Surrounded by chrome and gleaming paint, Eli Dresden felt like she could finally breathe.
There were memories connected to places like the Harley Davidson showroom she was currently standing in, ones whose sharpened edges she pointedly ignored even as they cut deep into her fracturing sense of self-control. No, even as what remained of her sense bled out, the blond happily waded her way through the motorcycles that were on display. None of them looked quite right, but she expected that–her brother’s bike had been borderline vintage, after all. She’d happily settle for something that was close to the mental image in her mind of the one Isaiah had been so fond of, the sun gleaming off its black-painted curves. Besides, none of the rentals she’d been saddled with since her truck’s… untimely demise had been remotely capable of going fast enough for her liking.
I’m sure he’d understand. Beggars can’t be choosers.
As a calloused hand reached out to ghost fingertips along the tank of a good candidate, she felt that she was being noticed–truly watched rather than just skimmed over the way that most salespeople regarded those who browsed. They must’ve picked up the scent of an actual buyer in the water, something she confirmed after glancing sidelong in the direction of that sensation. Blond hair, gray eyes… a jawline that’d cut anyone who tried to slap him across the face.
She could work with this.
“Hey there, good lookin’.” Eli’s smirk was predatory in the best of ways as she met the salesman’s eyes, savoring how his own lips moved to mimic hers. She was already getting the upper hand, and the poor sucker was just rolling right over and baring his throat before negotiations even began.
“Hey there yourself,” came the reply, his own flirtatious undertones quick to reveal themselves. “So what bri–”
♫ ~ Bitches love me cuz they know that I can rock, bitches love me cuz they know that I can rhyme. Bitches love me cuz they know that I can fuuuuck… ~♫
And there was Mindless Self Indulgence blaring at top volume thanks to an incoming call. Ignoring the way the salesman quirked a brow in silent judgment, Eli pulled her phone out of her pocket. A quick glance at the caller ID–she’d finally learned her lesson on that front since things with her family went to Hell–she’s swiping up and putting her phone to her ear, tone bright and friendly. “Hey, Bri! What’s good?”
“Ah, hello, Eli.” HOW’s most recent inductee into the Hall of Fame sounded a little taken off-guard by how she answered the line… not that she was surprised. The blond had very quickly figured out how many people treated the interviewers like shit instead of like human beings. Brian Bare cleared his throat to regain his professionalism. “Do you have a moment?”
“Oh yeah, sure. Just gimme a sec.” Holding up her index finger in the direction of the salesman, Eli made her way out of the store–stepping well out of the way of the doors leading in and out. All the better not to get interrupted, or some shit like that. “What’s up?”
“Is everything alright?”
“Uh….” The concern in Brian’s voice had her tilting her head to one side, confusion evident in her expression and tone alike when she responded. “As far as I know. Why? Did Lee suddenly regain his sight and ask for nudes or somethin’?”
“N-No.” Was it her, or was he trying not to laugh? A bit of a grin graced her lips as she listened to Bare regain his composure all over again. “I’ve received word that a fax has been received stating that you’re not cleared to compete this weekend.”
“…wait, what?” Eli’s brow furrowed.
“Yeah, a fax from the office of–” She could hear papers rustling in the background as Brian checked the notes he had probably scribbled down about this mysterious fax. “–a Doctor Curtis Cooke?”
…a fax that was a mystery no longer. The moment the doctor’s name left Brian’s lips, she knew exactly what had happened, why it had happened and, most importantly, who had decided that it was a good idea. A snarl twisted her lips as her eyes narrowed, her temper surging forth as the hatred Elijah Dresden had been feeding bloomed into its full, terrifying glory.
That son of a fucking–
“…Eli?” And that query snapped her back to the present enough to remember that she was on the phone.
“That fax is bullshit, Brian.” Eli’s gaze passed over the parking lot as she sought out the rental she had been saddled with. Of all the times to be stuck with a fucking Prius! “HOW’s own doctors cleared me after Jace’s ambush, and it ain’t like anything has happened since then to change that.”
“Then who sent it?” It was Bare’s turn to sound confused, though Eli didn’t take note of it.
“Don’t worry about that. Just get word out that I’m more than ready to kick Jace’s ass into the next Goddamn century.” Spotting her rental, Eli began to stalk forward, not paying mind to any pedestrians or cars coming in–the shriek of brakes suddenly being stomped on earning a middle finger in its general direction. “I’ll talk to you later.”
Shoving her phone in her pocket, Eli didn’t even think to cast a look over her shoulder in the direction of the Harley Davidson dealership, much less the salesman that was probably wondering just what happened to the blond with the hypnotic smirk. As she bodily yanked the door of her rental open, only one thought mattered, pounding at the forefront of her mind again and again and again with all the force of a freight train.
