‘Braska Ch. 02: Hustlin’

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I had been quite determined to stay out of trouble, and for a nearly a month after the fight at the bar I did. Actually, I didn’t even find more trouble, but I suppose it sort of found me. It wasn’t supposed to lead me becoming acquainted with Cole’s paddle that hung on the wall of her bar. It didn’t even start in the bar.

It started at the cafe ‘Round the Corner. Yeah, that’s what’s called. I’d been in Apostrophe, Nebraska for nearly six months and had come to realize that the wild-west-esque town had some sort of unwritten rule that all businesses have an apostrophe in them. All nine businesses. Not really a tourist attraction, but a cute quirk all the same.

My goals of hiding from life were going swimmingly. I rented a room from O’er the Barrel Tavern, they had an inn on the second floor that consisted of six rooms. One through three were storage, room number 4 was mine, room five was in disrepair, and room six at end of the hall I’d never seen, though I come to realize the bartender, Collete “Cole” Summers likely slept there.

It wasn’t a bad set up over-all. I was getting to know the town better since Cole stressed the importance of doing so after I’d gotten into a fight with a local good ol’ boy a couple months prior.

“People don’t know you, Cat.” She’d said to me as we’d emerged from her back room behind the bar the morning after the fight, a sort of cross between an office and a living room that she rarely invited guests too. I’d been sent back there to cool down after the fight, and she’d kicked the guy, whose name I don’t remember, out the front door onto his ass and 86’d him for the week.

Since I was a paying tenant, she didn’t kick me out. But after closing time, she come to the back room and had left my backside bruised and smarting for days after. The following morning she’d brought me back in there to inspect the damage and gave me some arnica oil that was supposed to help the welts ease up a bit.

“Well, I’m new!” I’d replied defensively, tucking my shirt into my jeans.

“You’ve been here five months,” Cole had said, folding her arms and giving me a stern look, and people see you reading your books over a beer, and that’s endearing, sometimes you hustle them at pool, which they find annoying or hilarious, depending on who they bet on. But you don’t dance, you don’t do karaoke, you don’t work locally, and you don’t hang out with anyone.”

“I hang out with you.” I’d pouted, jamming my hands into my pockets.

Cole shook her head. “After closing, when no one else is around, sure.” She reached out and pressed two fingers under my chin, tipping my face up so I was meeting her eye instead of staring at my scuffed cowboy boots. “Look, Cat, this is a small town, people are going notice anyone. Particularly a pretty lady like yourself, you’ve got curls, curves, dimples, gorgeous green eyes, and to top it off freckles on dark skin…you stand out up here. You’re not white, you’re not Cheyenne or Sioux, people don’t know what to make of you. Standing out is fine, but you also need to learn to fit in. All it takes is letting people know you.”

“I am Cheyenne.” I answered. “You know I’m Cheyenne on my dad’s side, Moroccan on my mom’s.”

“Okay, see, I know that, but you look like your mama. If other people knew that,” Cole had told me, “They’d know you a bit better and be less likely to start fights with you. Think on it. At least make some local friends. Besides me.”

And I had thought on it. A friend. I’d thought. The café, aptly named, ‘Round the Corner, served excellent coffee and traditional American eats, so when I’d ordered my usual that morning, black coffee and eggs bene, I’d decided to strike up conversation with the server. She was a tall Lakota woman near my own age, (mid to late 20s) whose grandmother owned the shop, and she made my gaydar ping. She was also well known and liked around the town, and an ideal candidate for a friend. Her name tag read “Kim”.

“Is your name short for something?” I’d asked as she slid my plate in front of me on the booth table.

“Kimimela.” She said with a grin, then she winced, “Means butterfly. Girly, I know, but I like my name.”

“Were you Kimi as a kid?”

“To my gran and to any other kid who wanted a swift kick to the shins.” Kim replied with a laugh that sprang out of her so readily it had me smiling.

“Your name is Cat Bashara right?” Kim asked, leaning against the table as I sipped my coffee. “Cat short for Catherine?”

I nodded as I set down my cup and began to heavily pepper my eggs.

“What kinda last name is that, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“It’s a pretty common Muslim name.” I pitched my voice low. I wasn’t ashamed of my heritage, but I was smart enough not to advertise it too openly in the States. “Many North Africans have Muslim surnames.”

“I figured you were mixed, black and white, like a southerner.” Kim admitted, she peered at the mostly fed customers in the café, then slid into the booth across from me. She was taller than me, less feminine, with shortish hair that had that mussed look that illegal bahis seemed natural but was probably styled. It was dark, but a bit sun bleached in the highlights. She was quite attractive, with cheekbones to die for, and a little androgynous, but feminine enough that she’d not likely be mistaken for a man.

