Red Right Hand - Chapter 1
You guys wanted to know more about Edward - well here he is in all his raw, messy, bloody glory.
This chapter sits somewhere between The Fall Ch3 & 4.
The basketball game plays on the radio, the sound almost drowned out by the rumble of the car engine, my attention only half on the game. I sit, idling, waiting for the boys to finish the job, a book sitting in my lap unread.
I rest my head against the back of the seat, my mind a thousand places it shouldn't be instead of on the task at hand.
Because ever since last night my mind hasn't been anywhere else but on her.
"Come on," she says, holding out the hand that isn't wrapped around a laundry basket. I wait a few steps down, watching her little boy pull himself up the last few stairs one by one. He's clearly determined to do it on his own, even if it takes him all day.
She looks down at me, all soft brown eyes and the kind of innocence in her face that you don't get around here much. "Hi," she says quietly.
I tug my headphones out of my ears and I clear my throat, but the minute I go to say something to her it's like my tongue swells up in my mouth and just stand there. In the end I just kind of nod and smile a bit.
She smiles down at me apologetically. "Sorry." With a quick snap of her fingers, she ushers the boy toward her. "Let's go, Emmett, move your butt."
All I can do is stand there waiting.
I have to look away though. At my feet, at the wall, at the little boy as he slowly climbs up the last step, anywhere but at her because if I start all I'll do is stare because... damn. She's soft brown and pale skin and maybe a little on the thin side but still beautiful. Too beautiful to be in a city like this, so filled with sin.
At the landing I watch from the corner of my eye as she reaches the door of her apartment.
"Bye," she says, and again my voice is fucking useless.
I stand behind my closed door, eyes shut, willing my heart to calm the fuck down. Idiot.
The police scanner on my dashboard crackles, the basketball crowd roaring over the radio drowning out the voices.
I try to compare the girl I met in the hallway to the one on stage. The one who last night captured the entire room's attention. Even beneath a blonde wig I'd recognized her, and as if the world needed to tell me again to leave her alone there it was.
One of Marcus' girls.
Trouble with a capital T.
Everyone knows those girls are as good as his property. And Marcus is not the kind of guy who likes to share.
Jasper appears, opening the passenger door and sliding a duffel bag onto the floor. A blast of cold air follows him, rattling me out of my thoughts.
I turn the radio down a little. "Get what you need?"
He nods, patting the bag at his feet as Riley slips into the back, his leather jacket squeaking as he does.
The engine revs as I roll out of the driveway. The car thunders over the Third Street bridge, the three of us quiet.
"…attention all units…eastbound on Boyle Street…driving a silver Hyundai…"
Jasper reaches over to turn the scanner down and the basketball back up. "I've had about enough of this place," he says, sounding as tired as I feel. "Time to go home."
My foot mashes the accelerator as we ease onto the freeway, the lights of the city fading into the distance behind us.
Sitting at a stoplight eight hours later, I roll the window down in an attempt to get some cool air on my face. I'm doing anything I can to keep myself awake just a little longer. The late-afternoon air smells clean and fresh and I can almost feel the approaching rain.
Right ahead I can see the dark grey outline of my building against the sky. It's only a block away, but it feels like a million miles. I press the heels of my hands to my eyes until red dots appear in my vision, rubbing until the itchy-tired feeling goes away.
It's been a long few days.
The idea of a hot shower and at least twelve solid hours of sleep is the only thing that pushes me homeward. By some miracle I make it to the parking lot of my building, and the car is barely off before I'm grabbing the backpack on the seat beside me, and hauling my tired ass out. My clothes feel heavy against my skin, my shoes like lead. It suddenly feels like there's twenty pounds sitting on each shoulder, attached to each eyelid, tied to the bottom of my feet. My shoes scuff across the pavement as I put one foot in front of the other, trudging slowly towards the apartment block.
A few feet from the car I stop, remembering the coffee cup that's sitting in the cup holder in my car. It's still half-full of sugar-laden, double-strength coffee, and the idea of leaving it there, of the paper cup being eaten away by the liquid inside, makes me unnecessarily stressed.
My hand reaches for my hair but I stop, Jasper's constant taunting of my nervous habit echoing in my ears.
Sighing, I drop my hand to my side. I'd rather sleep tonight than lie in bed worrying about a leaking coffee cup. I turn back, almost wrenching the car door off its hinges before grabbing the stupid fucking cup.
