“Did you need any help Miss?”
Bobbi put the boots she was looking at back down.
“Do you have any more of these?” She asked the sales guy.
“Unfortunately no. It’s on clearance so that’s all we have left of those. But, we have this year’s version of it down on the back wall,” the sales guy replied and pointed.
“Cool. Thanks,” she said with a smile.
“You’re welcome,” the sales guy replied with a big smile.
Bobbi walked down where the guy pointed. Nick was already there, grinning.
“And what are you grinning about?”
“That guy was so checking out your ass.”
“Can you blame him? These jeans totally make my ass look fine,” Bobbi said and turned her butt toward Nick.
The dark navy jeans did indeed work in Bobbi’s favor and gave her already firm butt a tight look.
“That’s not all though.”
Bobbi turned to the side of Nick and squatted down in front of the boots. Her red shirt lifted on her back and Nick, or anyone for that matter, could see down the back of Bobbi’s jeans and see her dark purple satin panties.
“Are those…” Nick started.
Bobbi stood back up without selecting a box.
“My La Perla panties you bought me in Milan for a Christmas present? Why yes they are. Or as I like to call them, my ‘spank me panties’,” Bobbi said and planted a kiss so quick on Nick, it sent her dirty blonde ponytail swaying.
“I see. And what exactly warrants a wearing of these panties today?”
“Why were you in Milan anyway?” Bobbi asked as she turned to look at the boots.
The sales guy was right, they looked the same, except for the stitching. They were also forty dollars more.
“Megan needed me to pick up and deliver something back to her,” Nick replied, wondering why Bobbi dodged his question.
“It must have been important for you to fly to Italy.”
Nick shrugged. Bobbi was right, he rarely flew out of the country, on commercial flights, alone.
“Megan said it was and I just do what she says.”
“You pick things up and put them down,” Bobbi said in her Arnold voice.
“Something like that,” Nick said and flashed that smile of his.
She shook her head at him and pulled out a size eight of the boot and found a chair by Nick. The sales guy appeared on Bobbi’s right side and looked like he was going to say something to her but stopped when he saw Nick standing there. He faked a smile to Nick and went by them without saying anything.
“Why do you always do that?” Bobbi asked.
“Scare guys away.”
“I’m just standing here. Do you want me to leave? Give you some space so you can work on picking up the shoe salesman?”
Bobbi stuck her tongue out at him, then put on the boot, or tried to. She took her foot out at once.
“Would you hand me a eight and a half?”
“Are you sure you want me to? I could go get the shoe guy. Assuming I don’t send him running out into the mall screaming.”
“You’re a brat.”
“Hello pot, meet kettle,” Nick said and went to tickle her.
“No don’t,” Bobbi said and giggled. “You’ll make me pee my pants.”
“You say that every time,” Nick replied and tickled her anyway.
Once Bobbi had laughed enough to draw looks from other shoppers passing by the aisle, Nick stopped and gave her the next size.
“Man, I can’t take you anywhere,” he said with a grin.
Bobbi puckered her lips at him then tossed all the paper from the boot onto the floor next to the other trash she had already generated.
“Seriously?” She said once the boot was on.
“Do you want a nine?” Nick asked.
He pulled that out and Bobbi tossed the eight and a half box onto the floor with more paper from the nine to go with it.
“That’s more like it.”
“Those are some big heels,” Nick said.
Bobbi was now almost as tall as him. She took a walk down the aisle. Nick made sure to stare at her butt while she did. Bobbi smiled the whole time as she could sense his gaze on her ass and liked it. She turned and walked back to him, never missing a beat in her stride.
“I like them. I don’t get why I needed to go up to a size nine but whatever. Do you like them?”
“It doesn’t matter what I like since it’s for you. But yes, I think they look good on you.”
“Good, cause I was buying them anyway.”
Nick laughed as Bobbi sat down and put the boots back in the box and her sneakers on. She took the box and started for the register.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Nick asked.
She walked back to Nick and reached into his jeans for his wad of cash.
