Breath of Fresh Air

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Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen -

Brooke stares at me, her hand slowly retreating from the table. “So, you started working for him?”

Immediately my eyes drop to my hands on the table. “Yeah, I did. Almost everyone in town had some business with King. I didn’t know it when I joined who he was working with. Probably best if you don’t know anyway. I was desperate. I planned to only work about a month, maybe two because I wanted to get out of town. Two states over, I heard there was a construction job open for three months. I needed the cash to get there. That’s the thing I didn’t realize, Julio could see a desperate soul a mile away.”

“I’m starting to think something really bad happened,” Brooke trails off, looking at me.

I give her a shrug and turn in the chair. “Actually, things seemed to be working pretty well. Julio hired me as part of his security detail. I was a bodyguard.”

---

Julio King was a man of certain taste. After I showed interest in the job, Julio waited until he told me what the job was. According to him, he couldn’t be sure I wasn’t some cop waiting to bust him. Yet, I couldn’t see a single cop after having met him would turn him in. Julio had a way with words they didn’t show on the mod TV shows. He wore crisp suits, smoked high end Mexican cigars, and had beautiful women at his side every night.

Before I even started working for him, I paid attention unlike his other employees who were addicted to what Julio would give them. Julio liked me because I wasn’t addicted to the mess he was peddling around town. When I first realized that Julio was supplying drugs and had dealers on hand every night, I was skeptical of getting involved. Then I found out the job, body guard detail. I wouldn’t be in charge of drugs or anything like that, I would be in charge of keeping Julio safe.

Julio had seen me deescalate the situation in the bar and thought I was a good fit. He had no idea of the shit I got into in high school. All the fights that I won and lost, more than a few ones I started myself. I wasn’t interested in starting a fight with anyone which is when Julio enticed me with the money. I was determined to only stay on about a month. Then the situation with Marvin escalated to epic portions.

I hadn’t been working for Julio for long. I learned before I ever started working for him, he hated tardiness in his employees. Yet, he was constantly late himself. He always told me it was to find out if his associates were worth his time. If they handle his five minute tardiness, they would do business. According to Julio, his boss had a worst habit of tardiness himself, but hated it in his employees.

I got there early, leaned against the wall of the club. I felt like some stereotypical body guard in the tradition tight black shirt, black jeans, and even black boots. I was smoking a cigarette when one of the men working with Julio nodded toward me. He walked inside before me, as usual. I had to stay outside and wait on Julio while everyone else got to warm up in the club. We always arrived early, ahead of Julio, even before most of the customers arrived for the club.

Julio arrived only ten minutes ahead of the main club opening. His large SUV pulled up, he stepped out in a furry black coat, his pinstriped suit tailor made.

“Ashford, right on time as always.” His lips curved into a smirk, shaking up his coat. I pinched the cigarette between my fingers, dropped it, and stomped it out. “Thought about finding a more permanent place?”

Julio was fishing. He wasn’t exactly subtle about it, something he lacked in my presence. Sometimes I almost sure Julio considered me more of a friend than anyone else in his group.

“Still lookin’.” I gave him my own smirk to which he deflated.

“I’ll entice you eventually, Ashford. Just you wait and see.” I wish I could say in the end that I took the money and eventually left, but that were the case, I wouldn’t be on the run. I opened the door for Julio, and we walked in together. Even under the dim flashing lights of the club, I was on alert. My eyes drifting from corner to corner, face to face. Not a single one I recognized until we came to the VIP section. One of the women took Julio’s coat and he shook the hands of everyone at the table.

I stood next to him most of the night. When the conversation would turn serious, he’d call me off. That’s one thing I began to notice about Julio. If I didn’t want to stay long term at his side, I didn’t get to know too many details of his business. It was either about me or the fact that I was so new. Maybe he still didn’t trust me, but I never got that vibe from Julio. I happened to be at the bar when it first happened. One of the girls at the table with Julio’s partner, something that didn’t stick around long enough for me to remember his name, accidentally knocked over a drink.

Julio was immediately annoyed, but I could tell he really enjoyed how the girl tried to clean it up. While Julio was distracted by the situation with the girl, a commotion started in the center of the club. I tore my gaze away, just because I wasn’t at his side didn’t mean I didn’t have a job to do. I stood, tossed the cash on the table for the drink, and headed back toward Julio. He hadn’t called me back, but I had a bad feeling about the situation on the dance floor.

