Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 18
It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but nothing does right now. All I know is that if Steven is behind this, he’s not letting me in on it. So it’s time to call the next suspect.
My hands shake as I dial Clay’s number. I know that doing this could cost me my job— my livelihood and way to provide for Caleb and myself— but I have to do it. I’m sick of catering to everything they want. I need to worry about what’s good for me too, like Riley says. And what’s good for me is finding my son.
“Brynn,” Clay says, sounding happy to hear that I called. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“You tell me,” I tell him. “What is going on?”
“Excuse me?” he says, sounding genuinely surprised. “I thought you would appreciate having the long weekend off for Thanksgiving. But it sounds like you’re upset.”
I can’t straight up accuse him of kidnapping my son. I’d sound like a crazy person. And that wouldn’t even make sense, now that I think about it.
But I don’t know what to think anymore.
“Clay, what is going on with the clowns from your party?” I ask him.
“What?” he asks, in the same confused tone of voice that Steven had had.
“It was pretty shitty to have clowns there when there were real ones terrorizing people,” I tell him.
I don’t usually talk to my clients like this but I’m sick of putting up with Clay and I need to find Caleb.
“Oh come on, Brynn,” he says, laughing. “You just had to call me the day after Thanksgiving to discuss my choice of Halloween fun? What has gotten into you?”
“What has gotten into me ? What has gotten into you ?” I demand. “Clowns were at the house I was staying at that night, trying to get into the car. I didn’t tell you because I don’t know that they had anything to do with the clowns at your party. But maybe they followed me home. Because now something worse has happened.”
“Oh, Brynn. My clowns were harmless. For entertainment purposes only. And I’m sorry to hear about what happened but there were clowns all over the city on Halloween so it’s not right of you to blame it on me. I was just having some harmless fun.”
“Some harmless fun?” I explode. “You warned everyone to be careful of the clowns out there but then you had some at your party?”
I remember how he had looked at me. I decide to just put it all out on the table.
“You acted like I wouldn’t be safe if I left your house. What was that about? Then after that you started this whole arrangement.”
“Oh, Brynn,” he says.
His dismissive tone is making me even angrier.
“It was all in jest. I have to admit I was quite intrigued by your choice of outfit. I thought maybe we could enjoy Halloween night together. It was just a joke though. Once you left I figured, fine, if she chooses that loser biker over me, it’s her loss. I certainly didn’t send any clowns after you or anything, if that’s what you’re implying.”
He says it as if he has much bigger weapons at his disposal. Which he probably does.
“So why did you come to New York and start this whole regional branch idea after that?” I ask, catching on to what he could mean.
“Because I wanted you and you didn’t want me,” he says, shrugging. “And now we’re stuck together. You know it as much as I do.”
I hate his smug tone and the fact that he knows he owns me. His next step is probably going to be straight up sexual harassment and I can’t do a thing about it because the firm would side with him over me in a heartbeat. Hell, they’d jump at the chance to have me gone so the partners could be in charge like they want to be anyway. Sooner or later he’s going to say I have to sleep with him or lose my job, I just know it.
But right now I have to concentrate on finding Caleb, and none of this entire conversation seems to be leading me towards accomplishing that goal.
“So you really have nothing to do with the clowns anymore, in any way or form?” I ask him.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Clay says.
“Something bad has happened,” I tell him, not wanting to say more than that.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he says. “You’re clearly freaking out about some emotional problem, I can tell. I hope all is well in La La Land with your biker dude. Hope he didn’t get arrested or anything. But I also hope you return to your senses soon. I was actually going to call you later today and tell you that I need you to do some work for me over the weekend.”
Fuck you, I want to tell him, just like I wanted to tell Steven. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.
“I won’t be able to do that work,” I tell him, and then I hang up.
It probably means I’ve just lost my job, but I don’t care. Clearly I was going to lose it anyway if I don’t sleep with this asshole, which I don’t want to do.
I just want to find Caleb. And not break down in the process.
Just then, Larson comes rushing in. I hope he has good news, but even if he doesn’t I’m glad he’s back. I could sure use his support right now. My world is crashing down and I can’t figure out a way to stop it.
Chapter 47 – Larson
Brynn looks like I feel. A defeated, deflated mess. But I hope I don’t look that way too. I need to give her some hope.
“I’ve figured out that the clowns aren’t buying stuff at the stores,” I tell her, as if that’s very helpful. “They have to have some more organized secret operation going on. This has to be bigger than something random and troll-ish.”
“I agree,” she says, looking like she’s going to cry but not actually crying. “At first I thought Steven was behind this. That he was doing it to say I’m a bad parent and take Caleb away from me. But I called him and he sounds clueless and he basically said he wants to sign away his rights to Caleb.”
Now she is crying, and I wrap her up tight in my arms.
“I’m sorry, Brynn,” I tell her, kissing the tears away from her face. “That’s horrible.”
