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Authors: Zoe X. Rider

Games Boys Play

BOOK: Games Boys Play
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Zoe X. Rider

Chapter One

Brian couldn’t get his feet under him.

A trickle of sweat licked its way down his temple.

He dug the heels of his boots against the bathroom tiles and pushed, jamming his shoulder blades against the door. No use. He couldn’t get his hips more than a few inches off the floor. Grimacing at the bite of the ropes binding his legs together, he dropped back, letting his knees straighten until the soles of his boots hit the wall across from him.

The droplet of sweat crested his cheekbone. Hitching his shoulder up, he swiped the side of his face on his T-shirt.

The bathroom had no windows, no way to judge time unless he counted it out in drips of ice water. He guessed it was around six. Two hours felt about right for how long he’d been sitting against the closet door. He flexed his hands in the cuffs that held his wrists behind his back.

Bracing his elbows on the door, he tipped his face up to check the sock hanging high out of reach. The fist-sized chunk of ice he’d stuffed in the bottom of it had shrunk to the size of a plum. Another hour, he thought, maybe an hour and a half till the ice melted small enough for the key chain threaded on the sock to slip over the ice and drop free.

His jostling knocked a drop of water loose from the sock’s toe, sending it splashing just above his left eyebrow. Its wet coldness slipped toward the bridge of his nose. He shook his head, but it stayed with him, making him blink as it reached the corner of his eye.

An hour and a half.

Leaning his head against the door, he listened to the hum of the air-conditioning, focused on the slow rise and fall of his chest.

Attack from Space had been off the road for going on six weeks. The band had toured for a year and a half straight this time—not their longest, but still. The occasional breaks had been so short that his apartment, when he’d been in it, had felt like just another hotel. Mysteriously clean whenever he arrived, mysteriously trashed when he left again a week or three later.

Even now, he was still in that awkward period of trying to feel like he was
. But he was getting there. And eventually he’d start having stuff to do again—guitar lessons to give; songs to write; plans to work out with Dylan: where, how, and when to record the next album, how to promote it, who to hire to do the videos, who to take on tour with them… Before he knew it, he’d back on the road, and it would feel like not a moment too soon.

Until then, though, he had nothing but time on his hands, and when he did, it always came to this.

He leaned forward, clasped his hands together, and pulled. He’d connected the D rings on the leather cuffs to the back of his belt using the steel bracelet of a pair of police-issue handcuffs, the key to which hung from the sock overhead, along with the key to the luggage locks that kept him from being able to unbuckle the cuffs from his wrists. The other bracelet of the handcuffs disappeared under the door, where it was locked around a loop of rope. Both ends of that rope were tied to a hook high up inside the closet. All he had to do to reach those knots was turn the doorknob and pull the door open.

As if.

The handcuff chain gave him a few inches of movement—not enough to go anywhere. Definitely not enough to get his hands near the doorknob.

He threw his weight forward, yanking against the chain in the hope that he might pull the rope in the closet loose, knowing that if it
work—and as much as he felt right now like he wished it would, after two hours of sitting on the hard floor—disappointment would sink through him with the weight of a bowling ball. The
was to be stuck until the key finally dropped.

He threw himself forward again. A droplet of sweat shook free from his hair, darkening a circle on his jeans. The handcuff chain—and the rope—held, yanking his belt tight, the buckle digging sharply into his stomach.

Swearing under his breath, he pulled up straight, sucking in until the buckle let go. If he’d gotten rid of that extra layer of tour fat like he’d planned—that extra ten pounds of gas-station snacks and greasy sub sandwiches—the belt buckle wouldn’t be such a problem. It was a thin lip of flesh overlapping the waist of his jeans, but it bugged him…just not enough to make him stick to better eating habits on the road. Tonight he needed to fight the urge for hamburgers and eat something sensible. And get out and run. Tomorrow. Maybe.

He twisted his hands to work the cuffs up off his wrist bones. This was why he used the leather instead of handcuffs on his arms: he wasn’t risking the use of his hands and his whole career for a few hours of…whatever the fuck this thing he did was.

He tapped the back of his head against the door—one second, another second. Enough of these and a whole minute would pass by. Turning his eyes upward, he watched the sock jounce against the wood with each tap. The bulge in the sock had shrunk to a size ever so slightly smaller than a plum.

He closed his eyes and dropped his head.

The ice would melt. The keys would fall. And the instant they did, he’d be sorry it was over so soon.

He concentrated on the sensations of being restrained, the limits of his mobility. His heels and ankles were tied together, the braids of rope going over and under the beat-up boots he’d been wearing since the band’s first album advance, a splurge he’d not repeated since they’d discovered what an “advance” really meant.

Knees and thighs roped together.

Wrists locked uselessly behind him.

A drop of ice water landed on the back of his neck and trickled coolly beneath his collar.

It was frustrating and centering and blissful, all at once.

It was his Zen.

