Page 11 of The Keeper

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“Not really. But neither am I, and I couldn’t ask her to make a commitment to a city I don’t want to be in.”

“Ah. Yeah, I’d heard that about you, that you were loud about the fact that you didn’t want this trade. Pretty much everyone knows you don’t want to be here, Cal. But I’ll give you some advice. If you don’t find a reason to care about being here, it will start to affect your relationship with the team.”

“A good team will rally for its keeper.”

“That may be true,” she says, “but it doesn’t mean they’ll trust you. And if they don’t trust you, the fans will see it play out on the ice. Never a good thing.”

* * *

I’m still thinkingabout Scarlett’s advice when I’m back in my apartment later that night.

She’s right, of course.

I need to find a way to connect, especially with the team, but also with the city. I need to be able to answer questions from the press about what I like about Vegas and how I’m making it my home. And even if I didn’t want this, it is my lot now, and I need to get okay with it. I might be loud about my disdain for this trade, but I’ll still give everything I’ve got to perform on the ice for the fans.

I need to find a routine here. My calls with Emily are few and far between, and I feel anxious about not having a regular schedule yet, something I’ll need to make me feel grounded here in Vegas.

Thinking about this upcoming music workshop at the boys and girls club at Children’s Services Las Vegas, I realize I haven’t ventured out to check on the live music scene here. I know there are a lot of dance clubs, and that’s not my thing, but there have to be some live music clubs, too.

I find an online resource with a listing of live shows and pick one that sounds like it might be rock-oriented. The club is only a few blocks from my apartment building, so I walk there, arriving early enough to see the band setting up to play. Looks like a three-piece unit named Love Scrum. Interesting name since “scrum” is a hockey term for when players scuffle on the ice over the puck. I wonder if they chose the name because Vegas is a big hockey town these days with a two-time Stanley Cup winning NHL team and a Calder Cup winning AHL team all nice and shiny for the city in the desert.

At the bar, I order a beer and wait for the show to start. When it does, the lead singer comes out with a growling, blues-infused rock sound that I like quite a bit. He’s a talented guitarist, too. There’s a skinny, pink-haired female playing bass guitar, but it’s the drummer that captures my attention. Not a ton of female drummers out there so she’s unique already.

But I also have eyes, of course, and she is—striking.

She’s got long, dark hair that looks like a wave of silk, but halfway down, it changes to a dyed bright electric purple. It’s in a side braid that hangs down one shoulder to lie between her breasts. Really beautiful. She’s got warm olive skin and wide, expressive eyes. She doesn’t wear a lot of makeup that I can see, and she’s just in a black tank top and jeans. As simply as she’s dressed, I can’t take my eyes away. And even more so for how badass she is as a musician. Her drumming is complex, sharp, and powerful.

I watch the whole set, which lasts over an hour with mostly original songs, and then stay to give the band a compliment. As they tear down to make room for the next band, I stand off to the side, eyeing the drummer.

“Hey, Billie,” the lead singer says, smirking. “Looks like you’ve got a groupie.”

I shake my head. “Not a groupie. Just wanted to tell you all I really enjoyed the set.”

“Thanks, man,” the lead singer says. “We’re Love Scrum. Playing the Vegas Music Festival soon. You should come out and watch.”

“I may. I just moved here, so I’m just checking out the sounds.”

“Specifically, the sounds of our lovely drummer?”

I open my mouth, ready to deny it by the excuse of having a girlfriend, when the drummer walks up and says, “Ignore him. He gets jealous that he’ll never get to date me.”

“Why?” I blurt out. “I mean, why would he never get to date you?”

“Because he’s a pretentious clod, that’s why.” She laughs and it sends a weird spike of energy down through my stomach and into my toes. “You want to go to an after party, new guy?”What’s with everyone in Vegas calling me ‘new guy’?She hits me with the ask as if we’re old friends bantering back and forth instead of total strangers.

I should say no. I do have a girlfriend and should go home and call her. I should not go to an after-party with a woman I find incredibly attractive, not just for her looks but also for her talent. It’s been a long time since anyone has caught my eye, and while I am quite sure that this drummer is just being nice and not interested in me that way at all, it still seems an unnecessary risk to take her up on this offer.

“I’m not jealous,” the lead singer says. “Just for the record.”

“Good to know,” I say with a nod. “There’s no reason to be.”

The lead singer smirks, and the drummer busies herself with her kit, her back turned to me. She mutters something, and the lead singer says, “Snap.” I have no idea what he means, so I look over at the pink-haired bassist, puzzled.

“You in or out, new guy? We like dragging groupies along with us. The bigger the entourage the more important we look,” the bassist says.

“I’m not a—”

“Come or don’t, but we’ve got to clear out,” the drummer says sharply. She starts carrying her gear out toward the back door.

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