“And here I thought you left your gun in the car,” she said with a leer as she pulled off two one hundred dollar bills from the wad. “You said today was your treat,” Bobbi added as she put the rest of the cash back.
“I did indeed, but I was referring to this,” Nick said and pointed at the other two boot boxes and the paper all over the floor from where Bobbi was sitting. “What are you going to do about this?”
“Nothing. That’s what they get paid for. Besides, it’s a small price to pay for checking out my ass,” she said with a grin and wiggled her butt for him, before walking away.
Nick shook his head as he bent down to pick up the paper and toss it in the trashcan right by the chair. He fixed the boots so that the lids closed properly on each one, then put them back on the wall. He made sure they faced the right way and in the correct number order. Nick straightened the chair then found Bobbi up front.
She was just handing over the cash for her purchase when he got there. The guy placed the change gently in Bobbi’s hand and put the receipt in the bag.
“Thank you, have a nice day,” he said cheerfully.
“You too,” Bobbi replied, taking her bag.
“All set?” Nick asked.
The sales guy walked away, avoiding eye contact with him. Nick shrugged.
“Sure am. Everything back to the way it was Mr. Neat Freak?”
“Except for the empty spot you left, dirty girl.”
Bobbi laughed and hooked her arm under Nick’s as they walked out of the store together and back into the mall.
“I don’t think you want to see how dirty I can be.”
“Certainly not in public,” Nick replied as a trio of mothers pushing strollers walked past them. It was the third such pack they’d seen since getting here. Must be some kind of club thing the mall did. Walk, talk, and shop.
Bobbi laughed again, this time louder. Nick wasn’t the least bit bothered by it either. He was just glad to see her laughing again.
It had been over a week since Bobbi had competed in a small kickboxing tournament in Vermont. It was a mixed competition, so the women could fight the men, so long as they signed a waiver. Only one other woman entered it but she was eliminated quickly in the first round.
Bobbi beat her first opponent easily with a beautiful spin kick to the face which cost the guy a tooth. It was Bobbi’s second opponent that became the issue. And not in terms of skills as he was sorely lacking in those. The asshole knew this, having seen how well Bobbi did in her first round fight, so he did what any asshole would do. He cheated. A thumb to Bobbi’s eye when they squared off, left her with blurry vision. Next he swept her legs out from under her before driving his knee right into Bobbi’s head, causing a gash right above her eye. He was disqualified and seconds later, laying crippled by Nick who had come up from behind to take him out. It was one of the few times in recent memory where Nick had lost his self-control.
Carol, who had gone along with them, was already checking on Bobbi. They were able to stop the bleeding but Bobbi withdrew herself from the rest of the tournament and had a sudden urge to pack up and head home right then. Nick found it odd but Bobbi said the whole thing triggered a migraine for her and didn’t want the noise, so they hit the road again. He made her ride up front with him, so she wouldn’t doze off on the trip home. They only stopped twice on the way back. Once for gas, and the second was to see a doctor friend of theirs who worked in the ER at Tufts Hospital in Boston, right down the road from their dojo. She patched Bobbi up good and made sure everything else was good with her, which it was, physically anyway. Emotionally however, was a completely different story.
Everyone saw Bobbi as the wild, fun, often times loud, bar hopping, life of the party, living like there was no tomorrow, type of girl. She also didn’t care if people had a problem that she liked girls as much as she liked guys. She couldn’t control who she had feelings for and she wasn’t going to try just so others wouldn’t feel uncomfortable around her. To hell with them, she always said. Well, Bobbi usually used more colorful language when not around Nick.
What everyone didn’t see or know about, was the other side of Bobbi. The side where the bright flame had burned down most of the candle, except for this tiny little puddle that couldn’t hold the wick anymore. The flame was still there, but barely, and it needed to be passed to a new candle quickly.
Nick had seen Bobbi at such a low point before. Back in the Summer of 2014, when her drinking and easy go lucky life style, had her attempt one of her bounty hunting gigs half-assed. She caught a bullet that time, not a knee to the head, and had it not been for Nick’s random intervention, many believe, Bobbi being at the top of that list, that she wouldn’t be here anymore.
