EXCERPT FROM SWALLOW
BY SCARLETT FINN
No sooner had she slammed the door than the truck trundled off, leaving her alone and freezing in this dark parking lot. Noise from inside carried to her, there was music and shouting. The track changed and in the brief moment of quiet, she picked out the sound of glass on glass, pool balls ricocheting, and heavy boots on wooden flooring. Ok, so this was a bar. A biker bar. Where else would Brodie feel more at home?
The men from the gate shouted and she was sure they were jeering her, but she wouldn’t turn to look over her shoulder. She wanted to get inside in one piece and starting a fight outside would put Brodie in a precarious position.
The building sounded busy and if the number of bikes was anything to go by, it was packed. If Brodie was in there, she had nothing to fear. If he wasn’t, she was monumentally screwed. But he would never have sent someone he didn’t trust to get her.
Telling herself to get a grip, she tottered forward and with every step, she grew in confidence. This was exciting. It was an opportunity to see inside Brodie’s world—rather, Raven’s world.
The music got louder. She stepped onto the low square porch and grabbed the dirty door handle. Giving the long, vertical bar a tug, a hard rock tune blasted when she opened the door. The smell of sweat, dirt, and grease mingled seamlessly with the scent of alcohol. Straightening one confident leg, she strutted into the room with her head held high.
Bikers were like dogs, they could smell fear, and she wouldn’t give them any hint that she was hesitant. Her driver had said through the back, so she kept moving and searched the back of the building for any clue as to where that might mean. Every table was busy, there was a crowd in a back corner, and she saw a flash of grubby green felt. The pool table wasn’t her goal and she was none the wiser as to where her goal was. She didn’t want to stop. Didn’t want to give anyone the chance to talk to her.
Heading for the bar seemed to be a good plan, the bar man should be able to tell her where to find her party. As hard as she tried not to look at the patrons, she was aware that everyone she could see was male, heavy set, and mean looking. Taking a quick chance to scan the room, she couldn’t pick out a single female.
There was a bulky guy behind the bar and she drew her lip over her lower teeth to dampen it in preparation for speech. But when they made eye contact, he nodded sideways and she saw a curtain at the back of the room, perpendicular to the optics on the wall behind the bar. He reached over the bar and around to snag the curtain, which he pulled back just enough for her to duck through.
Expecting to go into a room containing only those she knew, she came up short. To the left were a trio of low couches set around a table only a couple of feet off the floor. The five guys there were strangers to her, so she cast her eyes right to the table bearing four men, one on each of its sides. Tuck was seated at the nine o’clock position. But her eyes caught on the guy sitting at six with his back to her. That was Brodie. Her automatic smile was joined by the urge to go to him.
The space was dark and smoke hung in a clear mist spanning the room. The music from the main bar pounded, but it was muted now that there was a wall between her and it. But she’d found what she was looking for.
Creeping over to the table, Tuck noticed her and raised his brows, but the other three at the table didn’t acknowledge her. The man sitting at twelve o’clock was fixated on Brodie, who didn’t give any indication he was going to turn around. The atmosphere was thick, she’d walked in on something going down, and she had no idea what it was.
Brodie’s hunched opponent had his dark hair slicked back and peering at Brodie over his cards. Zara went to the table. The opponent glanced at her and his glower became a leer. Examining the tabletop, she saw chips, cash, keys, and a brown envelope in the center. Tuck and the guy opposite him had no cards, and Brodie’s were facedown under his loose hand.
“If that belongs to you, I’ll accept the bet,” the slick-haired guy said, drawing his eyes down over her figure.
Brodie leaned back, sliding his cards toward him as he did, but he didn’t lift them. A line of cigar smoke ascended from the stub in an ashtray just beside him. Having found Brodie, she didn’t feel any more reassured because this tense situation was probably the worst thing she could have walked into.
