Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 23
“Mr. Bradford was born and raised in Albuquerque and he has family in the area,” Dylan continues. He looks down at the part of my file he had highlighted earlier. “A mother and two brothers.”
She’s not much of a mother .
“And he works for a private contractor training new recruits at Kirtland Air Force Base, to do the same kind of pararescue work that he himself did as a Navy SEAL while in the military. If he is forced to remain behind bars, the military will suffer. It needs Mr. Bradford’s skill and expertise.”
“Then perhaps he shouldn’t have beat up a…” begins the assistant district attorney, but the judge cuts him off.
“That’s enough, counsel. Mr. Bradford, you are free to go on your own recognizance but you must report back for a pretrial conference and for all other hearings in this case."
The judge nods at me and I nod back, grateful that he's letting me go.
"Your terms of release are as follows," the judge continues."Until this case is tried, you are to avoid alcohol and establishments that sell liquor; you are to avoid illegal drugs; you are to avoid all contact with the alleged victim; you are not to use any firearms or weapons; you are to seek or maintain employment; and you are not to travel outside of the state without prior permission of this Court. Do you understand?”
“Your Honor, we have a clarification question,” says Dylan. “With regard to maintaining employment, and not using firearms or weapons.”
“As I mentioned previously, my client works for a military contractor and his job involves training new recruits…”
“Oh yes, counselor. Let the record reflect that the defendant may only use weapons or firearms as necessary and pertinent to his employment. Do you understand this and all other conditions of your release, Mr. Bradford?”
“Yes, Your Honor.”
“You will wait in the holding cell until you are called to be discharged. We are adjourned.”
“Thanks, Dylan,” I turn to him, but he’s already putting my file into his bag.
“Gotta run,” he says. “I told you it was a no-sweat hearing. See you soon.”
“When can we meet to…”
… discuss my case further ? I trail off mid-question as he disappears out of the courtroom.
I head back to the holding cell, hoping against hope that the hot lawyer chick is still there. She’s not, and my heart sinks.
Get a grip, Jensen . I shake my head and try to purge my mind of thoughts of that ass, that face. But they remain with me even after I’m discharged.
Apparently, I’m free to leave jail, but not free to stop thinking about a certain someone I met while here and will likely never see again.
A week has passed since I’d met Jensen, and I still can’t get him out of my mind. But now I try to push thoughts of him away so that I can concentrate on writing the legal brief for the biggest case of my career.
My firm is representing Jed Marks and Marks Capital in a case between former business partners involving insider trading. Jack Holt is my supervising attorney and he’s been letting me run with the case. The trial is coming up and if I can win it— and I think we have a good chance— then my partnership is pretty much in the bag.
I work past five-thirty in the evening and then realize that Charles hasn’t popped his head in to say goodbye to me. He usually does this most days on his way out, as he’s headed to the bar in the hotel downstairs or to the golf course with clients and partners. That makes sense, I think, as I remind myself that Charles’s main job seems to be to schmooze with the bigwigs while mere associates like myself, who aren’t related to any founding partners, put in the grunt work.
Of course, it’s usually three or four o’clock when Charles leaves and I figure he must have forgotten to say goodbye today. He occasionally stays a little later but it’s rare.
I head down to his office and I’m surprised to see—through the glass windows that all the offices here have— that he's sitting at his computer. His screen is facing the entrance to his office so I can see that he's looking at a legal pleading.
Wow , he's actually staying late to work , I think. This must be an important case.
Then I notice that he has a chat window open too, on Google Hangouts. I feel bad for spying on him although it wasn't my intention— he is just so lost in thought that he hasn't noticed me walk up.
“Hey honey,” I say quietly, and then knock lightly on his open door, trying not to startle him.
Too late. He jumps, and then minimizes his screen but not before I catch the word “Marks” on the document before it disappears. He also clicks X on his Hangouts chat application.
“You scared me.”
“I’m sorry. I’m happy to see you’re still here. I thought you forgot to say goodbye.”
I give him my best fake-pout face, and lower my head as I do, hoping it’ll draw his attention to my subtle cleavage. Charles and I have never had sex but he says the tease is half the fun.
Or at least he used to say that.
“Nope. Still here.”
He turns his head back to his computer, to start shutting it down. He hadn’t even glimpsed at my cleavage.
I guess the tease just isn't fun for him anymore. He used to beg and plead for me to have sex with him but I don’t know what’s happened. Maybe he's given up on the chase and gotten tired of my refusals.
I feel silly being a virgin at my age but I just had never found the right person to be with for the first time. I was thinking it would be Charles but I wanted to be sure. At first that drove him crazy but now I'm beginning to wonder if he isn't even interested in me like that anymore.
Sure, I’ve put on a few pounds but it’s not like I was a skinny waif when he met me. If he’d wanted a smaller lady, he could have gone after Trina or a few of the other female associates who look like models and who whisper jokes about my how much weight I've put on when they think I can’t hear them.
