Truly helpless, p.45
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       Truly Helpless, p.45

         Part #10 of Nature of Desire series by Joey W. Hill

  It was as Marguerite had said. Maybe she'd meant it another way, but it boiled down to this. Was he only worth something if Regina was riding herd on him, taking care of him, being his warden? If so, she didn't deserve to have that shit dumped on her, and he couldn't handle the idea that that was the best he could do, all he could be for her. She deserved...everything.

  "You're not going," she said firmly, stepping toe to toe with him. Though he knew the concerns and genuine caring driving her, it merely emphasized his demoralizing thoughts.

  "I. Don't. Need. A. Fucking. Keeper." He snarled it, punctuating each syllable by hitting the locker next to her with his closed fist. She flinched at the first blow, her body and face so close to the shadow of his rage, but then she locked it down and kept her expression frozen as he dented the metal with impressive force. It wasn't enough. It just made the violence rise even more. Fuck it. He had to deal with what was inside him, and there were two sure ways he knew how to do that. He wasn't going to risk her with the way she'd taught him to prefer.

  Tal had gotten him on the roster for a fight downtown tonight. A shadier crowd than he usually dealt with, but good money. He could use that money to get out of town. Keep driving and driving and driving.

  He pushed down a sudden absurd wrench in his chest when he thought of Dot waiting for him to come home. Regina would love and take care of the kitten. They'd take care of each other.

  "You do need a keeper. Especially if the only solution you can come up with is running," she said shortly.

  He curled his lip in a sneer and moved past her. She wrapped her arms around him so he'd have to physically dislodge her to leave. She felt so good, everything he needed to feel...right. But none of that came from inside him, did it?

  He turned them, using his strength to overpower her, to shove her against the lockers, hold her there with her wrists pinned, his body pushed between her legs so she couldn't kick him. The brief flash of surprise in her face didn't come with panic, thank God. If he ever frightened her like he had Siren, he'd just kill himself. But he put his mouth to her throat, to the pulse there.

  "I've always been stronger physically," he said against her skin. "You're stronger in every other way, all the ways that count. You're everything. I love you, Regina. I love you so fucking much. Enough to let you go. Don't follow me."

  He pushed her away and left the locker room, aware of Marguerite still standing outside the door. Good. She'd be there for his Mistress. There was nothing he could give her, and the burning of his gut, carrying Regina's knowing yet stricken look with him, told him she'd given him everything.

  Marguerite entered the locker room right after Marius stormed out of it. She found Regina on a bench, bent over double. She hurried to her side, concerned, but the woman straightened, drawing a deep breath. Although she had tears on her face, her eyes blazed with russet fire. "Where is that bitch?"

  "Somewhere you shouldn't be right now," Marguerite said wisely. "Where's he going?"

  "Probably to one of his damn fights to get his head beaten in. I dropped my phone in his car on the way in here. I'll give him enough time to get there and then call my locater service to find it for me and go after him. Where is she?" she repeated. "Tell me, or I will tear this fucking place apart to find her."

  "If it wasn't right for her to go after Marius for revenge, it's no better for you to do the same."

  Regina closed her eyes. "Sure, be fucking logical. Goddamn, Marguerite. How the hell did she know who his father was?"

  But she already knew the answer to the question. Siren had likely been obsessing about Marius since their ill-fated night. Siren was a wealthy woman with deep pockets. If she'd wanted to dig up dirt she could use against him, it wouldn't have been outside her means. Maybe she'd even picked up a hint from the news reports of Larabee's execution, where they'd shown full color pictures of him when he was in his twenties. The resemblance to Marius was chillingly remarkable.

  "Does she have any idea what can of worms she broke open tonight?" Regina demanded. "We were getting closer to him realizing he needs counseling. I could see him starting to figure it out, knowing he and I could only go so far." Renewed fury surged through her. "Sorry, I don't care how fucked up she is. I'm going to go fuck her up worse."