That’s when I looked and saw him. Marvin’s lips lifted the same time as the gun. My eyes were wide and I realized he wasn’t pointing the gun at me. Marvin was a dead man walking, he knew it, and he was going to take Julio down with him. I moved as fast as I could even before he fired the shot. Julio looked as I stood in front of him and grunted as the shot pierced my skin. The entire club started screaming, the girls at the table cowering underneath the table. Julio stood, grabbed me before I could fall.

“Where did it hit?” Julio asked loudly, over the shouting and screaming around us.

“Shoulder,” I managed between gritted teeth. He cursed under his breath. He looked up at my shirt, saw the blood turning a dark red, but I knew what he wasn’t saying that was all over his face. There was no exit wound.

“Meuris!” Julio yelled toward the other guard, who covered himself to keep it a secret that Julio had at least three guards. Meuris was a large man but also quiet. He always sat with the group, paying attention to those that were close to Julio. I was the guard paying attention to the crowd and the third guard, I never met who was probably at the front door. “We need to get him to Max!” Julio screamed. Meuris noticed the blood, his eyes wide. He immediately took my arm from Julio’s neck and wrapped it around his own.

The entire club was a mad house but thankfully since Julio had a deal with the owner, we were escorted out the back door before the cops could arrive. They eased me into the SUV where I passed out.

---

Brooke’s eyes widened. “You were shot?” The disbelief in her voice is loud. Though something else lingers underneath. I haven’t heard it in a while besides from my mother.

“Yeah,” I nod, reaching back to tap my right shoulder blade. “Got the scar to prove it.”

She pushed up from the table, walking around toward me. “Show me. Let me see.”

“Julio’s guy didn’t exactly have a medical license, but he had experience. Learned the hard way on the streets apparently. He managed to get the bullet out, stop the bleeding, but the scar is pretty horrendous.” I warn her as I help her lift the back of my shirt. I can feel the heat from her hand as the shirt lifts slowly to reveal the gunshot wound. I hear her gasp the moment she sees the mark. “I know it’s hideous. Probably looks worst than it was.”

It’s my turn to gasp when her fingers hesitantly brush across the mark. “It looks like he butchered you.”

I chuckle dryly tracing the edge of the table. Her hands on my skin are causing unusual tingles in my body. My pants become tighter as I try to think of anything else beside her fingers on me. “I can’t say much to that. Might have, but I was under some enhanced anesthesia and Julio made sure when I got there, they got me drunk. Took almost a week before I could move without too much pain. A week long bender on alcohol. Took me a long time to get out of that.”

“Why in the world would you do something like that? For a person like that?”

I twist around in the chair, letting the shirt fall back into place. “It was a job, but it was more than that. I couldn’t just let a man die no matter how bad he may be or what he’s done. I couldn’t just sit by and watch. Not to mention, saving Julio’s life, he owes me. If Julio hates one thing, it’s owing someone.”

Brooke looks at me. “I don’t get it. What does that mean?”

I sigh, trying to think of the right words. “In Julio’s line of work, in the drug trade and everything, it can’t be known that he has a weakness. Julio doesn’t like to owe someone. When I saved his life, he felt he was in my debt. After that night, things changed in a way that made me stay with Julio and not go for the construction job.”

Brooke held her arms to her chest. “He gave you more responsibility, more money. Involved you in more of the business.”

I merely nod. “The money was too good to walk away from. I couldn’t, not after living in my truck so long and practically starving myself on a good day. Julio became my friend and when certain jobs opened up, I even helped him along. I did things I’m not proud of and even more that brought me to where I am now.” The words flew from my mouth before I could catch them.

“Where you are now?” Her eyebrows rose as she stares at me. There’s a bit of curiosity in her eyes, but also a bit of worry. “Is that why you’re really here, because of them?”

I sigh, turning away from her, rubbing my hands over my face. “Yes, they are one of the reasons.” I drop my eyes, looking at her. She narrows her gaze at me before looking away and walking around the table. She shows her back to me shaking her head.

“Explain, please.” There’s a crack in her voice that makes me want to crawl into a hole.

“I didn’t tell you about Alonzo Saldivar, Julio’s employer and a Mexican cartel boss.”

She swirls around, eyes wide. “Mob boss?! What the hell?”

I grin, shrugging a bit. “Told you, I didn’t tell you.”

---

Even four months after the gunshot, a flash of pain would occasionally blast through. The only thing that seemed to ease the pain from the nerve damage enough was plenty of alcohol. On serious nights when Julio was up to his eyeballs catering to clients, he’d wave me off. He grew much more lax with my version of watching him. Not to mention he took my advice to heart and put his own men at the front, back, and side doors. Another dissed employee or client would not get a chance to kill him again.

