Teardrop Shot

Page 5

She’d been a petite thing back then, and she still was, but she didn’t dance like it.

Baggy jeans rode low on her hips with the legs rolled at her ankles, ’80s-style. She had a shirt hanging off her, with the sleeves cut off and the ends rolled and stuffed under her sports bra straps. Both had gone with the purple theme today—even Hadley’s hair ties were purple at the end of her two French braids.

Her eyes were closed, her hand in the air, her head down, and she was doing a running-man-inspired dance. Her feet were pumping as she inched toward her man, one bounce at a time. When she stopped feeling the hand in the air, she put both in front of her and started doing a jig, kicking her feet out to the side.


These two people. This dancing. Knowing that when I made myself known to them, they wouldn’t be embarrassed. They might turn the music up and dance around me in circles.

I had missed this too.

The song changed, and a slow bass began—Eminem’s “Ass Like That.” As one person, they jumped toward each other. Hadley leapt high enough to turn all the way around, her ass doing its own dance.

Owen crouched around her, pretending to frame her booty like he was a photographer giving his model instructions.

Then he looked up, and his mouth dropped.

Hadley continued popping it with the rhythm, then leaned back and pretended to slap someone’s ass in front of her. When she backed into Owen and realized he had stopped, she looked up.

Her mouth dropped too.

I waved. “If you’re having a dance-off, is there a way to cheat?”

They paused. One second.

“Charlie!” Hadley screeched.

Owen offered his own awkward wave. “Hey, Charlie.”

She launched herself at me. I hadn’t seen this woman in eight years, but that didn’t matter. She leap-frogged and stuck to me like a window suction animal—legs around my waist, arms around my shoulders, and she climbed up, settling into a better position.

I reacted on instinct, grabbing her so she didn’t pull us both down.

That’s how my hand landed on her ass, and she wiggled it, mewing into my neck. “Aw, she’s missed us too, D. And there’s no cheating in a dance-off.”

“Whoa.” I hugged her tight. “Okay. Extrapolate.”

She laughed, letting go and standing on her feet again.

Owen moved up behind her, a protective hand coming to her shoulder as they perused me.

These people.

We were all in our late twenties. I knew these two had a kid, maybe two by now, but they looked like they were still in their teens. It was the camp air. Had to be the camp air, all fresh and no toxins. What kind of animals enjoyed breathing that stuff?

“I’m hoping the D stands for Owen.” I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pose that as a question.

Owen’s tanned cheeks flushed, so yep. Got my answer.

“Okay. Hug time.” I pointed at D. “If you leap-frog at me, you’re going to hit air.”

He laughed, came forward to hug me briefly before Hadley squeezed me tight again. She rocked me left and right. “I’ve missed you so much.”

Owen motioned around the cabin, taking his bandana off his head. “We were trying to help clear it out for you.” Hadley stepped to his side, and his arm slid around her waist. They were two pieces of a puzzle coming together.

“We heard what Keith did to you,” he added.

Hadley grimaced. “What a jerk.”

I grunted. “You’re telling me.” I studied Owen. “How do you do it? Work with him all these years?”

He shifted, rolling his shoulder. I’d forgotten he did that. An old car accident had messed up his back. He shook his head. “It is what it is. It’s only been two years, though.”

“Oh.” Crap. I’d forgotten that part too. They’d come here because her parents died. The Managing Director position opened at camp, and they wanted to leave her hometown.

I wasn’t sure what to do now: ’fess up, apologize, or change the subject like an asshole.

“Why isn’t it Dragons and Dungeons?”

They frowned at me.

I smiled and pretended to swing a bat. “Look at that.” I was committed here. I pretended to hit a ball, and I pointed, showing the high arch it would’ve taken, whistling in appreciation. “Home run with that subject change, huh? Am I right?”

Owen laughed, but it was weak. He was humoring me.

Hadley’s face tightened, and I saw hurt flare for a moment.

Asshole: me.

Genuine friend: her.

“I’m sorry. I… Yeah. Eight years, huh?” A nervous laugh escaped me, and for whatever reason, they both seemed to soften.

