Lightly edited and subject to change
Nina could have kicked her own ass all the way into next year, she thought as she entered Ollies' diner only to remember her purse, including her medicine, was still back at the clinic. In Blackwater, the summers, ordinarily warm and humid—had at some point taken a turn into an inferno. After a ten-minute walk in that draining heat vortex, the thought of going back made her feel dizzy and light-headed, or was it that her diabetes was talking to her?
As she opened the front door, a stale breeze of chilled air billowed through her hair, refreshing her just a little. The need to take her blood sugar before she ate, crossed her mind once again. Though, she didn't let the concern upset her. Unconcerned, as this had happened plenty of times before, Nina decided; first, she’d rest her legs, enjoy the cold air, order her food, and then walk it back to work and test there. Nina scanned the well-lit room taking in the pleasant scent of fattening fried food as it sizzled on the griddle, and the quiet laughter of diners as they conversed over their lunches. With a friendly smile on her face, she found an empty booth and seated herself. After capturing her attention, Jo, the single day-shift server affably winked at her then held up a finger letting her know it’d be a second before she made it over to take her order.
Nina nodded, then slid into the boot with a comforted sigh. Pulling her cell and the dreaded ring box from her pocket, she placed the offending box on the table and shot a quick text to Hope with a quick explanation Nina set the phone down next to the velvet box. The dreaded velvet ring box. What had once been a symbol of a commitment had quickly morphed into a representation of failure.
Two years ago, or maybe it’d been a lifetime ago, Nina made the decision to leave her husband. No, he hadn't cheated, beaten or treated her wrong. While his idea of one's wife seemed comparable to her idea of a one's mother, it hadn't really been a surprise when he’d wanted her to drop out of college to start a family. It had been the way of his father and his father’s father before him.
A tremor wracked her hand as she reached out for the box. She flipped it open to reveal a small folded piece of paper atop her wedding set. Leaning back on the plush cushion in the booth, a moment of shock took over her as she recalled the price tag attached to the ring. When they'd shopped for a wedding set, she had passed the ring over several times thinking it out of Javi’s budget. Just like her mother and friends, Nina hadn't believed the leather wearing, cursing like a sailor Javi hadn't come from money—they’d all been wrong.
“Hey Nina,” Jo placed the menu down on the table. “Olly added a few new items for you—” her shocked gasp had Nina glancing up sharply. Jo’s eyes were riveted on the wedding set. “Jesus, Nina. Who proposed?” Nina’s Afro-Latin heritage may have offered her a darker skin complexion, but at this moment, Nina was sure as hell that her cheeks became red as they flushed from embarrassment. Her eyes darted around the diner hoping no one she was acquainted with was in the diner. A soft hand landed over hers as Jo sat down across from her. “Hell, honey. Did you see a ghost or is it this ring that’s got you so upset?” Jo’s dark eyes met hers and held strong and steady. “Wait,” concern lit her gaze. “You got that upper lip sweat going on, and your hands are a bit shaky.” Before Nina could remind Jo that it was indeed summer and in the high nineties out, Jo stood. “Test your blood and let me know what you need to eat.” The look of contrition on Nina’s face must have said it all. “Oh, no.” Jo’s shoulders dropped. “You left it back at the clinic?”
Nina opened her mouth to speak, but it was then the chimes over the front doors pealed announcing the presence of a patron entering the diner. Heavy black boots hit the laminate floor, and with each of his steps, a loud thundering echoed throughout the room demanding that attention be paid. Dark washed jeans pulled tight over massive legs and firm thighs, a tight black t-shirt melded over taut muscles capped by a leather cut that held the words, Blackwater Renegades. Her eyes moved up his body taking in the strength behind the brutally cut muscle until she got to his face. She then blinked, several times.
"Hmm...That's not at all what I expected." Her words were a mumbled whisper as she sat mesmerized by the giant. Golden blonde hair, baby blue eyes and that Hollywood heartthrob square chin all complemented by those same Hollywood good looks. She took in his body again, hard lines, scars on his arms and a biker cut. His angelic face was at odds with that ruthlessness of his hardened body and disdainful sneer. The man took in the room with each step, eyeing every customer as if committing each face to memory until his cold gaze met her. His brow dipped, and a quizzical, yet relaxed look colored his face. Nina took in a deep shuddering breath slightly calming her nerves as his gaze moved past her and onto the next diner as if she’d never even existed.
