Nerd Plays Naughty by Whitepuppy

I regard my reflection in the mirror lens of the broadcasting camera. My hand reaches up self-consciously to touch the edge of my cheek.

All I can see is a beautiful black woman.
Nerd Plays Naughty
Nerd Plays Naughty by Whitepuppy
With the camera switched off, the blank screen is darker than my ebony skin. During the hour-long news cast, the high-definition video must have captured every pore of my digitally-enhanced face. I wear a mask - a picturesque frame, drawn and penciled to perfection by a stylist’s makeup brush. Accentuate the beautiful. Blend the ordinary. Conceal the ugly. Sell the face. But is it really possible to paint over everything? After all, not all scars are visible on the surface. “And that’s a wrap, guys!” I… “...that's a wrap. Hey, Cheyenne?” … don't think they can see. “Cheyenne! Ms. Nelson!” Mr. Arnold Smith, my boss, the producer of our news station and the main man in-charge, snaps his fingers in my general direction, breaking me out of my reverie. I jump inwardly, but it takes only half a second for me to recover my bearings. Being the seasoned professional that I am, not much frazzles me. But after the incident that went down with my boyfriend, Tyler Coombs, I have become prone to easy distractions. “Admiring your pretty face in the camera, eh? I know a healthy dose of narcissism is a given with the industry, but Jesus! You've been staring in the lens for a long time. We can't be waiting around for you all day. We've all got homes to go back to. Sometimes, I really wonder what goes on in that pretty little head of yours, Cheyenne, I really do. Lately too, I’ve noticed that you’ve been coming in late to work. Have you given up? Lost the drive for success, have we?” “Really, Arnold. You're fond of putting me on the spot, aren't you?” I laugh, softening my eyes to let the crinkles of a smile surface. “How can I ever give this up? Being a news anchor is my dream, my life. Don't be silly now. Everything’s fine.” Everything's fine… “Eh?” My co-anchor, Hank Handley, chimes in. “Don't you know that Cheyenne’s been seeing that big-time football star athlete, Tyler Coombs? It's been the go-to story of gossip rags for the past several print cycles. It's no wonder she doesn't have the stamina during the day. A stud like him? I bet he's been keeping her up all night, if you know what I mean. Wink, wink.” I frown, rolling my eyes. “A lot better than the sock you use to service yourself, Hank. If only socks had self-respect, dear Hank would finally have a reason to get out of his mother’s basement.” Arnold laughs as Hank’s face turns red. “Ouch! Lady’s got bite.” “The least you can do is definitely grace us with an exclusive,” Hank suggests. “You know, seeing as you work here and all. I can see the cover story now - ‘Cheyenne Nelson Tells All: Does Tyler Coombs run the grass as well on the field as off?’” “Sure. As soon as you’re featured on the cover of world’s smallest dildo model. Single ladies put a ring on it.” Hank mimes a death blow across his chest. “Hey, don't dish it out if you can't take it.” I wink at Hank who raises his hands in sheepish defeat. “And besides, a proper lady doesn't kiss and tell.” “But he is big down there, right?” Hank whispers under his breath. “Goodbye, Hank. Maybe bring your socks out to dinner for once. Treat them nice for your twentieth anniversary.” “Tell me when to stop.” He traces his finger along his arm, gradually drawing them further apart. “This much? How about this big? No way... Oh god, my whole arm?” I shake my head, trying not to laugh. Sometimes, I wish that my co-workers didn’t all know about my relationship with the legendary Tyler Coombs, but after going out for two years, it seems that everyone and their pet cat have found some way of knowing the most intimate details of our relationship. I guess it’s just the price to pay for dating a football star. I sigh. Still, in my mind, Tyler is just Tyler. Despite the spotlight these days, he shall always be my college sweetheart, the same man who had stolen my heart all those years ago. As much as I enjoy these back-and-forths with Hank, there is someplace that I need to get to and fast. Tyler is playing in the big game tonight, and if I don’t get a move on, I am going to miss it - and I’ve never missed a game ever. The two teams - the Broncos and Packers - are long-standing rivals and equally matched, or so I hear. It is set to be the game of the century, but more than anything, I want to be there to support the man I love. As the future Mrs. Coombs, it is the least of my duties. This time, the game is to be held in Wisconsin. As with out-of-state trips like this, I have prepared my personal go-to luggage with the clothes and my all-important makeup kit that I need for the few days that I shall be staying there. Now, where is my ride? “Cheyenne?” I look up from my handbag to see Cooper Maxwell standing at the entrance of the lobby of our building. Cooper is the station’s sound technician, someone who pretty much embodies the image of a stereotypical nerd, from his black square-rimmed glasses to his buttoned-up beige t-shirt and brown khakis. His mop of disheveled, dark brown hair looks like he has just woken up from bed. Has he been waiting long? I’ve always hated waiting for latecomers, and now I am guilty of the same. I shoot him an apologetic look as I hurry over. “Sorry for taking longer than expected, Cooper. Our program went into overtime.” “No worries,” he reassures, flashing a wane smile. He looks particularly haggard today. I wonder if he was getting enough sleep. Those dark eye bags would suggest otherwise. “Tough day?” “Up all night on a personal project.” Wait, did that mean-? My face flushes. Um… On second thought, I don't want to know. I smile at him, grateful that he had consented to me tagging along with him and the sound crew. He is my ride to the big game over in Wisconsin and to see Tyler. Cooper is a sweet guy, and I feel somewhat guilty for turning to him whenever I want something or other. He would always say ‘yes’ without a moment’s hesitation. For some reason, he is the one coming my rescue most of the time, and for a ditz like me, I tend to screw up on a regular basis, so having him around is handy to say the least. I know. My girlfriends would say that a guy like Cooper is only putting up a nice-guy act to get in my panties, but the truth is that Cooper has never once made any sort of romantic gesture toward me. I could have sworn that he is gay, or at least asexual. Perhaps he is celibate for religious reasons. I can't say that my healthy ego isn't hurt by the fact that he doesn't show any interest. But now, I can say that our platonic relationship is for the best. After all, we are two entirely different people with no discernible common interest. Nothing would come from it. Cooper is an introvert and I am an extrovert. I am a BBBW (big, black, beautiful woman), while Cooper was... well, he was your AWG (average white guy). While I have dated guys of different races and ethnicities, I have never hooked up with a white man. Maybe it is just a matter of preference, and this cup of hot and steamy chocolate Grande just does not do well being mixed with plain vanilla. That’s not to say that Cooper isn't good-looking. You can say that he is kind of cute in that geeky, dorky sort of way. It’s sort of charming. For a white boy. Besides, I have a gut feeling that there is more to Cooper than he lets on. Who knows? There just might be a naughty, wild streak behind those nerdy glasses. It makes me smile thinking that he might be a closet freak in bed. After all, the quiet ones are often the ones most likely to surprise us. In any case, it is a relief and a massive weight off of my shoulders that Cooper and I are just friends and nothing more. “Do you need help with your bags?” Cooper turns to me. “Oh,” I say. “If you think it's not too much.” He must have noticed that I am struggling with the weight of my luggage. “Thank you.” I bite my lower lip as I sheepishly hand my luggage over to him, keeping only my handbag. I silently chastise myself for not having packed less clothing. Unlike for me, the heavy luggage seems to pose no difficulty for Cooper. Instead, he does so effortlessly, even with all of his own bags of, presumably, heavy and expensive sound equipment. My eyes happen to glance down and I am suddenly aware of the lean muscles rippling on his forearm. How have I never noticed this before? Perhaps I do not know Cooper as well as I thought I did. A guilty thought crosses my head then. Maybe I am friends with Cooper only insofar as he can do favors for me. Am I using Cooper for selfish reasons? If so, can I really consider him my friend? I do not say a word as I trail after him. After a good while, Cooper turns to me. “Um, Cheyenne?” “Yeah?” I look up. “I know it’s not my place to say this.” He fixes his gaze upon me with his dark brown eyes. “But is everything okay with you? You seem distant and just a little out of it. Maybe also, what is the right word — lost? Is anything troubling you?” Is anything troubling me…? Why did he say that? I feel suddenly exposed, as if I have been stripped of all my clothing, only to be force to stand stark naked in front of him. No, I am more than naked. Left in such a vulnerable state, I feel an overwhelming sense of shame. My cheeks flush hotly. Then, I feel it again. It’s as if a mirror has been held up to my face and I’m forced to confront the truth of what I had gone through with Tyler. The old feelings come rushing back, and they hurt. The more that Cooper looks at me with those piercing brown eyes, the more they reveal. I’m about to have a full blown panic attack! If I stay standing before him, I will surely be unable to bear it any longer. So don't look at me like that, Cooper... “I- I’m sorry! I have to use the bathroom!” I stammer as I turn away from him. “Wait!” I can hear Cooper calling after me, but I do not care. All I want to do is crawl inside a hole and hide. My fingers scrape and scramble at the depths of my handbag to finally grab hold of my makeup kit. I pull the box out with relief, quickly picking out my eyeliner and lipstick and begin to meticulously apply my makeup. With every brush and stroke of my magical tools, I can feel my anxiety slipping away. Finally, I’m done. I may have been careless then, but this time, I’m sure. This time, I’m flawless. This time, no one can see the hidden scars for sure. Cooper Maxwell, don't go saying things that you don't understand. Just because you’re doing me a favor, it doesn't give you the right to carelessly say whatever you want. I shove my makeup kit back into my handbag and exit the women’s bathroom. Cooper looks almost uncomfortable, standing outside waiting for me. Good. Let him squirm for all I care. “Hurry,” he urges. “We don’t want to miss the flight.” “I’m ready. Let’s go.” “Great.” He pauses, looking away. He scratches the side of his face with a sheepish look that I can't quite place. “Um… I wanted to say