Last Edited: 2o.o6.o8
Clutched On: Chapter One
- X -
At that moment I was craving jellybeans - the orange flavoured fruity ones to be exact.
While most people had their chocolates, caffeine, and even their own satisfaction from sexual pleasure; my innuendo for an energy boost was defined by these special beans. My hand buried into the brown paper bag, stuffing a handful into my mouth.
Yes, there was nothing like goddamn jellybeans at five in the morning.
I managed to bunch my long blonde hair into a messy bun while keeping one hand on the steering wheel. By the rate I was going, I would be at Abbotsford in another half an hour. I saw the familiar red lights flashing. I sucked my cheeks in frustration, hitting the brakes. Actually, it had been a good idea that I had. The intersection was infamously known for dishing out hefty speeding fines.
On my adjacent side, I fumbled the glove compartment open. Unfortunately, as I searched through the miscellaneous mess of objects, I couldn't find what I was looking for. I massaged my forehead, in hope that I could remember where exactly I had placed the packet last. It was quite irking not knowing where I had put it last.
Then I remembered.
I groaned. I had thrown away all my packets the day before. It was been my own personal oath of some desperate attempt to state my resignation from tobacco. Right then cigarettes were higher up on my craving list - even higher than my need for the delicious orange jellybeans. I grabbed another fistful of beans and stuffed my mouth with them. I sighed. No, it wouldn't do. I needed a damn smoke.
I reached over to close the gaping glove box, taking out my sunglasses and putting them on to avoid the sun's glare. It seemed the sun decided to be a bitch to me as well. Just when I thought my lack of cigarettes was bad enough, the sun was doing an exceptional task at making me blind. In a few years, I'd blame that hell of a star if I were to become permanently blind. I liked my light blue eyes exactly how they were, thankyou very much.
On my second pursuit to close the compartment, I caught a small group of teenagers from the corner of my eye. I leant in closer to get a better look at the suspicious gang.
Recalling back, it was a peculiar scene - especially when it was that early in the morning.
The teenage posy was surrounding two particular boys in a hawk-like manner. One of the boys was burly looking with crazy flaming hair spiking at erratic directions. The boy with the untameable hair produced what seemed to be a bundle of white powdery sachets from his oversized jacket. He then handed them over to the other boy standing on his opposite side.
I observed the other boy who received the sachets, my eyes lingered on him for a bit longer. He was standing strangely with a slightly crooked posture. Although he didn't appear as buff as the other teenagers there were, he stood out with some sort of captivating dominance. Perhaps it was because he was tall and lean - I wasn't completely sure. I watched him brush his dark brown dishevelled hair away from his face. From where I was, I could distinguish a small smirk creeping onto his lips, or had it been already there? I didn't know.
I shook my head to no one but myself. This was stupid. Why was I even looking at the stupid drug dealing kids? It was a waste of my time. I needed to be at work. I rolled my eyes, tearing away from the stupid sight. My fingers tapped impatiently on my lap, but still the traffic lights refused to be kind and do me the favour in changing green.
If I was going to take any longer to get to the kitchens the head chef – Damjanov – was going to dice my body into pieces and serve my head on a platter for the main course. If I had known I was going to be a chef ten years ago I would have laughed my ass off, but now here I was, waking up at absurd hours to make a living and going to be late. He was going to fire me if I took any longer.
Suddenly, my train of melancholic thoughts shattered. I could hear a pitter-pattering. It wasn't like the drizzling sound of rain – it was more like hailstones pelting down onto the footpath. My head pivoted to the direction where it was coming from.
It was that boy – that boy with the dark brown hair I had been staring at earlier. He was rapidly advancing my way. Only, he wasn't as young as I had observed him to be. Through his swift motion, I barely could pick out his features but as he grew more and more visible I knew he wasn't as young as I thought him to be. Perhaps he was my age?
He was sprinting now. The cemented smirk was still apparent on his lips. I had to give it to him - he sure could run fast. Whenever I did track in high school, I'd come near to last. My legs were made out of jelly. That was the only rational explanation.
I waited for him to go around my car, but he didn't. Instead, he opened the passenger's door and glided smoothly inside before I even had the chance to react to his intrusion.
