The peer and the puppet, p.33
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       The Peer and the Puppet, p.33

           B. B. Reid
 

  “Do you mind moving your car?” I gingerly approached the thin man of average height with a receding hairline and too-thick beard. The rest of his crew matched his unsavory appearance. “My friend and I are about to break curfew, and I don’t want my stepdad calling the cops like he did the last time that happened.” I laughed so I’d appear at ease while hoping he’d heed my warning. Underaged girls with parents who cared? Maybe he’d think twice about killing us.

  “Hand over the cash, little girl, and we’ll let you go home to daddy.”

  I could feign ignorance, but I was almost sure he’d just kill us both and take the cash anyway. “How do I know you won’t kill me anyway? I’ve seen your faces.”

  “What exactly are you going to tell the police? You’d be just as knee deep in shit.” He lifted his gun, but instead of pointing at me, he aimed at Tyra. My heart lurched when I heard her cry out. “I’m not going to ask you again.”

  I took careful steps back with my hands out until I reached the car. Tyra was frozen stiff as I retrieved the money from under the seat. I assured her that we’d be okay, but it fell on deaf ears as she stared down the barrel of the gun.

  Walking back over, I felt my ire rise at the smug look on his face. “My boyfriend is a vengeful son of a bitch. If you kill us, you’ll be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life.”

  He smiled, showing off a chipped front tooth.

  The moment I offered the money, the sound of racing engines filled the night as headlights set on high beam chased away the remaining darkness and blinded everyone in the vicinity.

  Every second that followed happened too quickly for me to recall. Gunfire rang out, and the sound of bodies hitting the ground followed along with screams and curses. I hadn’t realized I was huddled in a ball on the ground until I felt myself being lifted in strong arms and carried away. Footsteps pounded the pavement, and then I was tossed into the back seat of a car. The door slammed along with the sound of others, and then only the sound of tires screeching could be heard.

  “Four, are you okay?” The voice sounded familiar, but I didn’t dare open my eyes. I was afraid of what I might see. “Four! Four!”

  My eyes involuntarily popped open, and I found Jamie staring back at me from the front passenger seat. “I-I’m okay.” I glanced at the driver. Ever’s jaw looked carved from stone as he focused on the road with a tight grip on the steering wheel of the Crown Vic. I was sure he had been the one to rescue me from the gunfire. “Tyra?”

  I was almost afraid to know the answer. If anything had happened to her, I would never forgive myself.

  “Vaughn is trailing us in her car.”

  I exhaled, feeling some of the weight lifting from my shoulders. I also noticed the fact that Jamie was doing all the talking rather than Ever. “Thank you,” I meekly voiced with my eyes glued to Ever. My nervousness only heightened when he didn’t reply.

  “I can’t believe that was you out there tonight,” Jamie said with awe and a shake of his head. Either he was oblivious to the tension surrounding us or ignoring it completely. “You have some serious skill, girl.”

  “Thanks. I’ve been riding since I was eleven.”

  “No shit?” he exclaimed.

  I simply nodded before laying my head back against the seat and closing my eyes. Jamie caught the hint and didn’t speak again. The silence brought me a small bit of peace.

  I woke up on top of a plush bed inside of an even more luxurious hotel suite with no memory of how I’d gotten there. “Lay low until morning to make sure you aren’t being followed and, even then, be careful. We’ll do the same.” I listened as booted footsteps moved across the next room. A door opened, and then the gruff voice spoke again. “Franklin will want to speak with you when you get back.”

  Back? Where the hell was I?

  I quickly sat up as footsteps approached, and a moment later, Ever appeared in the doorway. His mask was in place as his eyes emotionlessly roamed over my body as if searching for something. I did the same and was happy to see he was unharmed.

  “Where are we?”

  “Hotel.” He then turned away, and I stopped breathing when he laid a gun on the dresser.

  “Did you kill those men?”

  “Does it matter? Would you rather it have been you dead instead of them?”

