Of California’s 38,000,000 residents, I was probably the only one with no air-conditioning and two faulty electric window motors. I fanned my face with the brochure of my dream car that I couldn’t qualify for, then pushed the A/C button repeatedly, hoping for a moment’s relief from the sweltering heat.
I pressed my finger against the electric window button.
The mass of stationary vehicles ahead were forced to share the one thing with me I had grown to hate about the nation’s most heavily populated state.
I’d been sitting in the same spot for no less than thirty minutes, and the late afternoon sun had turned the interior of my car into a sauna. I pushed my glasses up the bridge of my nose, pressed the side of my face against the window glass, and gazed through the corner of the windshield.
A winding six-vehicle-wide line of bumper-to-bumper traffic for as far as I could see gave no indication of what the problem was, or when it might end.
It was quite possible that paying my cell phone bill would have to wait one more day.
My gaze fell to my lap. My glistening legs stood as a reminder of the scorching temperature inside my thirty-year-old Toyota. As I inhaled a shallow breath of the thick air, the roar of a passing motorcycle startled me. I looked up in enough time to catch a glimpse of the black blur; a biker splitting lanes between me and the car to my left. Envious of his ability to thread his way between two fixed lanes of traffic, I let out a sigh as one of his buddies sped past.
In perfect timing, they continued to shoot by me, each one of them wearing a leather vest fitted with a patch that named their motorcycle club. Their speed, however, prevented me from reading it.
I watched in awe as one after another flew by, their handlebars clearing the cars that sat on either side of them by nothing more than inches as they sped past.
And then, silence.
Intrigued and overheated, I pulled lightly on the door handle while pressing my shoulder against the glass – the gentle persuasion that was typically required to open it. The door sprung free, and I all but flopped out onto the freeway. The slight ocean breeze offered a welcome relief, and although the outside temperature was more than 90 degrees, it felt like a blast of Artic air.
My eyes fluttered as the moisture began to evaporate from my sweat-soaked shirt.
Refreshed, but still frustrated, I leaned against the open door and gazed along the endless line of traffic. Hoping to see something in the distance that would give a hint as to when the traffic might clear, I fixed my eyes on the most distant car and hoped for it to move.
Another dose of nothing.
I closed my eyes and forced out a sigh.
My eyes shot open at the sound of screeching tires. I spun around just in time to see a motorcycle heading straight for me. Scared for my life, I jerked myself inside and reached for the door handle, but it was too late.
The motorcycle slammed into my car’s open door and ripped it from my grasp.
You’ve got to be fucking kidding me…
Wide-eyed, I watched as the force of the impact ripped the door completely from the hinges.
The sound of squealing tires, tumbling steel, and breaking glass meshed into one awful sound. In absolute shock – and horrified by what was happening – I gawked as the door toppled into the side of the van parked in front of me. In what appeared to be an intentional maneuver, the motorcyclist laid the motorcycle onto its side, and then gracefully slid alongside it feet-first.
The motorcycle came to an abrupt stop against the back bumper of a truck two vehicles ahead of the van. The motorcyclist slid another thirty feet or so, then slowly rose to his feet.
Dear. Fucking. God.
Grateful that he was alive, I pulled the emergency brake handle, shut off the vehicle, and swallowed heavily. Without a second’s thought, I stepped through the unobstructed opening and began to walk toward the downed motorcycle and its colossal – and very pissed off – owner.
The behemoth of a man took several long-legged strides in my direction, spouting out cuss words with each step. As he reached the back of the truck, he pulled off his helmet and then gazed down at his damaged motorcycle. With shoulder-length hair, an unruly beard, and tanned muscular arms that were covered in tattoos, he defined intimidating.
After getting an eyeful of his smashed bike, he looked up and fixed his eyes on me. Blood dripped from the knuckles of his left hand, and his arm was covered in abrasions from his wrist to his shoulder.
He picked a few rocks from his wound, and then met my gaze. His eyes thinned. “You dumb bitch! What in the fuck were you thinking?”
Being called a bitch wasn’t something I ever allowed, but considering the circumstances, I decided to offer no objection. It wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing to do.
