Authors: Evelyn Glass
His lips stretched in a smile that reached his eyes. Seeing his excitement, she felt good. “Great! I will make the arrangements. You will get some free books and guidance, but other than that, it would depend on how hard you are willing to work. Trust me, it would be worth it.”
Of course, it would be. As long as he supported her, she could do anything. Gabby felt a new confidence, and this time it wasn’t based on her body or on her skills in the bed, but rather it was a pride that she felt in her will to survive. There was another world out there in which she wouldn’t be required to lie down on her back and service men – and she wanted a piece of that life.
It was nice of him to nudge her in the right direction, but it was up to her to make the correct moves. She held the controls of her life, and no one else could change it for her.
“Thank you,” she said. “You are the only one who has given me some hope.”
“That’s all I can offer. The rest is up to you.” He clicked his bottle against hers and then stood. “Good luck, Gabby. You’re going to need it as much as the hard work that would get you through it.”
She watched him walk off.
For the first time in her life, Gabby liked a man. It was something more than desire and need that stirred in her heart. She actually, genuinely, respected and admired him.
Perhaps in time, this would develop into something more, but for now she was happy and content. There was a man who believed in her – and she would do everything possible to make him proud of her achievements.
As she cleaned the bar the next day, Willow came to join Gabby. Willow wore a red gown that glittered and shimmered in the dim lights. Her hair was tied in a bun, silver earrings dangled from her ears, and she wore a big grin that announced her happiness.
Gabby paused. It was so rare to see of the girls dress up so finely. “Hey! What’s going on?”
“It’s our third anniversary.”
Willow and Ronald weren’t married, but for them, the commitment they shared for just as good and enduring as a marriage certificate. “That’s great. So you guys are headed out?”
“Yeah! As soon as Ronald stops huddling with Nick.” She pointed at the two men who were in deep conversation in one corner. Gabby was aware that ever since the two bikers were jailed, everyone was tense. The club members looked out for each other, and seeing two of their brothers in jail was something that made them unhappy. “So girl, what happened last night?”
Gabby flushed a deep shade of red. If only the floor would open and swallow her whole. She couldn’t believe that she openly indulged with Price in the clubhouse. “Shit! I don’t know...I was so high...”
“You sure did give Price a night that he would remember forever,” said Willow with a loud giggle. “I remember once I had sex with a guy on the beach in rhythm to loud music.” Her eyes glazed over as she recalled the tantalizing details. “What was his name? Oh yeah!” She snapped her fingers. “Frederick Blaze. He was a good-looking guy. Gave me quite a ride. But I didn’t step on the beach for a week after that. Too embarrassed by the public performance. Glad you’re not hiding.”
Gabby would’ve liked to do the same. But of course, she didn’t have another place to go. What the hell was she supposed to do? She had duties in the clubhouse and it wouldn’t do to ignore them just because she was too mortified to show her face. “Yeah, I know how you must have felt.”
Willow checked her reflection in the mirror. “Price is a good guy. But he isn’t the most dependable man if you’re looking for something serious.”
“I am not,” she was quick to deny. Honestly, she didn’t even give the man another thought except that it would be awkward to face him now. But did she expect some sort of commitment from him?
Gabby wasn’t looking for a relationship. A hooker learned to keep her heart intact, and Gabby had learnt it the hard way years ago. Once, there was a customer who showed up every three days. He showered her with gifts and praise. She actually began to develop feelings for him. He took her out a few times and dinner was of course followed by dynamite sex in a hotel room. Six months into this routine, she had actually begun to think of him as her boyfriend when he told her that he got transferred to another city and was moving there with his wife and two kids.
Two kids? She didn’t even know he’d a wife.
That was the first and last time that she actually harbored such strong feelings for a man.
Why would someone opt for her when she was available for mind-blowing sex without any emotional hassles?
Gabby wasn’t a starry eyed teenager who hoped for romance and love. A quiet life was all that she sought, but of course, it was a distant dream. She would never get it. But it was good to have a goal and to work towards it.
“So where are you going?”
“Cinema,” said Willow, “Followed by dinner at my favorite place, and then on home to have hot, dirty, fucking unbelievable sex...if he is lucky.”
Gabby laughed. It must be amazing to have a man one could depend on, who cared, and showed interest beyond the basic desires. “Well, go on then, have fun. Looks like Ronald and Nick are done.”
The men walked over. Willow got out from behind the bar and sauntered over to join Ronald. He put an arm around her. “See you guys. Me and my lovely have a hot date tonight,” he said with a wink.
Gabby watched them leave. What must it feel like to have a man who actually cared enough to take you out for dinner? She would never experience it. And well, it was just as good. She didn’t want her heart broken.
“What’s wrong?” said Nick as he leaned on the bar.
“Nothing.” She brought the shutters down on the emotions that must have spilled out. Nick was observant, no doubt about it. “They make a great couple.”
“Yeah! Willow has seen a lot of hardship. She was twenty-three when her husband beat her black and blue. He broke her collar bone and shattered her leg. She thrust a knife through his stomach and he died.”
“What?” Aghast, she stared at him.
He didn’t bat an eyelid at her reaction. “She was in and out of hospitals and then in and out of court rooms. Lucky for her, the lawyer who took her case actually cared enough to get her out. She got away with six months in jail because it was a clear case of self-defense,” he said.
