Authors: Lacey Weatherford
Tags: #romance, #young adult, #ebook, #football, #social issues, #bestseller, #new adult, #contempoaray
“Are you going to start the car?” I asked
once we were settled inside, unable to look at the disappointment
on her face.
“Are you going to tell me what happened?”
she asked. The slight hitch in her voice made me realize she was
“He was an ass, Britt. I wanted to beat the
shit out of him.”
“Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be now? Any
time someone upsets you you’re just going to get pissed and beat
them down with the wrath of Chase?” She sniffed loudly, her voice
continuing to tremble as she spoke. “How do you expect to get past
your pain if all you do is hold it in and use it as an excuse to
lash out at others?”
I didn’t know what to say. There was nothing
I could say. “I’m sorry,” I finally muttered, for what seemed like
the billionth time since this whole mess had begun. That’s all I
was ever doing lately, apologizing for something.
She started the car and pulled out,
signaling that this conversation was done for the time being. Lost
in my own thoughts, I continued to ponder what she’d said. True,
there’d been plenty of fights in my past, but they’d only made me
feel better in the moment, usually leaving me full of regret after
a few days had passed.
I knew exactly when my angry outbursts had
started—after the death of my father—only to be extremely
aggravated by Nikki’s death. I wondered if this was how everyone
felt after the loss of loved ones. Maybe I was simply destined to
be stuck here in this place for eternity—feeling dead inside. Maybe
I wasn’t the great person everyone bragged about, or thought me to
One thing I knew for certain was I didn’t
want this hollow feeling inside me anymore. I needed help.
We arrived home where a crisp wind and a
mildly cool snap of air hit me in the face, as I made my way toward
the house. Cool wind was a scary thing in the Valley of the Sun, so
I paused to glance around at the sky, noticing the wall of dust
gathering at the far end of the valley. It appeared we were in for
another famous Haboob storm.
Brittney didn’t seem to notice, continuing
on inside, leaving the door open as she disappeared down the hall
toward our bedroom. She’d been painfully silent since we’d left the
Pausing to shut the door, I jumped when I
felt a strong vibration against my man parts. Apparently my pocket
had shifted over into the vicinity of the baby maker during my
earlier scuffle. I shoved my hand inside to retrieve it, completely
surprised at the number that was showing on the screen.
It was Barney, my roommate from camp.
“Hey, man!” I answered happily, unable to
stop the grin from spreading across my face as I spoke.
“Cowabunga, my friend! What’s
I laughed, enjoying his islander voice. “Oh,
nothing. I just got back from an evening jog,” I answered
sarcastically. “You know how I am—always working out to maintain my
fabulously ripped bod. Why? What’s up with you?”
“Well, I’m in the area for a party tonight
at the Inverness Baller’s Club. Come tag along with me and get out
of the house!” He invited excitedly.
I shook my head, even though he couldn’t see
me. “Dude, I have four legs to carry around now that I’m stuck on
these damn crutches,” I answered in a sad tone. There was no way I
could shuffle around a crowded event. “I really wish I could,
Staring at the empty hallway in front of me,
still devoid of Brittney, I realized this was the complete truth.
I’d love going out for a stiff drink. My nerves were starting to
get the better of me, as was clearly evident from my earlier
Barney laughed. “I already got you covered,
white boy! I bought a wheelchair for you from the thrift store.
I’ll be your personal chauffer for the night.”
“Ah, man! How am I supposed to say no to
that?” I asked, truly touched by his thoughtfulness on my behalf.
It was clear he’d thought this through.
“There’s no way I’m letting you get out of
this,” he replied.
“When are you headed over?”
“I’m only ten minutes away, so get ready.
It’s about to be Gucci,” he added with a chuckle.
“You’re already on the way?” I said
surprised. “Thanks for the heads up. Maybe I should’ve reconsidered
giving you my address and phone number. I have nowhere to hide now.
The last I knew you were promising me you were going to kick my
“Yeah, I’m still going to do that. Now get
ready, you pansy.” He hung up the phone before I could reply. I
couldn’t stop smiling.
