My sister has been pestering me for the last hour, making sure I wouldn’t back out on her invite to go to a party tonight. “Hey Lace, you ready?” Lauren called out.
My reflection stared back at me from the bathroom mirror , placing a rubber band at the end of my thick braid. I leaned in towards the mirror, a sigh escaping my lips, the bags under my eyes were evidence of my many sleepless nights.
Tucking and untucking my dark blue button downs shirt nervously, I looked down at my faded ripped blue jeans. ‘It’s only a backyard party’ I told myself, ‘nothing to get fancied up for.’ I hated crowds, heck I hated being around people period. Opting to leave my shirt untucked, I shoved my feet into a pair of black biker boots, with my worn leather jacket in hand I made my way up the stairs from my room in the basement.
“Wow, Lace, You look freaking great.” my sister squealed and pulled me into a hug. “I’m so glad you’re coming out with me tonight .’ I shot her a quizzical look, how could she even be acting surprised after the constant badgering all week. Shaking my head I took in her beautiful dress then looked back at my own attire feeling a bit underdressed. “God you’ve been cooped up in this house for far too long,” she continued. “it’s about time we got out and had some fun together.” My mind was still focused on my clothes and whether or not I should redress, before I could decide Lauren grabbed me by the arm and tugged me towards the front door.
Snatching up the keys to my black Audi R8 on the way, I begrudgingly let her lead me to the door. “I know you’ve probably gone through a lot these past years. but just think, this could be your chance for a fresh start,” she gave me a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. If I had known sooner.... .”
“It’s ok sis, it wasn’t your fault.” I grabbed her hand and gave her a reassuring smile. “Thank you for being patient with me and for letting me stay with you.” I knew she was referring to my last relationship, and reason for the many years I’ve been absent from her life, since joining the Marines.
“You know I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve missed this.” She pointed between us. “And know from now on I will always be here for you.”
“ I’m sure I’ll love it here in Chicago, eventually .” I lied knowing ,no matter where I go or where I’ve been, my past always haunted me.
She smiled at me, “I’m positive you’ll be able to tackle this big bad city in no time soldier.” She punched my arm as I started the car. “Oh, and I’m so excited, you’ll finally get to meet Amelia in person.” she clapped her hands together like a five year old and bounced happily in her seat.
The highway was relatively clear for a Friday night. Surely most were heading into the city for a night out while we were headed in the opposite direction, to a birthday party for my sister’s coworker and best friend Amelia.
While driving I had time to reflect on my life. It’s been only a few months since I’ve been discharge from the marines. After completing six years of service I was ready for the change and happy to take up my sisters offer to move in with her. Besides a good friend had a job lined up for me before I got here.
There were many reasons for joining the military right after high school. One reason was it took me away from my stepfather who was always abusive toward me. of course he especially didn’t like the fact that I was a lesbian.
It was also supposed to be a way to help forget the horrible events of that night. The night that led to the loss of the one person I ever loved. Unfortunately it led me to become reckless. Lucky for me though I was paired with a unit and captain, I will forever be grateful for.
“ We’re coming up on the turn,” Lauren said pulling me from my thoughts.
After a quiet forty-five-minute drive, I turned onto a long driveway and towards the small mansion. My eyes widened in amazement as I took in the beautiful structure. “Why is this Amelia working at the newspaper with you again?”
“It’s her boyfriend’s home. Well, his parents’ home actually. Senator and Mrs. Richmond” she explained.
I drove past the valet and backed my car up in the first available space to avoid having to hand my keys over to them. Following my sister to the door, we were greeted by a man in a white tux. “Are we supposed to dress up?” I whispered to Lauren as we were led through the foyer.
“Oh, come on you look great! I’ll have to beat the women off you with a stick” she grinned as she looped her arm on to mine and tugged me forward through the main floor. We followed our well-dressed guide through a large room and out the double glass doors.
