“Yes!” Kayla screams, pumping her fist in the air so wildly she almost topples off her chair. “Drink, Aaron!”
My buddy grins at the red arrow pointing to him and grabs the shot glass, downing it in a quick gulp. “Yeah!” he roars, and holds it up to the bored-looking bartender behind the counter. “Another round!”
“You gonna join in on this one, Mase?” Aaron asks me, cocking his head with a taunting grin.
“No can do, man,” I toss back. I try to look like I’m bummed about it. I don’t think I do a very good job, but everyone’s too toasted to pay much attention.
I try to not to roll my fucking eyes when Aaron calls me a pussy. I don’t know how much longer I can fake like I’m having fun watching them play drinking games before I can’t take it anymore. We’re hanging out at a sports bar called the Penalty Box. I’m here with a couple of guys from the Springville Rockets — the pro football team I’m hoping to get signed to any day now — and the chicks they’re currently banging. Kayla, the girl who’s here with me, is one of the cheerleaders for the team. My buddy Aaron Brooks introduced me to her about a month ago.
Aaron and I went to the same university, where we played college ball together for four years before we both went pro. Two years ago, Aaron got signed on as a linebacker for the Rockets. It’s a crazy coincidence, because if all goes well, starting this season I’ll be playing alongside him again.
If all goes well.
My stomach does an unpleasant flip, and I push the negative thought that’s forming out of my mind. I’ll get signed, I tell myself. I will. I’m doing everything right. It has to pay off. It has to.
The bartender sets out another round of shots in front of the group. They’re playing a stupid-ass game called Spin the Shot. Spin the Shot centers around this spinner thing with a red arrow on it, and a holder just big enough for a shot glass. Each person takes turns setting a shot into the holder, then spinning the arrow until it lands on whoever has to take the shot. The group started out with strawberry margarita Jello shooters, but now they’ve moved on to their second round of something called a Blue Hawaiian shot. It’s made with some sort of vile-looking blue-colored Jello. From the smell, I’m guessing the alcohol is rum. Since I’m not drinking, I just sit back in my chair nursing a Coke and watch everyone else play.
It’s Aaron’s turn to spin the arrow. It lands on Kayla, who squeals and grabs the shot from the holder so roughly she’d have spilled it if it wasn’t Jello. Tipping her head back, she slides her tongue into the shot glass and scoops the Jello into her mouth and down her throat. She chews a few times and swallows, then sticks out her tongue dramatically and coughs at the alcohol. Her tongue is dark blue. Everyone else laughs like it’s the funniest fucking thing they’ve ever seen.
One thing I’ve learned since I stopped drinking: drunk people are never as funny as they think they are.
Aaron’s teammate Mike Brandt drinks next. Then it’s the turn of the girl he’s with, a big-titted redhead named Ashley. Then Kayla again. At this point, Kayla’s starting to get pretty fucking sloppy. I realize pretty soon she’s gonna be too drunk to do anything but pass out in the passenger seat of my SUV. Inwardly, I cringe at the thought of her ralphing up blue puke all over my interiors.
I decide it’s time to go. Before that vision becomes a reality.
“Come on, Kayla,” I say, grabbing her gently by the shoulders. “I think it’s time for us to call it a night.”
“But I’m having fun!” she protests. She gets up, though, and stumbles a little on her high heels so I have to steady her.
“I know, but it’s time to continue the fun somewhere else,” I tell her, even though I’m already starting to have second thoughts about that.
Kayla lets out a little bleat of laughter. “We’re gonna go fuck!” she announces to the others drunkenly. The girls start to giggle loudly and make sex eyes at me, like they wish they were in Kayla’s shoes. But they’re at least as wasted as she is, and anyway I’ve got my hands full enough with her.
“Okay, then,” I say to my buddies. “You guys have a good night.” I toss a couple bills on the table, even though I only had a soda and a couple mouthfuls of the nachos we ordered earlier. Everyone calls goodbye to us and we turn toward the front door of the bar, Kayla wobbling beside me on her heels.
“Are we going to your place?” she asks me eagerly as we walk out into the cool night air.
“Nah,” I shake my head. “How about yours?”
“Come on, Mason,” Kayla croons at me, screwing up her face into a little pout. She must think that look is sexy, because she does it to me a lot. “You never take me home!” she whines. “I won’t even stay the night if you don’t want me to.” She sidles up to me and breathes into my ear. “You know how good I can make you feel, baby.”
In my pants, my cock stirs, but irritation overrides any attraction to her I’m feeling. I’m pissed that I have to have this argument with her again.
“My place isn’t really moved into. You know that,” I say, trying hard to sound reasonable and not pissed. It’s actually true. Even though I bought the house over a year ago, a lot of my stuff is still in boxes. Shit hit the fan shortly after I moved out here. So I haven’t been exactly motivated to unpack and decorate.
But that’s not the real reason I don’t wanna take Kayla home. The real reason is, I don’t want the hassle. Kayla’s hot, but she’s not all that. I can get any woman I want, without having the expectation that I’ll have to take her home and let her spend the night. It’s just not worth it to have to make small talk with her tomorrow morning while she thinks up excuses to stick around.
“Look, babe,” I murmur, grabbing her hand and pulling it away as she starts to reach for my crotch. “There’s a hotel just down the road. A nice one. Why don’t we go there?”
