Andrew pulled his Harley behind the shop. He was the first to arrive, which was typically the case, especially since little Ellie was born three months ago. Jayden wasn’t getting much sleep and had asked if Andrew could help him by opening the shop. That was the least Andrew felt he could do to support his friend. He clicked the engine off and pocketed his keys before unlocking the back door. He began flicking lights on one at a time as he did an initial sweep of the premises, making sure everything was as it should be.
They had spent a great deal of time contemplating how they wanted their shop designed and were happy with the results. It was a typical garage with a large bay in the middle and three openings to the front and rear where bikes could enter and leave. The waiting area was to the right of the bay and set up with a half windowed partition, comfortable seating, and all the current trade magazines one could want. There was a small television and coffee maker as well. Down the hall were two similar offices. One had the name Jayden Bennett on the door and Andrew Harrison was on the other. He grinned slightly as he approached his office. He would never tire of seeing his name on there. Stepping inside, he took off his leather jacket and hung it on the hook behind his door.
He looked around and smiled. Although he didn’t need a desk, he had one. He had never told Jayden or Madison this, but he always felt a sense of belonging and importance knowing he had an actual office equipped with an actual desk. A place to work should he need to. He knew it wasn’t much, but as he sat down and ran his hand over the desk calendar, he felt calm and happy. Opening a trade magazine, Andrew highlighted some of the equipment he thought they might need and wondered if they had the funds to purchase some of it. He and Jayden had decided early on that Jayden would handle the books, but they soon realized that that wasn’t the best option. In spite of the fact that his dad was an accountant, Jayden was terrible with numbers. Finally, they decided to enlist Madison’s help. So now, with Liam’s consent, she came in twice a month to go over the books. Andrew recognized the absurdity of Madison, whose primary accounts were big money businesses, taking on their small shop, but she had a fit thinking someone else would be working with them. Andrew heard his phone buzzing and dug it out to see he had a new text.
J: Running late but I’m on my way
A: No prob, gonna start on the Henderson bike.
J: Cool, thanks man. I’ll make it up to you
A: Pick up some donuts and we’re even
J: Sounds like a good deal to me
Andrew laughed as he set the phone down. Glancing around his office, his eyes stopped at the picture on the wall. It was one of his drawings. Madison had teased him that she wanted him to draw her posing like one of those pinup girls in those bike photos, so he did. She was sitting on his Harley, wearing his leather jacket and a pair of jeans with leather boots that went up to her knees. Her head was tilted back slightly as the wind blew her hair wildly. It was one of Andrew’s favorite drawings of her. At least one he could actually display.
He got up to head into the bay. It had been a few months since the wedding and everything had gotten back to normal. They had been to the lake a few times and were planning another trip there this weekend. Except this time they were camping. Jayden and Callie were finally going to spend a night away from Ellie and both seemed nervous about it. As he approached the bay, he sighed. They had four bikes there with just him and Jayden working on them. They needed to find someone quick. He clicked on the local radio station and Thirty Seconds to Mars blared out of the speakers. Andrew slipped on his coveralls and immediately got to work on the 2011 Suzuki M109R.
Not long after, Jayden entered the garage with a dozen donuts from Krispy Kreme, Andrew’s one indulgence. The two friends chatted briefly before getting to work. Both were lost in their own projects, trying desperately to get the bikes finished before the weekend. When they heard the telltale ring indicating someone had walked into the shop, they both glanced at each other. They quickly did a round of rock/paper/scissor, which Andrew won. He chuckled and went back to his work as Jayden stood.
“You always win, you know that, right?”
“Go answer the door, loser,” Andrew laughed as he motioned his hand in a shooing manner towards the door.
Jayden flipped him off with a grin and then ran his hands along his coveralls before exiting the bay. He was still chuckling as he entered the waiting area to see a huge man standing there. He was African American with a bald head and a fierceness that spoke volumes. Jayden peered around him and didn’t see a motorcycle parked out front.
“Can I help you?” Jayden asked hesitantly.
“I’d like to speak with Andrew Harrison,” the man replied in a deep voice.
“He’s working. Can I ask what this is about?” Jayden inquired, his need to protect Andrew emerging.
The man grinned. “Tell him Jamal would like a word with him.”
Jayden nodded and turned. The name sounded familiar to him but he wasn’t sure why. He hurriedly approached Andrew, who looked up. Andrew was about to say something sarcastic when he saw the panic on Jayden’s face. He stood up. His mind and body alert for whatever was happening.
“There’s a guy named Jamal out there. He’s a big black dude.”
Andrew furrowed his brows. “My old P.O.?”
“That’s why the name sounded familiar.”
“Why would he want to see me? Shit! They can’t revoke what the judge did, can they?”
Jayden immediately started shaking his head. “No way, they cleared you.”
Andrew glanced over his shoulder towards the waiting room. “Alright, umm, I’ll go see what he wants.”
“Do you want me to call my dad?”
Andrew shook his head. “No, I didn’t do anything.” He turned back to Jayden. “I’m sure it’s nothing.”
Andrew ran his hand nervously through his hair. He knew he had done nothing to warrant a visit from his probation officer. He breathed out, his ex-probation officer. He was perplexed by the situation and being perplexed often frightened him. Usually, when things did not go according to plan, some form of chaos would ensue, a chaos that often left him in ruins. He stepped inside the waiting room and saw the familiar face.
“Harrison,” Jamal said simply.
“Jamal,” Andrew replied, quickly getting into his old pattern of interactions.
“Can we talk for a moment?”
“Sure, let’s go to my office.”
Jamal smiled and nodded as he followed Andrew down a hall, passing one office before entering the other. Andrew motioned for him to have a seat while he in turn sat behind his desk. He continued to tell himself over and over that he had done nothing wrong.
“Well, this is a bit of a turn,” Jamal laughed.
“What do you mean?”
“You behind a desk and me in front of it,” he replied.
Andrew smiled. That was true. Andrew was a model citizen, paid his taxes and abided by the law. He did nothing to possibly warrant being arrested or even considered in the minds of police officials. The Andrew that had been a parolee was not who he was any longer. He leaned back in his chair and stared at Jamal. This man that had so much authority in his life for so long was now sitting in his office, not the other way around. He suddenly felt very confident.
“Why are you here, Jamal?”
Jamal smiled once again. “I have this kid that I’m overseeing. He’s twenty, was locked up for a drug charge. He’s clean now. He said he’s worked as a mechanic before and I thought maybe you all could use some help.”
“Has he worked on bikes before?”
“He said he could fix anything.” Jamal smirked. “But, you know cons, y’all are cocky like that.”
Andrew rolled his eyes. “Well, some of us can back it up.”
Jamal let out a booming laugh. “That is true. Will you give him a shot? I figured you of all people would know how important it is to get a fresh start and,” he ran his massive hand over his bald dome. “I thought maybe you’d be a good influence on him.”
Andrew watched him for a moment. His immediate response was to tell him no way but he quickly quelled that thought. Jamal was right. He did know what it felt like to be judged because of past mistakes. He had lost hope long ago and regained it only a few years back with the help of some amazing friends and family. He nodded slightly and saw a smile form on the normally stoic man’s face.
“Well, I have to talk it over with Jayden, but um, yeah, have him come by. I won’t make any promises, though.”
“Thanks, Harrison,” Jamal said, rising from his chair. He glanced at the photo on the wall. “Did you do that one?”
Jamal shook his head and turned to him. “You got some talent, Harrison. You really do.”
Andrew chuckled lightly. “Thanks.”
“So this kids name is Connor. He’s clever and a little hyper, but I drug test twice a week and he isn’t using, so I think he’s ADHD or something.”
Andrew laughed. “So he’s gonna be like a bouncing little kid around me?”
“Maybe,” Jamal snorted. “Keep up the good work, Harrison,” he said as he walked out the door.
Andrew strolled back into the bay to find Jayden impatiently waiting for him. “It’s cool. He wanted to see if we could use some help. I guess one of his parolees is a mechanic and he thought of me. I told him to send him over but that I wouldn’t make any guarantees that he would get hired. Is that alright?”
Jayden breathed out a sigh of relief. “Hell yeah, that’s alright. We could definitely use the help.”
“That’s what I thought, too.”
“Damn, I’ll tell ya what. That freaked me out a bit. I couldn’t figure out why your old PO was in here.”
Andrew nodded. “It freaked me out too.” He looked at the bikes in the bay and then back at Jayden.
“Should we call Madison and find out what we could offer this kid if we decide to hire him?”
“That’s a good idea, Andrew.”
“Okay, I’ll go call her and then jump back on the Suzuki. I’m almost done with her.”
Jayden nodded and walked back to the Toyota he was working on. They really could use the help. They had so much to do and he hated that Andrew was taking on most of the load. He smiled at the idea that they might have the opportunity to help someone out. No one had given Andrew a chance, judging him solely on his past. As he sat down next to the bike, he felt confident that they would not make that same mistake.
