Scarlett’s Tail by Brittany Putzer

The Fangs

My heart pounds in my ears as my feet beat against the cold concrete.

“What are you idiots doing just standing there? Somebody, grab her!”

The pedestrians gawk as I rush by, but with one look at my dingy attire, their pity-filled expressions face forward. And I might as well be invisible. The thick raindrops hammer against my skin as I race away from the grocery store with two large men trailing behind me—their screams directed at my back.

I duck inside the dark alleyway and leap on top of a metallic dumpster. From there, I grip the slick fire escape and drag myself onto the roof. I gasp for oxygen, trying to fill my burning lungs before they’re exerted for a second time—today. Once my breathing has somewhat normalized, I peek at the security guards while they scratch their heads and curse loudly. They scan the cramped space for another moment, then report in their earpieces that I escaped their grasps. Again.

I snicker to myself as I comb my hands through my crimson hair. I won’t go hungry tonight.

Suddenly, there is a warm body standing behind me. Fingertips dance along my neck before a metallic object glides towards my throat. “Well, look who’s running from the pigs again.”

“Aren’t you tired of getting your ass whooped, Tanner?”

“Scarlett, admit it. I have you pinned and there is no escaping. Surrender to me.”

“In your dreams.” I slam my elbow into his stomach while I tuck and roll. Even with my quick countermove, he manages to slice my arm, but it’s better than my neck. “Hey, asshole! That’s going to leave a scar!”

Tanner coughs in the background as I stomp off towards the Warehouse. I’m such an idiot. I can’t believe I took that moment to gloat. I’m getting rusty, but I vow to never let that happen again.

As I reach my destination, my boots skid to a stop near an icy patch. My clenched fist pounds on the Warehouse door. While it echoes, I rub my hands together and watch the fog escape my lips. Damn! Hurry up and answer the door!

A sudden clang causes me to leap and twist. I drop my makeshift ninja stance once I realize there’s no threat—only dumpster fires offering bright warmth to the many homeless cloaked figures.

“What do you have for me tonight, Scarlett?” I respond by pulling out two cans of Chef Boyardee and tossing them to the older man at the door. “Do you really think that will gain you entrance? Two cans?”

“Come on, Stan! I had to run two miles in the freezing rain for those cans.”

“How about you keep me warm tonight, sugar? Then we can call it even, and I’ll let you in.”

I’m used to these jerks. They think that just because I’m young and easy on the eyes, I’ll service their limp dicks for extras.

Well, fuck them. I snatch my cans and stalk off with my middle finger flying for all to see.

“Stan, let her in.” Tanner throws the doorman four cans. “You’re a sick bastard. If she’s keeping anybody warm tonight, it’ll be somebody her own age. I mean, come on! She could be your grandkid.” He chuckles as he guides me inside.

“I was handling him, Tanner. I didn’t need you standing up for me.”

“I was only trying to help.”

“Yeah, after you tried to slice my throat for my cans? Just stay the hell away from me.” I stomp towards a pile of cardboard. Although nobody can stake a claim on spots, this one’s my favorite. It’s close to the heater and the exit. Once I settle on the floor, I rub my numb fingers and blow hot air on the tips.

“I saved this spot for you.” I try not to show the shock in my emerald eyes as the tiny voice squeaks behind me.

“Sara, I told you it wasn’t safe here. Why didn’t you go back to the orphanage or the fire station this morning?”

“I don’t want to go back there without you. I miss you.”

The tiny blonde curls into my lap like a guilt-ridden puppy. I grumble before stroking her hair and kissing her forehead. “I’m sorry, sweetie, but you can’t stay here.”

“Why can’t you go back with me. Don’t you love me anymore?”

My heart squeezes at the sadness dripping from her words. I pinch my eyes shut and scream at myself internally: Do not cry. Stay strong. “I already told you… I’m too old for the orphanage.”

“You just turned eighteen. Can’t they make an exception? They didn’t have to kick you out on your birthday.”

“Times are tough, and they had to make room for more needy children. So they don’t end up here, stealing and lying to survive.”

I feel her slow, even breathing and realize she’s asleep. This sweet girl has no idea how rough this place is. Especially for a woman.And I don’t intend on her ever finding out.

I met Sara when she was dropped off at St. Paul’s. The dirty ragamuffin was screaming and crying as she begged her mother to come back. I comforted her as best I could and became a sort of surrogate maternal figure, wiping her tears and making sure she had enough to eat. But once the orphanage kicked me out, Sara was on her own and sneaking passed the night guard when he drifted off to sleep. No one came looking for her, because it was one less mouth to feed. But I won’t let her live on the streets and end up like her mother. A shiver runs through me at the memory of the last time I saw that woman.

