The Freeing of Dexter Lanning

an excerpt



Chapter One

Dex was nothing more than a slave to demanding Ross. Charged with taking care of a big house and cooking the meals, Dex struggled to figure out at what point something went wrong. What seemed to keep Ross in a pissed-off state? At least with Dex's dance job at Over the Rainbow, he got out of the house and earned a bit of cash. At the bar Ross was happy. Happy to see his possession writhing almost naked on the dance platform.

As sweat trickled down his back, Dex refocused on the task at hand, buffing Ross's 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix. San Antonio humidity and an early May afternoon temperature of eighty-eight turned the open garage into an oven. Dex's sweaty muscular chest, shoulders, and arms glistened. The tall cinder-block fence twenty feet behind the rear-facing garage blocked not only the neighbors, but most of the breeze. Still, the occasional brief gust through the garage doors cooled his overheated skin.

The kitchen door squeaked open. Dex tensed. In two years, Ross morphed into a ruthless dictator who commanded Dex do his bidding. Ross stabbed his heart with caustic, hateful words. Deep down Dex believed it was his fault. It seemed like everything he did pissed Ross off. If only he could be a better partner.

"I thought I told you to fix this fucking door!" Ross roared.

Dex winced at the angry voice. He hoped the monster's threat didn't turn physical. He glanced at Ross. "We need graphite."

Ross's angry eyes narrowed further. "Do I need to tell you every fucking thing? Just use that spray oil stuff on it."

Dex stifled a shudder. Any sign of weakness would give Ross what he needed to attack. "That leaves a mess and attracts dirt, so dirty hinges."

"Then fucking clean them. I swear you are the stupidest asshole I ever met. Way too stupid for me to send to college, so you can forget about that dream. And I don't want to hear that door squeak one more time."

Dex cringed. "Yes, sir." Hoping the situation was over, Dex turned to resume his buffing. He focused on his disappointment at losing his dream of attending college. But Ross was probably right...he was too stupid.

Ross's heavy footsteps echoed in the garage as he moved around his BMW to inspect the wax job on the Pontiac. Ross pointed a fat finger to the tin sitting on the workbench. "You didn't use that wax, did you?"

Dex continued to buff through the threat hanging in the air. "Yes, why?"

"Fuck!" Ross stomped to the workbench and snatched the wax tin. "This wax is for the BMW, you moron." He shook the tin at Dex. "If this stuff hurts the finish on the Pontiac, you'll pay." Spittle flew from his mouth. Droplets landed on Dex's muscular arm. An angry Ross always meant physical force.

Dex's heart hammered. At six foot two and 200 pounds, Dex had more muscle strength. If he could pin Ross to the floor, the monster's size and weight was a disadvantage. But six foot six and 250 pounds of angry giant with uncontrolled aggression, combined with Ross's attitude of ownership, had Dex beat. "Wax is wax." Dex's voice shook. He took a step back and eyed Ross.

"Where the fuck are you going?" The tin of wax Ross threw at the workbench hit the tools with a loud clang, then ricocheted onto the floor and rolled across the polished cement.

Dex froze in place to avoid further angering the enraged behemoth who rushed toward him. With fast-repeating popping sound, the stun gun forced every muscle in his body into painful spasms. He collapsed to the floor. Ross shouted words unintelligible in Dex's overstressed brain. The popping sound occurred again. More pain. He gasped for breath. This must be the end.

Awareness of his surroundings gradually returned. How long had he been out? His head pounded. Blood throbbed in his ears. His heart hammered his ribcage. Every muscle ached. He couldn't move. What just happened? Lying on his left side, barely open eyes glimpsed a shoe heading his direction. More pain as the leather toe kicked him onto his back.

"What do you think of my new toy?" Ross leaned over Dex and snarled. "Don't fuck with me, shithead, or I'll zap you again. I want my supper on time, so grow a pair and move your worthless ass into the kitchen." Ross disappeared around the BMW, stomped across the garage, and pulled open the squeaky door. "And fix this fucking door!"

The door slammed closed. Dex again rolled onto his side, then struggled to a sitting position. Trembling arms and legs hampered his efforts. For several minutes he sat still, gasping breaths while the trembling eased. Thanks to his regular workout routine he was accustomed to pushing his muscles to the limit, just not all at once in a jolt that drained him completely. Using the Pontiac for leverage, he crawled to a kneeling position, then leaned against the fender to stand. He didn't give a fuck if his body left sweat marks on the Pontiac.

In the house, Dex staggered to the den door. "The stun gun zapped all my strength. There is some of your favorite meat loaf in the refrigerator. Can you get your own supper?" He paused for a reaction. Getting nothing but a scowl, he headed to his room, closed the door, and collapsed on the bed.

****

Waking as if from a drugged sleep, the red numerals of his alarm clock showed 4:59. He slept almost fourteen hours. Rolling to his back, the ceiling came into focus in the dim light of the street lamp through the curtains. He tried to recall a point in his life when he had been so low. Oh...right. His parents, and the stern expressions on their faces as they told him to leave seven years ago. No gay son would live in their house. Since then, the few guys he dated had been after only one thing: his body. Then Ross came along and made him feel worthy. For a while. How did he end up with this monster? He wanted someone to love him. He wanted someone to love. Ross was incapable of giving or accepting.

Dex pushed to a sitting position, stretching his arms until he mustered the strength to stagger into the small en suite bathroom. He flicked the switch and his eyes protested the glaring light. He filled a glass with water, gulping down the entire contents before refilling and gulping a second glass. The empty glass clinked to the porcelain surface. With cupped hands he splashed cool water from the tap onto his face. Studying his image in the mirror, he feared for his life. To survive, he must leave.

The stun gun incident capped an increasingly violent pattern from Ross. It started as verbal abuse eighteen months ago. Then violence escalated from a poke, to a jab, to a slap, to a punch, and finally to a stun gun. What was next? A crowbar? A firearm? The unprovoked attacks left Dex with only a few shreds of self-esteem. His sanity would be next, unless he escaped. He had no place to go but sleeping in his truck was better than being abused.

Shedding the day-old, stinky workout shorts he slept in, Dex stepped into the shower. The hot spray and the sporty scent of the body wash eased his tension. A rumbling from his stomach reminded him he last ate yesterday at lunch, but escape took priority. After the quick shower, he dried off and dressed in jeans, an untucked polo, and flip-flops.

Grabbing a duffel from the closet, he stuffed as many of his clothes as would fit into the bag, along with his savings. If he was careful, the three thousand dollars he kept hidden from Ross would last him until he could find a job somewhere outside San Antonio. Not knowing where he would end up, he packed his suit, a sport coat, and his dress shoes into a hanging bag. A smaller bag contained his toiletries, his phone charger, and the photo of his estranged parents.

After a final scan around his room, Dex turned off the light and opened his door. The hallway was dark and the house quiet. Good, Ross was still asleep. Dex usually went for his morning workout before Ross got up, so nothing would seem amiss unless Ross checked his closet.

Outside, he unlocked his truck, tossed his bags in the back seat, and climbed in the front. Ross bought him the truck shortly after they got together, a replacement for his old beat-up Taurus. Shoving the key in the ignition, he pulled the door closed and cranked the engine. It caught right away and idled.

He pondered his destination. As long as he enjoyed freedom from Ross, it didn't matter. Fuck it! he thought. He backed out and glanced at the house one last time before he threw the truck in drive and stomped the gas pedal. The V6 growled and the Tacoma sped down the street, carrying him toward a new life filled with uncertainty, but a new life free of slavery.