Just this once.
I stopped and raised my hands in apology. “I’m so sorry.”
He crouched down, lifted the motorcycle upright, and then shook his head. “Sorry?”
I’d never seen anyone as massive as he was, and although my focus should have been his well-being – and how I was going to pay for repairing the damage – it wasn’t. Partially mesmerized by his sheer size, and more so by his handsome looks, I gawked at him like an awe-struck schoolgirl who had been asked on a date by the quarterback of the football team.
I gave my response in the form of a nod.
He tossed his hands in the air. “That’s it? Your fuckin’ sorry?”
I pushed my hands into my pockets and twisted my hips back and forth nervously. “I though all of you guys had passed.”
He looked me up and down. “Well, all of us guys hadn’t passed. Obviously.”
His motorcycle was pretty scratched up, but his reduced speed prevented the wreck from turning it into a total disaster. I took a breath, met his narrow gaze, and sighed. “Look. I just. I’m really, really sorry. My air-conditioner is broken, and I was just wanting to see if traffic had maybe–”
“Your fuckin’ air conditioner’s broken?” He brushed his right hand along the bloody flesh of his left bicep, and then looked at his palm. The muscles in his jaw went tight and he shot me a glare.
An inaudible uh huh escaped my lips.
He wiped his hand against the thigh of his jeans, leaving a bloody smear on the otherwise clean denim. “This was a $40,000 bike. Your broken air-conditioner is the least of your worries, now. I hope you’ve got good insurance.”
I hadn’t paid my premium in months. Six weeks out of college, I was working a part-time nursing job that barely paid the rent, let alone afforded me any such luxuries as auto insurance, air-conditioning repairs, or sometimes, even food.
I felt the need to correct him before he got any wild ideas of attempting to call my non-existent insurance company. “Uhhm. You hit me.”
He pressed his hands to his hips and glared. Standing no more than fifteen feet from me, he – and the few people who had gathered – stared at me in disbelief. Suddenly, I felt small.
“Are you fuckin’ kidding me?” he howled. “This state allows lane-splitting when done in a safe and prudent fuckin’ manner. It’s your fuckin’ responsibility to watch what the fuck you’re doing. Slinging your fuckin’ door open ain’t on the list.”
“The responsible fuckin’ behavior list.”
Despite the countless f-bombs, he sounded pretty convincing.
“Uhhm. I’ve…” I stammered.
He continued his evil-eyed stare.
I forced a smile. “Sure, I’ve got you covered.”
He glanced at his knuckles, looked at his battered motorcycle, and then reached for the row of switches mounted on the handlebars. After a few attempts, the engine started. He then straddled the seat and turned on the stereo.
And old-school rap song began to play over the speakers.
The small gathering of people stared with open mouths as he revved the engine on the motorcycle, appearing to be mere seconds away from his departure.
“I’m gonna be late for a fuckin’ meeting,” he shouted over the sound of the exhaust. “Give me your number, we’ll settle this up later.”
I took a few steps toward him.
He pulled his helmet over his long hair and glanced at his knuckles again. The helmet only covered the top of his head, leaving his face unobstructed. He sat there studying me, undoubtedly waiting on me to provide him with a telephone number that was now in cell phone satellite limbo.
I didn’t respond. At least for that moment in time, I couldn’t.
Somehow his eyes commanded every ounce of my attention, and I wasn’t a person who typically cared about someone’s eyes. Muscles had always been my weakness, and although he was built like a professional football player, I seemed to care less. After spending a moment trying to decide if his eyes were green or brown, I gave up and offered him all I could afford to give.
“I’m a nurse,” I explained. “At least let me take a look at your–”
He chuckled. “I don’t need you to take a look at any fuckin’ thing.” He reached into the pocket of his jeans, mumbled something, and pulled out his phone. “What’s your fuckin’ number?”
With my eyes still locked on his, I recited my phone number. “6-1-9-4-4-7-1-0-2-0.”
He broke my gaze, tapped his finger against the screen, and then looked up. “Name?”
Hazel. His eyes were hazel. My mouth curled into a smile. “Tegan.”
