Jack ran his fingers through his hair as he walked down the sidewalk, the morning sounds of the city incapable of penetrating his thoughts. Again, he was in a daze, unable to think about anything other than what had just happened.
She was above him, her body wrapped around his, her hair falling on either side of her face like thick dark curtains. In the shadow, he could see her eyes glinting at him, smiling. Her skin glowed softly from the sunlight pouring in from the window. She kissed his chest over and over.
He rubbed his face, his skin crawling with the touch of her fingers as he strolled through the busy market. He felt like he was going mad, his thoughts repeating everything.
She wouldn't let him take control; he just lay there on the soft sheets, watching her as she moved above him… She liked being the one in control. He could tell by the look in her eyes, teasing him.
It hadn't even been about pleasure. The only pleasure he had felt was watching her, feeling her. But it was something different. Maybe it was because it had been her.
He smirked to himself and then heard the shouts of his friends. His smirk disappeared.
"'ey, Cowboy," Race said as his eyebrows peaked. "Good night?"
Jack looked at their faces as they came down the steps from the Lodging House. He could see the bombardment of questions on their lips, their eyes eager as they watched him, studying his face.
He leisurely put his hands in his pockets and slowly began taking steps backwards.
"I ain't sayin' nothin'," he said as he retreated.
The boys yelled in complaint and chased Jack all the way to the Paper Docks.
Talia closed her eyes as the steam filled her nose and clouded her mind. The hot water soothed her aching muscles and she leaned her head against the porcelain, feeling the curve of the edge against the back of her neck.
Jack knew how to be with a woman; that was certain. But she didn't want to think about how he had learned how…she had thought about it before, Jack with another girl, but her mind automatically shut out the thoughts, the images.
She lifted her hand and watched the water drip from her finger tips. Jack had kissed them only an hour ago while her legs had been wrapped around his torso, his warm body under hers. Every inch of her, every inch that had touched Jack or his eager lips, felt different now, felt more alive. It may have all been in her head. But she did feel different.
After soaking, she rose from the tub and dried off. She looked in the mirror as she twisted her hair up and it was when she was wiping away the steam from the mirror that she saw his reflection, standing in the doorway to her bedroom, smiling at her.
She froze and felt as though he had shot her; seeing his face struck her to the core, shaking her violently. She felt sick. Every good thought, every memory from earlier, fled her mind and was replaced by the last night she had seen him. She wanted to scream but the very image of him terrified her into silence.
She dropped to pick up the towel on the floor to cover herself. She whipped around, her fierce eyes landing on his smirking face.
"How did you get in here?" She barked, though her hands were shaking.
He strolled across the room, dropping a new bouquet of white roses on her bed.
"Are you not pleased to see me?" Garrison crooned, picking at his suit cufflink. He stopped at the foot of her bed, motioning to the sheets, "Busy night?"
She growled and then shouted, "MEDDA!"
"Ah, ah," he said. He removed his hand from his pocket to reveal a revolver, glistening in the sunlight from the window. She swallowed the shout in her throat and felt her heart sink. He waved the revolver around carelessly, "I wouldn't do that, if I were you."
She regarded him for a moment, her eyes filled with pure hatred, and she glanced at the window across the bedroom, hoping against hope Jack would appear.
Garrison stepped closer to her and she could smell his cologne, the smell that still put knots in her stomach. He placed the revolver under her chin, teasing her, and she pulled away from him, backing into the tub.
"You've been quite the busy little bee," he said, looking around her bathroom. "Building a new life, new home, new beau…he's a handsome one, I'll give him that, but I always picked you for the man-with-money type."
She gritted her teeth.
He continued, "Let's face it: no matter what you do or where you go, you'll always be a whore." He laughed, "No amount of clothing…or celibacy can change that, my dear."
"What do you want?" she demanded.
He held up the gun to her eye level, waving it in front of her, "Let's speak with a little more respect, shall we?"
She swallowed again. Her throat was dry and scratchy. She was still trying to figure how he had gotten in. She had locked the door…the only one with a key was Medda and she knew it hadn't been her…unless…
Jack had left the window open. Garrison had been watching them, waiting for Jack to leave.
Her stomach dropped.
"If you're here to kill me," she said carefully, quietly. "Then do it and be done with it."
Suddenly she didn't want Jack to come back; she wanted him to stay as far away as possible. Looking into the crazed hazel eyes in front of her, she knew there wasn't anything he wouldn't do. As long as he got his way.
And if it meant keeping Jack and the others alive, she would let him have his way. She had no other choice.
"I have no intention of doing that, darling," he said, his deep voice irritating to her. He stroked her cheek, "I have better uses for you."
Her eyes flashed up to his face, glaring.
"I have a new…business venture," he mused. "It's something you are quite familiar with. Something you are pretty good at. Unfortunately there's nothing in it for you, kid. But for me, well, the Rockefeller legacy will benefit quite nicely." He leaned against the vanity, looking at his face in the mirror.
"You'll be my first profit…I won't expect you to be…eager to help me. It's not the prettiest... But it's where men go. And where men go, there's money to be sucked out of their pockets."
"Why do you need me?" she asked. Her voice was sharp but she was trembling inside; why couldn't he leave her alone? Why couldn't he forget about her?
Because she had wounded his pride. And for that, he had to punish her. Deeply.
"You, my pet," he purred, placing his hand against her neck. She shivered.
"You are going to help me. It's something I am new at but it's something that has been around for quite some time…You've probably heard about it."
He smiled and his white teeth glinted, "You will be my prize mare. At least, until I find another one to sell."
She already knew what he was talking about; she'd heard stories from other girls, horrible stories. She fought the fear growing inside her. She never had reason to believe that she should fear it; before, she had the protection of Rufus in his brothel. But now she was on her own, available for the taking. She couldn't see any way to avoid it, especially if Garrison was the one taking her there.
"See, with you," he reached for her hair, letting it fall between his fingers. He looked up at her and smiled softly, "Men will be lined up at the door…and I'll sell you at the highest price. Sadly it's a onetime transaction… but I'll be the richest man in New York."
"And if I don't help you?" she hissed.
He chuckled, his hollow eyes glinting as he looked down at her hand, clutching the towel to her breasts.
"Then you can kiss your friends goodbye," he said darkly, smiling at her. "And I'll make sure that Jack Kelly is the first to go."
"You? You would kill them?" She asked, her accent harsh. She tried to sound incredulous, but her throat was tight. Her heartbeat was thudding away in her chest and she couldn't breathe to keep up. He had Jack's name, and that's all Garrison needed to find him.
He smirked, "I wouldn't, my love. You forget who I am, who my family is…" his fingers trailed down her arm. "I have eyes all over the city. And if a few street rats were to disappear…well, who would complain? Who would notice?"
She read his horrible eyes and knew he was right.
"Don't forget that, darling," he said, stepping closer. Her eyes were on the revolver in his hand. "And it would be in your best interest not to fight me; I've brought friends…and I don't want their fingers to bruise that beautiful skin."
She glanced at the mirror over his shoulder and saw their reflections; two burly men were smoking on the fire escape, smiling darkly at her in the reflection.
He smiled and nuzzled his face into her hair, smelling her. She closed her eyes and fought the urge to hit him, to take the gun and shoot him. Her life wasn't the only one at risk now.
"Now, tell me you'll help me..." he purred into her hair, sending chills up her spine. "I need to buy my fiancé a ring..."