Free Stories

Short Fiction – Hero

Originally published in Plains Paradox
Summary: A couple tries to reignite their flame. Too bad flashpint requires murder.
Rating: M
TRIGGER WARNING: consensual sexual violence, violence
Word Count: 2628


She stood in front of a mirror by the door to their hotel room; her handbag clutched under her arm as she leaned close to the mirror. With an expert hand, she slid creamy her red lipstick over her full lips; the last bit of bait for the hook.

“How long will you be gone?” Kevin asked.

“As long as it takes,” she replied, carefully wiping the corners of her mouth with the pad of her ring finger.

“But… you won’t do anything without me, right?”

Frowning at his need for reassurance, she tucked her lipstick into her purse and went to sit beside him on the king size bed. She needed him to trust her, to trust in her feelings for him. She couldn’t do it without him.

“I would never do anything with him unless you were there,” she promised, scooting closer and stroking his temple. “This is for us, Kevin. You want us to get that feeling back, don’t you?”

His arms wound around her and he pulled her to him firmly. “Yes, more than anything. But—“

“Shhh, baby,” she soothed as her fingers tangled in his hair. “I promise this will be the last time. I just need your help once more, and I promise, I’ll never ask again.” Her eyes pleaded with his, the panic buried in them betrayed her fear in the possibility he would say “no.”

“You know I will,” he pledged against her lips.

She didn’t reply. She simply smiled and kissed him again, then left.

She went to a different club that night, she knew it was better to mix it up, better to not leave a trail, or give any indication of a pattern. Once inside Brando’s she wished she had come before. The place had a comfortable lounge feel to it; its lavender lighting and wrought iron staircase lent an air of old-world sophistication to the Victorian space. Loveseats were tucked into the corners of the room, and the sounds of swing music danced jubilantly through the air.

The crowd was filled with guys in jeans and T-shirts with slicked back hair and women in vintage dresses and saddle shoes. Yet, sprinkled here and there throughout the crowd were a few promising options attired in modern masculine grey and assertive black; colors she adored on men, and loved piled in a hastily dropped heap on her bedroom floor. They stood out amongst the retro crowd as much as she did in her black mini-skirt and silver sequined top.

She entered and blended in to a dimly lit corner to better scan the crowd for a likely target. Considering if she could snare one of them wasn’t even a remote consideration. She’d never had a problem in that regard. She was a woman of single-minded purpose when inspired, and she always set about getting what she wanted in the most direct manner. With minimal effort, men would flock to her, and she merely had to choose which unlucky bastard would receive her unique attentions that evening. None nearby suited her, and she decided to walk through the club to take better stock of the inventory.

She emerged from the shadow near the front entrance and drew the attention of the men near her the moment she wished to have it. One fell in behind her as she moved through the room toward the bar. She let him buy her first drink, but could barely sip on it so overwhelming was his cologne. She gave him nothing but fake, half-interested smiles. He wasn’t tonight’s main attraction.

“May I buy you another?” She heard a deep baritone say near her ear so he could be heard over Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.

The music forced a certain proximity and volume between strangers. She turned toward the voice and found it belonged to a handsome tall man, his light brown bangs hid the color of his eyes, and he wore a confident, polite smile.

“I’m fine, thanks,” she replied, friendly, but cautious. This part was fun for her. Hell, all of it was fun for her. All of it was for her, but she especially enjoyed being a different person with each of them.

“But your glass is empty,” he persisted, “and you look bored. Maybe I can solve both your problems.” His grin widened as he swept away the hair hiding his brown eyes. She noticed how his black slacks and untucked button-down shirt seemed perfectly tailored to him, outlining an athletic physique. You’ll do just fine, she thought.

“Perhaps, but I doubt it,” she rebutted, fiddling with her near-empty wine glass. A little dash of hard-to-get never hurt either. Men liked to think they were the predators, and she could easily play the part of hapless prey.

He wasn’t discouraged. “This place is terrible, isn’t it? The music is awful, and the drinks are weak.”

“Then why are you here?” She asked with feigned interest.

“The concierge at my hotel said it just opened and recommended the music and scenery. He was right about the latter,” he said, eyeing her up. “Why are you here? Your outfit doesn’t seem conducive to the Lindy Flip.”

