An excerpt from
A Reverse Harem Fantasy Romance
Chapter 1: Alex
LIFE ON THE streets was hard enough without piss-pouring rain and lecherous cops. Alex was in a foul mood as she sloshed through the last puddles of the alleyway, soaked through and through. Her black hair clung to her face and neck in skin-stuck waves, and her threadbare sweater suctioned itself in the same way to her curves. She was too drenched to notice the effect that had on the guy on lookout as she passed the threshold into ‘the pad’, a rundown shithole she sometimes called home. Cursing under her breath, she stood on the weathered boards of the entryway, wringing her hair out, shaking off what she could.
Down the hall, cigarette smoke trailed out of one doorway, and from the one across the hall, Cindy’s laughter. Alex frowned, recognizing the sound. Cindy only laughed like that when…
“Don’t tease me like that, baby,” Vincent moaned.
This made Cindy giggle even more. She loved to tease Vincent. It was possibly her one true goal in life. And the thug was possibly the only man she cared about in a long lineup of men who would use her and be used by her. Alex was glad that Cindy had this one little piece of happiness in her life, but for the moment, her stomach rolled sideways. Vincent was secondhand man to Hector, and his presence felt like an omen in her gut.
For a moment, Alex turned her face back to the open doorway and considered the rain. She was already soaked, so what would be the difference if she walked the couple of miles to the next place she might crash? As if in answer to her thoughts, a bolt of lightning hit a pole at the end of the alley, sending a shockwave of thunder at her. Her scowl deepened. She’d have to make do.
Heaving a sigh, she stepped forward down the hallway, her boots squishing, her tattered, muddy pantlegs dragging. She got as far as the common room, but no further. He was there.
Hector was leaning one hand on the table, towering over two of his minions, who were sputtering out a report. His eyes moved up and took her in, then he stood up straight, never looking away from her. His face was blank, unreadable.
Alex nodded once in greeting, casting her eyes to the floor.
His footsteps moved around the table and came toward her, each step paced evenly, slowly. His boots moved into her line of vision. Alex had no choice but to look up.
Hector took a moment, scanning from her face slowly down her body. “Where you been, Alex?”
She shrugged uneasily. It was true that she’d been avoiding him. She’d also been trying to do her job, but things didn’t always go according to plan, and he wasn’t going to like that, either. “I’ve… been trying to find Anthony… but… well…” She didn’t want to go on.
Best to just spit it out. “He’s gone. I think he’s running.”
With a roar of rage, Hector’s fist smashed a hole into the wall only inches beside her face. Alex only flinched, looking down, away, but knew better than to move.
The next five minutes or so were filled with Hector cursing, raging, then pacing, running his hands through his hair, breathing heavily like a bull. The room had fallen utterly quiet. Some of the junkies and whores had vacated it entirely. The ones who could not escape without being noticed kept themselves utterly still.
When Hector’s rage had finally run its course, his eyes flicked to her, considering. He glanced back at the guys at the table. “We’ll do this later.”
They took the dismissal without a word of reply and got the hell out.
Alex’s eyes darted around the room. Somehow, she was the only one left.
Again, Hector moved toward her. This time, he came further into her space, within inches. Involuntarily, she took a step back, but there was a wall behind her. He leaned closer, his hand going to her waist. “Tell me where you’ve been, little pigeon.”
The truth was, Alex had been all the usual places, sleeping in one place one night, and a different one the next. She’d simply been doing a better job at anticipating which place he would be at, and avoiding it. But the last thing in the world she wanted was to make him mad. It was his protection that kept her in one piece. For years now, that protection had saved her from being forced into prostitution or being otherwise abused, but she’d had the feeling, lately, that it wasn’t going to protect her from him. She’d been only twelve when he’d found her, struggling on the streets, dressed as a boy. She’d run away from the latest children’s home, and she’d been half-starved and sick. He’d taken her under his care— under the care of his business— and put her to work carrying messages, which was way better in her book than actually dealing, like most of them. She’d done a good job for him, and so he’d protected her when others had had better ideas about what she was good for. Everyone was aware who she worked for, and it had been a long time since anyone had really messed with her. But Hector himself had had his eye on her for a long time, now, and it seemed that the barrier that held him back was thinning. Usually, he didn’t touch her. Now, his hand gripped her hip with the same hunger that was in his eyes.