Madison walked down the hall towards her office. She gave a head nod to Jaimie, the receptionist, who was answering the phone. Madison liked her a lot. She had been with Mr. Bennett from the very beginning and you could tell. She seemed to know what he needed before he even asked for it. Madison picked up the messages that Jaimie was holding up for her and headed to her office. Opening the door, a smile formed on her face. She loved her job. She loved working with Liam and she loved that he trusted her whole heartedly. They had spent many days talking about the things he had done in Texas. He talked at great length about the companies he had worked for and how he had built his business up. He also had revealed that there was a small part of him that really missed the excitement of traveling to see clients.
Madison found that the more time she spent with Liam, the more she respected and admired him. She could see how Elias had fallen in love with him. He had a charming way of interacting with people. He made them feel special and important, as if whatever their needs were, he would do his best to help them get it. From the very beginning of her work with him, he had a way of helping her broaden her perceptions of the market and what she could do to help her clients’ businesses grow. The way he saw their work was different than any other accountant she had ever worked for. She still remembered sitting down with him on her first day with the company. He had told her that day his philosophy about accounting. He had told her that it was more than helping their clients manage their money; it was about helping them learn ways they could use their money to grow personally as well as professionally. It was something that had stayed with her and guided her in the work she now did.
Madison smiled. She had liked what he had said that day. It made her feel as if she was more than just an accountant. That she could really offer her clients a future beyond their imagination. She had begun studying financial advising after that and realized just how right Liam had been. She sat down behind her desk, her eyes drawn to the picture of her and Andrew taken during the Fourth of July celebration a few weeks ago. Her eyes closed as she remembered that night in vivid detail. A ding from her computer abruptly forced her out of her thoughts. Madison placed her hand over her heart and could feel its rapid beat. She blew out a breath trying to calm herself. She was always surprised by the way she responded to Andrew. Even memories of him made her body hot with desire and want. A situation she had never experienced with anyone else. She shook her head slightly and smirked at the picture.
“Helios, Helios, Helios. You’re not even here and you got me all hot and bothered.”
She turned to her computer and typed in her password, unlocking the screen. She took another deep breath and stole one more glance at the picture before getting back to work. She slowly went through her inbox, reading over various emails from clients and jotting notes down. As she reached the last email, she stopped, surprised to see who it was from.
I was wondering if you recall working on the Martine case.
Madison cocked her head slightly, taken aback by the question. She was also surprised that he had sent the email on his personal account versus the business one. She couldn’t figure out why he would do that. He generally never sent business email through his personal account. Her fingers tapped nervously on her desk. She remembered that particular client very well. It was the account Grayson had given her after Andrew had left. Senator Martine had wanted her to manage some accounts of his, discretely, behind his wife’s back. He had given Madison a sob story that his wife was having an affair and he was trying to protect some of his assets in case of a divorce. She had been hesitant, but had helped him determine the money that was available to diversify. He had later asked her to manage one of his senatorial accounts to which she declined. She had not wanted to be involved in anything remotely related to the political arena. The following week the account had been reassigned to Kurtis.
“Why is Grayson asking about that case now?” She questioned.
With a furrowed brow, she picked up her phone and dialed the number she knew by heart.
“Turner & Crawford, how can I help you?”
“Yes, I’d like to speak with Mr. Turner please.”
“Can I tell him whose calling?”
“Madison?” she heard a squeak on the other end. “This is Monique. How are you?”
“I’m good. How’s New York?”
She laughed. “It’s still here. Hold on a sec, Madison, let me see if Mr. Turner is available.”
Madison waited, her leg bouncing furiously. The Martine case had always made her feel uneasy. She had generally felt like she was pulling teeth getting any information out of him and often wondered how truthful he had been. She was thankful when the case was handed to someone else. After she left New York, she had been paranoid that she would get a call about it or see Senator Martine in the news. But thankfully that never happened and, in truth, she hadn’t thought of it, or him, in a very long time.
“Hi, Grayson. I just got your email.”
“Oh, shoot, yeah, ya know, it’s fine, forget I sent it.”
“What?” Madison asked curiously. “Is there something wrong?”
“No, of course not, Madison.” She heard shuffling on the other end of the phone and then Grayson was back on. “Madison, I need to go. I have a meeting I’m already late for. I’m sorry I worried you.”
“I was more curious than worried,” Madison confessed.
He laughed nervously. “Thank you for calling. Tell Liam hello for me.”
“You’re welcome,” Madison said to dead air. She frowned. “Okay, that was weird.”
Before Madison could contemplate it any further, she heard a familiar ringtone start to play. She smiled and dug her phone out, seeing Andrew’s face flash onto the screen. She quickly picked it up, her heart racing.
“Madison,” he said in his deep and sultry voice. A sound that made Madison’s insides do back flips. “I got a visitor today,” he added nonchalantly.
“Really,” Madison said, clearing her throat. “Who came by?”
“Your old PO?”
“Yeah, it was weird seeing him again.”
“I bet,” Madison stated, imagining what that must have been like for Andrew. “What did he want?”
“He has this kid he wants to send over for an interview. See if we can use him at the shop.”
“Oh wow, really?”
“Yeah, it was kind of weird, but cool, him asking me. Jayden and I talked about it and thought maybe we should ask you, based on our, you know, financial situation whether we could offer this kid a job if we liked him and if so, what we could afford to pay him?”
“Let me go through the financials. Can you give me an hour or two?”
“Of course, baby. I didn’t mean for it to sound like you needed to do it this instant. We just figured we should have an idea what we could do, in case this kid does stop by. He may just blow us off but I don’t know. I think he might just show up.”
Madison smiled. She could tell that Andrew had been thinking about it and she knew that they needed someone. She had offered to look into it a few months ago but both Jayden and Andrew had said no, they weren’t ready to hire anyone and that they thought they could handle it. She glanced at the clock. 10:00 a.m. She nodded slightly, that would give her plenty of time to do some research.
“Helios, baby, how about I bring you guys some lunch in a few hours?” Madison asked and then added, “I’ll have some info by then and we can go over it.”
“Wonderful,” he stated excitedly.
Madison smiled as well. She could hear the happiness echoing through his voice. Knowing that something simple that she could do could make him happy made her elated. She knew he had been worrying about their backlog in the shop. He felt that he was letting people down if they couldn’t get to the bikes right away, so getting some help was a must.
“Barring any complications, I should have some preliminary data for you guys by lunch.”
“Thanks, baby. I love you.”
“I love you, too, Helios.”
He hung up and Madison immediately turned to her computer. She clicked out of Grayson’s unusual email and started pulling up several screens at once. She brought up the spreadsheet for AJ Cycles and then began opening up the websites she had used to help determine Jayden and Andrew’s salaries. She needed to look at it all from a different perspective now. Technically, she knew that Jayden and Andrew should do this part but she didn’t care. She could do it quicker and she knew that Liam wouldn’t mind at all. The bottom line was, they needed help, and, in the process, they may be able to help someone else in return.
It had been a few days since Jamal’s visit and apparently Connor was to come by the shop today. Neither Andrew nor Jayden knew when exactly. They continued to work on their bikes until they heard the tell-tale signs of someone coming in. Jayden glanced at him and rubbed his hands together before preparing for rock/paper/scissors.
“Dang it! I swear, how do you do it?”
Andrew smiled and shrugged as he shooed Jayden off again. He walked to the door and found a kid in the waiting room. He looked to be about sixteen years old with a wild set of hair that was falling in his face. He was bouncing on the balls of his feet and turned when he heard Jayden approach.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m Connor. I’m supposed to be meeting with …” he quickly withdrew a crumpled up paper that looked as if it had been open and closed many times before. “Andrew and Jayden,” he finished questioningly.
Jayden smiled and reached his hand out to him. “I’m Jayden, come on in.”
“Cool, you got a nice shop here,” he said as they stepped into the bay.
“Thanks. Andrew, this is Connor.”
Andrew stood up and smiled as he wiped his dirty hands on his coveralls before reaching it out to Connor, who shook it immediately.
“Good to meet you, Connor.” Andrew looked at Jayden. “Should we do this in my office or yours?
He started to prepare for rock/paper/scissors and then laughed. “I know you’ll win, so let’s just do yours.”
Andrew laughed and motioned with his head to Connor. “Come on back. Do you want some coffee or something?”
He shook his head and bobbed as he made it to the door. He took a seat in front of Andrew’s desk while both Andrew and Jayden leaned against it. Connor was shifting around in his seat, his eyes darting to take in everything in the room.
“You don’t need to be nervous, Connor,” Andrew said, remembering how nerve-wracking it was to interview for job after job, only to be denied once they saw his prison record.
“Yeah, man, we ain’t gonna bite. Why don’t you start with your work history?”