But Kayla’s having none of it. “No!” she complains, her voice rising. “I’m sick of this, Mason. Why don’t you want to take me home? Are you ashamed to be with me or something?”
I’m not with you, I almost say, but manage to refrain. Goddamn it, Kayla knows going home with me isn’t an option. I make it clear to every woman go to bed with. And that we’re just having fun, nothing else.
“Kayla, Jesus,” I sigh, running a hand through my hair. “It’s not that…”
“You know what?” she interrupt me. “Fuck this. You’re nothing but a drunk and a loser anyway,” she screeches at me. “You’re not even a Rocket yet. I bet you won’t be one, either.” She gives me an ugly, angry sneer. “I’m done, Mason.”
I shrug, more relieved than anything that I won’t be spending the night fighting this. “Fine by me.”
Kayla blinks a couple of times uncertainly, like she was expecting me to argue with her. She opens her mouth to fire back at me, but pauses. Then finally:
“I have to pee.” She announces it loudly and defiantly, like it’s a stellar comeback.
“Fine,” I grumble. “Go.”
She goes back inside to the restrooms that are by the front door. I wait for her, trying not to get pissed at the insults she hurled at me. In one respect, Kayla’s not wrong. I’m not a Springville Rocket yet. Oh, I had been — for all of three weeks or so. The team had signed me for last season, and everything was all set. I even moved here to Springville and bought my house. But then, all the fucking shit hit the fan, and… well, I ended up getting un-signed. And sitting out last season completely.
And now, if they decide at the last minute they don’t want me this year…
Shit. I shake the thought from my head, for probably the millionth time. I need to move forward. I can’t afford to get stuck worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet. All I can do is hope things keep going in the direction they are, and that the team will sign me for this season. Once that happens, I’ll be in the clear. I’m one of the best linebackers in the league, and they know it, too. My agent has told me as much. I know I can perform. I know I can make myself one of the most valuable players on the team, if they just give me a chance.
But the Rockets have had more than their fair share of scandals in recent years, and they don’t need another one. Which means that any whiff of trouble makes the owners and managers gun shy.
And unfortunately, there’s a whiff of trouble around me that just won’t seem to go away.
Kayla takes fucking forever in the bathroom. I wait, then wait some more, and finally, she comes back out of the bar, smelling like re-applied perfume. She’s put on more lipstick, too, I notice. But underneath the cherry red color, I can see the blue tinge on her lips from the Jello shots.
I gesture over to my SUV in the parking lot. “Come on. I’ll drive you home.”
Kayla lifts her chin. “Fuck you,” she sniffs at me. “I called an Uber.”
“Fine by me,” I say, relieved. I was anticipating another big argument when I dropped her at her place. Now I won’t have to have it. Pussy like this is too much damn work.
Even though I want to get out of there, I wait with her until the Uber arrives out of a sense of obligation. The whole time, she sits on a bench with her arms and legs crossed, pointedly ignoring me. A few minutes later, a Toyota sedan pulls up. The driver’s side window rolls down and a guy pokes his head out. “You call an Uber?”
“I did,” Kayla announces, standing up from the bench where she’s been pouting. “Not him.”
“Hey,” the guy peers at me as Kayla goes around to the passenger side. “Are you Mason Robichaud?”
“Yeah,” I say, giving him my best for-the-public smile.
He’s fucking asshole Mason Robichaud!” Kayla shouts toward me as she opens the car door. She throws herself inside, making the car shake, and slams the door violently. I grimace and look apologetically at the guy.
“Dodged a bullet?” he murmurs at me knowingly.
“Looks like it,” I nod with a tight grin.
He snorts, then his face brightens. “Hey, man, can I get an autograph?”
“Sure thing,” I tell him. I wait as he rummages inside the car and pulls out a scrap of paper. I can hear Kayla bitching at him, but he ignores her. He holds out the paper and a pen to me. I sign it on the roof of the car and then hand it back to him. “Have a good one.”
“You too,” he smirks, giving me a knowing look.
I watch the Uber drive off, and take a deep breath of relief. For a second, I consider going back inside to hang out with Aaron and Mike, but the prospect of watching them get drunk just isn’t doing it for me. Instead I decide to just go home and call it a night.
As I’m stepping off the curb toward my car, a commotion off to one side makes me turn my head.
“You fucking, stupid, old, beat up fucker!” a voice yells.
The voice is female. It’s coming from the parking lot of the place next door. In the light of the street lamp, I can just make out the silhouette of a woman in a dress. She looks to be throwing a tantrum next to a car that I’m assuming is hers.
I’m too far away to see what the woman looks like. But I’m close enough to see that her dress is form-fitting, and that she’s wearing heels. From here, it looks like she has a killer ass. And legs to next Tuesday.
I watch in amusement as she continues swearing a blue streak and starts pounding on the hood. The corners of my mouth quirk up. Whatever’s wrong with her car, that’s sure as hell not gonna fix it.
Curiosity gets the better of me. Instead of walking over to my SUV, I cross the parking lot and head toward the chick beating up on her car. Hell, since Kayla took off, I’ve got nothing else pressing to do with my evening anyway. I may as well spend the next few minutes playing hero to this chick.
And who knows? I might even get some action out of it and salvage this night after all.
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