Bad Boys Don’t Play Fair-Excerpt
My name is Lavender Bennett. I’m a Resident Counselor at the Collins Rehabilitation Center. Being assaulted on the job was my first encounter with a life-threatening situation. Evidence indicated that his motive was robbery, but every bone in my body told me I had been set up. I didn’t feel like my attacker wanted my purse, he wanted something much more valuable—my life! Someone wanted me dead and I intended to find out who and why.
Sunday was a regular work day for me. I hated my schedule but that was one of the perks of the profession I’d chosen. My car stalled as I pulled up to the security gate. Shoving the gear shift into park, I cranked it again. Buying a new car was not about to become a reality and that thought weighed heavily on my mind. It was strange that someone knew I had withdrawn my savings to purchase a new car. My entire savings was probably blown on an expensive high.
While the car sputtered and coughed I ran my eyes over the worn seat covers and became misty. Taking the sole of my shoe, I ruffled the grimy, faded carpet beneath my feet. When I realized I would not be inhaling that euphoric rush new cars possessed, I became incensed.
The security gate opened before me and Gerald, the security guard, trotted swiftly toward my car, his stride regimented from years in the Army, his uniform stiff with the newness of military pride.
The stern groves in his brown face appeared almost stone-like. After waving me a hearty hello, he instructed that I roll down my window. “Good morning Gorgeous. You look pretty-good for a woman who survived a brutal attack. I heard you got cut from a-hole to appetite. Whew!” Gerald expelled a sympathetic whistle, blowing traces of stale alcohol and fresh coffee in my direction.
“Man, I’m sorry about what happened. I should have known that guy was up to no good. Honestly, I saw that guy before. I had a feeling about him.” He lifted his hat and scratched his graying head. “That shouldn’t have happened to anyone, especially you, Miss Bennett.”
“Thanks Gerald. I know you did your job. Some things just can’t be avoided. You didn’t know his intensions.”
“Yeah, but he left you for dead. I guess he didn’t want to leave any witnesses.”
I winced and massaged my throbbing temples. “No, kidding. He does have talent with a knife. I still don’t know how he got that thing past security.”
“Me neither.” He shielded his bloodshot eyes from the morning sun. “Rosco was on duty that night. He was probably high himself.”
“You think?” I said, restraining my laughter.
“Well, I ain’t one to talk, you know,” he looked around to see if anyone was listening, “but Rosco got fired from his last security job. If they had done they research properly, they woulda found that out.” He shrugged. “They so hard-up for guards that they neglect to check all they needed to check.”
I nodded and turned my attention back to my job. “Well, I’d better run. Thanks Gerald.” After rolling up the window, I proceeded toward the parking area. With my laptop in hand, I marched toward the task that lay before me. Halfway the parking lot I heard familiar footsteps pounding against the pavement. From the sound, I knew it was Noel. Without turning around, I called, “Good morning Noel!”
“You think you know me so well,” he chuckled matching my stride.
Without breaking my pace, I scolded, “Didn’t call me huh?”
“Well, what can I say? I feel for ya girl. I found it hard to talk to my girl when she’s been mistaken for a turkey dinner.” As he opened the heavy glass door, his massive build and smooth pecan skin gave his clothes a standing ovation. A sarcastic snarl drew his lips as he groomed his stylish cut.
“Okay. I’ll let you go this time. But the next time I don’t hear from you when I’m in trouble don’t call me when you need another favor.” We reached the second door and I placed my ID badge in the scanner for approval.
“Come on girl. I had a few tight dates and well, you know.” Noel placed his badge in the scanner. “Don’t be like that,” he kidded, pretending to be wounded.
Noel was quite the kidder, but during a counseling session, he was the typical Bad Boy and deadly serious. Being a recovering drug addict himself, he had spent time behind bars for trying to support his expensive habit. Noel earned his degree in the State Pen; he honored his credentials with the reverence given to a Priest. He boasted that the pen had given him discipline, plus it forced him to focus on achieving a better lifestyle. Although, I loved counseling sessions when Noel conducted them, I never knew what to expect. He was hard-nosed and felt no remorse for any of the addicts. There was no pity. He could smell a sob story and would always challenge them. In no uncertain terms, Noel always let patients know they were in complete control of their own destiny no matter how hard they lived, or what they felt life owed them.
Right now, Noel was on probation for grabbing a patient resident by the collar during session. The resident had admitted to selling his twelve-year-old daughter for drugs. Although, we have been warned not to react during session, Noel just snapped. Because he lost his temper he also lost the trust of the patients. That mistake earned him a strong reprimand.
