After Jeff took me to jail, I handed myself over and took a plea deal. With the information that Julio had given along with my testimony against Alonzo, the district attorney had agreed on a plea deal. It wasn’t an easy or a hard one and it was actual prison time. To be exact it was a year and six months of prison time. It wasn’t an easy prison sentence even though I got to see my father during that time. To say he was disappointed to see me was an understatement but I felt like I got to know him all over again.
Spending that time away from Brooke was hell though. Whenever she came to visit, I always made sure she was with someone. Either her father, Casey, or Clyde always came with her at my orders. Sometimes she didn’t really like it much, but I could tell she actually appreciated my worry over her safety.
Alonzo is still awaiting trail as things with Mexican Cartel went federal in a hurry. With the feds involved, my sentence was shortened almost instantly. My first sentence was almost twenty years, but with Julio’s help it became less. Even after his death the man was still trying to protect me. Even more than I actually realized at the time.
Pushing up from the bench, I smile at the familiar guard, Ramirez. He got along some inmates but not all, and he could down and dirty with the worst of them.
“Try not to get into anymore trouble, kid. Think it will give your old man a break not seeing you in here too.”
I roll my eyes, grabbing the bag from his hand. “I’m going to do my best. I owe him, yeah, I promise a girl I’d clean myself up. Can’t really make a life with her otherwise.”
He nods escorting me to the exit. “It was nice knowing you, kid. This place is going to be a lot less interesting without you.”
“I’m sure some of the other inmates will give you a run for your money.”
He laughs knowing I’m probably right. Some of the inmates even hook guards in their poker games. Ramirez shouts for the door to open which reveals the long expansive gate at the front of the prison.
“Really, listen to your dad, kid. Savor the time you have with her. It will be gone before you know it. Oh, your dad’s lawyer made sure you got this.” He tosses over a small black box which I quickly grab. Without even looking inside, I drop it into my duffle bag before giving him a hug. He gets choked up before shoving me out the door toward the gate. “Don’t leave that girl waiting.”
I give him a nod turning away from door. When I look down toward the other end of the gate, I can already see her leaning against my truck, or now her truck. My footsteps quicken against the gravel as I make my way to opening gate. Her blonde hair is down her face full of makeup, but she’s my girl. She’s told me that every single day for the past year and a half. Working part time and attending classes at the community college, Brooke has continued to be the woman I know her to be.
She stands in jeans, ankle boots, black jean jacket covering a purple plaid top. Stepping away from the truck, she nearly runs toward me. My bag falls to the concrete as she jumps into my arms. Her mouth covers mine and I groan into her mouth. My arms wrap around her body keeping her close so that she doesn’t fall. It feels nice to hold her in my arms again. It’s been way too long that I’ve held her against my chest.
“Well, somebody missed me.” My voice is husky as Brooke drops to her feet. She grins at me, the blush barely coloring her skin anymore. As much as I once loved that blush that colored her skin, it’s a change to see her more confident in herself.
“What I can’t miss you anymore?” She pouts, poking her bottom lip out adorably.
“You might want to be careful about that, sweetheart.” My voice drops as gaze at her lips. “I just might take that lip and do something with it.”
She merely smirks at me before stepping back. “Promises, promises.” She reaches down grabbing the bag of my things before reaching into her jeans. “Think fast.” Suddenly she throws something at my chest and I instinctively reach out to grab it. Looking down at my hand, the keys to the truck rest in my palm. “Thought you might want to drive her home.”
I nod immediately with a grin on my face. Brooke turns her back on me and I smirk running toward her. I pick her up in my arms enjoying her startled laughter as I carry her all the way to the truck. Thankfully the is already unlocked as I lower her to the seat where she slides across. The bag goes into the floorboard as I climb behind the wheel. Inside, I notice the differences of the truck before I was locked up.
“Looks like someone’s been busy.” My hand runs across the new dash and clean refurbished seats.
Brooke merely shrugs leaning back in the seat. “She just needed to some tender love and care. Told you I’d keep her safe for you.” Brooke lies her head on my shoulder as I start the truck grinning at the purr of her engine. As I leave the prison, Brooke fiddles with the radio making me laugh when the classic rock comes through the radio. Brooke quietly holds my hand most of the drive tracing the lines of my palm.
Her touch is unlike anything I’ve ever felt in my life. It just further cements that we were made for each other. I balance her out and she balances me. We come to her father’s house a bit too soon for my liking but a strange sense of peace washes over me. I put the truck in park as stare up at the house. Jeff has agreed to let me stay with them until I get on my feet for both Brooke and I. He’s been remarkably kind during this adjustment.
When I look back at Brooke, I think about what she’s done for me in the past year and a half. Before I ever agreed to the plea deal, Brooke made sure that mother was taken care of. She once told me when I was twelve that she wanted to be cremated. We didn’t have the kind of money for grave plot, but she told me she didn’t want to be tied to one. She had been during life, why be tied to it during death. Every time Brooke visits she makes sure to remind me of the vase of my mother’s ashes sits in her living room waiting on me. Together in another month, we’re going to visit the ocean where we’ll scatter her ashes together over the place my parents visited where I was ultimately conceived. Mom once said it was her favorite place she’d ever been with the best memories.
