I walked my brother’s only daughter around the sights, snarling at street corner conmen and would-be pickpockets. The kid just drank everything in open-mouthed and adoring every moment. After four leg-weary hours even she was ready for a sit-down, and I guided her into Frankie’s Grill.
It’s not the most salubrious joint in town, but the food is good and they know me. I ordered burgers and fries and while we waited I just listened as she babbled. When she suddenly stopped speaking and swallowed as if her mouth had gone unaccountably dry I turned to follow the direction of her eyes.
“Shit,” I said with some feeling, “what’s he doing here?”
“I don’t know. But I wonder if he wants company.”
“Probably. But we ain’t it.”
She regarded me solemnly for a moment then nodded.
“If you say so. Though he sure is pretty.”
He was more than pretty, with the sort of hard-edged handsomeness that turns the knees to water. I laughed.
“Pretty dangerous, kid.”
Right on cue, the server came with our food.
The kid waited a beat. “He a John?”
“He is. Although not one of mine. Now eat your burger before it goes cold.”
The kid applied herself to her plate with a healthy appetite, even managing to finish my fries before she sat back replete.
The man now occupied a booth opposite us, from whence he stared at me with his mesmerisingly blue eyes.
“He looks at you,” the kid remarked, “as if he don’t know whether he wants to fuck you or strangle you.”
“Oh. He wants to do both. Simultaneously.”
The kid looked sick for a minute then firmed her chin.
“Nope. Not my bag,” she gave a nervous half giggle.
“Mine neither. If anybody is getting beaten up I reckon to be doing the beating.”
Then my stalker made a mistake. He turned his gaze from me to the kid, undressing her with his eyes and enjoying the blush that spread from her neck upwards.
“Can you make him stop that?”
“Sure. You just pop to the restroom. I’ll come get you when it’s sorted.”
It wasn’t more than thirty seconds before he came and slid onto the banquette next to me, sitting so close I could feel the heat of his lean thigh. He put his big hands on the white tablecloth and I looked at where the black hairs marched across their backs. He spoke first.
“What is it worth to leave the little one alone?”
I didn’t answer, merely turning my head to meet the icy heat of his eyes.
“I asked you a question.” His voice had quite nearly the cut of a whip.
“And I chose not to answer.” I kept my own tones cool and sweetly reasonable. Something I knew would both irritate and excite him in equal measure.
“I will have you,” he groaned. “I will have you bound and naked and at my mercy.”
“I think not.”
“Not even to save the child.”
“You are not interested in her.”
“Maybe not. But I will take her if nothing more challenging is offered.”
I half turned towards him, showing him the white column of my throat. He swallowed and slowly clenched and unclenched his hands.
“Do you want me to call you master?”
“I want more than that. How far are you prepared to go to save the child from the bite of the cat o nine tails?”
“About this far,” I licked my lips and slipped the knife between his third and fourth ribs.
“About this far..”