Book: Outside The Ropes

Previous: 20: Stop Me
Next: 22: Man Up

“SO YOU WON’T KISS AND TELL? FINE, I’ll just use my imagination.” Aliya grinned at me while straightening a lock of her hair.

Leona sat on the closed toilet, with a drink in hand. She pursed her lips. “But what now? I’ve never seen him with the same girl twice. Are you hoping for more?”

Before I could answer Zoe spoke up from her perch on the side of the tub, “It doesn’t matter what she wants. They slept together. Sorry Rea, but that’s probably it for him.”

I pulled the mascara wand away from my eye and turned to her. “We didn’t have sex,” I corrected, but softened as I turned back to the mirror. “But that’s probably it anyways.”

Aliya clamped the straightener a couple of times, making it click in my face. “No way. He’s still into you, and I can understand why. Girl, you’re hot and crazy chill. I would be into you if I were a dude.”

I paused with doubt but took the straightener from her.

Her smile twisted as she nodded. “You’re tough, I know, I saw you fight. But you’re so chill about it all. You don’t give away anything, I bet Gage likes that.”

I had just enough liquid confidence in me to accept her complement. “You’re pretty chill too,” I said with a slight smile.

Aliya shook her head, amusement brightening her face. “I’m crazy, not chill. And I like that about myself. I’m an open book to anyone, I just don’t care.”

Leona smiled. “Yeah Rea, you’re the badass of the group.” She finished off her drink. “You’re like our bodyguard.” She giggled. “Now hurry up. I’m ready to go.”

Zoe stood up. “I’ll go get us all shots. This is really our first night out as roommates. We’ve got to start it off with a toast.”

The drink from earlier seemed to have little effect, except to smooth some of my edges. Maybe I had hated on alcohol misguidedly. I felt chill, like Aliya said. Plus, I could let go of some of my hyper vigilance with this group.

After I straightened my hair, I checked myself out one last time. I wore one of Aliya’s tight skirts with a slouchy top that hung off a shoulder. It showed off more leg than I was used to, but the looser top balanced it out. Then I joined the girls in taking a shot to being young and having fun.

***

The Barbie’s were back. I don’t know if they were the same ones from last night; I didn’t care enough to find out. Except the one that was dancing too close to where Gage was sitting to be anything but intentional, I kept my eye on her.

The only guy that would even get near me all night was Dexter. It’s like everyone else had a ten-foot rule about me; they couldn’t get closer than that. I assumed it was because of Gage’s kiss at the fight last night, but that didn’t seem to keep girls away from him.

That damn girl was blocking his view of me dancing. And I was twisting my hips good, another perk of alcohol. Except now there was nobody to appreciate it. I had caught Gage glancing before, but not now with her in front of him. Ugh, my smooth edges were beginning to splinter with frustration.

Time for another drink.

I went back to the table, having to cut through the plastic girls to get to our bottles. I kept my eyes focused on the glass as I poured, avoiding Gage and his friends sitting in the booth across from me.

“You know you can mix that, sip on it, you don’t need to drink it straight.”

I cut my eyes to Gage. He was leaned back in his seat, his dark gray top fit just right on him.

“I’m not drinking it for the taste.” I held up my glass. “This works fine for me.” I tried my damnedest not to cringe as the liquor went down.

He leaned forward, dark eyebrow lifted. “Why then?”

I shrugged, the burn in the back of my throat made it hard to speak. “For fun.”

“I thought you didn’t drink.”

I pursed my lips. “You do that a lot; think things about me that just aren’t true.”

He nodded, leaning back in his seat. He turned his head to watch that girl still dancing too close to him. In fact, I think she had gotten closer. I went back to my roommates on the dance floor.

 

“She’s not a Barbie, she’s a troll.” I squinted my eyes, appraising the girl now sitting beside Gage. “A stupid, yellow haired, troll doll.”

Aliya’s head fell back with laughter. “You’re funny when you’re drunk.” She passed me a blue shot. “Here, have another.”

I tilted back the shot. “I’m not drunk.” I stood up from the stool and the room tilted beneath me. “Maybe I am a little drunk.” I gripped the back of the chair waiting for the ride to stop. “Or a lot drunk. But I’m not funny. I’m angry.” Damn, my filter wasn’t working, must have been washed away with the alcohol. “I want to melt her stupid plastic face with a lighter.” Maybe it was time to quit drinking.

 

I finally managed to separate enough from the group to get the interest of other guys, and just in time. I was tired of dancing alone and wanted to hear I was hot, and that was exactly what this guy was saying.

He wasn’t dancing too close yet, but kept one hand on my hip as we moved to the beat. I stepped in closer to him, and he pulled away, eyes widening behind me.

A plaid arm draped over my shoulder, it was Dexter and his silly jacket. “Are you trying to start trouble?” He said into my ear, with a touch of amusement.

I groaned as the guy danced away, finding a new partner.

“How am I starting trouble?” I twisted in his arm and shoved him a little, or not, it sent him back a couple of paces. My muscles felt loose, must have put more force into the shove then I intended.

“Sorry,” I said with a laugh and patted his shoulder. “But I’m not doing anything except dancing. Why are you starting trouble?”

His eyes widened and he shook his head. “I gave you that first drink. If something goes wrong, it’s going to be my fault.”

I scoffed, waving him away. My body swayed with my words, “I am responsible for my own actions. I make my own choices. It’s all my fault.”

