And now a note from our guest blogger, A.F. Henley:
Chapter VI -- in which I, quite literally, winced at Arik and said out loud, "Don't do that, Arik... seriously, just... Arik... you're gonna get your..." wherewith I forced a heavy sigh, and shook my head, because Arik's listening skills are, well, lacking.
Also, anybody else wondering where Blaze got that cash he slammed down on the table in the last chapter? *narrows eyes and checks wallet*
Welcome to another foray into the twisted lives of our two MCs. And even though I might get shot for this *casts casual glance at the carefully stored shotguns in Kelly's office* (yes, guns, plural), I can assure those who are waiting for it, that things are about to get steamy. In a good way. Soon. Soonish. Scout's Honour.
OK, I was actually never a Boy Scout. But if I had been, I'd totally be confident in saying that.
1. This story is a work of fiction. It belongs to Kelly Wyre and myself, and all copyright laws apply. Please do not reproduce it, or repost it, in any way, without both of our written consent.
2. Blaze and Arik began as my characters, but have long since evolved into a shared custody arrangement. (They like it best at her place. Apparently, Kelly's got all the "cool" toys.)
3. Thanks for reading, hope you're enjoying. We'd love to hear what you think of it.
A.F. Henley ♥
"Craig sustained many injuries and endured hours of torture before being--"
Arik shoved himself into the last stall of the restroom, the announcer's words still circling in his head, and slammed the door with more force than he'd intended. The cheap aluminum barked its disapproval and Arik turned to growl back at it. He lifted a fist, reconsidered, and lowered it back to his side, still clenched, still ready to go in case Arik changed his mind.
Instead, he forced himself to breathe; to lift his left hand, and press his palm over his eye and fingers over his forehead in a soothe so very contrary to its balled-up, furious brother. "Coincidence," Arik murmured. "Heat. I should have been drinking water. Should have eaten breakfast."
The scent of cheap pine cleaner masked, but did not hide, the underlying presence of stale urine. Something ill-fated had started to rot in either corner or behind plaster. The flooring was slick with someone's half-hearted attempt at cleaning; the bleach they'd use somehow magnifying the odour of the mildewing cotton mop instead of making anything fresher. Odd, considering the rest of the sports bar had seemed somewhat clean. But then, really, wasn't that the way these things went — the requisite neon and electronics made everything seem that much brighter and more sparkly? It wasn't until one went digging that one found the filth.
The door to the restroom opened and Arik flinched. He pulled back against the wall and swallowed a whine, even as beration rose inside his chest to hiss at his reaction.
Recollection mocked him. Memory tried to step in and set up camp. It was as if cigarette-smoking, cold-eyed generals began peeking from around corners, leering. "All right, boys," imagination offered. "Maybe we can finally get this show on the road again. Gentlemen, arm yourselves."
"Arik?" Blaze's voice was low and warm, and cut through the veil of Arik's thoughts like they were no heavier than gauze. He didn't reply, though, and his clenched fist tightened that much further on itself.
Blaze's footsteps were light and slow but he seemed to know exactly where to stop and turn. Dark, oh-so-very-comfy-looking running shoes—long but narrow, aged, but not worn—peeked at Arik from under the divider. "Are you all right? Are you ill?"
Ill... damn straight he was ill... he was dying... he was... angry. Angry. Yes, he was fucking angry. Furious, actually. Righteously, violently, overwhelmingly rabid. He reached for the door, snapped the lock with a vicious click and pulled it open. The echo of metal slapping metal resounded over surfaces, and Arik stepped forward, one hand already pointing. "That had nothing to do with anything. That was nothing."
An emotion danced through Blaze's eyes, but whether it was confusion, annoyance, or concern, Arik couldn't say. It was checked quickly and easily, and for some reason, that just fuelled Arik's rage more.
"You did this," Arik narrowed his eyes and stepped closer. "You and your damn witch blood did something."
It was an unreasonable argument; Arik knew it was. Blaze had been nowhere near him when the nudges had started. That thought didn't help shut down his mouth in the least.
"Or was it some fucking crap that you spit in my mouth when we kissed? Dropped in my coffee, maybe? What's your game, Blaze? What the fuck are you doing?"
Blaze's jaw tightened. He nodded, though it appeared more to himself than anything else. "Look, Arik, I hear what you're saying. I see what you're feeling. And I know and understand where you are. But let's try and take it easy on the bashing—"
"Fuck you." The words popped out of Arik's mouth before he could stop them.
"Fuck... " Blaze tilted his head. "Me? I doubt that will resolve anything."
