Disclaimer: Yes, this is actually a chapter. I don't own nada except for Lara and Farely and others to which you have no claim….so I'm not much one for long beginnings so let's get crackin'!
He hadn't known why he had felt the need to touch her in the car until after the oriental biddy had received one in the head and two in the chest, and was surveying the scene dispassionately.
He had had her attention. Undivided. Like that night years before and just as she did then, she had suddenly shut him out. Ignored him. He hated being ignored, the only reason being that ignorant people were dumb, and dumb wasn't what he needed from her right now. He needed focused. He needed afraid.
Fear was the ultimate bind, the perfect control. Afraid meant she wouldn't do anything stupid. Stupid was a wildcard in a rigged game. His game and he did not particularly like the idea of some amateur ruining his hand just because of some beginners luck.
Besides, luck was an ancient myth in this century. The only thing that mattered here was power.
Her closing off her body to him was the first warning sign that stupid was a mere mistake away. Best to nip the thing in the bud. She had needed something to bring her around again, bring her back to the situation at hand.
So he had pulled a strand of her hair away from her eyes…eye contact was essential when establishing who was in charge. She had to know who called the shots…
Like the three he had just used on the gardener. Oriental place and she still grew roses, he thought with amusement. Catering to the American appetite…
The blood would be indistinguishable from the red petals come morning. Only the body would serve as evidence. The scent of decay was cloying the dark soil and the humid air. The job was done.
He straightened his suit and walked out. He had never liked gardens.
He exited the way he entered, by those trash bins. He could even see the girl in the car, her unbound streaked head bent over the wheel in what looked like exhaustion. Slowing, he squinted his eyes. Something about this picture was wrong, some minute detail was off. He had it immediately. Her mirror screen was down.
A dog barked twice, breaking the silence of the empty streets, and her head popped up with a bounce of her wavy locks. One would have thought she had fallen asleep, save for the blind terror in her gaze he noted as she spotted him.
He was already a blur of grey in the lamplight's yellowed haze, nearly ripping the car door off its hinges.
She shrieked, even as he wrestled for her arms, and brought the leg on her right out, to kick at his midsection, stiletto heel seeking to puncture flesh and keep him at bay. Grunting, he fought against her as she tried to gain the upper hand. It was only after he placed the ringing sound he heard as coming from the inside the car that he realized her hand was free. Fucking free! A hand grabbed a cell in the cup holder…
"David, call the police…!"
His hand locked around her knee, using the limb to hoist himself closer, nearly on top of her.
"NO!" She bellowed, her whole body attempting to buck him off, but he held on. He struggled with her free hand that held the cell; the other gripped something that flashed in the light. Something dangerous. He grunted as he pried the phone from her grip, which was slick with something dark and sticky. In return she dug something into his knuckles and he pulled back with a hiss, but he had succeeded in ripping the cell out of her hand. Flipping it closed faster than the eye could follow and tossing it in the back, he returned his attention to battling the woman in the driver's seat.
He tried to reach for her again and had to dodge her slash like movements. The ragged edge of her weapon, whatever it was, snagged on the fabric of his coat, tearing it.
She looked absolutely wild, and he knew having seen that primal panic so many times before, she wouldn't let go of her weapon anytime soon. Not unless he did something.
His hand found her throat and tightly constricted about it, relishing in her harsh gasp of surprise, as she floundered. That second's shock was all he needed to apply his thumb to the palm of the hand that held the glass, digging into her nerves. Her mouth opened in a silent howl and he knew she was in pain, but it had been her own doing. Her hand trembled under the intense pressure, but she still would not relinquish her stubborn hold on the shard. She was still fighting.
He had to admit it was impressive. Counting as of now, she had less than ten seconds before her tolerance of the lack of air to her lungs was pushed past its endurance point. And still she held on. Incredible. He wouldn't rush however; such refusal of defeat in the face of death deserved some of his respect. So he waited…listening to her wheezes, holding her body still with his as she jerked against him.
