Wickedly handsome and shamelessly rich, Tristan Stahl is a villain. A businessman by day and an underground cage fighter by night, he fears no one, and respects one man alone – his adoptive father, Mark Stahl. It’s at Mark’s request that Tristan recruits Isolde Molnar for her “special talents”. He doesn’t expect complications from this “piece of livestock”, but working closely with her turns out challenging in more ways than one. Throw a modern alchemist’s potion in the mix along with Mark Stahl’s growing infatuation with the girl, and there you have it – Tristan and Isolde Reloaded. Enjoy!
CHAPTER XVI – The Beast
Isolde’s brother, Roland the Callboy, is staring at us with quivering eyebrows. His Latino lover muscles ripple under a white undershirt.
“You,” he grunts at me, fists clenching by his sides. “You’re the guy from the hotel. You blackmailed—”
“I blackmailed your client, yes. But I’m pretty sure she’ll be calling on your services again, nevertheless. No damage done.” I measure him up and down, assessing the danger. He poses none. He obviously miscalculates, though, and he launches himself at me with a war cry.
He bends from his waist, and his shoulder slams into my lower belly as his arms fly around my belt line. I flex my abs to dampen the impact, and he groans loudly. I grab him under his armpits, spin him around and haul him onto the couch.
“For God’s sakes!” Isolde cries, and hurries to her brother. Roland bares his teeth in pain, taking his good hand to his shoulder.
Isolde drops onto the shabby green couch by his side, hands on his arm, looking daggers at me.
“You brute! What are you made of?” Her despair sears like acid dripped onto my heart.
“He attacked first.” Hell, I even sound like an apologizing child.
“You barged in on him while he was naked in bed with a woman only a few days ago. What did you expect, a brotherly slap on the back?”
Before I can think of anything to say Roland redirects his anger at Isolde. He pushes her away with his good hand, and my body flexes to intervene automatically. It’s an effort to stop myself.
“You! You knew,” Roland barks at his sister. “You helped him stage the whole thing, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t have a choice, Roland.” Isolde makes herself small at the other end of the couch. Roland convulses toward her, and I can’t keep back anymore. Before I know it, I’m stomping toward them.
“You lay that hand on her, and I’ll fucking break it.”
Roland’s eyes snap at me. “How did you get her to betray me, you bastard? Did you blackmail her, too?”
I stop right by the couch, looking down on the pathetic callboy with tousled hair. “No. I threatened her. I said that she’d never get a decent job again, if she refused to work for me. I said I would destroy her life. And yours.”
“Get out,” he says between his teeth.
“You’re not welcome here,” he insists.
“But I’m needed.” I turn around and walk leisurely to the window, parting two blades of the blinds with my fingers. “Did you see the pack of clowns and cheerleaders downstairs at the entrance, Roland? I have good reason to believe they’re here for your sister. And that they mean her harm.”
Isolde mumbles something, but Roland interrupts her.
“Let me guess,” he spits. “They mean to harm Isolde for some shit you got her into, right?”
“She wanted information on heavy bad guys. That’s power. Power comes with danger,” I say evenly, still keeping my back at them and my eyes out between the blades at the losers outside. I still my body completely, feeling my environment.
The hallways on the floors above and below sound empty. But there’s activity on the ground floor. My ears spike, expanding hearing range. Steps dodder up the stairs. I tune out Roland and Isolde’s arguing, and spin around the moment someone raps on the door. Isolde makes to get up.
“No,” I command. She freezes. “Roland, you go.”
“But, his shoulder,” Isolde insists.
“If they see you, they might hurt you right off.” I motion with my chin at Roland. “Go. Let them in.”
“Are you sure about this?” he mumbles. He doesn’t seem very combative anymore, like he’s low on fuel.
I nod. “And don’t worry. I guarantee no harm will come to you. I promised Isolde in return for her services I’ll keep you safe, as well.”
That brings back some of Roland’s hostility. “I can take care of myself, trust me.”
He rises to his feet, and shuffles to the door, still holding to his shoulder. His bronze muscles in that white undershirt would normally have a more intimidating effect, I’m sure, if it weren’t for the rough 3 AM face and the I’m-wounded posture.
