I love watching her work. She just looks so adorable in her uniform, scurrying around trying to accomplish her tasks. Five minutes after her shift started, she didn’t even know that I walked through the door. She’s been too busy running around like a cat on fire filling orders.
Taking a sip of the fourth stale cup of coffee I ordered, I notice that her shift is almost over. As I grab my phone to get ready to leave, I already can’t wait to watch her work again and make her blush that pretty pink color in public every time I wink at her.
It’s become my new pastime.
I make my way to the doors to wait for Elena. Her body language is indifferent as she walks towards me; the brunette from an earlier encounter follows her. Lydia, was it?
Elena looks upset. Maybe she just had a stressful day. “Hey, Kitten.” I smile at her and reach for a hug. She’s stiff but lightly molds against me, not completely denying the embrace.
“Mike, you remember, Lisa?” Elena quips.
Lisa! That’s it. “Yes, hello again.” I cordially smile as not to be an ass.
“Lisa has something she would like to tell you,” Elena clips.
My gaze cuts over to Lisa, unsure where this is going or why Elena is acting stand-offish. As I watch Lisa nervously compose herself, I once again take notice of her. She’s cute and all, but I prefer blondes—specifically, the flustered blonde standing at my left.
“Uhm...I just wanted to say thank you. It’s been a long time, and you probably don’t remember me, but over a year ago, you’ve saved my dad’s shop from a burglary. You also saved his life. So, thank you,” Lisa praises softly with pink tinting the apples of her cheeks.
She’s going to have to be more specific. There have been so many businesses that we’ve helped.
“I’m sorry, what shop was that?” I ask.
“The only cigar shop in town. Joe’s Tobacco.”
Joe’s Tobacco. That was the night I got shot jumping in front of her father.
Shit. That was a long time ago. Lisa’s story isn’t lining up at all with what Cobra and I have told Elena about me being here.
Shit. Shit. Shit. My throat is tightening.
“I remember you were the president of the club at that point, too. I will always be thankful for what you and your club did for my dad,” she continues.
Shut up, Lisa. My palms are sweating.
I look over at Elena to see her confused and soul glaring expression. Rightfully so, her mind must be going a million miles per second.
In efforts to gather my thoughts on how to dig myself out of this already deep grave, I quickly dismiss Lisa’s thoughts. “Uh, you must be mistaken, Lisa. I wasn’t in charge that night, but you are welcome.” I hope that’s believable.
“No, I saw the patch on your chest. After the bad guys left, someone from your club finally let me out of the car to help put pressure on your wound. I wanted to call the ambulance, but everyone was adamant on not letting that happ -”
“Lisa,” I bark under my breath to stop her from opening a can of rotten worms. I loosen my jaw a bit to compose myself to avoid cracking a molar and then give her a tight smile. This isn’t her fault; it’s not right for me to take it out on her.
I turn to Elena, and I tell her, “We’re leaving. Now.”
Without looking back, I push open the door and walk out to my bike. Elena’s going to have questions; I have to get a story straight here. I gaze over my shoulder and see the two girls chatting -gossiping about me and saying their goodbyes.
I’m in trouble with Elena. She thinks I’m eighteen. She thinks that I’m a new transfer student just like her. How could I have been at Joe’s Tobacco a year and a half ago when I’m somewhat a “new transfer student?”
She thinks that night at Joe’s Tobacco happened when I was about sixteen. I know she’s had questions about everything I poured out to her a couple of weeks ago. She hasn’t asked anything yet, but now she will.
I gotta get my story straight. I need to call Cobra on the way home and figure out a reasonable timeline of when I so-called transferred here.
Dammit. More lies.
I mount my bike when Elena walks out. She gives me a cold stare for a moment before climbing into that Saturn that I made sure had bulletproof protection.
Her father and I wanted her to gain some freedom, to be able to drive away if she wants to, in case she needed to get away from me. I wanted her to have that option, but not without the right kind of shield of protection put in place. He bought the car; I fixed it up and put some touches on it... all the added things that she doesn’t know about yet. Hopefully, she’ll never have to find out what those extras are.
