The Contract Affair

Chapter Thirteen:

When Shit Hits the Fan

Xander was winning. No, winning was an understatement; he was pulverising the already hurting man who called himself Ignacio. Parisa, standing next to the giant of a man named Santiago, observed the fight with her worried eyes. Santiago's large arm was draped over her shoulders protectively and she was so close to him that she could take in his strong, masculine smell of car oil and deodorant. Strange that a thug like him wouldn't smell like sweat and weed instead. That wasn't what was most astonishing, though. It was the fact that Xander was actually winning when he had so easily lost against Bryan; the one who had taken a beating from the very man getting pummelled right now.

After a while, she was able to pick up on why he was winning this fight. From the tripping, the illegal hits and the attacks that would leave serious damage, Parisa knew that Xander was fighting dirty. He fought best when he wasn't playing by the rules, unlike when he had obediently been sparring with Bryan earlier. The street fighting skills were exactly what was needed in order to beat the thugs anyways, seeing as how Ignacio had used similar hits on Bryan when the noble Brit was least expecting it.

Nonetheless, watching Xander execute hit after hit into the man's face, stomach and groin was still gruesome. Blood coated his knuckles when he had broken Ignacio's nose and possibly a few teeth but he didn't dare stop. Years and years of bottled up hatred and anger was finally being unleashed on a man who, in Xander's mind, deserved every bit of it. He remained focused, moving his sweat coated body and muscles like the machines they were. His breathing came out sharply with each successful blow he landed on the lankier man before him and, only when he was completely and utterly satisfied with his work did he deliver the final knockout blow. It was the same move Parisa had witnessed him attempt against the punching bag earlier; he spun in the air briefly and executed a perfect high kick straight into Ignacio's bleeding and bruised face.

He swayed for a second and then dropped to the floor. Xander stood perfectly still, his posture defensive as he stared down at the unconscious thug sprawled on the floor. The gym was quiet for a brief few moments and then shortly erupted into complete madness as each of Santiago's men shouted protests and obscenities. Parisa looked up into Santiago's face and saw his dark eyes burn like hot coals. He was evidently not a man who handled loss very well at all and there was a feeling deep in her gut that told her this was far from over.

Despite the noise, Ignacio's slumped body didn't budge but Xander did relax his tense muscles and managed to look over right at Santiago. In response, the thug grabbed Parisa closer to his body and wore a threatening snarl.

Then he spoke to one of his men standing nearby, his voice a low grumble that failed to hide his agitation, "Watch the girl. Looks like I have to finish the job. If you want somethin' done right, do it yourself."

Santiago shoved Parisa away from him, startling her and causing her to emit a sharp gasp as she was flung into another thug's arms. This one had sleeves of tattoos and wasn't ashamed to 'accidentally' touch her inappropriately. She was just about fed up with all the manhandling and so, stepped on the man's foot and elbowed him in the stomach.

She then turned to face him before speaking. "I won't budge. I don't need your grubby fingers on me to restrain me so back the fuck off, pal." Parisa hissed, glaring at the short man's hunched form.

Only when the thugs started cheering did Parisa look away to take notice of what was going on in the ring. She felt her heart stop as she watched Santiago's bulky body standing before Xander's determined and lean figure. Whatever was going on, it sure as hell didn't bode well. Parisa's fears were confirmed when Santiago spoke and addressed everyone.

"Listen here, Park. Ignacio was worn out. So technically, that wasn't the fairest of fights. You had the upper hand. Now," Santiago's mouth grew into a wide grin that reeked of maliciousness, "to make it even, you have to take the best fighter in the room head-on. Same rules apply except now, you're the one worn out."

Immediate cheering and boasting erupted in the gym. Parisa spotted Carolina nursing her injured fiancé who was still knocked out cold. He needed to get to a hospital and the more time they spent in the little gym, the more frightening his situation seemed to get. Parisa's desperate eyes landed on Xander again and she had no doubt in her mind that he was aware of Bryan's condition. Nonetheless, if he was concerned at all, he did not show it. Instead, he remained cool and stoic in composure and even when he spoke, his voice did not shake or show the tiniest hint of fear.

"So who am I taking on? At this rate, the best fighter in this room would be the punching bag. At least it won't get knocked out."

Ignacio's grin turned into a sneer so fast that it was hard to believe the man was even capable of not looking like a pitbull off of his chain. Then, in response, he pounded on his chest with his fist, reminding Parisa a lot of an angry gorilla, before shouting out in his hoarse voice, "ME!"