There was a stage set up with a live band. The guest, all who looked to be around our age were already bumping and grinding on each other on the dance floor set below the stage. “God, this is going to be a long night’
I took in my surroundings, Multiple strings of tiny twinkling lights adorned the shrubs and trees around the area. This gave the staggered setup of tables enough light to have a cozy feel of those upscale, outdoor restaurants I’ve seen in magazines.
Lauren continued to guide me, leading us to the open bar where she ordered a rum and coke. I settled for a beer. Released my arm she waved to a group of her friends before heading over to them, allowing me to slip away into the shadows. I watched as she turned to smile at me before turning her attention back to the table. She knew I didn’t care much for crowds.
There were sixty or more people here mingling and having a good time. I stuck to the perimeter of the party attempting to avoid most of the guests. I had come to a stop near the dance area when a tall blond guy walked over. He looked like he had spent an excessive amount of time in the gym, and even more time in a tanning salon.
He walked over with two beers in hand and a grin on his face. “Hey beautiful, are you a friend of the birthday girl?” he asked.
“Friend of a friend” I replied with a short answer, hoping he’d get the hint I wasn’t interested. Ignoring him I glanced around and turned back to watch the people on the dance floor.
“I’m Brad, I saw you standing here alone and thought I’d bring you a refill.” He held out a beer.
“Thanks, but I’m good,” I showed him my drink. “Excuse me, I need to go find someone,” I said as I started to turn away.
I felt a hand grip my elbow. “What’s your deal, I was trying to be polite,” he said, roughly turning me towards him. Clenching my jaw I looked down at the hand gripping my arm and tilted my head to the side . My brows arched in question feeling my anger starting to rise.
He pulled me closer to him as a cheerful voice interrupted us, “There you are! I’ve been looking for you everywhere for you.” Lauren said as she walked up and stood next to me. “Hi, and who might you be?” my sister asked the creep who was still gripping my arm.
“I’m Brad,” he answered smugly while loosening his grip. “We were just getting to know each other.”
“Well, it was nice meeting you Brad, but I’ll need to steal my sister for a moment. We’ll see you around.” She gave him a fake smile and pulled me along with her.
“Looks like I saved him just in time” my sister snickered as we stopped at the bar once again. She knew with my past I didn’t like being manhandled and the situation could have turned ugly very fast.
I kept quiet, trying desperately to rein in my emotions. My sister handed me a beer while she attempted to remove the empty one from my grip. “Take a deep breath Lace,” she instructed. I breathed in and allowed myself to relax once again as I slowly released the air from my lungs. My grip on the empty beer bottle eased as the tension left my body, allowing Lauren to take it from my hand. “Better?” she asked. I nodded and took a sip from the drink.
Lauren led me to an empty table , I slid back her chair and did the same for myself taking a seat next to her. I looked out on the dance floor in front of us, This was a lot more crowded than I anticipated. A nudge caught my attention as my sister pushed a plate of food in front of me. “Here, I got you something to eat.” she smiled.
“Thanks, Sis for the food and for. . . You know.” I motioned towards the direction we came from.
She laughed. “He’s the one who should be thanking me for saving his life.” I smiled and shoved a spoonful of mash potatoes into my mouth.
We sat in silence for a while, I watched the people on the dance floor once again as I ate. Off in the distance was Brad. The sight of him made my blood boil. He stood boisterously as he talked to a couple of men before they sauntered off towards the mansion. Trying to ignore him I gazed back to the swaying movements before me.
My heart stopped, emerging from the sea of bodies, that were lost in the rhythm of the music, was the most stunning redhead I’d ever laid eyes on. A gorgeous smile graced her face as she briefly acknowledged the people she passed.
I could not tear my eyes away from the graceful movement of her slender, yet curvaceous body as she walked towards us. I continued my visual worship, my eyes moving upwards from her high heeled covered feet, up and over her form-fitting black dress. I bit my lip as I took in the sexy arch of her neck line and the plumpness of her lips. Which to my liking, were once again parted in that radiant smile. A pair of deep emerald green eyes locked onto mine.
