Chapter 5: Found
Serena made a sound of protest and tried to wrench her head away from Nathaniel’s demanding mouth. He continued to press her up against her car door and kiss her against her will. Equal parts rage and fear burned through her veins as he pulled away and stared at her with aroused, heavy-lidded eyes.
“What did I tell ya?” he gloated. “Knew you’d like it.”
Serena shifted slightly to regain a better stance before bringing one of her knees up and swiftly kicking him in the groin.
“Fuck!” Nathaniel shouted as his hands flew off Serena and onto the front of his pants. As he staggered to the side, Serena scurried around to the other side of her car and ripped her pepper spray out of her purse. Nathaniel’s eyes widened at the sight, all traces of pleasure gone just as quickly as they appeared.
The words bubbled up out of Serena on their own accord, the rage too hot to control. “Are you fucking kidding me, Nathaniel? Seriously? What is wrong with you?” As he let out a pained groan in response, she continued.
“The fact that this is the second time that this has happened to me in the span of 24 hours is a real problem. You know, you guys love to preach ‘not all men,’ but it’s most men! Men like you! Creeps that think they can take advantage of a woman whenever they want! You need to go back to kindergarten! You’re a child. NO MEANS NO, you dick!”
“S-sorry,” Nathaniel gasped out as he planted a hand against the door of Serena’s car to try and stand up straight. “I didn’t mean to do that.”
Serena threw her arms out in disbelief. “Oh, really? That’s how you’re going to try and fix this, Nathaniel? So what, sexually assaulting me was ‘just an accident?’”
He shook his head rapidly, his eyes suddenly growing shiny with unshed tears. “No, I d-didn’t sexually assault-”
Serena rounded the car and pointed the pepper spray directly in his face. Nathaniel let out a high-pitched cry and raised his hands in an attempt to protect himself.
“Yes, you did. I know this might be a shocker to you, but sexual assault happens when there isn’t consent! Do you know what consent is, Nathaniel? Should I look it up in the dictionary and read you the definition? Would that help clear things up?”
“I’m sorry!” Nathaniel suddenly screamed. “I won’t do it again! I’m sorry!” He exploded into loud, dramatic sobs.
Serena stepped back and put her hands on her hips as she observed the pathetic man in front of her. “I’m disappointed in you,” she spat in his direction. “I’m not the only one, either. Your mom, your sister, your grandma, your aunt, any woman in your life is, too. Not only can you not respect women, but you can’t respect the people that you work with, either. You’re ridiculous. Now get out of here.”
Nathaniel wiped a string of snot on the front of his uniform and looked at her with watery eyes. “You’re…you’re letting me go?”
She waved the pepper spray in his face again. “Oh, you want this instead?”
With another undignified shriek, Nathaniel ran towards the front of the store as fast as he could, one of his hands reaching down to grab his crotch as he went. Serena waited until he had disappeared before putting her pepper spray away and running her hands through her hair. She tugged on the roots in frustration and let out a groan.
“What is up with men lately?” she whispered to herself. “First the thugs from the club, now Nathaniel. Ugh, and Alec.”
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t group me in with those disrespectful pieces of shit, thank you. Are you okay?”
Serena yelped and spun around to find Alec a couple of feet away from her. Some new bruises had begun to bloom across his cheekbone from the attack last night. It immediately reminded Serena of when she had first met him.
“What are you doing here?” she asked him, looking around as if the answer would suddenly appear out of thin air. “How did you even get here?”
Alec smiled sheepishly and pulled a folded-up ad for the supermarket out of his pocket. “Uh, you had your schedule written on this. I thought I would come and make sure that you were okay since we didn’t have much time to talk this morning. Turns out you can handle yourself.”
Serena huffed out a laugh. “Of course I can handle myself. I’ve been alright on my own for the last five years.”
Alec held his hands up in surrender before coming closer and leaning up against the car. “I’m impressed, though. Where did you learn how to do that?” When she didn’t say anything, he spoke again. “You’re not the same Serena that I remember. Something changed. You changed.”
She opened her mouth to respond but quickly bit her tongue. Well, when your parents die and your brother goes to jail and you have to struggle to survive all by yourself, you learn a thing or two about defense.
“Well, people change, Alec,” she finally managed. “That’s life and all.”
