Tommy Conlon often wandered the darkened streets of Pittsburgh alone for one reason or another. Sometimes he was walking home from a late session at Colt's Gym and other times he was just clearing his head. Nah, who was he kidding? Tommy's idea of clearing his head was going to a bar and getting shit faced just so he could escape from all the crap in his head. It was funny really because since getting his own apartment, he had found himself spending more time at his old home with his old man just because it was better than being alone.
Tonight he was heading home from the gym when he noticed a young woman walking alone in front of him. There was nothing unusual or suspect about her but something fell out of her pocket, and picking up his speed, Tommy realised it was a key of some sort. He watched the woman turn the corner onto the next street and called after her as he turned the corner after her.
"Hey Miss, excuse me. I think you dropped this," he shouted after her again but she either didn't hear him or she chose to ignore him. Tommy decided it was most likely to be the latter because she began to walk quicker as though to get away from it. "Listen, I think you dropped your key. If you can just stop for a minute then I can give it to you."
Tommy sighed and muttered a choice expletive under his breath as he watched her feet start to move even faster than they already were to begin with. Her speed was no match for him though and he caught up to her in mere seconds. Touching her shoulder gently, he opened his mouth to reassure her that he was only trying to return her key when she turned around and blinded him.
"I don't know who you are, pal, but I'm going to give you exactly three seconds to get away from me or I'll set off my rape alarm and people will come," she warned.
"Jesus fucking Christ lady," he groaned, rubbing at his eyes as whatever the fuck she had sprayed at him burned his eyeballs to death.
"I mean it," she didn't let up. "Two more seconds."
"You're fucking crazy," Tommy spat, chucking the silver key on the floor close to her feet. "I was trying to do a good deed and you've fucking blinded me."
"Well in my defence, a man in a hoodie was following me and how did I know you weren't trying to attack me? Do you even know what the crime rate is around here?" she answered, scooping down to pick up the key from the floor. "And you're not blinded; well at least not permanently. Just rinse your eyes out with some warm water and you'll be fine."
"That's it?" Tommy exclaimed. "No thanks, no nothing? I do you a favour; you spray fucking acid in my face and then you're just about to walk off like nothing's happened. I'm fucking blind for Christ's sake."
The woman stopped for a moment and chewed on her lip, deciding what to do. She did feel somewhat guilty considering the man really had only been trying to return her key, but she was well within her right to carry pepper spray and even more within her right to use it if she felt threatened by someone. With a reluctant sigh, she yanked open her handbag and pulled out a half full bottle of water.
"Here," she handed it to Tommy. "It's water."
"You sure?" he grunted but he poured it over his eyes nonetheless. The relief was almost instantaneous as he managed to open his eyes and clear his blurred vision somewhat.
"A little," he muttered, getting a good look at his assailant.
His first thought was that she was tiny; easily only five foot nothing. His second thought was that despite being undoubtedly deranged, she was beautiful. Her auburn hair was tied back from her round face and her eyes were so blue that he could make out their colour even in the darkness that surrounded them both.
"I'm sorry," she apologised, screwing up her button nose. "I just… listen, I'm new here and I guess I'm still a little nervous walking around at night."
"Can't say I blame you," Tommy admitted. "But usually for future reference, if a person's going to attack you they don't warn you by shouting first."
"I guess so," she shrugged. "I really am sorry you know. Genuinely, I feel awful."
"Yeah well, I suppose there's no permanent damage done," Tommy shrugged. "But I would really feel a whole lot better if you would put that little spray back in your purse."
"Oh of course," the woman nodded, shoving it away hurriedly before looking up at him again. "I'm Kat. Well, Katherine but only my mom calls me Katherine and it makes me feel like I'm trouble so I just go back by Kat. Kat O'Donnell"
"Tommy," he replied. "Tommy Conlon."
"Nice to meet you, Tommy Conlon," Kat held out a hand with a smile.
Tommy just eyed her warily. She was like a smiling assassin this woman. One minute she had been spraying him and now she was behaving like they had just met in a bar or something. Given her obviously deranged mental state, Tommy decided it was better to just along with her and he took the hand she offered.
"Nice to meet you, too."
"Aw and you almost sounded like you meant that," she grinned. "Well, as lovely as this has been, I really should get going. Got an early shift in the morning and I'll be no good to anyone if I don't get some sleep. You know, I really am sorry again for, uh, spraying you in the face."
"It's all good," Tommy waved her off. "Just maybe next time take an Uber or something then you won't have to worry about carrying your little spray to fend off would be attackers."
"Ha, that's what you think," she snorted. "Do you know on average how many women are assaulted by Uber drivers in this country alone?"
"Er no," Tommy muttered. "Although I feel like you're about to tell me."
"You're damn right I am," Kat nodded. "3500 women last year in just the US. So I'd sooner take my chances out on the street where I can spray someone and run away then be stuck in a vehicle and not be able to escape."
"Good to know," Tommy rolled his eyes. "I think I can safely speak on behalf of all males when I say that despite being the size of a small child, you're a fearsome foe that's for sure. Just a word of advice though next time? Try to only spray someone when you're certain they're actually trying to attack you, yeah? Cos the next guy might not be as forgiving as me about the whole situation."
"Duly noted," she smirked. "Well, see you around, Tommy Conlon."
Tommy watched her walk away and couldn't place the fuzzy feeling in his chest. He had a feeling this wasn't the last time he would come across Kat O'Donnell, and strangely he was more than alright with that.
