I paused on the last step, touched the rope and gazed at the filled seats. Another routine night of work for me, but for everyone in the crowd, it was a highly anticipated moment. Many of them probably drove hundreds of miles just to catch a glimpse of their favorite wrestlers.
Cameras clicked, their flash lighting up like tiny stars blinking in the darkened arena. Then I saw her. I’d waited so long that I wasn’t sure I was actually seeing her, but there she was sitting in reserved front row seating.
My Rose had come to the show. It took a lot of discipline to keep me from running to her, but I planned to perform the match of my life in her honor, giving all I had to impress that blonde-haired bombshell.
Thankfully, my match that night was a quick one and I allowed the referee to raise my hand in victory only briefly because I was in a hurry to get out of there.
It had been hard not to glance her way during the event, but now as I strolled out of the ring, I couldn’t break my gaze. I strolled up to the barricade and held out my hand for her to take, then I lifted her over the wall that stood between us.
Hand in hand, I escorted her up the ramp, fireworks shooting off the edges. By my side, with that one simple gesture, I told the world that my heart belonged to the gorgeous sweetheart I had met on Chatter.
Backstage, Cady threw a hissy fit, jumping up and down like a two-year-old. “How dare you, Ethan Hart! How dare you! Corrine, he can only be with me … it’s in the script … you wrote it! You said you wrote us together for months!”
“Scripts, change. Deal with it.” Corrine ripped up the papers and handed her the pieces. “The fans don’t want to see you and Ethan together. They like him with the girl he met online. They know your relationship is bullshit and that’s bad for the storyline.”
She was right. The fans had followed our love since the beginning. Hell, some had asked me about Rose backstage, at meet-and-greet events, and on social media.
“Ayyyeee! I’m going to tell to my Daddy!” Cady screeched and stomped off.
A group of paparazzi rushed before us, walking backwards to snap their pictures and shout their questions.
“So many people,” Rose meekly stated, clinging to my bicep, seemingly overwhelmed by the swarm of paparazzi and fans.
“Come with me?” I’d found an escape and slipped through a door, ignoring the ‘Keep Out’ sign. An exciting adrenaline rush consumed my entire body as we snuck through the construction zone finding an exit behind a thick wall of plastic. No one followed us and with just a quick sprint across the parking lot, we were safe behind the door of the tour bus.
Seyer was still in the arena waiting for his match and Griff didn’t seem to be around. Leaving us with the coveted solitude I’d wanted for too long.
“Thirsty?” I went to the fridge and offered her a bottle of water, then we sat on the sofa. I managed to contain myself. Politely, being a complete gentleman, I kept a respectful space between us, chatting idly with her even though my mind harbored lustful thoughts it begged my body to act on.
“Don’t you want to kiss me?” She smiled impishly, closing the gap between us.
“Of course.” I felt the heat rise to my face and like a virgin geek, I couldn’t meet her eyes as if the woman could read every immodest thought in my head if I did.
Without another breath, Rose took me into a scorching embrace and pressed her pouty mauve colored lips against mine. Pushing me back to the plush surface, she took control, straddling my body and caressing my cheek with her dainty hand.
“I know I need to shave,” I made excuses for the two-day scruff.
“I love it,” she whispered and I felt things I didn’t think were possible as her fingertips trailed down my chest and traced the line of my abdomen.
I lifted her chin gently. Blonde waves framed her face, highlighting sparkling blue-greens. I chuckled. The enigmatic Rose had a surprising wild side.
“What’s the matter, Mr. Hart? You don’t like it when women take control?” A small pout formed on her lips drawing me in with a thrilling sense of wonder.
“Baby, you can take control of anything you want.” Damn. I sounded like a total fool, my voice cracking like an adolescent teen and I gawked with a stupid ear to ear grin.
Rose giggled and lowered her lips to my neck. Oh, that was the wrong thing for her to do. I growled as she tortured the sensitive skin that drove me insane. Maddening male hormones betrayed me and I was no longer able to contain my desires.
I made short work of her tee-shirt, nearly ripping it from her body. Skin against skin, a sudden warm sensation was all too inviting. Cupping her buttocks in my palms, I quickly reversed our positions, settling her beneath me and wrapping her legs around my waist.
