69,273
07.03.2019

Right. Now.

I feel the booth cushion depress and Nik slides in next to me. He hasn’t been in the booth a second before I’m on him. I’m not entirely sure why but I feel like I’m about to burst into tears.

And I do.

The first of the tears streak my face and I bury my face in Nik’s neck. Nik stands, holds me close to his side and leads me to the door behind the bar. When we’re in the familiar hall Nik stops, picks me up bridal style and carries me over to the sofa in the ‘chill out’ room. As soon as we sit, I cry a river.

Nik coos in my ear and gently rocks me, “You’re breakin’ my heart, sweetheart. I’m so sorry. He’s not even allowed here, I let his uncle know and he’s pissed as hell.”

“He- he- he- he said he was your fr- fr- friend!” I hiccup my reply.

Nik strokes my hair and says, “He lied, baby. Omarr is bad people. I need to know what he said to you. Can you tell me?”

I nod. Still crying, I respond, “He asked if I was one of your women, th- th- then he told Ghost I was free rein a- a- and he told me he wanted me in his b- b- bed!” I finish on a wail.

When I mention the last bit, I feel Nik’s body stiffen so solid I’m sure he’s turned to bronze.

Nik would look great as a bronzed statue.

Getting off the subject, my dear.

Nik says carefully, “If that’s something you don’t want to happen, Tina. I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen. Omarr doesn’t take the word no very easily though, so he might need some persuading.”

I sputter, “Th- th- this is why you need the gun, isn’t it?”

I lift my head and I see conflicted emotions run across Nik’s face. He whispers, “There are a lot of things you don’t know about me, Tina. I’ll tell you all about ‘em one day, I promise. But not yet.”

I nod under his chin and whisper back, “Okay, Niki.”

Chapter Fourteen

Sleepover

After my sob fest on Nik’s lap at the club on Sunday night, he held me in a way I’ve never been held before. It was so loving and almost desperate.

I’m developing some pretty intense feelings for Nik. And while this scares the bejeezus out of me I remind myself that everything will be alright as long as he never finds out.

I find myself watching him when he’s not looking, just doing everyday mundane things like how he stirs his coffee clockwise then counter clockwise. Or how his eyes narrow and he scratches him chin when he’s thinking hard about something. Or how he rolls up his shirt sleeves to his elbows when he’s stressed out.

I can’t believe I’ve worked across the street from The White Rabbit for two years and never knew him. All that time I could’ve known him seems wasted.

That makes me sad.

But I was a different person two years ago. There is no way I would’ve let him in then the way I have now. I’m glad he’s a part of my life now. I’m not letting him go.

And Omarr can shove it!

There is something about being played by someone that leaves you feeling broken. I’m sure that’s why I was so emotional on Sunday after the Omarr fiasco. I remember similar feelings from a long time past. It just triggered a rush of emotions in me that I couldn’t halt. I felt overwhelmed.

Nik came to my rescue.

My dark knight in Versace armor.

We held each other for a long time before I told him I wanted to leave. He got me back to my girls and we left a little after midnight.

This morning Nat and I open up the store and a little past nine a flower arrangement delivery comes to the store.

I smile because I assume it’s for Lola from Trick. Things are heating up between them and I wish they’d just get together already. They’re smitten.

I sign for the delivery and Nat bounds over. I set the arrangement on the counter and we both take a good look at it. There are approximately eighteen perfectly white lilies surrounded by baby’s breath.

Good going, Trick!

That’s an expensive arrangement. At least two hundred dollars’ worth of lilies.

Nat and I look at each other and smile huge. She takes the card, looks over it then hands it to me.

I take in her frown and hard eyes. This is not going to be good.

Think about what I said. You can do better than him. I can give you everything you’ve ever dreamed of. Come see me. –O

Oh, for the love of all things holy!

They’re from bad guy Omarr. I don’t like the situation he’s putting me in. He’s coming between me and my friend. I hate that!

I told Nat what had happened and she was livid. I told her Ghost and Nik took care of me and she seemed slightly placated. I think she didn’t like to think about me being upset while everyone else was having a good time.

