Aaron, he asked for you. D.
I stare at my phone for a few seconds, blinking. Fuck, I shouldn’t have read the text my colleague sent me just before I got to my dad’s house. I’m already on edge with the rumors that have been flying around at work lately, and now I’m sure I’ll snap at the smallest thing. I’m supposed to fix my father’s pool filter system today, but I don’t think I can concentrate on anything right now.
“Dad?” I call as I step through the front door.
“Hey, son.” My dad walks out of the living room to greet me. “Thanks for coming by.”
“Sure,” is all I say as I follow him into the kitchen. Damn, I need a drink. I could use an ice cold beer right now, but I shouldn’t have alcohol before noon. It’s an already unbearable 80°F out, and it’s only 10am on a day in June. I don’t usually mind the heat, but I prefer to hang around a pool surrounded by some gorgeous women in skimpy bikinis and a cocktail in my hand to endure it.
My dad grabs some glasses while I go to the fridge to get some water. When I open the fridge, my gaze falls on the many containers that are stacked inside. “Fucking shit, Dad! What’s with all this food? Where did you get that?” I turn to him with a glare before spotting the cookies on the kitchen isle. “And those!” Then I open a box that sits on the countertop next to the stove. “Damn,” I mutter when I look at the cake inside the box. “Dad! You’re supposed to watch your diet. All this sugar is gonna kill you.”
My dad shakes his head with a chuckle. “Relax, son. I appreciate your concern, but I swear I don’t eat all of that. At least not all at once. Kaitlyn’s just such an amazing cook.”
“Who the fuck is Kaitlyn?”
“She’s Jannie’s niece.”
“Jannie? Your girlfriend from next door?”
He rolls his eyes. “She’s not my girlfriend, but yes. And Kaitlyn is spending the summer here to house-sit while Jannie is gone on a work trip.”
“Did you tell her you have diabetes and shouldn’t eat all this crap?”
He lifts his hand. “Aaron, calm down.”
“Fuck,” I growl. I grab the box with the cake and storm out of the kitchen.
“Where are you going?” my dad calls after me.
“To give this woman a piece of my mind.”
“Aaron, wait! You don’t-”
I don’t give him a chance to say any more. I’m so mad right now. My dad has been having trouble with his diabetes ever since he was diagnosed about two-and-a-half years ago, and even though we don’t have the best father-son-relationship, finding him dead on his kitchen floor from eating too much sugar isn’t exactly something I’m looking forward to. And throw in his minor heart and liver problems, he’s a ticking time bomb.
I wipe the sweat from my forehead as I try to calm my anger at least a little, and I do my best not to break down the neighbors’ door when I knock.
A minute later, a curvy brunette with her fawn hair piled messily on top of her head and matching brown doe eyes stands in front of me. I’d definitely think she looks pretty in her little yellow sundress if I weren’t that mad. “Are you Kaitlyn?” I snarl.
She narrows her eyes at me. “Who’s asking?”
“I am. Look,” I say with a sigh. I squeeze my eyes shut and take a deep breath so I don’t yell at her. “I know you mean well,” I continue when I look at her, “but all this food is poison for my dad. Did he tell you he has diabetes? He’s supposed to watch what he’s eating, but he doesn’t. He’s careless, and one day, he’s gonna pass out in a diabetic coma. Do you want to be responsible for that? If not, I suggest that you stop giving him food. Here,” I hand her the box. “I’d appreciate it if you stopped trying to kill him. Okay, Cupcake?”
She glares at me with her lips pressed together in a thin line. Her cheeks are flushed, and not in a good way. She takes a deep breath before she asks, “Are you done?”
I cross my arms in front of my chest and nod.
“Okay,” she says through gritted teeth. “First, don’t call me Cupcake, you jerk. Second, I’m very much aware of the fact that your dad has diabetes. Everything I made for him is low carb so it fits his diet. And third, your dad is supposed to bring this cake–” She points to the box in her hand. “–to a birthday party he’s invited to. So please–” She shoves the box back. “Give this to him so he doesn’t show up empty-handed to his best friend’s party. Now, goodbye.”
And without waiting for a response from me, she slams the door shut with a loud groan, and I’m left standing there with my mouth agape.
Well, shit. What a way to make a first impression. For a split second, I consider knocking again to apologize, but I don’t think that would be the wisest thing to do now that I pissed her off. With a deep sigh, I run my hand over my face and turn around to go back to my dad’s house.
I find him in his kitchen, where I left him. I put the box with the cake back on the countertop and glare at him. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
He crosses his arms in front of his chest with a smirk. “I tried, but you stormed off and didn’t listen. Did she give you a piece of her mind as well?”
I roll my eyes. “You could say that.”
“Did you at least apologize?”
“She slammed the door in my face.”
He barks out a laugh. “Serves you right. Well, at least there are still women out there who don’t lie at your feet at first sight.”
“Says the guy with the biggest panty collection.”
He narrows his eyes at me. “I’m not like that anymore. And I am still your father, so watch how you talk to me.”
