Home > Well Played (Well Met #2)(8)

Well Played (Well Met #2)(8)
Author: Jen DeLuca

Stacey (or am I?)

Before I could lose my nerve, I hit Send. Always leave them wanting more, right?

My legs only shook a little as I pulled myself to my feet and up the stairs to my place. He missed me. He loved my smile. I traced the wings on my dragonfly necklace with one hand as I unlocked my door. “Change,” I whispered to myself. That’s what I’d been looking for, after all. Maybe these messages were the first step toward making that happen. Toward finally moving forward and getting a life of my own.


A watched pot never boils, and a watched phone never . . . lights up with a text. Something like that. I was never good with metaphors. The point was, Dex didn’t message me back right away, and I was almost mad at myself for thinking he would. He’d said he was between shows, hadn’t he? I needed to get a grip.

I was so caught up in waiting for Dex to message me that it took a good hour and a half to remember that Emily had texted me too. Have extra copies of April’s book club book if you want to come pick one up! I’d just seen her at brunch, but the only other thing I had to do today was laundry, and that could wait. Besides, going to see Em would distract me from my darkened phone and its lack of notifications, so I grabbed my keys and headed downtown to Read It & Weep, the bookstore Emily managed.

“Sorry,” she said, as she handed the book across the counter. “Apparently her friends are in a depressing, World War II phase right now.”

“That’s okay, I’m just in it for the snacks. April did say there were snacks, right?” I frowned at the book. How much would I have to pay for a book that, let’s face it, I was only going to pretend to enjoy reading?

Emily nodded at it. “Half price, by the way. That’s a used copy.”

Okay, that made it less painful.

“I guess I can’t talk them into reading something fun, huh?” I fished my wallet out of my backpack and handed over my debit card.

“Probably not. They seem determined to read ‘important’ books.” Emily shrugged. “But you make a good point. I’m lining up selections for the store’s book club soon. I’ll make sure to pick . . .” She thought for a moment. “Well, books that are less depressing than this.”

“Good call.” I watched Emily run my card through. “So any more thoughts on the wedding dress?” I’d only seen Em a handful of hours ago, but who was I kidding? Of course she had more thoughts.

“Yes, but on my honor as a non-Bridezilla I will not subject you to them.” She grinned as she handed me back my card and receipt. “I’ll hold it to once a week.”

I snorted. “You will not.”

“Okay, maybe twice.”

“Mmmhmm.” I tucked the receipt between the pages of Depressing World War II Book. “How about you add me to your Pinterest board, and I’ll get a notification whenever you see something cool. Then we can discuss.”

“Deal. As long as you contribute to it too. Your eye is much better than mine.”

I ducked my head down to slip the book into my backpack, but I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. As compliments went, it wasn’t exactly effusive, but it lifted my spirits to be appreciated. Noticed. “Of course. Send me your thoughts on bridesmaid dresses and I’ll get to work.”

On the way home I had to swing through the Starbucks drive-through. Pumpkin Spice Latte season started a little earlier every year, and I was a sucker for it. Once I got home I positioned the Starbucks cup on my coffee table, moved Benedick out of the way twice, and took a picture. The coffee was mostly gone, and what was left was cold and supersweet, but that didn’t matter for the photo. Then I cross-posted it to Instagram and Facebook because I was a multitasker when it came to my social media:

First #PSL of the season! Anyone care to guess how many I’ll consume this year? Last year was 15, which I believe was a new record. Let me know what you think! Winner gets absolutely nothing, but I get lots of pumpkin spice deliciousness. Happy Fall!

Happy fall, ha. It was barely September and still as hot as midsummer outside. But if it was PSL season, it was officially fall. I tossed my phone onto the couch and ran a load of laundry. The washer and dryer lived in the garage, so I shared the use of them with my folks. Mom usually did laundry during the week, and it was my turn on the weekends.

My PSL post had become a silly thing I did every year, and my friends liked to both guess how many times I’d manage to stop at a Starbucks in the next couple months and make fun of me for doing so. The ribbing didn’t bother me; it was part of the fun.