Connor nodded and began. He talked to them about working in an uncle’s garage when he was little and how his uncle had taught him a lot about cars. He didn’t have a lot of experience on bikes but reported working on a couple of them, doing some tune-ups and oil changes. Andrew and Jayden both asked him a few questions and then Jayden leaned back slightly, crossing his arms.
“Connor, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but how the hell did you end up in prison?”
Jayden had told himself he wouldn’t ask such a question, but after spending an hour with Connor, he just couldn’t see it. It was the same feeling he had when he first met Andrew. He watched as Connor tapped his hands on his legs while avoiding eye contact with them. Jayden couldn’t tell if he was nervous or simply didn’t know what to do with his hands. Jayden glanced at Andrew and could see that he was studying Connor, assessing him. Jayden turned back to Connor as Connor looked between them.
“I just got in with my cousins, bad crowd, ya know, thought I was being cool,” he laughed uneasily. “I ain’t gonna lie and say I was innocent cause I wasn’t,” another nervous laugh. “I guess I was the only guilty guy in prison,” he finished with a cheesy grin before adding. “’Cause ya know everyone in prison is innocent,” he added with an exaggerated snort.
“Connor, we aren’t gonna judge you on being in prison. I’ve been there, so I know what that’s like,” Andrew interjected. “Are you still hanging with your cousins?” Andrew asked.
Connor shook his head. “Nah, most of them are still in county, but when they get out I still ain’t gonna be messing with them. I learned my lesson.”
“Alright, man,” Andrew peered at him questioningly, “I need to ask you one final question, and I need you to answer truthfully.” When Connor nodded, Andrew asked the most important question as far as he was concerned. “Are you still using?” Andrew rolled up his left sleeve and ran his hand over his tattoo. “Don’t lie to me either because I’ll know if you are.”
Connor’s eyes lingered on Andrew’s arm and then he looked up. There was a seriousness on his face that hadn’t been present throughout the interview. He leaned forward, looking first at Jayden and then at Andrew. He met Andrew’s eyes, and in that moment, they spoke to one another silently; one ex-con to another ex-con, one addict to another addict, a truth that they both were completely aware of. Connor knew that he wouldn’t be able to bullshit or deny. He already liked these two and he wanted, no, needed a job. He’d been out for three months already with no luck and he definitely didn’t want to do what he had done to land him in prison. Something had to change.
“I’m not using,” he said sincerely. “I won’t touch that shit again. And I swear that if you guys give me a chance, I’ll work my ass off for you. I won’t complain or nothing and I’m a quick learner.”
Andrew nodded slightly and glanced at Jayden, who still had his arms crossed. He looked at Andrew and they shared a knowing glance. Jayden turned back to Connor who was looking between them anxiously, hoping he hadn’t blown it. His mouth always got him in trouble. His damn ADHD making it hard to stop himself from spewing whatever thoughts he had at the moment. He just hoped it hadn’t betrayed him today. He wanted this job desperately.
“Connor, how about you come back tomorrow and we’ll see how it goes,” Jayden said.
Connor sprung up from his chair. “Hey, you guys got a lot of bikes out there. I can totally start right now!”
Andrew smirked and rose. “Come on, man, we’ll show you around.”
“Yeah,” Jayden continued, “I’m sure we can find something for you to do.”
“Awesome!” Conner stated excitedly as they made their way back into the bay.
When Saturday morning finally arrived, the four friends were eager for a night away. They were all currently at the Bennett’s’ house so that Jayden and Callie could drop off Ellie for an overnight with her grandpas while they all camped at Lake Isabella. Being that this would be Jayden and Callie’s first night away from their daughter, they were having second thoughts about leaving. Liam already had little Ellie in his arms while Elias was making funny faces at her. Ellie was giggling and taking it all in.
“Maybe we should just come back tonight,” Jayden suggested.
Andrew sighed. He didn’t want to be insensitive, but he’d been looking forward to going to the lake all week. It was going to be just the four of them, like they did for the last two summers. He glanced at Madison, who also looked upset about this. Neither of them being parents, they didn’t quite understand the difficulty their friends were having. They did know that they had all been excited about this weekend.
“Nonsense,” Liam stated in a tone that was atypical for him. Madison’s eyes widened at Liam’s apparent frustration.
“We’ve never left her,” Callie replied sadly.
“Well, look how happy she is with her grandpas,” Madison interjected.
“Yeah,” Andrew chimed in, “Ya know, your dads have been really looking forward to this.”
“And you don’t want to disappoint them,” Madison offered.
“Or Ellie,” Andrew added, reaching for anything that might sway Jayden and Callie towards the door.
Jayden and Callie stared at their friends for a long moment before smiling. They knew exactly what they were trying to do in their not so subtle way.
“Yeah, you guys aren’t fooling anyone,” Jayden said with a nervous laugh.
“Look man, I know you’re scared that I’m gonna beat you on the jet skis, AGAIN, but that’s no reason to delay,” Andrew said as seriously as he possibly could but he wasn’t able to stop the grin from forming.
“Oh, whatever!” Jayden finally laughed for real.
Elias chuckled. “Jayden, you and Callie go and have fun. You guys are young, live it up, you only get one chance after all.”
“Besides, Ellie is going to have a great time with us. Aren’t you sweetheart?” Liam asked as he rubbed noses with her, causing her to squeal in delight.
“Alright, alright,” Jayden shook his head. “Come on, Callie.”
Callie hesitantly kissed Ellie on the forehead and then Jayden did the same. Madison and Andrew winked at one another, feeling successful at steering Jayden and Callie on their weekend trip. As Jayden and Callie reached their friends, Jayden playfully nudged Andrew.
“No way are you beating me today!”
“We’ll see,” Andrew replied, throwing his arm over Madison’s shoulder.
As they reached the door, Madison glanced over her shoulder and smiled. Elias and Liam were now sitting in such a way that Ellie was between them. They were both happily making cooing noises at her, relishing their role as grandparents. Madison felt a tinge of sadness that her father would never be there when she finally had children. She truly believed he would have been a doting grandfather as well.
“You okay, baby?” Andrew asked.
Madison nodded. “Yep, let’s go, Helios. I want to play at the lake.”
Upon arrival at Lake Isabella, they immediately set up their camp site. Each couple had a small four-man dome tent set on opposite ends of the fire pit. A large cooler full of drinks and food was positioned near the picnic table while four cushioned camping chairs sat near the openings of their respective tents. Queen size raised air mattresses were blown up in the tents accompanied with a comforter and king-size pillows. Madison had learned very quickly that Callie and Jayden knew how to do things up. Once the camp was set, the boys set off to enjoy the jet skis while the girls opted to sunbathe in the blistering summer heat where they could visit. Several hours had already gone by. The hot sun beat down on their skin without mercy, making both girls long for the cool water of the lake.
“I’m having such a wonderful day.”
“Me too, Callie.”
Madison smiled. She was indeed having a fantastic day. They had watched, or ogled was the more appropriate term, their men for a great deal of time. Andrew and Jayden were laughing and racing along the water like little boys trying to one up one another. It always made Madison’s heart leap seeing Andrew so happy and carefree as it wasn’t often the case, especially recently. His worry about her, their friends, and life in general made him hesitant to fully accept the happiness that was presently in his life. She wasn’t sure at this point what would make him believe that the worst was indeed over.
“Do you think I’m a bad mom?”
Madison blinked, drawn out of her thoughts about Andrew. She turned her head towards Callie and squinted in the bright light of the afternoon sun. She dropped her shades over her eyes and stared at her best friend, who had a notably melancholy expression on her face. A look Madison was unaccustomed to seeing on her.
“Why would you think that?”
Callie sat up on her elbows and twisted her lips before speaking, “Well, shouldn’t I feel like crap for having a good time without Ellie? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love her to death but,” she scrunched her face even further. “I’ve missed being around adults.”
Callie looked down as if she had spoken some horrible truth.
“Well, I think that’s normal, Callie. I’m not a parent or anything, but it’s okay to want to have grown up time. It’s not like you leave her at the drop of a hat. In fact, you spend all your time with her. You are an excellent mom, so get that nonsense out of your head.”
Callie giggled just slightly. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Have you thought about going back to work?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Ellie seems so little still. I don’t want anyone else watching her. Even my mom had me watching my brothers and sisters.”
“I can understand that, but maybe you could just try part time. You know, to get out of the house.”
“Jayden doesn’t want me to work. He said his dad took, I don’t know, Jayden made it seem like six months or something to watch him.”
Madison laughed. “That’s probably an exaggeration.”
“I know.” Callie smiled. “But, yet, it wouldn’t surprise me if he did. Liam seems the type.”
Madison shrugged and then nodded. In the time she had known the Bennett’s, it did appear that Liam was likely the caretaker when Jayden was little. She couldn’t see Elias leaving his practice, and as protective as they both are of their son now, she knew they were undoubtedly twice as bad when he was younger, which meant they probably didn’t trust anyone. But that was a pretty high bar that Callie was trying to live up to.
