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Retribution
Author: Natasha Knight


 

 

FOR THE SIXTH DAY this week, I watched Elle Vega walk out of the trendy café, wave good-bye to her friends, and climb into her shiny, new VW Bug. Yellow. Compliments of Daddy, no doubt. I knew for a fact she had a Mini sitting in the garage at home, too, but she wouldn’t bring that around this group. No, she had to maintain the appearance she was like them. Like her friends. She’d then take the long way to her condo in the West Village. Tiny, charming, absurdly overpriced. Perfect for the rich little bitch.

“Mr. Smith, can I get you anything else?” Mary asked, the dark circles under her eyes betraying her fatigue. She’d been serving me the same thing every day for the past six days — a double espresso and a slice of apple pie.

I took my wallet out. “No, thank you, Mary. What’s the damage?” I already knew. It’d be less than ten bucks, but I dug out a fifty-dollar bill anyway.

“Here you go,” she said, handing me the check.

I glanced at it before slipping the fifty into the little pocket folder. “That should cover it.”

“Oh, no, sir, it’s really too much.”

I closed my hand over hers to stop her from giving it back. “How’s Kyle doing, by the way? Things settle down at school?” She was a twenty year old single mom working two jobs, one of which paid below the minimum wage. Fucking ridiculous how, here in the United States of America, one of the wealthiest fucking countries in the world, we have kids like this raising their own kids, struggling to put food on the table.

She smiled, knowing she needed the money. Knowing I knew it. “Kyle’s good, and, yes, it’s going better. The bigger kids stopped teasing him, it seems. His teacher’s pretty nice, actually.”

I smiled back at her. “Good. I’m glad to hear it,” I said, standing. “Oh, one more thing.” I took a business card out of my wallet and handed it to her. “I’ll be going out of town for a while, but if you ever need anything, don’t be a stranger.” She was a good kid. Got a shit lot in life, but a good kid.

Her nose reddened and her eyes moistened. “Thanks, Mr. Smith. You’re a great guy.”

I almost chuckled, wondering if she’d think that if she knew the reason for my daily visits.

I dug the keys out of my suit pocket and went around the corner to where I’d parked my Harley. People turned to stare as I climbed on. It was only natural, I supposed, to watch a big guy in a three-piece suit, wearing shoes costing more than most made in a month, ride a fucking Harley through town. The bike was the only part of the past I brought into my present. The rest I’d return to later, when it was done.

I followed the little yellow bug from some distance away, although I didn’t need to tail her. I knew where she lived. I knew what she ate. Where she did her dry cleaning. Who she socialized with. Who she fucked — although that was surprisingly infrequent. I knew the contents of her underwear drawer. Knew what kind of vibrator she liked and how often she used it. And, today, I’d meet Elle Vega face-to-face. I’d introduce myself as her new neighbor, and I’d steal her life, just like they’d stolen mine.

 

 

I WONDERED IF HE’D be there again. He was a new tenant, Adam Smith, according to his mailbox. Not that I was stalking him. He’d moved into the penthouse two weeks ago, and I’d run into him a handful of times in the lobby of our shared building. It was one of the most beautiful buildings in the West Village and his moving in only made it more so. The man was insanely hot, with thick black hair he kept somewhat neat. I say somewhat because there was something about him, an energy too alive, too wild to contain, and his hair seemed to be a physical manifestation of that. No matter the respectable cut, it fell over his forehead in a way that made him look like the baddest of the bad, reckless and dirty and irresistible. A scruff of stubble spotted with gray did nothing to soften the hard angles of his jaw, and his suits barely contained his rock-hard body. But all that was a bonus, because it was his eyes I liked best. They shone sapphire blue, the gleam in them betraying an intensity, an animal nature that would devour when unleashed. And each time I ran into him, I ended up staring like some fool.

He got home around five o’clock each night, right about the same time I did. So far, he’d only glanced my way, barely acknowledging me apart from a cursory smile, and, the one time we’d ridden in the elevator together, a quick sweep of his eyes down to my chest. I still remembered his expression. He hadn’t even tried to pretend he wasn’t looking, like other guys would have done. Instead, he’d taken a moment to appreciate the swell of one of my breasts peeking out from the neckline of my sweater, my jacket having been pushed aside by my heavy bag. The elevator had reached the fifteenth floor then, my floor, and when the doors opened, he’d met my gaze and smiled, that smile indecent and so downright dirty, it had made my breath catch and my sex throb to life.

I’d stood there like an idiot while the door began to close before he’d caught it. I’d muttered something, stumbling over my words before tripping out of the elevator, my face hot with embarrassment at how ridiculously I’d behaved.

The memory still made me blush when I saw him, but I couldn’t help wanting to see him. And, so, when I parked my car in the garage, I looked for his bike, feeling a little pang of disappointment to find his parking spot empty.

Climbing out, I opened the trunk to collect my groceries. One bag had fallen over and groceries littered the trunk. Irritated, I tossed my camera case over my shoulder and righted the bag. After stuffing everything inside, I lifted it, along with the second one to find the bottle of red still lying behind the bag. Dangling my keys from my mouth, I reached for it, grabbing it between two fingers. I’d stuff it into my purse once I straightened. But when the sound of the garage door opening startled me, the bottle slipped and went crashing to the ground, splashing my jeans and new suede boots with dark-red liquid.

“Shit!” The boots were too expensive to ruin on their first wearing.

The Harley rumbled into the garage, the sound reverberating off the walls as I set the groceries on the floor and began to pick up the larger shards of glass. Why did this have to happen now? In front of him?

He killed the engine. “You okay there?” He climbed off his bike and headed toward me, and as soon as he did, the sharp edge of a piece I’d picked up cut into my palm.

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