He wrinkled his brow. “What?”
“Tegan,” I shouted. “T-E-G-A-N.”
“Tegan.” He nodded and then put on his sunglasses. “What’s your last name?”
He pulled his motorcycle forward a few feet, positioned it between the vehicles, and then glanced over his shoulder. “Call your insurance company and tell ‘em about how you got your door ripped off by a lane-splitting biker.” He chuckled a light laugh. “And, you better answer the fuckin’ phone when I call.”
“I will,” I said, although at that particular moment, I couldn’t receive a call if I wanted to.
As he rode away, I made note of the patch embroidered on the back of his vest.
Filthy Fuckers MC.
It didn’t sound like the name of a motorcycle club I wanted to piss off.
I stared beyond the two-dozen onlookers who had gathered, and, as he sped off, hoped I got my phone bill paid before he tried to call me.
“That’s not an answer, it’s an excuse,” I fumed. “He said he was on the floor for almost a fuckin’ hour.”
“That’s an exaggeration.” She sighed and then looked at me. “I stepped out here for no more than a minute to answer a phone call, just like I said. That’s it. When I went back inside, he was out of his wheelchair.”
My father’s nurse and I were on the front porch in a heated argument. He said she had left him unattended for an hour, and she was denying it. I knew better than to question him about his claim; he was a lot of things, but a liar wasn’t one of them.
“So, my Pop’s a liar?”
She flipped her hair over her shoulder and shot me a look. “I didn’t say that.”
“You sure as fuck did. He said an hour, you said a minute. One of you is full of shit.”
I’d hired her because she had huge tits and a really nice ass. Looking at her now, however, none of that seemed to matter. She was nothing more than the woman who had abused my father.
She lowered her head for a few seconds, and then looked up. “Listen, I’m not going to stand here and let you talk to me like I’m some–”
“Like you’re some what?” I folded my arms in front of my chest and let out a breath. “An incompetent bitch?”
Her face contorted. “I can’t believe you just called me a bitch.”
“I can’t believe you let him lay on the floor for a fuckin’ hour,” I snapped back. “You’re fired.”
She’d been my father’s caregiver for two weeks, and I had nothing but complaints from him regarding her lack of attention. Her failure to tend to his needs had been a topic of discussion since she’d arrived, and leaving him on the floor beside his wheelchair for an hour was the final straw.
“Good luck getting someone to watch that old prick,” she snarled as she turned away. “He’s a fucking asshole. And, all he does is stare at my tits.”
“If you weren’t a woman, I’d beat–”
She spun around. “And if you didn’t owe me a week’s wages, I’d kick your big dumb ass in the nuts.”
I grabbed my wallet, pulled out $1,500, and tossed it into the air. “Beat feet, bitch.”
As the bills fluttered over the edge of the porch, she scrambled to pick them up before they blew away.
I turned toward the door, yanked it open, and stomped inside.
My father lowered his Kindle and looked up. With one arm in a sling, the other in a cast, and one of his legs fixed straight with a knee brace, he looked like sheer hell.
“You send her ass down the highway?” he asked.
I sat down on the couch beside him. “Sure did.”
He shook his head and then started reading again. “She had a nice set of tits, but she was fuckin’ worthless.”
His lack of mobility hadn’t affected his eyesight, that was for sure. I looked him over. On the surface, he seemed as healthy as he’d always been, but I realized he wasn’t. The fact that I had no one to watch him began to sink in. Although I knew I’d made the right decision in firing his nurse, I began to fill with regret.
“She said it was nothing but a minute while she answered a phone call. I got sick of listening to her lying ass.”
He didn’t bother looking up.
“You sure you’re alright?” I asked.
He reached for his 32-ounce tumbler of water, lifted it to his mouth with a shaking hand, and took a long drink.
“Alright? I’ve got a broken wrist, blown-out knee, broken ankle, and a dislocated shoulder. I can’t stand, I can’t fuckin’ walk, I can barely sit, and I’ve got to have someone else wipe my fuckin’ ass. Hell, I can barely hold up this fuckin’ Kindle without collapsing from the pain, but I’m doing it because this book is too god damned good to stop reading.” He let out a light laugh. “I’ve been better, Son.”
