The Token 7: Thorn (A Token Novel) (5 page)

BOOK: The Token 7: Thorn (A Token Novel)
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7

Thorn

 

I get the fuck out of that apartment before I do or say something that'll do in my Thorn goal: Never, under any circumstance, let a fucking woman own me.

I can't count how many one-night stands I've had. Dozens upon dozens.

Simone wasn't a one-night stand or part of any plan.

She's a tornado
. I got in her path, and she swept me up.

I slam out of her trashy apartment, leap up the short flight of stairs and burst out of the complex door. I suck in a lungful of shitty Seattle air like a drowning man.

I can't suspend my relief to be outta there; it washes over me in a cleansing sheet of rain.

I look around, paying attention to the neighborhood for the first time. It's up the viaduct's ass. Bad hood.

I glance over my shoulder at the door I just came through.

I wrap my palm around the handle and try to tear it open.

Locked. I jiggle it, and it holds.

Okay, Simone has two doors she's safe behind.

My hand drops from the handle
. So why in the blue fuck does it bug me?

Because it makes me anxious as hell to have her unprotected
.

I gotta get out of here.

My hands get crammed in my jean pockets as I stride down the littered sidewalk. I don’t look left or right, but I’m keenly aware of surreptitious movement around me. No jag is going to get a piece of Thorn.

A chunk of it is already missing, courtesy of Simone Balland. I'll be Swiss cheese if I keep this up.

 

*

Thorn

 

“Maybe he doesn't want to be found, Thorn,” Kiki says logically, her dark eyebrows arching.

She makes sense, but that prick is responsible for some of the horror I can't shake.

He tried to fuck up my mom.

She's worm bait now, and he's a part of that. Rex didn't slide the needle in her vein, but he made her a prisoner. Dependent.

I escaped the hood, and in killing one of two serial killers responsible for Rose McKenna's death, I'd been falsely imprisoned at barely eighteen.

A grim smile pulls at the corners of my mouth. No one had gotten a piece of Thorn then either. Prison had been child's play compared to my childhood.

When Tag and the other boys in blue figured out the truth, setting McKenna up to exonerate me, it was with an eye toward using me. That was the first time in my shitty life someone aside from Mick had placed trust at my feet.

I allowed the exploitation.

It enabled me to become who I wanted to be. Now I’m Thorn, not some statistic where people see a black man and assume the worse. I know what I am. I'm from a crap area, a tough street with tougher people, but I'm more than a number.

Kiki snaps her fingers in my face.

I wake up from my thoughts as if I'm dreaming.

“Quit it, Kik.”

She shakes her head, hoops twinkling and spiral curls bouncing. “Nuh-uh.”

I smile. No one could easily categorize her either. I know her mom's black. I've caught a glimpse of her; she’s dark like me. Kiki looks like a sister... but nah, she's got some white in her. Or Euro.

Euro makes me think of Simone, of course.

Now
she
has some interesting genetics. I want to know more. I don't need to know more.

“Listen.” I turn to Kiki and she folds her arms over her tits. Somehow. They're double Ds.

Thorn knows tits.

I love tits.
I remember Simone's in the palms of my hands.

“God, are you, like, here? You okay?” Kiki asks. Not out of concern but of the
pissed off at you, not listening
variety.


I'm okay, just distracted.”

Kiki’s eyes chase the dial of her jumbo white wristwatch. “Well, ya better get undistracted because Simone will be here any damn second.”

I know. It's driving me nuts.

“I'm trying to pool our resources,” she says. “Haven't you tried to find out…” She lowers her voice to a whisper. “I mean, you're an undercover cop. Don't you have
ways
?”

I laugh, folding my arms and leaning my butt against the desk. “It doesn't work like that, Kiki.” I scrub a hand over my short hair. The curl is coarse, springing back under my fingers.

She blows a chunk of hair out of her face and puts her hands on her hips. “Well, how does it
work
, Thorn?”

