Connor let out an umph as his back hit the wall. He tried to struggle, to push himself away from the dingy, striped canvas that was the teal and taupe wallpaper, but a pair of hands came up and pushed him back onto the dirty, brown stained surface. To be fair, he wasn’t resisting that hard.
As the hands tugged up on the blue shirt, sliding the buttons off at one at a time, he tightened his hands in the blonde hair and kissed and bit up her neck. A fierce warmth overtook him as she pulled the shirt down his arms. It caught on his wrists, so she dropped to her knees. Her smile was open and devious as she yanked the sleeves off and the garment landed in amongst the heaps of clothes that littered the worn, gray carpet.
She removed his belt with her teeth. The ferocity of her action shocked him a little: her hands ran up his legs, and she bit down hard on the black strip of leather that held up his pants. He had just a moment to be impressed by her jaw strength before she was jerking down hard on the chinos without even having the courtesy to undo the button. He was filled with that good kind of pain as the clothing slowly gave in to her insistent tugging.
As the last of his garments were ripped and pulled away, he grabbed her by the chin to bring her to eye level. Her look was deep and lusty, but with a fierceness that usually prefigured a trip to the emergency room. He spun around and pushed her up against that same ugly, striped, papered wall. Her breasts were squashed up against the wallpaper and her butt stuck out to meet him, a moan that bordered on a growl escaping as his hands ran down her sides to her hips. He forced his thumbs down into the tight space between her skin and jeans and yanked hard. It was her turn now.
As he laid on the crumpled up bedding, still completely naked, he reflected on the morning’s activities. Sometimes Leyla was gentle like a kitten, others she was a tiger. This had been about ten levels beyond even that.
It had been one of those sessions that reminded him of a tornado busting through some tiny, aluminum trailer park in Kansas. They had destroyed a lamp, knocked the leg off an end table, made a dent in the wall, and added some new stains to the milieu of mess that made up the walls and floors of her terrible, one room apartment. The look on her face was hungry, predatory almost, as she laid with her top half on his chest. Her blue eyes were a lake in the storm as the gleam of the remaining lamp put the white point of a dagger on their radius. The dagger was fixed on his neck as she slowly craned her head down to kiss along his collarbone.
Connor wasn’t wholly surprised. She always got frisky before a job, and the bigger the job, the more voracious her desire was. He had been expecting, from the moment she answered the door, that this morning was going to feature fireworks on an unprecedented level. He just hadn’t been expecting the destructive power of an atomic bomb.
He had shown up early knowing how this was going to go down. Hell, it was his favorite part of the job. The white dagger points came up and bored into his dark eyes. He knew what was going to happen next as well.
“Break it down for me, Connor.” Her voice was eager and breathless, filled with confidence that her very nakedness assured her the answer to so simple a question. Through the haze of afterglow and the smell of her perfume in his nostrils, he realized she was right too.
It always happened like this: her inquiring on the details of the job right after the deed was done. Connor figured it was her little insurance policy. If she could get the low-down on the particulars, he couldn’t double cross her. The sex was a reminder of what he’d be missing out on if he ever did decide to put one over on his ‘partner with benefits.’
“This job pretty much writes itself, doll.” He said nonchalantly as if there were nothing more to be added. He never would betray her, obviously. Even ignoring the side perks, she was the best partner he could have asked for. She was smart, methodical, and never deviated from the plan unless the situation called for it.
He had taken her from a terrible, two-bit pickpocket to a lean, cunning grifter with the face of an angel. One pout, one tear, one plea and it was over. Whoever the mark was, he was putty in her hands. Heaven forbid she turned on the waterworks; every Nick, Joe, and Harry in a three block radius would come running. No, he had no reason to double-cross her, but that didn’t mean he didn’t get a great deal of satisfaction from making her work for every last little detail.
She took his hand into both of hers, made an exaggerated show of separating out the the middle one, then sucked on it as she slid it slowly in and out of her mouth. The lusty, misty blue shone through the white dagger points as he felt his insides turn to jelly. Her voice was husky and raw due to the screaming from earlier, “Please.”
“There’s a place called Securities, Ltd. It takes up this small storefront downtown in between that little clothing store and the place that used to be a record store.” She was playing with his hand, having finished her playful licking of the middle digit. She ran his fingers along her cheek and down her neck. “According to the security guy, they got guards there 24/7. Thing of it is: they aren’t allowed to go into the one, big room that makes up the bulk of the building. They patrol the three halls that surround it, but nobody goes in or out of that room ever. What’s more, they draw down better wages than your average guard.”