I was pulled from my daze, when a finger gently pushed up on my chin closing, my mouth, I had not realized I was gawking. My sister leaned over and whispered, “You’re drooling Lace” She let out a chuckled before standing to pull the woman into an embrace. .
When her angelic voice addressed Lauren, I forced myself to look away and back to the crowd in an attempt to ease the heat of embarrassment I felt on my face. I was tuned into their conversation enough without looking at them to find out that this beauty was Amelia.
Lauren tapped me gently on my shoulder to get my attention. “Hey Lace, I want to introduce you to the birthday girl and a very good friend of mine, Amelia Watson. Amelia, this is my baby sister Lacey.” Lauren always introduced me as her baby sister, even now when I towered over her five-foot-six-inch frame by a good five inches.
Amelia reached out to shake my hand and I stood there like an idiot staring at it. Nervously, I glanced at my sister. Amelia probably sensing my hesitation, dropped her hand, but kept her smile, “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Lacey. I hope you’re enjoying the party.” I nodded as Lauren linked arms with Amelia and suggested they go to the bar for some drinks.
Letting out a breath, I slouched into my seat once again as they excused themselves. My eyes lingered on the redhead, ‘Amelia.’ I whispered wanting to feel the sound of her name on my lips. The two were greeted shortly at the bar by a familiar creep, Brad. I watched as he tried sweet talking them. He grabbed their drink from the bartender before handing it to them. I shot up from my seat without thinking and rapidly made my way to my sister, grabbing the drink from her before she could take a sip.
My sister looked at me just for a second, with words unspoken she knew my reason. Once more she linked her arm through Amelia’s and excused themselves from Brad. He stood there scowling at me as Lauren grabbed my arm on the way, pulling me with her to avoid the pending confrontation.
Once we were away from Brad I whispered in Lauren’s ear as I glanced at the drink in Amelia’s hand. Just as she lifted it to her lips. Lauren caught hold of her hand and took the glass. “I’ll explain later,” she said handing me the drink, which I wasted no time in discarding it into the nearby trash can.
I turned to watch Brad’s expression as the drink was tossed. Knowing I shouldn’t play into his games, I just couldn’t help the smirk I let slip at the angry expression on his face as he slammed his drink on the bar and disappeared into the crowd.
Lauren and Amelia chatted for a bit longer while I sat and watched the crowd. Then the birthday girl excused herself to mingle with her other guests. Lauren explained Brad was the brother of Amelia’s boyfriend. Maybe I was just overreacting earlier, but that man just seemed a bit off.
“I’m sorry Lauren, it’s just...” I tried to explain. “There’s just something about him I can’t place.”
She rubbed my shoulder and gave me a small smile. “It’s fine Lace, he gives me the creeps too.” She then pointed to Amelia, who was standing next to a guy who looked like Brad with fewer muscles and not sporting that fake tan like his brother. “That’s Amelia’s boyfriend, Thomas.”
I felt a little jealous as I watched Amelia lean into Thomas. He was not really paying attention to her, as he continued his conversation with a man he was talking to and for some reason this angered me. Amelia, there was something about her, how anyone could be distracted by anything going on when she was present was beyond me. He whispered something in her ear before kissing her forehead and walking away with the man, leaving her frowning and standing alone. ‘Such a loser’ I thought.
I couldn’t watch this heartbreaking sight anymore standing to my feet I told Lauren I was heading for a drink. She accompanied me and ordered for two of us. We walked around for an hour while Lauren attempted to introduce me to people. My eyes caught a glimpse of Brad with his arm around a stumbling woman who I could not quite see behind his towering figure.
I watched as he brought the stumbling woman into the mansion. The two men Brad spoke to earlier in the evening followed shortly after. “I need to use the restroom ” I informed Lauren. She led me towards the direction Brad went.
