KC’s Dirty Rag didn’t take down the article, but the other news site did. My very, very personal essay was removed, but I knew it was out there. Fucking Internet.
“I keep my life private, and I keep my image about hockey.” Cut came to my bedroom’s doorframe.
Sasha and Melanie were using the guest bathroom to get dressed, and both were two drinks in. They had the sounds of Queen filling the apartment, and both were on the operatic part.
I’d retreated to the bedroom thirty minutes after Sasha’s arrival because it was a lot. Just…a lot.
Looking up, I said, “I’m sorry.”
He shook his head, coming inside and shutting the door behind him. He’d changed, too, so he was wearing an all-black tuxedo. It was that kind of event, and he looked very 007-esque. When I was in a better mood, I’d be teasing about calling him a certain spy’s name in bed, but I wasn’t there yet. We hadn’t moved to the funny part of the day’s events.
“But when I first saw that image, I didn’t think about me. I thought about you. You were the only thing on my mind, and I was so damned scared that you’d pull away from me because of it.” He came forward, standing right in front of me. His eyes were pinning me down, holding me captive by the sheer need in them. He looked almost ravenous. And his voice came out choked, “I cannot lose you. I feel like I just got you. And there’s a feeling in me, like I’ve been searching for you since high school, since maybe that first time I saw you at the locker. I don’t know if that’s true, but I cannot lose you. You understand me? But having said that, I agree with your friends.”
I closed my eyes, my head going down.
But he kept on, his voice so soft and yet, so clear to me. “I’m doubling down on what I said in the parking lot. I’m doubling down on everything. I’m not a person who thinks anyone deserves anything. I’ve always had the mindset that you earn it, that no one is entitled to anything. Except with you. You’re the only one who is entitled to everything good that’s coming your way. And now I need to tell you that I got another call. The team’s PR would like to officially represent you. They did more digging and informed me how prestigious the grant was that you got.”
That damn grant. I was starting to regret being awarded it.
Well, not really.
I thought about the guys who come to Come Our Way, and never. I’d never regret winning that.
“I don’t want it. I don’t want any of it…except you.”
“Your friends are right. People are going to salivate over you. Your entire story is worth telling. You’re worth telling. You’re worth showing off to the world.” He moved closer, bending down so he was kneeling before me.
He put a finger to my chin and tipped my head up gently.
He was right there, staring at me, looking inside of me, knowing me, knowing the struggles, knowing the good, and knowing the love. There was so much love coming from him. I couldn’t handle it. I’d never had someone look at me like that, except a dog that followed me around for a time when I was on the streets. He liked the treats I stole for him.
So that dog really just loved the treats I gave him.
He went with Herb, who started feeding him hamburgers.
That dog was kind of a wanker, too.
No, he wasn’t. I missed that dog.
I should look up Herb and steal the dog back.
No. I wouldn’t do that either—
I’d drifted. “Hmm? Sorry.”
“What are you thinking right now?”
“I was thinking about naming a dog Herb.”
He frowned. “I’m not asking your train of thought on that one, but can you come back to me? Can you focus on me?”
I nodded. “I will. I’m sorry.”
He cupped my face.
I was learning he loved to cup my face, and I was learning that I liked when he did that. No. I adored when he did that. I melted when he did that, and I was melting again. A full pile of goo on the floor, and then he ran his thumbs over my cheeks, and I really, really loved when he did that.
He finished it up with, “I want to show you off tonight. Will you let me?”
I already knew my answer. I think I knew it the first morning I woke up after our night. (Six. Times.) But moving on, I lifted my hands, took his in mine, and I had to tell him everything.
I put our hands in my lap and I looked at them.
“Stuff like this doesn’t exist for people like me.”
He looked like he was about to interrupt, so I held up a hand.
I kept on, “I don’t get the happy ending. I don’t get the family. I don’t get the mom or the dad. Even my uncle and my cousins, they were okay when I moved here. I think they were relieved. Then you wanting to be with me, or even around me, and that didn’t make sense to me. Nothing you did made sense to me, so I ran. I ran twice. But I can’t keep running. It’s stupid at some point, and now this is happening and I heard Melanie. I want you to know that. I heard her. It’s just a lot to take in, but she’s right. Sasha’s right. You’re right. I don’t care about the PR stuff. I have no interest in that stuff. I don’t even care that KC’s Dirty Rag featured us. I kinda think it’s cool because I doubt it’ll ever happen again. But,” this was the hard part, “I need to stop hiding and I need to be okay sharing my story because Melanie’s right. It could help someone. It would’ve helped me back then.”
That was the big takeaway from here.
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“I love you.”
He meant it, and I felt it. All over me.
“I love you, too.”
The door was pushed open just as Cut’s lips lowered to mine, and we heard Sasha’s gripe, “You two are so cheesy that I can’t even be serious for my girl’s revelation right now. I feel like toilet papering this entire apartment right now.” She let out an annoyed sigh. “Let’s go. I’m drunk and I want to hit the event in my prime buzz time. If Nut-Brother’s there, I’m hoping to make a scene.”
Cut frowned at her, then me, when she disappeared from the doorway.
Melanie took her place and she was beaming. “I’m so fucking happy. I am also fast going past buzzed to drunk, so I second Sash’s vote to get there. I’m so buzzing right now that I’m forgetting why we’re all so hap—oh, that’s right. KC’s Dirty Rag.” She turned toward the kitchen. “I think we should stop at Dino’s Beans for more coffee. Cassie asked for a latte, too.”
Cut was frowning at me as he stood. He reached for my hand, helping me up, too. “I’m getting that the three of you are a package deal, but please tell me you don’t have a group name.”
My smile was wide and dazzling, because he had no idea.
He saw my smile, and groaned. “God. What is it?”
“We’re the Tomcats.”
His eyes widened. “Jesus. It’s perfect.”
Then, Sasha yelled, “Let’s fucking go!”
“Can you stop using my word? You know that’s my word.”
That was perfect for Sasha.