She resisted the urge to roll her eyes and smiled at him instead. “I just like the music. Don’t you?”

“It reminds me too much of why I’m in Chicago.”

“I take it an East Coast Swing competition isn’t the reason?” She quipped.

He chuckled and sipped his drink. “No, just visiting my grandfather for a few days.”

The bartender made his way toward them. Her new companion ordered himself a gin and tonic, and she ordered a chardonnay. The barkeep disappeared and their conversation continued.

“So you’re not a fan of Glenn Miller?” She asked.

“Not at all. It’s all they play at my pop’s nursing home,” he replied, and took a drink. “It reminds me of Mylanta and mushy food.” He made a disgusted face. “What about you? Are you here for the music, or the scenery?” He asked. His forearm brushed lightly against hers as he sat his glass on the bar. The touch caused that now familiar zing to race through her body.

Patience, she reminded herself.

“Definitely the scenery,” she answered as her eyes propositioned him through lowered lashes.

He put his hand out to her. “I’m Mark.”

“Renee,” she lied, and placed her hand in his. They shook slowly, their hands lingered together for a moment, already unwilling to let go of one another.

“What brings you here tonight, Renee? Besides the scenery, that is,” he asked, leaning casually on the bar.

“I’m in town for a teaching conference. A friend back home told me about this place.”

“And where is back home?”

“Lincoln, Nebraska.”

“What do you teach in Lincoln, Nebraska?” Mark asked.

“Psychology,” she answered.

“Not animal husbandry?” He teased.

“Har-har.” Renee pretended to be affronted and changed the subject. “Where are you from?”

“I’m from here, but I live in Boston. I hate Chicago and couldn’t wait to leave.”

“I don’t know, Chicago seems like it would be a fun town,” Renee countered. The bartender arrived with their drinks. He turned to Renee and raised his glass to offer a toast.

“To psychology.”

“To escaping,” Renee added and smiled.

Their glasses clinked together, and they watched each other as they sipped their drinks. After a moment, Mark leaned in close to Renee’s ear.

“Want to sit down?” He asked, and pointed toward a newly vacated love seat against the wall. She smiled and nodded gratefully; her high-heels were killing her. She turned and he followed, his fingers grazed the small of her back. The touch was tinged with anticipation. They sat down, and she moved closer to him. His eyes smiled encouragingly as their thighs brushed against one another. Their conversation flowed easily, and the loud music forced a closeness that consumed their attention and distracted them all at the same time.

Renee lost herself for a moment each time his warm breath wisped across her neck as he spoke near her ear. She almost began to feel guilty. He seemed nicer than the others were; more of a gentleman and less of a thug like in those sleazier clubs she’d been going to. She suddenly found herself wondering what being involved with this sort of man might be like.

He was a far cry from insecure and oblivious Kevin. She quickly shook her head to rid it of the dangerous thought.

Don’t see them as people, she reminded herself.

The live big-band was loud, but not overpowering. Several couples were out on the dance floor swaying gracefully as the bandleader crooned Body and Soul. Mark’s fingers trailed around Renee’s knee and up her thigh to catch her hand resting in her lap.

“Would you like to dance?” He leaned in and asked. The scent of his spicy cologne mixed with the clean fragrance of laundry soap made her feel so safe.

“You know how to swing?” She looked surprised.

“We don’t need to swing to this song,” he answered, and offered his hand to her again. She accepted, and let him lead her to the dance floor.

The slow languid melody brought them close together, their nerves taught with the possibilities the next few hours held. Mark kept his arm securely around Renee’s waist, holding her tightly flush against him. She gave herself over to him, to the moment, to the music and to the fantasy. She tried to ignore the fact that she genuinely liked this one. He had been the best yet; attentive, funny and romantic. She rarely experienced romance in her life. She shook her head silent again and brought her hands to his hair, her fingers twisting and tangling in his thick brown strands. His lips met hers and she knew she had him.

Her mouth moved to his ear. “I’m ready to go, do you want to leave with me?” She asked, eager for the next act to begin.

He nodded and followed her off the dance floor and out of the club.

Mark hailed a cab, and held the door for her then got in beside her. “The Marriot, please,” she instructed the driver before Mark could say the name of his hotel. The cab took off and arrived at her hotel a handful of minutes later.