But those associates aren’t going places in the firm , I remind myself. Is he really just with me because Daddy wants him to be? Why is it always my job to be the good little girl, the straight and narrow one, while Charles gets to do what he wants? Which apparently doesn’t include making love to his girlfriend?
An image involuntarily pops into my mind of Jensen’s tattooed arms lifting me up to fuck me as he stands against a wall. Woah . That was an awfully explicit daytime fantasy to be having right in front of my boyfriend. I shake my head to clear it, and try to focus on something else.
“Were you checking out the Marks case?” I ask him, curious.
He’s never one to put in more billable hours than he has to— and his requirements are low, thanks to Daddy Dearest— and I’m not sure what work there would be for him to do on the Marks case. I get scared for a minute, wondering if Mr. Holt has decided to give some or all of my work on the case to Charles.
But then I reassure myself that that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’ve been doing all the work and according to Mr. Holt, I’ve been doing it well.
“I was just interested in what my dad was saying about it,” Charles stammers.
I wait, but nothing follows.
“Such as?” I prod.
“Oh, nothing in particular.” He shrugs. “It just seems like an interesting case.”
I look at him as if he has two heads. Marks Capital is a run of the mill case except for the sizeable amount of money involved, and Charles has never been known to think those kinds of cases are interesting.
“I’d be happy to talk to you about the case,” I volunteer. “As you know, I’ve been living and breathing this stuff.”
“Thanks,” he says, as he picks up his briefcase and gym bag. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He gives me a quick peck on the lips.
“But what about dinner?”
I feel stupid asking, but my family is coming over to my place tonight for dinner as they do once
“Sorry babe. I have a meeting.”
“Networking,” he says, vaguely, as he slips out the door.
“Well, have a good time,” I call after him, like an idiot.
Then I slink back to my office to try to finish a bit more work before I have to head home and prepare for my family’s visit. I don’t know why Charles’s been so distant, but it’s beginning to really bother me. I just want things to go back to how they used to be.
Or do I? I wonder, as another vision of Jensen flashes through my mind.
I want to slap myself for being so caught up on someone I just met and won't see again. I figure it's my mind's defense mechanism, to protect me from the awful thought that my boyfriend is being so distant and acting strange.
But I can't say the distracting thoughts aren't a welcome diversion. I just wish I was feeling the same things about my boyfriend that I am for the handsome stranger I just met.
I meet my brothers at Louie’s, the local dive bar I’ve been going to with some members of the Desert Dogs Motorcycle Club. I ride my motorcycle there while my brothers drive their cars.
Glancing at the Sandia Mountains up ahead, I’m glad to be free from jail. The sun is just starting to set, turning the mountain shades of purple and red, which is why the Spanish settlers called it “Sandia,” which means watermelon.
I was stationed in San Diego during much of my time as a SEAL, and I loved the weather and the ocean. But I missed the mountains here in Albuquerque so much. Not to mention the food and the laid back atmosphere.
The judge had told me not to frequent any establishments that sell alcohol but in my daily life that’s an impossible task. I’ll just lay low and stick to places I know are safe, such as here.
“You thinking of joining up with this motorcycle gang or what?” asks my younger brother Harlow, as he looks around the bar.
His face is perfectly chiseled and perfect— almost too perfect, really— except for some telltale scars if you know where to look up close.
“It’s a club ,” I tell him. “Motorcycle club .”
I don’t expect him to get it. I was a little interested in bikes but now that I’m out of the SEALs, they’re quickly becoming my favorite past time. Desert Dogs MC is made up of former military members such as myself— many of them former Navy SEALs, as well as fighter pilots and pararescuers due to Albuquerque being home of Kirtland Air Force Base— and it’s like a second family.
Harlow likes to rip on me for wanting to join what he calls a "motorcycle gang" no matter how many times I correct him. But I think he's just jealous because I’ve never done anything without him.
After high school our older brother Ramsey joined the SEALs and then I followed suit. Once Harlow was out of school he joined us too. Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEAL training is hard and most of the candidates don’t make it through. But we were all three determined to do it and did.
It was great to all be SEALs together. And now it's great to all drink together. The regular bartender, Shelly, comes to take our orders. Her perky tits spill out of her low-cut uniform, and her curly blonde hair bounces with youthful energy, just like the rest of her.
“What’ll it be, boys?” She winks at me. “Hello there Jensen. The usual?”
I nod a greeting at her and say, “Yep. Whiskey and coke for me, and for my brothers here too,” but then I look away.
She’s the main bartender here so I see her all the time, and until last week I thought she was hot. Totally my type. But now I can’t seem to get the mysterious Riley out of my mind, ever since I met her at the jail.