Her eyes widened while Carolina looked up nervously, sensing the immediate tension. Xander stood still but his whole body remained on high alert as the gym reverberated with more shouting. He knew he didn't have the time to play with these guys all day due to Bryan's condition but, at the same time, they couldn't exactly just waltz out of the gym without a fight.

Santiago smiled again when he heard his name being chanted by his men but Xander simply sighed, running his hand through his hair. He refused to make any eye contact with Parisa or Carolina, even though he was extremely tempted to be sure they were okay. After all, this was partially his fault. How could he have forgotten about this gym?

"I'm going to enjoy every second of whipping your ass, Xander Park. That pretty boy face of yours needs a makeover. Not to worry, I'll be fixin' that for you." Santiago's voice drew Xander back to the present.

Parisa in the meantime, made her way towards Carolina and Bryan's position, finally being free to roam around. She crouched down and examined the swollen face of the redhead's fiancé. His once handsome face seemed to be lurking somewhere underneath all the puffiness, blood and bruises. Carolina ran her pale fingers through his short, dark hair but continued to stare ahead at the ring with her eyes locked onto Xander. Parisa followed her gaze and saw that the two men were now circling one another, both in defensive postures and both not ready to make the first advance. The men continued to jeer loudly and yell encouraging words to their thug leader. She clenched her teeth; when would this all just end?

Parisa glared at Santiago as if to be willing her anger to knock him down before he even touched Xander. Perhaps it was because she was so focused that she didn't notice it immediately. Yet, she could feel it; someone was looking at her. Xander came into her line of vision and she saw it then. He was looking directly at her, soft brown eyes burrowing into hers. No one else seemed to notice, probably thinking he was only looking at Santiago who was directly in front of him now and giving Parisa his back. She was confused, her lips slightly parted in question and her expression curious. But just like that, his gaze shifted and he lunged at the beast of a man before him. Parisa flinched as she witnessed the impact while she heard the excited shouts ring out in the room.

Carolina stood up and cried out, "Kick his sorry ass, Xander! Make him hurt!"

Brian groaned and almost hit his head on the ground before Parisa crouched down and caught him. She looked up and saw Santiago connect a punch into Xander's abdomen. He keeled over, blood trickling down his mouth. Parisa bit her lip in anticipation; if Xander didn't win this thing, they weren't going to be getting out of here alive.

He blocked Santiago's next attack and managed to stuff a fist into the taller man's scarred face, staggering him backwards and against the ring bars. Nonetheless, he didn't make the same mistake twice; Santiago dodged Xander's next attack and kicked him off, snarling as he pounced on the slimmer man.

The fight went on like this and Parisa found it harder and harder to keep watch. Both men seemed to be neck and neck. There was a punch, and then a kick, then a block, and it would reverse until each man wore proof of their mistakes in the form of blood and bruises. Xander was a little worse for wear though; his breathing was heavy and he began to grimace from the amount of effort he had to exert in order to keep up with Santiago's ferocious pace.

Just as Parisa was beginning to get sick of the endless fighting, she and Xander were both granted a reprieve.

The shouting receded as he made his way towards the ring. Every man in the room shut up and turned to stare at the sole male figure that entered the gym, except for the two in the ring. Parisa stood up and squinted at his back, wondering why he seemed so familiar. Xander seemed to pick up on the absence of noise and looked down to see what was going on and to make sure that his friends were safe. His gaze connected with Parisa's and then with the man looking up at him from below the ring.

Gaultier Ambrosi was quite the Italian stallion. Standing at a good six feet with broad shoulders, a broad back and a lean figure, he was a man that embodied business and no bullshit. His hair was cut close to his head, strands of light brown hair gleaming almost blonde in the light as he watched the people around him with eyes such a deep green that they almost fooled you for black. It was his smug grin that threw everything out of proportion; there was evident mirth in his eyes as well as his expression. He was dressed appropriately for the gym but no one would have been shocked to see him waltz in with an expensive Armani suit.

Recognition set in once Parisa locked her gaze with his. The name was an exotic whisper on her lips; "Gaultier..."

Her hands balled up into angry fists and her eyes became narrowed slits. Xander noted Parisa's reaction and change in demeanour and pondered on it. Santiago had now stopped his assault, beady eyes drifting from Xander to Gaultier just in case he thought the Eurasian man would decide to try something funny when he wasn't looking. His chest heaved with the effort it took to drag in air and sweat gleamed on his brown skin.