“I’m mixed, but not with white.” I said, then changed the subject. “What do folks do for fun around here, besides play pool at O’er the Barrel.”

“Well, the Barrel is the nightlife in these parts unless someone is throwing a party,” Kim explained. “But I ride, camp a little. Nothin’ beats nature ’round here.”

“You have horses?” I asked. “Or are you talking motorcycles?”

“I have a horse,” Kim said, “My brother has a ranch so he keeps her for me. You ride?”

“I have, but I’m not great at it.” I said. “Better on motorcycles actually.”

“Wanna come riding with me sometime?” Kim asked looking at me, appraising. I wasn’t sure what I was being appraised for, but if my goal was making friends, I seemed to be on the right track.

“Sure, that’d be great.” I started to cut into my food, and Kim gave a sort of surprised laugh/grunt.

“What?” I asked, peering at her raised eyebrows as I shoved a bite into my mouth.

“You’ve been here since mid-winter and have yet to make any friends.” She said. “I didn’t expect you to say yes.”

“I’m friends with Cole.” I protested, hand over my mouth, which was still full.

“That’s not common knowledge.”

I swallowed, and set my fork down, staring at my plate in embarrassment. “Cole suggested that I might get in less fights if I let people know me, and maybe make a friend people actually know about.”

“Ahhh, so you’re just talking to me out of self-preservation.” Kim teased, “Not that you can’t hold your own in a scrap from what I hear. Richard Fellows is nursing a busted nose and black eye and you look no worse for the wear.

That’s ’cause I’m sitting on my bruises, I thought but kept silent. I decided I liked Kim though.

Kim and I hung out several times, though we didn’t go riding due to the rainy spring weather. We went to local markets, a street fair in Valentine, and on a couple hikes.

“Okay Cat,” Kim said one day as we were driving back from swimming the river, “I’ve been thinking about your goal of being more accepted by the locals. I think you need to lose at something, publicly.”

I laughed as I pushed my curls out of my face. “What?” I questioned, “All right, give me your logic.”

“Well, first people need to actually see us hanging out. I don’t really go the Barrel that much in the warm months, but we could go there, be seen. And you could lose a game to me.”

“I don’t lose at pool.” I said. “You want me to throw a game? People will see through that.”

“Nah, just let me worry about that. You go on and do your best.” Kim reached a long arm across the bench seat of my Ford pick-up and gave my cheek a pinch. I slapped at her hand and a short scuffle ensued. Our camaraderie had gotten a bit more physical over the month we’d been hanging out, but other me gazing longingly at her when she wasn’t paying attention, nothing had happened between us.

“We’ll see who loses publicly.” I shot back good naturedly.

“We will, short stuff.” She said. I pouted, biting back a protest at being called short. I was 5’5! Just because she was freakishly tall…okay maybe 5’10 wasn’t freakishly tall, just runway model tall. No taller than Cole, but Cole had broad shoulders and bulk that was 100% muscle. She looked more proportionate. Kim was toned, but she was lean.

She led me back into the café for lunch BLT’s. After she fixed our sandwiches she announced, “This Friday night I’m gonna beat you ass at the pool table.”

I smirked but didn’t reply, preferring to let my skills speak for themselves.

So it was, that after I wiped the floor with her at pool that Friday night, she conceded the loss and paid up. She’d insisted on betting on the game, getting the locals interested in the outcome by promising that the loser would buy a round of dollar shots on the house.

After choking down my cheap whiskey shot and chasing it with my beer, a locally brewed red ale, Kim surprised me by calling a rematch.

“All right, all right, apparently I should have been hanging out here more before putting my money on this.” Kim said loudly, acting a bit more drunk than she was, as she’d only finished a single beer before taking her whiskey shot. “But I’m warmed up now, I want round two!” She insisted, slamming her shot glass down on the table. A few cheers went up, and someone shouted, “Another free round?”

Kim shook her head. “Well, in case I lose, I don’t wanna be out another thirty bucks!” She said, “But how ’bout this, loser takes a dare from the winner. Nothing that costs money or is illegal. ‘Least not too illegal.”

Hoots and hollers rang out. I had spent a year in Vegas as professional pool shark. Even if Kim was trying to hustle me by playing down her skills, she hadn’t seen my best game either. illegal bahis siteleri “I start the game!” Kim added after I shook her hand in agreement. I started chalking my cue.

