Chapter 2

Bastard

"And there ain't no fuckin' way
That you're leaving here alive today."
- Dope

The vibration of her cell phone against her thigh jolted her from her sleep just as a scream of bloody murder would have. Luckily, her reaction wasn't nearly as violent, and she managed to calm herself down much more quickly. She was just lying on Skylar's bed, in his manly, muscled arms, safe in the darkness of his room. A glance at the clock told her that it was just past ten. They couldn't have been asleep for long.

She wriggled free of Skylar's loose grip with little difficulty, as she'd done this many times before when needing to return home before curfew or having to pee during one of the few overnight stays his parents had allowed, and slid off of the bed. He simply grunted as her weight left the bed, tipping slowly onto his stomach in the space she'd left behind. He was too heavy a sleeper to do much more than that.

Torryn pulled her phone from its place in her front pocket, the light of the caller ID casting a bright glow over the small room. The number displayed was unrecognizable, and because of that, she easily recognized it. It was Antony. It had to be.

"Hello?" she said softly, putting the phone to her ear. She had to draw it away almost immediately, however. The sounds of an angry, over-excited crowd screamed at her from the other end of the line.

"Torryn?" came a gruff voice, accompanied by ragged breaths and the occasional soft growl, more animal than human. The screech and heavy slam of an old, rusted metal door swinging shut was the next thing to be heard; then, there was silence. The crowd had been left behind.

She moved the phone closer to her ear slowly, cautiously, as if she were afraid the sounds would suddenly return. When they didn't, only a rough repetition of her name reaching her ears, she relaxed. "Antony?" she whispered in return. She could've sworn her voice would be too soft to hear, but Antony's response came quickly enough that the volume had to have been sufficient.

"Yeah. Where are you?" He let out a long sigh the moment he was done speaking, one that she probably wasn't meant to hear. He sounded tired, but far from done doing...whatever it was he was doing.

"At my boyfriend's house," she answered uneasily. Did he plan to find her, to come kidnap her and take her to that angry crowd?

"And where is that?" Well...he didn't sound too threatening...

"I'm not going to tell you where my boyfriend lives," she nearly scoffed, finding the very thought absurd. Kidnapping her was one thing, but she was not going to put the man she loved most in any sort of danger, no matter how nice her kidnapper sounded over the phone.

"Why? Do you think I'm going to come kill him?" Antony snapped, apparently insulted by her incredulous tone. He calmed down before she could even think of something to say, however. "It doesn't matter. Can you meet me somewhere nearby?"

She found herself feeling even more unsure now. He'd gone from nice to mean to nice again in less than a minute. Could she really trust him? Was this little debt worth enough to leave her alone with him, especially at this time of night?

"The McDonald's on Main Street is within walking distance," she found herself saying after a moment of half-assed debate. What was she thinking? If she didn't do as he asked now, he would probably just hunt her down and make her do something worse later. Why risk it? "Would that be all right?"

"Sure. I'll meet you there in five minutes." There was a click, then silence. The glowing screen of her phone told her that the call had been ended.

In the darkness of Skylar's room, she stared at that screen until it went black, shocked by her own stupidity. What was she getting herself into?

-?-

The moon was bright as she crossed the parking lot of the Main Street McDonald's. Or maybe it was just the glow of the many streetlamps lighting the area. She guessed that it was a combination.

She stepped over the curb and onto the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, turning to put her back to the wall instantly. There was no telling who could be out here this late, watching her, following her, waiting to strike. Of course, she was probably just paranoid; but she crossed her arms and put on an air of badassity nonetheless. Better safe than sorry. Even though acting tough could easily make her twice as sorry...

It had been five minutes since her call with Antony had so abruptly ended. She had spent two of these minutes standing in Skylar's room, arguing with herself about whether to show up here or not; whether to tell Skylar where she was going or not. In the end, the choice had been pretty easy: meet with Antony, never say a word to Skylar, and hopefully live through the ordeal. As far as she knew, Skylar was still safe in his bed at home, and would remain as such until the next morning. He probably wouldn't even be surprised to find her gone when he awoke. She'd done this several times before, though she'd ended up at her own house instead of at a place as random as this.

She'd been waiting for only a moment when a car shot into the parking lot and screeched to a halt a few feet in front of her. The car was one she could never even dream of standing beside, let alone sitting in: a sleek red Ferrari, shiny and new. It was probably the sexiest car she'd ever seen. So, naturally, it came as no surprise when the tinted window rolled down to reveal the pale, flawless face of Antony Warren. In the shadows, he looked almost beastly, his visage that of a predator stalking his prey. She was simultaneously drawn to him and repelled; attracted by his danger and his beauty, but afraid of what he might do.