"Drive," he said tersely, having addressed me in a calm deep husky voice.
What the hell?
"Drive?" I repeated incredulously. "And you think I'll listen to you?"
"Yeah," he said simply. "Drive."
"What gives you the right to say that?" I fumed, "What do you think you're doing? Get out of my-"
The ear-piercing gunshots interfered with my protesting words. As if we were in an every-day situation, his still calm voice drifted over the blares of chaos, "If you want to live, I suggest you step on it. They're coming."
There was no time to entangle myself into another wasteful dispute with the stranger. We were in the middle of a primary shooting target range, sitting like ducks. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to my life. If I was going to survive, I sure needed to get the hell out of there.
So I did.
Call it the fight-or-flight response, I didn't care. I had chosen the latter, mainly because there was no chance in hell that my body could beat a range of bullets. I know my body can be godly at times, but not in that instant. I would look like a kitchen sieve if I didn't get on with it.
"Shit, shit, shit!" I swore repetitively through my gritted teeth.
The engine roared angrily. My car sped swiftly down the road. A minute ago I was impatiently waiting for the traffic lights to turn a different colour; now I was driving for my precious life! Screw fines, screw traffic lights, screw everything…I just wanted to get out of there.
This sort of thing belonged in the movies, not in my world! I was still an apprentice chef, who independently moved out of home at eighteen, went to university for a bit – but stopped, and saved enough cash to rent my own apartment. Heck, I was still in my early twenties! I wasn't ready to die…yet.
When I heard the bullet amplifications lower down, I straight away assumed that no one was following us.
As I was about to let out an exasperated sigh, he spoke. "It's not over."
My short period of momentarily relief was shattered. I glimpsed two Jaguars trailing behind us. Ironically, there were more explosions accompanied with showers of bullets. I screamed, stupidly letting go of the wheel when I saw them narrowly miss us and a few parts of my vehicle. In response to the attack my body automatically hunched over and my hands instinctively covered my head. I was too frightened to move. We were going to die!
"Hey, that's dangerous," he exclaimed, as if he failed to realise the peril we were in from the beginning.
I didn't have the energy to sarcastically retort back.
The next thing I knew, he was grasping the wheel for me and yanking it to the right, just as we were about to crash into a tree. He somehow manoeuvred into a squatting position on a small section of my seat. I snapped out of my terrified state, taking cue to squirm my way into the passenger's seat where he had sat shotgun beforehand. He flopped comfortably back into the driver's seat before his foot pressed hard onto the accelerator. From his movements, it was like he was playing a real life videogame. Only, we couldn't rise from the dead from having and obtaining multiple lives. This was the real thing; and I despised it.
He glanced every so often at the people following behind us. I could tell that he was enjoying it from the flickers of amusement in his deep green eyes. His body was jittery, bouncing up and down as if he were a young child that has taken a high dosage of concentrated red cordial. The engine revved up even harder. This guy certainly knew what he was doing. It was like he was in his own natural habitat.
Who was he?
Then wasn't the time to think about it. I anticipated a dead end. As I was about to point it out, he gave a short nod of acknowledgement and stepped firmer onto the pedal as we skidded around the curb. My sunglasses fell off the bridge of my nose, but I didn't make an effort to pick it up. The jellybeans were also spilling out of the crumpling bag like popcorn. He seized one and promptly popped it into his mouth, savouring the taste.
"Ohh, it's orangey!"
It was then that I concluded that if the bullets weren't going to kill me, his driving definitely would. This maniac was going to send me to my own graveyard, for Christ's sake!
Without taking a look at my reflection, I could predict that the colour had gone from my face. I was sweating profusely and both my hands were scrunched up in tight balls that they were gradually turning white. I could feel my body trembling, and in addition, I was also fighting the urge to not wet my panties. I tightly closed my eyes shut, hoping that this nightmare would come to an end.
Every now and again there would be an eruption of bullets that would make my heart race even quicker. Also, the maniac's driving methods consisted of breaking and zigzagging around whenever he darn well felt like it. My stomach did somersaults whenever he did. I didn't know how much longer I could take. Enduring his driving was like enduring a sort of purgatory between heaven and hell.
