Authors: Julia Sykes
By Julia Sykes
For Scouse, whose interest in Furries is purely academic.
And for Laura, who has always supported me even though she isn’t a “sex person”.
Love and Piss Biscuits,
“Just let them have it, Bradley,” I muttered to my friend. No way was I going to risk our lives for the sake of my father’s precious drugs.
What had started as a routine deal had swiftly devolved into a very dangerous clusterfuck. We had just finished loading our fresh supply of heroin into the trunk of the beaten up sedan when three members of the Latin Kings had rolled up and demanded that we hand it over. If it was going to come down to a physical fight, I might have been willing to defend our product. A bloody lip from one of these assholes would be better than what I would get from my father if he found out that we had been robbed. Besides, letting them intimidate us set a bad precedent. Things were bad enough between the Latin Kings and the Westies without me rolling over like a little bitch as soon as they came to take what they wanted.
But one of the Kings had a gun trained on us, and that changed everything. No matter how fit I was
, my strength wasn’t going to stop a bullet. I was ready to back down, but Bradley flexed aggressively. He might look mean with his buzz cut and pinched features, but unless he had recently purchased himself some new invisible body armor without telling me about it, he wasn’t going to win in a fight with a bullet either.
Unfortunately, the hard determination in his brown eyes told me that he was going to do something very stupid. His hand twitched towards the bulge in his waistband.
“Bradley, no!” I barked.
But it was too late. Even as Bradley’s hand closed around his own gun, the King aimed his. I threw my w
eight against my friend, shoving him out of the line of fire as we both fell to the ground.
The force of the pain as the bullet tore into my shoulder would have made me scream if it hadn’t completely robbed me of my breath. Gunshots rent the air around me, the deafening reports disorienting me. I could hear Bradley shouting and cussing. I tried to get to my feet so that I could help him, but my agony paralyzed me.
“Sean!” My name was steeped in alarm. “Oh, fuck! Sean!”
Bradley’s face was flickering in and out of existence above me. His hands closed around my shoulders, lifting me up.
This time I did scream as the jarring movement sent a fresh shock of pain tearing through my body. I couldn’t see or hear my friend anymore; agony had claimed my senses, had become my entire world.
I’m not sure when the pain stopped and the nothingness began, but the latter was much more peaceful.
There was a gentle touch on my forehead, but it struck me like an electric shock. I jolted awake and immediately went on the defensive. I was in pain, I didn’t know where I was, and there was a strange woman crouching over me. Grasping for the hand that was touching me, I gripped the woman’s small wrist and easily flipped her onto her back, pinning her in place with my arm against her throat. I applied the slightest pressure, threatening.
“Who are you?” I demanded harshly. “Where am I?”
She didn’t answer quickly enough to satisfy me. I felt a moment of hesitation as I saw the terror in her eyes, but I needed to make her talk. Had I been captured? Why did my shoulder feel like someone had driven a knife deep into it? I pressed my arm down harder, pushing against her windpipe. She jerked beneath me, struggling. But I hardened my resolve.
“Please,” she begged. “Don’t…”
I needed her to answer me, needed to understand what kind of danger I was in and why it felt like someone had taken a jackhammer to the inside of my skull. Fury flooded me at her reticence. Why was she making me threaten her? Why wouldn’t she talk?
“Who are you?” I half-shouted, refusing to let her frightened grey eyes soften my heart.
Cl-Claudia,” she gasped out. “Claudia Ellers.”
“Sean! What the fuck?” It was Bradley’s voice.
His hands were on my shoulders, jerking me away from the fragile woman. I couldn’t stifle a shout as agony shot through me at the jarring movement. I fell back, clutching at my injury and wincing at the impact with even the soft mattress.
“What the hell is going on, Bradley?” I ground out, forcing the pain down. I was more confused than ever. If Bradley was here, then I must be safe. But why was this strange woman on a bed beside me?
He glared at me. “You were shot, asshole. What the fuck do you think you’re doing moving around like that? You’re going to hurt yourself.”
I couldn’t help closing my eyes and groaning. “Shit,” I mumbled. “I forgot that he shot me.
That motherfucker.” I speared Bradley with a hard look. “I hope you gave the bastard what he deserved.”
He rolled his eyes at me. “I was a little busy saving your life.
Sorry, you ungrateful douchebag.” His words were harsh, but his relief was clear in his eyes.
I studied the room around me, trying to get my bearings. “How am I home? How am I not in a hospital?” I shifted my gaze to the woman beside me. “And who the fuck is she?”
