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Deceptive Innocence

By:Kyra Davis

asted to be served. He seems disoriented for a moment as he weaves his way to the bar. He loses his footing and bumps into a biker, jostling him, spilling a bit of the big guy’s drink on his lap. As the biker swears, the drunk mumbles his apologies and falls to his knees . . . and tries to use his shirtsleeve to wipe up the alcohol from the biker’s pants, which causes his hands to brush up against parts of the other man’s anatomy that he should clearly stay away from.

It would be funny . . . except the biker reacts too quickly, yanking the drunk to his feet by his collar, practically holding him in the air as spittle flies from his mouth.

“What the fuck are you trying to do?”

“I’m sorry,” the drunk slurs. “I didn’t mean—”

But the biker throws him against the wall with enough force to cause a concussion. The drunk is disoriented, unable to stand up straight. He shields his face with his arms as the bigger man advances. Everyone in the bar is frozen, as if the speed of the violence has forced the rest of us into immobility.

All of us but Lander, who gets up and places himself in between the two men. He meets the biker’s eyes directly and says in a very quiet but very firm voice, “Don’t do that.”

The enraged man looks at Lander with his mouth hanging open. It takes him about ten seconds to gather his wits. “What’s your problem?” he sneers. “You a faggot too?”

“It’s not really relevant if I’m gay or not . . . although your extreme reaction to what just happened is curious. Are you upset that he accidentally touched you or that you sort of liked it?”

There’s a startled laughter through the bar as I whirl around to grab the phone. This is going to end badly and I can’t afford to let this man hurt Lander. But I’ve only dialed 9-1—when I hear the crushing impact of the first punch. Lander’s name bursts from my lips as I turn back to the fight . . .

But it’s not Lander who’s been hit. In fact, I turned just in time to see the biker hit the floor. He tries to get up, still snarling his aggression and holding what looks like a switchblade in his hand, but Lander is having none of it. Another punch and the knife goes flying. Blood is coming from the biker’s nose, but he doesn’t have time to tend to it because Lander quickly lands another blow to his ribs and then yet another to his jaw. And the entire time, Lander’s expression is almost . . . bored. This man is bleeding at his feet as he continues to pummel him, but looking at Lander’s face you’d think he was doing nothing more significant than killing a spider.

The biker turns onto his stomach as if trying to protect his face from the blows. But Lander grabs the man’s arm, bends it back until it’s about to break.

“Are we done?” Lander asks.

The man whimpers and wheezes. “Yes.”

And just like that, Lander releases him. The fight’s over. The biker, humiliated and teary-eyed, manages to get to his knees and looks up at Lander. And Lander looks down at him, and smiles. With his head low the biker tries to get to his feet, attempts to retrieve his knife from where it lies uselessly under a table, but Lander just looks at him and shakes his head.

The biker nods, leaves the knife where it is, and makes his way to the door. The drunk who started it all with his clumsiness finds a dark corner to huddle up in as he rubs his hand back and forth across the back of his head.

One of the other patrons swears his disappointment as the biker exits.

“That guy’s a fucking pussy!” yells out another.

And, of course, they’re not talking about Lander.

The dissatisfied audience turns back to their drinks and conversations while Lander turns to me, looks me in the eyes, and then walks out.

In seconds I’ve gathered my things and I’m following him out the door.

I find him standing just outside the bar, watching as the vanquished man retreats down the block.

I stand only a few feet behind him. He doesn’t turn . . . and yet somehow I know he’s aware of me.

“Where did you learn to fight like that?” I ask.

“Does it matter?”

I hesitate. The loser has reached the end of the block, where he parked his bike, and the roar of the Harley punctuates what would otherwise be a weak exit.

“Do you think he’s steady enough to ride right now?”

Lander finally moves to face me, his expression now impassive. “On that thing he’ll end up running into a lamppost before he runs into anything he can hurt.”

“He could hurt himself.”

“Yes, he could.”

We both fall quiet. The streetlights make our shadows long across the sidewalk. “Are you dangerous, Lander?”

“Look who’s talking.”

I feel a chill run up my spine, I can sense the challenge and the threat he poses . . .

. . . and it makes me smile.

“Would you like to come home with me, Bell?”

I raise my chin and look into his light, stormy eyes.

“Yes.”

chapter three

* * *

Lander was wise enough not to take his limo into Harlem, so we’ve caught a cab. We’re sitting only a few feet away from each other, not talking, not touching, just . . . thinking.

I’m fiddling with my garnet ring, trying to lay out a plan for the evening. I’ve never had sex with a man for any reason other than the satisfaction of my own desire, but I’m ready to make the sacrifice for the sake of my cause. I’ve prepared myself for that.

So sleeping with the enemy isn’t a problem . . . but wanting to sleep with the enemy is.

That’s something I’m not prepared for at all. Over the last few days his self-possession, quiet intelligence, and savagery have been wearing on my defenses. Like the effect of waves against a cliff, the erosion isn’t immediately devastating but it’s noticeable.

He reaches over and touches my leg, his eyes still on the window. His fingers move up and down, his caress almost casual . . . almost. But there’s a soft rhythm to his movement as his fingers rise a little higher, pushing my hem up ever so slightly, then sliding down again t

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