Ramsey: A Military Bad Boy Secret Baby Pregnancy Romance (The Bradford Brothers Book 3), page 3
“Excuse me?” I ask.
“Someone who hasn’t heard of the great and heroic Harlow!” Ramsey announces, and everyone laughs.
“Shut up, dude,” Harlow says, but it’s good- naturedly.
They tell me the story of Harlow’s injuries and remarkable recovery. I’m impressed.
The team shares more stories of the brothers’ antics over the years, as well as tales about their unit in general. I’m touched by their comradery and loyalty. And I’m glad we’re all actually getting along.
Midway through some stories, some guys show up— not in uniform but instead wearing leather motorcycle gear. Jensen introduces them as his “motorcycle gang” friends. They look a bit rough, but seem very nice, and I’m glad I’m no longer the only outsider to the group.
After a while, one of the motorcycle guys says, “C’mon Jensen, you know we came to collect you. Let’s head to Louie’s.”
“Not Louie’s,” Harlow groans.
I look at him inquisitively.
“It’s a dive bar that Jensen and his motorcycle friends like to frequent,” Ramsey exclaims.
“Divier than this?” I ask, and everyone laughs.
“Believe it or not, yes,” Harlow says. “My girl doesn’t let me go.”
“Very funny,” Whitney says. “You’re free to do whatever you want. You’re just not free to have a happy girlfriend and do what you want, simultaneously.”
We all laugh.
Harlow obediently says, “You boys have fun. And you too, Riley. Hang on tight on that bike. My brother drives like a bat out of hell.”
“Very funny,” Riley says. “And I know your next joke, from hearing it one too many times: the best way to solve the problem of too many lawyers is to put as many as possible on the back of a motorcycle while your brother’s driving it.”
There are laughs all around.
“It was great to meet you,” Riley gives me a wave. “And seriously. I never thought I’d be riding around on a motorcycle. The things we do for love, right?”
“Right,” I say, as if I would know.
The last thing I did for love was wait around on a guy who didn’t really want me. There was no motorcycle involved, nor much excitement at all, by the end.
Most of the other guys get up too, some saying they’re going to Louie’s and others saying that those guys are crazy for staying out late the night before training, and that they themselves are going to be good little responsible airmen and go home and go to bed. Riley and I stand up and exchange a quick hug before they take off.
Soon, it’s just the four of us: Harlow, Whitney, Ramsey and me.
As if sensing something, Whitney elbows Harlow and says, “Honey, let’s go home. You have a very long day tomorrow, and I want to make sure to get in my snuggle time.”
“She calls it ‘snuggle time,’” Harlow says, with a wink. “Isn’t that cute? She doesn’t want everyone to know she’s a lady in the streets but a freak in the sheets.”
“Harlow!” Whitney protests, and slaps him on the butt, playfully.
They’re really cute together.
“I’ll just wait with the lady until she finishes her drink,” Ramsey says, and now it’s Whitney’s turn to wink at me.
I’m on my second Long Island, and it’s hard for me to finish it.
“See you tomorrow,” Harlow says to me, or to Ramsey— or maybe to both of us.
Whitney hugs me and says it was nice to meet me, and then they’re gone.
“They’re a nice couple,” I say, mostly to have something to talk about, now that it’s just Ramsey and me. I don’t want things to feel awkward.
But as I feel Ramsey’s hand reach for mine under the table, I realize that won’t be a problem.
“So how do you like Albuquerque?” he asks.
“It’s… nice,” I say, still unsure of my feelings about the city. “Definitely different from what I’m used to. Somewhat of a culture shock.”
“Where are you based out of?”
“Eglin Air Force base— in Florida.”
“Oh yeah. Seems very different.”
“Much greener,” I say. “More beachy than deserty.”
“Sounds nice. I was born and raised here. I’ve only really been anywhere because of the Air Force.”
He squeezes my hand under the table. I finish my drink, mostly due to nervousness. I feel like something big is about to happen. Like a middle schooler being asked out on my first date.
“I do know one thing,” he says. “They sure have pretty girls in Florida.”
I blush and he brings his face closer to mine, until our noses are touching.
“All I want to do is kiss you.”
And then he does. His kiss is soft, and gentle, but when I lean in to meet him, passion takes over and we’re making out like middle schoolers. He makes me feel like a middle schooler, that’s for sure.
“Ramsey. Wait. Hold on.”
I gently back away, even though I don’t want to. All I want to do is keep kissing him.
“This is dangerous. I mean… I’m having fun, sure. But we could get in big trouble. I’m an officer. We start training early tomorrow morning. And we’re in public.”
“I agree,” he says, quickly, surprising me.
Maybe I was building this whole thing up to be more than it really is. He just wanted to flirt and steal a quick kiss and be on his way. Silly me.
“Let’s make it private,” he finishes.
“You can’t drive, you’ve had strong drinks and I can tell you’re not used to them.”
“How so?” I ask, rather offended, even though I’m secretly glad he wants our night together to continue.
“Because you’re kissing an enlisted airman, in public.”
“Well, that’s true.”
We both laugh.