Damn. It was only a dream. Shit, time flew by too fast. I felt like I hadn’t slept at all and I wasn’t ready to leave my fantasy world. I grabbed my phone. I missed a call. Twice. from a blocked number and the message was nothing but faded words I couldn’t make out. As though someone had started talking to someone else before hanging up the phone. So nice to know how easily the caller forgot me?
“You’re awake.” Cady’s arms encircled me, her hands caressing my bare chest. “I don’t know why I irritate you so.”
I should have known better than to take a nap in the bungalow I had to share with her. She climbed into my bed even though there was another bedroom. I should have locked the damn door.
“Don’t you like my outfit?” She rolled her body away just enough to show off the lacy red lingerie she wore. “I bought it just for you.”
“It’s … sexy,” I admitted. At that moment, I thought about giving in to Cady just to cure my erection.
I’d made one last attempt to contact Rose, blowing the cover of my fake account. I was having a difficult time convincing myself that she was gone for good, but I swore it would be the last time.
“I knew you would like it.” The temptress squirmed her way between the silken sheets. Her lips lightly touched my skin and her hand touching my hardness. “I just knew it would turn you on.”
“You didn’t cause that.” I corrected and moved her hand away.
“There’s no one else here silly.” She laughed.
“Why do you want me so much, Cady?”
“Because you’re the best.”
“The best?” I chuckled sourly. “At what?”
“You’re the number one star.”
“I only date winners, Ethan. You should feel honored. I would never date a loser.”
“The winners are written out on paper before I even set foot in the ring.” I cackled. “That doesn’t make me anything special.”
“I don’t mean in the ring. You’re the MWC’s top star. The fans favorite. That means you get the endorsements. You get the special treatment …”
“You mean I get the big paycheck!” I spat. It was so hard to make myself care about her when I knew she didn’t, and probably wouldn’t, like me for my true self.
“I have my own money, Ethan. A lot more than you make.” She straddled me and brought ruby red lips to mine.
I turned my head and gently pushed her away.
“So it’s my fame then? That’s what I thought.” I pulled on my shirt and headed for the door.
“Where are you going?”
“I have to get out of here.”
The Diamond Cove’s swimming pool was the perfect place to drown my sorrow due to its close proximity and low population. Void of water slides and an on-duty lifeguard, the indoor amenity couldn’t hold its own with its outdoor sister, but it was perfect for a man like me who craved solitude.
Privacy. That’s all I needed. I held out my arms and lifted my head, soaking up the sun that poured through the glass roof.
Seyer showed up shortly after, having the same idea and we swam laps, racing from one cement wall to the other until our arms and legs ached.
Exhausted, I collapsed in a padded lounger. My phone found my hand as if it were magnetic. Exercise had not diminished the need to browse Chatter. Again. My encounter with Cady had only enraged my desire to pursue my online love interest. It was the only hint of true love I’d found and I couldn’t justify letting it go.
I browsed Rose’s Chatter page for the dozenth time that day. Still blank. For consolation, I signed into my true account and I reread our past messages. How many times had she said she was in a relationship? How many times had she followed it with ‘It’s complicated’? How is it complicated if you’re in love?
“Give me that thing.” Seyer jokingly snatched the device.
“Hey!” I jumped to my feet to chase him and nearly slipped on the wet surface.
Seyer twisted side to side and tossed the object from one hand to the other, using his foot and a half height advantage so he could nosily read. “What happened to my geeky gamer friend, huh?” Seyer slipped the phone behind his back, grabbing it with his free hand, lifted it high again. “You haven’t been on Torel in months. You used to be on that game every free moment you had.”
“I still love it.” Of course, I did. With my character and alias, I was free to be a normal person. No one knew who I truly was and I’d made a lot of decent friends with whom I spoke to through a wireless headset. I attended parties, shopped, raced cars on the street and sometimes entered battles. It was an alternate universe, another life … a wonderful getaway.
“You begged her?” Seyer tilted his head back to read without me taking possession. “Man are you that hard up?” He had managed to invade my private messages.
“Give me my phone.” I reached for it only to have him wrench it away yet again.
