Chapter 1: Blair
“You can do this. No, we can do this. I’m well prepared and you–you’re smart and brave, you have heart.” He scoffs, and I lean up on my tip toes to catch his eye. “And most importantly you’re the best boyfriend in the whole world.”
I stifle a laugh as Wes grumbles under his breath. I might be laying it on a bit thick, but my fearless boyfriend shifts nervously as we stand outside Katrina’s door.
“It’s only for a couple hours. We’ll feed him, entertain him, and then tuck him into bed and finish re-watching the last episode in season seven of Game of Thrones.”
I pat his arm lovingly. “Sure, but not here. I don’t think that’s on the approved list of activities while babysitting.”
God, now I’m a little nervous. I don’t know anything about kids. With a false calm, I straighten and put on a smile. “Ready?”
He lets out a sigh and I knock twice.
As Katrina pulls open the door, Wes hides behind me. Yeah, like that’ll do any good since he’s a foot taller than me. A good human shield, I am not.
“Hey,” she says breathlessly. “Come in.”
“Wow, you look great,” I tell her as she runs a hand down her dress. I cannot believe Katrina is going on a date with Joel. I’m excited though, I think they could be good together. She steps back to let us enter.
“Your place is adorable.” Looking at Katrina it would be easy to forget she’s a mother, but her apartment is so homey that I feel a little pang of longing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want kids any time soon, but someday I can see the appeal of a little bungalow with Wes and a kid or two, maybe a cat.
I steal a glance at Wes who still looks terrified. Though, maybe a little intrigued as he eyes the extravagant toy setup Christian has going on.
Katrina’s son sits on the floor in the living room. Colorful cars are set up on an orange track. It’s elaborate, ramps and spirals and some sort of alligator head trap on one end. The gator’s mouth is wide open, sitting in wait for a car to chomp on.
Wes steps toward it like those tiny metal cars are magnets. Guess it doesn’t matter how old the boy is – cars are cars.
“Christian, honey, this is Blair and Wes. They’re going to hang out with you for a little bit. They brought popsicles,” she adds in a high-pitched voice then turns to me and whispers. “They’re in the freezer. You can bribe him to do most anything with the promise of a grape popsicle.”
“Hi, Christian,” I chirp cheerily.
No response. I don’t even get acknowledged.
“What are you playing there?” I ask as I walk into the living room and crouch down beside him. I select a purple car from the track and give it a little push.
Wes sprawls out on the floor next to Christian, long legs taking up half the room. He looks absolutely ridiculous as he picks up two cars, one in each hand, and then rams them into each other on the track.
Well, that’s not exactly good behavior. From the quick Google search I did beforehand, it said to model the actions you want the child to emulate. Ramming things – not something I want Christian to do.
Christian, however, thinks this is great which eggs on Wes. I watch in horror as the cars go all Grand Theft Auto.
I steal a glance at Katrina who looks on amused – not horrified.
“Do you have a schedule or things you want us to do with him while you’re gone?” I ask as I leave the boys in the living room and follow Katina into the kitchen where she’s examining the contents of her backpack carefully.
I’m wide-eyed, bushy-tailed, ready to take on this challenge and blow it out of the water. Best babysitter of the year goes to… Auntie Blair.
“No, he’s already had his bath and dinner. Bedtime is at seven thirty and if you have any problems or questions just call me.”
No way I’m calling. I got this!
She lets out a long breath. “Okay.”
“Are you excited?”
Her face practically lights up. “Yes, but also terrified. I can’t believe I agreed to this.”
“I can’t wait to hear all about it. Where is he taking you?”
“I’m not sure. He’s coming to my play rehearsal and then…” She shrugs.
“I’m going to need details when you get back.”
“It’s weird, right? This is weird, me going out with your boyfriend’s roommate?”
“What? No. It’s the opposite of weird. I just hope he treats you right or I’m going to have to kick some Moreno ass.”
Katrina snorts. “Okay Christian, come give me hugs.”
Wes and Christian stand in unison. Christian races past me and I move to Wes’ side as Katrina says goodbye to her son, instructing him to behave and letting him know that she’ll be home later.