Still, I was happy just to work with Noel. Long ago, I managed my obsession with him. I was a defenseless sucker for the humble gentleman trapped inside Noel’s bad boy facade. At times, I felt he had two personalities. During session he was crude, vulgar, and to the point, yet he was the ultimate gentleman when the occasion was necessary.
Noel’s eyes lack the healthy glow of most males his age. They were dim and cloudy, deadened from years of drug abuse, crime, and confinement. Bad boy turned good, gave him Rock Star status, so the women who worked at the center adored him. His bad boy temperament made resident patients fear him. And, at any given time, Noel was the topic of discussion between rival females. Catfights were unavoidable as females clamored for his affection. Where work was concerned Noel pushed women aside, there was no doubt he was serious about his job.
I placed the laptop on my desk; realizing that I too, had fallen into his sensual net. As a counselor, he was trained to listen. He was a master at picking-up on key words. Within seconds, he knew what made a person vulnerable. Noel, had discovered my vulnerability, but he was too much of a gentleman to use it against me. For that, I was very thankful.
It was time for our first session when I realized I had not checked my messages. In a rush, I slammed the phone onto the cradle, promising myself that I would return Mrs. Tankard’s call. Grabbing my clipboard, I rushed for room three. Co-workers welcomed me back with sympathetic smiles and thoughtful gestures; in my hurry I almost ignored their eager kindness.
When I reached the door, I peered through the window. Patients were already seated and waiting. Because I sustained a scar over my left eye, I used my bangs to camouflage my bandage. Sweeping a stray hair from my eye I tossed my raven hair across my shoulders, and greeted my impatient squad. Noel was seated center circle and had already begun the session. I sat slightly to the left of him. Leaning toward my ear, he crooned, “Love that skirt.”
My eyes drew a question and Noel looked down at my exposed thigh. When I glanced downward, I also discovered that my short skirt could become a distraction to the session. I’m a professional not a temptress, so I covered the exposed area with my clipboard.
Noel’s voice filled the room as he turned his attention back to the session. “Mr. Vaughn, you were saying that you couldn’t control your desire to use drugs. Well, tell me. If you can’t control the urges, who can? Is it your mama, or your girlfriend who has the key to your drug use?”
Knowing Noel’s heart, I knew he was about to go off on an escapade that could rock Mr. Vaughn’s world.
Mr. Vaughn, a twenty-five year-old patient said the wrong thing. “Naw man! I don’t need my mama to tell me nothing!” He eased back in his chair. “It’s just that the skank never gave me the time of day.”
Noel sat back in his chair. “And why was that, Mr. Vaughn?”
“Well. The whore claim she be workin’ all the time.”
Noel’s eyes narrowed. “You can’t call your mother a whore, Mr. Vaughn. That’s not permitted.”
“Well,” Mr. Vaughn corrected, “the woman said she ain’t have time for me.”
As the conversation progressed, my mind slipped out the window, climbed over the barbed wire fence, and found freedom in Jacob’s strong caress. The breakup had been devastating and I missed him sorely. This session had my body, but Jacob had my mind. Visualizing my head nestled in his fragrant chest; his cologne lulled me into a feeling of serenity. I felt the warmth of his body against my skin. My lips parted as I wished a kiss to be bestowed upon them. He nuzzled my throat with his nose and lips, my body tingled as he stood behind me and encircled my waist. In response to his caresses, my body responded with steamy preparation. Disguised with a poker face, I nodded from time to time. Murmurs of male voices turned into murmurs of female voices. Soon the session was over.
As we left the room Noel tapped me on the arm. “Where the hell were you, Lavender? You didn’t take one single note. You know these sessions demand our undivided attention.”
My eyes closed tightly, I was hopelessly embarrassed. “I’m so sorry Noel. I guess I’m just a little out of it today. It might take a while to get back on top of my game.”
Noel placed his hand on my shoulder and examined my face. “Lavender, I’m the one who’s sorry. I almost forgot about the attack.” Concern contorted his face. “You must be feeling it, huh?”
“Yeah, I’m feeling it.” I smiled quietly. Noel was right. I couldn’t afford to go off on a voyage during any session. My body was about to betray my thoughts and I felt a blush of humiliation. Much like Noel, I promised myself that work came first and I had to stay focused. After all, Jacob was no longer a part of my life.
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