that you look radiant today. But then again, you've always looked beautiful.” I want to smile, and so I do. But moments later, I wonder if those words were what I truly wanted to hear. Chapter 2 Cheyenne * * * Cooper hails a cab, and to his credit, he performs the heavy lifting to put my luggage and his sound equipment into the trunk. He opens the cab door for me and we squeeze into the roomy interior of the vehicle. “Denver International Airport, please,” he instructs the driver. “Thanks again for agreeing to this,” I say to Cooper for the umpteenth time since we had left on our way to the airport. “I know the television station would have never consented to my itinerary if I didn't tag along with you and your crew.” Cooper narrows his eyes. “Well, we're not going to the football game just because Tyler is playing. We’ll be there to cover the game for our sports segment.” “It must be nice to have your flight and expenses covered for the sporting events you go to. Maybe I should have majored in Sports Journalism instead.” “Somehow, you don't strike me as someone who particularly likes sports.” “That obvious, huh?” I laugh. By the time we reach the airport, twenty-six minutes has passed. It looks like we are on time. We swiftly check-in our things at the counter and meet up with the other two crew members from GCTV Network who appear to have been waiting at the gate. Cooper introduces me to Duke, a senior sports reporter, who covers all the major sporting events, and Karl, Duke’s understudy. “I didn’t think you guys would make it!” Duke exclaims in exasperation. “They are just about to facilitate boarding. Cooper, we would have left without you, which, if you didn't already know, would constitute finding an alternative flight at this late-hour and, obviously, paying out of pocket.” “I…” Cooper starts to say. “It was all my fault!” I apologize quickly. “I was the one who held Cooper up. If there is anything I can do to make it up to you, I will try my best to do so.” “Uh… Just get us an interview with that quarterback boyfriend of yours after the game and we’ll call it even,” Duke huffs. “You got it. Thanks again for letting me come along guys. I appreciate it.” The boarding call comes soon after. The plane has a scattered seating arrangement, and so I find myself with a window seat. Cooper takes the aisle seat beside me. For some reason, I feel unusually comfortable, whereas I would have normally dreaded being on flights like this, even short ones. Is it because Cooper is sitting beside me? No, it must be because I am looking forward to meeting my boyfriend, Tyler. And besides, it's not so bad. At least if someone has to sit next to me, I am glad it's Cooper. “You're smiling.” Cooper turns to me. He grins with a crooked smile, revealing the dimples on his cheeks. “Any clues as to what you're thinking about?” “I’m just feeling… grateful. I think that’s the right word.” I smile. “Everything in my life has been going so well lately. To be a black woman in this industry, recently promoted to news anchor at the age of twenty-six, I can't help but feel a sense of pride. Is that too much?” “No, of course not.” Cooper lays his arm on the armrest between us before adjusting his seat to make himself more comfortable. “You have worked hard to get to where you are. It's only natural to feel accomplished.” “I suppose.” I turn my gaze to the window and look up at the sky. The blue sky and drifting gray of the clouds place me in a nostalgic mood. I sigh. Can I even recognize the ‘me’ from my past if she were to stand before me now? After all, the ‘me’ of the present is such a huge contrast to how different I had been growing up. “I'm not sure how much you've heard about me, but I'm quite different from the glamorous persona I portray on television,” I say, turning to Cooper. “Really,” he replies, his eyes gleam with intrigue. “Tell me more. Who is the real person behind Cheyenne Nelson?” I laugh. “It's a long story. You sure you can spare the time?” Cooper straps his seatbelt in before flashing a grin. “I'm locked in. There's nothing but time.” I can feel the plane engine starting to rumble underneath my feet. It’ll be a good while before the plane begins its ascent. Even then, it shall be quite some time before we will touch down in Wisconsin. “Very well then,” I say. “But, be warned. If you get bored at any time, you have only yourself to blame.” “I'm all ears.” Is it just my imagination or is Cooper leaning toward me? He is gazing at me intently with his bright eyes. I want to look elsewhere, but end up glancing down at the armrest where lean muscles flex on the bulge of his bicep. It proves to be very distracting. “Hmm…” I focus my thoughts and try to think back. The gray curtains of time begin to slowly pull apart for me. Familiar images flood back into the foreground of my mind like the rolling reel of an old film. “Unlike many from my social circles, I hadn’t been raised under a privileged background. I was born poor, wearing clothes that my mother had dug out from the Salvation Army or the thrift store, eating discarded tinned and canned food, and using my imagination for toys. Living in the projects was tough, but even then, I’ve always wanted to distinguish myself from the other kids. I decided one day that Cheyenne Nelson was going to be somebody different, somebody better. I was going to succeed at whatever I choose to do in life.” Most importantly, I decide not to go back to the past. I decide never to be poor again. Cooper is listening to me with a quiet solemnity, and so I continue. “It hadn’t been easy for me to achieve my dreams. For one thing, there was no money saved up in my family for college. I didn't even know how I was going to get there. But I knew I wanted to be the one to break out of the poverty cycle. I shall be the first in my family to attend college. That was what I had told myself every day when I stayed back after school to study or read books at the local library. Each step of the way, my mother was supportive of me. She kept dinner warm for me when I came back home late, scraped together the money to pay for my college applications, and was unfailing in providing me with words of encouragement, even on the bad days when I did not believe in myself. Deep down, she knew I had it in me to succeed. Finally, all that hard work paid off, and with my grades, I was able to snag a full ride scholarship to study journalism at the University of Denver. Everything took off from there.” “Your mother must be happy,” Cooper says. “You'll finally be able to provide her with the kind of life that both of you wanted.” Must be. Finally. And yet… “She...” A lump catches in my throat and I have to avert my eyes. “My mother passed away not long before my graduation.” “I- I’m sorry. I didn't mean…” Cooper reaches out and squeezes the small of my hand. “It's okay. Honestly, it's been such a long time.” I turn back to Cooper and muster a smile. It is a bittersweet feeling to know that the only person in the world to whom I owe everything to did not get the opportunity to see my success in the end. And yet, I don't feel resentment. I don't feel grief. “My mother gave everything to me, even the strength to look forward and move on. My memories of her could not be anything but joy. I want to celebrate her by living my life in full, just as she would have done.” “Your mother would have been so proud of you,” Cooper says, his brown eyes gleaming under the light. “I mean it! Overcoming adversity and having such a positive attitude to life, it's um… pretty darn impressive!” “Thanks.” For some reason, Cooper’s ordinary words make butterflies dance in my chest. But why? I wonder why I had shared something so personal about myself to Cooper. Usually, I would have indulged in mere small talk when sitting with strangers, or even my co-workers. Talking about my mother to another person is something that I have never done, not even to my boyfriend, Tyler. But Cooper is different somehow. For one, I could feel that he genuinely wanted to listen to me. And for another, I was sure that he would never judge me. I suddenly realize that he is still holding onto my hand. With a faint gasp, I draw my hand back and clutch it to my chest. My heart is beating twice as fast and I can feel the burning heat of my cheeks. When I hear the plane engines roar and feel the wheels start to accelerate along the runway, I quickly pull the blanket out from its plastic wrappings and drape it around my body. “Are you feeling cold?” Cooper asks. I shake my head furiously. He leans toward me, and for a second, I feel like he might reach over the armrest and embrace me. Instead, he merely notes my face with a puzzled expression before receding into his seat. I can feel a palpable heat emanating from the masculine body next to mine. It makes me sink further into a state of flux. Perhaps I would have been warm even without the blanket. However, at this point, it is safe to say that I need the blanket to keep me grounded amid these strange, runaway feelings. “If you don’t mind…” Cooper’s voice sounds strained. “How did you meet Tyler Coombs then?” Oh right. I hug the blanket closer to me and begin to reminisce. “Tyler and I, we had met in college. It was love at first sight as clichéd romance stories go. He was a self-assured senior who hung out with the other popular jocks, and I was a budding freshman awkwardly stumbling around a campus much too big for me. Going to university as a first-generation student exposed me a whole different world than I was used to, and Tyler was the only one who went out of his way to help me find my footing. He was kind, gentle, and attentive - it didn't hurt that he was tall, dark, and handsome too.” I giggle, cupping my mouth. “I guess that's when our love blossomed. We were college sweethearts for the rest of his time at the university. When he graduated, he agreed to give me the time and space I needed to rediscover myself without him, so that I could become the independent woman that I have always known was inside of me. We met up two years ago and rekindled our relationship from where we had left off. He was already an up-and-coming football talent then, and I suppose that's true even more so now, although I'm bound to be biased. Still, I don't love him because he is a legendary football player. I love him because he is my Tyler, the same man in college who gave me the giddy butterflies, a sense of security, and an unassuming peace of mind. What we had would never change. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.” “I see.” Cooper nods along, but his eyes seem far away. I wonder if I’m losing his attention. Finding nothing else to say, I decide to continue anyway. “Tyler and I, we have been talking about getting married lately. We've been dating for two years - actually more if you count the year in college. I am certain that he’ll pop the question any day now. It is the moment that I have been waiting for, the moment where I can finally feel totally confident that Tyler is fully mine. I wouldn’t feel secure until I have his ring on my finger.” If being the girlfriend of Tyler Coombs is a blessing, then being his wife would be a benediction. Upon hearing my words, Cooper slowly turns away from me. He grabs his blanket as well and huddles underneath the covers. I am hoping that he would say something to the tune of well-wishes, or just anything at all, but he remains quiet for the rest of the trip. As I settle into my nap, I wonder if I may have unwittingly offended him somehow. Chapter 3 Cheyenne * * * By the time we land at the Austin Straubel International Airport, it is too late for us to make a stop to the hotel first. We pile into a rented car, stowing our luggage away in the back before we head off toward the Lambeau Field where the big game is to start. Karl calls shotgun and quickly dives into the passenger seat. Since Duke is the designated driver, it leaves me to sit in the back of the small car with Cooper. I am uncertain about the arrangement, only because Cooper has been acting weird since the flight. Nonetheless, I can’t worry too much about him when my mind is preoccupied with meeting Tyler. It seems that Duke and his crew were running short of time, just when they needed desperately to get themselves to the playing field in time to set up for their live broadcast of the game. When Duke first took control of the wheel, I didn't think much of it, but then he begins to drive like a maniac, beating red lights, and swerving past other honking drivers at breakneck speed. It gets so bad that I have half a mind to kick the car door open and jettison it out of here. Who the hell thinks it is a good idea to let this madman drive? Jesus! At this rate, no one will even reach their destination alive. Each sharp turn taken by Duke sends me flying across the seat, rocking me back and forth, left and right. At one point I nearly end up with my hands and legs sprawling all over Cooper’s lap. I scramble quickly to find my balance before the next road bump. Thankfully, Cooper holds my hand and lifts me up. I steady myself by clutching his chest. To my surprise, I discover a hidden side to Cooper. Underneath the humble t-shirt of this nerdy-looking man is a tight, ripped body. His pectoral muscles are hard and toned, which seems to match the bulge of his biceps. I would have never guessed that Cooper is into fitness or active in any form of sports that would explain his present lean, athletic form. Cooper turns to look at me, and I realize that my touch is lingering over his broad chest. “Ahem.” I quickly pull my hand away, trying to appear as composed as possible. “So- So sorry,” I apologize, scrambling back to the other side of the seat. “Nothing to be sorry about.” Cooper straightens his shirt. “Duke, dial it back, will you? Do you have a death wish? Jeez. You're throwing us around like sacks of potatoes back here.” “What are you complaining about?” Duke coughs. “You ended up with a pretty lady on your lap, didn't you? Don't think I didn't see you smiling to yourself when Cheyenne had grabbed your shirt, you cheeky bastard. You should be thanking me for doing you a favor. That must be the closest you've ever been to getting some female action. Have you even lost your virginity yet, Coop?” The two men at the front of the car erupt into laughter, and I am embarrassed for him. Yet, he doesn’t even seem slightly annoyed by their jab. “You’re just going to let them get away with saying that?” I ask him. If it had been Tyler, there would have been a comeback for sure, one that would have more than likely ended in a physical tussle. He shrugs. “And say what, that no, I’m not a virgin? I'm confident about who I am and nothing they say will change that. Let them say what they want to. It's only a harmless laugh. It's not my style to pull punches.” “It’s because he doesn’t have any balls,” Duke retorts. “Cooper wouldn't object if Cheyenne verifies it for us, would you, Coop?” “No thank you!” I huff, backing away. “I’m quite sure they are very much there. And besides, I think my boyfriend might find some objection to that. Tyler can be quite possessive at times. I wouldn’t want him to pummel any of you into a pulp.” “You’d better keep the lewd humor to a minimum then, eh Duke?” “Shut up, Karl!” “A real man who’s confident in himself doesn’t have to be possessive,” Cooper says, eyeing me with a knowing look. What's with that air of superiority? Is he trying to annoy me by saying something so profound-sounding? Give me a break, Cooper. “It’s not exactly a bad thing,” I counter. “There are some women who like that sort of thing in her man. It shows dominance and confidence. Lastly, it shows love, that her man thinks she is worthy enough to keep away from others. In this way, he cares about her, which makes her feel important and special.” “But there are different ways of making a woman feel important.” Cooper fixes his brown eyes on mine. “A woman doesn't have to be treated like a toy in the hands of a selfish child to feel wanted and desired.” I pull my eyes away from his hypnotic stare. It seems as if his words are directed at me in order to call me out, specifically my relationship with Tyler. I’m annoyed that he is acting like he thinks he knows more than me. “No offence, Cooper, but I don’t think you should be giving out relationship advice.” “You know that I’m right.” “And what do you know about women and what they want?” I shoot back at him. “Do you even have a girlfriend?” “Not now, no.” “Exactly my point.” For the first time since I’ve known Cooper, I’m truly frustrated with him, and we’ve been working together for over a year. He is usually the quiet one, always present, but observing, rather than commenting. The fact that he is breaking his normal reticence to make some backhanded commentary on how I should feel about Tyler and our relationship makes me all the more upset. Why should someone like him offer up advice on my love life anyway? At the stadium, I break away from Cooper and company to find my designated seat at the front row with other Broncos fans. When I first told Tyler that I wanted to be at his game, he had gone out of his way to reserve a premium front row seat for me. Here, I’m among the company of the other supporters of the Bronco team. I like the feeling of exclusivity that comes with being in their special quarter, and more so, the way they treat me as the girlfriend of Tyler Coombs, the star player on the team. I can pick out Tyler on the field by the number on his football jersey - 47. It never fails to give me a sense of pride and excitement to see him play. While I would have appreciated being able to talk to my boyfriend before the game, it is enough that I can wave to him and offer my moral support. Whenever Tyler sets foot on the green, his focus would be entirely on the game. I love watching him play, this big, strapping monster of a man who dominates the field with his overwhelming presence. He is a beast, solid, and reliable, who can always be counted upon by his team to execute plays well. He is the quintessential athlete, a jock, and an alpha male without equal. There are a whole lot of tense moments during the game for the players as well as the spectators. I’m so nervous throughout for Tyler and the Broncos, knowing full well that if they should lose this game, then the entire team would be out of contention for the Super Bowl. It doesn’t help that throughout the game, the points continue to be so nail-bitingly close. When Tyler gets into an argument with another player from the other team, I hold my breath. I watch his coach and teammates pull him away before the fight escalates, and it is only then that I let out a long breath. Thank God for the rest of his team. The last thing the Broncos needs is to have their star player expelled from the game. I have a suspicion that this is exactly what the opposing team has in mind when they had instigated that fight, however. If Tyler has one fault, it is that he is unusually hot-tempered. He can sometimes keep his cool, but most times, he simply does not know how to let it go, no matter how big or small the issue might be. Whenever someone pisses him off, he is liable to explode. It has always been a worry of mine that Tyler might end up in jail for killing someone with his bare hands. I seem to be the only one who has any sort of hold on him. He once said that I have a calming effect on him, like an angel sent from the heavens to save him. The sharp thrill of the referee’s whistle brings me back to the game. After the time-out, Tyler seems to have gotten his head back into the game. He is focused, and does not allow the other team to rile him up anymore, despite their repeated and blatant provocations. If anything, he seems to play with more determination and aggression than ever before, pushing the Broncos ahead by ten points leading into the final quarter. I brace myself for a decisive victory in the final stretch, but unfortunately, the Broncos lose some ground early on when two of their players - a running back and a linebacker - have to be taken off the field due to sustained injuries. The Bronco’s efforts to regroup and push an offensive falls through, and the Packers manage to gain enough ground for a good at victory. I start praying. The minutes on the clock count down with a feverish pitch until the game finally ends in an unexpected tie. An additional fifteen minutes of overtime are placed on the clock, leaving the Packers with possession of the ball. The fans all around me are so quiet with anticipation that one can almost hear a penny drop. Clutching the back of the chair in front of me, I watch wide-eyed as the Broncos continue to make advance after advance on the field. Then, the climactic moment comes at last. Tyler makes an amazing touchdown that ends the game with the Broncos’ victory. I leap to my feet and erupt in uproarious cheers along with the rest of the fans. Tears well up in the corner of my eyes. I’m sure that my mascara is already running ugly streaks down my cheeks, but I don’t care. I’m so happy for Tyler. I can’t wait to hug him and have him hold me in his arms as we celebrate his triumphant moment. While Tyler and his team members go over to shake hands with their opponents, I hurry over to find Cooper and his team. “Your boyfriend played a pretty aggressive game tonight.” Duke nods at me with a grin. “Do you think you can make that interview happen after all?” “Of course!” I lead Duke to the congregation of other journalists who appear to be in the middle of interviewing Tyler. When he spots me, his eyes light up. I run to him as he opens his arms wide and pulls me into a tight embrace. He nearly lifts me off my feet. I’m not sure how many people can see us, but I don't care. “I’m so proud of you,” I whisper with a kiss. “You are wonderful, Ty.” “Thanks, baby,” Tyler says, pulling my hair back with his hand. I’m glad you came to see me. You have no idea how much this means to me.” With great reluctance, I pull away from Tyler’s embrace