Three, two, one…
Her fingers opened and the glass fell from her bloodied hand, as she frantically tore at his hand at her throat. There wasn't really any need anymore. He had dropped his hold the second she had crumpled. Her hand still held crushingly to his as she drew air into her beaten body.
Her first breath broke the surface of her lips like an explosion. Her lungs expanded within her, making her chest lift and push against his. Sweat rolled down from her hairline, glistening soft on her skin…like the idea of Venus birthed from the sea. Breathing new air, new life with abandon…blinking against the glare. Newborn, afraid, weak…
Things were back on track then. No more Viking warmonger, no more backstreet fighter. Just plain old Lara Andrews, ex-waitress turned personal chauffeur, having a bad night. This was someone he could threaten easily.
With a flick of the wrist and a deadly whisper of steel, his switch was under her chin, drawing just the slightest red line on her pale neck.
She made some sort of small sound, her voice wouldn't be completely back yet, so he knew he could speak and be heard.
"What did you think you would do, Andrews? What did you think would happen?" He took in the shattered mirror, the reflective glass littering the floor of the vehicle, and her free hand slick with her own blood, "That you'd just slice through those things and everything would be fine? You'd call the police and the bad guy would be locked away? Wake up, Andrews; this is not some bad dream due to some late night ice-cream binge. This is happening…and it's happening to you. The sooner you get that, the sooner I get my job done and the sooner it all comes to an end. I'd have thought you'd want that."
He couldn't see her eyes, because the blade of the switch kept her head tilted back, an angle which only enhanced her bold attempt to speak as she gulped against the blade.
"Except for the fact when it comes to an end, I do too. I'm not stupid."
"No, you're not, Andrews. A stupid girl wouldn't have found a way out of those restraints using a piece of glass from a makeup mirror." He nodded, confirming her claim, "Very smart. But for someone so clever, you sure do try to pull a lot of dumb tricks."
At these words all the tension left her, and she suddenly went slack in his grip, only making him clutch her harder. She angled her head to the farthest point she could without forcing the switch any closer. "I had to do something."
"Your kind always does. Doesn't help though." He took the blade away, his legs twining deeper amongst her own long limbs.
"I had to try…"
He pinned her with a look, then shook his head, "No, you didn't." He reached out and slipped the blade under the second plastic wire that attached her to the wheel, "You didn't have to do anything." One swift movement and she was free, but unable to move as his weight continued to hold her to the spot. "You made a choice, and it didn't work. Now you have to take responsibility for the repercussions of your action." He pocketed the switch with ease. "Who did you call?"
He eyes widened marginally, the only indication she had any idea of what he meant by the question, other than the faint shudder that crawled along her huddled form.
"I didn't call anyone." His eyes hardened, "Please, get off me."
Vincent wasn't going to be deterred from his appointed path, "Then who called you?" He posed differently, ignoring her plea.
He had caught her lie and she knew it. He saw the defiant gleam in her eyes, the determined tightness of her lips as she shook her head stubbornly.
"Don't make this difficult, Andrews. Who did you send the S.O.S. out to?"
"I said get off me." She growled, trying to wiggle out from her position.
He didn't have time for this. His hand wrapped around the back of her neck, twisting into her thick mane of streaked hair, pulling…She let out a squeak of pain, but bit her lip before anymore cries spilled out. Still fighting for control, he mused, amazing…she was lasting longer than most, and for that he gave her hair another vicious jerk. A sharp groan bloomed from her throat but she didn't scream, he was somewhat disappointed.
"Don't start acting brave again. It's done nothing but bring you trouble all night and you don't need any more. Who was it?" He wedged his leg deeper in between her own.
"Get off!" She demanded again, pushing against him wildly in discomfort.
He saw his advantage in this, and took it, slithering his leg down the length of hers, "Tell me who called and I will."
Her eyes darted, "Get off me and I'll tell you."
It seemed agreeable to him. He could easily have her back in her original position should she decide to get sassy. He released her hair and pulled back slightly, enough to let her fully sit up.
He waited as she tenderly touched the back of her head. Wincing, she turned to regard him.
"Who was on the phone, Andrews?"
