Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 2
"Well, I'm glad you're in town and I'm really glad you invited us to this party," Riley says.
"Of course, Love," I tell her, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
As my lips meet the powered makeup she’s wearing there, I’m reminded that I haven't even put any on.
"I think I left my makeup in your living room," I tell her. "What kind of makeup do cheerleaders wear, anyway?"
"Lots of it!" Riley says. "But at least you don't have to worry about making yourself look like a loofah."
Riley is wearing a short blue frilly dress reminiscent of a flamenco dancer. She can still pull it off because she has the perfect body even after having had Drew.
"I'm glad you're wearing something pretty provocative too," I tell her. "Even though I feel so slutty in this short skirt."
"Isn't that the whole point?" Riley asks. "As I keep trying to tell you, a cheerleading outfit is the perfect costume for a single girl to wear on Halloween. I, being a married woman, tied down to my old ball and chain, am forced to wear this embarrassing get-up. Because apparently ‘couple outfits’ are obligatory for married people on Halloween. Or at least, that's what Jensen seems to think."
"I can't believe Jensen has a thing for couple costumes," I tell her. "Never would I have guessed that. He’s in a motorcycle club, for goodness sake."
"That's my Jensen," Riley says. "Always full of surprises. Which sometimes include ridiculous costume ideas I'm forced to go along with."
"I happen to think you look cute."
"Yeah, but you look friggin' sexy ," Riley says.
She shoots a glance over to our kids as she says "friggin.'" And the word “sexy.” Luckily, they are in their own little world, having better things to do than listen to our conversation.
Once Riley reassures herself that no little ears are listening in, she really gives me her honest opinion.
"Your cleavage is amazing, your cute butt is on partial display, and you get to wear makeup that makes you look even prettier, rather than scarier like a lot of those Halloween costumes out there. And maybe you'll get lucky tonight. There's not a guy around who wouldn't want to bang a hot cheerleader like you."
"Oh, I can’t do that tonight. I need to come back and get Caleb," I protest, even though I'd love to get laid.
"Don't be silly. He's fine here. Why waste a perfectly good hotel room and a free pass to get down and dirty with a random fling while you don't have to worry about your child's well-being for one night of the year?"
I quickly laugh it off, but I have to admit that the idea does intrigue me. One night of passion with a random stranger is just what I need before heading home to New York City. All that awaits me there are long hours as an associate at a stressful law firm, not to mention my life of single motherhood without any companionship or sex.
Riley's right. Halloween is for single people to slut it up and have fun. And that's exactly what I want to do. I just hope I find the right guy to do it with.
The idea is kind of scary, but that's what Halloween is about too. I need to face my fears and leap before I look.
Hopefully someone at this party will catch me when I do. Maybe he'll be dressed as a knight in shining armor. And perhaps he'll play the part of rescuing me from drudgery and spicing up my life, if only for one night.
What could be so scary about that? I ask myself. What's the worst that could happen?
I have a feeling I’m about to find out.
Chapter 2 – Brynn
"Oh wow, look at the time," I say to Riley.
I feel like quickly changing the subject because I don't want Caleb to start listening in and overhear this conversation, even though he's too young to understand most of it. I have to admit, though, that another reason I’m anxious to stop the conversation is because I'm embarrassed at how much I'd love to get laid and I don’t want Riley to know.
I never thought there would be things I don't even want to tell Riley. But our lives have become so different since back in law school that I don't think she'd be able to understand.
I head out to the living room where I'd left my stuff.
"I need to put my makeup on," I tell Riley. "You're going to have to help me apply this stuff because I rarely ever wear it. And you've always known more about how to..."
I trail off as I see the news footage on Riley's living room TV.
"Brynn? What's wrong?" Riley calls out from the bathroom.
"Oh my God, Riley. Come look at this."
She joins me in the living room and we watch in horror as clowns chase people down the street, wielding canes and clubs like weapons.
"Wow," she says. "I'd heard about these clowns but I thought it was more, like, practical joke type stuff."
"What exactly have you heard?" I ask her.
"That it's something that started with a rogue group of clowns doing stupid shit but it soon spiraled a bit out of control and now there have been creepy clown sightings and clowns involved in crimes across the nation."
"Many people thought these initial clown pranks were harmless," says the newscaster on TV, seeming to pick up right where Riley had left off. "But now we're coming to find that these clowns are no laughing matter. They're to be taken very seriously. If you see a clown tonight, don't assume it's just a normal Halloween costume. Instead, be very cautious because the clowns are getting more dangerous."
"This has to be some kind of Halloween joke, right?" I ask Riley, mainly looking for reassurance.
I take another peek at Caleb, who is happily playing with Drew's toys while still refusing to share his truck.
"Or it's like, this station's attempt to get better ratings with their scare tactics masquerading as media coverage?"
"I don't know," Riley says, shaking her head. "But I hope you're right."
"In fact," the reporter continues, "the clowns have even started engaging in more serious criminal behavior that has hurt local residents."
The screen flashes to a woman sitting on a curb with her head in her hands. Her makeup is running down her face as she cries into the camera.