He may have been in bad physical shape, but his attitude hadn’t been damaged one bit.
“I meant from laying on the floor for an hour,” I said. “Nothing else is bothering you, is it?”
“Now that she’s gone?” He set the water aside and reached for his Kindle. “Nope.”
“I’ll stay here ‘till mom gets off, but I’m gonna have to find someone else to take over.”
“Well, I didn’t think you were going to be my new nurse.” He cleared his throat, but kept his eyes fixed on his Kindle. “Instead of getting another off that fuckin’ Craigslist, why don’t you call one of those placement services? They send out a nurse, and if I don’t like her, you can just send her back and get another.”
I’d investigated a few such professional services, but the cost was twice what I’d been paying. The only other choice was to send him to a nursing home, and that wasn’t an option.
“I’ll look into it.”
He laid the Kindle in his lap and looked up. “While she’s here, maybe you can have her take a look at that arm of yours. You look like you got shot at and missed and shit on and hit.”
It wasn’t. I looked like I’d been in a fight with a Grizzly bear and lost.
“Looks like a four-foot long chunk of hamburger. One of these days you’re gonna get killed.”
“I wasn’t doing anything wrong, Pop. Dumb bitch opened her door while me and the fellas were flying up the 5.”
“That’s been my point since you started riding, dipshit. This traffic isn’t safe for anything short of a fuckin’ tank, let alone a bunch of half-drunken bikers on motorcycles. Whole world’s full of idiots, and most of ‘em live in this state. You need to park that son-of-a-bitch before you go and get your dumb self killed.”
“I ain’t parking it.”
“Alright, then.” His eyes fell to his e-reader. “I’ll get my nurse to push me to your funeral.”
I stood. “I’m gonna make a sandwich. You need anything?”
He nodded. “If you’ve got a minute.”
“Whatever you need, Pop.”
He exhaled, and then looked up. His slight smile slowly diminished, leaving him with a face filled with nothing but need. “I hate to be a burden.”
I met his gaze. “Just tell me what you need.”
“I need my nuts scratched,” he said stone-faced.
I let out a sigh and flipped him the bird as I turned toward the kitchen. “Asshole.”
He chuckled. “I wear it like a badge of honor.”
He was brash and had an abrasive personality, but being exposed to it since childhood allowed me to dismiss damned near everything that spilled from his lips as being nothing more than him masking his true feelings.
He had a great heart, but wasn’t one to allow his emotions to come to the surface. His attitude, however, was impossible to conceal. In recent years we’d become as close as any father and son could be, and although he wasn’t one to ever discuss how he felt, I knew he loved me as much as anyone could.
When I was almost finished making the perfect sandwich, I heard a dull thud. I scrambled to the living room and found him on the floor, halfway between his recliner and the wheelchair.
I bent down and slipped my arm under his shoulder. “God damn it, Pop. What were you doing?”
“A man’s gotta piss from time to time,” he growled. “And having someone get my cock out is pretty fucking demeaning.”
“I just asked you if you needed anything.” I carefully lifted him into his wheelchair. “Not five fuckin’ minutes ago.”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” he said. “Dig in that pocket of yours and pull me out a handful of dignity, would you?”
For the first time since he’d slipped and fell, I realized he’d lost much more than his ability to walk.
And knowing it hurt like hell.
I had never considered myself to be religious, but I was convinced God was no longer looking down on me with a merciless heart.
I held the phone firmly in my hand while I paced my living room floor. “Oh my God. That’s amazing. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she said. “There’s only one catch.”
“What is it. Not that I care, but–”
“You’ve got to start tomorrow at 7:00 a.m.”
“That’s the catch? It’s more like a gift.”
“It’s refreshing to think you look at it that way.”
“And it’s full time, right?”
“Seven days a week, at a fixed daily rate of $150 a day. If you want five days instead of seven, we can get someone to relieve you two days a week.”
“I’ll take the seven.”
“Sounds great. We’ll need you to stop in this afternoon and fill out the paperwork, though.”