"Antony?" she asked softly as she stepped cautiously toward the car. She realized too late how stupid that must have seemed to him, as it was clear that she already knew who he was, but he made no comment.

"Get in," were his only words to her, not quite commanding, but definitely not to be disobeyed. And who would want to disobey? A thrill ran through her as she walked around to the other side of the car, taking the cool handle and pulling it open.

The moment she was sitting on the dark leather of the passenger's seat, the door just closing behind her, the car sped out of the parking lot with another screech. They were approaching forty by the time they hit the near-vacant street, topping eighty a moment later. This was definitely the sexiest car Torryn had ever seen.

There was little to be heard in the car, with the radio off and Antony silent, his eyes on the road, but there was, oddly enough, plenty to smell. She noticed it as only a slight coppery tinge to the air at first, then a cloying smell once she'd placed it: blood. Not a lot of it, but enough to be noticeable. She turned to Antony, wondering if he was the source.

Slowly, her eyes slid down him. There was nothing on his face, drawn and intense as it was; nothing on his neck or along his shoulders and arms, peeking out from a white undershirt. She noticed a smudge of dirt across the white fabric pulled tightly across his chest, however, and it didn't take long for her to catch the red staining the cloth over his stomach. There was a tear there, just below his belly button, and she could see a deep gash through it. Blood no longer oozed from the wound as far as she could tell, but enough had already spilled to be worrisome.

"Antony," she started quietly, afraid that her voice would be too loud in the car's oppressive silence, "what's-"

"It's a cut," he interrupted her. His tone was even, but his face seemed to become even more drawn as he spoke. "No big deal."

"Oh...All right." Of course, it didn't look like "no big deal." But she just looked away, watching as the world quickly passed by outside of the car. They were weaving through traffic, dodging cars and running stop signs and red lights, but she found herself more worried about what awaited her at the end of this little trip than what could happen to her on the trip itself. If a tough guy like him was injured, bloody and dirty and tense, there was no telling what could happen to her.

-?-

Barely a minute later, the car jerked to another hasty halt. A glance out the window told her that they were in a parking lot beside an abandoned building, an old office building, if the faded, lopsided sign above the double doors and the many floor-to-ceiling windows, most of them broken, were anything to go by.

"Rothren Supply Co.," she read softly to herself as she slid out of the car. She looked around the parking lot as she closed the door, thinking that it was rather full for an empty building. What exactly was going on here?

"Follow me," Antony told her, his voice already fading into the distance. He was heading toward the building's cracked glass doors at a brisk pace, obviously in a hurry. He walked like he drove.

The doors opened easily, only the softest of creaks to accompany the swinging motion, and the pair stepped into the old place. It was dark, only one overhead light illuminating their way across the dusty carpet of the floor. There were a few scattered papers, a couple of chairs lying on their sides, but otherwise, the building was empty. Or, at least, it appeared to be empty.

She first noticed the noise when they neared a half-open door, swinging on its rusty hinges in some unseen breeze – people, lots of them, shouting and talking and fighting. The noise was a low murmur here on the first floor, but that changed in a matter of seconds.

Antony led her through the old wooden door and down the flight of stairs it was meant to hide. They came to a rusted metal door, which the boy opened with an impossibly easy tug. The sudden onslaught of sound was enough to make Torryn take a step back. It was the noise she'd heard when on the phone with Antony earlier, but now, she was hearing it in person, twice as loud.

"What...is this place?" she asked hesitantly as they passed through the door, it's loud thud barely heard over the crowd as it shut. There were hundreds of people here, all packed together in the limited space of the basement. Unlike on the first floor, all of the lights were on here, the room brightly lit with only the corners in shadow. In the brightness, Torryn could tell that most of the people here were men. The only female she could see was herself.

Before Antony could answer her question, she felt a large hand against her chest, stopping her dead in her tracks. "No females allowed," the bulky man told her, his voice a low growl to match the threatening look in his narrowed brown eyes. He was a full foot taller than her, and she felt ridiculous as she tipped her head back at almost a ninety-degree angle to look at him.

"She's with me," Antony told the man, smiling almost deviously. His fingers slipped around her wrist and began to tug her to the side, closer to him. The other man's hand dropped to his side. "Besides, she's no helpless female." He winked, and a less-than-pleasant smile spread over the man's face for a reason Torryn could not fathom.