An ad online, he thought—that would be the story behind how he ended up here this time. He’d put an amp head up for sale. A guy had called wanting to come over and have a look at it. No problem. Unsuspecting, he’d simply opened his apartment door when the knock came. Before he could see who was there, the door hit him in the chest, and he was being shoved back, another guy coming in behind the first, pushing the door closed and locking it while the first guy twisted his arm up behind him, forcing him to his knees.
What the hell?
he’d said.
Fuck. What are you—

The one who’d closed the door yanked his head back with a fistful of hair and pressed the muzzle of a gun against his ear.
Shut the fuck up.

Listen, take whatever—

It sounds like he’s speaking English
, the guy said,
but it doesn’t sound like he understands English when it’s fuckin’ spoken to him. Maybe he understands this
, and—

Four quick raps came at his apartment door.

His head popped up, his stomach tensing as he held his breath. Who would be at his door?

“Shit.” Pulling at the cuffs, he jerked his face up toward the ice.

It was marginally smaller than the last time he’d looked.
Jesus Christ.

Whoever it was, they’d go away. Girl Scout cookies. Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’d go the fuck away.

Sweat danced a crooked path down his ribs.

Whoever it was, they would go the fuck—

Another rat-a-tat against the front door.

“Nobody’s fucking home,” he whispered.

As he listened for any kind of noise beyond that door, he was aware that someone on the other side was also waiting. Listening for noises from his side.

He drew his knees toward his chest until he could drop his forehead against them. With his nose in close quarters between his thighs and chest, he got a sharp whiff of the sweat soaking through his T-shirt.

The skin behind his ears drew tight at a new sound. His face flushed with a rush of hot blood at the realization that someone had just turned the lock on his front door. He shifted to look through the crack between the bathroom door and its jamb. The front door was a good twelve, maybe fifteen feet away, and around the corner at that, so he saw nothing. The good news: nothing saw him.

He could have imagined the sound, mistaken the tick of the AC turning on or off for the click of a far-off lock.

The creak of the hinges as the door opened all the way was soft but unmistakable.


, no.

His breathing came fast and shallow. Someone was shimmying a key back out of the too-tight lock, the other keys jingling against each other as they shook.

Shit. Shit. Fucking

Maybe they wouldn’t come into the bathroom.

The scuff of shoes on the laminate floor dried his mouth. He swallowed, and it sounded obscenely loud.

It wasn’t Kelsey—she knew he was back and wouldn’t walk right in on him, even if he didn’t answer the fucking door. She only came over when he was on the road, bringing in his mail, checking for bills he might have forgotten to make arrangements for, making sure no one had broken in, making sure the place was weirdly clean for when he returned.

The footfalls stopped not too far inside, which by Brian’s estimate put his intruder by the counter that separated the minuscule kitchen from the hallway that branched off to both his bedroom and the bathroom he was sitting in.

He held his breath.

Maybe whoever was out there would steal his laptop, the bass he’d left leaning against the side of the couch, his favorite acoustic guitar, and maybe his wallet if he’d left it lying around, and get the fuck out without ever sticking his head in the bathroom. There were no valuables in the bathroom.

But there
a light on.

Glancing toward the switch, he wished he’d flipped it off before he’d gotten too tied up to reach it. But without the light on, the windowless bathroom was too dark for him to see what he was doing when he was trying to tie himself up. He needed to get one of those light-timer things.

Seconds later, the footsteps started again, headed down the hall toward him, the sure, solid sound of boot heels striking laminate.

Brian’s throat muscles clenched, fighting against the urge to call out. The fuck would he say?
Hey, I’ll be out in…an hour or so. Help yourself to the beer in the meantime.

He could open the closet, shuffle inside, and hide, if his hands weren’t chained to the bottom of the closet door.

The footfalls didn’t even slow as they approached the door.

Shit shit fucking shit.

He clamped down on his breath as the door swung open.

There was a split second—it went on for eons—where Brian stared wide-eyed at Dylan, and Dylan, not expecting to find anyone tied up on the bathroom floor, simply kept coming through the doorway till his body jerked to a stop, his eyes growing large. “Oh shit. Shit. Shit, are you—”

“It’s not—”

“What happened?”

“It’s not what you think,” Brian said.
God, if only it were.

Dylan’s gaze swept up the door to the wet sock and the keys hanging from it, then back down to Brian’s face.

Brian dropped his forehead to his knees and sucked in a deep lungful of acrid panic sweat.

“Shit,” Dylan said. “Shit. I thought you were out. I came by to drop off that check from…uh… I don’t even know what to say here. Do you, uh…need some help out of that?”

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck
. His heart jackhammered in his chest like it wanted to get out of this situation as much as he did. Lifting his head a few inches, he said, “There’s a spare key on the kitchen counter. If you could just toss that over here…”

“Yeah.” It was another excruciating half second before Dylan backed out and headed for the counter. When he returned with a bit of silver glinting between his fingers, he crouched beside Brian instead of handing it over. Reaching between him and the door, Dylan tried to find the handcuff and the hole the key belonged to.

Brian, half wishing Dylan had just given him the key and half relieved he didn’t have to spend the next fifteen minutes trying to slide a tiny key into a tiny hole behind his back with shaking hands, leaned against his thighs to make more room for Dylan. “I’m sorry,” he said. “This is really awkward.” Humiliating. Mortifying.

BOOK: Games Boys Play
2.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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