The only way the system was reliable when it came to Tiffany Dempsey was in failing her. Once again, it’d done just that, but this time, she wasn’t about to accept that nothing could be done. This time, she went to a source outside the law for help. She’s gone to the Sacred Hearts MC, a club whose reputation for bloodshed and violence precedes them. It’s a gamble she’s willing to take; desperate times call for desperate measures and she’s never been more desperate than she is right now.
Zeb joined the Sacred Hearts by way of a second chance when he thought he had none. He’s determined to do right by his club and himself by changing his ways. So, when Dragon, his president, asks him for help, he doesn’t hesitate. He’s more than happy to give the pretty little stripper with the scarred up face a second chance of her own. The way he sees it, a survivor like her has more than earned it.
Neither Tiff nor Zeb expected that this protective detail would be anything other than a strictly business-like arrangement, but the two find quickly that they complement each other in just about every way. Maybe, just maybe, it’s what Dragon had planned. After all, the president of the SHMC is sort of crafty like that.
“What are you doing in here… I’m sorry, I feel like I’m going to butcher your name if I try to say it.” I frowned slightly and he smiled, his teeth very white, set in his deeply tan and ethnic skin. I had no idea what he was, but it was some sort of tribal from somewhere if I had to guess. My eyes were fixed on the deep blue-black ink etched into the skin of one side of his face in these intricate lines and whorls.
“Call me Nik or Zeb. Whichever you’d like,” he gave a shrug, the leather of his jacket and the vest over it creaking.
“Okay, Nik.” I swallowed hard. “What are you doing in here?”
“Dragon asked me to look after yah. Showed me the letter and the like. I reckon you have something to be afraid of with this guy.” He raised a hand and halfheartedly gestured to the curtain of my hair. I quailed, but there was something refreshingly forthright and honest about the way he approached the situation.
“So Dragon tells you to babysit a stripper from her completely psycho ex-boyfriend and you just do it?” I asked, mystified.
“Nah, he didn’t tell me to do nothin’. He asked me.”
I blinked slowly, and rolled my lips together. I had to think about this. I didn’t know what I had expected Dragon to do, but I sincerely hadn’t expected a bodyguard. I let out a breath slowly and I asked, “So, how is this supposed to work, then?”
He gave another shrug that could mean everything and nothing and said, “I reckon we should start with you getting dressed, yeah? Give you a lift back to your flat and see what you’ve got.”
“What I’ve got?”
“Yeah, locks, chains, you near a busy street? Off in the back? These things can make a difference.”
“I didn’t really know that and I can’t afford to move…”
“No worries, we can work with what you have.” He stood up in one fluid motion and I shrank back at the sudden movement. He paused, but only for like a half-second, and gave a nod and said, “Be out here waiting,” before sliding out the door and closing it behind him.
I’d never looked at a protection job as anything but a professional gig before, even if I’d never quite done it professionally, as in been paid for it. I didn’t exactly watch big-money types in the traditional sense with their suits and high rises and their expensive gadgets. I’d watched the backs of my bro’s, and back home, a high-rolling gang boss or two. Something told me Dragon had other things in mind when he’d put me with the stripper, and I figured I would need to see how it played out. I knew if I asked him about it, he’d just raise his eyebrows and tell me to figure it out for myself.
The heavy electric of the song that was starting pulsed from the speakers and the announcer guy was saying something about some bird named Francesca. I dropped into an empty seat at the end of the stage, glad to take a load off after a night on my feet. Tiffany, all dolled up with a black lace mask covering her survivor’s mark, came strutting out onto the stage. I’d wondered how she handled that, and now I knew, but this wasn’t the girl with the tight shoulders, high-strung and throwing calculating looks at everything. She wasn’t trying to decide if the next thing she did was going to send the person she was around off, packing a sad.
No, this woman strutting out of the dark was the queen the song named her. This woman was mean as and I wanted to see her more often. The idea I’d had back at her place took root and started to grow when she started to actually dance, and the girl could dance. She slunk along the brass pole at the end of the stage and her lean body was poetry in motion.
Text Copyright © 2018 A.J. Downey
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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