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I avoided Skull’s eyes, stared at the filthy comforter and wondered if Hawk still had eyes on my house, saw that Skull, Darla and her crew entered and therefore he mobilized immediately. I wondered if there were any neighbors at home who heard the gunshots and called 911 and therefore, whatever happened to Brett, there was someone seeing to him and he wasn’t bleeding to death in my living room meaning his baby would grow up fatherless, never knowing his Dad’s voice got soft when he talked about his Mom and that he was ripped and bulky and kind. And wondering, if Tack came up with the money, what that would mean for me.

The man from the bathroom came out, lit a cigarette and at the sound of the lighter catching, my eyes lifted to him only to see coc**ne kidnapper headed my way. My eyes locked on him as he approached and his eyes scanned my body as he did it.

He, on the other hand, wasn’t hot. He needed a shower and a sandwich. He was way too skinny and not in a slinky, ultra-cool, rock ‘n’ roll Steven Tyler way but in a need to lay off the coke in a serious way way.

He put a hand in the bed and leaned over me, his fevered, coc**ne-brightened eyes on my br**sts.

“I like this,” he muttered, reaching out a hand to run it down my arm as I tried to scoot away. I succeeded in shimmying back a few inches but he just leaned in more. “We got an hour,” he noted, “maybe we can take turns.”

I made a small, involuntary, terrified noise against the gag and shimmied back further.

“Lay off, Skeet,” Skull warned low.

“C’mon, man,” Skeet cajoled, his eyes not leaving my chest, his fingers trailing down, coming close to the side of my breast as I frantically shimmied back further, his knee hit the bed and he followed me. “This cunt looks like sweet cunt. Haven’t had sweet in awhile and, dude, I earned it.”

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Oh God.

I shimmied back further, he followed me then he wasn’t there.

I arched my back and my neck, my eyes following the sound of a body thudding violently against the wall.

“Tack’s rabid for that cunt,” Skull ground out, his long, lean but fit frame pressing deep and predatory into Skeet’s slight one. “You think he’d be rabid for it, pay his fee for cunt dirtied by you?”

I didn’t think so and I would have shared that if I wasn’t gagged.

“Tack doesn’t pay,” Skull went on, “you think, we put her out to bid, they’d pay for somethin’ broken? You got a vase worth three hundred large, it’s worth three hundred large because it’s clean and unbroken. You break it, you f**kin moron, it ain’t worth shit.”

Skeet didn’t answer. Skeet was busy pushing against the hand wrapped around his throat at the same time beginning to gag.

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Skull got closer to Skeet’s face. “Get me?”

Skeet nodded.

Skull shoved Skeet off and Skeet’s head smashed against the wall when he did. Skull didn’t even look at him as he turned away, walked across the room, resumed his seat by the bed at the same time he resumed his unhappy contemplation of me.

I watched him, thankful. My hope was I’d be rescued and when I was rescued I didn’t want to be dirty and broken and I didn’t want that in a big way.

Darla wandered over to Skull, sniffing and rubbing her finger under her upper lip, against her gums. When she got close, Skull leaned back and hooked an arm around her waist. He pulled her into his lap and looked at her.

“You good, baby?” he asked softly and Darla’s face gentled at his voice.

“Yeah, baby,” she replied, melting into him.

Then they started making out.

I looked away deciding to focus, not on my current predicament, but on the fact I was perplexed.

Okay, clearly he was a felon since I was pretty certain that kidnapping was a felony. But he was also hot. He did have that ultra-cool, rock ‘n’ roll thing going on. His wasn’t slinky, it was cut and sinewy, he had great forearms (aside from my scratch marks), veined and contoured. He had a mass of messy, thick, dark hair. His eyes were scary, sure, but they were also an interesting, silvery, light gray. And he wore those faded jeans really well.

Even in the dark underbelly of the Denver they lived in, I figured he was out of Darla’s league. She wasn’t exactly ugly but she was a skank of the highest order. I could see Skull liking rough and ready but Darla took that to extremes.

Welp, to each their own.

They made out for awhile then stopped so Darla could revisit the coc**ne station. Skeet and cigarette kidnapper stayed silent and wired. I knew this because Skeet regularly visited the coc**ne station and paced and cigarette kidnapper chain smoked.

Time slid by and I tried to force my head into daydreams of beaches, bikinis and Hawk but instead I couldn’t stop the day-nightmares of my sister not having the money, or miraculously having it and not bothering to help me out even though I’d stepped in on more than one occasion in her miserable life. I also had day-nightmares of Tack deciding I wasn’t worth the effort since one Kidd sister cost him over two million dollars so he wasn’t going to pay over two hundred thousand for the other one.

During this, as my eyes frequently scanned the space, they also frequently caught Skull’s.

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And when Darla wasn’t in his lap, I found his focus always on me. It was always unhappy and it was also unwavering, intense and patient. Incredibly patient. He was not wired. He did not visit the coc**ne station. He did not smoke. He did not leave his seat and it began to feel like he was some kind of sentry, a guard. Not a good one but one all the same. And I knew instinctively that Skeet and/or cigarette kidnapper were unpredictable and he needed to guard his vase or they would have expended their effort, maybe hurt Brett and bought Hawk’s displeasure for no payoff.

The other thing was, although he seemed pissed at me, he didn’t seem edgy. For Skull, what would be would be. Whatever deal they sealed, it didn’t matter to him and it was worth the wait.

Finally the phone rang. Darla sauntered over to get it from where she left it at the coc**ne station. She flipped it open and put it to her ear.

She answered with, “This better be good news, bitch.”

Ginger.

I closed my eyes and listened.

“Fuck you,” Darla snapped acidly and I closed my eyes tighter. “You got it, I know you got it. What I went through for you? You offer a hundred? Fuck… you. Say good-bye to Gwennie as you knew her.” And I heard the phone flip shut.

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