Page 14 of The Keeper

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“You went to an after party? With strangers?”

“I did.”

She laughs lightly. “Well, that’s new.”

She’s not wrong, but it gives me dark satisfaction that she’s surprised by it. Still, she doesn’t ask for more detail. Doesn’t ask anything. She just starts babbling about some story one of her classmates told her about a shared professor. It’s meaningless to me since I know none of the people she’s talking about. I listen and make noises to show I’m still paying attention, but my mind wanders to the dark-haired drummer. Her hands on my hips. The way her body moved. The feel of her lips against mine.


Her bandmate called her Billie.

“Calum?” Em snaps from the other end of the line. “You in la-la land?”

“I guess.” An understatement if ever there was one. “Sorry. Listen, Em?”

“Yes, Cal?”

“I really need to see you. Please, please figure out a time? I’ll fly you out. This is hard for me, you know. Not having anyone.”

She’s quiet on the other end for just a heartbeat before answering, “I know. I know it must be hard for you. A whole new routine. New people. New environment. That’s probably really hard for you.”

“So, you’ll find some dates?”

“I’ll find some dates.”

I let out a breath I didn’t even know I was holding. “Good. That’s good.”

* * *

“I’m Alicia,”the tall, dark-skinned woman says. She holds out a hand, which I shake as she says, “I run the Crush Foundation.”

“Cal.” I give her a nod. “I’m the new goalkeeper.”

She laughs, a loud, infectious sound. “I know who you are.”

“Oh, sorry.”

Alicia explains that she’s got a car waiting to take us over to Children’s Services Las Vegas, where we’re supposed to get a tour and then talk about the new music education program the club is hoping to do with help from the Crush Foundation.

When I was in Canada, we did community things all the time. Once, they had us do a fashion show, which was really funny, actually. The idea of playing the guitar with some kids seems more up my alley, though, so I’m down with it. And it gives me something to do, which will be helpful.

I follow Alicia, who leads the way in her high heels. She’s a very pretty lady, though I’ve noticed the Crush seems to only hire attractive people. It’s kind of weird, actually. Maybe it’s a Vegas thing.

When we get to the Club, a blond woman comes out to greet us.

“Tara,” she says, offering her hand, “and you must be Cal.”

“I am. Nice to meet you.”

“You too, Cal. Thanks for doing this.”

“Well, it’s part of the gig,” I say with a shrug.

She cocks her head and laughs. “At least you’re honest. Let me show you all around.”

We tour the club, Tara pointing out places where donors have given money to help them upgrade the space or enhance the programming. It’s Monday morning, so there aren’t any kids here. The space seems huge and empty, the large cafeteria echoing as she tells us about the evening meal prepared here by local chefs each night.

“A lot of our kids have parents who work in the service sector on night shifts. They come here after school, have a snack, work on homework, let off steam, and get a hot meal for dinner before heading home. We close at nine each night and there’s a bus to get kids home safely. Honestly, many of these kids hardly see their parents at all because of work shifts. It’s likely they might not get much of a meal at all if they didn’t come here. And some of them tell us they don’t eat anything all day until they get to the club.”

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