Plastering myself drunk, I found a woman on the dance floor. Her kisses were sloppy, but at least she could put her mouth to good use. My fingers threaded in her hair as her tongue danced along the side of my cock. My head fell back against wall enjoying her technique. Grunting, she began to suck harder, using her hands to take up the path she couldn’t fit in her mouth.

“Fuck!” I muttered as I began to unload into her mouth. When I came down, the last shudders fading away, she looked at me with a dizzy smile. She wiped er lips with the side of her hand as she stood up on shaky legs. I avoided kissing her which made her pout. “Sorry, baby. Not my style. Thanks for the BJ.”

She was so drunk she didn’t take the dis for what it was. She drunkenly walked back out of the men’s restroom, the smile wide on her face. I quickly put my dick back into my pants before leaving the restroom. The club was loud and bodies dancing everywhere. I heard loud voices at the bar and headed in that direction. Of course the voices were chanting, “Chug, Chug,” repeatedly reminding me of a drinking game from high school.

“Think your boss is looking for you,” the bartender, Darius said, cleaning a glass behind the bar. He certainly was a better a bartender than I ever was. I turned around, spotted the VIP section and saw Julio looking in my direction. I nodded toward Darius before pushing off. A wince pulled at my lips as I tried to move my shoulder a bit. The alcohol was beginning to ware off.

“Ashford, there you are,” Julio stood to his feet. He buttoned a couple buttons at the center of his suit jacket. He looked at me and the pointed stare of his told me all I needed to know. He was about to introduce me to someone more important than himself. I discreetly wiped myself off, trying to look presentable.

“Who’s your friend, King?” The condescending tone didn’t go unnoticed by anyone in the room. Julio stepped aside and I saw the man that pushed himself to his feet. His suit was dark black, red tie hanging from his neck. He was dark skinned, around the same complexion as Julio, but I didn’t see any resemblance in them. This man had a Spanish accent and his dark eyes command the entire room.

“Ashford, this is my colleague, Alonzo Saldivar. Alonzo, this is my latest bodyguard, and the man who saved my life three months ago, Ashford Rocks.” I reached out and we shook hands. His grip was tight and the moment we met, I knew he’d wind up being my downfall.

---

“He’s the reason they are after us?” Brooke asks, sitting on the edge of the bed. I can see the exhaustion plaguing her eyes. She’s withholding a yawn trying to act cool.

Pushing out of the chair, I move to stand at her side. “Alonzo is a man that no one has ever crossed. I only worked with Julio another month before I decided that I wanted out. I told Julio, but I didn’t know at the time. No one leaves.”

Brooke looks up, her eyes meeting mine. “No one leaves?”

“Nope.” I shake my head, pushing up on my knees. “How about I tell you the rest tomorrow? You need a good night’s sleep after the information overload.”

She looks between myself and the bed. Then her eyes settle on the chair. I laugh at her expression which only makes her cheeks flush. “Don’t worry, Brooke. You can have the bed. I’ll take the chair.”

Biting her lip, she stands moving to the side of the bed. “Do you have anything in that bag I might be able to sleep in?”

I nod, unzipping the bag and moving through the different shirts. I know my shirts will probably be big on her but the idea of her in my clothes. Damn, I thought I was getting rid of that.

“This should work.” I toss a gray v-neck in her direction. She catches it looking at it for a moment before nodding.

“This will do.” She gives me a small smile before disappearing into the bathroom.

While she’s gone, I remove my shoes and move the chairs together so that they are close together. Grabbing the remote for the flat screen, I turn it on to a local news channel. I’m turning out the lights when the bathroom door opens once again. I glance over my shoulder to see Brooke standing in the doorway of the bathroom. The shirt comes down just above her underwear. At the sight of the tiny piece of cloth, most likely a thong, I quickly turn my head.

Damn, I’m near full mass at this point. The image is seared in my brain as she moves from the bathroom toward the bed. I don’t even turn around until she pulls the cover down and climbs in.

“Hope you don’t mind about the bathroom light. I’m used to the street light in my bedroom at home.”

I shake my head, swallowing past the sudden dryness of my throat. “No problem. Doesn’t bother me.” Light never bothered me while sleeping, but noise was always a sure sound alarm.

Brooke climbs the cover turning on her side. “Goodnight.” I smile at her voice as I sit down in the chair. My arms fold across my chest as I attempt to get comfortable. The hard chairs prove more difficult as I try to concentrate on the TV. Eventually the sound of Brooke’s gentle breathing from the bed lulls me into a fit-full sleep.

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