Although suffering from fatigue, a black eye and a fat lip, Xander seemed fine. He still would have loved nothing more than to drop down to the floor of the ring and not get up. It was sheer will and pride that kept him on his feet, calm and collected. He watched Gaultier with curious eyes; why had everyone stopped for this guy?

"Well I'll be, if it isn't Parisa Deron." Gaultier's cheery voice echoed in the silent room as he took in Parisa's entire frame.

Xander found himself disliking the way his malicious eyes coveted Parisa's body like it was a piece of meat. It was downright demeaning and you didn't have to be a genius to understand what was going through his mind. Gaultier then turned his attention to Xander and Santiago in the ring, still wearing his happy grin.

"Santiago! What the heck are you brutes doing here so early in the morning? Picking fights again?" His voice was mocking but there was an edge of iciness to it as well.

Santiago only grunted in response before exiting the ring without so much as another glance in Xander's direction. Carolina picked up her fiancé like dead weight and slung his arm over her shoulders while walking towards Gaultier. The Italian smiled at the redhead while Xander tried hard not to focus on the fact that the room was beginning to spin.

"Gaultier, tell your friends to fuck off. I need to get Brian to the hospital." Carolina was evidently in no mood for a happy reunion.

Gaultier bent his head to examine the broken and bloodied man hanging off of the redhead's body before replying; "Of course. Anything for you, Carolina."

He then turned and looked at the men, including Santiago, "Boys, you know the gym is on my time in the mornings."

It was all that was needed before the men all started to leave the gym. If Xander wasn't feeling extremely light headed, he would have taken more of this into account but the adrenaline had worn off and he was now worse for wear. He clung to the ring's bars and closed his eyes, feeling his legs buckle underneath him.

"Shit! Xander!" It was Parisa's voice that jolted him out of the stupor.

She began helping him clamber out of the ring when Gaultier turned his attention back to Carolina, "There. All gone. Anything else, my lady?"

Carolina sighed heavily before turning to watch a struggling Parisa helping Xander. Gaultier was quick; he was by her side in a heartbeat. His efforts were more productive and his strong arms managed to keep Xander from falling on top of Parisa. When he was on ground level, Xander maintained his stance, albeit he did sway occasionally and Parisa had to catch him.

"Thanks." Parisa muttered, not making eye contact with Gaultier as she spoke.

He chuckled, deep and hearty; "For an old friend, I have done nothing needing thanks."

Parisa looked up, meeting Gaultier's dark green eyes and feeling their pull instantaneously. She looked away quickly, meeting Carolina's gaze instead.

"Go get Brian in the car. I'll be there in a minute."

Carolina nodded and began making the trip to the gym exit. There were many questions boiling on everyone's mind but, at the moment, the most important thing was making sure all were healthy. Parisa knew she'd interrogate Xander as soon as he was stable. But for now, there was Gaultier, who was still smiling at her.

"What are you doing here?" Parisa asked, staring anywhere on his face but his eyes.

"Working out? Is that not what a gym is for?" His smile widened and it only aggravated Parisa.

Xander swayed on the spot and Parisa steadied him. He moaned but tried his hardest to keep his eyes open and focused on this strange man. There was a history between these two and Xander had a bad feeling it wasn't a healthy relationship.

"Cut the crap. Since when do you command thugs? Are you working for the Don now, Gaultier?" Parisa's voice held a bitterness that was easy to pick up on.

"Of course not! It's the family connection, you know. Coming from a powerful background gets people to listen to you or suffer the consequences. One word from me and those guys will be in jail, locked up, never to see the light of day again."

Parisa said nothing more, becoming more aware of Xander's deteriorating condition instead. Gaultier spoke instead.

"Is he your lover?" Even with a semi comatose mind, Xander could pick up on the nonchalance in his voice.

It was almost too indifferent. Could it be that Gaultier Ambrosi was jealous? Had they been lovers? But then why hadn't Parisa run to him for the contract? Thinking too much was worsening Xander's condition and so, he dropped it.

When Parisa spoke next, her voice was cold and factual, "He's my fiancé."

Silence presumed and then Xander was being moved from his spot with Parisa's assistance. Gaultier did not pursue the subject and therefore, no more words were exchanged.

Xander heard the faint call of Santiago's threat before blacking out entirely; "This is far from over, Gwoemul."