Menace

By: Laramie Briscoe

PROLOGUE




Menace


January

“Jesus, please tell me that’s not what you’re wearing tonight.”

At the sound of my eighteen-year-old’s too deep voice, I turn around. Like I find myself doing more often than not now, I stop a second and take in the moment. In a few months, he won’t be here to make fun of what I’m wearing.

God, when did Caleb get to be a man standing in front of me? Older than I was when he came into the world screaming and shaking. I can still remember when they placed him in my arms and told me I was responsible for his entire life. He was so small, and I remember looking up at the nurse, asking if it was okay to hold him. Like I needed permission or something. I’ve taken the responsibility of raising him seriously – because I wanted to – but also because there was no one else to do it. He and I, we’ve come a very long way together.

“What’s wrong with it?” I press my hands against my chest, smoothing the shirt down.

He rolls his eyes, a grin tilting up the side of his mouth. With that move, it’s like looking in a mirror and seeing myself. “Everything, Dad, everything.”

“Then why don’t you help me? I haven’t been out on a date in more years than I care to count.” At least on one where I asked the woman out and I wasn’t set up by someone with good intentions. This date? It’s all mine. “You went out on one last night. Work your magic.”

Looking back, I realize this is probably the moment, where I completely lost control of the situation.

* * *

I’m not a nervous guy. Not usually. Being a member of the Moonshine Task Force requires I keep my cool, but tonight, as I stand in front of a restaurant in Birmingham, my hands shake, my palms sweat. Rubbing the heels of my hands on the jeans Caleb made me change into, I cross my booted ankles. The shoes he also recommended, because I looked too much like a dad in my own choices. I have to admit what he put me in shows the muscles off I work hard on, but at the same time I kinda feel like a douche. I’ve never been a flashy kind of guy with anything. Gripping my phone, I nervously look at it, searching for a text message that she may be running late, or even one that she may be calling this off.

However, when I hear the unmistakable click of high heels against the pavement, I glance up, and thank the heavens above Caleb shamed me into changing. Pushing off the wall, I slowly make my way toward the woman coming in my direction.

Karina – who I’m meeting tonight thanks to the dating profile Caleb set me up with – had been cute in her profile picture. Her other pictures had been playful, one or two of them sexy, but goddamn my jaw is about to hit the ground. Flesh and bone is so much more beautiful than photography in this instance. The woman walking toward me, with a sway to her hips in skin-tight jeans is sex on a stick. I’m the type of man who isn’t into super feminine women. I’m not into dresses and florals, I’m into jeans, shirts, leather, and everything this woman is wearing turns me on.

For the first time in years, I allow my eyes to seriously feast on a woman, on the picture she makes in front of me as she eats up the distance between us. Starting at the top of her head, I approve of the just-been-fucked tousled curls. The lights from the parking lot give her an ethereal glow in the January early-evening darkness. She’s one of those unicorns whose hair doesn’t look truly blonde or naturally brown. Moving down, her face doesn’t look painted on, and I give a silent prayer of thanks for that. The white shirt she wears underneath a black leather vest is tight enough for me to make out her curves underneath. Phone numbers and first names are all we’ve exchanged besides the pictures on the website, and I’m dying to hear her voice.

“Karina?” I approach her, my hand out.

She stops in front of me, extending her own hand out, a confident smile on her face. I love women who have confidence, yet still allow themselves to be vulnerable. Her poised demeanor is already winning her bonus points with me. “Mason?”

Her voice is raspy; sounding like we just had a round of break-the-bed sex, her accent not southern, more northern, but it suits her. She sounds almost like I imagined she would. Our hands clasp together and goddamn fireworks go off in the distance. Hand to God, I feel more chemistry when the palms of our hands touch than I have in the last three women I’ve been set up with. A few of those I’d taken out on more than one date, one I’d even slept with, but this woman; she excites me. Truthfully more than with any woman in my history.