(This is a request from Ghost999, who approached me with the idea a couple of weeks ago. We talked and I wrote up a story based on his premise. This is the end result. Really glad you liked it Ghost. Thanks! Hope everybody else likes it. Feedback welcomed and encouraged as always.) "I've finally found it..." Natasha exclaimed, smiling gleefully as she looked at herself in the mirror, turning back and forth in a half-circle, admiring the perhaps non-traditionally form-fitting wedding dress which, despite being shorter than average, retained a look of sophistication.The dress, combined with her matching white high heels sandals, made for a perfect mix of sexy and rebellious, yet formal and elegant. She loved it. "Alright, I've found the one I want" Natasha said with a smile. "Good. you do look great in that one, good choice" said the 20-something blonde clerk as she went back around the counter to ring up her customer. "Now if you want to change back, I'll box this up for y..." The clerk stopped short, her attention straight ahead. Four guys had just waltzed into the shop, each with a fierce look of intent. "Shit, I've seen these guys before, there's something not right about them" the clerk said under her breath to Natasha. "Well, are they about to rob the place? Can you call the police or something? Natasha suggested, suddenly scared by the clerk's alarm. "No no, you don't understand. These -" "Excuse me maam? Sorry to interrupt, but we've got business" The guy in front called out as they all strode up to the counter, before promptly pulling out a pistol and pointing it at the clerk, whose eyes instantly went wide with fear as she raised her hands in surrender. "No please don't shoot...what do you-" "Just relax and do what you're told and you'll be fine, now breathe this in" The guy handed her a chloroform-soaked rag. Natasha, meanwhile was stunned. Little did the clerk know that she was about to marry a former gangster herself; she knew way more about the mob around New Jersey than she let on. Were they after her? It wouldn't be the first time. She had to do something to stop this. ".....Alright just...please let my customer go" the clerk pleaded as she put the rag to her face, inhaling. "Run..." the clerk called out breathlessly, just as she collapsed to the floor, unconscious. "Hey what do you guys want with her?" Natasha suddenly called out, steeling herself to sound as fearless as possible despite feeling as if she might pass out, afraid of what they might do to the clerk if she left. "Well nothing, actually; just don't need witnesses," one of the guys behind the gunman said, suddenly turning to Natasha, making it evident they'd known she was there all along. "Uuuugh." Natasha slumped over, nausea washing over her as she was punched hard in the stomach by the thug, who had lunged forward and grabbed Natasha before she had the chance to react. "Your fiance really screwed up, you know that? He sure loves to make enemies huh..." The thug pulled his fist back, and slammed it once more into Natasha's already bruised stomach. "Uuuugh *cough cough*". "Hey. What are ya gonna do?" With what felt like the force of a battering ram, he pulled back his fist a third and final time, and slung it squarely into the face of the bride-to be. "Uuuugh..." Dazed, Natasha was blown backwards and, having lost her footing, landed forcefully on her back, causing her to twist and contort herself in pain, before finally calming down. "Ol' Jimmy Bartoli should have minded his own business. The boss doesn't take kindly to thieves." Natasha was barely conscious, her head throbbing. '...thief?...oh the warehouse job. Shit' It finally occurred to her. He'd said it would be the last job and then he was out. they'd be home free. Apparently not. She had to stop them somehow and warn Jimmy. They might kill him if she didn't warn him fast. She had some marital arts training and had fought guys before. She could handle this. Maybe? Hopefully? "Oooh. You...if you're trying to...send Jimmy a message, you...have no idea who you're dealing...with" Natasha struggled to breathe as she picked herself up from the floor, and slowly got into a fighting stance. "You want to fight me? Fine. I'll lay you flat. All of you...Come on". Swallowing her fear, she beckoned him to attack. "Hehe, are you serious?" the thug just stood back for a second, surprised, a little impressed by her moxy, yet not believing a second of it. "That's cute". The others just stood back and watched it all unfold, as if they just wanted a show. Without missing a beat, the thug launched himself at Natasha, going for a hard kick to her midriff - which was easily dodged by an elegant back-bend from Natasha; one that came strangely naturally, followed by a kick of her own, which had no trouble landing obliquely in the thug's head, staggering him backwards. "Aaargh. You...think you're a bad girl huh?" the thug held his face in pain as he struck out with several sharp kicks that Natasha barely dodged, as they moved steadily into the middle of the shop. "I don't just think it you big dumb oaf" Natasha snarked, with another sharp kick to the man's face for punctuation, followed by a side-swipe that knocked him to the ground. "You're just pathetic Paulie, you know that?" Another of the thugs remarked as he stepped forward, cracking his knuckles. "Come on 'bad girl', here's oaf number two. Have at me." Natasha started forward, readying yet another flying kick at her new foe, stopping just short as she noticed the other two guys had gone. Where were they? As if to answer her, Natasha was forcefully grabbed from behind and kneed in the small of her back as her upper arms were held, keeping her in place as she yelled out in pain. "Bad girl, but