Fuck him up fuck him up fuck him up FUCK HIM UP–
And unfortunately for her darling brother?
Her path to Philadelphia carried her right by the suburb of Pittsburgh that her family now called home.
Hey, Sugartits. I’d ask how it’s hangin’, but let’s be real.
It’s not really big enough to hang, is it?
And just like that, I’m sure, you’re back to threatening Madison with beating my ass again because I dared to treat you with the level of respect that you deserve, which is none by the way. If you’re gonna walk around like your shit don’t stink, then you’re gonna get it pushed in by none other than yours truly just the same as I have since the moment I strutted right up to you and told you that you were gonna get your ass kicked. Ah, I remember it just like it was yesterday. You were bullying Bare like it made you a badass–oooh, big scawy disappointment to the Best Alliance that was clearly on thin ice, resortin’ to threatenin’ a guy that ain’t had a day’s worth of trainin’ to fight in his entire life.
And then I showed up and embarrassed you.
Did you go on to win that night? Yeah–but you needed to damn near concuss me with a cheap shot before the bell rang to manage it, something that you then conveniently did your best to sweep under the rug because you couldn’t cope with the thought of you not bein’ good enough to do it otherwise. And the fact that I didn’t let you off the hook for it just buried that sucker deeper into you, past the dermis and subdermis and all those other layers of skin that I don’t remember from science class ‘til I hit bone. No matter how hard you try to pull it out, the barbed point’s just makin’ the damage all the worse… and me?
I’m lovin’ every second of it because it means you’re gettin’ exactly what you deserve.
Remember how I told ol’ Scientology Lite that I’ve been walkin’, talkin’ Hell to other people? You’re the prime example of that, Jace. That isn’t to say that I couldn’t be doin’ even more to twist the knife, of course–but I was bein’ nicer than I wanted to because I knew it’d blow back on Maddie. Don’t think I haven’t heard about your attempts to twist things about to make it seem like I don’t actually care about her, by the way–just because you can’t see anyone else as a person that isn’t yourself doesn’t mean the rest of us have that handicap. And frankly, after you decided that an ambush was the way to solve your problems instead of actually approachin’ it like the man you pretend to be?
Man, I was already primed and ready to make you my bitch in the middle of the ring–but now I’ve got about eleven pounds or so of leather and gold right there for the takin’, and at Refueled, you best fuckin’ believe I’m leaving our match as the new HOTV Champion.
Just like I took Maddie home the night I met her.
I feel sorry for you, Sugartits–no, really, I do. You’re so impotent and immature that you can’t see how good you’ve got it with Madison as your manager, so you have to resort to frat boy antics to punish her for not actin’ like you wanted her to… and holy shit, that’s totally it, isn’t it? Maddie isn’t a person to you–she’s your crutch. She’s the support pillar that’s been holding your entitled ass up since you came back, the most recent example of how you need your hand held. Your ex-wife, Mike Best, the Best Alliance, Maddie–without them, you’d be yet another generic fuckboy that HOW forgot.
Without them, you’d be nothing no matter how much you wish otherwise.
…wish I may, wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight…
Leave it to you to remind me of a song from one of the last good albums Metallica put out before Lars Ulrich ruined’em with his whining about Napster and that drum machine bullshit, but hey–it fits.
You’re fuckin’ King Nothing, Sugartits.
There’s no denyin’ Maddie is a queen, though, or that she deserves better than some limpdick wannabe tough guy that has to threaten someone she cares about to get his way. She also deserves better than havin’ to do your legwork for you. I mean, I only spent one night with her and she changed how I look at my opponents for the better. Imagine the good she could do with an actual partner to work with instead of a charge to fuckin’ babysit.
You can thank her for that lesson in keepin’ a close eye on the details when I end your career by snappin’ that surgically-repaired neck like a twig.
The OMFN’s not named for nothin’, Sugartits–that acronym’s short for Ow, My Fuckin’ Neck, by the way. And wouldn’t you know it, your neck’s somethin’ of a major weak spot, isn’t it? I’m sure that in Maddie’s initial brief on what to expect out of me, she made a note of that somewhere. Another possible explanation to your chickenshit cheapshot, perhaps. It doesn’t really fuckin’ matter anymore, though–your motives in what you’ve done to Maddie and that other redheaded woman you’ve strangled the life out of with your presence, not to mention me. There’s not a single one of’em that’s gonna stop me goin’ after your neck like breakin’ it’s the way to cure cancer, or maybe bring about world peace–no, no. I’ve got it.
I’m goin’ after your neck like shatterin’ it’s the way to bring people back from the dead.
And I can just hear it now, the same old shit you’ve been regurgitatin’ about how I’m not better than you, how I’m nothin’, how I’m just a rebellious little replacement pussy that needs to learn her place. I could go into detail about how you’re wrong but, unlike you, I don’t like rehashing the same talking points over and over again. Instead, I’m gonna focus on the one I haven’t touched yet.