Without taking his eyes from his rival, Brodie grabbed her wrist and yanked her to him. Pulling her down onto one of his broad thighs, he draped his arm around her and she scratched her fingernails against him in her own greeting because he was still stuck on the guy opposite him. She did feel better being here, seated on him, with her legs nestled in the wide vee between his legs.
Stroking a hand around her waist, Brodie’s palm came around beneath her top and his knuckles grazed the underside of her breast in a maneuver that made her shiver. It had been a week since they’d been intimate and she’d missed him so much that her body was an exposed nerve ready to be stimulated by the man possessing her now.
Brodie picked up his cigar and took one long drag before resting it over the ashtray again.
“Who is she?” the opponent asked, still ogling her.
“Private property,” Brodie said, tipping his head back to blow his smoke into the cloud lingering above them.
The tension in her intimate center snapped, and a buzz of excitement spread across her hips. Nerves weren’t what consumed her. What she’d believed to be apprehension was arousal. Brodie was here, Tuck was on the other side of the table, there was nothing to fear. There might be five guys on the couches and two around this table who she didn’t know, and the allegiances of the strangers were all unknown, but she had utter faith that if it kicked off, Brodie and Tuck would get her out of here alive.
“Nothing is private here,” the guy said. “Everything you got is on this table.” He raised his brows and looked at the vast pot between the two of them. There were no chips beside any of the players, everything was on the table, and she glanced up to see that Tuck was intent on Brodie. “What you gonna do, Rave? Forfeit?”
“Not a chance,” Brodie muttered, setting a glare on his opponent that made her push herself closer.
“Then you got only one choice,” the cocky adversary said, straightening his form.
“Ok, Rigor,” Brodie said. He leaned down and angled her so he could kiss the side of her breast not covered by her top. He snagged her wrist and pulled her arm away from his neck as he jacked her up off his lap. When she was on her feet, he smacked her ass, but she didn’t know what was happening, didn’t know what to do. “She’s on the table.”
Horror fixed her eyes wide on her love. “What?” she snapped.
The word was instinct and as Brodie’s rival laughed, she glanced back at the door, considering retreat. “You got nothing to worry about, sweetheart,” Rigor said. “I’ll treat you better than your man here.”
The fourth guy at the table pounced up to his feet, and Tuck wasn’t too far behind, though the fourth guy got to her first. He grabbed her wrist and pulled her around the table, but she tried to resist. “Let me go!”
“Quiet!” Brodie called out. She stopped struggling when he made eye contact with her. “You do what you’re told.”
She wanted to ask what happened to priority one. She wanted to argue with him, to ream him out for bringing her here just to bet her body in a poker game. But Tuck came up beside her and slid his fingers between hers. When she glanced around at the hacker, she sealed her lips. She didn’t know what was going on or what they were doing, but she trusted Tuck, maybe more than she trusted Brodie because he had never once let her down.
Tuck led her around to where he had been sitting and the fourth guy came with them, as though he didn’t trust her not to run. Tuck sat himself down and she went into his lap without being invited or compelled into it. Being close to her kin was the only thing that might keep her sane.
“Turn ‘em, Rigor,” Tuck said, leaning past her in expectation of seeing the cards each man had. For half a beat, nothing happened, and she wanted to scream at them to hurry up.
Rigor turned his cards first and no one seemed to breathe until the last one was revealed… eight of hearts, king of hearts, king of diamonds… Her vision was beginning to blur, but her lips were so dry, she couldn’t pry them apart. Eight of spades… if the next one was a king… The black spade and the capital K, made her throat close and with bated breath, everyone fixed on Brodie.
“What have you got, Rave?” Rigor asked, pushing back in his seat.
God, she hoped that Brodie knew what he was doing. Her nails dug so deep into Tuck’s hand that she probably drew blood. She couldn’t blink, couldn’t breathe, she wanted her love to save her from the possible fate he’d put upon her.
“Cut her loose,” Brodie grumbled and shoved up onto his feet to turn his back on her.
© Scarlett Finn 2016
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