An Experiment

digital_book_thumbnailHot Blacktop started as an experiment. I wanted to find out if I could produce a well-devised chapter each month. On July 10th, 2015 I did just that. The journey has been fulfilling. I’ve written, with the help of my editor, Phil, a work that I’m proud of to call a success.

Now that I’ve finished the novella, what comes next? Dipping my toes into an ocean caught in an ever-expanding maelstrom of indie authors that have decided not to go the traditional route is a scary endeavor in my designs for success. Is it better to query several agents knowing the outcome could be a quick toss from the slush pile to the trash after reading the first sentence of the novella or listening to voice from a surprise phone call hearing someone tell me they’re interested in my work?

The first is common. The second is rare but more satisfying. Is it a safer to get my work up in e-book format and see what happens, knowing that it’s finally out there in the world of e-commerce so people can read it right away, no chance that it will be rejected and not seen at all? In the back of my mind, these questions have had me waffling all year. My brain feels like I’ve been balancing one foot on a thin board while my arms get heavier and heavier with the weight of each decision as I rebalance myself. It was a difficult decision.

Finally, I decided to take the leap. I’ve started the process to e-publish. A few of my writer friends have already jumped in, and it seemed painless if not time-consuming, and they appear to be happy with the outcome. So I’m going to reach forward with long strokes and swim in the sea of indie romance writers, and hope that I gain a following, hope that readers like what I have to offer, and hope that Hot Blacktop becomes a success.

Coming in January 2017 the full novella,
Hot Blacktop by Wendi Knape

Also coming in January, The Hot Blacktop series continues with Christof and Megan in:
Hot Turns

Hot Blacktop Ch. 16 – The Home Stretch

brighton-erA whirlwind of motion flooded the hospital emergency room when the four of them entered. The staff tried to take Danny from Gunner, and he growled like some wild beast. They backed away. Saint said something quietly to him. Gunner’s shoulders sagged, and he nodded as Saint backed up and the attending moved in with a gurney.

“Sir, please. You’ve got to let him go. He’s in good hands.” A male nurse said, approaching inch by inch. Gunner’s gaze lasered in on the nurse. The guy didn’t back down. Danny didn’t make a sound when Gunner set him down gently. The staff moved at warp speed after that.

“Sir you can’t come in here. It’s better you stay in the waiting room.”

“Try and fucking stop me. Where the boy goes, I go.”

Sienna’s focus sharpened on the big man holding Danny until she realized the tears streaming down her face. She blinked.

“Sienna, honey let’s get you into emergency too.”

“What?” She looked up, Saint’s fingers wiped her streaked cheeks. He guided her into a wheelchair a nurse parked in front of her. “Oh.” She still clutched his hand when they started to roll her away. Sienna struggled to keep hold of him, not wanting him out of her sight after what she’d let happen. She tried to turn in the chair. A hiss of pain made Saint’s eyes narrow. She gripped him harder, but he slowly slipped away, the release causing a chill to mark her skin. She’d told him she loved him but would he still want her after all she’d heaped on Saint?

“I’ll be here. I’ll come back to you as soon as the doctors let me,” Saint said.

The nurse nodded at him. “As soon as the doctor says it’s okay,” the nurse told her. “Not a second before,” the older woman scolded.

Sienna reached out to him again and moaned from the pain.
The nurse patted her shoulder to still her. “You’ll be done in no time.” Sienna glared at the nurse and winced. She wanted to hate the older woman pushing her, but she seemed nice if she looked beyond her bossiness.

“Mmm, mmm, that man is hot. You’re one lucky lady. If my Reggie had a face and body like that, I might have overlooked his wandering eyes. And hands. If you know what I mean. With a man like that, it would have been worth it.” The nurse kept chattering on and on, and Sienna toned her out thinking about what she could say to Saint to make up for pushing and yelling at him. What if the result of his fall was a cracked skull? She was lucky that all he had was a sore head and some stitches.

Going through the stark double doors further away from Saint felt like a chasm had opened up, like he would forget about her, disappearing like every other good thing she’d tried to hold onto in her life. The last glimpse was of Saint staring at the floor. What did that mean? Was he rethinking being with her? Had she ruined everything?

After being poked and prodded, a few hours passed. Sienna finally drifted off to sleep, her injuries not as severe as she’d thought. X-rays revealed her ribs were bruised but fine. She was battered badly and would heal in time. Sienna knew she’d be fine, at least she thought she would. But more so, she was worried about what Saint was thinking. Even before they’d reached the hospital, he’d been terribly quiet in Gunner’s SUV.

The arms of the clock slowed as if sculpted with concrete, and Saint still hadn’t made an appearance. Even the nurse came by more than a few times to check on her. The shift even changed. When the nurse stepped up to her IV bag and switched it out with another, things started to blur. She didn’t want to fall asleep without seeing Saint.

“Where’s Saint,” she thought she’d asked. The nurse’s lips moved, but all she could hear was a jumble of noise. Her eyelids kept slipping closed. “Saint?” She struggled to stay awake. Everything had to be alright between them, she was frantic to see him. But her limbs fought against her and became heavier. She eventually succumbed to the drugs dripping into her system and sleep washed over her.

Voices woke her with a jolt, unexpected words entering her mind. Her eyelids hung heavy, and she struggled to open them.

“Three of Danny’s ribs… I thought…lung…punctured but he got lucky.”

Sienna opened her eyes, things still a little fuzzy. Two figures stood by the window in her room. She blinked.

The forms finally cleared and one started to speak again, Gunner, she thought, emotion ripping through his voice. “He…when I found him…God dammit!”

Was he crying?

“When I found him, his pants were around his ankles.”

She gasped.

“Sienna, you’re awake.” It was Saint’s words that drew her attention.

She tried not to read into what Gunner had just revealed. Did Marco rape him? She whimpered. “Where’s Danny? What did that fucking bastard, Marco, do to Danny?” Her words were small, the pain for what Danny endured too large to make it past her aching throat. And then she remembered the blank stare of her mother when Marco had carted her into that small shack. Sienna didn’t know how long her mother had been dead before she had arrived. “Ohh,” she groaned.

Saint came to her side and took her hand. The relief she felt from the contact making her sharp breaths ease only a little. Sienna had to focus on something else. She couldn’t think about her mother yet. She’d known it was going to be bad. She pinched her eyes closed and tried to shift her thoughts to something else.