We look at each other a long time before she motions to the phone.

I sigh and walk over to the phone, dial the number and wait.

“Ghost? Yeah, I’m okay. Can you come over here please? Thanks.”

Within a minute Ghost is at the store with a garbage bag in hand. He doesn’t greet us, just walks straight over to the beautiful arrangement and shoves it roughly into the garbage bag. Then he walks over to me and says in a kind voice, “Good girl.” Then he leaves, garbage bag in tow.

“I’m going to kill that motherfucker!” I roar.

Max puts a hand on my shoulder and quietly replies “Calm down, bro. You know Tina, he isn’t gonna take her away from us. No way. We’re family.”

Omarr is a dead man.

First, he comes into my club knowing he isn’t meant to be there. Second, he comes on to my girl.

…not that she knows she’s my girl. But, anyway…

Third, tries to treat my girl like a free rein whore. And, lastly, sends her expensive flowers with promises when he really just wants to fuck her and leave her broken as a message to me.

The only thing Omarr wants is for me to suffer. He blames me for his brother’s death. This all goes way back to when I was just a teenager. Dad had just died and I was given a choice to join Chaos.

Chaos are a Russian-American gang. My dad was what you could call the vice president of the gang. They were criminals but my dad was a good man. I joined them and to my complete disapproval, so did Ghost and Max. We we’re just kids doing the hard lifting for old men. When I say hard lifting, I mean we were enforcers. We would go out and collect drug money, debt money, and bribes. They would give us a list and we would collect. By any means necessary. Mom was devastated when she found out. She didn’t want that life for us. My dad was trying to get out when he died.

Omarr is a part of the Sixes. Most of them went to school with me and we were all cool til Marcus died.

Marcus was Omarr’s older brother. He broke into our family home to steal something Chaos related from my dad’s office. My dad shot him and he died in hospital later that night. My dad was going to go to jail. I had to do something. Just as the officers asked who fired the first shot, I spoke up and said, “I did.”

I was just about to turn sixteen. I got a suspended sentence. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Anything for my dad.

Ghost, Max, and Trick all know this. Ghost and Max were there. I told Trick some years later.

Omarr is out for revenge. His uncle has forbidden any retaliation on me.

Uncle Jerm leads the sixes. The first time we met he questioned me about Marcus’ death. I know he knows I didn’t kill Marcus. I was flustered and defensive. I left too many questions unanswered because I simply didn’t know the answers to them. This is why Uncle Jerm has forbidden any vengeance. He knows I didn’t do it. But I confessed. I’ve made my bed, now I have to lie in it.

It never bothered me before. Just carry a gun and hope for them best.

This is different.

This affects Tina.

Ghost and Trick are delivering a garbage bag of half dead flowers to Uncle Jerm right now. If Omarr keeps going against Jerm, he’ll end up dead.

The anger makes my voice harder than it should be, “Yeah. I know, Max. But he’s toying with her. Fucking with Tina. I don’t like it.”

Max shakes his head and concedes, “Me either. But let Uncle Jerm take care of it. You know he’ll fix it.”

I do. I know Uncle Jerm is good people.

You see, there are good people who do bad things out of obligation. That’s Uncle Jerm. He looks after his family. His family are the Sixes.

As soon as I recognized Omarr on Sunday night I sent Ghost to get Tina the fuck away from him.

I knew he wouldn’t touch Ghost. If I had gone down there, anything could’ve gone down and there was no way I was putting Tina in danger.

Omarr is what you would call unstable.

I left the booth to cool off. Once I had got myself under control, I went back. I saw Tina’s face on the way. She looked lost. So fragile and miserable. It broke my heart.

Once I sat, she threw herself at me and I felt her tears on my neck. I took her to the ‘chill out’ room to hold her on the sofa and comfort her. As soon as we sat, the dam burst.

The fucker told Tina we we’re friends. And that he wanted her in his bed.

Rage boils in the center of me.

That cocky asshole is going to pay.

Nat and I have just walked into our apartment after a long day’s work.

We stopped to get burgers on the way home. It was a burger kind of day.

You know, the kind of day were psychopaths send you expensive flower arrangements and your friend across the street ignores you?