“In a strange way I’m sorry he’s not behind it,” she tells me, looking at me earnestly. “It would suck that his dad was that shitty to want to kidnap him just to get at me. But it’s even shittier that his dad doesn’t even care that much I guess. And at least I would have known he was safe. Now I don’t know what to think.”
“Brynn,” I tell her, pulling her up against my chest. “I have to tell you something. I didn’t want to tell you earlier because I’m not good at talking about it. But I had planned to. And now I need to. Because I think it could have something to do with whatever happened to Caleb.”
She pushes back and looks at me with a mixture of confusion and anger. As she should. I know I should have told her. But I honestly didn’t know that Caleb could get caught up in this. Although I should have. These people are fucking ruthless. They’ll do anything to get back at me.
“I had a wife, and a son,” I tell her.
She looks absolutely shocked, but why wouldn’t she? It’s pretty shocking information to be just learning for the first time.
“I did. And I had to do a job against someone who was a terrorist. He had done awful things against the country. So I did that job. But his family retaliated.”
“It crushed my whole world. I wanted to die myself. I wish I could have traded places with them."
"Oh my god. I'm sure. I'm so sorry…"
"Shhhh," I tell her. "You don't have to be sorry. Just listen. Because I don’t want history to repeat itself. History is not going to repeat itself.”
She’s shaking now, and crying.
“What are they going to do to him?” she asks me, tears spilling down her face.
“Nothing,” I say. “I’m going to find them.”
“So this is the main reason you kind of live life in hiding?” she asks me.
“There’s multiple reasons,” I tell her. “I had to do the job against the guy. It was justified
She just nods, her chin against my chest, as if it makes perfect sense. And I guess it does. I just needed to get it out but I was afraid she would reject me because of it.
“There’s a warrant out for my arrest that they just don't enforce, as long as I stay on the straight and narrow."
“So I can’t get caught doing anything,” I tell her. “I can’t really stick around when things get shady and the cops come. But behind the scenes, as I’ve said, the Desert Dogs and I protect this city. And we will protect you and Caleb. I know we will.”
She nods but doesn’t look entirely convinced. And I don’t blame her.
“And yeah,” I tell her, to finish answering her question. I want everything out there now. No secrets between us. “I also have to stay on the downlow because I don’t want his family to find me. I think that if they were going to kill me or something, they would have done that by now. His family doesn’t seem to have the ties he had. They’re not straight up killers or terrorists. But I think they want me to go to jail for taking him away from him.”
Suddenly Brynn sits up straighter.
“What?” I ask her.
“It just… reminded me of something,” she said. “That Clay said. When I was on the phone with him.”
“You were on the phone with Clay?”
“Yeah, and that asshole just laughed about the clowns at his party and said they weren’t connected with what happened to us. I’m not sure I believe him, although I can’t fit all the pieces together to make any sense out of why they would be involved in this. But basically he said I need to pull myself together and do some work for him this weekend. And that he wants to sleep with me and always gets what he wants. More or less.”
“What a fucking asshole,” I say.
She puts her head back down on my chest.
“But I don’t know what to do about it,” she continues. “I guess I need to quit. Maybe I can work with Riley’s organization and help vets or something. I don’t really need that much money if I live here instead of in New York. We’ll have to let Esmeralda go, but I’m sure there’s some other family that will take her. That is, if we ever even find…”
“Don’t say it,” I tell her, forcing her to look at me. “We are going to find Caleb and he is going to be fine. They all are. Also, there’s no reason to worry about money. I make good money for what I do, and I want to be with you. And Caleb.”
She hugs me tight.
“I love you, Brynn,” I tell her. “I said it and I mean it. I love Caleb too. And now we just have to find him and put this whole mess behind us. It’s been unresolved for me for a very long time.”
“The thing that Clay said when I was talking to him, that made me stop and think just now,” she says, looking up at me once again. “He said something about hoping you haven’t gotten arrested. I thought it was a weird thing to say but I was so distraught at the time that I wasn’t paying a lot of attention.”
It clicks for me now. Or at least, I think it does.
“I knew that fucking Clay Tucker was a weasel, but I didn’t know he’d go to these lengths to get what he wanted.”
“What do you mean?” Brynn asks.
“One of Clay’s companies does women’s fashion type stuff, right? Makeup and shit?”
“Yeah,” she says. “But I’m not sure what that has to do with anything.”
“I do,” I say. “I’ve heard that he made a fortune catering to the alternative beauty market or some such shit, is that right?”
“That’s true,” she says. “Like emo and goth people who like tattoos and dark makeup. Guys and girls alike. It’s a bigger industry than anyone else had foreseen. Clay— well, with his family business and family money— capitalized on it and made even more money than they already had. But still, I’m not following what this has to do with anything.”
What’s the name of his makeup store?
“Beauty Bee,” she says. “It’s at the mall.”
I call Jensen.
“Go to Beauty Bee at the Cottonwood mall,” I tell him. “Ask if there has been an influx in purchases of their gothic makeup and their neon- colored hair dye.”