  Marguerite sat down on the bench next to her, putting a restraining hand on her forearm. "Terry called Tyler and the other owners, and the club has been closed for the night. They're clearing it now, and Alex was told to wait for Tyler's arrival in his office. This is a very serious situation, and they'll get to the bottom of all who were involved in it. They will handle that. Your job is Marius. Take a breath. You said he's made progress. Something like this, as horrible as it seems at first, can help."

  "Yeah, maybe. Or it can go completely to shit."

  Marguerite ran a light hand down her back. "You love him."

  "Yeah." Regina snorted. "He loves me, too. Told me right before taking off. Stubborn ass. Men. Dumbass men."

  "They have their uses."

  "And after that fifteen minutes, there's the whole rest of the day to kill," Regina quipped grimly. Marguerite made an amused noise of agreement. They sat quietly shoulder to shoulder.

  "I get it," Regina said at last. "He was a total shit to her and broke her, so this was evening the score. She did what she did tonight without any understanding or compassion for who and what he is, and he did the same thing the night he hurt her. But still..."

  "Two acts of malicious harm rarely cancel one another out," Marguerite supplied the rest of what Regina was feeling. "Typically, they only make things worse on both sides."

  "He was trying so hard. I can't even describe it."

  "He would have faced this eventually. If not here, like this, in another way. The question is if he's progressed enough to find his way back without you guiding him." Marguerite nudged her knee with her own. "He's always focused on his physical strength. You helped him see he's stronger inside than he ever knew. It's what a Dom who loves you does. Have faith in that love."

  Marius didn't want to think about faith, love, understanding or patience. He wanted to pound on flesh until he reached blood, bone and quivering muscle. He parked in the alley and beat on the back door, stepping back as it was opened by a tall, scarred Asian Indian man who went by the short name of Sisk. Sisk didn't speak, only nodded when Marius told him he was scheduled to fight and Tal was his manager. Marius stripped off his jacket as he moved through the dark, dank hallway that smelled of sweat and men. There were no show ponies here, no eye candy, no showmanship or good-natured characters like Top Hat.

  This was down and dirty fighting where injuries and the occasional death was the norm. The bettors were the dark end of the spectrum high rollers. Crime lords and their underlings, drug dealers who liked fights of any kind, seedy, shifty-eyed guys like his father who did things in the shadows and came here to watch live violence for entertainment, the bloodier the better.

  The first event was the appetizer and warm-up. In an open area loosely ringed by the shouting crowd of spectators, nearly a dozen guys were engaged in a violent brawl. Weaving, ducking, punching, kicking, biting--a brutal free-for-all. Anyone signed up to fight--meaning someone on whom the bookies had taken odds--could jump in the ring and just start punching. Perfect for his mood. He stripped off his shirt and shoved through the crowd, slamming his fist into the first jaw that presented itself. The hit landed so hard it took the guy off his feet, spinning him around with a spurt of blood. He face-planted on the stained concrete.

  Someone recognized Marius and the cry was taken up, a hot wave of noise. "Rabid, Rabid!"

  Shutting everything else down, he waded into battle. He would keep fighting until he stood on a mountain of bodies. Or they buried him under them.

  Regina found his car as she was making a circle around the parking area littered with trash and no cars. Attendees must be parking elsewhere. It sent a ripple of unease through her, because though the other fight she'd attended h
ad been illegal, there was illegal and there was criminal. This had the scent of the latter, which told all her smart brain cells she should get the hell out of here and regroup with Marius later.

  But what happened if his state of mind kept him fighting until he was seriously injured...or worse? Not only was he spun up, but he was at a fight that might potentially have even less rules than usual.

  The other venue had made it clear hot women were welcome at fights. She didn't know of many male-oriented events that didn't have the same policy. So ready or not, she was coming in. Parking next to his Civic and getting out of her car, she shrugged all her confidence and armor in place, marching up to the scarred gray alley door to knock on it.

  "You lost, honey?"

  She squashed a nervous start at the drawl. Turning, she saw a knot of men sitting in the shadows, sharing whatever their drug of choice was. The one who'd spoken to her was wiping the powder residue off his irritated nostrils.

  "Not hardly," she said coolly. "I'm with one of the fighters. Rabid."