Reason snapped in Arik's head. He lunged. "Do you think this is a game—"
Even as his father's words shot off Arik's tongue, even as his clawed fingers sought out the much smaller man in front of him, the horizon shifted, body movement followed a gentle, yet insistent shove, and Arik found himself finishing the sentence to the soap-slicked, water-spattered laminate of the countertop. His cheekbone took the brunt of the fall, his teeth clacked together with a snap that made him grateful his tongue hadn't wandered between them, but it was more surprise than pain that brought the, "Ow."
Feisty for a little guy — Blaze had caught Arik completely unprepared. So much for those tae kwon do lessons.
Arik flexed against the hold Blaze had on his arm; the arm twisted just so across Arik's back. If he stayed still, Arik was fine. If he tried to move either self or limb, that was a totally different story, however.
"Two things," Blaze said. "I will reiterate again that I understand. I feel for you, Arik, I really do. But you will not... " A small tug sent warning streaks of pain up Arik's arm and into his shoulders. "You will not attack me. You want to pick me up and throw me on a bed, I am cool with that. Hell, ninety-eight times out of a hundred I'll like it. You want to hold my hands over my head while we're having sex, and play the part of Mister Tough Guy, that's awesome. I like a little rough play as much as the next guy. But the moment you come after me with actual intent, the way you did just now, I will break you. I don't care what the fuck your reasoning is behind it."
Blaze's grip softened, and he eased the pressure on Arik's arm. "We good?"
Arik nodded, frowning in disgust at the resulting squish of liquid litter under his cheek. He rose when Blaze released him, and reached for the paper towel dispenser. Instead of stepping away however, Blaze put his arms around Arik's waist and just stood there while Arik mumbled and scrubbed his face.
He waited until Arik balled up the paper towel and punched it through the swing top of the wall mount garbage. "Now. Do you want to talk about what happened at mini golf?"
Arik snorted. "Nope."
"How about why you think it did?"
"I think that's pretty obvious." Arik turned to face him, forcing Blaze to take a step back. It was a short-lived moment of space. As soon as Arik settled his ass against the counter, doing his best to ignore the slow seep of water transferring from the surface to his slacks, Blaze moved forward again.
"Look," Blaze reached up and began to fiddle at adjusting Arik's shirt: collar, shoulders, smoothing fabric and fall. "I don't know what's going on any more than you do. I am not responsible for what you've seen, and I can't tell you what to do about it. What I do know, is what I've already told you — I'm here for you. Of course, if you want to tell me to fuck the hell off and get out of your life, I can't stop you. I won't stop you. So you tell me. With the limited information that we have about each other, with this... " Blaze paused, drew his hand up Arik's chest and rested all five fingertips on the side of Arik's neck.
Instantly a charge lifted the fine hairs on Arik's skin into goose bumps. His eyelids fell. Everything from hips to lips wanted to surge closer to Blaze's body.
"... this attraction," Blaze continued. "Tell me how can I help you. What do you need? Should I just stumble along like a puppy and wave my tail when you look over?"
Arik couldn't stop the grin. "You do have a smoking hot tail."
Blaze smiled. "And then there's that. I mean, if it's just a comfort thing you're looking for, that's fine, too."
Arik stopped resisting the urge to put his arms around Blaze's waist. He lowered his chin and looked at Blaze until he drew Blaze's gaze up. "Nice sentiment. But it makes no fucking sense, Blaze. Why? Under what circumstance would a good-looking guy offer servitude to someone whom he barely knows, for tasks he has no understanding of, for pretty much open-ended, undefined purposes?" Arik shook his head. "Nobody is that nice. What's in it for you?"
He watched something fall in Blaze's expression. But whether it was something as impenetrable as a wall, or as easily brushed aside as a curtain, Arik had the feeling only time would tell. And that was a disconcerting thought. Because if Blaze had demons of his own that he was battling, just exactly how much of Blaze was there left for the man to give?
Arik startled himself with the question. Was that what he wanted? Was that what his head was thinking? Less than twenty-four hours after Arik had met the man, was he really actually asking himself if Blaze was going to be around for the long haul? Arik shook his head and gritted his teeth. No wonder he couldn't get anyone interested in a date. Christ. He might just as well start looking to build his cat collection now. Apparently he was going to be a very lonely, very pathetic old man.
"You're not going to answer that are you?" Arik asked.
Blaze tapped his shoulder. "Trust me, Arik." He stepped away, held out his hand, and Arik took it. "At this point in time that's the last thing you want me to do."
To be continued...
Until next time!
Tune in next week for more.