Puck Performance-Bonus Epilogues
Btu Alumni, Book 4
Bonus Epilogue 1
June, day of the Tony Awards
“Stop being a dumbass and rub the balm on your shoulder before you put your tux on.” Rocky’s gray eyes narrow at me from the television screen.
“Yes, Mom,” I drawl.
My bestie’s tired face blooms into a smile at my words. They may have been a joke, but as of four days ago, the title became official when my second nephew Ronnie entered the world. She places a kiss to the dark head resting on her shoulder before turning her attention back to me.
“Fine, don’t listen to me. It’s not like fixing injuries is my job or anything.”
“Don’t you have more important things to worry about than me?” I point to the sleeping baby.
“I’m both a woman and a Covenette. I can multitask like a pro.”
I nod. Damn Coven.
“Look.” She levels me with another hard look. “I’m only trying to help. Instead of your night off being used to take it easy, you’re going to be doing god knows what as your girlfriend’s date. You should be doing whatever you can to make sure you’re in top form for tomorrow’s game.”
Like every other series we’ve had this playoff season, the Stanley Cup has gone to Game 7. Rocky isn’t wrong to be worried. I took one hell of a hit into the boards during the last game and should be resting tonight, but my baby has the biggest night of her life, and I’m not missing it for anything.
My phone rings in the kitchen, and I hold up a finger so Rocky knows I’ll be back.
I greet my doorman. “Hey Tobias.”
“Hello Mr. Donnelly.” I roll my eyes—I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told him to call me Jase. “I have a Mr. Nate Bishop here to see you.”
What is he doing here? Only one way to find out.
“You can send him up.”
“Very well.” There’s a pause. “The limo should be here in half an hour.”
“Thank you, Tobias.”
“You’re welcome, sir.”
“Why do you look confused?” Rocky asks as I tap my phone against my thigh.
“Bishop is here.”
“Melody’s brother?” Rocky sounds as confused as I feel.
I nod. I’m not sure what this means. I figured he’d be with Mels since he’s another one of her guests to the Tonys.
I must be more lost in my thoughts than I realize because it feels like no time at all passes before there’s a knock on my door. It really is rare that I have a guest who doesn’t just let themselves in, and it takes me a second to react.
Moving swiftly to the door, I open it to a sheepish-looking Nate Bishop—not a side of him I’m used to seeing. It’s been two and a half weeks since Mels declared herself mine in front of the world—well, anyone tuned in for Game 7 of the Conference Finals—and this is the first time I’m seeing Nate.
“Donnelly.” His hands are stuffed in the pockets of his tuxedo pants. I really do need to finish getting ready.
“Aren’t you supposed to be with your sister?”
“Yeah.” He drops his gaze, one of his hands lifted to grab the back of his neck. “Um…there’s something I…” He clears his throat. “There’s something I needed to do first.” He shoots his eyes up to look behind me. “Can I come in?”
Respect for my girlfriend has me stepping aside to open the door wider, but there’s also a dose of curiosity too.
“Well at least he’s dressed for the occasion.” I have to bite back a laugh at the way Nate startles hearing Rocky’s voice from the speakers in my living room, reminding me I never disconnected our call.
“Goodbye, Balboa.” I reach for the remote.
“Don’t you dare disconnect this call, Jason Richard,” she orders. Ronnie stirs from her raised voice, and she pats his back to soothe him.
“Whoa.” I hold my hands up in surrender. “What the hell is with not just the full name but the middle, Raquel Anne?”
She hisses in a breath, not liking having the tables turned.
“Blue,” Gage’s voice cautions from somewhere off screen. “Let the man go.”
“Don’t you start, Champ.” Rocky’s gray eyes continue to bounce between Nate and me, barely paying her husband attention. “If there’s a witness, there’s less chance of bloodshed. How do you think Jordan would react if she knew I didn’t stop her wombmate from ending up in jail?”