Yeah, that kind of day.

We enter and put our things down on the dining table. The only light on in the house is the kitchen down light. We leave this on so it looks like someone is home because we get home late some nights. Like robbers don’t know people do that.

You’re such a bright bulb.

As soon as I step in to the kitchen to flip the rest of the lights on, I freeze.

I can hear something in my bedroom. It sounds like shuffling footsteps.

Anxiety chews at my gut.

Craptastic.

I stop Nat with a hand on her arm, when she turns to look at my petrified face I motion to my bedroom and put a finger over my mouth.

Immediately, her eyes widen and she listens. When she hears what I hear, we have a silent conversation.

She makes a phone with her hand and puts it to her ear. Let’s call the cops.

I point to my wrist in the universal sign of time and shake my head. No, it will take too long for them to get here.

She puts her fists up in a boxing stance. Should we fight them?

I use my index and middle finger to point in both my eyes then wave my hand around the room. Sure, if we can find something to fight with.

A thump comes from my bedroom and we both stiffen in fright. I grab the closest thing to me. I don’t even look at it. It’s long and thin. I see Nat grab an encyclopedia off my bookshelf and holds it high over her head.

We tiptoe to my bedroom door holding hands. My heart is racing a mile a minute. This is not Bear. I know Bear sounds.

We stand at the door with our weapons raised and wait. The door opens.

It’s on.

I reach behind my head with my weapon and smack the tall person over the head repeatedly. Nat does the same with her trusty encyclopedia. We do this while shrieking our heads off.

The tall person has fallen backwards. I stand over them and repeatedly hit them on the legs and chest with my long defensive instrument as hard as I can. The man is yelling, “Ow, stop it!” and “Fuck, Tina, quit hittin’ me!”

Wait.

Robbers don’t usually know the people they’re robbing, right?

I reach over with a shaking hand and flip on the light.

Max is on the floor in a fetal position moaning and groaning. He has a bloody nose and busted lip.

I haven’t even noticed Nat has disappeared til I look behind me. Ghost has her wrapped up in his arms, one hand over her mouth. And get this. He looks like he wants to burst out laughing.

Of all things!

I want to hit him, so I do.

I reach over and smack him right over the head with my stick thing. Which I now see is a mop.

He rubs his head and his body shakes with silent laughter. He says, “What are you gonna do, clean me to death?”

Ghost releases Nat and we both crouch over Max. I’m can’t believe we beat him up.

“Max, honey, are you okay?” I touch his face and he looks up at me.

He must the worry in my eyes. He responds, “Fuck, am I proud of you.”

Um, what?

“What?” I don’t hide my confusion.

Max whispers, “Didn’t even quit fighting. Not for a second. Balls of steel, teeny Tina.” He smiles big revealing blood stained teeth.

Oh, yeah. He’s left the building.

I turn to Ghost and sigh, “Can you get him on the sofa so I can clean him up?”

He smirks at Max but nods.

I go into the kitchen to retrieve my first aid kit when someone knocks on the door.

Just great.

I have two would-be breaking and entering suspects in my house and one of them is bloody and bruised.

I hear Nat opens the door and Molly steps inside. She looks at Ghost then Max and says, “Sounds like a party I wasn’t invited to.”

I rest my forearms on the kitchen counter, lean forward and chuckle “I’m so sorry about the yelling, Molly. I hope we didn’t wake you.”

She takes in my exhausted appearance and tuts, “Child, you need to sit yourself down before you fall asleep standin’ up. Let Molly make you a tea and fix the boy up.”

I take her hand in mine and kiss it. I quietly say, “Thanks, Miss Molly.”

Molly makes tea for me and Nat. Ghost declined and she brought Max a glass of water and some aspirin. She takes her time cleaning Max’s wounds with peroxide. And when he doesn’t flinch she pats his cheek and tells him, “You earned yourself some cupcakes, young man.”

Max smiles and splits his lip again. He turns to me and says, “Hear that, Tina. Molly says I get cupcakes.”

I chuckle as Molly takes her leave. I hug her for a long time.

❮❯