"I was just standing here minding my own business when a clown ran up and grabbed my ass!" she says. "And then he grabbed my purse."
"Is this some kind of Halloween practical joke?" Riley muses out loud. "Are they going to have some parody rapper come out and start singing, 'Hide your asses, hide your purses?'"
"Riley!" I say, sternly, hoping that our boys didn't hear her say the word "ass." But I can't help laughing just a little bit.
Riley's been my best friend since we met on our first day of law school orientation, and part of the reason for that is because she cracks me up with her off the wall sense of humor.
"I'm serious," she protests. "I mean, I don't even know what constitutes real news and what is just parody anymore."
She shakes her head before continuing.
"So, there are really clowns that have turned into muggers? Is it all connected? At some point is the media going to tell us April Fools came almost six months early this year and everyone has been playing a big practical joke on us?”
"I really thought the clown was just a teenage kid looking for some mischief on Halloween," the woman being interviewed on TV continues. "But he ran off with my purse and then when I tried to go after him, another group of clowns came from seemingly out of nowhere and pushed me down. I've never felt so humiliated or helpless in my life."
"Well, I don't know what's going on, but I feel really bad for this lady," I tell Riley. “She sounds sincerely tramautized.”
"Yeah, me too."
She looks serious now. A slight frown crinkles her beautiful features.
"I shouldn't make light of the situation," she says. "I guess this is actually real news, and real people are being hurt. I just don't know what the world is coming to anymore."
The news camera pans back to the reporter.
"Local police are instructing residents n
The absurdity of this statement would normally provoke a laugh out of Riley and me but right now we're dead silent.
"If you spot any clowns, you're instructed to call 911 immediately. Have a safe and happy Halloween. And now this breaking news concludes and it's back to your regularly scheduled programming. The movie in progress is Nightmare on Elm Street."
I stare at the momentarily black screen, until Freddy Kruger's face pops up at me.
"Ahhh," Riley exclaims, prompting both boys to look up at us.
"Mama," Caleb cries.
His little face erupts in a scared cry.
"It's okay, Baby," I say, rushing over to pick him up.
I pat his back and he lays his head down on my shoulder. Even though he's nearly three years old, he still looks, acts and feels like he's my little baby sometimes.
"I'm sorry this was even on," Riley says, going over to turn off the TV. "It certainly wasn't appropriate viewing material for toddlers! And I try not to let Drew watch any TV at all. They say it isn't good for the brain development of children. But Jensen must have left it on before he went to the store, and I didn't even notice until now."
"It's fine," I tell her. "The boys were too busy squabbling over their toys or focusing on playing with them to notice. And we were too busy talking. Just as I'm sure Jensen was too busy running out of the house to pay attention to the TV being on."
As if on cue, we hear the sound of motorcycle engines being cut off.
"That's Jensen now," Riley says.
"Mo-to-cycle!" Caleb exclaims, pointing towards the front door.
"That's right," I tell him. "Good talking! You're Mommy's big boy."
"Vroom vroom!" Drew says, pretending to be riding a motorcycle.
"Very good, Drew!" I say to him too. “Good talking.”
He isn't talking all that much yet so I just humor him with my praise.
Caleb squirms in my arms and then hops to the floor as soon as I bend over to let him down.
He runs to the front door with Drew right at his heels. Suddenly they're best buddies, united in their quest to see with their own eyes the vehicles responsible for the boisterous noises their ears love to hear.
"Hey honey,” Riley says, as Jensen Bradford enters the house.
"There's my sexy baby mama," Jensen says, scooping her up in his arms and hugging her as she wraps her legs around him.
"Daddy!" Drew cries, throwing his own arms around both his mother's and father's legs.
Caleb continues to look through the screen door, pointing and saying "mo-to-cycle, go go mo-to-cycle!"
"I missed you both so much," Jensen says, giving Riley a passionate kiss.
"Oh, and you too Brynn," he adds playfully. "How've you been?"
"Good," I answer. "Hi Jensen."
He grabs Riley's ass and kisses her again before scooping Drew up into his strong, muscular arms. I can tell by her flushed face and the way she squeezes Jensen's back that she loves it.
And who wouldn't?
I turn away to start applying my makeup in the bathroom, partially to give them their privacy but also because I'm trying to hold back a mixture of emotions. Bewilderment. Sadness for myself but happiness for my good friend.
And maybe even some jealousy. For what she has, and what I don't, and probably never will.
It’s time to stop being a baby, because I’m seriously happy for my friend. But sometimes I have to tell myself to snap out of it and stop being so sad for my own situation.
Chapter 3 – Brynn
When Riley told me she was dating Jensen, I couldn't quite believe it.
"He's your client?" I’d asked her, trying to hold back my surprise.
While working at her previous firm, Riley had volunteered to represent former military personnel pro bono . Some of them were accused of crimes. Including Jensen.
"He was my client," she says. "Now he's... not. And I don't even know that we're dating anymore. Or that we ever were. It's all so confusing."
