Falling into You Read online

Page 11

Which was a mistake. The instant the blade moves away, Dan bats her hand to the side, spins in place, and punches her, knocking her flying.

  “Bitch,” he growls, and turns to me.

  Of course, I didn’t spend those moments idle either. Brass knuckles go back on, and I’m not holding back anymore. The second I saw those bruises on her, I was gone.

  I’m a street thug again, an enforcer. Except this is different; he hurt Nell.

  He doesn’t stand a chance. Within moments, he’s a bloody, broken mess on Nell’s floor. I’ve got some tender ribs, a broken nose, split lips and cuts on my cheekbones, a loosened tooth. Blood is everywhere.

  I pull my phone out, dial a number, wipe my face clean with a paper towel. “Hey Split, it’s Colt. I have a problem. ” I explain the problem and spit out the address. “Yeah, in Tribeca. Shut up motherfucker. Just come get the bastard and make sure he doesn’t bother her again. Thanks. ”

  Nell is standing up, dabbing at her mouth, wobbling. I dart across to catch her as she stumbles.

  I pick her up, set her on the counter like a child, wrap some ice in a paper towel and press it to her face where he hit her. Fortunately, he wasn’t stupid enough to hit her full-force, just a little tap to shut her up. She’ll have a bruise, but that’s it. She’s woozy, bleary eyed, but she clears up soon.

  Dan moans behind me, reminding her of the problem. She straightens in fear at the sound of his voice, peers over my shoulder at the chunk of bloody beef that is Dan Sikorsky.

  She looks slowly from him to me. “What did you do?”

  I duck my head, embarrassed. “I sort of lost my temper. ”

  “Will he die?” She says it calmly.

  I shrug. “Not in your living room. ”

  She narrows her lovely eyes at me. “What’s that mean?” A quiet rap on the door has her shrinking against me. “Who’s that?”

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  I pull the tattered remains of her dress closed. “A friend of mine. Go get in the shower, huh?”

  “A friend?” She slides off the counter and moves to open the door.

  I stop her. “I’ll take care of it, okay?”

  She narrows her eyes again, vanishes into her room and closes the door behind her. I let Split in. He’s not a big guy, but he’s scary. Medium height, lean and toned, skin black as night, vibrantly white teeth and eyes so light brown they’re almost khaki. Eyes you can’t look at too long or you’ll piss yourself. Eyes that see your secrets and threaten to make your nightmares come true. He radiates intensity and exudes threat. I’m glad he’s my friend, mainly because I’ve seen what happens to his enemies: they vanish.

  He glances down at Dan. “The f**k happened to him?”

  Nell comes out in a clean T-shirt and yoga pants. “Colton was helping me. ”

  “Who’re you?” Split says.

  “Nell Hawthorne. This is my apartment. ” She extends her hand to shake Split’s.

  He looks at her outstretched hand like it’s an insect, then cracks a rare smile as he shakes it. “Split. ” He peers at Nell’s face, at the purpling bruise, the finger marks on her throat, the way she clutches her arms around her middle. “He try to rape you?”

  Nell nods.

  “His name is Dan Sikorsky,” I say, knowing Split will put two and two together.

  Split’s eyes widen slightly, the equivalent of a gasp of surprise from anyone else. “I saw him fight Hank Tremaine a few weeks ago down in Harlem. Fucked Hank up good. You did this?” He kneels down, nudges Dan over onto his back, examines his injuries with a professional eye. “You done a number on him, Colt. He needs a doctor, or he ain’t gonna make it. ”

  “He tried to rape her, Split. Then he punched her. ”

  “To be fair,” Nell puts in, “He only punched me after I put a knife to his throat. ”

  Split coughs a laugh. “You what? Girl, you crazy. Don’t put a knife to a guy like Dan Sikorsky and not kill him. Asking for trouble pullin’ shit like that. ”

  “She’s from the Detroit suburbs, Split. Where I grew up. She’s vanilla. ”

  He nods. “I getcha. Just saying, in case there’s a next time. Don’t threaten what you won’t finish. Not with motherfuckers like Sikorksy. He’ll kill you, even if you are a rich white bitch. ”

  “Excuse me?” Nell straightens in protest.

  Split glances at me. I laugh. “He just means a white girl. Not from the hood. ”

  “The hood?” She says it like it’s a foreign word. “And you are from the hood, Colton?”

  Split laughs again. “Colton?” He says the name how she did, clearly enunciating each syllable. “Man, she something else. Where’d you find her?” He looks at Nell. “Yeah, he from the hood. My boy Colt is a OG from way back. ”

  Nell makes a confused face. “OG?”

  Split just blows a laugh past his lips, a huff of air. “You something else, man. ” He pulls out a phone and sends a text, then glances back at Nell. “You holding up alright, white girl?”

  Nell’s face is impassive. “I’m fine. ”

  Split nods, but I can tell he doesn’t believe her any more than I do. I step closer to Nell and I don’t miss the fact that she tenses, even though it’s me. “Go take a shower, Nell. It’ll help. ”

  “I don’t need help. ” Her voice is hard, stubborn.

  I laugh, but not unkindly. “You want to deal with him on your own then?” I gesture at Dan, who is choking on his blood. Split turns him over so he drools it out on the hardwood floor.

  Nell pales, trembles. “Maybe a shower sounds good. ”

  “Yeah. All this will be gone when you get out. ”

  I see panic flit across her face. “You won’t be gone, will you?”

  “Do you want me to go?” She shakes her head, a tiny, vulnerable motion that makes my heart bleed a little more for her. “Then I’ll be here. Just…go take a hot shower. ”

  She nods and disappears into the bedroom. I hear the shower turn on, and I try not to picture her in there. That’s not what she needs right now.

  Split crouches at Dan’s feet. “Get his shoulders, Colt. ”

  I bend and lift him, and we carry him down the stairs and out to Split’s waiting car. A couple passes us by, gives us an odd look, but since this is New York, they don’t say anything. We toss him ungently in the back seat and close the door. Split opens the driver’s side door and slides in, but doesn’t close it.

  “She don’t belong in this world, Colt. ” He doesn’t look at me as he says it.

  “I know. ”

  “Neither do you. You never did. ”

  “I know that too. ”

  “I like you, white boy. Don’t get sucked back in. You’ll end up dead, and then who’ll fix my ride when it busts?” Split starts the car, and it rumbles to life.

  It’s a lime green ’73 Bonneville with the original engine, restored by yours truly. It’s a beauty, and I’ve always been a bit jealous. He bought it off some little old lady out in Rochester for a thousand dollars and he and I spent a summer restoring it together. Didn’t take much, since the little old lady had barely ever driven it after her husband died.

  He brings it to me when he needs a tune up or something, but really, it’s his way of keeping in touch with me.

  “I won’t, Split. ”

  “What you want me to do with dickhead Dan?”

  “I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. He deserves to choke to death on his own f**king teeth, but I don’t want that on my conscience. ”

  “No shit. You got enough on blood on that bitch. ”

  I laugh. “Thanks for the reminder. ”

  “Just keeping it real. ” He closes his door and rolls down the window. “I’ll stop by the shop and let you know if he makes it. ”

  “Don’t. Just make sure he doesn’t come back around here. ”

  Split smiles at me, a flash of white teeth in