“Callie, listen,” Madison sat up to look at her properly. “It isn’t what the Bennett’s did or what your mom did. It’s what you feel comfortable doing. But know that whatever you decide you are a kick ass mom and if anyone says different you just steer them my way,” she finished with an arch of her brow.
“Oh Madison, thank you so much,” Callie said, leaping at her friend to hug her.
“You know Ellie is getting totally pampered right now.”
Callie let out one of her trademark, high pitched, screeches of a laugh as she nodded. “Liam has probably already replaced all her formula with some completely natural concoction that he made from scratch” Callie said with a snort.
“Would he really do that?” Madison laughed.
Callie shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe. Jayden said when he was little Liam had them eating everything all natural. He said his dads rarely let him eat any processed food when he was a kid.”
“Geez, really?” Madison said, not at all surprised.
“Yes, Jayden said he didn’t eat fast food at all. I guess Liam was like obsessed with fitness and wellness.”
“Well, hell, him and Elias are seriously still hot so whatever they are doing they should market ’cause DAMN!”
“D.I.L.F., for sure,” Callie giggled at the slang usage and wagged her brows.
“Oh my God! I can’t believe you just said that,” Madison laughed and covered her mouth. Of course, the Bennett’s certainly were worth lusting after, by most people’s standards. Both girls were beat red at the turn their conversation had taken.
“What are you girls laughing about?” Jayden asked as he and Andrew approached.
Madison turned and was momentarily stunned. Andrew looked sinfully sexy. His low-slung board shorts were clinging to his strong legs while water glistened on his wet chest and abs, making the hair on his toned stomach stick to him. The water was luminous on his tattoos and made them appear more vibrant and sexier than normal. The elegant tribal tattoo, that Madison had traced many times, beckoned her as did the sun over his heart. The one she was the most gentle with as it still caused him pain. His fingers went through his hair as his lip twisted up into his deadly, I own you, smirk.
“Come with me.”
Madison heard Andrew say in his pure sex voice as he pulled her now limp body up, drawing her lips to his. His mouth enveloped hers as Madison’s body vibrated against him. Once she was completely out of breath he abruptly stopped and practically tossed her on his back. Instinctually she wrapped her arms around his neck as her legs locked on his waist. Her head dropped on his shoulder, nestled in his wet hair.
“HELIOS!” she screeched as the contrast from the blistering sun and cold water shocked her out of her Helios induced trance.
“You seemed like you needed to cool off,” he chuckled as he pushed his hair out of his face.
Madison splashed water on him, “You just ruined my perfectly lust filled fantasy.”
He yanked her close to him. “No need to fantasize, baby, I’m right here.”
Madison didn’t respond as her eyes fluttered closed, lost again as she felt his long fingers slip inside her bathing suit and press against her. He started moving them over her languidly. Her mouth parted as she breathed out, her face distorting in pleasure.
“Do you like that, Madison?” he asked deeply.
All Madison could do was nod. Her body was his and he knew it. Andrew smiled and continued his ministrations. He and Jayden had decided the girls had stayed dry long enough. But when they both approached, both girls looked guilty as they giggled and whispered to one another. Their intent was to take them on the jet skis, which they would probably still do, but for now he was going to take care of his girl, who was looking so flustered and sexy and wet.
“Madison, have you met Connor yet?” Callie asked, watching Jayden add a few more logs to the fire.
“No, not yet, you?”
Jayden rolled his eyes as he sat back down and brought Callie onto his lap. Callie had been dying to meet Connor and had made an unplanned trip to the shop with the pretense of bringing them lunch. She had brought them lunch alright, but he knew she had an ulterior motive. He and Andrew had then spent the entire time watching Connor and Callie battle in a verbal tennis match, both fighting for who could get the most words out.
“Oh yes, he’s a little cutie,” Callie said, bringing Jayden out of his thought. Callie continued. “Like, I don’t know, a little taller than you. He has this little boy face with all this wild hair, and, oh my gosh, he’s so hyper. I couldn’t get a word in at all.”
Madison laughed. “That must have been hilarious to watch.”
“It was,” Andrew chuckled as he and Jayden shared a knowing glance.
“Yes, he is a good guy but a little, ummm, high maintenance,” Jayden said with a smile.
He looked at Andrew, who was also smiling. In truth, they had both liked Connor immediately. He was a small guy, in comparison to them, who didn’t look much older than sixteen although they both knew he was well over that. He had a wild head of hair that he was constantly pushing out of his face and he talked a mile a minute. But, he had a cheery disposition. You couldn’t help but smile whenever you were around him; he just seemed to bring that out in people. Jayden remembered thinking that he was almost the male equivalent of his Callie. Jayden still couldn’t believe he had been in jail. They all hit it off immediately and he has been a much needed addition to their shop.
“We should have him over,” Madison suggested, bringing Jayden out of his thoughts.
“That’s a great idea,” Callie said excitedly.
Andrew kissed Madison’s temple. He loved that about her. She had such compassion and never judged anyone. She rested her head against his chest as his hand gently combed through her hair. The bright embers of the fire crackled in the pit as the two couples held each other, Madison on Andrew’s lap and Callie on Jayden’s. Madison was lost in the hypnotic cadence of the fire, which was magnified by the steady thumping of Andrew’s heart. Soon she found herself drifting off.
“Madison, baby, wake up,” Andrew whispered, nudging her slightly.
Madison’s eyes slowly started to open. She lifted her head and saw that Jayden and Callie had already gone into their tent. She looked up at Andrew, who was watching her. He gently stroked her face, pushing her hair behind her ears. They had all been talking, and when she didn’t answer a question, he realized that she had fallen asleep. Shortly after, Jayden had thrown more wood on the fire and he and Callie went to their tent. Andrew had meant to wake her sooner but he didn’t have the heart to. He felt comforted having her sleeping in his arms. It was the little things like this that made him love her so immensely and made his heart feel at peace. So instead of waking her, he watched the fire and held her close to him, thinking about how much she meant to him. The many ups and downs over the past couple of years and what might lie ahead for them. He finally decided he had to wake her when he realized he needed to throw some more wood on the fire.
“How long was I asleep?” she asked rubbing her eyes.
“About an hour.”
“Yes,” he said with a light kiss on her forehead, “Let’s go to bed.”
She nodded and slid off his lap while he walked over to the pile of wood that they had for the fire. She watched him in the light of the fire as he arranged some more logs on the flames. He was so very handsome in only his jeans and one of his old ratty t-shirts. Feeling her eyes on him, he turned his head. She mouthed the words I love you and was rewarded with a smile that could make the coldest of hearts melt. He positioned two more logs on the fire before walking over to her and taking her small hand in his. As they entered the tent, Madison instantly shed her jeans and slipped onto the bed. Andrew dropped his jeans as well and pulled off his tee before sliding in next to her. Madison immediately draped her arm over his chest and snuggled next to him.
“Are you real tired?” he asked softly, running his fingers along her lower back.
Madison hummed as she laid a kiss on his chest and then crawled on top of him, bringing her lips to his. His hands moved up her back and into her hair as their kiss deepened. Suddenly, without notice, they were both sliding off the air mattress. Madison screamed as Andrew wrapped his arms around her and twisted so that she would land on top of him. Madison involuntarily giggled until she saw Andrew wince.
“Helios, baby, are you alright?”
He laughed. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
“Well, that woke me up,” Madison giggled.
“Hmm,” he breathed in and then slapped her rear, before sliding her off of him.
He stood and stretched, arching his back. He then reached for the comforter and blankets atop the bed. Madison realized what he was about to do and leapt up, snatching the pillows from the air mattress as well and tossed them onto the comforter he had just spread out on the floor. It was a smaller area since the bed took up most of the space but neither cared. Andrew lay down and reached for her, bringing her on top of him again. His lips hovered close to hers.
“Let’s try that again,” he said with a smile.
“Yes, let’s,” Madison answered as her lips touched his.
It had been a few months since hiring Connor and things seemed to be going well. He was definitely a handful, but in a good way. Andrew liked having him around. As strange as it sounded, Connor made him feel as if his heart was somehow expanding, growing to allow another person to enter it. He had become a regular fixture at outings and dinners. The girls absolutely adored his manic energy. Andrew would never forget the look on Madison’s face the first time he had come to their place to eat. She had told him afterwards that it was like witnessing a tornado of words and energy in human form. All in all, things had settled down. Andrew worked hard to tame the insecurities he felt. He had some lingering doubts that he surmised would probably always be there, but for the most part, he felt good. He felt happy. He felt whole.
