The studio is much smaller than I had imagined. Emmy and I are escorted by a page to our seats in the first row. The rest of the audience has been seated for some time now, and the show is about to start. As I look around, there can’t be more than two hundred audience seats in total. The studio is cold, freezing in fact. It’s a good thing that Emmy’s boyfriend Adam warned us to bring sweaters to the taping. The lighting equipment focused on the stage throws off a tremendous amount of heat, so I would guess the temperature is kept low to compensate and keep the guests comfortable.
“Oh, my God, Jette. I can’t believe this is really happening. Evan is about to appear on ‘Night After Night’ with Joey Griffin.” I think she’s more excited than I am. “What do you think the boys are doing backstage right now? Do you think he’s nervous? I wonder if they’re hanging out with anyone famous. Aren’t you going to answer me?”
“I didn’t think you were going to stop talking long enough for me to answer, Emmy.” She gives me a pouty look, but I just roll my eyes and chuckle. I love spending time with Emmy. She brings joy and enthusiasm with her everywhere she goes.
“Well? Are you going to answer me, or what?” she asks, still waiting for my answers.
I tell her, “I don’t know, Emmy. Maybe. Evan’s done this interview thing lots of times. It’s kind of a cake walk for him. It helps, too, that Adam’s been with him at all of them. They make a great team.”
“Adam says that Evan could have gone on any show he wanted, but this is the only show he could get Evan to agree to,” Emmy explains.
“Well, the media has been waiting a long time to hear Evan talk about what happened. I’m glad he’s finally going to put his story out there. I’m sick of hearing Averee’s friends and family defending her all the time.” I know talk show hosts have been hounding Adam for weeks now, all trying desperately to get Evan to appear on their show first. They all want to know about the night he was held at gunpoint by his Looney Tune ex-girlfriend, Averee DeVeau, precisely six weeks ago tonight.
The choice to go on Joey’s show was an easy one to make. He tapes in Manhattan, which is just a short car ride from home. Evan doesn’t want to do any west coast shows right now while he’s still recovering. He takes his physical therapy routine very seriously. But aside from that, Evan’s met Joey before, he’s appeared on his show previously, and he knows Joey won’t push him too hard. Evan hasn’t uttered a word about Averee to anyone since he gave his final statement to the police. Each time I’ve brought it up, he shut me down. I’m wondering how much he is going to divulge to Joey tonight.
My thoughts are disrupted by a gentle elbow to the ribs from Emmy trying to get me to focus on the stage where it seems the crew is preparing to start the show. The first to come out is Seth, the show’s warm-up comedian. It’s his job to get the audience all pumped up and to explain the rules. The most important rule – no pictures are permitted to be taken in the studio. Apparently, this rule is essential because Seth mentions it five or six times. Aside from not being allowed to leave your seats once taping has begun, he tells us that it’s the only rule they actually enforce.
I’ve never been to the taping of a talk show before. As Seth continues to chat with the audience, I can’t help but gaze around at the studio, curious to see all the equipment and staff required to create a television show. I imagined seeing a neon flashing sign that calls for “Laughter” or “Applause”, and much to my surprise, there is no such sign. It’s much more spontaneous and the audience is encouraged to respond organically.
After twenty minutes or so of entertainment, the house band starts up and the house lights are dimmed. Before long, the director and stagehands signal the show’s about to begin and we hear the announcer, Huxley, read off the list of tonight’s guests. First up tonight is Kitty Sutton. Apparently, she’s the host of that star-studded dance show that I have never seen. The crowd seems to know who she is and claps loudly when her name is read aloud.
The second guest tonight is my boyfriend, and the entire reason why we’re here tonight, the New Jersey Sentinel’s newest back-up quarterback, Evan “Big Mac” McGuire. The crowd erupts into a raucous round of applause and cheers. There’s no doubt, the crowd is here to see Evan tonight. I’m equally certain that when tonight’s episode airs tomorrow, it will bring in tons of late night viewers.
Finally Huxley announces tonight’s musical guest, Zedd featuring Foxes. Now that’s a performance I very much look forward to enjoying. But for the time being, I have to sit back and count the minutes until Evan makes his appearance.
