The Not-Outcast

Page 47

Melanie’s booth was emptied out. Each of them came over, said a goodbye, and slipped out through their dressing room. Juna brought Melanie back to our booth and stood, staring at us much how the bouncer just had.

She was frowning heavily at Melanie, whose eyes never opened, and as soon as she hit the booth, she turned into whoever was next to her. That was me, and her arms wrapped around one of mine. Her head went down and was resting into my side. She was snuggling into me.

“She’s pretty sad tonight.”

A loud snore ripped from Melanie in that moment.

No one reacted.

Sasha just nodded. “Thanks for taking care of her. Did she tip you at all?”

Juna shook her head, lifting up a shoulder. “Seemed more of a humane thing to do tonight, you know?” She shrugged again, then a brighter smile came back. “Okay. I’m out. I’m off tomorrow.” She said to me, “Tell your man good luck on his game.”

Cut. My man.

The little thrills were there.

I liked feeling those thrills.

“I’ll tell him.”

She waved again before heading out, disappearing into their back dressing room.

Sasha put her brandy back down and lifted her hand. She was reaching into a bag on her other side, and when one of the last of the bouncers came over, she took out a big envelope. Tossing it on the table toward him, she said, “Divide that up. Eighty percent to Juna. Break the last twenty between the other three who listened to my girl the last hour.”

He dipped his head down, took the envelope and headed toward the dressing room.

I’d seen Sasha do that before. All of those girls would come back with an envelope stuffed inside their lockers, and the thing was that none of them expected cash for listening to Melanie. To them, that wasn’t part of their job that night.

“You’re a good boss.”

Sasha grunted, picking up her brandy once again.

Melanie just snored.

Me: It’s 4 am. Taco Bell is amazing. I’m home.

Cut: Good. How’s Melanie?

Me: She’ll be okay, I think.

Cut: How are you?

Me: Easy peasy. I got Taco Belly tonight, so all is right with the worldy.

Cut: You know what I mean.

A pause.

Me: I really liked the distraction tonight.

Cut: Me too.

Me: I didn’t know I’d wake you up. I’m sorry. Go to bed so I can enjoy my fiesta potatoes guilt-free.

Cut: Will do.

Cut: Cheyenne?

Me: Still here. I’m eyeing the chicken quesadilla instead.

Cut: Your whole ‘idea’ thing? I hope it wasn’t just an idea.

Me: Damn. I’m going for the cinnamon twists instead now.

Me: You’re making me a girl.

Me: I’m really looking forward to some Cut Reaper Ryder tomorrow night. Sorry. Tonight.

Cut: Lol. Okay. Night.

An hour later,

Me: It wasn’t just an idea.



Hendrix sat next to me and bent over to finish tying up his skates.

It was before the game, we were heading out to start warm-ups. This was our normal thing. Hendrix and I were close, and we were close enough that when he glanced sideways at me, still tying up his skates, I knew I wouldn’t like whatever was coming my way.

“Heard we’re heading back to your girl’s Come place.”

“Shut up.” But that was funny. “And don’t say it that way either.”

He finished tying and sat back up. “Like what?”

“You know. Don’t be a douche.”

He broke, laughing. “Right. But we’re heading back for some party thing next week. After we get back from our away game.” He pulled on his shin guards, then reached for his tape. “How’s that going to go?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know. Come Our Way. You. Your girl. The guy who wants to get in her pants.”

I was thinking, remembering. That first night flashed in my mind. “He works with her? That guy?”

Hendrix’s grin was slow and smug. “He does. He’s the one setting everything up.”

Of course.

Jesus Christ.

Of course.

I shook my head.

I didn’t need another problem on hand, but it was good to know. “Thanks.”

He dipped his head down.

We finished suiting up, and by unspoken agreement, both stood and headed out for warm-ups.

It was game-mode time now.



I woke up with a gnawing in my stomach. I didn’t like it.

Bones are supposed to be gnawed on, not my stomach. I figure I had that feeling for a reason, so I was about to do something. I didn’t want to do this at Come Our Way. The weekend staff was on, and they were mostly college kids looking to do good. I didn’t want them to feel the same ‘not good’ feeling I was having, and I knew Dean was a hockey fanboy, so here we were.

I was waiting for him on the side street before heading down to the arena. Dean was supposed to be coming since he was going to the game after this.

I heard a car door shut. A beep. And I turned, there he was. Just finishing locking up his car, and he waved, jogging around and over to me. Eyeing his sweater, he didn’t have a right to wear Cut’s number, but I kept that fact to myself.

Dean had no idea about Cut. He had no idea about anything except his job and wanting to get the word out as much as possible, and getting as much funding in as he could get. Those were both good goals, but he went about it the wrong way this time.

“Hey, Cheyenne.” The wind picked up, blowing some of his hair around and he raised a hand up, smoothing it down before putting both his hands in his pockets. “What’s up?”

“You had no authority to send out those invites for a charity gala.”

Straight to business. We had a hockey game to get to.

He blinked a few times. “Whoa. Okay. I didn’t think you’d actually care that much. I just figured it was a one-time—”

“You sent those invites out and you opened up a hornet’s nest for me. No authority. None. You fucked up.”

This was always my favorite time.

Someone did something wrong, and now was when they either owned up to it or …

He scowled. “Are you kidding me? You can’t come at me—”

I stopped listening.

I knew what path he’d chosen.

He chose wrong, but he didn’t want to feel the bad for making a bad call. Therefore, he was now going to either deflect, attack, or say some excuse. The excuses were the best because the ingenuity was the genius. If an excuse was given, somehow it’d lead back to the person wronged and how everything was actually their fault.

Somehow him not getting my approval for the event would be my fault.

Him sending out those invites would be my fault.

Newsflash. None of this was my fault.

I interrupted whatever he was saying. “Company policy is that you needed a unanimous decision. I am one of those voices. I never gave approval. You violated a company policy.”

He started talking again. I tuned in, hearing, “If you’d just—”

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