I let her drive in front of me so I can watch all around her vehicle for any dangers that could jump out. Call me paranoid, but that bastard, Marcus, has a backup plan to get Elena. I need to do everything in my power to make sure she isn’t harmed or caught in the crossfires of this war.
Anyone could come up behind her and hit her car to make it spin out. Under the watch of my club and me, they’ll have to get through us first, and I will make damn sure Marcus won’t get through our walls.
With the Bluetooth in my ear, I call up Cobra. After strings of curses, we finally decide on a story that might just work.
She pulls into her driveway as I dismount my bike; she crawls out and slams her car door shut then stomps over to me.
Here we go.
“Michael,” she calls.
“Back to that are we, kitten,” I drawl with a smile as she inches closer. Yeah, I’m in deep shit right now, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.
Elena rolls her eyes and walks past me. “We need to talk,” she throws the comment over her shoulder as she walks to my front door. I like that she’s so comfortable with my house.
I follow her in and watch as she takes off her black Mcdonald’s hat then places it on the table next to a green vase full of obnoxious yellow daffodils that she gifted me. It’s amazing what some bright colors can do to a place. With such a subtle touch like that, it feels more like a home than just a place to past the time until she learns the truth.
I’m not an idiot. The inevitable will come, and she will hate me. The promise I made to her father will be broken because her heart will break.
Maybe I can keep that from happening. If I sparingly use all this time we’re given to show her how much I’m in love with her, then perhaps she’ll understand when she finds out the truth and forgives me. We could live happily ever after. Couldn’t’ we?
It could happen. I could be the man that she deserves, couldn’t I?
She’d forgive me, right? When she does find out, she’ll understand why I had to do it...
With her hands on her hips, looking all cute and determined to pin me down for the truth, she rolls out questions. “Dad said you were a transfer student, like me. When did you transfer here? When did the club take roots in this town? Rose said that she’s known you for a long time, yet how did you not notice Ovid right away if you’ve been so close with Rose? If you are a new transfer in this town, how has Rose known you for so long? What happened to that guy, Scott? How and when did you become the president of a motorcycle club shortly after joining?” She takes in short puffs of air as I stroll towards her.
So many questions. All valid questions, Elena. She must remember Scott’s name from that talk we had a couple of weeks ago.
“Have a seat.” I motion to the couch to give myself a bit more time to think about that lie. Plus, I know her feet must be hurting from being on them all day.
I hate lying to her, but it’s for her own good; for her safety. If I tell her the truth, she’ll leave me – I’m selfish because I’m not ready for that yet. Also, if I tell her the truth now, she’ll be worried constantly, and knowing her, she’d put herself in danger just to protect her dad and me. I can’t let that happen.
She is mine, but she’s also my job -my responsibility.
Elena sits with a huff and waits patiently as I sit next to her. A surprise yip leaves her as I grab her feet off the floor to rest them in my lap. I begin to massage her feet, and instantly she relaxes under my touch. She doesn’t relax completely, because she’s still on guard, but she does give in to my touch.
“I’ve known Rose for a while; a few years. Our paths had crossed quite a bit since our towns aren’t that far from each other. Kids get bored and wander around, get into trouble, etc...” Best to be vague. “I haven’t seen Ovid in a long time. I forgot what she looked like.” That was the truth.
“Just to remind you, I’m from Hinesville, Georgia. It’s not that far north of here, probably fifteen minutes or so. I ran away from home; my mom has moved since then to Shellman Bluff after grandpa passed away. I’ve been in this town for a while before I was forced to attend school again. Scott started the club, not me. He was always here in Ludowici.” All truth. “Since I dropped out of school for a while, Scott insisted on education; otherwise, he’d kick me out of the club.” Again, all truth. I’m on a roll. “I only started school again as a transfer about five months ago,” I lie off the skin of my teeth. “Scott died of a heart attack shortly before.” It’s a lie. He died three years ago.
“But how come you got the president patch and not someone else who’s been there longer than you or given to someone older than you?” she asks, those blue-grey eyes penetrating me. If she looks any harder, she’ll see right through me.
