Rule change, because time is meaningless and this story has gotten me through some rough days and I hope they'll do the same for you!
We are now going to have new parts on days that start in W. Wednesdays and Weekends. (Just go with it! lol)
“Lunch now, right?”
Danny blinked as the question jerked him from his stupor in the middle of the ring, where Wren was gently trying to lead him to the steps. He glanced over to Pike, who was glaring at Paris, his thoughts clearly not on his next meal.
Of all the people included in ‘the core’, Danny was the least familiar with Pike. At first, he’d figured that might be a good thing. Pike was trouble. He’d be the first one to tell anyone he was. And he was involved with two mercs.
But keeping anyone at a distance didn’t feel right to Danny. He’d been that person when he’d come to The Asylum. Just because Pike had a tougher front didn’t mean it didn’t hurt him to feel unwelcome.
And Pike seeing right through Paris said a lot about him.
So did the fact that Paris did a very bad job at pretending to ignore him. Arm around his Dom’s, Paris gazed up at him with a sweet smile. “Noah mentioned you were doing some work related things here, sir. Do I have to go? I know I’m not one of the ‘special subs’, but it’s nice to be here when it’s not so crowded.”
Atticus frowned, glancing over at Lawson. “I hope we aren’t intruding? I’d be willing to schedule an appointment to deal with what we’ve discussed, but the timing worked since I was able to take some time off.”
It was obvious Noah had a few words to say that weren’t very diplomatic, but Lawson placed a hand on his forearm as he led Reed out of the ring, then shook his head. “Not at all. It would be disruptive for your boy’s friends to be here while we’re preparing the club for a big showing on a Friday night, but if you’d like him to attend to you while you and I finish up our business here, I see no problem with that.”
“Much appreciated.” Atticus gave Lawson a warm smile, then patted Paris’ shoulder. The older man was huge, with the build of a professional weightlifter under a perfectly fitted Armani suit, his thick, dark brown hair dusted with white. He had his fair share of wrinkles, but his natural tan and obsessive focus on health and fitness—when he wasn’t aiming that same drive at his business—had him looking much younger than his sixty-something years. He turned his attention to his sub. “Go order us some lunch, sweet treasure.” He hesitated, glancing at Keiran, then addressing Rhodey. “If you can spare your boy?”
The edge of Rhodey’s lips tipped up, like he found the question funny. He crossed his arms over Keiran’s chest. “I don’t know. I was thinking of keeping him out of the kitchen until—” He grunted as Keiran’s elbow slammed into his side, then kissed Keiran’s cheek. “You’re getting better at that. Good boy. Go on.”
“Yes, sir.” Keiran smiled up at Rhodey, his tone all proper, as though he hadn’t just struck out at one of his Doms in a way none of the other subs here would dare. He blew a kiss to Rhodey over his shoulder, snickering when Rhodey slapped his ass. Waving for Paris to follow, he continued without pause, calling over his shoulder. “Come to the kitchen when you’re ready, mi lobito. You’ve mastered pasta, so you can make some while I put together some creamy chicken with bacon.”
Reed’s head came up, and he was obviously fighting to hold back a smile as Lawson continued holding the towel to his bottom lip. He’d been nudging everyone toward a wolf nickname for a while now, some of his suggestions sounding like they came from comic books. ‘Sparkles’ was what stuck most often, but Keiran had started calling him ‘my little wolf’ in Spanish while they worked together in the kitchen, which he clearly loved.
Though he wasn’t big on pet names, Lawson played along occasionally. As he did now, pressing his lips to Reed’s hair, speaking softly. “My lobito.” He moved the towel, then tipped Reed’s chin up with two fingers before giving a satisfied nod. “It looks all right. You can go, but let me know if you’re feeling off. Quint will have to clear you before you get in the ring tonight.”
“Got it, mon Capitaine.” Reed hesitated when Lawson held him there for a moment longer, giving his Dom a reassuring look. “I’m good, I promise. And I’ll tell you if I’m not.”
Inclining his head, Lawson released Reed and stepped back, speaking quietly to Noah as the other Dom put a hand on his shoulder, both of them watching Reed as he sprinted off and disappeared through the gym doors.
Slipping out from under the bottom ropes, Danny startled when something cold touched his hand. He lifted his gaze to meet Pike’s.
“You should ice your knuckles.” Pike drew away, glancing over at Quint, who was talking to Shea and the new guy. He looked back at Danny and shrugged. “I mean, I would. That was a nice hit. He didn’t even see it coming.”
Ice pack against his hand, which started hurting more the second Pike mentioned it, Danny leaned back against the ring. “I’m not sure why, he was pushing for me to do it.”
Folding his arms over his chest, Pike made a face. “You’re the nice one. No one expects the worst from you. That’s good, though. They don’t see you coming.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Danny glanced over at the younger man, not sure what to make of the uncertainty that seemed to emanate from every one of his pores. Pike was tough and mouthy and didn’t back down from anything. If Danny wasn’t a bit afraid of him, he’d admire the guy.
