Knight(6)
Author:Kristen Ashley


    I kept my eyes to his profile and asked, “Are you Russian?”

    The doors opened and his hand came to me, not to my upper arm this time, to my elbow and he propelled me out, answering, “Fuck no.”

    His answer was emphatic and therefore insulting since I was half Russian but I didn’t call him on this. I also wondered at his knowledge of the Russia vodka drinking habit but I didn’t ask about it. I simply walked with him through the brightly lit, cement underground parking garage.

    He took me to a sleek, shining, low-slung, gunmetal gray sports car the like I’d never seen. It was so clean, it was gleaming and it looked like it had been driven there direct the from the showroom floor. I had no idea what it was and the only clue was on the back it had the word “Vantage”. I’d never heard of a make or model named “Vantage”. All I knew was, like his bedroom, apartment and clothes, it was fabulous.

    He moved me to the passenger side door and opened it for me.

    “What kind of car is this?” I asked, aiming my behind to the seat.

    “Aston Martin,” he muttered, eyes to my feet that I was swinging in and that was all he said before I cleared the door and he threw it to.

    Aston Martin. I wasn’t sure but I thought some James Bond or another or several of them drove Aston Martins.

    Wow.

    I buckled up and looked around, experiencing the feel that, like everything that had anything to do with Knight, was pure opulence.

    He got in, didn’t buckle up but started the car and it purred all around us.

    Yep, pure opulence.

    Then he wrapped an arm around my seat, twisted around and looked back to reverse. Once out, he straightened, put the car in gear and away we went.

    Fast.

    Crap.

    We were at the second level of parking under the building and I was reminded of one of my few (but I had them) irrational fears and that was I didn’t like underground parking. Sure, there were huge cement pillars I knew someone with a great deal of schooling designed to hold up the weight of the big building. But all I could think was, if that dude was drunk one day at work, screwed up and the building came tumbling down, there was no hope for me. It didn’t help that Knight had a high performance vehicle that he clearly liked to explore the boundaries of its functionality so now he was scaring me in a different way.

    He hit a button as we were speeding up the ramp that would take us to freedom and luckily slowed for the gridded gate that kept the riffraff out to slide up then we were out of the danger zone and idling at the entrance to the street.

    I took a breath.

    Knight called, “Babe.”

    I looked at him to see he was looking at me or, more accurately, looking at my hand that had a death grip on the armrest of the door.

    Then his eyes came to me and he declared, “One, been drivin’ since I was twelve. I know what I’m doin’ so you can quit tryin’ to fuse with the car, relax and enjoy it. Two, I kinda gotta know where I’m goin’.”

    “You’ve been driving since you were twelve?” I asked.

    He didn’t answer. Instead he asked back, “Where am I goin’?”

    “Capital Hill.”

    He looked away, turned left and I gave him my full address.

    Conversation was non-existent as he negotiated the streets like he was attempting to set the land speed record from downtown Denver to Capital Hill. I tried to “relax and enjoy it”. I failed spectacularly at this effort but didn’t fail at prying my hand from the armrest though I did knot both in my lap while praying.

    We hit my block and he found an unusual nighttime, daytime or anytime parking spot on the street two houses down from my building. However, it wasn’t a spot, as such. More like an opening. Still, in one go with a speed that made my heart slide in my throat, parallel parking, he whipped that expensive car into a space that I was certain wouldn’t fit it but somehow did.

    I closed my eyes, sucked in a breath and then turned to him to thank him, grateful the night was over and relieved my time with him was too.

    But my view was of his back as he was angling out of the car.

    “Crap,” I whispered, uncertain I liked his peculiar demonstrations of gentlemanliness. Giving me a ride. In a not offensive way noting I needed one. Shielding me from whatever I’d see in the bedroom. Gentleman and Knight didn’t go together somehow and I found it perplexing in a way I knew I shouldn’t give any headspace seeing as this was the one and only time I’d be in his presence but I also knew I’d give headspace way beyond this night.

    I unbuckled, my door was opened and then his long fingers were wrapped around my elbow and I was out. He slammed the door and guided me to the sidewalk but stopped us both.

    I looked up at him, preparing to tell him I was grateful for the ride and his attention but he didn’t have to walk me to my building but the words didn’t come out. This was because his eyes were aimed down the block and my eyes went where his were.

    My street had, back in the day when the economy was booming, flourished. The houses had been renovated, repainted, landscaped beautifully and two crappy apartment buildings had fallen so smart, trendy condos could be built on their lots. The cars on the street were new to new-ish, maybe not luxury but not economy and the vibe was quiet. Families or double-income couples lived in these homes and condos, they cared about them and this was reflected on the entire block.

    Except my apartment building which was where Knight was looking. It was old. No attention had been put into what it would look like when it was built. No attention was put into how it was now maintained. And it was a blight on the neighborhood. The good thing was, rent was low and it came with a parking spot. The bad thing was, the neighbors hated it, hated the landlord and sometimes, by association, hated the tenants which included me.

    Now, weirdly, Knight was staring at it, again his face giving nothing away but his contemplation of it was deep.

    “Knight,” I called softly, his head jerked very slightly and his eyes tipped down to me. “You don’t have to walk me to my building. I’m good. Thank you for bringing me home.”

    He didn’t answer and again totally ignored me as, hand still curled around my elbow, he moved us toward my building.

    “Really,” I went on as we were walking, “this is a good neighborhood.”

    It was like I didn’t speak. Eyes to my apartment building, he kept moving, his fingers firm around my flesh.

    I sighed and gave up. It wasn’t that far and soon this would be over.

    We walked up the steps to the door and Knight stopped us.

    I looked up at him to thank him again but he spoke before me.

    “Punch in the code, babe.”

    I stared up at him and asked, “The code?”

    He jerked his head to the keypad by the door.

    I looked at it, knowing it didn’t work because it hadn’t for six months. Then I lifted a hand and pushed open the unlocked door. As I did this, I could swear I heard the quiet hiss of an indrawn, pissed off breath but when my head quickly turned to him at the sound he simply drew us through.

    Once inside, he stopped us, looked down at me and declared, “Babe, please tell me you don’t live on the first floor.”

    This was a strange thing to say and I looked into the hall at the doors of the apartments on the first floor.

    Then I looked up at him and replied, “No, top floor.”

    “Thank Christ,” he muttered and moved us, eyeing the first staircase that had a rope across it with a sloppily hand-printed notice tacked to it that said, “Not in use.” Then Knight was moving us to the elevators but his step faltered when he saw the sloppily hand-printed sign on it that said, “Out of Order.” I definitely heard his sigh when he moved us to the other set of stairs and up them.

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