Once I got back upstairs, my phone was lit up like a Christmas tree. I made myself put my laundry away before I settled on the couch with my phone, scrolling through the notifications.


Seriously, how can you drink those things? So gross.

Stacey (which apparently isn’t even your name wtf??), let’s take this private, okay? I’d rather . . .


Twenty-five and diabetes.

Wait. I scrolled back up. That third one wasn’t a comment on my coffee post. I opened the notification, and my instant message app came up.

Stacey (which apparently isn’t even your name wtf??), let’s take this private, okay? I’d rather communicate with you off the public page. Either email or text, I don’t mind. But no matter what, please write me back ASAP and tell me what your real name is. You’ve been Stacey in my mind for quite a while now. I have some catching up to do. -D

Public page?

Oh, no.

For the first time I looked at the profile Dex was messaging me from. I hadn’t paid attention before, because Drunk Stacey had started all this. Drunk Stacey had clicked on the tagged picture and messaged Dex without a second thought. But that crucial second thought might have allowed me to notice that I hadn’t sent that message to a private profile. Nope. I’d messaged the Dueling Kilts’ fanpage.

Jesus. Anyone could have seen that message. His brothers could have seen it. Daniel could have seen it. That combined with that ice machine run at the hotel . . .

Man, I’d really dodged a bullet there. Relief made me a little giddy, and I clicked back to the message, where he’d left his email address and phone number. Well. That was a good sign, wasn’t it? I added both into my contacts before switching to my laptop. The explanation of my name was going to take a full-size keyboard. I decided to use email. It was early in the relationship, or whatever you wanted to call this, and texting felt far too intimate.

To: Dex MacLean

From: Stacey Lindholm

Date: September 3, 4:47 p.m.

Subject: My Real Name


I’m what you might call a miracle baby. My parents wanted kids from the second they got married, but had trouble conceiving. They tried all the old wives’ tale ways of conception, but no luck, and medical intervention was way too expensive for them. They applied to be adoptive parents and were put on some kind of waiting list. While they were waiting, they got a letter from my grandmother. My mom’s great-aunt, someone Mom hardly even knew, had died and left my parents a pretty big sum of money, but she earmarked it for my parents to try IVF. So they did, and eventually I came along. My mother felt like she had to name me after their benefactor, even though she was a distant family member that she didn’t really know. A nice gesture, right?

Well, let me tell you, Anastasia isn’t the most fun name to go through the first grade with. I’ve been Stacey to everyone who knows me since I was six years old. So I can be Stacey to you too.

There. Now it’s your turn. Tell me something about you.

His answer came more quickly than I expected. I wasn’t used to refreshing my email as constantly as the notifications that came through on my phone, so it wasn’t until almost bedtime that I checked my email again and saw that he’d answered within a few hours. I curled up on my bed, with its fairy lights switched on, and read.

To: Stacey Lindholm

From: Dex MacLean

Date: September 3, 7:56 p.m.

Subject: Re: My Real Name

Something about me. I’m really not used to talking about myself all that much. People don’t usually ask. I mean, the most interesting thing about me is what you already know: what I do for a living. I love it. The travel. Meeting new people, and basically living out of a couple duffel bags and a backpack. But it’s sort of one of those blessing-and-a-curse situations. Sometimes I miss home. And what’s weird is that I’m not sure that I know where home IS. I mean, there’s our family home, where I crash in the basement for the couple months a year that we’re back up there. But that’s not MY home. That was childhood-me’s home. Teenage-me, even. But adult me? I feel like a guest in the place where I grew up, and that’s a strange feeling. I’m starting to suspect that I don’t really have a home, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Sometimes I wonder how much longer I can do this. This life on the road. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. There’s something compelling about not having a fixed address, and not being tied down to things like mortgages and car payments. But sometimes meeting new people sucks. I’m a friendly guy, that’s not the issue. But I miss familiarity. I miss people who know me for more than a couple weeks at a stretch.

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