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Rainbow Alley Series 4: Face to Face excerpt

This is a small taste of Jamie Samms story ; Rainbow Alley Series 4: Face to Face

Face to Face excerpt:

“We have to go somewhere,” Mouse was insisting, still yanking on his arm.

“Here’s good.” Skate called up reserves of strength he didn’t really have to spare and hauled Mouse back in. “Not even cold anymore.” He smiled a wilted, floppy smile. “Just tired.”

“That’s what has me worried.” Mouse huddled against him, apparently giving up the attempt to get him to move. “Tell me something?”

“What?” Skate blinked into the dusky light. Knowing they were safe from prying eyes here, he wrapped his arms around Mouse and nestled his chin on his companion’s shoulder, breathing in the faint smell of Mouse clinging under the layers of street.

No use wasting the tiniest smidge of heat, he decided. Besides, despite the reek of city filth and the stale stench of other men, Skate could still detect that special tinge of open sky and hay and sweetness that he was addicted to. If he could breathe Mouse all the time, he would.

“Anything.” Mouse twisted around and cuddled his bony body to Skate’s. He never passed up an opportunity to get close. It didn’t matter how many times Skate reminded him they were just friends, he still wormed his way deeper every opening he got.

“Tell me anything,” he said, voice barely above a kitten purr. “Just talk. I love your voice.”

“Nothing to say,” Skate muttered. He was acutely aware that if anyone were around to overhear them, or see them like this, he would never get away with playing his dog-eared, bent-up straight card. Especially not with the way he let Mouse take the liberty of popping tiny kisses open along the side of his neck.

“You always have something to say.”

Skate tilted his head slightly. The man had a point. Skate had a big mouth. Opening it to voice his displeasure with his little brother after their parents had all but abandoned them had driven Gig into the Greenbacks for good. Opening it when Gig and Marky had tried to leave the gang had got Gig killed. Trying to bring attention to the Greenbacks moving into Rainbow Alley had only gained his former leader’s attention. That had put him in an untenable position that had left his friend, Jimmy Phillips, lying in a drug-induced puddle of drool and himself and Mouse—Denny, his Denny—on the run and freezing to death in an alley. He closed his eyes briefly and forced himself to remember that the man in his arms was called Mouse. Had to be called Mouse, because using his real name got too personal. Too close.

“Skate?”

“Wha—?”

He forced his eyes open to find Mouse’s luminous gaze on him. Brightness from the street lamps bounced off the shimmering golden hue of them and made it look like the little bastard was shining from within.

“Talk to me,” Mouse insisted. “Just whatever you’re thinking about. Anything.”

“I killed my little brother,” Skate blurted, his mind sheering away from the instinct to kiss upturned lips, to fall away into the brilliance inside his friend.

“What?” Mouse’s eyelids flickered, breaking the spell.

“Right over there.” He nodded out into the crossroad of their alley and the one running at right angles to it. “Drag shot him. Shoulda known…”

“You couldn’t’a.”

“Yes, Denny, I coulda. Blade… No,” he whispered, refusing to give his former leader the power of a street name. “Jethro fucking Torres—”

Mouse gasped.

“What?” Skate shoved him away slightly. “You think I should still respect the fucking name? Fuck that shit. He got me to talk. Got me to tell him where Gig was, what he was doing. He manipulated us both, and I shoulda known Blade just wanted him dead, right? Gig and Marky both, but I believed his bullshit. I kept on believing it, and Gig’s dead, isn’t he? And Blade sold you, and Jimmy—”

A groan caught in his throat, an ache started at the back of his jaw and clamped his mouth shut. How many people had been hurt because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut? Because he wanted his naïve, stupid-ass, fucked-up view of the world to be reality?

“Skate, look at me.”

Freezing cold fingers touched his cheeks. Mouse had squirmed around to face him and took his head in both hands.

“Blade wanted—needed—you to believe him. He didn’t get where he is without the ability to get people to listen to him and believe in him. He lured me in, just the same as he did you. The same as he did Gig. Your brother got himself killed.”

“And Jimmy?”

“He stepped in to help me. He knew Monty, knew what he was like. Whatever happened, it happened because Jimmy made a decision. It wasn’t down to you or anything you did.”

“But I—”

“Shut it. You made choices. We both did, and if they were stupid, they were stupid. We can’t go back and unmake them.”

Skate shivered. However right Mouse might be, all the words in the world couldn’t make the painful, nauseated feeling in his gut go away. He dragged his face free and leaned his head against the brick, turning to gaze out at the empty, cracked pavement that had been his brother’s shooting ground.

After a few minutes, Mouse sighed and squirmed back around until his knobby spine and shoulder blades dug into Skate’s chest.

“Go to sleep,” Skate told him. “I’ll keep an eye out.”

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