Treat me, p.2
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       Treat Me, p.2

         Part #8 of One Night with Sole Regret series by Olivia Cunning
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  “Still think you’re too good for my grass?” Owen called to the cows. “How do you feel about viewing my ass?”

  Shade took his eyes off his phone screen to scrutinize Owen more closely. He could rhyme lines of equal length; was he capable of writing profound lyrics? Ones not about mooning cows?

  When the herd began to bellow in distress—and who could blame them—an enormous, pissed-off bull popped up over the hill. When he recognized that his herd had been insulted, his massive body tensed and he swished his tufted tail threateningly before releasing a deep bellow.

  “Owen, I think you’d better make a run for it,” Shade said.

  Owen glanced over his shoulder. With an “Oh, shit!” he raced toward the gate, struggling to keep his pants up. “Open the gate!” he yelled. “Open the fucking gate!”

  Shade had been laughing so hard, it hadn’t occurred to him that Owen could be in mortal danger. And he’d been too busy snapping pictures to think about helping.

  The bull was rapidly closing in on Owen; there was no way he would beat the animal to the gate. The massive beast’s hoofbeats thundered across the ground and churned up puffs of dust as the bull attempted to trample the human who dared insult his cows. Owen dodged left and scaled the plank fence beside the gate like an expert rodeo clown.

  Shade waved one hand at the bull, trying to gain its attention. “Hey, Ribeye. Over here!”

  Distracted by Shade, the bull hesitated long enough for Owen to flip over the top of the fence and land on his back in the long grass between the road and the pasture. He lay there for a long moment, catching his breath, while on the other side of the fence the bull pawed the ground, snorted, and flicked its tail in annoyance.

  “Are you okay?” Shade asked, chuckling at Owen.

  “I’m alive!”

  “I’m not sure that fence will hold back a pissed-off bull. We’d better get out of here.”

  Owen dragged himself off the ground and stumbled back to the truck. He’d mooned the cows, but he gave the bull the finger.

  “You’re fucking crazy,” Shade said as he slid into the truck beside Owen.

  “Made you laugh.” Owen grinned at Shade. “Did you get any pictures?”

  Shade handed him his cellphone and Owen flipped through the shots, laughing so hard at what must have been a terrifying situation that Shade wondered if the guy needed a psychiatrist.

  “Are you sure you’re okay?” Shade asked.

  Owen hesitated, the smile dropping from his friendly face. “Um, yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?”

  “You seem a little crazier than usual.”

  Owen shrugged. “Just a little stressed.”

  “About?”

  “Caitlyn.”

  Shade scowled. “I thought her name was Lindsey.”

  “Lindsey’s the reason I’m stressed about Caitlyn. I was hoping to make her a more permanent part of my life.”

  “You’re seeing someone seriously?”

  “I’m trying to. I met Caitlyn at a sex club several nights ago. She’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a woman. Smart, sexy, rich . . .” He grinned his best boy-toy grin.

  “A cougar?”

  “Oh, yeah. You know I like my meat well-seasoned.”

  Shade laughed. “Typical. So she knows about Lindsey?”

  “She was there when Lindsey showed up. I don’t know what to do. I’m supposed to see Caitlyn this weekend and make it up to her, but how am I going to pull that off while I’m taking Lindsey to Austin?”

  “And where’s this other chick from?”

  “Houston.”

  “So drop Lindsey off tonight and head directly for Houston. Don’t look back.”

  “I’m sure that’ll go over well with my mom. Hey, Mom, I might have gotten this woman pregnant. Can you keep an eye on her for a few months while I go fool around with this other woman? The one I actually want to be with. I know how much you like me to date older women.” His words dripped with sarcasm.

  “You could tell Lindsey to figure out her own problems,” Shade said, squinting at the map on his phone that seemed to be leading them nowhere.

  “But if it is my baby, I’d feel like shit if I disregarded his mother.”

  Shade rubbed his nose with the side of his finger. He’d never understood where Owen was coming from, and this situation was no different. “If Lindsey had been your girlfriend or something, your concern would make sense to me, but she slept with every person on the bus that night, including her best friend. If you act like a whore—”

  Shade’s words were cut off by Owen’s hard punch to his arm. Shade rubbed the aching spot and scowled.

  “Don’t talk about her like that,” Owen said. “We all make mistakes.”

  Why was he defending her? Shade didn’t get it at all. But, whatever. If Owen wanted the woman to be his problem, Shade wasn’t going to beg him to hand over the responsibility.

  Shade’s phone produced a familiar tone. It was an alert that told him that Adam was within a certain radius again. They must be driving down parallel roads or something. Shade had put the app on Adam’s phone over a year ago, when he was still struggling with addiction. He wasn’t sure why he kept it now that Adam was clean. Shade supposed he still didn’t trust him not to do something completely idiotic.