I roll my eyes, asking for heavenly intervention. When I look back at Kiki, she's still waiting. “Tag's in charge of that. He's at the shop, gets his tech dick hard with all the crap.”

I see Kiki make the connection, her face lighting up. “That's how you got to Simone!”

I wince.

“Caught you red-handed, pal.”

True.

“So just have Tag put the name
Rex
in the system. You know how to describe people...”

“I was eight.”

Kiki hesitates then shrugs. “Rex isn't a real popular name. You think this pudwacker was a big deal?”

I nod. “Yeah, without getting into the details—he wanted anonymity.”

“What deets?”

I look at her, and in that moment, my soul's bare.

My eyes move to my feet, crossed at the ankle. They travel to the tats that cover the scars.


Grew up in Yesler.”


Me too,” Kiki says.

My head snaps up. “I thought you were a lawyer?”

She chuckles, rolling her eyes. They look like bitter chocolate. “Is this like when they say, ‘I
f she just lost weight
,
she'd be pretty?
’ Or”—she puts up a finger—“my fave, ‘Y
ou're pretty for a black girl
.’” Her eyes narrow at me.

Christ, I didn't think about any of that. Do people really say lame shit like that? Goddamned women peel the onion so thin you can see through the skin.

“Fuck, Kiki, no!” I stand, my irritation level through the roof. Probably from no sleep and my dick trying to find a particular pussy. It's like a damn honing device gone spastic. I can't think, and I've suddenly ‘tarded out.

I give a rough exhale. “I'm black too, if ya hadn't noticed. Ya got just enough junk in the trunk to satisfy, for fuck's sake!” I stab my hands in the air. “I was just saying if you lived in that hood—
damn
, girl.”

Our eyes meet. Understanding flows between us.

“Yeah,” she says softly. A fat tear brims and spills over onto skin that's a light espresso with cream.

She's beautiful.

Kiki isn't black to me—or half-white or whatever the fuck else she is. She's a woman.

I'm a man.

I hate the categories that're made up by other humans who can't stand being in their own skin. Their discomfort with who they are doesn't mean jack to me.


So... drugs?” I ask.


Yeah.”


Prostitution?”

Kiki stares at me, giving a single nod.

“You or your mom?”

Horror washes over her expression like water on glass. Her face falls into her open hands.

I take her by the shoulders. They round into my palms, and I grip tightly.

“Thorn's here, Kik.”

She sinks against me, and I hold her as she cries. For the both of us.

Finally she moves away and dabs her eyes on her sleeve.

I cock an eyebrow.

She inhales sharply, letting the breath out in a mournful exhale. “Mom.”

She went to my mom's funeral. She knows why Tasha died.


Mine too,” I reply quietly, giving her more than I have to any human being. Mick knows. He was around for part of the fun. Aside from him, it's my bullshit and I own it.

I study her face, the big puppy dog eyes, dark hair, and light mocha skin. “Your dad?”

I know damn well I don't have the right to ask, but we're from the same neighborhood. We've both done okay. More than fucking okay. Somehow.

Kiki shrugs, letting the sadness dry up. “My mom's still blasted all the time. She doesn't know... who he was.” I could slice her shame with a knife. She looks into my face. “I hid when the men were there.”

It sounds random.

I know it's not.

I jam my hands into the front pockets of my slacks and rock back on my heels.

I blow out air. “Did they find you?”

Her stare is my prisoner. I can't look away; neither can she.

She doesn't answer.

My head dips. “Me too.” My voice doesn't sound like my own.

I told her something no one knows. Not even the mandatory cop shrink.

I breathe evenly, feeling the sweat on my palms. My heart stutters in a chest grown cold with anxiety poised to engulf me.

Fuck me
, I'm losing it.

My fingers tingle. A fine tremble comes over my body.

“Thorn,” Kiki says.

My head feels hot.

“Thorn!” Kiki’s voice comes from a distance.

My chin lifts, and there she is. I never felt her hands.