Her eyes were like daggers. “Oh, I’m nobody,” she snapped. “Just the woman who brought you back from the brink of death. You’re welcome, asshole.” She tugged at her arm, eliciting a clanking sound that I recognized: she was handcuffed to my bed. She turned the full force of her fury on Bradley. “And it wasn’t enough that you kidnapped me at gunpoint and threatened my life? Now you have to go and chain me up like some animal? I should have just let him die.” She scowled, jerking her head in my direction.
Bradley’s face tightened
in fury, and his fingers curled into fists. “The only reason you’re still alive is because he is. If you don’t want that scenario to change, I suggest you shut the fuck up,” he threatened the woman.
I felt a jolt of horror. Bradley had done
What the fuck had he been thinking? Didn’t he realize how far he had gone, how much worse this was than dealing drugs? He had never hurt anyone before; well, not anyone who wasn’t in our world. And he certainly had never preyed on an innocent woman.
“What did you do, Bradley?” I couldn’t believe what he had done, didn’t want to believe it. “You
her? That goes way beyond anything… You know you can’t come back from that, right?” Another horrific thought struck me. “What are we supposed to do with her now?”
Bradley regarded me levelly, explaining himself as though his actions had been completely rational. “You know I couldn’t take you to the hospital. Not without getting you arrested. I didn’t have another choice. I wasn’t going to let you die. The doc here patched you up. You’ll be fine now.”
He had done this for me, to save my life. I knew I should be grateful, but I would rather be in jail than have had him take an innocent woman hostage. Not only had it been traumatic for her, but it put Bradley in jeopardy. What if she went to the police? What if she turned in my best friend, my only friend? Bradley was fiercely loyal, but this was bordering on insanity. I couldn’t bear the thought of him in jail, of having the only person that I trusted taken from me.
I ran a hand through my hair in frustration, but it only re-awoke the searing agony in my shoulder. “That hurts like a bitch,” I hissed through clenched teeth. I turned to the woman who
had saved me, somewhat chagrined to ask anything of her. But the pain was becoming unbearable; it was making my head spin and my stomach turn.
“Do you have anything for the pain?” I asked.
“No,” she said flatly, a hint of cruel satisfaction in her flashing eyes. But it was gone as quickly as it had come. “I’m sorry,” she said, her voice soft this time. Despite everything, she seemed to truly care about the fact that I was hurting. I was momentarily stunned by her compassion.
“I’ll get you some pain killers from Jerry,” Bradley said.
I knew that Jerry had access to prescription drugs; we just dealt in heroin, and the thought of turning to that sickened me.
“But first…” Bradley turned his attention to the woman, his eyes colder than I could ever recall. “Is he going to be okay, doc?” He asked.
So she was a doctor. Of course she was. How else would she have known how to treat a bullet wound? I anxiously waited for her to answer, coming to the keen realization that my life had hung in the balance only hours earlier.
“Y-yes,” she said tremulously, and I hated to see how frightened she was, resented Bradley for intimidating her when she had done nothing but help me. Not to mention how shitty I felt for terrorizing her into giving me her name. I couldn’t help but be impressed by her courage as she answered Bradley evenly. “So long as the wound is cleaned and the bandages are changed regularly, he should be fine.”
He considered her for a moment, his head cocked to one side. “I think I can handle that,” he said finally, nodding. Then he pulled the gun from his waistband, training it on her heart. Why was he terrorizing her further?
“Please,” she choked on the word, her voice strangled. “Don’t do this. I won’t tell anyone. I swear-”
Then I realized the horrible truth: he wasn’t trying to intimidate her; he was going to kill her.
“Bradley!” I said his name sharply
, trying to keep my tone authoritative rather than panicked. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing? You’re going to add murder to kidnapping now?” Who was this ruthless man standing before me, ready to kill an innocent woman? No, not just innocent. A genuinely good-hearted person who had saved the life of a low-life criminal when she could have just let me bleed out. I had to make Bradley see reason, to remind him of who he really was. Because right now, he wasn’t acting at all like himself. “What are you thinking, man? This isn’t you.”
“I’m doing this for you, Sean,” he said, his voice detached, addressing me but never taking his eyes off her. “There’s no other way.”
He cocked the gun. I had to stop this. I couldn’t let my best friend become a killer, and, more importantly, I couldn’t watch her die.
“Stop, Bradley!” I was shouting at him now, desperate to reach him. Painfully, I struggled upright in order to face him down, to fight him off if I needed to. But I couldn’t do more than push myself up onto my elbows before the agony stopped me. Still, I pulled on all of the power, the menace, within me to force him to stand down. “I won’t let you do this,” I said definitively, letting him know that if he tried anything, he would face my retribution.