“Scott said that he saw something in me, something that the other men also saw. Loyalty. In the short time I knew Scott, he saw that I always put the club’s needs ahead of my own. It was his dying wish that I take over the club – it was unanimous. The rest of the club agreed,” I answer her honestly as I lightly dig my thumb along the arch of her foot, luring a moan from those sweet lips of hers. With a watchful eye, I see all the stress and tension physically leave her body.
“So, you were president at the time Lisa saw you that night,” she asks it, but it’s a statement.
I take a deep breath. “No.” It’s a straight-up lie. “The vest she saw me wear wasn’t mine. I was still a prospect. I borrowed it - couldn’t find my own. Scott was on a different mission that night and didn’t take his vest with him.” Another lie. I was just shy of twenty-three and was only president of the club for a few weeks.
I’m starting to question my own morals here. Straight up lying to the woman I love, and I’m doing it without breaking a sweat. What does that say about me? My character? What I’m capable of?
Disgusted. I’m disgusted with myself.
I swallow my frustration and self-loathing down a tight throat while I continue to rub her delicate sore feet. Elena sighs, probably from the massage, and also from feeling relief of me putting her doubts to rest.
They rest in vain.
Her foot stiffens, so I look at her out of worry that I may have hurt her, but I didn’t. Her lips part to speak, but she shuts them into a firm line.
“What is it?” I ask her. “I don’t want you to be afraid of asking or telling me anything. I always want you to speak your mind.”
She takes a deep breath. “What happened that night? What wound was Lisa talking about? She said you got hurt but didn’t want to go to the hospital,” her voice shakes with concern as she rubs her palms on her thighs.
Looking away from her, I recall that night. “It was a hot July night, most if not all of the shops were closing. It was dark, and we got a call from Joe saying that some questionable men lurked outside of his shop. He ended up getting the number from another small shop owner that we were able to help.
“Me and my – “I correct myself, “a few men drove over there, but by the time we got there, they bashed one of his windows in and were holding him hostage while they ransacked the place. I was able to talk the punk kids down from doing something stupid; thankfully, they let Joe go. Unfortunately, one of the sadistic punks didn’t like the fact that they were losing money in fancy cigars and whatever was in the cash register. When Joe walked towards us, I saw the gun pull up, and it was aimed at Joe’s back.
“I knew his daughter was in the car, waiting for him at the curb. Lisa’s lucky none of them saw her. One of my brothers guarded her vehicle for her safety. She could see everything; I wasn’t about to let her watch her dad get murdered in cold blood. So, I ran behind him just in time to get the bullet to my chest,” I grimace, telling her the truth.
“Oh my gosh,” Elena breathes with her hand over her mouth in shock. “That scar next to the tattoo on your chest. That’s from that night?”
I give her a curt nod.
She looks down at her hands and fiddles with her nails. She’s nervous, and she always picks her nails when she’s nervous. I pause at rubbing her feet to reach for her hands.
“Tell me what’s on your mind,” I gently ask of her.
She inhales and exhales slowly. “My dad was shot in his chest too. It was from a drug bust gone bad. I almost lost him; if it wasn’t for the surgery, they removed the bullet. It was an inch away from his heart. How is it that you survived without help from a hospital?”
“Ron used to be a medic in the military when he served with Scott. He knew what to do,” I explain. “Even though we donate a ton of blood to the hospitals, we don’t like to take our injuries there. Too many questions, then the police get involved, and it just gets messy.”
Those eyes lift back up to my face, then she unfolds herself to crawl in my lap. Her arms wrap around my neck in a tight hug.
“I’m so glad you’re okay,” she whispers against my neck. I didn’t mean to trigger her tears from the memory that haunts her the most of nearly losing her father. Surely these tears can’t be for me.
My arms hold her tight as I breathe her in. Peaches, vanilla, and something uniquely Elena that I just can’t ever get enough of.
“I am too.”
I try to memorize this feeling. The weight of her warm body on mine, her scent, and her soft skin, knowing deep down there will be a day where she won’t let me near her.
Elena is my light. I just need to lock it up in the darkness of my lies, so maybe, just maybe she’ll never get hurt, and I’ll never lose her. It’s selfish of me, but I want her light all to myself. I glance at the painting over her shoulder on the wall. For what is darkness without light?