She's got a manic grip.

Her eyes search mine. “I'm here, Thorn.”

I don't say anything. I almost do. I reach, I yearn, stretching for something unobtainable.

Unforgettable.

Then Simone walks in.

I don't think how it looks to have Kiki wrapping her arms around mine.

Those cool green eyes go frosty in the moment it takes her to walk through the door.

Kiki looks between the two of us. The moment of bonding shatters.

My next breath is shaky, but I'm getting crap under control.

Kiki turns to me. “Are you
shitting
me?”

“What?”

I've been asking that question a lot lately.

Kiki tilts her head. “Is there something going on between you and Simone?”

I look at her for a heartbeat and say yes as Simone says no.

We glare at each other.

Kiki laughs and claps.

She points at me. “You, my man, move fast!”

I give a disgusted sigh. “Not helpful, Kiki.”

But my eyes are already sliding to Simone, the woman who would deny what stands between us.

She stares back. Haughty, unmoved.

She sure the fuck wasn't neutral when I was putting my hot dog in her roll. Helllll no.

It was perfect and
alive.

Simone looks at Kiki from under her eyelashes. “We've met, Thorn and I.”

Holy fuck,
have we met.

Kiki smirks at the two of us. She loops her arm through Simone's, turning her back toward the door.

“Simone's going to work poles first, then she can come back and do that lap for you, Thorn,” Kiki tosses over her shoulder.

Yeah,
I answer silently.

Because I'm worried what I'll say if I actually open my yap.

Simone never turns around, and my eyes are glued to her ass. I think about her finger in me as I was buried inside her.

Sweat beads on my upper lip. Simone's got me in a damn lather.

I don't think I can stand a lap with Simone without doing more.

Much more.

I hear the music come on for the poles and know Kiki will show her the moves.

I think Simone's moves are pretty good without any training.

8

Simone

 

I follow Kiki out to the main part of the Black Rose. I walk the perimeter of the dais. Etched mirrors look like fractured diamonds as they line the three-foot high platform.

It's not for royalty, though it looks like a throne could be there.

Instead, a pole spears the center of a narrow but perfectly circular island. Essentially, it's a runway leading to a stranded bit of dance floor with a lone pole, like a de-leafed metal palm tree in its center.

Kiki turns, sees my expression, and sighs. “Listen, I know that dancing with a bunch of horny trolls watching sucks. Pretend you're a ballerina.”

I'm great at pretending. I’ve left my body in favor of my imagination many times. Not by choice.

I’ve protected my mind many times, and my body when I could.

“It's okay. The BR has a good rep.”

Kiki nods, and I watch her hair, admiring the way the soft spirals just touch the top of her lower back. She pushes it away as I watch.

“What?” she asks self-consciously.

“Nothing.” I lift a shoulder and glance at my feet. The rug is still nice, unlike some of the strip joints I looked at. “Just… your hair's so nice.” I lift my chin and smile.

Kiki barks a laugh. “Girl, in the dictionary where it says
hot
, your picture is there.”

Now it's my turn to be self-conscious. I shake my head a little. “I'm not uniform enough, blond enough—”

Kiki covers my mouth with her hand. “Fuck that noise. You've got a little color in you, and it's all the right kind.” Kiki circles me. “Nice booty”—I feel my face flame—“good rack, black hair—very big.”

I smile, cocking a hip. She's right about that.

Kiki comes full circle, and her eyes land on mine. “And those eyes—wow.”

“You sound like a guy, Kiki.”

She nods. “I've had those monkeys looking at me for four years. I know what's what. And you being exotic is not a problem. No offense against white chicks, but as a dancer, that might not be where it's at. Faren did okay.” Kiki presses a nail to her lip.

“Who's Faren again?” I ask. Kiki's a breath of fresh air. There're a lot of things people don't say, and it gets tiresome. Sometimes I want to just know, even if it's not perfect. Just say the words.

