Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 12
“I assume he means Mommy’s gentleman friend,” Miss Bonnie says. “Nice to meet you, Larson.”
She shakes my hand warmly and her eyes are twinkling. I realize then that she was truly only laughing at Caleb’s child-like innocence. She isn’t judging me.
I feel relief, but then I realize that perhaps she’s never even met Brynn.
As if answering my question, Miss Bonnie asks Caleb, “Where’s Esmeralda today?”
I can’t help but feel a wave of disbelief. If I still had a fucking kid, I’d be at story time every week with him— or any other time he might want to go anywhere.
I understand that Brynn has to work and I know from what she’s told me how hard it is for her to be away from Caleb for a job she doesn’t even like. So I’m not judging her but I just fucking feel bad for her. For both of them. There has got to be a better way.
“Esie stay home,” Caleb answers. “Larson come story time.”
“Well, tell Esmeralda I said hello,” Miss Bonnie says. “And Larson, you are certainly welcome any time. Go ahead and take a seat.”
I don’t have the heart to tell her that this is probably the only time I’ll be here— that it looks like things between Caleb’s mommy and her gentleman friend aren’t working out quite as well as said gentleman friend had hoped.
I sit on a folding chair next to a bunch of grandmas, nannies, mommies and a few dads. Everyone nods at me politely but some of them look at me funny, since I’m obviously a bit out of place.
Caleb joins the other kids in the circle. Miss Bonnie reads them Peter Rabbit . Then she leads them in some kind of hopping game I’ve never seen and Caleb keeps looking back at me as he jumps around. I give him a thumbs up and he smiles.
“Next, it’s time for a craft,” Miss Bonnie says. “The grown ups you came with can help you make them.”
She passes out a sock to each child that they’re supposed to decorate to look like a rabbit and put on their hand to look like a puppet.
“I’m not very good at crafts,” I tell Caleb, as I try my best to stick a cotton ball approximately where the rabbit’s tail should be.
“That’s okay!” Caleb says, as he bends some pipe cleaner to make the sock bunny’s ears.
After a while, we have ourselves a decent looking rabbit.
“Hop hop!” Caleb says, making his arm— and the rabbit— jump up and down.
Miss Bonnie reads more books— mostly rabbit-themed— and then a snack: carrots, of course, as well as crackers and a tiny egg-shaped chocolate for each kid. They also sing Little Bunny Foo Foo, pretending to scoop up field mice and bop them on the head.
All the kids including Caleb love it and I have to fucking admire the organization that goes into this story time for toddlers. It’s almost as impressive as the library itself.
“Okay, it’s almost time to end for today,” says Miss Bonnie, and all the kids groan. “Time to sing one more song.”
Bunnies love to hop, llamas love to chew…
Caleb joins in and looks at me as if he expects me to, but I’ve never heard of this song. I just smile and nod at him in encouragement. He does motions along with the other kids to the song.
Birdies love to tweet and I love you.
At this part, he motions towards his chest, then crosses his heart and then points at me. I almost want to fucking cry.
“Awww, thanks kid,” I tell him.
But the song’s not over yet. Miss Bonnie must have made it today’s mission to tug on my heart strings just a little more.
Horses love to gallop, owls love to hoooooo,
Doggies like to bark and I love you!
If that isn’t the cutest song, sung by the cutest living kid, then I don’t know what is.
“Have a good day, kids!” Miss Bonnie says, by way of dismissing them.
Caleb gets a running start and then jumps into my lap. He hugs me, and I hug him back, really tight.
“Thank you for coming story time!” he says.
“Thank you for inviting me, Little Man.”
We walk down to Bryant Park and sit down in the grass. It’s not as cold as it was yesterday, which is good because we can sit outside for a little while.
Caleb’s not too hungry since he just ate a snack but he eats half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some goldfish crackers. He thinks it’s hilarious to make the goldfish swim up to his mouth, just so he can bite their heads off. What a funny little guy. There’s also a ham and cheese sandwich in the lunch box.
“I guess this is for me,” I tell Caleb with a shrug, remembering how Brynn had told me that Esmeralda made her lunches.
“Esie made!” he says. “Yum yum yum.”
However much money that woman makes, she most definitely deserves a raise.
I eat my sandwich— I’m always hungry— and Caleb and I wash it all down with a juice box (his) and a bottle of water (mine).
“You ready to head back home, buddy?” I ask him.
As he takes my hand and we trudge back to the limo, I wonder if he’s wishing his mom could be with us. But he hasn’t mentioned anything, and I figure he’s probably used to not having her around.
All signs are pointing in the direction of me getting used to that too, if I want whatever we have to go anywhere further. And I’m thinking that that doesn’t sound like much of a relationship. So I guess this isn’t going to work out after all.
Chapter 32 – Larson
I still haven’t received a text or call from Brynn. I’m hoping that she’ll be there when Caleb and I get back to their house, although I know it’s a foolish hope.