“That’s the part I pitched in, big boy.” She had run his hand down to her chest by now, dragging his thumb back and forth across her nipple. She had also begun rocking her hips back and forth. He moaned in time with her as she began to trace his fingers further down. Her voice was a rasp, “What about the rest?”
“Mick and I played a Baron von Trapp and didn’t get too far, but we did notice that the cameras were on a wireless signal. Brody cracked the encryption; God knows how he does it. We’re gonna’ hack the signal and loop it.”
His voice trailed off as she began to sigh at the circling motion of the hand that she was still holding hostage. He was suddenly having a very difficult time keeping his train of thought. She broke the momentum of moaning motion as her voice almost gasped, “Don’t you think the guards will notice when their feed changes over?”
“That’s the last part of the job. I got feed a week ago from four p.m. to four a.m. You’ll go in and pull an ex-girlfriend in the afternoon, I’ll swap the feed, then we can head in a few hours later under cover of darkness. The shift switches down to two guards around eight, so that’s probably when we’ll make our move. That gives us eight glorious hours to get in, get the loot, and get the hell out of dodge. It’s an easy score.”
She flashed him that devil-may-care smile that she gave only to him. One look at that smile and you knew what she was: no-good. Her insistent motions were causing his breathing to get heavy. Her nails raked down his chest as she kissed his neck. Her heady, breathless whisper danced in his ear, “And you’re sure there’s something worth stealing in there.”
“Nobody hires guards unless there’s something worth stealing, especially if they’re gonna’ go through the trouble of paying them well. You know I ain’t one to pick the 100:1 horse when there’s a safe bet in the chute.”
“This is a lot bigger than anything we’ve ever done before, Connor.” The emphasis she put on bigger told him that what had happened earlier was just the opening act for her. Her scent filled his nostrils as the ardor of her desire added an urgent need to her motions. Slowly, she was rousing his affection.
“Yeah, it is, doll. No joke, this could be the biggest take we’ve ever seen. We could be set for life from this and never have to do another job again.”
“Last job, eh?” Her smile was lascivious as her eyes were painted with satisfaction at feeling his response to her motions. “We’d better make it a memorable one then.”
He groaned at the mix of passion and exhaustion. With the hurricane that the last session had been, he wondered if he would be able to pull off a repeat performance. He grabbed her by the hips and put all of himself into it. He was hungry for her embrace. If this was going to be his last time in her arms, he wanted it to be one hell of a finale.
The shakiness that was running all the way through Connor’s legs and arms was worrisome as he tried to half-heartedly sit up and flip his legs over the bed. He felt like a well worn piece of rawhide, and he was beginning to have serious doubts about his ability to sneak down hallways and break into secret rooms in his current state. Despite his best efforts, he didn’t even manage to sit up. Rather he just flopped over onto his side and contemplated the edge of the bed the way a base diver considers a cliff. He was sure that, if he flung himself over, instinct would kick in and he’d catch himself rather than faceplant into the piles of clothing, magazines, and paper plates that were strewn about the floor. Something inside told him not to press his luck.
Three soft fingers came up to his back and gingerly fingered the rows upon rows of long, straight scars that resided there. The tenderness in the touch sapped his will, so he see-sawed his body to bring himself face to face with the blonde minx who looked just about as worn out as he was.
“You could stay for a bit you know. We got a long while before four.” Even now, as empty and exhausted as he felt, something about the look she gave him made him ache. Her face was a beam of contentment amidst the strewn limbs that spoke to her inability to move properly.
“Something tells me that after an hour of lying in bed you’d have my Social Security number, account info, and all of my internet passwords.”
Her eyes flitted coyly to the side as she sidled over into his arms, “Who says I don’t already have all those things?”
“Yeah, right. If you did, you woulda’ taken me to the cleaners already.”
Her look was a mask of offense and indignation, “My own partner? For shame.”
She had pulled away, but he found he could move his arms again if it was for the purpose of wrapping her up and bringing her back, “Hey now, doll, enough of that. You know I don’t mind you being what you are. If you weren’t, we wouldn’t be partners in the first place. But don’t try to bullshit a bullshiter.”
She ran a hand to smooth a strand of his hair from his forehead. “Maybe after all that activity I could just use a good cuddle.” His eyebrow arched doubtfully. “Or maybe I just want to ask some serious questions for a change?”
