Return to poughkeepsie, p.2
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       Return to Poughkeepsie, p.2

           Debra Anastasia

  “You want to know, Whitebread? Well, I can’t tell you most of it. Honestly, I wouldn’t even try in your delicate condition.” But the minute the words were out of his mouth, he knew she would be anything but delicate as a mother. She would be fierce and devoted and tireless. “I’ve spent a year wishing,” he finally said. “Wishing the best for all of you. And looks like I got my wish, right?”

  He looked at her. It was her deep gray eyes that made him tell her. “I was this fucking close to blowing my brains out a few days ago.”

  She nodded, waiting for the rest.

  “I wanted to make my absence permanent, because I can’t trust myself. I want to be close to my family. I’m too selfish to leave forever.” He held his head and looked at the floor, ashamed to be admitting his weakness to his brother’s wife.

  “No. No.” Livia turned his face toward hers. “You love us too much to take away someone we love. Beckett, please, your life is dangerous enough. You don’t need you as an enemy too.”

  “Don’t make me out to be something worth saving. We both know I’m a waste.” His voice was so quiet.

  “I wish I was better at telling you why you have to stay here. I wish I could put into words the part of my heart that has your name written on it. That part hurts right now. You have to be here. You love life too much. You’re so important. I wish I could make you understand this.”

  He tried to smile at her valiant efforts.

  “I would keep you if I could. You can sleep here, right on this couch. Beckett, I will let you hold this baby when it comes.” She touched her stomach. “Does that tell you how much you mean to me? It’s the only thing I can come up with.”

  He shrugged.

  “Mouse would be disappointed. He’d feel like he didn’t do his job if you died…Eve loves you. Wherever she is—in this strip club—is that what you’ve been wishing for?”

  Beckett shook his head.

  “No, right? She loves you. You can’t kill someone she loves. You just can’t.” Livia’s earnest efforts filled the room.

  Really? I already did that, baby. Twice.

  Livia bit her lip.

  Beckett picked up her hand and kissed it. “Thank you. I’m sorry for bothering you.” He stood.

  “Please promise me you won’t try to hurt yourself again. Just promise me that, and I’ll let you go.”

  He loved that she thought she could stop him from doing anything. He knew she would try. “You tell my brothers they’ll hear from me again and to keep up the good work. I’m so fucking proud of them. Tell your sister I told her to get knocked up too.”

  “And? For me?”

  In that moment Livia looked exactly like the wife every man should want: flannel pants, little booties on the table, love written all over her soft skin like it was a newspaper. “I won’t hurt myself on purpose. I promise you.” Beckett turned to leave but didn’t miss the tears on her cheeks. “You lock this door behind me,” he added. “And name that kid Beckett.”

  Just before he closed the door he heard her retort, “But I already named the plant Beckett!”

  He waited until he heard the locks click back into place. Safe again.

  He wanted to go listen to Blake. He wanted to pound Cole on the back. But he needed to find Eve. If one more dude saw her tits, his head might explode. Livia had said something that changed his mind. He would keep his promise to her. He wouldn’t blow his own head off.

  “She loves you. You can’t kill someone she loves. You just can’t.” If Eve loved him still, even a little, he couldn’t kill yet another person she loved.



  LOLLIPOP’S WAS NO CANDY STORE. Sin and debauchery rolled off the place in waves. But it was upscale, if you considered low-scale a cardboard box and a flashlight. Beckett had dressed the part: jeans, combat boots, and a black T-shirt. He waited in line and kept his head down, paying his entrance fee like the rest of the slime with hard-ons. The bouncer reminded him of Mouse a bit. He wore jeans, a Lollipop T-shirt, and, absurdly, a bowtie. But when Beckett looked him in the face, he saw none of Mouse’s intelligence.

  Inside, the music was loud, the waitresses were topless, and mirrors reflected every bad choice the people inside made. Beckett slid onto a faux leather couch. He knew from experience that pleather was a great material. With just a few swipes it wiped clean of alcohol, jizz, and blood. Upscale.