With a smirk, he put his arm around me again, turning me to face the corner where our table was. “I know that. Believe me, I’ve figured out you can take care of yourself. But see, he,” Dexter pointed to where Gage could barely be seen through the crowd, “would blame me. And I’d like to keep this face pretty, so help a brother out. Please. Stick by us.” He started our path back through the crowd. “C’mon I’ll get you a drink. I’ll dance with you. You’ll have fun. Promise.”

I reluctantly moved my feet to the table. “Fine.”

 

Leona held up a shot for me. “What about Regan 'Drunk Ass' Sommers?” She almost fell over from giggling.

“Nah Babe, that’s you,” Dexter teased, wrapping his arm around her to hold her up.

Aliya chimed in, “Oh, Regan 'Bad Ass' Sommers.”

Dexter raised his eyes to the ceiling. “People, there’s an art to this. No cuss words and alliteration is your friend. Or some sort of word play.”

I laughed and took the shot Leona had handed me. Crap, I wasn’t supposed to do that anymore. But I glanced towards Gage, and the look that crossed him made me want to take the shots out of everyone’s hands and down them. He was angry, his face an intense mask, and I wanted to be the cause of that.

The yellow haired freak next to him ran her finger along his jaw, attempting to pull his attention back to her.

I poured myself another shot and was happy to see him respond; his face darkened even more, causing me to smile.

I slammed the shot, no longer worried about cringing; everything was numb.

***

I couldn’t move. For a horrifying second I thought I had been jumped again and was only now regaining consciousness. But I was in a soft bed, with soft sheets.

Then it hit me. I was hung over. This is why I didn’t drink.

“Hey, you’ve got to get up now. We have to check out soon,” Dexter's whisper was loud.

My heart had an attack as the memory of him throwing me onto the bed resurfaced. He had carried me over his shoulder and tossed me on the bed.

I groaned and pulled a pillow over my face. “I am never drinking again.”

He chuckled and slapped my foot from where he was standing at the end of the bed. “We’ve all said that before. You’ll get better at this, the more you drink.”

“Uh-uh, I mean it.” I pulled the pillow off my face and tried to sit up. Big mistake.

I stumbled to the bathroom and upchucked any remaining alcohol into the toilet. As I hovered over the bowl, I tried to piece together last night. I remembered the club, the dancing, and the girl that spent most of her night with Gage. But I couldn’t remember me. What happened?

“She’s in there,” Dexter said to someone from the other room.

“Rea? You need help? Dex is getting you some medicine,” Aliya called out.

Another heaving wretch was my only response.

Aliya came in with a glass of water, Pepto-Bismol and Ibuprofen. “Take this when you can. Don’t worry, I was doing the same thing earlier.”

I sat back on the cool tile floor, resting against the tub, hoping the spasms were over. After a moment I took the medicine.

“So… Scrapper, you feeling better?”

Something about the way she laughed triggered another avalanche of memories from last night. Crap. I had tried to fight that girl sitting next to Gage. She'd made some stupid comment about all the nicknames they were giving me, and I lunged at her. Jumped over Gage and tackled her down. He had to pull me off of her. He had lifted me by my waist and set me down in a chair like I was in need of a time out.

“Oh no.” I thought I might get sick again. “I… don’t know what to say about last night. I was ridiculous.”

She laughed and sat next to me on the floor. “You were a sloppy drunk. But so were we all. It was good times.” She put her hand on my knee. “That will go down as one of my all-time favorite stories. You’ll see, if you’re not laughing about it yet, you will be.”

I blew out air and shook my head, doubtful.

“Dexter get in here,” Aliya yelled. When he entered, she said, “Tell Rea how damn funny last night was. She’s feeling a little embarrassed.”

I covered my face with my hands. “More than a little.”

Seeing him brought back the rest. After Gage put me in my time out chair, he called Dexter over to handle me and went back to his friends. Dexter had brought me back up to our suite, but I had only made it to the couch, and he had to carry me to bed.

“I’m sorry.” I pulled my hands away to look at him. He was grinning.

“Don’t be. We’ve all had those moments.” He chuckled at the skeptical look I shot him. “Well, something like it.” His laugh rolled out of him, and he joined us on the ground. “When you jumped across the table, were you calling her a troll?”

My head fell back, and I closed my eyes. I was never ever drinking again.

 

After a quick shower I was ready to go. Not one hundred percent, but good enough to sit in a car.

I put my backpack on and came out to the living room. “Where’s Leona?” Aliya and Zoe were in the room waiting.

“She’s riding back with Dexter. They're going to stay a little longer. She’s been trying her luck at the slots.”

“It’s stupid ‘cause she can’t collect big winnings with a fake ID, but whatever,” Zoe said from beneath her large sunglasses.

As we left our room, the door to Gage’s suite opened. I kept walking to the elevator, hoping it wasn’t him.

But it was. He and two guys came out of the room with two girls; they stood and waited for the elevator with us. Aliya greeted them all, but I just nodded my hellos.

When we stepped off the elevator to the main lobby Gage called out, voice sharp, “Regan.”

I paused my stride, but didn’t turn around.

He walked away from his friends to where I was. He put his hands in his leather coat pockets as he addressed me, all business, “Your shoot is on Tuesday. After last night you have to be really strict with your diet. Drink lots of water and workout hard. Don’t drink again until after this photo shoot.”

He waited with his brows raised.

I shrugged. “That’s it?” Breathing was tight. I don’t know what I had expected or wanted him to say.

“Is there anything else?” he challenged.

I wanted to slap him, but instead I shook my head and walked away. Last week he would have been offering to cook my food for me; now he was back to ordering me around. Maybe the girls were right; I was his fight night girl and nothing more. I told myself it was best this way anyways. This is what I had wanted.

Previous: 20: Stop Me
Next: 22: Man Up