Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 90
I just want him gone.
I quicken my pace until I’m walking through the doors of the student lounge and outside where there aren’t as many people around. He’s still following me, but at least there’s no one around to witness me falling apart if I let him do that to me yet again.
But I won’t let him do that to me.
I’ve resolved to turn myself into steel when it comes to him. I imagine myself putting on a superwoman outfit, one that’s resistant to the weapons of arrogant players like Wesley Reynolds.
“How many times do I have to tell you to leave me alone?” I demand, spinning around to face him finally, now that the only emotion shown on my face is annoyance— I hope.
“Fine, I’ll leave,” he says, shaking his head at me. “It’s not like I want to be some creepy stalker. I was just trying to fucking talk to you.”
And then, softer and with less defiance, he adds, “I didn’t think you were like this.”
Like what ? I wonder, but I don’t ask him out loud. Because I’m sure I don’t want to hear the answer.
Clearly he didn’t think I had enough self-respect to cut him off once it became obvious that he isn’t that into me. He’s used to girls agreeing— explicitly or tacitly— to be his booty call.
They probably wait around for him to call them up after he’s gone on a date with another girl. They’re probably eager for him to fit them in at his beck and call.
“Well, you were wrong,” I tell him. “Because I’m exactly like this. Just like you are exactly like you. Which I already knew, because I heard all about it. How you were such a player. How you got into trouble at your old school…”
“Who told you that?” he asks, without denying it.
“Taylor,” I say, and then wish I hadn’t. I don’t owe him any information.
“Oh, of course,” he says sarcastically. “The ever- knowledgeable Taylor.”
“Just leave her out of this…” I start to say, but at the same time, he says, “Look, I don’t mean anything against Taylor. I just don’t know what good it does to bring up allegations from the past that are based on hearsay. I’m sure both of us have been different in the past but let’s focus on the here and now.”
I look at him, trying to figure out what any of this means. He obviously sees a ray of hope and decides to keep trying.
“I thought we had something going on that was new and different.”
He squares his jaw, as if he really means it, but I want to explode at how low he’ll stoop.
“Now you’re playing the ‘it’s different with us’ card?” I glare at him. “I can’t believe what a walking cliché you are.”
“What are you talking about?” he says, feigning innocence.
“Oh please. Like you didn’t try to feed that same line of bullshit to the girl you went on a date with last week.”
“What?” He blinks, his face a big fake question mark. “Last week?”
“Oh yeah, I guess you go on so many dates you can’t keep track, so I’ll spell it out for you.”
I didn’t mean to let it slip that I had seen him with the other woman. It shows how vulnerable I am and that it bothers me.
But now that it’s out there, I’m done with any pretenses. I just want to let him know that I know so he’ll finally leave me alone and I can start having some peace.
“Last Monday at Moon Howl Grill.”
I watch with quiet satisfaction as the recognition sets in. He can’t deny or squirm out of anything now.
“Chelsea, that wasn’t a date,” he says, with a sigh.
But he doesn’t say what it was. He’s clearly holding something back.
I bet next he’s going to tell me that he was trying to break it off with her, or she’s “just a friend” or something. I don’t want to give him the chance.
“And even if it was—” he continues, making me want to say “A ha! Caught you!”, but I don’t— “What’s it to you? You say we can’t get serious because of your father, so we have to sneak around and barely even talk to each other, and then you get mad at me because you think I was on a date with someone else? What do you expect from me? To wait around on the pool bleachers for you forever?”
I can’t believe his attempts to turn everything back around on me.
“Well what about you?” I start to say, ready to fire back with ammunition of my own.
He was the one feeling jealous and possessive about my past when we were at the amusement park. Yet he thinks I’m stupid for not wanting him to date anyone else in the here and now?
“What about me?” He asks. “Come on. Let’s have it out. I’m so sick of this back and forth…”
But it’s not worth it.
I don’t want him to know how much I care.
“Nothing about you. Never mind. It was nice knowing you, Wesley.” I start to walk away from him yet again. “Good luck with the rest of the season and all of that.”
“You really don’t believe anything I say, do you?” he asks, but he doesn’t follow me this time.
Of course he’s trying to blame everything on me. It must be in some sort of player’s handbook. I’m not going to give him the satisfaction of arguing.
I just say, “No, I don’t,” and keep walking.
Away from him, and from the disaster that was my apparent attempt to tie down a player.
What the hell was I thinking?
Chapter 38 – Chelsea
“What the hell was I thinking?” I ask Taylor, later that night.
She’s come to my house for a sleepover, so that I’m not left alone with my stuffed teddy bear yet again.
“Look, Chelsea, you didn’t know this would happen,” she says. “You liked someone. You followed your heart. That’s nothing to regret.”
“Well I certainly regret it. In fact, I’m still caught up wondering, ‘What if?’ What if he really wasn’t on a date? I didn’t even give him a chance to explain…”
“Okay, yeah, I have to stop you right there,” she says, shaking her head at me. “Because I do think we can be reasonably sure he was on a date. And even if he wasn’t, there were a bunch of other red flags before that. He ditched the Frisbee game he’d invited you to, without any explanation. He ignored your text and chose to go out with some girl— whoever she was—instead of meeting you in your spot.”