  “No, but you—”

  “I didn’t kill anyone,” he bit out.

  “Then who?”

  “Thirteen.”

  “Who is that?”

  He turned and met my gaze with some reluctance and asked a question of his own. “Why?” The way he stressed the word let me know he wasn’t questioning my curiosity. This was something else entirely.

  “Why? Why what?”

  “Tonight,” he slowly pronounced as he stalked across the room, “was my one and only chance to get to Fox.” He stopped at the edge of the bed. “I lost that chance by saving you, instead. Why?”

  I wrapped my arms around myself, wishing they were his instead. “I—I don’t know why.”

  “Because I love you, Four, and that’s the problem.” His golden eyes glittered as he stared down at me. “If I didn’t, you’d be beaten and broken or dead, but at least then, so would Fox.”

  “I’m sorry.” I should have been elated hearing that he loved me, but all I felt was guilt because clearly loving me had cost him a great deal.

  “You’re not, but you will be.”

  Sick of being bullied and threatened, the last shredded thread snapped. “What does he have that is so goddamn important?” I screamed.

  “My mother!” he roared.

  The room had fallen deathly silent as my shock pushed away the anger. I would have dropped to my feet if I had been standing as I recalled Jamie’s harsh words from two weeks ago.

  “Don’t expect Ever to choose between you and his mother. Just because Rosalyn is a piece of shit doesn’t mean everyone’s mother isn’t worth the trouble.”

  I’d been too hurt and too distracted to realize I’d had the answer all of this time.

  “I…I don’t understand.”

  “I never asked you to,” he shot back. “It was my fight. My demons.”

  “I’m sorry.” I was starting to sound like a broken record.

  “Why are you sorry, Four? This is what you wanted all along, right? To save my soul?” Slowly, he clapped. “Congratulations. You succeeded. Now who will stop me from breaking yours?”

  His cruelty made my heart race as tears welled. “Don’t.”

  “Don’t what?”

  I crawled to the foot of the bed where he stood and tugged him close with my fists in his shirt when he tried to back away. “Don’t make me hate you again. Don’t become cold again. Just…don’t.”

  “Why should I be the only one to lose something tonight?”

  “Then take something from me. Whatever you want. All that you want. Take until it’s enough to make it right again.”

  He didn’t respond, so I leaned in to kiss him and was mortified when he dodged my lips and took a step back. My heart sunk into my stomach when he retreated until his back was against the wall.

  “Please…” The plea slipped from my lips involuntarily.

  “Take off your clothes.” The determination I had a moment ago quickly fled. Noticing my hesitation, he said, “Take them off, or I’ll rip them off. Your choice.”

  With shaking hands, I unzipped my leather jacket and removed it from my body. Standing from the bed, my boots and pants followed and then my thermals, until I was left in my green cotton bra and panties.

  I imagined this moment before.

  He’d run his hands over my body and tell me I was beautiful.

  In reality, Ever didn’t touch me or utter a goddamn word, but boy, did he look his fill. Hiding my disappointment, I hooked my fingers in my panties to remove them when he finally spoke.

  “No.”

  Pushing from the wall, he crossed the space and cupped my hips with warm hands. They ro
amed up my side, making me shiver until he reached my bra. His scent calmed me like wildflowers on a summer day or the ocean on a calm night.

  “Look at me.”

  I hadn’t realized until that moment that I had been gazing at his T-shirt-clad chest. When I met his gaze, he unhooked my bra and gently slid it down my arms. My panties were next, and when they laid discarded on the floor, he dropped to a crouch.

  “Yesterday, when I touched you, I thought I’d go crazy.” His voice was soft and filled with awe as he gazed at my bare pussy. “When did you do this?”

  “A couple of weeks ago.” I was amazed that there was still not a single hair there.

  He placed a tender kiss there and then ran a finger through my lips. “So soft.”