In the middle of the thunderous applause, Joey Griffin makes his entrance on stage to deliver his monologue and introduce the house band. He tells a few jokes and pokes fun at some of the celebrities in the news. He does a skit at his desk before the first commercial break, and for a few minutes, I almost forget why I am here. It nearly slips my mind that Evan is back stage in some sort of a green room with Adam, waiting for his interview. As my nerves start to get the better of me, I begin to wonder if he’s nervous, too. Maybe he’s casually chatting with members of the crew as he sits in make-up getting ready for the cameras. I can’t imagine my man, a professional athlete, completely masculine and sexy as hell, wearing makeup. My favorite image of Evan is of him lying in our bed, naked, still slightly sweaty from exertion, hair wildly sticking out in every direction, sleeping soundly, with just a small swath of fabric barely covering him. Suddenly, my nerves are gone, replaced with a completely different sensation altogether. I get all tingly just thinking about him.
As the first commercial break arrives, the audience is free to talk and chat. There’s a large group of young women behind me and they are all talking excitedly about how lucky they are to be here today and how it’s their dream-come-true to be able to see Evan in person. I’ve been in this situation before, facing his excessively flirtatious and overzealous fans. The first few times, it wasn’t easy. I would look at these women as potential rivals. I was afraid that when the right offer came along, he would give into temptation and I would become a distant memory. How wrong I was. It took a near death experience to get me to accept my place by Evan’s side and to realize that there is no temptation strong enough and no rival enticing enough to come between us.
“So Emmy, where to after the taping? Did Adam make any dinner reservations?”
“Evan asked him to get us a table at Bar Americain. Bobby Flay is supposed to be there tonight. I’m surprised he didn’t he tell you,” Emmy responds.
“He’s been really busy lately. It must have slipped his mind,” I tell her. Evan’s been preoccupied with his recovery. Besides, his pre-season schedule is pretty daunting. Before she can push me on the topic, the lights dim and the band starts up again. Emmy and I sit quietly as the first guest is interviewed. Joey has a great rapport with his guests. You can just tell that it’s not scripted or rehearsed. To hear him talk to Kitty Sutton about her dancing show, I almost want to start watching it, too.
When the interview’s over, the camera pans over to Huxley and he announces, “When we return, Joey challenges NFL Superstar Evan McGuire to a showdown.” Emmy looks at me, waiting for an explanation, but I have none to give. The crowd roars and women are screeching in delight at the prospect of being up-close and personal with Evan.
Once the hollers die down and the lights come back on, Emmy questions me about what we just heard. Both of us are regular viewers of “Night After Night”, so we know exactly the types of challenges we can expect. Emmy and I debate the possibilities. We quickly eliminate games like Pictionary, Charades, and Catchphrase as likely competitions; Evan’s not really into those types of games, even though he’s more than capable. As a quarterback, he’s most assuredly cut out for more physical competitions. We’ve seen those on the show, too. The guests have been challenged to a variety of races and target games with all sorts of equipment, but because of Evan’s injured hand, it’s not likely he’ll be playing any of those games, either. We’re both stumped.
After several minutes of deliberation, the lights dim and the audience again erupts into rowdy cheers, interrupting our conversation. My eyes immediately dart to the stage, anxious to see Evan emerge through the curtains. The main camera is flashing, pointing directly at Joey, as he begins to introduce his next guest. Smiling from ear to ear, I listen raptly as he describes Evan’s rise to fame to the audience.
“My next guest is someone you all know well. He’s one of the newest players for the New Jersey Sentinels, backing up veteran quarterback Matt Ortiz. His swagger, strength, and sex appeal brought him into the spotlight, but his charismatic charm keeps him there. He is here tonight, giving his first interview since his altercation with pop star Averee DeVeau. Please help me welcome – Evan McGuire.”
As the audience begins to respond, the curtains open, and out walks Evan, not showing an ounce of nerves. He’s wearing a pair of dark-washed jeans and a black button-down shirt, open collar with no tie, and a black suit jacket. He waves to the audience, glancing around the studio, taking in all the energy being projected at him. He flashes a sultry smile for the camera, showing his beautifully perfect white teeth and revealing those dimples that I adore, whipping the screaming audience into a frenzy of excitement. I joyfully join them, calling his name proudly and clapping as loudly as I can, but it’s lost among the rest of the rowdy applause and whistles echoing throughout the studio.