“She's my BFF. That girl—now there's a girl who’s been through some deep shit. Anyway”—Kiki's eyes brighten—“she said she had ‘white girl pancake ass'.”

“What?” I laugh.

Kiki nods as if we're discussing religion. “God's honest.” She crosses her heart. “She told me that if she hadn't had years of ballet, her ass would be part of her thigh. But this?” Kiki grabs my ass, and I bark out a laugh. “This is some prime black booty.” She squeals in delight.

“I'm only part,” I say, my smile so wide it hurts on my face. I decide I love Kiki. She's so vital.

Kiki jerks her chin back, and her huge hoops skate across her collarbone. “Listen, it only takes a drop or two to have this.” Kiki turns and does this thing where her ass cheeks jiggle independently of each other.

Not like Jell-O, like—independent movement.

“Oh my God!” I clap my hand over my mouth.

Sometimes I slip up.

What came out of my mouth was
mon dieu!

Kiki straightens, and turning, she grins. She nods really slowly. “See? Exotic!” She points at me. “Thorn told me you were French!” Kiki gyrates her hips, thrusting them in my direction with one hand piled in her hair. “Ooh, la, la!”

I cringe at the accent.

I love Americans, but sometimes they're just
so much.
They seem to fill up the space and steal the oxygen.

Kiki laughs, bouncing to standing again. “What?” Her eyes sweep my face. She sweeps a dismissive palm my way. “God, you and Thorn... so elitist!”

I frown.

“No, don't give me that mug. I don't speak anything but the Queen's English so roll with it.”

I remember something. “You're a lawyer.”

Kiki goes up the steps at the back of the runway, very near where I'll go on stage.

“Kinda—pre-law.”

“So you've given up the dancing? How will you pay for law school?”

Her gaze sparkles at me. I see determination, and I'm intrigued.

“I'm going to suck up some crummy student loans.” She swings her hair over her shoulder and glances at me. “I've done my time at the poles. It paid the bills, got me through pre-law debt-free, and I have a nice little lily pad downtown.”

I hold my expression. Where I live is only known by Thorn, and I have a feeling he won't say.

Seedy is anonymous, and I can fly under the radar there. Because I am being hunted.

They will try to find me.

Their prize mule gone? Their beautiful, mixed-looking benign quadlingual female? No, they'll come hunting.

But I won’t make it easy.

“Hey, girl—you've got the same concentration problem Thorn has.” Kiki frowns.

“Yes, sorry.”

“No need,” Kiki says. “Watch.”

The music is loud but not overbearing. She's at the start of the runway. Puzzle pieces of colored light land on her flesh, and their twirling is a nauseating dance of primary colors that fall like pieces of jagged rain.

Kiki throws her shoulders back, and like a tiger, she prowls. Her dark hair shines like melted chocolate. Large, curling spirals take off from her head and land between shoulder blades that jut with her strut. Her ass undulates with round muscles that are somehow smooth as she strides on the balls of her feet. Working in tandem, her butt cheeks move separately. I know she does squats or something similar. That level of graceful athleticism isn't achieved without work and practice.

Like karate.

Her heels click as she circles the pole, slender fingers wrapped around the metal rod.

An image of Thorn's cock and my hand collides with the image in front of me. My imagination rolls with that scene. My breaths come hard and fast. I curse him.

Kiki slings her leg around the pole and spins. That gorgeous hair tips back and grazes the ground at her feet.

She jerks herself up and drops in a crouch, ass to heels, and slides up, letting her sex barely touch the pole between her hands.

Kiki hops, her legs apart and thrusts forward, letting the bar split her through the hot pink leotard. I watch the lips of her pussy wrap the pole. She moves backward... and forward.

I'm dumbstruck.

She pops her eyes open. “Getting this, Simone?” She humps the bar then slides down.

She reverses her position, showing me her ass, and slides down the pole, her butt spread wide.

Then she jiggles it all the way up the pole.

Kiki takes off the top of her two-piece leotard with a tweak of a tie and spins it away.