He glared at me, anger and frustration with me warring in his eyes. “What other choice do we have?” He asked harshly. “Let her go? She’ll go running to the cops as soon as she leaves.” He kept the gun pointed at her heart, and I was shocked to see that his grip was steady, determined. Did he really have no qualms about killing her? Did his loyalty run so deep that he was willing to murder for my sake?
Well, I certainly wasn’t willing for that to happen, not for her to die for my sake and not for my friend to have her blood on his hands.
“I won’t say anything,” she gasped out. “I swear. Please…” The terror in her eyes made me feel sick. She wasn’t even drawing breath anymore.
“Put the gun away, Bradley,” I made my voice hard and unyielding. “I’ll never forgive you if you do this.” And in that moment, I knew that I wouldn’t. I would never be able to look at him the same way again. “She saved my life. We can’t kill her.”
Bradley’s eyes flicked to me, and I was grateful that I had managed to get him to take his cold gaze from her, giving her a reprieve.
“And what are we supposed to do with her?” He demanded. “You know we can’t let her leave.”
we going to do with her now? If she went to the police, Bradley and I would be locked up, defeating the whole purpose of abducting her in the first place. And what was worse: if my fellow mobsters found out that she had snitched on us, they would track her down and kill her anyway. Slowly. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, and I certainly couldn’t let it happen to her. Especially not after she had saved my life.
I jerked my hand through my hair again, this time with my uninjured arm. “Fuck,” I barked out, frustrated and angry. There were no good options here. “I don’t know,” I said finally. “Keep her here for now. Then we can figure out what to do.”
Bradley stared at the woman, his mouth set in a grim line. I held my breath as I watched him silently deliberating, willing him to make the right choice here.
The right choice?
I thought to myself derisively. Holding her hostage was the right choice? What the fuck had Bradley gotten us into?
Finally, he lowered the gun, tucking it back into his waistband. Th
e tightness in my chest eased as relief washed over me. I knew that my best friend wasn’t capable of murder. He couldn’t possibly be.
y attention immediately turned to the woman. She was clutching at her chest. It was heaving, but she wasn’t drawing in any air into her lungs. She was trembling, her eyes clouding over as her mind shut down, unable to cope with what was happening to her. The sight of it made my stomach turn.
I reached out for her and grasped her shoulder firmly, trying to ground her. The movement jarred my injury, sending agony shooting through my chest and down my arm. But I forced it back, unwilling to let it keep me from calming her.
“Hey, doc,” I said gently, calling her back to reality. But she didn’t respond. I needed to reach her, to erase the terror that was etched in every line of her face. What had she said her name was? “Claudia. Take a deep breath,” I ordered, demanding that she respond to me.
She obeyed, forcing the air through the tightness in her throat. Afte
r taking a few deep breaths, her chest began to rise and fall in a semblance of a normal rhythm. She blinked several times, and I watched as her unseeing eyes came back into focus. As I looked down into them, I was struck by their multifaceted beauty: stormy grey with streaks of darkest blue. I smiled down at her gently, silently communicating that she didn’t need to fear me.
“That’s better,” I said softly. For the briefest moment, it seemed that she truly wasn’t afraid. In fact, she looked almost stunned as she stared up at me.
Bradley cleared his throat pointedly, breaking through our strangely intimate moment.
The woman was traumatized, and I thought that there was some possible way that she wasn’t afraid of me? I was just fooling myself, seeing what I wanted to see. She had just been getting over a panic attack; the calm I had seen in her eyes was just her gathering herself back together.
I pulled away from her, suddenly feeling guilty for invading her personal space, for touching her when physical contact with me was probably the last thing she wanted. What trapped woman would want to be touched by a strange man who was holding her captive? I schooled my face to blankness as I drew away from her.
Her expression hardened as she again became aware of her situation. I was amazed at how quickly she bounced back, the ire in her eyes replacing her fear.
“There’s just one problem with this plan,” Bradley said to me, resentment in his tone. “People are going to be missing her. If they find out she was kidnapped, then they’ll come looking for her. They might trace it back to us.”
The reality of this situation just got worse and worse.
I thought for a moment, hating myself for having to formulate a plan for trapping her with us. “Then we call her family and her work to give some excuse,” I said finally. “I’m not letting you kill her.” I shot Bradley a look that dared him to try to harm her again.
But he ignored me, instead turning his attention back to her. “Well, that all depends on how cooperative she is.” I tensed, ready to tell him to stop being such a bastard, but to my surprise, she propped herself up on one elbow and glared up at him defiantly, ready to defend herself.