Deep male laughter rings out, and Gage steps into view. “You know Jase wouldn’t do anything to piss off a Covenette, Blue.” He takes his son from his clearly insane wife and drops a kiss to the top of each of their heads before looking my way. “Right?”
I give a mock salute. “Aye-aye, Octopus Man.”
Gage shakes his head, muttering, “Asshole.”
“Please refrain from doing anything that involves Coven intervention,” Gage advises before saying to his wife, “Now say good night to your best friend, Blue.”
“Bye, Jase. Love you,” Rocky says.
“Bye, Balboa. Love you too.”
The screen goes blank as the call disconnects.
Nate’s mouth hangs open as his gaze bounces between the television and me. “What?”
“Trust me, you don’t want to know,” I assure him. “Wanna tell me why you’re here?”
Before he can answer, the three beeps signaling my front door unlocking sound and Cali lets himself into my place.
“Shiiiit,” he drawls when he catches sight of Nate and me. “I shoulda brought my popcorn.”
“Rocky?” I have a feeling about his sudden appearance.
“Yup. Not gonna lie, I thought she was messing with me when she called, but looks like tonight’s festivities are starting early.” He strides inside, making himself at home on one of the stools at the kitchen island.
I want to say something about Rocky calling him to come over, but honestly, I’m more surprised she didn’t call JD.
Twin ESP for the win.
I know better than to let the call go unanswered—she’ll just keep trying until I pick up. Still, I ignore it in favor of finding out Nate’s reason for coming over when I would have seen him anyway in an hour. Unfortunately, Cali isn’t of the same mindset and hops over the back of my couch to grab the remote.
I seriously need new friends.
“If it isn’t my favorite Donnelly slash Donovan,” Cali greets when my sister’s face fills the screen, always the suck-up.
“Cali!” She beams at him before looking around for me. “Wow.” Her mouth forms an O when she finds me standing next to Nate. “I thought Rock was having a sleep-deprivation-induced hallucination or something.”
Unlike when Rocky called, JD’s house is packed with the majority of our friends and family. How the hell can Logan be asleep in her arms with the level of noise around him?
“Why aren’t you dressed yet?” she scolds.
“I’ll be fine.” I wave her off. “Unlike you, it doesn’t take me hours to get ready.”
“Hey!” Her eyes narrow. “I resent that.”
“Bro.” Jake’s face pops into view over her shoulder, placing a quick kiss on her temple before focusing back on me. “If you wanna piss off a Covenette, stick to your own.”
My own. I can’t help but smile at the fact that yes, yes I do have my own Covenette.
“Cali,” Becky calls out, dropping onto the couch.
“Make sure Hemmy puts on the balm Rocky told him about.”
“Yes ma’am.” He salutes.
“Don’t call me ma’am.”
“Ooo, don’t you look handsome,” Lyle flirts as he takes in Cali in his tuxedo.
“Why thank you,” Cali vamps then tosses a look at me. “At least someone can appreciate all this.” He waves his hands down his body.
I roll my eyes. Do not encourage him.
As if hearing my silent plea, Lyle says, “Well give us a twirl. Let’s see the whole thing.”
Cali does as asked, and I’m getting the feeling we won’t be getting out of here on time and it won’t have anything to do with me.
Because this whole thing wasn’t enough of a shit-show already, Tucker pops up on the other side of JD, liberating Logan from her arms before pointing to Nate. “Look, if you’re adding to the brother husbands, don’t you think Vince and I should be there?”
“Yeah, Donnelly, that just hurts,” Vince shouts from somewhere in the background.
“Oh bite me, Steele,” I retort.
“Oh!” Lyle raises a hand in the air. “Can I volunteer as tribute?”
Jesus. I rub the ridge of my brow. They are in rare form tonight.
“RYAN!” I yell to be heard over the noise. He’s the only person—when JD is one of the trouble leaders, at least—who can get them all under control.
“Bro?” He’s just in view of the camera inside the kitchen.
“Can you please captain it up in there and control them?”
