Steve rubs the back of his neck with one of his giant hands. “Guess I deserved that. Look can we-” He stops as he hears Aleah’s not so subtle moans of pleasure come from upstairs, even with the TV up this loud. “Are you busy?” He asks with an eyebrow raised.
I cross my arms over my chest and glare at him. “Yeah, I’ve got plans to become part of another threesome this week, that’s what us sluts do right? I’ll ask once more before I use you as a human punch bag. What the fuck do you want?”
He runs his hands down his face before turning to face the roof of the porch and letting out a deep breath. “I’m sorry she said that to you yesterday Brie and I’m sorry I did what I did too. I just-”
I cut him off. “Okay you’ve said your apology, feel better? Can you fuck off now so I can go get some coffee before I fucking pass out from exhaustion. Must be all that sex with strangers I can’t stop having, really knackers a girl out.” I know I’m being a sarcastic bitch right now but this is me reacting to hurt, it ain’t pretty but it is what it is.
“Damn it Brie! I’m fucking trying to fix shit here! It wasn’t exactly the best fucking night of my life either. You want coffee? Fine. Get on and we’ll go get coffee.”
Get on? Suddenly he shoves a helmet into hands and starts walking over towards the gorgeous motorbike parked in my driveway.
“Oh hell no. I don’t ruin my hair for anyone. The last time I put one of these things on it was to go home with a monster of a guy who ended up having a tiny cock, definitely not worth it. We’ll take the bug.”
Steve just smirks over at me. “I promise you I’ll measure up to your standards. Now get on the bike.”
I swear if he wasn’t so fucking gorgeous I’d hit him. I walk straight past him and go for the bug only to feel him grab my wrist to pull me back. This guy is now getting on my last nerve! “I am not getting on that fucking bike. You’re the one who wants to talk to me, I’m good getting drive thru Starbucks and sitting down by the sea alone so..”
He has a decision to make here but I have a feeling he’s just as stubborn as I am, neither of us willing to back down. He stares at me with a hard look but I just stare back. “You’re infuriating, do you know that?”
Yep. “Damn proud of it. So you gonna let me drive?”
I don’t even understand what happened. One second I’m absolutely getting in the bug, the next he’s whipped me off my feet and manhandling me onto the fucking bike! Then he said those words – ‘Are you scared?’ – My damn pride that’s what happened.
That’s how I find myself cruising down the front of the bay on the back of this damn thing with my arms wrapped tightly around him... okay that bit isn’t so bad.
The wind hitting my body actually feels amazing, I’ve always liked being on the back of a bike. Granny called them ‘moving organ donation bikes’ and told me to stay away whilst I was growing up, so of course I dated bikers exclusively until I was seventeen. It’s crazy how a bit of fresh air can change your entire perspective on things.
The bay is calm, the water peaceful. As we pull into a space opposite Kelly’s I feel the salty ocean air grace my tongue. I come here a lot now, it brings me a sense of tranquillity.
Jumping off the bike my hands start to feel empty not braced against his solid hard chest, the rhythmic beat of his heart matching the drum of the engine. I’d felt him shudder under my touch a few times on the ride but with the nip in the air I couldn’t be sure. I pull off the helmet and check my hair in the little mirrors he has at the front, starting to twirl each curl back into its rightful position.
“You look fine Brie.”
“Of course you’d say that, you’re probably like Josh and think everything looks fine on everybody. Do you know last year I had my dress tucked into my underwear for like 40 minutes at a frat party because when I asked him if I looked okay he didn’t even notice?”
Steve bursts out laughing. “I’m sure there were no complaints... You’re going to take a while there right? I’ll go get the coffees.”
“I want mine black and-“
“Sweet. I remember.” He smiles, throwing his keys up in the air and catching them before turning for Kelly’s.
That guy is.. trouble. Not Antonio trouble, not Connor trouble but still, trouble.
I finish getting my hair back to some semblance of normality, looking to see Steve near the front of the queue. He’s not exactly hard to miss.
Following the path I balance on the block heels of my boots as I make my way to my favourite spot over here, a massive flat rock in the centre of a cobbled pool of water. Most people avoid it because its so far out and they don’t like getting wet but I like being alone when I come here so it’s become my little sanctuary.