I wait at the end of the hallway, right across from the callboy. Looking through the peephole, he asks, “Who are you?”
“Please, let me use your bathroom,” a female voice replies. She sounds a bit incoherent, like she’s tipsy.
“You climbed all the way to the third floor for that? Why not stop on the first?”
Pause. “There was no one home.”
“In the entire building until you came to my door?”
“Roland,” I hiss. He turns, his dark brown eyes meeting mine. “Just let her in.”
With his gaze still on me, Roland unhooks the door chain, turns the locks, and wrenches it open. A blue-haired girl with a beer bottle in her hand staggers in, all torn black stockings and smeared lipstick. She sees me across the hall, stops in her tracks, and smiles. She starts fiddling with her hair. “Oh, hello, handsome stranger.”
When Roland makes to close the door behind her two guys in studded leather appear on the threshold. The one with earlobe stretchers and braided beard slaps a hand on the door, keeping it open, while the one with long hair and chain boots walks in. They measure Roland up and down.
“We need the loo, too, mate. You don’t mind, do ya?”
Roland glowers at them, saying nothing. While the two thugs approach, the girl leans by the door, staring at me with that drunken smeared grin, still wringing her blue hair on thin dirty fingers. I know her type well – cracked in the head, gets off watching live fights. Women like her litter the seats around the cages.
“And who are you, mate?” the longhaired guy says roughly when he’s beside me. “You the bitch’s boyfriend, of the fuck buddy?”
Both thugs laugh, checking out the living room to my left, where Isolde sits on the couch, white-knuckling the edge.
“I’m her boss.” I motion with my chin at Roland again. The rest of my body is still as a statue. “He’s the brother.”
The longhaired guy circles me, the chains on his boots clamoring every time his heel hits the floor. “The boss, eh? Too young and too pretty for a boss, but say I believe you. You fucking her?”
I keep my eyes ahead. “Not yet.”
The guys and the girl burst into laughter.
“Then what you doing here at 3 A.M.?”
I turn my head slowly, and scan him from chained boots to ugly longhaired head. I can already taste blood in my mouth, my pulse quickens in anticipation, and my palms itch.
“Waiting for a chance to smash your face in. To break your legs, make you squirm on the floor, and step on your fucking head until your eyeballs swim in your scrambled brains.”
Fury explodes in the whites of his eyes, and I run my tongue over my teeth. My heart pumps adrenaline through my whole body, and time shrinks.
The longhaired thug balls his fist, opens his mouth in a cry of battle, face furrowed and eyes reddened. His fist starts on a curved trajectory towards me. I block it with my right arm. My left first crashes into his face, molding his flesh and uprooting a couple of teeth.
He lands on all fours, and spits his teeth out with blood. Then he falls on his side, half of him in the hallway, half in the living room, unconscious. His face is deformed. X-ray kicks in, and I assess the damage – he’s got a fractured cheekbone. Won’t be waking up anytime soon, and when he does, he’ll be in excruciating pain. I raise my eyes to see Isolde watch me with an open mouth, her soft brown eyes big and amazed. Is this a good thing? Or is she disgusted?
Movement at the entrance draws my attention. The other guy starts running towards me, but Roland tackles him to the floor. The girl breaks her beer bottle on the back of Roland’s head, making him get off the thug, cursing, good hand to his bloody head. I could intervene, but should I? The girl tries to sprint out the door, but bounces off Demerol’s huge bulk that appears in the doorstep. Behind him, I hear my men disable the rest of the mafia’s thugs.
I address Demerol, pointing at Roland. “Help him up.”
Demerol looks down at the callboy, frowns as if he doesn’t quite understand at first, but then reaches to grab him under his armpit.
“Not that shoulder, I might have dislocated it,” I say.
Roland comes slowly to his feet with Demerol’s help, while two other men tie up the screaming girl and the guy with earlobe stretchers. Rubbing the back of his head, the callboy squints at me like I’m the sun.
“You fucking maimed that guy with one blow, man,” he calls. “What sort of beast are you?”
To be continued
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