"But he's... like... a criminal," I'd said, flabbergasted.
I don't think the men I'd dated had gotten so much as a parking ticket.
"He's accused of a crime," she'd said defensively. "Which, as you know as well as I do, and more than anyone else in professions other than ours should know, doesn't mean he's guilty of it."
"Well, yeah," I'd said, feeling bad for my harsh judgment, but no less confused about what she saw in him. I’d also been shocked at her defensive tone. "But, you know what I meant."
"Honestly, I couldn't believe it myself at first," she'd told me. "But something just clicks between us. Something I never thought I would feel."
It turned out that Riley's feelings for Jensen didn't go away. They just continued to grow. I’d first met him when I was in town for their engagement party and I still couldn't believe she was with him.
I mean, he was attractive. That much was clear. Attractive was an understatement. He was a beefcake with a model's face. But Riley had never been one to fall for a guy based on his looks alone.
And this guy— Jensen— was just from a completely different world than we were. His whole job was to go to war, or train other people to go to war. He was an ex military guy through and through. An ex Navy SEAL, no less.
He was even in a motorcycle gang, for goodness' sake. Or, at least, he was in the process of joining one when he and Riley first got together— a “prospect,” I believe they’d called the term, of the Desert Dogs club— and now I'm pretty sure he's a full-fledged member.
And then there was Riley, working at a swanky, successful law firm, never having had a rough edge to her at any point in her life. I couldn't figure it out.
But something happened. She changed for the better. I didn't think she had needed to, but I had to admit that she had. And I also had to admit that a big part of that change came from her relationship with Jensen.
She left that law firm, which she said was engaging in unethical business practices, and began working for that nonprofit organization representing other veterans like Jensen. She seemed happier, more carefree. And absolutely in love with Jensen.
I had no choice but to approve wholeheartedly of their union. And then when Drew came along, it seemed there had been an even bigger purpose to their meeting.
Because that kid is just so cute and so smart and so good— despite the way he's been scowling at Caleb all night, which is understandable since Caleb hasn’t been wanting to share his toys with him— that there could be no other parents meant to be his parents in the entire world, except for Riley and Jensen.
"I was just telling Brynn that I look ridiculous dressed as a loofah," Riley says now.
"You're the sexiest ridiculous loofah I've ever seen," Jensen says. "Hold on, let me put on my part of our joint costume."
He reaches over to the hallway closet and pulls out a cardboard box that's been painted white and has the word "Dove" written on it, to make it look just like a bar of soap. He puts it over his head as both Caleb and Drew laugh.
"Now I match my beautiful loofah here,” he says, putting his arm around Riley as best as can in his costume.
I laugh along with the boys. It is pretty funny that Jensen is dressed as a bar of soap. Obviously he's a softie underneath his tough exterior, and Riley has transformed him from a hardened SEAL and motorcycle club member to a loving and even slightly goofy husband and father who insists on wearing crazy couples' costumes on Halloween.
I'm glad that Riley found her happy ending even though it had turned out to be hiding where I, and even she, had least expected it to be. And I'm happy that she and Jensen are still so gaga over each other. They're what every married person— and co-parent— aspires to be.
But seeing them like this reminds me of what I don't have. And what Caleb doesn't have.
I have to pay close attention to applying my eyeliner,
"Mmm mmm mmm," I hear Jensen say from the foyer, with exaggerated cheesiness.
I peer past the bathroom door to see him fake smothering Riley and Drew with kisses.
"I just couldn't wait to get home and kiss my wife and son. Mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm."
"Ewww gross," I tell them, playfully. "Keep your family- sized displays of public affection to yourself."
I turn back to the mirror to begin applying mascara, even though I can never do it right. My eyelashes always end up looking like huge, ugly spiders. But I guess that's fitting tonight, since it’s Halloween.
"Don't feel left out," Jensen tells me. "Because I wasn't about to let you be the fifth wheel tonight. I have a little surprise for you."
"What?" I ask, as I squint at myself in the mirror, trying to determine if the eyelashes- turned- spider legs above my right eye, to which I'd just applied the mascara, are too long. I've taken off my glasses to be able to apply the makeup, and I haven't put my contacts in yet, so I can't easily tell.
"Geez, Jensen," Riley says, and I can tell she's slapping him playfully on the arm, even though I can't see it. "You were supposed to be a little subtler."
"Make what a little subtler?" he asks, feigning innocence.
I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach about whatever it is they're talking about. It's almost as bad as when I was watching the news about the clowns. But not quite. Because that feeling was the worst one I’ve had in a long time.
Suddenly, I hear the screen door swing open yet again and then Caleb says, "Mo-to-cycle man."
I'm going to kill Riley if she's trying to set me up with someone from Jensen's motorcycle club. She totally knows that's not my type of guy. And just because she was pleasantly surprised by Jensen doesn't mean I'll feel the same about whatever random biker she’s wanting to try to hook me up with.
I turn around to look, trying to control my annoyance and even anger at Riley for being part of this plan— whatever it is— without at least warning me beforehand that something was up.