The air is cooler this afternoon than it has been, I’m usually quite oblivious to that type of stuff, having practically worn next to nothing my whole life come rain or shine, but I haven’t been sleeping well the last few nights and I think it’s taken its toll on my body.
I’m grateful when Steve finally spots me and comes over carrying a very large hot coffee. Stepping straight through the water and perching himself on the rock next to me. We don’t talk straight away, happily staring out at the crashing waves.
He notices the goosebumps on my arms. “Brie you’re cold, take my jacket.”
I almost want to laugh. “Nah I’m good. I’m not the kind of girl that gets all bubbly taking a guys letterman like a claim he can piss all over her with. The coffee will do its job.” Taking another sip of the rich warm goodness. “So, you said something about an apology?”
He smirks turning to face me. “Pretty sure I already did that... Look, what she did, it wasn’t okay and I’m sorry I took it out on you. I just didn’t want to believe she’d do something like that to me again. After the guy she was with realised who I was he kind of confessed everything. It’s not easy to walk away from something with so much history Brie... I have now though, no going back this time.”
I’m not even mad about what she did, or how he reacted. It was the way he looked at me. Like I was some scummy cow who was out to hurt his girl. “You didn’t deserve that Steve, if you say you’re going to be with someone you should just be with them. That’s kind of the whole point of a relationship. Why did you even take her back if she’s done that to you before?”
He takes another sip of his coffee before leaning back on his hands and staring out at the sea. “She’s kind of all I had left of my life before this place. We dated for a bit when we were kids and when I came here for college she was the only person I knew there, she was the only person that remembered my mum too. It just wasn’t easy to walk away. We did split for like a year but then she got thrown out of her parents place and turned up at mine, things just grew again from there. Stupid thing is I’m not sure I ever truly even liked her as a person, I just liked what she reminded me of.”
I hadn’t realised Steve didn’t grow up here, I hadn’t even realised him and Josh had different mums until last night. Josh told me Steve’s mum passed away but wouldn’t give many more details than that. “What about your Dad? He must remember your mum, can’t you talk to him about her?”
Steve’s hands curl up into balls against the rock, his knuckles white. “What did Josh tell you?”
Shit. Okay tread very fucking lightly here Brianna. “Nothing really. He said it wasn’t his story to tell, he just said you lost your mum but that you’re the best fucking brother he could wish for. You don’t have to tell me anything else, I’m not going to pry into your life babe.”
Steve relaxes slightly at the mention of Josh, he clearly loves him. “I’ll tell you if you promise not to get all weird about it or start looking at me with pity or some shit.”
Maybe we are a lot alike. “Promise. Pity isn’t something you’ll get from me easily anyway.”
He smiles at my words. “Yeah, you give off that impression. My Dad and Mum were married right out of high school, had me pretty quickly afterwards and everything was great. Until I was five. I came home one day from school and everything me and my mum owned were in boxes outside. We found out that he’d been having an affair with his secretary for months and now she was pregnant, so they were going to be a family. He literally replaced us overnight.”
Oh shit, so I’m guessing that’s where Josh came from then. “My mum couldn’t cope, started drinking and other stuff then finally committed suicide when I was twelve. I’d only ever seen my father three times in all those years but I’d never even met Josh. They decided they wanted me to go live with them, which I did for a little bit, but I just couldn’t stand looking at that woman. Josh was different, he had so much love about him. I ended up moving in with my aunt two states over when they said they couldn’t cope with me. She passed away from breast cancer right when I was heading off college so I came back here to be by my brother. I made sure to stay in touch with Josh growing up, he wasn’t to blame for anything – he was innocent.”
Fucking hell. I didn’t expect any of that. “Steve I’m so fucking sorry about your mum, and your aunt. Your dad’s a prick.”
He laughs deeply but still won’t turn to face me. “Yeah he is. They invite me every year for Christmas and all that shit but it’s just out of curtesy, they don’t actually want me there. I haven’t seen him since I left for my aunts. Me and Josh would meet up when he was a teenager and I’d just take him for McDonald’s or something until I got my own place and he started crashing with me on weekends. He’s my family now.”
Shits been really rough for this guy hasn’t it? “Well keep it that way. I know how easy it is to fall back in with the familiar, believe me, but that girl isn’t your future babe so leave her in the past. You’ll find someone worthy of you, I know you will, but you won’t be able to actually have them if you’re still attached to that girl so walk away. For good.”
