Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 9
I take Larson to the Argonaut, a diner down the street from my office. Although— or perhaps because— it's not super fancy, I think he'll like it. But I can see right away that I was only kind of right.
"Ooooh, breakfast served 24 hours a day, very nice," he says, as we sit down at one of the Formica booths. "But what the hell? Where's the green chile?"
He turns the menu over several different times, as if in disbelief and hoping that New Mexico's state vegetable and beloved flavoring to any dish is hidden somewhere in the fine print.
"Larson," I laugh, although he looks at me as if not understanding why I'm laughing. "This is New York, not New Mexico. There's no green chile here."
"No green chile?" he repeats.
"You look even more horrified than you did when we saw those creepy clowns," I tell him.
He shudders, but I'm not sure whether it's because of the mention of the clowns or still because of the lack of green chile.
"What's been going on with them, anyway?" I ask him.
"They're still doing stupid stuff around town, but it's nothing as big as what happened on Halloween night," he says. "I'm hoping that that's all over with and these are just copycat kids. But the Desert Dogs have still been keeping an eye out for the community’s sake, and nothing major has happened."
"That's a relief."
"But seriously," he insists. "No green chile? Really. How can you live here? It’s a travesty."
"You know what? I do miss the food," I tell him.
"Is that all you miss?"
"Well, you of course," I admit. "And Riley."
"And that's really all?" he asks.
I look at him and realize I've been missing more than I care to admit, especially since having gone back to visit.
"All right," I tell him, with a shrug. "I miss the weather, too, of course. The beautiful mountains. The open sky. Balloon Fiesta! The scenic view. The rugged, independent atmosphere. The laid back lifestyle."
"Laid back, huh?" He raises his eyebrows at me from behind the menu. "Sounds dirty."
"Oh whatever," I laugh. "You know what I mean. The pace is just so different. Out here there's always more work to be done, always chaos and stress. Out West it's just so much more relaxed peaceful."
"Whattya havin'?" asks the waitress, who has rushed up to our table from seemingly out of nowhere. "I can bring it to ya in five minutes flat."
"See?" Now I raise my own eyebrows at Larson, in a joking manner. "What'd I tell you?"
"I'll have the sausage skillet," he tells the waitress. "Hold both the red and the green chile."
She looks at him with a mixture of intrigue and annoyance that he's holding her up. He winks at her.
We smile at each other.
"I'll also have some coffee," he tells her. "And whatever the lady's having, of course."
I order my favorite grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup and the waitress runs off to the hustle and bustle of the tables awaiting her service across the way.
"You weren't kidding," he tells me. "Everyone here's always in a rush over something."
"It's crazy," I agree. "But I guess I've gotten used to it because I didn't even notice it anymore, until I went back out there over Halloween. Sometimes I wonder what kind of affect it's going to have on Caleb."
"What do you mean?" he asks.
"Oh, you know, with everything being so dramatic instead of peaceful and serene. And a mom who has to work so much to afford to live out here, only because 'out here' is where the best jobs are. It's a vicious cycle, you know?"
He just looks at me.
"So, how's the little guy doing?" he asks. "What does he do all day while you're working in that fancy office?"
I blush. I always feel a mix of guilt and pride when someone brings up how much I work as a single mother. I know I can afford all the best things in life for Caleb but I also know we don't get a lot of time to enjoy them together.
"He's doing well," I tell him.
But I don't add that he's missed Larson almost as much as I have. Every time he hears an engine roar outside— which, in our Brooklyn brownstone, is a lot— he looks up hopefully towards the front door and asks, 'Moto-cyc-le Man?'"
"He has a nanny," I tell him. "Esmeralda. She even teaches him Spanish."
"Oooh la la," Larson says. Then he laughs. "Oops. I guess that's French. Pardon my French when I meant to say something in Spanish."
I laugh along with him.
"It feels so good to laugh," I tell him. "I'm so glad you came today. I mean, I was already excited to see you, and any day would have been good..."
I blush again, embarrassed for letting slip how much I've been wanting to see him.
"...but today was definitely a bad day, so having you here really helps me not feel so down in the dumps."
I finish my sentence, feeling a little less vulnerable now. It’s been a long time since I’ve opened myself up like this— literally and physically, or figuratively and emotionally.
But I guess it’s time to get used to it. Because Larson makes me realize what life could be like with a supportive partner to share the load. And that’s something I’ve definitely never had before.
Chapter 22 – Brynn
Larson reaches his hand across the table and takes mine in it.
The waitress brings us our drinks and says, "Now ain't you two just the cutest?"
"We know, Darling," Larson says to her.
Then once she jets away he turns back to me.
"So, what happened with Steven earlier today?" he asks. "Or in general? Seems as if the two of you were having a very hush hush conversation."
I lean back in the booth. I detect a note of jealousy mixed with both protection instincts and possessiveness in his voice and it's altogether rather sweet.
The waitress brings us our food, chanting, "Under five minutes, just as I promised! Domino's has nothing on us!" as she breezes in and out.