It felt like forever. The suspense, the thrill and the fear were not a good combination nor did it seem to subside. I was no longer aware of how much time had passed by until he spoke up in that deep husky voice of his.
"You can open your eyes now, Riley."
I didn't know how he knew my name nor did I necessarily care. But when I did open my eyes, he was still smirking that smirk of his and his green intent eyes were sparkling with bubbly laughter.
- X -
Before I knew it, I was off my seat and lunging right at him with such a murderous intent.
"Didn't know you wanted me that badly-Oomph," he was cut off when his face was squished vertically against the window - sort of like a pancake. His breath caused the window to fog up a bit.
He pushed me aside and I saw a waver of pain flicker on his face. I sat back on my seat, quite satisfied with myself until I saw the corner of his lips twitching upwards. I scowled. The man was trying to contain his laughter. He wasn't hurting at all. He was aching from only amusement.
It pissed me off even more.
"We almost died back there! You almost killed me and here you are…laughing?" I cried in distress. "You bastard! You're a fucking bastard!"
"Well, you've gotta think positively," he drawled. "Stop being a stick in the mud."
"Didn't you hear me? We almost died back there," I emphasised my words with clarity. "Do you understand English or are you fond of selective hearing?"
To my disbelief, he gave a carefree shrug. I wanted to slam my head against the dashboard. No, not mine - his.
"Have you lost it?" I exclaimed, throwing my hands up in the air.
"I don't think so. It seems like I've got everything," he said thoughtfully with a cat-like grin. His hands dug into his pockets, "Yeah, everything's pretty much on me. I don't think I've lost anything. I've even got spare cash on me! Actually, I'm usually not this prepared…"
I wondered how long I could restrain myself from socking him in the face. He was ticking me off. He was intentionally being stupid. I knew he wasn't literally stupid because if he were stupid we wouldn't have escaped from the cars trailing us just then. But God, he was stupid.
Stupid or not, he was pissing me off. I wanted him out of my face.
"Get. Out. Of. My. Car!"
His smile tugged downwards when he realised that I was being serious. His green eyes dimmed and his facial expression changed into a whole different person.
"I can't leave you," he said truthfully. "It's not safe."
I didn't know if he had been telling the truth, but he sure did look honest. Though, I was still honestly pissed off.
"You care about my safety now? You can't just suddenly play knight in shining armour when you've put me into this mess in the first place!" I said furiously. I was going to crack it.
"I didn't intentionally mean for you to get involved, Riley. You just happened to be there and I needed a lift out."
"You've gotten your lift! So get the fuck out!" I spat. If he'd wanted a 'getaway,' why was he there still?
"Riley," he began. "Please-"
"I don't know who or what you are-"
"A human!" he pipped in with an additional impish smile.
"– all I know is that you're a downright idiot for getting involved with drugs. But you sure have some nerve to even be sitting in my car right now!" I snapped viciously. "Some fuckin' nerve."
He blinked, unperturbed by my outburst. "Keep it down. You're being awfully impolite. It's not good for a lady to swear," he advised.
"I'll show you lady-like!"
My fist flew at his direction, but he effortlessly ducked down in a fluid-like motion. He moved so fast that it wasn't visible to my eye. The next thing I knew he had my arm twisted behind my back and I was gasping for air.
"Let go," I yelped.
"If you could just listen to me," he said.
His tone was serious. I could feel my back prickling static. From the beginning, I never had the upper hand against him. I should have known. I was fighting a losing battle. Somehow I knew that this man was capable of killing.
And it scared the shit out of me.
"Fine, I'll listen to you," I grunted. I was intimidated, but I wasn't going to show it.
He reluctantly released my wrist.
"What if I hadn't chosen to listen to you?" I was stepping on egg shells. I was welcoming Death himself. He moved in his seat, hand going for his pocket- what? He had a gun. Yes, I was right. He was going to kill me.
I was going to die.
I pictured myself as a still body, drifting in a lake then found by a bystander. Sooner or later the police would put my corpse into a body bag. Yeah, that's right. I'd be an unidentifiable body and join the other unsolved mysteries that detectives did a crap job at. Unsolved murders were common these days, so it was a probability.
