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The Pucking Wrong Number: Chapter 17


The party was at one of the rookie’s places, a player named Angelo. It was apparently a rite of passage that the rookies got to have their homes trashed for the playoff party.

It was completely packed when the elevator door opened and we stepped into the apartment, the raucous sound of the party hitting me like a wall. My heart sank as I took in the wild scene around me, immediately feeling like a fish out of water in an unfamiliar world.

The air was thick with the smell of alcohol and sweat, the noise level so loud I’d have to shout to be heard. Everywhere I looked, people were drinking and dancing, lost in a frenzy of wild abandon that left me feeling more and more out of place with each passing moment. Everyone seemed like they’d stepped out of a magazine, beautiful and polished in ways I could only dream. Other than a few guys who were wearing jerseys, I was the only girl I could see with one on. All of the other girls were dolled up in dresses fit for a club. And here I was, with my crotch ripped out.

“I’m going to find the bathroom,” I told Lincoln, stopping suddenly in the front entry.

“I’ll come with you,” he said immediately, his hand warm on my lower back, but I shook my head. I could see a line of women down the hallway, obviously waiting their turn for the bathroom. I only needed a minute. Just to get myself ready for this night, without his overwhelming energy fogging my brain.

“I’ll be right in there. Don’t try to leave,” he warned, like he’d stop me if I tried.

“Alright,” I said with a laugh at his joke, even though there was no sign he was joking.

I got in line as he moved further into the apartment. A loud cheer went up as people noticed who had arrived. The other girls stared past me as they looked eagerly down the hallway.

“Daniels is here,” they whispered excitedly to each other, before then going into explicit detail of everything they wanted to do to his body. The fact that I was wearing a jersey with his name on it didn’t seem to garner any attention.

It sounded like some of them had already had the pleasure of a night with him.

“I’ll never have anything like it again,” a girl further up the line sighed. “I’m literally ruined, and now he wants nothing to do with me. I would literally do anything for a repeat. Anything,” she emphasized.

Another girl asked for details, and I tried to block my ears, because I didn’t want to imagine him doing anything with anyone else. Not when his mouth was still covered in me, and there was an ache between my legs that missed his tongue.

It was finally my turn, and I hurried into the bathroom, surprised at how clean it was despite the massive amounts of people using it for this party. The whole time I was in there, I tried to bolster my defenses. This was fine. Everything was fine. I could do this. This was the part of life that I’d missed out on. Actually having a social life.

I stepped out of the bathroom and headed down the hall. The throng of people had grown, and it seemed like an almost impossible task to make it to the back where I could see Lincoln and Ari talking. The music was so loud that I couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe, and I felt myself becoming more and more uncomfortable with each passing second.

I waded through the masses, a blur of faces and bodies surrounding me, the chaotic energy of the party all encompassing. A few people gave me appraising stares as I pushed past, like this was an exclusive club, and they knew I didn’t belong. For the most part, though, everyone was doing their own thing.

I finally made it through the last row of people separating me from where Lincoln was holding court, and I stopped and watched him for a moment.

He was surrounded.

By a crowd of worshippers. Beautiful, barely dressed girls whose obvious only goal was to bag him or Ari.

My chest hurt to watch them.

They practically clawed at him, grabbing onto his shirt, brushing a piece of hair out of his face if he turned his head at all. Their eyes were glued to his mouth, like they were tempted to lunge and steal a kiss.

It was almost as if he was unaware they existed, though. He was lost in a conversation with Ari, his gaze flicking to the entrance every couple of seconds like he was watching for me to appear. But they didn’t seem to care that he wasn’t giving them a speck of his attention. They were fine just to bask in his golden glow, desperately hoping he would turn their way.

Is this what it would be like if I gave in? Would I simply be another one of these worshippers, waiting for him to give me the time of day? Would I always hover right outside his orbit, the muted moon to his shining sun?

I stood there watching as the girls clamored for his attention, the ultimate prize. The heat of their envy seeped into my skin, and a jealous rage twisted inside me. The depth of what I was feeling surprised me. It was as if every fiber of my being was screaming at me to stake my claim on him, even if I was just the girl that happened to be caught in his orbit right now.

