Ah, agents. They were so lovely – when they weren’t embezzling all your money and spending it on whores, vodka gimlets, and a particularly bad run over a week in Atlantic City. Note to the young and innocent – never let your stepfather manage your money, especially when he’s open about how much he dislikes your gay little ass. That way you won’t end up broke, shamed, and trying to figure out how to keep your mother and grandmother from being booted out of their house while your rink teeters on the edge of financial ruin. Where the fuck had all my happy gone? I wanted it back, dammit!
I moved past the windows that looked down on Philadelphia, my hometown. I’d been born and raised in the City of Brotherly Love. I adored this city, and it loved me in return. Or had. Now I was just the mincing and well-dressed queer who didn’t even have two pennies to rub together. How quickly love and adoration turned to titters and cold shoulders. Drawing my coat around me, I sat down in a plush beige chair and crossed one leg over the other, making sure my coat draped properly over my thighs. I hate wrinkles. And beige. Why were straights so afraid of a little color?
Gayle sat down behind her desk, smiled at me yet again, and folded her hands in front of her. I raised a freshly plucked eyebrow. She was still trying to get a handle on me. Tobey & Troy was the largest athletic representation firm in Philly. They handled most of the Eagles, Sixers and Flyers, as well as several tennis players. And now they had me. Trent Lawrence Hanson. Famed gay figure skater and next in line to be a Dickens character in real life. Please, sir, I want some more. Ugh. As if I’d eat gruel. What if I had to? The thought was too much to bear.
“I think that now that the legal issues with your father—”
“Stepfather,” I quickly reminded her.
“Yes, sorry, stepfather. Well, now that he’s been convicted and is serving time, I think this is the moment to start working on marketing you in a positive light.” She smiled again, nervously, and leveled light blue eyes at me. “Where are you in terms of returning to competitive skating?”
I glanced out the window at Ben Franklin standing atop City Hall. I began running my hands over the thin cotton flaps lying over my thighs.
“I have no money, my professional reputation is shot, and both my rink and my mother’s house are two months away from foreclosure. Do you honestly think I could find the mental clarity and focus to skate again?” As soon as I heard how bitchy I sounded, I placed a hand over my mouth. “I’m so sorry,” I mumbled into my fingers.
“It’s quite understandable,” she replied. She was far too nice to be saddled with a miserable cow-bag like me. I wanted to cry, but didn’t. I’d do that later when I visited Mom and my Lola. “Would you like something to drink?”
“Water would be lovely,” I coughed into my fingers. She rang her receptionist. “I’m better now. See.” I lowered my hand and smiled brilliantly at her.
Gayle nodded, but melancholy lingered in her gaze. A tiny blonde hurried in with a bottle of water and handed it to me. I was about to ask if she could possibly find a cold one, but I bit my tongue. Bitchy Trent had already escaped once today.
She nodded and scurried out, closing the door behind her slim backside. Her shoes were terrible. Who wears black flats with a peach dress in late June? Honestly, women, learn how to dress. I took tiny sips of the tepid water. Gayle waited. I capped the bottle and balanced it in my left hand so my coat didn’t get watermarked. I was a beggar now. I had to keep my wardrobe in good shape. Tears threatened again.
Gayle broke into the building weep-fest. “I understand that you’re not mentally ready to return to figure skating. To that end, we need to find you something to do that will bring in good money so you can get your assets back in sound fiscal shape.”
“You mean pull my rink and my mother’s house out of the snapping jaws of foreclosure?”
“Well, I wouldn’t have been quite that dramatic…”
“Few are.” I sighed as I returned to working out the crinkles in my duster.
“Right, well, I’ve been approached by GLBTQtv about a reality show with you as the star.”
My chin dropped to my chest. “Get. Out.”
“I’m very serious,” Gayle said, her smile spreading into a grin. “They’re waving a nice fat contract at us.”
“I’ll do it! Wait. Are there lots of zeros mentioned in the contract?” I was so excited I grabbed my duster and wadded it up in my right hand.
“There are several zeros,” she whispered as her grin grew even wider.
“I’ll do it!” My gods, I was such a whore. Wave a ten in front of me and down to my knees I went. But zeros meant money. Money that would keep my family safely housed and my rink operational. Rainbow Skate was my rink. I’d bought it and refurbished it. It was where I practiced. And it was where little gay and straight children who wanted a safe place to skate and express themselves and their art could come. No hateful slurs or brutes were allowed at Rainbow Skate. That was my rule. I hated bullies. I’d dealt with them from the time I was eight and discovered how fabulous I was on skates and how amazing my sewing skills were. By the time I was fourteen and came out officially, not one person was shocked. My stepfather was disgusted, but then again, he was a thieving twat.
“Wonderful! I’ve read over the contract and it’s pretty straightforward.” I bounced in my seat as Gayle talked. “They’re asking for six to eight weeks with exclusive access to you and the Railers as you work with them.”
The bouncing slowed. “I’m sorry…” I tapped my right ear. “Did you say Railers? What are Railers?”
“They’re the hockey team that’s expressed a pointed interest in working with you on this show.”
I couldn’t control the laugh that burst out of me. I roared so long and so heartily that I was close to hyperventilating when the laughter began to die down. Gayle sat behind her desk, staring at me as if I’d gone around the bend.
“Phew. Oh, my gods and garters,” I panted several minutes later. Dabbing gently under my eyes, I saw a blur of black on my fingertip. “And I thought this was waterproof eyeliner. Do you have tissues?”
She got up , grabbed a box from the edge of her desk, and handed it to me.
“Thank you.” I wiped my finger on a Kleenex, then gingerly pulled a tiny corner under my right and then left eye. “I hate this cheap stuff. I’m going to throw it out when I get home. Why did I even buy anything other than waterproof?”
“Is there a problem with you working with hockey players?” Gayle asked after she sat back down.
I tittered. “How much time do you have?” I asked.
She gawked at me.
“I do not do jocks.”
“But you’re a jock.”
“Uh, no, no, I am not. I’m an artist. I don’t go skating around hitting people in the face with sticks. No, sorry, this sweet thing,” I motioned to myself, “does not do hockey players, footballers, baseballers, basketballers, or those men who run around with nets to catch balls in. Lacrosse! I don’t do them either. I will do tennis players or an occasional fellow skater, but they can’t be on my team. Cat fights amongst team members are so ugly. I rather like Russian skaters. It’s the accent. I once did a Russian skater. He was delicious. I called it my Boris Godunov phase.”
I giggled at the witty, but Gayle simply continued to gape. I was so happy now – why was she being a prude?
“What?” I asked when she didn’t speak.
“Trent, this contract is contingent on you working with the Railers.”
“No, sorry. I don’t do hockey players. Didn’t we just cover that? They’re rude bullies who have never passed up an opportunity to shove me into lockers, dunk my head into toilets, or taunt me in front of everyone at the rink. Nope. Tell them I don’t do hockey players.”
RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing.
The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.
V.L. Locey loves worn jeans, yoga, belly laughs, walking, reading and writing lusty tales, Greek mythology, the New York Rangers, comic books, and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, a flock of assorted domestic fowl, and two Jersey steers.
When not writing spicy romances, she enjoys spending her day with her menagerie in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania with a cup of fresh java in hand. She can also be found online on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and GoodReads.