“Hi sweetheart, how are you today?” Victor wrapped both arms around Michelle in an affectionate hug and Ashton fought the urge to physically gag. He rolled his eyes at Brock, who held his hands to his own neck as if to choke himself. Andy snickered, and Reggie’s shoulders shook in silent laughter. Michelle and Victor were oblivious. He whispered something in her ear and she giggled.
“Come on, Casanova.” Mason clapped Victor on the shoulder. “You had her all to yourself yesterday. Today we’re all hanging out together.”
“That’s right.” Michelle pushed Victor away playfully. “I get to have fun with everyone, not just you.”
Ashton refused to place himself in that group of “everyone”. He vowed to avoid eye contact at all costs until she decided she wanted to talk to him. He climbed into the limo along with the other fourteen guys and squeezed in between Casey and Kimball, taking away any chance she may be forced to sit near him.
He needn’t have worried. Victor confidently sat to Michelle’s left so that his right arm draped around behind her shoulders. It was almost possessive. Or maybe that was just Ashton’s perception. He turned his head away.
“Well… wouldn’t you all like to know where we’re going for our hangout today?” Michelle’s sing-song voice captured fifteen men’s attentions with one sentence. Ashton could almost envision a limo full of Golden Retrievers with their tongues hanging out.
“The suspension’s killing us,” Reggie said.
“First we’re going on a little airplane ride.” She looked around the group for everyone’s reaction but seemed to purposely avoid Ashton. He pretended it didn’t hurt.
“Alright.” The guys collectively nodded and fist-bumped one another and grinned. They were getting out of L.A. for the day.
“Are we going casino hopping in Vegas?” Mason asked.
“Nope.” Michelle shook her head. “Let’s just say one of you is going to be treated like a rock star today.”
“I get to perform live on stage in Vegas?” Reggie’s mouth dropped open as if he actually thought he’d be handed a guitar and asked to perform for the world. Ashton wondered if Reggie knew he was making a fool of himself when he said things like that.
“We’re not going to Vegas at all, you silly guy.” Michelle reached over and lightly slapped Reggie’s knee then she lowered her gaze and folded her hands in her lap. “We’re going to San Jose.”
“No… flippin’… way…” Brock was the only one of the guys who understood the connection. All eyes turned to Brock, whose jaw was dropped. Whatever was waiting for them in San Jose was big. At least in Brock’s world it was big. “You’re taking us to TwitchCon.”
“What’s Twitch-Con?” Mason asked. “Is that kinda like Comic-Con?”
“Yeah, it’s a lot like that,” Brock said. “Only, it’s for streamers.”
“What’s a streamer?” Andy asked.
“It’s like going live on Facebook or YouTube, except for gamers, on a platform called Twitch. People from all over the world can watch us stream video games live.”
“So, they just sit at home and watch you play video games?” Victor’s derogatory undertone was rude. “Why would anyone want to do that?
“Why would anyone want to watch someone else play baseball?” Brock asked.
“Baseball’s different,” Victor said. “It’s a sport. It’s the American pastime. It takes skill.”
“Yeah? Well I was shortstop on my high school’s baseball team. I bet I could compete better in your sport than you could in mine.”
“Is that a wager?” Victor reached for his back pocket.
“Guys, guys,” Michelle stopped them. “I’m sure we’ll all get a chance to show off our unique talents and abilities. But today we’re going to be on Brock’s turf so the rest of us are going to hang back and let him have a bit of the limelight.”
There were grumbles from around the inside of the limo. None of them wanted to sit back while someone else stole the show.
“What made you decide to take us to TwitchCon?” Brock asked, his voice almost reverent.
“I asked the producers to find us an opportunity to play some video games, and they discovered you chose not to go to TwitchCon this year in order to come be on this show.”
“What’s more important?” Brock lowered his gaze and Ashton swore he blushed. “Something I do every day? Or the opportunity to find love?”
Michelle smiled back at him and the rest of the group disappeared. There was an unspoken connection between the two of them. Brock’s declaration that he was ready to fall in love, and Michelle’s willingness to go so far out of her way to take Brock to an event that was special for him.
There was a palpable jealousy in the limo, but Victor was the first jerk to break the spell by squeezing her shoulder and whispering near her ear. “I think that’s really nice of you to take Brock to this Comic-Con thing.”
“TwitchCon,” Ashton corrected him. Michelle turned her head and locked eyes with Ashton. Whoops. He had planned to stay silent all day. Too late. He smiled lightly. “It’s called TwitchCon.”
“Whatever.” Victor waived his hand in dismissal then turned back to Michelle, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear, pulling her attention back to him. “It’s a nice gesture.”
Victor had effectively stolen Michelle’s attention away from Brock, and everyone else.
The jealousy in the car shifted to anger. Thankfully, the limo pulled into a small airport with a private jet waiting on the runway, distracting them from Victor’s brazen attempt to steal the show.