Her eyes flicked back up to Gunner’s his arm bandaged where he’d gotten shot. He continued speaking. “The doctors said there was no evidence of sexual violation. Thank God. But until I talk to Danny…” His words trailed off, and he took a deep breath. “He was so dirty by the time I got to him,” he took another harsh breath, “that I didn’t notice the cuts in his abdomen. Christ!” Gunner rubbed his face with rough, jerky movements. “The doctor said he cleaned and stitched the wounds. There were no serious internal injuries. He’s bruised more than anything.”

“He’ll be okay right,” Sienna asked.

“Physically? Yeah, mentally, I won’t know until he wakes up.”

“You haven’t talked to him yet?” She said. “What time is it? How long have I been asleep?” Her words tripped over one another, pain sliced through her lungs with each breath, her ribs taking that moment to reintroduce themselves as the medication disappeared.

“Calm down, baby,” Saint said. “Danny’s asleep. He’s going to be fine.”

Sienna watched Gunner’s eyes move to the floor, and his body shake, with what? Anger? Fear? Guilt? She couldn’t know.

Gunner interrupted her thoughts. “I’m going to head out.”

“But, what about…”

The man steamrolled over her. “Don’t worry about Danny. I’m taking care of him when he gets out of the hospital.”

Her eyes widened in surprise. Why would Gunner do that? He didn’t seem very child-friendly.

Saint asked what had stuck in her throat. “You are?”

“I know a few people,” he grimaced.

“But the woman I spoke to with social services said she’d try to have Danny placed with me,” Saint said. Gunner shook his head.

“It’s nothing against you, man, but I think I’m better equipped to deal with the boy than you are.”

“How so?” Saint asked as he stood up and crossed his arms facing Gunner.

Gunner just smiled, it not reaching his eyes. “Just know that I have his best interests at heart.”

“Yeah, now you do,” Saint whispered just loud enough, and Gunner grimaced.

Silence trickled on for long seconds, and Gunner finally said, “I’ll let you know when Danny’s released and where we’ll be.” And then he turned around and exited the room, his stride sure and quick.

Sienna was so focused on the doorway that she jumped when Saint sat on the edge of the bed.

“How are you feeling, baby?” She couldn’t speak. “Sienna? Are you hurting? Do you need me to go get the nurse?” He stood up. She grabbed onto his shirt not caring about the pain, and her forehead fell against his chest, and she let loose her tears. Saint enveloped her with his arms forming a cocoon of warmth, holding her close.

“I’m fine.” She breathed him in. The memory of hearing him yell out for her, storming into the small shack, him taking the too tight blindfold off her face. “God, I’m fine. I love you! I love you so much. I’m sorry I said all those nasty things. I didn’t mean them. I didn’t mean to push you. When Danny told me, you’d fallen…” Her words rolled right over each other and Saint seemed to hold her tighter.

“I know, Sienna. I know you didn’t mean what you said or did,” he replied. “I love you too.” He kissed her temple and then her lips, barely a touch. She wanted more, and she needed more. Her fingers curled in his shirt, pulled him closer and took his lips. He moaned in surprise and gently pulled her back and looked down at her.

“Saint, please kiss me. I need it. I need you.” Lifting her head and leaning in again she tried to reach him, but he held her off.

“Sienna, you’re hurt. You need to rest.” He smiled down at her.

She pouted, trying not to wince when she figured out her lip still really hurt where Marco had hit her. Saint chuckled and gave her a quick peck on the lips. Sienna exhaled and linked her fingers tightly in her lap and tried to lean back on her own but Saint was there to help relax back onto the bed.

“See. You need to heal.”

Silence lingered. “What now?” Sienna asked.

“Now, we wait until you’re released and make sure Danny’s okay with Gunner. I’m still not positive he should go with Gunner.” He looked toward the window.

“What’s wrong with Gunner? He saved us both by killing Marco.”

“I don’t know. Gunner’s got secrets. I don’t like it.”

“Well, I think it will be okay,” she said and closed her eyes. “If Social Services believes he’s the upstanding guy they think he is then we should let them be.”

“How can we do that when I know for a fact, he didn’t help Danny in that damn house. He let Danny’s mother beat the shit out of him. It’s not right. I want him with us.”

Sienna’s eyes snapped open, but she couldn’t look at him. Not yet. She focused on her fingers the red skin mottling to a white as she gripped harder and harder. Hope bloomed in her chest making her heart ache. Was what he felt worth more time than just a few weeks they’d spent together? He told her he loved her but did he mean more than the passion they’d shared so far? She wanted to grab on tight to the word ‘us’ and never let it go. But she was scared to ask him what he meant directly, so she focused on Danny instead. “Danny and I don’t get along. How well do you think he would handle me helping take care of him? Especially when you’re living above your garage, and I live at my house?”

Saint gently lifted her chin with his fingers and caressed her jaw back and forth, back and forth. When Sienna’s eyes met his, she fell into the depths of love there wanting to stay forever.

He shook his head and smiled one side lifting up knowingly. He kissed her and held his lips over hers for too long. When he didn’t move away, his next words tickled her when he spoke. “You’re worried I don’t love you enough.” His lips lingered on hers, and his tongue slipped out softly to slide across hers. She moaned, and his smile felt good against her. “Don’t. ‘Us’ means you and me forever, Sienna.” Saint’s kisses brushed across her jaw as he leaned in closer. She lifted her chin, and then his lips met the soft spot below her ear, and he nipped her there leaving his mark. Then he slowly came back to her lips for another drawn out soft kiss. “Even though our time together has been short, I know you’re it for me. I knew it when I carried you to your bed with that migraine. I surely knew it when I didn’t know if I’d reach you in time when Marco had taken you. I love you, Sienna.”

He wiped her cheeks again and she laughed. “I’m a mess.”

“You’re a beautiful mess. My beautiful mess.” He took her hands. “I don’t care how we do it. The ‘Us.’ Just as long as we’re together. You can move into the apartment above the shop.” He laughed when she wrinkled her nose. “Or I can move in with you. It doesn’t matter as long as I’m with you.”

He gave her some much-needed tissues.

“What do you say?”

“I say, yes.”

Saint smiled, and she started to giggle as he crawled onto the small bed with her and he replied, “I can’t wait.


The End


Coming in January Hot Turns in the Hot Blacktop Series

Hot Blacktop Ch. 14 – Off Course

“Crap!” she screamed. “It’s all crap.”

