Authors: Glenna Mayanrd
Royce leaves me to myself with the promise that I will stay here until he comes home. I want to stay here, but I need to get up with Tiffany to make sure Kline hasn’t deterred her from being my friend completely. Also I need to check in on my mom and the bastard Charlie. And I hope Kline didn’t party too hard, and burn our place down last night.
Royce doesn’t get off until around midnight so that gives me plenty of time to run my errands, and be here waiting when he returns. I throw his bedding into the wash and make my way to the kitchen for the breakfast that I was promised.
After I eat I get the sheets in the dryer. I need another shower but I can smell Royce on me.
“Tiff, what’s up.” I switch my phone to speaker while I remake the bed.
“Where are you, cause I’m at your place and your bed is empty?”
I try switching the subject. “I take it you and Kline are on again.”
“Yeah, we had a good talk last night and I believe we are now on the same page.”
Here we go again, but who am I to judge. I spent the morning under and on Royce. I smile, his touch, his kiss, his claim on my heart lingering on my skin.
“You’re with Royce aren’t you?”
“Not currently no, but I am at his place.”
“Of course you are. Girl bye.” She laughs clicking an end to the call.
We hang up and she sends me a text to meet me for dinner so I can dish about my crazy weekend to her. Now to go see how my mom is doing and find out if Kline made enough to pay off Charlie’s debt.
I pull up to the curb outside of mom and Charlie’s place and I swear I can already feel his smoke fumes penetrating my pores. I hate coming here, but I love my mom, so I have learned to compromise. When I get to the door I can hear loud voices. I stop myself from knocking. Who is Charlie arguing with?
“Now look, I told you I’d have the money, and I will.”
A voice I am vaguely familiar with warns Charlie,” I don’t need to remind you what will happen if you don’t pay up. You have three days.”
Footsteps sound near the door so I scurry to the neighbor’s door and pretend to be unlocking the lock. My face is blanketed by my hair, protecting my identity, but making it hard for me to see the face behind the threat. After hearing the closing of a car door I wait a few minutes before letting myself in at my mom’s. With a cool face I walk into the kitchen, grab a cup of coffee, and calmly ask Charlie where my mother is.
A grunt followed by the word store seems to be his only reply. I can wait here for my mom to get back and dance in circles with her and Charlie trying to get answers that they won’t give me, or I can go track down Kline and get spoon fed the truth. It's well after noon, so there is only one place Kline will be right now—hitting the mats. Normally I wouldn’t interrupt a fighter’s session ever, but this is special circumstances. I finish my coffee in silence and ask Charlie to have my mom call me later.
“Stop avoiding the question Kline! What’s really going on with Charlie, the fights, and the money?”
His fist stop connecting with the punching bag, and he wipes the sweat from his brow. “Look, can’t you just trust me when I say it’s handled. Fuck Brandi, I don’t need another mother.”
“Well excuse me for giving a rat’s ass about my brother.” I turn and kick the bag sending it flying into his chest.
“Bran, come on… Don’t walk away angry,” he calls out after me.
Flipping him the bird over my shoulder I leave the gym more confused than when I arrived. Kline knows I can read him, so why lie to me. Does he think he’s protecting me? He’s just as bad as Royce not being able to talk about his job. I looked for him at the gym but didn’t see him before I talked to my brother. This morning was so good. I can’t wait for a repeat. As I’m leaving it hits me, Kline will be facing Royce for his title. Fuck, that’s jacked up.
Before, I wouldn’t have cared as much since we were broken up, but now we’re back together kind of, a it changes everything. How can I watch the two men I care about most beat each other to a pulp and be happy about it?
When I get to my apartment, Tiffany is still here cleaning up from last night’s party. “Girl, you do not look happy. Where have you been?”
Putting my bag down on the recliner I only have to give her one look that lets her know that I am not ready to talk.
“Okay then…why don’t you take a nice bath and then we can get ready to go out for some girl time.”
“Perfect idea.” Stomping my way down the short hall to my room on my way, I call out to her, “if my douche pickle of a brother comes home tell him to get lost.”