I closed my eyes and waited for the trigger.
"Riley, promise me that you won't do any funny business while I tank up," he said.
When I peeked through my squinted eyes, I became less anxious. He hadn't pulled out his gun, but his burgundy leather wallet.
"Promise me," he repeated, green eyes smouldering me with his gaze. "Promise me that you'll stay put."
"Yeah, yeah. It's not like I have a choice anyway, right?" I grumbled and watched a smirk take over his lips again. "I'll stay put. Promise."
He nodded, getting out of the car with the door clicking shut behind him.
"As if," I said to myself.
The first thing I did was briefly scan my environment. The smell of gasoline penetrated my senses; we had stopped at a petrol station.
I searched for anything I could use. I looked down at the base of the car to see various contents had fallen out of my purse from our - mainly his - reckless driving. I placed each one of them carefully back into my purse, ticking each one as I went along.
Wallet, mini address book, lighter, pen, tampon, mirror, lip-gloss, eyeliner, work badge, notepad…wait…work badge?
I blinked at the silver badge I had come across. The name 'Riley-Jane Stauss' was finely engraved on the stainless steel.
So this was how he'd found out my name...
I had wondered how he knew my name, but it wasn't exactly my interest when all I wanted him to do was to get out of my car and leave me the hell alone. As well for being agile on his feet, possessing fast reflexes and being a terrible driver, he also had a sharp eye. Somewhere in that short time period between our wild goose chase, he had caught sight of my work badge. That was how he noticed my name.
He looked like he was playing a fool's game – but this guy was a professional.
I looked through my things again, frowning when I saw nothing I could use as weaponry to lash at him. I regretted never getting the chance to buy pepper spray. The thought of spraying pepper in his eyes was very satisfying.
I rejected the idea to ditch my car behind. This was mainly because there was no way in hell I was going to leave my baby behind. No way. Both of us had gone through a lot with each other. Plus, I didn't want it to be in the hands of a maniac.
When I was about to close my purse, my feet felt something vibrating on the floor.
God, why hadn't I thought about it earlier? Perhaps I was the one that had been stupid?
My back bent forward as my hands blindly searched beneath my feet, discovering the object I had been rummaging for. I non-hesitantly uncurled my fingers and saw the screen flashing '3 missed calls from Damjanov.'
Work wasn't my priority. I could take being fired and turned into lamb chops any day - as opposed to being dead.
Right then I had to ring up the cops to get out of this mess. They could arrest the idiot while they were at it. I cleared the screen and began to dial the authority's phone number.
Then, out of nowhere, my phone smoothly slipped out of my hands. I looked up to see him throw it out the window as if it were a heavy shot put ball.
"My phone!" I spluttered. I stood up from my seat to see the varying broken pieces on the cement fuel gritted ground.
"I was kidding. Promises are meant to be broken, you know? I knew you'd do something," he said confidently. "You can never trust women with their promises."
"My phone!" I cried. I had only bought it a week ago with my own cash. I had saved for it for a couple of weeks and now it was…it was-
"I'll get you a better one."
What did he mean? From how he said it, it sounded like I was going to be with him even longer. I didn't know if I could take staying with this idiot. My brain cells were decreasing dramatically.
He took my silence as an agreement, turning on the engine. Subsequently, a bag of multi-coloured jellybeans fell onto my lap, accompanied with various types of chocolate bars and other bags of sweet confectionary. I stared at him in surprise, but I didn't let him see it.
"Trying to get in my good graces now?" I sneered.
"Yeah, I thought I'd make it up to you. You'll have to separate the orange beans from the rest," he said. I was right. He did have a good eye. "You were right. I shouldn't have dragged you into this mess."
"Then you can drag me out of it," I remarked. If he had been thoughtful enough to buy me jellybeans, I was pretty sure that he had at least one good bone in that skeleton of his. Maybe he'd pity me and-
"Once you're in, you're in," he stated firmly, blunting out any further possibility.
He didn't give me time to respond back, revving the engine loudly as we left the petrol station and merged into the main road of Ventralle. We weren't being chased by the blood-sucking syndicate that he had disturbed, yet he was still driving like a drunken fool – a bit too fast for my liking. Adrenaline ran through my veins and I could hardly see the scenery out the window considering everything was now nothing but splash of blurry colours.