I’m not a rebel, you dumb fuckin’ cunt. I’m a revolutionary.
Of course you, once again, are too much of a fuckin’ philistine to know the difference, so I’ll try to explain it for you as simply as possible without havin’ to break out the crayons and construction paper. Rebels belong to rebellions–and rebellions always fail. Revolutions, on the other hand, are successful. And wouldn’t you know it, treatin’ the people you view as beneath you like shit for long enough is all it takes to end everything you’re desperately clinging to. Call me the executioner, here to behead your championship reign and give the HOTV Championship the owner it deserves.
Off with your fuckin’ head, King Nothing.
One moment–or at least, that’s how it felt to her–Eliza was pulling out of the parking lot of the Harley Davidson dealership in some off the interstate town in Ohio, and the next?
Her fist was colliding with Elijah’s nose, blood spraying out of his nose like a broken faucet.
Dimly, she was aware of her mother’s shrieks of disapproval, the rare thunder of her father’s voice booming that she stop it this instant–but she was beyond the reach of reason at the moment, fueled by the rage that her brother had so purposefully fostered and encouraged without sparing a thought to being its target. It felt good to smash her fist into that smug, stupid, controlling, manipulative fucking face–and when he went down after the second blow?
“Tell them,” she snarled as she stood over him as he sprawled on the grass of the Dresden home’s front lawn, hands clenching and unclenching. “Tell them what you did, Elijah!”
“What–” The kick she delivered to his stomach drove all the air out of him, lifting him a good six inches off the ground before he landed with a groan. The sound of the air being driven out of him was enough to clear the red haze in her mind enough to sense that her father was now holding her mother back at the revelation of there being a reason.
“Don’t play dumb, Elijah! Fuckin’ tell them what you did!” Leaning down, her fingers clawed at a handful of her brother’s hair, holding on tight as she hauled him up onto his knees so he was staring right at their parents. While beating the Hell out of him would be satisfying, revealing his bullshit… that was where true satisfaction lived. “How did you get into the nursin’ home Dr Cooke’s in, huh? Did you lie to them, tell’em you’re his grandson or somethin’?”
At the mention of their old pediatrician, Elijah slumped in her grip–but rather than confess? Silence reigned for a long moment, broken only by the faint whimpers of pain from one sibling as the other’s sides heaved, breath coming out in an uneven staccato. Ultimately, it was the patriarch who shifted his gaze to his son.
“What is she talking about?” Joseph Dresden’s voice was as even and monotone as always, but there was an undercurrent of command to it that drew the attention of all present to him.
“I–she’s crazy, Dad! Get her off me!” Elijah’s bleating was losing steam, but Eli wasn’t about to let up this time.
“Tell’em how you typed up a fake’ doctor’s note sayin I wasn’t healthy enough to compete, then tricked an old man with Alzheimer’s into signin’ it!” Eliza didn’t so much let go of her brother as she bodily threw his head away from her, wiping her hand off on the denim of her cut-offs.
“Elijah?” Dismay and disgust flared up in Angelica’s eyes as she turned her head to look at her son, Eliza’s inner rage crowing in victory at the golden child being brought low.
“I had to! It was the only way–” This time, the kick Eliza drove into his skull was a near-perfect duplication of the kick Jace Davidson Parker had used to knock her out–if anything, she put a little more pepper on it than her opponent did. His lights turned out, Elijah slumped to the grass in a pile of unconscious flesh.
Pity he won’t stay that way.
Wounded blues turned from her brother to her parents–and for a moment, the sight of the pain on their faces made Eliza’s certainty of Elijah deserving the shit-kicking he just got waver. What the Hell had she done? She hadn’t even been that brutal with any of her opponents, and they were trained to defend themselves! For a moment, that outward seeming of anger cracked just enough to betray perhaps a glimpse of how conflicted she felt… but then she remembered how her mother had encouraged her brother’s concern even after it went beyond the pale, how her father stood back and did nothing as Elijah put her career at risk time and time again.
They were just as guilty as he was, and they all knew it.
“When he wakes up, tell him that he’s dead to me–and if I hear so much of a hint of him tryin’ to interfere with my career again, then I’m gonna report what he did to the cops and get his worthless ass put behind bars for a very, very long time.” Turning her back on her parents, her parting words drifted over her shoulder as she headed toward the Prius–strangely wanting nothing more than to be behind its wheel even if there was no roar of the engine to drown out the noise in her head. “Don’t call me after I become HOTV Champion, I’ll call you.”
As Eli pulled away, she knew that the first part would happen… but the second part wouldn’t.
Judging by the tears that were spilling down her mother’s cheeks as her father comforted her in the rearview mirror, so did they.