Alec snorted. “Yeah, you’re telling me. Imagine memory loss on top of that.”
Serena changed the subject before things could get too deep.“My shift is over. I was just going to head back to my apartment.”
Alec nodded. “Mind if I tag along? Don’t really feel like taking the bus again. We could make dinner. I haven’t eaten much today, and I know you didn’t grab anything before you left.”
Serena paused. “You…you want to make dinner with me?”
He sighed. “Look, I know that things are…well, things are weird right now, but yes. I would really like to spend more time with you. I feel like I’ve barely seen you since I got out of the hospital.”
That’s not a coincidence, Serena thought to herself as she looked down at her boot and scuffed it awkwardly on the pavement.
“Uh, that sounds nice, but I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” she replied. “We should probably try to figure out, like, where you live? So you can get back home.”
Alec’s response was immediate. “I already am home.” His eyes widened once the words were out. “Oops. Well. I mean…sorry. Too soon?”
Serena just stared at him for a couple of seconds in complete awe. If someone had told her yesterday that her brother’s best friend that she hated yet adored at the same time was going to be telling her that she’s his home, she would have laughed in their face and then probably burst into tears.
Alec took her silence as agreement and flashed a blinding grin. “Cool! What about that beef stew you’re so good at making? Man, I love that stuff.”
“Probably not. Don’t have the money to buy all the ingredients.” Shame coursed through Serena’s body at the words.
Alec cocked his head to one side, his eyebrow arching in a rather endearing way. “Well, I have money. At least, I think I have money. I have to have it somewhere! We can use that.” He made it sound like the easiest thing in the world.
Serena just sighed and gestured towards her passenger door for him to get in. She didn’t have the time or the energy to do anything but agree, no matter how ridiculous the prospect of cooking beef stew with Alec Trivett sounded.
Suddenly, the sound of screeching tires pierced her ears. A black SUV slammed on its brakes right behind her car. The engine whined as it was thrown into park and a tall, blonde man in a black suit and sunglasses jumped out.
“Alec!” the man exclaimed in a relieved, infuriated tone. “Where the fuck have you been, man? God, I’ve literally been across this entire city twice looking for you. Next time you wanna jump ship, let your right-hand know first, got it?”
Alec looked just as confused as he’d been when he’d woken up in the hospital last night. “Uh, do I know you?”
The man came to a halt , his expression opening in shock. He let out a laugh. “Okay, now you’re just being funny, asshat. Come on, get in the car.”
Alec didn’t move. “Look, I got into an accident last night and I’ve been having some trouble remembering things, so when I say I don’t remember you, I mean-”
“An accident?” the man practically yelled. “Are you okay?”
Serena spoke for the first time. “He has memory loss. Who are you?”
The man ripped the sunglasses off his head and squinted at her, revealing agitated blue eyes. “I’m Cade Rowe. Who the fuck are you?”
Alec took a step towards Cade. “Don’t talk to her like that.”
Cade ignored him, his eyes not leaving Serena. “Did you have something to do with this?” he asked, his voice rising into a shout as he made his way over to her. “Did you cause this little ‘accident’ of his? You little-”
Before Serena could respond, Alec was sliding into place in front of her and placing a broad hand on Cade’s chest. “Back off, man.”
Serena watched over Alec’s shoulder as Cade searched his face. “This has to be some kind of sick joke,” Cade said. When Alec didn’t respond, he spoke again. “Come on, Alec. You know me, man! I’m your right-hand man! We do everything together! You can’t just forget-”
Alec cut him off. “Why do you keep saying that? What the hell is a ‘right-hand man?’”
Cade dragged a hand down his face in exasperation. “The head honcho always has a right-hand man, duh! That’s like, 101.”
A cold feeling began to fill Serena’s chest; whatever this was, she had the strangest feeling that it wasn’t good.
“The what?” Alec asked, dumbfounded. “What did you just call me?”
Cade stepped to the side to try and get a better look at Serena. “Seriously, what did you do to him? When I find out-”
Alec moved with him, this time roughly shoving him backward. “Answer me! What am I the head of?”
The next words came out of Cade’s mouth so fast that Alec and Serena weren’t sure that they had heard him correctly. The silence in those first few seconds after was almost unbearable.
“The mafia! You’re the head of the mafia, Alec!”