It was the first week I meandered the streets of Carson City. I was cold and hungry. But it was hard to find a compassionate heart in the decaying metropolis. That night, I spent four hours begging for loose change. Once I mustered enough, I bought a cheeseburger and scarfed it down. When I left the restaurant, I observed two men beating a homeless person before they stole a baggie from her pocket. I ran over to help, but I was shell-shocked when I realized it was Sara’s mother. Thankfully, the men already got what they wanted and realized it wasn’t worth the fight when I approached. But it was too late for the woman at my feet. I ran my hand over her bruised face and took in the tiny pricks on her arms. The scene brought me to my knees, and I wept over her lifeless form, though not for her. No, my heart broke for her innocent daughter, who dreamed of one day locating her mother when she was finally old enough to leave the orphanage. It wasn’t long before a tall dark-haired man discovered my disheveled figure crouched over the corpse… and collected me without a word.

That’s when I met Spike, and my world became grimmer. I don’t know why he chose to take me in that night, because he is anything but compassionate. He is middle-aged and the leader of the city gang known as the Fangs. They took me in and showed me how to survive on the crumbling streets. And they alone hold the power in the Warehouse and most of the city. If you want to survive, this is the group to fall into.

Admittedly, I don’t consider myself a true member. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everything they’ve taught me, because I don’t think I would have survived without their assistance. But I am a loner. I have to be. I’ve had enough pain in my short existence, without adding more. When I was three years old, I was dropped off at the orphanage by a police officer who found me wandering the woods near Cold Creek. Consequently, I couldn’t communicate well, and they weren’t able to learn where I came from or who I was. The other kids called me Scarlett because of my red hair, and the name stuck.

No middle name. No last name. No family.

Sara stirs in my lap and whimpers. I softly hum the tune of “Hush, Little Baby” to her, and she wiggles before she relaxes.

“What have you eaten today?” I don’t need to crane my neck to know who is looming over me with a stern expression.

“I’ve eaten.”

“Why do you insist on lying to me, Little Wolf?” I am blessed with agility and a keen sense of hearing, hence his pet name for me. Little Wolf. And he is the only one permitted to use it. When I remain silent, he kicks my foot, looking to elicit a response.

“I answered you already, Spike.”

He drops a sandwich into my lap while glaring. “If you lie to me again, I will force you to sleep outside in the freezing sleet.”

I can’t stand that he believes he owns me. I toss the sandwich back. As a result, Sara rubs her eyes. “Is it morning already?” Her yawn is wide, and my heart melts as her gaze is still painted by dreams.

“Scarlett, take your friend upstairs to the loft. She doesn’t belong down here.”

“I’m watching over her. She is fine. And I’ll bring her back in a few hours.”

“It wasn’t a request. Now pick her up, or I’ll have somebody else grab her.” The unpleasant edge to his command makes me leap to my feet with the small girl still cradled in my arms. But the sudden movement causes my vision to blur, and I sway. Spike catches my waist before I tumble. “You are going to kill yourself… and her. Now get your ass up those stairs.”

Spike snatches Sara before he sets her on the ground. Then he grabs my elbow and tugs me towards the staircase. I grumble as I obey, following her to the second floor. Once we cross the threshold, an involuntary moan escapes my lips as the warmth of the room crawls up my frozen toes. This area is off-limits because it’s Spike’s personal living quarters. The only time you are allowed up here is if you are keeping his bed hot for the night. I glance around at the small but cozy space. It has a king bed, a bathroom, a kitchen, and a decent-size common room.

Sara squeals as she plops on the leather couch and wraps an enormous fleece blanket around her tiny shoulders. “This place is amazing! Who would have thought it would be attached to that dump?”

“Don’t get too comfortable, okay. We are going back to the orphanage in a few hours.”

Spike kneels in front of Sara with narrowed eyes. “Listen here, little girl. I better not see you in my warehouse again. This is not a place for children. You could get hurt or go missing.”

Sara swallows while her pupils grow wide. Slowly, she pivots and her icy eyes bore into mine before filling with tears. “But then I will never see Scarlett again.”

Spike snatches her trembling chin and forces her to look away from me. “I don’t give a shit. If I see you here again, I will make Scarlett disappear from your life. So, either way, you are going to lose her.” His words send chills down my spine. Spike is known for both his anger and his ability to make individuals vanish. Although he allows me to banter with him, I know my limits. “Now you will sit here, watch TV, and fall asleep.”

Sara only nods as he hands her the remote. Her tears silently slide down her cheeks and my heart aches.

