Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 62
“That felt so fucking good,” he says, wrapping his arms around me while I lay my head on his strong, naked chest.
“I’m glad we extended our Just One Night, two more times.”
“We really are each other’s heroes,” he says, in a tone of voice that sounds distant and rather far away. “If only for just one weekend.”
Chapter 14 – Ramsey
I wake up to find Monica hurrying around, getting her things ready to go to the airport.
“Hey there,” she says, kissing me. She bends over from her standing position, since I’m still lying in bed.
I grab hold of her and bring her closer to me, kissing her deeply. I immediately think of how hot last night was. How she let me get rough with her, and seemed to like it. How I felt like she was mine .
She returns my kiss, but then continues scurrying around my room.
“I gotta go, I’m going to be late.”
“Then you’d miss your plane and we’d have to extend our Just One Weekend even more.”
“Very funny,” she says.
It’s not exactly the response I was hoping for.
She pauses again, looking down at me with a smile.
“Seems like you got a good night sleep,” she says. “No night terrors.”
“Must have been the great sex,” I say, with a wink.
“Or the massage, or the cuddles.”
“Yeah.” I sigh. “What am I ever gonna do without you?”
“Somehow I think you’ll manage just fine,” she says.
I throw on some clothes so that I can walk her to her car outside. I’m annoyed at myself for feeling disappointed at how our time together is ending. It has to end, and it didn’t mean anything, so what did I expect?
As we head out of the house, I see that my mom is sleeping on the living room couch. I’m not sure when she got home, and I’m mad at her for scaring me by staying away for so long, but I’m glad she’s safe.
At Monica’s car, I wrap my arms around her.
“Have a safe flight back,” I say, bending down to kiss her forehead.
It’s an almost paternalistic gesture, and I feel silly, but I also don’t want to be too forward, or put myself out there too much.
She stands on her tiptoes and looks up at me for a real kiss. Good.
I kiss her for a long, slow moment, savoring the last one I’ll have with her.
“Goodbye, Ramsey,” she says. “Thanks for an amazing Just For One Weekend.”
I walk back into the house, determined not to look back. But she gives a little beep of her horn, and I turn around and wave, feeling as giddy as a school kid.
Well, that was that , I think, as I step back into the house.
“Ramsey Bradford, what do you think you’re doing, forgetting all about your ole Ma to run around with that girl for three days straight?”
My mom is standing up and walking over to me, if one could call it walking. More like staggering.
“What are you talking about?” I ask her, annoyed.
This is not what I need right now.
“Gallivanting around town with your new lover instead of being here to take care of your mom.”
I walk closer to her, but when we reach each other she throws up her arms as if she wants to hit me. I catch them, easily, in my hands. She reeks of alcohol.
This was just like the time she came late to Harlow’s birthday party and showed up with some male friends when she did finally arrive. They tried to extend their own party into Harlow’s celebration, but were too drunk from their own partying to be able to stand up straight.
I had to kick them out and tell her to never do that again. Not that she ever listened to me. Harlow was crushed but he tried to act strong, telling me he didn’t need our mom— he only needed me.
“Mom, I wasn’t gallivanting anywhere,” I tell her now. “I had training, remember? I was on base. And where were you ?”
She glares at me, and it makes me sad to see confusion underneath her angry and empty stare— but I remember what Monica said— I need to think about what’s best for me. And Mom has made me really mad these past few days.
“Go lay back down, Mom,” I say, walking her back over to the couch.
“Don’t tell me what to do,” she protests, but she flops back down onto the couch.
“Mom, I want you to stay here and sober up. I’m not leaving today, so you’re not either. But things have got to change. Once you’ve come to your senses, we’re going to have a long talk.”
“You can’t boss me around,” she says, glaring at me, but she quickly falls back asleep.
I get her a glass of water from the kitchen and place it on the coffee table for when she wakes up. Then I text Jensen and Harlow.
Found a place for Mom. Let’s meet later with her to let her know .
I sigh before I send it, because I really didn’t think it would come to this. But what other choice do I have? I can’t keep track of Mom from Afghanistan. I can’t even do a very good job of keeping track of her in my own house.
Her accusations about me gallivanting around town with my new girlfriend ring in my ears. Mom should know me better than that. Monica doesn’t live in this town. And, for better or worse, Monica isn’t my girlfriend.
I don’t do girlfriends.
I just have to remember to keep reminding myself of that, even though Monica is the closest I’ve ever come to falling for someone.
Chapter 15 – Monica
“So, how was your trip?” asks Susan, nearly as soon as I walk in the door.
Her daughter— my four-year-old niece, Becky, smothers me with hugs.
“Aunt Monica! You’re home! Play with me, play with me!”
But Susan seems to be just as excited to see me. She was obviously very lonely while I was gone.
I tickle Becky and then say, “Let me talk with Mommy for a while, then I’ll come up to your room and play with you.”
I land a soft kiss on my baby nephew Mason Jr.’s forehead, as he sleeps comfortably in his mother’s arms.
