“Man, out here again?”
I looked over at Patrick Gower, one of my teammates. “Looks like it.” I lifted my hand to the bar tender, signaling for another drink. This would be my second of the night. Who knew how many I’d have in me before I found a partner for the night.
He dropped down on a bar stool next to me. “Any good action tonight?”
I gestured around the fairly dead bar. “Not yet.” I hadn’t been here for very long though, and it was just barely on the other side of ten. There was plenty of time for the lonely women of Willow Creek to trickle in.
Patrick shook his head and flagged down the bar tender. “You know, you should hit up Windenburg with me.” He didn’t even have to tell the bar tender what he wanted. Obviously his reputation for partying wasn’t exaggerated.
“Willow Creek has been suiting me fine,” I said, sipping my neat wrench.
“No, man, listen. Windenburg is where the party scene is. I go every year after the season is over with some of the guys. We tear the town up for a couple months.” He picked up the drink the bar tender dropped off and took a long drink. “You’re finally having some fun; you should come with us.”
Now that I thought about it, I did remember Patrick inviting me to party with him and a few of the guys in Windenburg last year. He’d given me a good ribbing for turning him down. “You’re in your twenties! You’re too young to be whipped yet.” At the time, I’d thought I was a hell of a lot better than them with my committed, monogamous relationship. Now here I was, hitting the bars every night.
I finished my drink and turned to look at him. “When are you going?”
He grinned at me. “The plane leaves on Friday.”
Four days wasn’t a lot of notice. But who did I have to give notice to? I was single, right? Single and ready to flamingle….yeah, okay, that was bad. I snorted to myself and ordered another drink. “You know what, fuck it. Count me in.”
As I walked around the ruins in the bright light of day, snapping pictures on the digital camera I’d bought for the trip, I could only remember the raging party that had taken place there last night. Patrick had been right; the party scene in Windenburg was crazy, much better than suburban Willow Creek.
I was here during the day when there wasn’t a party to grab some pictures for Mom and Nora. My family all thought I was here sight-seeing. Or something. I couldn’t remember exactly the excuse I’d given them, but I knew I hadn’t wanted them to know the real reason I was taking an impromptu vacation. They probably thought I was having a nervous breakdown or something. Whatever. It was my break up; I was entitled to handle it however I want. And I wanted to handle it by handling a lot of loose women.
I started heading away from the ruins and scrolled through some of the pictures I’d taken as I walked. At Tommy’s suggestion, I’d visited the Von Haunt Estate. It hadn’t really been my taste at all, but Mom and Nora would no doubt enjoy the pictures. The Bluffs I had discovered all on my own, as it was one of the hottest party spots. It looked pretty nice in the day though, so I’d returned to grab a few shots. Man, some weird stuff had happened at that first party I’d been to there. I’d never though I’d fuck in a bush before that night. But anyway, all the extra sight seeing was really just killing time until the sun slipped past the horizon and I found a bar or a party to hit up. My luck was even better here in Windenburg. The German girls seemed to eat up my Louisiana drawl.
A few hours later, as I walked into the bar I’d chosen for the night, I laid my eyes on a sexy number in red at the bar. Game on.
I walked up beside her just as she flagged down the bar tender. “You can put her next drink on my tab,” I said with a wry smile, dropping down into the seat next to her.
“You’re lucky I speak English.” She said with a smirk. Her German accent was pronounced, but I could understand her well enough.
I gave her an easy smile. “You have a lovely voice. You can speak to me in whatever language you like.”
She winked and said, “Dein Akzent ist witzig.”
I laughed, running my eyes over her face. “Well, I don’t know what you said, but it sounded pretty.”
“I said your accent is funny,” she said teasingly. “It reminds me of that movie… Forrest Gump?”
A quick laugh burst out of me. “Forrest Gump, huh?” I waved over the bar tender and ordered my usual drink, a neat wrench. “I am from Willow Creek, but I like to think I’m a little smarter than Forrest.”
“And hopefully blessed with a better name…?” She gave me an expectant look.
I smiled and offered her my hand. “Josh Yuen.” I hadn’t had the best luck with name recognition in Windenburg, but girls still tended to start falling over themselves once they found out I was famous – it didn’t matter if they watched baseball, just that other people found me famous. I’d find a way to slip in the baseball detail; I always did.
Her hand was soft and tiny in mine. “Mariana Rosebrook… But you can call me Mari.” She replied sweetly.
I glanced up to the television over the bar just in time to see the sports news reporter come on. I couldn’t understand a word other than “fussball,” which I figured had to be soccer. There were pictures though, and that was enough for me. I gestured up to the television. “The football season is about to start, right?” Mari nodded in reply; I knew I remembered hearing something about that at some point. “The baseball season just ended back home. Have you ever heard of the Willow Creek Ravens?”
“Um… no?” Mari shrugged slightly, then smiled softly my way. “But I take it you play for them?”
I laughed quietly. I hadn’t really counted on her knowing it. “I do, actually.” I leaned closer to her, my grin turning more flirtatious. “So you know I know my way around the bases.”
“That’s a relief.” Mari batted her eyelashes as she spoke. “Because I don’t really know much about baseball…” She shrugged, her eyes turning up to me with feigned innocence. “But I’d love for you to teach me.”
I slid off of the bar stool, leaning close to her. “Would you like to get out of here?”
Mari stood up, crooking her finger at me. When I obligingly dipped my head closer to her, she whispered in my ear, “Who says we have to go anywhere?” She nodded her head toward the sliding doors nearby.
