Far from timid • Caveat Lector

Fiction Series: Playing With Fire - Chapter 9

Fiction Series: Playing With Fire - Chapter 9


My eyes shoot open and I grab my chest. Mrs. Camren is standing over me. “Help him up.” Two of the men help me to my feet. 

“What the fuck was that?” I look at Mrs. Camren. 

“Calm down. You’re fine.”

I charge her as I catch my breath. “Why the fuck would you shoot me?” Big Pax stands to his feet as her security team steps between us. Mrs. Camren holds her hand up. “It’s okay. Let him through.” The men stand down but they don’t move. 

I look at all of the men ready to kill for her. Mrs. Camren turns to Big Pax. “I told you he wasn’t ready.” Big Pax looks pass her to me. My anger begins to boil over. “It’s just practice. You caught me by surprise.” 

She turns abruptly. “You’ve sold enough low-grade product to buy a house five minutes from the projects and you go soft. Is that what I’m witnessing?” 

The men who followed Paxton and Cruz begin to pour out of the mockup. My brothers walk out shaking hands. Paxton and Cruz are praising Isaiah. When they look up the men stop in their tracks. Paxton takes in the scene, the men standing between Mrs. Camren and me---waiting for her next command. He takes his arm from around Isaiah and hands Cruz his weapon. He approaches me. I shift my weight from left to right. He adjusts his vest. “What happened?”

I look from him to Mrs. Camren. “I hesitated.” He looks at his wife. “I see.” He waves his hand. The men clear the space returning to their work readying the rest of the weapons. Cruz motions for my brothers to follow him. They disappear into another room leaving me standing with Paxton, Mrs. Camren, Big Pax and Novia. 

Mrs. Camren sets the pistol down on a table nearby. Paxton thinks for a moment. “You have three hours to clear your head.” He takes Mrs. Camren by the hand and leads her out of the room. Novia follows without looking at me. 

I shake my head. Big Pax watches me. “Tell me what to do.”

Big Pax takes a seat and gestures for me to follow him. The chatter of the men busy around us forces me to move closer. “You’re angry. You get to be angry… about everything.” 

I lean forward so he can’t see the tears forming in my eyes. “Son, men cry. Men like us… we cry the most.” I wipe the tears away. “These men will follow you because I’ve told them to but don’t be confused. Their loyalty is to Mrs. Camren, first.”

“I overreacted. I was caught off guard.” He pats my shoulder. “I get it. She can be… unpredictable but her goal is always to bring us back to her.” I look up at him. “I get it.”

“This girl… If you want her, you’ll have to take her back. My daughter-in-law is much like my wife used to be…” Big Pax pauses. “I admire her but I find myself having to protect her from herself.” I wipe my face once more and sit up straight. “You have to be ready because when you reach Nuri’s property there is no turning back.”

“I’m ready.” 

“Nuri now. Novia later.” Big Pax stands. I shake my head in agreement. “Besides… it seems she’s journeyed down the road Cruz has tried to warn you against.” He pats my shoulder again and walks away. 

I stand adjusting my vest. I call my team to me. They gather with their weapons and vests. “Let’s just run through to get a feel.” I adjust the time on my watch. “I’m ready this time.”

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