Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 14
That is not the kind of fucking conversation I can have in a quick, hushed voice while being ushered through an X-Ray machine. Plus, I was mad at her and wanted to hear what she had to say for herself before deciding whether or not to talk to her.
And then out of nowhere a security officer approached me and said, “Hello, Mr. Campbell?”
I’d frozen, wondering what I’d done wrong.
Somehow my past had caught up with me. I felt certain I was headed to the slammer.
“Yes?” I’d answered, my defenses up. “What do you want?”
“Only to thank you for your service, sir, and offer you expedited service through this faster line over here.”
He’d gestured to the fast lane, that those with TSA pre- check boarding passes were using. I’d just looked at him, confused.
“How’d you know I served?” I asked him, finally.
“We have a list not only of the bad guys but also of the good guys too,” he’d said, beaming at me as if I was his hero.
Good guy. Hrmph. If he only fucking knew.
“While checking security risks we noticed that we had someone in our midst that had won two Silver Stars,” he’d said. “And we wanted to thank you for that by making your experience here as pleasant as possible. So you’re welcome to switch to the faster line.”
“Thanks,” I’d told him. “But I’m good here.”
I’d already taken off my fucking shoes, for Christ’s sake. It’d be nice if they could have moved a little faster in letting me know that I myself could move a little faster.
“Did you really earn two medals?” a little old lady in line beside me asked, gripping my arm.
“Yes,” I’d told her.
And she’d thrown her arms around me. Little old ladies have fucking horrible boundaries.
“Thank you so much for your service,” she’d said.
Once I was through security and had found my way to my gate, I found out my plane had been delayed. Good thing I hadn’t rushed through the faster lane, only to find myself faced with a longer wait on the other side.
I’d finally sat down in a chair and listened to Brynn’s rather cryptic message. It had just said she’d talk to me soon.
I’ve been waiting since then, and wondering if she’s fucking playing me. It doesn’t sound like something she’d do, but maybe she’s not who I thought she was.
I guess I don’t even know who she is and I never really had. I had just wanted to think I did. She seemed so sweet, sexy, charming and smart. She seemed like no matter how different we were, that she was fucking made for me.
But I guess people can seem like whoever they want to make themselves seem like. And she’d wanted to seem like the perfect girl for me, for whatever reason. When in reality, for whatever probably valid reasons, I guess she’s someone who would rather spend the day schmoozing with a rich client than hanging out with me and her son.
I’m still staring at my phone when the airline worker calls me to the desk.
“Yes?” I ask.
“Mr. Campbell, we are in the pre- boarding stage, and we are allowing all veterans to board early. You may have your choice of seats.”
“It’s fine,” I protest. “I can wait my turn like everyone else.”
“We insist, Mr. Campbell,” she says, motioning towards the door that will take me to the plane. “We thank you for your service to our country.”
I nod at her.
I don’t want to be rude and not accept her offer. But sometimes these gestures can amount to one big pain in the ass.
I don’t need anyone reminding me that I used to be a fucking American hero and now I’m just some punk outlaw. Sure, I still work for the military, as a private contract civilian, but it’s not the type of job most would consider honorable or decent.
I look around, as if waiting for someone.
How fucking stupid of me.
She’s not coming, of course. This isn’t some asinine chick flick. And she hasn’t even called again, either. Whatever she meant by saying she would talk to me soon, it must not have included the same definition as I have of the word “soon.”
I board the plane and nod at the flight attendants who welcome me on board and keep thanking me for my service. I sit down at my seat and wait for what feels like a very long time until everyone else is on board as well.
Finally the pilot comes on the loudspeaker, to my great relief.
“Dear Passengers, we welcome you aboard flight 209 with service to Albuquerque New Mexico. The weather there is as always sunny and warm compared to here.”
There are some snickers throughout the plane. I appreciate his attempt at humor but I just want to get out of here.
“I’d also like to pay special recognition to a passenger of ours today, Larson Campbell, sitting in seat 7E.”
Fuck. All heads turn towards me, which is not what I was wanting. This pilot obviously doesn’t understand that I try not to attract attention to myself and for good reason.
“Mr. Campbell served in the United States Air Force, Pararescue Unit of the Special Operations division, and was the only member of that division to ever receive two Silver Star medals for his bravery during combat and his rescue of fellow service members. I would like everyone here to give a round of applause to Mr. Campbell and thank him for his service and courage.”
Everyone claps, but I’m rather mortified. I nod my head at passengers near me who say, “Thank you, Sir,” or tell me that they always served or know someone who does.
I wish I could skip the recognition because that was all a very long time ago. I couldn’t save the two people I loved most in the world, so the acts of courage of saving other people seem to pale in comparison when I fucking think about that.
I am not that person any more. I’m no fucking American hero. I am just a person on a plane who needs to get home. Back to where I belong, and away from the woman I thought fucking cared about me.
As the plane takes off, I watch the New York skyline disappear from view. And I wonder if Brynn is disappearing from my life as well.
Chapter 38 – Larson
I’m at Ramsey Bradford’s house watching his band practice in his garage.
