TAKEN BY THE KINGPIN
Copyright © 2018
Ten Years Ago
Every breath Carver drew from his lungs felt like agony. His chest heaved. He clenched and unclenched his fists, urging himself to rise again, but all the fight had been drained out of his body. Carver settled for slumping against the dumpster behind him. No one would come looking for a nobody like him in a dirty alleyway like this. Orphaned young men like him, born and raised in this side of the city, had no future if they didn’t prove they were assets to assholes like Gunn.
He’d thought Gunn and the rest of the Family would be his new family. It didn’t take Carver long to see the reality of his situation. One screw-up landed him here, a broken mess, and it wasn’t even his fault. Gunn needed someone else to blame, and Carver had the bad luck to be the nearest flunky to blame.
Wearing the suit and being given a gun had seemed to mean much more when he first started, made him feel special. Different. If he died tonight and didn’t return to the Family’s doorstep, no one would give a damn. Carver was easily replaceable. There were always hungry cutthroat youths in the city looking for a quick way out, a warm roof, bed. Food. Basic essentials. Like him, they’d do anything to survive.
Thunder sounded in the distance. Just his luck. Rain fell in a drizzle at first, drenching his torn clothes, washing all the grime and dirt away. Was it his imagination or could he make out a phone ringing nearby? Who would be foolish enough to walk on this side of the neighborhood? Didn’t matter.
Two words flashed in his mind. Prey. Opportunity.
He’d been stripped of his gun, along with his wallet and phone. He reached for the knife that Gunn had forgotten to take away when he dropped Carver here to die. Carver’s fingers ached, but he managed hold the knife without shaking. He forced himself to stand. Carver stumbled once, twice, but managed to stand unsteadily on his two feet.
He gripped the knife tightly in his fist and waited.
“Hold on, I think I see someone. I’ll ask for directions,” said a young female voice.
Carver froze in his footsteps as a young woman with a pink umbrella came within his sights. An innocent face with the brightest blue eyes he’d ever seen locked gazes with him. She was a few years younger than he was, and despite the umbrella, water managed to clump her rich, dark brown curls. She had a battered black backpack over one shoulder, wore dark skinny jeans that highlighted the shape of her thighs and calves, pink sneakers and a pale pink sweater that failed to hide her luscious curves.
When she bit her lower lip, Carver couldn’t help but wonder how kissing an angel would taste.
“Um, hi,” she began, then turned her phone off to narrow her eyes at him. “Oh my God. What happened to you? I’ll get help right away. I’ll call the police.”
Carver moved without thinking, flinging her phone away before she managed to dial 911. The police had a fifteen-minute response time in this area, but getting the local coppers involved would only get him in further trouble. She must have seen his knife, because she widened her eyes. She closed her umbrella, letting more droplets of rain drench her pretty hair, her clothes, and tightened her hold on the umbrella handle.
Did she plan on using that pink frilly thing as a weapon? All thoughts of robbing her had vanished when he caught sight of her pink umbrella. This woman looked like a college student and didn’t look she had much on her either.
Carver managed to find his tongue. “No cops.”
“Okay,” she whispered. “Please don’t hurt me.”
The knife must have scared her, so he tucked it back inside the sheath in his torn jacket. To prove he no longer meant her harm, he bent down, pain shooting through his entire body as he picked up her phone and handed it back to here. “Here.”
She hesitated for a moment, before plucking it from his fingers.
“Where are you heading to?” he asked. She kept staring at him, as if he’d sprouted a second head.
“You said you were lost,” he reminded her, patience at an end.
“To 323 Street,” she murmured. “I was looking for the subway.”
“You missed a turn,” he said, trying to organize his mind.
“I don’t understand,” she said after he gave her directions. “I thought you were about to rob me.”
“I almost did. I don’t have anything on me, but then I saw your face.” Carver couldn’t help it. The rain made the fabric of her sweater cling to her creamy skin. He could make out the straps of her bra, the cups that barely contained her generously-sized breasts and her tits poking out. He cleared his throat. “You should get going.”
“I can’t leave you like this. If you don’t want the cops involved, then—” She trailed off, swung her backpack, and unzipped the front to take out a wallet.
“Pink’s your favorite color, huh?” He didn’t know why he made that remark, why he wanted her to linger, chat a little longer when he needed medical attention.
Her cheeks and neck turned red, an endearing color on her. She fished out the bills from her wallet and offered them to him.
“I can’t accept this. This looks like everything you had,” he said.
He began to shove the bills back, but she stubbornly spread out his fingers and placed the bills in his palm. She closed his hand, and he stared at her in disbelief. Was this a dream? Maybe Carver had died in that alleyway and this was his version of heaven, because in the real world, at least the one he grew up in, he’d learned nothing came free and kindness was nonexistent.
Shame burned through his entire body. Carver even thought of taking her money and her phone, and instead, she offered it up to him so freely.
“Promise me you’ll get help?”
“You don’t even know me and you’re giving me all your money?”
“You look like you need it more than I do. Return it to me when you can if accepting my money makes you feel guilty.”
“I’ll never forget this, angel. I’m Carver. What’s your name?” he asked, finally accepting her cash.
Carver would never forget this moment. He’d brand it forever in his mind along with his memory of her. He was a nobody, a disposable flunky, but he’d learn from his mistakes.
“I’m Yasmin McDowell,” she said.
Pretty name for a pretty girl. Had nobody ever told her not to entrust her name to strangers she just met? Meeting Yasmin though, felt like some kind of destiny, although Carver couldn’t exactly explain why.
“Then I give you my promise, Yasmin. One day, I’ll repay this debt to you.”