“You want to shower or you want to sleep?” I ask Brandon, who is now moving more quickly to his room.
He lifts his head slightly and looks at me. “I just want to sleep,” he mutters, falling back onto his bed.
I find his garbage can and put it next to him. Then I make sure that he’s on his side before I pull his shoes off and cover him up. Kat comes in with a cup full of green liquid and holds it to his mouth. He rinses his mouth then leans over to spit in the trash can before lying back again.
“I love you, Mom,” he says, closing his eyes.
Kat sits down next to him on the bed, pushing his hair away from his forehead and pressing a kiss there, muttering, “I know you do,” softly before pulling away.
“I’m sorry,” he says.
I see her body sag. I step towards her, putting a hand to her back.
“This is not okay, Brandon. I love you more than life, but this is not okay.” The pain in her voice is obvious and I know she’s close to tears.
Brandon’s eyes open and he looks at his mom. The look in his eyes is so bleak that I want to track down his father and kill him for doing that to his son and the woman he was supposed to love.
“I’m sorry,” he repeats, and I don’t even know if he knows what he’s apologizing for.
“We’ll talk tomorrow. I’m going to leave your door open so I can hear you if you need me,” she tells him, leaning in again and kissing is forehead.
We both head out of his room then down the stairs. I pull off my jacket and toss it onto one of the chairs in the living room before going to the kitchen and grabbing a beer.
“So what happened?” Kat asks.
I turn to face her and see that she has her arms wrapped around her waist and her eyes have become full of worry. “James called me and told me that Brandon asked him to call me to come pick him up after he was arrested.”
“Why didn’t he call me?”
“I think he was hoping that he wouldn’t get in trouble if he called me.”
“What?” she whispers.
“Baby,” I say softly, running a finger down her cheek. “I’m your boyfriend. My guess is he thought I would pick him up and ease the blow with you to try and get on his good side.”
“He used to do this before we moved. This was one of the reasons we moved to begin with. He was always hanging out with the wrong crowd. He would come home late or not at all. Sometimes, he would show up drunk or high. I tried to talk to him, but nothing was working. Then I decided to move here. I loved growing up here and figured that it was probably a safe place to raise my son.”
She takes a deep breath, letting her hands drop to her side. “When we first moved into town, he was okay. He was doing good in school and not giving me any problems. Then, a few months ago, right after his birthday, something happened and he stopped listening. He started getting angry easier and our relationship, which had started to repair, went downhill fast.” She looks away when I see tears begin to fill her eyes. “I don’t know what’s going on with him. I don’t understand why he’s so angry. I don’t know why he’s mad at me or how to help him.”
“I think that whatever happened has to do with his dad more than it has to do with you,” I say, and her eyes come back to me. “Did you know that his dad told him that he couldn’t take him on a graduation trip because his girlfriend’s kid needs braces?” I ask, watching her body still and her face contort with anger.
“No, I didn’t know that.”
“Yep.” I nod and take a drink from my beer. “I talked to James, and what he said along with what Brandon said got me thinking,” I say, pulling her into me by the rope of her robe. “I think that Brandon needs some male bonding time. Every year, me and the Mayson’s go out on the lake for a few days, and I’m gonna take Brandon.”
“Really?” she whispers, leaning into me. Her eyes go soft, and I lean in and press my mouth to hers.
“I think it would be good for him and I to get to know each other better. I also think it would be good for him to have someone to look up to. Asher, Trevor, Cash, and Nico are not too much older than him. I know that I don’t have a conventional job and I’m not much of a role model, but I think that the other guys will be a good influence.”
“You know, when I first found out that you owned a strip club, I was a little put off,” she says.
I raise an eyebrow because a little put off is a huge understatement.
“Okay, so I was a lot put off,” she says, smiling. “But now I know to you. It’s your business and nothing more. You would also be a good influence on him. You’re a hard worker, you love your child and grandchildren, and you take care of the people you care about. I think all of those things are the qualities of a good man.”
My stomach tightens ‘cause those are not things I would have thought of. I know that a lot of people look at me and my club and say that I’m taking advantage of the women who work for me and I only see women as sex objects, but in my club, the women are safe. They are treated with respect. Most of them are students or mothers just trying to make a better life for themselves or their families. If I knew that the women who worked for me would be able to find somewhere else to work that had the same kind of environment, I would have closed the doors to Teasers after November moved home.
“Do you think that I should call his dad and tell him that his son needs him?” she asks, bringing me back to the moment.
“I don’t need him,” Brandon says, swaying into the kitchen. “He has never wanted to be a part of my life—even when you were married to him. He didn’t want to be a dad to me, so I don’t need him or want him in my life.”
“No, Mom. Fuck him,” he growls, opening the door to the fridge.
“Watch your mouth,” I say.
Brandon looks at me over his shoulder. “You’re not my dad,” he states, holding my eyes.
Mine narrow on him. “You’re right. If I was your father, your ass would be handed to you for the stress you’re putting your mom through. I’m not your dad, but I’m an adult.”
“Whatever,” he mutters.
“You feelin’ better?” I ask him.
He shrugs, which only pisses me off further.
“You’re up and you don’t seem as drunk as you were, so take the hose and go wash off my car.”