Kim racked the balls, but to my surprise she turned away from the pool table, handing her cue to a guy in a classic cowboy hat who chewed a toothpick like he was in an old western flick.

“Hold this for me, partner.” Kim said. The man took the cue and winked at her.

“My pleasure, darlin'” He drawled.

Kim strode over to the dartboard on the wall and started pulling off darts.

“Wait!” I called after her, in a slight panic, “I didn’t agree to darts!”

A few laughs rang out and someone whistled.

“I believe, Kitten,” Kim drawled, her voice taunting as she tried out the nickname for the first time, “that you should have paid more attention before shaking on our deal. I didn’t specify the game, I just said I got to start it. I’m starting darts.” Kim walked backward a dozen paces and folks moved out of her way. I raised my hands and conceded; my mind more stuck on her calling me “kitten” than the upcoming competition.

I don’t usually play games I don’t have at least a chance of winning, but I remembered what Kim had said, that I needed to lose in front of folks. I figured if it made me more approachable in their books, it was a win of its own. Kim’s first dart hit the bullseye and I realized as she pulled back to throw her second, that I’d been hustled. Cole had been teaching me darts, and I wasn’t half bad, by Kim laid all six of hers in a tight circle in the middle of the board.

I took up the darts, pointing at Kim with a good-natured scowl before I took up my place where she’d been standing. I landed two on the bullseye, which was the best game I’d ever thrown, and rest were at least on the board. I’d thrown a good game, but I’d sorely lost.

Cheers went up, and few people slapped my back in condolence. “All right!” I said, taking Kim’s offered hand, “I lost fair and square, what do I have to do?” I asked.

Kim smirked. “I dare you, Cat, to bend over the pool table and take a dozen with Cole’s frat paddle.” She nodded towards the imposing paddle that hung on the wall, I sputtered at her, but she squeezed my hand, preventing me from pulling away “Four on your jeans, four on your undies, four on the bare.” The cheers that went up at that were almost deafening. I glanced around, there were over two dozen people in the bar, all who’d witnessed me take the bet and lose it. Most who were grinning broadly at the prospect of my very public upcoming humiliation.

“Damn it, Kim, really?” I said through gritted teeth.

“What the hell’s going on over here?” Cole’s voice rang out as she strode across the room, bar towel over her strong shoulder. “Eddie, get your hands off that thing.” Cole scolded a man who was leaning over a table, already reaching for the paddle.

“Kim hustled the new kid.” Someone called out, and I felt myself flush in embarrassment.

“I did not!” Kim protested, letting go of my hand and wilting a little as Cole glowered at her. I felt a little better with Cole protecting me, but I doubted she would get me out of this with any sort of face saved. Kim explained our games, the bets, and repeated the dare when Cole asked her. I confirmed the truth.

“She takes a dozen with the paddle, four on her jeans, four on her underwear, four on the bare.”

Cole glowered at Kim. “New rule!” She announced to a chorus of groans. “All bets must be fully outlined before the games begin. Kim,” Cole took a menacing step forward and Kim seemed to struggle to hold her ground. “You straight up hustled that girl,” then Cole turned her gaze on me. “But Cat, you hustled Kim first, along with the other folks in here at some point, so you’ve got this one coming. It’s a clean bet.”

Kim beamed, saucily raising an eyebrow at me. “Bend over the table, Kitten.” She practically purred, pointing at the pool table. Laughs and shouts rang out around us.

“May as well.” I said, projecting my voice and hiding my nerves behind the biggest grin I could summon, “It’s only way you’ll ever beat my ass at pool!”

A series of loud, “Ooooooh’s” and “Burned!” rang out with a significantly amount of laughter. Like I said, I’d spent a year on the Vegas scene. Just because I’m naturally quiet and introverted, doesn’t mean I don’t know how to work a crowd when I need to.

Cheers went up, then died down as Cole raised on hand. “But!” she added, “My house, my paddle, no one wields it but me.”

Kim looked disappointed.

“Oh, damn.” Someone nearby mumbled. “I wouldn’t want to be you right now, Cat!”

I’d been on the receiving end of Cole’s punishing hand once before, though nobody knew that, and I wasn’t too keen on it again. The last time had left me a crying mess. I knew I’d need to bite the bullet on this one and keep my tears in check to be sure the mood stayed light and fun, even if my backside was already tensing in protest. Kim, not to be entirely left out, took me by the arm, and pulled canlı bahis siteleri me to the pool table.