Thank goodness the bathroom was left untouched by my brother’s guest last night or Tiffany has cleaned the aftermath already. Either way I am delighted not to have to deal with it before I can sulk in the tub. The bathroom is small in comparison to the one in Parker’s office or to Royce’s for that matter, but it’s warm and cozy.
One shitty factor about these apartments is the small water tanks. It doesn’t take long to run out of hot water. I must be in luck today because I am able to fully fill the tub. My head rests against the back wall of the tub and I start removing the pins from my hair. With all the hairspray in my hair I should probably be doing this in the shower. Sug sure knows how to make a hairdo hold.
Tiffany knocks on the door, “Hey, are you feeling any better?”
“No, but will you come in and see if I removed all these damn pins Sug stuck in my hair.”
She takes to her knees on the rug in front of the tub, and I angle my head sideways so she can check my hair. “So what are we getting into tonight? Dinner I know, but do you want to go out dancing afterwards, or veg out with ice cream and movies?”
“I feel like putting on my dancing shoes.” Going out dancing with my best friend is definitely what I need.
“There’s my girl, I need to run over to my place and grab some stuff. Can I use your jeep?”
“Yeah…keys are on the counter. Lock the door for me on your way out.”
Scrubbing all that extra hold spray from my scalp was a lot more work than I thought it was going to be. I should’ve had Tiffany help me wash it before she left. A quick shave of my legs and under arms and I am feeling much better. Tiff and I are going to have a good time tonight. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks about Parker Garrett. She might give me some shit over Royce, but I’m hoping she’s liquored up by the time I get to that part of my story.
I’m standing in my closet trying to decide on a dress for tonight when I hear Tiffany coming back already. “Hey Tiff, what are you wearing tonight?”
“A sparkly halter,” Kline answers me in a not so convincing Tiffany impersonation.
“I thought you were Tiffany, asshat.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s just your douche pickle of a brother.”
I roll my eyes at him as I hear the bathroom door close. Tiffany must have talked to him and relayed my message after she left. After going through half the clothes hanging in my closet I decide on a simple but sexy black dress that is perfect for salsa dancing. Kline is out of the shower by now and lying on the couch playing video games. “Tiff still hasn’t made it back yet?”
“Nope, haven’t heard from her since right before I pulled up to the house. She said she was going to take a shower and head back over here.”
“Well I’ll give her a bit longer before I call her then. She took my jeep.”
“Yeah she said her car needs a new battery.”
“A good boyfriend would get that taken care of you know.” I wink at him.
“Language sis, don’t say the b word.”
My brother and his phobia of commitment is quite entertaining.
An hour has gone by without word from Tiffany. She isn’t picking up any of mine or Kline’s calls or text. My brother is about ready to go looking for her when Charlie and my mom comes knocking on the door.
Kline lets the two of them in. It is very odd for them to show up unannounced. “Oh thank God you are okay.” My mom grabs me in an embrace and squeezes me for dear life.
“Of course I’m okay. Why wouldn’t I be?” I look over at my brother and he is wearing the same confused look as I am.
“Where’s your jeep?” Charlie asks in a cold tone.
“Tiffany has it. Why, what’s wrong?”
I look to my mom and she gives the impression of being on the verge of tears. “Charlie you better tell her what’s going on.”
“Look Kline, Brandi, I got a call about twenty minutes ago that said you had been taken for insurance that I’d pay what I owe to the Garretti brother’s. They must have taken Tiffany instead.” He doesn’t seem to be fazed by his words in the least bit. Would he be this calm if it were me paying the price for his short comings?
Kline looks like he is seeing red and Charlie is his target. My brother might not be ready for marriage and babies, but that doesn’t mean he don’t have feelings for Tiffany. She’s my best friend, more like a sister. “So what do we need to do to get her back, Charlie?” Kline spits at him. His chest is heaving with fury.
“Best case scenario is we set up a meeting and buy some time. You win or lose your fight this weekend depending on the take and we pay what we owe. Then they give her back, no harm no foul. Worst case they rough her up a bit for an example.”