Evan glides gracefully across the stage and walks directly over to Jimmy, shaking his hand, and exchanging private remarks. Both men take their seats, but the crowd continues their adoration, not relenting in their cheers. Joey says something we cannot hear to Evan, and Evan briefly stands and waves to the crowd, expressing his thanks and appreciation. As he turns to scan the audience, I see the features of the man that has captured my heart. He is tall, dark, and intimidating in a sexy way that makes you hungry for more. The sparkle in his eyes and his kind smile show his soft side, creating a wave of desire that washes over your entire body. There’s something animalistic about the way women respond to him.
He sits back down and for the first time, I can tell he’s a little nervous. He runs a hand through his thick chestnut hair and shuffles nervously in his seat. After some time, the crowd begins to settle and the interview can begin. My heart is beating wildly and I’m on the edge of my seat, eager to hear every word that’s said.
The conversation begins innocently enough with a discussion about his move to New Jersey and his decision to rebuild a beach house damaged during Hurricane Sandy. They spend a few minutes talking about the condition of our hometown of Point Pleasant, and the efforts to rebuild and restore the shore. That simple statement is the perfect segue to the Restore the Shore Benefit six weeks ago, when his former girlfriend, Averee DeVeau, had her meltdown in the middle of our fund raising event.
“Well, Joey, as you know, I was there to help raise funds to restore our community, along with lots of others athletes and entertainers. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay until the end as I had planned. I made a swift decision to take Averee away from the event as soon as I realized she wasn’t in her right state of mind. I had no choice, really. She was a danger to everyone I love, to herself, and to the hundreds of innocent people who gathered to enjoy a special night together. I have no regrets and I would do it all over again in an instant.” Evan takes a deep breath and waits for Joey’s response. He doesn’t have to wait long. The crowd erupts into applause, giving him a standing ovation. I don’t think Evan was expecting that reaction from the crowd. His beautiful blue eyes are wide with surprise, looking at the audience in complete amazement. My heart is absolutely bursting with pride. Even Joey stands and claps for Evan’s act of bravery.
Joey sits back down and continues, “So Evan, there are photos of Averee at the benefit. Can you tell us if there is any truth to the rumors that she was impersonating your girlfriend?”
Evan tries to be as gentle in his remarks as possible. “I’m not going to sit here and lie, Joey. The pictures are out there and they speak for themselves. Yes, Averee altered her appearance and tried to assume Juliette’s identity. Like I said before, she was not in her right mind. She was confused, frustrated, and desperate.”
Joey then asks Evan about his injury. “It sounds like a horrible situation. I hope you don’t mind me asking this next question, but everyone wants to know how you got injured. There’s been a lot of speculation out there trying to put the pieces together. Can you tell us once and for all what actually happened?”
Evan hesitates, clearly giving his response one final moment of full consideration before continuing. He scans the crowd apprehensively, and his eyes lock with mine. Those big blue eyes shine the moment he finds me, and I nod, encouraging him to go on. He smiles at me, and I can see him visibly relax, ready to talk for the first time in weeks.
“You know, Joey, it was a very long night that didn’t end until early the next day. I don’t even know how many hours we were in that house together. Time kind of stood still. The truth is that I injured myself grabbing a chef’s knife out of Averee’s hand. If I didn’t, I have no doubt that Averee wouldn’t be alive right now receiving the care she so desperately needs.” He pauses for a moment, and then continues. “I have no one to blame but myself and I’ve been dealing with that decision every day since.” Evan sits back in his seat, takes a deep cleansing breath, and exhales through his mouth. He’s been holding that in for some time now. I’m so glad he finally let it out.
“Well, you look great now, man. Hey, everyone, doesn’t Big Mac look great?” They wait while the audience claps in agreement before Joey follows up with another question. “How’s your recovery going? Are we going to see you take the field this season?”
“Absolutely. I’m looking forward to working with Matt Ortiz and learning from the best. He’s brought the Sentinels to the playoffs five times in his career, and I can’t wait to become a part of that legacy.” Evan sits up a little taller and crosses one leg across his knee. Talking about football is something he really enjoys and it shows.
“That’s great to hear, Mac. There were rumors flying that you wouldn’t be returning this season. Any idea how those rumors got started?” Joey asks.
