Cut & Run, page 21part #1 of Cut & Run Series
Ty staggered to the side, but moved again so quickly that Zane wasn’t ready before he was on him. He took hold of Zane’s shoulder, pulled him closer, rammed his knee up into Zane’s midsection, and shoved him toward the ground.
Zane whuffed and stumbled back, but he managed to keep his feet as his hard-won reflexes kicked in. He took a deep breath and rushed the few feet into the other man, plowing into him before Ty could dance out of his reach. Zane used his own weight to shove the former Marine and send him hard into the brick wall of the alley, and then he backed away, fists up and ready, gasping as adrenaline pumped through him.
Ty hit the wall hard with his shoulder, and pain shot through him like lightning as something crunched in the joint, but he neither registered it nor reacted to it. Instead, he reached out to the dumpster a couple feet away and grabbed the neck of an old beer bottle. He smashed it against the wall and turned to face Zane with something almost like enjoyment in his eyes. He never gave a thought to the guns under his arms, or to the number of ways he knew how to kill a man with merely his hand. His goal now was to maim and humiliate, not to kill.
Eyes narrowing on the new weapon, Zane focused his attention solely on Ty as they started to circle each other. He could feel the nerves cramping in his gut, and he struggled to keep his breathing even and his face blank.
He would not be drawn out. His hardest lesson when learning to fight had been to wait, although his first lesson had been to run. He realized in a sudden moment of clarity as they sized each other up that if he had any sense of self-preservation he would run now, because Ty was obviously way out of his league. But his pride just wouldn’t let him do it. If he buckled under now, Ty would never have an ounce of respect for him. And Zane just couldn’t live with that.
He felt his knives heavy at his wrists as he kept his fists curled. Those knives had been another lesson, one suited to his fighting style once the academy instructors had whipped some muscle onto his tall frame. Zane hoped to God he wouldn’t have to draw one, because it was far too likely that Ty would take it away and use it against him.
With no warning, Ty lunged at him, feinting with the broken glass in his right hand and swiping at Zane with his left. Zane got his arm up to block the swipe of the bottle, using the metal bulk of the knife against his wrist to jar the other man’s hold and send the bottle sailing and crashing into the dumpster. But the left hook caught him in the temple and he went reeling backward, seeing stars even as he grabbed hold of Ty’s wrist and used the other man’s body to hold himself upright.
Ty latched onto Zane’s wrist in return and spun, pulling Zane’s arm over his shoulder and jamming his body into the bigger man to send him head over heels to the ground. Zane went crashing down, but Ty lost his balance under the weight and the pain in his shoulder and collapsed to one knee beside him.
Despite the painful impact on the concrete and the spots dancing in his vision, Zane pulled his knees to his chest and used the momentum to spring into a modified kip, getting himself to his feet, albeit shakily. He immediately shifted and kicked out at Ty’s side, the bottom of his boot aimed at the other man’s ribs. He wasn’t a classically trained fighter by any stretch of the imagination. Zane was a street fighter, a scrapper, accustomed to using his greater weight and reach to defend himself. Unfortunately, Ty was too close to him in size for those options to do Zane any good.
Ty rolled in the muck of the alley and the ever-present puddle of dirty water just in time to miss the brunt of the kick. Instead, Zane’s toe landed at the tender spot under his rib cage as he moved, narrowly missing the gun in his holster again. Ty rolled up into a crouch and then spun out with a retaliatory kick to Zane’s ankles.
Zane’s feet slid out from under him before he even knew what had happened, and he found himself once more on his back. He managed to get himself up pretty quickly, just to have Ty aim another spinning kick at his ankles as soon as he was upright.
He tried to jump out of the way but hissed in anger as Ty’s boot caught his calf and sent him staggering. “Goddammit!” he shouted as he righted himself.
Ty was still on his knees, doubled over and laughing at him as he held his bruised ribs. This was just a game to him, apparently, and the thought made Zane see red. Too mad to back away, Zane lunged forward to haul Ty to his feet by the back of his jacket. Ty threw his arms behind him as if he were doing a backstroke and slid out of the jacket easily, leaving it in Zane’s hands as he spun away, slightly off balance and still laughing breathlessly.
