The text message
came in right at the end of the lunch rush. Cassidy felt her phone buzz in the
front pocket of her apron. She reached for it on instinct. She glanced down,
saw the words, and stopped in her tracks.
Tony is hurt.
Ducking out of
view of the slow-eating customers, Cassidy sought refuge in the cluttered breakroom,
which consisted of nothing more than a rickety table, two beaten-up chairs, and
a dead clock on the wall that hadn’t told time in over a year.
Too nervous to
sit, Cassidy paced while waiting for Tasha to answer her phone. Tension filled
her muscles as she moved.
“Tasha? What happened? Is he okay?”
“No,” she said.
“No, he’s not. It’s bad.” Knowing Tasha for most of her life, Cassidy knew it
was a serious situation from the wavering tone in Tasha’s voice.
her grip on the phone. “Tell me,” she said. Her breath felt like it was caught
in her lungs. She closed her eyes, imagining the worst but hoping for the best.
going to believe this, but he got jumped.”
her eyes. “What? By who?”
“Who do you
think? It was The Firemakers.”
“Are you sure?”
“Cassidy, he had
over two hundred bucks in cash on him. They didn’t touch the money. They went
for his knee. They wanted to make sure he’d never dance again. And he won’t.
Tony didn’t deserve this. We both know he’s a good guy.”
“He’s my best
friend,” Cassidy said. A wave of emotion crept into her throat. Her eyes filled
with tears. Not one to show her feelings, she stopped herself from crying. “And
the best dance partner I’ve ever had. What am I gonna do? The competition is in
“He’s asking for
you,” Tasha said. “We’re at County. How fast can you get here?”
Cassidy let out
a long breath. Her body was still tense, but shock was setting in. How could
this happen? “I’ll ask April to cover the rest of my shift,” she explained.
“She still owes me from Christmas Eve.”
collect,” said Tasha. “And probably time to find a new partner.”
her head. “I can’t.” she said. “That’s impossible.”
Tasha took a
breath before she spoke. “Is it?”
Wren Valentino is an author,
playwright, poet, and screenwriter. He writes in multiple genres, primarily
contemporary romance with an international setting. Wren graduated magna cum
laude from Oglethorpe University in Atlanta with a Bachelor of Arts degree in
Communications and English. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing at Queens
University of Charlotte in North Carolina. He is a member of Gothic Romance
Writers and Romance Writers of America. He loves film noir, white chocolate,
classic cartoons, koalas, Julie London records, Nancy Drew, the Peanuts gang,
Disney villains, all things Tiki, Italy, and everything written by Jane Austen.