Jordan grinned as he laid his cards on the table. Full house against a trio of Aces. Now to collect his winnings and get the hell out of this dark cave of a bar. The zydeco was giving him a headache and his nose burned from the cigar smoke that the other players were blowing his way. He watched as the guy sitting next to him pulled the piece of paper from the middle of the table and signed his name, grumbling as he scribbled. The background noise assaulted Jordan’s ears, making it impossible to hear what the man was saying, something about his brother, and then he chuckled as he looked squarely at Jordan and passed the paper over. “Tell Reese I said hi!” He stood up and staggered towards the restroom, leaving Jordan alone with the squinted stares of the other players. Yup, time to leave.
His steps remained even and measured, even though every crunching step on the gravel had his heart beating so hard it felt like his brain was about to explode out of his ears. He fought the urge to run and made it to his car without anyone grabbing him by the shoulder and jerking him back into the building to accuse him of cheating. An especially good thing since he couldn’t deny it. He was good with numbers, and who could blame him for taking advantage of it. He hit the locks and pulled a bent Camel from the scrunched pack he found in the debris covering the passenger seat. That first draw of nicotine and tar hit his lungs and he felt his entire body relax, starting as a tingle at the back of his scalp and flowing all the way to his toes. Who knew toes could be tense.
He stuck the key into the ignition and cranked it, hoping this wasn’t the day the old Crown Victoria decided 30 years was long enough and that it was time to ascend to that golden scrap yard in the sky. Please, God, don’t let it be today. A sigh of relief rumbled at the back of his throat: the start was a bit rough, but she caught and purred with only the occasional cough. With the cigarette dangling from his lips and the smoke swirling around his face, making his eyes water, he fumbled in the inner pocket of his jacket for the piece of paper he’d folded and tucked over his heart. Flipping on the overhead light, he spread the crumpled sheet flat on his steering wheel and read it twice.
“Illinois. Closer to Kansas than I want to be, but it’s time to leave New Orleans, anyway, I think,” he said aloud to to the purple-flocked cow sitting on his dashboard as he looked at the deed to the 5 acres he now owned. The man said there was a trailer there, too. He’d check it out. The GPS on his phone said it was a nine-hour drive. He was past tired, but he’d hit too many little bars in the area, won too much money. It was time to move on. He would have left earlier, but the redneck had gotten obnoxious and mouthy and Jordan had risen to the bait. The stress of living out of his car for the last year and a half had gotten old. A place to hole up for awhile sounded too good to pass up. He didn’t even know if it was legal, but Roger Daniels’ signature was clear and it looked official. Good enough for now, he thought.
When artificial light turned the inside his eyelids orange, Jordan buried his head into the pillow and pulled the blanket up over his head. He turned over onto his back and tried to focus when a deep voice pulled him further from his sleep.
“Hey, Goldilocks, Papa Bear’s home and wondering why you’re sleeping in his bed.”
He squinted as the brightness blinded him. A figure was bent over him, blocking some of the glare from the overhead fixture. All Jordan saw was the outline of the man’s head and shoulders.
“Goldilocks?” Jordan blinked his eyes and rubbed the grit out of the corners with his finger tips. “You’re bed?”
His eyes finally focused, and oh, fuck, he was having a wet dream. It had to be that, because he’d never seen anyone that checked every box on his list. A thick braid of black hair swung over his shoulder. Thick eyebrows enhanced almond shaped eyes. His high cheekbones were a perfect frame for his wide, straight nose and his full lips. Jordan bet there was a body to match under that leather jacket and he pulled the blanket up over his head, hoping the dream didn’t fade before he got to the good part.
The blanket was pulled back away from him and he yelped. “What?”
“Excuse me, but what’s you name and why are you in my bed?” Jordan almost thought he was amused. Almost.
“Who are you?”
“I asked first.”
Okay, he definitely wasn’t amused. “Jordan.” He sat up and heaped the blanket around his waist, attempting to hide the holey boxers he’d fallen asleep in. “Ah, I’m Jordan Hatfield. And you’re...?”
Reese? Where’d he heard that name before? Oh, yeah! “Hey, Roger says Hi,” he said with a grin.
Reese didn’t grin back and Jordan let the smile fall as he found his arm trapped in a vice-like grip.
“Get out of my bed,” Reese hissed.
“What the fuck, man?” he said as he tried to free himself. “I don’t know what’s crawled up your butt, but Roger…” Jordan paused. Maybe the truth wasn’t the best option at the minute. “He sold me the trailer. I’ve got the deed to prove it. So, it’s my trailer, my bedroom, and my bed!”
Reese released Jordan and stepped back. His jaw worked as his face flushed. “My brother did what?” He rested his big hands on his hips and looked at Jordan as if he were accusing him of something.
“You’re brother? You sure don’t look anything alike.” He relaxed against the headboard as he looked at Reese and tried to picture Roger. Nope, nothing. Roger’s hair had been light and curly, his face rounder, as was his figure. He had to be a good 5 or 6 inches shorter and his eyes had been round over a down-right pert nose.
“Half-brothers. Mom was a slag. And Roger’s a deadbeat.”
Jordan’s eyes almost popped out of his head. “Wow! I’ll bet your family reunions are a blast! Any other siblings I should be watching out for?”
“Another brother and two sisters,” he said absentmindedly as Jordan pointed towards the pile of clothing on the floor.
Reese picked up a pair of tattered jeans and tossed them to Jordan. “Kid, I’m tired. Go sleep in the other room.” It hadn’t been quite as obvious as Jordan sat in the mound of blankets, but as he slipped off the mattress, Reese could see the young man was too skinny. His face was gaunt and Reese could count every rib and bump of his spine. He’d bet money that Jordan hadn’t been eating regularly. It had been too dark outside for Reese to get a good look at the car in the brief flash of his headlights, but it was old. Not classic old, just run to death old. He’d come in expecting to find Roger passed out in the bathroom, not some vagabond claiming to be the new owner of his home.
“How old are you, anyway? 18?”
The reply was short and hard. “22.”
Reese watched him pull on an equally tattered Rolling Stones tour t-shirt that looked old enough to be original. “Really?”
“Want to see my ID?” Reese wanted to laugh at the kid’s affront, but held it in.
So, what do you think? Which way should I go?