He couldn’t make out her face, but he sure noticed her tight silhouette as she walked by the Nova Legion statue. She seemed a little upmarket for the scene and, come to think of it, he didn’t remember seeing her leave. She was probably still there, waiting under the streetlamp like a femme fatale in those movies Keats kept on mute at his desk on a tiny TV.
Somewhere nearby, a door shut. At any other time, it would have been another pip of noise in a filthy district. But it was too quiet around here. Too few people to make a sound like that seem normal. Anywhere else, it would be the sound you shut out. Here, to Rhys, it was a dog whistle.
“Keats, I heard something,” he said. “Gonna go check it out.”
“Not a good idea, Carver. There’s a chase at the north end. Cap’s called the cars in. You got no backup.”
“Don’t need it. If the kid’s still here, he’s alone.”
“You’ll be in deep shit if the boss finds out. How do you even know it’s him?”
“We’ve been watching this guy for weeks. I got a feeling he’s onto us. Or, if not us, then someone else who wants him out of action.”
“Keats, I just know, all right? I’m going in. You got eyes on me or not?”
“Jeez! All right…where you heading?”
“Building two thirty-four on the corner. Going in via the south entrance.”
“CCTV’s busted on the west side, but I got eyes on the north exit. Actually, building report says the east and west fire escapes are busted, too. You keep the south door covered and your boy ain’t going nowhere.”
Weapon in hand, Rhys crept inside and shut the door behind him. It was dark. The only light came in from the street through gap-tooth blinds and dusty windows. It took a second to adjust.
Broken floor tiles and peeling wallpaper lined the foyer. A lamp hung from a wall, still intact. This might have been a nice place once, before the city’s worst years. Now it stood waiting for the official condemnation that would put it out of its misery. Like the rest of this district.
The stairs creaked under his weight, the ceiling creaked above him.
“Keats, we got residents here?”
“Negative. Power and water were cut off twelve years ago. Why, you see something?”
Gunshots exploded above. No time to answer. Rhys popped the safety and legged it up the stairs.
* * * *
Adria hadn’t counted on the tripwire. This kid knew someone would follow him home one day. He’d strung a line of empty soup cans across the apartment hallway. When she kicked that out, a hefty serving of iced water came down squarely on her head. Gooseflesh prickled her neck and shoulders. The muscles in her jaw seized in the cold. Against the shock, she scrambled to her feet, fired up to catch the stomping and crashing in the other room before it got away.
A figure ran past the doorway.
“Stop!” she yelled.
It rounded the corner. Adria gave chase.
She scanned the room. It was dim at best, thanks to the streetlights from outside, but she saw enough. Computer equipment and various peripherals lay strewn across the floor, some still plugged into a transportable battery in the corner, emitting tiny lights and numbers.
A window slammed shut. The glass shattered. Shards crunched and ground beneath Adria’s boots as she hurried in pursuit of her fleeing target.
When she stepped out onto the fire escape, two hands rammed her into the ladder. The whole balcony shuddered from the collision. Pain flared down her shoulder, but she kept her grip on the gun. She held it up with her good arm and fired.
She stumbled backward, clutching her burning shoulder, but the railing crumbled under her weight. Adria grabbed what was left of it with both hands as her footing slipped away.
It looked like a four-story drop. Maybe five if she’d miscounted. Her legs dangled over thin air while from below came the clatter of broken pieces of railing, along with her gun, as they hit the concrete.
Overhead, her target stomped away on the rungs and disappeared onto the roof.
Adria’s shoulder raged. She tried to pull herself up, but couldn’t take the weight with just one good arm. Her feet kicked out, searching for a foothold, but the grill beneath had long withered away to slivers of rust and sharp edges.
Water and sweat dripped into her eyes. She swiped them helplessly on her sleeves and winced as rough seams grazed the skin. The railing creaked in her clammy grip. She could always let go. If she timed her landing right, maybe she’d get away with a broken ankle and a tetanus shot. Surely it only looked like a long way down.
