Jihanna had ceased struggling some time ago, having discovered all that she could about the ropes that held her bound on the floor.
Now she lay still, watching Bessala Day talk things over with del Parillo, the intense young man whose apartment floor she lay on. They both turned to study Jihanna.
She smiled and winked at the wiry, dark-haired del Parillo.
Bessala Day spoke to the raptador without taking her eyes off Jihanna.
“I will leave you someone.”
He waved a hand.
“I fight raptors for a living. I can handle this one tied-up woman. Go sort out things with Patarich. I’ll keep this one safe and sound till you get back.”
“I will leave you someone. Your fight is in just over an hour. Your–”
“Fine, fine. Stop worrying, Day.”
Bessala turned to stare at del Parillo, one eyebrow lifted. He at last acknowledged her angry attention.
“My apologies, Miss Day. Sorry for interrupting you. Of course I’m grateful to you for this opportunity.”
Bessala lifted a hand and all but one of her thugs filed out. She stared at del Parillo for another second.
“We’ll go make sure of Patarich. Make sure he understands exactly how to play this.”
She followed her thugs out the door and it was just Jihanna, the raptador and one big man dressed in black by the door.
del Parillo was thin and predatory-looking, with hooded dark eyes and a long lean body. He stared down at Jihanna with a smirk, then reached down and levered her to an upright sitting position. Jihanna tossed her hair back and arched an eyebrow.
“I was only coming here to offer you money, good-looking. Do I deserve this sort of treatment?”
del Parillo put his arms around Jihanna’s upper body and lifted her up onto the sofa. She leaned against him, keeping her bound hands resting demurely on her knees.
“I admit I’m curious. How much money?”
Jihanna smiled and raised her bound wrists.
The big man at the door shook his head.
del Parillo laughed.
“What’s she going to do, with you right there? You’ve got her sword.”
He reached over and undid the thongs holding Jihanna’s wrists together. She stretched, arching her body with a sigh. del Parillo watched with no attempt to hide his interest.
Jihanna’s ankles were still tied, but she sat comfortably on the sofa and smiled at the raptador beside her.
“I could use a drink.”
He smiled back and got up, glaring at the guard as he crossed to a cabinet full of bottles. He poured two glasses of a dark liqueur and returned to the sofa.
“Will you toast to my triumph tonight, madam?”
“But of course! I know when I’ve been bested. But none for our serious friend? I hate to drink in front of those who can’t.”
del Parillo turned to chuckle at the guard.
“He’s on duty, I think. Miss Day no doubt has rules about things like that, doesn’t she?”
The guard nodded.
“Indeed she does, sir.”
del Parillo turned back to Jihanna. She lifted her glass once more.
“Good enough. Overcoming two raptors by yourself. You’ll be famous, hey?”
“It will make my career, madam. Thank you.”
“To your triumph.”
They threw back their drinks. Jihanna’s smile widened at the same moment as del Parillo frowned.
“Something wrong, pal?”
“Funny… taste… I don’t feel…”
del Parillo tilted awkwardly and slid to the floor. He looked over at Jihanna in sudden horror.
“What… what did you…”
“Sorry, I misspoke just then. I meant, ‘To MY triumph’. Sorry about that.”
She patted him on the shoulder as his body convulsed.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be right as rain in a couple of hours, I’m sure.”
The guard had noticed the commotion and came over.
“Hey, what’s going on he–”
Jihanna twisted back and lashed out with both feet, catching the big man square on the jaw. He collapsed over top of del Parillo on the floor. The half-paralyzed raptador cursed Jihanna weakly.
She untied her feet and stood up, tossing the little bottle in one hand.
“My associate certainly knows her stuff. She said a half-dose would take an hour to affect you. Seems a full dose goes to work right away. Now I have to go rescue her from Bessala Day and the Chisel Boys. So sorry you’ll have to miss the fight tonight. Even sorrier we couldn’t get to know each other a little better. Another time, maybe?”
Jihanna leapt for the door, pausing only to grab her cutlass on her way out.