  Another man grinned, showing oddly white teeth, a gold one winking in the middle. "Not here. No bitches allowed at this kind of fight. Rabid don't give a shit about you if he told you to come down here. Or he has a whore who likes being shared. Only pussy at this fight are fair game for all of us."

  "Well, he didn't get the memo." She rapped sharply on the door again, without obvious hurry, and casually tried the latch, finding it locked. Praying someone would answer, she leaned on the wall next to the door, crossed her arms and eyeballed them with all the icy calm she was used to employing as a Mistress. However, the creeping fear sliding up her vitals told her that veneer wouldn't withstand the first man willing to break through it. She'd made a mistake. Now she had to figure out how to get out of it. Wits and calm were her best defense. Working in a prison had taught her that, too.

  "I'll get my cell out of the car and call him," she said, putting bored annoyance in her voice.

  As she straightened, they rose. Her panic climbed as others came out of the shadows.

  "Yeah, you could make a break for that fancy car of yours," the ringleader said. He rubbed a hand over his crotch, a revolting gesture. He had a large, bald head, dark clothes and a sleeve tattoo that seemed to feature a lot of skulls. He could qualify as the poster child for lowlifes. "It's more fun to chase a girl."

  "In your dreams," she said. Examining her nearest options, she saw a piece of rebar had been left next to the door, maybe to prop it open. There were a couple garbage cans, a small stack of bricks and a metal bucket with a mop in it. She picked up the rebar. "Stay the fuck away from me."

  "Sure, honey." He nodded to the men on his right and put his hand on his belt. "I'm going to beat this bitch into submission and then fuck her ass. Take her down."

  Blood. The repetitive thud of flesh on flesh. Screams as an arm broke somewhere. The roar of the crowd, like a TV gone to static late at night. When he was growing up, the old TV set in his room hadn't had cable, long past when everyone else had gotten their 100+ channels. One of the three channels it received played the national anthem in the small hours of the night before it went to that soft rush of white noise. He'd leave it on in the graveyard hours, so things couldn't get him in the dark. A futile wish.

  "Look in that mirror by yourself and see what's not fucked-up. What's worth saving."

  "What do you want for yourself?"

  He'd dropped four before he tagged out of the ring and stood in the corner behind the crowd. As he caught his breath and knuckled blood off his chin, he watched the other fighters. He was scheduled for the fifth fight of the evening. But he already knew he wouldn't be hanging around for it. Tal would give him hell about it and they'd take some heat from the organizer. He'd figure out how to make it up to Tal. Fuck the rest of these assholes.

  He'd tipped the top boiling rage out of his system, and other stuff was crowding in. Siren...all the Mistresses he'd harmed. He thought of Marguerite, who'd given him the first glimpse of what he really wanted. Regina had expanded that to a widescreen, panoramic view. She'd shown him it was okay for him to love and want. And maybe let himself be loved in return.

  Your first job is always to take care of yourself, because you belong to me...

  Hell. He put his hand to his throat, realizing he hadn't taken off the collar he wore for her. He was lucky someone hadn't grabbed onto it and used the hold to beat in his face. He'd remembered to put the bracelet in his pocket to protect it and he fished it out now, staring at the back.

  If lost, return to Lady Regina.

  He remembered the voodoo doll, the two names on either side of the tag, and her observation about his tattoo.

  "You're the skin over the armor, being ripped away. Duncan is the armor and the man beneath."

  He rubbed his hand over it, over the kitten she'd had added to it. He thought of Dot, curled up and purring in his lap. Of Regina, her head resting on his shoulder, body vibrating as she laughed at something on the TV. Their hands, casually linked and resting on his knee.

  So what did he want?

  He wanted her. He wanted to be hers. Needed to be hers. He needed her to kick his ass, not take his bullshit or be afraid of him. He needed her. Lover, mother, friend...Mistress.

  He'd told her he loved her, told her she was everything. He'd meant it as a good-bye, but it didn't have to be. She'd known that. She wouldn't let him go. She'd probably followed him, figured out where he was by some diabolical...