He snorts. Yeah, yeah, not possible—I know, but I need him to try.
“All right everyone.” Ryan pulls out his captain voice. “Say good night to Jase. We’ll be watching them on the red carpet soon enough.”
A chorus of goodbyes sound and the call blessedly cuts off. If only I could get rid of Cali as easily.
Nate’s fish impression from earlier has nothing on the shell-shocked one he’s wearing now. Then again, we tend to have that effect on people.
I hold up a hand to cut off any questions before they can form.
“Ryan won’t be able to stop them from calling back for long. So, if you wanna have any chance of getting to the reason you’re really here, I would save all that”—I circle a finger, gesturing to his I’m so confused expression—“until after.”
He shakes his head, as if needing to shake himself out of our squad-induced stupor. I know the feeling.
Nate takes a deep breath, his chest rising and falling as if prepping for something. He clears his throat, then does it again before he finally breaks his silence.
“I came here to apologize.”
Well that was the last thing I expected him to say.
I fold my arms over my chest. “For what exactly?”
Yes, he’s my girlfriend’s brother, but I’m not gonna make this easy for him. For years we had beef. He talked shit about me, and more importantly, my wombmate.
Then there was the whole us-not-dating ultimatum he issued Mels…
So yeah, he’s not my favorite person.
His Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows, looking even more uncomfortable than he did a minute ago.
“For all of it.” I arch a brow, not giving him anything. “It was one thing when I made it about us, but I took it too far when I would use Jordan to get under your skin.”
Plus, ‘under my skin’ is an understatement. He’s lucky I didn’t knock his teeth out.
“I wish I could say why I thought it was okay to bring her into this, but I can’t.” He looks down as if ashamed. “Hell…” He goes to run a hand through his hair but stops at the last second, as if remembering he has it styled for tonight. “I have a sister. I fucking know better.”
He said it, not me.
“I always assumed you were a player, and I guess when I thought you hooked up with my girlfriend, your sister was the only way I could think to get back at you.”
The puzzle is coming together, and I don’t miss the piece that is my fault. Looks like Bishop won’t be the only one apologizing tonight.
“So…yeah…I’m sorry.” He meets my eyes before looking at the blank television then back to me. “If you want to call them back, I’ll apologize to Jordan as well, and I guess your brother and Jake too.”
I should make him wait, should play with him a little and make him sweat it out, but we don’t have time for games. Tonight isn’t about us; it’s about Mels. Time to squash this so we can finally move on.
“You don’t have to,” I say.
“Yeah I do.”
“No you don’t.” I shake my head. “I never said anything to them about any of it.”
His eyes go wide in disbelief. “Why not?”
I only shrug in response, and he blows out a breath.
“Wow. Shit. Now I really feel like an ass.”
My turn. Deep breath.
“It wasn’t all your fault.” Dark eyes turn my way. “I let you believe we hooked up…we didn’t, by the way.”
“Mels said she suspected as much.”
“You told her?”
“Yeah.” Nate nods. “Let’s just say she disliked Dana enough that even if you did, she would probably still thank you.”
I laugh, the tension gone. “How about a little quid pro quo?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll never tell my family about the JD stuff if you promise never to bring up how I let you think I hooked up with your girlfriend while I was dating Rocky.”
“The one you were talking to when I got here?” He points at the dark screen.
“Yup.” I nod. “Even though nothing happened, she would still kick my ass for letting someone assume I could have cheated on her. I’d rather not mess with the MMA Princess.”
“Deal.” Nate reaches out a hand to shake then starts pacing.
Cali—who has been watching us like an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardasians—barks out a laugh, but other than that, he stays quiet.
“This all just makes me feel guiltier for issuing that ultimatum.” Nate stops his pacing, closing the distance between us. “If that’s the type of guy you are, I’m proud to have you date my sister.” He holds out his hand for another shake.
After Melody’s very public declaration, he came to terms with us dating, even if we would never be besties. But…who knows? After this, maybe that’s a possibility.