Andrew had arranged with Jayden and Connor to leave work a few hours early since today was Madison’s birthday. He had been planning this evening for several weeks and Madison had no suspicions thus far, which was a feat in and of itself as he had to enlist Callie’s help with some of the details. He carefully rearranged the living room, moving their coffee table near the bay window. He placed a large bouquet of roses in the center of the table, along with four crystal bowls, two on each side, that had rose petals and floating candles in them. He placed one large candle and four smaller ones on each of the end tables and then lined the mantel of the fireplace with smaller candles in pretty crystal holders. He walked to the iPod docking station, making sure that it was already set on the right playlist and then looked at the clock. He smiled. He had another hour before Madison would be home. He walked to the kitchen and checked the food one more time before glancing into the dining room.
“I’ll set the table and then jump in the shower,” he thought aloud.
Madison was tired as she pulled up to the house. It had been a long day, a dreadful day, to be exact. But, then again, that probably had more to do with it being her birthday than anything else. She had done her best to smile at Jaimie and Liam as they sang happy birthday to her and gave her a small cake with sparkling candles on it. She clapped and laughed with them but inside she wanted to hurl. She eyed the box of half eaten cake and twisted her lips. She then looked in her rear view mirror and practiced her smile.
“Callie said he was doing something special for you so whatever he did,” she arched her brow at her reflection, “you will like it and not act like a bitch.”
She scowled. She remembered how horrible she had been in New York when he tried to do something for her birthday. Last year he had kept it low key. He had taken her out to her favorite restaurant and then to the theater to see one of the indie movies she had been talking about. Madison had loved it but Andrew seemed a bit uncomfortable. She had told him this year that she didn’t want to go anywhere. She could tell he had been disappointed but she simply wasn’t ready to do all the happy birthday party celebrations that others did. She still struggled with separating her birthday from her father’s funeral. With a heavy sigh, she grabbed the box on the seat and got out of her car.
She walked slowly to the house, nervous. She was desperate to like whatever he did as she knew it would hurt him if she didn’t but she just wasn’t sure if she could pull it off. She breathed in deeply as her hand reached for the door knob. Before she could actually turn it, the door opened. Madison’s mouth dropped as Andrew stood before her, clad in only a pair of low slung, black silk pajama pants. His bare chest was glistening like it did when he would exit the shower. Her eyes wandered up and down his beautiful body. He didn’t seem real to her. More like a work of fiction. As if someone had plucked her fantasy straight from her mind and made it a real person.
Her lip entered her mouth as she brought her eyes up to meet his darkened ones. He had the same expression on his face that he had when they first met. That whole, I’m gonna devour you whole and you’re gonna enjoy it, look.
“Happy Birthday, Madison.”
He brought his knuckle to her face and traced it along her cheek bone and then over her lips, forcing her to release it from her teeth. He smirked as he took the box from her hand, a box she had completely forgotten about. His hand moved to her lower back as he guided her inside their home. Madison gasped when she saw what he had done. The flowers and unlit candles were beautiful but what her eyes were drawn to was what looked like a massage table in the middle of their living room. It seemed to have some kind of blanket on it, or maybe it was a towel, she couldn’t tell for sure. There was also a small tray table, similar to the ones used in hospitals, near the bed with what looked like rolled towels and a jar of oil on it.
“What did you do?” she whispered.
“First, I’m going to feed you, and then,” his lips touched hers lightly, “I’m going to take care of you.” His heated words ignited her core.
“You always take care of me,” she replied in a barely audible whimper.
He smirked and led her to the dining room table where he had their meal already out. His previous failed attempts at making her dinner made him nervous but he felt he had done it right this time, following the directions to a tee for roasted duckling and new potatoes. He set the box on the counter and helped her out of her jacket, laying it over the back of the sofa. He then pulled her seat out just as Madison looked up at him.
She did, without hesitation, looking over everything he had prepared for her. She felt the tears already starting to form and held them back. Do NOT cry! She told herself. He poured her a glass of the wine that Elias and Liam had given him for tonight. He smiled as he remembered stopping by one night last week after work. He knew from being around the Bennetts’ that certain wines were used with certain dishes. But what wine was best with what, he had no idea. He told them what he was planning and asked for a recommendation. They ended up handing him a bottle from their reserve, and even though he tried not to take it, stating he only wanted to know which wine would go best with what he was making, they insisted. When he got to his bike and inspected the bottle further, he had seen that it was a five hundred dollar bottle of wine. Not wanting to damage it in any way possible, he had driven exceptionally slow that night. It was the slowest he had ever driven his Harley before. He sat across from her and raised his glass.
“To the day you were born,” he said with a smile.
Madison, unable to stop herself, smiled in return as she touched her glass to his and took a sip. She looked down at her food. It looked amazing. She wanted to ask if he actually made it or bought it or if he had someone else make it for him, but she realized that she didn’t care. He was doing his best to make her day special. She breathed in deeply before she took a bite of her roasted duck, moaning around her fork.
“Is it okay?” he asked, hopeful that it turned out like Mr. Bennett promised it would.
“It’s divine. Andrew, it’s amazing.”
He beamed. A smile that completely lit up the room as he himself took a bite. He had been worried and called Liam several times during the preparation. Eventually putting him on speaker so he could make sure he was doing everything correctly. He was extremely happy it had turned out well. They ate casually while their conversation remained light and fun. Madison, however, was having a difficult time concentrating as she looked across the table at Andrew. She simply wanted to forgo the meal and feast on his delectable body instead.
“What’s the matter, Madison?” he asked with a knowing smile.
Madison waved her hand at his naked chest. “You are very distracting right now.”
He set his fork down and smirked mischievously. “Would you like me to change?”
She quickly shook her head as his hand combed through his hair. The muscles in his chest twitched with the motion, causing Madison to let out a whimper. He was too gorgeous and sexy for his own good and definitely more than Madison could handle at the moment. Confident he had done well already, Andrew smiled. He cocked his head slightly before motioning his hand at her meal.
“Finish up, Madison, so the rest of our evening can begin.”
The promise in his words had her heart beating quickly. Madison wanted to hurry. She wasn’t sure exactly what he had in store but she was anxious to find out. Her stomach was twisting and turning and every time she snuck a peek at him he was watching her. They finished their meal in relative silence. Madison focused on the meal that was very delicious but also something that she didn’t want at the moment. What she wanted was Andrew.
He didn’t have to tell her twice. She jumped up and waited for his nearly naked body to walk around the table. Although they normally cleared the dinner table together, this time he let it sit, instead taking her hand and leading her to the living room. He positioned her so that she was sitting on the massage bed while he proceeded to walk around the living room, lighting all the candles. Her eyes followed him, unable to look away. When he had lit the last candle, he shut the main lights off, leaving only the small light in the kitchen on. In the dim light, he strutted to her. Madison’s mouth parted as she began breathing rapidly. Andrew’s well defined body was absolute perfection. She would never tire of seeing him.
“Get undressed, Madison,” he ordered as his finger moved under her chin to close her mouth.
Madison quickly shed her work attire, suddenly thinking she should have freshened up, maybe put on some sexy lingerie. Of course, the fact that Andrew was walking around half naked, making her forgot her own name, was not helping matters. Once she was completely bare, she stood before him. He gave her a small smile as he walked behind her and ran his fingers through her hair several times. Madison’s eyes closed as he pulled it back and positioned it in a messy bun, held together with a clip he had picked up from the table.
“Lay on your stomach, Madison,” he said heatedly.
Madison nodded and lay on the table. Andrew smiled as he turned on the music and walked back to her, covering her back with a thick towel. He then used another towel to cover her left leg completely. Squirting some of the Jojoba Oil in the palm of his hand, he rubbed them together and carefully picked up her foot. Starting at her toes, he ran both thumbs down the bottom of her foot and up her ankle, to her calves and then her thighs. He flattened his hands as they slid up and down her leg, kneading her muscles. He did this three times and then covered her right leg before repeating the same pattern on her left leg.
Andrew concentrated on what he was doing. He had been studying videos and reading up on how to give a full body massage. He was determined to do it right. Initially, he had thought it would be a simple thing but the more he read the more he became aware of the practice. He knew that Madison hated her birthdays. He needed to change that. He wanted her to remember tonight instead of what she usually did, the death of her father.
When he had finished with her legs, he covered them carefully with the towel. He then slowly brought the towel on her back down so that it was resting on her rear. He walked in front of her and saw her eyes lift up to his. He smiled and traced the back of his hand down her cheek. She offered him a lazy smile as her head dropped again and she closed her eyes. Moments later she felt his strong hands on her back.
They were moving up and down along her spine and then over her shoulder blades and back down again. Madison was at a loss for words. She had massages before, by professional massage therapists, but nothing would compare to this. There was something special about the man she loved taking time with her like this. She could feel all the tension of the day, this dreadful day that caused her so much sadness throughout her life, starting to wash away with every sweep of his hands.
Andrew moved to her side and placed his left hand on her lower back, rotating it in a full circle and a half circle with his right. He began doing this slowly, moving his way up to her shoulders and then back down. He did this three times before moving to the other side of the table, repeating the process. Madison was in tears as she felt his hands on her. This was the most sensual thing they had ever done. That, topped with the pressure of holding her feelings inside, caused an unusual reaction in her. She was overwhelmed and unable to stop the swell of tears from breaching her impenetrable wall of feelings.