  “I wonder if Adam is busy,” Shade said. “The limo driver said he rented a bike, so maybe he’s driving around. Maybe he’d like to eat crawdads with us.”

  He had no idea why Adam would be riding a motorcycle out in the middle of nowhere—because he and Owen were definitely in the middle of nowhere—but this was the perfect opportunity to boot him in the ass. Shade hoped Adam was riding to clear his head so he could write lyrics. But more than likely he was fucking his girlfriend in the bayou, which would likely only muddle his thoughts further.

  Owen shrugged. “We can ask.”

  “Text him,” Shade said.

  Owen reached into his pocket, but Shade handed him his phone. “Use mine.”

  “I’ll have to send him a picture of my cow prank. See what he says.”

  Shade snorted. “He’ll think you’ve lost your mind.”

  “But I’m sure it’ll make him laugh.” Owen sent the picture and waited. “He’s not responding.”

  “If he’s on a bike, he’ll have to pull over to answer,” Shade said.

  “True.” He sent several more messages. Eventually Adam started to respond.

  “Where the hell are you guys?” Owen read from the screen.

  “Here, give it back to me,” Shade said.

  “You shouldn’t text and drive,” Owen said, but he handed him the phone.

  Shade rarely texted more than a couple of words at a time; he used his voice-to-text app almost exclusively. After explaining to Adam where they were, he asked him to meet them for lunch. He was surprised when Adam agreed. He seemed to be in a much better mood than he had been that morning. Shade decided he wouldn’t bust Adam’s balls about not writing lyrics until they were back at the venue. Well, unless Adam broached the subject.

  “So he’s going to meet us there?”

  “If he can find it,” Shade said. “Where in the hell is this place?” Besides the narrow highway and some fencing, Shade hadn’t seen any manmade structures for miles. “Are you sure it exists?”

  Owen consulted Shade’s map app. “We’ll be turning in a few miles.”

  “Well, don’t let me miss it or we’ll end up in Mississippi.”

  “Or Florida.”

  When his phone’s navigation program finally told him to turn right, they bounced down a short gravel drive before coming upon a small open picnic area in front of a trailer that had been converted into a mobile kitchen. Shade wondered if they’d set up business here to avoid city health inspections. The place made gas station restrooms look sanitary.

  “Are you sure this place is legit?” Shade asked. He wouldn’t want to get food poisoning and spend his evening on the toilet instead of onstage.
r />   “It must be—it’s packed.” Owen handed him his phone, opened the truck door, and slipped outside.

  Shade watched a nearby patron crack open crawdad after crawdad and stuff them into his mouth. When the guy didn’t collapse from intense stomach pain or start projectile vomiting, Shade climbed out of the truck and followed Owen to the order counter.

  “What will you have?” the aged, dark-skinned woman asked in a thick Cajun accent.

  The menu board was limited in variety; Cajun-seasoned crawdads and shrimp, gumbo, and a few traditional side dishes were all they offered. But as far Shade was concerned, they only needed one item on their menu.

  “A double order of crawdads,” Shade said.

  “Good idea,” Owen said. “We can share them.”

  Maybe if they were disgusting. But Shade figured Owen would be going hungry.

  Shade was halfway through his mess of tongue-tantalizing bliss when the rumble of a huge Harley announced Adam’s arrival. He had his woman with him—the sweet little drug counselor from Dallas—but Shade was too busy stuffing his face and fending off Owen’s attempts to sample one of his crawdads to offer either of them a proper greeting.

  Dear lord, Shade had never tasted more delicious crawdads in his life. He was glad Owen had thought of this place.

  He was starting to feel full, but the bit of spice stinging his tongue and lips made him crave more. He did love spicy food—not so hot that you couldn’t taste other flavors, but hot enough to cause a tingle. This place got the flavor and the sensation exactly right. He was so intent on devouring his meal that he scarcely noticed the rest of the group had abandoned him to order at the counter. Until he noted his pile of crustaceans was quickly dwindling.

  He was contemplating getting a second mess as he watched the others return with their smaller orders. Smaller? He wasn’t sure how anyone could show restraint when it came to crawdads. Especially these crawdads.

  He caught the tail end of their conversation.

  “I’m a perpetual party, baby,” Owen said as he sat next to Shade on the bench.

  “Your perpetual party is in your pants,” Shade said, checking out the line at the counter. It would be quicker and easier for him if his friends would share. The line of four customers seemed long. He tried staring down Madison—of the three, he figured the woman was most likely to succumb to his charm—but she pulled her basket closer and snapped open one of her crawdads, obviously not willing to share a single morsel, the scrooge.

  “Better be careful with that kind of party.” Madison laughed at Owen’s expense. “Or you’ll end up knocking up some groupie.”

  Shade shuddered as he was reminded that they currently had a knocked-up groupie in tow. Way to ruin his appetite.

