“It’s narrow-minded bullshit.” Point blank. Period. The end. “That’s it. My mom was a junkie, and I got looked at the same way. Don’t mean a thing that I never touched drugs. That I was never like her, ever. They looked at me like I was her or I was going to be like her, and they’re wrong. That’s their issue.”
“Yes, and that’s my best friend.”
The dent just got made.
I was bleeding for him.
We were reaching the outskirts of town, and he turned onto the interstate. It’d be more smooth driving now, and he glanced over as soon as we merged. “If he asks, how can he make this right?”
I shook my head. “He doesn’t have to do a thing for me.”
“No, Cut. Listen. It’s not me he’s wronged. Not in this situation. It’s you. He’s doing you wrong because you care, because you asked him, because he said he would be better. He didn’t do better, for you. You have to answer that, not me. I’m hurting for you, not for me. I’m never going to let them hurt me, so you need to understand that. I’m only hurting because they’re hurting you and in the process, they’re hurting Hunter.”
“Jesus.” He shook his head. “When I think I’m starting to get you figured out, then you say things and I’m now looking back at myself and being humbled.”
I grinned. “You’re good. It’s Chad and Deek who are the assholes.”
He grinned back, there was still sorrow there.
My heart ached, an invisible hand squeezing it together, but I couldn’t do anything there except have a word with Nut-Brother myself. But even then, Chad was going to do what Chad was going to do.
“He’s hurt Sasha, too, by all this.”
Cut was quiet, turning off on our exit.
I added, shifting to start seeing the line of cars waiting to get into Bresko’s, “He’s hurting you and her. Two people who care about him the most. She won’t tell me what he says, but I know they go back and forth. I also know that I’m the reason.”
I corrected, “He’s the reason, but you know what I mean. His thoughts, or whatever.”
“I still don’t like it.”
Which was fair.
I didn’t know what else to say, but then Cut asked, “So, you finally saw Hunter, huh?”
That was it. Now I totally knew what to say and I didn’t stop talking until we were pulling up to Bresko’s.
Our treatment was a lot of the same when we headed inside.
A water was handed instantly to me.
Cut held my hand the whole time. The difference between our arrival tonight, versus our arrival the other night, was that it seemed there were more people around. Then again, it was Saturday night. I suppose that was bound to happen. I’d been talking about Hunter so much, I hadn’t paid attention to how many people were waiting in their cars, but I did remember that there was a larger-than-normal crowd waiting outside the doors.
And as soon as Cut stepped out of his vehicle, word went through them real quick.
I heard Cut’s name a lot. The phones went up and the flashes started.
A few people were still in the entryway, and seeing Cut, they came over for autographs.
He glanced at me, but I nodded and slipped away. I was okay with this.
I got it. I really did.
His eyes darkened and his mouth tightened, but that was his only reaction.
They didn’t last long.
It seemed the staff was on point.
The autographs were signed. A couple selfies were taken, and they were whisked away by staff. The manager, the same one as the other night, showed us to the box. The exception this time was that a man was waiting inside.
He was standing at the edge, watching the dancers with a drink in hand. The other hand was in his pocket. Dress pants. A white buttoned shirt, that was unbuttoned at the top, and the ends were loosely tucked inside his pants.
“Tanner.” Cut strode forward, his hand already out.
“Cut. Hey.” The guy turned, and I was greeted with a startling beautiful face. Shaggy blond hair. Dark eyes. He had a whole rakish feel to him, and he was checking me out while skirting between Cut and myself. He indicated me with the drink. “This yours?”
Cut laughed, stepping back. “She is. This is Cheyenne. Cheyenne, this is Tanner. He owns Bresko’s.”
This guy looked not even a day over thirty and he owned this place?
“Hi. Hello. I’m Cheyenne.”
Tanner’s mouth twitched. “It’s nice to meet you.” He said to Cut, “I was in town. Cary told me about your game, that a few of your teammates might be coming out. Thought I’d stick around, see if you were one of them.” He nodded to me. “And to meet your woman, it’s a double pleasure.”
Cut turned to me. “I met Tanner a few years ago.”
Tanner took a sip from his drink, his eyes looking me over before his mouth did another twitch. “Cut’s being very gracious. He met my brother, and I inherited Bresko’s through my brother. But,” his gaze swept past us and narrowed as he took another sip of his drink. There was a restless vibe to him now, and it crawled up my spine. I wasn’t sure if it was in a good way or not. “It’s nice that you pretend it’s been me this whole time.”
Danger, danger, danger was blaring in my head, but I didn’t feel it was in a bad way. That was confusing, but I still moved forward and curled a hand around Cut’s arm. I pulled him back, toward me.
Tanner noted the motion. “See. Your woman has good instincts. Listen to her.” Then, he looked back over the dance floor, and his eyes seemed to catch on something—or someone. He tossed the rest of his drink back. “It was nice seeing you again, Cut. It was lovely meeting your better half, and now that I’ve done my owner’s duty, there’s a certain someone I’m off to go and see.” He held his hand out, shaking Cut’s, and then moving in and brushing a soft kiss to my cheek. He stepped back. “Enjoy tonight and forget about the game.”
He was gone after that.
“Tanner is…” Cut let out another sigh. “Tanner enjoys being a silent owner, like I enjoy being a silent investor.” We went to one of the booths and settled in. He turned to me, raking me over. “Chad’s on his way, and I need to know how you want me to handle him.”
I started to repeat the same, but he held a hand up.
“I know you’re going to say he did me wrong, not you, but that’s not the truth.” But he quieted, studying me, and I felt as if he decided a big decision. He nodded. “Okay. I know what to do.”
I needed to say this, put it out there so he knew.
“Most people have walls. That’s how they cope in life, and I don’t know why they’re up. I can only guess, but people like me, there’s an openness inside of us. And I know you might be questioning me about Deek and Chad, but those aren’t walls that I have for them. It’s like inside, I’m flat. I’m open. I have my struggles, and I love my struggles because they make me normal in a way. But I’m just not the same as you or Chad. I don’t operate the same. I have certain anchors in my life. Sasha and Melanie are anchors for me. Hunter. Come Our Way and the mission we have, is another for me. It’s like a continuous river inside of me, and I’m good to just keep floating along. Most people, home people like you, have walls. In my world, instead of just being on the river, you got a boat and a dock, and you have a home that’s off the river. You want to see the river, enjoy the river, but only when you’re protected. People like me, we’re in the river. And the river is wild, so I guess we’re wild, too. There’s also freedom there, but you got the danger that goes hand in hand with the freedom. Being safe, that’s what ‘home’ people are. They’re safe, but they’re boxed in. People like me, we want to be one with the river. Though, every now and then, I’ll come up to one of my anchors and I grab hold and I stay there for a bit. I don’t slip away because of my anchors. You’re one of them. You’ve almost dammed up my river and I really like that.”