ENGAGING JAYDEN

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GAGE


Entering behind Jamie was a man nearing sixties by the looks of it.

Knox motioned to the couches. “Take a seat.”

Jamie sat across from Jayden and gave a smile. “How’s it going, Jay?”

“Hey, Jamie.” She picked imaginary lint from her leggings before she settled closer into me.

“Morning, Jayden.” The older police officer gave a sad smile.

“How are you, Chief?” Jayden smiled back.

“I wish I were here under better circumstances.” He rested his hand on his gun. It wasn’t meant as a form of dominance, clearly it was out of pure habit as he switched his weight to one foot and dropped his other hand to his side. A second later, he moved his hand from his gun and reached towards me. “I’m Chief Joseph Thomas. But everyone in town just calls me Chief.”

I removed my arm from around Jayden and took his offered hand. “Gage.”

“I know. I recognize you from television. You haven’t fought in a while.”

“I took some time off.” Was all I said. I wasn’t about to let him know that I had to get my head out of my ass.

“Are you here visiting or...”

“Training.” I replied.

Chief pointed at Jayden then to me. “You two an item or something?”

“Boyfriend.” Jayden blurted.

I didn’t raise my brows or show any sign of the surprise I was feeling. I hadn’t known we had made that leap. Nor did I mind. The label I always tried my damndest to stay away from was welcomed beyond measure.

Honestly, it surprised the hell out of me.

As excited as I was, I was equally nervous because I hoped she had meant it. I hoped that she hadn’t tossed it out there just to get the Chief and Jamie off her back.

“Ah—” Chief smiled. As funny as it seemed, it looked like his nod was of approval. “Thought you two seemed a little cozy there.”

Chief took a seat beside Jamie and Knox sat beside Jayden. He took out a notepad and pen and flipped to a new page. “When did you and Gage start seeing each other, Jayden?”

“Recently.” She chewed her lower lip.

“Knox told me that you were sent a video. Was that before or after you began a relationship with Gage?”

“Before.”

“Interesting.” Chief made a note of that. He tapped his pen on the pad of paper and sat back. He let out a sign of frustration. “I really thought that this guy was a vagrant just wandering through town.”

“Still could be.” Jamie said.

“Naw. This guy he...He either is from this town or one of the neighboring ones.”

“Do you—” Jayden’s voice came quiet. Suddenly she stiffened and I put my free hand on the inside of her thigh and gave a squeeze. “Do you think that I know him?”

“How else would he have your number?” Knox’s voice sounded like gravel.

Suddenly I felt faint.

Had I run into him in town since then?

The thought that I had made my stomach turn.

“I’m going to need to get your phone from you, Jayden.” Chief said uncomfortably.

I shook my head.

She placed her hand on mine. Her palm was sweaty. I remembered her palm being just like that last time she had a panic attack. I looked at her to find her eyes already on me. Her eyes were large and pleading.

Chief cleared his throat. “There might be a way we can find out who sent it. I have a tech guy—”

“I said, ‘No’.” Jayden didn’t look away from me. Her skin was pale. She looked like she was about to puke.

“Excuse us for a minute.” I stood, taking her with me. She followed me blindly down the hall. I pushed her in front of the toilet and lifted the lid just before she lost her dinner.

I pulled her hair back.

As she puked once again I reached back and swung the bathroom door shut, not giving a damn that it slammed in the process.

“Take slow deep breaths.” I kept my voice low. Hopefully it was soothing enough to calm her down. “Don’t think about anything else.”

After a few minutes, she flushed the toilet and stood upright. I let go of her hair and turned on the faucet. I stepped back so that she could wash out her mouth. She grabbed the Listerine from the bottom cupboard.

When she was done, she shut off the water and turned to me.

“Thank you.”

Grabbing the hem of her shirt, I pulled her into me. My arms tightened as I wound them around her.

“You’re welcome.” I kissed her hair.

Without warning, she buried her face into my chest and burst into tears.

“Shhhh.” I whispered. “It’s alright, Jayden. It’s alright. I’m here” Her shortened breaths brushed my skin. “Shhh… take a deep breath for me.”

Once again she began shaking like a leaf.

“I. Need. My. Pills.”

“No. No you don’t. It’s going to be alright. You are going to be alright.” I soothed. I knew she was panicking but the last thing she needed was to become reliant on pills. In the beginning my sister was in a similar boat with her anxiety. Before any of us knew it she had come to rely on them and it was harder than hell to get her off of those damn things. Jayden had gone through enough, I didn’t want to see her struggle as my sister had.

She made no reply.

“Just concentrate on your breathing for me. Close your eyes.”

I didn’t have to look at her to know she complied.

“Now breathe in. That’s right. Now let it out. Slow.”

She situated her face until her ear hovered over my heart. Her hand rested on my peck.

My hold was like iron. My words were soft; but concrete. I soon felt her relax.

“That’s it.” I brushed my lips across her temple. She still shivered but she was no longer shaking like a leaf. I slid my hands down her back and rested them on her hips; her protruding bone caught my attention. Funny, how I hadn’t noticed it before. Her framework revealed her natural small build. But when one could feel one’s skeleton structure they were too thin. And she was. But stress was the ultimate weight dropper. It worked better than all the current ones hitting the market.

Squeezing her on the hip, I brought my head to hers so that my forehead rested on the crown of her head. “Are you feeling better?”

“I am.” She nodded, looked up. Bewilderment filled her every feature. “I don’t need my pill anymore.”

I grinned. The thought that she had put her trust in me was humbling. The smile she gave me might have been minute, but, man did it hold a punch. It touched me in places I never knew existed.