She slammed her hands on the drafting board, mad at herself, mad at the world, and mad at Saint for making her fall in love with him. Her sketchbook jumped. Her hands hurt from drawing so long in her larger studio above Twisted Metal. She shook her head in disgust and pushed the sketchbook away. What she’d done to Saint was deplorable. “It was a mistake. A huge mistake. I have to fix it.” Tears welled up in her eyes and spilled over. She took a deep breath, then another, and wiped her face with graphite covered fingers. “God, I love him so much.” Her elbows hit the board, and her face rested in her hands.

Her mind was a whirl of indecision and frustration. She lifted her head and focused on something she didn’t deserve. “He probably hates me. I’ll go to him; I have to go to him now.” She stood. The chair hit the wall with a bang that seemed to rattle the walls. She gasped. That had been too loud. A second bang came that made her body jolt and then she froze. Someone was trying to break in.

Her body jerked again as she covered her ears. Sienna slowly turned toward the door. Nothing happened. Hair-raising fear skipped across her skin. Her eyes stayed glued to the door. Whoever it was struck again. She screamed. Her one desk light cast an eerie shadow across the door. She watched it vibrate as they struck it over and over. She backed away, the pounding in her chest a repetitious beat of growing dismay. There was only one way down from the second floor, and she was staring at it. She had to call 911. Sienna scurried to reach her phone and stumbled. The back of her knees hit the chair, and she went down the same time the door exploded inward. Sienna ducked behind her board, but it was no protection against what stormed into the room. A shrill scream tore from her mouth. Her lamp fell and broke sinking the room into darkness.

A streetlight outside silhouetted a bulky form coming toward her. Her eyes danced from the floor to her table trying to see what she could use as a weapon. She jumped when a body hit the floor in front of her. At first, she thought it was her mother. The body was small and thin. Her breath caught, and she moaned. She reached for the still figure. But the man struck out with his foot. There was a groan and then the small figure turned its head, tormented eyes she recognized. The figure went to kick the smaller one again.

“No,” she yelled and reached out. “Danny!”

“Ahh, so something else you care about,” The man said.

Sienna tried to scramble up to her knees to get to Danny, protect him, do anything to save them both.

“Don’t move, bitch!” came the voice, at the same time light burst throughout the room.

She blinked as her eyes watered. Able to finally focus, she looked up to see the barrel of a gun pointed at her chest. An electrical chill zipped under her flesh. All she could think of was that she’d let Saint think that all she had ever wanted from him was sex.

Sienna’s eyes flicked down when she heard Danny.

“I’m sa…sorry.” He groaned. Fingers spread out to him. She moved toward Danny, but the man waved the gun at her.

“I told you not to move, bitch!”

“What do you want!”

He fired the gun, and her body quaked in response fear grabbing hold, a hole breaking apart the wall above her head. She whimpered.

“The money your mother owes me.”

“I don’t…,” she stuttered, “have that kind of money.”

He pointed the gun at Danny.

“Wait!” Her breaths came in short puffs. Danny’s face stared off into the distance like he’d gone somewhere else. The man aimed again and fired another shot. Danny’s whole body jerked. It was his only reaction. “Don’t!” She yelled. The man aimed again. “Please don’t.” She began to cry. “Don’t,” she said again her body slumping in defeat. Leaping forward the man grabs her hair, yanks, and bends her neck at an odd angle until he’s inches away from his face, harsh breaths grip her body as searing pain rips through her scalp and neck.

“You gonna get me the money?” She barely could nod, but she did it anyway knowing it was a lie. There was no money.

Trembling with her hair still wrapped in the stranger’s fist she made to stand.

“Get up boy.”

“Go to hell, Marco.” Danny moaned.

Like he hadn’t spoken the man Danny called Marco continued. “You’re coming with us since this bitch likes you so much,” Marco said to Danny. Danny didn’t move. Sienna began to cry harder.

“Danny?” Sienna moved toward him, but the man halted her forward motion. She gritted her teeth. “Let me help him,” she pleaded. “You can’t hold us both.” Suddenly on her hands and knees, he kicked her too. She coughed through the pain.

“Get moving bitch!”

“Danny, honey,” she whispered and crawled toward him. When her fingers touched his shoulder, she could feel him trembling. “Please, Danny. You have to get up.”

“It hurts,” Danny said. Her head fell. If she couldn’t get him up, they were both going to die.

“You don’t get up boy, and I’ll shoot ya. I don’t give a shit if your momma inherits or not.”

“You leave him alone. You’ve done enough already.”

“Oh, you want to talk back some more, bitch?” Her breaths came faster now. She should have kept her mouth shut and not let her anger get the best of her. “You don’t watch yourself I’ll do to you what I been doin’ to your mother.”

“Oh, God!” This man had her mother too. “Where is she? What have you done with her?”

He just smiled and grabbed his crotch, grinding his hips.

“I’ll get him up. I’ll do it. I’ll get him up.”

Struggling, but willing herself to get up so she could figure out how to get them out of this situation, she grabbed the drafting boards leg. On wobbly legs, she wrapped an arm around Danny and levered him under his armpits and pulled up. He weighed little to nothing, no doubt the symptoms of years of neglect.

“Danny? Okay?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he replied,” but she barely caught it. With each step toward the door, Danny made to breathe, but it rattled, and he flinched.

With the door hanging open they walked right through to the landing. Sienna stopped and glanced down, the biting chill dancing across her skin. The stairs were steep, and the ground wavered beneath her, vertigo causing her to close her eyes to gain her balance. She was afraid, with both of them hurt they would fall.

“Keep moving.”

“Just wait,” she snapped and instantly regretted it. The man’s gun pressed into her cheek. Danny moaned with the sharp movement when instinct had her shifting away. The man’s eyes narrowed only inches from hers that widened. She held still afraid to breathe.

“Move!” the man said as he pressed the cold metal of the gun grinding it into cheekbone.

Danny’s weight in her arms was awkward more like a small animal than a thirteen-year-old. Sienna shifted his small body and Danny whimpered. “It’s okay, we’re okay, we’re okay,” she said, hoping to believe the words she repeated aloud. She prayed Danny would make it his injuries really worrying her. His ribs broken, no doubt, from the kick the man delivered. Hope to God, she thought, he didn’t puncture a lung.

“Hurry up,” the man snapped.

“Please,” she begged. “Danny’s hurt.” She peeked over her shoulder, the gun still pointed at her and Danny. The stranger’s eyes flicked across the area like something was going to jump out of the woods at the back of the building. Sienna wished something would. She wished she hadn’t told Saint it was over. She’d be with him right now.