Two nights later
Tommy took the stack of twenty dollar notes from the bartender without even bothering to count them. One thousand dollars just for knocking out a couple of guys who had no business being in the cage with him anyway. Tommy knew he was better than these random fights in dingy bar parking lots but they were easy money, and after Sparta he wasn't sure he wanted to do anything with quite the same level of media coverage again. The busy bartender slammed a neat Jameson down in front of Tommy, and he nursed the drink while his eyes scoured the room. Seeing nothing of interest, he stared into the amber liquid in his glass and tried not to think about how much his shoulder was already hurting.
"For a guy who just won a thousand dollars you sure look like a right misery."
Tommy looked up with a scowl, but his face immediately softened when he saw the person who had taken the bar stool next to his.
"You stalking me?" he couldn't help but grin. "Cos I tell you lady, you got exactly three seconds to disappear otherwise I'm gonna have to call for help."
"Hey, that's my line," Kat chuckled, her azure eyes twinkling playfully.
The bartender came to take her order, giving Tommy the opportunity to look at her without seeming too obvious. Even sat down beside him she was so small and when his eyes slid down her gently curved body he noticed the skirt of her dress stopped halfway down her thighs, affording him a glimpse of shapely legs that somehow managed to look ridiculously long due to the high heeled shoes she wore. Her hair was down tonight, flowing down her back in waves and the front was braided into a sort of crown around her head, keeping it back from her face which was rosy and flushed.
"So, you wanna explain why you look like someone just walked into your house and set fire to the place?" she turned back to him with a raised eyebrow.
"What do you want me to do?" he shrugged. "Jump about and whoop or something?"
"Well that's what I'd do," she replied.
"Good job I aint you then."
The bartender appeared again and set four glasses of wine down in front of Kat, who immediately began to rifle around her purse for some money.
"I got these," Tommy handed a note over to the bartender, telling him to keep the change. "These all for you?"
"No," Kat grinned. "I came with a few girls from work and it was my round. Although, I guess I should say thank you to you for this one."
"No problem," Tommy tipped his drink towards her. "After all, I just won a thousand bucks right?"
"Right," Kat nodded. "So uh, I should get back to my friends."
But even after saying the words, Kat made no effort to move. She and Tommy just looked at each other, both waiting for the other to speak first.
"So, my friend, Stacey is really big MMA fan and she dragged me here tonight," Kat said after a minute or so. "Her brother is in the marines and is a really big fan of yours apparently so she persuaded a few of us to come with her."
"Uh huh," Tommy nodded, suddenly looking very uncomfortable.
"She, uh, told me you were in the marines a couple of years ago."
"And?" Tommy asked, downing the rest of his drink and slamming the glass down on the bar.
"And nothing," Kat shrugged. "Was just making conversation. I mean, I didn't wanna be a rude bitch who just let you buy her and her friends a drink and then disappeared on you."
"No, if anyone's being rude it's me," Tommy sighed, scratching the back of his neck awkwardly. "I just… you know I do these things just for the money and the whole getting recognised thing makes me feel uncomfortable, you know. And as for the marines… well, that's kinda something I don't like to talk about."
"So we won't talk about it," Kat smiled genuinely. "But you know, I really should get back to the girls before they send out a search party or something."
"Sure thing," Tommy nodded, unable to dampen the spark of disappointment in his stomach. He realised he didn't want her to leave. He wanted to talk with her more and just act like a normal fucking human being. "I could help you carry your drinks if you want?"
"Oh you don't have to do that," Kat waved him off. "I mean, just cos you paid for them doesn't mean you gotta play waiter as well."
"Nah, I don't mind honestly."
"Alright then," Kat smirked, standing up. "But it'll be your funeral because the second Stacey sees you, she'll be all over you like a fly on crap."
"I think I can handle it," Tommy smirked.
"Don't say I didn't warn you."
Turns out Kat had not been lying because the blonde haired girl she worked with was like a child at Christmas, and Tommy had forced himself to remain calm and polite when all he wanted to do was run away.
"So how on earth do you know our Kit Kat?" Stacey asked, once she'd finally stopped grilling Tommy on different moves and who he thought were going to be contenders for this year's Sparta.
"I don't," he answered. "Well, not really. We just kinda bumped into each other the other night and then again just before at the bar."
"You're being far too polite, Tommy," Kat snorted, taking a sip of her drink. "Remember I told you guys about the poor man I pepper sprayed the other night?"
"Shut the fuck up," Stacey clapped a hand over her mouth in horror while the other girls burst out laughing. "You pepper sprayed Tommy fucking Conlon?"
"Guilty," Kat grimaced. "But he lived to tell the tale so it's all good."
"You pepper sprayed Tommy Conlon," Stacey shook her head in disbelief. "Tommy fucking Conlon."
Tommy wished she would stop saying his name like he was some sort of God because it was really putting the creepers up him. He stood up abruptly as a strange feeling of panic crept over him and his palms began to sweat. The room began to sway and suddenly everything felt like it was closing in on him.
"I, uh, listen guys I gotta go," he said, throwing down a couple of twenty dollar notes on the table. "Have another round on me, yeah?"
Kat tried to chase after Tommy; to check he was alright but for such a big man, he didn't half move with speed, and he was gone before Kat could even get anywhere near him. She sighed. There was just something about the guy that was intriguing- and not to mention he was extremely good looking. Truthfully, lips like that were made for kissing and she wouldn't say no given half the chance. Well, she wouldn't have said no, but now she wouldn't even get the option because it was doubtful fate was going to send Tommy Conlon her for a third time. She would be so lucky.