See Part 1 for Disclaimers.
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“And, if I don’t?” the woman growled with a feral gleam in her dark eyes. “Whatcha gonna do about it, little man? ”
Lee stiffened and his heart rate, already increased in response to the altercation, jumped. He could feel the blood thump angrily in his veins and he fought to maintain control. If there was one thing that could really set him off, it was an attack on his height. Slowly, deliberately, he drew himself up fully. Despite Lane’s hunched posture beside him, the top of his head barely reached the butch’s chin but, it was enough.
Lee’s fists clenched and he forced himself to breath deeply. She wants a fight, one part of his mind observed with glee. Go ahead and give it to her. She needs taken down a rung or two.
Not in front of the boy, another, more rational part warned. It defeats your purpose if you tell kids there's an alternative to fighting and then you go attack someone right in front of them.
Lee felt as if he were suspended over a precipice as his mind fought to give him direction. Somewhere behind him, he was aware of a conversation taking place, but he kept his eyes on the tall, arrogant woman before him. As he watched, she shifted insolently to one hip as if to say, 'When I get done playing with you I will get my way.' Lee's eyes narrowed.
“If you don’t,” he finally answered her when he was sure his voice would come out steady, “then you will be forcibly removed.”
“Oh yeah?” the woman scoffed, a smirk twisting her mouth. “By who? You?” She flicked her eyes toward Lane, then back again. “Her? I don’t think so.”
From behind, Lee heard a soft voice plead, “Jesimae, don’t.”
The dark woman’s head snapped up, her eyes focusing over Lee’s shoulder as the smirk changed to a snarl. “You shut up, you little slut!” she screamed. “Is she your new pet? Huh? Or, are you sleeping with him now?” Her voice positively dripped with disgust as she uttered the word, ‘him.’ Lee's eyes slitted in anger and locked on the taller woman's.
"You leave my mom alone!" a young voice piped up, momentarily breaking the tableau. Lee glanced back at the child standing defiantly in front of his mother and caught the boy's eye, giving him the barest of nods in approval.
Lee heard the tall woman draw breath to respond. He spun his head towards her. “That’s enough!” he roared, drawing the woman's focus back to him and drowning out whatever venom she had been about to spew at the boy. “I will not have you abusing my guests,” he continued an instant later, his voice closer to normal but still tight with anger. “You will remove yourself from this property immediately, or you will be removed. The choice is yours.”
“I don’t think so,” she snapped at him. “Not without her.” Her lip curled and her eyes glinted with vicious intent. "But, you can keep the brat."
A stifled sob reached Lee's ears and he twitched with the desire to soothe the anguish so evident in that sound. At that tiny movement, Jesimae lunged at Lee, her intention to knock him out of the way more than obvious. Lee stood his ground until the very last moment when she was committed to the charge, and then stepped aside. The tall woman stumbled past him, but caught herself before she fell and spun around glaring. Her attention was now completely on Lee and, by the look on her face, he could guess that she wasn’t used to being challenged. Certainly, she appeared as if she wasn't used to having her attacks foiled.
Lee felt his breathing settle as the adrenaline and years of training kicked in. His mind crystallized, banishing the distracting mental arguments of earlier and allowing the threat before him to become his sole focus. The woman probably matched him in weight despite the foot of difference in height between them, a fact that Lee adjusted for without conscious thought.
As she charged him again, Lee dropped to one knee. He configured the fingers in his fist so that the middle knuckle extended beyond the others. When her foot landed next to his knee, Lee let the spiked knuckle fly. The instant Lee’s fist struck Jesimae’s thigh, her leg collapsed under her and she crashed to the ground. He quickly moved back away from her as she curled protectively around the injured limb.
Lee stood with his knees slightly bent, balancing comfortably over his center of gravity and breathing deeply, as he grimly watched the woman writhe on the ground and howl in pain. “They always forget the old adage,” he muttered to himself in disgust. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
As he warily watched the woman, two sets of pounding footsteps drew near, slowed and then halted. "Is everyone okay?" a voice asked from behind him.
"Yeah," Lane answered. "Mostly."