“Of course, Dad. But you know that ‘like father, like son’ has never been more accurate than for the both of us.”
He rolls his eyes as he grabs one of the cookies and bites off a big chunk. “Uh huh. Anyhow, will you do the job you came here for? Or is there anyone else you need to give a piece of your mind?”
I take a deep breath and let his remark pass without comment. Instead, I walk past him through the French doors over to the pool, where I’m surely going to fail miserably to try to fix the fucking filter system.
That night, I stand in a corner of the Kingston Bar and look around the large room at our guests, who drink, chat, and laugh while music plays softly in the background. It’s quiet, even for a weeknight, and something gives me a queasy feeling. And when I spot the group of people who sit in a booth in the opposite corner, I know why.
Since I’ve been promoted to head of security a couple of months ago, things have improved noticeably after we had some trouble with my predecessor. At twenty-seven, I’m the youngest boss the security staff ever had, but I am the best. Luckily, no one has a problem with that; we’re a great team. And that includes the four security guards as well as the rest of the bar staff and Howard, the bar’s owner.
Unfortunately, there have been rumors lately—rumors about someone wanting to buy the bar; someone whose name alone makes my insides churn. And tonight, he dared to show his ugly face. Even in the dimly lit interior, I recognize him immediately, and I fear the rumors are true.
With a deep sigh, I push myself off the wall and make my way over to them.
He asked for you.
The message my colleague and friend, Daniel, sent me this morning comes back to my mind. Of course, I knew who he was: Jackson, the man I loathe above all others.
“Look at who decided to join us tonight,” Jackson says with a smirk when I come to a stop at their booth. I look around the table and recognize all of their faces. There’s Steve, Tony, and Joe. And of course, Victor, Jackson’s right hand and closest confidante. It must be a special occasion because they usually never turn up together anywhere at the same time.
How do I know? I used to be a part of their gang of drug dealers.
“Aaron, what a pleasure to see you,” Jackson continues. “Why don’t you sit down and have a drink with us?” He gestures to the last empty chair.
I cross my arms in front of my chest. “No, thanks.”
Jackson leans forward and rests his elbows on the table. “I strongly advise you to sit. We need to have a little chat.” Again he gestures to the chair.
For a few moments, we stare at each other. As usual, his face shows no emotion, but neither does mine. I consider my options before I draw in a slow, steady breath through my nose and finally sit down. He’s right; we need to talk.
Jackson nods approvingly. “Very well. Now, how’s the family, Aaron? Are Ben and his pretty wife enjoying their honeymoon? How’s your dad’s health?”
I clench my fists under the table. Of course, he’s fully informed about the ongoings of those who are closest to me. I narrow my eyes at him. “Why are you here, Jackson?”
He leans back and takes a sip of his bourbon. After sharing a knowing look with his boss, Victor speaks. “Aaron, my old friend,” he says in his heavy Russian accent. “A lot of things have happened. You might have heard that old Mr. Greene is finally enjoying his well-deserved retirement.”
I grind my teeth. Yes, I heard. Wallace Greene is Jackson’s father, and as he is—well, was—a cop, an anonymous tip to the police has been my choice of action more than once to keep Jackson at a distance.
“The other thing is,” Victor goes on, “Howard needs to retire, too, to take care of his poor, sick wife, and we made him an offer he won’t be able to refuse.”
“No,” I say as I glare at Jackson. “Howard is not going to sell you his bar; he wouldn’t.”
The complacent smirk is back on Jackson’s face. “He will. He can’t refuse my offer; we all know that. And that’s where you come into play. As you can’t go running to my father anymore, I chose this place as our new location for business deals. That cozy room in the back is perfect for private meetings. And you as head of security will make sure everything runs smoothly.”
I shake my head. “I don’t think so. I don’t owe you anything, Jackson. Our arrangement ended when I got you that info on the deal in Austin.”
He snorts. “That became irrelevant the second you blew the whistle on me afterward. And don’t pretend you didn’t; I know it was you.”
“So you’re buying this bar because you’re out for revenge?”
“You thought I was going to buy this place to get back at you?” He laughs spitefully. “No, that’s not my main motivation. As I said—this location is perfect. Getting you to work for me again is a nice side effect.”
My pulse pounds in my ears. With all the adrenaline rushing through my veins, I’m seconds away from punching Jackson’s face, and I don’t even care about the consequences. My jaw hurts from grinding my teeth, and my knuckles crack from clenching my fists. I need to leave. Now. I’ve already let on enough of my inner turmoil in front of him.
I stand up a little too abruptly, which makes the legs of my chair scrape over the floor with a loud screech. With a deep breath, I straighten my clothes. “There won’t be any drug trafficking while I’m responsible for security in this place,” I tell him in a low voice before I turn around and walk away.
“We’ll see about that,” I catch him mutter under a chuckle.
With long, wide strides I make my way to the back of the bar to Howard’s office. No, I won’t let this happen. Jackson needs to be stopped—once and for all.