maybe not smart girl. Am I right?" the guy in front of her smirked knowingly, just as the one called Paulie finally struggled to his feet, his pride visibly hurt by the initial exchange. "Get....off me!" Natasha violently struggled against the man holding her just as the man in front slammed his fist into her stomach, nearly making her throw up, then again, and again. "Ooough...oooh....Aaaugh *cough cough*. as Natasha's vision went blurry, she weakly tried to kick behind her to force her captor to lose his grip, failing to land a proper blow, before another round of punches from the man in front. Reeling from the incessant blows to her stomach and struggling to breathe, let alone think, Natasha began to act with desperation; kicking, struggling, thrashing, until finally she managed a sharp kick to the rear man's shin, nearly causing him to topple and to lose his grip on her, giving her just enough time to land an uppercut on the front man's jaw, then turn and deliver another punch across the other's face. "...I'm not some poor girl you can just push around. If you...stay here all of you will lose. I'm giving you one last chance: leave, now." Natasha, struggling to catch her breath even as she made threats, stood in the middle of the two thugs on either side of her, her legs outstretched in a position of aggression, staring them both down despite her fear. She wouldn't be bullied. She would send them all running in shame back to their boss. "Ooooh you look so dangerous. we're so scared" The first thug mocked, the second just laughing as they resumed fighting. Natasha held her own as she exchanged punches and kicks with her two assailants, each blocking or evading the other's blows as they danced around the center of the shop. A couple of times she noticed the first guy, Paulie, just standing aside, as if waiting for a chance to rejoin the fray. The forth was still nowhere around. Where was he? After a long stalemate, Natasha finally landed a fierce kick to the chest of one of the thugs, as if trying to impale him on her heel, sending him staggering backwards, before cartwheeling to her right and leaping into the air, twirling about and kicking the second thug with both feet with two sweeping kicks, knocking him around and down to the floor on his face. The first guy, recovered slightly from Natasha's heel stab, resumed his offensive, but he'd apparently been weakened too seriously to hold his own much longer. None of his attacks were landing, and he quickly found himself being battered around the room by Natasha. Kicks, punches, to his face, chest, stomach, legs, until a final kick to the head sent him crashing to the ground unconscious. Exhausted and sore, Natasha still managed a convincing bravado toward the other thug, who had brought himself wearily back to his feet. "Look at your friend over there. You want to join him, or fight another day huh? Your call..." Natasha stared him down intently, daring him to try to strike again. Sluggishly, as if he were drunk, the thug, started toward Natasha and flung a sloppy punch in her direction, which she promptly ducked and, crouching, extended a high kick, still as a board to the side of his face, stumbling him backwards and to the ground, still. "What about you? What's your name Paulie? You want some too?" Natasha called out to Paulie, who just stared dumbfounded at what just happened, not knowing what to do. A part of Natasha was exhilarated at her success. She didn't quite realize how good she was before today. "Don't worry 'bout it Paulie. Go watch the girl. Got her tied up in the back. I'll deal with the bride here" The forth guy walked out from behind the counter, holding a handgun to Natasha. "You know...I could just fill ya full of holes and call it a day right? but where's the fun in that? You messed up. Time to learn your lesson, 'bad girl'. The guy through the gun aside, putting up his fists in a classic stance, ready for a showdown. This last guy's determination rattled Natasha a bit. she was worn out from the past fights and was having trouble focusing. she had to take him down. This was it. Without a word Natasha struck out fiercely with several kicks, all effortlessly dodged by the thug as he darted left and right, smiling condescendingly at her as he moved past her defense punched her hard in her cheek, causing her to stumble. "Aagh!" Natasha hollered out briefly, than shook her head and regained her composure; until she was slammed again in the other cheek, then her stomach. "Oough...*cough cough*" he was too fast for her, or she was too sluggish. She managed a half-hearted kick to his side once, then again, but her strength just wasn't there. A third attempt resulted in him grabbed her ankle, then punching her thigh twice, causing her to yelp, before kicking her other leg, causing her to plummet to the floor on her back with sickening force, knocking the air from her lungs. Natasha struggled to get back to her feet as she fought for breath, only to be violently kicked in the side and rolled over to her stomach. "Are you done already bad girl. Come on, get up" He kicked her in the side again, then stomped down on her back. "Aaaagh! aagh....oough." Laboriously, Natasha finally righted herself and, turning around to face her foe, gave him a slight knowing smirk as she leaned over and launched herself into a cartwheel, meant to end with her heel in his face; it never made it. acting quickly, the goon arced his leg in a low kick that swept her hands out from under her, causing her to unceremoniously crumple to the floor with a thud. 'What..?' Natasha was stunned. That attack had always worked for her in all her fights. It's what she relied on when things got tough. 