Gabby couldn’t imagine such a horror. She’d seen enough in her short life. Some of the prostitutes were slapped around. She was often enough at the receiving end herself when she worked with Joseph. But she never witnessed something so sinister. “That’s terrible.”
“Yeah, well, as I said, she was lucky to have a good lawyer. But you know what happens to someone who has been charged with second degree manslaughter. No one would hire her, and she came to work here, and then met Ronald. It was meant to be, I suppose. Destiny and all,” his voice was deep, gravelly.
She put her elbows on the table and rocked back and forth. “You believe in destiny?”
“Oh, yes. Big time. You don’t?”
Gabby considered her thoughts. Was it fate that took her into Joseph’s clutches? Or was it her stupidity? Or perhaps the sinful attitude of her father who abused her and forced her to run away?
“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Seems like if everything is written in the stars, we don’t really need to make an effort for anything.”
“Or if you make an effort, it would come sooner than if you just sat and did nothing,” he countered.
Gabby ran a hand through her hair. She should’ve felt embarrassed talking with Nick after what he witnessed but somehow he didn’t even give her a hint that he was thinking about last night. No man made her feel as comfortable in her own skin than he did, but at the same time when she talked to him, Gabby was acutely aware of his close presence. The way he smiled, and the manner in which his muscles bugled under the black, plain t-shirts that he appeared to favor, and the quiet, contemplative look in his eyes sent tingles up his spine.
It wasn’t just his looks that impressed her, it was also the way he made her feel. With him, she felt as if she was smart, beautiful, and articulate. He made her believe that she was special, that she deserved respect, that she was worthy of someone’s attention.
No one ever made her feel this way before.
Plus, he was so fucking hot with a capital H.
But she wasn’t going to spoil this burgeoning friendship with idiotic thoughts. So what if she was attracted to him?
She wasn’t going to act on that.
“That’s a theory,” she said. “Whatever!”
Nick grabbed his bag pack and zipped it open. He pulled out a folder and handed it over. “I got these from the NGO I was talking about. You will have to go there and register and get their books, but this will give you a fair amount of idea regarding the costs you will have to bear and the books and support the NGO can provide. Twice a year, you will be required to appear for some tests. They will guide you.”
Overwhelmed, she stared at the folder. He actually went to the trouble of getting it for her? No one ever did something so unselfish for her before. “Thank you.” She cleared her throat. “I will visit them tomorrow.”
“If you need help with coursework, I could sit with you. And I think some of the other guys might also pitch in. Sure, they look as if they never saw the inside of a high school, but many of them have degrees under their belt,” he added.
“That would be awesome.” She fingers the folder, not sure if she could adequately express all that simmered in her heart. “Nick...”
“You don’t need to say anything, Gabby. It would please me if you succeeded and did this. Everyone should get a chance to make something of themselves. This is your opportunity and you need to grab it.”
“I will,” she said in a fervent tone. “I will.”
“Good. I look forward to seeing the day when you graduate.”
His smile took her breath away. He meant every word. She could see the sincerity in his eyes. “You’re a great guy, Nick.”
“Yeah, I am.” He laughed. “And don’t you forget it.”
His laughter was infectious. Having never experienced a friendship that existed on the basis of mutual respect and trust, she didn’t know if she could accept it. But he didn’t want anything from her, not at least for the help he was giving her.
He was attracted to her, no doubt about that. But then, he could just as easily ask her to sleep with him, and she would oblige as she would to all the other guys. He didn’t need to do this.
But the fact that he did so made her heart flutter with hope.
Gabby had never known that a man could be interested in her in any other way than just for her body. Nick Parker was just another man, someone she thought she would have to cross off her list at some point or another, but he was giving her a tantalizing glimpse of something that was so much better than the life she experienced on a daily basis.
Sure, he was no saint.
But he was pretty damn remarkable.
“I guess I will see you around,” she said.
He didn’t make a move to leave. The clubhouse was empty expect for the two of them. Around this time, people usually thronged the place but last night’s party probably drained the lot of them. They would be back, looking for a good time or just a normal chitchat tomorrow, but for now this place was hers and his.
Gabby wondered if she should make a move and ask him to join her upstairs. Maybe he was waiting for her to show interest.
Or perhaps she should leave things as they were.
She didn’t need complications in her life, and Nick Parker certainly constituted as one.
“Would you like to go to the harbor with me tomorrow?”
He raised an eyebrow. “It’s not such a difficult question. We could stroll around. I don’t think you have seen it at night. It’s pretty amazing. We get these ships that stay out in the ocean but at night you can see their lights all the way in. And there are some good restaurants over there. We could grab a bite to eat.”
He wanted to take her out for a walk and dinner? Gabby couldn’t believe it. Was he actually asking her out on a date?
She didn’t recall a single instant when someone asked her out on a garden-variety, ordinary date.
“You got to eat. So do I. We could do it together.” His tone was causal, easy, but he was serious.
What the hell was one supposed to say when she was asked out? She’d skipped all this. Gabby never got a chance to be a normal teenager, to be just a girl who waited for a boy who would take her to someplace fancy just so that he could make her feel special.
Her lungs felt air-deprived. She’d forgotten how to breathe.
She needed to say no. Of course, she did. This was crazy, stupid.
“Sure.” The word came out of her mouth without her realizing that she meant to say it.
His eyes lit and a smile broke over his lips. “Great. About six in the evening should be ok. I will pick you up.”
“On the bike?”