Cut’s head went back and a deep groan came from him. “Fuck.”
“Hey.” Melanie was grinning. “That’s my word.”
He grunted, grimacing as he pulled out his phone. “Yeah. Well. You’re sharing tonight. Fuck.”
Melanie ignored him, coming to me and she showed me her phone. “Front and center. I don’t know where you guys were, but there’s a hella lot of pictures on social media. Were you doing soft porn somewhere?”
Another growl from Cut as he put his phone to his ear, his eyes cutting to me. “I’m sorry. That parking lot. I’ll get the team’s PR to get this all taken down.”
I was looking at the phone.
One, I was thinking shocker.
KC’s Dirty Rag was the leading gossip blog for Kansas City. It led in everything, be it scandalous, breaking news, or whistleblower stories. People didn’t turn on the local news channels if they wanted to know the real story on something. Instead, they logged onto KC’s Dirty Rag, and I’d forgotten that it loved spreading the joys of celebrity life, especially the Mustangs’ lives. Hendrix was usually featured. Sometimes Crow. A few of the other guys, but not Cut. Never Cut.
I could see Melanie’s soft porn comment.
The first picture looked like Cut was giving me breath. His forehead to mine, and we were both panting. The emotion was there. It was pulsating through the screen, and I felt winded just looking at us. Skimming down, there were more pictures.
My head in his hands.
His mouth on mine.
He was bent over me.
They’d been photographing us almost the whole time.
There was even a picture of Cut’s face right as he parked. His face was twisted in fury, and I gulped, remembering why he pulled over at that moment. But damn. The angst. The drama. The sexiness.
We were hot as a couple. Fuck yeah.
I wanted to frame this shit, but looking up, I swallowed my words. Cut was furious, and he was heading to the back, his entire body was rigid and tense.
Melanie was frowning at him, too, putting the coffee carrier on the table. “What’s his problem? You’re not a secret, are you?”
I shook my head. “No, but he’s never been on here before. I don’t think he likes it for his image.”
She shrugged. “Oh well. You’re fucking hot in those pictures.”
I grinned. I was. I’d take that compliment.
“Look.” She took the phone back and scrolled through, hitting another article. It was another website, this one of a more reputable news channel where they were known for only news and nothing too salacious. It was an article on me.
“Yeah. They wrote up a whole thing about Come Our Way and the grant that you won, how it was a big deal. They put where to donate for the kitchen. That article is getting a lot of buzz, too. People didn’t know you’re a big deal here.”
I frowned. “I’m not.”
“You won that grant. Only two other people have won that same grant. That’s a big deal, and…” She suddenly got quiet.
I fixed her with a stare. “What?”
Melanie only got quiet for a reason.
She let out a sigh, biting her lip and scrolled to the last part of that article. “They got ahold of the personal essay you sent in for the grant.”
My heart stopped.
My body swayed.
My legs almost gave out.
I was reading, and I couldn’t be seeing what I was reading.
Grants were tricky. Some were almost scientific and cold. They wanted straight facts, data, and information. They didn’t want personal items, but not the one I applied for. They wanted a personal essay for the reason I was pursuing that grant, and what I wanted to do with the money.
I laid it all out.
All. Of. It.
I told them about my mother. My dad. How I was getting my head in order as I went through therapy, but I told them about my past, about what I endured during my time with my mother. It was right there, in print, the essay I wrote, and how I knew what it was like to be desperate for a warm meal when you were locked out of your home.
This was out there.
Anyone could look it up, and they’d know my story.
This news site thought they were doing me a favor. The whole article was about me, but mostly about Come Our Way, but— Oh shit, shit, shit.
Melanie took her phone from me, and my fingers didn’t move.
“Babe.” She pulled me to her, and I went, laying my head over her shoulder. She hugged me, smoothing a hand down my hair. “I’m going to say something, and I hope you’re in the mindspace to hear it. If you aren’t, well, I think I’d say it anyway. I know that your past has never been a secret. You’ve never been ashamed of it, and I know this is a big difference between talking about it with your family and friends, but I’ve been thinking for a long time that you shouldn’t be in the shadows anymore. Then you started seeing Cut and I thought, ‘Finally! She’s going to get pulled from the background.’ And now this is out, and I think, I really think, you need to just own this.”
I started to pull away, but she caught my shoulders.
“Your story can save lives. What you went through, it’s not normal. I mean, it is, but it’s not. From where you were, to where you are now. You’re one fucking rad bitch, and you need to tell people about it. About you.”
“I’m messed in the head.”
“Everyone’s messed in the head. Some are just worse than others, and some deny it, some don’t even know about it. I’m just saying, you’re a fucking beacon of light. You were for me.”
“So, you want her to do what? Do a speech at the event in an hour? Capitalize on our private moment?” Cut’s voice came from the hallway, and it was low, and I heard the danger there. He was pissed, beyond pissed.
Melanie turned to face him. “No. I’m only saying she shouldn’t hide anymore, and she’s been hiding. All this time.”
He didn’t respond, but his gaze went to mine. He had his phone in hand. “The team’s PR department is already fielding calls about the articles. They’ve moved to get what they can pulled down, but they’re getting a lot of questions about you. If they’re getting calls like that, then I’d assume Come Our Way is getting a ton, too.” A pause. The edges around his mouth strained. “A national news channel already picked it up.”
I couldn’t. I just frowned. “Is this normal?”
“Cut’s never seen with a chick, and now they’re finding out about you, I’m not surprised at all. You’re made of golden gooey aura and shit. Everyone else will find out now too.”
The door opened and Sasha came inside, carrying an outfit, her makeup bag, and she had a bottle of vodka with her. She stopped in her tracks, reading the room. “Apocalypse?”
Sasha was filled in, and in typical Sasha fashion, she had a lot of one-word comments.
Finally. Fuck. Fierce. Frenzied.
She didn’t elaborate on what the last word meant, no one asked, and we all moved on. It fit in with the theme, but Sasha was behind Melanie’s sentiment. She agreed with the ‘golden gooey aura’ and I needed a moment.