His mind flashed back on when the bottles had hit Pike, cutting him up. Keiran had swooped right in, and Wren had done a good job patching him up, but Pike hadn’t been here that long. And what he’d just said…
He was right. No one expected anything bad from Danny.
But they did from Pike.
In all his time here, Pike mostly stuck close to Quint, hanging out with his cousin and Reed, but still...very apart from everyone. He seemed almost wary of getting too close. Made sense, since he didn’t know any of the core well, but it had to suck since he lived here and rarely left the building.
Danny was nervous about the move from Shea and Jacks’ condo, to The Asylum, but at least he’d be surrounded by friends. He’d have Jamie—who was practically a brother to him—and the music they made together to keep him distracted. He already spent a lot of time with Jared and Wren. It would be a huge change, but The Asylum was already...home.
Pike hadn’t come here by choice. He’d stayed to be with Quint and Seth and also because he’d be safer here than anywhere else.
It wasn’t a secret that a lot of people seemed to tolerate his presence more than anything. Any effort to make him feel welcome was because of Curtis. He didn’t have the status Jamie or Reed did. Didn’t have skills like Keiran or Matt or Wren to make him an essential part of everything. Hell, even Avery clicked because of his role providing security and...well, as Rhodey’s sub, he was in a class of his own.
For some, the ranks of the core had been filled, but Danny had been part of a closed in group like that once. With Glam Grenade.
On Broadway, he’d gotten a chance to work with so many different people, seen what they’d all had to offer in their unique way. From the crew to the understudies, the costume designers, sometimes someone new showing up, all nervous and wary like Pike was now, only to be embraced by the entire ensemble. Like they’d become part of an extended family.
Maybe Danny’s own acceptance here was only because of Jamie initially, but he’d made his place here. And if there was any way to clear the path for Pike, he’d find it.
His friends, like Ashley and Tez, had done it for him when he’d been the new guy.
Time to pay it forward.
He leaned close to Pike, speaking low. “If they’re serving pasta for lunch, I’m in trouble. Too many carbs and I’ll start spiralling, trying to count calories and obsessing over how much I’ll need to exercise to work every single one off. My Dom hates when I do that. Wanna come sit with me so I can just have some chicken and salad?”
Pike’s expression was guarded at first, but he relaxed as Danny held his gaze long enough to let the younger man know he was serious. Voice lowered, Pike leaned in close. “If you’ll give me some of your desert, we have a deal. Keiran’s making these chocolate chip skillet cookies I’d literally be willing to kill for.”
When you put it that way…
Even if Danny had planned to have dessert, he definitely wasn’t willing to die for it. He was pretty sure Pike was joking, but immediately imagined getting one of those small, cast iron skillets he’d seen Keiran gushing over upside the head.
Wren would love the gruesome visual that played out in Danny’s mind.
He shuddered, giving Pike a hesitant smile. “Umm, you could have it all, I don’t mind.”
“Shit, I’m sorry. I forgot that kind of stuff freaks you the fuck out.” Pike ducked his head when Quint shot him a warning look. Running his hand over his blue hair, he blew out a breath. “It would be cool to have lunch with you. Quint has to go over to the clinic to cover a few shifts. I was supposed to go up to the loft, but maybe he’ll let me stay down here if I can get someone else to watch me.” He rolled his eyes at Danny’s questioning look. “I’m a bit accident prone when he’s not around. It’s totally his fault. I got too used to someone making sure I don’t do anything stupid.”
Danny nodded, pushing away from the ring. “It’s nice to have someone looking out for you. Let’s go let him know you’ll be with me. I’m not sure how reassuring that’ll be, but I’ll be good at letting you know what’s dangerous before you do it.”
Snickering, Pike walked with him across the gym. “That’s a good point and probably exactly what I need.”
“What is?” Quint jerked his attention from the intense conversation he was having with Justin about baseball, moving closer to Pike and nudging the collar of his oversized sweater aside to check the bandage on his shoulder “Does it hurt? You can have more painkillers in an hour. Maybe I shouldn’t have let you move around so much.”
“I’m fine, Quint. It’s more annoying than anything.” Pike tucked himself against Quint’s side. “Danny asked me to have lunch with him. I’ll be good, I swear. And I won’t leave his side. Can I stay downstairs while you’re gone?”
Not giving Quint a chance to answer, Shea gave Danny a level look. “No giving him all your food. I’ll be keeping an eye on both of you.”
“I won’t, sir.” It was the truth. Danny would only give Pike all the carbs and sweets. Which Shea still wouldn’t love, but worse came to worse, he’d...well, he’d probably do something horrible like make Danny have bread with supper, but he’d worry about that later. He smiled at Quint. “I’d really enjoy Pike’s company, sir.”
Quint winced, then shook his head, reminding Danny he wasn’t a Dom, a second too late. But the man waved off Danny’s quick apology. “It’s fine, the dynamics confuse a lot of people.”
“Tell me about it.” Justin shot Shea a dirty look as he folded his arms over his broad chest. “I overheard that prissy little twink asking his Dom if you’d be willing to share your ‘other sub’. This place would be a lot more enjoyable if I wasn’t the one on a fucking leash.”