“You need a ride. Let me drive you home. To my place.”
“What if we get in trouble?”
I can’t help but wonder.
“It’s nothing. People do this. You know they do. Tomorrow we’ll act like we don’t even know each other. Everyone came here and had a drink and then went their separate ways. That’s all that anyone will know about tonight. Nothing else will have happened, as far as anyone else is concerned.”
“Okay,” I say, feeling crazy, but also excited.
He’s right. What’s one night of passion— of freedom?
Do I not deserve that? I haven’t been with anyone since Peter. And I will never have to see Ramsey again. There’s something exhilarating in that knowledge, bringing me back to college. Just like the last time I drank Long Islands.
“You’re right,” I tell him. “I need a ride.”
And some hot, random sex.
“And we can’t really go to your hotel,” Ramsey says. “I know there are a lot of old of town airmen and officers staying there for the training, who could see us. And that wouldn’t be good. We’ll have to go to my house.”
“Let’s get out of here,” I say decisively.
My heart pounds as we walk towards the door, and Ramsey keeps a tight grip on my waist.
We’re really going to do this. I’m really going to do this. This is happening.
I’m going to love it, and then I’m going to forget about it. Or keep it as one of those crazy things I look back on when I’m an old, lonely lady, with only my memories to keep me company.
As I drive Monica to my house, close to the base, the air feels light and fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so carefree, so excited.
To make the mood even better, a David Bowie song starts up on my random MP3 player shuffle.
“Oh, I love this song,” I say, turning it up. “Heroes.”
I start signing, under my breath, about how he can be a king and she can be a queen.
“I love it too!” she exclaims.
I look at her, skeptical, until she joins me in singing the refrain, about
“What?” she says, upset that I was initially dubious.
“There aren’t many girls who like Bowie,” I say. “May he rest in peace.”
“Oh come on. Labyrinth? Every young girl liked that movie.”
“All right. Well, that’s not exactly the same.”
“I’ll admit I only initially heard of a lot of his music from Moulin Rouge,” Monica says, with a laugh. “Including this song. But I liked them so much I went and looked him up, back in the Napster days, and downloaded a bunch of his music. I really do like this song.”
“That’s awesome,” I tell her, reaching across the center console of my Jeep to hold her hand. “I love to play the refrain on my bass.”
“You play the guitar?”
She seems surprised.
“Just a little.”
“You’ll have to play something for me! That’s amazing.”
“I’m not very good yet,” I tell her, embarrassed. “I played at Jensen and Riley’s wedding, but it was simple, cheesy stuff.”
“Wow. I bet they loved that.”
“I’m not good like Bowie. I’ll let this song play itself, much better than I can. George Murray plays the bass on this, and it’s great.”
I blast the music, with the windows down.
“This song could be my theme song when it comes to love,” she says, loudly, trying to be heard over the music. “I mean, it even describes tonight.”
“How so?” I ask.
“Oh you know. In real life, we’d never work out. We’d do things to drive each other crazy and drive each other away. We wouldn’t stay together. But hey, we have a day, right? That’s more than enough.”
I laugh, amazed to find someone who feels the exact same way as I do about relationships. Still, it makes me a bit sad to hear her being so cynical.
“Well, we do have tonight, right?” I ask.
“Yes,” she agrees. “Let’s change the lyrics to ‘Just for one night!’ To be each other’s heroes. Although no one else in the world knows about it, or they’d be discouraging it. So we’d best enjoy it.”
The chorus comes back on and we both shout out about how we’re each other’s heroes “just for one night!”
It’s refreshing to say it like it is, without the games and the manipulation that usually goes along with getting a girl into bed. We have one night, it’s great, we’re heroes, and then it’s over.
And it’s a reminder, too. A pact among ourselves, that better hold up stronger than the no- commitment pact my brothers and I entered into so long ago, and that the two of them recently broke. Monica may look awesome at first sight, but we both know we can’t get too involved.
We’re still exuberant, like two giggly kids, as we head up my front walkway and I open the door to my house.
It’s not until I hear the sharp, confused voice calling out, “Ramsey? Is that you?” that I realize there’s something— or someone— who could put a crinkle in our nicely laid- out plans.
“Mom?” I ask, squinting to see her sitting on the couch in the living room, in the darkness. “You’re still awake?”
Oh great. Just what I need, to ruin my game. I’m sure Monica’s going to stay hot for me when she thinks I’m a guy who still lives with his mom.
Monica looks at me quizzically, and I can only hope she’ll give me the chance to explain later, instead of bolting out the door. I really thought my mom would be asleep, since it’s so late. But her habits and actions are becoming less and less predictable lately, which is why she’s been staying with me in the first place.
“Who’s your friend?” Mom asks, a large, almost creepy smile spreading across her face.
“This is Monica, Mom,” I say. “We’ve had a late night. We’re headed to bed.”
But Mom is already up, lumbering towards us with an off- balanced walk. I’m certain she’s been drinking, although I have no idea where she found alcohol. I got rid of all of mine before asking her to come stay with me, precisely to avoid her tendency to overindulge like this.