to allow Duke to get his precious interview. There is a hoard of other reporters and journalists who are similarly standing by, waiting impatiently for their chance. Eventually, when the interviews are nearly done, I sneak back to get some additional alone time with Tyler in the hallway outside the men’s locker room. After we share a passionate kiss, my first question to Tyler is to ask him where he will be staying after the game. I want to be with him that night. “I’m staying at the Hyatt Regency.” Tyler smiles as he traces his finger along my arm. I blush as tingles run down my spine from his touch. “What luck!” I gush, unable to control my excitement. “Can you believe that I’ll be staying at the same place? Can't I just stay with you for the night? I will let you do the thing with me that you wanted to try...” Tyler laughs before holding my face with his tender hands. “Sorry babe, but you know the rules. As tempting as that sounds, there are to be no distractions after the game for players.” I pout. Yes, I know the rules of the stupid Broncos team, but surely they can bend them once in a while. How much harm can arise from some simple rest and relaxation with a loved one? If anything, it might even be a morale booster. “Fine,” I mumble. “Then, I guess I have no choice but to go ahead and bunk with one of the guys from the network for the night.” “What?” Tyler’s face blackens at once like a darkening storm. He grabs my arm forcefully, jerking my body toward him. “You’re planning to spend the night with some strange man whom I don't know? Are you trying to humiliate me, woman? ” “Ah- ow! Tyler… you're hurting me,” I whine. My wrist is starting to bruise and I’m suddenly aware of how dark and empty the hallway is. I try to cower away from the fiery embers of his glowering eyes. But still, he holds onto me. “Answer me! Who's this smartass bastard that you're planning to cheat on me with?” He raises his hand menacingly, and I remember the burning blow that had left a bruise on my cheek. Even after having covered up my bruise with foundation and makeup, I can still feel the tremble underneath long after the incident. All the terror of my frightful past comes back to haunt me at that moment, and I can barely find the strength to stand. “It- It’s Cooper Maxwell!” I cry out. “You’ve met him before! He is the sound technician you were introduced to when you had that interview with Duke.” “You mean the nerdy-looking guy with the glasses and short, dark brown hair?” Tyler eases his grip, and I’m able to wrench my hand back. “I- I’m sorry. It's my fault. I should have made the hotel bookings earlier. Now all the hotel rooms are fully booked because of the game. I can fly back. I… I...” I bite my lip, massaging the throbbing ache in my wrist. I should have thought better. I should have done better. I should have avoided other men like he said. Tyler laughs all of a sudden. “Oh, it's that guy? Cooper, you say? That's all right then. I can set my mind at ease if you're staying with that straight-laced fellow. The nerd is probably still a virgin.” “...Then, it's okay? You don't mind if I stay?” “Yeah, I guess so.” Tyler shrugs. He glances down and cups my hand in his. “I'm sorry if I had hurt you, Cheyenne. I didn't mean to do this. Sometimes, I guess I don't even know my own strength. You know how much you mean to me, and I just… I just can't imagine you being with another man. I see red. It's like I’m back on the field and my opponent had stolen the ball, I’d do anything to get it back. You're the most important woman in my life and I’ll never let you go. I would sooner give up everything - football, my car, my money, you name it, if it will keep you by my side. You know that, don't you? Everything I do, I do for us.” Feeling the warmth of those big, masculine hands enveloping mine, I want to believe that everything he says is true. My heart is melting as he caresses the folds between my fingers. “The only person I have eyes for is you, Ms. Cheyenne Nelson.” Tyler pulls me into his arms. Even if he is covered in sweat from the game, it doesn't matter. I love his manly musk, the masculine essence that is undeniably him. The steely bands of his arms around my tiny waist and the bulk of his chest against my delicate shoulders remind me that he is every bit the powerful and dominant man for me. The reason he was behaving so possessive toward me was because it is just a part of his personality, the kind of alpha male who is supposed to sweep me off my feet, caveman-style. Even the way he had grabbed my hand just now was love… …wasn't it? His tongue opens my lips with a hard, passionate kiss before he draws his head down to nibble on my neck. I giggle just as his hands give my generous derrière a playful squeeze. “How I wish I can get you alone in my hotel room tonight. I’ve missed you so much, Cheyenne, you have no idea. You drive me so wild, I lose myself sometimes.” “Okay,” I say, blushing. “Well, maybe we can have breakfast tomorrow before I leave the city.” “Sure thing. I will give you a call then.” I stand there watching Tyler walk away, feeling the afterglow of his passion. His tall, handsome male form is easy to admire from behind, from his short crop black hair, his broad shoulders, down to his bubble butt. The sight of him makes me sigh. I’m sure that I hadn’t made a mistake in choosing to be with him. After all, isn't he the man of every girl’s dreams? When Tyler disappears from my view, I turn around to find Cooper staring at me. I nearly gasp in surprise. How long has he been standing there, watching me? Instinctively, I clutch my hand to my chest before drawing it behind my back to hide it. He didn't see what had happened between Tyler and me, did he? It would be terrible if he had misread the situation, thinking that something bad had taken place, even though it is just a misunderstanding. I want to defend Tyler, but I can't find the words to do so. In the silence that settles between us, the words that Cooper had said earlier begin to circle my mind. A real man who’s confident in what he’s got doesn’t have to be possessive. “Cheyenne, did he hurt you…? You shouldn't-” “No.” “Are you sure? Because I saw-” “I said ‘no’!” I can feel a rush of anger bubbling up inside me. “You didn't see anything, Cooper, all right? So cut it out with those questions!” “I just thought-” “Well, then you thought wrong. It’s none of your business what I choose to do with my love life. Don’t be jealous just because I am in relationship with a great man like Tyler.” I frown. “You've gotten your interview already, so what are you still doing here?” Cooper does not seem entirely convinced, but my words appear to have shamed him into dropping the subject. “I just came to tell you that the other guys are getting impatient waiting on you. We're about to head to the Hyatt in our car. Whether you choose to come or not, it's up to you, but we're leaving in five.” Cooper barely gives me a second glance before walking away. I stew for half-second before hurrying after him. I thought that Cooper is someone I can trust. Someone who won't judge me. Someone who is a friend. So why was he giving me that frustrated look then, as if I’m making a huge mistake? Can't he just be happy for me? Chapter 4 Cheyenne * * * Cooper and I sit in complete silence during the entire drive from the playing field to the hotel. Duke and Karl seem unfazed, or at the very least, uninterested in what seems to be going on between us. They rave about the football game and feel compelled to go over each and every play in the game, from most to least interesting. At least Duke is no longer driving at the same breakneck speed as before, and I don't have a repeat of the horrible experience of sliding all over the back seat, up against Cooper. The thought of it must have given him a cheap thrill. Whatever it is, I don't want to know. And so, I stay in my corner as far away from him as possible, keeping my eye connect to the minimum as I stare out of the window. In spite of what Cooper thought may have happened between Tyler and me, there is nonetheless one other thing that I need to apologize to him for. If he had witnessed most of what transpired, then it means that he would likely have overheard Tyler calling him the “nerdy-looking guy” who is “probably a virgin”. In retrospect, it was hurtful and Tyler should have known better. But if Tyler was at fault for making fun of Cooper, then I’m also complicit for not having corrected him. After having worked with Cooper for over a year, along with all those selfless favors that I had asked of him, the least I could have done was to stand up for him. It is what a friend would do. After all, I know that there is more to Cooper than the impression that he tends to give other people upon first glance. But when I though no one else was listening and when it had mattered the most, I had betrayed him in the worst possible way. I’m a terrible person. Needless to say, I’m embarrassed with my recent behavior. I want to apologize to Cooper, to say I’m sorry and beg for his forgiveness. But I’m worried that anything I say to him would only further the divide between us. I can feel that there is an undercurrent that I don’t quite understand, pushing us away. The more I try to move against it, the more we will come apart. And so, I say nothing. Instead, I try to think of how I can sneak into Tyler’s hotel room. After all, he did say that he would love to have me in his hotel room tonight. If that isn't an open invitation, I don't know what is. Perhaps there might be a way I can make our rendezvous become a reality and surprise him. It will also be a way around the stupid Broncos rules since Tyler won’t know anything about it in the first place, and hence he won’t get into trouble even if we were to get caught. My smile broadens just from imagining the look on Tyler’s face when he should finally open his door and find me on his bed, dressed only in my red lingerie. My plan is all well and good, but how am I supposed to get it done? The one thing in my favor is that Tyler and I will be staying at the same hotel, but other than that, I don't know where to begin. I really regret not having asked for his room number when I had the chance. Perhaps my plan is doomed to failure before it even gets off the ground. At the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Duke collects our room keys from the front desk. “Here, kiddos!” Duke dangles one pair of room keys in front of Cooper and me. “Don't do what your parents wouldn't do! Oh, wait. Parents probably sleep together, don't they? Maybe just forget what I'm saying then!” “What are you talking about, Duke? Maybe just learn to shut your trap once in a while for chrissake.” Cooper snatches the keys from Duke’s fingers. “Ouch… Someone’s in a mood.” Duke frowns. “Cheyenne, you should watch out.” Cooper still looks pissed off from the car ride. No, probably since we last spoke on the plane. I bite my tongue while Karl looks on with a sympathetic half-smile. Duke