Before I can comfort her, Spike pulls me into his room and slams the door. “What were you thinking, bringing her here?”

“Sara was here when I came in. I would never bring her here.”

He pivots on his heels and marches out the door with a look that could kill. I swallow, glad that his anger is no longer focused on me. Once his footsteps are silent, I glance around the bare walls of his bedroom. His choice in decor doesn’t give much away. There is only one photo on his dresser—it’s of him and another man who looks to be related to him.

I run my hand over the soft cotton comforter and moan. How long has it been since I’ve slept in an actual bed? I peek into his bathroom and smile at the sparkling white tile. When my gaze lands on the mirror, I cringe. There are dark circles under my bright-green eyes, while crimson strands plaster my dirty skin. I trail my finger over the wound Tanner inflicted and wince. When my pupils meet in my reflection, I attempt to stare into my own soul and will my forgotten past to come forward.

Who are you really, Scarlett? Where did you come from? Who are your parents?

The longer I stare, the more distorted my vision becomes. After a few minutes, I blink and a warm tear escapes while reality sets in. I am a nobody. A meaningless lifeform.

Suddenly, the bedroom door clicks, and I pivot to discover Spike. My gaze trails over his rolled-up sleeves and cut knuckles. I purse my lips, wondering whose blood is decorating his jeans and sweater, but I know better than to ask questions when it comes to his brutality. There is a fire burning in his eyes as they land on me. “I’m not in the mood for your bullshit. I’m going to ask you one last time. Have you eaten today?” His rage-laced words slap me across the face, and I have to look away.

“No, I haven’t. I gave up my meal at the door because Stan asked for it.”

“Well, Stan will never demand food from you again. Or anybody else, for that matter.” He tosses a glint of silver covered in crimson onto the bathroom counter. I jump before realizing it’s Stan’s high school ring—the one that he always wears. Shit. “Stan’s permanent residence is now in a body bag six feet underground.” Spike brushes past me while yanking his sweater over his head. For a middle-aged man, he is easy on the eyes, with his natural tan and thick muscles. “Go to the kitchen and make yourself something to eat, before you fall over again.”

“I never fell over. I just lost my balance.”

“Are you trying to test my patience?” His words bounce off the bathroom surfaces, and I pale. He easily closes the gap between us, pinning me to the wall with his overheated body. “You have forgotten your place, Scarlett, and I think it’s about time you remembered.”

“I’m sorry, Spike. I’ll go and make something to eat. Do you want something?”

He doesn’t move to let me by. “Do you value that little girl?”

“You know I do.”

“Well, I thought you did. But that mouth of yours will get her sleeping next to Stan. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

He watches me carefully, and just when I think he has more to say, he steps aside. I let out a breath and scurry past him with my tail between my legs. Once in the kitchen, I shuffle around the contents of his fridge before squealing with delight at its treasures. I cook eggs, bacon, and biscuits.

“It looks like you’ve made quite the feast, Little Wolf.”

We sit at the table, and I attempt to not scarf down my meal as my stomach demands more. I feel Spike’s watchful gaze but that doesn’t deter my hunger. “This is very good.” I peer up with arched brows. Spike never verbalizes his approval. “Don’t look at me like that, girl. I just gave you a compliment. What do you say in return?”

“Thank you.”

“Do you remember anything about your parents or your past?” It’s an odd turn in conversation.

“I have already told you… no.”

He rubs his stubble. “What if I offer you a new start? Why don’t you marry one of the members and let them take care of you? How about Tanner? You two seem to hang out a lot.”

I blink. Where is this coming from? “I appreciate the thought, but I’m only eighteen years old and I have no interest in marriage.” I rub the gash on my arm. “Or in Tanner.”

“You are an adult now. Surely you have thought about starting your own family?”

“No, it hasn’t crossed my mind. You know, between the scrounging for food and fighting to stay alive in this godforsaken city, I just haven’t had the time.”

“Watch that sarcasm,” he warns before continuing. “You are to attend a meeting with me tomorrow night, with the others. It’s about time you pledge yourself to the group and learn our ways.” He stands. “Once you are officially a member, we can match you and then you will never have to worry about food again.”

His words paralyze me. “No, I can’t. I’m not ready for that.”

“It’s funny how you assume you have a choice in the matter. While you are living in my town, you will abide by my will. Now clean up, shower, and come to bed.” He strides out of the room without a backwards glance.

The scalding water melts my chilled frame. I rest my forehead on the tile while the warmth massages my achy muscles. Knowing what awaits me beyond those doors, I remain in the protective steam for as long as I can. Spike never invites anybody to the loft, especially at night. I know why I’m here. He wants my body.