She licked her lips with a grimace, "Your mother… and she told me to tell you, 'Go to hell you rotten son of a bitc…."
It was a surprise even to him to find her face smashed against the leather wheel of the car. That had been unexpected. He hadn't known he could lose control like that…he hadn't for a very long time.
"Careful…" He ground out, pressing her cheek deeper into the Honda insignia on the wheel, "I would be very careful right now if I were you, Andrews. This is no time to piss me off. I suggest you tell me who you spoke to now."
She tried to shake her head in refusal, but it barely budged from the pressure he applied with his hands, "Come on…" He coaxed, "Last chance, Andrews…before things get messy…"
They could have in that silent moment, if the cell phone resting on the backseat, hadn't rung to life.
Lara cringed from that deceiving softness of tone. A terrifying lie, trying to calm her down. Fuck that, she was not giving up her anger or her caution.
"Last chance, Andrews…before things get messy…"
She shuddered at the way it sounded from him, like someone saying, "For old time's sake…"
No. No. Never. No. Not for now, not for old time's sake. Not for you. Not ever. She was adamant. He'd have to kill her. He'd have to…
And then the cell gave itself away in the back. Vincent's head snapped to the side. She could see the blue green fluorescent glow cast his features in an alien light. Saw the animal triumph in the depths of his mirror eyes. She could tell he was going to make a grab for it and to do so he'd have to stretch. Her mind worked on hyper drive in a matter of seconds. It was all she had.
To stretch he'd have to lift some pressure off her skull. With one powerful wrench she could be free for a second and a second only. He was fast; he'd get a hold of her after that. So the question was: Go for the phone or try and get out of the car?
He was already making his move. He went for the cell.
The pressure lifted only slightly, barely even minuscule in measurement. Lara decided then. She twisted her head from underneath his hands and dove for the door handle.
She had it popped open. She could smell night air instead of stale car seats. Then she was being violently jerked back by the opening of her suit jacket, the rough movement tearing two of the top buttons from the fabric. A hand fisted into the cloth, hauling her deeper within the recesses of the car, the other hand held a ringing phone.
Another vicious tug and she found herself closer than she'd ever been to him.
Vincent's breathing was slightly irregular as he huffed, "Good work, Andrews. You almost made it out of the car that time…"
I hate you, I hate you, I hate you…
"…but you really need to close that door again…" His hand still gripping her suit front, he leaned her back just enough so she could pull the door shut again. Lara grunted the second she was done, as she was hauled swiftly back to slam against his chest, "…and tell me who David is." He waved the cell as if taunting her, the familiar name scrolled across the screen as if mocking her too.
"A friend." She didn't want to have to give specifics unless there was no other choice.
"Just any old friend or a special friend?" He inquired. She didn't answer. He shook her for a good measure.
"Special." She forced out through gritted teeth.
He looked down at the cell in his grip with a calculating glare, then returned his eyes to her face.
"As in boyfriend special?"
"No." She bit out.
"Ex!" She clarified.
He took another sharp glance at the cell still shrieking its high pitched tones, and now vibrating impatiently in his hand, "What'll this 'Ex' do if you don't pick up."
The answer to that was simple. "Keep calling."
Flipping the cell open in mid-ring with a look of extreme annoyance at her, he snapped, "Who the fuck is this?"
The volume was up high enough for Lara to hear every word.
God, she had never been so happy to hear David's voice.
"I'm Dave. Who the fuck are you? And what are you doing with Lara's phone?"
"She's busy. We're fucking. Now fuck off…"
Lara gasped as she had certainly never "fucked" anyone in her entire life. Not even David!
"Whoah! Hey!" She heard David bellow in shock.
"Yes?" Vincent answered coolly.
"I seriously doubt that you would be answering the cell if you were…"
Lara wanted to pump her fist in the air for David's quick and simple reasoning. She was sorely tempted to.
"Let me speak to Lara, or I call the cops. Something doesn't feel right."
"They won't find anything but a steamed up car. Now get lost." Vincent snapped.