“Um, Larson?” he says. “It’s Beauty Bee. That’s the kind of shit they sell.”
“Then wait there for whoever buys it,” I tell him. “And do what you need to do until you find one of them who admits to being a clown hired by Clay Tucker.”
“What the fuck?”
“Just do it,” I tell him. “And let me know when you have one. Because I’ll make him take me to Riley and Drew and Caleb and James.”
Chapter 48 – Larson
This is it. The fucking day I’ve been waiting for for a very long time. I just never expected it would happen this way.
I knock down the front door of Clay Tucker’s mansion and barge inside.
“What the hell?” he says, coming forward along with several housekeepers or butlers or whatever the fuck they are.
Jensen, Harlow, Ramsey and Blaze are with me. They surround Clay.
Whitney, Monica and my beloved Brynn are here too, because I told them not to worry. I really hope they’re all listening to me, especially Whitney, who’s pregnant and can’t afford any undue stress. I will get Drew and James and Caleb back, and Riley too. They have nothing to worry about anymore.
“I heard you want me to be in jail,” I tell him. “But you’re the one who’s going to jail if you don’t do exactly as I say.”
“What?” Clay says, feigning innocence.
“You think I’m a dumb biker, without fancy degrees or jobs that make millions, but I’m smart enough to figure you out,” I tell him. “I know what you’re up to and it’s going to end right here. All of this is going to end.”
He just glares at me. There’s nothing else he can do, because my figurative brothers— three of them actual brothers— are holding him back.
“You saw me show up at your Halloween party with Brynn Elliot looking fine as fuck on my arm and you got upset,” I tell him. “You knew I was a wanted man. That people want to harm me and the law could lock me up at any minute. So you decided to take what I had, because that’s just what you felt like doing.”
“You’re crazy,” he says, but Jensen slaps him across the face like the little bitch that he is.
“Shut up because Larson is talking,” Harlow says.
“All you do is take whatever is already going on and manipulate it for your own benefit,” I tell him. “Selling fashion products to a segment of the population that is supposed to be anti- consumerism and anti- standard beauty. What an ingenious idea. But you don’t just stop there.”
He’s still glaring at me, but he knows better than to interrupt me again.
“You took the idea of clowns terrorizing actual people and used it to make your Halloween party more creepy and fun,” I tell him. “And then, what started as a little Halloween fun, you decided to use even more for your benefit when you saw Brynn and wanted her.”
By now the housekeepers and butler have scattered. They don’t want to stick around to see what’s going to happen and I don’t blame them.
“You instructed your little minion clowns to find out where I was going and mess with me so that I’d retaliate and get arrested and not be able to be with Brynn,” I tell him. “But that didn’t work because your clowns are idiots and I’m stronger and smarter than they are. I fucked them up and didn’t get caught. So then you sent them to come spy on me, figure out what I’m doing and where I’m going, and wreck all my plans to be with Brynn.”
“And here Riley thought it was her fault that Clay found out Larson was going to New York,” I hear Whitney tell Monica. “She’s going to be very glad to hear it’s not her fault.”
“If Riley’s eve
“Riley’s okay,” I tell her. “They’re all okay. Don’t worry.”
I turn back to Clay.
“You even had your clowns buying your own makeup and hair products to fit the clown role,” I tell him. “What an ingenious idea. But it lead me to finding one of them and getting him to squeal on you.”
Clay’s face goes ash white. Just like the stupid gothic makeup he sells. I fucking love it.
“I know your dumb clowns have Riley and the kids holed up here in the dungeon— or should I say basement— of your mansion,” I tell him. “And there better not be a scratch on them or you’re a dead man.”
“They’re fine,” Clay says. “They’re absolutely fine.”
“Oh my God. Yes,” says Brynn, and everyone else exhales a sigh of relief.
“Your next plan was to send one of them to tell me that the family of the guy I got had taken Caleb, so that I’d fucking kill them or something and be locked up for good.”
Clay is looking very sheepish right about now. Like the weasel that he is.
“Well, it didn’t work. We outsmarted you. Brynn and I together. Because we can fucking do anything together. And our friends here help us. You are one pathetic rich dude against all of us normal people. And you are going down.”
“Look, Larson,” Clay says, trying to weasel his way out of this. “We can make a deal. I have a lot of money. I can make things happen.”
“I know we’re going to make a deal,” I tell him. “And it’s going to be my fucking deal. No room for negotiation. You do exactly as I say, or you’re going down.”
“Okay, Larson,” he says, now at my entire mercy. Just like the family that has been terrorizing me— and now Brynn and Caleb— are as well. “I’ll do whatever you want.”
“I know you will,” I tell him. “And this is what I want. First, we’ve called the police to report this kidnapping. They’re on their way. Jensen is going to go down to the basement and free the boys and Riley and take pictures to show what was done to them. You’re going to get the people holding them captive to listen to him.”