Katrina is reluctant, backing away slowly and watching Christian like he might go into full-blown freak out mode at any second. He doesn’t, thankfully, but I’m prepared for that too – thank you, Google.
“We’ll take good care of him. I promise.” I make an X over my heart and she nods once, waves at Christian, and darts out the door.
I turn, hands on hips, and eye the boys who have already gone back to playing cars. “Alright. Who wants to play a game?”
“I want to play cars!” Christian exclaims and smiles at Wes.
Well, this is going to be easy. I can just sit back, relax, and oversee the babysitting while I watch my hot boyfriend do all the heavy lifting.
* * *
If my life were a movie the voice over dude would now say, “It was not easy,” and then he’d laugh maniacally.
Playing cars lasts just long enough that I get comfortable. Too comfortable. Honest to God I have no idea how Katrina does it. I know how she stays fit, though, I haven’t sat down in an hour. And Wes? He’s the clear favorite even though I spent hours researching what to do, planned out fun games, I even watched a first aid video just in case. None of that matters to Christian. Nope. He’s glued to Wes’ side.
Like a trooper, Wes is holding a stuffed dalmatian puppy while Christian holds a larger, blue toy dog and they act out some scene that makes absolutely no sense to anyone but maybe Christian.
That lasts another minute before Christian wants to show Wes his soccer skills. Impressive, but not really indoor appropriate.
Then, we get out the markers so Christian can draw on Wes’ cast. But somehow markers start straying to other surfaces and thank God they’re washable.
When seven thirty finally comes, I announce it before the second hand has moved from the twelve.
Christian gives his best pouty face, but when Wes fakes a big yawn and says he needs to sleep too, Christian is suddenly on board.
While Wes gets Christian into his bed, surrounded by a litter of stuffed dogs, my phone vibrates in my back pocket.
How’s it going? Need me to bring over Benadryl yet?
Ha, ha. We’re doing great!
“He’s down,” Wes says quietly.
I look back to see Christian’s eyes closed, mouth agape. He’s passed out cold. Well, that part was easy anyway.
“Let’s take a selfie.” I have my phone camera up and angled toward us before he can object. “I’m going to send it to Katrina, let her know all is well.”
“All is not well,” Wes mumbles, runs a hand through his hair and then hobbles to the couch. “I feel twenty years older.”
After I’ve pressed send, I join him. Looks like I have some groveling to do for getting us into this.
Chapter 2: Wes
Blair wraps her arms around my waist and cuddles against my chest.
“That was exhausting. Don’t think Joel knows what he’s getting himself into.” Actually, I don’t think he’s thought beyond getting laid. Although, Joel really is just a big kid himself so maybe he thinks this is all fun and games. I thought so too for the first fifteen minutes. I haven’t played with Hot Wheels in so long. I got older and bigger and tiny little cars stopped bringing as much joy as things like basketball and women.
Speaking of, I had big plans to make out with my girlfriend after we got the kid to sleep and now I’m thinking there’s no way I have the energy. I am spent.
“You were great,” I tell her.
“Really?” She looks up at me all big brown eyes. “I feel like all I did was chase you two around. He just wanted to play with you.”
I detect the pout in her voice, and I pull her closer. “I want to play with you.”
Slide my hand to the hem of her shirt and up.
She sits up and my hand falls away. I don’t have the energy to double back on my efforts.
“Seriously. I’m a terrible babysitter. I’m no fun and kids don’t like me.” She lets out an adorable little gasp. “Oh my God, what if we have kids someday and they hate me?!”
My heart stops beating. What if we have kids?
“Oh God, I’m sorry. Did I just freak you out? You should see your face.” Blair giggles and the sound does what it always does, calms and soothes me down to the very core.
“Sorry. I guess I just hadn’t thought that far ahead.” My parents haven’t exactly inspired me to procreate.
“I mean, me either,” she says. “I have so many things I want to do first. Finish school. I want to be successful in my career …” her words trail off and I try and picture it. I’ve never let myself look too far down the road. But Blair is a dreamer. I like that she is thinking years away and I’m still by her side.
“I love you,” I tell her, and I see it reflected back to me before she even opens her mouth to respond. “We’ll be kick-ass parents.”