For the first time since we’ve sat here our eyes meet. His are so intense, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look like that before. His rugged beard drifting slightly in the breeze as his jaw clenches but just as quickly as it came it goes. He turns back away from me to face the sea.
I drink half my coffee filling the silence, and my freezing body, before he talks again. “So you and Mr moneybags, that’s been going on for a few years now yeah?”
Mr moneybags? “Do you mean Antonio? No that’s a... recent revival let’s say. I’m surprised you even remember him, he only came into the strip-club a few times to see me.”
Steve smirks. “I took a special interest in the guys coming to see you. He seemed to back then as well... Plus from the way the receptionist at Paradise reacted when you guys went in I’m guessing he’s a top player there.”
I really don’t want to talk about Antonio right now. “How many jobs do you actually have? Josh said you do computers or some shit.”
He looks down at me chuckling. “Do computers? I’m a software programmer but I’m part of a start up so we’re only launching our first thing this week. If we take off I’ll be able to quit at Paradise but I’ll still keep fighting, couldn’t give that up if I tried.”
I almost choke on my coffee. “Fighting? Like boxing?”
He shakes his head. “MMA. Been doing it since I was fifteen, there’s killer money if your willing to put in the work but I only really do amateur stuff. It’s a good way to let loose.”
Rolling my eyes hard I look back at him. “Only a fucking guy would think letting yourself get kicked in the head would be a stress reliever.”
He lets out a big belly laugh. “Honestly the chick’s there are worse than the guys, I’d invite you to my match but I’m not sure how you are with blood and watching people in pain.”
Is this fucker for real? “Bitch I did fifteen years of ballet, have you seen what ballerinas put their bodies through? I’d take a cage fight any day over balancing for eight hours on blocks. My feet still look like they’ve been put through the meat grinder. Jesus Christ I’ll never understand why men think women can’t handle blood, we see more of it every month than you dicks do in a lifetime. Tell me where it is and I’m there.”
He smirks. “Sure thing beautiful, just no trying to get inside the cage and pin the fucker hitting me to the wall like last night. If I’d known you were that tough I would’ve got you a job as a bouncer at the square room instead.”
I laugh. “I bet the tips wouldn’t have been as good though.”
“You got me there. Although you just did better than most, loads of the girls tried to get you sacked you know? I had to cover for you. Can’t blame them, whenever you walk into a room nobody else gets noticed. You were always better than that place...”
I finish my tiny drops of coffee, not sure how I feel about the fact he fought for me back then, he barely even knew me. “It made ends meet. I kept food on the table, that’s the important thing. Sometimes I think I should’ve stayed, it was easy and I could walk away and forget about it when I was done for the night... but it wasn’t who I am really... I’m not even sure who that is anymore.”
A particularly cold breeze rushes past me and with no coffee left to keep me warm I feel the shudder pass through to my soul. Steve doesn’t miss it, pulling off his black leather biker jacket and placing it around my shoulders. “I said I don’t need you to-”
“Yeah I heard you, I’m just choosing to ignore you because it’s stupid to be cold when you don’t need to. You’re really stubborn you know? It wouldn’t kill you to let people help you Brianna.”
I want to scoff. “You don’t know that.”
The wind travels again but now it doesn’t hit me, I guess having his jacket on isn’t so bad but I’m still going to pretend I’m pissed, can’t let these dudes think they’ve won even once. Although the way his smell is making me feel so comforted is both parts happy and disturbing.
We sit for a bit longer, the waves crashing into the sand and retreating back into infinity. I notice a single solitary wave that makes its way in a slightly different rhythm to the others and it makes a smile come across my face.
“When we came here to scatter Harleys ashes, his mum said she wanted him in the ocean so he could finally see the world. I’ve sat on this spot so many times just talking to him, waiting to see what sign he sends me next to let me know he’s still here. I don’t think Josh would’ve survived losing him without you. I can’t imagine what you went through as a kid but thank you for not blaming him, he needs you.”
I can’t look at him but without warning I feel his arm reach around and pull me into his body, my head resting so easily against his shoulder it’s almost too perfect. “Thank you Brie. I hope he realises how lucky he is to have you too.”
Of course he bloody does.