Friday, February 15 2019 / 4:55 am
It can lower your inhibitions.
Transform you into somebody society accepts.
Make you relax enough to ask the hot girl at the end of the bar out on a date.
Alcohol has so much power.
The power to tempt me.
To take me away.
To make me forget.
It should be only an act of rebellion. An underage misdemeanor, done as much for attention as to feel the effects. That’s all alcohol should represent. I’m only seventeen. Still a long ways from twenty-one, but alcohol has never been a healthy pastime.
As soon as I tasted the liquid, I knew it was a habit I would never give up.
Not because I’m an alcoholic. That’s one thing I could never be, even when I drink in large quantities. Even when I need alcohol as much as I need to breathe.
I need it to forget.
I finish the last drop of the amber liquid in my glass. One drink isn’t nearly enough for me to forget. If there were another way to erase my demons and slip me into amnesia, I would take it. But I’ve never found another option. This is my only option.
“Another round,” I say to Zeke and Langston who are sitting in the corner booth with me. It’s not a question, but a statement.
I need more, and they will both stay with me, drinking until my past is erased for another hour.
Slinking out from beneath the corner booth hidden in the shadows, I stand and cross the width of the room before climbing onto a stool at the bar. We have a waiter, but I don’t have the patience to wait for her to realize we need more drinks.
I eye Blake behind the bar. He knows when he sees me to drop his other patrons and serve me immediately. His tip, along with his job, requires it. This is just another bar my family owns. It’s nothing in the grand scheme of things — just a place for me to retreat to when necessary. And lately, I’ve found coming here on a daily basis is very necessary.
Blake spots me out of the corner of his eye. He politely ends his conversation with the flirty woman at the end of the bar and walks my way, before pouring me another glass of the finest bourbon we have. I reach for the glass he sat in front of me and wait while he continues to make drinks for my friends.
I lift the glass to my lips taking comfort in the fact that soon my nightmare will be over. My memory will be obliterated, at least until I have to meet with my father later today.
The door flies open, and a girl falls through. She stumbles once as she drops to her knees. But her cheeks don’t flame with embarrassment. Instead, fear threatens her eyes as she scans behind her. As if, any second, the evil she is running from will find her.
She stands quickly and brushes herself off out of habit, not because she’s dirty. Her skin is a light olive color, but it’s impossible to know what ethnicity she is just from the coloring. We live in Miami; everyone is tan. But her skin hints at more than just spending too much time in the sun. Hers promises a past and culture far more intriguing.
Her legs are too skinny I realize as I soak up her body and ingrain it in my memory like I do with everything. My memory is flawless, and even if it wasn’t, there is no way I would forget such a spark of beauty like her.
Her clothes are too big for her. Her blue jean shorts engulf too much of her legs. Her tank top hangs like a tent instead of showing the curves beneath it. Dark black hair hangs down her neck in thick waves hiding her face.
But then she flips her head back and blows the rest of her locks from her face. Gone is the fear. Gone is the clumsy girl. Gone is the awkward girl uncomfortable in her own skin. I even forget her clothes are two sizes too big.
She’s transformed from meek girl to powerful woman with one toss of her hair. Her steps are bold and robust as she struts toward the bar, only taking her three steps to reach the edge.
She smiles at the bartender, and Blake floats over to her, as under her spell as I am. I don’t know what she says as she whispers to Blake, but I know he will retrieve whatever drink she ordered without verifying her age. And I’m right. Blake slides a beer to her without glancing at her ID. An ID that would either be fake or show she isn’t any older than I am.
Her age doesn’t matter though. The way she looks at him with piercing greenish blue eyes and unending poise is enough to persuade him to risk his job for her.
Blake may be used to serving underage clients, but that’s only because of me. I’ve never seen him serve anyone unassociated with me who’s so clearly a minor.
The girl lifts the glass to her lips, and the foam sits on her upper lip as she drinks down the golden liquid like it is the only thing keeping her alive.
That I can understand.
I shouldn’t approach her. I shouldn’t think about her. I shouldn’t invite more evil into her world when it’s clear she running from enough herself. But I can’t fight the pull. I’m not strong enough.
I leave the drinks Blake placed in front of me for Langston and Zeke. I only take my drink as I slide into the stool next to her.
Her gaze never leaves her drink as I move next to her. She doesn’t realize the danger that has approached.
