Authors: Susan A. Bliler
During their previous conversation, Warren had only succeeded in leaving her with more questions than she’d already had. She quickly dialed his number, but was disappointed to hear the ‘This phone is out of the calling area’ message. She wondered where Warren could have gone that would put his phone out of service.
Alone in her apartment, her thoughts shifted to where she ought to begin to re-claim her life that had been placed on hold for the past several weeks.
Flopping down on the couch, she stretched out in her black lounge pants, faded white t-shirt, and socked feet. Her thoughts crept back to the kiss with Draken. She quickly jumped up and busied herself with straightening her apartment in an effort to shake the thoughts from her memory. It seemed that every free moment she had, her mind went back to that kiss and the memory excited and unnerved her. Then an idea struck her.
Lucia crossed her small living room to pick up the black cordless phone she had placed on an end-table only moments earlier. She dialed Kennedy’s number, resolved to get answers to some of her questions once and for all. After several rings, the operator informed Lucia that the number was no longer in service. Thinking she’d dialed the wrong number, she dialed again more carefully and received the same message.
Confused, Lucia quickly dialed the number to the Crazy Eights Club, an underground gambling establishment that Kennedy owned. The operator came on-line with the same message, “We’re sorry, the number you dialed is no longer in service.” Perplexed, Lucia grabbed her sweater from the back of the couch, slid on her black tennis shoes, and made her way down her apartment stairs to the street below. Her mobility was much improved, and while she wasn’t as quick as she would have liked, she was relieved to now be able to walk without use of her cane.
Hailing a cab, she was anxious as the cab traveled the seven blocks to the Crazy Eights Club. As the taxi pulled up in front of a professional building several stories high, Lucia paid the fare and exited the cab. Waiting until the taxi pulled away, she strolled the length of the building until she came to the alley, then she quickly walked down it to the filthy red door at the back of the building.
She knocked and turned to face the camera that was on an opposite wall. The red light, usually aglow to indicate operation was dim and no answer came to her knock. Pounding harder, Lucia listened to see if she could hear the bump of the music usually played loudly within. Her fist pounding was greeted with silence.
She pulled her cell phone from her sweater pocket and quickly dialed Vinnie’s number. Vinnie was the fourth member of Team Cutlass. Vinnie’s number was also no longer in service.
Lucia attempted to twist the doorknob, but was disappointed to find the door securely locked. Frustrated, she pounded the door hard before the pain to her hand finally forced her to stop.
Stuffing her hands into her pockets, she opted to walk the seven blocks back to her apartment giving her time to think things over, and giving her body some much-needed exercise.
Where the hell is everyone?
When she’d returned from Shatan Manor, there were no messages on her cell phone or on her home's answering machine, which wasn’t unusual, but she wondered why Kennedy and Vinnie hadn’t called if they were leaving town, or at least to check on her welfare. Vinnie and Kennedy were a couple when Lucia had first met them. Warren had recruited them shortly after he’d decided to start team Cutlass. She wasn’t friends with either of them. Instead, the relationship was more of a business venture. They would call each other to share ideas about upcoming races or to inform each other of issued challenges, but aside from racing together, they spent little time socializing.
Warren was the exception; he often called Lucia or stopped by her flat to check on her. He was her closest friend. Her admiration and affection for him blossomed into what they both described as a brother/sister relationship. Perhaps that’s why she was so disturbed by his wanting her to make Draken believe that they were lovers. Honestly, she’d never thought of Warren in that manner…well, maybe she’d crushed on him a little at first.
Warren’s reasoning was that Draken believing they were lovers would keep her safe. But why? She’d come to her own conclusion that Draken wasn’t the dangerous monster that Warren wanted her to believe. While at the manor, Lucia made no comments that would lead Draken to believe that she and Warren were an item. He already had that idea in his head when she’d awaken from her drug-induced sleep the first night. She wondered now if she should have corrected his assumption.