Throwing the jacket aside, Zane pushed Ty against the bricks of the nearby wall, face first, grabbing for his arm to try to pull it behind him and restrain him. He realized that Ty wasn’t laughing anymore just a moment too late.
He gripped Zane’s wrist with practiced ease, squeezing the pressure point there that would send blinding pain shooting up Zane’s arm.
“Goddammit!” Zane howled again as he lost feeling in his arm. He retaliated by pulling Ty back with the other hand and slamming him against the wall again, this time with his forearm across the back of Ty’s neck as his other arm hung limp and useless. “Stop it,” he growled.
“Got no idea what you’re doing, son,” Ty murmured calmly, though his body was tense and coiled as he gave Zane one last chance to stop this before he really hurt him.
The hair on the back of Zane’s neck stood up, and he shoved himself off the other man and began backing out of reach. He sure as hell didn’t trust Ty not to turn around and take another swing. Not now.
Ty turned around slowly and glared at him, but he didn’t strike out.
He pointed to the ground and snarled, “Give me my damn jacket. ”
“You’re the one who came out of it, asshole,” Zane spat back harshly.
He wasn’t backing down; not now. This was one fight he’d see through to the finish. It would probably end up with him face-down in the alley, but at least he could still look himself in the mirror afterward.
Ty stepped away from the wall angrily and shoved him. Having expected some sort of physical answer, Zane immediately lashed out his right fist, hitting Ty square in the jaw. It hurt like hell and echoed up through his elbow, but he knew he’d made solid contact. Ty staggered back a step but came right back at him with blinding speed, lashing out with two hard cuts to Zane’s midsection and then kicking at the inside of his knee as he reached up to find a hold on Zane’s shoulder or neck. The speed and ferocity of the motions made it very clear that Ty had merely been toying with him before.
Zane didn’t have even the slightest chance of protecting himself now, much less retaliating.
Grunting heavily, Zane bent over as he took the two shots in the gut.
When his knee went out, he felt Ty’s hand close tightly on the back of his neck, and he knew what was coming. Ty was about to break his nose over his knee. Zane it had seen it too many times not to know what it would look or feel like. With another grunt, Zane grabbed Ty’s calf and yanked the man’s foot forward, trying desperately to disrupt his balance.
Ty pulled down on the back of Zane’s neck and raised his knee into the man’s face, fully intending to smash his nose and hopefully leave him bleeding and unconscious in the alley. But Zane upended him just enough, and as Ty fell, his knee didn’t hit Zane’s face with enough force to do anything but hurt like a son of a bitch.
Ty landed on his back with a gasp and lay momentarily stunned as the air rushed out of his lungs and the back of his head cracked against the pavement. Zane shuffled back hurriedly and fell on his ass, sprawled and panting as he tried to get a solid breath. He shook his head, trying to clear it, and pushed himself up, trying unsuccessfully to stand. He dabbed at something wet on his face and the back of his hand came away from his upper lip bloody. Holding his still tingling and nearly numb arm, he looked over at Ty warily, waiting for the man’s next move as he tried to steady himself. Zane was sure he wouldn’t be
Ty was still on his back, motionless save for one slightly bent knee that was slowly flattening out as he remained where he had fallen in the shallow puddle of standing water. He was either stunned or plotting how next to attack.
“Ow,” he finally groaned plaintively.
Zane grimaced and straightened, feeling his already abused back object loudly. He braced one hand on his knee and pushed himself to his feet.
He tried to even out his breathing as he stepped back a couple more times to put most of the tiny alley between them, just in case. He opened and closed his fist, fingers itching for a knife that he didn’t want to draw, the knuckles screaming from the impact of his punch to Ty’s jaw. His entire face felt like it was on fire and his arm was just then beginning to regain some of the feeling, sending painful little prickles all up and down the limb.
Ty began moving slowly, rolling to his side and pushing himself up carefully. He brushed himself off as he stood, then looked up at Zane coldly as he reached under his arm, shifting the gun at his ribs and wincing at the bruise already forming under it. “You done?” he asked emotionlessly.