  January. He waited for January in the middle of October. Two scumbags plopped themselves at a table in front of him, obscuring his view of the stage. Normally he would have removed them, protecting his personal space like a tiger with a kill. But not tonight.

  A waitress bounced up. Her welcoming body language and glittered skin couldn’t entirely offset her dead eyes. “Hello, handsome. What can I get you?”

  Beckett looked her up and down. The fluffy tulle skirt was meant to make her semi-nude body seem playful, but her nipples were too large, and he could easily see the scars from her last boob job even in the dim light.

  “Whiskey. Just bring me the bottle.” He turned his attention to the back of the scumbags’ heads.

  “Sorry, sir. We only sell it by the glass.”

  “Listen, dollface, you get me the fucking bottle, and I’ll tip you so big you can get those frankentits fixed and get your ass up on stage to make some real money.” He pointed at the offending mammaries with two fingers.

  Without a word, Frankentits disappeared into the throng of sweaty men.

  The spotlights began whizzing around the club, their operator careful not to focus on any particular patron’s face. Shortly, a partially dressed chick in a French maid’s costume began to prance around onstage, using her duster in a variety of crazy ways. Beckett looked around, but he’d seen it all before: the panting men trying to pretend they weren’t watching the girls, then getting too soused not to ogle.

  Frankentits arrived with his bottle, and he slid a wad of cash into her tutu. She scrambled off to count it in such a way that made him believe she would be shooting it up as soon as she could.

  French maid, nurse, naughty schoolteacher—every fantasy played out on the stage. As the time ticked by, Beckett tried not to picture Eve demeaning herself in front of these assholes. Would she be the dominatrix? Of course. He was going to grab her and get the fuck out of here before any man saw her. He would keep her covered. Still, he drank like it was his purpose in life. For some reason he had to.

  Finally the music rose to pounding, and the lights flickered on and off. Alternating strobe lights prepared for the big reveal. Beckett wished he was wrong, but as the club went pitch black, he knew he would see her. A spotlight cracked through the darkness, and at center stage, a black-leather-clad goddess stood with her back to the men. She cracked a whip with a flick of her wrist. She began to turn, and Beckett got to his feet, finishing the last guzzle of the whiskey.

  The two fools in front of him started moaning. “January. Oh man, my dick’s so hard. Just watch her work. Ah…”

  Beckett looked down at them and contemplated cracking their heads together like pool balls. He situated his hands behind their skulls. Then he realized they weren’t looking at the stage, but toward the bar. The dominatrix now turned to face the crowd, and she looked nothing like Eve.

  The assholes started grabbing their crotches and moaning, “January.”

  Beckett followed the direction of their lust. Two drunk guys were being handsy with Frankentits, and now security arrived in the form of Eve/January. She wore a version of the bouncers’ gear: short daisy dukes, red heels, T-shirt, and a bowtie. The men had Frankentits backed against the bar, and a crowd had formed around them. Eve confidently used a barstool as a stair. She hopped onto the bar and waltzed along as if it were a sidewalk.

  She kicked one drunk’s head like a soccer ball, and he went down with a thud. The other looked up past the miles of legs to her face, beautiful even when angry. The assholes in front of Beckett groaned and stood on their chairs to get a b
etter view. The music ground to a halt.

  “That dude’s going to die. She’ll kill the fuck outta him,” one said to the other.

  Eve slid off the bar and had a knife to the man’s throat, but she’d started to smile. “Offering me money? What’s this? A dollar? Did you think I would take my top off?”

  The drunk nodded.

  “Eat your dollar.” Her eyes sparkled.

  The crowd started to chant “Jan-u-ar-y!” over and over.

  Beckett stood on a table to watch her. The drunk did, in fact, eat his dollar.

  The bouncers from the front door had made their way to the ruckus. Eve nodded as the men removed the drunks. She had no comforting words for Frankentits. She just slipped her knife back in her hair. The crowd clapped and whistled at her. She had no reaction.

  As the cheers faded away, Beckett kept clapping. A slow, mocking cadence. “Hey, January!” he called. “What do I have to do to get you all up in my business?”

