“I’m Marshall.” A burly looking dude with long blonde dreadlocks gives the rest of the circle a little wave. “I’m twenty years old, and I’ve been charged with assault fifteen times. I’m finally trying to get a grip on my anger. My counselor says… well, I can’t blame my parents. The first step to recovery is admitting I’m the one to blame, right?” He laughs shakily and scratches the back of his head. “Working on it.”
“Very good, Marshall.” Our counselor, the rather lovely Brooke Levalle, congratulates another new member. Dexter is sitting next to him. “Our next new face here is Dexter. Would you like to introduce yourself?”
“You just did.” He smiles at her, and then glances around the group. He seems as amused as I am. I still can’t believe we’re here. Fucking justice system. “So I’m Dexter. Apparently I have anger issues.” He leans back and curls his arms around the back of his head, casually speaking as if sitting around a campfire. “I beat a guy’s face in with my Les Paul.” There are hushed murmurs around the circle, and Brooke looks a little uncomfortable.
I suppose she figured he’d be more tactful or remorseful about it.
“Thank you, Dexter,” she quickly puts in.
“Seph.” I wave, cutting her off before she can say my first name. “I don’t have anger issues, but my mouth often gets me into trouble. I’m here because I’m the reason Dexter smashed a guy with his guitar.”
More murmurs, and Brooke gets stiffer. A cute redhead sitting across from me giggles, and I wink at her. She giggles again.
“Shit, I’d beat the shit out of a guy for a romp between those stems,” Marshall says, and without missing a beat, Dexter elbows him in the face.
I cover my mouth, barely able to hide the grin bursting on my face.
“Dexter!” Brooke stands up, and Marshall is shaking. He looks like he’s about to turn into the Hulk. She crosses to him and puts a hand on his shoulder. “Marshall, please step out into the hall. Deep breaths.” He stands and she gives him a gentle push towards the door.
“Sorry, some guys need to learn respect.” Dexter shrugs as Brooke turns to him, lips tight. Everyone else seems to be trying very hard not to laugh. Redhead looks like she wants to jump in on some action. I shoot her a sly little smirk and she blushes.
“This is a place of healing.” Brooke crosses her arms. “We’re all trying very hard to avoid violence. I can’t have this kind of behaviour in here.”
“Then can we leave?” I pipe up, back straightening.
“How about you go and wait in my office?” Brooke points to a small door at the back of the room. I sigh, and stand. Dexter laughs.
“Just like high school.” He offers me his arm and we make our way into Brooke’s tiny office, the cackling of our peers following us.
There’s a small couch facing the desk that we perch ourselves on.
“I wonder if they’ll throw you back in jail for failing anger counseling within five minutes.” My grin is like the cheshire cat and he laughs again.
“I shouldn’t be punished for teaching a man how to treat a lady.”
“What are you talking about, Mr. Tease?” I pout.
“You’d better be careful where you stick that lip or it might get bit.” He growls a little and I feel a thrill of adrenaline thrum through my veins. “And I’m not a tease. You’re doing this to yourself. Stubborn.”
“You’re just as stubborn.” I pout even harder and he shakes his head, as if fighting himself. “Plus you won’t bite it unless I ask you to.”
“So ask me.” He leans a little closer to me and I find myself a degree warmer. Is it legal for a man to be this sexy?
“Make me.” I breathe, and he growls again.
This bet is going to kill us both.
The door slams open and Brooke stalks in. Her clicking heels have a no-nonsense gait.
“Looks like you might need anger counseling, Miss Levalle.” Dexter smiles and I shake my head in disbelief at him. What a cocky little prick.
“Thank you for disrupting my session.” She takes a deep breath and sits behind her desk. Her tight little pantsuit moves with her, and she curls her short blonde highlights behind her ears. “I had to send everyone home—they’re all buzzing about Dexter the righteous. I honestly didn’t think you’d be this much trouble. You’d think after being in jail-”
“Miss Levalle. Brooke.” I lean forward purposefully and catch her gaze. “Neither of us needs ‘violence support’. His violence stems from a very basic gentlemanly need to protect people. This was wrongfully accused as a crime, which is why he was let out of jail and forced to come here. No degree of ‘sessions’ is going to cure his instincts, which in my humble opinion, more men should have. So I think your best course of action, unless you want us in here causing general disarray every week, is to put on your sheets that we’re both fine Canadian citizens and send us on our way.”
“You’re unbelievable.” Brooke clenches her jaw. She glances at Dexter, and then at me. She sighs. “And you’re both going to just keep causing trouble, aren’t you?”
He and I share an amused glance. “Most likely.” He says and nods.
Broken. “Fine.” Her lips are so thin they’re non-existent, and she opens a folder on her desk. “If anyone asks, you’re both here for the next year, then you’re better. I don’t want to see either of you again. Ever.” She glares at us, and I blink innocently at her. “Leave.” She points her pen at the door and we both quickly exit.
“Well, that was easy.” I say as we cross the room to the hallway.
Dexter laughs. “Con artist.”