Zane rubbed his wrist and flexed his hand, wincing. His body was still taut with anger and tension. But what was really, truly pissing him off was that he had an incredible hard-on. He hadn’t noticed until he’d pushed Ty against the bricks and held him there, using his entire body. What the hell was wrong with him, to be turned on by a vicious fight with a man who could easily kill him?
“Stay off my back about the drugs,” he warned in a rasp, shaking off his other thoughts. “You’ll kick my ass up and down this alley in the end, but I won’t give up without a hell of a fight. ”
“It was a legitimate fucking question,” Ty spat out.
“I’d already given you the fucking answer,” Zane snapped. “I don’t lie about it. ”
“I don’t care if you lie, cheat, steal, and fuck everything that moves!”
Ty shouted angrily. “You stay out of the bars while we’re working this fucking case! And stay out of my past!” he shouted in a pained voice.
“What’s your fucking problem, Grady? You’re jackassing around in my past. You know damn well Burns wouldn’t have put me back on the streets if I wasn’t clean,” Zane grated. “No wonder your partner was reassigned, if you were this fucking suspicious!”
“He wasn’t reassigned,” Ty ground out as he tried to calm himself.
The pain of the memories was taking over the anger, now, and he was deflating fast.
Zane flinched back, stared at Ty for a long moment, then closed his eyes as the heat drained out of him, leaving him cold. Fuck all. He should have known Serena Scott wouldn’t consider the death of a partner sacred ground. It was just like her to poke that kind of wound. Zane would never have intentionally sunk that low. He turned sideways restlessly and ran a hand over his close-cropped hair before leaning back against the wall.
Ty took a few steps and bent to gingerly pick up his leather jacket and brush it off. “You bury a friend,” he said to Zane as he did so, his voice hoarse and strained, “and then tell his wife and baby girl you got him killed.
See how well you work with others after that,” he challenged softly before folding the jacket over his arm and turning to head for the opening of the alleyway.
“Ty. ” Zane’s voice was low, no longer throbbing with anger.
Ty slowed and finally stopped, his head lowered and his shoulders tense as he waited.
Any arousal had drained away with Ty’s clipped explanation, and now Zane just felt hollow and ill. He knew how much it hurt to lose someone and think it was your fault.
“I apologize,” he said quietly. “I didn’t know. ”
Ty turned his head slightly as if listening over his shoulder, then he returned his eyes forward, raising his chin and squaring his shoulders, not responding. Zane drew a slow breath and started walking, each step jarring something physically or emotionally painful, passing Ty after several steps.
Ty watched him, head down and eyes hard. Finally he closed his eyes, trying to regain his calm. “You still plan to go back to the office?” he asked flatly.
Zane glanced at his watch and winced. “It’s too late tonight. It’ll have to wait until morning,” he answered, not turning back to look at him.
Ty began walking again, gesturing to the alley’s entrance. “After you,” he muttered.
“Better we get some more rest and start early tomorrow,” Zane told him as he moved toward the corner of the building. He wasn’t sure what else to say.
“Sure,” Ty agreed moodily while they finished the length of the city block. “Maybe something’ll hit us in the night,” he said pointedly as they rounded the corner of the hotel’s building.
“Not literally, I hope,” Zane said under his breath, wiping away the blood from his nose and lip as they approached the front doors. They got several astonished glances from people inside the lobby. Both men were dirty and bleeding. Ty’s back was wet and covered with tiny bits of gravel, and his guns were clearly visible as he held his jacket in his hand. Zane watched him flash his identification to a hotel employee who was hurriedly picking up a phone as they stalked through the lobby, and the woman slowly set down the receiver after seeing his badge. People whispered and watched as he passed, and Zane couldn’t help but admire the way Ty could turn on that dreaded “Air of Authority” when he needed it. Zane, absolutely wrung out, kept his head down and followed quietly.
On the way upstairs, he wondered if Ty would go back to his own room. They weren’t exactly getting along famously. In fact, they had basically just tried to kill each other, and Zane had no illusions as to who would have come out on top. He squeezed his eyes shut as they rode in the elevator, trying not to think at all.
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