“That is certainly quite an impressive pole you have, Ilyon.”
Both Siu-Wai and the handsome young raptador giggled together on the sofa. Siu-Wai pressed her lips to the underside of his jaw, feeling stubble rough against her face. His arm hooked around her, pulling her easily into his lap. She started lifting his shirt and he reached down, peeling it over his head as she watched, her dark eyes hooded. Her hand spread across his broad chest.
“I imagine you know exactly how to use it, too?”
“Why, dear lady, have you never watched me fight? I think I’m hurt.”
“Where does it hurt, my sweet? Let Siu-Wai make it feel better.”
The pair kissed for a while, speaking only in quiet sighs and moans. Siu-Wai shed her jacket and as Ilyon undid her shirt, she reached up around his big shoulders, pulling her mouth from his for a moment.
“Does it. Oh. Does it take such impressive muscles, darling, to fight the beasts?”
Ilyon grinned. He reached down, around her thighs and she yelped a little as she felt him grip her. He stood up, holding her suspended in mid-air. Siu-Wai laughed and hooked her legs around his waist.
“To be honest, honey, not really. The trick is to plant your pole solidly and hold it perfectly rigid. As, well. As your opponent comes.”
Siu-Wai giggled, but she pushed back a little, still with her legs around him.
“I’m sure you can plant your pole very solidly, dear, but Jihanna will be back at any moment and perhaps we shou–”
They both turned as the door flew open and in stormed the angry Bessala Day, flanked by a half-dozen of her scowling thugs.
Siu-Wai leapt down from her perch around Ilyon’s waist to confront the other woman.
“What do you think you are doing, madam? This is a private room! Get out at once!”
She realised her shirt hung around her belt and immediately started pulling it back up.
Day looked back and forth between Siu-Wai and Ilyon.
“You’re working with that other one. The big dark girl. The pretty one.”
Siu-Wai recoiled, sneering at Day’s final comment.
“So let me get this, you think you’ll offer del Parillo some coin to stay out and then sex Patarich here into winning the bout? You really thought that would work?”
Day rolled her eyes. She waved her men forward.
“Take this bint out and teach her a lesson. And you, Patarich, you better not be getting any ideas. We’ve got a lot money on del Parillo and you screw that for us, you are going to pay for it.”
“I’m curious.” Someone spoke from behind Day in a lazy, amused sort of drawl. “Do you get all that money back if he doesn’t show up?”
Day slowly turned, along with her men, to find Jihanna lounging against the doorframe. The tall woman winked at her friend further inside.
“I hope you got a ride in before these doorcrashers showed up, Plum Blossom.”
“Never mind.” Siu-Wai scowled. “Jihanna, who is this?”
Jihanna straightened up and strode into the room to present the slightly-confused Bessala Day.
“This is Bessala Day. And friends.”
“The same Bessala Day who runs the Chisel Boys?”
“I assume these other guys are actually the Chisel Boys, but I didn’t ask.”
“Well, that’s just great, Jihanna. Now what are we sup–”
Day held up a hand, forestalling the argument flowing past her.
“Wait. You said, ‘if he doesn’t show up,’ correct?”
Jihanna smirked and opened her mouth, but the gangster lady went on without waiting for an answer.
“You’ve done something to del Parillo. You better not have hurt him. Okay. Okay. You think you’re clever. I get my stake back, sure, but what, you’ve got money on Patarich here? How about this, then?”
Day pulled out a pistol and shot Ilyon in the leg.
The gunshot deafened everyone in the room and it was a moment before Siu-Wai reacted to Ilyon’s moans as he collapsed. She charged forward, but Day produced a second pistol and levelled it at her. Siu-Wai halted, her hands up and away from her sides.
“Now nobody makes anything. But see, you owe me. You owe me for the money I was going to make on del Parillo. So you are going to make sure I get a fight tonight.”
Jihanna and Siu-Wai shared an uncomprehending look.
“Who are you going to get into the ring on such short notice?”
“Two troublemakers nobody’s ever going to miss.”