"We're fine," Lee seconded Lane. He briefly glanced over his shoulder at the two uniformed security guards who had just arrived then returned his gaze to Jesimae. "Can you fellahs escort Ms. Jesimae here to her car and ensure she departs the property immediately?"
"Right away, Mr. Rorrison," the shorter of the two burly men responded with a slight lisp as they stepped around Lee.
Lee took deep breaths to force his body to relax. He watched the security guards each reach a hand under an arm and haul the dark woman to her feet. As if by instinct, her legs settled under the instant she was vertical. She wrenched her arms free of their supports as soon as she realized both legs would hold her.
The men glanced at Lee for guidance. He lifted his chin towards the parking area. They nodded in reply then each reached out to corral the woman and ensure she went where they wanted her to go.
"Don't touch me," she snarled at them. However, they ignored her order and started ushering her away. Between their shoulders, she glared at the red-head as she walked backwards. "I'll be seeing you," she taunted the mother. Then, she turned her eyes on Lee. "And, you haven't heard the last of me, either!" With that, she turned and limped back to the parking area followed closely by the two guards.
Lee let out a breath of relief as the red sports car departed, spraying gravel behind it. A sound drew Lee's attention back to those around him. Lane was standing to one side, her arms hanging loosely at her sides and a slightly glazed look in her eyes. Though it hadn't yet started to discolor, her cheek was already very swollen, causing her right eye to close partially. On the other side, the red-head stood with her arms wrapped around her son and her face buried in the boy's hair. Lee could just make out the child's high voice trying to comfort his mother.
"Why don't you go get some ice on that?" Lee asked Lane. "Laurie should still have the first aid kit handy."
Lane blinked slowly then nodded. "Yeah," she mumbled. "Good idea." With a short nod to Lee, she turned and headed for the porch.
Lee stood uncertainly, watching the intimate mother-son moment. "Umm..." he started, and then trailed off. He took a step toward the two then stopped again as he realized that the woman's shoulders were shaking, that the sound he’d heard earlier was her crying.
Lee blinked in surprise at the sudden pang he felt at that realization. He had the oddest feeling that he ought to be in the boy's place offering some small comfort to the distraught woman. As he struggled to identify the feeling and its source, the mother sniffled and lifted her head to look at him.
For the first time, Lee was able to see the woman's eyes. He was amazed by the deep green color, bright right now with tears. When the red-head lifted her brows in a question at his stare, Lee ducked his head and rubbed the back of his neck, hoping the sudden flush he felt wouldn't be noticed.
"She," the woman began in a hoarse voice. She cleared her throat and began again. "She didn't used to be like that."
Lee nodded, accepting the explanation for the apology that it was. He glanced at the porch. "Ma'am, if you'd like, there're benches on the porch. You could take a moment to collect yourself."
The woman followed his gaze then gave him a watery smile. "I'd like that."
Lee gave her a firm nod then turned and headed for the porch. He crossed the porch and paused at the door to look back at his guests. "Uh, can I get you anything? Tissues? Water? Um, some other drink?"
"Water would be great, thanks."
Lee smiled, his eyes drawn once again to the green ones approaching him. "Water it is." He tore his gaze away from the woman with some effort, and focused it on the boy. "And, what can I get for you?"
The boy glanced at his mother for permission. At her nod, he looked skyward in thought. After some deliberation, he looked at Lee and asked, "Y'got any chocolate milk?"
Lee grinned broadly at the boy. He looked left and right, as if checking for eavesdroppers, then spoke in a loud stage whisper, "Don't tell anyone, but that's my favorite drink, too."
The child's laughter followed Lee through the door. Lee's grin faded some once he was safely inside. After a pause to settle himself, and a deep sigh, he headed for the doorway on the other side of the room.
"Looks like," a voice spoke from the gloom near the porch-side windows, "you've found a new interest."
Lee stopped and squinted into the gloom with a frown. "Not funny, Laur. She's a lesbian and about as likely as Cass to ever be interested in me as anything other than a friend."
"Uh-huh. If you say so."
"I do," he answered firmly and then turned and walked out of the room.
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