“What’s an innocent creature like you doing in a bar like this?” I ask.
Her eyes roll gently in her head, but it’s the only sign she heard me. Otherwise, I don’t exist to her.
But I’m a patient man. I know she heard me, and I know she is uncomfortable with me sitting so close. She’ll answer. If for no other reason than she’s curious as to why I converged on her in the first place. She may not show any fear right now, but she’s running from something. And the tension in her neck is enough for me to know she’s terrified of me outing her and returning her to whatever she’s trying to evade.
She doesn’t know I would never stop her from escaping. It’s a feeling I understand too well. I would never stop someone from feeling free, if only for a moment.
“I needed something to eat. There isn’t anything but bars on this road for miles.”
I frown. Food? That’s her excuse?
She downs her drink, and before the last drop crosses her lips, Blake brings another bottle to replace the empty beer still in her hands.
I smirk. “It seems you need alcohol a lot more than you need food.”
She shrugs. “Alcohol helps too.”
“This bar doesn’t serve any food. You are out of luck.”
She nods. “I know.” She still doesn’t look at me as she speaks. It’s like she’s talking to a ghost. Like I don’t exist to her.
“I could turn you in for underage drinking. My family is close to the cops in this town. I could have you arrested. A permanent mark on your record. But maybe that would help you. Get you somewhere safe and away from whoever you are running from.”
My words finally get her attention. Her bright eyes, looking more green now than blue, finally fall on my dark orbs. Her pink lips purse, and I think she’s going to yell at me or plead for me to do anything but call the cops. I expect her to beg or to dash out the door again running in fear.
“You won’t turn me in, and even if you do, I don’t fear the police.”
My finger traces the rim of my drink instead of tracing the outline of her pink lips like I want.
“I’m not a nice man. My conscience will have no problem turning you in. I’ll sleep just fine knowing I put you in jail for a night.”
She licks her plump pink lips, and my patience teeters on the edge of a cliff. Why the hell do I want to taste her lips? She’s just a girl. Just like all the rest of the girls I went to high school with.
I groan silently. She’s not like other girls. I don’t know much about her, but I know she is nothing like other girls.
Her bright eyes narrow into slits about to tear out my throat, and I think I finally unnerved her.
“You’re not a man. You’re just a boy. Just like I’m a girl, not a woman. You’re not twenty-one any more than I am.”
She inches closer until her face is a breath away from mine. Her lips so close I could easily take them into my mouth before she could react and stop me.
She nibbles on her bottom lip as if she knows that’s exactly what I want to do.
“You may control the police, but right now, I control you. You won’t dare call the police on me.”
I exhale, my eyes squinting as I study this fascinating girl in front of me. I’ve never met someone who spoke so many truths and so many lies in one sentence. I lurk forward, and she stills, exhaling harsh breaths but refusing to back down.
I lick my own lip, and I watch as her bottom one trembles. Our gazes lock in a fierce battle. Neither of us will back down. I could take what I wanted without a fight from her because she refuses to show weakness. I would guess she’s always this strong.
Her life is as much a struggle as mine. We would make quite a pair. But I’m afraid our lives aren’t meant to do anything but intersect for a brief moment. She’s here to give me a tiny sliver of entertainment. She’s a distraction from my own hauntings.
Blake places a plate of burger and fries in front of the girl.
My eyes widen for less than a second, but it’s long enough for her to take it as a win. She smiles as she leans back in her chair before turning to her plate of food.
“I guess you don’t know everything about this bar, boy,” she says before shoveling a fry into her mouth.
I can’t help but grin at her. The way she says boy, it doesn’t feel like an insult, even though that’s how she meant it. It feels freeing to seem like a boy in her eyes instead of a man who has too many responsibilities. I’m not the only one she has under her spell. This bar doesn’t serve food, but it didn’t stop Blake from ordering food from the nearest diner for her.
“I’m Enzo. I’m rarely proven wrong, but I’m happy to be proven wrong by…” I pause waiting for her to tell me her name.
Her eyes cut to me. “I don’t give anything away for free.”
“I don’t either.” My unblinking gaze holds hers. I gave her my name; now I expect her to give hers just as freely.
She finishes her second beer. “Buy me another drink, and maybe I’ll tell you.”