“Before we go inside, there’s something I need to give you. I met with your lawyer yesterday who received something a few months ago. I asked them to wait to give it to you.” Brooke reaches over opening the glove compartment. She pulls out a large envelope that I’m surprised even fit in there to begin with.
I raise an eyebrow as she hands it over to me. Running my fingers under the flap, I tear into the letter quickly pulling out the papers. My eyes read across the front and my breath comes out in one rush.
The Last Will & Testament of JULIO KING.
Tears threaten my eyes as I continue reading why it was sent to me. Then the tears fall like rain.
“Is this real?” I ask Brooke after reading. According to the paper, Julio had no kids, no one in the family to leave assets.
Brooke nods, giving me a tiny smile. “According to your lawyer it’s all set. Of course anything dealing with illegal activity was seized by the FBI, but there was a club, your club, that wasn’t tied down by drug money or illegal activity. It’s all yours. Do with it what you want.”
Damn that man. I stare down at the paper overcome with emotion. “That man never told me. I wonder if he changed it before his death.”
“Your lawyer discovered that it was changed within five months of his death. Shortly after you met, I would assume.” Brooke drops her chin to my shoulder, reaching over to wipe my face. “I’m glad you got to know him. Don’t like the circumstances, but I’m glad. He was really kind to you.”
I reach over, kissing her lips once again. In some way I think this is Julio’s way of correcting his own mistakes with his girl that got away. I suddenly fold the papers and shove them into the side pocket of my duffle bag.
“Why don’t we head inside?” I smile down at her to which she nods. She once again takes the bag refusing to let me carry it as we leave the truck. Brooke walks ahead of me toward the door twisting the knob. The moment she looks at me with a wink is a give away.
When I step inside the entire room is silent for only a moment.
My heart pounds at the suddenly burst cheers and light. I immediately start laughing as I look around the room at everyone. Jeffery stands with Casey and his family, Tameka and Barbara with party horns, Penny beside them with party hat that looks more like a magic hat. Then there is Clyde holding up a soda can with a smile followed by Nathan who looks better than his last visit to the prison. Things between Nathan and I will probably never be as they were in high school, but we’ve become good friends. He apologized for his role in hurting both Brooke and myself, he honestly didn’t know about Alisha’s hatred toward Brooke.
I hug almost everyone I can that wants one. Tameka gives me that smile like she wants to pinch my cheeks and tell me what a good boy I am. I can’t thank her enough for all she’s done. It’s also nice to see Penelope becoming friends with the girls she once bullied. According to Brooke it took a little while for all three girls to come around but once they did, they realized that Penelope, as she now prefers, isn’t as bad a girl as she was in high school.
Guess we’re all learning that high school doesn’t define who we actually are. Brooke surprises me with a huge welcome home cake that she apparently had made just for today. We crowd around the living room where I spot my mother’s beautiful vase sitting on a shelf. The sight makes my eyes prickle and Brooke notices, squeezing my hand in hers. A simple kiss to her cheek doesn’t go unnoticed by the room.
“Aww!” Tameka squeals bouncing her legs. “Ashford and Brooke sitting in a tree,” she begins. Brooke immediately jumps to her feet running after her now escaping best friend. While Brooke is otherwise preoccupied, I share a glance with Jeff. IN his eyes I see the same thing I saw when we last spoke at the prison, Acceptance and gratitude. It’s because of his daughter that I’ve grown into a better man and not for one moment will ever take for her granted.
Reaching into my bag, I pull out the black box taking the item out of the center. Dropping it into my pocket, I head into the kitchen to take my dishes. As I clean up my dirty items, Brooke comes into the room rolling her eyes. “You don’t need to do that.” Her voice is close as she drops her dishes into the sink. “I would have gotten that later.”
I scoff shaking my head and turning around. I surprise her by grabbing her waist. She quietly gasps when I pick her up and place her on the counter. “Ford,” she grins with a giggle. Her brown eyes stare into mine and I see the love I saw so long ago.
“You know I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you, my breath of fresh air.” Her eyes widen a little bit as her cheeks darken. “I’ve always thought that about you. I always thought my ashes would corrupt you, but instead you cleaned away the ashes as you blew through my life.” When she looks at my there are tears in her eyes as she shakes her head.
“Ford...” She trails off as my hand dips into my pocket.
Picking up her hand, I squeeze it before holding up the ring between my fingers. Her hand goes up to her mouth as tears pour down her cheeks. “I know this isn’t traditional and it’s less than romantic. I just got out of prison, but even before I went in, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. You, Brooke Baker, are my world, you’re it for me.” She smiles up at me through tears as her hand falls. “Brooke Baker, will you make me the happiest, luckiest man on earth and marry me?”
“Yes, a million times yes!” she yells loudly, pressing her lips against mine. We both laugh together as I kiss the breath from her lips. Thankfully in the months in prison I managed to fully quit smoking. The last thing I wanted was to taste like ash tray on the day I proposed. When she pulls away there’s a bit of fear in her eyes. “Oh, no. You didn’t ask for permission.”