“Serious questions? You mean like how much wood would a woodchuck chuck?”
She pinched his chest. He tried to grab for the ticklish spot above her knee. “No! Come on, Conner.” She squealed in delight, but grabbed his hand to stop the rumpus. “Two and a half years we’ve been running the game now. I think I’m entitled to a few.”
“Yeah, of course. Serious questions. I am an open book.” His look was the opposite of honest.
“Go ahead, shoot, sweetheart.”
“Okay. Easy one first: How long have you run with Mickey and Brody and how did you meet them?”
He shrugged, “I don’t know. ‘Run’ is such a serious term. I mean, it’s not like we’re partners. They’re just, I dunno’ … pals, I guess. Mick’s the guy who saw me when I first got outta’ juvie. He gave me a place to stay for awhile, fed me, and made sure I knew how the city worked. He caught me up on the lifting game in town and made sure I kept my nose clean with Joey.
“Brody and me go back to foster. He and I were in a halfway together for a bit before he moved on. I ran into him on the street, and we caught up. He was running some tech goofs here and there, so I asked if I could hit him up if I ever needed an egghead to hack a computer for me. I’d crack wise with them, maybe give them a hand here and there, but, before you and I started running the short game, I didn’t have much reason to bring them in on jobs.”
“So you’re just a bunch of wise guys making me look good?”
“Don’t take that much work, doll.”
She smiled at him pleasantly. Then, after what appeared to be a spur of the moment decision, she kissed him. It threw him for a loop. Not because it was an amazing kiss, though it was, but because she didn’t kiss men as a rule. She’d only locked lips with him three, maybe four times the whole time he’d known her. At least two of those she was drunk, and another was to sell her role for a job. The last one he wasn’t sure he should count. It was in the middle of the night, and she hadn’t remembered it the next morning. If he had to guess, he’d say she had sleep-smooched him. Her eyes were warm and bright as she came back up, looping her hair over her ear and suddenly looking away demurely as if she’d given something up.
“Any other ‘serious questions?’ I’m starting to think we shoulda done this game years ago.”
“How long were you in juvie?”
“I dunno,’ about five years.”
“Because you were a thief?”
“Nah, I learned most of my tricks while I was in there. I was a rebel without a clue when I went into juvie. Some of the boys in there are much more creative about their crime, their violence too, naturally.”
“Is that what happened to your back?” He could feel every little indentation on his back as her hands ran down his shoulder blades. He had to close his eyes and take a deep breath to not be taken to the terrible place where those scars were given to him.
His voice was jagged, “You ain’t playing fair, doll. I told you. I don’t talk about that. It’s one of those ‘in the past’ things for me. And I don’t discuss it. Not now, not ever, not for nobody.” They had tried to get to know each other a little better after they had first become ‘acquainted,’ only to run into a minefield of things neither side wanted to talk about. They had agreed on a list of topics that were non-starters. He was pissed off that she had forgotten that conversation.
Her look was pure apology, “Yeah, I’m sorry. I take the question back.”
He still felt a little irritated, but, on the other hand, he really wanted another kiss. “No problem, angel. Is that it for question and answer time?”
“Well, I do have one more …”
“Go for it, as long as it isn’t on the ‘in-the-past’ list.”
“What’s your real name?”
“Now who’s bullshitting a bullshitter? You’re not the only one with friends on the force, y’know. I looked you up when we first ‘got in bed’ together. Connor Donnelly doesn’t exist. He’s practically a ghost.”
“I think the name you choose for yourself is more real than some relic handed down to you from people who never gave a damn about you in the first place.” His words were bile and venom. Damn, he thought, I never wanted her to get that particular piece of information.
He found that he had the energy to sit up now, or at least the indignation to. He swung his legs over the bed, feeling that this whole thing had been a mistake. It was time to go anyway, he reasoned. He scanned the masses of garments on the floor looking for his pants as he contemplated the quickest way out the door. Leyla sat up behind him and wrapped her arms around his chest. Her voice was breathy in his ear, “Don’t go. I’m sorry if that question was a little too serious.”
He wanted to pull out of her arms dramatically and storm off outside where, with any luck, there would be a rain storm ready to add atmosphere as the imaginary strain of a violin sounded to indicate the heightened emotion of the climax. It all looked real good in his head, but he was still having trouble locating those damned pants. “Where do you get off anyway? Giving me the third degree when I know practically nothing about you.”
