This is the first book in the Rigel series (although was written third. Or thirdly. Or simply after Obeying Rigel and Loving Rigel.)
Fresh from a post-workout shower, Chris ‘Tank’ Watkins stretched and pushed her way out of the gym. It was late, almost midnight and it had been a long day. She was about to turn around and lock the door when the sounds of loud banging and cursing distracted her from her task.
Out in the parking lot, a small, very familiar, figure was beating the shit out of her car. She was fashion forward in the year of our lord 1985 which meant being dressed in tight stone wash jeans and a matching jacket. She threw punch after kick after punch at the body of the Corolla. Her dark shaggy hair, long at the back but shaved short at the front, swung across her pale face obscuring the scowl from time to time.
“Rigel!” Chris dropped her gym bag and jogged over to the scene of the auto beating in progress. “Rigel, settle down.”
“No.” The smaller woman balled her fist and slammed it into the side of her car. Her knuckles bloomed with red pain, little cuts breaking open in the skin from repeated punishment.
“Cut that out,” Chris snapped. Ignoring her, Rigel raised her fist again but before it could descend again Chris caught her by the wrist and that was the end of that. Chris was a large woman, broad across the shoulders and powerful to boot. Her deep set blue eyes didn’t often give much away and her blonde crew cut spoke to exactly what she was, simple, direct and to the point. “I said, cut it out.”
Something in her voice made Rigel listen. Perhaps it was the slightly deep note of authority. Perhaps it was the warning flash in her eyes. Or perhaps the young woman was finally getting what she really wanted and craved – someone who cared enough to stop her.
“Why are you so angry? What happened?” Chris kept a hold of Rigel’s wrist whilst she asked the questions.
“I got kicked out again.” Rigel deflated visibly. Her shoulders drooped and the fist fell away to dangling fingers handing limply on the other side of Chris’ firm grip.
“What did you do?” Chris’s tone was grim. Serious. Not at all comforting or understanding.
The look she got was one of defiance in preparation for disappointment. “They found my stash.”
“Rigel.” Chris’s voice was heavy with disappointment. “I told you St Martins had a zero tolerance policy on drugs. Even weed. You signed a contract.”
The sharp lines of the younger woman’s face became even sharper as she scowled furiously. “They don’t have any right to tell me what I can and can’t put in my body.”
“They do have the right to say what goes on under their roof,” Chris sighed. She was fast coming to the limits of her patience with Rigel. She was twenty, almost twenty-one. Old enough to be out on her own for sure, but for one reason or another she just couldn’t get it together. She hadn’t held down a job for more than a few weeks and she’d been kicked out of three apartments for various infractions.
“Anyway, guess I’ll just sleep in my car and wash up when the gym opens tomorrow,” Rigel said, slumping back against the driver’s door.
Chris released her wrist. “You can stay at my place tonight. We’ll work something out tomorrow.”
“No thanks,” Rigel shook her head and cradled her swollen knuckles. They needed ice – and to belong to someone who wasn’t quite so stupid as to vent her frustrations on a door. “I can’t do that.”
“Yes you can.”
A slow shake of the head showed that she wasn’t just being a contrary brat as per usual. “No. Trust me. I can’t.”
Rigel’s reply was as honest as it was heartbreaking. “You’re the only person who still likes me. I don’t want to screw that up. And I screw everything up.” She met Chris’s eyes with desperation. “Just forget you saw this and go home okay? You got work in the morning.”
“As do you, right?”
Rigel’s muteness was testament to another job lost. Chris felt frustration welling and fought to keep it down. “What happened?”
“It was a stupid job.” Rigel was mumbling. She always mumbled when she knew she was in the wrong, mumbled and scuffed at the ground. Chris looked down. Yep, sure enough a sneaker was digging at the asphalt as if it might be able to tunnel all the way to China.
“I got fired. That’s all. Okay?”
Rebellion. The last defense of those who know they were in the wrong. “I don’t have to tell you.” She stared up at Chris, her hands balling subconsciously into fists again. She was always so angry, so eager to fight – as if fighting would solve all her problems.
Chris took a step back and folded her arms over her chest, giving Rigel some space. No point cornering the vicious little thing. “You have to tell someone.”
“I threw soda over a customer,” Rigel admitted. “He said I got the wrong soda. I didn’t get the wrong soda. He asked for Pepsi and he got Pepsi.” A little faraway smile crossed her face. “He got it right in his face.”
“Taaannkkk,” Rigel interrupted, drawling Chris’ nickname out in an exaggerated mimicking. “Listen, don’t worry, it’s fine, okay?” She started patting at the pocket of her jacket, finding what she wanted in the left breast pocket. She drew a crumpled white cylinder out and clamped it between her teeth as her hands started patting her body again. She glanced over at Chris. “You gotta light?”
Chris’s voice held heavy significance. “I know something that needs to be lit up and it’s not that cigarette.”
It was lost on Rigel. “Do you have one or not? Wait.. don’t worry.”
She found a faded green Bic and sparked it several times before getting enough flame to light her cigarette. Orange light flared as the paper and tobacco caught light, momentarily casting a glow over the devilishly attractive features. Chris felt a tug somewhere low, an urge that had nothing to do with wanting to help the miscreant inhaling toxic smoke deep into her lungs.