Definitely not today or even this year.
But if my girl wants a family, then I know myself well enough to know I’ll give it to her. Whatever she wants. Forever.
Volume 1: The Fadeaway Sneak Peek
Four Months Ago
I need caffeine.
Typically, I run just fine on four hours of sleep, a slight hangover, and aching muscles but last night’s marathon fuck fest was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Or want to experience again. The chick wore a cat ear headband (in retrospect that should have been my first clue) and she actually meowed while I went down on her. Yeah, like a cat. My back and ass bear the marks from her long fingernails shaped like claws that completed the whole cat-like persona she had going on. And don’t get me wrong, it was sort of hot and kinky, but what the actual fuck? It’s like every girl is trying to outdo the last and sure I’m down for some kink, but what happened to good old-fashioned boning where the only thing that’s crossing my mind is how good it feels to be buried inside a warm, wet pussy?
I push through University Hall to the small campus café. Blair is nowhere in sight. Bummer. I was hoping she’d throw in about twelve muffins. She’s hooking up with my teammate and roommate Wes and the perks of my buddy banging a girl who works at the café include free coffee and pastries. I can afford it, but that’s not the point.
When I reach the counter, I still don’t see anyone.
“Hello,” I call out.
A blonde head pops up and I step back as cups and sugar packets go flying. My eyes catch on her name tag first. Katrina. Kat-rina. I wince and shudder at the memory of the catastrophe from last night – pun, totally intended. But as my gaze moves up, all memories of the chick last night, and every other girl for that matter, disappear.
“Holy sh– crap.” She straightens and looks up. Long dirty blonde strands of hair fall in her face and she brushes it back with a hand as she meets my eyes. “What can I get for you?”
Brown and blue eyes assault me. The left iris is totally blue, and the right nearly all brown with just a hint of blue in the middle dancing around the pupil. I stare at each one individually, back and forth, trying to decide which I like better.
I don’t know how long I stare at her multi-colored eyes, but when someone clears their throat behind me, I finally remember why I’m here.
“Yeah. Coffee. Large.” I’m incapable of stringing together a sentence, which is definitely new for me. I can talk the panties off anyone. Damn, that chick last night must have really done a number on me.
“Want room for cream and sugar?”
I nod. “Blair working today?”
She sighs. “Not until this afternoon. Sorry, no quotes this morning.”
Better to let her assume I just wanted a quote on my cup – something Blair is known for doing when she works at the café, then let her know I really wanted to wipe out the pastry counter on the house.
As she gets my coffee, I take in her slim frame, the leggings that fit snug against her giving me a preview of the terrific ass her apron tries to hide. She’s not short, but I’m six foot six so there aren’t many people I don’t tower over.
When she turns back to me and sets the coffee down in front of me, I decide the best way to shrug off last night’s weird sex is to move on to someone new. And this girl, name aside, is perfect.
“What time do you get off work? Can I buy you lunch or coffee?”
Her brows raise. Yeah, coffee was a fuck shit idea, but the only thing I plan on doing is her, so it’s just semantics.
“No thanks.” She presses a few buttons on the register. “One fifty-eight.”
I pass over the money. “Well, how about we exchange numbers and we can make plans when you’re not busy.”
“I didn’t say I was busy. I said no thanks.”
The guy behind me clears his throat again.
Look there’s no way to not sound like an asshole when I say that girls don’t turn me down… like ever, but they don’t. Ever.
“You got a boyfriend?”
“Seriously, man. I gotta get going or I’m going to be late for class,” the guy behind me says to my back. I turn, prepared to death glare him, but he looks down and his face goes red.
“Coffee?” I hand out the cup I just bought in his direction.
Without lifting his head, he nods but makes no move to take the cup.
“Here.” I practically shove the coffee in his hand. “Sorry, but I need more time so unless you want to be late for class, I suggest you take this one and go.” I tilt my head in the direction of the door.
Swiping the coffee and running off, the guy hauls ass out of University Hall leaving me alone with Katrina. Shudder. That name. I can’t call her that. Kat? Hell no. Trina? Nah, she doesn’t seem the type. Rina? Eh.
