(Excerpt from Claimed)
Just then we were interrupted, when Steve carried over the empty beer jug to order another.
“Can I get another jug of Bud?” He asked the bartender. Simultaneously as I blanched at the idea they were drinking more; he looked over and noticed I wasn’t sitting alone. He fired up, “there you are! We were wondering where you got to.”
“I had to get an orange juice.” I spoke crisply. “My blood sugar was low.”
Flint’s eyes narrowed, “Jessica has been sitting here for the past ten minutes, she wouldn’t have been hard to spot from where you’re sitting.”
Steve’s eyes narrowed back, as he came over to put a possessive hand on my back.
“So you’re drinking orange juice with her?” He asked snidely. “Or is there vodka in yours and hers drinks?”
“I don’t drink alcohol,” Flint said warily, “and with Jessica being a diabetic, it wouldn’t be wise for her to drink either, until her blood sugar level has returned to normal.”
“Well thank you for baby-sitting her,” Steve said sarcastically, “but she’ll be coming back to sit with her friends again.”
“No,” I shrugged off his hand, “not unless.”
“Huh?” He uttered, as his breath reeked of beer.
“Not unless you stop drinking right now, and we all hop into the rental and drive to Anchorage!” I snapped.
“Jess, we have the tents! We can camp on the side of the road and get up at dawn, to finish the drive. Brian and I talked about it. You’re not gonna miss your flight.” Steve rolled his eyes, like I was the one being difficult.
My heart pounded as my eyes widened with fear that I could be stranded...
“I’ll drive you to Anchorage.” Flint said simply.
“What?” Both our heads snapped around in surprise.
“I’ll drive you to Anchorage, when you’ve eaten your burger.” He said calmly, as he held my gaze.
“What burger?” Steve tipsily looked around.
Perfectly timed, a hamburger with the lot and a side of fries, was carried out by a younger Native Alaskan man, wearing an apron.
He placed it on the counter before Flint, who slid the plate before me.
“Thanks Harry,” he patted the younger man, on the arm.
“No problem, Flint.” The youth smiled back, before he returned to the kitchen.
“Mmm yum!” Steve picked up a couple of fries, to jam into his mouth. “Good idea, Jess. I’m hungry!”
Flint didn’t like this and he stood up to tower over his opposition. With his height and width, he easily dwarfed Steve. He looked dangerously upon the male who was interfering.
“I bought the burger for Jessica, I didn’t buy it for you.” He almost growled out.
“Fine,” Steve drunkenly laughed, “if that’s the way it is, Jess is getting strange men to buy her burgers in bars? Then it’s fine with me! You can make your own way to Anchorage.”
“Wait!” I stood up frightened, as this situation went from bad to worse. “Steve, please just take me to Anchorage? Tonight? I’ll even get a separate hotel room, if you like. You can break up with me in Anchorage and we’ll never have to see each other again. Just take me to Anchorage?”
“Oh, now you want to be with me, huh? Burger boy doesn’t cut it?” He raised his voice. “Sure this guy is as big as a lumberjack, but I bet he’s not a Partner in one of Seattle’s top law firms! What’s his salary per year? One dollar per tree he cuts down?”
I thought I heard another growl come from Flint, as I tried to calm the situation down.
“C’mon Steve, it’s not like that! Flint was just being nice.” I said desperately. “He saw me shaking because of my low sugar level, and he bought me some food and drink. Please just take me to Anchorage tonight? Please?”
“Jess, I told you what our plans are tonight! Stop your nagging! Man, we’ve only dated for two months, and you’re already trying to tell me what to do?” He turned away, to pay for his jug of beer.
“The lady is frightened, especially when she’s unwell and she’s far from home. A real man would see to the woman’s safety first, especially the woman he supposedly has feelings for.” Flint spoke coldly.
“Oh is THAT what a real man would do?” Steve taunted. “I bet that you know a lot of ‘real’ men, all the way up north, cold and alone, huh burger boy?”
“Steve!” My face burned bright red. “Don’t be such an asshole!”
Now the bartender got involved, when he put down the new jug. However he moved it away again, after he heard the arguing. Indeed, the whole bar was watching.
“I think you’ve drunk enough, friend.” The bartender looked on warily.
“Excuse me?” Steve turned on him. “What kind of customer service do you call this?”
The older man looked from Flint to back to him, before he said calmly; “maybe you and your friends should leave.”
“I could sue you for this!” Steve said sulkily. “But you wouldn’t be worth the paper work.”
As he returned to the table to talk to Brian and Abi, I grabbed my handbag and prepared to go with him, in case they were driving to Anchorage now.
