Follow My Heart (The Wrestler's Heart Book 1)

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Chapter Twenty-Two

(Ethan)

“Come on, Seyer! I’m starving!” I had unpacked, dressed and I was still waiting on that man.

“Hold on, I got to shave.”

“Shave? Come on Seyer, how much hair could you have grown since this morning?” Seyer took great pains to look his best at all times. He spent no less than an hour on his appearance before he was ready to go anywhere. Sharing a bathroom with a woman had never been as bad.

I sat on the bed. Yeah, there had to be more to Seyer’s wild ways than he would let on. He had to want something more. He wouldn’t put forward so much effort otherwise. Often, I dismissed my friend’s behavior believing he wanted more than he was finding. Hell, Seyer would probably find true love before I did. At least he was looking while I sat back waiting for the love of my life to fall into my lap. Maybe I was the one going about it the wrong way.

I watched a couple walk by my window. Kissing and giggling. I craved that. The couple’s life. I wanted that and everything that came with it. I wanted to buy roses and soak up the expression my love interest displayed when I gave her my surprise. Nothing was better than a candlelit dinner under the stars. Nothing made me feel alive more than the look of complete admiration shining in a woman’s eyes. Being in love was the best feeling in the world. It gave me a high in which no other drug could compete. It didn’t matter how many times I crashed and burned, I would pursue it until I felt its magical influence again.

“Finally! A man could starve waiting on you!”

Seyer emerged and a few moments later, we were sitting at a table in the resort’s restaurant. An attractive waitress promptly addressed us and of course, Seyer flirted.

“Really, you had to bring it to dinner?” Seyer mused, his eyes still on the waitress who moved around behind the bar serving other customers.

“My phone is broken. I haven’t had time to replace it,” Ethan retorted sarcastically. Yes. My laptop accompanied me to dinner. I couldn’t quit thinking about Rose. Or looking for her. I wanted to stop. Sort of.

“This is what? The fifth phone you’ve dropped and broken.”

“It’s the third. Get it right. And I didn’t drop the last one, remember?”

“My bad. So are you going to meet Chatter Chick or what?”

“I don’t know. She doesn’t exactly have a lot to say to me lately.”

“You said she didn’t talk to you at all.”

“No,” I admitted.

“She was talking about some guy in her posts tonight.”

“Yeah.” It was disappointing. She didn’t give a name and she didn’t go into details, yet anyone could read between the lines. She still had a boyfriend, they were having some issues, but she was sticking with him. “But it doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.” That’s what it should have meant. I couldn’t lie to myself. My thoughts blew that friendship line all to hell.

“I wouldn’t sweat her too hard. You’ll always have me.”

“Lucky me.”

Seyer threw a wadded up napkin at my way and we both laughed when it landed in my water glass.

“You’re going to break the record for the most things dropped in water in one day.”

“So, has she answered you yet since you commented on her recent post?”

“No.” I’d tagged her while I waited on Seyer in the room.

2Velvet Rose: Boo!

I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Was I invading her space? The post had been to Tori Storm. Not me. Her posts were never for me these days.

“I sent her another request. She hasn’t accepted.”

“Maybe she’s working. What time does she get off?”

“I have no idea.”

“Just find a new fan to obsess over already.”

“You know sometimes I wonder why I hang out with you.”

“Because I’m the only one who can put up with your ego.”

“Yeah, and yours is nonexistent.”

“If it doesn’t work out, you can always hit on that hot friend of hers. She’s the big wrestling fan, right? I bet she wouldn’t have any problem meeting you anywhere.”

“That wouldn’t be right.”

“It’s not like you actually know either of them.”

“What do you know about Tori Storm anyway?”

Seyer held up his cell and introduced me to Tori Storm, an amateur wrestler and I assumed Rose’s best friend. She looked a little scary. Dressed all in black with thick lines drawn to a point around her eyes. Still, very pretty. She was tall. Great figure. She seemed interesting, but not my type. No one was. I was attracted to the forbidden. To those, I couldn’t have and I feared it would always be that way.

The crowd in the hotel lounge dwindled, making the room feel empty. Most of the patrons had moved on to other venues. Seyer was busy being Seyer and me … well I was bored.

I tapped the buttons on my laptop and decided it was time to log into Torel. I hadn’t been online in months and I wanted to buy a couple of limited-time items advertised in the email I’d just read. It was an old message, but maybe I could find them. I hadn’t been on the game in so long I had forgotten where I had left my guy and when it loaded I found him sitting on the edge of a cliff in my backyard training course.

Damn goon. He just sat there waiting for his next command in the middle of nowhere. I laughed at his swinging legs and headed to obtain the items I’d logged in for and soon after I found myself immersed in the game.