“I’m going to have you roll over, Madison.”
She turned to him, tears streaming down her face. Andrew was shocked. He had not anticipated this response from her. He suddenly worried that he had done something wrong, that maybe he had been too rough with her. He crouched down so that he was face to face with her. His heart hurt seeing her in such distress.
“Madison?” he questioned.
Madison’s chest heaved as she tried to control her tears that just wouldn’t stop. She desperately tried to form the right words, words that could express how special he was and how much she loved him. Unfortunately, no words came out of her mouth.
“Did I hurt you?”
She shook her head. “No,” she finally spoke. “I love you so much.”
He smiled brightly and kissed her gently before helping her roll onto her back. He kissed her forehead, letting his lips linger before finally laying the towel over her body. He walked to the end of the bed and began massaging her leg using smooth motions over the front of her shin and deeper pressure over her thigh. He then moved to her foot and began rotating his thumbs in small circular motions, starting at her heel and working his way to her toes. He glanced at Madison as he moved over to the right side so that he could follow the same pattern that he had just done. Madison’s chest was still heaving but it was getting better, slowing down. As his hands worked over her thighs, he had to fight every part of his nature not to touch her sexually. He already wanted her and if her eyes opened she would see just how much. He moved to stand beside her upper torso.
“I love you,” he whispered as his lips touched hers.
She opened her eyes as he pulled away from her and lifted her hand. She wanted her eyes to stay open but he was making her so relaxed that they kept drooping shut. She felt him working up her arm and then massaging her wrists and fingers. He did this on both arms and then he was gone. Once again, Madison wanted to open her eyes but she wasn’t able to. Soon she felt his thumbs at the junction between her eyebrows. He started moving his thumbs over her brows. He did this a couple of times and then moved them along several spots on her face. His hands then moved over her collarbone, where he rubbed gently before they went to her breasts.
“Andrew,” Madison whimpered, moving her hands over his.
Andrew didn’t hesitate as he leaned down and kissed her waiting mouth. Her hand reached up and entwined in his hair while her other hand touched him through the thin material of his pants. They kissed intently for several minutes until he finally pulled away from her. In Madison’s current state, all she could do was lull her head to watch him walk determinedly to the end of the bed. He reached underneath her and positioned her at the edge while her limp legs dangled off to the sides. Their eyes met and in that moment all the love they felt for one another was transmitted between them.
“Andrew,” Madison moaned as he slipped inside her.
“You’re so beautiful, Madison,” he said reverently.
Andrew started moving in and out of her slowly, determined to make their lovemaking last. Madison tried to raise her hips but she wasn’t sure if she was actually doing it or not. With a wide smile, Andrew brought his hand under her and lifted her to him. Madison moaned softly as Andrew’s gentle movements inflamed her heart and soul. She whimpered as he continued to move and when her body stiffened, he finally allowed himself his own release.
“Madison,” he groaned out one last time.
He dropped his head, catching his breath before disconnecting with her. He started to say something and realized by the rise and fall of her chest that she had finally succumbed to sleep. He smiled and covered her body, not wanting her to get cold. Andrew watched her sleep for a good thirty minutes before he went around and blew out all the candles. Everything he had read said to not wake them, to let them wake on their own but he was afraid she would roll off the table. Besides, if she was going to sleep she would do it in their bed. He carefully lifted her into his arms and carried her to their bedroom, setting her on the bed.
“Why are there towels on the bed?” Madison mumbled.
He smiled as he lay behind her. “I figured you would be oily from the massage and I didn’t want to ruin our comforter.”
She looked over her shoulder and smiled sleepily, “Thank you.”
He pecked her lips. “Go to sleep, birthday girl.”
She grinned and turned back around. He snuggled against her as his arm draped over her chest. She ran her hand over his, entwining their fingers together. She could feel the steady rise and fall of his chest on her back. She squeezed his hand.
“Thank you, Andrew.”
He laid a tender kiss on her shoulder. “You’re welcome.”
“So I told him that I could replace the front and rear suspension, the exhaust system, and pull that old tired tank out of there and that I would absolutely 100% guarantee that if he let me do all of that that he could beat that asshole Chase that always likes to show off because he’s trying to look good so he can get a piece of ass since the only way a girl will look at his ugly mug is if he’s riding that kick ass bike of his,” Connor said in one very long breath. He waved his wrench towards Andrew and Jayden. “I hate that guy. He shouldn’t be allowed to have a bike that cool.” He looked down at the bike he was working on and shook his head. “He’s such a cocky mother fucker. You guys know who I’m talking about right?” he asked as he looked back up.
Andrew and Jayden exchanged a look with one another and then Connor again. The both broke into a fit of laughter. Connor had been talking nonstop for at least twenty minutes. Andrew and Jayden were used to Connor’s manic sort of way of interacting with them. He was a hard worker and an overall good kid. Neither Andrew nor Jayden was qualified to diagnose him but they were certain he had ADHD with an overemphasis on the Hyperactivity part of that diagnosis. They often wanted to go buy him some marijuana to settle him down as Connor had said once that it calmed him. They would never do something like that though and often enjoyed trying to keep up with him.
“What? What’s so funny?” Connor asked, generally confused.
“Yes, we know who you’re talking about,” Andrew finally said through his laughter.
“So what time is this party tonight?” Connor asked Jayden, jumping to another topic.
“Nine, but we need to be here at eight. Don’t be late,” Jayden said still laughing.
“I won’t be, man. Callie will kick my butt. She’s small but I think she might really do it. Like she’s probably like some stealthy little ninja,” he jumped up and started posing in what Andrew and Jayden assumed was a ninja stance. “Sneaking up on you and then POP,” he flicked the wrench and it flew across the room. “Shit!” he scuttled to grab it, glancing at Jayden and Andrew. “Sorry, man, got carried away.”
“Did Johnny say he wanted you to overhaul his bike?” Andrew asked, trying to get Connor back on track.
“Johnny, the one you gave the spiel to,” Jayden added. “You know, your 100% guarantee that if you fix it he will be able to beat Chase, Johnny.”
Connor nodded with a big smile on his face. “Um, yeah, hell yeah. He’s bringing it in next week.”
“Good, great work,” Andrew said and went back to work on the bike in front of him. Feeling eyes on him, he looked back up to see Connor staring at him. “What?” Andrew questioned.
Connor smirked and then got another huge grin. He shook his head and his long unmanageable hair fell directly in front of his eyes. He bounced in his spot, opening his mouth and then closing it several times. Andrew glanced at Jayden for guidance but all Jayden did was shrug. Neither was sure what was floating around in Connor’s head.
“No one has ever told me I did good, like, at anything. It’s, umm, kind of weird.”
Jayden smiled. “Connor, even if we don’t say it often, know that it’s true. We,” he motioned between him and Andrew, “are glad you are here. You are a great kid.”
Connor continued to smile and then laughed. “Thanks, you guys are great too.”
“Now, get back to work,” Andrew said firmly. He held the expression, seeing Connor’s face drop. Finally he couldn’t hold it any longer and grinned mischievously.
“Shit, man,” Connor pointed his wrench at Andrew. “You got me, man. I really thought you were pissed.”
They all laughed and started working again knowing they only had a few more hours before Callie got there and took over. Callie had taken on the promotion of the shop. She had thought one thing they could do to get more attention was to host an open house since they didn’t really do anything like that when the shop opened in January. In the planning of that, she decided on a holiday party instead. Since Halloween was the closest holiday, she went to town. Callie had it all worked out and was actually upset that she didn’t have the entire day to decorate the shop. Andrew and Jayden had both put their foot down and said they needed it at least until noon.
Tonight, under Callie’s expert guidance, they were hosting a Halloween party. They had invited former customers, people they did regular business with, and some of their racing friends. Callie had planned on doing a whole zombie themed garage, stating that zombies were ‘in’, citing the popularity of shows like The Walking Dead. She had actually wanted them to be zombie bikers but Andrew had absolutely refused. After a great deal of debate, the three guys agreed to be bikers who just so happened to be vampires. That being decided, Callie revamped her zombie garage idea and went with a whole vampire lair theme. Andrew had no idea what that entailed exactly but he assumed he would soon find out.
“Okay, boys, pack it up,” Callie said, walking inside the shop and clapping her hands around Ellie who was strapped to her chest.
Jayden smiled and shrugged at Connor and Andrew. They each moved the bikes they were working on to the corner, a little worried how they were going to keep them protected. Callie had told them not to worry about it as she had a plan for keeping them safe. Callie carefully set up Ellie’s portable crib and set Ellie inside it. She strapped the baby monitor over the railing and clipped the receiver on her pocket. She immediately started dictating to everyone, to move this here, move that there. She was on a roll. When things were moved to where she wanted them, the decorating actually began. By the time they were done, Andrew needed a cigarette.