Turning the corner on her block, Lucia’s thoughts were rattled back to the present as she spied Warren’s car parked in front of her building. She quickly walked the length of the sidewalk to her apartment.
Warren wasn’t in his usual spot sitting on the stairs waiting for her, so she pulled her keys from her pocket to see if he’d let himself in with her hide-a-key. She was disappointed to discover he wasn’t in her apartment either. She left her apartment to climb the stairs to the second floor then the roof garden, but Warren was nowhere to be found.
Annoyed, she went back down to her apartment and closed the door, leaving it unlocked in case he showed up.
Kicking off her shoes, she threw her sweater on the back of the couch, and stretched out on the couch with a magazine while she waited for Warren. She lay on the couch in silence for an hour before she finally dozed off.
Lucia woke to the sound of a siren passing outside her window in the street below. Looking over at the clock on the microwave in the kitchen, she saw that it was four in the morning. She stood and stretched as the magazine that was lying on her chest dropped to the floor.
She scanned her apartment in the darkness, but there was no sign that Warren had been there. She crossed to the large picture window of her living room that faced the street and looked down below to see that Warren’s car was still parked outside. Not sure where he could be and no longer caring, she bolted the front door before going to her tiny bedroom where she changed into her satin nightgown and climbed between the warm flannel sheets of her bed where she quickly drifted back to sleep.
She was startled from her dreams by pounding on her front door. Her heart in her throat, she quickly glanced at her clock as she sprang from the bed.
5:15am! Who would be banging on my door at this hour?
Her thoughts were interrupted by a second round of impatient banging.
Frightened and with a thousand thoughts racing through her mind she quickly retrieved the wooden Louisville slugger she kept behind her bedroom door as she stumbled through her darkened room and into the living room.
Without turning on the lights, she tip-toed to quietly peek through the peep hole. Her heart began racing when she saw Draken Shatan on the other side of the door.
Nervously, she ran a shaking hand over her hair as she contemplated her next move. Her thoughts were prompted on by Draken’s incessant third round of pounding on the door.
Licking her lips, she grasped the bat firmly in both hands as she squeaked out an anxious, “What do you want?”
“Open the door”, he bellowed back in an agitated tone.
Glancing about her tiny living room, Lucia again asked, “It’s 5:00am Draken, what do you want?”
Tip-toeing once more to peer through the peep hole, she saw his face darken with familiar anger as he gritted through even, white teeth, “You have one minute to let me in, before I break this door down.”
Lucia stood biting her lip and considered her choices with a worried expression before deciding against provoking him. She had no doubt he’d kick the door in, he wasn’t a man who made idle threats.
Shakily, she unlocked the bolt and opened the door slightly to peek out. “I’m trying to sleep, what do you…” her words were cut off as Draken forced the door open and shoved past her.
As if he knew the layout of her tiny apartment, he flicked on the light next to the door as he strode past her and went straight to her bedroom. “Where is he?” Draken demanded.
“Where is who?” She questioned as she squinted and held a hand up to block her sleepy eyes from the now illuminated apartment.
Without responding Draken stormed into her bedroom while Lucia remained in the living room. Realizing she was wearing next to nothing, she quickly scanned the room for something to use to cover herself. As she stood contemplating throwing the table cloth around her, Draken emerged from her bedroom. He purposefully strode to the bathroom and returned just as quickly. Forgetting the state of her attire, Lucia followed him as he opened and searched each of her closets.
Finally, she cut off his path and stood in front of him, “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”
He eyes narrowed on her before he sidestepped and answered, “I know he’s here, so you might as well admit it.”
Perplexed, Lucia asked, “Admit what? Who is it exactly that you presume is here?”
Annoyed now, Draken slammed the door to the closet in the tiny living room, “Warren!” he growled as he stormed past her to look behind the curtain panels on either side of the picturesque living room window.
“Warren?” She questioned in disbelief, “Why on earth would Warren be here at…,” her words trailed off as she realized that she’d never corrected Draken’s misconception that she and Warren shared an intimate relationship. “Warren isn’t here Draken,” she informed matter-of-factly.