“Can we play princess tea party?” Becky asks.
“Sure, Love. I may have brought you back something for that very purpose.”
“Yay!” She jumps up and down in excitement. “A present! Can I have it? Can I have it! Where is it?”
“Becky, be polite and wait for your aunt to give you your gift.”
“Okay!” She skips upstairs to her room, saying, “I’ll set up the table and get our dresses out!”
“So anyway,” Susan says. “How was your trip?”
“It was great.”
I must be smiling more than I thought I was, because she says, “What’s his name ?”
I try to feign innocence.
“How did you…?” I start to ask her.
“Because it’s written all over your face,” she says. “Monica Carrington, I haven’t seen you this happy since… well I don’t even know when.”
“Well, don’t get your hopes up,” I tell her. “It was just a fling.”
She arches her eyebrows and nods sarcastically.
“I’m serious. It didn’t mean anything, and even if we wanted it to, it couldn’t. He’s… enlisted. And he’s deploying very soon.”
Susan seems genuinely disappointed.
“You don’t even know him!” I protest.
“I know, but I wanted to live vicariously through you.”
“Susan, you can still…”
I pause. I don’t want to go into unpleasant topics right now, so soon after returning. My brother died nearly a year ago, before Mason was even born.
I was going to say, “find love, find happiness again,” but we’ve been through all of this before. Susan is still young, and attractive when she takes care of herself, which she hasn’t done since my brother died.
I want Susan to eventually move on and be happy, but she seems to think that her life ended when my brother’s did. I’m always urging her to date, or at least set up a Match.com profile, to go to classes or get a job or do something that will take her out of the four walls of this house.
But she says she has no interest in dating. She met and married her true love and there can never be anyone else for her. And she seems to lack interest in any kind of career or even job. She was a stay at home mom, and her whole world seemed to revolve around my brother.
It’s another reason I don’t want to get too attached to anyone. I would hate to have to rely on anyone like that. But of course I never tell Susan this. She and I are just two totally different people. I love her, but I don’t always understand or agree with her choices.
“…live vicariously through me,” I finish, changing my mind as to what I was going to say.
“Well, then, out with it!” she says. “Spill the beans! Give me some gossip. All I had for entertainment during your absence were bad reality TV shows.”
“All right, but you can’t tell anyone. You must be sworn to secrecy. Both he and I could get in trouble.”
“Monica! Who am I going to tell? The only people I talk to aren’t even in school yet! And one of them can’t even talk, himself.”
“Well, his name’s Ramsey…”
I fill her in on our Just For One Night pact, that turned into a Just For One Night and One Morning pact, and then a Just for One Weekend pact. I tell her about all the fun we had together and how sweet he was.
“That’s awesome, Monica! I’m so happy for you.”
“Yeah, it was a fun couple of nights, but it’s over now.”
“Yeah right,” she says. “I wouldn’t be so sure…”
“I told you, Susan. We had a pact. We promised. No commitment. No relationship. You know I’m not the type, and he certainly isn’t…”
“You’re almost making me laugh, with this talk about some silly ‘pact,’” Susan says.
I pout, my feelings hurt.
“Don’t laugh at me!”
“It’s just such a silly concept. And you don’t seem to be realizing the irony.”
I stare at her, not comprehending what she means.
“Maybe you two felt compelled to make a pact because you knew from the beginning that this was something special, and neither of you felt prepared to handle it,” she explains, as if I’m Becky’s age.
“Susan. That’s not how it works.”
“Oh, I know. Little Susan the naïve sister-in-law. She was only ever in love with one man. The poor little widow. She doesn’t know how men and women operate.”
“That’s not what I mean!” I protest.
“I’m just kidding,” she says. “But seriously. You’re driving me crazy with the ‘I’m not the relationship type’ talk. You have to open your heart at some point, you know? You can’t keep yourself closed off from love forever, just because of what happened with Pete.”
“This has nothing to do with Pete!” I snarl.
I can’t believe she’s dragging my last relationship into this. It dredges up memories of a love turned bitter and sad. After a while, all that Pete and I were about was his incessant quest to have a baby.
We tried every trick under the sun, until lovemaking became more about tracking ovulation times and calendar days than about love or passion. Our relationship became one of desperation, until finally the doctor said that our goal was probably impossible. I was defective; I couldn’t get pregnant.
That was it for Pete. He left me, and in retrospect I’m glad it didn’t work out between us. I began to realize that I hadn’t even wanted kids; it was mostly his idea that I just went along with. And if I had been able to have a baby, I have a feeling that he would have seen me as just a baby-making machine forever.
I’m content with my niece and nephew. I was content with my career but sometimes I start to think about what’s next.
My Bachelor of Science degree is in mechanical engineering, and I know I could probably get a job working for the Air Force in that field. I love flying, but I don’t want to be deployed again. I don’t know if Susan could take it— if she lost my brother and then me. And I have to admit that losing my brother made me re-think a lot of things about my own life. Such as how much I value it.