remains as half-heartedly nonchalant as ever. I wear a visibly glum expression on my face as I follow Cooper, lugging my oversized travel bag behind me. It seems that he isn't willing or able to hold my gaze with his eyes anymore. “Let me get that for you,” Cooper says and takes the handbag from me without waiting for my answer, slinging the weight over his shoulder. “You don't have to...” I try to protest, but he insists. At least this is a change. It is a start, I suppose. I should be grateful that Cooper is even speaking to me now. To be honest, I’m surprised that he would even offer. It is a very big handbag. Tyler would have never so much as hold my bag under any circumstances. In his conservative worldview, a man holding a woman’s bag isn’t a manly thing to do. “Thank you,” I mumble as we get into the elevator. I think I caught a glimpse of a smile from him. “It suits you, Coop.” Duke nudges the handbag and prods Cooper on his side. I’m beginning to regard Duke as the resident douche of our merry bunch. “Not as much as you wearing your wife’s bra and panties.” Cooper smirks. “Just another Tuesday night at Duke’s.” “Hardy har har! You should know that Tuesday is dressing-up-with-clown-makeup day. Friday is for the real kinky get-downs.” “Really makes one wonder what sort of presents you receive for your birthday. Classic dildo or a prosthetic strap-on?” “Both actually. One big, one small. I'll let you guess which is which.” I try to suppress my smile at their irreverent banter, but I can’t help it. And so, I end up bursting out in laughter instead. Cooper grins at me. “Seriously, you find that funny?” “I’m sorry, but it is hilarious.” I snicker. “Normal things don't set you off, but the low-brow, dirty humor does. You confuse me.” Cooper shakes his head with a sigh. I can tell that he wants to appear critical of me, but it only ends up making me laugh, seeing his stern expression juxtaposed against his ridiculous one-liners. I’m just glad that Cooper doesn't appear to be mad at me anymore. When we get off the elevator on our hotel floor, I’m still wearing a big grin on my face. “Be gentle with him now, Cheyenne.” Duke winks as he walks over to his and Karl’s room and inserts the key. “You sure you don’t want to change your mind and bunk here with Karl and me? A sexy woman like you is wasted on that forever-virgin over there.” “After everything I’d heard about your kinks just now?” I leer. “No thanks, pervert. I'm not even sure I want to ride in the same car as you tomorrow. Whatever the newest sexually transmitted infection might be, I'm certain they'll find it on your body. So no, I think I'll take my chances with Mr. Celibacy over here.” Duke makes a show of clutching his heart and pretending to be wounded before disappearing into his room with a lighthearted chuckle. “Is he always like this?” I ask Cooper as we walk into our shared hotel suite. “Pretty much. You’ll get used to it after a while and just tune it out. Or better yet, join in and hit back twice as heavy like I do.” “I have a vague suspicion that he gets off when others join in.” I take my handbag back from him with an appreciative smile. “Anyway, I’ve been wearing this outfit all day without a change, and I seriously need a shower. You don’t mind, do you?” “Of course not. Go right ahead. Do you want anything to eat? I can order us some room service while you freshen up.” “Oh, yes please!” I clap my hands gleefully. My mind drifts to thoughts of food, food, and more food as I casually remove my top, skirt, and stockings. I settle on an order and turn to address Cooper when I suddenly realize that he had left the bedroom. It is only then that the thought comes into my mind that I might have been acting inappropriately by undressing in front of him. I mean, Cooper doesn't seem like a prude and I didn’t set out to undress before him on purpose. It isn’t as though I’m naked. I have on my panties, which is almost like wearing a two-piece bikini. Surely, he has seen girls in bikinis before. I think I had been so caught up with the idea of Cooper as a sexless, nerdy virgin who can't possibly find me attractive that the alternative is unthinkable. Even Tyler thinks so, and he is Mr. Possessive. I hadn't even considered that undressing in front of Cooper would have made him uncomfortable, but it seems that I have once again failed to consider Cooper’s feelings. I set aside my thoughts of Cooper as I headed into the bathroom with my makeup removal kit. It takes me a long time to remove my mascara, eyeshadow, lipstick, and then cleanse my face of foundation before I’m ready to step into the hot shower. The pulsing jets from the shower head feel amazing running down my back and shoulders. I sigh with zen-like contentment. After being on the go for pretty much the whole day, I deserve this moment of peace to myself if only to relax and recharge my batteries. Try walking from work, straight to the airport, and then to the football field in a pair of high heels, and tell me it isn't a gigantic pain in the neck. If I didn’t have a mind to seduce Tyler tonight, I would have been contented to rest all comfy in my deluxe bed back home. It is an hour later when I finally get out of the shower. I take the time to dry myself and wrap my body into one of those thick, complimentary bathrobes in the hotel closet. Despite all my efforts on the thinking front, I’m no closer to figuring out how I’m supposed to get into Tyler’s hotel room. I did consider the most direct approach, which is simply going to the front desk and asking the receptionist, but no one in their right mind would supply me with the private information I need. But seeing as I can't come up with an alternative solution, I will just have to try my luck, and hope that no one is paying attention. I can hear Cooper in the dining area, and so I hurry to slip off my bathrobe and get myself properly dressed. “You're finally out of the shower, I see. Thank goodness we don't have to see the water bill,” Cooper jests. “Oh, shut up.” I join Cooper at the table, and I’m immediately impressed by the offering in front of me. I’m amazed to see that he had gone ahead to order such a wide selection of room service fare for the two of us to share. I wonder how we will have the stomach to finish so much food. There is ribeye, filet mignon with sides of roasted broccoli, grilled potatoes, and lemon quinoa. “Wow!” I exclaim. “I know the network gave you guys a budget for meals, but I never thought they would be this generous.” “I’m paying for it. I wasn’t sure what you would want and I didn’t want to disturb your shower. I hope this is okay.” Cooper smiles, scratching the back of his neck with a look of uncertainty. “Of course, if you don’t care for any of these, I can order something else.” “Are you kidding me? This is amazing, Cooper. I absolutely must reimburse you for my share of the meal.” “You’ll do no such thing, Cheyenne. Really, it’s no big deal.” He stops my hand when I reach for my purse to pay him. I hesitate, but finally decide to accept his gesture of generosity. He seems genuinely pleased, as if my happiness alone is all the satisfaction that he needs. He holds out a chair for me at the table, and I sit. He asks that I wait for a moment, and then he disappears for a few seconds to the mini-fridge before returning with a bottle of wine and two glasses. Wow. He must have ordered those from a special wine menu. I bite my tongue to stop myself from asking about the price for this meal. It must be ridiculously expensive. But why? What are his intentions for splurging like this? To impress me? To make me feel better? Or is this simply the sort of lifestyle he leads? Just how wealthy are you, Cooper Maxwell? I decide that I have to put my qualms aside if I want to have any chance of enjoying the food. And so, I settle into my meal and luxuriate in the company. My stomach rumbles suddenly with a light ‘glug-glug’ sound, making me glance up with a horrified expression. I can feel my cheeks burning red. Cooper merely chuckles to himself. “Eat. You must be starving.” “I- I know that!” I dip my fork and spoon to my plate. It is only when I savor the first bite of my meal that I truly understand just how hungry I actually am. I had skipped my lunch today because of my tight schedule at the network, and I had only really eaten the pretzels that were handed out on the plane. I had sustained myself from the undivided excitement and adrenaline during the Broncos game as well as from anticipation over meeting Tyler that I hadn't even considered my own needs. As I eat, I find myself studying Cooper. He isn’t bad looking at all, a sentiment I affirm as I stare at him up close. His hair is a dark brown color, short, and a bit disheveled. But the look doesn’t make him unattractive at all. No, rather he looks more self-assured and laidback, like a male model who has just gotten out of bed. He catches me staring and I look away quickly, but not before I get to appreciate the dark brown eyes that I feel assessing me. His eyes remind me of caramel and hazelnuts. I consider them his best feature and my breath catches for a moment as our eyes clash. “What is it?” “N- Nothing...” “Hmm…” His eyes hold mine for a moment before he looks away. For some reason, I’m drawn to the way he handles himself in front of me. He eats like a refined gentleman, cutting his meat into small pieces with a fork and knife, and chewing his food properly before swallowing. He holds the stem of the glass like a true connoisseur of wine as he swirls and breathes in the complex aromas before sampling it with a studied air. I can’t help myself from wanting to find out more about Cooper, his background, and his personality. I've had plenty of opportunities before, but I guess I have never seen him in this light. He seems very confident in a way that can catch people off-guard. He doesn't much care about what people think of him, and he didn’t make a fuss when the other guys had teased him earlier, which I find to be a grown-up way of handling things. It is a sign of maturity to meet conflict with humor and logic, rather to retaliate with anger or violence. I suppose that is the difference between Tyler and Cooper. I’m not very knowledgeable about what Cooper does at the network exactly, but I think his job deals with performing maintenance checks to ensure that their sound quality software and equipment are up to standard. For that reason, he is usually in the background playing the supporting role whenever I happen to be on air. I still remember the time we first met. It was during a night segment when I had been on air for six hours straight covering a live event, and my microphone had suddenly stopped working. The production crew was panicking and called an emergency intermission. Cooper was the one who had come up to me and fixed my microphone. I guess we hit it off from there. “Do you like working with the GCTV Network?” I ask him. Cooper glances up at me and wipes his lips with his napkin before responding. “It’s an okay