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Tuesday Teaser 12/5/17 Strong Hearts Chapter 1a

Well, I’ve been giving little snips from here and there in the story. I’ve decided it’s time to start at the beginning. This is unedited, so it might change a bit here and there, but I like this. This story releases on January 17 2018.

WARNING: strong language.

 

STRONG HEARTS

copyright by Maddy Barone

Chapter One

 

Brutus would have pounded that asshole into a pancake if the bouncers hadn’t stopped him. It took both to drag him off.  The blood dripping from the little shit’s nose made him smile. Smiling hurt his split lip, though, so he settled for a sneer.

“That’s what you get for disrespecting the United States Marine Corps,” he said, allowing the bouncer to pull him a little further away. He knew the bouncer, Matt Martinez, was a Marine himself. “Did you hear what that little rat said?”

“No, and it doesn’t matter.” Martinez sighed. “Come on, Doc, you know what Billie said last time you got into a fight here.”

“That was three months ago!”

Brutus shot the rat who didn’t give honor where honor was due one last dirty look and followed Martinez to a stool at the end of the bar. Along the way they passed several patrons at the bar who seemed to be pretending to be deaf and blind. One caught his eye, a platinum blonde who had to have had breast implants. The Dolly Parton wannabe didn’t impress him. He plopped himself down on the bar stool Martinez pointed him to and waved for Jerry, the bartender.

Before he could order a beer, Martinez spoke. “Coffee or a coke, Doc. When your buddy gets here, you let him take you home.”

A cold spot spread in Brutus’ throat. “You’re cutting me off? It’s only ten o’clock!”

Martinez thumped a fist on his shoulder. “That’s Billie’s rule. If you fight, you leave. And you’ve had too much to drink to drive home yourself, so you just sit here and wait for your ride.”

Brutus slumped on the bar. “Who’d’ja you call?”

“Wolfe. Who else? You gonna cause any more trouble?”

“No.”

He’d drink his coffee like a good boy and let his friend take him home.  Brutus rested his forehead on a fist and stared morosely into the black coffee Jerry brought him. He heard the jukebox switch to a different song, something slow and melancholy. The clack of pool balls reminded him that he’d been having a good night, downing a few beers, shooting a few games, and relaxing after a long shift at the station house. Then that little ass wipe invited him to play. He was probably twenty-one, barely legal, and thought he was a hustler. Whatever. They were playing for almost nothing, so Brutus didn’t care if he lost. Everything was cool, until that guy started talking about how useless Marines were. Things went downhill fast after that.

He tried a sip of coffee. It hurt his split lip. With careful fingers, he gingerly explored the injury. Damn.  The swelling had better go down before his next shift. Three days. It should be gone by then. If not … Hopefully, Captain Stewart wouldn’t be around to notice. Brutus didn’t need another lecture from his boss. He reached for the bowl of pretzels on the bar and had to hide a wince. His ribs were sore from a right hook. That kid had some good moves, at the pool table and away from it. Brutus was going to feel this tomorrow. It was a lot like that fight he’d had back in Camp Fallujah. Or was he thinking about that fight in Camp Dreamland?  Or Camp Dakota? His service days in Iraq were more than ten years ago, so it hard to keep that straight.

“Gunnison.”

Brutus jerked his head up. His partner stood there, looking down at him with a small frown. “Hey, Wolfe. You got here fast.”

“I was already out.”

That’s right, Wolfe was taking his latest piece of arm candy to a movie or something. “Damn, did this mess up your date?”

“No, Cherilyn wanted an early night. I just dropped her off.”

“Aw, too bad. So, you havta sleep alone tonight?” Brutus looked his partner up and down. Wolfe was everything Brutus was not: handsome, light on his feet, tall and muscular without being a hulk, and charming. A real chick magnet. Women went crazy for Wolfe’s pretty boy face.  “Well, it has to happen to everyone sometimes, right?”

Wolfe blew out a breath and shook his head with a half-disgusted, half-affectionate smile. “Shut up. Ready to go?”

“Yeah, sure,” Brutus pushed the still full coffee cup away and lurched to his feet. He had to catch himself on the bar. Maybe he’d had more than he’d realized. He straightened and testing his walking ability. Wolfe watched him without offering to help. Yeah, his buddy understood a man’s pride. “Lead the way.”

He did okay until he tripped over the pointy toe of a sparkly high-heeled shoe and landed nose first in a bountiful cleavage. Brutus might not have the polished manners of some men, but his mama had whupped common decency into him.  He jerked upright and staggered a step back.

“Sorry, ma’am,” he blurted. “Are you hurt?”

The platinum blonde gave a throaty laugh and made minute adjustments to neckline of her low-cut dress.  “Why, I just don’t believe I know.”

Her accept was deep south, not Texas, and her sex kitten purr was directed at Wolfe, not him. Brutus took one long look at her and decided his buddy was welcome to her. She was beautiful but fake. Too much makeup, and too much of her body on display. Billie’s Bar & Grill was one step above a dive, and that short, sequined dress should be worn in a place where fancy cocktails were served.