  I almost fell over when he hooked my leg over his shoulder without warning. I shoved my fingers into his hair and held on as he ate me. The friction from the warm metal circling my clit intensified until I was a gasping, crying mess. My legs shook when he released me and stood. I watched as he reached behind him to grip his shirt by the collar and pull it over his head. His body was a sculpted work of art. I wanted to see more of him.

  When I reached out to undo his belt, he snapped, “Don’t touch me.”

  My ire quickly returned. “You can touch me, but I can’t touch you?”

  “Please.”

  I swallowed. It would be hard, but I could do it.

  “I want to see you.”

  I restrained myself from running a finger down his abs while he looked as if he was having an internal battle. When the fight ended, his only response was to push me until I was flat on my back. He wouldn’t look me in the eye. Honey gold darkened as he stared between my legs.

  “Show me your pussy.”

  I did as he demanded.

  “Touch yourself.”

  I did that too and was delighted when he undid his belt and slid it free. I grew alarmed, however, when he folded it in half. “I’m tempted to use this on you.” My hand fell from my clit and dropped onto the bed. “Don’t stop,” he ordered, but it sounded strangely like a plea. The belt fell from his hand onto the floor, and I resumed pleasuring myself.

  He swiftly kicked his jeans aside, leaving him in black boxers.

  “Ever, I—” Words were lost as the pleasure built.

  “Keep going, princess. I want you wet and ready for me.”

  He shed his boxers, and for the first time, I saw all of him. A whimper escaped me as I debated if he would even fit. Luckily, he didn’t allow time for my fear to build. With a condom in hand, he moved between my legs before ripping open the wrapper with his teeth and sliding the rubber down his swollen cock. He then lowered his body on top of mine. Taking my chin in hand, he held my gaze.

  “Whatever I want, right?”

  “Yes.”

  My breath caught when he found my entrance and pushed inside. Deeper and deeper, he buried his length inside of me, but when the pain intensified, I planted my hands on his abs to stop him. Gently, he took my wrists and placed them above my head before plunging the rest of the way inside me.

  Head thrown back and body arched, I cried out. I could feel him watching and waiting for the moment when he could move. It wasn’t long before the pain ebbed and throbbing between my legs made me hungry for more.

  “Fuck me.”

  He didn’t waste time, pulling back and driving into me over and over until I was delirious. The sound of our bodies coming together mingled with animalistic grunts and desperate moans.

  Too long had we waited for this.

  “You feel like you’re mine,” he growled in my ear. “Are you mine?”

  “I’m yours.”

  “That can’t be true,” he taunted. “My girl would do what she’s told.” Shifting onto his knees, he held me down with his hands on my waist and pounded into me. I was willing to obey his every command as long as he kept giving me his cock. Just as I was ready to tell him so, he sat back on his haunches and lifted me onto his lap. Hands planted on my hips, he slowly lifted me up and down on his length. It took some getting used to, but before long, I could feel the familiar pressure building inside me.

  “I’m going to come.”

  “Come with me, princess.”

  “I never meant to hurt you,” I cried just before shattering in his arms. His release wasn’t far behind. The sound of his grunt and the feeling of him jerking inside me had me coming apart for the second time.

  He fell back onto the bed, taking me with him. I could hear his heart racing as we fought to catch our breath.

  “Ever?”

  “Yeah?”

  I lifted my head and met his eyes and even though the room was dark I still saw the pain in them. “You can’t go back now. What will you do?”

  He was silent for so long that I didn’t think he’d answer but then he said, “Let her go and hope that she’s happy.” Feeling guilty, I laid my head on his chest to avoid his gaze and rationalized that I couldn’t truly hear his heart shatter.

  I wasn’t sure how much time had passed lying in the darkness. An hour? Maybe two? He had grown soft inside me, and when I shifted my hips, I could feel his cock stirring.

  “Don’t. You’ll be sore tomorrow.”

  “I don’t mind.”

  He shook his head. “I don’t think I can be gentle.”

  “Take what’s yours.” I worked my hips, bringing his cock back to life. “What’s always been yours. We can worry about the consequences later.”