“She’s really scary,” Connor said, leaning against the wall.
Andrew smiled as he brought his cigarette to his lips.
“Can I have one?” Connor asked, motioning to Andrew’s cigarette.
“Yeah, sure,” Andrew reached for his pack and shook a cigarette out of it.
“Don’t get me wrong. Callie is da bomb and all, but damn.” Connor took a long drag off the cigarette.
“Don’t tell me Callie wore you out?” Andrew asked, chuckling.
“How the hell does Jayden remain so calm?”
“Years and years of practice,” Jayden stated as he walked towards them. He grinned at Andrew and raised a brow at Connor.
“I didn’t mean no disrespect or anything, I really like Callie. She is awesome and brings us stuff and I’m sure she is …” Connor started to ramble until Jayden raised his hand to stop him.
“Callie has always been that way. I’m used to it.” He ran his hand through his hair. “Sooooo,” he drug out the word, “this is where you two snuck off to.”
“Sorry,” Andrew smirked. “You mean we’re not done?”
“I think we are,” Jayden blew out a breath. “God, I hope so.”
“So what time do we need to be back?” Connor asked for the tenth time just in the span of the day.
“We need to be here by eight,” Jayden answered patiently.
“Alright,” Andrew pushed off the wall. “Madison will be home in thirty minutes so I’m gonna head out. We’ll see ya at eight.”
“I better call Jewel and tell her I got the time wrong.”
Andrew looked over his shoulder, “You’re bringing someone?”
“Oh yeah, I got me a lady,” Connor stated proudly.
“Well, good for you. Hope she knows her costume needs to be coordinated with yours.”
“What? Really, are you serious? I thought that was only you guys. Shit! Shit! Shit!” Connor said digging out his phone.
“Later,” Andrew snickered as he walked to his bike.
Madison waited patiently for Andrew to come out of the bathroom. He had been in there for a while and she was beginning to wonder if he was having issues with his costume. She smiled because she couldn’t wait to see him in it.
“I hate these damn things,” Andrew said motioning to his eyes.
Madison’s mouth dropped as he strolled towards her, looking sexy as hell. He had on a pair of black leather pants with a tight fitting black tee and a long black trench coat. She swallowed as she looked up to his face. He was wearing red contacts and had remnants of what looked like blood coming out of the corners of his mouth. He had combed his hair back on the sides, holding it in place with gel and spiked up the top of his hair.
“So did I channel Kiefer Sutherland or what?” he asked, giving her a steely gaze.
“Oh, Helios, baby. You are so much hotter than Kiefer but yes, you totally look like you belong on the set of The Lost Boys.” Madison let her eyes roam his body again, letting out a contented sigh.
“I know we’re all wearing ’em but I don’t know how long I can do it. These contacts suck.”
“You look amazing,” Madison whispered.
“So do you,” he said, his hand running over her backside.
Madison had selected the outfit she wore for the picture he had drawn for her. She also had red contacts but had done her makeup up with dark smoky eyes, overemphasizing the black eye liner. Her hair was down and teased out as if she belonged in an 80’s music video. He went to kiss her and was halted by the teeth.
“How the hell are we supposed to kiss with these teeth,” he asked, a cross between being amused and frustrated.
“Maybe we aren’t supposed to kiss but bite,” she said with a wag of her brows.
“Is that so,” he kissed along her lips and began nipping at her neck.
Madison’s skin pebbled and her hands immediately ran into the back of his hair. He brought his mouth to hers and pecked her lips several times before stepping back with a sigh.
“Come on, baby. Let’s get this show on the road.”
Andrew took her hand as they walked outside and jumped on his Harley. Madison, not wanting to mess up her hair too much, rested her head between his shoulder blades as they drove the short distance to the garage. Andrew pulled around back to park in his normal spot and then helped Madison off his bike. Before they could make it to the doors, Callie came barreling out.
“Hold on, guys. I want you to come in from the front so you can get the whole feel of it, okay?” Callie stated out of breath.
“Okay,” Andrew replied, looking at Madison who was grinning.
Callie had been talking about this for weeks and had planned everything to perfection. Madison actually couldn’t wait to see it. She tugged on Andrew’s hand as they began to walk around the front with Callie talking a mile a minute. Madison did her best not to laugh as she remembered having both Connor and Callie in the same room for a meal. The two of them kept getting more and more animated as the conversation continued. At one point no one knew how they had gotten on the topic of the best juicers on the market but they had. It was the funniest thing that Madison had ever seen.
“You two look great, by the way,” Callie stated as they got to the front of the shop. “I like the whole Lost Boys theme. It was a good idea, Andrew.”
Andrew smiled at her and looked down at Madison who was beaming. Callie looked fierce in her high heeled boots, leather pants and jacket. Her short hair, which was now jet black, was spiked in all directions. She waved her arms as they entered. They were immediately greeted by The Door’s ‘People Are Strange’ coming out of the speakers.
“Welcome,” she said with a smile.
“Wow! Callie, this is really something!” Madison said, stepping away from Andrew to take it all in.
Callie had outlined all the door frames and corners with huge intricate spider webs. She had used a tarp on the floor of the bay and spread it with what looked like artificial grass. There was a small DJ stand in the corner that her brother would be manning that evening and three large coffins in the corner where the bikes were that the boys had been working on. Between the coffins, she had set three large plants, the same ones that the Bennett’s had used at their wedding. She had then put up small tombstones in the remaining corners of the bay.
“The food will be in the waiting room,” Callie stated.
“Callie, this is absolutely amazing!” Madison said in awe.
“I have a fog machine behind the coffins that I’ll turn on in about thirty minutes.”
“This is gonna be such a blast.”
“Madison, come help me with the food.”
“Sure thing,” Madison said.
Andrew watched the two women walk towards the waiting room and then went in search of Jayden. He found him in his office.
“Is this a safe place to hide?” Andrew asked from the doorway.
“I hope so,” Jayden grinned.
The men laughed and joked about this big to do that Callie had planned. Something neither was completely comfortable with as they were both content just hanging out with a few people. Of course they knew Connor was excited enough for all three of them, as was evidenced by his ecstatic entrance in the office.
“Oh man, this place looks so good. I mean I had seen it but, I don’t know, looking at it like right now with the fog over the ground is fucking awesome. Why are you guys in here?”
Andrew and Jayden looked at each other with a smile.
“We’re gearing up for the big event,” Andrew stated, matter of fact.
Connor shrugged his shoulders. Hearing a noise, he darted back out to see what was happening.
“Maybe we can hide in here all night and let Connor take over,” Andrew suggested, only half kidding.
“Oh, God, who knows what he would volunteer us for,” Jayden laughed.
Andrew nodded, “That’s true. I guess we better go out there and face the music.”
“Rock, Paper, Scissors?” Jayden said raising his brow.
“Hey, don’t offer that,” Andrew said rubbing his hands together.
“It’s time,” Madison said at the door.
“Too late,” Andrew chuckled.
“Eh, you probably would have won anyway.”
“Oh quit it you two,” Callie said coming up to the three of them.
The four started walking back to the front of the shop and Andrew leaned back as did Jayden.
“We’ll hide in the coffins,” Jayden said wagging his brows.
“I heard that,” Callie stated with a slight giggle.
She knew that this was difficult for them as neither were comfortable in the spotlight. But sometimes one had to do things they were uncomfortable with. She just hoped that at least half of the people they invited came, even for a short time.
“Jewel, these are my bosses, Andrew and Jayden,” Connor immediately said as they walked up.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jewel,” Jayden said reaching out his hand to her.
“Nice to meet you, Jewel,” Andrew then stated.
Jewel was a pretty blond girl in a scantily clad outfit. She talked in a soft voice and seemed a bit shy. She was not what either had expected. The three couples visited for another twenty minutes before the first guests started to arrive. Jayden and Andrew were thankful that it was some of their racing friends because they immediately put them at ease. Within an hour they already had a room full of people.
“Holy shit!” Connor practically screamed.
“What?” Andrew asked, alarmed.
A string of curse words escaped his mouth as he shook his head. “Is that who I think it is? Oh man, shit, it can’t be. I must be seeing things.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” Andrew asked, clearly confused as he didn’t see anything.
“Skylar Chase, do you have any idea how many times I jacked off to pictures of her.”
“Too much information, Connor,” Andrew replied, shaking his head and looking on.
If Skylar was here then … he smiled, not finishing his thought. He hurriedly approached with Madison following close behind him. Logan and Skylar were both dressed as nerds. Logan in checkered high water pants held up with suspenders, a white button down shirt and bright red bowtie. Skylar was in a pair of red checkered shorts also held up with suspenders. She had a white formfitting button down shirt and a checkered bowtie. Both were wearing typical nerd glasses. Logan let out a booming laugh as Andrew approached and immediately slapped him on the shoulder.