She swallowed and managed in a shaky voice, “I haven’t been anywhere different. Ask Cindy. Ask Lenny. They’ve seen me around. They know.”
His dark eyebrows drew down in the middle. “I haven’t seen you. I’m the one who matters.”
“I’m sorry.” Her voice was little more than a whisper. She suddenly felt than an explanation was necessary. “I— I was afraid you’d be mad about Anthony… and… I wasn’t sure, yet. I’m still not. I’m trying to find out.”
He snorted, dismissing it altogether. His hand went to her face, tilting it up to him. “You’re a little liar, bitch.” There was a strange affection in his words, a tenderness that worked in paradox to their meaning. “You’re afraid of me, and I don’t blame you. You know what’s coming.”
Alex stared straight ahead at the tattoo on his neck that said, “Maricela” in flowing, cursive script. She opened her mouth to deny what he said, to mention the girlfriend who supposedly had him wrapped around her little finger, the only reason he had held back before this.
But Hector had taken her hand in his. He slipped it between them and pressed it to the front of his jeans, made her feel how hard he was underneath. “Feel what you do to me,” he murmured, his breath hot against her cheek. She could smell vodka. He’d been drinking. There was very little chance that he was going to hold anything back, now.
Alex gingerly retrieved her hand, pulling it back, wrapping her arms around herself against the sudden coldness she felt inside. “Hector, I—” she whispered, but he silenced her lips with one warm finger.
His hands went to her face, gentle as they lifted her chin, caressing even as he made her look at him. “No man has ever touched you,” he murmured. “I know, because if they had tried, they would be dead. I knew I would claim you for my own, one day.” He put his hands on her waist and slowly slid his fingers around her back, over her bottom. His mouth moved softly against her neck as he whispered, “I’ve been saving you up.” There was a soft, low laugh as the thunder crashed outside again. “For a rainy day.”
Alex’s heart was flailing inside her as she pressed her palms against his chest, holding him back as much as she dared. Thoughts whirling, she tried to think of a way out. She couldn’t reject him. He would turn on her, then. Without his protection, she’d meet a far worse end than simply becoming Hector’s plaything. But he terrified her. She clamped her eyes shut, tilting her head away from him, pressing him away from her, and tried to reconcile herself to what was going to happen. Tried to get a grip before the horror of the moment could completely take over.
Hector’s hold on her had tightened, crushing her against him so that her dripping clothes were giving him a good soaking, too. One hand came around and pawed at the top of her sweater, tugging it roughly downward in an attempt to expose her breast. His hot tongue probed at her collarbone and squirmed its way up her neck, licking raindrops.
Alex broke. With a cry of rage and disgust, she slammed her knee upward into his crotch. He made a noise and doubled over. She ran.
She bolted into the rain and thunder, tore down the alleyway. Behind her, she could hear Hector’s fierce exclamations, commanding his underlings to give chase. He wouldn’t go out into the rain after her himself, but none of the others would be gentle with her, especially not after chasing her around in the storm. And when they brought her back to him…. The only option was to not get caught.
So Alex ran like she had never run before. Mindless of puddles, headless of anything or anyone who got in her way, she sprinted through alleys, around corners, leapt over crates, pulled trashcans over behind her to create obstacles for those who gave chase. She’d been running for blocks and blocks, and most of them had fallen behind. But Freddie and Hal were catching up with her, and they were probably the worst of the lot. She made an unfortunate turn into an alleyway that was a dead end. She skidded to a halt, looking desperately for a way out. Their footsteps sloshed up behind her, slowed. They were laughing, now.
Alex whirled on them, ready to fight. She’d gotten a beating from the two of them once before, for messing up a delivery. She was pretty sure they’d enjoyed it. They reminded her of it often enough. Today, they’d make that beating look small. They’d make sure she was suitably punished before they dragged her back to their boss. And that would only be the beginning of it. Alex decided right there that she wasn’t going back, even if it meant the end of her.
“Come here, sweetheart,” Hal said, moving toward her, grabbing at her. “I need to talk to you.”
She dodged away. He made another grab. She turned to evade him. Freddie barreled into her from the side, driving her hard to the ground.
Alex kicked and screamed and bit and clawed, but he had hold of her. He rolled them over and dragged her to her feet, getting his arms around her and pinning her arms from behind. Hal stood in front of her, now, shaking his head. He slammed his fist into her stomach, driving the air out of her.