"She's the one, then? Your fighter?" His smile grew as his eyes slid over her frame. It wasn't hard to see that she didn't fit in here, scrawny and breast-laden as she was. She opened her mouth to argue, to inform the man that she was no fighter, but Antony spoke before she could.

"She is, indeed." He let out a light, easy laugh, clearly not minding the way this man was looking at her. In fact, it seemed to amuse him. "When's the next fight going to start? I want to get her in before someone else finds a reason to shank me." At the reminder of the boy's wound, Torryn glanced toward his stomach. His shirt was still stained, the fabric torn and reddened, but the gash...It was gone.

"There's only been one fight since you left," the man informed Antony, no longer eying Torryn with that dark, mocking look. "The rest of the competitors have opted to wait for your return...and your grand champion, of course." And there was that look again, cruel and taunting. He was lucky Torryn didn't consider herself a fighter, or she would have knocked his ass out by now.

Antony sighed, no longer as amused as he'd been only a moment ago. "Victor wants her, I take it?"

"Of course. He wants to prove that you and yours are all pathetic wastes of space, after all. He thinks it would be an honor to take the piss out of the little girl you've bragged about all night." He frowned suddenly, a hint of what looked like worry entering his eyes as he turned to Torryn. "He's vicious," he said softly, still speaking to Antony, though his eyes remained locked with hers. "Do you really think she can take him?"

"He's human, isn't he?" The humor had come back to Antony's voice, a cocky smile curving his lips. "She'll have no problems. At all." His grip tightened on her wrist, and he began to lead her through the shouting, arguing crowd.

Their destination, she soon discovered, was a makeshift ring in the center of the room. The walls were made of old, rusted chain-link, the floor a blood-stained bunch of those ugly blue mats used in school gymnasiums. It was a few yards across and just as many wide, making it a perfect square of grimy padding. A man leaned against the door with his arms crossed, casually watching their approach. He was an even six-foot, sporting heavily muscled arms and a bare, equally muscled chest. He clearly spent too much time in the gym. And the sun, if one took his dark tan into account.

His shoulder-length blond hair swayed in and out of his face as he straightened, leaning away from the wall upon their arrival. "So, you actually came back, Warren." He flashed a cool, menacing smile, and Torryn nearly grimaced. He was missing one of his front teeth, and several of the others were chipped or cracked. Clearly, he spent almost as much time here as he did in the gym.

"Of course I did," Torryn's escort replied with one of his own smiles, his arrogant and full of perfect white teeth. "I plan to at least win one bet tonight."

"Since you can't win your own fights?" the muscular male mocked, offering another ugly smile. Antony glared in return, his smile now holding a vicious edge. He looked as though he would leap at the man at any given moment, tearing out his jugular with those pretty teeth of his.

"I've won all of my fights this evening, as you well know, Victor," he started, "but none of my bets. It seems I'm not properly gauging the strengths of the other fighters tonight. My own strength is fine." He nearly spat the last word, his grip tightening a bit further on Torryn's wrist.

The other male – Victor, apparently – chuckled, obviously not one bit fazed by Antony's anger or his words. "Right, right. So you expect this little girl to win?" He eyed Torryn now, a light lifting of his bushy blond eyebrows telling her that he believed she would be little to no real competition. "I didn't even know they let girls into these fights."

"They don't." Antony's smile had returned, twice as arrogant as before. "So there must be a reason she was allowed in, right?" The male's eyes darted to him, and the slight worry they now held added a tinge of satisfaction to Antony's own expression.

"All right. Let's see what she's got." And the male led the way through the chain-link door without another word, already flexing his muscles for the noisy crowd.

"I'm supposed to...fight him?" Torryn was stunned. Those girls in the cafeteria had been one thing, but a man who was actually trained to fight, who did it on a regular basis...She didn't stand a freaking chance.

Antony grinned at her shock, though he wasn't mocking her for it. He simply seemed amused by the deer-caught-in-the-headlights look on her face. Her pretty face. Her pretty, perfect, unmarred face, which might not even be recognizable at the end of the night. "You'll be fine. Just let those instincts of yours take over." He released her wrist and gave her a little shove toward the door. "Oh, and don't let him get a hold of you. He could probably choke you out pretty easily, psycho-bitch instincts or not."

Another man shoved her the rest of the way into the ring, the door clinking shut behind her, but she couldn't take her eyes off of Antony. He was already walking casually away from the ring, headed for a table off to one side of the room that was labeled "Bets." He had locked her in there, alone with this muscular, scary-ass guy, and he wasn't even going to stay and watch? Stick around to help in case things got too bad?

Great. She was even more dead than before. Goodbye, pretty face. Hello, ridiculous amounts of pain.