“To Tori Storm,” he mocked in a high-pitched, girl’s voice. “Laugh out loud. I’ve said it before and I’ll say again for all of Chatter to read. You are the most insane person I know. Someone needs to fit you for a straitjacket.”
“What? I haven’t seen that. When did she write that?” And how did he see that? Had she finally lifted the block?
“Just now.” Seyer pretended to give it up. Pulling it back just as it was in reach. I hopped up. Snatched for it. Bumping it hard enough to send it flying … right into the swimming pool.
“Shit!” It sunk like a rock. “You idiot!”
“You know,” Seyer rested a forearm on my shoulder and tried so hard to sound serious, but a smirk betrayed his straight lined lips. “You would think it would float.”
“If you hurry, you might be able to save this one. Just think of it as a really big toilet. It worked after you dropped it in your piss, right? At least this is cleaner.”
“Dive in, buddy.”
“Me? You dropped it, you get it.”
“You knocked it out of my hand.”
Seyer’s arms and legs flailed awkwardly as he hit the water thanks to my unexpected shove and came back to the surface gasping for air. He coughed, wiped water from his eyes then dove to the bottom of the deepest part of the pool. Quickly retrieved, he laid my phone on the cement at my feet, then kicked off the wall and propelled as far away as he could.
Seyer chuckled hysterically from across the room as I took off the back of my phone and poured out a stream of water. There was no way the thing would still work.
“Moron!” I laughed. I couldn’t help it. It was freakin’ hilarious.
“Feels good to laugh doesn’t it?”
He was right. I’d been so depressed. My life had become an endless cycle of work, interviews, matches, fans, Chatter, and nothing.
“Hold that thought.” Seyer twisted his body.
Two women in bikinis walking outside the glass walls stole his attention. “Ladies!” He called out. They turned his way. He stretched out his arms to show off his muscular chest and ink sleeved arms.
They giggled but kept walking.
“Oh come on girls! I know there’s a slide outside, but the real fun is in here. I promise!” The girls glanced at each other. Giggled some more, but didn’t take him up on his offer.
“You see?” I gave the young women a point. “THAT is why you have problems with the girl you have at home.”
“I never said she was my girl.” Seyer’s eyes continued to watch the women travel down the stone path. A few weeks before Seyer admitted he entertained a woman he’d known in high school several times in Demora. She worked at a casino he frequented and they’d bumped into each other.
“So what? You’re just gonna let the poor woman sit home waiting, without a clue?”
“Please,” Seyer retorted, coming down to Earth. “That woman thinks a guy is her boyfriend if he buys her a drink. She’s always been that way.” He glanced away and mumbled what sounded like, ‘she had her chance.’
“She can’t be that bad. If she was, you wouldn’t continue staying with her.”
“Man, I just want to relax when I’m home, but I still need to get laid, don’t I? Sally is a sure thing. She never turns me down and she doesn’t mind fetching whatever I want.”
“She is getting a little attached lately.”
“Well, you kind of give her a reason to.”
“She’s the jealous type and I don’t like jealous. If she wants to play house that’s her problem. I keep my tracks covered. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her and I won’t have to deal with her bullshit whining about it.”
“You shouldn’t have to cover your tracks. If you don’t want a girlfriend then don’t keep one on the line.”
“Whatever. She’s not my girl. I’m not stupid. I know why exactly why she’s suddenly interested in me again”
“I’ll set her straight next time I see her. In the meantime, no sense in rocking the boat.”
“Geeze Seyer. Don’t play the woman. Don’t you care about her at all?”
“She’s alright.” There was something behind those uncaring eyes. Was it trepidation? If it was, it wasn’t as obvious as his fear of the fog. “I don’t think I will ever be that crazy about any woman.”
“You’re going to eat your words someday my friend.”
“I doubt it. I figure it this way – If I was truly in love with some chick, don’t you think I would naturally lose my attraction for all other women?”
“In a scary way that makes sense.”
“The day a sexy broad walks by me and I don’t notice – then you can tell me I’m in love. And that’s when I want you to put me out of my misery,” he joked. “Let’s get something to eat.”
“Yeah. Let’s do that as quickly as possible.”