“Britt!” I hollered out as I made my way
down the hall. “I need you to help me change. I’m going out
She appeared in the doorway to our room,
scowling at me. “Where are you going? And with who?” Clearly, she
was still angry with me. Maybe some time apart from each other
would be a good thing. It would give her a chance to cool down and
me a chance to get out of here for a while. Home was starting to
feel like a tomb lately. I was suffocating; and I hated that no
matter what I tried, things seemed to be growing more strained
between Brittney and me.
“Barney just called me. He’s in town and
he’s taking me to a party at Inverness Baller’s Club. He’s on his
way here to get me, right now.”
“Chase! You’ve got to warn me about these
things!” she exclaimed as she hurried past me. “I need to
straighten the living room.”
I laughed. “Barney isn’t going to care about
that. Just come help me get ready.”
She disappeared around the corner, but her
voice still carried easily to me. “You can go pick out what you
want to wear yourself, and I’ll help you in a minute with whatever
you need. This is my first time meeting Barney and I don’t want it
to look like I’ve been raising a pig in the front room.”
“You have been,” I joked, trying to ease the
tension between us. I’d been spending a lot of time eating take out
on the couch and I hadn’t been too great about picking up after
myself. Poor Brittney was exhausted between taking care of me and
working herself to the bone, so she’d been letting a few of the
house things slide. It didn’t look bad though. Nothing a quick
pick-up wouldn’t fix.
I ambled my way into the closet, staring at
my wall of clothes. I wanted to look good; but casual too. Pulling
out a white t-shirt, I grabbed a pair of pants, as well. There was
no way that my huge brace would fit underneath them, but maybe it
wouldn’t be too obvious over the top. Then again, I was going to be
carted around in a damn wheelchair, so it really didn’t matter
Hanging the clothes on my crutches, I
hobbled to the bed, laying them down before returning to the closet
to grab some casual shoes and my favorite watch.
Brittney reappeared to help me. “Well, I got
the trash picked up, at least. I wish I had time to vacuum.”
“Babe, honestly, you worry too much. He
won’t even notice.” I changed my shirt and Brittney helped me with
my pants and shoes, until we heard a sound from the other room.
“White boy? Where are you?” Barney’s accent
echoed through the house.
“Go on,” I said to Britt as I picked up my
watch and put it on. “I’m right behind you.”
She quickly paused by the mirror—wiping at
some smudged mascara under her eyes, and patting her hair. I knew
she wasn’t happy about not having more time to get ready, but I
thought she looked as beautiful as always. I simply wished I could
find a way to remove the sadness from her face. Rounding the
corner, she disappeared down the hall and I hurried to grab my
crutches and follow after her.
“You must be beautiful Brittney,” Barney
said. I arrived just in time to see him looking over her
appreciatively. I had to stop myself from laughing at his attire,
made up of bright green board shorts and a red and orange flowered
Hawaiian button up—accessorized with sandals and a lei draped
around his neck. “I can see Chase wasn’t lying when he talked about
how gorgeous you were to everyone at camp.”
She blushed and glanced over toward me. “You
“Of course. I needed to give people some
reason to be jealous of me.” I winked and smiled at her.
“We were already jealous of him,” Barney
laughed. “The boy has mad skills on the field. You were just icing
on the envy cake.”
I broke in abruptly, not wanting to get on
the subject of football. “I see you’re dressed for the ladies
tonight.” I eyed his clothing with a grin. “You look . . .
“We all can’t be as pretty as you, white
boy,” he replied, his Samoan smile widening to show the gap between
his front teeth.
“Chase better not be picking up any ladies
tonight, however,” Brittney added, arching her brow at me.
“Never,” I responded, leaning to kiss her on
the cheek. “You’re the only woman I need. I won’t do anything I’ll
She rolled her eyes as if she didn’t believe
me. “It better stay that way too; but I do want you to go out and
have a really good time. Make some good memories and laugh a
little. You’ve been stressing way too much.”
That is the understatement of the
, I thought as I laughed and smacked her on the butt. “Love
you, babe. Try and enjoy your free time. You need some rest as
well. Barney can be my babysitter, tonight.”
