Kurt and Bernie brought Marty up to his knees while continuing to restrain him. Marty tried to resist but Kurt tightened the hold on his arm. As Vincent stood in front of Marty kneeling, I could tell that they had similar heights and builds. They glared at each other fiercely like two wild lions ready to fight over a female. The similarity between them was jarring.
“What are you doing Vincent?” I cried. Vincent ignored me. His focus was solely on Marty.
“You son of a bitch.” Vincent pulled his arm back and swung, landing a clean blow across Marty’s cheek. Marty’s glasses flew off his head and slammed against the nearby wall. I thought I heard somebody’s bone crack. I wasn’t sure if it was Marty’s jaw or Vincent’s knuckle.
“What are you doing?” I screamed.
“Why’d you hit me you piece of shit? I’ll f**king kill you,” Marty yelled.
“You think you’re tough beating up women?” Vincent snarled.
He took another swing with his other hand, landing a blow on Marty’s other cheek.
“You just want to control her. You have no right.”
“Fuck you. You don’t know shit about me!” Marty cried.
Then Vincent began kicking him in the stomach.
“Go to hell,” Marty panted in between blows.
“You don’t care about her. You never did.”
I’d never seen this side of Vincent before. He punched Marty again and again as if possessed. I watched in horror as a realization swept over me: Marty was going to die.
I leaped in front of Vincent to shield Marty. Vincent pulled his punch back as I wrapped my arms around him and buried my face into his chest.
“Stop Vincent! Please, god. Stop. You’re going to kill him!”
His body tensed. His arm raised up to strike. I closed my eyes and prepared myself for the worst. Then suddenly I felt his body relax. Vincent’s arm slowly came down to his side.
“You come anywhere near Kristen again and I’ll f**king kill you.”
“You want us to take him away, boss?” Kurt asked.
Boss? Why did Kurt just call him boss? How did he know Vincent?
“Wait.” Vincent gently gripped my waist and moved me to the side. He stepped toward Marty and grabbed him by the hair lifting his head to stare into his eyes. “Tell me you understand.”
Marty gurgled something incomprehensible, his eyes half-dazed.
“Nod your head if you understand.”
Vincent released his grip on Marty’s head and Marty nodded faintly.
“Take care of him,” Vincent said to Kurt.
Kurt nodded and stooped to pick up Marty’s glasses. He and Bernie dragged Marty off by the arms toward the stairwell. Marty put up no resistance this time, his feet dragging along ground.
I couldn’t believe what Vincent just said. Were they going to murder Marty in cold blood? Frantically, I asked, “You’re not going to kill him are you?”
Vincent looked at me intensely; his brows narrowed into sharp lines frightened me. “Of course not. That was never going to happen. They’ll patch him up and send him away, and then I’ll have them keep an eye on him to make sure he never comes back. Kurt and Bernie are pros. You’re safe now.”
“You almost killed him! What the f**k is wrong with you?” I began to pound on his chest with my hands, tears forming in my eyes.
He gripped my arms firmly and stared deep into my eyes. The blazing inferno from earlier was gone, replaced by an equally fierce tenderness. “I needed to make sure he wasn’t going to hurt you again.”
“Look, let’s go inside before the neighbors call the police. I’ll explain everything.”
I was still shaking when Vincent put his arm around my shoulders. He ushered me inside, stepping on blue petals in the process.
I entered my apartment with Vincent’s warm arm around my shoulder. My eyes stung with tears. Thoughts raced through my mind in a swirl. I was flooded with questions.
He gestured to the couch to have a seat but I turned to him as soon as he closed the door behind us. “What the f**k was that Vincent?” I spat. “Why were my neighbors going badass commando on Marty?”
His calm facade had returned and he reached out to wipe the tears from my cheek. “They were the security team I hired to keep an eye on you.”
My world spun. I could feel the blood draining from my face. I no longer knew what was real and what wasn’t. “You hired a security team?”
“Yes, to watch over you. To keep you safe.”
The neutral tone of his response infuriated me. “What the hell? I thought you were half-joking about that.”
His expression became unexpectedly dark. “I’d never joke about something like that.”
“We talked about this. I told you I didn’t want one and you agreed to that. That’s why we went to Grandpa Rambo’s store on the outskirts of town for mace. You didn’t listen to me. You lied to me.”
He grimaced. “I did it because I care about you Kristen. It was for your own protection.”
“My protection? God. What’s wrong with you? This isn’t the wild west, Vincent. Seriously, you almost killed a man today.”
His mouth was a thin line. “Maybe he deserved it.”
“Jesus, I feel like I don’t even know you. One minute you’re nice and charming, the next you’re a violent psychopath. You and your security team beat up a single man like some kind of goon squad. I was expecting the couple across the hall to maybe ask for a cup of sugar every now and then, not turn out to be f**king mercenaries.”
His features twisted in pain. “Please, Kristen. I’m sorry. I did lie to you but please understand I had to ensure your safety.”
“Keeping me safe is one thing. wailing on Marty like some kind of mobster is another. That crossed a ton of lines. Why didn’t you break his legs with a baseball bat while you were at it? Or better yet, cut off one of his fingers. How do I know that’s not what’s happening right now?”
“I know it seems extreme but believe me, it was necessary. I’ve seen guys like him before. I know they don’t give up easily. I wouldn’t have gone that far if I didn’t think it was necessary.”
I put my hands on my hips. “You’ve seen guys like him before? Where? Some TV show?”
Vincent sighed deeply. “My sister Giselle had an abusive boyfriend. That’s how I know.”
I grunted in frustration. He was dropping bomb after bomb on me, destroying pieces of reality I thought I had a hold on. “Okay. Why didn’t you tell me about this?”