Raging Hard(9)

By: B. B. Hamel

“You’ll really like him. He owns bars and restaurants and clubs all over the place, including that new place called Secrets.”

I nodded. I was at Secrets the night before, which reminded me of Claire. I took a sip of the scalding black coffee the waiter put down in front of me to distract me from Claire’s lips.

“I’m not as attracted to his money as you are.”

“Nathan. He’s a very nice man. He treats me very well.”

“Yeah? And is this one going to stay out of jail?”

“Nathan, please. You don’t have to be so antagonistic all the time.”

I sighed and shook my head. “Okay. Fine. We can call a truce.”

She smiled, relieved when her second drink appeared. “Okay, a truce. Just try and be nice to him and his daughter, okay? Did I tell you about his daughter? Her name is Claire, very pretty, maybe a little younger than you.”

I raised an eyebrow at the name. Claire? How common was that name? There was no way it was the girl from the night before. That just wasn’t possible.

“That’s good. So long as you’re happy.”

“It makes me very happy to hear that.”

Our food came not too long after, and I put up with Mom’s constant stories about all of the expensive dinners and parties she had been going to with her new man. I was distracted, wondering about that name, Claire, and if it could possibly be the same person. Could the universe be so cruel as to make that girl my new stepsister?

Or maybe the universe was going to give me exactly what I wanted.

“So, honey, when are you going to leave that dangerous job of yours and go back to college?” Lucille asked suddenly.

“It’s not just a job. You understand that, right?”

“Oh, Nathan. Of course it’s just a job, like anything else.”

Here we go. This was the conversation I had been waiting for.

“Like I told you many times before, Mother, it’s not just another job. It’s not something you walk away from.”

“Okay, okay. I was just saying that I think you’d do so well in college. You’re such a smart boy. You could get a degree in economics . . .”

I tuned her out at that point. Arguing wasn’t going to do anything with Lucille. The idea of getting a degree in anything and working at a desk for the rest of my life made me want to hang myself.

There was nothing better than the excitement of a rapid deployment. One second you were playing with your balls, bored as hell in some Podunk small town with two cows and not enough whisky, and the next you were rappelling from a Black Hawk helicopter while under heavy fire. I loved the smell of metal and oil and the weight of a fully loaded rifle in my hands. There was a thrill and a power knowing that my job could save the lives of thousands of people, both civvies and military alike. I was the tip of the spear, the deadliest of the deadly. It felt fucking good to be part of ones the United States turned to when they needed help the most.

Breakfast went fast after that. Lucille finished her second drink and was nicely buzzed, which meant she was both happier and much pushier. Still, I was able to ignore her for the most part since I was preoccupied thinking about Claire.

We left the restaurant and made our way over to Lucille’s new car. It was huge and black and shiny, basically the sort of ostentatious crap that she loved. I climbed in and tuned her out as we drove out into the rich part of town toward her new husband’s house.

“Oh, honey,” she said as we pulled down a long driveway toward an enormous house. “I wish you had worn something nicer.”

“This is what I wear,” I grunted at her.

“But you look . . . dirty.”

“This stuff is clean.”

“You could have worn some nice khakis, maybe that shirt I got you for Christmas last year.”

That shirt was incinerated somewhere in Iraq. My squad had laughed for days over it.

“Maybe,” I grunted at her.

“Listen,” she said, slowing down. “There’s one more thing. I’d really like it, and so would Jonathan, if you stayed with us while you’re in town.”

I stared at her for a second. The last thing in the entire world that I wanted was to stay with her and her new husband, no matter how nice his beach property was. I had no interest in being a part of their weird life any more than I had to be. I didn’t want to be the stain that embarrassed them, when really they were naïve rich people that didn’t know how the world really worked. I was more than fine at my motel.

“No, thanks,” I said. “I have a place.”

“That motel? Please, honey. Stay here. It’s so much nicer and you’ll really love it. Plus, Jonathan wants to get to know you. He wants us to be a family.”

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