“You wouldn’t need one if you’d be reasonable about certain limits. Like not trying to ditch your goddamn bodyguards.” Shea ran his hand over his closely trimmed hair. “I’ll take a Toppy sub over a baby Dom any day of the week. We’d have avoided a lot of problems if your mom had told Connor you were kinky.”
Justin arched a brow at Shea. “Yes, because that wouldn’t be a strange thing for her to know.”
Amusement lightening his rich blue eyes, Quint ignored the bickering Doms and winked at Pike. “Go ahead. Danny might be a good influence on you.”
“Or I’ll be a bad one on him.” Pike spoke against Quint’s lips as he rose up on his tiptoes for a kiss. “I’m happy you came home.”
The tenderness in Quint’s gaze made it clear how much Pike meant to him. He closed his eyes, gathering Pike into his arms, careful, but like he was reluctant to let him anywhere out of reach. “So am I, brat.”
A happy sigh escaped Danny. Everyone glanced over and he made a mad dash for the locker room to avoid embarrassing himself. Again. More than he already had.
Still, he couldn’t help melting a bit when he saw people so clearly in love, who fit so well even when they seemed nothing alike. Quint was so proper, so well put together, with this deadly undercurrent Danny would avoid at all costs. He could politely tear a man to shreds, both figuratively and literally. His moral code had a lethal edge, like most of the mercs around here, and it was scary how every one of their minds worked.
There was no doubt he’d sacrifice absolutely everything for Pike.
From whispers among the core...it was possible he already had.
A quick cold shower to give Danny a good headstart to face whatever else taking Shea’s challenge would throw at him, then he dried off and got dressed. Wearing Rhodey’s hoodie again was strange, but...not in a bad way. He inhaled the subtle hint of whiskey, leather, and cigars as he left the locker room, all scents he’d started to connect with the feeling of being safe and secure in the club.
Then caught the faint burnt aroma of gunpowder.
Right. Not that safe.
He glanced up, exhaling as he studied the high ceiling of the gym. At least that looked solid. If today was going to take yet another turn for the worse, it wouldn’t end with him being crushed under falling beams or concrete.
Bullets would probably be a slower, more painful death.
You could always ask Wren. He’d absolutely know.
Yes, but Danny really didn’t want to.
A tug at his arm spun him around, his elbow almost catching Pike in the eye before Quint blocked him. He swallowed, staring up at the bigger sub.
So this is how it ends.
“No need to be frightened, little one.” Quint’s ever-present smile quirked up a bit more at the edges. “Those are some good reflexes. Try not to use them on Pike while he’s still healing.”
Quickly shaking his head, Danny pulled his sleeves over his hands. “I won’t, si—Quint. There will be absolutely no need for you to snap my neck today. Or any day.” He was rambling. And leaving to many possibilities out. “Nights either. I won’t ever lay a hand on Pike, you have my word.”
Pike choked back a laugh, grabbing Danny’s arm again. “Well there goes my plans for the night. I was totally gonna offer to suck your dick, but I like getting my hair pulled and if you ain’t touching me…”
Coughing into his hand, Shea’s eyes met Danny’s with a knowing glint in them.
Very mean Dom.
Almost as though Danny had said the words out loud, Shea gave a subtle nod. Then he clapped Justin on the shoulder, leading him into the workout room.
“That was...interesting.” Pike led Danny toward the bar, taking a seat at one of the tables closest to the door before giving Danny a thoughtful look. “You doing one of your roleplaying scenes or something? Talk is you and your Doms are all into that. I can see how it’s hot as fuck. If he’s gonna pretend to kidnap you or something, give me a head’s up, though. Even if that shit’s therapeutic, not sure I could just stand back and watch if it gets too real, you know?”
Shuddering at the idea, Danny shook his head. “Nothing like that, don’t worry. It’s…” From the corner of his eye he noticed Wren behind the bar, giving him an enthusiastic nod. Frowning, Danny tried to figure out how Pike could come up with a better plan than Wren or Reed—albeit unknowingly—had.
Wren was smart and didn’t get close to many people.
If he trusted Pike and thought he could help…
Might as well go for it.
“Shea gave me a challenge.” Danny kept his voice down as he laid out what had happened with the media and Rhodey, the way Pike quietly heard him out, looking both curious and inspired at different parts giving him hope.
Once he was done, Pike nodded slowly. He tapped a finger on his lips, his gaze never leaving Danny’s face. “Okay, so you want to get Rhodey’s attention and—”
“That’s not exactly—”
“Give me a sec. I’ve got an idea.” A wicked little smile curved Pike’s lips. “This is gonna be fun.”
Bianca Sommerland is the USA Today Bestselling author of The Dartmouth Cobras series. Tibby Armstrong is the author of the acclaimed Hollywood series. Together they've created the breathtaking and brutal world of The Asylum Fight Club. A place where men live and love by their fists, and ropes are for more than just the ring.