Flint calmly looked down into my face with his great height; “I’ll drive you to Anchorage Jessica, after you’ve eaten.”
That gave me pause, as I looked on his face which seemed open and kind.
“Why?” I wondered. “Are you going to Anchorage yourself?”
“I’ll drive you there and make sure you don’t miss your plane,” he said seriously.
“You’re just going to hop in your vehicle and drive me, a complete stranger, all the way to Anchorage?” I asked in disbelief.
“I think it’d be safer than if you remained with your friends, who’ve been drinking.” He said then he leaned in closer and when he did, I got a whiff of whatever aftershave he was wearing. Man, did this guy smell good! He spoke softly, “you have nothing to fear from me, Jessica Tandy. I will make sure you don’t come to harm.”
I don’t know if it was from how deep and gravely his voice sounded then, or his addictive aftershave, or even if it was just his handsome face? Maybe it was all of the above, but my strong attraction made me believe him.
In the corner of my eye, I noticed Abi and Brian get up from the booth, and she looked uncertain. Whereas Brian and Steven went over to the door, she walked over to where I was standing at the bar, to speak to me direct.
“Um, Jess? We’re leaving for Anchorage now. Are you coming?”
“Jessica has a ride to Anchorage,” Flint answered for me.
She looked over the tall stranger warily, before she leaned in to speak quietly; “look, I know Steve can be a bit loud when he’s drinking. But we are driving back to Anchorage tonight, for our flights tomorrow. I don’t think it’s a bright idea, to get a ride with a stranger you only just met in a bar, Jess.”
“You’re only driving to Anchorage now, because you’ve been kicked out of the bar, Abi.” I replied curtly, offended at how she just made me sound!
“Jessica can call her parents in Seattle, and give them my name, address and my number plate. If anything happens to her in Anchorage then they’ll know how to contact me.” Flint organized.
Abi looked on in distrust, “we’re out of range for our mobile phones.”
Instantly, he called on the bartender; “Charlie, can we use your phone?”
“Here we go Flint,” the bartender who I now knew as Charlie, immediately lifted it up from behind the bar.
Flint told him, “Jessica needs to call her parents in Seattle, to tell them I’ll be driving her to Anchorage.”
“It’s the safe thing to do, Miss.” Charlie gave me a nod. “I mean, I can speak for Flint, since he’s a good man? But if anything happens to you in Anchorage, at least your parents will know where you are.”
“Er, my parents are actually in Michigan, I live in Washington State.” My face flushed at their attention. “But I have a best friend I can call, in Seattle.”
“Go right ahead,” Charlie pushed the phone closer.
“Jess!” Abi looked guilty. “Just come with us, we’re leaving now.”
“I’ll get Jessica’s things from your RV, while she makes the calls.” Flint told her. “Then she’s going to eat her burger and afterwards, I’ll drive her to Anchorage.”
“I’ll speak to the guys and see if they can wait, while you eat.” She said annoyed.
Now SHE was getting annoyed at ME? That’s it, I’ve had it up to here!
“Oh, I’m so sorry for having low blood sugar that I need to eat instead of just drink beer. I’m sorry I couldn’t cook over an open fire, so I’ve practically been starving all week! Especially since everybody who’s been camping before, didn’t offer to help! I’m sorry my college education didn’t include putting up tents! I’m sorry I made such a fuss about using a tree for a f***ing bathroom, or I can’t bathe in a freezing cold river! I’m sorry I’ve been looking forward to a hotel room in Anchorage all week, where I can shower, sleep in a proper bed and order room service!” I vented.
“Fine!” She said indignantly. “But I’ve never met anyone that has complained as much as you do, Jess!”
“Of course I’ve complained!” I shouted back. “Diabetics get shitty when we’re cold, hungry and tired!”
Suddenly the whole Bar erupted into laughter, which included Flint and Charlie.
Abi’s face turned bright red, whereas Steve and Brian turned and left angry.
“I’d get shitty if I was cold, hungry and tired all week too,” one of the men at the counter, chuckled.
“And the showers! Don’t forget the showers,” one of the Native Alaskan men Flint had been playing pool with, laughed along.
“When our pulsating, massage, shower head broke, my wife was shitty for two weeks!” The Native Alaskan man with the short hair, guffawed.
Flint put his hand over mine, which felt warm and strong and even soothed somehow.
“You sit and eat whilst I get your things,” he ordered gently.
Unconsciously, I found myself doing what he said, as I returned to the stool. I watched him leave the bar with her, when I saw one of his friends, walk out after him. It was as if they were worried that MY friends were the dangerous ones!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~