Lara had never been so embarrassed in her life. She could not imagine a worse scenario than a sociopathic hit man discussing her love life with her ex in vivid graphic detail.
"Listen buddy, Lara just answered the phone and told me to call the cops." Vincent scowled darkly then, shooting her such a look of malcontent and irritation so hard, her dreadful blush was instantly overtaken by a terrified-white-as-milk contortion of her face.
"I distinctly recall her saying, 'David, I'll call the cops'." Vincent played the lie off casually, "You guys had a bad break up or so I hear. I don't think she wants to speak with you right now."
It was impossible he could know that, how their final row had gone. The windows broken, the swipes taken, the cruel things said. But Lara was starting to realize this man who sat next to her could discern anything, any emotion, any inner thought with no more than a glance. And even if he couldn't, anything he said would sound like the truth, anyway. That was the power of his voice…of his confidence and skill.
David's voice was more subdued when he finally replied, "All the same…I want to speak with Lara. We have some things to talk about."
"Hold." Vincent responded succinctly.
"Dick Head." Lara heard Dave mutter viciously, before Vincent covered the receiver with a hand.
"That was a mistake, Andrews. You bring him into this and he dies. Now fix it," he ordered coolly, releasing her suit. It was badly wrinkled now, she smoothed it down, "…or I will."
Lara nodded taking his threat to heart, feeling slightly ill that there seemed to be no way around him; knowing all her plans so far had backfired in the worst possible ways and there was nothing she could do but to comply.
"And Andrews…" The tone demanded her attention. She focused her eyes on his.
She nodded again and reached for the phone.
"I don't think so." He murmured, "Just put your ear to it."
Lara did so, "David?" She ventured.
"Jesus, Lara!" She braced herself from crying at the relieved curse from his end of the line, "Are you alright?"
No. She was miles away from alright, but she couldn't say so, not with Vincent's eyes boring through her shielding veil of hair even as she spoke.
She snapped herself out of the unnerving effects of the hit man's intensified gaze, scrutinizing her every twitch. How could she say things were bad without him catching on?
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine."
"You sure?" He didn't sound quite convinced.
Lara's mind was in turmoil. How to say what she couldn't? Suddenly, as if struck by the very arrow of genius, a glimmer of an idea popped into her head.
"Yeah, just SSDD." She smiled faintly at the memory of the phrase brought back and the hope it instilled in her. There was a chance that he might guess, might remember what it meant.
It had been the very first day they had met. Some professor had made her furious by giving her term paper a C-, something that was unheard of and ticked her off to no end, seeing as how she would be graduating in under a year and was so close to having without so much as a B to her files during her time at school.
She had been throwing rocks (pebbles really) at the building where her professor, the male chauvinist pig, was housed. The shatter of glass surprised her. She hadn't actually meant to break anything. She had made to run when suddenly a neighboring window slammed up, and a head popped out.
"What the hell are you doing?"
It was a guy. Good-looking, too.
"Sorry!" She had yelled, "It was an accident, I swear!"
But he had just leaned further out, a huge smile on his face.
"No prob; I needed a study break. So, why you throwing rocks at three in the morning may I ask? Something wrong?"
She had shuffled her feet, "Nah. Same shit different day…you know the drill…"
"SSDD? No way, you're a King fan too?" He asked animatedly.
"Are you kidding? I love his work. I'm devoted!"
"I'm obsessed!" He volleyed back.
Lara must have laughed a little too loudly at that, because just then a light below had flicked on.
"I'd better go before I wake up the rest of your house…"
"Fuck them. What's your name?"
His smile was wonderful and breathtaking, "I'm David. And I'll see you tomorrow, Lara."
Another light flicked on.
"Okay," She had chuckled at the time, not thinking him serious but delighted all the same by his charm. She had run across the green then to her own house, his smile still lingering on her like a visible light.
They were a couple then and whenever one of them had had a killer class or a bad day they always would say:
"Yeah, just SSDD, ya know?"
"Yeah, I know."
Lara prayed with every fiber of her being that even after three, close to four months time of being apart, he'd at least remember this crucial thing.