As the water turns cold, I finally decide to leave the safety of the shower stall. Swiping my palm across the foggy mirror, I remind my reflection that I’m lucky, considering Spike is kind and mostly generous with this process. It could be worse.

I shudder as I recall the first night I stayed in the Warehouse, and I saw a woman leave his loft. Her lip was swollen, and she donned a black eye.

I take in a deep breath. I must become another person when I’m with him. I won’t be Scarlett. I will be Sally. Sally, the slut who doesn’t mind having sex with a man for a warm meal, a bed, and protection. I cringe. A man old enough to be my father.

I open the bathroom door and stare into his hungry gaze. He runs his hand over my face as he takes in my naked body. “Do you remember what I expect of you?”

“Yes, I do.”

“And you agree to this?”

I swallow and nod. Sally is here and reporting for duty, while Scarlett huddles in the corner.

“Good. Now prove to me how grateful you are for everything I have given to you.” We lock eyes as he removes his clothes and tosses them aside. “Get on your knees.”

I do as I’m told and take another deep breath, before sucking his length into my mouth. The salty, warm liquid flows down my throat as his groans reverberate off the walls. He wraps my hair around his hand and thrusts into my throat, obstructing my airway. But I continue to do his bidding.

“You know this is where you belong. On your knees, in front of me.” His words are labored and his thrusts more urgent. My eyes water as his member throbs. To speed him along, I gently squeeze his testicles, and I’m rewarded with a grunt while he releases his load. He waits until I swallow every drop before he frees my hair. “Stand up.”

He guides his fingertips through my tousled locks and pauses at the back of my scalp. He massages it tenderly before he shoves my lips against his. His mouth covers mine, then he slips his tongue inside and claims me. His palms caress my body, lingering on my breasts so he can squeeze my nipples until they are forced to form hard peaks. Slowly, he drags his tongue over each one, suckling at the sensitive flesh. And I’m lost to my alter ego, playing along with reciprocated moans.

“You like that, don’t you?” He grins against my tender neck as he slips his finger inside my core and twirls. At the sudden insertion, I clench—and Sally is pushed back while I’m shoved forward. “The more you struggle, the more painful it will be,” he purrs as he nips my earlobe.

He then shoves me against the bed before he lifts me into a sitting position. His eyes never leave mine as he runs his wet finger across my lips.

“Taste yourself.” I draw his digit into my mouth. The salty sweetness glides down my throat. “Now it’s my turn to have a taste.” Spike trails impassioned kisses all the way to my core, where he slams his tongue inside and flicks, as his hand moves along my sex. I clench again, not wanting to experience this assault on my senses. “Scarlett, just relax and enjoy my gift.”

I lean my head onto the pillow and arch my back, as Sally takes over again and Scarlett covers her ears.

“Good girl. Now scream my name for everybody to hear.” He intensifies his touch while using his knuckles to tweak my nipples. The battle over ignoring him versus allowing my body to react is getting harder to win, as my brain is clouded by his forced pleasure. “You know I won’t stop until I accomplish what I came to do for you.”

His meaning washes over my body, and my hands clench the bedsheets as my climax inches closer. Spike stops abruptly and observes my heavy respirations.

“Say it.” My vision is glazed over with desire, and I loathe myself. He runs his hand through my fuzz to my sex. “Say it, and I will give you your release.”

The heat from his hand makes me whimper. “I can do it myself.”

“Always so tenacious.” He pins my arms above my head. “You know I won’t let you. So, just say what I want to hear.” He kisses my neck, waiting for the declaration to leave my mouth. When I don’t give him what he wants, he bites my nipples until I cry out as I near my breaking point.

Damn it, Scarlett, just say it, Sally screams. The words are forming but refuse to leave the tip of my tongue.

Spike touches every part of me but where I need it most. I know he will keep this up all night if he has to. And he knows I will eventually become weak and give in to his dirty tricks.

Suddenly, his tongue flicks my clit and I arch with a hiss.

I know you want this. You know you want this. Just give in.” He slips two fingers inside and moves in and out while he blows warm air on my overly sensitive parts.

I squirm, but he holds me in place. “Please,” I whimper.

“Please, what?”

A warm tear falls, followed by my resolve. “Please help me, Spike. I need you.”

He finally allows me to explode beneath him, and I scream out his name for everybody to hear. Then he kisses me deeply, mingling my juices with his own. “You’re ready for me, so ready.” He slides inside me before he pounds roughly, grunting until he warms my insides with his quick release. “Go clean yourself up.”

I, again, do as I’m told because I have no way out. Because my life is in his hands. My worthless, insufferable life.