When they made it to the bottom of the stairs, she barely had time to take a breath when the man pushed them toward a large darkened Cadillac SUV. She almost fell and had to grip Danny so he wouldn’t either. He began to cry silent tears he couldn’t afford. The pain, she thought, must be excruciating.

“Get in.”

Sienna did her best to get in the vehicle.

Sienna tried to lay Danny in the back seat. The man was speaking to her, but she barely could hear him. She heard him too late when again he spoke. Heat seared her cheek. “Where is it?” He hit her again. “Where’s the money.”

“My…my house.”

The lie rolled off her tongue, to save them both from an early grave. She blinked, licking her lip catching the taste of blood from the corner of her mouth. It throbbed, and she couldn’t focus. Marco’s quick exit from the lot caused her to fall onto the floor in the back seat. There wasn’t enough time to put on a seatbelt. With one hand still firmly on Danny, she could feel him tremble. It was then she realized the stranger didn’t ask where she lived. He already knew.

Think, think, she told herself. How was she going to get help?

“Ohhhh,” Danny moaned.

“You’ll be okay Danny,” she said in the softest voice possible. The man didn’t notice, he was too busy driving. She looked back toward Danny when she thought she heard him speak. “What, Danny?”

“So sorry. Sorry. Sorry.”

“Danny, you did nothing wrong.”

“Sorry, sorry,” he kept repeating.

She shook her head confused by his continued apology, and then asked, “Was Saint still at the speedway when you left?” Danny’s eyes flashed, his only reaction since he’d been kicked by the man. “Danny? Was he?” She looked over her shoulder and checked on the man to see if he’d heard her.

“He fell,” Danny wheezed.

“What do you mean?”

“When you pushed him and ran away,” he paused to take an unsteady breath, “he fell and hit his head. I wanted you to hurt you as much as you hurt Saint,” he finished through a wheeze. “I told,” he paused to take a breath, “Marco where you were. I’m sorry.”

“What? Who is Marco,” she whispered dismayed. But never mind about that she thought. His pain-filled eyes held her gaze. “What about Saint,” she asked scared out of her mind even more now. “What about Saint,” she said as she shook him, not meaning to be so rough.

Danny groaned, his fingers gripped her arm, too weak, barely holding on. “Concussion. Maybe,” Danny answered.

Her breath hitched. “Oh, God.” She said too loudly drawing the man’s attention.

“Shut up.” He waved the gun over his shoulder, and she ducked behind the seat.

Sienna couldn’t believe what Danny was saying. Was Saint all right? Had she really pushed him that hard? Hard enough that she’d caused him to fall. She covered her face and began to sob. If they got out of this…no when they got out of this, she had to go to Saint. She couldn’t leave things the way she had. Sienna had to make things right.

When the Cadillac began to slow and stop her mind jumped at what to do but never landed on solid ground. Before she knew it, she was hauled out of the vehicle and dragged to her front door her legs scraping against pavement. The material was tearing, the rough gravel cutting into her exposed skin.

“Open it!” the man said pointing the gun at the door and then again at her. She looked up at him and stood stock still. Her keys were back at Twisted Metal.

“Well, don’t stand there, bitch. Open the door.”

“My keys are in my purse.” Her hands curled into fists and began to sweat. The man looked around.

“Where’s your fucking purse!” He bellowed.

She stared at him not knowing what to do so he wouldn’t kill her. And then she couldn’t think because her body reacted to the pop, pop, pop as he fired the gun and kicked in another door. He yanked her by her arm making her cry out, his fingers like a vice as he dragged her through the front door.


What could she tell him? There was no money.

He shook her over and over, her head jerking back and forth. She tried to grab onto him to find some balance but then she fell, and it was her turn to get kicked again.

“Where’s the money, where’s the money!”

“No money,” she whispered and his face twisted into a mask of something worse than evil.

Sienna’s sobs filled the room.

“I’m gonna enjoy killing you bitch!” He raged. He continued on, berated and condemned her to an unpleasant death, and then he lost his grip and they went down in a heap, the wind knocked out of her. Something landing on them both. She tried to get away. He was distracted. Then she saw Danny. The boy had somehow gotten himself out of the SUV.

Marco gained his feet quickly, Danny’s thin arms not enough to defend himself with, he went down and stayed down. Her eyes blurred with tears, and she waited to see if Danny got up but he didn’t move.

“Danny!” she yelled. Her head snapped to Marco, her rage at what he’d done to an already abused Danny causing the emotional cord that tied up her past in the little box she kept it in, snapped. Sienna launched herself at Marco. She clawed at Marco’s face, kicked him with wild aim. He struck back with his fists instead of his palm like before, and the room danced through a filmy haze. She swung out again aiming for any body part, but she tired and then everything went fuzzier.

“Maybe now you’ll understand who has the power here. And since you lied about the money, maybe your worth a little something to that boyfriend of yours.

Nooooo! Her mind screeched. Then Marco raised his weapon and the haziness she felt from his fists was nothing compared to the butt of his gun as her world bled black and her hope right along with it.

Hot Blacktop Ch. 13 – Mechanical Difficulty

Mercenary Garage Dublin


“This has to work,” Sienna said. “I’m no good,” the words a shadowy litany she couldn’t escape. “He’s safer without me.”

She sighed. She loved Saint, but still she couldn’t deny what had happened in her past relationships. They’d all ended in disaster. This one would too.

She closed Twisted Metal for the night and went straight to the Speedway. Her car tinged and snapped after she shut it off. Sienna watched Saint teach class outside surrounded by bikes, the paddock busy with the boys and Tina and the mechanics busy like always. Even a few people sped around the lit track. She worried her fingers together in her lap until they turned a splotchy red and white. He hadn’t seen her yet.

Danny jumped on the motorcycle like it was Christmas. She smiled. What was his life like beyond the bruises? Did he have friends? Did he feel trapped, in a repetitive loop like she did? Could they help him? She shook her head. But her smile soon vanished when her thoughts turned back to what she was there to do. Break things off clean and quick with Saint. She didn’t want to get out of the car.

Sienna took an unsteady breath and opened the door. Like getting hit by a death blow in an old western, her wobbly legs moved toward the end of what never should have begun.

Hiding from Saint almost a week, she knew he was frustrated. Meg’s was as well since her friend helped her avoid him. Megan disagreed with her decision to end it. It was the only thing that would save them from an emotional mess later. Nothing would change her mind.