place to work.” “It can’t be much fun doing a job that always keeps you in the shadows,” I point out. “For some of us, that is exactly what we prefer,” he retorts. “I get it, Cheyenne. You’re a beautiful woman who loves the camera and limelight, but I prefer to work behind the scene and take care of the stuff that needs to be done for people like you who stay in the foreground.” “You think I’m beautiful?” It’s a bit shallow of me, but this was what I picked out of all that he had just said. I never thought that he noticed me before. Cooper frowns at me. “It’s obvious that you are a beautiful black woman. It’s not just your exterior beauty, though you do have that in abundance, but the reason that the camera loves you is that you have a vibrant personality, you have compassion, and you are always passionate about what you talk about. These qualities show clearly in how you present yourself on air.” My fork is poised in mid-air. I cannot help but stare openly at him. My mouth drops open. Whoa, that is a whole lot more information than I was hoping for. “That’s umm... nice of you to say.” My cheeks flush as I turn away, unsure of where to lay my eyes. “Just calling it as I see it.” “Don't you think it's a bit unfair for you to know so much about me, while I know almost nothing about you? We've known each other for over a year, and I barely know more than your last name. Who are you, Cooper Maxwell?” He smiles and pushes his glasses up his nose bridge. “Are you sure I'm the sort of mystery you should uncover, Cheyenne? Beware that I don't turn out to be some gentleman that you can't help falling head over heels in love with.” I laugh. “You wish!” I nudge him playfully. “You never know. It's said that I have that effect on women… especially when I remove my glasses.” Cooper sets his glasses aside and I find myself positively enthralled by the dark brown hues of his eyes. They are ethereal and mesmerizing, as if I can see the depths of the unfathomable universe in them. I look away quickly. I mustn't get distracted. I need Cooper’s help, and there is no better time to snare him into my scheme than right now. “Well then...” I twirl a strand of my hair between my fingers. “Would you say that you’re a very smart guy, Cooper?” “Depends on what you mean by smart.” He looks at me with a quizzical frown. “When it comes to computers and technical equipment, I guess you can say that I have more knowledge than most.” I smile. Though he is being modest, I can sense that there is probably more to his skills than he is letting on. In any case, he is my only lifeline and I need his help. I don’t know if what I plan is even be feasible, but I have to find out. “Can you do really cool stuff like hacking passcodes, computer systems for example?” “I’m not sure how to answer that, or whether I should at all. What are you trying to get at, Cheyenne? Are you asking if I can erase your criminal records or help you to rob a bank? Perhaps you should try to state plainly what you’re really after instead of speaking in a roundabout manner.” “It's nothing like robbing a bank, I think.” I sigh. “Okay, here’s the deal. Ever since I found out that Tyler will be staying in the same hotel as us, I've been thinking up ways on how I can get inside his room, so that we can spend the night together. The problem is I don’t even which room he is in. That's where you come in. I’m wondering if you might know how to hack into the hotel’s computer systems, find out Tyler’s room number, and then do some of your technobabble magic to get me into his room. D- Do you think that's too much?” Cooper frowns. “First of all, that's illegal and irresponsible. Have you heard of the crime called breaking and entering? Second, why would you need to go to all that trouble when you can simply call up your good ‘ole boyfriend and ask him for his room number and his key?” “That's the thing, I can’t!” I grumble. “As it so happens, the Broncos have a policy about having distractions after a game. The team members are not supposed to be entertaining anyone in order to rest up.” “Then you should consider obeying the rules for a change. Rules are there for a reason.” “Damn the rules, Cooper!” I throw my hands up in exasperation. “You don’t understand how it feels when you’re in love with someone and you just want to be with them. Tyler and I, we haven’t… we haven't been intimate in weeks. There! I said it. I’m desperate here. Contrary to what some people may think, it’s not any easier on a woman to wait either.” “And why would I go through so much trouble? What’s in it for me?” “I'll… I'll owe you, I guess. You can call in a favor from me at any time. Within reason, of course. Nothing that you would expect a ‘nerd’ to do.” Cooper raises a questioning eyebrow at me, and I feel like he is about to say something. I suddenly realize what I had called him. “I’m so sorry.” I grasp his arm on the table. “It came out wrong. I didn't mean to call you a ‘nerd’ as an insult. I just meant people like… like you. You know, people who know how to do all that technical stuff which I can’t do.” “Lucky for you, I have no qualms about being called a nerd.” He flashes a crooked smile. It would seem that a part of him enjoys seeing me squirm. I'm not sure I enjoy getting to know this side of Cooper. “Will you do it then?” I kneel down in front of him, cupping my hands in a supplicatory gesture. “Please, please, please, Cooper! Please do this for me. Think about it. It’s beneficial for the both of us. You won’t have to share your room with another person, and you can finally have a cozy night relaxing on your own.” “I wonder about that…” he mutters under his breath. “Mm? What did you say?” Cooper sighs, combing his hair back with one hand. “You won't let it go, will you? If I don't agree to help you, you'll still pursue some other means to get into your boyfriend’s room, right?” I nod my head slowly, knowing that his words are true. He presses his hand against his forehead. “All right then. I can't bear to watch you go to humiliate yourself alone, so I… I guess I'll have to help you after all.” “Oh my god! Thank you, Cooper. You won't regret this.” Cooper groans. “Why do I get the feeling that I already do?” Chapter 5 Cooper * * * I cannot help but stare at the gorgeous woman kneeling before me with her face so close to my groin. Cheyenne Nelson is my idea of perfection. The dark chocolate hue of her complexion is both flawless and tantalizing. I’m not in the best of position right now to refuse her request, considering that I’m still having a hard time getting her out of my mind. She had just gone and nonchalantly stripped off her clothes in front of me like it wasn't a big deal. Like it would have no effect on me. Does she really not think of me as a man, that I do not have manly urges too? Can it be that she truly believes that I’m a nerdy virgin after all? Jesus… The sight of her, it is just like in my private fantasies, except her body, intimately covered by her bra and panties, looks a hundred times better than I could have ever imagined. I had only gotten a back view of her body and, good God! What a view it had been! The tiny waist, the dip in her back, which leads to her generously curved behind. I want to grab hold of her by her perky cheeks and part their perfect proportions. Good thing my dominant head prevails, pouring cold water on my burning desire, and I’m able to leave the room before I do anything stupid. She had made it clear several times since we've been in Green Bay that she only has eyes for the quarterback. This understanding doesn’t make me feel insecure or get down on myself. Quite the opposite. It spurs me to draw upon the better parts of myself, to become the strong and confident man that I know she deserves. I just wish for an opportunity to show her my real self on an intimate level, not the preconceived notion that she has of me. Then, if I can, I want to confess to her how I truly feel about her, that she deserves a real man who will treat her right, and I won't give her up, no matter if a thousand quarterbacks stand in my way. I have decided this. I won't give up on this chance at love. Ever since I started working at the television station, Cheyenne had caught my eye. I have always found black women exquisitely beautiful, and Cheyenne is a queen among queens. She is tall and lithe, yet has generous curves in all the right places. My attraction to her isn’t simply over her physical beauty though. Whenever I happen to find her, I would watch her out of the corner of my eye. She is a breath of fresh air and always carries an uplifting glow around the office. Her personality is one-of-a-kind. I notice the adorable way she laughs and smiles as well as how kind she is to everyone around her. I enjoy the little things about her that she thinks no one would notice, like when she cups her mouth shyly to hide her smile, or that small giggle of hers. I can't get enough of her. Each new thing that I discovered made my heart skip a beat. When I learn that Cheyenne had become the girlfriend of the famous quarterback athlete, Tyler Coombs, I gave her a wide berth, or at least tried to. Somehow, I always found myself in these situations where she would ask me to help her out. I can't very well refuse her, and truthfully, I don't want to. This places her constantly in my path, and it makes it difficult for me to forget her. Gradually, hopelessly, I begin to develop feelings for her. If she ever gives me the chance to show her the man that I truly am, there is no doubt in my mind that she will see that I’m a better partner for her than Tyler ever can be. I can see why she would go for someone like Tyler. The star athlete is a handsome guy, a Casanova, bad-boy type oozing with machismo. The two of them share cultural similarities and come from the same college. From my experience, women usually go for that sort of guy. And if that is all, I would gladly bow out and give the couple my blessing. But Tyler is trouble. I have my suspicions ever since reports surfaced of his many violent altercations and public outbursts. It may have been nothing more than rumors. And though I’m willing to give the man the benefit of the doubt, especially knowing how much Cheyenne professes to love him, I can’t push away my suspicions. But then, when I see the look on Cheyenne’s face, the look of shame that she desperately wants to hide, I know that there has to be something deeper going on between them... As much as the thought of Cheyenne being intimate with Tyler is distasteful for me, I can never find the will to refuse her requests. Nonetheless, I have enough faith in her to believe that someday she will wake up and realize what a real man is. When she does, I will be here waiting. In the meantime, against my better judgment, I’m going to help her break into her boyfriend's hotel room. At least I will have the bar downstairs to keep me company afterward so I can forget all about what she might be doing with her superstar boyfriend. “Oh thank you!” Cheyenne wraps her