“Susan, I’m not trying to discount your life experience or advice,” I tell her, with a sigh. “I just don’t think you understand where I’m coming from. I’m different. I’m not like you.”
“Okay then,” she says, with a shrug. “That’s fine. But just tell me this. Why do you look so radiant, if it was only a fling? Why do you sound regretful about never seeing him again, if that’s really what you want?”
I look at her, not knowing how to answer any of these questions.
“It was really hot sex,” I say, with a smile. “That is my defense. Just because it was fun, and passionate, doesn’t mean I think it can last forever. Nor that I’d want it to.”
So there , my triumphant look tells her.
But then she gets me back.
“All right. Then tell me how it ended? How did you two say goodbye?”
“Okay,” I admit. “I’m a little regretful about that.”
“I mean, I just backed off a lot. Acted kind of cool and reserved. Because I knew it was ending, and I didn’t want to show that I was kind of sad about it, and I got scared. I feel kind of bad about that. The way I left things.”
“I told you,” she says.
“But Susan, he did that to me too! Every time I thought that maybe he was actually… into me? He’d back off. Close down.”
“You two ,” she groans, rolling her eyes towards the ceiling. “I don’t even know him, but both of you are driving me crazy.”
“I never claimed to be sane,” I say.
“Well, if you don’t like how it ended, go back and give it a new ending.”
I look at Susan, considering it. But that would be breaking the pact. Ramsey is probably relieved that I didn’t become one of those clingy girls he can’t get rid of. Hell, he’s probably already moved on to his next conquest.
“Aunt Monica!” Becky calls, saving me from my thoughts and from this difficult conversation with Susan. “Everything is all set up and I’m waiting for you to play with me…”
“Becky, don’t interrupt,” Susan starts to say, but I jump up off the couch.
“Gotta go,” I smile sweetly. “I’ve kept her waiting long enough.”
“You just don’t want to face the cold, hard truth that you’re in loooooooove .”
I shake my head at her and grab something out of my suitcase, before heading upstairs.
“Did you have a good time, Aunt Monica?” asks Becky, when I get to her room.
She’s wearing a pink, sequined princess dress.
“I sure did,” I tell her. “I love that dress!”
“I have one for you too.”
She gestures towards a chair at her tea table, which has a tutu and a sparkly tank top laid on top of it. It must have been Susan’s at one point, probably when she was a teenager. I hope it will fit me.
“Did you meet a boy?”
Becky’s face searches mine, innocently, as she asks the question. She must have heard her mom and me talking.
“Maybe,” I tell her, with a wink.
I smile, and pull the gift bag out from behind my back.
“My present!” She shouts. “What did you get me?”
I hand her a tiara, decorated with lights and green and red chiles.
“Ooooh! A princess crown!”
“It says ‘Queen of Albuquerque,’” I tell her. “And those are chiles. In New Mexico, whenever you go to a restaurant, they ask you if you want green or red chile.”
“What are tho
“It’s a pepper. It’s hot, and spicy, and delicious. They cut it up and make it into a sauce.”
“Thank you, Aunt Monica!” she says, putting the tiara on her head and then running back over to sit in her chair. “I’m glad you had a hot and spicy trip!”
I sure did , I think, as I wink at my spunky, funny niece. Thanks to a certain guy I’ll never see again.
Chapter 16 – Ramsey
4 Weeks Later
“So, are you guys ready for deployment?” Jensen asks, as he pummels a punching bag.
“Do it like this,” I tell him, trying to show him a better technique.
“I know you’re super into this shit, but I’m just here to have fun and blow off steam,” he says, and goes back to the pansy-ass way he was doing it.
I roll my eyes. Learning MMA is important to me— it’s become a way to calm down and put things into perspective, instead of freaking out. It’s the closest thing to religion that I have, other than music. But my brothers obviously don’t take it as seriously. They’re just here to humor me.
“We still have another two weeks,” Harlow says. “Before deployment, that is.”
“Yeah, you guys having fun with your month of R&R?” Jensen asks.
“I don’t know, it’s a little boring,” I say.
I go back to swinging against my own punching bag. I think about my upcoming practice fight I’ve set up against another gym member in a few days’ time. I have to get into my best fighting shape for that.
I don’t actually have real fights yet, and I likely won’t ever get there, due to my SEALs schedule and deployments. But even intramural competition gets my adrenaline running in that way that I crave, and probably need.
“What a shame for the only single one among us to be bored before he deploys,” Jensen says. “We should take you on a trip. Maybe to Vegas. Your last hurrah before you’re sent to the sand dunes.”
“I’m not sure Whitney would be too into that idea,” Harlow says, laughing. “And I only have two more weeks to spend with the missus…”
“Yeah, would Riley be okay with that?” I ask Jensen, surprised. “I know you’re not being deployed to the desert for six months like Harlow and I are, but still. A Vegas trip with your single brother?”