I pause to tell her, “Thanks,” as does Larson. Then I continue.
"Despite initially seeming supportive of the pregnancy, Steven never really wanted much of anything to do with Caleb. He whined about the responsibility as if he was the fucking baby and then finally ran away as if he was the fucking toddler.”
I take a breath, trying not to get too worked up even though I’m still so mad at Steven about everything, for Caleb’s sake more than my own. I don’t normally even curse very much but this situation never fails to make me heated. Steven and I were never a stellar couple and it’s good we’re not together. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have stuck around as a father in Caleb’s life.
“I hadn’t heard anything from Steven in the longest time,” I continue, once I’ve calmed down a bit. “I had opened a child support case a while ago, not thinking anything much would ever come from it. It's not that we really need the money, you know? It's just, like, the principle of the matter."
"Right," Larson agrees. "He needs to man up and pay his share. Caleb deserves the financial support of both of his parents, even if he doesn't have the emotional support of one of them, sadly."
I blink away tears.
I told myself I wouldn't cry.
"I guess the child support enforcement division finally found him recently," I explain. "So now that he realizes he owes back and future child support, he's trying to act all sweet. Negotiate something with me outside of court."
"Don't do it," Larson says quickly, squeezing my hand. "He's just trying to play you."
I take another deep breath. Suddenly I don't feel like eating my favorite sandwich.
"He brought a laptop full of figures and calculations. Any time I said anything other than 'maybe' or 'I'll think about it,' he would get really angry. As if he had the right to be angry about this situation.”
I shake my head.
"He told me he didn'
"Brynn. It's okay."
Larson's gentle pressure on my hand causes me to realize that I've been getting even more worked up than I’d thought.
"Actually, I can believe it,” he continues. “From everything you've told me about Steven, and even from seeing his weasly little face, I can certainly believe he's still a man child who will try to do anything and everything to get out of his responsibilities."
I look up at him, still sad but unable to stop a smile from appearing.
"Weasly little face," I giggle. "Yeah, he does have one of those."
"You didn't agree to anything, did you?" Larson asks.
"No, I just told him I'd think about it, and that he should make an appointment to see me next time, instead of just dropping in like that. That's rude."
"I like when he drops in like that," Larson says. "Because then he gets to see the big muscly man you're with, who won't put up with his shit."
I laugh, so glad that Larson is here to cheer me up. And protect me. It's been a long time since I've felt like this. In fact, I don't know that I ever have. And I never thought that I would. Now that he's here, I want to savor every second. Except I still can’t wipe the meeting with Steven out of my mind.
"The really shitty thing is that he’s trying to see Caleb more just to reduce his child support obligations," I tell Larson. "The calculation is based on time spent with each parent, so now he suddenly wants to see him more often. Which could be fine— even good, for Caleb— but he only wants the timesharing to look a certain way on paper for the courts because of the money and I doubt he’ll actually follow through. He doesn’t even bother to call Caleb on his birthday. But he is so intent on lowering his child support even if it means at least pretending to agree to see him every now and then. Worse, he even mentioned the threat of going for primary custody if I don’t give him the kind of deal that he wants."
I put my head in my hands, not knowing how I got myself into this nightmare.
Larson puts one hand on my arms and raises my chin with his other hand, so that I’m looking straight into his handsome and strong yet caring eyes.
"That is not going to happen," he says. "Don’t even worry about that. You have been the only parent that Caleb knows, and no court would make him change primary residences."
"But I work so much," I protest, laying out all my fears while we’re discussing everything. "He can try to say I’m not even there much. Esmeralda is the one who takes him to school, packs his lunches… hell, she packs my lunches."
"It doesn’t matter," Larson says, holding both of my arms now and shaking his head empathically. "You’re his mother. You love him. You tuck him into bed most nights, wake up with him most mornings and I’m sure you’ve done a ton of other things for him since he’s been born."
"That’s true," I admit, starting to feel better about things now, if only in a bittersweet kind of way. I remember all the days and nights spent changing Caleb’s diapers, giving him baths, nursing him in the early days and rocking him to sleep, which I sometimes still do to this day.
"I know in my head that just because I work a lot doesn’t mean I’m a bad mom," I tell Larson. "Men do it all the time and are still good dads. A lot of women too. But I think I just let Steven get to my head."
"Well get him out of there," Larson commands. "I’m the only man who’s supposed to be up in any part of you now."
I can’t help but blush and laugh at the same time.
"Is that so?" I ask him, loving the sound of it.
He winks at me and I remember how he looked at me earlier when he was licking my pussy. He looked just like this: like he owns me, like I’m his. And like I should love it, which I absolutely do.
"Well, thank you for cheering me up," I tell him.
"No problem. So, what do we have planned for this weekend?" he asks me, and I’m glad we’re on to better topics of conversation. I’m sick of talking about Steven.