I finish my drink and slam it down on the bar. She jumps at the sound the glass makes as it hits the rough wood.
She startles easily.
I don’t say a word, but I know Blake got my silent order loud and clear. Get me another drink and bring one for the girl.
Two minutes later, half of her burger is gone, and Blake brings another bourbon for me and another beer for her.
“Name,” I command, my voice low and rumbling. I won’t wait for her to follow an order. I need her to follow my demand as much as I need to drink this glass of bourbon.
She smirks. “Impatient?”
I grab her wrist as it loosely holds a fry inches from her mouth.
Her eyes widen for a millisecond before she regains her control. She’s afraid of me. Or at least she doesn’t like strange men gripping her wrist.
I lean forward, and my teeth snap a bite of the french fry she’s still grasping.
She frowns and her body radiates anger as if me taking a bite of her fry is the greatest sin I’ve committed so far.
“You heard me.”
She shakes her head. “Enzo what?”
I growl, but it’s so low I’m not sure it was audible.
“Jocelyn,” I say again. It’s a pretty name. A strong name, but for some reason, it doesn’t fit the girl in front of me. I’m sure she goes by a nickname. Maybe Josie, or Jose, or Lynn. But I haven’t earned her nickname. The one that only her family and friends call her. And she hasn’t earned more than a first name from me.
“So Jocelyn, what are you really doing in my bar?”
Her eyebrows shoot up. “Your bar, huh?”
“Yes, my bar. Everything I enter becomes mine.”
Jocelyn coughs at my words—choking slightly on the piece of burger stuck in her now dry throat.
She winces as she finally swallows the piece down, but doesn’t immediately grab for her beer to relieve her throat. This girl is used to dealing with pain. It barely fazes her. And apparently speaking words to me is more important than dealing with her discomfort.
“Yours?” She drags her teeth across her bottom lip, and my dick, along with the rest of my body hardens to stone.
“You may own everything you enter, but I control everything I touch.” Her hand moves to my glass sitting on the edge of the bar. Her finger lazily traces around the rim of the thick glass just as I had done before. And then her finger dips into the center, pulling up a drop of whiskey before she brings her finger to her mouth and sucks her finger dry.
She purrs in response as if drawing me closer to her. She’s playing with fire.
I grab another fry off her plate and bite off the end with my mouth, needing to regain my composure and at least the illusion of control. This twig of girl can’t control me. She has no power over me. Even my father, the ruthless man he is, can’t tame me.
But somehow, this girl did. If only for a moment, she claimed me as hers and made me want to do whatever I could to please her. But just as quickly the spell she cast over me broke.
She growls and snatches the remainder of her precious fry out of my hand before shoveling it into her mouth, along with the rest of the food on her plate until not even a crumb remains.
My breathing slows. How did I not notice before?
The spaghetti strap shirt she wears lowers, and I see the thin frame of her collarbone protruding more than what is healthy. I glance at her wrist I held only moments before. Now it seems so frail I could snap it with the twist of my hand. And I swear I can see her hip bone sticking out through the thin fabric of her shorts.
She’s too skinny. Too frail. Too hungry.
I’ve known women like her. Some were drug addicts.
But from the lack of needle marks on her skin, I know that is not that case. And even though she’s drunk a lot of beer, I don’t get the feeling that she is an alcoholic. Her body doesn’t tremble at the sight of alcohol.
Others I’ve met were whores.
But from the innocent way she keeps biting her lip, I can’t imagine her selling her body to survive.
And others…others were sold.
“Who did you escape from?” I need to know if she escaped from an enemy or from one of my own. If she escaped from my enemies, then I will have great pleasure in keeping her from them, but if she fled from one of my own…
She cocks her head to the side, studying me, trying to understand the hidden meaning behind my words.
“Answer me.” I grab her wrist again firmly, showing her I won’t let her go without an answer.
Her breathing speeds, and I feel her pulse skipping rapidly through her icy veins. I was right. She was sold. I just need to know who her master was. Then I can decide what to do with her.
I don’t agree with men kidnapping and selling women like cattle. But right now, staring at this endearing creature, I get the appeal.
She closes her eyes, and I imagine she’s picturing her master’s eyes, his commanding voice, even his cock as it drives inside her.
I study her body. She’s thin, but not bruised. She hasn’t been broken yet. He may have not even fucked her yet. She’s just hungry and hasn’t been taken for long, which makes me want to break her myself.