It wasn’t exactly true. He had seen his share of abuse victims from his time in foster. Her weird hang-ups about kissing spelled out the rest. He felt her arms tense around him at the suggestion and he immediately regretted what he had said. His voice was contrite as he said, “Sorry, doll, I didn’t mean that. I understand having a past you don’t want to talk about.”
“No, that’s fair. I asked you a bunch of personal stuff, so I opened myself up for it. Ask away.”
He had tried to ask some of those questions when they had made that ‘in the past’ list, and the result had been particularly disastrous. He decided on a different tactic this time. “What was your favorite movie as a kid?”
“Adventures in Babysitting.”
“Worst fashion mistake?”
“Those terrible sneakers with lifts on them. You don’t have to pitch me soft balls, you know.”
“Soft balls? Are you kidding? Now I get to carry the image of you wearing ugly, awkward platform sneakers for the rest of my life. That’s just damning information right there.”
She pinched him a bit. He grabbed her hand and turned to face her, looking to tickle her again. “I meant it. Anything you want to know. I’ll say it.”
“Truly, that’s all I wanted to know.”
“Don’t you want to know about my …” She couldn’t even finish the sentence before her eyes welled up and a few tears began to pour down her cheeks. She had a really strange scar along her shoulder near her neck. She fingered it self-consciously now. She never liked to talk about it, and now Connor knew that it was more like she couldn’t talk about it.
He placed his hands on her face and wiped the tears away. “No, nothing like that, doll. You had a shitty past. I know that. I did too. I ain’t gonna ask you about things that are better left buried. As far as I’m concerned, everyone gets to start their own story where they want. You and me, we just like to skip past all that bullshit kid-stuff.”
She cleared her eyes. “Yeah, I’m sorry, Connor. The whole ‘serious question’ thing feels like it was a bad idea in hindsight.”
“Nah, I still got that mental image of you listening to cheesy ’80s pop and dancing around on your ugly shoes, so it wasn’t a total wash.”
The look she gave him was unimpressed. “Can you stay for a bit longer?”
“A bit, not too much though or we’ll miss the window entirely.”
“What a shame! I mean, it’s not like we couldn’t just go tomorrow.”
“Look at this, Leyla DuBois wanting to put off a score. Getting cold feet?”
“Maybe I’m just not in a rush. If the score’s as big as you say, it can wait.”
“Because it’s big enough that we won’t have to work any more.”
She was silent.
“You know that we don’t have to sever all ties just because we’re set on money, right? Hell, we don’t even have to stop pulling jobs if you don’t want. The work’s good, and we get it done.”
She nodded; there was a hollow sort of look on her face that Connor thought bordered on regret. She looked away for several minutes, but when she turned back her eyes had their usual warm, wet quality to them. “To the job, then?”
“Yeah, to the job.”
“Well, if you’re wanting to go out and do that big, set for life job, you’re probably going to need these.” She reached over her side of the bed and flung his pants at him. She can be a very clever minx, Connor thought ruefully.
Leyla turned on the shower as he located and put on the remainder of his attire. She pulled a couple of pieces of clothing from a drawer and plopped them on the bed. He was impressed that she had any clothes left in there with the piles that were taking up the floorspace. She pranced around the apartment assembling a towel and various toiletries, clearly not interested in covering herself quite yet. Connor missed a button while staring at her walking back and forth.
“Close your mouth or you’ll catch flies.” She teased.
“Hey, maybe I’ll be blinded on this job. I want to make sure I got a good image in my head, just in case it’s the last thing I ever see.”
“Maybe you should go home and shower too. We don’t want the guards finding you by smell.”
He watched her take the clothes from the bed and fling them into the bathroom. It was a pair of tight leggings and an old worn t-shirt for the first part of the job. “Hey, isn’t that my shirt? Where’d you get that?”
“You don’t expect me to reveal all my tricks, now do you, Connor?”
He picked up his jacket from the heap that it had landed on. She had finally retreated to her shower, so he had to yell, “Curtain’s at four, doll, don’t be late.”
A hand shot out from around the door to wave goodbye. Putting the jacket on over his rumpled clothing, he turned up the collar. Opening the worn, creaky door, Connor had to shield his eyes from the bright mid-day sun as he walked out of her apartment and down the cracked, crumbling stairs. It was a shitty apartment in a shitty complex in a shitty world. Tomorrow, he assured himself, everything’s gonna be different.