"Have you ever considered the fact that your driving will kill you one day?" I couldn't help myself.
"I should be asking you that," he said. He smirked, "You're the one who can't drive."
"Look how you're driving right now!" I snapped. I then immediately regretted it. I had to remember that he was armed and I…well I wasn't.
"Now, now, now, Riley. I gotta say…you're wrong there," he said in amusement. A sly grin played on his features, "Speed driving doesn't kill - bad driving does."
I snorted at his idiotic sense of logic. Trust him to come up with something that absurd.
"I'm sorry," he added apologetically. "I'm sorry for everything that has happened…and everything that will happen from now on."
And everything that will happen from now on?
"What do you mean?" I questioned.
He didn't reply.
He really was annoying me. I hated it when people did that – not replying when they had obviously led into something and didn't bother to tell the rest of it.
For the second time I thought he was reaching for his gun. Instead, he had clipped on his hands-free and talked into the speaker, "Jadey-baby, have you heard from Leon?"
I could make out a woman's voice reply to him in the background.
He swiftly spun the steering wheel when we turned the curb, making me slide to the tip of my seat.
"I lost connection with Leon before the deal. I thought you'd know about it," he paused. He appeared somewhat stunned from the reply he had heard. I watched him suspiciously. What was happening now?
"Ah…okay. It just seems like something's wrong – he was meant to call me. Right. Okay, I'll see you soon. Try ringing up Laurence or Dekker if he still doesn't pick up."
Multitasking, he hung up the phone and screeched the car breaks just in time the yellow lights turned into red.
"You need to get a new car," he commented. "Your brakes are like nails to a blackboard. I don't even know why people use that phrase still. These days, blackboards aren't even used. Then again, I didn't go to school. But yeah, you need a new car. This is the definition of crap."
Now he was ridiculing my car. My baby?
"That's it, you asshole, get out!" I said aggressively.
"I told you - I can't," he said.
"Really, boy, what more do you want from me? You almost killed me, damaged my car, killed my phone, made me late for work…and …oh, stop that smirking! You're really pushing my buttons," I glowered. "GET OUT!"
"You do know I have a gun?" he said.
"I don't care anymore! I'd rather die than be put into this stupid game of yours called immaturity!" I said exasperatedly. "You know what? I'm going to scream!"
"I think you've already achieved that. Nevertheless, go ahead," he said, mischievous glint in his deep green eyes.
"Oh no…I'll be much louder," I threatened. I unwound my left side window. "Like…perhaps I'll scream rape!"
"You wouldn't," he chuckled, but I saw that he did contemplate what I had said for a second.
Unlike before, Ventralle had more cars on the road. It wasn't early in the morning anymore and the streets had gradually filled up with peak hour fast approaching. There were even a few early rising joggers there to witness if anything went out of hand.
"Watch me," I whispered. I wasn't going to be held captive without a fight – even if I had to pull out the cheat card to win my game. All I wanted was for him to get out of my car. It was that simple.
"HELP! THIS MAN IS-"
He clamped a hand over my mouth. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.
An old man stared curiously from the footpath besides my car. He had a leash in his hand that was being tugged by his canine. The dog was jumping energetically with its tongue lolling at our direction.
"Sorry, my Mrs. is going through a stage called PMS at the moment. If you know what I mean, sir?" I could feel the idiot smile charmingly at him just from how he was talking. "You know how the females are."
My eyes pleaded with the man, but the man just shook his head and with one final snicker he walked away.
He let go.
"It would be easier if you would just comply," he said quietly, his breath tickling my neck.
I was about to yell again, but he saw it coming. I knew this because the next thing I felt was a hard blow to the back of my neck and I slowly slipped out of consciousness.
- X –
(a/n) For those who have read this earlier, I've decided to combine the prologue and chapter one to make one chapter.
For those who haven't read this story yet, I hope you've enjoyed the first chapter! This is my first action/romance story and also my first time writing in first perspective so if it reads strange here and there, just let me know and I'll fix it up.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Thanks for beta-ing these chapters, asian-cakes.