Then she heard a gunshot from inside the apartment.
Adria took a deep breath. Then another. The air was too thick in here. Shadows and sparks crept over her vision. Why was the floor moving?
She fumbled for the doorknob. No dice. Dried her hand on the towel and tried again. Cool air flooded in. Sweat prickled her skin. She blinked hard and rubbed water from her eyes. The dull carpet beneath her seemed to stretch on forever, a giant tilting landscape meeting a worn wallpaper horizon.
Detective Carver stepped toward her. He held out a cup and motioned for her to take it. She tucked a finger in the handle and clutched it in both hands. A dark crack streaked the rim like a wrinkle in a knuckle. Meanwhile, her own knuckles were pale.
“I guess I should thank you”—he smiled—“you know, for saving my life.”
“Don’t mention it,” she whispered, vision clearing as she sucked in a breath of fresh motel air.
The detective’s shirt hung, still wet, on the back of a chair. The contours of his chest and abdomen showed through his dark undershirt, accentuated by the sheen of composite fabric under lamplight. A shallow dimple creased the edge of his smile.
They’d come so close to not making it. But he’d cuffed her round the front. He was the sort of cop who’d do a thing like that. And the few seconds it bought made all the difference.
That’s why she went back.
He stood in front of her and knocked back his shot, the muscles in his wrist and arm flexing and twisting with the motion.
“Hey”—he looked at her—“something the matter?”
Heart racing, she downed her drink without a word and reached for him. She pulled his face to hers. His skin was warm. His breath was warm. Beneath the smell of liquor and earthy river water lurked the aroma of another person. A breathing person who caught her as she fell into him, as she kissed him, fumbling for something to hold onto.
The detective let go of his cup. It landed next to hers on the carpet. She kicked them both away. Her lips recognised him, recognised the sensation of life breathing between them both. Only this time, he was alive, too, hot and moving. His arms gripped her, holding her as she pushed her body toward him, against the growing need under his clothes. She was a buoy, slammed into him by waves in a storm. He clung to her, seizing fistfuls of her hair.
“What are we doing?” he gasped.
“We almost died tonight.”
She kissed him again, seeking his tongue where their lips met. Her nimble fingers worked the clasp of his belt. When it was undone, she peeled his undershirt from his muscular torso. His skin was cold beneath her touch, or were her hands hot from the shower? She looked at him. Right in the eye. She guided his hands up her waist and watched him intently.
“Fuck that, right?”
“Yeah”—he nodded—“fuck that.”
He untucked her towel. It fell from her and lay crumpled on the floor. She closed her eyes. He caressed her, gently at first until urgency crashed her supple flesh into his grasp. Then his arms snaked around her and he lifted her off her feet.
He walked her back to the shower, where his fingers found her. She was wet, waiting. A soft moan escaped her.
Now. Water would be all right now. Adria turned the handles and leaned against the still-warm tiles. She traced the sinews of his neck and shoulders, down to his bare, toned chest. He leaned down, tongued her neck, nipped at the delicate skin. Steam filled the air around them.
She reached between them and wrapped a hand around him. He was thick and hard, ready. She ached for him, like a spring all coiled up, from her stomach all the way down. She kissed him again, drawing him close. Rising to her toes, she slid his cock between her thighs, taunting him, teasing his shaft with her wet cunt.
He picked her up, held her against the wall. Her arms locked around his neck as he slid into her. It felt good. So good. Her body gripped him tight, savouring every inch of his thick prong as it moved in and out of her.
The spring coiled tighter with every thrust. His breath was hot in her ear, the steam filled her lungs, the solid wall pressed against her back, and the weight of his powerful body pushed into her while water ran down his naked back.
Two hours ago, they were on opposite sides of the law. By tomorrow, they’d be back there again, caught in the chaos and tango of life the city. But tonight, they were just two people in a cheap motel, lucky to be alive, doing what people do. Tomorrow didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. Adria arched her back and screamed, full and wet and lost in how alive they were, lost in the heat of how relentlessly he fucked her.