I'm so tried I can't even appreciate the perfect shot as I toss the cup into a nearby trashcan.
I untangle my earphones from their place in my pocket, and am about to slip them into my ears, ready to silence the world for a few hours, when a noise catches my attention. It's just a laugh – innocuous enough normally – but the loud and unmistakably sour note to it is what puts me on edge.
There are four of them. I've seen them before; they like to hang around outside the building like a pack of dogs, slobbering and pissing all over the place. They're regular run-of-the-mill douche bags, the kind of dickhead I deal with daily, and on any other day I'd keep my head down walk straight past.
But not today.
Because someone somewhere either hates me or loves me. I can't decide.
It's the girl from the club, the one I've seen around the building, her kid too.
She's standing with her back to me, with her shoulders set and her posture rigid. One of the guys leans in, and every muscle in my body stiffens as I watch her flinch at his closeness. I wait for her to lash out – she doesn't seem like the type to take that kind of shit from anyone – but when I see the tiny blond head at her side I understand her reluctance.
She's protecting him.
This pack of degenerate assholes has her and her son cornered.
The edge of my vision fades and the blood thumps so violently through my veins that I can hear it in my ears. With startling swiftness the heaviness in my limbs evaporates. Gone is the weariness behind my eyes and the softness in my muscles. It's so instantaneous that it catches me by surprise, the intensity almost knocking the wind out of me.
Bella isn't defenseless, I know that. But with her son at her side, her hands are tied.
Mine, however, are not.
Mine itch with the need to feel the bones of his face give beneath them. They beg me to show him what fear really feels like, what it's like to be overpowered by someone bigger and meaner that he is.
My feet are moving before my brain has a chance to catch up, and I step into the space between them, careful not to scare the little kid any more than he already is. I'm not a big guy by any means, but I do my best to shield the two of them, keeping my back turned to her and my voice quiet.
"She said back off."
His breath smells of cheap liquor and cigarettes. Color flushes his cheeks and I can practically see him sizing me up. I lift my head a little and my hands clench at my sides – take a good look. The muscles in my arms twitch with the need to release the anger inside. If it weren't for the kid behind me I'd be on this guy in a second.
He makes some stupid comment, calling her a whore, and it takes every ounce of restraint I have left to stop myself from lunging at him.
"Step. Back." My voice wobbles with the intensity of my anger.
Something inside his tiny brain clicks, and he makes the wise decision to take a step back. As he does, his friends follow, and I don't even need to tell her to move, smart girl that she is she's already halfway to the building. The doors swing shut with a loud slam, and I step forward, my fists already clenched.
But one of his friends is already there, his hands in the air in surrender.
"We're leaving," he drawls. "We don't want no trouble."
They push past me all at once, and my stomach clenches.
"She's all yours. Fuckin' pussy," spits one as they pass, and my body thrums with pent-up anger. The only thing that stops me from going after him is the idea that she could come downstairs again at any moment. The tiny part of my brain still ruled by logic doesn't want her to see whatever it is I keep beneath this careful exterior. She doesn't need to see me beat this guy to a bloody mess.
When they're out of my sight I walk back to my car and throw my bag back into the back seat. The wheels crunch as they spin beneath me, and with a shaking hand I pull my cell from my pocket as I tear out onto the road.
It takes me ten blocks before I'm calm enough to work my phone, let alone hold a fucking conversation.
Two minutes later I pull into a gas station and turn the car off.
My hands are still shaking. I hold them up in front of me, willing the tremors to subside. I lay them on my lap as I take long deep breaths, my head resting the steering wheel as I try to pull enough air into my lungs to stop the sound of the blood thumping in my head.
But with my eyes closed all I can see is the kid's tiny hand against Bella's thigh, the way she flinched when that scumbag neared, and even worse, the way my warped imagination shows me exactly what could have happened if I hadn't been there.
I'm not a fucking saint – I know that. I do things that aren't considered nice. I hurt people, and I make a living out of doing so. And believe me, the living is good. But no matter how far down the rabbit hole I fall, no matter how dirty my hands become, women and children are where I draw the line. I might not be the best example of a good guy, but something about hurting women just smacks of cowardice, and I won't stand for it.
A silver BMW pulls into the gas station, and Jasper gets out a minute later. He slides into the passenger seat of my car without a word.