“You two have fun?” Esmeralda asks me, after she answers the door.
While we were gone, she’d cleaned the already near- spotless house.
“We did,” I tell her. “Thanks for the sandwich. You’re amazing.”
“No gentleman friend of Brynn’s can go hungry while he’s here,” she says.
“Speaking of Brynn,” I say, as Caleb laughs at the phrase “gentleman friend” again, “You haven’t heard from her, have you?”
She shakes her head.
“No. Brynn gets very busy at work. She’s a very hard worker.”
“Mommy working,” Caleb says, going into the living room to play with his cars.
“I didn’t think you’d heard from her,” I tell her. “But I was just double checking. Thanks.”
And I was making sure I wouldn’t get to see her before I have to leave for the airport .
I think that part, but don’t say it.
I look at my phone. Time to leave for my flight. And still no text.
I head into the living room where Caleb is having his helicopter toy rescue his car toy.
“Vroom vroom!” he’s saying. “Round round round round round.”
I make a mental note to bring him a motorcycle toy if I ever see him again.
“Goodbye, little buddy,” I say, kneeling in front of him. “It’s time for me to go.”
“Nooooooo!” Caleb says, beginning to cry.
I wrap my arms tightly around him, and he returns the tight hug, laying his head on my shoulder as he cries.
“I had a very fun day with you,” I tell him. “You be a big boy and have fun playing with Esmeralda now.”
“Okay,” he says, wiping his nose with his shirt sleeve.
Esmeralda appears with a tissue, as always knowing exactly what Caleb needs.
He sobs a little bit into the tissue but he’s already toughening up.
“Bye, Esmeralda,” I tell her, and hug her too.
I don’t know if it’s because she’s so awesome or because I need a little bit of comforting. This is definitely not how I thought my last day in New York City would go.
“Goodbye, Larson,” she says, a surprised smile spreading across her face. “Come back soon.”
It’s sweet that Esmeralda seems to like me as much as I like her. I seem to be doing a great job of winning over ever
And by hard, I mean fast and furious and sweet and slow and everything in between, in the sack of course. Brynn had sure seemed to love it. But apparently she didn’t love it enough to refrain from running out on me the morning after.
I pick up my bag, pretending I hadn’t heard that last part because I don’t know what to say in return.
“You can take the limo,” Esmeralda says, and punches something into her cell phone.
“Oh no, I couldn’t…” I start to say, but she puts a finger up to her lips.
“I already told him to come back for you.”
“But doesn’t Brynn need him to take her home from work?”
“It probably won’t be for a while,” Esmeralda says, her eyes downcast. “And her work has cars too.”
A chill runs through me as I realize that Brynn could take a car home with Clay. At least I won’t be here anymore to have to see that. Or to get in the way of their schmoozing, or whatever it might be.
“Well, I accept then, thank you,” I tell Esmeralda, and head out to the stoop to wait for the car to swing back around.
I’m taking a fucking limo back to the airport. Free of charge.
This should be the best day of my life.
But, except for the time I spent with Caleb and the memory of his small hands on my back as his arms were wrapped around me in a goodbye hug, it’s turned out to be one of the worst.
I need to forget about Brynn Elliot. I still don’t know exactly what’s going on and I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt but the fact that she didn’t even contact me all fucking day long is inexcusable.
She thinks she can just leave a note by the bed and go to brunch with a billionaire and forget about me during my trip out here, and that I’ll excuse it because of what? Her fucking banging curves? Those sultry eyes? The way her laugh is genuine and sincere?
Sure, those things are all great. And I’ll definitely miss them. But nothing good could come out of a relationship with a workaholic at best and someone who sneaks around behind my back at worst.
The driver pulls up and I signal at him gratefully. I’ll have extra time at the airport now that I don’t have to take the subway, but at least I know I’ll make my flight in time. I can’t wait to get back to New Mexico, and my bike, and life as I know it before I met a lawyer dressed as a cheerleader who made me lose my fucking mind to the extent that I actually went to a costume party.
It was fun while it lasted but now it’s time for me to go back to my life as an outlaw and a hermit. Brynn can enjoy her life as a schmoozer without me.
Chapter 33 – Brynn
As soon as Clay and I get back to the office from the diner, it’s obvious that the whole firm is waiting anxiously to hear about what we’d discussed.
I smile uncomfortably as Paul Makens opens the door to the conference room and motions to the head of the table and the seat right next to it, both of which have been reserved for us while everyone else sits all around the rest of the table.
All of this is happening so fast. I don’t even know if I want it to be happening. I know that the partners want me to do whatever Clay wants and that this is likely to help my career.
I also know it will bring me closer geographically to Larson. Those are the positive aspects. But the big negative aspect is that Clay is seriously starting to creep me out.
When I first started working here, the partners were happy to hear about my Albuquerque connection with Clay because he is the firm’s biggest client. But he didn’t seem to pay me any notice until the Halloween party.