Once she had recovered from her wound, Bobbi had vowed to turn things around in her life. Nick became her shoulder to lean on, the unmoving pillar of support she never got growing up with an alcoholic mother and a hitman for a father. Drinking every night became only on the weekends, to only every other weekend, to only once a month to cut loose.
Joining Nick’s mercenary team, Red Diamond, had given Bobbi the chance to become part of something. It had given her a family that looked out for one another.
Despite her turn around, Nick always sensed that there was still one skeleton that Bobbi kept locked away. One skeleton that she still wasn’t able to face. The one skeleton that started all of it for her.
Nick suspected it was this skeleton that prompted Bobbi to enter the Vermont kickboxing tournament in the first place. She told him she wanted to win some easy money and kick a little ass since she didn’t get to take part in ‘The Miami Job’.
Nick didn’t argue with her about it. He figured when she was ready to talk about it, he would be there for her. He wasn’t going to go prying into her closet. He did however insist on going to the tournament with her. Carol offered to go as well, which made Bobbi happy.
The day after they got back from Vermont, Nick had to go take care of something and was gone for three days. When he finally got back, he found Bobbi had fallen back into her old habits. Apparently everyone else had things come up or were already committed to and it just so happened that Nick was the first person to stop by and see how she was doing. He knew just from the smell of her apartment when he walked into her place that the answer was not good.
He found her curled up in her bed, various empty bottles lying around her. While most saw Nick as having the most patience on the team, he knew sometimes tough love was also the only answer. He took her out of the bed, despite her protests and dumped her in the tub, sweatpants and all, before spraying her with a cold shower. He gave her one more day to get over whatever pity party she was throwing for herself and then she better be ready to teach her kickboxing class the day after. The look she gave him wasn’t the most pleasant look he had ever received but she was there for her class.
That had been a few days ago, and now that Nick could see Bobbi trying to get out of her funk, he figured a morning of shopping at the Square One Mall in Saugus, MA, might be just the thing to get her fully back into the swing of things. And judging by their morning so far, he was inclined to believe it was working.
“So, where to next?” Nick asked as they walked slowly through the mall. They had already been passed, by at least a dozen mothers with strollers, since leaving the shoe store.
“Is it time for lunch yet?”
“Getting there. Why? Where do you want to eat?”
Bobbi unhooked her arm from him and walked backwards a few steps ahead of him.
“Hooters,” she said with a grin.
“I do enjoy me some wings.”
Bobbi stared at him.
“Yes,” he said.
“Oh, good,” Bobbi said while nodding.
She continued to walk in front of him, but backwards.
“Something else on your mind, Bobbi?”
“Why do you ask that?”
“Call it, years of experience. You either want something, or want to tell me something. Either way, you aren’t sure how to say it.”
Bobbi stopped walking and stared at her feet.
“What is it?”
No response. Nick exaggerated a sigh and lifted her chin to look her in the face. The cut was healing nicely at least.
“It’s okay Bobbi, you can talk to me.”
She crinkled her nose and said, “Promise not to judge me?”
“Oh I think that ship set sail a long time ago,” Nick replied and chuckled.
Bobbi smacked him in the chest.
“It’s not nice to tease me,” she pouted. “Especially if I’m about to open up to you.”
Nick cleared his throat and said, “Okay, let’s hear it.”
“Promise you’ll hear me out before you say no?”
Bobbi continued to pout.
“Sure. I’ll hear you out. Wait, why do you just assume I’ll say no?”
Bobbi ignored him and said, “Good. We need to go pick something up on the second floor,” Bobbi said and made her way to the escalators.
She continued at her current pace so that they could still talk as they walked. Nick remained silent, waiting for Bobbi to start.
“Sooo, you remember that girl Ainsley I told you about last month?”
Nick thought for a second and said, “Isn’t she the waitress at Hooters with-”
Bobbi interrupted him and said, “Huge boobs and tight little ass, why yes she is.”