To joke or not to joke?
“Look,” I say, deciding to go with serious, “I love your sister very much. I’m going to do everything in my power to never hurt her again.”
“I know.” The way he says it, I can tell he means it. “She’s happier with you than without. I noticed it even when she was keeping your relationship a secret.”
“Bro.” I can’t help but laugh, the Girl, same GIF flashing in my brain. “I know all about sisters dating in secret. Remind me to tell you about JD and Jake after I get ready.”
We share a bro nod of understanding. I start for my bedroom but pause.
“Look…” It took a lot for him to come here; I recognize that. Time for me to extend an olive branch of my own. “I know all about how much your parents suck—don’t even get me started on them not coming tonight—so I want you to know…Mels isn’t the only one who gets to be a part of our crazy.” I circle a finger in the air. “We’ll take you too.”
With that I spin on my heel and head off to change into my tux.
“Looks like we are getting another brother husband,” I hear Cali call to my back.
Can’t really argue with that.
Bonus Epilogue 2
The Tony Awards
I’m not sure what has happened in the few hours since my brother up and left my apartment, but I highly suspect he was abducted by Pod People because the way he and Jase have been acting together is weird.
“Should we be worried they’re on drugs?” Zoey links an arm with mine as we make our way down the aisle to our seats inside Radio City Music Hall.
Stopping to watch where Jase, Nate, and Cali are yucking it up, I let the significance of what I’m seeing wash over me. Zoey’s question mirrors some of my own thoughts, but this is too special to let any doubts ruin it.
Yes, things have been okay between Nate and myself and civil between Nate and Jase since the day I laid down the law with my brother and went to get my man back. But…if I’m being honest, I haven’t been able to shake the feelings of sadness and abandonment I felt during those months Nate and I barely spoke.
I never doubted my conviction to be with Jase, but life would be so much easier if the two most important men in my life got along. The longer I watch them, though, the more I think maybe not so much.
“Oh, let them have their fun.” Ella also links an arm with me on my other side.
Following Ella’s advice, we take our seats as the guys finish taking a selfie and Cali says something about tagging their other brother husbands. Though he has a penchant for stopping by unannounced and interrupting things, he has quickly become one of my favorite people. I still can’t believe he’s here, but he insisted on being included as one of my guests.
“Nervous, Sweet Potato?” Jase’s voice rumbles through me when he places a kiss to the soft spot behind my ear.
“Yup.” I peek at him out of the corner of my eye, a smile tipping the edges of my lips up. “I’m more excited than anything, though.”
Our show will be performing one of our bigger numbers later in the evening, and that is what I am choosing to focus on instead of my nomination. My category is one of the later-presented ones, and I’ll be a complete basket case by the time it comes if I think about it now.
Though this is my first time being nominated individually, this isn’t my first time at the Tonys. It never gets old, though. There is just something so special about this community, and it’s so much fun to celebrate with them all.
We cheer, we laugh, and some of us tear up as we watch the performances and listen to acceptance speeches. Jase fields a few texts from Vince complaining about us not letting him come because Mr. Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman, is hosting—again. I tried to explain how accomplished of a stage actor the ex-X-Man is, but he didn’t want to hear it.
After our show nails our performance, it’s finally time.
“And the Tony Award for the Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical goes to”—Jase squeezes my hand and I suck in a breath, the seconds spent waiting for the announcement feeling like years—“Melody Brightly!” Everything else the presenter says turns to static after my name.
Oh my god, I won.
I won. I really won.
Is this real life?
I’m wrapped in my favorite pair of strong arms and kissed before being passed off for another embrace. In a daze, I accept the hugs from Nate, Zoey, Ella, and Cali before receiving another from Jase.
They said my name, right?
“Baby.” Jase’s voice breaks into my stupor. “It’s time to get your fine ass up on stage.” He jerks his chin.
“Don’t trip, Broadway,” Cali supplies, so not helping.