arms around my neck, and it is then that I think helping her is worth it. “So what do we need to do? How can I help?” she asks. “You’re of no use to me.” I dismiss her more gruffly than I mean to. “I just need to get my laptop and I should have the information that you seek.” “I can’t believe you’re really doing this for me.” I can't believe it myself. I sigh as I go to my luggage to retrieve my laptop and boot it up. What she wants me to do is nothing too hard. I should be able to break into the hotel’s system in less than ten minutes tops to retrieve the relevant information. Cheyenne leans over me as I flip open my computer, leaving me feeling hot and bothered. Her perfume is intoxicating. I need to concentrate and can do without the distraction, pleasant though it might be. “Cheyenne, I prefer some privacy to get this done,” I say. “Oops. Yes, of course. Have all the space you need.” “Thank you. But before you go, you have to understand that this is strictly confidential. You must never mention to anyone that I did this for you or we'll both be in a whole heap of trouble.” “Don’t worry, I won’t. I promise.” Cheyenne leaves me alone and I’m able to breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, my brain can get some badly needed breathing room. Tapping into the computer system is a little challenging, but I have the hacking know-how necessary to get the job done, especially when everything digital is stored in the cloud nowadays. And so, I get down to work. With a few lines of code, I obtain access to the relevant database and extract the hotel’s guest list. Then, it is a simple matter of doing a keyword search for ‘Tyler Coombs’ and bingo! There we go! “Cheyenne, I have it,” I announce, and immediately, I hear her feet as she bounces over to me. “Which room is it?” “Room 205.” I turn around and have to take a big gulp. Cheyenne had obviously been primping and preening even before the news of success. Here she is, standing before my eyes, wearing sexy red lingerie, which consists of a semi-transparent dress that ends high on her thighs. I can barely keep my mind steady, gazing upon the matching red thong strapped to her curvaceous hips. She oozes sensuality, and I suddenly wish that I hadn’t agreed to help her on this mission after all. Then, she throws on a knee-length jacket over what she had paraded in front of me, and I’m able to avert my eyes at last. Still, it does nothing to make me forget what I had seen underneath. It shall be a very long time before I will be able to forget the sensual image of her that is now stuck in my brain. Damn, it hurts. I’m helping to send the woman I love over to another man. “Okay, we have the room number, but how are we going to get in?” she asks, oblivious to my turmoil and the state of arousal that she had left me in. “I’m having second thoughts about this,” I mutter. “Why should I risk getting thrown in jail because you want to spend the night with your boyfriend?” She pouts. “Please, Cooper! You’ve already gotten me all fired up, thinking that my plan is going to work after all. You can’t leave me hanging now.” “This is something illegal, Cheyenne. It is one thing to plan to do something, but quite another to actually do it. We can still stop now. What if we get caught?” “I’m sure they will understand that it is done for love. It makes for a good romantic story, don’t you think?” “Romantic for you, but criminal for me.” “Okay, I get it,” she says with a disappointed huff. “I guess I’m on my own. I’ll just have to find another way to do it without your help.” “What about just giving up?” I ask. “It’s not like you’re not going to be seeing Tyler again anytime soon.” “Urgh!” She fumes. “I don’t expect you to understand. I need to be with Tyler tonight. This was a big game for him today, and I want to be there to share in his big moment.” “You're right. I don't understand.” Sometimes, I simply can’t understand her at all. How can such a smart, successful, and attractive woman make a decision like this so flippantly? But then again, I can't exactly blame her, seeing how far I’ve already gone along with her crazy scheme. “Where are you going?” I shout after her. Cheyenne winks at me. “Now that I have the room number, finding my way in should be a piece of cake.” “And how do you propose to do that?” “The good ‘ole way, using my wits and a bit of feminine charm.” Is she serious? Is she really going to go through with her plan? “Wait!” I grab her elbow. “You’re not serious.” “Okay then, watch me.” I’m appalled that she will go to this extent just to get into Tyler’s room. What kind of hold does the footballer have over her? It has to be a truly twisted grip for her to be willing to do something so foolish for him. Is it love? Chapter 6 Cheyenne * * * Cooper is worried for nothing. Getting inside Tyler’s room will be an absolute picnic, and I can do it just as easily with my eyes closed if I want to. Can I even be considered a good journalist if I can’t find the right angle, discovering ways to get into places that people do not ordinarily have access to? Tch! All it takes is to rush down to the front counter of the lobby in my lingerie and sob that I had gotten locked out of my room. Cold and humiliated in front of everyone, the staff will have no choice but to assist me. Of course, everyone will know who Tyler Coombs is, and from there, it shall take no time at all to persuade them that I’m indeed his girlfriend, Cheyenne Nelson. And so, I execute my plan, and to my surprise, it goes perfectly with no hiccups. The sympathetic concierge personally escorts me to Tyler’s hotel room door before opening it with the master key. Feeling guilty, I make sure to leave him a generous tip. I notice him checking out my curves, and it gives me a secret thrill. “I can’t believe I did it!” I squeal gleefully to myself, shutting the door to room 205 behind me. Tyler’s hotel room is much nicer than the one I’m sharing with Cooper. For one, it is very spacious. The bedroom consists of a King-sized bed with a walk-in closet, an ensuite bathroom, and there is even a dining area and a kitchenette to complete the room. The view overlooking the poolside from the balcony is simply picturesque as well. Although Tyler had told me that his team management provides hotel accommodation for all its players, I figured that Tyler must have sprung extra out of pocket for his own room as he usually does. He will often complain to me that he doesn’t like the amenities that the team offers and prefers spending his own money if it meant getting a halfway decent room that meets his high standards. Well, this room is definitely more than decent. If it were me, I would definitely have chosen to save that extra money in the bank for a rainy day. But who am I to judge how someone spends their hard-earned paycheck? It is still quite early, and I don’t expect Tyler to return for some time. In the meantime, I make myself comfortable as I explore his room. I even have time to lie on the couch and watch a brief romantic drama episode on the HD plasma-screen TV in the sitting area, but not before helping myself to a generous glass of wine from the bar. My mind quickly turns to boredom as I wait for Tyler. I start wondering what Cooper might be doing at the present moment. He isn’t nearly as one-dimensional as I had initially thought, and he has a bit of a bite to him too. He has shown me that he isn’t afraid to share his opinion. I begin to imagine what kind of girl a nerd like him might be interested in. He would probably prefer brainy girls who can keep up with him intellectually. All his talk of sound technology and programming is woefully lost on me. That said, I can see where Cooper has potential. He might be a nerd, but he is charming in his own way. He just needs to lose the glasses, dress up with a bit more swag, and he can probably turn a few heads. But then again, I can’t see him acting with any kind of swagger. In my mind, I already associate him with khaki pants and sweater. It’s his signature style and seems to be the only thing that his wardrobe consists of. Yet, by my own observation, he seems to have a decently toned body beneath all of that clothing. I don't know why he would hide it. If you have it, flaunt it. That's what I always say. It might be funny to take a peek underneath his clothing, you know, just to see what he is packing. Who knows? With a bit of a makeover, even Cooper can be… sexy? I catch myself giggling. It dawns on me that I’m no longer as eager in anticipating Tyler’s return as I had been before. Instead, I’m captivated by my thoughts about Cooper. For some reason, the bespectacled nerd has occupied a space in my thoughts, and no matter how much I try, I can’t shake him out. Undressing, I decide to test out the private Jacuzzi that is in the bathroom. I get it started and moan as my body sinks into the water. It feels divine. The warmth of the water massaging my naked flesh sensitizes me to my own body. I’m feeling so hot and bothered. I think of the way that Cooper had looked at me in the red lingerie. Was that lust or shock that I had seen in his eyes? My mind strays again to the hardness of his pectoral muscles beneath my hand when I had accidentally grabbed him for support in the car, and I find myself touching my body intimately. I try to push Cooper from my mind and to replace him with Tyler, but the persistent image of Cooper keeps coming back. My breathing turns shallow as I rub my aching breasts until I find myself consumed with thoughts of both men. I would start thinking of Tyler’s lips against my breasts, but his face would soon morph to take on the shape of Cooper’s. I pinch my nipples and moan. Pushing up my breasts, I flick a nipple with my tongue and feel a glowing heat unfurl in my belly. With a bit of naughty imagination, my hands trail over my stomach and find the aching flesh between my legs. I slowly explore my womanhood beneath the surface of the water. The massaging effect of the water jets vibrating against my sensitive body only serves to heighten my pleasure. Soon, I’m gasping and rubbing at my sensitive pearl intensely. I insert a finger inside my tight passage, in and out. As my pleasure begins to mount deep within my belly, I can feel my climax approaching. I start flicking my bud harder and faster, pressing down on the nub until passion floods over me. I close my eyes and drop my head back, allowing the sensation to wash over me in waves of ecstasy. Coming around from the intensity of my climax, I curse quietly. I had planned for my sensual release to be with Tyler, but for some reason, I hadn’t been able to wait. I’ve been so turned on erotically by thoughts of the two men going round and round in circles in my head that I’m not even sure which one - Tyler or Cooper - I had been thinking about when I finally came. It disturbs me greatly that Cooper is in my thoughts at all. Why have I been thinking about him in such a sexual context? Isn't he the celibate nerd that I’ve always seen him as? Could it be because he had helped me once again, and what I’m feeling is an obligation of gratitude? And yet, something in the dark and light of his brown eyes and the hard planes of his muscles continue to draw me in. But I don’t want to be with Cooper romantically. At least I know that much. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not even attracted to him. He has nothing that I want sexually in a man, and I don’t want anything to do with him outside of our platonic friendship. In some ways, I can’t wait to get back home to Denver, just so that I can forget all about the craziness that had transpired and these mixed emotions I've been feeling lately. Perhaps it is just a consequence of the excitement of the day, the Broncos’ victory, and of not having been able to spend more time with Tyler. All of the emotions has been beginning to catch up to me. I get out of the Jacuzzi and dry myself with one of the soft towels from the rack. I take my time putting on my red lingerie, and then lay on the bed. In no time at all, the accumulation of my exhaustion from the day and my subsequent climax in the Jacuzzi leave me feeling spent, and I soon fall asleep. It is the sound of the door opening that wakes me up. Groggy and disoriented from sleep, it takes me a while to remember where I am. By the time I regain my senses, I’m vaguely aware that it isn’t just one person, but two who had entered the hotel suite. I can hear what seems to be a couple in the throes of lovemaking, all passionate kisses and grunts. Well, it is going to be mighty awkward when I have to tell the merrymakers that they have the wrong room after all. This is Tyler’s room. The bedroom is separated from the rest of the hotel room by a wall partition to accord the clients some privacy. I come to a halt at the partition just as I’m about to walk out. My heart sinks when I see Tyler with an unknown white woman whom I've never met. They are wrapped up in each other’s arms, seemingly in a passionate embrace. Tyler is backing the woman up against the hotel door, and as they kiss, their clothes start coming off. “The bedroom.” I hear the woman giggle in a high-pitched voice. “Let’s at least make it to the bedroom this time.” I’m numb. ‘This time’? Did she mean to say that this dalliance had taken place more than once? I don't know what to think. Am I dreaming? Is this a nightmares? As the two of them stumble their way into the bedroom, without thinking, I throw my body head-long into the walk-in closet to hide. I can't imagine a greater embarrassment than to be caught in Tyler’s hotel room when he is about to cheat on me with another woman. When Tyler had told me earlier that he won’t be able to see me tonight, I had given him the benefit of the doubt and believed him. Now it is clear why. From my position in the closet, I can’t look away for the life of me as I watch the two lovebirds through the slits in the closet door. They collapse onto the bed and proceed to run their hands and mouths all over each other. I feel so disgusted by what I am seeing that I could have vomited there and then. I want to run out and away from my hiding spot to avoid the reality of what is happening, but I also don’t dare to move and give myself away. Neither can I look away as my so-called ‘boyfriend’ finds a condom in his pants and proceeds to screw the other woman with more passion than I have ever seen him do with me. For as long as I shall live, I doubt that I will be able to get their moans and grunts out of my head. I can’t believe that Tyler would do something like this to me. If he was desperate for sexual release in the first place, why didn't he choose me? Hadn't I offered myself to him? Why did he turn me down, only to hook up with this other woman? Is it because she is white? Is she more beautiful in his eyes? What about me? Insecurities continue to grip me as tears slip from my eyes. I’m not a fool. I know that a man like Tyler has women throwing themselves at him all the time, and being away from me for long periods of time would likely have given him urges that were left unfulfilled. There is little doubt in my mind that he had already cheated at least once or twice in the time since we've dated. But that is just a what-if. I had no reason to feel any particular way about Tyler or our relationship because I didn't have any evidence to the contrary. For all I knew, we were a blissful couple then. I thought that our love is stronger than anything that life can throw at us. But this is clearly not the case. If he truly loves me, why is he able to hurt me in this way? Now that his infidelity is laid out in front of me, what am I going to do? I want to scream and rant and rave and punch something, preferably that other woman whom he is presently pounding into. I sink my nails into the palm of my hand so hard that I break the skin. I try my best to suppress the rapidly surging emotions that I’m feeling, but I’m failing… In the two years that I have been with Tyler, I have never cheated on him, and it isn’t because I didn’t have the opportunity. I’m an attractive woman with no lack of male suitors and their amorous attentions, but I have never returned their affections. I might have flirted once or twice on occasion, but those were only harmless fun. No other man has touched me intimately since Tyler and I became an exclusive couple. It is so hypocritical of Tyler to be cheating on me right now when he would absolutely go berserk should the tables be turned. When I say that Tyler is possessive, I am not kidding around. I am dead serious. Whenever Tyler is in town, he doesn’t want me to go anywhere without him, and when he is away from home for days on end because of his games, the first thing he does upon his return isn't to ask about how I am coping without him, but whether I had been faithful or had cheated with somebody else. Any hint of infidelity would be met with rage. I try to be quiet in the closet, but I’m not sure how long I can hold back the sobs. Two years of being with Tyler and this is the thanks I get. I’m hiding in a closet watching him be intimate with some other chick. There isn't anything really special about the other woman. So why her? Why would he choose this woman over me? Lucky for me - if I can even call it that - Tyler gets too caught up in his own passion and climaxes way too soon, leaving the other woman less than satisfied. I hate when it happens to me, but now, I breathe a sigh of relief when the two of them head off to the bathroom to rinse off. At least it is over. Unfortunately for him, the stench of betrayal won’t wash off that easily from his body. I can hear the sound of the shower coming on in the bathroom. Seeing my chance, I get up from a crouching position in the closet and prepare to leave as stealthily as my feet can manage. Alas! My left leg is cramping up badly from being holed up for so long. Wincing at the pricks in my leg, I hurry out of the bedroom and quickly let myself out of Tyler’s hotel room while making sure that the door shuts as quietly as possible. It is then that I’m suddenly conscious of the fact that I’m wearing the revealing red lingerie I had been planning to seduce Tyler with. Thinking back at my plan, I realize how stupidly naive I have been. On top of that, I think that I might have left my coat in the closet. I can’t very well go to retrieve it, can I? My day seems to be getting worse and worse as time goes on. My eyes are red from crying. I hurry into the nearest elevator available and jam my finger rapidly on the close button, praying that I won’t meet anyone at this time and have to face even more humiliation. The last thing I need is to be seen walking down the hallway in the revealing get-up I have on. It will be hard for anyone not to mistake me as a hooker. I sigh in relief when I finally reach my room, but then, I remember that I’m sharing the suite with Cooper. What will he think if I’m to tell him what had happened? Will he say ‘I told you so?’ He has every reason to throw my foolishness back in my face. After all, he was the one who had tried to persuade me not to follow through with my poorly thought-out plan in the first place. I knock on the door several times, each time increasingly louder, but still, there is no response. Cooper can’t be sleeping at this time, can he? I think about my options for a moment and consider going over to Duke’s room. When I imagine his leering face, I quickly decide against it. There is no way I’m going to present myself in front of Duke looking the way I do. The old pervert will only try to take liberties with me or play a game of putting me on the spot. The last thing I need is for everyone back at the network to catch wind of this mess of mine. There is only one person whom I trust at the moment who would not say or do anything that would hurt me, and that person is Cooper. I don't know why I feel that way, but something in my gut tells me that even in my most vulnerable moment, I can still depend on Cooper. But why isn’t he answering the door then? The hotel room opposite ours opens. Out comes a portly man, half-awake, grumpy-looking, who is vigorously scratching an unkempt beard. He stares at me from head to toe, and I feel very exposed like a zoo animal on display. “Hey, lady! Keep it down or I’m gonna have to call security.” He digs his nostril with one finger and grunts. “I- I’m sorry,” I stammer, biting my lip. “I’m just trying to wake my friend to open this door.” The portly man runs his eyes up and down my body before shooting me a lecherous grin. “I’ve got a ‘friend’ right here that’s awake and happy to see you. Your friend there doesn’t seem to care for you. Why don’t you come on over here and meet my little ‘friend’ instead?” He points at his crotch with a smug smile. When I say nothing to him, his expression changes and his smile fades. “Suit yourself, bitch. Just keep it down out there, or I will have to call hotel security.” He mutters something under his breath about sluts who can’t take a hint before slamming his door shut. Alone in the hall, I collapse against the door. Frustrated tears begin to spill from my eyes. What am I going to do? If Cooper isn’t going to answer the door, then I have no way in. I will have to face the prospect of sleeping outside the room along the hallway in my red lingerie, or approach the hotel workers down at the lobby, risking more leery eyes and yet more humiliation. Neither scenario seems particularly pleasant. I’m ruined either way. With no choice left, I grit my teeth and hold my head up high as I head to the elevator. My finger presses the button which lights up with a ‘ding’, and my eyes immediately dart to the blinking glow of the ascending floor number. Please, please, please be empty… The elevator finally stops and my heart drops when the door opens, and I see the person inside. That face. Those eyes. I nearly collapse into a puddle of tears on the spot, and I’m surprised that I can even hold myself together. “Cheyenne?”

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