"I managed to get some time off of work," I tell him. "So thankfully I'll have the whole weekend to spend with you and Caleb. I hope you're ready to freeze your ass off, because I was thinking we could go to Central Park. I know it's pretty much winter here, but no trip to New York City could be complete without it, especially when one is..."
I trail off. Oops.
"When one is what?" he asks, and I just shrug.
I almost said "in love." I can't believe I just almost said that.
"When one is missing green chile and other comforts of New Mexico," I quickly tell him. "One will definitely appreciate all that New York has to offer— and forget and forgive any of its possible shortcomings— when one is in Central Park."
"Hand in hand with a lovely lady, I presume," Larson says, winking at me.
"Oh of course."
"Well, I'm warm enough in this Harley jacket," he says, pointing at the leather coat on his chest. "It's never failed me before. And I'm looking forward to exploring what New York has to offer a Westerner such as myself."
I smile as he finishes the rest of his skillet breakfast.
"I'm also looking forward to seeing Caleb," he says. "I've missed the little guy."
"He's missed you too," I tell him. And then I decide to actually say what I'm thinking this time. "And so have I."
He picks my hand up and kisses it, and says, "I've missed you too, Brynn."
And suddenly I know that everything is going to be all right, even though just a minute ago I was stressing out about Steven. As long as Larson is here with me, things will be fine.
As he signals the waitress to bring our check, I realize with a heart-sinking thud that he's not always going to be here. He's only going to be with me for the weekend, and what am I ever going to do without him?
We head out so that I can put in a little more work before calling it quits for the weekend— Larson says he'd like to walk around and see the sights while I finish up— and I tell myself not to think about what will happen once he's gone. I have all weekend to focus on my two favorite people in the world: my son, who has always been my little hero and Larson, who is my new big hero.
Chapter 23 – Larson
Brynn was right: Central Park is a magical place. It’s large and beautiful and so fucking green, even during this time of year, compared to New Mexico. I think it’d be impossible for anyone to feel anything but fucking hope and happiness here. But maybe that’s because I’m here with Brynn and Caleb.
Caleb was so happy to see me that he’d done a “jump turn” and yelled “woo hoo!”
“That’s his latest trick,” Brynn had told me, but I still prefer to think it was something he’d invented just for me.
"Hey Lar-son," Caleb says now, in his lilting little toddler voice. "Help feed quack quacks?"
"What's that, buddy?"
He reaches up a tiny hand to hold my own. A familiar feeling tugs at me— sadness, pain— but I will it not to come bubbling up to the surface. I don't want anything to fucking ruin this day. This weekend.
"Quack quacks," he responds.
"He wants to know if you want to help him feed the ducks," Brynn translates.
"Oh, yes of course," I say. "There are ducks in this park?"
"Yep, there's a duck pond. But then, there's a whole zoo too."
"A zoo," I whistle.
I look around at the colorful leaves and long stretches of grass— so different from the dry, arid landscape I'm used to— and I have to admit that it's fucking beautiful.
"And a garden, a wildlife sanctuary, natural woods, a running track, an amphitheater, a nature center and two ice skating rinks, one of which turns into a swimm
"Yep. Sure seems like magic," I tell her.
"Matchick!" Caleb repeats.
"He really likes to parrot everything I say, huh?" I ask Brynn.
"He sure does, so watch your language," she says.
"Capola!" Caleb says, and we both laugh.
"He mimics what we do, too," she says, "so be careful."
"You mean I can't do this?"
I pinch her sexy ass, since Caleb can't see. He's trying to run up ahead of us but I'm holding him back by his hand.
"Very funny," she says. "Save that for later."
"Oh, I definitely will."
"Quack quacks!" Caleb announces, as we arrive at the duck pond.
Brynn, always prepared, pulls out a Ziploc bag of bread from her large purse.
"Well, aren't you the good little mommy," I tell her, impressed.
As Caleb feeds the bread to the ducks, and I "help" him by breaking off pieces and handing them to him, because he says "Just me ! I do!" when I try to feed the ducks too, I reflect on everything that's happened between Brynn and me during such a short amount of time. I can't believe she's an ambitious lawyer, a loving mom and great in the sack too.
I really scored big when I found her. Now I just hope I can keep her.
I've been trying to figure out a way to turn this into something more than a fling, but I can't wrap my mind around how. I would never fit in with big city life, and her job is here. So for now, I try to remind myself to just enjoy the moment.
"All done!" Caleb says, brushing the bread crumbs off his hands as the ducks— true to the name he calls them— quack quack at his feet, fighting over the crumbs and wanting more. "Now horsie!"
"He wants to go on a horse and carriage ride to the carousel," Brynn says. "So that's like two horse- related things. He loves horses."
"Then he'll certainly grow up to like motorcycles like I do,” I tell her.
"Mo-to-cycle," Caleb says with a big grin, taking my hand again.
"Apparently he already does," Brynn laughs.
I think it's a perfect day, but I know it's going to get even better tonight. And as much as I love hanging out with little Caleb, I can barely fucking wait to be with Brynn again one on one.