“I was going to say with long dark hair and green eyes, but sure.”
“I may or may not have struck up a friendship with her.”
“I’m going to go with may,” Nick said quickly.
Bobbi laughed then said “Well, it turns out she likes riding motorcycles too and we’ve gone out for a few rides together these past few weeks when her shift gets over.”
“That sounds fun.”
“You’ve no idea,” Bobbi said with a wink. “Ainsley’s only been around here for six weeks. She moved up from Georgia.”
“Ah. That explains her cute accent.”
“I know right! I love the sound of her voice.”
Nick paused to step out of the way of another pack of mothers and strollers. He’d lost count as to how many he had seen now. Must be a popular mall club thing they got going on here.
“Just think, one day you could join their club,” he said with a grin as they got on the escalator.
“Yeah, this body, not made for stretch marks,” Bobbi replied and did a wave of her body with her hand.
“Can I continue my story?” She asked impatiently.
“Sorry. Go ahead.”
“Ainsley moved up here from Georgia to get away from her ex-husband.”
“How old is she?”
Nick looked at her before getting off the escalator.
“Don’t give me that look. Or do you want me to bring up Pixie?” Bobbi said smugly.
Pixie was the nickname Nick had given to one of the girls that worked at Alizarin, one of Boston’s top nightclubs. She was twenty-one. Supposedly.
“I have not, nor will I, try to sleep with her. I’m just being nice to her.”
Bobbi rolled her eyes and said, “Anyway, they were childhood sweethearts, quarterback, cheerleader, blah, blah, Cedar Cove type stuff.”
Bobbi pointed a finger at him. “I said no judging.”
“I’m just trying to follow along. You found all this out about her from riding bikes together?”
“Well, we went for drinks afterwards. She loves the scorpion bowls from Tai’s Billiards. And we just clicked. She’s been staying at a friend’s place. They went to college together. Ainsley’s friend also helped her get the job at Hooters.”
“Well, I think two other factors also helped her get the job at Hooters.”
Bobbi nodded and said, “And let me tell you, those are grade A, authentic, southern grown, double D boobs.”
Nick just stared at her.
“She let me touch them last week. That there is second base. Winning,” Bobbi said with her biggest grin yet.
“And so now you want to hit a home run?”
Bobbi licked her lips.
“Very much so.”
“What does anything of this have to do with me?”
“I’m getting to that part.”
“I’m starting to think you and Clarissa learn to tell stories from the same place.”
Bobbi stuck her tongue out at him. Clarissa Mendoza was another member of Red Diamond and was known for her looong stories. As a former US Army engineer, she was also one of the smartest members of the team.
Nick rubbed his eyes before smiling at a mom walking by. She was pushing one of those double wide strollers with two kids. The mom didn’t smile back, or even seem to be aware of her surroundings. It was like she had done this walk a dozen times today already and had just zoned out. The two kids appeared happy, which Nick guessed was the point. He looked back for Bobbi, not realizing she had stopped at the Xtreme Sports Shop.
“I need to pick something up. It’s all paid for.”
“What is it?” Nick asked once Bobbi was done talking to the guy at the counter.
“I bought Ainsley a new helmet for her motorcycle. Had them to do a custom design using the color peach.”
“That seems… awful friendly of you.”
“Hers has a crack in it and she can’t afford a new one right now as she’s trying to save up for a place to live.”
“What happened to the college friend she was staying with?”
“Oh she’s still there but the girl’s gotten all weird on her since she saw us hanging out.”
“By which you mean, you touching Ainsley’s breasts.”
Bobbi shrugged. “Whatever. She was probably touching herself while watching us. I’m like a lumberjack.”
“In what way?” Nick asked in bewilderment.
“I always give people wood when they watch me fool around.”
“I don’t think…” Nick shook his head and just let that one go.
“Wait, maybe I should say I’m a lumberjill. Oh, side note, the girl is a bitch and none of the other girls at Hooters can stand her. She’s already given her two-week notice.”