Jocelyn isn’t mine. And I won’t take her and be her master. I just need to know who I should return her to.
“I belong to myself. I’ve never been sold. And I will never be taken.”
Her eyes puncture mine with sharp ice, and I realize she’s speaking the truth. I’ve always been good at judging people. I know when someone is telling the truth or a lie.
“Then why are you starving?”
She trembles and her eyes are downcast as if that was the question that hurt her. Not the one before, assuming she was a slave.
I feel the tsunami of emotions behind her olive eyelids, before she opens them and erases any remnants of pain.
“I’m not starving. Not anymore. I’m surviving.”
Jocelyn looks to where I’m still gripping her wrist, as if her eyes have any control of my hand. But somehow I can’t resist what her eyes demand. I release her.
She stands. She’s done with our conversation. I’m almost done too, but it doesn’t stop me from getting the last word in. I stand, and our bodies collide in the thin space between our bar stools.
Her movement is fast. So fast I shouldn’t even notice it. No normal person with an ordinary upbringing would notice her action. My buddies sitting in the booth deep in the corner of the bar wouldn’t. And no one sitting the length of the bar would.
But I do.
It’s the oldest trick in the book.
She turns to leave, acting as if nothing just happened between us.
“Jocelyn,” my voice is harsh as I say her name, and as I expected, she halts. A skill I have perfected. I can control people as easily with my voice as I can with my fists.
I slowly walk to her, and I can feel the anxiety dripping off of her in thin droplets. Her body doesn’t show any outward hint of worry, but I can smell the panic as it festers inside her.
I stand in front of her, and she continues to hold her head high. She won’t show weakness. She won’t show fear.
I shouldn’t do this. I should just let her have what she took. I should be kind. It could be the difference between her eating another good meal and withering away into nothing. But I’m not kind; I’m heartless. And I don’t tolerate thievery.
I hold out my hand and look down at her with displeasure. I don’t have to say a word. She knows what she did.
She reaches into her back pocket and places the thick leather wallet into my hand.
I grin. “Good girl.”
Her eyes meet mine, and for a second I think I see something more. Something like winning in her gaze. But she didn’t win, I did.
“Thank you for lunch,” she says. And then she’s gone before I can respond or stop her from running out without paying her bill.
I smirk at my thick wallet and glance at the bar. She didn’t steal from me or the bar by not paying for her food and drinks. She thought she won by stealing three beers, a burger, and fries from me. But I won’t be paying her bill.
I never pay my own. That’s why Zeke and Langston are here. Not that I can’t afford to pay for something so inexpensive. But why should I pay? I own everything in this town. I shouldn’t have to pay myself for something I take.
I walk back to the booth in the corner and take my seat.
“You let some pussy almost steal from you?” Langston says, smirking.
I glare, and the smile leaves his face. He hides behind his drink that Lana, our waiter, must have brought him while I was entertained by the girl.
“No one steals from me.”
They both nod. They know the consequences if someone stole from me.
“She your whore now? Or can I have a taste of her?” Zeke asks.
I lean back in the booth and drape my arm over the back. I don’t want either of them going after Jocelyn. She’s mine, even if I never get to touch her.
“I think you have too much work to do to be chasing pussy,” I say.
Zeke huffs but doesn’t push the subject. Lana drops off the bill that I know covers our drinks in addition to Jocelyn’s tab. Langston places his credit card on the bill without looking. He knows better than to balk at paying. It’s why I pay him so well. Even though my family owns the bar and I don’t have to pay, it’s a way for my friends to show loyalty to me by covering our drinks.
“What time are you meeting your father?”
I glance at my watch and freeze.
Instead of the shiny silver face of my Rolex staring back at me, I see the faint tan line of where the watch used to sit.
I may be the devil, but Jocelyn is a thief. She left this bar knowing she had won. She never had any intention to steal my wallet. She wouldn’t have gotten much from my wallet anyway. There is nothing more than a couple hundred dollar bills tucked in its depths along with credit cards I would have been canceled before she could use them and would only leave a trail for me to find her.
Instead, she stole the one thing of real value on my body. The watch is worth over ten grand.
Round one goes to the thief, but the devil only ever gets deceived once. Jocelyn has no idea who she stole from. But soon, I’ll make sure she never forgets.