A sad smile lingered on Hadley’s face and her hands caught mine, squeezing. “It’s been too long, if you ask me.”

Owen’s smile loosened up, and just like that, these two saints forgave me.

“Trent said you’re writing a book while you’re here?”

It was ten minutes later when Owen asked from the couch, after they’d both helped bring all my stuff inside.

A quick recap: they’d offered. I said no. They ignored me and walked ahead of me to my car.

Saints, I tell you.


“Uh, yeah. Sorta.” Holy crap, did I not want to talk about that project. “It’s more of an excuse to come back here for a bit. I’m manning the gym courts?”

Hadley leaned back, pulling her feet up on the edge of the couch and hugging her knees to her chest. As she checked out, Owen checked in.

Leaning forward, he grew serious. “Yeah. You’ve done it before, but it’ll be longer hours. That’s why Keith wanted one person just to handle the gym. You need to have it open every morning at five—”

Cue my choking on an invisible ball.

Five? In the morning? When I was at camp?

Nuts. They were all nuts.

I was back to hissing at Keith in my head.

“—get whatever they need, but they’ll have their own trainers here too. Keith wants you to keep a daily list of all our equipment so nothing gets taken back to the cabins—”

I nodded.

When things left with the campers, even if they went to their cabin, the chances of getting them back were small. There was usually a Thursday night cabin raid every week. It was disguised as a camp-wide activity, but it was really to help us snoop and grab whatever had been taken from the facilities.

“—Mary and Grant will help keep everything clean, but you know, help them out with that, and then you’ll close the courts at midnight too.”

Midnight. Five am to midnight. I’d have no life. Or bathroom breaks.

I groaned. “This isn’t legal. Keith’s not paying me enough for those hours.”

Owen grinned, leaning back next to Hadley. He stuck his foot up, resting it on the coffee table. “You can close it during meals, and I’m sure the campers won’t always be there.”

Speaking of, I still didn’t know who was coming. I opened my mouth to ask, but we heard a shout from outside.

“Yo! Charlie.” The screen door pushed open and Trent came inside. “It doesn’t smell that ba—”

He saw Owen and Hadley, and I braced myself for Hadley to leap-frog over me. She didn’t. She stayed put, just smiling at Trent as both she and Owen said their hellos.

“Hey, guys.” Trent chuckled, crossing to sit in the last open chair in the small room. An old fishing net hung above him with three light bulbs in the middle like a chandelier. He looked up, saw it, and cursed. “I forgot how kooky this place was.”

Hadley laughed. “There’s an old reel by the toilet. It holds the toilet paper now.”

I smiled. Yeah, the place was odd and quirky, but there were good parts—the view outside the front door with the lake right there, the entire side wall covered in old hooks to hang things from. I saw a line of crystal lights strung through them, and I would bet money Keith had never done that before.

Trent and Owen and Hadley caught up for the next thirty minutes, but after a while, everyone fell silent. It was as if they’d rehearsed it, because all three turned to me, waiting, silent.

It was my turn.

I felt the back of my neck heating up. I felt bad for not sharing, but I couldn’t do what they wanted. There were no words to describe what I’d gone through, so instead, I threw Newt under the bus.

“Before this, I was informed I’d been dumped by my recent ex’s grandpa, then propositioned in the same sentence.”

I waited.

Owen frowned.

Hadley blinked a few times.

Trent merely smiled.


I nodded at Owen, who spoke for Hadley. “He offered to pop in his teeth if I wanted some revenge sex. I turned him down.”

Hadley’s mouth was now hanging open. For the booty shaker she was, I had blown her mind.

Oh yeah. “And I was fired, so ta-da. You’re all caught up with me. When’s dinner? Is Betty working back there still?”

“Wait.” Hadley’s eyebrows bunched together. She lowered her feet and leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. Scooting to the edge of the couch, she asked, “A recent ex? As in Dam—”

“Oh.” I waved that off. “That’s old news. This was a new guy, but again, I think the grandpa part was the most traumatizing point of that story. And we’re here, so everything’s good now.”

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