Nick wasn’t sure what to say anymore at this point. Thankfully he didn’t have to as the guy came back with a box.
“Here you go miss.”
“Thank you,” Bobbi said and opened the box right there on the counter and checked it over. The guy didn’t seem to mind as his eyes discovered that Bobbi’s panties weren’t the only thing purple she was wearing under her clothes.
“A Shoei helmet even. Not a cheap present for a friend,” Nick said and gave her a nudge in the ribs with his elbow. Bobbi ignored him and put it back. She thanked the guy, though Nick thought maybe it should be the other way around, and they walked out.
“Time for lunch,” she said cheerfully.
Nick stopped her and turned her around. He started checking over her face.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m beginning to think you did suffer from a concussion from that knee shot.”
“Then stop changing the topic and just ask me this request of yours.”
“You know what, the answer is yes.”
“Yes for what?”
“You’re trying to ask me if Ainsley can use one of the spare apartments we have in the dojo building. That way she can get out of the weird bitchy college girl’s place. So the answer is yes. She can move in tonight.”
Bobbi stared at him.
“Yep. It’s fine. We have tons of spares and that’s why we have them. To help friends in need.”
“That’s so awesome. Thanks Nick. I never thought of that,” Bobbi said and gave him half a hug. The bike helmet box was rather large.
“You’re welcome, wait what?”
“Yeah, that’s not what I was going to ask you. I wanted you to drive her husband’s truck with Kat back to Georgia for her.”
Nick glared at her.
“You are exhausting today woman.”
They rode the escalator down in silence, Nick taking the helmet box for her.
“Ok, so in her rush to leave, Ainsley just took her husband’s truck and drove it up here to her friends, with her motorcycle and a few other things. He wants it back before he agrees to sign the divorce papers.”
“She’s still married?”
Nick held his hands up in surrender. If only to speed things up so he could just get something to eat. And at this rate, drink.
“I mentioned something about this to Kat last night.”
“You were hanging out with Kat last night?”
“She asked me and the girls out for sushi.”
Katherine ‘Kat’ Takayama was a longtime friend of Nick’s who came over from Japan to visit during the summer months. Only a few knew the extent of his and Kat’s real relationship. Bobbi was not one of them.
“Julie couldn’t go cause of work at the club. Carol hates going to most restaurants, plus sushi, so she was out. Which is weird cause didn’t she live in Japan when she was in the army?”
“Yes but it doesn’t mean you want to eat sushi…”
“Anyway, it ended up being Kat and I hanging out. We bumped into Tia while there and she sat with us for a bit.”
“She bartends over at Tai’s Billiards. Too bad Julie missed it cause I think Tia gets her warm in all the right places. So I was telling Kat my plan.”
“Your plan about getting Ainsley’s husband’s truck back to him.”
Nick smiled as he thought he finally figured this all out.
“Well, Kat offered to drive to Georgia for me, on one condition.”
“She wanted me to ask you to go with her.”
Nick was quiet for a minute. If Kat agreed to help Bobbi, she must have an important reason to do so. Looks like he was going to Georgia.
They walked toward the mall exit. More moms and kids were flocking in. Maybe this mall had one of those Lego stores. Kids liked Legos didn’t they? He use to play Legos with Megan when they were kids. She always won as her ships had better defense systems and could recalibrate. She also knew bigger words than him.
“Just to be clear, you want me to drop everything I’m doing, to drive some jerk’s truck back to him in Georgia and return with divorced papers signed, just so you can look like the super bestest friend in the world and in the joys of celebration you’re hoping pie and ice cream sundaes are consumed without regard of appetite?”
Bobbi looked at Nick and replayed everything he said in her head.
“If that means sex until we’re dripping wet, then yes. Wow. You make that sound so simple.”
Nick stared at her in astonishment. She smiled sheepishly as they left the Square One Mall and walked through the parking lot.
“Has Ainsley even been with a girl before?”
“I don’t know, but I’ll definitely be her first woman,” Bobbi purred. “You think restraints are too much for the first time?”