She makes a little sound somewhere between a scoff and a laugh that sounds like the sweetest purr. I smile. She’s not a Kat, she’s a cute, playful Kitty.
“Where were we, Kitty?” I lean against the counter and she rolls her eyes and crosses both arms against her chest like she’s annoyed by the nickname. Too bad the movement only draws more attention to her tits that push out from the contact. She’s got a nice rack, bigger than average. When I meet her eyes, I don’t miss the heat and a hint of amusement in them. She may not like the words that are coming out of my mouth, but she likes me.
“I was trying to blow you off and you weren’t taking the hint.”
“Just trying to save you from making a huge mistake.” I lean in to see if she’s bluffing. She is. Her breathing hitches and she stills as if she’s holding her breath. I don’t know why she’s playing hard to get. “And it would be a huge mistake.”
“You’re wasting your time, Joel Moreno. I know all about the carnage you leave behind.”
She first and last named me. She’s as good as naked.
“Whatever you heard, forget it. The only thing I’ve left in my path is happy, satisfied women. What’s wrong with a little fun? Only live once. Yolo, and all that. How about dinner tonight?”
“Sorry, I’m going to be washing my hair.”
“What a coincidence I’ve got a shower and I’ll even let you stay after to use it.” My gaze rake over her again. “I think I might need one too after I’m through with you.”
She snorts and uncrosses her arms. “No, thanks.”
No clue why she’s putting me off when I can tell the attraction is mutual. I shrug and push off the counter. Her loss. Although, as I take one last good look at her it feels a little like my loss.
Nathan plops onto my unmade bed. “Party at Theta house tonight, you in?”
I toss my cell on the bed, ignoring the three text messages from Shelly aka cat girl. “I don’t know. Might just stay in.”
He raises both eyebrows. “Sick?”
“Nah, just not feeling it.”
My roommate leans on one elbow waiting for an explanation. If it were any one of my other roommates, I’d get a pass. Wes is too caught up in Blair and Z operates like a full court press. Only the most aggressive and determined get past his intimidating front – which it totally is. Guy’s a teddy bear underneath, just don’t tell him I said so.
“You ever go into the café at University Hall?”
“Nah, I don’t like coffee. This about Blair?” His face pales and he looks legit nervous. “Please don’t tell me you slept with her. Wes will kill you – like actually kill you. Fuck, it’d be entertaining to see that guy get worked up over something besides basketball, but I’m pretty fond of our pad here. Beats dorm living.”
I never had the privilege, and yes, I say that sarcastically, to live in the dorms. Parents live about twenty minutes from the university and when they were convinced I was capable of managing college and ball without flunking out they bought this place just off campus. I glance around my room which is about three times larger than the dorms I’ve seen. I got the master suite, but all the rooms are big. Everyone calls it The White House. Aside from the obvious, it’s white and big, my dad is the university president. Could be worse. They could call it Moreno Hall or some shit.
“There’s a chick there named Katrina. Never seen her before.”
“I’m sure Blair knows her.”
I nod slowly. “Probably. Anyway, I asked her out today.”
“Ah, so you’ve got a date tonight.”
A rush of warm air makes my face feel like fire and my throat gets tight. Is this what embarrassment feels like?
“She turned me down.”
“No shit?” he asks, attempts to keep himself from laughing more. Fails.
“Whatever it was one girl.” I walk toward my closet.
“Don’t worry, buddy, it was bound to happen eventually. Chicks are weird. Maybe she’s on her period.”
I survey the shirts in my closet. Grab one, put it back. Pull another out. I start to put it back but fuck why am I stressing about what to wear?
“You could sound less happy about it,” I say as I walk out of the closet. “Besides my average is still waaaay better than yours.”
“I think I like you better taken down a notch. What’s this girl’s name again? I want to buy her a drink.”
“Forget it. Forget this whole conversation or I’ll tell the guys about the shit you’re selling for Frank. They’re not stupid, man. Word is gonna get around.”
“It’s just until I get enough saved up for next year.”
“There are other ways to make money.” I shoot him a hard look. I feel bad for the guy. I don’t know what it’s like to not have money, but I know selling drugs is a terrible idea. “You’re still keeping that shit out of the house? Don’t take us all down with you.”