“I try not to listen to the rumor mill too much. I’m no stranger to gossip, especially when it comes to my private life. I prefer not to waste too much energy worrying about what other people are thinking. The only person whose opinion matters to me right now is my girlfriend’s.” Evan looks right over to me with a giant grin splashed across his face. I can see my own happiness reflected in his eyes. He winks at me, and I am lost in his spell.
“Speaking of Juliette, I understand you’ve started a business together. Don’t you two have a bar that will be opening soon?” Joey asks.
“We do. It’s a dessert bar called ‘Rush’ right in the heart of Asbury Park. It’s just a few blocks in from the ocean and not too far from some of the town’s well-known landmarks like the Stone Pony. I promise you, Joey, if you come down to Jersey, we’ll show you a great time. Juliette makes the best cheesecake you’ve ever tasted in your life. She’s really amazing.”
“Sounds great. I’d love to come down and check the place out. But I have to ask you for something in return. You like a good competition, a healthy challenge, right?” Joey asks.
“You know I do, Joey. Why? What do you have in mind?” Evan replies.
“Well, last time you were here, we threw a few footballs around. I thought this time we’d play a little drinking game. Now that you’re a bar owner, we want to put you to the test with a little friendly game of Flip Cup. What do you say? Can you stick around a little longer?” Joey asks, already knowing the answer.
“I’d love to, Joey.” The interview ends, and there’s a break for the commercial. A flurry of activity begins as the staff hurries onto stage getting the game props all set up. They position a camera to get an overhead shot of the game table. We can watch on the large screen hanging on the wall beside the stage.
It’s a relief that Evan’s not going to be playing any physical challenges. I know he’s in top shape, but his grip is still weak and he’s not supposed to be using his hand for anything other than normal activities. His doctor hasn’t cleared him to play football yet, and I’m just glad he’s not going to try to throw or catch right now on national television.
Emmy’s phone goes off with a new text message while we’re waiting. She giggles, and then furiously texts back. “Emmy, was that a text from Adam? What’s going on?” I ask her.
“It was. He said that Evan’s going to kick Joey’s ass. They’ve been practicing back stage while Evan was waiting,” she explains.
Just as I’m about to respond, I overhear the conversation taking place in the row directly behind me. A group of young girls around my age is planning to rush out as soon as possible and head straight for the backstage entrance. I hear one girl tell the others, “I am not leaving until I get his number.”
They all start giggling, and one of her friends responds, “I bet you all that I can get him to take me home. These boobs are the best investment I’ve ever made. You’ll see.”
The last straw is when I hear another reply, “He definitely deserves a good lay, and I’m just the girl to make sure he gets it.”
Emmy is still texting with Adam, oblivious to the discussion going on around us. I fight every instinct I have to turn around and tell the girls that he’s going home with me tonight. Instead, I focus my attention on the gorgeous man on stage as he walks with Joey towards the center stage. They are laughing and joking together. My imagination drifts to a day in the not too distant future when Evan and I play host and hostess to Joey and his wife when they come for dinner at Rush. I wonder if he would really come down, or if those words were just spoken in kindness. Time will tell.
Before long, the audience lights dim and the bands strikes up for a quick intro. Joey and Evan walk over to the tables and both men take off their suit jackets. This is serious business. As Evan removes his jacket, the crowd goes wild, hooting and whistling their appreciation for the sight of the man in front of them. His broad shoulders are now clearly visible, contrasting beautifully with his trim waist. His shirtsleeves are just tight enough to show off the muscles in his biceps.
Joey explains the rules to everyone and the men shake hands. Each man takes his place on opposite sides of the table. After a count of three, the game begins. Emmy and I watch and laugh, enjoying the show. Evan throws back the first cup of beer, and then races against Joey to flip the cup up and over. Evan is not kicking Joey’s ass as Adam had predicted. He’s ahead, but not by much. The two men continue to toss back beer after beer as they work their way down the table, each trying to be the first one to successfully flip six cups. After both men struggle to get the fourth cup flipped, Evan finds his groove and flips the final two with hardly any effort. We all stand and cheer for Evan as he walks over to Joey and shakes his hand in victory. Even though it was just a silly game, I couldn’t be more proud of my boyfriend. I fully intend to show him how impressed I am with his performance later tonight when we get home.
