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Trenton Community Center
I pulled up twenty minutes before the self-defense class was supposed to start, shut off the engine to my truck, and climbed out. Heading inside, I stopped by the check-in desk and smiled at the young woman behind the counter.
"Hi," I said, turning on all my charm and getting a bored look in return. "I'm Lester Santos. I'm in charge of the self-defense class starting in a few minutes. Can you tell me where I need to go?"
Still looking bored, the twenty-something goth-looking woman pointed down the hall, popping a bubble before saying, "Turn left at the end of the hall. It's in Room D." She handed me a key. "Lock up and bring it back when you're done."
"Thanks." I tried smiling again, but she'd already gone back to whatever book she'd been reading, so I just shrugged and headed off down the hall.
"Oh, wait a minute," she called suddenly.
I turned back, assuming the Santos Swagger had won another one over. "Yeah, sugar?"
Rolling her eyes, she simply held up a manila envelope. "I forgot that some really sexy girl dropped this off for you earlier. Said it's the instructions for your class."
Really sexy girl? Suddenly, the image of the black-haired girl and Steph together popped into my head. Fucking hell...
"Uh, thanks," I told her, still thinking of things I knew Ranger would kill me for.
By the time I'd found the right room, the tent in my pants was back down to normal. I opened the door and turned on the lights, setting my bag down to one side of the large room. There were some chairs scattered around the edge of the room and some mats piled in one corner. Deciding to tackle those first, I grabbed one and tossed it across the room, continuing until I had enough to cover most of the open space. Ranger had said to expect about twenty people, so that should be plenty.
Once the mats were all in place, I opened the envelope and pulled out a few pages of typed instructions. Why the hell he'd thought I would need instructions, I had no idea. I could teach self-defense with my eyes closed.
I'd just started reading when I heard the scariest sound in the world.
"Well...as I live and breathe. You aren't The Package, but you'll do."
Closing my eyes briefly, I hoped that when I looked up, I wouldn't see what I was scared I was going to see. Unfortunately, I was right. The nickname she had for Ranger had given it away.
"Mrs. Mazur, how nice to see you," I lied, smiling pleasantly. "What are you doing here?"
Maybe there was a seniors class of some sort here at the community center that Steph's grandmother was attending. That had to be it.
"This is Room D, isn't it? Stephanie said to expect Lester...and I may be old, but my memory's still good. Aren't you Lester Santos?" As she spoke, she walked toward me, smiling lasciviously.
I took a step backward, nodding. "Yes, ma'am. Are, uh... Are you here for the self-defense course?"
"None of that ma'am nonsense, cutie. Call me Edna." She clacked her dentures at me, smiling widely. "And yes, I most certainly am." Growing uncharacteristically serious, she frowned. "You know about the attacks on senior citizens around town, right? That's why you're here, after all. A bunch of us decided we needed to learn some moves in case they came after us, too."
Shit, that was right... There'd been four attacks in the last month on older women in Trenton. The police had been unable to catch the man doing it. Luckily, he was simply beating them and stealing their purses or bags and not sexually assaulting them, but with no leads, everyone in town was worried.
Sighing inwardly, I nodded solemnly. "That's right. I've heard about the attacks. It's good that you all are doing this. I'll do everything I can to help teach you what you should know."
"Good." She smiled again. "I knew my baby granddaughter wouldn't let me down."
An hour and a half later, I'd been groped and had my ass pinched more times than I cared to remember by the crazy group of seniors standing in front of me. I'd even had to avoid a few grabs at my junk by not only Edna Mazur, but three of her friends, as well. I'd taught them how to punch out at an attacker's nose or clap them hard over the ears, how to use their cane or walker—if they had one—as a weapon, but most of the time had been spent going over how best to avoid getting into that position in the first place.
"All right, ladies," I called, smiling at the women who were seated on the chairs around the room. "Remember, don't go anywhere alone, park and walk in well-lit areas, and if you have to carry a bag or purse, carry it over your shoulder, not around your neck. I have papers here with everything we went over, including reminders of the moves you learned, so before you leave, be sure to get a copy for yourself. If you want to take some for others that couldn't be here today, feel free. I have plenty."
Keeping my back to the wall, I handed out papers as the little old ladies filed past.
"Thank you, Mr. Santos," one blue-haired grandmotherly woman said as she took the paper from me. "My friend Stella was one of the women who were attacked. It scared me to pieces. I feel better now, knowing I have some options."
I was just about to reply and tell her she was most certainly welcome...when she reached around and grabbed my ass, winking.
I gaped at her as she shuffled away, meeting up with a few of the other women at the door.
By the time everyone but Edna Mazur had left, I was exhausted.
"Are you heading home, Mrs. Mazur?" I couldn't bring myself to call her Edna. My mother had drilled it into my head my entire childhood that elders were always mister or missus.
"I called Frank, and he's going to pick me up," she replied. "Would you wait with me?" Giving me a grin, she said, "I would feel so much safer."
I wasn't sure if she was teasing me or not, but I certainly didn't want to ask. Just in case she was at all serious, I smiled and said, "Of course. Let me put up the mats, and then we'll head up front to wait for your son-in-law."
Five minutes later, she looped her arm through mine and we walked slowly up to the front of the community center. When we got up to the door, we could see Frank's car outside.
"Looks like he's here," I said, smiling down at the mischievous-looking old woman beside me. "Come on. I'll walk you to the car."
I handed the girl behind the counter the key and then led Mrs. Mazur to the waiting vehicle.
"Here you go, ma'am," I said politely, opening the passenger door for her.
I nodded at Stephanie's father, who raised an eyebrow and looked at his mother-in-law.
Shrugging, I smiled and then turned my attention back to the woman in question.
Just when I thought I was free and clear, she brushed past me to get into the car and her hand landed right on the front of my sweatpants.
Much to my embarrassment, she grinned, clacking her dentures again. "Nice package for not being The Package."
Without saying a word, I simply smiled a strained smile and closed the door before moving to my truck and climbing in.
Letting out a big breath, I realized I was already trying to come up with ways to pay Ranger back. Whatever it was, I knew it would have to be big.
No more Mr. Nice Santos, I thought, pulling my truck out onto the street and turning toward Haywood.