When he finally saw her, his smile eclipsed the sun that was slowly sinking over the horizon burning a line through the landscape. Saint said something to the class, and he walked toward her. Danny tagged along. Danny looked up at Saint as he spoke to him. The boy’s face turned back to her with a sneer and then he raced off around the building. He shook his head. When he neared and then reached for her, she began to pull back, but he took her in his arms, and his lips locked onto hers in a kiss that made all her decisions up to this point rattle in her brain, her confused emotions dancing alongside what she knew was right. But was it? She pushed him away, and her heart cracked a little more.

Saint frowned. “You’re not still thinking we won’t work are you?”

Sienna gazed over Saint’s shoulder. She saw Danny peek around the corner, his face twisted in anger. His glare felt like shards of glass thrust into her chest. She regarded his tortured face seeing her painful past that mirrored his. She didn’t blame him for what he’d become. Look at what a mess she was. Sienna shook her head to clear her thoughts. She had to convince the boy she means him no harm. She wanted to reach out and take him away from the pain. Her shoulders fell. It didn’t matter what she wanted to do. She wouldn’t be around anymore. Saint would make sure Danny was safe. She gathered her courage and looked into his eyes.

“Can we talk in private?” Sienna fidgeted under Saint’s pointed gaze. Sometimes it felt like he could peer into her soul, opening a window that she never thought she wanted to open again because it hurt too much to let anyone see what she wanted to be left alone.

“Come on, let’s talk in my private bay.”

When he tried to take her hand, she walked faster out of his reach. She peered up at his face and saw he’d drawn down his brows, suspicion and confusion there. “I have to leave the garage open so I can see the kids. Okay?”

She nodded.

Saint crossed his arms and stood next to a lift that held a motorcycle. His muscles stretched the cotton shirt he wore emphasizing his gorgeous chest under his leather jacket. She licked her lips, couldn’t help it. “What did you want to talk about?” he said. “Sienna?”


“You wanted to talk.”

The breath that tattooed in and out of her chest slammed into her heart like and ice ax, the ache growing more vicious as she began to speak, her resolve chipping away at what was left of her heart. “We can’t do this anymore.” Saint’s arms fell, and he took a step forward. She lifted her palms up to ward him off. He stopped and began to speak.


“No.” She didn’t look away from his eyes that lit with fire. She steeled herself even more. Get this done she thought. Move on with the life you deserve. She knew what she was about to say would hurt him. She’d barricade herself in her studio and create her jewelry 24/7, and hid from the world if it meant Saint would be safe from the disaster that was her. “This won’t go on any further. All you were was a good fuck!” She said with a level tone that she didn’t feel. “Now that I’ve gotten you out of my system, I don’t need you anymore.”

His eyes went molten, and his whole body seemed to grow larger, his mouth going rock hard as the tick next to his eye started to pulse in time with his clenching and unclenching fists. He moved.

Sienna backed up and rammed into a workbench the force of it rattling the tools to match her nerves. Saints fists hit the table behind her to surround her and his strong biceps flexed, his eyes closed, and his breathing blew in and out of his lungs like a bull ready to fight to the death. Her eyes flicked everywhere but his until a force drew her gaze back. When he opened his eyes, and they locked onto her she froze. “Lies!” He whispered, his rage prickling across her skin as he spoke the one word.

“Step back,” Sienna said.

“You feel that?” He pressed his body deeper into hers. “Just because you turn me on every damn time I get near you…” He held her tighter. “This isn’t about sex,” he growled. “We’re more than just sex. You know it.” His voice became soft and seductive. She saw what he felt as he looked back at her. It was more than two bodies sating each other. She couldn’t say that, though.

She looked around frantically for an escape route, but she was trapped. In this state, she was afraid he would take her upstairs and make love to her, hard and fast. Make her forget that she was going to end it. In this state as her nipples hardened and her breathing erratic, she had to do something to get away from everything stimulating her response to him, to mate, to stay, to do anything he said. But before she could speak again, he took. His lips met hers and he hauled her up against his body in an unforgiving grip that only made her hotter. “Oh!” she moaned against him, couldn’t hold it back.

He bit her lip and licked. His fingers went into her hair his grip hard, and he pulled, angling her head where he wanted her. He devoured. She cried out the sound contained by his kisses. Her hands came up, and she pushed with everything she had, but he was an immovable force when he wanted her like this. Sienna had to stop him. He wasn’t safe. They weren’t safe together. She wasn’t worth the effort.

Sienna bit him, hard, tasted blood. Taken by surprise, he stepped back and wiped his lip, his fingers bloody. She groaned in dismay and covered her face. Did she really just do that? Her head snapped up when he shifted. The instant he opened his stance, she pushed him back. She did it again and again. “We’re done!” she screamed, her mind full of emotions she couldn’t deal with, Tortured. She snapped. Words she never meant to say tumbled out of her mouth. “You don’t want me.” Her voice cracked. “You’re like every other man who used me and threw me away. You just want a body to sink into, to fuck!” She pushed him again, and again. His steps taking him back further and further. She knew he would never hurt her, so she did it again and again.

“I love you!” he roared. Saint tried to grab her.

“No, you don’t!” He reached for her again, but she gave another hard shove and ran. The echo of those three small words… They ripped her soul to shreds. Because her soul was his in every way and always would be, even if he hated her for what she’d said. She knew she didn’t deserve his love.

Tears swam, spilled over, blurring her vision. Shaking fingers fumbled with keys. She unlocked it, collapsed in her seat. Started the engine, and looked up. Sienna wanted to see him one last time, but he’d already disappeared. He would come after her. Saint wouldn’t give up, so she went to Twisted Metal. Not home. She would never really be home now. Not without him.


Danny hid around the corner. Gunner would pick him up soon. The argument escalated between Sienna and Saint. Maybe Saint would finally get rid of her. He smiled.

The other kids had left. Class over. A female racer that Tina had cornered, her name was Jo or Josephine, walked Tina to her mother’s car. His head snapped around. Sienna was shouting. Danny couldn’t hear what they were saying until Saint yelled three words that he’d never heard before, at Sienna. She yelled back and started to push Saint over and over. And Saint just took it. “Fight back,” Danny said. “Fight back.” But Saint didn’t touch her. Danny closed his eyes. Was he just like the man his mother married? Danny shook his head. No, he thought. Saint couldn’t be. He wasn’t. Danny went after Sienna, determined to tell her that she didn’t deserve a man like Saint. But her tires squealed, and her tail lights dotted the long drive out of the parking lot. When he turned to help Saint he didn’t see him. He ran to the bay. Saint was on the ground. He wasn’t moving.