Ramsey is Jensen’s and Harlow’s brother— we were all three in the SEALs together— and he plays in a band that he met through friends of ours at Louie’s and another bar we sometimes go to, Billy’s Long Bar. For all of the many times they make fun of Jensen and me for being in a motorcycle club, Ramsey and Harlow sure do like to hang out at biker bars a lot. Go fucking figure.
Ramsey had played the guitar and sung for a while but it’s only fairly recently that he has been part of a band. I have to admit though, for a pretty new band, they’re pretty fucking good.
In fact, enjoy Ramsey’s band so much that I often stop by to hang out and listen to them jam. Especially on days like today, when I’m trying to forget about other fucking things that are weighing heavy on my mind. Today, another of their band members, Blaze, is jamming out on bass guitar and it sounds fucking sick.
“Are you coming to Thanksgiving at Jensen and Riley’s?” Ramsey asks, in between sets. “Or no, because Brynn’s going to be there?”
Leave it to Ramsey to bring up Brynn— the very person I’m here trying to forget about. But my ears—and my cock— perk up at the sound of her name.
Try as I might, I just can’t seem to fucking forget about her.
“She’s gonna be there, huh?” I ask.
“Yeah, she’s going to be in town a lot now,” Ramsey says.
He sits down beside me on the old sofa that he and his wife Monica had moved to their garage after they made part of their family room into a playroom for their son, James. Then he hands me a beer.
“She’s heading up some brand new local branch of her law firm. Because Clay Tucker specifically asked for her. It’s a really big fucking deal. Tons of money for Albuquerque. And for Brynn, I’m assuming.”
“Is that so.”
I crack open the beer.
Of course Clay Tucker asked her to do it. I’m sure he asked her to do other things too. I’m no business man but I know that there are more to these deals that often go on behind the scenes than get reported to the public.
“She’s going to be working in both Albuquerque and New York, from what I hear,” Ramsey says. “In case you’re still interested.”
I just shake my head.
“So you really didn’t know any of this? You haven’t talked to her since New York, have you?” Ramsey says, as one of his band mates says, “Two minutes until we start up on the new song.”
“I thought you guys had really hit it off. She never explained why she stood you up when you went to go see her?”
It’s not a fair characterization to say she never explained. She tried to explain, I’ll give her that. When I got off the plane in Albuquerque I had a voicemail from her saying that she wanted to explain.
And then she’d called once after that, telling me something about some big meeting at her firm. Something important had come up and she’d needed to stay to discuss it.
But funny enough, she hadn’t mentioned a word about Clay Tucker.
And I was sick of wondering whether or not I could trust her. I figured I’d been better off how I was before I’d met her. Sure, it could be a fucking lonely and depressing life. But I didn’t have to explain anything to anyone. And I didn’t have to listen to their pathetic attempts to explain anything about their own life and their own choices to me.
Suddenly an SUV pulls up and Monica and James get out. Jensen’s wife Riley and their son Drew is with them.
“Daddy!” James says, running into the garage and throwing his arms around Ramsey.
“James Bowie,” Ramsey says, using James’ full name— they named their kid after a fucking rock star— sternly, but tousling his hair gently at the same time. “What did Daddy tell you about interrupting his band practice?”
“Stay out of the garage,” James parrots. “Adults only.”
He points at the beer in my hand and says, “Uh oh.”
“Honey, you can’t exactly leave the door wide open and expect him not to want to run in and see his daddy,” Monica says, with a frown.
Riley adds, “That’s called an attractive nuisance.”
She holds Drew’s hand in one of her hands and a bag of groceries in the other.
“I know, Darling,” Ramsey agrees. “So come here and let me apologize properly. And hello, Riley.”
“Hello Ramsey. And Blaze. And Larson,” Riley says. “Monica was just helping me do some shopping for our big Thanksgiving dinner. You guys in? Larson?”
“I don’t think so.” I tell her. “But thank you.”
The way that James is hugging Ramsey’s legs as Ramsey wraps his arms around Monica is really pulling at my heartstrings. I don’t think I could bear any big happy multiple family Thanksgiving get- togethers. Especially not with Brynn and Caleb there.
“Well, you know you’re always welcome,” Riley says. “I’m helping Monica bring in some things she bought to the house and then I need to take off but I just wanted to make sure to personally invite you before I leave. And you don’t even need to let me know if you change your mind. Just stop on by. We have plenty for everyone.”
“I appreciate that,” I tell her.
“All right, new song up now,” Ramsey’s band mate Blaze says. “Break time’s over. We need to work on this song before all you lazy bastards take Thanksgiving through Christmas off.”
“Oh, look at the poor lonely bachelor complaining that everyone else has family obligations over the holidays,” Ramsey says, in a mock whine.
“You’re welcome at our house for Thanksgiving too, Blaze,” Riley chimes in. “Everyone is welcome, as I said. It’s not just for couples or families.”
“Maybe you’ll find a mate at our come on come all Thanksgiving dinner party,” Ramsey jokes.
I look at this pretty boy asshole’s slicked- back hair and skinny jeans and imagine him sitting down across the table from Brynn.
Maybe I should go.