But just like David, or what she'd come to know David as over the past year, there was a brief flash of hope and then a big let down.
"Yeah, just SSDD."
"Tell me about it!" He exclaimed, "You still have my cds. That's why I called. When are you gonna hand them over?"
Lara was so shocked, she couldn't believe it. She just couldn't wrap her mind around it! Couldn't believe how self involved he was that he couldn't even see the hint in her words, or how stupid she was for attempting to rely on him doing this one simple thing! Her anger at everything that had happened so far ran hot and over any and all reason she had left. She didn't care that a contract killer was next to her, she didn't care she had lost her cool. She only cared that once again David had let her down.
"For the last goddamn time, David, that's MY Rocky Horror two cd set, and you KNOW IT!"
The raised volume of her voice led to the phone being taken away. Lara was so furious she didn't care about that either. So what if the phone was gone? The person on the other end had helped like a fat load of hot nothing. She remembered all over again the well founded reasons she'd had for dumping David in the first place.
"Is there a problem?" She heard Vincent's smooth voice glide over the loud tirade David had been in the midsts of after her reply. She could still hear him clearly.
"No! And who are you? Her new asshole, dipshit boyfriend?"
Lara's blood roared in her ears, "You bastard…!" She had managed to cry before Vincent's firm hand stoppered up the bellow; muffling it into a smothered hum of a scream. He spared her a glance and as odd as it seemed, she read the expression as one that said, 'Let me handle this.' The look so took her off guard she quieted, a morbid curiosity at what he was thinking of doing freezing her vocal chords. What would happen? What was he going to say?
"As a matter of fact, I am."
Lara blinked. She certainly hadn't expected that.
She heard David's derisive chuckle in response, "Well, just a piece of advice. Watch out for your balls, man. She'll tease you within an inch of a boner," Lara shouted a yell of rage against Vincent's palm at such an insinuation, "…and never open her pristine legs in a million fucking years!"
Vincent was disquietingly calm when he answered to this, his eyes latching onto Lara's in a very peculiar fashion, as if he were entirely serious.
"Really? Funny. I haven't found that to be true."
Lara's mouth went instantly dry. His eyes never releasing hers he continued, "Now, I'm sorry but you did interrupt us at a very inconvenient moment, so…goodnight Dave."
There was a moment's incredulous silence on David's end of the line, and then he erupted with a curse, "Fuck you and that bitch!"
With a graceful flick, Vincent shut the cell it went silent. Its glow showing use, grew dimmer until it did nothing but blink in rhythm, declaring it was still on.
"Roll down the windows."
Still fuming but slightly perturbed by the previous look in his eye, Lara did as she was told, flicking the 'Down' window switch to her left. With no prelude he chucked the cell at his paralleling alleyway brick wall. Her Nextel never stood a chance. That was two hundred down the drain.
He turned to her, "Give me your hand."
"Andrews," He prodded in a tone that symbolized immediate punishment if she didn't, "give it here."
Slowly, she reached out her cut and bloodied wrist. She could just imagine what he was going to do as recompense for lost time and an attempt at escape. Dig his fingers into the wound, probably. Stretch out the gash. Something…something horrible. She steeled herself…
Grabbing her wrist, not harshly, but with the clinical coldness of a doctor, he inspected the damage. Looking up as if searching for something, Lara regarded him in surprise…what was he doing? His intent was made clear when he snatched a few discarded Wendy's napkins from the door pocket and pressed them to her ripped flesh, and then plucking two ponytail elastics from her stick shift he snapped them to her arm. Lara's mouth gaped in open shock. Tada! Instant tourniquet.
"That'll have to do for the time being, until we get to the hotel."
Lara was so stunned by his minstrations she asked blindly without thought, "What hotel?"
And just like that, whatever consideration had been in his gaze before evaporated. He pinned her with a hard look, "If you think I'm telling you anything after the stunt you just pulled, Andrews, you're sadly mistaken. Come on, we're late."
Her moving limbs were just going by natural reaction now. Start the car, back out of the alley, turn, drive. It frightened her that she was getting used to being ordered thus and following his every word.
