The Not-Outcast

Page 45

Everything good that I’d been feeling, from Cut coming over, from Cut being here, from kissing Cut, from being able to touch him and knowing he wanted me to touch him, from all of it—was wiped clean because my mind caught up.

My stomach churned.

I wanted to throw up.

Vomit rose up in my throat, and I clamped it down.

My dad.

Not even.

I didn’t think of him as my dad, not back when I was a kid, not when I was a guest in his home, not when he came to my mom’s funeral, and not even when he paid for college.

My mom overdosed and I stayed away.

The truth was that I’d been fine with that, but Deek never fought for me.

He hadn’t wanted me. It made sense to me now as an adult. It hadn’t back then.

Natalie hadn’t wanted me either. She didn’t want me in the same house as her sons, breathing their same air. Me. The homeless kid. The crazy kid. The kid with the coked-out mother who decided she was done going to rehab, and never went again until she overdosed.

A stigma was put on me, and it was still there. I felt it.

Dean went ahead with the charity gala, without our say-so, and he approached all those ‘high-end’ folks whom he said he was going to approach. That meant the Mustangs’ team. That meant my father, I guess.

I hadn’t known.

And though their names hadn’t been brought up, I knew who else would be invited to that party. Natalie and her husband. Dean would approach her husband because he was a lawyer for a local big-name firm. And he’d approach because he would do his homework, and he would learn who was connected to the Mustangs, and Chad was connected, and then he’d go from there.

Damn Dean.

Damn him so much.

Melanie had been talking, but she fell silent until now. “Cheyenne?”

A door opened from down the hallway.

A muted footstep on the carpet, and I lifted my head.

Cut stood there. He had heard everything.

I asked, “Did you know?”

He nodded. “Yeah, just today.”

Another pang, this time it cut straight down my middle.

They asked him. The guy I thought I had loved since I first saw him. The guy whom I actually did love since I first saw him.

I asked, my voice cracking, “What’d you say?”

His eyes grew fierce. His jaw hardened. “I lied. I told my boss that it must be because of Chad.”

Melanie gaped at him, a gargled sound ripping from her throat, one that sounded like it was half of a laugh. And a pleased laugh.

“You said what?”

His jaw clenched before he said, “I knew what that fucker was trying to do, but fuck him. I put it on Chad.”

I almost swayed from the surprise.

He hadn’t turned on me…I’d been expecting it. A pocket deep inside, one reserved for all those people who weren’t supposed to turn on you, but they did—that pocket had been making room for one more.

It stopped.

“I might be into guys,” Melanie whispered, her eyes big and gaping on Cut. Then, she flinched. “No. I can’t even joke about that, but honestly, fuck girls right now, too.” She glanced at me. “You know what I mean.”

A nod from me. I did. Forget Deek right now. “Let’s go to the park, pick up old dog poop, and put it on Cassie’s car.”

Melanie’s eyes started shining from unshed tears. “You’d do that for me?”

I frowned. “Of course. And if Sash was here, you know she’d already be grabbing her tools to break into Cassie’s car so she could take a dump herself in the front seat.”

Melanie pressed her lips together, a small laugh slipping out. “She would, too.”

I nodded.

“That’s why I came here first.”

I nodded again.

Melanie’s gaze flashed again, her mouth curving down. “Cassie asked me about Fausten because she couldn’t figure out the connection with Come Our Way. Said it had something to do with Cut. They must’ve asked her before asking Cut.” She glanced at him. “I got upset because, you know, what a douche your dad is being. Cassie got upset at me because she said he was going to be doing business with the Mustangs and I needed to respect her employers. Before I knew it, she was saying we were moving too fast and she couldn’t risk her career since you and I are so close.”

Cut remarked, “She’s real particular about her dating life not touching her career.”

My friend was hurting.

I was going to take any of my pain from Fausten, and I was going to wrap it up. I was going to put a bow on it and shove it out of my mind because he didn’t matter to me. Melanie did, and she was hurting. So because of that, I knew two options could happen here. Cassie might’ve really meant what she said to Melanie, or she didn’t. She said it in haste, and she’d want her back. I know in both situations, Cassie would regret it because it was Melanie. And thinking back on how I had watched both of them hold hands, sneak kisses, cuddle, hug each other, whisper to each other, and how there’d been times if Melanie was upset and Cassie reached for her, I had a feeling I knew which option would happen.

“Cassie’s going to come around and she’s going to apologize for what she said.”

Melanie wiped a tear away. “You think?”

“I know so, so don’t let those words sink in any further. They’re not going to stay long, and don’t let them have any more power. That’s done.” And because I knew how to cheer her up. “Let’s go have banana split sundaes at Tits.”

“How do you know that’s what Cassie will do, Shy?”

Because she loved her. I could already tell, but I only said, “Because you’re one fucking amazing catch.”

That made her smile, and that’s when I moved in, wrapping my arms around her. I pulled her in close, my head going to her shoulder as her forehead went to mine. A second later, her arms circled me, and we both knew the real tragedy of the night.

There’d be no poop surprises for anyone.

Cut: I was going to tell you about Deek later tonight. Just got distracted.

Me: I know. I enjoyed the distraction.

Cut: You okay?

Me: Juna is still trying to perfect her upside-down shimmy, so how could I not with a glittery thong in my face?

Cut: I don’t know how to respond to that.

Me: Thanks for being okay with letting us have a girls’ night.

Cut: Yeah. I get it, though Hendrix got excited when I told him you guys were at Tits.

Me: Who wouldn’t?

Cut: True.

Cut: For the record, what Deek did was shitty, but he’s your dad. If you’d like me not to say something, I won’t, but I’m hoping you’ll let me handle him. I’d like to handle Deek.

Me: What would you say?

Cut: Let me handle him.

Me: Okay. Go for it. Should I thank you for this?

Cut: No. It’s going to be all my pleasure.

Me: How are things with you and Nut-Brother?

Cut: Different, but he and I will be fine. We’re like you and your girls, but we just take longer because guys don’t like to talk about shit, ya know.

Me: I think I’m a dude then.

Cut: Would make sense why you keep saying dude.

Me: I gotta go. Juna is now jumping up and down on her heels. Sash is yelling at her to stop jumping.

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