  Eve stopped, her back to him. There was a low mumbling in the crowd. No one had ever dared taunt her, of that Beckett was sure. He jumped off the table. “How about this?” He swiveled and cold-clocked one of the assholes in front of him, who was still holding his penis.

  She faced him, looking furious, which made Beckett angrier. He gave the other asshole a three-punch combination. He, too, went down like a sack of rocks. She stood glaring at him as he closed the distance between them.

  “I leave you to start a life, I live without you, and this is my replacement? You’re a freak for them to cheer about?”

  She closed her eyes. He was being cruel, and he knew it.

  “January? Do you have such a taste for blood that you couldn’t walk away from it? You’re that much of a fucking vampire?” He was close enough to touch her now. But he didn’t.

  The crowd was paying attention. Beckett figured she was an enigma to them. The most beautiful chick in the world, doing a man’s job in a strip club. He would love it if he didn’t hate it.

  “They’re mocking you, January. They’re not really afraid of you. You’re as much of a show as that piece of trash.” He pointed to the stripper onstage.

  She opened her eyes. “You know what? This is what I do. If you’re trying to shame me, you’re wasting your breath. I never killed you—that’s enough shame. Go, Beckett. I don’t want you. Don’t come back.”

  Eve turned and exited through a door behind the bar.

  Beckett just stood there, wiping his mouth. All the wrong words had come out.

  Eve, please be next to me, ’cause I don’t think I can stand on my own.

  Eve, be with me, because at night I shake and only your warm skin can heal me.

  Eve, don’t leave, because I have nowhere else to go.

  After a moment he followed her, with no one making a move to stop him. Above the club there was a crappy hotel. He heard her heels hitting the last step and knew where to go. From the skeezy hotel’s hallway, he imagined her silhouette dancing across the sheers in her room. Her shape would be sharp, the light soft. She’d pace, agitated—probably steaming mad, actually. Beckett bit his lip and cracked his knuckles. He needed to taste her.

  He didn’t bother knocking. He didn’t call to her. He approached the door like it was already open. His combat boot hit the door’s sweet spot, and it crashed, releasing its hold on the night. Eve already had her gun in one hand and was pulling her knife out of her hair with the other. That made him hard. He didn’t slow down, just swatted the hand with the gun and grabbed her by the throat. He slammed her against the wall.

  She made no noise. She was far too tough for that. He should explain, but he didn’t have a taste for words. He had a desire to swallow her moans. To be everything she wanted. Even if she said she didn’t.

  “Kill me now,” he screamed at her. “Do it! Do it, or I fucking take what I want. I’ll give you a count of three.” He meant it—either he would be dead or he would have her. “One.” He loosened his grip. She tightened hers on her knife. “Two.” Beckett licked his lips. She put the knife to his throat. He bent his neck to give her access to his jugular. They waited, tension rippling between them. “Three.”

  Eve threw the knife, and it lodged in the headboard across the room. Through her half-slit eyes, he saw lust.

  “You’re mine now. You gave up. Know that. You could have killed me. Now nothing will stop me.”

  Eve turned her head. Letting him. Beckett grabbed her neck again. With his other hand he grabbed her waist and threw her. She landed in the middle of the bed. She pulled herself backward, her eyes on his, already panting.

  Beckett smiled as he grabbed her ankle and pulled her to the edge of the bed. He pulled off his shirt and stood, penetrating her first with fear. How far would he go? How much would he take?

  Eve set her fuck-hot red hooker heels on his bare chest. The danger in her face was an alarm to any man who dared get this close. She could easily slam a pointy heel between his eyes.

  He pulled her shoes off, declawing the tiger. Her ridiculously tight denim shorts were in the way. Beckett retrieved the knife from the headboard, silently cursing her for how deeply it was lodged. When he turned back, she hadn’t moved. The door hung open, jagged, from its hinges. Pounding bass from the club made the floor beneath his feet vibrate.

  He returned to his spot between her legs. “You want this. You want me here. Say it, Eve. ’Cause I’m the only motherfucker with the balls to do this to you. Fucking say it.”

  Her voice was raw. “Do it.”

