Dan hated the frapp machine.
I’ll admit, it was an over-the-top way to engage in a little fisticuffs. Money thrown at a folly, nothing more than a bit to satisfy my craving for a fight. Never let it be said that Lindsay Troy doesn’t go the extra mile when she really wants something.
And I really, really wanted a tussle last Saturday.
It worked like a charm. Mikey and Jesse are young, clever, and talented, but when it comes to those stupid drinks they are woefully predictable. So I rented a machine for the evening, bribed a staffer to mention to the boys that one’s in catering, and voilà…one Bruv wandered away from the safety of their Suite to indulge his cravings and the other eventually went looking for him to have a little talk.
My own partner may not have liked my method, but he’ll never say no to the ensuing madness.
I sacrificed a few seconds of blurry vision and a shirt for it all. There’s no getting the frapp stain from Jesse’s drink out of it. Still worth it, all things considered.
And all things considered, this incident aside, I’m annoyed as fuck. Been that way going on two months now. And when I’m annoyed, all I want to do is put fists to flesh, knees to face, bodies to the canvas.
I’ve always played my cards real close to the vest; never let anyone get a good read because then I lose the element of surprise. Mike once lamented that nothing fucking rattles me, that I’m always too cool for school, but all that got tossed aside once 24K hit the scene.
It no longer mattered that we’d been planning the Group of Death in secret for months. It no longer mattered that our deceit was set to shock the world. We were overshadowed two weeks ahead of time and we’ve been playing from our back foot ever since. GoD has yet to gain a measure of retribution, and I’m partly to blame for that.
Losing to Max in the LBI semis was bad; nothing like going on a run and getting the carpet yanked right out from under your feet. Dropping the tag belts to Big Salty and the other guy was much worse, because no Group of Death member has gotten their receipt for the sneak debut in February.
I’d been itchin’ to cash in, and I failed at March to Glory.
We had a responsibility in Rome and I didn’t come through. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it, don’t let it eat at the back of my brain, don’t push harder in training to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Dan’s already told me that it’s just one match. Win as a team, lose as a team. He can keep telling me ‘it’s just one match’ all he wants, but he knows I don’t buy it. The expectations are greater now. The stakes are higher, the road is tougher, the competition is better, and that loss has been stuck in my craw for over a month. And Andy Murray always knows the right buttons to push.
Easy to complain about friendships when your balls are in a vice.
Funny, how sour those times are made to seem now.
It’s only a matter of time before Murray and I tangle again. I don’t care who he partners up with, I don’t care if it’s one on one, or in War Games, or out in the goddamn parking lot. Until that time comes, there’s no better first strike to launch against 24K than taking on the Hollywood Bruvs.
First, eliminate the young guns; I’ve been wanting a crack at them for years.
Then set my sights on the legend…
“So how much did that frapp machine set you back anyway?”
Lindsay glanced up from where she’d been rifling through a stack of jeans on a wall display and looked over at her sister, Alaina, who flipped through a circular rack of off-the-shoulder blouses and wrap tops. Nordstrom at the Chicago Fashion Outlet was quiet for a Thursday afternoon, and the sisters were enjoying some ‘quality time’ without interference from salespeople or High Octane fans.
The Queen’s idea of ‘quality time’ would have been almost anything but shopping, but Alaina had insisted. ‘There might be something there the twins might like,’ she’d said, which was always the way to get Big Sis to agree to a shopping trip. If there were two people Lindsay didn’t mind shopping for, and splurging on, it was her kids.
“Few hundred for the night,” she answered Alaina with a shrug. “Plus ingredients.”
“All that for a gag?”
Lindsay smiled. “I got what I wanted out of it. Blew off some steam and Dan and I got ‘em on Saturday. I’d say it was worth it.”
“Ooookay.” Alaina rolled her eyes. “If you say so.” Even though she’d been ‘married to the business’ for well over a decade at this point, she didn’t pretend to always understand why her sister and husband do the things the way they do them.
“Well, your daughter thought it was funny. Maybe not so much me taking a frapp to the chest but Dan slapping two out of Mikey’s hand.”