Swallowing hard she asked, “Jo, who is that?” She attempted and failed to keep the breathiness from her voice. Sheer panic laced her spine. She’d never seen this man at the clinic with the Renegades and wasn’t under any delusion that because a few of the men in the MC were respectable, that all of them were law-abiding citizens that she could trust. However, from the look in Jo’s face as she answered, this guy was friendly.
“Oh, Hollywood.” She waved a dismissive hand. Perhaps Nina’s uncertainty had come across in her tone. “He’s nothing to worry about. His job is to make sure no one is acting up.” Jo’s face wrinkled in thought.
“Well, if he’s here then maybe something is up.” After another moment of thought, she shrugged. “Or maybe he’s just hungry. Now, back to you.” At that moment, Nina’s phone beeped with a text message from Hope. With a smile, she relayed the message.
“Don’t worry, Spooky is just about done getting stitched up. Hope will send him this way with my kit.” The relief on Jo’s face mirrored that in Nina’s chest because she was starting to feel the effects of missing her medicine.
“Good, honey. Let me bring you an ice-cold glass of water.” She hurried off behind the counter and seconds later, an ice-cold glass of water and unsweetened tea sat before her.
Jo smiled and added, “Call me over the second he gets here, okay?” Nina nodded. As soon as Jo walked away, Nina surreptitiously searched out the biker who’d entered moments earlier. She was painfully single and with good reason, but it didn’t hurt to look. Her eyes roved over the small diner searching for the dynamic presence of the large man and was dismayed when she didn’t see him. Where the hell had he gone? At this point, she no longer tried to hide her search for him but realized that he’d probably left the diner while she checked her phone. An inexplicable feeling of loss swept over her as she sank back into her booth. That man was not her type. There was no room in her life for a leather wearing caveman, no matter how perilously sexy he seemed. That was what got her in trouble a few years ago, and at that thought, her eyes went back to the ring set on the table. With quaking hands, Nina pulled the white slip from the box and unfolded
I hope this letter finds you well. Your mother told me you were back in school doing what you once loved. I understand the cost of schooling is high, please, sell these and follow whatever path leads you to happiness.
Nina let the letter fall from her fingers. The white sheet billowed to the table to rest beside the wedding set that had set her ex-husband back nearly eight grand. What was he playing at? No, that wasn't the right question because Javi didn’t play games, not even during their divorce. It had been agreed that they would leave with what they’d brought to the table and Nina had only brought naïve love, yet, Javi had asked her if she wanted anything else. She hadn't. She had just wanted her freedom.
A shadow cast over her table causing Nina to look up and up into the crystalline blue eyes of the biker who’d entered earlier. His sharp gaze and tilted lips gave her the impression he was anywhere but where he wanted to be, and his next words proved her right. Nina snatched the letter up and shoved it into her pocket.
“Apparently, I am here to babysit you. Spooky got held up, it’ll only be a bit until he gets here.” His apathetic tone grated her nerves, and without waiting for an invitation, he squeezed his big body into the booth nearly knocking over her water and sweet tea. Two large tanned hands shot out, righting the cups before they spilled. And then, the big brute dared to lift her water to his sensual lips and drink until the water was half gone.
"How damned dare he?" She thought.
She needed her water, she was damned thirsty. Opening her mouth to say just that, her eyes widened as he cut her off.
His eyes took her in. “Jesus, you look like hell. What medicine is he bringing over for you?”
Nina swallowed, not once, but several times, holding back the retort she’d planned to throw at him. Instead, she said, “Of course I look like shit. I just walked in this unnatural inferno for ten minutes, missed my meds so I’m feeling shaky dizzy and a bit irritable, and I’ve just been assaulted with memories of a past I’d welled hoped to forget. Who wouldn’t look like hell in this situation? Oh, well I know who.” She gestured to the man before her. “The Norse God of Sexiness and ego that’s who!” The moment the words were out of her mouth the sexiest grin she’d ever seen laced his lips. Slouching back into the booth and prayed for a way to disappear. Of course, when she opened her mouth, she’d take a second to place her foot directly between both lips.
Hollywood, as Jo called him leaned closer a roguish shimmer in his eyes as he said, “Sexiness, eh? Would you by chance care for a demonstration?”