“Saint!” Danny fell to his knees. There was blood. “Saint! Wake up.” He didn’t dare touch him.

“Oh, shit!” came from behind. Jo, female racer knelt down next to him. “He’s breathing. She grabbed her phone from a side pocket, but Danny didn’t register what she was saying, all he saw was the blood on Saint’s forehead. His anger dripped off of him in red waves when he turned toward where Sienna’s car had disappeared. He got up to go after her even when he knew he would never catch her. A large hand gripped his shoulder. He looked up, tried to yank himself free. Gunner.

“Take a breath, boy.” Danny stood up, and he dug his nails into his palms.

“I’m not a boy.” His nostrils flared. “I’m the guy who’s going after that bitch.”

“Sienna?” a whisper came from the floor. “Where’s Sienna?”

“Why do you even care?” Danny said with closed eyes. “She…she hits you all the time.” His memories flashed to his mother. His lids slowly opened. Saint was sitting up.

“Not her fault,” He groaned, blood now on Saint’s fingers from touching the wound. “She’s just confused.”

“It is her fault!” Danny’s stomach knotted with pain. “It is her fault. It’s all her fault. She’s no good for you. Why can’t you see it?” The last word an agonized whisper. Gunner’s grip was painful now when Danny stopped. He was standing over Saint now. Danny’s body vibrated, to do something, anything to remove Sienna from Saint’s life once and for all.

“No,” Saint said. “It’s not her fault.” He moaned this time as he went to stand up, but Josephine held him still. He could hear sirens. Someone must have called an ambulance.

“Go,” Josephine said. “There’s nothing ya’ll can do.” Gunner’s hand loosened a bit as she spoke and he looked at her. Danny didn’t move. “He’s gotten his noggin hammered that’s all. A few stitches and he’ll be right as rain.” She turned back toward Saint.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Saint said as he took a careful breath. “Look the bleeding’s stopped.”

“If anything, he’s got a slight concussion. But I don’t think so,” she’d continued.

“I’m not leaving until I know for sure,” Danny said. But he could see Gunner’s concern as more than an ambulance sped down the lane.

“You guys go. I’ll be fine,” Saint said. A police car followed the ambulance.

“I’ll call Saint later. See how he’s doing,” Gunner stated.

Danny’s lips thinned. “Alright.”


Once Danny was back in his house he couldn’t settle so he walked. His mother’s property was large, the gardens winding with hidden pathways. He would have gone after Sienna, but security cameras lined the property, eyes on him all the time. When he went to turn back he heard voices. He crept closer.

“You want the money owed you. Let me take care of things my way,” a strange man’s voice snickered. “I’ll make the exchange for the money like we talked about. But I need to get rid of the old bitch. She can’t take much more. If we’re going to do this, we have to do it now. Beating the shit out of her every day and sending pictures to that whiny bitch of a daughter, Sienna…” Danny’s ears perked up even more. “She’ll cave soon and give us what we want. I’ve watched her. She cares just enough to do it. I’ve got to get her alone. But she’s always with that Paulson guy. I can’t ever get close to her.”

“I don’t care about the money. Not now,” It was his mother who spoke. His heart started to race faster. Danny peeked around the corner. She was with one of her higher-ups. There was something wrong with her voice. Was she scared? “We have bigger problems than a junkie owing me money.” He was so close to them the backdrop of light from the house shadowed her face. Her eyes looked like black holes. Danny shivered. Her mouth tightened down as her anger resurfaced. “There’s someone in our organization that’s playing alongside the feds.” She straightened and then leaned forward. Danny could see the slightest shake of her hands as she spoke. He noticed the man flinch. “I want you to find out who it is. Take care of it,” she said in an all too familiar sickly staccato.

Danny gasped. Her head jerked toward the sound.

“Well, well.” She struck him quick and hard. Danny fell backward on the soft grass that might as well have been needles piercing his skin as fear and new pain slithered through his pores making him sweat. Like a flailing crab he retreated, but she was quicker, even in her high heels. She grabbed his hair and yanked him over toward the man. He whimpered as he spied a gun under the guys suit in a holster. His eyes flicked back and forth between them. He tried to grab the hand holding his hair, but she shook him and shook and shook.

“I don’t have time to take care of the leech that I birthed. You do it. Any way you like.” Her smile spread when she looked at him and a chill danced across Danny’s skin. “Just make sure he’s alive afterward.”

“You’re the boss,” the man said with a shrug. She threw him toward the man and clicked away on the stone path. Danny fell to his knees and then got up to run. “Uh, uh,” the man whispered as he grabbed him by the collar and held him, his lips touching his ear. “Mm, just old enough to fight. I like it when my boys fight.” His grip was ruthless.

Danny started to tremble. There were worse things than getting hit.

“This is going to be fun.” The grip shifted, and Danny’s chin lifted to avoid the man’s touch, but there was nowhere to go as the arm tightened around his neck. Danny balanced on his tip toes. Then the man’s other hand went to Danny’s hip pressing him closer, his fingers digging into his bony hip.

Danny’s mind and body went still as a mouse. This couldn’t happen he thought. Then his fear coalesced, and he went wild. He dropped his mouth and bit the man so hard it went through the suit.” The man screamed, but the grip around his neck didn’t loosen.

Danny had to think. Think. Think. He opened his mouth, but fear seemed to cripple his voice. But the man ground his hips into Danny’s butt. Oh, God! NO! He tried again. “I know…” He gulped. “I know where Sienna is,” he choked the words out as he gasped for air, black spots dancing in his vision. “You can get the money you’re  owed,” he finished. The man’s grip loosened. “My mother said she didn’t care about the money. You can keep it all for yourself.” His grip loosened even more. “She’ll never know.”

The man’s fingers curled around Danny’s neck, and he ground his hips even deeper. Danny held in a whimper.

“You better not be lying boy, or I won’t try and make it good for you.”

Danny nodded and prayed that he could find Sienna.


[1] Mercenary Garage, Dublin

Hot Blacktop Ch. 12 – Danny

Dannys House

Saint’s heart tripped in his chest. Something didn’t feel right. His eyes opened, and he reached for Sienna. His hand went to the bed. Still warm. He listened. Experienced with the worst, his past with his sister and her drug abuse, Saint’s hearing narrowed for any disturbance. Sienna was in the living room. His feet automatically hit the floor. Too quickly he found his boxers and tripped over his shoes. It was too soon after Sienna’s mother’s appearance for him not to worry.

He found her and what he saw was abject fear.