As she struggled for breath, Freddie said into her ear, “It’s about time Hector made his move on you. He likes them fresh, you know. But he doesn’t mind giving us the leftovers.”
A primal noise of rage rose in Alex’s throat as she tried to kick at Freddie, but he neutralized her by lifting her off the ground.
Hal was laughing outright. “This is going to be fun.”
There was a growl from behind him. Hal did a doubletake over his shoulder, then went down screaming. On top of him, there was a huge black dog, jaws clamped onto the arm he’d flung up to shield himself. Its fangs tore a long red gash, spattering blood. It went for his throat.
“Shit!” Freddie was yelling, but he hadn’t let go of Alex.
Hal rolled sideways, dodging the dog’s attack, and somehow made it to his feet. He tore off around the corner, the dog chasing him.
Freddie locked an arm around Alex’s throat, shoved her forward. “Let’s go, bitch.”
“No!” Alex stomped on his foot, to little effect.
He punched her in the kidney and tightened his arm, constricting her airflow. “You can do as I say, now, or later on I can really hurt you.” His voice brooked no nonsense.
But Alex had decided she would not go back, and if he meant to make her, he was going to have to fight her to the last. She twisted, trying to get away, trying to free her arms so she could hurt him.
That’s when the dog came back. Appearing in the mouth of the alley, it ran at them without warning. Freddie only just saw it as it launched itself through the air toward them. He dropped Alex, ditching sideways, and hit the pavement hard. His wrist cracked. As he rolled to the side to struggle up, the dog was on him, its teeth in his shoulder. He cried out as it ripped a strip of flesh and t-shirt off of his back. He curled into a ball, covering his head, whimpering.
Alex had hit the ground, too, bruising her hip. She staggered to her feet. Her eyes were wide on the scene unfolding before her. Frozen, at first, terrified, she stared at the huge animal, bigger than any dog she’d ever seen. Shaggy and wild-looking like a wolf, but black as the darkness itself. She stumbled backward a few steps, watching it mutilate Freddie’s exposed back. She wanted to run, but she seemed incapable.
She backed away, making it as far as the end of the alley, where she braced herself with one hand against the wall. Only then did she realize she’d been limping. One arm was clasped protectively around her stomach. Her hip ached, and she was scraped up everywhere. She finally tore her eyes from the attack and turned to go. Limping away down the street, she knew she wasn’t moving fast enough. But at least she was moving.
She turned a couple of times and didn’t stop until she was four blocks away. There, she ducked behind a dumpster and leaned up against a brick wall, breathing deeply. Rain was still pouring down, washing blood in red rivulets from various scrapes. She was as cold as she could ever remember being. Only then did the tears start to come. And with them, hopelessness set in. Hector owned most of this city. She was a goner.
It hurt to sob, so she broke off into a little whimper, giving in to her tiredness, sinking against the wall and closing her eyes. She wanted to sit down, but the way her stomach hurt, she couldn’t bend to do so. Her shoulders shook with her sorrow.
At first, she did not distinguish the sound from that of the raindrops. Tick, tick, tick, tick. But then it stopped, in front of her. She opened her eyes. The black dog was there. It walked up to her and pressed its nose against her leg, sniffing. Alex froze, fear coursing through her. The great snout moved up her thigh, nuzzled into her bruised belly, tickling and wet. She shrank away from it. The dog kept sniffing, moving closer, pushing its nose into her armpit, then down, scenting between her legs. She pushed its head away gingerly at first, but when it tried to force its head between her thighs again, she gave it a huge shove. “Bad dog,” she shouted, glaring at it, but expecting to be eaten at any moment.
The dog looked at her then, looked her right in the eye. Its own eyes were a strange grey, the color of ash. They were fascinating eyes. She got stuck in them.
After a moment of their staring contest, Alex began to wonder if it was considering its next meal. The dog’s body was full of tension, muscles ready to react, ears pricked forward in a predatory way. Its jaw worked. It made a noise between a growl and a whine, cutting off into a sharp sound like faulty brakes. It moved now, only a fraction, inching forward like a trained attack dog waiting for the release of the attack command.
Alex narrowed her eyes and growled at it. “Bad dog,” she said again, determined to show it she wasn’t afraid.
It let out a low woof, trotted forward, and nipped her on the waist.
