“Ella from Charlotte.”
“Ella the harlot from Charlotte!” he shouts and everyone cheers.
“That’s not what I said!” I say, but the mic is gone and the loud roar of the crowd drowns out my voice.
Dread fills me as the MC puts down the mic and grabs two pitchers of water. He pours it all over the first girl’s chest as she dances like a stripper. The crowd goes nuts.
There’s an ache in the back of my throat. I’m dizzy all over and just want to go home.
He moves on to the next girl and then the next girl, drenching them in the cold water.
With no escape, my brain tries to rationalize the situation. It’s not so bad. I’ll still have this t-shirt on. It will just be wet. And see-through. Oh god. Everyone will be able to see the color and outline of my nipples. Oh no. Oh no! This is so bad. I don’t like this. They’re going to make you sleep on the street if you don’t do this. Mackenzie will literally do it. She’s a psychopath. Sleeping on the street will be worse. This will be over in no time. It won’t be so bad. Yes it will. Yes it will!
Terror hits me when the girl beside me gets drenched. She’s twerking on the stage as everyone hollers. The other girls are dancing erotically too. I’m the only one who’s awkwardly standing around like an introvert trying to fit in at a party where they don’t know anyone.
The MC grabs two fresh pitchers and comes right up to me.
There’s a sleazy grin on his face as he’s about to expose me to everyone. I close my eyes and wish for the best.
* * *
I’m not in full-on panic mode as I push through the crowd looking for her, but I’m close. My hands are all shaky and my blood pressure must be through the roof.
My head is jerking from one side to the other, scanning the crowd, trying to lay eyes on her. My mind is racing as Daniel follows me toward the pool. What’s going to happen if I see her talking to a guy? If they’re… kissing…
I grab my stomach, feeling like Mike Tyson just gave me his best punch. Just the thought causes me real physical pain. She won’t be… She’s mine…
“We need a game plan here,” Daniel says as he catches up to me. He’s looking around with excited eager eyes, like a kid at an all-candy buffet.
I only have one game plan—find my girl. I posture back up and look over the crowd, scanning it for shiny black hair and thick black-rimmed glasses. Fuck, I can’t find her. I’m all edgy inside. I feel like I’m losing my fucking mind as I whip my head around, looking everywhere for my girl.
The MC is talking to the girls on stage, but I don’t even look up. Every man’s eyes are up there, but mine aren’t. I don’t care about seeing those girls exposed. I just want my girl and there’s no way in hell an innocent little nerdy girl like her would be up there. I just know it.
“Take off your shirt,” Daniel says as he elbows me in the ribs.
“You got abs,” he says, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “You’re a chick magnet. Take it off.”
“No. You take yours off.”
He rolls his eyes and shakes his head. “That’s not going to attract anyone, except maybe someone selling body wax or a weight loss program. Take yours off. The girls will flock to you and I’ll be able to scoop up some of your reject bitches.”
“Why am I still friends with you?” I ask with a sigh as I keep looking for her.
“Because I won’t stop following you,” he says with a laugh. “We’re linked like this for life, dude. Get used to it.” He’s linking his two index fingers together. I barely look before turning to the bar to see if she’s there. She’s not.
My heart is pounding so hard. Where the hell is she?
Maybe she went to the bathroom. Maybe she went back to her room.
My mind is going crazy thinking up the most outlandish things. I can pull the fire alarm if she’s in her room. That will bring her out.
“Ella from Charlotte,” the sweetest voice I’ve ever heard rings out over the speakers.
My body stills as I slowly turn to the stage. She’s there. It’s her.
“Ella the harlot from Charlotte!” the MC shouts. Everyone cheers around me, but I’m not cheering. My jaw is clenched tight. My hands squeezed into fists.
That fucker dared to call my sweet innocent girl a harlot? I want to rip his throat out for that.
A growl rumbles out of my chest as I watch her up there, standing in front of everyone in that tight little white t-shirt. She’s way too exposed. Way too vulnerable. Every protective instinct I have is roaring at me to go and get her. To carry her off the stage away from all of these perverted eyes.