Angrily, Draken spun to face her, “His goddamn car is parked outside!”
She quietly crossed the room to glance out the window. Spying Warren’s car still parked out on the street below she replied, “It was parked out there when I got home tonight. I don’t know why and I don’t know where he is.”
Draken’s eyes darkened, “And I suppose you expect me to believe that you wear
to bed every night.”
Her cheeks stung with the flush that swept over her face. Quickly, she turned from Draken’s appraising eyes, muttering as she stormed to her bedroom, “As a matter of fact I do, but that’s really none of your business.”
Returning to the living room, she was preoccupied with tying the belt around her black satin robe, “You know Draken, I don’t owe you any explanation. If Warren were here, which he is not, I still wouldn’t owe you any explanation.” Her hands stilled, and she looked up slowly, “If he were here, what then? What is it exactly you want from Warren? From the minute I woke up in your home, you’ve been trying to persuade me to lure Warren into your hands. Draken, what’s going on with you two?”
Before he could answer, there was a knock at the front door, which was still slightly ajar from Draken’s less than proper entrance. Both Draken and Lucia turned toward the door to watch an unwitting Warren enter.
“Lucia,” Warren whispered, “what are you doing awake so late. I came to pick up my car and saw your light on, I wondered if…” His words trailed off as he locked eyes with Draken.
“Wondered if she would be up for a quick roll in the sheets?” Draken finished for him as he clenched his jaw. Lucia had never seen him so disgusted or angry.
Warren’s expression quickly changed from concern for her to fear for himself, then to what appeared to be a feigned anger, “I don’t know what your doing up here Draken, but I suggest you remove yourself from my girlfriend’s apartment before I call the authorities.”
The threat only fueled Draken’s anger as his eyes slid from Warren to lock on Lucia. He gave her such a look of disgust that it literally made her sick to her stomach. “I knew you were his whore, but I can only assume that embarrassment is why you would try to deny it.”
Before she had a chance to defend herself, Warren had crossed the room to stand behind her and wrap both arms around her.
Having had enough of the charade, Lucia struggled to free herself from Warren’s embrace. “Damn it Warren, let me go. I’ve had enough of this. Draken, Warren and I are not lovers, we never have been. He’s asked me to make you believe as much, but I don’t see what there is to gain from lying.”
Warren refused to release his hold on her. He took the charade further by sweeping the hair from one side of her neck and bent to place a kiss close to her ear.
Lucia’s confession had the opposite effect that she had intended.
Draken now appeared twice as upset as he spat, “You lying bitch. You two are perfect for each other. You’re exactly the same.”
Draken turned to leave, but Warren couldn’t help but take a parting shot, “Be sure to close the door behind you mate, my lady and I have some pleasurable business to attend to.”
Lucia didn’t have time to protest the statement as Draken spun and closed the distance between them so quickly that Lucia barely had time to jump out of the way.
Draken slammed Warren to the ground and was pummeling him in an angered frenzy that had Lucia’s heart thudding to a halt. Warren, a large man himself, was no match for the strength and size of Draken.
As Warren attempted to return punches, Lucia jumped into the fray, grabbing Draken by the shoulders, “Draken stop! STOP!”
Draken refused to relent and fearing for the life of Warren, Lucia scrambled to her feet to quickly retrieve the bat that she’d been toting earlier. Quickly she returned to stand over Draken who was still brutally beating a near unconscious Warren. “Draken, PLEASE STOP!” Lucia screamed.
With no response to her plea, she lifted the bat over her head, closed her eyes, and swung the bat down on Draken with all her might.
When Lucia opened her eyes, she saw an unconscious Draken sprawled over top of a disoriented and bleeding Warren. Instantly, she dropped the bat and rushed to Draken. Rolling him off Warren, she checked to make sure he was breathing…he was. She ran her hands through his hair to make sure he wasn’t bleeding from his head. Before she had closed her eyes, she aimed for his back, hoping to stop him without hurting him.