Copyright © 2011 A. Catherine Noon and Rachel Wilder
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Sasha waved to Marty and Vince as the cab pulled away. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and turned east toward his truck. Or was it west? He hesitated, the streetlights bleary in his vision. Driving himself home wasn’t an option, what with the number of drinks he’d let cute tops buy him tonight. Sharing his friends’ cab when he lived in the opposite direction wasn’t practical, either. Of all the nights to lock his wallet in the truck.
Laughter came from behind him and Sasha glanced back. Two men, one in black jeans and a T-shirt and the other in a tight-fitting red net shirt over black leather pants, walked about fifteen paces back.
“Devochka,” one called, and the other snickered.
Crap. He recognized the Russian word for “girl”. Irritation bled into the beginnings of nervousness. He turned back and scanned the street. Double crap.
He had no clue where he was, or where his truck sat.
“Keep it together, Sasha,” he muttered.
He turned right at the next corner. Leaving his wallet in the glove box for safekeeping because he wanted his pants to fit tight was proving to be an unwise decision. The club parking began at the side of the big building, and he hoped he’d picked the correct one.
“Don’t run, devochka,” the other man called. “We just want to talk.”
Dude, he didn’t look that feminine. Just because his sable hair brushed his collar didn’t mean he looked effeminate. He hardly even had curves, since he jogged as much as he did. Asshole.
He approached the street corner. This side of the brick building housing the Factory lay quiet and unoccupied, its exterior lights out. On the other side of the narrower street, empty windows stared at him. Too rattled to read the name of the business on the placard, he turned right and glanced back after discovering no parking lot with his Chevy waiting.
The voice startled him and he stopped short of running into the muscular chest of a third man, who stepped out from a doorway. He wore a leather trench coat over jeans, Russian gang tattoos visible on the naked skin of his upper torso.
“Crap,” Sasha blurted.
He started to turn but the man’s hand shot out and clamped around his throat.
“Where are you going, little girl?” he purred. A knife appeared in his other hand.
Sasha yanked back and blocked the hand holding the knife. The blade clattered to the ground and the wrist Sasha held twisted under his hand. Too much alcohol in his system fuzzed his reflexes and he lost his grip.
Of course, the guy behind him grabbed Sasha before he could move and held him in place while the one he attacked snarled at him.
“What about the alley, Petya?” the third one asked as he walked up on Sasha’s right.
“Good idea, Alyosha. Bring him.”
Alyosha’s grip tightened like a vise and he dragged Sasha backward. “I’m going to enjoy this, devochka.”
Alyosha yanked Sasha along the building and around another corner. “It’s time we had some fun. It’s boring watching this shit box.” A narrow alley appeared, littered and dark, and Alyosha pushed him into it.
“It’s my turn,” the third one whined.
“No, Iosef. Let Alyosha have him. He’s just the right size.”
They all laughed. Sasha tried to ignore them and summon his magic. That proved to be next to impossible while fear raced through him. When Alyosha stepped forward, Sasha lashed out with all his strength. His foot slammed into the bigger man’s knee with a crunch, jarring Sasha’s hip. He kneed Alyosha in the balls. As the bigger man crumpled, Sasha took off down the alley.
The angry shouts behind him spurred him on, adrenaline making it hard to breathe. His stomach burned and his legs refused to function at normal speed. One of them got closer and Sasha pushed himself to run harder. Petya’s hand closed on his jacket and threw him sideways with such force he careened into the brick wall and slid down it, dazed. He pushed himself to his feet and caught Petya when he lunged. Using the bigger man’s momentum, Sasha threw him over his shoulder.
Iosef sprang forward and landed a kick in his stomach, then grabbed him by the throat. He lifted Sasha with no trouble and threw him against a dumpster. He bounced and landed on his hands and knees, dizzy.
“Watch for cops, Iosef,” Petya ordered. He unbuckled his belt.
Sasha scrambled back and ran into the dumpster, slamming his head against the metal. The belt whipped out and tagged his cheek. Sasha’s head cracked against the metal behind him a second time, and he went limp with vertigo but didn’t quite pass out. Petya hit him with the belt again.
Another set of footfalls approached and a big man appeared.
“It’s Harrison.” Iosef stepped back.
Sasha recognized the owner of the club. He’d only been staring at the man off and on all night. Muscular and clean-cut, Neal Harrison ruled the Factory with an iron fist.
Petya slammed his foot into Sasha’s stomach and the air went out of him.
He struggled to pull in a breath. Neal’s eyes flicked to his and then the big man spun. His foot lashed out and Iosef flew into the wall and tumbled into a pile of trash. He rolled to his feet and faced the larger man. Neal felled him with three lightning-fast jabs that sounded like a boxer hitting a heavy bag.
Petya drew a knife and started forward. Neal watched him, and the big man whipped his hands out in a martial arts maneuver that Sasha only viewed on television. Then he slammed an elbow into Petya’s face and the Russian collapsed like a broken doll.
Neal whirled and jogged over to Sasha. “Hey, kid. Are you okay?”
Sasha tried to speak but a coughing fit took his voice. Neal caught him and held him steady. Sasha spat blood onto the ground. “I’m not a kid.”
“Maybe not, but take it easy. You probably have a concussion.”
Sasha tried to argue but a roaring started in his ears. Gods, he hoped he wouldn’t collapse right in front of the man. His body refused to listen and he went limp, his heartbeat loud in his ears. Neal hefted him like he weighed nothing. Neal’s big body radiated warmth and Sasha resisted the urge to snuggle. His head lolled back on his neck, cradled in the crook of the other man’s elbow.
“Easy, I’ve got you.”
“Boss. Boss, are you all right?” A man in black cargo pants and a grey T-shirt of the club’s sprinted up, followed by two others. The three pairs of black combat boots echoed in the narrow alley like thunder. “Crap.”
“Let’s get him back to the club, Carlos. I don’t know if he needs the hospital or not.”
“No insurance,” Sasha managed to slur.
Neal looked down at him. His eyes, seen from this close, seemed like warm cinnamon. “I’ll take care of it. Try to relax.” The sharp planes of his face were even better from inches away, like the statue of a Greek god, only warm and animated. The larger man’s dark hair, cut close to his scalp, seemed to highlight the hard angles of his face.
“What if you’re the Big Bad Wolf?” he managed to quip.
Neal’s eyes widened. “Then you’d better be Little Red Riding Hood, son.” He turned back to Carlos. “Get rid of this trash.”
One of the others stepped closer and eyed the toughs on the ground behind them. “That one guy’s Russian mob, Neal.”
“I know, Paul. What do you want me to do? Leave the kid here to get raped or worse?”
“Stupid homophobes,” Paul spat. “I wish you’d let me take care of ’em.”
“You know the rules,” Neal soothed. “City council doesn’t want any more trouble from the gay clubs after that shit happened in Boystown.”
“But if the mafia is muscling in—”
“Then we’ll deal with it,” Neal cut in. “All bets are off if that’s true. But we don’t know, and now’s not the time to discuss it. Take care of it, will you? I need to get him back to the club.”
“He doesn’t look so good,” Carlos told him. “I think he needs the hospital.”
Sasha started to argue but a wave of dizziness swelled up and he passed out.