can feel the ache building low in her stomach.

“Touch yourself,” he pants into her ear.

She slides a hand down between them to frantically touch her clit, chasing that saccharine feeling while Rio’s teeth scrape the delicate skin of her neck, and then the honey overflows until she’s drowning in it, clouding her vision as she throws her head back.

“Yes. Oh god..mmm fuuck,” she moans.

She’s clenching and convulsing around his cock when she feels him spill into her. His grunts are subdued, but she looks to him to see his brow furrowed and his mouth open, face contorting almost like he's in pain.

As they come down and he softens inside her, he chuckles into her neck.

Jesus, Elizabeth,” he breathes.

“What?” she asks.

He slips out of her and settles her down. He shakes his head, still out of breath, but smiling wide.

“What?” she asks again with a laugh as he tucks himself into his pants.

“Nothing. It’s just--” he huffs out a laugh, eyes dropping to her lips as she licks her own, “Damn.”

His come is dripping down her thighs, but she only hesitates on that detail for a second before leaning forward to kiss him for the first time.

She captures his lower lip and he grunts in surprise, but then he’s kissing her and everything else ceases to exist. All that’s left is them. Standing in the eye of the hurricane they create. The only thing that matters is his tongue in her mouth, the taste of herself on his lips, her teeth nibbling on his lower lip, the undignified moan she pulls out of him, his fingers laced through her hair pulling just enough to make her shudder and groan into his mouth.

There really must be something wrong with her because her heart is beating faster now than it ever has with a gun pulled on her.

And the way he’s kissing her. Dear god. She needs to be careful. Because this isn’t real. She has a husband and a flimsy excuse. And he has others. And she’s being stupid.

The night breeze wafts through the open air of the parking garage and brings to light the fact that they’re in public. And her pussy, soaked with their combined come, is out in the open, her dress still up over her hips. Anyone may be able to walk through for all she knows. She doesn’t even know where they are.

She breaks off the kiss, despite the way he clutches onto her and blindly chases her mouth. She takes a step back and clears her throat.

She’s not sure what the protocol is here. She’s standing here, having just escaped death, with a man who shot someone for her and then brought her to orgasm in a parking garage. A man she just let come inside her for the second time and then passionately made out with. And now what? She calls an uber?

The first order of business is covering her pantie-less crotch. So she pulls down her dress and tries to turn away from him, but Rio stops her. He meets her gaze and shakes his head, the pleading in his eyes mystifying. Like he’s telling her to not let this bubble break just yet. To let them shelter in the eye of their hurricane a little longer.

And she’s not sure why, but she finds herself nodding and falling into him, allowing him to wrap her up in his arms as he finds her lips once again. He kisses her, but he’s smiling against her lips.

“What?” she asks.

That’s quickly becoming her word of the day.

“Nothing,” he replies, again.

Before she can protest or ask another question, he distracts by asking, “You taste yourself?”

“Um--yeah,” she swallows. “Yes.”

“You wanna let me taste you even more?”

And, sure. Okay.

She nods.

“Come on,” he croons, grabbing her hand and starting to pull her along with him.

“Where are we going?” she asks, holding her ground.

She at least needs that information.

He opens his mouth with a smile, eyes dipping to where she’s just covered herself with her dress.

“We made a mess,” he rasps, licking his lips and asking “Gonna let me clean you up?”

She shivers, but she’s not about to agree to more of that in a public place. Not today at least.

“Ok, but where?

He dips his head, almost looking sheepish for a moment before looking up, meeting her eyes while he plays with her fingers.

“My place,” he answers simply, jerking his head towards the elevator.

Oh. They’re in--

He lives here.

They were under duress and he’d driven them here. Without hesitation.

“Oh.”

He pauses.

“You wanna?”

And there's something about him. Something about them. Because the blood running through her veins is in overdrive, its current colliding with their hurricane, a cacophony of sound building around her, pushing her and pushing her to do wholly irrational things.

Like go home with him.

“Yeah. Okay.”

“Cool. Let’s go, mama.”