“I’m going to go with, yes.”
Bobbi frowned for half a second then went back to smiling.
“You’ve failed to mention what exactly I get out of all this, if I say yes.”
“Oh, trust me mister. You will be rewarded if I can pull this off.”
“By which you mean, if I can pull this off.”
“Well, yeah. I’d just rather not say in public what those rewards may or may not be. Moist is one of Megan’s No Words still, right?”
Nick nodded and said, “That good huh?”
“I may have touched myself this morning while thinking about a possible offer for you.”
“Hold up. My reward for doing all this, is something you get to enjoy too? That doesn’t seem fair.”
Bobbi smirked and raised her eyebrows as he unlocked the door to the car. He put the helmet in the backseat and shut the door.
Nick was about to start the car when he watched three young guys in their mid-twenties push three baby strollers toward the mall entrance. The tops were covered to give the babies privacy. He glanced at Bobbi, who shrugged. They wore a mix of Nike shorts and basketball jerseys between them, and all had Jordans on. One guy was neatly shaved. The other two had partial grown beards. Each had a different shade of tan skin. Nick walked slowly over to the van they got out of.
“Hey, Bobbi,” Nick called over. She was just about to get into the car but stopped.
“Do you remember the Woodfield Mall event on the news?”
Nick looked back at her. “Really?”
“I don’t watch the news. Sorry I’m not smart like Megan and Clarissa,” Bobbi said and faked a pout as she followed him toward the van.
“Yeah, yeah. Hot bi-sexual girl probs. Cry me a river.”
“What is this news thing you are asking me about?”
“Woodfield Mall is the largest shopping mall in Chicago. Back in 2014, six radicals, with ties to the terrorist group ISIS, stormed the mall and killed over a dozen people.”
“Oh yeah. I remember that. The police never even got a chance to get there to help out right?”
“Correct. The six radicals were all killed by an off duty cop and several other American citizens with conceal carry permits. It was the first time everyone agreed that those people saved dozens, if not hundreds of lives that day,” Nick said and peered into the van.
“What makes you bring this up now?” Bobbi asked.
Nick stepped away from the van and looked at the mall. The guys were almost at the entrance.
Nick pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. “I think I found a way you can thank me for going to Georgia for you.”
Bobbi looked into the van and saw a flag hanging inside.
“An ISIS flag? Sure is.”
Bobbi looked back at the mall. The mall they had just spent an hour in. The mall filled with mothers and their children in strollers.
“We’re going to go stop them right?”
“Let me grab my gun,” Bobbi and started back to the car.
“No, we take them out silently,” Nick said. “Don’t want to spook the kids. The FBI can question them when they wake up from the beating we’re about to give them.”
“Hello?” A voice said after four rings.
“Megan it’s Nick. Bobbi and I need a complete surveillance blackout at the Square One Mall. We’re going in hot.”
“Understood. Do you need backup?”
“No time. We got this.”
“Don’t be a hero Nick,” Megan said.
He could hear her hacking her way into the malls systems now. He didn’t need his and Bobbi’s identity all over the news and internet.
“Me, a hero? Never. I’m just a simple mercenary the world thinks is dead and I want it to stay that way.”
“Okay. You’re good. I blacked out all cameras in the mall and in a one-mile radius outside it. Just make it quick.”
“Will do. Thanks.”
He put his phone away and took off jogging toward the mall with Bobbi beside him.
“How should we approach them?” Bobbi asked.
“We can ask them if they have time to talk about our Lord and Savior Cthulhu.”
Bobbi just stared at him. Nick shrugged.
“I heard Wade say it to Megan and Clarissa last week. They both laughed.”
Bobbi pouted again then said, “Have I ever told you how much I love our shopping trips together?”
“Yes you have. Now let’s go get us some ISIS scalps!”
“Ooh that’s a play on that Brad Pitt movie!”
Nick just smiled at her and gave her a kiss on the forehead.
He opened the mall door and back in they went.
A Merc Series Short Story
The Merc Series