Chapter Two

Money well spent.

Talla came back with firepower.

This time, he wasn't alone. He and Ray, who was packing enough discreet heat to take down the Russian army, forced their way through the rusting double doors at the front of the house and stalked through the winding halls on an obvious mission. The sounds of sex were just as apparent as they had been the last time. Talla tried not to wince at it, finding it all too easy to imagine his (once) fragile little Kaley right in the thick of it.

A few barely-clad boys made half-hearted efforts to stop them, but Talla was determined this time. Ray flashed the weapons and the kids slid out of their way like water over oil. Talla tried to bear a grudge against them, but ended up feeling ill instead. For all of the tattoos and at-home piercings, they were still just… little boys.

But Ray carried on, and Talla walked at his side, his body reflecting a purpose even if his mind was all over the place. And by the time they reached the hall beneath the staircase, he was feeling pretty smug. He himself might have been decidedly petite, but Ray was well over six feet tall. With muscles to spare.

The smugness departed when he put a hand on the oak of Kaley's door, feeling the scrape of peeling paint against his palm, and pushed it open. Kaley was there, but this time, he wasn't alone either. Talla's eyes skittered disbelievingly over the details. Kaley on his knees, the condom in his hand, the man standing in front of him.

Safe sex. That was good.

Jesus Christ. Talla turned away before he was ill, staring down the hall with gritted teeth and a resolute expression.

"Ray, bring him with us."

"Sure thing, boss." Ray's accent, thick and pronounced, was warmed by the obvious smirking note in it. If there was anything Ray loved, it was a good capture. Talla set off down the hall, not stopping until his feet had cleared the thin red carpet of the front hall. He stood outside the door and sucked in great lungfuls of air, fixing doggedly on his car. It was a nice car, imported and rare, a gleaming length of shiny black expense.

Inside, he could just make out the sound of Kaley arguing with Ray. The man who'd been in there with them comes bursting out the door beside him, panting as he fumbled with his wallet. Kaley must have gotten paid, Talla noted dourly. The man ran the entire length of the block before he looked back, and when he set eyes on Talla, he turned and bolted again.

Another reason Ray was money well spent.

Talla waited and they finally appeared, Ray gripping Kaley by the back of his t-shirt like a scruffy puppy. Kaley was obviously not making it easy for Ray; his thick blonde hair fell over his eyes in unkempt clumps—Talla gave a mental tsk—and he muttered and glared at the ground, dragging his feet and refusing to walk. Ray was nearly carrying him. Nevertheless, Kaley was still only sixteen. His added height had only made him about 5'10", and he was as skinny as ever. Ray looked as though he were positively enjoying himself.

Kaley looked up at that moment, interrupting Talla's mental perusal of his body—he could see they would have to go shopping—and caught Talla's eyes. The look he gave him was ugly, and for a second Talla felt a splintering shock. His Kaley would never have—but then, that wasn't his Kaley, was it?

He turned away. "Put him in the car."