Cady sauntered in wearing a thong bikini … practically nothing. She headed straight for me and draped herself against my right side after letting that stupid mutt of hers free.
Pom-Pom ran straight to the edge of the pool. Growling and fussing at Seyer who snarled and barked back.
“I was getting lonely,” she purred as if I had not walked out on her the hour before. She touched those ridiculously red lips to my cheek. I could already feel the waxy imprint left behind. I clasped her wrists before they could slip beneath my waistband and gently but firmly shifted her away.
“Uh, uh, uh,” she sang. “We have an audience.”
I looked up. A small crowd stood outside snapping pictures. Damn. I had to play along and Cady took full advantage. She waved, making sure her thonged backside would appear in every shot the fans captured. Like a robot, I took her hand. Sat down in a lounger and waited it out, hoping they would grow tired of watching me play with my phone – that refused to power up.
But, Cady wouldn’t leave it alone. She fit her bottom on the edge of my lounger, leaned over and planted a kiss dead on my mouth.
I shut my lips tight. I refused to share an open-mouthed kiss with her. To me, that symbolized true intimacy and my job could never make me give that.
“By the way, who is that woman?”
“The one you mentioned on Chatter?”
The night before, my status update had read:
Velvet Rose, where are you?
In hopes that someone she knew would read it and show it to her. I just needed her to know that I still thought about her.
“Are you cheating on me?” Cady pouted her lips, flipped a strand of hair over her shoulder, then dipped a hand into her bag for a bottle of lotion. I rolled my eyes as she placed it in my hand, turned her back to me and lifted up her hair.
“For the last time, you are not my girlfriend, Cady.” I squeezed a large amount directly on her back making her squeal from the cold. With a quick swipe of my hand, I finished the task quickly and half-assed.
“Well, we’ll just have to see what Daddy has to say about that.”
“Your daddy can’t buy a man’s heart.”
“Want a bet?” She called her rat of a dog, scooped him up and tossed a devious smile over her shoulder. “I’ll be at the good pool, right after I drop Pom-Pom in the room. See you later sweetie … unless you can think of something else we can do right now.” She blew me a kiss.
The girl was nothing but trouble. I could almost see her horns. It didn’t seem to matter to her that I didn’t want to be with her. She acted as if I never uttered the words. Like she heard something completely different in her crazy little mind, but I did follow her into that bungalow.
She smiled, discarded her top and sauntered to me. “Do you think I’m pretty?”
“You look like a doll, Cady, but inside … you’re hideous.”
“I tried to like you. I did and I thought that maybe, just maybe, away from the crowds, away from all your friends you would shed that uptown, stuck up demeanor and show that you actually have a heart.”
“I care,” she whined. “I do.”
“Oh, yeah. I know you care,” I spat sarcastically. “You care about going on expensive trips. You care about money. You care about social standings. Hell, the only thing you’ve ever talked about is how much you own and how much it all cost.”
“Most guys like that about me.”
“Most guys just want to use you.”
“And you don’t.”
“No. At first, I hoped that we would hit it off, but since the day you made your crush on me known you have not once asked me anything about myself. You have never shown any interest in who I am as a person.”
“I know plenty about you,” she insisted.
“Do you, Cady? Fine. What do you know about me?” I was willing to test her.
“I know that you are a ten-time MWC champion. I know that your merchandise sells out before it’s even stocked on the shelves and I know that every woman in the world wishes they had you.”
“Yeah. You know like … what I enjoy doing in my spare time? My future plans? Where do I come from? Do you know any of that?”
“I know that we are so popular as a couple that anyone who’s anybody in Jenithiyah wants us at their charity events and parties.”
“I don’t give a damn what the world thinks about us being together. This is it, Cady. Unless you can give me one reason to give you a chance … besides your daddy being my boss … I’m ending this.”
She stood dumbfounded.
“That’s what I thought.” I packed my things and headed to Seyer’s bungalow.
“You can’t just walk out!” Cady ranted and raved. Screamed and shouted, then ran to her Daddy. Did she honestly think her threats to have me fired would make me fall in love? The way I felt that day, I didn’t give a damn. I’d gladly go back to fixing roads and erecting buildings.