“I don’t have that kind of money,” she said. Her alarm coalesced and took shape into uncontrollable tremors. He watched it happen and was at her back, his arms wrapped around her in an instant. The screen image on her phone, after seeing it, he understood why she couldn’t stop shaking. Her mother was in deep shit.

“Please, Sienn…” she’d been cut off. There’d been a knife at her throat. The phone went black.


Saint blinked. “Holy shit! This is a mess.” Saint turned her around, and she burrowed her face into the hollow of his neck. All he could do was hug her close as she cried.

“What am I going to do?” she whispered. “I have to go. I have to get to her.”

“You’re not going anywhere.” The two stared at each other, and then Saint said, “not alone, anyway.”


Danny hunched on the floor in the corner of the closet. The small four wall box a familiar prison. She’d locked him in; he couldn’t remember how long now. The cut on his lip and cheek ached like a son of a bitch. He didn’t dare move too much. The last kick he’d taken to his ribs had caused him to pass out. Luckily she hadn’t been wearing boots. She’d been wearing her red-soled high heels.

His mother’s outfit was pristine, no flaws in appearance. The perfect mom to anyone that knew her outside of the house. On the inside of her watchful sphere, though, his mom was the devil’s sister, her heart as hard and dead as a piece of coal.

Danny had just gotten back from school, his bag hitting the kitchen floor, and the next thing he knew he face-planted on the wood planks next to the marble island, his cheek bleeding…somewhere. “You broke my nail!” She’d screamed, he’d rolled into a protective ball holding his gaping skin so she couldn’t have another go at him. But she always found a way when she was like that.

Danny wiped the wetness from his cheek. “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” He yelled into the bleakness.

She’d played with him until he whimpered in the closet like a stupid girl. She dragged him up the stairs and into the dark room, walked out and locked the door. And by play, Danny meant beat the shit out of him. Again. His father had just stood there.

“Bastard!” he screamed at the locked door. He grabbed his ribs as he tried to catch his breath.

His father was a weak asshole.

To distract himself, Danny made a list in his head about everything he loved about motorcycles. The most important thing on the list, Saint. “Saint is nothing like my father,” he whispered over and over. But then he got angry.  Then he asked himself, why was he with Sienna? He shook his head and then regretted it. He hurt everywhere.

“I need to get out of the fucking closet.” He crawled with the energy of a sloth and leaned into the corner, propping himself up, so he could breathe better. The wood paneling was hard and cold, and the cedar smell made his nose itch. One day she would go too far? The fists, the nasty screaming rages, they were getting worse and harder to hide from people at school. Maybe he was better off if it did. Maybe she would finally kill him. Blinking his heavy eyelids, they finally drifted shut. The last thought he had before he fell asleep made him smile. Freedom on the back of a motorcycle with Saint. He imagined a long road winding away from here.

When next he opened his eyes light spilled into his prison. Water spilled in rivulets down his face as he blinked.

“Get up Danny. It’s time for you to go to school.”

“School?” He wanted to kill his father. “Are you serious?”

“You have to,” his father slurred.

“Fuck you!”

“Quiet.” He looked over his shoulder. Probably seeing if dear old mom was coming to beat the shit out of him too. Danny would have laughed if it didn’t hurt so much. Waving his hand Danny’s way, his Father said, “Tell them you got into another fight.”

Danny went to his hands and knees. He groaned through the pain and caught his breath. Grabbing for the wall, he lost his balance and struggled to get up. “I can’t keep giving the same excuse. Look at me,” his voice rumbled as he winced every time he moved to get out of the closet. Unlike his mother’s closet, it didn’t hold designer clothes and shoes that cost more than everything in his closet. He always had to beg for things he needed. Always.

When he was little, he’d dreamed he was adopted, which would have been a blessing. Danny had run a few times; his birth parents were out there somewhere, he’d thought. The last time he’d left, he’d screamed in her face. “I’m leaving to find my real parents.” His mother had laughed until tears had formed in her eyes. “You think you’re adopted,” she’d said.” He thought she wouldn’t give him any more explanation, but the light in her eyes gleamed with hatred that felt like a creature boring under his skin. To his surprise, she said, “Your Grandfather said I wouldn’t inherit what is rightfully mine unless I gave him a grandson. Your Daddy sure couldn’t get it up.” His father had been standing in the room with a far off look in his eyes that Danny hadn’t understood until she spoke again. “I fucked my way through my Father’s men and finally pushed out a kid.” His father had flinched and looked away. Then all Danny could feel was the pain. She punched him in the face. It was the first time she’d locked him in the closet. Danny was seven. “You’ll stay in there until you understand who has the power here.” After he’d screamed himself silent, his mind had blanked, and the darkness consumed him.

Danny pushed past the memory and the man that wasn’t his father sucking air through his teeth with every needling breath. When his so-called father tried to reach out and give some support, Danny weaved the other way and almost fell. “Don’t’ touch me,” he squeaked. He wrapped his arm around his ribs and walked toward his bathroom.

Most people thought he was a trouble maker so steered clear of him, but no one knew the extent of the control his mother had over him, when he could come and go, how he did it, what he wore, ate…everything. He wasn’t to have friends over, he wasn’t allowed to be seen going in and out of the house, so nobody knew the hell he lived. His mother hid the carnage she’d made of his life well. If he did go out, he couldn’t tell anyone what was happening to him, and his mother had too much power in their small town. Danny knew that much. But he’d told Saint.


If his mother or grandfather ever found out what he’d told Saint, Saint would be in danger. Danny knew it. He just knew it.

Danny had been able to sneak out of the house a lot more lately. His mother had to go on more business trips. It was the only time he was nearly happy until Saint put him on a motorcycle. When Danny wrapped his fingers around the grips of the bike and finally revved the engine for the first time, feeling the power underneath him, it was the first time in forever he was truly happy.

He sniffled and wiped his face. “Shit!”

Danny would chance running away again, but he thought someone watched him now. So he gave up. He’d given up on a lot of things. Until Saint.

He would find a way to race, though. Sitting on the motorcycle had been a revelation. Saint said being smaller was a good thing. He hated being smaller than other kids. But in racing, it gave him an advantage. He would do whatever Saint said if he could race. He’d find a way to get out of the house, do what he needed to, have a life. He would die trying if he had too.

Danny’s body jerked to attention. The banging on his bathroom door turned into a great thud. His father probably hit the wall. “Hurry up, Danny. Don’t keep your mother waiting.”