“Yeah, but he seemed to be really offended by the fact that we had to only meet in that spot,” I tell her, thinking back to what Wesley had said during our fight. “It’s like he was mad that we couldn’t see each other or be a real couple, but it was his idea to keep it all a big secret. Wait. Wasn’t it?”
Nothing's making sense to me anymore.
“Chelsea, I know you’re second guessing everything right now. You can’t trust yourself because you’ve been hugely let down by someone you thought cared about you. But now is not the time to re-write history. Give it a few days and you’ll be back to feeling great about yourself for nipping this in the bud before you were in too deep.”
“But that’s the problem,” I tell her. “I already got in so deep. And I truly thought he had too. I know, I know… that’s the point of the game he was playing. That’s how they all do it. But I just wish I had a way to know for sure, so that I had some sense of closure.”
“I understand,” Taylor says. “I wish life would give us a big sign about these kinds of things. But it doesn’t. So let’s go have some ice cream and forget about our worries for a while, shall we?”
“Good idea,” I tell her. “I’m sorry I’m such a bad sleepover host. All I do is moan and bitch, and I don’t even give you any ice cream as a reward for putting up with me. You have to ask for it in between listening to my sad sob stories.”
“Don’t be silly,” she says. “That’s what I’m here for. And for the ice cream in your freezer, of course.”
I laugh. But before we make it out of my room, I get another text from Mandy’s mom.
It’s a suspected drug overdose. She’s in a coma. Please keep this information confidential.
“Oh my god,” I say, upset all over again.
Taylor looks just as upset as I feel.
We hug each other.
“Yeah. I guess. I don’t understand why Mandy would take drugs,” I tell her.
“Well, she was kind of a partier…” she says, and I reluctantly nod, thinking about all the houses she’s trashed when she drank too much and a couple times that she got kicked out of bars for being too drunk.
“But still,” I say.
“Yeah, I know. It’s insane. And Chelsea?”
Taylor looks hesitant.
I’m just as hesitant.
“I don’t know how I can tell you this, but I really think you should know.”
I have a sinking feeling in my stomach and I already know what she’s going to say.
“I wasn’t going to tell you at first,” she continues. “Because I didn’t think it was completely relevant to the, um, situation. But when I was talking to Christian about Wesley, he told me that, well…”
“Let me help you out,” I tell her, surprised by how sarcastic my voice sounds. “He told you that Wesley got in trouble for selling drugs at Huningdale.”
“Wow,” she says, reacting with a similar tone to the one I was just using without really meaning to. “You knew that?”
The question implies another one. And you’re still entertaining thoughts of the two of you being together?
“Look Taylor, it’s complicated. I didn’t really know what to believe. Just like you said, the source is sketchy, we have no proof of anything…”
“Yeah but that’s really suspending a lot of judgment for a guy you barely know,” Taylor scolds.
I nearly break down crying.
“I know,” I almost blubber. “But I did think I knew him. How could he be so nice to me? So good to me, when really…”
“…when really it’s all just a sham?” Taylor asks.
I nod, feeling pathetic.
“Because that’s how players are. That’s why you should never get your heart involved.”
“I tried not to, Taylor,” I tell her. “I tried to be like you, and just let loose and have some fun. I guess I let him trick me. And he really got me good. I really am so pathetic.”
“Now, now,” Taylor says, putting her arms around me again. She pats me on the back. “It’s okay. You can’t help how you feel. He’s the pathetic one, not you.
I sigh, knowing she’s right but not completely feeling it.
“Don’t you think some ice cream could help this situation?” Taylor asks.
I laugh, glad she always knows how to lighten the moment.
“Yes. No matter how bad things get, ice cream always helps,” I tell her.
As we enter the kitchen, we see my dad sitting at the table, his mouth agape as he reads a piece of paper in his hand. I quickly wipe my eyes, hoping he doesn’t notice I was crying.
But I needn’t have worried. He’s completely caught up in something obviously upsetting to him. He certainly looks distraught.
“Dad, are you okay?” I ask him.
“I’ve been better,” he says, and then he shrugs. “Say, do either of you know of any good math tutors?”
“Why?” I ask.
“It appears my star player needs some tutoring. Hopefully that’s all he needs.”
I accidentally sigh far too loudly.
“Oh my god,” I exclaim. “That figures. He can’t even pass his classes, either. He’s too busy…”
As my dad looks at me curiously, I catch myself and say, “…playing football all the time. All your players are more jocks than scholars. That’s why I’d never want to date any of them. Their brain is the one muscle they never exercise.”
“Well that’s good,” he says. “Because I sure wondered why you seemed so interested in Wesley Reynolds. I don’t think I could handle any more bad news today.”
“Ha ha,” I fake laugh, acting like that is the funniest thing I’ve heard in ages.