Shit. Must have been that stupid cheerleading costume. Because now he doesn’t seem to be doing anything but paying me notice.
He even puts his arm around me as we walk into the room. Sure, it’s mostly to usher me into the door but I don’t want him touching me at all. I have common sense enough to know, however, that now is neither the time nor place to tell him that.
My complaints will have to wait until some other time when all eyes are not on us, desperately hoping that we bring good news to the firm. Business has been slow lately due to the election and holiday season and the partners seem elated that Clay wants to talk money.
I sit down in the chair reserved for me and try to inconspicuously slide my phone out of my purse. I had wanted to text Larson since Clay and I were at the diner but I knew he would consider it rude. Clay is the type to expect and demand one’s full attention, and especially and maybe understandably so when he’s about to propose a venture that will bring a lot of business and money to the firm.
I hadn’t wanted to do anything that could blow this deal and make the partners mad at me. I’d been specifically instructed to not fuck it up.
But I’d thought that when we got back to the firm I’d have time to run to my office or at least to the bathroom, so that I could text Larson. I have no choice but to try to do it right now before this meeting starts.
I glance down at my phone and notice that I have a new text notifications from Larson. Shit. He’s probably so pissed.
I get as far as moving my thumb across the slider on the screen that opens up the text when Clay clears his throats and looks very obviously down at my phone. I look up at Paul and see that he is glaring at me.
“Brynn, I know you’re waiting on the final documents in that big settlement we worked out for the De la Cruz case but this is a very important matter,” he says. “So why don’t you give your phone to Dee so that she can check any incoming documents or messages for you?”
Dee, a floating assistant who is in the room for whatever assistance might be required during this meeting, looks as confused as I feel. Then I realize that Paul is just looking for a way to take my phone so that I can’t be distracted by it anymore.
“Dee, better yet, go ahead and take Brynn’s phone to Mary so that she can take a look at whether those documents have come in or not,” says Paul.
Good thinking on your part, I want to tell him. My assistant Mary is the bomb and she’ll know that we’re not waiting on any documents in the De la Cruz case. That settlement finalized months ago and Paul just pulled the most recent big settlement out of his ass to brag about to the client and use as an excuse to take my phone from me.
Mary will think that Dee is confused but will know to check my email from my office computer just to make sure nothing has come in. So this is just Paul’s plan to take my phone away from me.
I guess I can’t even be trusted with a cell phone. They must view me the same way they would a 12- year- old.
I know it was a stupid move to try to text Larson right when an important meeting just started but I also had no idea that today would turn out this way and I really wish I could let him know what’s going on. As usual, I feel torn between my personal and professional obligations.
Once Dee has come to take the phone from me— and I wonder why she just doesn’t put me in the corner with a dunce cap on while she’s at it— Clay nods with smug satisfaction.
“I’m sorry about that, Clay,” Paul apologizes. “And so is Brynn.”
“Yes,” I say quickly, nodding my head humbly. “Very sorry.”
“Now it appears the meeting is ready to officially start,” Paul continues, as Dee exits the room with my phone— and my only opportunity to contact Larson— in her obedient grasp and shuts the door behind her. “Clay, would you like to let us know why we’re all here?”
Yes, good question Paul. Why are all of us cooped up in this room on a fine Sunday afternoon? But I already know the answer. It’s because Clay always insists on being the most important person ever. He enjoys having a captive, spellbound audience.
And maybe somehow he’d heard that Larson was coming to town. I can only imagine he’d want to outdo him in that scenario.
Clay smiles at me and then tells the room, “Well, as you all know, I’ve been very impressed with your associate Brynn, and I know that she hails f
Paul nods at him, as if urging him to get to the good stuff.
“But I can’t,” Clay says.
An audible gasp can be heard around the room.
“I mean,” Clay continues, stretching his arm out in a dramatic and sweeping manner. “I can tell you the overall points of it. But it involves Brynn and I working very closely together on issues that can’t be fully discussed with just anyone and everyone.”
I squirm in my seat. The partners are glaring at me as if this arrangement that I hadn’t even known about is my fault.
I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that Clay is telling them there are things he would work on with a lowly associate— me— instead of with them, or the fact he is implying that our professional relationship is a little too up close and personal.
I don’t want either of these things to be true. I just want to head back home to Larson and Caleb and pretend that this nightmare of a day never happened.
Chapter 34 – Brynn
The partners in the room look as perplexed and horrified as I do.
“What exactly do you have in mind for Brynn?” Paul asks. “Keeping in mind, of course, that’s she’s an associate.”
Yes, another good question, Paul. What exactly does Clay have in mind for me?
“Brynn is going to head up my Albuquerque office,” Clay announces, in a firm and resolute manner.
“Your…?” Paul regains his composure before continuing. “You have an Albuquerque office?”
“I do not, yet,” Clay answers. “And that’s what I’m trying to rectify.”
He tells them all the same things he told me at The Argonaut— how he plans to put me in charge of his local operations while the partners here can handle his New York matters.