The Not-Outcast

Page 64

Oh, that helped. A little.

But I could hear the voices outside, and the clatter of pots and pans, and was there a larger than usual amount of people here today?

I must’ve asked Reba that, and she was looking at me all concerned. Shit. She knew. I walked inside with an extra bounce in my step, thinking I’d been slaying this dragon, and now I was in full-fledged panic attack mode even before the worst of the worse got to me.


She was speaking calm, and low, and she totally knew.


“Are you off your meds?”

An unhinged laugh came out of me, and before I knew it, I was laughing like a banshee. Head bent over my desk and I couldn’t stop. Full freak-out here I come.

It wasn’t usually this bad, or so soon. The panic hysteria was extra because Cut was coming back today. This morning. He might already be here.

I think he was, actually.

He said something about a meeting downtown, too. Or was that tomorrow?

I should’ve texted him.

Had I already?

Had he not texted me back?

Was he getting sick of me already?

But no. I was remembering that we had texted last night and there’d been a good morning text from him when I woke up, but he was on the plane. They did come back super early today.

I couldn’t remember the reason, but there’d been a reason.

Wait. Was that today? Tomorrow?

I was losing time now, too.

The charity event was tomorrow night, and last time I handled it by jumping into his pool and swimming for thirty minutes. This time, I didn’t know what to do. More running? I already ran five miles. I already did yoga.

I was already eating healthy.

I was already doing meditation.

I was already trying so hard to be so fucking perfect and no one got it.

“Hey, hey.”

Another knock on my door. This one was rough and abrupt, and the door opened. Dean came in, not looking, not waiting for permission. He took a step inside, not even looking over, already saying, “We have a surprise for you.”

Oh God.

I closed my eyes and let my head hit the desk, cradled by my arms.

Let me hide now, please world.

“Get out!”

“What? What’s going on? Cheyenne?”

“No. Out. Now. You knock and then wait for permission to come in. What if she’d been changing clothes, huh? What if she’d been on a private call? What if she just found out her grandmother was dead?”

“What? I’m confused. Her grandmother passed away?” He dropped his voice. “She never talks about family. I had no clue.”

Reba made a gargling frustrated growl. “Out. Now. And while we’re at it, meeting’s postponed till tomorrow.”

“What?! I have to finalize everything for tomorrow. I need to loop you guys in on everything.”

“Oh, why do you care now? You didn’t care when you made the decision to move forward with the event, and you’re the one who decided the invite list. This is your thing. You handle it on your own.”

“We have celebrities coming today to help serve. I wanted to tell Cheyenne who they were. What’s going on? Is there something going on I need to know about?”

“Out. Now.” Reba was firm, and she really needed to do more than watch Netflix every night. I had a feeling she’d be a trip in Prankland Territory.

I needed to gather myself, and I could do it.

I was freaking out on the inside, but faking and forcing was another motto I enforced. I was enforcing it now, and lifting my head, I made out that Reba was standing in front of Dean. She’d actually gotten him back outside the door and he couldn’t see past her.

I loved Reba. I really loved Reba.

The rest of the room was swimming and blurring together. Little bubbles were showing everywhere, but I could do this. A deep breath. Another one. A third one.

I dabbed at my eyes, making sure nothing leaked up there, and I wiped my hands over my face.






Let’s do this.

I stood and came around my desk. “Dean.” Damn. My voice was a little wobbly. I swallowed and tried again, hearing it crack before it came out with authority. “I agree that there’s no point to our meeting about tomorrow. You’ve finalized everything already. You just want to cover your ass, tell the board you okayed everything with us if you get called up in front of them.”

Reba was still barring me.

My knees were shaky, so thank Reba again.

She was glancing back over her shoulder, and she saw me reach for the desk to steady myself. Yeah. She was staying right where she was.

“What is this, Cheyenne? Why won’t Reba let me in?”

“I’m in an indisposed state of undress right now.” Totally lying, but I could feel his immediate retreat.

I almost grinned at his, “Oooh! Oh. So sorry. I didn’t—I’ll knock and wait next time. I promise.”

He was skipping over my veiled threat.

“But…uh…Cut Ryder and Hendrix Sanderson are coming in today.”


Reba sent me a fierce frown.

“Yeah.” Dean was trying to stand on his tiptoes to see me. “It was a last-minute ask. They, themselves, reached out yesterday, and they’re set to arrive in an hour. They’re coming straight from the airport.”

I got that wrong, too. I thought he was already here.

Why won’t I ever get my shit together? Be good at this living thing? Not just adulting. I was trying for that, too, but living. Being functional. That was more my goal.

This would be comical to another person, in another setting. I’d laugh at this maybe in a year, but not now. Cut was coming here to work, and I was in this state.

Cue another attack—no.

I had to get on this. Again.

“Okay. I’m guessing that you’ll be here to run through everything?” Me. I sounded so professional. I also had cold sweat pouring out of me.


Dean sounded like he couldn’t wait to gush over both of them.

Reba rolled her eyes at me.

I grinned at that, but asked, still impressing myself with how controlled my tone was, “And you’ve let Boomer know?”

“I ran it by him yesterday.”

Then there was no point in telling me because Dean had no idea about myself and Cut. Only a few did. So that meant since it was a last-minute appearance, he was trying to be extra teammate-y and not wanting to piss us off even further.


I wasn’t English, but that name made me feel better right now.

“That sounds good. I’ll be in my office working on a few things.”

There was quiet from the door, and Reba still wasn’t moving.

A second later, he left and she shut the door before locking it. Then, she harrumphed. “Ridiculous we have to lock it so our coworkers don’t barge into our offices. The guys who come and eat here aren’t the ones we’re concerned about. It’s the co-workers.” And she stopped to eye me up and down. “You okay, honey?”

I closed my eyes, drew in some air, and asked for calmness.

I didn’t expect it to happen, but one never knew about miracles. I’ve heard they happened sometimes.

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