She yelped, tried to smack it, but it had danced away. A second later, it moved in and nipped her again. She did smack it this time, but the dog paid no heed. It jumped up on her, paws raking her shoulders, and in a moment she’d been tackled to the ground and the damned thing was licking her, whining in excitement. Its nose pushed against her neck, her shoulder, nuzzling her excitedly.
Alex had had enough. She’d been molested by a drug dealer, and now by a crazy rabid dog. “Stop!” The word shrieked out of her, blasting from deep in the pit of her stomach.
The dog backed up.
She sat up and glared at it, the pain of that movement shooting through her stomach like a knife.
It sat down, whining, wagging its tail.
“Oh my god,” she groaned. “Don’t tell me I’ve made a friend.” Grabbing onto her stomach as she tried to maneuver herself, she managed to climb to her feet again. She pointed one finger at the dog as it thumped its tail. “Stay.”
It grew quiet, closing its mouth.
“Good.” She looked at it for a moment, then attempted to limp away. She needed to put some distance between herself and this place. Find shelter. It was quickly growing dark. She was shivering now, and soon she would be able to see her breath on the moist air as the nighttime temperatures dropped. But as Alex began to pick her way across town, she realized that she had company. The dog had fallen in beside her. There was no getting rid of it. The more she thought about it, the beast might come in handy. It had certainly made quick work of Hal and Freddie. But if it had torn them apart, then why not her? Had it simply eaten its fill, for now?
Eventually, she ended up in another alley, further across town. She knew she couldn’t go to any of the normal places she would have sheltered. Those all belonged to Hector. The rain had turned even colder, and Alex wasn’t sure she would survive the night, wet as she was. But with nowhere to turn, she managed to ease herself down in an alley where the walls sheltered her from some of the wind. The animal curled up next to her. It smelled exactly of wet dog, but somehow the scent was comforting. Heat radiated off the beast, as though a fire blazed inside it, so she snuggled up next to it, tentatively at first, and then more boldly. It didn’t seem to mind. As a matter of fact, it lay its head in her lap, heaved a big sigh, and went to sleep. For a while, Alex managed to doze on and off, though she still shivered.
A couple of hours after darkness, the sound of a motor awakened Alex. She uncurled herself and pressed herself against the alley wall, moving toward the street to peek out. There had been other motors, so she couldn’t say why she was curious about this one, but something drew her to the street. As she gazed out, she saw the motorcycle. It was across the street, idling. Its rider sat, his broad back to her, considering the distance, like he might not want to get off, after all. He hadn’t stopped the motor. Alex studied the shoulders, the shiny black bike, the shoulder-length blonde hair, wet and messy though it was at the moment. He shook his head, flinging water away. Alex wanted to laugh. She’d met this guy once before, only a couple of days ago, and she’d liked him. But more than that, he didn’t work for Hector in any way, shape, or form.
She thought about it for a moment, remembering their meeting. She’d been dropping off a message for a dealer at a local club, and this guy had been hanging with one of the bouncers she happened to know. They’d been introduced. He’d smiled at her, a dimpled smile. His blue eyes had sparkled behind that smile. And for a little while, he’d tagged along after her, asking for her number… not that she had one. Asking to see her again. She’d turned him down flat, knowing better. But the only way she’d gotten rid of him was by slipping out the back when he wasn’t looking.
There was something about this guy that had set her on edge, made her nervous. But at the same time, she found him fascinating. He was beautiful to look at, muscled like a beast and yet perfectly formed as a sculpture. He had an assured way of carrying himself, a confidence in his manner. She’d found herself thinking about him later. And now… here he was.
She didn’t trust him. She didn’t trust anyone. But she knew she wouldn’t survive on the streets for long. Maybe he might know somewhere she could hole up for a while.
Yeah, probably his place. She laughed at herself, because she knew it was likely true. But if the choices were between Hector and… what was his name again? She had to think for a bit before she remembered it. Jess. Hmm, Hector or Jess. It wasn’t a hard choice at all.
She sighed and stepped out to cross the street. Behind her, the dog whined then growled, but stayed in the alley.
Chapter 2: Jess
JESS KEPT HIS eyes on the building in front of him, feigning hesitation. Below him, the bike rumbled. He could hear her footsteps, splashing as she crossed the street. He’d been waiting for her, but he didn’t want her to know that.
Alexandria O’Malley. Twenty years old. Black hair, grey eyes. Last known address, Proudspire Home for Children, eight years ago.