I stumbled along after her, a little reluctant now that I knew Cole would be wielding the paddle. Kim would have made it look good, and it would have smarted like hell, but it would have been mostly for show.

“Okay, now you can bring it over Eddie.” Cole’s voice said from somewhere behind me. Kim untucked my plaid button up shirt from the back of my jeans and unbuckled my belt, looking me in the eye the whole time. Her brows gave a slight lift when I glared at her, her giving me the facial equivalent of a shrug. She leaned in and whispered, “Think of it like a frat initiation.” Her breath tickled the tip of my ear. “take your licks, be a champ about it, earn a little more street cred with the locals.”

“You planned this.” I said, just loud enough for her to hear me.

“You asked for it.” She said. “Don’t be mad.”

I wasn’t mad, but I wasn’t happy either. She pushed me down over the table, my unbuckled belt between my hips and wooden edge. I leaned forward on my elbows, and felt Kim kick my feet apart until they were just about shoulder width. I looked over my shoulder in time to see Cole finish rolling up her sleeves, tattoos on her tanned arms shifting in the multicolored lights of the bar as her muscles flexed. She took the paddle from someone. I turned back and fixed my eyes on the cue ball, which sat a foot or so in front of my face and slightly to the left, ignoring the cat calls and whistles.

I felt the paddle, cool even through my jeans, brush against my ass cheeks. It was solid inch thick, oak, with holes drilled into it, probably 18 inches long in total. I wriggled a bit in fearful anticipation, the slight pressure lessened, and I forced myself not to tense.

The paddle cracked across the seat of my bottom and I winced, rocking forward against the table and clenching my fists. A few people shouted out, “One! That’s one!”

I struggled to keep my hands in place, knowing better than to risk whatever punishment Cole might devise for breaking position. I’d learned that lesson the hard way.

The crowd counted the next three strokes, and I struggled to not cry out. My face was nearly as hot as my ass, from embarrassment in part, but also from desperately trying to keep control of my features. It was Kim’s hands that hauled me up and unbuttoned my jeans. She leaned in close and murmured, “I’d have made it six if I knew Cole was going to do it.” Her tone was apologetic and her touch gentle.

“Don’t try to be nice now.” I growled at her and regretted the hurt look that passed over her face. I really wasn’t upset with her, not very anyway. I just couldn’t handle her gentle touch and words when I was trying to keep composure. I could hear bets being made as to how long I’d go before yelling, before crying, whether I’d beg for Cole to stop.

I knew I’d probably holler. Probably cry at least a little. But I had taken a real punishment from Cole that had been far more severe than this and hadn’t begged. I don’t beg unless a lover tells me to. And for all that I’d let Cole fuck me a week prior, I didn’t consider her my lover, and she sure as hell wasn’t telling me to do a damn thing other than shut up and take my licks, which I was doing my best to do.

Kim pushed me down onto the table, a little rougher than necessary, and cat calls rang out about my undies. They were wonder woman cheekies. When I looked up, I noticed more than one flushed face in the crowd. Great. At least a bunch of guys…and a few girls, were getting off on this. I sure as hell wasn’t.

The paddle rested against my panty clad ass, the bottom of it cool where it touched heated bare skin. I focused on the cue ball again just as the paddle cracked against my ass. It had a slight upward swing to it that set me up on my toes. I grunted in pain, biting my lip as the second stroke followed quickly, the crowd was counting again.

“Seven!” They called out and a small chocked cry escaped my lips. I was on my toes still, and sure that my ass was literally on fire. I wanted nothing more than to reach back and put that fire out. I knew better.

The eighth stroke was harder than the previous ones, and for a second I hated Cole a little bit. Why couldn’t she have gone a little easier on me? Everyone was drunk, no-one would notice. But that wasn’t like Cole, she didn’t do anything half-assed, so to speak.

Even though it wasn’t a punishment, it hard far more than the belt had, though I’d taken way more licks than 12 that time.

My left leg kicked up a little as the eighth count rang out, but my jeans around my knees prevented it from going far.

Kim hauled me up again, rough and brusque, an unreadable expression on her face as she met my eyes briefly before tugging my undies down. Luckily there weren’t that many people in a position to get a full view of my neatly trimmed pussy, which would be on display since my legs were as far apart as the jeans around my knees would allow. Kim met my eyes again. Did she feel guilty? Was she upset with me for my angry words? I gave her a little nod, not sure what I was trying to convey, and she looked away, something flickering over her face I couldn’t read, but just before she shoved me back down, I saw the blush creeping up her neck.

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