It floats to one of the tables and lands over the unlit jar candle in the center.

Her naked breasts heave as she spins around the pole in a huge loop and dive. Her head tips back, and her tits move backward toward her neck.

She pops up, grabbing her breasts. She uses her hands as a pseudo bra and lifts, sculpting them like a push-up.

“See how it works?” she asks.

A male voice says from the back, “I do.”

I turn toward a tall man in a suit I know is hand-tailored for his body.

And what a body he has.

Deliberately sloppy dark blond hair dumps over deep golden-brown eyebrows, and his eyes are so light blue they're like glaciers. They pierce the gloom, miss me entirely, and tag on Kiki.

She looks as though she wants to barf. She's disrobed in front of all kinds of men, so why does this one make her stare like a wounded deer caught in headlights.

The guy strolls to where her pink top landed a few minutes ago, and he picks it up with two fingers.

His hand moves to his nose, the pink strings dangling from tapered and elegant fingers. He inhales deeply, a secret smile playing on his lips.

God.

I watch it play out in high-def.

Kiki is covering her breasts, her eyes round. “This isn't funny, Chet.”

I turn back to the man approaching the stage.

Cocky.

My eyes scan him head to toe.

Rich.

Italian shoes, hand-engineered cologne. The bouquet sits just out of my memory's reach.

His button-down shirt appears casual, but the cufflinks easily cost three thousand dollars, platinum with small glittering diamonds.

Jet black.

Chet
dumps his expensive suit coat over the back of one of he chairs as his thighs press against the lip of the stage.

My eyes move to Kiki, who resiliently stands her ground.

“Give me the top, Chet.”

He shakes his head, and all that gorgeous hair slides around his neck, a cascade of low gold that nearly touches his shoulders.

He folds his arms, the halter top embedded between heavily muscled arms that stretch the pale lavender shirt.

“No,” he answers softly. “Come and get it.”

So far, Chet doesn't notice me.

“I'm training here, Sinclair,” she says.

Kiki desperately throws a pass.

I fumble but receive.

I turn to look at him, and those eyes nail me like icy bullets.

A flutter of moments pass while he takes me in. Then he dismisses me, and I instantly feel better, as though a cloud has passed over sun too hot to bear.

“That's not relevant, Kiki.”

She stomps a high heel, and Chet smirks.

“So is this, chump. Why are you here? For Mick? Use the phone, asshole.”

I cover my mouth as Thorn enters the stage.

The music thumps and the lights continue to pound Kiki with falling slices of color.

Thorn walks right up to Chet and takes a long look at him. His eyes fall over Chet’s shoulder at me, then move to Kiki. He lingers longest on her, and jealousy that is both instant and vicious sinks into me like smoke through cracks.

I seethe, hating myself for caring.

She’s a half-naked woman. It makes sense that Thorn would look at her the longest.

“What the fuck are you doing here, Chet?” Thorn asks.

Chet smiles. “Please.” His eyes flick to Kiki. “Call me Sin.”

Thorn pulls a face. “Fuck that.” Thorn jabs a thumb at the door. “Leave through where you came. You want to watch the girls get their groove on? Come back when it's operational.”

“Mick said I could come by anytime.” 

I move closer and catch Chet’s eyes flash to Thorn.

Thorn moves in until their chests are almost touching.

“Good. News. Then.” Thorn plugs a thumb in Chet’s muscular chest.

I gulp.

Testosterone swarms the area like tear gas, and Kiki and I look at each other.

“Since I'm manager, I'll go ahead and manage, douche.”

“Here, Kiki, my sweet.” Chet flings the top toward Kiki.

She catches it, and her beautiful breasts are revealed for that second it takes her to catch it.

Chet Sinclair loves her body with his eyes, smiling slightly when she slams her bits back into the halter.

Thorn hesitates and my breath catches as he grabs Chet by the expensive collar.

BOOK: The Token 7: Thorn (A Token Novel)
10.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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