I don’t know what happened to the old me but now it’s like no girl compares to the one I can’t have. It’s knocked me off my game, and I don’t like it.
“I assume since you’re walking around a free man that your bail hearing went well?” my older brother Ramsey asks me.
“It was fine. Apparently, I’m an upstanding citizen.”
We all laugh at that one.
“But I don’t like the lawyer I have.”
“Get a new one,” Harlow shrugs.
“I probably will. Even though this one’s free, through the VLA.”
“What’s so bad about him?” Ramsey asks.
He’s always been the practical one.
He doesn’t have a nice curvy ass and big juicy tits like Riley , I think.
But I say, “He’s trying to say I have PTSD, to use as my defense. I think that’s all they teach them over there at the VLA. PTSD, PTSD, PTSD.”
“Well, if it works...” Harlow shrugs as Shelly brings our drinks.
Ramsey doesn’t say anything, which isn’t like him.
“I never knew there were two more boys just as handsome as yourself,” Shelly says, and smiles at me.
“Whoa now,” says Harlow, as she walks away. “She’s clearly into you.”
“I’m just so sick of my VLA lawyer saying that I have PTSD, when I don’t.” I want to get this conversation back on track, rather than focusing on Shelly— or Riley. “That kind of shit going on my record could really mess up my career.”
Ramsey’s head jerks up, interested.
“It’s just a mark against me, is all,” I say, because I really don’t know what would happen if my new job would get wind of my alleged PTSD.
In the military, I stayed far away from the mental health counseling office, for fear that I’d get lumped in with others who have PTSD and be forced into retirement due to a perceived lack of mental fitness. My new job— the private contractor one which I’d just agreed to take— is much more relaxed about most things than the military was— it’s one of the benefits of having a private contractor essentially run military operations— but I’m sure they wouldn’t like the liability of having someone with PTSD in charge of training recruits.
Ramsey looks lost in thought, and I’m surprised by his lack of usual focus and candor. He often gives me good advice but today he appears to just want to enjoy his whiskey.
“Have you heard from Mom at all?” he asks, completely changing the subject. Well, not completely, but mostly. “I’m worried about her. One of us should go check on her.”
“No, I haven’t heard from her,” I shrug. “And it’d better stay that way.”
“You’d think she’d want to know how you’re doing,” Harlow says, with his normal anger about our mom peeking through. “Why are we the ones who are always supposed to take care of her instead of the other way around? She should contact you and try to help you out if she can. Especially since she’s the one who got you into this mess.”
“Just like every other mess we’ve ever been in,” I respond. “And we always manage to get ourselves out just fine.”
Neither statement is exactly true, and I wish I had shut my mouth. Ramsey sneaks a worried glance at Harlow, but he’s downing his drink as if he didn’t even hear us.
“Look, I know we’ve all had our issues with Mom,” Ramsey says, in a slight change of subject. “But I’m worried about her. She’s getting older and in my opinion a little senile or something. We know she’s always struggled with addiction issues and now I really believe there are some mental illness issues going on as well…”
“Why are you so full of excuses for her?” I spit out, in disgust. “She’s the one who’s supposed to be there for us ."
Both Harlow and Ramsey look at me as if I have a good point but that point should remain unsaid. Undeterred, I continue, because I'm tired of the bullshit.
"She’s the mom and we’re the kids," I say. " Or at least that's how it's supposed to be. But it’s neve
“Jensen, I didn’t mean to upset you,” Ramsey says, putting a hand on my shoulder. “I know you’ve been under a lot of stress lately—”
“That has nothing to do with it.”
“I just… I can’t help but care about her because she’s our mother. It's true that she's definitely not the greatest mother, but how can we just sit by while she destroys herself?”
“Let’s go to Closed Door,” Harlow says suddenly and decisively. It’s a rather seedy strip club that he likes to frequent.
I blow off the idea. I’m glad he changed the direction of the conversation, but I don’t want to go to Closed Door.
“What? No scantily-clad dancing ladies for you tonight?” asks Harlow. “What’s gotten into you, brother?”
“It’s called conditions of release,” I lie. “I’m not even supposed to be in here , but a strip club is just asking for trouble.”
“Ah man, that fucking sucks,” Harlow complains in a whiny voice.
Sometimes it seems he hasn’t changed much from when we were kids. Except that he has , a lot. And he's been through a lot— even more than even Ramsey or I have.
Emotionally, though, Harlow is still our little brother, and it’s hard to separate my vision of this grown man who has been through so much— too much— with my vision of the 11-year-old kid brother who wants to steal all my video games from my room and then pretend he didn't take them, or tag along as I try to go make out with a girl for the first time.
“I’ll go with you to Closed Door for a while,” Ramsey volunteers.
He’s very protective of Harlow— of both of us actually, but ever since Harlow’s accident he’s been particularly fatherly to him.