None of that did any justice to the lithe little package that moved its way across the street toward him. He’d been knocked senseless by her beauty, blindsided by his immediate attraction to her. He had to admit, sometimes this hunt could be fun.
Her footsteps stopped beside the bike and he turned his face toward her, raising his eyebrows in surprise. He blinked a couple of times for good measure, then beamed a killer smile at her. “Hey, it’s you.”
She smiled back, hands tucked in her pockets. She was beautiful, even sopping wet. Especially sopping wet. He could think of a few scenarios in which he would like to— He shook away the thoughts racing away with him and gave her a puzzled frown. “What are you doing out in the rain?”
“Just going for a stroll.” She shrugged, still smiling.
He scanned over her again. On second perusal, she looked a little roughed up. There were scrapes on her arm, her jaw.
“What are you up to?” she asked, before he could say anything else.
He shrugged back at her, grinned. “Just going for a ride.”
She laughed, and her laughter was as soft as the wind over the meadows of High Shelar.
They looked at each other over a moment of awkward silence, then he dove in and asked, “You wanna come with me?”
Her eyes lingered over his bike, then glanced at the sky. It was a terrible night for a ride. He should have invited her somewhere else. Anywhere else.
“Sure,” she said, then laughed again. “I don’t suppose I can get much wetter.”
His cock awakened at the phrase. He started to imagine just how wet she was, and he was burning inside. He wanted to reach out, then, and touch her. He hoped desperately in that moment that she wasn’t the one. That he could investigate, and have a hell of a lot of fun investigating, and leave her in the end. He sucked in a breath, tried to get control of his body, and nodded casually over his shoulder. “Hop on.”
She swung her leg up over the back of the bike and slid up behind him. Her arms laced around his stomach, making him clench at the touch of her. She felt cold and wet, pressed up behind him. He wanted to warm her up. To stop her shivering. To make her shiver in a different way.
He pulled the bike away from the curb, revved the motor, and they sped away into the night.
Jess drove the city streets for a while, trying to think of somewhere to take her. He should have rented an apartment, but he hadn’t. Now he cursed himself for that oversight. It would have been nice to take her someplace warm. Anywhere public was out of the question. This wasn’t a date. He was on a mission. It had taken a long, long time to track this one down. Now, tonight, he was going to find out if it was her. He was done waiting for it. And he was done waiting to get his hands on her.
He drove out past the edge of town, where he knew of an abandoned warehouse that was too far out to draw much in the way of occupation. It wasn’t exactly romantic, but it would keep the rain off. He pulled up to the broken window, swung off the bike, and took her hand. “Come on.”
Alex glanced around, looking a little nervous, but climbed off the bike and went with him. They stepped through the window and into the hollow, dark space inside.
“It’s out of the rain,” he said.
She gave him a funny look, the light from the window shining on half her face.
He needed an explanation, quick. “Uh… my roommate has his girl over. They were… you know.”
She nodded understanding, wrapped her arms around herself, and took a couple of steps into the darkness, her eyes exploring the black corners she couldn’t see into.
“Don’t worry. No one ever comes here.” He moved further in, as if to prove that it was safe, then came back to her. He put his hands on her arms. Her skin was cold as a corpse. “Aw, you’re freezing,” he murmured. He was glad for the excuse to rub his hands up and down her arms. And even gladder to pull her toward him. “Come here. Let me warm you.”
She gave in, let him pull her close, probably thankful for any warmth he could give her. Her teeth were chattering. He placed one hand on the back of her head and pulled her cheek against his chest, enveloping her in his embrace. She smelled like rain. She was like ice against him. His heart caved a little, pitying her. He lowered his face, let his nose touch her forehead. “I’ll warm you,” he said again. And it was stupid to do it, stupid to expose himself at all, but he opened up a tiny fraction of his sunsoul and let the heat sink into her.
She sighed and melted against him. Her eyes sunk closed, jaw went slack. She stopped shivering. She was literally like putty in his hands.
Jess looked down at her, at her face adrift in utter relaxation. The relief in her expression. The innocence. He was sure she was the most stunning creature he had ever seen, and he wanted her like he had never wanted anything before. But the realization of that turned his core to ice. Something inside him knew. No mortal being could possibly affect him in this way. This was her. It had to be her.
He almost snapped her neck right then.
(This one ends mid-chapter due to restrictions on how much I can post due to my contract with Amazon.)
Read more in The Wyld.