“I promise to take good care of him,” he
said, raising his hands in an incorrect Boy Scout salute.
Shaking my head, I smacked the back of his
leg with one of my crutches. “Let’s go, Barney.”
Brittney watched us as we made our way down
the sidewalk toward Barney’s old school hippy van.
“What’s with the crazy weather, here?” he
asked when we got inside. “I swear I can taste the dust in the air.
Starting the engine, he pulled away from the curb and I quickly
waved one more time at Brittney, before settling back into my
“Meet the famous Arizona Haboob,” I replied,
answering his question. “It’s going to start raining soon,
something fierce—lightning—the whole works. Watch out for falling
power poles and trees.”
He laughed heartily.
“You think I’m kidding? These things can get
scary. It’s almost tornado activity.”
“Really?” he asked in surprise.
I nodded. “Brittney and I got stuck in one
when we were out hiking one time. We had to be rescued by
“Wow! That’s insane!” He leaned forward and
glanced around out the window. I could see a healthy respect for
Mother Nature in his eyes. It wasn’t good to mess with these
“We need storm music, not this island crap
you’ve got playing,” I said, suddenly sitting up, disconnecting his
phone, and slipping the cord into mine. Rap music, from my latest
favorite band, filled the air. “This is real music, right
Barney snorted. “You’re white-boy rappers
don’t even compare to my islander’s heavenly voices. Besides, where
I come from, the driver always gets to choose.”
“And where I come from, the cripple gets
He stared over at me and chuckled. “Damn. I
guess you got me there. You can pick the music tonight.”
Laughing, I relaxed back into my seat and
let the heavy rhythm of the music fill my soul. Already I’d started
to feel some of my stress slipping away. I needed this night out.
Maybe I’d get totally wasted and just escape completely for a
while. I’d love to spend some time without a care in the world.
Voices surfaced in my head, ones from my
days of substance abuse therapy after Nikki died, reminding me to
watch for my triggers that would lead me somewhere I shouldn’t go.
I shoved them roughly aside. I wasn’t going to think about any of
Before too long, we pulled into a strip of
clubs and bars with flashing neon lights. Despite the weather,
there were people crowded around everywhere. Glancing in all
directions, I quickly noticed there wasn’t one girl with a skirt
longer than the curve of her butt. I sighed to myself and wondered
where all these chicks were when I was in high school. I would’ve
had a lot of fun with these girls.
“Well, I’m sure there’s got to be at least
one woman here who’s into your unattractively cute style,” I said,
my eyes roaming over his hideous get-up, again.
“Oh, I’ll show you. Ladies
island boys!” He laughed and punched me in the shoulder with his
big meaty fist.
“Hey, watch it, now.” I rubbed at the
He opened the door and slid out. “Have you
lost your balls already, Chase? I know you can take a hit much
harder than that.”
“No, you don’t,” I replied in a defensive
tone. “You were never able to catch me, remember?” I grinned
He shook his head, soon appearing at my door
with an uncomfortable looking, old, leather wheelchair. Putting the
brakes on, he helped me slide into it and I could feel the heat
from the eyes staring at us.
“You should be nice to me. I’m in complete
control of your wellbeing tonight.”
I pondered this for a second. “This is
“Ladies are gonna love that I’m pushing you
around, brutha. They like to see a caring guy helping out his
buddy.” We both knew he was right. I guess I was the wingman this
“Hey sexy!” a voice called out behind us and
we both turned to see Brett running towards us. “What are you doing
“I didn’t know they allowed she-males in
this part of town,” I said, reaching my hand out to do the
man-to-man slap, slide, pound, and snap.
“They made an exception since I was helping
to take care of a cripple,” he replied, grabbing my cheek like my
grandma used to when I was a kid.
“Get off me, fag boy,” I added, shoving him
good-naturedly away. I knew perfectly well that Brittney had sent
him to watch out for me. I was glad she did. We hadn’t had the
opportunity to hang out much lately. “Brett, this is Barney.”