The Protector (Barrett Boys #3) - Jordan Ford


When a Bouncer Gets Bounced

A heavy beat thumps behind me, the vibrations running up my legs as I hover near the door of Club Ultra. It’s been around for a while now—a place where hot chicks meet suave guys, wallflowers throw back a few and turn into world-class hip shakers, and teenagers try to pass off their fake IDs in the hopes of a good story at school on Monday.

“Not gonna happen.” I hand the card back with a closed-mouth smile, nearly laughing when the skinny, pimple-faced guy tries to lie to me again.

“Come on, man. I’m twenty-one.”

“And my mother’s the pope.” My voice is flat and deadpan, but he’s too hyped up to truly appreciate the brilliance of my response.

Jake would think it was funny. My twin brother’s good like that. He gets me.

The kid squirms in his sport coat that looks just a couple sizes too big. Wonder if he stole it out of his old man’s closet or something. My quick assessment tells me he’s trying, but not quite hard enough. You don’t wear scuffed-up Vans with business pants when you’re passing yourself off as a college graduate.

Seriously, this kid needs schooling.

I roll my shoulders, the suit jacket I’m forced to wear feeling uncomfortable. But bouncers at Club Ultra have to look the part, so we wear suits that accentuate our broad shoulders and solid chests. We shine our shoes and we take our job seriously, because the owner, Mr. Corstanza, won’t settle for anything less.

He owns several clubs in the LA scene, and all of them are high-end with reps that can’t be touched, which is why the Friday night line is only getting longer.

The kid with the stubby nose and twitchy eyebrows leans a little closer. “Please, dude. I told her I’d meet her in there.”

“Sorry, kid, but you shouldn’t have done that.” I’m still holding his crappy fake ID, waiting for him to take it off me.

I wave it up and down near his face. He snatches it back with a huff. “He told me it was foolproof,” he mutters. “I paid three hundred bucks for this.”

“Yeah, you got duped.”

I should know. I’ve been working this job for a few months now, and bad IDs stand out pretty easily. It doesn’t help when the people trying to use them look like they’re only just starting their puberty kick.

“Another time.” I pat his shoulder. “Try again in like five or six years.”

He glares at me. “I’m a senior, you moron.”

“Right.” I bob my head skeptically, but it could actually be true. My twin brother’s always looked young for his age—fresh-faced, on the leaner side. People always think I’m a few years older than him and it riles him pretty bad, considering he’s actually seven minutes older than me.

“Can we hurry this along!” a petulant voice hollers from down the line.

I take a quick look and see it’s grown by another few groups.

“You need to move along, man.”

The kid’s eyebrows dip into a sharp V, and he flicks my hand off. His skinny fingers curl into a fist, and I stand from the stool I was perched on, tucking a lock of thick hair behind my ear and taking a step forward.

He shuffles back, a flash of uncertainty running over his face.

I guess I can be intimidating. That’s probably one of the main reasons they hired me here. I tend to tower over people without meaning to. I’ve always been big for my age. When I was five, people thought I was eight. When I was eleven, they assumed I was in high school.

God made me big. That’s what Grandpa used to say. “He’s made you tall and broad for a reason, son. Own it and enjoy the ride.” Then the glint in his eyes would turn serious for a second. “Just promise me you’ll never use it for selfish gains. God made big men to protect the little ones. That’s what I think he’s got planned for you. Don’t miss your chance to be the bigger man in your heart as well.”

My insides twist uncomfortably as the warm memory of my grandpa fades like ash, disintegrating in my hand. I’ll never hear his voice again. All because of—

I sniff, forcing my focus back to the kid in front of me.

The kid—I don’t know why I keep thinking of him that way. He’s probably only a year or two younger than I am.

Clearing my throat, I lift my chin and point to the right. “Seriously. Move along.