“Not good enough Charlie. That could be Brandi you are talking about. Would you be so unruffled if it were her? Do you even care? Tiffany has a family; they are going to notice she’s missing.”
“Look they don’t know they’ve got the wrong girl yet. That’s the only thing we got working in our favor right now. I know a guy… he might know where they are holding her. If we are smart about it, we might be able to steal her back. Give me an hour then meet me at the office.” By the office he really means a storage unit on the back side of town.
For the first time ever I do believe Charlie actually made sense. How did that happen? Kline seems to be pleased with Charlie’s plan for now. My mother on the other hand is a weeping mess. As for me, I think I am in shock that I could have been taken against my will. I feel guilty because I am sad that Tiffany was taken, but at the same time I’m still glad that they didn’t get me. I am a horrible person and I’m going to hell.
Kline left over three hours ago to meet up with Charlie. I am freaking the hell out. I’ve called my mom over thirty times and she knows less than I do about what’s going on. If Charlie gets Kline killed or if those goons hurt Tiffany, I’m going to kill the fat bastard. How do they expect me to just sit here while my best friend has been taken as insurance? I still think there is something to this whole mess that they aren’t telling me. I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go…story of my life.
My phone rings but it’s not the call I am hoping for. “Hey Royce, how’s work going?”
“Went good. I ran into a few snags, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I’m off now. I’m pulling up to your place, since you didn’t stay put like I asked.”
I hesitate before answering him. Should I tell him about Tiffany? I know Royce will keep his mouth shut, and I need someone to keep me company before I go insane with worry.
Before I can say more, Royce is knocking on my door. Eagerly I greet him with a kiss. I try to explain to him about Tiffany. Telling him how Kline ran off to be her shining white knight and that I’m scared. Everything just comes out as a big clusterfuck of words that make no sense.
“Slow down and start from the beginning.” I curl up in Royce’s lap as he rocks me in the easy glider.
I take a deep breath “So okay…You know how Charlie owes out a lot of money. Earlier today I went to check on things, and I overheard Charlie having a heated discussion over his payment. I hid and tried to get a look at the guy because his voice sounded familiar, but I couldn’t get a good make on him. Anyways, I went to see my brother today at the gym and he blew me off. Are you following me so far?” Royce nods that he is so I continue. “When I came home Tiff was here and we decided that we were going to have a girl’s night, and I let her take my jeep to go home to get ready. Well... she never came back. The next thing I knew my mom and Charlie were here making sure I hadn’t been kidnapped as collateral. Long story short, Tiff has been taken in my place and now my brother is out doing Lord knows what to get her back.”
“Let me get this straight, the Garretti brothers took Tiffany thinking they were grabbing you?”
“Basically yeah. I’m worried about Kline though. He has been gone for almost four hours.” Royce pats me on my back rubbing soothing circles with the palm of his hand.
“I am sure they will both be fine. And look at me.” He holds my chin forcing me to meet his gaze. “This is not your fault. It’s Charlie’s. I think it’s time we talk about a lot of things Brandi. I haven’t been completely honest about my life before we met.” The expression on his face tells me I am about to hear a lot of things that I am not going to like.
Using all of my energy I try to remove myself from being seated in his lap but he just holds me closer. “I need you to listen. And when I am finished if you ask me to leave I will.”
“I worked for some bad people Brandi.” Please don’t say it… “I work for the Garretti brothers as an enforcer. They won’t hurt Tiffany as long as they think she is you. I’m sorry, I have wanted to tell you for a long time, but Kline asked me not to. He said you would be safer not knowing. I respected his choice as your brother. But I should have been honest from the start. That is why Kline has never liked me. He has always known that I wasn’t good enough for you. Being with me puts you at risk. There is a lot of blood between me and the brothers, I barely got out with my life.”
“I need a moment.” So many emotions and questions are fighting with one another inside of my head right now. I need a shot. “Want a drink? I need a drink before you go any further.” He shakes his head no, and I take a seat on the couch across the room from him. I can’t have him touching me right now; I can’t stand the thought of it.