“I’m glad you have a girlfriend, Ramsey,” Mom says, reaching out her hand.
“Hello… Mrs. Bradford?” Monica says hesitantly. “Nice to meet you.”
She gingerly shakes Mom’s hand, but soon Mom is reaching up to Monica’s hair and face, petting her like some kind of animal.
I’m horrified, but Monica just says, “Thanks. It was really windy in Ramsey’s jeep,” as if Mom is petting her in order to fix her hair.
I can’t believe how chill Monica is playing this. More points for her.
“Mom, do you need any water or anything?” I ask. “Anything I can get you before we head to sleep? I have to be up early tomorrow, for training.”
I specifically leave out the fact that Monica is part of the training or that I know her from work, because the less Mom knows, the better. I can just imagine her telling my brothers that I brought home the female fighter pilot. That wouldn’t go over so well.
“He’s going away soon,” Mom tells Monica. “He goes away a lot. And then I’ll have no one.”
“I’m sorry,” says Monica. “But it’s for a good cause.”
“Yes,” Mom agrees. “I’m proud of him. Of all my boys.”
My heart swells a little bit when I hear this, even though I give all credit to my dad for the way that my brothers and I turned out.
“All right, Mom, thank you,” I tell her. “If you don’t need anything, we’re headed off now.”
“Good night,” she says, and I’m grateful when she toddles back over to the couch.
“You don’t want to sleep in your room, Mom?” I ask her.
“No, it’s too lonely. I like it out here.”
“All right. Good night.”
I hurry to my room, pulling Monica along with me. I don’t want any more diversions. I want it to be just Monica and me, and to be able to leave all worried or embarrassed thoughts about my mother behind.
Once we’re in my room, I flop down on my bed and Monica sits down beside me.
“I am really sorry about that,” I tell her, in a low tone of voice. “I should have warned you that my mom is temporarily staying with me. I really thought she’d be asleep.”
“It’s no problem,” Monica says, and shrugs. “I know what it’s like to have roommate relatives.”
“Sure. My sister- in- law and her two kids live with me.”
“Oh okay. Mom is just living with me until I can figure something else out. She’s not in the best health and I’m beginning to think she’s kind of losing her mind. I’ve been looking at assisted living places Mom can stay at while I’m gone.”
“What about your brothers?”
“Well…” I take a deep breath. I hadn’t really expected to get into such a deep conversation tonight. “They’re not huge fans of my mom’s. Understandably so.”
“Because…?” Monica prods, squeezing my hand, which I realize she’s been holding ever since I grabbed hers and pulled her back to my room.
“She left our dad— and us, I guess— when we were young. He was a great guy, too. A local politician, but not one of the smarmy ones, really.”
“We had a good life, and he was well respected, and completely in love with her. They were high school sweethearts. But she met some loser and ran off with him. In addition to falling in love with him, supposedly, she also fell in love with drinking, drugs, being a drifter…”
“Oh, man,” Monica says softly, sounding sincerely sympathetic. “That really sucks.”
“Yeah. The only loves that have lasted in her life are her addictions. She’s bounced around from loser guy to loser guy ever since. My dad used to wait around for her senses to come back to her. He’d bail her out, give her money, let her live with us after she’d had a break- up and begged and pleaded enough for him to take her back in. He loved her until
“And that’s why love sucks,” Monica announces, with conviction.
“Tell me about it. I think my dad literally died of a broken heart. They say it was undiagnosed hypertension, but to me that just sounds like stress and heartache.”
“Wow. That’s awful.”
“Sure was. Jensen and I practically had to raise Harlow. My mom came back into the picture for a while, out of guilt, and because she wanted some of dad’s money, but it was almost better when she wasn’t around. Things were chaotic and none of us had stable lives for a while. We were all on bad paths— especially Harlow— but the Air Force really saved us. Gave us a purpose.”
“I know what that’s like.”
“I guess I understand why Jensen and Harlow are pretty much done with my mom. They think ‘she’s made her bed’ and all of that. And I have to admit it can be frustrating, because no matter how much we help her, she seems to ruin everything all over again. But then again, it’s my mom.”
“Right,” she says. “You feel obligated. I think it’s noble of you. Although a balance might be good. Some boundaries maybe.”
I have to agree with her. I make a mental note to find out where and how my mom got a hold of alcohol, and institute a strict no tolerance policy.
I’m not sure if I can actually follow through with it— I don’t want her to be homeless, or living with some vagabond, like she has in the past. But I can’t let her live without consequence, either.
There’s a long pause, and I feel like I’ve been a conversation hog. I wipe a strand of hair from her eyes, which was probably put there by my mom.
“So what about you?” I ask her. “Is there a particular reason you have extended house guests?”
“Well, my brother died,” she says, and lets out a long, slow breath.
“I’m so sorry to hear that.” I place my hand on her shoulder.
I think about Harlow trapped in the helicopter when it was on fire, how I thought we’d lost him. I don’t know that I could have handled that.
“Yeah, his name was Mark. He was in the Air Force too. A fighter pilot, like me. Except stronger, faster. I still can’t believe he got taken down.”