Seyer talked nonstop beside me about the phone numbers he had collected. Bragging was more like it and the waitress was going to take him to a club that was supposed to be amazing after her shift.

“You should come too. I’m sure I can get you a date.”

“I have to get a new phone. I should have already gone. But that’s what I love about this island. It never sleeps. Reminds me of New York City.”

“Huh?”

“Nothing.” I tapped on the keyboard and kept my eyes peeled. I was heading into a dangerous realm and I had to be ready, but I had taken the right car for it. The one I had fitted with some effective and cool looking toys. My favorite ride that was ready for anything, anytime, anywhere.

“You went to Granota?” Seyer glanced over my shoulder.

Seyer and I had found the game together, but I wasn’t as hooked as Seyer. Granota was Seyer’s chosen realm. He’d spent a lot of time on his character, collected a group of faithful minions, making himself a mob boss of sorts, protected by a small family of characters. His avatars name alone caused fear, or excitement when spotted roaming the world. Of course, he’d find fame in a virtual world. He was a charismatic guy, friendly and funny when he wanted to be.

“I told you not to go there without me. Are you crazy?”

“Maybe.” I laughed.

Granota supposedly mimicked the worst cities on the outside. But I knew those places weren’t that bad unless you went by the news and what they chose to highlight.

“So, which one do you want?” Seyer went back to his original thought and the stack of napkins in his hand. I glanced. There was a buffet of women. Each napkin inked with a phone number and Seyer’s personal notes. Blonde. Brunette. Nice legs. Big Tits. Nice ass. Etcetera.

“I’ll pass.” Back to the screen. I was looking for trouble, but the streets of Granota were unusually barren.

“Oh, I get ya. You’ll pick up someone at the club.”

“You act like I’m ordering take out.”

“Well, that’s kind of what it is,” Seyer smirked.

“You are sick. I think I’m going to hang out in the room and catch up on Torel. I missed a lot of good shit. Maybe I can find some of it.”

“Ah, that’s why you’re in Granota.” The only realm with pawn shops. I would have to go to Tiara Shores for the auction houses. That’s where all the ritzy, high-class players hung out.

“I got a lot of that new crap in my shop. You didn’t miss anything. It’s literally crap … Hey, hey! Looky what we have here!”

I brought my virtual car to a stop at the suspension bridge. A cute female avatar stepped out of a taxi cab.

“A shore dweller. She must be lost.” I could almost see Seyer salivating.

“Do you see what she’s wearing? Or am I imaging things?”

“Nope. Year one vintage.” Seyer whistled. If my friend had his laptop, he’d be online in seconds and the poor girl would be stripped moments after that. “Oh yeah, she’s definitely lost. Probably bored and just looking around. I bet she’s never been off Tiara Shores. You can’t pass that up, man.”

“Easy prey.” I chuckled and flipped on my headset. I playfully exchanged pleasantries with the female avatar.

“What are you doing?” Seyer asked.

“Getting her away from the bridge. Too many hooligans hide in those bushes. I’d hate to get my hands on that necklace just to get jumped from behind by some gang.”

“Don’t take too long. If she gets scared she’ll shut down the game and poof.”

I showed her around, took her to a couple of shops including Seyer’s, where she dropped a ton of coins.

“Man, I don’t know if I can do it.” I clicked off my headset every time I talked to Seyer. “She’s too nice.” And I started to like her enough to ask her to be a friend on my list.

“Your call man, but those things don’t pop up very often.” Seyer was right. That necklace would buy me a lot of stuff. Hell, just owning it made me rich. It was just a game, nothing personal, I decided. I wanted that item in the hidden safe behind my virtual desk.

“I think that purse is old school too.” Seyer pointed out.

“Third year. Worth two-hundred-k at least.”

“I’ll give a mil for everything she’s wearing.”

“Do you think I’m a noob, Seyer? That necklace is worth a hundred times that.”

“Fine, two-hundred-k for everything else.”

“Two-fifty.”

“Deal.”

“What the hell?” I exclaimed. I made my move and a soft lavender mist surrounded my character. I couldn’t move anything. None of my commands worked. My avatar’s head lulled around with little purple hearts drifting from the top of his head and similar hearts blinked like a neon billboard in his eyes. Then …

Major E.H. Nighthawk:

TERMINATED!

The words flashed in the center of the screen, blinking in white letters while my jaw hung low. Shocked wasn’t the word. It was completely unexpected. She’d seemed so kind … so innocent … so completely incapable of violence.

“Damn, boy! You really don’t have any luck with women.” Seyer cackled over my shoulder.