I throw my head back laughing. “You really think I wouldn’t ask. Your dad and I talked about this last month. Remember you bugged us about what he wanted to talk about. We told you it was about living arrangements. It wasn’t only about that.”
She shoves my shoulder with a smile. Looking down at her hand, I slide the ring over her finger as she admires it. “Tt was my grandmother’s on my father’s side. I made sure dad’s lawyer got it to me before I left the prison.”
“It’s gorgeous, Ford.” We share another kiss before footsteps come into the kitchen.
“We all know she said yes. Now, let us see the ring!” Tameka taps her foot on the floor behind us. We continue to kiss ignoring her presence. I feel Brooke lift her hand toward Tameka. “Actually I think you’re going to be doing that with your fiance.” When we pull away, Brooke glares at Tameka but I realize she must have flipped her off.
I step away, helping Brooke from the counter. “I’m going to let you have some girl talk.”
I leave the room just as Casey’s wife, daughter, Penny, and Barbara all enter the kitchen. The last thing I hear are squeals over the beautiful antique ring. Jeff pats my shoulder as I come to stand beside him. Casey sits down next to his son who’s playing on a video game.
“She said yes?” Jeff asks, smirk on his lips.
I jokingly shove on shoulder. “Of course.”
“Listen, Ashford I wanted to talk to you about a potential job with me and Case. You could be another bounty hunter. We could use someone like you.” Jeff holds a glass of soda as he asks. Part of me wants to tell him yes because it’s a sure job with an income. Yet, another part of me knows it isn’t my passion.
“As much as I should, I’m going to have to decline. There’s something I want to do. Julio left me that club, but he knew what I wanted to do. I once told him, I just wanted to do what my dad did. I think with Julio’s money, I just might be able to do that.”
My gaze immediately shifts to blonde beauty gushing with her friends.
SIX MONTHS LATER
After careful thought, I sold Julio’s club just as I suspect he thought I would. There were a lot of good memories in the place, but also bad ones. The company that bought it wanted the land and I was more than ready to sell for the price they were willing to hand over.
“Just a little further,” I tell Brooke, hands over her eyes.
She huffs, walking slowly nearly tip toeing forward. When I told her five months ago that I was going to sell Julio’s club, she was a little hesitant. She knew I wasn’t going to buy a house with it, but she didn’t know exactly what I was doing. In the past six months, I got a couple of part time jobs and spent the weekends on a secret project. Jeff’s been pretty much handling the wedding which is tomorrow, in fact. Neither Brooke or I want a big wedding, no big fuss. Just close friends and family will attend the wedding. Plus, we didn’t want to wait any longer to be married.
Stepping around her, I stand to position her in just the right way. There’s a tiny smile forming on her lips. I know she’s excited, she hasn't stopped asking me in the past few months what the project is about. I’m a little nervous she won’t like it, but Jeff told me that it’s something I love, she’ll love it too. There have been a couple weekends that Jeff came to help with painting up the place too to make sure it was done on time before the honeymoon.
“Alright, are you ready?” I whisper in her ear. She visibly shivers before nodding enthusiastically. Stepping out of her way, I stare at her face as I drop my hands completely. “Okay, open your eyes.”
Her eyes slowly open to look ahead. I follow her gaze to the impressive freshly renovated building. Above writing is in soft white and gray reads “ASH & AIR MECHANICS.” Brooke’s hand covers her mouth as she looks over at me. “You bought a mechanic shop?”
“I converted it. Got the place pretty cheap but spent the money to change it. I know you don’t want to leave your dad and despite our bad past in this town, it’s still home.”
The smile on her face is huge. “I want to see inside. Please?!” She actually bounces a bit on the balls of her feet. She reminds me of a little kid in a toy store. Grabbing her hand, I pull her up to the building unlocking the front door and letting her inside first. The entire color scheme of gray and white continues throughout the building. The garage is massive with almost everything we’ll need. “You know I once thought of you as a puff of smoke?” Brooke chuckles quietly walking around the garage. “Entering and leaving my life so quickly like a puff of smoke that followed you around. Guess I started to think of you as that.”
I grab her wrist as she walks back to me. “No more of that. I’m here to stay Mrs. Rocks.”
She suddenly bites her lip as a grin appears. “I actually like the sound of that,” her arms creep up around my neck, “Mr. Rocks.” She pushes up on her toes kissing me and in my surprise slides her tongue into my mouth. I moan in the back of my throat as she takes my bottom lip between her own teeth. When we pull away, both of our breath is ragged, gasping for the next.
“How about we christen my office?” I offer, eyebrows wagging.
Brooke laughs, but then shyly gives me a nod without saying a word. My smile is wide as I reach down, picking her up and running for my office. When we enter, our clothes fall to the floor and as I gently push her on the desk, I still can’t get over how lucky I am. Teasing her entrance, I find her already soaking wet much to her embarrassment. Taking my finger into my mouth, I suck her juices off, grunting at her taste.
“You get better every time, Brooke.” Taking hold of my erection, I gently press into her while kissing her lips.
My once breath of fresh air is now my everything.
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