"I need an address." She put out boldly.
"You need to shut up and drive."
"Okay. But how can I know where to drive if I don't know where I'm going?"
"2 S. Central Park." He snapped, "Happy?"
"No." She answered truthfully, "Cross Street?" She ventured.
Lara had heard of that address before, but she couldn't remember where. It was an important place though.
"Charming boyfriend." He dropped the bomb.
"Don't." Lara was not in the mood. Not now.
She should have shrugged it off because her discomfort seemed to make it all the more interesting to him.
"But it's so intriguing…Lara Andrews, the girl others think is going places, who majored in music and minored in theater," He relayed the shreds of their earlier conversation they'd shared in the club before all of this had begun, "The one who dreams of becoming so famous and renowned that she can compose the score of a film (if she ever makes it to L.A.), shackled by a relationship like that…"
"Just drop it." She growled.
"I'm sure mommy and daddy wouldn't approve. I bet they don't even know, do they? Thought not. Not someone they'd want their baby with. They don't want their little girl out with a bad guy. No parent does. If I were in their place I'd feel the same."
"Then why am I still here?" Lara asked, hitting him with the question de jour.
"I said 'if' I was in their place…" A subtle curl of his lips followed that thought, "Am I really the bad guy, Andrews? I may have ruined your life tonight, but judging by your Ex's not so polite exchange of words, I wasn't the first. You want to think I'm the villain? Okay, I'm the villain…but not of your sad little story."
"Could've fooled me." But the venom wasn't in the words she uttered now.
At a stop light he ordered her to brush her hair while he checked his palm pilot.
"Why?" She asked, yanking a brush she found on the floor of the car, through her unruly tangles.
"It's a nice place and you look like hell." He murmured distractedly, penning buttons on his hand held screen. She glanced quickly at him, his furrowed brown, and then directed her line of sight back on the lights, lest they take her by surprise by turning green while she wasn't paying attention.
"Well, that's interesting."
"What?" She glanced at him quickly again, his tone suggesting something compelling enough to serve as another catalyst for this night. She didn't know if she could handle anymore. "What's interesting?"
He looked up, "The light's green." He noted. Lara took her cue as he closed his pilot and pocketed it again.
"Any other job, Lara…turn here…"
She did, feeling as if her life hung in the balance of his next sentence.
"Any other…and you'd be home by dawn. No worse for wear."
Something about his phrasing stilled her and made her feel ill.
"What do you mean 'I would'?"
He wouldn't answer and Lara turned to him quickly.
"My trip's been extended." He caught her horrified stare and his lips curled back from his teeth, making them seem sharper than they actually were. Lara couldn't breathe. "We have another night to enjoy one another's company. Pull up here."
Lara did so without thinking.
She did. And gasped.
"What are we doing here?" She exclaimed.
"This is where we're staying." He replied moving around her to shut the door and take a hold of her arm. She let him, she couldn't think clearly.
"You can't be serious."
He raised a brow and herded her into the main lobby, past the main doors above which hung the letters The Plaza. Now she knew where she had heard the address. She'd only driven past this place a hundred times in the past, wishing she could spend a night in it before she died. Now she was going to, and she wished she wasn't.
He checked them in and a bellboy showed them to a suite. Lara couldn't take in the exquisite wealth it took to run a place like this; she couldn't see the opulence, the beauty of class. She just saw the carpet pass beneath her feet, and only felt Vincent's arm securely wrapped around her waist. He'd checked them in as husband and wife.
When they arrived to their room he'd dismissed the bellboy with a tip, leaving Lara to walk dazedly over to the bed where she sat down. Unable to hear, unable to see. Numb. Another night. God, she would give up right now. No human could bear another night with this man, in this position. She didn't even react when he took her limp hand and pulled her to her feet.
His hand brushed her chin, "We need to get you out of those clothes."
She jerked then, propelling herself as far away from him as she could. He paid it no more notice than a brief cruel grin, as he walked over to the phone.
"Yes, Room Service? I need a black dress."