'How did he...' Natasha was shaken. Maybe she wasn't in as much control as he thought... Natasha, enraged by her attacker, poured all her might into forcing her self to her feet and unleashing a flurry of kicks in his direction. Each of them was barely blocked as the man retreated in surprise; yet it was not enough. Finally Natasha ran out of steam as a last lackluster kick went out, giving him just the opportunity to move in. Before Natasha could even realize what happened, she was being punched repeated in the face and stomach, making her cry out and lose her focus even further, before being roughly trapped in a constricting bearhug that pinned her arms to her side and squeezed the air from her lungs. "Uuuh. No...no get...off" Each word took tremendous effort to breathe out as she frantically struggled to free herself; twisting and turning every which way, nothing working in the slightest as the constriction worsened still. "This is it, Bride-to-Be. You're so tough and strong? Get free. I dare ya. Surely I can't hold fierce, tough Natasha for long. Oh yes I know your name. We all do. This has been a long time commin'" The goon squeezed Natasha's chest and stomach ever tighter, as if for punctuation. "N...no stop..." Natasha vision went foggy as she started losing consciousness. She had to do something now. Gather what felt like the last of her strength, she kicked out as hard as she could at the man's shin with her heel, landing it for the first time since he'd grabbed her, causing him to loosen hi grip enough for her to get away. "Aaagh!...*sigh....sigh* That's right. I knew you had it in ya. Now, time to finish me off bad girl. Can you do it?" This was not good. Natasha could barely stand after wrenching herself from her assailant. Her vision still a bit blurry, and her reflexes not unlike her earlier enemy before she'd knocked him out. 'Come on Natasha, you're almost there' she reassured herself, swaying a little on her feet as she put up her fists once more, then striking out for the guy's face. Miss. Another, miss. Too slow. Her aim was even bad. She got halfway through yet another attempt before she felt a thud and sharp pain in her left shin that felled her to her knees with a yell. Slowly, the man walked up to her, towering above his kneeling foe, before roughly grabbing her by the hair and tilting her head back. "You know what kind of damage you did to my pals here? And poor Paulie. This was his first day. You've got to learn who runs things around here. It ain't you two. You and your little fiance..." He laid a punch into her stomach for emphasis causing her to double over before being righted by his grip on her hair "....are nothing. Never were, never will be. Natasha just looked up at her enemy with scorn and defiance, yet found herself too exhausted to put up a defense. her stomach was profoundly sore, her shin ached and she felt as if will alone was the only thing keeping her conscious. "Now, one more time. Show me you're somebody. Show me you should matter to the Boss." The man lifted Natasha to her feet by her hair and shoved her backwards, almost making her topple. Natasha steadied herself, trying her best to focus and keep her concentration. Her head was swimming, her body ached, but she had to fight on. She had to win and worn Jimmy before it was too late. With her fiercest look of determination, Natasha staggered forward, reeling her fist back as much as she could...and fell, slowly to her knees, then flat on her stomach, unable to get up. Natasha helplessly look up from her position at the man standing tall over her, wondering why she was still conscious. she couldn't win this time. She finally knew it. She couldn't do a thing. All she could do was wait for her fate... "Ah what a shame. Bad girl turned helpless damsel. That must feel rotten. Ah well, time to finish you off. Don't worry I'm not going to kill ya. We want ya alive to tell your boyfriend the Boss's message." Carefully, the thug rolled Natasha onto her back, then slowly pulled her from the floor, lifting her steadily into the air, until stopping at his face level. 'What...what is he doing to me? oh...oh no, oh no no...' "Aaaaaaagh!!....". With crushing power, Natasha was slammed down onto the guy's bent knee, radiating white hot fiery pain over her back that consumed her every thought. The gangster let Natasha drop to the floor, where she landed on her back, unable to move a muscle where she lay: her arms way out to her sides, her right leg bent at the knee with the other outstretched in front of her. All she could do was stare hazily up at the man who defeated her in the last moments before she would fall unconscious. Suddenly she felt an uncomfortable pressure as the gangster placed his foot firmly down on her chest. "Now be a good girl and listen. Whenever you manage to find your way out of here, you and Jimmy are to pack up and get the hell out of Jersey. We don't ever want to see you two again. We do, and you'll both be capped in the head. You lost Natasha. You failed, so you got to pay the price. You should be thankin' me. Boss wants you both dead. Figured I'd show a little mercy and let you two run away instead. What a nice guy I am, am I right?" "Mmmmph!" "Hey Jack, I've got the clerk all tied and gagged here. what do you want to do with her?" "Just set her down here Paulie. Our cute bride'll need some company while she's out. 'So Jack is the man who beat me. That's his name. Huh...' Natasha observed as she drifted away. The last thing she saw was a frantic, frustrated clerk trying to talk through her tape gag, and the gangsters Jack and Paulie casually stepping over the bride and making their way out of the bridal shop; their again-conscious buddies following suit behind them, before it all faded to black.