When we entered I saw the two guys slip around a corner and down the hall on the second floor. “The restrooms are the other way.” Lauren pointed out.
“Stay here. Don’t move. , I’ll be right back.” I made my way up the stairs and down the hall. From a room on the right, I heard voices and arguing. I came to stop at the door and listened.
The voices died down a little. But as I turned to leave I heard a muffled cry. I reached for the door handle and slowly, listened once again. Hearing a woman cry the word ‘don’t’ was all I needed. I turned the knob and peered into the room which was dimly lit. Brad and the two men were standing with their backs facing me as I quietly entered the room.
The men hovered over the woman. The one with dark brown hair knelt over her, blocking most of her from my view as he held her arms above her head. His other hand appeared to be firmly pressed over her mouth. Brad had already taken off his pants and was stroking himself. He started tearing at a now familiar looking black dress as the third guy behind him started undressing. ‘Amelia!’
Instinct took over, I knew from experience and the feeling of adrenaline pumping through my veins that my blue eyes would be black as coal.
I swiftly rushed forward and hit the man standing behind Brad in the throat. bringing my knee to his face as he fell forward, dropping him to the floor unconscious. I spun pushing Brad to the side, away from Amelia. A roundhouse kick to the temple sent the other man crumpling over a motionless Amelia.
As I turned I was caught off guard by a punch to the face, causing me to stumble back .“You bitch!” Brad growled as he quickly came forward and wrapped both of his hands around my neck as he began to choke me.
I placed the palms of my hands together, moving my arms in between his, pushing them both upwards as far as I could reach before bringing both elbows down with force. The solid bones of my elbows connected with his forearms causing his grip to loosen. Once I was able to take a step back, I brought my knee up forcefully connecting between his legs. As he dropped to his knees, my foot met the side of his head, which caused him to fall face first into the carpet. Making sure the others were still not moving, I turned my full attention to Amelia.
I snatched the brown haired guy by his collar pulling him off of her and let him fall to the floor. I looked into her eyes as they started to close. ” I got you, ” I whispered. “You’re safe.” I wrapped her in the duvet from the bed, and picked her up in my arms, allowing her head to rest gently against my chest, I opened the door and walked into the hall.
I was met with a confused look from Lauren as I descended the stairs. “I’ll explain in the car, get my keys from my jacket,” I motioned to my right, as we rushed towards the front door we originally came in when we arrived.
Lauren unlocked the car as we made our way to it quickly.. “Get in.” She pulled open the door and slid into the seat. “I know it’s a tight squeeze, but we have to get out of here fast, you’re going to have to hold on to her.” I shifted Amelia into her lap and slid the seat back as far as it would go. Not the perfect time to own a two seater.
I heard a shout from behind us as a shirtless Brad came rushing out of the mansion. “You’re going to pay, bitch!”
I reached between Lauren’s feet into the hidden compartment I had installed in the car and pulled out my handgun. I spun to face the oncoming Brad. He continued his threats, but came to an immediate halt.
“When I get hold of you, you’re going to wish you never met me,” he spewed.
“Whenever you’re ready,” I growled, the adrenaline still coursing through my body.
“Lace let’s go please” Lauren pleaded. “Lacey please.”
“He should pay for what he tried to do,” I said with the gun held tightly in my left hand, my finger itching to pull the trigger. I felt a hand slide into my right one, causing a calming tingling sensation to flow through my arm. I turned my head slightly while keeping Brad in my peripheral and the gun still trained on him. I found Amelia now conscious.
“Please,” she whispered. She gently squeezed my hand before releasing it. I nodded to her as her eyes started to close again. I stepped forward and closed the car door. I held the gun on Brad as I made my way to the driver’s side.
Keeping him in sight I slid into my seat and started the car. A few people exited the mansion causing Brad to turn and walk away. Shifting the car into gear I exited the parking spot slowly. Once we left the estate I stomped on the gas and headed back to Laurens.