  I had trouble peeling my eyes open hours later and coupled with the ache between my legs, I never wanted to leave this bed. At least I’m clean. I felt my skin heat as I recalled the gentle yet thorough way he’d cleaned me after I finally threw in the towel. Of course, I had been the first to do so. We had gone at it with little breaks in between until just before dawn. He almost seemed determined not to waste a single chance to be inside of me.

  His side of the bed was empty and cold, so I checked the nightstand for a note and found none. My backpack containing my phone, keys, wallet, and change of clothes was probably still in Tyra’s car. With no other options, I decided to take a much-needed hot shower and wait for Ever to return.

  My jaw dropped at first glance of my naked body in the mirror. I looked as if I’d been fighting all night rather than making love. He’d left evidence of passion on my neck, breasts, and thighs. My clothes would hide most of them, but the two on my neck wouldn’t be as easy to conceal, so I decided to ditch my usual ponytail and wear my hair down. Twenty minutes later, I emerged from the en suite and found Ever sitting on the edge of the bed, looking down at his phone. It wasn’t until I inched closer that I realized he was actually fiddling around on my phone.

  “What are you doing?”

  Not realizing I was standing there, his head snapped around in surprise. It made me wonder what on my phone had so successfully captured his focus.

  “I brought your bag up,” he said rather than answering.

  I was too thrown off by his flat tone to make a big deal about it.

  “Is everything okay?”

  Ignoring my question, he picked up my backpack from the floor and dropped it in front of me. “Get dressed.”

  “Are you still upset with me or something? I thought after last night—”

  “You thought spreading your legs for me would make me forget what you did?”

  “But you—”

  “I took what you freely offered. You were eager to please, and I needed to relieve some stress. Turns out you’re no different than the girls who bat their eyes my way, hoping to get fucked.”

  I was too shocked by his cold demeanor to lash out the way I should. Last night, he gave as much as he took. I could still hear him uttering those three words. “Ever, I’m sorry for hurting you.”

  “Doesn’t change that you did.”

  “I see. And when you said you loved me?”

  He winced, and if I had blinked, I would have missed it. He then pocketed his phone an
d retrieved his keys from the nightstand. “We should go. Tyra and Vaughn took off thirty minutes ago, and Jamie’s waiting for us downstairs.”

  When he turned his back and crossed the room, I took a deep breath and called his name. The sound was barely a whisper, but he heard. “If you don’t apologize and hold me right now, we’re done.”

  I hated how small I sounded.

  I should have been stronger. More confident.

  Maybe then he wouldn’t have walked out the door.

  WE RETURNED HOME THAT MORNING, and I was surprised when Thomas greeted us at the door with a threat and a vicious scowl.

  “I’ll have the entire police force combing the streets the next time you three stay out overnight without my knowledge.”

  “Sorry, Unc. We lost track of time.”

  “For nine hours?” Our curfews had been set at ten on school nights and midnight on the weekends, but Thomas was rarely around to enforce his rules, and the house staff kept their heads down. Ever offered nothing when his father looked to him for an explanation. He’d never been the type to offer excuses—or apologize—when he was wrong, so I wasn’t surprised by his silence. Neither was Thomas, apparently, when he dismissed him a moment later.

  “Four, I’d like to speak with you,” Thomas hailed when I started for the stairs. Even though I dared not look at him directly, I was aware of Ever’s sudden hesitation to leave. I wasn’t the only one to notice Ever lingering. “Did you need something, son?”

  Unwillingly, my eyes fell on him and found him watching me with a white-knuckled grip on the banister.

  “I got what I needed.”

  His meaning wasn’t lost on me. Looking away before either of them noticed the hurt his words created, I listened to Ever’s footsteps fade and to Thomas’s sigh.

  “If he’s giving you trouble, you’ll let me know, won’t you? I know my son can be cold and aloof…even with me.” The concern he displayed was genuine, and I admitted for the first time that Thomas was a good man, but I still couldn’t trust him with the truth.

 
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