Anyhow, I am providing for you now, free of charge, another look into Brian’s dilemma. Well, one of them at any rate. I hope you enjoy it and find yourself intrigued enough by the guy to see how his story intersects with Michael’s most recent adventure. And if you would enjoy advance excerpts from what I’m working on right now, do sign up for my newsletter! That link over there in the sidebar will take you to my signup page!
“You’ll regret this,” Kevin hissed, his fake smile finally falling away. His eyes narrowed for a moment, glaring at Laura, then his fist was flying towards Brian’s face. Instinct moved Brian’s arm to stop the blow.
“I suggest you leave now,” Brian said, his hand wrapped firmly around Kevin’s wrist and holding it a good six inches away from making contact. He didn’t feel any guilt over knowing that the wrist under his fingers would be bruised and probably swollen after this encounter. Kevin clearly needed physical evidence of how badly outclassed he was in this fight. Maybe the minor injury would keep him from starting another one? The men’s eyes met for a long moment, both full of rage, before Kevin’s gaze dropped and he yanked his arm out of Brian’s grip. He stormed out of the cafe and slammed the door behind him.
The silence after the bang of the door was broken after a few seconds by someone in the back clapping. Soon the whole place was full of applause and shouts of “You tell him, girl!” and “That guy’s a damn hero!” and “Lemmee buy you two a coffee!” One of the waiters came up and tapped Brian’s shoulder.
“Hey. You want me to call the cops about that guy?” he said. Laura shook her head.
“I just want to go home.” She shivered and glanced at the door Kevin had just slammed. The waiter nodded.
“Y’all can go on out the back door if you want. In case that asshole’s still hanging around.” Brian looked at Laura who just nodded and followed the waiter out through the small kitchen. They walked out through the back, down the alley behind the shops, and out into a street several blocks over. They were maybe halfway back to Laura’s apartment when she finally spoke again.
“Thank you,” she said. Brian glanced over at her. She looked pale and shaken, but unafraid.
“Anytime. What a creep,” he said. She just nodded. And walked a bit further.
“I didn’t know any better back then. And he wasn’t so quick to show his creepy side.”
“Hey, we’ve all got at least one ex that we’re ashamed of, right?” He smiled at her and got a small grin in return. “Might be worth calling a lawyer and seeing if you can do anything though. Like a restraining order or something, he seemed pretty determined. Any idea why he’d show up like that now? I know it’s none of my business. It just feels a bit shady to me, for what that’s worth.”
She shook her head. “I have no idea. But you’re right,” She looked up at him. “And I think your opinion is worth a lot. Thanks.” They turned a corner and she stopped, putting a hand on his elbow to stop him as well.
“I’m scared, Brian. Kevin was never quite that…” she groped for a word. “That crazy, I guess. I don’t know how to explain it. And there was power swirling around, too. I work at the Temple library so I know how it feels well enough to notice it. I’m really scared.” She looked up at him, tears filling her eyes but refusing to spill over. He tried not to react too strongly to her statement, instead concentrating on her frightened shiver. He could almost feel her fear as a physical thing in front of him. His arm moved almost on its own as it wrapped around her shoulders.
“It’s okay. As long as I’m here, I’ll do my best to keep you and Owen both safe.” Brian had no idea where that promise had come from, but he knew that it bought him at least a few more days of pretending to be normal, and he wasn’t above a little greed. She leaned into his hug and rested her head against his chest and he felt her trying to control her breathing. “Hey, it’s going to be fine, okay?”
She nodded into his shoulder. Brian wondered how big of a jerk it made him that he was pleased she was comforted by him instead of scared of him after that display of violence. He wasn’t used to anyone being glad that he lost his temper, even in such a small way as he had in the cafe.
“I know. I just… I just need this for a minute,” she said. Laura turned towards him fully and put her hands up against his chest, holding onto little handfuls of his shirt. After a minute she shook her head as if clearing her head, and stepped back again. She was trembling slightly, but didn’t say anything else. Brian didn’t know what else to do but hold on while she needed it.
“Sorry about that. It’s so hard to be strong all the time for Owen. Sometimes I just need to lean on someone.” She flickered a smile at him. “Usually it’s Mom and Dad. Thanks for putting up with me.”
“Nothing to put up with at all.” Brian felt heat creep over his ears. “Everyone could use a hug once in a while, right? I’m happy to oblige.” They started walking again.
“So! Do you have any sort of plan for what you’re doing next?” Laura asked. He was more than glad to change the subject.
“No, not particularly,” he answered. “I was just hopping on my bike and going wherever I felt like. Riverton seemed to be a nice place to stop for a while. I was in New York last, and it was fun, but man it was busy, you know? Riverton has a slower sort of vibe to it, but there’s still lots to do.”
“Would you maybe consider staying? Just for a while?” She said it quietly, still looking ahead of them, towards her building, but she spoke clearly.
Brian started to answer then closed his mouth and just breathed. Should he risk it? He didn’t want to risk them getting hurt, and he didn’t want to face his own pain when it all fell apart like it inevitably would. Staying here actually with people who were getting to know him seemed like begging for disappointment, but it was so freaking appealing. He liked Owen, and Laura was so damn tough, working and raising her son, and standing up to her jackass ex in the cafe. It was the thought of Kevin coming back around that really gave him pause. After a few steps he answered.
“Yeah. I can stay as long as you need me.”