“Mama needs you to stay in this room, Monroe, okay? Don’t come out under any circumstance. Mama’s got to work,” she said sharply, glancing anxiously behind her to where the noises of people laughing and talking and making weird sounds were coming from.

“Okay, Mama,” I answered, staring at the opulent room around me. Mama usually didn’t take me with her, but the next door neighbor that sometimes watched me had moved, and Mama had said this was too good of an opportunity to pass up—whatever that meant.

She closed the door behind me with one more warning, and I sat in front of the large television that Mama had turned on. It was a show I’d never seen before, and I sat there for hours, completely caught up with Minnie Mouse.

But a lot of hours passed, and my stomach was hurting. Mama had said she would bring me something to eat; we hadn’t had any food since the day before, but she hadn’t been back, not even once. And I was really, really hungry.

Maybe I could quietly sneak out and grab a snack in the kitchen before anyone saw me. That should be okay. This place was so fancy, they wouldn’t even really miss it.

I slowly opened the door, peeking out into the muted light of the hallway. It wasn’t as loud as it was before. But there was slower music playing, the kind that made me sort of sleepy.

I crept carefully down the hall until I got to the entry way that led to another hallway, where the music was louder. I made it halfway down before I came to an open door, and when I peeked inside…

There were women everywhere, their eyes funny and glazed looking, like after Mama took her medicine. They were all gathered around a few men dressed in suits. The men were lounging in fancy leather seats, but the women were kneeling on the floor around them. They were stroking the men’s legs, their chests, pressing kisses to their necks. Some of the girls were even kissing each other. And the whole time the men ignored them, like they weren’t even there, cigars in their hands as they chatted to each other like nothing was happening.

And then I saw Mama. She was leaning over one of the men, her head moving up and down over his lap, her hair covering her face. I was scared, a funny feeling in my stomach that had nothing to do with my hunger. I wanted to call out for her, beg her to take me home. But something told me I couldn’t do that. And so I crept back to the room where she’d left me and cried until I fell asleep.

Mama didn’t come to get me until the next day.

A woman’s loud laughter stirs me from my dark trip down memory lane.

Disgust suddenly clawed at my insides. I was walking down the same path as my mother. I’d end up exactly like her. A pawn for a man who’d throw me away.

I moved to leave, and then a firm hand grabbed hold of my arm.

“Get off me,” I snapped, panic threaded through my voice as I tried to pull away.

“Monroe, hey, it’s just me,” said Lincoln, and I froze and glanced at his drawn features, concern thick in his gaze. His tone was low and gentle over the pounding bass, like he could read that I was on the cusp of running. “Are you okay, baby? Did someone do something?”

I shook my head, fighting the urge to cry. Something was wrong with me. This hurt inside me, this fear, it felt like too much. My skin felt stretched too tight. The room spun, the music and chatter turning into a deafening roar. My heart raced in my chest, my breaths coming in short, panicked gasps. I felt like I was drowning, suffocating in the sea of people around me.

I stumbled backward, as far as his grip would let me go, my head churning as I struggled to keep my balance. My legs felt like jelly, and my body trembled with fear and anxiety.

‘Come on, sweetheart,’ Lincoln soothed, his voice gentle and reassuring as he scooped me into his arms.

I couldn’t talk. My mouth felt dry, my throat thick and broken. I tried to take a deep breath, but it was like I was choking on air.

He led me away from the crowd, out onto a balcony, the cool night air washing over me like a balm.

‘It’s okay,’ he said, his voice soft and comforting. ‘Focus on your breaths. In and out, in and out.’

I closed my eyes and tried to do what he’d said, but the panic refused to subside.

He started singing a song softly then, but it took me a few seconds to recognize the tune. It was ‘Creep’ by Radiohead, a different choice of song for the moment to be sure.

At first, I was surprised, but as he continued to sing, I felt the panic that had been gripping me slowly dissipate. His voice was deep and soothing, and it seemed to wrap around me like a warm blanket.

I don’t care if it hurts

I wanna have control

I want a perfect body

I want a perfect soul

I want you to notice

When I’m not around

He sang the lyrics softly, with feeling, a slight catch to his words like the song meant something to him that extended far beyond this moment. I felt a lump forming in my throat.