“How the hell did you know about this?” Andrew asked laughing.
He pulled out a 4×6 cardboard paper. “I got an invite.”
“Callie,” Andrew said with a smile.
“How you been?” Logan asked, stepping further inside.
“Great, amazing actually.”
“Skylar, would you like something to drink?” Madison asked, motioning towards the waiting room.
She smiled and nodded as they walked out of earshot, giving the boys a chance to catch up.
“Show me around, Andrew,” Logan stated.
Andrew smiled. It always seemed weird to have people he knew from his time in prison call him by his first name. It was equally difficult to get used to seeing Logan as just a guy and not a prison guard. Of course, the fact he was in his nerd costume was making it much easier to do. Andrew walked him to the bay where Logan let out another booming laugh, nodding as he inspected the decorations.
“This shit is amazing,” he stated through his laughter.
“You remember Jayden don’t you?” Andrew asked.
“Yeah, of course, from Lake Arrowhead, right?”
Jayden nodded and reached out his hand as Logan shook it.
“This is Connor, he works for us,” Andrew said, turning towards Connor.
Connor looked like he was about to shrink into himself. If he could have run out of the shop, he would have. Jayden and Andrew were watching him, not sure what was happening.
“Do I know you?” Logan asked.
Connor swallowed and nodded slightly. He had nearly had a heart attack when he saw the big man approaching. Reeves was decent enough, as far as guards went, but he had seen him pound on his cousin before. His cousin deserved it, of course, but that wasn’t the point. He had seen firsthand Guard Reeves in action. What was he doing here and why was Andrew all buddy buddy with him? Suddenly Andrew realized what the problem was.
“Connor, it’s cool. He’s a guest.”
“You’re married to Skylar Chase?” Connor finally asked meekly.
“Yes, I am,” Logan grinned. He was well aware of the fact that many of the inmates had her pictures up and what they did in their cells while looking at her.
“Geez, what happened to the energizer bunny?” Madison asked with a laugh, motioning her head to the unusually quiet and still Connor.
Andrew almost choked on his drink. “He’s in shock that Logan is married to Skylar.”
Skylar smiled and reached her hand out to Connor who looked like he was about to faint. He finally shook it.
“I have your poster.”
“Isn’t that sweet. So you’re a fan?”
“I’ve seen everything you’ve been in. Even that crazy movie where you were all in that house and everyone was being murdered except for you of course ’cause you are bad ass like that but everyone else was dropping left and right. I know a lot of people didn’t see it but you were fucking awesome in it.”
“And, he’s back,” Madison smiled.
Everyone laughed and continued to visit. Connor was talking Skylar’s ear off with trivia about her movies. Soon more people started arriving and everyone started mingling and talking to people. Much to both Andrew and Jayden’s surprise, they were having a great time. Everyone was drinking and dancing and, most of all, laughing. Skylar was such a good sport and did take pictures with several fans, even danced with a few, including Connor.
“Andrew, come with me,” Madison said urgently, tugging on his hand.
“What’s the matter?” he asked as they stepped outside.
Madison didn’t say anything, instead her arms went around his neck and her mouth latched onto his. He pulled away and immediately removed his vampire teeth, as did she. She pushed him against the wall as their mouths attacked one another. Their hands worked up and down each other’s bodies. Touching, grabbing, stroking. Riling one another up until Andrew turned and lifted her against the wall. He needed her and was mentally calculating if he could get away with it. Before he could contemplate further, Connor came barreling outside, frantic.
“Andrew, get the hell in here. I think Jayden is gonna get in a fight.”
“What!” Andrew snatched Madison’s hand in his as they pushed through the door.
Jayden was irate. He had been having a great time when he looked up to see Jimmy’s father step into the shop. He had two people with him that Jayden had never seen before. The senator looked around as if he were searching for someone. When he turned and made eye contact with Jayden, he smirked and walked over. As soon as people noticed him, they stopped what they were doing to watch. First, popular actress Skylar Chase showed up and now a prominent politician. The party was quickly entering legendary status.
“Nice party,” Senator Bowers said.
“It’s a private party that you weren’t invited to,” Jayden replied coolly.
Senator Bowers grinned maliciously and leaned in closer so that he was whispering in Jayden’s ear. “And here I thought that you, being raised by homosexuals, would have more manners. I guess not all stereotypes are true.”
He snickered when Jayden pushed him away. When he saw Andrew and Madison moving in his direction at a quick pace, he stood straight. Andrew pushed Madison behind him and she immediately grasped her hand on his jacket, wondering why Senator Bowers was there.
“Andrew Harrison. If it isn’t the epitome of rehabilitation,” he said raising his hands to everyone who was now quiet.
“What do you want?” Andrew asked; his anger was clearly evident.
Senator Bowers stared at Andrew, his eyes narrowed and then he smiled widely. “I heard about this little shindig you were holding and wanted to offer you both great success.”
“Bullshit!” Jayden stated, crossing his arms.
Bowers shot Jayden a disparaging look and then turned to Andrew again. Before he could respond, he saw Madison peek out from behind him. The senator smiled, making eye contact with her. She looked scared, which was a response that pleased him.
“Well hello, Madison. How do you like your new job? I’m sure it must be quite the change working for such a small and insignificant firm considering the type of accounts that were under your care in New York.”
Before Madison could respond to defend Liam, Andrew stepped directly in front of him. “You don’t ever talk to her. Do I make myself clear? We want nothing to do with you or anyone associated with you.”
Senator Bowers did not flinch, instead he smirked evilly. Logan stared at the two men, debating whether he should interfere or not. He knew very well who the senator was. It was also very clear that the senator was baiting Andrew. Remembering the many fights Andrew had been in inside prison, he decided he needed to do something. He quickly came up to Andrew and tapped his shoulder.
“Enough, Harrison,” he stated firmly, in the tone he generally used with prisoners.
Andrew immediately stepped back, his nostrils flaring in anger. His entire body was tense as his fists clenched at his sides. He wanted to attack. He wanted to rip the smile off of the senator’s face. He wanted to pound him into the ground for showing up in his place of business and putting down his friends. Meanwhile, Senator Bowers continued to smile. He had accomplished exactly what he wanted. He glanced at all the stunned faces before him, nodding slightly.
“Enjoy your evening, folks,” and with that he turned and walked out, leaving chaos in his wake.
Andrew eyed Senator Bowers as he exited the shop. It was taking everything in him not to chase him down and beat the ever-loving crap out of him. He heard shuffling beside him and out of the corner of his eye he could see Callie walking up to where her brother stood.
“Well, that was exciting,” Callie laughed uneasily. “Okay everyone; let’s not let that slight interruption ruin our evening. It’s still early, let’s dance and have some fun,” she said in her typical energetic voice. She then waved at her brother to play some music which he did quickly.
Soon people were dancing again while Andrew felt Logan shoving him towards the back door. Even though he was no longer in prison he didn’t fight it, his mind remembering that you don’t fight the guards. His entire body was tense and on edge. His fists were still balled so tightly that they were actually red. He needed to hit someone, or something. His rage needed to be released. Suddenly he was against the wall, with Logan’s large arm across his chest holding him in place.
“Harrison, calm the fuck down,” Logan said in a fierce tone.
Andrew started struggling, trying to get out of Logan’s grasp. Logan moved closer, getting right in his face.
“Is that what you want, Harrison? To be that man again?” He hissed out angrily. “You are giving that asshole exactly what he wants,” Logan said a bit softer.
Andrew released the breath he didn’t realize he was holding. He finally saw Logan before him. His face was almost desperate. Andrew’s eyes shifted to the side and he could see Madison with her hands covering her mouth. She looked afraid, as did Jayden, who was standing next to her. Connor was unusually quiet. He was leaning against the door, blocking it so if anyone tried to come out they wouldn’t be able to. He was avoiding looking in Andrew’s direction.
“I’m fine. Let me go.”
Logan stepped back and Madison immediately ran up to him but instead of holding him, she gingerly picked up his hand. It was then that Andrew looked down and saw that there was blood there. At that moment, pain began to course through him. Andrew didn’t know exactly what had transpired but he had a strong suspicion. With a heavy sigh he placed his other hand underneath Madison’s chin, gently lifting her face up. She now had tears in her eyes.
“I’m sorry if I scared you.”
Madison nodded and looked back down at his hand again. He didn’t remember her coming out which frightened him. He often blacked out when he would fight. He would go insane with rage. It was what had caused the conflict with Jimmy two years ago. Soon Jayden and Connor were both standing by him. Connor’s eyes were wide but Andrew wasn’t sure if that was out of fear or maybe admiration while Jayden still bore the burden of worry on his face.
“I’m sorry, man,” Andrew stated with disappointment.
“Are you alright?” Jayden asked with concern.
Andrew rested his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. He wasn’t sure if he was alright but he sure as hell wanted to be.
to be continued…
Read Helios Renewed on September 19th to find out what happens next!