“Of course she thought it was funny. This is what she’s in for, and the two of you are horrible influences.”
“I know.” Lindsay moved away from the jeans and stopped at another clothes rack next to her sister’s, this one stuffed with sundresses. “Thanks for being a good sport about everything. I know it’s not easy for you.”
“Mmmmhmmm. Not like she was ever going to listen to me if I told her ‘no.’”
“You’re right. She’s too headstrong, like her father.”
“Yes, like me. Keep blaming me, Lanni, I see what you’re doing.”
Now it was Alaina’s turn to smile. “I have to poke fun at my big sister for something. You never make it easy for me.”
“Big sisters aren’t supposed to.”
“Right.” Dan Ryan’s better half moved to the same rack as Lindsay and worked her way through the clothes. “I bet Rayne got a kick out of it too. Renting that machine would’ve been right up his alley. Did you get the idea from him?”
The hitch in Lindsay’s movement did not go unnoticed.
“No,” she said, flatly, after a moment. Alaina looked at her sister speeding through the hangers, not really looking at the garments draped on them, and stopped what she was doing.
“Everything’s fine,” Lindsay replied, still working her way along the rack and purposely avoiding eye contact.
After a minute, the eldest Troy moved away and over to the men’s section, stopping in front of a pile of checkered button-ups on an end-cap.
“You know…” Alaina followed, concerned, and not ready to let this go just yet. She dropped her voice down low. “If something’s up, you can tell me, Lindz.”
“Nothing’s up, Alaina. Let it go.” Lindsay turned to her sister, face impassive, eyes squinched slightly. “If something was up, I wouldn’t tell you here, in the middle of a store, or maybe at all, since you haven’t been the greatest at keeping secrets.”
The shock registered immediately on Alaina’s face. “The hell does that mean?”
“You know exactly what that means,” Lindsay hissed.
“No I…” she started, then stopped. “Wait, me telling Tyler about you and Dan and the turn?”
“Circle gets the square,” was the Queen’s reply. “And since you were told not to tell anyone, and you let it slip, I’m not sure I can really tell you when something’s up. So again, let it go.”
“Oh Jesus…that was an accident! I thought he knew!” Alaina threw her hands up, exasperated. “Lindsay, come on. This is ridic–”
“No, we’re done with this conversation, Lanni,” Lindsay turned on her heel and made her way toward the door. “I’m going to get a pretzel.”
“You hate pretzels. Can we please talk about this?”
“I’M GOING TO GET A SHITTY PRETZEL, AND NO WE CANNOT.”
Lindsay rage-walked into the mall proper, nearly barreling over a couple holding a handful of bags from J. Crew and Neiman Marcus. Alaina stood by the button-downs, confused and hurt.
“Ma’am?” a store employee cautiously approached her. “Are you alright?”
“No. I don’t know,” she replied. “And I don’t think my sister is either.”
I’ve been out of sorts for two months and my life couldn’t be more fucked up, exactly when I don’t need it to be.
I always do this when things go wrong. Deflect. Internalize. Beat myself up. Put all the blame square on my shoulders because carrying a burden is all I’ve done for the majority of my life.
My sister didn’t deserve that. Doesn’t matter how angry I am with her, she didn’t need me throwing her mistake back in her face. And that’s what it was, a mistake.
I know she’s sorry. I wish I wanted to hear it at that moment. I wish I wanted to hear it now, but I’m not ready. Maybe in a day. Or a week. Maybe in a month.
I’ve got other things I need to focus on. Other things that need handling. Other courses that need correcting. If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s bury the personal to focus on the professional. One more thing I’ve done for the majority of my life, and it’s something I’ve always excelled at.
I need to be at my best for the Bruvs, or else Dan and I are going to get surprised again.
We need to get a foothold back. Folks have been getting too goddamn complacent around here and we’ve been letting them.
I’m not one to let others make a mockery of my name, my accomplishments, my schemes, or my legacy.
24K has had two months in the sun.
Nobody gets those sunny days forever.