  "Fuck." His gut went cold, fear stabbing him. Her phone was in his car, tucked between the console and passenger seat. He'd noticed it when he got out. He thought she'd maybe left it there last night, when they'd gone to a movie and then stopped at a diner for pie. She liked apple cinnamon and had shared half with him when he thought he'd only wanted coffee. But the pie was too good. Sharing with her made it even better.

  She could use the phone to track him, would use it. And this was not a place safe for a woman. Not safe for anyone other than people like him. She wouldn't know that. She'd only gone to the one fight, and didn't know that they weren't all like that.

  If he'd led her into danger...fuck. Grabbing his shirt, he ducked the organizer's muscle and slid down the hallway, headed back the way he'd come. He shrugged into his shirt as he went. He was probably being an idiot. His Mistress was smart. If she was here, she was safely sitting in her Mercedes, waiting on him with that baleful, you're-in-deep-trouble look that stiffened his cock. He was already hard, the way he always was after a fight. He could give his Mistress a lot of pleasure tonight...if she accepted his apology. And helped him figure out this mess in his head maybe one more time.

  Or maybe it was time for him to stop relying on her for that. She could do that in session as part of what they could do for each other, but maybe he should consider the unthinkable. Seeking someone trained to help his fucked-up head, and ease that burden on her. That was his job, wasn't it? To serve his Mistress, to take care of her. Not make her carry more of the weight than was her due share of a relationship.

  He couldn't just bury his past and hope it would stay that way. You couldn't bury a demon without exorcizing it. Siren had proved that tonight.

  Christ, Marius. Are you finally growing up? While the thought came with rueful humor, there was a poignant, painful component to it, a fierce and quiet victory. It was time to let the ghost of the child he'd been go and become the man he should be. Regina had shown him that, made that possible. To honor that gift, he needed to embrace it.

  Sisk's lanky dark hair framed his scarred brown face and red-rimmed eyes. He was smoking a cigarette and gestured with it as Marius came up. "If you're going out for some air, the boys are having a little fun with some cunt who claimed to be here for the fights. Just stay out of their way."

  Almost before he finished the sentence, Marius heard a scream. High and thin. Enraged, afraid, and in pain.

  A million memories crowded in on him, with the same effect on his senses as an ignition switc
h to a rocket. He hit the door like a battering ram and charged out into the alley.

  When he'd come here tonight, he'd had a lot of pent-up rage to vent. That vat of anger was nothing next to the volcano that erupted in him now. He had his hands on the first man standing between him and the struggling group on the ground before he even remembered leaping. He rammed a rupturing blow into his kidney, broke his knee with one sharp kick, and sent him headfirst into a group of metal trash cans, with a loud crash and howl from the injured male.

  He took in the situation with one red-hazed glare. Even with the help of two men holding her arms, the bastard on top had his hands full, trying to force himself on Regina. They couldn't secure her kicking and thrashing legs, and some of her attackers were already bleeding. She was a fighter, his Mistress. Not a victim.

  "Knock this bitch out," the man had just snarled, a sound that turned into a yelp as Marius landed on him. Tearing him off Regina, he tossed him across the asphalt, spinning to plant his shoe in the teeth of the one trying to pin one of his Mistress's long legs. It sent him arcing back and hitting the brick wall. Then Marius was on the others, kicking, punching, drawing them away from her, engaging them with a roar of pure rage and determination.

  She'd been defending herself so vigorously, he had to believe she wasn't yet badly hurt. If he could give her the opening, she'd be smart enough to run for the car. Then there was a crack on bone as the man charging him from his right went down. He glimpsed her standing over him with both hands gripping rebar. But there were too many. She needed to run.

  "Get to the damn car," he snapped at her, and then he had no time for anything as he was shoved back, two trying to pin him so two others could whale on him. Fuck, he'd spent so much energy in the ring, whereas these assholes were fresh and souped up on whatever they'd been snorting. Why the hell had he come here? He never questioned taking money from these scumbags, but he'd endangered his Mistress. If anything happened to her...