  Beckett used the knife to cut away the fabric, sawing so close to her pussy that she gritted her teeth. He watched her face as he cut her loose, and when he was done his knuckles were wet from brushing against her. She was so hot inside, she could probably melt the knife into a silver puddle. He repositioned the blade and held it like a psycho killer. She found herself moaning. Beckett brought the knife down hard and fast, burying it in the mattress up to its hilt, right next to her face. Eve turned and stared at it, tossing under her own touch.

  Beckett grabbed her wrists. “Stop that. You’ll come for me and only me.”

  She snarled at him. He could tell she hated that she wanted him so much. He let go and grabbed the center of her T-shirt, ripping it to reveal her breasts. They were rising and setting like two fucking suns. His fingers dug into her neck. She slapped him across the face. Again. Again. He pulled her to a sitting position.

  “Find my dick and put it in your fucking mouth.”

  Eve punched his stomach and undid his buckle, the button. The zipper to his pants was hard to loosen around his erection, but she managed. He could feel the air and waited for her gorgeous red lips to take him. Eve slapped his cock across its head.

  “Son of a bitch.” He tightened his grip on her neck.

  Her lips had a blue cast to them, and blue lips were sexier than red as she wrapped them around him. Instead of tongue and humming, Eve tortured him with scraping teeth. Every third rake up and down, she released to slap him in the cock.

  He let go of her neck and crawled on top of her, angry with need. “You’ll suck my dick, or I won’t fuck you with it.” He used his most threatening gangster voice.

  “Make me.” Eve licked her traitor lips, so plump.

  He kicked off his pants and boots. Beckett climbed her body so his cock was all she could see. When he pushed it to where her mouth should be, he was met with her tongue, then her hands. Exquisite. She was so fucking good at this. Finally she turned her head, and his aching dick hit nothing but scratchy comforter.

  He rolled off her and stood.

  Eve wiped her mouth. “I’m taking good care of you, but fuck you. Fuck you, Taylor.” She got off the bed as if to leave.

  “The hell you’re leaving.” He had to move quickly to catch her. The crazy bitch walked out the door, her shorts hanging like a skirt. Beckett grabbed her by the hair and reached around for her breast.

  He spoke to her neck, licking it in between words. “This
is where you want it? Where everyone can see you?” He pinched her nipple. Beckett kept his fist tangled in her hair. He dragged the other hand down her stomach, around her hip, and underneath the ragged denim. She was more than ready. He stuck three fingers into her without warning.

  Eve grabbed the railing that kept the drunk motherfuckers from falling off the second-floor walkway. Her knuckles were white. He moved his hand at lightning speed, letting his pinky rub her, and she rocked into him with pleasure.

  “More? You want my dick? Eve, you whore, you want it?” Beckett bit her neck.

  All she could do was moan.

  “Say my fucking name. Now.” Beckett stilled his hand.

  She panted. “I hate you.”

  He yanked her hair and forced her to look at him. He took the hand from between her legs and held her jaw tenderly, the smell of her sex between them.

  Her blue eyes filled with tears. “I love you.”

  His forceful manner slipped. His voice caught on the emotion in his throat. “I know. I’m sorry.”

  They kissed deeply, lovers on a balcony, until Beckett broke the kiss. “Say my name.” He rubbed his length against her back, reminding her what he had to offer.

  “No, asshole. You say mine.” Eve adjusted her hips, and he bent his knees.

  All the way in on the first thrust.

  Beckett had taken Eve from her now-exposed former place of shelter. He’d registered them brazenly with his given name in a fancy hotel on the other side of town, far from Lollipop’s. After a night of fucking everywhere they could prop themselves up, they’d fallen asleep together.

  The next morning, Eve lay in the soft, crisp, monochromatic hotel sheets, seemingly exhausted. Beckett moved so very slowly—she was always quick and ready to kill. But to see her lie in the gentle feathers of morning sunlight was a treat he’d never expected again. The white light had not a hint of gold, and her pale skin grabbed and absorbed it. He propped his head on one hand, and the other itched, wanting to touch her. Is her skin warm from the sun?


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