An hour later, as we leave the studio, Evan is bombarded by waiting fans, all trying to get his attention. Evan signals for Adam to move Emmy and me away from the fans, giving him some space to work the crowd. The further away we get, the more tightly surrounded Evan becomes by women smiling at him, batting their eyelashes, and sliding their hands up and down his arms and back. Adam looks over at me, my smile now replaced by scowl. “Jette, don’t let this stuff get to you. You know he has to do this – it’s part of his job.”
“I know, Adam. You’re right. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And it definitely doesn’t mean I have to watch.” I’m no stranger to flirting with customers. As a bartender it was part of my job, too. But I never did it in front of Evan, subjecting him to the unwanted feelings of jealousy and pain. My stomach is twisted into knots, and I can feel my temperature rising as strange women fawn all over my boyfriend.
I try my best to ignore them, but curiosity keeps me peeking over my shoulder, needing to make sure that Evan is keeping his boundaries firm. My mouth drops when I see him wrap his arms around two young women while a third snaps a picture with her cell phone, then quickly changing places to get her own picture taken. Without warning, the unthinkable happens – just as the picture is snapped, she plants a kiss on his cheek. Evan laughs it off, but I’m burning with anger.
Emmy tries to distract me with small talk, but I don’t hear a word she’s saying. My attention is completely focused on Evan as I see one woman, a long-legged blonde, pull down her top and exposing abundant cleavage bursting from her lace bra, while handing Evan a sharpie. She actually wants him to sign her boobs. Adam takes one look at my reaction, and immediately jumps into action. “Stay right here. I’m ending this. Now.” He makes a beeline directly towards Evan with a look of determination on his face.
Adam is great. He takes complete control of the situation, making apologies to the crowd, and whisking Evan away from the fray. In no time at all, Emmy and I are joined by our men and off we go. I do my best to put on a happy face, although Evan knows I’m not at all comfortable with what I just witnessed. But he respects my feelings enough not to discount them. Instead, he simply takes my hands in his and kisses me deeply. All worries are forgotten, and I find myself grinning once again.
The restaurant is only a few blocks away, so we decide to walk rather than grab a taxi. The streets are fairly crowded today, thanks to the beautiful spring weather and the start of the holiday weekend. The sidewalks surrounding Rockefeller Center are filled with tourists and much to our delight, none of them stop us or make a scene. Evan and I walk hand-in hand along the streets of Manhattan much like any other young couple.
There’s really nothing that compares to walking the streets of midtown Manhattan. I spent four years in Denver, and now it seems like a million miles away. The downtown market in Denver is a lovely pedestrian promenade that is always clean, generally tranquil, and only occasionally exciting. My favorite event is the yearly Zombie Crawl every October. It’s the only time the streets are crowded with thousands and filled with the kind of energy that is a constant here in Manhattan.
As we turn a corner, there’s a street performance going on, drawing people in to watch. Evan and I stop to enjoy the show. Two young, fit men are putting on an acrobatics show and they are mesmerizing. Adam and Emmy stop, too, but they are too wrapped up in each other to pay any attention to the show. They’ve only been dating for a few weeks, and they seem to be blissfully happy.
Evan looks down at me with smoldering eyes and wraps his hands around my waist, pulling me close. I reach up, draping my arms around his neck and find the hair at the nape of his neck. I work my fingers through the strands while running my nails across his scalp. Evan closes his eyes and releases a moan. I love the sounds I can get him to make with the slightest touch. He moves his hands down to my bottom and lifts me off me feet and onto my tiptoes. Our lips meet for a soft sweet kiss. When he squeezes my ass, I respond my opening up for him, allowing his tongue entry to explore and caress. While Evan holds me in his arms, everything around us disappears, leaving us along in our own world. Evan has that effect on me. He releases me and slowly the haze clears. Emmy is staring at me waiting for an answer to a question I didn’t hear.
“I’m sorry, Emmy. What was your question?” I ask, slightly flushed and totally contented.
“I asked if you two were ready for dinner. I’m starving,” she repeats.
“Oh, yeah – food. Lead the way.” And off we go, walking arm-in-arm just a few more short blocks to West 53rd Street. By the time we reach the restaurant, it’s nearly eight o’clock and I’m famished. Adam’s second prediction is wrong again. Bobby Flay is not in his restaurant tonight. But despite that setback, the four of us sit back and enjoy a great meal that doesn’t disappoint.
more to come…