I wasn’t sure where those doors led, but it couldn’t possibly be worse than fucking in a bush, so why not? “Lead the way, lover.”
She took my hand and did as I’d asked, leading me towards the doors. My eyes fell to the sway of her hips, wrapped in ruched satin. I need to kiss her. Well, I needed to do more than kiss her, but we’d start with that. I reached out and wrapped my hands around her shapely waist and spun her around, pulling a surprised gasp from her luscious lips. I backed her up against the door, caging her in with my larger frame.
She quickly recovered from her surprise and drew me in tighter against her. One perfectly shaped brow arched up towards her hairline. “Are you sure you can handle this?” She said, her voice low but teasing.
I didn’t say anything. I just swooped in and slanted my mouth over hers.
She managed to pull the door open so that I could guide us both back into what actually was a closet. Alright, I thought with the distant part of my mind that cared, sex in a closet. Ought to be fun.
I only realized after we got into the closet that I’d forgotten a condom. But, as we stumbled out into the dim bar again, I gave a mental shrug. Worth it. That had been…yeah, wow.
I turned to look at her after she had gathered herself together again. I grinned slowly, enjoying how disheveled she still looked. “So, Mari, would you like to go for extra innings at my hotel?”
She shook her head, a hint of regret in her expression. “I’d love to, but… I can’t.” She smiled softly. “But… thanks.” Mari winked and blew a kiss my way. “You’re an excellent teacher.”
I started to say something cajoling, but she just gave me a secret smile and turned her back on me, her long legs carrying her out of the door. I thought about going after her – something about her had left an impression that I couldn’t shake. But for what purpose? The sex had been phenomenal, but if she wasn’t interested in another round, I wasn’t going to chase her. Instead, I just headed back to the bar and ordered another drink.
Sunlight cutting across my face forced me awake. With a groan, I rolled over to sit up on the side of the bed, hanging my thick head low. I didn’t have a headachy hang over, but I did feel like my head was simultaneously packed full of cotton and weighed a hundred pounds.
What did I do last night? I thought blearily. Very slowly, as if from many leagues under the ocean, memories started to filter in. The bar. Drinking. Mari. Closet sex. Guess I’ll tick that off the bucket list now. I wondered if I’d run into Mari again tonight. She seemed like the type who’d be ought somewhere looking for company. I’d decided not to run after her, but I wouldn’t turn down the chance to get her in bed again – this time an actual bed.
On the nightstand, my phone started chirping Nora’s ringtone. I wanted to let it go to voicemail. I really wanted to close the drapes and get a few more hours of sleep before I hit the clubs again. But I didn’t. I lifted the phone to my ear and cleared my throat, hoping I wouldn’t sound too gravely and like I’d just spent the night out drinking. “Hey, Nora. What’s up?”
She let out an exasperated breath. “Caleb’s running a fever. Something is going around at Nathan and Theresa’s school. Everyone at the house has it and now Caleb’s got it.”
Immediately, I straightened up. “Is it serious?” And what the hell time was it? I looked at the alarm clock by my bed and was shocked to find that it was after four pm.
“No, it’s not. I just can’t take him to Mom’s because they’re all sick, too. I can’t drop him off at a daycare because they won’t take kids with fevers. So I’m going to have to run him out to Newcrest to stay with Aunt Shirley, but it means I’m going to be late to work.” I heard her moving around on the other end and saying something to Caleb. “I guess I just wanted to vent.”
Shitfuck. “I’m sorry I’m not in town. You know I’d take him.”
“I know you would,” she said kindly. “I really don’t even know why I called. I didn’t mean to bother you on your vacation. I gotta get on the road. I’ll talk to you later.”
She hung up, and I just stared at my phone. What the fuck was I doing? This wasn’t even what I wanted. Picturing Caleb’s chubby little face was a stark reminder of what I did want – and fucking my way through the sluts of Windenburg wasn’t the way to get it. I was being a selfish asshole, wallowing in self pity and trying to prove to absolutely nobody that I was hot and worth taking notice of.
Nora shouldn’t have to drive all the way to Newcrest so that someone could watch her son. I should be there to help her. Even sick, taking care of Caleb was guaranteed to be the highlight of my week.
I punched in a number and put my phone back to my ear. When the other line picked up, I said, “Yeah, I need a ticket to Willow Creek.”
Excuse me while I SCREAM FROM EXCITEMENT I AM FLIPPING OUT HELLO.
This chapter is paired with CitizenErased14’s latest chapter which has come out today as well. HOWEVER, if you do not read that story, DO NOT read that chapter unless you want major spoilers about Josh’s future. I DO encourage you to read that story, though, because it is amazing and everyone should read it.
For our mutual readers, go read that chapter IMMEDIATELY if you have not already. You can come back to drop me a comment after your brains have exploded.
For those of you who elect not to read Citizen’s chapter, I’ll leave my author’s note free of spoiler’s. I do want to give a huge THANK YOU to Citizen for letting Mari guest star in this chapter and for helping to write it. Citizen wrote all of Mari’s actions and dialogue, so this is truly a collaborative effort. This crossover has been in the works since February, and we are both so thrilled that the reveal has finally come. It has been such a pleasure to intertwine our narratives even if the timelines can be a bit of a headache. Because Citizen moves much faster, my story is actually about twenty years behind hers and still falling.
Again, I encourage you to read Citizen’s wonderful story, not just because of the amazing writing and drama, but also because future crossovers are afoot! You can also check out her chapter for today to find out the full details of our collab, as she is unhampered by spoilers.
Until the next chapter!