Melanie had honed the ability to exude sex appeal from a young age. Her body was the voluptuous kind that every men seemed to like. I wasn’t an unattractive woman, but even I paled in comparison to Mel, although part of that was because I didn’t put the same effort into making myself pretty. Everything about Mel was designed to bring about the proper response from the men she entertained. Mel had learned a lesson that she was always going to be dependent on other people to have a good life, and so she wanted control over whom she was dependent on. She knew how to smile, how to toss her hair, how to dress provocatively to garner the attention of young men and old men, single men and married men. She tended to prefer the older, married kind as she said they were less likely to fall in love with her, and they were easier to bribe when their guilt struck. She kept telling me that she wasn’t selling her body, rather the illusion of love, but I wasn’t sure she believed it herself.
She was always looking for security whereas I was sure that life was best lived alone. If you only relied on yourself then you couldn’t be let down by other people. I put on my best smile, basking in the glow of Melanie, hoping that some of her wonder would mask my obvious reluctance. She led me over to a table in a corner where three men were sitting. It was immediately obvious that they were brothers. Mel slid into a chair and leaned forward, her hair framing her face, the deep valley of her cleavage on display. I sat down and folded my arms across my chest, studying the men intently, wondering what kind of game they were playing.
“This is my friend Millie, Millie this is Jackson, Logan, and Jamie,” Mel said, nodding to each of them in turn. The men were hairy and rough and there were only a few years between them. Jackson seemed to be the eldest one. He had thick black hair that was tied into a ponytail and a lustrous beard. His eyes gleamed underneath bushy eyebrows and a he wore a leather jacket, with a shirt that was open at the collar. Around his neck hung a golden chain, and as my gaze passed over each of them I noticed that they all wore jewelry displaying the same symbol. With Jackson it was the necklace, with Logan it was a ring, and for Jaime it was a golden band around his wrist.
Jackson’s arms were covered but the back of his hands were covered in dark hair. He had a stern expression, and was studying me just as intently as I was studying him. Logan seemed a little more relaxed; leaning back with one hand digging into his pocket. He wore a white vest that showed his impressive biceps and thick bed of hair. He had stubble rather than a full beard, and his hair hung loose, reaching down to his shoulders. He had a lazy smile and grinned as he saw me. Frankly, I was surprised that they would even look at me when Mel was sitting right beside me. Jamie was the youngest. He was clean-shaven and when he noticed me looking at him his eyes darted away. There was something cute about the way he was with his two older brothers, almost like he had been dragged out. He had yet to learn about the cruelty of the world and didn’t seem like he belonged here. He had short blonde hair and although he was in good shape for his age, lean and lithe, he didn’t have the same brutish, stocky form as Jackson and Logan.
“Well, ain’t we fortunate to have the company of two pretty girls,” Logan said, raising his glass.
“So Mel tells me you’re just passing through,” I said, trying to gauge whether these men could be trusted or not.
“That’s right,” Jackson said.
“And where are you heading?”
“You don’t have to ask them all these questions Millie, I’m sure there are much more interesting things we can talk about,” Mel said, squeezing my arm. I ignored her and waited for an answer with an expectant look in my eyes.
“Up north; we have a family reunion,” Jackson said. Something about it was evidently funny as Logan chuckled. Jamie started to wring his hands together and bowed his head.
“Is that something to do with your family?” I asked, nodding towards his necklace.
Jackson arched an eyebrow. “How observant of you.” I inclined my head to display my gratitude as I gazed at the small carving of a wolf’s head. Its mouth was open, jagged teeth ready to devour its prey. “Yes, it is, do you have anything on you that reminds you of your family?”
“Let’s stop right there,” Mel waved a hand in front of me. “Millie doesn’t like talking about family. There’s a lot of…bad history.”
I glared at her. I hated anyone knowing my business, especially strangers, and Millie was already telling them things I didn’t want them to know. Talking about it only led to more questions and I had to shut it off before it ever began.
“Family can be hell, but it’s the most important thing in the world,” Logan said, clapping his brothers on the back, “I wouldn’t be the man I am today without these guys. There’s nothing better than knowing you have someone to count on no matter what happens.”
“Then you’re lucky,” I said wryly. The brother
s glanced at each other. I pressed my lips together, not wanting to say anything else.
“Luck has nothing to do with it. I owe these guys my life,” Logan continued. He looked as if he was about to say something else, but Jackson shot him a warning glance.
“I love men who live a life of adventure,” Mel said, leaning forward, letting her hand fall over her face. She had evidently taken a liking to Jackson, which wasn’t a surprise to me. She often liked men in authority. I wasn’t sure how I felt about them yet. I got the feeling they were hiding something, which wasn’t really perceptive of me because everyone is always hiding something, especially people who came into the Rainbow Bar, but there was something about the way Jackson shot that glance towards Logan, were they criminals? It would certainly explain why they were moving from town to town, and it wouldn’t be the first time that a motley crew had passed by the Rainbow Bar, but Mel seemed more intent on getting close to them than figuring out information. That was one of the joys of this place I suppose, the fact that you could be anyone and come from anywhere. I’d lost count of the myriad identities I’d used over the years, and I wasn’t sure if anyone really knew the true me. I wondered if the same was true for these men.
My gaze passed between all three of them and I noticed how they each looked different. Jackson was in control, calm, Logan was excited and was always looking for opportunities, while the third one, Jamie, didn’t seem to want to look at anyone. When he noticed me looking at him he darted his eyes away and stared down at the table. They were definitely up to something, and it made an unsettling feeling rise within my stomach.
I had learned a long time ago to trust my instincts and my fear. They had been honed from a young age, and I wasn’t about to disregard them. They had come in handy during my life, like the time I avoided going for a drink with someone even though I was desperately hungry. Later, I’d found out that he’d raped a woman. That woman could have been me. I was a sharp judge of character and there was something wrong here.
“Sorry, I just need to speak with my friend a moment,” I said, and practically had to drag Mel up from the table. She glared at me, her eyes blazing with anger.
“What the hell are you doing?” she hissed.
“There’s something up with them,” I jerked my head towards the table. “I don’t know what it is, but we shouldn’t continue sitting with them.”
Mel rolled her eyes and placed her hands on her hips. “Oh Millie, you need to stop being paranoid.”
“I’m not being paranoid Mel. There’s something going on. It’s better that we don’t take the risk. It’s not like there’s a shortage of guys in the bar.”
“Yeah, but none like him,” Mel said, desire dripping off her tongue as her gaze moved towards Jackson. Even I had to admit that they were handsome men. Some kind of primal energy emanated from them, the kind of energy that played havoc with a woman’s senses, the kind that made us make mistakes. My gut was warning me, and there was no way I was going to stay with them.
“Mel, seriously, just do this to me as a favor. Please, trust me on this. There’s something up and if we stay with them something bad is going to happen to us. I don’t know exactly what, but I can’t ignore this feeling inside.”
Mel huffed. “If you want to go, then fine, that just means there’s more for me. I’m not going to live my life based on paranoid instincts Millie, and you’d do well to do the same. Exciting things happen when you take risks,” she said, her eyes flashing with excitement. I knew in that moment that she wasn’t going to listen to me. She winked at me and spun on her heels, then swayed her hips as she returned to the table and gracefully descended into the chair, making sure that the men got a look at her perfect hourglass figure.