Taylor swoops in to rescue me.
“I may know of some good students who tutor math,” she says, throwing me a wink. “Let me ask around and get back with you tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Taylor,” my dad says. “I’d appreciate it.”
And then I scoop out ice cream for Taylor, and some for my dad too. I’m glad for Taylor’s quick saves and her listening ear. And for not mentioning anything to my dad about Mandy’s drug overdose and the suspected link to Wesley. It’s still just a rumor and I need to sort it all out before my dad finds out.
But not right now. All I want to do tonight is relax and hang out with my BFF and forget about the bad boy I was too stupid to stay away from until now.
Chapter 39 – Wesley
My head whirls as a recently thrown football comes into contact with it.
“Ouch! What the—” I begin, but I’m soon interrupted.
“Reynolds, Reynolds, earth to Reynolds!” Coach Thompson taunts as he approaches me.
Is this some kind of joke? I wonder. He’s not saying it in a funny way but rather in a menacing way. Just like the way he’s walking.
Why on earth is Coach mad at me? I’ve been standing on the sidelines, minding my own business. The defensive line is on the field, so it wasn’t my turn to play.
“Did you see that ball whizzing at you, or do I need to make you an appointment at the eye doctor’s?” Coach Thompson asks.
Now he’s right in front of me, glaring at me. Yep, he’s definitely mad at me.
“I’m not even on the field…” I start to protest, but he cuts me off yet again.
“You should always have your eyes on the field,” he huffs. “You need to be studying everything that happens at all times. Not looking elsewhere or having your head in some pie in the sky fantasy.”
Does he think I was looking at Chelsea? I wonder. Because for once, I wasn’t.
I’ve been trying to forget about her, ever since she straight up told me to get lost.
But it isn’t easy. Sure, I still think about Chelsea more than I should, but it’s not like Coach can read my mind.
“You’re on thin ice, Reynolds,” Coach says. “Come to my office after practice. We need to talk.”
Maybe Chelsea told him about us and he’s as mad at me as she is?
But I don’t think she’d want to incur her dad’s wrath just to get back at me.
“More trouble in paradise?” Christian asks, coming up to me after Coach Thompson walks away.
“I have no idea what’s up with him,” I say, making a point of keeping my eyes on the field as I talk to Christian. “Or what’s up with anyone anymore. It’s like everyone’s mad at me for no reason.”
“You still pining for Chelsea?”
I put my helmet on, both so that my facial expressions can’t reveal my true feelings for her, and also so that I’m protected if Coach decides to throw any more footballs at my face.
“I just don’t understand what happened,” I tell him.
I hadn’t gone into great detail about everything. I like to leave some things private, and even though Christian is my only good friend here so far, I’ve really only just met him.
“Well, just let it go,” he tells me, with a shrug. “She’s just a cock tease. That much is obvious.”
There’s something sinister in the way he talks about her that makes me want to defend her, even though I know I shouldn’t give a damn. I decide to change the subject, because I don’t want to give myself away.
Plus, I can’t really defend her, anyway. I hadn’t told him we’d had sex, so I can’t exactly point out that she’s not a cock tease.
“Thanks for your help with that algebra test,” I told him. “I was never taught that way to do it. I can’t believe no one ever told me about it.”
“Well, you do come from a school where they focus more on sports than academics,” Christian smirks.
“But no problem,” he says. “Glad I could help.”
It’s the offense’s turn to take the field, so I hurry out there to avoid any accusations from Coach Thompson that I’m being too slow or that my head is still in the clouds.
I try to concentrate on practice, but it’s not even Chelsea over-shadowing my thoughts now. It’s Coach Thompson, and trying to figure out what the hell I did to get into hot water with him.
Chapter 40 – Wesley
I knock on the open door of Coach Thompson’s office after practice, and he motions me in, without looking up from his desk and says, “Just come in, Reynolds. You don’t have to knock. Have a seat.”
He looks ragged, and I realize that maybe his anger was a cover for something else. Peering into his face, I guess disappointment maybe. Sadness?
I take a seat on the opposite side of his desk and he slides over the piece of paper he had been looking at.
“Reynolds, I took a big risk on you, when I agreed to let your dad pull some strings to allow you to come here. And quite frankly, so did the director of athletics, and even the dean of the school. Our division funding could depend on this. You told me you would behave, and keep your grades up.”
“I have been, Coach! I swear.”
“Well, this letter says otherwise,” he says, nodding down at it, silently instructing me to read it.
I look at the letter. It’s from the dean.
This correspondence officially notifies you that Wesley Reynolds failed his algebra exam and is currently failing the class. Further, he’s been absent from class…
“What the—?” I sigh, and shake my head. I push the paper back to him as if it’s on fire. “This can’t be true.”
“Well, are they making this up?” he asks. “Your algebra professor? The dean?”
“I mean, I guess not,” I tell him, my head swirling in disbelief. “But I studied hard for that test. Sure, I didn’t understand the concepts at first and I had missed one class that covered them. But that was the only class I’d missed all semester.”