I’m mad at her, sure. But I don’t want his greasy emo hipster paws anywhere near her.
“Come on inside, James,” Monica says, as she and Riley and Drew start to head into the house.
“Uh uh,” James insists, still grasping Ramsey’s legs.
Ramsey looks torn and frustrated: wanting to be with his son but also needing to practice with his band.
“Come here,” I tell him, patting the empty seat beside me that Ramsey had left open. I toss my empty beer can into the trash can by the amp. “Let’s listen to Daddy’s band play their new song and then you can go in with Mommy, okay?”
“O-tay,” James says, climbing up on the couch.
“Thanks, Larson,” Monica says, as they go inside.
Ramsey flashes me a grateful look and then goes to join the band.
“This is not going to be some perfect polished song you’re about to listen to,” Blaze warns James and me. “It’s brand new and rough around the edges.”
“That’s fine,” I tell him. “We’re honored to be the first to hear it. Aren’t we, bud?”
James nods and says, “Daddy’s song!”
“Yeah, I wrote this song about your mommy and me,” Ramsey says. “And how sometimes the right woman, even in what seems like the wrong circumstances, can be worth giving a second chance.”
He looks at me when he says this and I want to tell him to leave me the fuck alone, but I don’t, since James is right here next to me. And because I understand what he’s trying to do. He’s just looking out for me and wanting the best for me, like he’s found with Monica.
As they start playing, James rests his head on my chest. I put my arm around him and can’t help but think of Caleb and his bunny song.
I am a fighter , Ramsey sings.
I fight for our love.
Our love is worth fighting for.
Fucking Ramsey. And Riley too.
Trying to set me up yet again with Brynn.
Just when I thought we were over.
Now I’m not quite sure.
Because all signals seem to be pointing towards fighting for the one I love, even though she royally pissed me the fuck off.
Chapter 39 – Brynn
In a weird case of déjà vu , I'm staring at myself in Riley's bathroom mirror once again. Only this time I'm not wearing a cheerleading outfit, thank goodness. I tug on the maroon sweater that had ridden up along my torso as I was fixing my hair, until it falls back into place over my black pants.
"I can't believe I'm back here again so soon," I tell Riley, wondering why I'm going to all the effort to try to look good when I doubt that Larson will even be coming. It’s Thanksgiving, so I suppose I should look decent, but I certainly shouldn’t worry about getting all dolled up.
I’m glad to be here among friends, even though I’ve been in a bad mood lately. And even though I don’t even know everyone here— Blaze, a friend and fellow band member of Ramsey’s, along with a friend of Whitney’s named Cassidy, whom I’ve never met before tonight.
Despite my many attempts to contact Larson that had started to border on desperate, he never called me back. And I can't say I blame him. So, I stopped calling him.
"Well, I'm certainly glad you're back, and that you'll be back a lot more often," Riley says.
She pops her head out of the door to check on Caleb and Drew and James, who are all playing in the living room.
"Yeah, I'm really glad I get to work here in Albuquerque," I tell her. "And to see you guys more often. It's a little hectic though, getting established working in two places at once."
"A little" is an understatement, but I'm trying not to complain on Thanksgiving. I was already too much of a spoilsport on Halloween and I’m trying to turn over a new leaf, even if I did mess things up with La
Today is a day I'm supposed to be grateful, and I am, for Caleb, and a way to make good money to support him, and for having such a good friend like Riley. But I sure wish I hadn't screwed up things with Larson.
And I wish that Steven would stop hounding me about agreeing to the parenting plan he wants. It's bullshit since I know he won't honor the timesharing plan and he just wants to get out of child support. I don't want Caleb to be with him in New York while I'm in Albuquerque. Caleb barely knows Steven.
I also wish Clay would stop being so fucking aggressive.
As if reading my mind, Riley says, "How's working for Clay going?"
"About the same as working for a giant overgrown toddler," I tell her, sighing. "He's demanding, clingy and throws a temper tantrum when I don't or can't do all the many tasks he constantly wants me to do.
"You must be so stressed."
"I am," I admit, although I hate fessing up to my own vulnerability. "I just don't know how this can work out for long."
"I understand," she says. "That's part of why I left big law firm life. The law is a jealous mistress. Isn't that what Voltaire said? Or someone said. I forget who."
"Well, you didn't even have a toddler," I tell her, then realized I nearly snapped.
"I'm sorry," I quickly add. "I don't mean to be so irritable. I know I’ve been grumpy often lately and I’m really trying to adjust my attitude."
It was a lot easier when I had Larson to calm me down with his big cock, I think. But I keep that thought to myself.
"Financially, yes, not having any children at the time made it a bit easier,” Riley says. “But change is always scary no matter what. And now that I do have a child, I think that emotionally…"
She pauses, as if not wanting to offend me.
"Emotionally it would be harder for you to work so much and never see him," I fill in for her.
"Yes, something like that," she says.
"I think of that all the time," I admit. "How much I'm missing out on with Caleb because of work. And how I'll never have any time for any kind of relationship, even if…"
Now I'm the one who trails off, afraid of where my ramblings might lead me.