El Cajon was only ten minutes away. I fought against my urge to let out a celebratory scream. “I can be there in fifteen minutes.”
“I’m looking forward having you aboard, Tegan. Thank you.”
“Goodbye, Mrs. French.”
She hung up.
I tossed my phone onto the couch and ran to my bedroom. After rifling through the clothes in my closet, I chose an outfit, ironed it, and then ran to my car. Within minutes, I was on highway 67 speeding toward El Cajon.
A handsome thirty-something year old passed me in a Mercedes, slowed down, and then took another long look. After an unobstructed eyeful of me, he shook his head.
Completely comfortable with my strikingly odd vehicle situation, I waved. He returned a smile, obviously amused not by me, but by my doorless ride.
Most women my age would find driving a 1985 Toyota Corolla belittling. The few who didn’t would certainly find driving the same car with one missing door to be so, and probably to a very high degree.
I looked at it as a blessing.
I got a lot of funny looks, but the summer’s heat was now bearable.
Half a dozen odd stares later, and I’d reached my destination. After parking at the curb and walking through the empty parking lot, I stepped through the door and up to the receptionist’s desk.
The bubblegum chewing blonde met me with a smile.
“Tegan Rassini to see Mrs. French,” I said.
“Oh. She left this up here for you to sign,” she said, producing a quarter-inch-thick stack of paperwork. “And, I’ll need a copy of your driver’s license and your social security card or a passport.”
I handed her the two forms of I.D. “Here.”
“I’ve marked where you need to sign, and there’s a blank copy for you to keep,” she said. “And, for what it’s worth, this guy’s big. He weighs like 220 pounds.”
“That’s not a problem.” I lowered my tone of voice to a more masculine one and flexed my right bicep. “I work out.”
She smiled. “We’ll see what you say after a few days. If we need to get a hoist in there, we will.”
“I should be okay.” I reached for the stack of paperwork. “Can you tell me what happened? So I don’t have to ask him?”
“He was in good health a month ago, I guess. He slipped on a banana peel, fell on the floor, and broke his shoulder, wrist, ankle, and knee. The shoulder’s on one side, and the knee’s on the other. It sounds like he should be in a body cast, but he’s not.”
“I know, right?”
“I’m supposed to start in the morning,” I said, trying my best to hide my excitement. I tilted my head toward a magazine-filled table surrounded by three chairs. “Can I fill this out over there?”
She smiled. “Sure.”
“Be right back.”
A seven day a week job that paid $150 a day would allow me to not only pay for the repairs to the man’s motorcycle, but fixing my car was certainly on the future’s horizon. This was exactly the break I had been waiting for.
Five years of college was finally going to pay off. In no time I could call the big bad biker back and make some sort of believable excuse for not responding to his repeated messages to meet regarding the wreck.
I filled out the paperwork, signed everything, and then handed her the forms.
“All done,” I said with a smile.
“Here’s your stuff.” She slid my driver’s license and social security card across her desk. “And, for what it’s worth, this guy’s son is hot as fuck.”
“Uh huh. He came in here this morning.” She glanced over each shoulder and then leaned forward. “His feet were huge,” she whispered. She raised her hand and spread her fingers apart. “Hands, too.”
It was more information than I really needed. “Oooookay.”
Having a man in my life meant spending money unnecessarily. It was a luxury I couldn’t afford. To be honest, I wasn’t interested in men even if they were free. Men did one thing with regularity, and one thing only.
Her smile faded. “Uhhm. It was nice to meet you.”
I shot her a fake grin. “Same. Thank you.”
On my way to the car, I called the biker, fully intending to leave a message. I expected someone like him spent all day on his motorcycle, and I seriously doubted he’d answer the phone. Much to my surprise, he did on the second ring.
“About fucking time,” he said. “Why the fuck haven’t you answered?”
I took a deep breath. He made me nervous. Not a little bit, a lot. The teenage kind of nervous.
“My phone was shut off, and then I got it back on. And, my insurance was cancelled, but–”
“You don’t have any fuckin’ insurance?” he bellowed.