He moved as fast as his body would let him. Danny didn’t want to give her any reason to hurt him again. He winced as he finished washing the dried blood off his cheek and the fat lip. He grabbed the hat that hung from the door. Covered his head, didn’t bother to change clothes. He didn’t care if he was dirty or not. It kept everyone away. He couldn’t afford to have anyone ask questions.

Through the door, his father gripped his shoulder hard trying to hold himself up. He leaned in too far. The smell of booze was making him sick to his stomach. “She’s going on a trip, Danny. Run Danny. Don’t come back.” Danny’s mouth gaped open.

“Run! Are you crazy!” No answer. His father slid to the floor and passed out.


Danny jumped when he looked up and saw his mother. He sucked in a breath, hit the wall and bit his lip so he wouldn’t cry out in pain. A cold sweat broke out across his skin as an acidic wash swirled in his stomach.

His mother jerked her head. Danny skirted around his father’s crumpled body and hurried toward his door, out of his mother’s reach. But she grabbed onto his neck digging her pointed nails into his skin. A hiss escaped his lips. She laughed.

“You’ll be back here after school. One of my father’s men will pick you up.” His shoulders slumped under her grip. “Did you hear me?” Her fingers gripped his hair, and she forced him to nod.

“Yes, Mother.”

Danny’s day was shit. He’d run into possibly every person that had been at the Speedway the day of his only lesson. When he hit the parking lot at school, the only girl from class, Tina, showed up.

“What do you want?” he snapped.

Tina’s eye’s narrowed, and she crossed her arms. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“Whatever.” He started to move away but then she grabbed his arm before he turned away. His body jerked and he jumped away like a scared cat. “Shit!”

“Are you afraid of me?” He looked up at her face to see the look of disgust in her eyes, but they were full and bright.

“No!” Danny couldn’t look her in the eyes when he said it. He peeked up long seconds later.

Her eyebrows angled down, and she bit her bottom lip. She stepped back with a complete look of confusion, “Are you really okay?”

Danny took a stuttering breath. “I’ll be fine.” He needed to get away from her. Tina seemed nice. She was really pretty too, and her boobs were bigger than most of the girls in his classes, but he couldn’t trust anyone. No way. Not a girl. Especially Tina, because every time he was around her, his stomach got all weird. It wasn’t right. He wasn’t right.

“Will I see you at Paulson’s?” she said at the same time he heard his name called from the parking lot. He turned too fast and clenched his teeth so he wouldn’t scream like a girl.

“Shut up!” he snapped at her. He looked over his shoulder and saw one of his mother’s minions marching across to him. “Shit! Shit! Shit!”

“Danny?” Tina asked just as a hand grabbed his shoulder.

“I gotta go.”

“Who’s your friend, Danny?” He looked up and saw Gunner’s eyes on Tina. His mother’s guard was not to be messed with, but he couldn’t let him know who this girl was.

“No one.” He watched Tina frown.

“Huh,” he grunted. “Let’s go.” Another wince, along with Gunner’s fingers on his shoulder, and he was turned toward the car waiting off a nearby alley school. No one would be the wiser to how rich he was. How rich his mother was.

“Bye, Danny. I hope I see you at the Speedway for riding lessons,” she yelled. Great! He thought.

“What Speedway, Danny?”

He shrugged.

Gunner opened the door to the Lincoln MKZ when they reached the hidden garage. He helped Danny into his seat gentler than he ever expected. Danny looked up at the big man and saw that he was taking in every nick and scratch that marked him. Gunner backed up and slammed the door. Danny looked straight ahead. The bigger guy had never reacted to his injuries this way. Why was it happening now?

“Did your mother take her fists to you again?”

Duh! Danny didn’t answer. The guy would tell his mother what he said anyway.

Danny watched him straighten his arms on the steering wheel like he would push it through the dashboard. “Tell me,” he roared. Danny pulled back and hit the passenger door. He watched Gunner ease a couple of breaths in and out.

“Danny, I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Coulda fooled me,” he snapped back. Gunner’s head snapped around his eyes narrowing. He braced for him to strike. The air was thick in the car and the minutes seemed to slow right into the heaviness that was his life. And then the guy smiled. Danny took the time to figure this guy out. Danny had trusted Saint. He’d said the same thing. Should he answer? But there was no way he could trust one of his mother’s men. Was there? The way Gunner’s anger had spiked when he’d seen him. Maybe he could trust the guy. He nodded.

Gunner’s chin tipped down, and he inhaled real slow and blew it out even slower.

“What’s at the Speedway?”


“Come on Danny, tell me. I told you not to be afraid of me.”

Danny laughed and regretted it. His ribs hurt like hell. “Afraid?” He laughed some more and then for the life of him he just broke. His shoulders slumped and shook as he cried. He looked away and wiped his face.

“It’s freedom on two wheels,” Danny finally whispered.

“All right then.”

Gunner put the car in gear, and they quickly left the dark garage. When he headed in the opposite direction of home Danny started to freak out. “What are you doing? Where are we going?”

Gunner looked over and smiled again. The man kept driving.

When they pulled up at Paulson’s, Danny sat stiff and unsure. “What are we doing here?”

“We’re going to talk to whoever’s in charge.” Gunner sighed. “I’m not who you think I am, Danny.”

What did that mean?

“Now get out.”

“But,” Danny started, and was soon talking to air. He got out as fast as he could and followed Gunner. When Danny saw Saint come out of Paulson’s main office, he didn’t know what he should do, but evidently Gunner had no problem figuring out what was what.

“You the man in charge?” Gunner asked.

“Yeah. Who’s asking?” Saint crossed his arms and stopped moving.

“Gunner Phillips. You’ll continue to give him lessons.”

Danny watched as Saint’s eyes narrowed on Gunner, and then turned to him. Danny could see his jaw get tight and his eye start to tick in the corner. Saint looked back to Gunner, and they stared each other down. What, were they havin’ a secret ‘convo’ or somethin’. Jesus! What was going on?

“Did his mother do that to him?”

Gunner nodded.

Danny sucked in a breath. Gunner admitted his mother beat the shit out him. He bunched over and grabbed his ribs his breaths turning into coughs. Soon there were more hands on him then he could deal with, and he started to struggle to feel trapped.

“Leave me alone,” he gasped. He backed away from both of them. Saint stood and watched his face easing. Gunner put his hands up and took a step back.

“You okay?” Saint asked. It was Danny’s turn to nod. “Who is this guy, Danny?”

“I don’t know,” he said looking right at the man that worked for his mother. Maybe he had more friends than he knew.