He glanced at his friend to see his reaction. Wolfe, as usual, showed little. He liked living up to his Native American ancestors’ reputation for stoicism, but Brutus had known him since the old days in Iraq. Behind that coolly polite façade, his buddy was laughing his ass off.

The blonde flicked her foot. The sparkly shoe landed at Wolfe’s feet. “Why, look at that,” she cooed. “My shoe just plumb fell off.”

There was a pause in the noise as the jukebox switched songs. From the other side of the blonde came a sigh. Brutus stepped a little to the right to see who was sitting next to the blonde. For a full five seconds, his lungs forgot how to work.

This was how a woman ought to look. Brown hair pulled up in a bouncy ponytail. Blue jeans neither too baggy nor too tight, and a plaid shirt worn open over a white T-shirt. Her cleavage probably wasn’t as impressive as the blonde’s, but it had a perfect curve. He followed the long line of her leg and saw she was wearing cowboy boots. Worn out cowboy boots, not the pretty, shiny kind city cowgirls wore for show. If she was wearing makeup, Brutus couldn’t tell. Her face was pretty. Not Miss America beautiful, but pretty. Damn. She was Brutus’ prefect woman. Right now, she looked annoyed. Even that looked good on her.

“Stella, for crying out loud.” She turned on the barstool to Wolfe. “I’m so sorry,” she said.

Brutus sighed. Now that she’d gotten a look at his buddy, she wouldn’t have the time of day for him.

But she remined slightly apologetic, not even blinking at Wolfe. No gasp. No staring worshipfully, no blush or smile. She took the shoe Wolfe held out to her. “Thanks,” she said briefly, and thrust it at the blonde.  “Put your shoe on, Stella,” she said in a furious whisper.

“Relax, Sissie.” The blonde pouted and turned slipping her shoe on into a languorous tease. If she wasn’t careful, those tits were going to pop right out of her dress. The pouty smiles and bedroom eyes were directed at Wolfe. The ponytail girl sighed again. Wolfe didn’t respond except to punch a light fist into Brutus’ bicep.  “Ready to go?” he asked.

Brutus couldn’t resist one last look at the pretty brown-haired girl. Her eyes, large and blue, looked at him with a hint of disapproval. His back went up.

“What are you looking at?” he demanded.

Her cool blue eyes ran up him, and then down him. “Nothing much,” she said, turning back to the bar.

“Ouch,” murmured Wolfe, hidden laughter in his voice. Probably no one else heard it, but Brutus did. “Come on, buddy.”

Outside, the air was hot and laden with humidity. Normal for Dallas on the first day of September even at ten at night. Brutus took a lungful of the thick air in before climbing in Wolfe’s pick up.

“Man, did you see her?” Brutus sighed happily. “If I dream about her tonight I’ll be a happy man.”

Wolfe drove out of the parking lot. He stopped at a red light and raised a dubious eyebrow. “I didn’t think she was your type.”

“What? You kidding?” Brutus closed his eyes and remembered the sweet curve of breasts against a white T-shirt half covered by a western style shirt. “She’s exactly my type. Such perfect tits.”

The light turned green and Wolfe stepped on the gas. “Yeah, I guess they were pretty spectacular. Big enough to fill even your hands.”

Brutus’ eyes popped open. “I’m not talking about the blonde!”

“Oh?”

“No. The little brunette gal sitting next to her. The cute one who looked like an actual person.”

“Oh,” Wolfe said with a note of comprehension. “Sure, she was pretty. Looked nice, too. Someone you could really talk to.”

The truth of that hit Brutus’ drunken mind like a sledgehammer. The blonde looked like a man hunter, the kind you took to bed and that was all. The brunette looked like the kind you took home to meet mom.  A girl like that wouldn’t want anything to do with a big brute like him.

Wolfe must have misunderstood his silence, because he went hastily on. “I don’t know that blonde lady. For all I know, she’d be great to talk to. We shouldn’t judge someone by the way they dress.”

Brutus snorted. “Right. We should judge by the way they act. I’ll bet my next paycheck that blonde wished you’d have been the one to trip and land on her tits. Her shoe fell off right in front of you, and that didn’t happen on its own.”

“Thank God your little brunette saved me from having to put it back on the blonde’s foot.”

His little brunette. Brutus reveled in the sound of that. “Yeah. Lucky you.”

Wolfe pulled his pickup into the short driveway in front of Brutus’ house. “Look, give me a call in the morning and I’ll give you a ride back to your truck.” He turned to study him, eyebrows pulling low. “You’ve been partying a lot lately, even when we have back to back shifts. You okay?”

That Indian had always been a little too perceptive. “Geez, Wolfe, you want to talk about our feelings now?”

His buddy snorted a laugh. “Get out of here. See you tomorrow.”

Brutus unlocked the front door and tossed his keys on the table in the front hall in time to catch his dog, Rowdy. The brown mutt was big and mean looking, but loyal and even loving with the right person.  Just like him.

“We’re a lot alike, boy,” he whispered, scratching behind the floppy ears. “One thing is different, though. You had your balls cut off, but the lady dogs still like you. I still have mine, but the ladies don’t like me.”

With that happy thought, he went to bed.

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