“I’m getting it resolved,” I said. “All I’ve got to do is–”
“You fucking better. It’s $3,500 worth of damage, and I sure as fuck ain’t paying for it.”
$3,500? Holy shit.
I playfully fell through the opening in the side of my car and landed in the seat. “I promise you, I’ll get it taken care of. I’m thorough like that. I set my sights on something, and the next thing you know–”
“My bike’s bashed all to fuck. It better be quick.”
“It will,” I responded. “I’ve got a new job, and if I have to, I’ll pay for it out of my pocket.”
Although I had every intention of getting my insurance up-to-date, paying for his damage out of my pocket was exactly what I was going to have to do, regardless.
“I don’t give a fuck if you’ve got to turn tricks, you better get me some fuckin’ money.”
“I will. I really will. That sounded bad, huh? I’ll pay for it. Not turn tricks. No trick Tegan, that’s what they call–”
Apparently, he had no sense of humor. I let out a light sigh. “I’ll be in touch in a day or two.”
“I will, I promise, even if…”
The silence on the other end reminded me that he had much less interest in taking to me than I had in talking to him.
Not seeing him face-to-face was in both of our best interests. I found his stand-offish attitude supportive of his lack of interest in me, which made matters that much easier.
Hopefully his sense of the passage of time was as non-existent as his sense of humor. I’d wait until I got my first paycheck, and then give him a call when I could hand him $1,000 in cash.
With any luck, by then what little interest I had in him would fade away.
I lifted the eggs from the skillet and carefully placed them on the plate beside the toast. It was fine if he broke the yolks of the over-medium eggs I cooked him, but if I did it before I handed him the plate, there’d be hell to pay.
I laid four pieces of bacon beside the eggs, and carried the plate into the living room.
“Well, good god damn,” he said as he sat up in his chair. “I wondered if that was for me, or if you were in there getting fatter by the minute.”
My mother had bought a special recliner with a tray that swiveled from the arm of the chair toward the center, allowing him to eat while he read or watched T.V.
I spun the tray over his lap and set the plate down. “I’m not fat.”
He glanced at the eggs and then looked up, grinning. “Pretty fuckin’ close.”
“Get your own silverware.”
He scooped up one of the eggs with his fingers, dropped it onto a piece of toast, and picked it up. “I don’t need any fuckin’ silverware, fat ass.”
“Whatever. Hope those yolks bust all to fuck.”
He took a bite of his open-faced eggs sandwich. “I don’t give a fuck if they do. Long as you didn’t break ‘em cooking ‘em.”
I let out an exaggerated sigh and turned away. “I gotta piss.”
“Lift the fucking seat,” he said over a mouthful of eggs. “I’ve gotta sit to piss, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna wallow in your piss when I do.”
I walked into the bathroom, shut the door, and stepped onto the scale.
At 6’-8”, I was far from fat.
I pissed, washed my hands, and walked into the living room. he was wiping his plate clean with a small piece of toast.
“What’d you weigh?” he asked as he poked the toast in his mouth.
I sat down on the couch. “I went to piss.”
“I raised you, you anal retentive asshole,” he said. “What’d you weigh?”
“Two and a quarter.”
“Two and a quarter,” I said again, knowing if it was much more, he’d bitch. He didn’t understand Body Mass Index or body fat percentages.
“Two-thirty-one,” I said without looking at him.
He chuckled. “Far sight from two and a quarter.”
I glared at him. “Six fucking pounds.”
“Just as well be fifty. If you’re going to lie about your weight, why not lie big? Hell, tell those dip-shits you ride with you’re throwing two and a dime. Maybe you can get one of ‘em to take you out on a date.”
“Why you always got to be talking shit on the fellas?”
“I told you when you started riding with that fucking Navarro, I don’t like it. It’s nothing but a god damned gang. I didn’t raise you to be a gang-banger, Son.”
“It ain’t a gang.”
“The fuck it ain’t.”
“It’s a club.”
“Kind of like calling your cock a lollipop, ain’t it?”
I turned to face him. “I don’t see the connection.”
“It’s deceiving,” he said. “Now put up my plate before that yolk dries on it. That shit never washes off in the dishwasher if it gets hard.”