The anticipation was building to flashpoint, and once the elevator doors hid them from view, Mark cornered her, his mouth on hers instantly, his strong hand cradling her delicate jaw. Her knee hitched over his hip, and he caught it with his other hand automatically. Her head fell back against the cheap wood paneling as she moved one hand up his chest, her fingers weaving into his hair and pulling, the other hand clawing his back. His lips trailed down her neck, and her fingers moved to the top button of his shirt. Before she could get to the second one, the elevator stopped on the eleventh floor and the door opened.

He followed her down the hall, his hand resting more possessively on the small of her back. He couldn’t see the victorious smirk she wore, or how it complimented the carnal excitement that colored her face making it glow.
They stopped in front of room 1114. She turned to face Mark, sliding her hands up his chest and clasping them behind his neck. “Would you do me a favor if I asked very nicely?” She cooed. Then softly, sweetly, kissed him, taking his lower lip between hers.

“Uh-huh,” he mumbled, entranced. His hands gripped her just behind her hips.

”Will you play a little game with me?” She whispered against his lips.

His fingers dug into her hips a little deeper. “What do you have in mind?”

“Do you like to be in control?

He nodded as he nibbled along her jawline. “Sure, who doesn’t once in a while?”

“How would you like to be tonight?”

He smiled devilishly. “Sounds fun.”

“Good. Just until I say the safe word. Even if I pretend to fight you, you keep going. Understand?”

“Sure,” he mumbled, mimicking her by taking her bottom lip between his. “What’s the safe word?”

“Baseball.” She giggled.

“Baseball. Got it.” His grin was

She pulled away from him, and slid her keycard through the reader on the door. She opened it a sliver, then turned to him.

“Give me a minute to freshen up?”

“Sure,” he replied.

She handed him the keycard and slipped through the door into the dark room. The door closed behind her with a click, and he saw a light turn on through the gap at the bottom. He reached into his sport coat pocket and plucked out his cell phone, turning the ringer to silent

He waited a few minutes more before he slid the key card through the lock and opened the door. The room was a cheap attempt at contemporary urban elegance. Its colorless white walls and matching bedding sucked all the energy from the tiny room. The dark furniture contrasted harshly with its colorless surroundings, and a hard, linear king-size bed dominated the space. He saw Renee’s black hair spilled across the pillow furthest from him.

“Get in,” she said in the smallest of whispers. He kicked his shoes off and tossed his sport coat on a nearby chair. He didn’t bother with the rest. He crawled in beside her and the change in her body language was immediate.

“Please, no!” she cried, sounding suddenly frightened. Her body became rigid and cold. He hesitated.

“Keep going,” she whispers quietly. “I want you to.”

He sighed as if determined to overcome everything he was taught about respecting consent. Pulling the blankets away from her, he lays himself over her completely. She wiggles but doesn’t put up much fight. He takes one of her wrists and slides it above her head, pinning it firmly to the mattress. It felt so tiny and fragile encircled in his thick fingers.

“Stop!” She yelled, but not loud enough for anyone to hear her. He hated to face it, revolted against it, but her feigned fighting him caused his blood to warm. She struggled against him and tried to break her hands free of his grip. It did her no good, but she wasn’t really trying, he could tell.

He wedged his knee between both of hers, forcing her legs apart. She continued to struggle half-heartedly, kicking her legs and fighting against him. Her eyes never stopped sparkling. His grip on her wrists tightened, and he was too involved to hear her yell “BASEBALL!” Nor did he hear the click of the bathroom door opening. He was too involved to notice anything until suddenly he felt the most amazing explosion of crushing pain on the back of his head.

His dead weight fell on her, and although he was conscious, he wasn’t able to move. Suddenly, he felt himself being pushed, and he was rolling off the bed. He hit the floor hard, and felt something warm and wet trickling from his nose. He could see Renee sitting up in the bed, her eyes fixed on him as if she was the ravenous lion and he was the feeble wildebeest. From the periphery, another figure came into Mark’s view. A man got in the bed beside Renee and started nibbling on her bare shoulder.

“Did I save you, sweetheart?” He asked.

She flung her arms around him and pretended to sob. “I was so scared, thank God you heard me!”

“I’ll always be your hero, baby,” Mark heard the man whisper before he succumbed to blackness.

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