He shot up in his seat. “They were scared of her, okay?! Scared. I would be, too. I heard them talking to her social worker. They never knew I did, but I overheard the whole thing. Her file, she was crazy, and she spent more time on the streets than in an actual loving home. Think on that. Think about what that type of environment will produce. You want that coming into your house? No, thank you. I get where Deek and my mom are coming from. They were worried about their family. They just wanted to protect us. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
I had to take a beat, because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
‘You want that coming into your house?’
That. Not her.
He was set in stone.
He’d never get it right.
Deek and Natalie were so ingrained in him.
This was the same guy who helped check fuckers on the ice for me. He slept at my house. Ate at my parents’ table. He wrestled with my brothers. Played video games with us. I got drunk with this guy. Knew all about the girls he liked and the girls who liked him, and now I was staring at him and wondering where’d that guy go?
But he was the same. There was just this other side in him, one that wasn’t meshing with me.
“You’re quiet.” That was Chad speak for ‘what are you thinking?’
“Yeah. I am.” That was code for ‘I’m not liking what I’m hearing.’
His face twisted up in anger, and he jerked forward, hitting the table. He didn’t notice. Both his drink and mine spilled over. He didn’t notice that either.
“I don’t understand our issue here. What’s your problem? You want me to be nice to Cheyenne? Fine. I’ll be fucking perfect to her. Polite. I’ll open the door for her. Want me to bow to her?”
I was shaking my head, because Cheyenne’s words were coming back to me, and she was right.
He stopped, a whole half-sneer showing. “She knew what?”
“She told me that you weren’t hurting her.”
He started to scoff, looking out over the club.
I added, “You’re hurting me.”
He looked back, the scoff disappearing.
“You’re hurting Hunter.”
His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down.
“And you’re hurting Sasha.”
A scowl started. “I don’t get this. I’ve fucked chicks you didn’t like—”
“It’s not about that. It’s not about you not liking Cheyenne. It’s about you being totally wrong about someone all of us care about. You like Sasha. I can tell.”
“No buts. You do. You say you do, then you say you don’t, then you’re breaking up with her, and then you’re screwing her brains out.”
“That’s my point. You care enough, you care about how I’m talking about her. And I’m not even on the same level as how you’re talking about Cheyenne. ‘That.’ You called her ‘that.’”
I added, “You know the difference between how my family would’ve handled Cheyenne versus how yours did? My mom wouldn’t have looked at Cheyenne as a potential threat coming into the house. She would’ve seen a girl whose mom hadn’t been there for her, and she would’ve cried for her. Welcome fucking arms, man. Instead, Natalie probably hid the silverware. Two different drastic ways, and I can see that you’re still not getting it.”
But he wasn’t. A whole blankness came over him when I was trying to explain it.
“What do you want from me?” He threw his hand in the air.
“Nothing. You can’t change your thoughts or your behaviors, and that’s what I’d need from you.” I started to stand up.
“Wait, wait, wait.” Chad did, too, hurrying to block me from walking away. An edge of panic came over his face. He held his hands up. “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”
“You’re a hundred percent wrong about Cheyenne, but you need to realize it. And it’s not about you liking the girl I’m falling in love with.”
His eyebrows shot all the way up, and he rocked backwards.
“She’s Hunter’s sister. Don’t hurt him because you’re wrong in the head. And fuck’s sake, that’s her father whose saying this shit about her. Think on that. Her father. If your dad said that shit about you—”
Chad blinked a few times. “My dad is an asshole, though. He’s said and done worse.”
“Was he right about what he said about you?”
A whole new beast came over Chad. A new scowl, but this one had more heat to it. “Fuck no, he wasn’t.”
“That’s Deek and Cheyenne, and man, Deek is so far wrong about her, that it’s not even sad. It’s just wrong. And you’re wrong for taking up his side.”
“Deek’s been there for me.”
“So have empathy for the kid he hasn’t been there for, and you know what? If you can’t see the similarities between your dickhead dad and how Deek is being regarding Cheyenne, then I don’t know what to say or do.”
“Does she want him to grovel or something? He paid for her college.”
I stilled, giving him a whole new look because was he actually being this stupid on purpose.
I said, going with him on this one, “You’re right. I mean, he bought her off in a way. What right does she have to push for a relationship with her brother? Her college got paid off. How dare she?”
I stared at him. Hard.
Chad frowned, and I could see the thoughts going on in his head.
He said a second later, “You don’t actually believe that.”
“Not a fucking chance in hell.” My blood was boiling.
I never wanted to put hands on my best friend, but I did tonight.
“My parents paid for my college, too. They’d never think of using that as a string to control me.”
“Well, Deek isn’t—”
“It doesn’t matter. Maybe he had a moment of conscience when Donna was in rehab? Maybe that’s why he let her move into the house? Maybe he decided against it later? I don’t know. I’m just looking at a guy I thought was like a brother to me, referring to someone I’m falling in love with as ‘that,’ and he’s got no clue why I’m not down for it.”
He closed his eyes, his body weaving backwards a little before he opened them again.
“Cut,” a raspy whisper from him. “I’m thinking I might have gotten a few things wrong over the years.”
I leaned in, done with this conversation. “No. Shit. Me too.”
I headed back to my box and over to the booth where Cheyenne was sitting. Her gaze found mine instantly, and her eyebrows pulled together. She looked behind me, then back to mine.
I turned, too, but the box was empty.
The door was just closing.
Chad had bounced.
I went over, thinking what a shittastic ending it was to this whole day, but Hendrix got up. He held out his fist to mine, a drunk smile on his face, and I met it with mine before he did what I thought he would. He moved in and he was all in Sasha’s area.