I know both the audience here and those watching at home are being told how this is my first time being nominated and winning, but I don’t hear any of it as I walk up the stairs to the stage and accept the spinning medallion statue that serves as the award for the Tonys.
The lights are bright, my eyes blinking furiously against both them and the tears I will be losing the battle to any second.
There’s applause and cheers and more than a few comments from my people that I’m sure aren’t usually heard at the Tonys.
My hands clutch my award like a lifeline, one hand supporting the base, the other wrapping around the neck underneath where the medallion spins.
I swallow, looking out into the clapping audience, many of them on their feet, including my fellow nominees.
I’m pretty sure I’m dreaming, but if I am, I’m going to enjoy it until my alarm goes off.
Find your words, Mels. Time to give a speech.
One more time, I scan one of the most iconic performance halls in the city, starting with the seats at the top and finally settling on the group I brought here with me. Ella and Zoey are holding hands, leaning into each other for support over the armrest separating them, tears openly falling down their cheeks. Zoey looks just as happy for me as she did when she accepted her own Tony for Best Choreography.
Cali keeps cupping his hands around his shit-eating-grinning mouth, bellowing in a way more appropriate for one of his hockey games than this awards ceremony.
Finally I look at the two most important men in my life, both watching me with so much love and pride it should be illegal. Even more surprising than the award in my hands is the bromance that seems to be brewing between the two of them. I have no idea what happened when Nate left my apartment earlier, but I’m starting to suspect I may have preferred it when they were rivals.
Okay, I can do this.
Clear the throat. Deep breath.
“I already know I’m going to forget at least one person, so for them I want to say thank you.”
Titters of laughter meet my statement.
“Marilyn Monroe was a dream role for me in so many ways.” I lock eyes with Nate. “As my dear brother will attest, I have been obsessed with who I refer to as the OG bombshell pretty much my whole life.”
I see Nate nod, and I’m sure they are showing it on TV for those watching at home.
“I tortured him with hours of watching her films over and over through the years. But, to be fair, Marilyn was hot, so I doubt it was that much of a hardship for him.”
Another round of laughter.
“Plus I know I more than returned the favor going to so many of his hockey games through the years.”
He thumps his chest twice then points to me as if to say, I got you.
“I was hit with the acting bug early, and from every teacher I had from kindergarten through high school, I share this award with you for all the things you taught me. Broadway has been a second home to me for more than half my life, and I’ve been blessed to work with so many amazing people through the years.”
I shift my gaze back to Ella and Zoey.
“Two of my best friends have been a part of some of them, and though Zoey, our amazing choreographer, took great joy in kicking my ass both across the stage and back at home, it is as much of a dream come true to be able to share this with you as it is to win.”
I smile when Zoey buries her face into Ella’s neck, but I sober quickly, not wanting them to miss the sincerity of what I say next.
“Zoey, Ella, and Nate.” I wait until I have their attention. “Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. My support system may not have been large (mentally flipping dear ol’ Mom and Dad off), but the three of you were strong enough to carry the load until our cavalry of Covenettes and other crazies found us.”
Finally, I shift my gaze to Jase, finding his hazel eyes already locked on me. He mouths, “I love you,” and I know he caught my reference to him.
“My ah-may-zing boyfriend”—I shoot him a wink, thinking of how I give him crap when he says that word like that—“likes to say my eight weekly shows put his own game schedule to shame, but getting to do the thing I love six days a week never feels like work.”
I lift my Tony and use it to point at Jase.
“I won my award. Now it’s your turn.” Cali wraps his arms around Jase’s neck in a headlock. “Besides…we can’t drink champagne out of mine like we can the Cup.”
All the hometown fans inside Radio City cheer for the Storm as I turn from the microphone, and before I can make it backstage, Jase is there, pulling me into his arms and dipping me back for a kiss worthy of its own Tony.
I grab one of his lapels with my free hand, holding on for dear life, though there’s no need because he’ll never drop me. As his wicked piercing whirls inside my mouth, I know this right here is the only award I’ll ever need.
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