Home > Beautifully Cruel(7)

Beautifully Cruel(7)
Author: J.T. Geissinger

When I whimper in fear, the one behind me gives me a hard shake, so hard my teeth clatter.

“Here’s what’s gonna happen,” he hisses into my ear. “We’re gonna go inside. You’re gonna show us where the safe is and give us the combo. Then we’re gonna take whatever’s in the register, and we’ll be on our way. Do as I say and nobody gets hurt. Got it?”

He has a heavy Boston accent. His breath is hot against my cheek, steaming white in the frigid night air. He sounds young and feels very strong, and I know in my bones that if I do anything he doesn’t like, he won’t hesitate to slit my throat.

There’s only one problem: Buddy’s doesn’t have a safe.

Buddy’s wife comes every day at four to take cash from the register, then goes straight to the bank. Our credit card machine deposits charges automatically to the account. These guys would be better off hitting a Laundromat if they want easy cash.

But he’s already pushing me toward the open door.

“There’s no safe!” My voice is high and panicked. My fingers claw at his arm. “Only the register has cash, and there’s not much in it!”

“Don’t you fuckin’ lie to me, bitch,” he snarls into my ear, shaking me again. “I know that old prick has a safe in his office. Heard him braggin’ about it myself.”

My mind flies at a million miles per hour. I can’t think straight, can’t scream, can’t run. Something warm and wet trickles in a wavering path down my throat.


I’m bleeding.

This asshole cut me.

Something in my brain snaps. Terror turns to rage. The rage incinerates the fear and takes my brain hostage so all thoughts of cooperation vanish, leaving me a snarling animal operating on instinct alone.

I turn my head and bite down as hard as I can into the crook of his bent elbow, clamping my jaw and digging my teeth through that thin layer of nylon right into his soft, unprotected flesh.

He jerks and howls, staggering back a step. Before he can recover from the surprise, I move my hips to one side and swing my arm back as hard as I can, driving my closed fist directly into his balls.

He grunts in pain, bends forward, and drops the knife.

I twist away from him, leaping out of his grasp. Then I bolt.

My heart hammers against my ribcage as I run as fast as I can down the alley, pumping my legs and arms and gulping air like I’m drowning.

I make it almost to the street before they catch me again.

This time I’m grabbed by the hair, so hard it lifts me off my feet. I’m airborne for a moment, then my back and head slam against wet cement. All my breath is knocked out of me.

Gasping, I roll to one side to try to get my feet back under me, but am stopped by a hard kick to my stomach.

Then another to my face.

I collapse onto my side again. Coughing and wheezing, fighting the urge to vomit, I curl into a protective ball. The concrete is wet against my cheek. Everything looks watery and wavering. There’s a high pitched ringing in my ears.

Get away. Get away. Hurry up and get to your feet and GET AWAY!

They drag me back farther into the alley and throw me up against the wall. The one I bit, who seems to be the leader, crouches down next to me and grabs my jaw.

“We got ourselves a fighter, boys.” He sneers, fingers digging into my face.

One of the others snickers and rubs the heel of his palm against his crotch. “That could be fun.”

All three of them laugh. Low, nasty chuckles that spread like a virus through my veins.

It seems they might be in the mood for a little playtime before they go back to Buddy’s to get what they came for.

My lip throbbing, my eye beginning to swell, my liver screaming from the kick it took, I look up into the face of the guy bending over me.

He’s got a hoodie on, too, but this close I can see his blue eyes glinting, see his crooked nose and his crooked grin and the trail of inked teardrops beneath his left eye.

I know what those teardrops mean, and it’s not that he’s prone to weeping.

I say hoarsely, “My name’s Tru. Remember that. It’ll come back to haunt you.”

He scoffs. “Aw, you gonna sic your hound dog on me, Alabama?”

I answer him through gritted teeth. “No, because I’m gonna kick your ass when I see you in hell. And it’s Texas, you inbred idiot.”

With the last of my strength, I punch him in his Adam’s apple.

His head snaps back. He makes a loud gagging noise, falls back onto his ass, and grabs his throat, coughing.

His companions are stunned for all of about two seconds, until one of them says angrily, “What the fuck?”

He delivers another savage kick to my stomach, then lifts his arm and points his gun at my face.

I throw my hand up instinctively and close my eyes, my whole body clenched as it waits for the loud crack of gunfire.

It doesn’t come.

Instead, I hear a startled yelp, the dull thud of fists hitting flesh, then a cartoonish series of grunts and groans. There’s some scuffling and angry cursing. Something big hits the side of the Dumpster with a loud metallic clang—then the sickening sound of bones crunching echoes down the alley, along with a piercing cry of agony. More thuds, more grunts, a heavy groan, then it falls quiet.

I lift my head and look around, squinting to see through the shadows.

When I can focus, I see two men lying unmoving on their backs on the ground a few feet away from me, eyes closed, bloody faces upturned to the rain.

Standing over them is a man dressed all in black like an undertaker. He stares at me with no expression. His empty hands hang loosely by his sides.

It’s the wolf.

Movement from behind him distracts me. The one who put a knife to my throat is trying to scramble to his feet. His eyes roll wildly as he staggers and coughs. He spots one of the guns his companions carried lying a few feet away on the ground and lunges for it.

He doesn’t make it.

The wolf spins around, grabs the robber’s head, and gives it a hard, violent twist to one side. He slides to his knees, topples to his side, then lies still.

I know by the sickening snap his neck made that the knife-wielding robber who called me Alabama won’t ever be calling me that again.

The rain falls harder. Somewhere off in the distance thunder booms. Jagged white fingers of lightning crackle through the night sky.

The wolf kneels down next to me and gently touches my face. Looking me over, he curses.

“How badly are you hurt? Talk to me, lass. Can you stand?”

His voice is low and urgent. His eyes blaze with fury. His face is shadowed in the hollows, dark hair dripping water from the ends.

He looks beautiful and terrifying, like an avenging angel coming to lay waste to the entire world.

I try to speak, but the sound that comes out isn’t a word. It almost doesn’t sound human.

He whips his cell phone from his suit pocket, jabs at it, puts it to his ear. He tells the operator he needs an ambulance and gives the address.

The last thing I see before I pass out is him staring down at me, his big rough hand cradling my face.









I wake up in a hospital bed with a needle in the back of my hand and a pleasant fuzziness in my head. Sunlight streams through the windows. Birds chirp in the trees outside.

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