“Shut up – and she took my freaking car!”

“Well, you were gonna do the same thing to her.”

“I was only gonna wound her … and I would have left her a healing pack! She cut my freakin’ head off!” I tapped the touchscreen and the keyboard frantically, hoping it was a mistake or a joke. “Maybe she was one of those witches. They have false fatality spells they like to wield just to scare the hell out of people, right? Son-of-a-bitch! It’s gonna cost me twenty bucks to revive him.”

“Pocket change – it’s the twenty-four hour wait that sucks.” Seyer patted my shoulder. “I guess that means you’ll be going out tonight after all.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll call you as soon as I get my new phone. You can give me directions.”

“Alright. See ya later man. And you’ll change your tune about Chatter Chick after a few beers! I’m going to get you drunk tonight, you’ll be hitting on anything with tits. I don’t know anyone who needs to get laid more than you!” Seyer blurted out whatever he thought and he purposely embarrassed me on occasion. It was all in fun but it still made me hide my face with my hand until his Seyer was out the door.

I took out my wallet to pay the bill as I watched the flashing message. It bummed me out. I was going to have start to all over at level one. Thankfully, I’d signed up and paid for insurance and left all my Torel riches to Seyer’s character. It was probably already sitting in his virtual living room in a large crate waiting for Seyer and he’d send it all back as soon as I revived Major Nighthawk.

At least I’d have five million coins to start over with after splitting the policy with Seyer. It was a pact we’d made to protect ourselves just in case, but damn I never thought it would happen. We were both excellent players.

I started to close my laptop but paused. Okay, I had to know who had slaughtered my avatar. Experienced players always left a calling card behind and this girl was definitely experienced.

Decapitation courtesy of Velvet Rose.

No, it couldn’t be! The words dug the knife in a little deeper. It was simple but elegant. But that name. Could it be the same woman? Or just a coincidence?

Rose’s allure was stronger than ever. I thought about her as I picked out a phone. Choosing one identical to the last. Luckily, the memory chip in my drowned phone survived, saving all my numbers, pictures, and music. I transferred it to my phone, and I was back in business.

Ice cream from a nearby kiosk called to me before I could make it to the exit. A forbidden treat. My job dictated my diet as well as my life, but a scoop of Rocky Road was my kryptonite.

After losing ten years of Torel experience, I needed something to make me feel better. It was so weird that the character that had taken me out was a Shore dweller. I couldn’t get over it and I couldn’t get over her alias. Velvet Rose.

I wanted to be mad but the entire thing made me smile. My Rose was a gamer geek just like me. She floated around in the same alternate universe as me. Wow. I only learned tiny hints about her along the way but with each discovery I only became sure of one thing … she was definitely the one.

Okay, so we lurked around different realms, but she obviously dabbled a bit in all of them. It made me wish I’d spent more time in Tiara Shores over the years, but was it truly her? There was no telling how many women used that alias, but I hoped with all I had that it was true. I couldn’t have her in real life but, in the game, she could be my girl. I could spend time with her. Oh, as soon as I could get back on that game I was going to find that woman and I was going to ask her on a virtual date.

“Now you really have gone mad!” I talked to myself like a lunatic in the middle of the food court. “In the game? Really, Ethan? You want to date her in a pretend world? After she killed you? You honestly need a strait-jacket.”

A group of teens stared at me as they passed by, moving cautiously and whispering to each other.

“What? Haven’t you ever seen a man talking to himself before?” I licked my ice cream with fast slurping licks. “I was just having a little argument with myself. Right?” I turned my head side to side as if I was talking to people who weren’t there. “Right.”

The kids nearly tripped over each other in an effort to put as much distance as possible between them and the mad man they probably thought I was. I slumped down in the seat and sent a Chatter message. Privately because I didn’t want the world to know I played Torel.

***

P.M. to Velvet Rose:

Did you just slice off my head and drive off in my Camaro?

***

It was somewhat vague, but if Rose were my Torel assassin, she would know exactly what I was talking about and if she wasn’t, she would just think I was completely insane. Which maybe I was.

“Come on Rose,” I mumbled, checking constantly for a response. I was desperate to know if she was behind that avatar. It renewed my hope. A new place to meet her where I could hear her voice, but mostly I needed her to reply because there was a hole in my heart and it was vulnerable beating there outside of my skin. The feeling was far worse than losing Stacy.

The memory of this woman, that I had never held, never kissed, refused to leave my thoughts. How in the world could she make me miss her so much? How could she evoke so many feelings and so much pain? It baffled me. I couldn’t explain it and I couldn’t forget.

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