I took his plate to the kitchen. As I rinsed it, he began to yell.
“Hooptie just pulled up across the street,” he shouted. “Cute bitch driving. Looks like the fuckin’ thing’s missing a door, though. What’d you do, hire that girl that wrecked your bike?”
“Whatfucking ever,” I breathed. “I’m coming.”
“I ain’t shittin’ ya. Cute little bitch is driving a car that’s missing a fuckin’ door. Looks like she’d fall right out of it if she took a hard right turn.” He started laughing, and then caught his breath. “Looks funny as hell.”
I put the plate in the dishwasher. “Be there in a minute.”
“She’s got dark hair that’s pulled into a ponytail, and she’s wearing maroon scrubs, like a doctor. Jesus, she’s a looker. Nice tits, too.”
I was sure he was joking about the door, but stepped into the living room a little curious, nonetheless. After wiping my hands on the thighs of my jeans, I glanced up and peered through the window. Parked across the street, in front of the neighbor’s house, was the very car that had caused the wreck with my beloved bike.
What the fuck?
The doorbell rang.
“You gonna answer that or stand there with your jaw on the floor?”
I couldn’t fucking believe it.
“What the fuck’s wrong with you,” he asked. “Answer the fuckin’ door.”
I stomped to the door and yanked it open.
She looked quite a bit different than the day she slung her door into the front of my bike, but there was no mistaking who she was.
“What in the fuck are you doing here? How’d you get this address?”
Her hand shot to her mouth and she went bug-eyed. “Oh my God,” she gasped. “Uhhm.” She leaned to the side, and peered beyond me, into the living room. After a short pause, she looked up. “This is awkward, huh?”
“What?” I crossed my arms and gave her a stern glare. “Where’s my fuckin’ money?”
“I don’t have it. Not yet.”
Completely confused, and in slight shock that she had somehow found me, I stared at her in disbelief. “Then why the fuck are you here?”
She leaned to the side again, and nodded her head toward the living room. “I’m uhhm. I’m the. I’m your father’s new caregiver. Home Healthcare, LLC sent me”
It was like a bad fucking dream.
“God damn it, you big dumb fucker. Let her in,” my father shouted.
“Are you fucking shitting me?” I asked, my eyes still locked on hers. “You’re here for the job?”
She swallowed heavily, nodded, and then grinned a shallow grin. “Uh huh.”
“She ain’t coming in,” I said over my shoulder.
“She sure as fuck can’t help me from out on the fuckin’ porch,” he yelled. “Let her in.”
“She ain’t coming in.”
“Why the fuck not?” he shouted.
Tegan and I continued our stand-off. After a few awkward seconds of silence, Pop started laughing.
“She’s the one you wrecked into, isn’t she?”
“Enough, old man,” I said without breaking my stare.
“Look.” She met my gaze. “I’ve been working part-time since I graduated from nursing school. This is…this will be my first full-time job. And, I need this income to pay for your bike. It’s a win-win for us both. Without this?” She shrugged. “We’re both fucked.”
“Son-of-a-bitch,” I mumbled.
I stepped onto the porch and pulled the door closed behind me. “I might, and I mean I fucking might let you do this.”
“I already told you I was sorry about your bike, and I am. There’s no sense and going over it,” she said. “My window didn’t work, my A/C was broken, and I opened my door to cool off. It’s not like I pulled out in front of you or ran a red light.”
I huffed out a sigh and glanced at her tits. She made a point. Shit happens to the best of us.
“I’m a really good nurse.” She raised her index finger. “Top of my class. And I love helping people.”
I looked her up one side and down the other. Her scrubs fit her like a second skin. She was cute as fuck, and she was damned sure built for fucking, but there was one problem. She was small, and my father was a big man. It’d be tough for her to move him from his recliner to his wheelchair.
“He weighs two and a quarter. And he’s 6’-5. You’ve got to be able to pick him up from his chair, get him in his wheel chair, and then get him onto the toilet so he can take care of his business.” I shook my head. “You’re not big enough.”
“I am, too,” she snapped back.