He lights a cigarette, and we sit in silence.
When I'm sure my voice works properly again, I relay the events of the last half hour to him, and instead of asking why the fuck I'm so riled up about some chick that lives in my apartment building that I barely know, he just unlocks his phone and makes a few calls.
As far as being a boss goes, Jasper is pretty decent. As a friend, there's no comparison.
An hour later, he's still slouched in the seat beside me, his button-up rolled to his elbows, a cigarette dangling from the hand that hangs out of the window. He's always a picture of calm, and collected. He doesn't ask questions – he doesn't need to. Plus, the guy's always up for bad behavior. He might look like he's got it all together, like he's a real fucking gentleman, but he lives for this shit.
Which is why I trust him with my life, and vice versa.
On the other hand, Riley, who's now sitting in the back seat, couldn't care less where we're going. He just wants to stop at a convenience store for some gum on the way and if there's trouble then fine.
It only took two calls to find out who that fucker at the apartment building was. It turns out he's no one. Which makes this even easier since it means no one will miss him.
We park across the street from a shitty-looking bar downtown.
"This it?" asks Jasper, gesturing to the bar as he flicks his cigarette butt out the window.
I nod, my hands wrapped around the steering wheel so hard my knuckles are white.
Riley leans forward from the back seat, resting his arms on the back of our seats. "Just him inside?"
"I hope not," says Jasper. He slips the tie he's wearing from around his neck, tossing it on the floor at his feet. "I'm in the mood for a dance."
"Just him," I say. "I just want him."
I turn to Jasper and Riley and they both nod in agreement. I step out of the car and they follow.
Riley unfolds himself from the backseat, tossing his jacket over the headrest before he closes the door. "Need me to bring anything?" he asks, gesturing to the boot and the tools I keep stowed away in there.
I shake my head.
The pool hall is dark and smells of stale beer. The bartender nods at me as I pass, barely registering our presence before turning back to the TV. I can feel Jasper and Riley at my back; hear Jasper's Italian leather shoes against the shitty tiled floor. This is why I called them. No matter what's about to go down, I know without a shadow of a doubt that these guys will have my back no matter what.
I scan the room, and finding him hidden up the back, bent over the felt table, lining up a shot.
My pace increases and my pulse begins to race.
Jasper passes a pool cue over my shoulder, and I swing it around, grasping the handle tightly. It's not a bat, which is what I'd prefer, but it'll do the job. It feels like my muscles release all of their tension and calm washes over me until all I can hear is the sound of my own breathing.
The guy barely has a moment to register my presence before the wooden cue cracks across his back, snapping in half on impact. Jasper and Riley are at my side, ready to take on anyone stupid enough to step in.
Sadly for Jasper, no one steps up.
The guy's hand flies to his lower back, and he shoots upwards with a howl. I take the chance to use the broken stick in my hand to break his nose.
Yelling, he clutches a hand to his bloody face. "What the fuck?"
When he looks up from his hands and sees me, I watch the recognition alight his eyes, and I can't help but smile a little when it's replaced by fear.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," he says, holding up a hand in his defense. "I wasn't gonna hurt her, I swear."
I fist a hand into the front of his shirt, and I can feel the pulse in his neck pounding against my knuckles as I pull him to me.
"We were just playin' around, dude. No harm done," he says.
The blood from his nose drips over his top lip, staining his teeth red.
"No harm done?" I repeat. I cock my head to the side a little. "How do you figure that?"
"She's fine, right?" he almost smiles, his lips forming a wobbly version of a grimace. "I wouldn't go near one of Marcus' bitches anyways."
Beside me, Jasper chuckles quietly, shaking his head. "Wrong answer."
I grab a pool ball from the table, clenching it in my fist. He pulls himself free of my grip and takes a step back, but I counter with two of my own, and finally my fists get what they want. I pull my arm back over and over, and by the time I'm finished, they're shaking and I can feel Jasper pulling me back by the t-shirt. I shrug him off, but take a step towards the guy slumped over on the floor. Panting, I lower my head to his so that I can look him in the eye. He flinches as I lower my mouth to his ear.
"If you go anywhere near that building again I'll kill you," I whisper, watching the blood drip off the bottom of his chin and onto the floor. "Do you understand?"
He nods slightly, and I nod in reply, using his t-shirt to wipe the blood off of my hand.
I have one or two more, which i'll post soon. xx