The sound of his voice washed over me, calming my nerves and easing my demons. For a moment, I forgot about all the reasons this would never work, why I couldn’t even try, and I Iet it feel like it was just the two of us in our own little world.

When he finished the song, I looked up at him and saw a soft smile on his face. ‘Feeling better, dream girl?’ he asked.

I gulped and nodded, even as a wave of embarrassment washed over me. He’d seen me at my most vulnerable, my most fragile state. My panic attack had stripped away any facade I’d been putting on, leaving me raw and exposed.

I could feel the heat rising to my cheeks as I tried to gather my thoughts and emotions.

But as I looked up at him, there was no judgment in his eyes, only concern. The arm that wasn’t holding me against him gently brushed a strand of hair from my face.

‘Thank you,’ I whispered, still feeling a little shaky.

“What was that about?” he murmured, his gaze flicking across my features in that intense way of his, like he was mapping out the freckles that dotted my nose as though they were constellations in the heavens he was desperate to record.

“Sometimes…it becomes too much,” and he nodded, like he understood perfectly what it felt like to be destroyed from the inside out.

“Why that song?” I asked, wanting to push the attention away from me.

I watched as his expression changed, pain etching itself into every line of his face. It was like a veil had dropped over his eyes, blocking out everything around him as he was lost in his own thoughts.

I didn’t know what had caused the sudden shift in his demeanor, but I could feel the sadness radiating off him in waves. It was like a heavy weight had settled over the room, suffocating us both.

He set me down gently and pulled away, turning towards the Dallas skyline stretched out before us.

For a moment, we stood there in silence, the weight of his sadness everywhere.

Eventually, he took a deep breath, and his gaze flickered back to me, the pain still visible in his eyes. He tried to smile, but it was a weak attempt, and it only made the sadness more apparent.

“Sorry,” he finally chuckled darkly, the sound at odds with everything else about him. “Here I was trying to make you feel better, and I’m fucking it all up.”

I placed my hand on his, where it clutched the railing. His gaze widened in surprise, I guessed because I’d never initiated anything close to it. He stared at it, as if fascinated. I was one shade lighter than him, and it reminded me of the imagery I’d thought of earlier, of the sun and the moon.

“It was my older brother’s favorite song,” Lincoln said suddenly, his voice coming out halting and broken. “My father would beat the shit out of me growing up, and my brother wasn’t old enough to stop him, so he’d sneak into my room at night and try to comfort me. He didn’t know any lullabies, so he’d sing ‘Creep’ to me instead. And every time, it would calm me down.” He shook his head, the small smile on his lips at odds with the pain in his eyes that seemed etched deep into his soul. “It was the first thing that came to me. I, uh, don’t have a lot of experience with this sort of thing.” He shrugged sheepishly.

“What sort of thing?” I asked, cocking my head.

“At feeling someone’s sadness like it belonged to me, too.”

I bit my lip, heat flooding my cheeks at the way he was so earnestly staring at me.

It was the craziest thing, but I could almost feel the unspoken words he was thinking in his head. Words that made me want to stay, and run…all at once.

“There you are,” a flirty voice struck through the moment. I turned to see a stunning woman standing in the entryway to the balcony, her body draped in a form-fitting lace black dress that left little to the imagination. Her hair was long and perfectly curled, cascading down her back in waves of golden silk. She smiled at Lincoln like they were old friends, and I could feel the heat of her gaze searing into my skin.

Her attention flicked away from me after only a moment, clearly not seeing me as a threat. As she stared at Lincoln like she was undressing him with her eyes, jealousy and insecurity raised their heads within me once again. Lincoln greeted her with a disinterested smile, and it was clear he knew her.

For a brief moment, I felt like an outsider in my own skin. I tried to push down the rising tide of emotion, but it was no use.

She took a step closer to Lincoln, her body language oozing with flirtatiousness. I could feel my walls going up, brick by brick, as I tried to protect myself from the pain that was sure to come. It was a familiar feeling, this fear of being replaced or forgotten. I took a deep breath, trying to center myself, but it was hard when the air was thick with the scent of sex and alcohol.

“I’m going to go,” I murmured, pushing away from the railing and heading inside without another glance back.


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