This woman was... The only woman that had the power to drop me to my knees. It scared the shit out of me knowing that she possessed that power over me.

“I’m sorry I called you my boyfriend earlier. I didn’t know what else to say.”

My stomach dropped. “Don’t be sorry.” I swallowed. “I’m more than happy to be your boyfriend, Jayden de Luca.”

Her face brightened. “Really?”

“Really.” I kissed her lips once. Twice. “And I’ll have you know that I haven’t had a girlfriend since the eighth grade. I’ve always just kept it a straight fling but with you—I want more.”

I placed another kiss on her lips. Damn were they soft.

“Are you ready to go back out?”

She stepped back. Her hand slightly shook as she pulled her phone from her back pocket. A couple of swipes later, she held her phone out to me.

“I don’t want anyone else to see it.”

Her words were so quiet I scarcely heard them.

I didn’t hesitate to push play. The marble shower wasn’t one I recognized but I figured it was her master bath in her room. Once I heard the sound of water, I turned the volume off. What started off as a sexier than hell woman rinsing her hair under the showerhead had turned ugly. Gut wrenching. Soon I was looking at a leather covered glove wiping the haise that had collected on the mirror, revealing a man who hid behind a mask and shades.

A sick son-of-a-bitch.

My hand cramped as I held onto her phone. My knuckles had turned white. I wanted to get my hands on the bastard so bad I could taste it.

Knowing that this is what she saw made me sick.

I realize now why she didn’t want to show this to anyone.

She was naked.

Vulnerable.

I quickly sent it to my phone. I didn’t ask her permission.

Fifteen minutes later I sat beside Jayden on the couch. Her knees were drawn to her chest as she curled into me.

“Alright.” Jamie pulled out his notepad and pen from his breast pocket. “Chief got a call and had to head out so I’m going to have to take over for him. Jay, I’m going to need you to name off all the disturbances you’ve had since the— The skirmish.”

“My skirmish?” she inquired.

“Ah, the incident you had back in January.” Jamie explained.

I stepped up to the plate. My blood was boiling. “That wasn’t a fuckin’ skirmish that was an attempted rape, a brutal one at that.”

“Oh...look, I ah, I didn’t mean to step on any toes here. I just...”

Jayden spoke up. “The only thing that has happened since the attack was the text I got.”

“Nothing else?”

“No.” She swallowed hard.

“And you know it was from him?” Jamie pressed.

“Yes.”

“May I ask, how did you know?”

“He showed himself.”

“What was he wearing?”

“Same thing as he had on when he attacked me.”

“Have you shown it to anyone?”

“Just Gage.”

All eyes were on me. Knox and Spencer nearly bore their eyes into me. Jamie looked— I couldn’t place it really. Jayden looked at me with utter confidence.

“Did you erase it?”

Jayden turned her attention back to Jamie. “No, it’s still on my phone.”

“I’ll talk to my guy at the station and I’ll see what he can do...I’ll need to see it, Jayden.”

“She already said, ‘No’ earlier.” I said. I was getting tired of her being asked that particular question. I knew why they were asking but she wasn’t going to show them. They needed to leave it be for now.

Jamie glared at me. I really didn’t give a rat’s ass that he didn’t like me.

“What about the argument with Brock? I’ll need your testimony as to what happened.”

“Why? Is he pressing charges? Do you have his?”

“He didn’t enlighten me on the particulars, Jay. And no, he isn’t pressing charges.”

“Why do you need it then?”

“I’m just gathering everything I can whether it’s connected or not.”

She gave a heavy sigh. “Brock proposed and I broke it off with him. He refused to leave my house— Which, everyone here knows is a first for him— So I stayed at Knox’s that night. The following morning I had car trouble and Spencer picked me up and took me home. Brock was packing his things in his truck, Kierra was dressed in her everyday whorish wear, lying on my leather couch that I have to heavily sanitize— Or throw out. Spencer came in and things went south and they left.”

Jamie looked to Spencer. “You were there also?”

“Yeah.”

“Is that how it went down?”

“It is...except she left out the part when Brock insulted her and I lost it. I broke the fucker’s nose and ran him through her screen door.” Spencer glanced at Jayden. “Which reminds me I need to buy you another one. Don’t let me forget.”

“I was wondering how he got the broken nose.” Jamie said. “He never did tell me how he’d gotten it. Before we wrap this up, are you sure there hasn’t been anything else Jay?”

“Yes.”

“Then there has.”

“No. I meant yes, I’m sure that there hasn’t been anything else.”

“Okay then. I’m expecting you to call me if anything else happens.”

“I will.” She replied.

“And also, before I forget, Chief is giving me a rookie to take under my wing for a while so ah...he’ll be helping me out.”

“Alright, but um, to be honest with you, Jamie I’m not too sure how comfortable I’m going to be with sharing information with a guy I’ve never met.”

“There won’t be any cross examination to be done because I have already done it. There may be a few questions here and there, but, you know, for now let’s just brush it aside until that time comes.”

“Brush it aside?” I couldn’t keep myself from asking. “What the fuck?” I scoffed.

“You know what I mean—”

“Yeah, I do.” I couldn’t keep the causticness out of my voice. “And frankly I think it’s bullshit.” I pointed to Jayden. “She said she’s not comfortable talking to a rookie. So— She’s not talking to a fucking rookie.”

Jamie gave a curt nod. “I think we’re done here.”

Jayden got up from the couch and held her hand out to me. I didn’t have a clue as to where she intended to go but I followed all the same.

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