  “Yeah,” Owen said, his voice barely above a whisper. “We wouldn’t want that to happen.”

  Too late. Shade shoved his few remaining crawdads to the center of the table. Few things could diminish his enthusiasm for his favorite dish. Talking about Lindsey was right there at the top.

  After a long moment of uncomfortable silence, Madison said, “What’s wrong?”

  She didn’t know? It had been a coincidence that she’d brought up the subject? Shade glanced at Adam. Did he lie to her as much as he lied to everyone else? “You haven’t told her?”

  “Told me what?” Madison asked, her eyes on Adam as she slurped her soda.

  “Nothing.” Adam nodded toward her cup. “Do you want another drink?”

  Nice try, Shade thought. “You’d better tell her. It might be yours.” Shade shook his head. “No sense in making this worse than it already is.”

  “What might be yours?” Madison asked, frowning at Adam, then at Shade, and then at Adam again.

  “It’s probably mine,” Owen said. “Damn party in my pants was bound to get me into trouble sooner or later.”

  Once Madison understood the situation—carefree band orgy turned lifelong responsibility—she completely lost her cool, going so far as to threaten Adam with a plastic fork. “How could you do this to me, Adam?”

  Amanda hadn’t taken the news quite so hard, but then Madison and Adam had been seeing each other off and on for over a year. Shade was surprised Madison wasn’t angry about him cheating with another woman. Her only concern seemed to be that he hadn’t used protection and might have contracted an STI. Huh. Where did Shade find a woman like her?

  “I did wear protection,” Adam insisted.

  “Then how could you potentially be the father of this baby, Adam?” She jabbed him with her fork. “How?”

  “We all wore protection,” Shade said. They had. He wasn’t just saying that to put Madison at ease.

  Madison looked unconvinced. “Then how is she pregnant?”

  “Wish I had the answer to that,” Owen said.

  Shade didn’t remember all the details of their wild night with Lindsey and her friend Vanessa, but he’d fucked them both, he couldn’t deny that. But he was certain he’d used a fresh condom each time he’d penetrated. He sure as hell didn’t need two baby mamas in his life. A loving wife and several kids at home? Sure, he could go for that. But it was hard enough dealing with one court order for visitation—how the hell would he handle two? If Lindsey’s baby did turn out to be his, he’d deal with it. He’d never turn his back on his own child. But he prayed this situation didn’t further complicate his home situation. He was already struggling to stay an important part in his daughter’s life. Was he capable of adding another kid to his mix of responsibilities?

  “If you all wore protection, what’s to say she got pregnant by any of you?” Madison’s question jerked Shade out of his troubled thoughts. “Maybe she’s a goddamned liar.”

  Maybe. If she was capable of fucking six guys and her best friend in a single night, who knew how many potential fathers she’d spread her legs for. She could have fucked the entire state of Idaho and all of its potatoes for all he knew.

  “. . . make her get a paternity test,” Madison was saying. “Prove it isn’t any of yours. Get rid of her once and for all.”

  Lindsey had a few more months before she gave birth, so worrying about what could be was going to make for a long summer. “We’ll have one done as soon as the baby is born,” Shade said. “Until then, we’re just playing a waiting game.”

  “Fuck that,” Madison said. Shade had never heard her cuss before. She must be really upset. Not that he blamed her. “They can do the test during pregnancy now. You don’t have to wait until she delivers.”

  Well, hallelujah! He’d be sure Lindsey had the test as soon as possible. Then the poor sap who had drawn the knock-up-a-groupie card from the Game of Rock Star could figure out how he was going to handle the situation before the kid took its first breath. The rest of them could get on with their lives and thank their slow-swimming sperm.

  When Madison and Adam started arguing about Adam’s decision to get a vasectomy, Shade shifted uncomfortably on the bench and decided it was a good time to leave. Conversations about permanent nut alterations should never be discussed over a fine meal. He went back to the food truck and ordered all the remaining crawdads for the crew. Soon they were headed back toward the venue with Adam and Madison trailing them on their noisy rented Harley.

  “He still isn’t writing any music,” Shade said to Owen as conversationally as possible. He didn’t need to say who he was referring to. They both knew Adam was the catalyst for the band’s creative output.

  “I guess he has writer’s block.”

  “Any suggestions as to what we should do about it?”

  Owen thought for a moment and then shrugged. “I don’t think we can do anything but wait it out.”

  “We could try writing something without him.”

  Owen turned his head and scrunched his brows at Shade. “Why would we do that? Just be patient. It’ll come to him. You busting his ass about it all the time isn’t going to help.”

  Shade had never been a patient man, but Owen was probably
right. He was going to confront Adam about his lies—he was sick of the guy getting away with shit—and maybe put a little pressure on him, but perhaps if Shade tried to be supportive instead of adversarial that would help Adam break through this block of his.

  “I’ll give him some breathing room,” Shade promised. But only an inch or two.

 
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