LENGTH: 22,366 words
This story is included in the anthology, V: A Vic and Matt Series
Book 5 in the Vic and Matt: V Series
The sudden appearance of superpowers might transform most mild-mannered men into egomaniacs with visions of grandeur. Fortunately, Vic Braunson isn’t most men. His powers come from his lover, Matt diLorenzo, and Vic refuses to let the abilities control or change him.
But even he can’t stop the powers from enhancing who he is.
The V in Vulnerable is the fifth and final story in the Vic and Matt: V series. Matt is on a quest to find the perfect ring that will symbolize the love he shares with Vic. A sale ad in the Sunday paper gives him the idea to stop by a local jewelry store on his lunch break the next day. Unfortunately, his co-worker Roxie decides to tag along.
But that’s not the worst of it. A trio of criminals strike the store while Matt and Roxie are inside. When the police arrive, what started as a simple robbery quickly turns into a hostage situation.
With the cops at a stand-off, Officer Kendra Jones places a call to the one man she knows will be able to help. Vic.
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Shortly after his shift started, Vic had a bus full of shoppers and students and was heading downtown along his prescribed route when he heard an intermittent noise from the panel beside him. The flat surface held a small, battery-operated FM radio, which Vic kept on low while he drove. Under the radio was a clipboard with paperwork he had to fill out during his day -- passenger counts, mostly, though there were forms to report any problems that might arise, and a log he had to maintain as proof he hadn’t taken any joy rides or made many unauthorized stops along the way. The clipboard also held his driver’s license, which he had to have handy in case anyone on his bus requested it at any time, and his city employee badge, as well.
Somewhere mixed in with all that nonsense, Vic had tossed his cell phone and personal key ring before leaving the garage. If he wasn’t mistaken, the noise he heard sounded like his phone vibrating with an incoming call.
He didn’t rush to answer it. Matt never called him at work, so Vic suspected it was his boss, wanting to see if he could pick up an extra shift to cover for someone who had called in sick. Vic knew himself well enough to know he wouldn’t say no, but that didn’t mean he had to like working doubles. Though if Matty had reached the point where he knew what rings he wanted to buy, Vic should probably work all the overtime he could to afford them. After all the catalogs and advertisements he’d seen in the past few months, it would be a relief to see what Matt finally picked out.
The phone stopped its infernal buzz just as Vic slowed in front of his next stop. Amid the bustle of passengers coming and going, he didn’t get a chance to dig out the phone until after he had eased back into the flow of traffic. Then he flipped open the cell, glanced at the missed call, and almost hit the brakes in surprise.
It wasn’t the office calling him to work over. It was Kendra, an officer with the Richmond police force. Vic felt dread curl into the pit of his stomach as he hit the SEND button to return the call.
The phone barely rang once before Kendra’s bright voice filled his ear. “Vic, hey.”
“Kendra.” Vic glanced in the mirror above him to make sure none of his passengers were paying much attention to him. He wasn’t supposed to drive while on the phone -- hell, he wasn’t even supposed to have it on him in the bus, but none of the drivers bothered with that rule. “What’s up?”
He expected her to say she needed backup in a way only he could provide. Maybe there was an accident on the interstate, or a raging fire at the mall, or a broken gas pipe poisoning the old folks’ home. She didn’t call him often, but when she did, the first thing she usually asked was, “What’s your power today?” He’d told her again and again he didn’t want to join the force, that he wasn’t cut out for police work, but just like he couldn’t tell his boss no when asked to work over, he couldn’t tell Kendra no when she asked for help. Whatever it was today, though, he hoped it could wait until his lunch break.
But she surprised him. Instead of the usual, she asked, “Where’s Matt?”
Unconsciously Vic took his foot off the gas pedal, causing the bus to slow. “Matt? I don’t know, work maybe? Why?” Kendra took a deep breath, and Vic asked again, “Why?”
“We got a call about a robbery in progress,” she told him, “and Matt’s car is in the parking lot. I remember it from the night it was vandalized. Now I don’t know if he’s in the store or not, but things took a turn for the worse once we got here and now we have a hostage situation on our hands --”
“Where’s this at?” Vic glanced in the mirror and glared at the passengers on his bus. This wasn’t happening, he told himself. Matt was at the gym, where he should be. It was another Jag in the lot, not his.
Those hopes were dashed when Kendra told him, “Capital Jeweler’s. It’s in a strip mall, though, so Matt might be in one of the other stores --”
“He isn’t.” Fuck.