“You’re a tiny little bitch,” I said. “And–”
“Listen, asshole.” Her lips pursed. The muscles in her jaw flared and her eyes went from those of an innocent nurse practitioner to that of a mad woman.
It looked like I’d hit a nerve.
She cocked her hip. “I let you slide the first time you called me a bitch, back at the wreck. I felt like I owed it to you. But if you call me a bitch again, I’ll drop your big ass where you stand.”
“You couldn’t fight your way out of a wet paper bag, bitch. I dare you to–”
An ear-piercing shriek stopped me mid-sentence. Her foot shot forward with lightning-fast speed and slammed into my shin. I stumbled a few steps backward as the pain shot through me like an electric shock. While I struggled to figure out what the fuck had happened, she let out another screech and kicked me right in the kneecap.
Half doubled over in pain, I realized she wasn’t a typical girl. It was obvious, and painfully so, that she knew how to fight.
She barked out another high-pitched warning, but her feet were too fast for me to react. The heel of her foot bashed into the inside of my left knee. My eyes shot wide. I reached for my knee, which was damaged from an old football injury, and started planning my verbal escape from her fast-footed torture.
That’s when her foot slammed into my nuts.
Bent over, and about to barf, I looked at her in sheer shock. Standing a few feet in front of me in some crazed karate stance, she returned an intense glare.
“Jesus…fuck…stop.” I leaned against the house and fought to catch my breath. “God damn, you little spider monkey. What the fuck’s wrong with you?”
She lowered her hands slightly and gave me a look. “You fucker. I told you not to call me that.” She shook her head. “Now I’m fucked. I really, really wanted this job. You’re fucked, too. Good luck getting that money now, dumbass.”
I’m sure she thought otherwise, but she’d gained my respect the old-school way. There were only a couple of guys who could even claim to have got a good punch in on me, but that was when I was in my teens.
For a girl to do what she had done?
I may not have liked her, but I owed her respect.
She earned it.
“Just hold on.” I coughed and struggled to stand upright. My nuts were in my throat and my knee was throbbing. I glanced over my shoulder, made sure the door was closed, and then looked at her.
She irritated the fuck out of me for a bunch of reasons, the main one being that she’d taken the one thing from me that I loved wholeheartedly.
There was no doubt she had all the qualities to make sure my father didn’t run over her with his shitty attitude and demanding personality. Finding another nurse with her drive and spirit would be close to impossible.
“You can have the job under one condition,” I said.
“Oh my god. Really?”
“Yeah, really,” I said with a slight note of sarcasm. “But you can’t tell him what just happened.”
“I won’t say a word,” she said. “Not one.”
I extended my hand.
She grinned and shook it.
“His name’s Bradley,” I said.
She picked up her purse. “Just like on your vest.”
I wasn’t wearing my vest. She was perceptive, and that quality would come in handy with my father. I nodded and reached for the door. “Not a fuckin’ word.”
She traced her thumb and forefinger across her lips.
I pushed the door open and waved my hand toward the living room. “After you.”
I fought not to limp as I walked through the door.
Pop sat up in his chair. His mouth twisted into a smirk. “Jesus jumped up Christ. Who’d you hire, Supergirl?”
I didn’t bother responding.
“She kicked your ass, didn’t she?” He glanced at her, and then at me. “What was that about?”
“She didn’t kick shit,” I said. “We were just fuckin’ around.”
“I might be crippled,” he said with a laugh. “But I sure as fuck ain’t blind.”
“Blind enough you didn’t see that banana peel.”
He raised the only hand he was able and wiggled the tips of his fingers. “Name’s Bradley. Pleasure to meet you.”
She stepped around me, took his hand in hers and smiled. “Tegan. Tegan Rassini. And, the pleasure’s mine.”
He looked at me, and then at her. “So, what was that? Tae Kwando? Karate? Ju fuckin’ Jitsu? Kung god damned Fu?”
“I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about,” she responded.
She tossed her purse on the floor beside his chair, and then looked at me.
And she winked.
She was a spunky little bitch.
But I’d never tell her that to her face.
At least not the bitch part.