He shakes his head and locks his stare on mine. “I’d never. You know that.”
I do, but it’s good to hear him say it.
“Alright, let’s do this.”
“I thought you were staying in.” Calling me on my bullshit, he stands, and I follow him out of my room and downstairs. When we reach the living room, I’m only half-surprised to see Blair here, feet pulled up on the sofa, earbuds in and notebook on her lap.
When she sees us she pulls one bud free. “Hey.”
“Where’s Wes?” Nathan asks as he takes a seat in a lounger.
Blair shrugs, but Z enters from the direction of the kitchen, protein drink in hand, and says, “He was checking in with PT.”
He shakes the cup in his hand reminding me I need to grab something to eat before we hit the party. And make sure Nathan does. Guy has a tendency to skip meals when we don’t have food in the house. My mom knows this and tries to keep us stocked, but that’s a near impossible feat. Z alone eats enough to feed a family of four. He’s a big guy even by athlete standards which means he takes in a lot of extra calories to keep on the muscle he carries. We’re close to the same height, but Z is built like a cross between a linebacker and bodybuilder.
“Blair, what do you think of this shirt?”
She looks to each of the guys, who chuckle, before answering. “Umm. It’s fine.”
“Fuck. I should change, right?”
Their continued laughter is the only response. Nathan tosses me a basketball. He doesn’t say anything, but I read the “chill the fuck out” written on his face.
But I can’t. Katrina knocked me off my game.
I palm the ball for comfort and look back to Blair. “Well?”
She sits forward and gives me a slow once-over. “Turn.”
She motions with her finger for me to spin. Fuck me.
Not letting go of the basketball, I turn with arms held out.
Wes’ voice is amused when he walks in and asks, “What the hell is going on in here? A fashion show?”
I toss the ball at his head and then regret it immediately because now I’m just a dude standing in the middle of the room twirling.
“Blair is helping me pick a shirt for tonight.”
“Why the obsession over attire tonight?” he asks as he takes a seat next to Blair.
“He struck out getting a number this afternoon and is now all bent out of shape.” I shoot Nathan a glare that reminds him I’ve got dirt on him. It’s too late though. My rejection is out there.
“Aww, you poor, poor schmuck,” Wes says, not sounding the least bit sorry.
“That isn’t what this is about. It was one girl. One girl.” I jab my finger in the air for emphasis. “Fuck you all.” I don’t have enough fingers to count their rejections. I look down at my shirt and pants and then decide to roll the sleeves. It’s nice out. “So, this one is good?”
Blair bobs her head enthusiastically this time. “You look hot. Black is a good color for you. It gives you the whole dark and mysterious thing with your skin tone and dark hair.”
“Easy, now.” Wes sounds jealous and that makes me happier than I’ve been all afternoon.
I shoot her a wink. “Muchas gracias, linda.”
“Yeah, definitely do that.” Her eyes light up.
“Talk in Spanish. Not all the time. . . but drop it in casually. Accents are sexy.”
Flash her a smile in appreciation for the tidbit. She’s not the first girl to tell me that, but I guess I’d sort of forgotten. Been using my jock and overall God’s-gift-to-women status to pick up chicks and now I’ve got no game when it counts.
Blair and Wes make plans to see a local baseball game later tonight, which makes me question his idea of romance but then she looks at him all heart eyes so what the hell do I know? She says her goodbyes to the group, off to do some studying or something else super boring. I wait until the door is closed behind her before taking an opportunity to point the jabs at someone else.
“Soo. . .” I ask innocently. “You and Blair. . . things getting serious?”
Wes’ face pales. “What? No, it’s just. . .”
“If you’re having sex, then it’s getting serious. You wouldn’t be mixing business with pleasure unless it’s serious.” Wes hasn’t dated as long as I’ve known him, and random hookups have been few and far between. He likes Blair. Not sure why he can’t admit it. We all know.
“I’m not mixing—you know what? I’m not even gonna go there.” He looks like he’s going to be physically sick. Well shit, he hasn’t boned her.
“Wait, wait, wait. You haven’t slept with her?”
“Is that really so ludicrous? I’ve only known her a few weeks.”
“Uh-huh. Uh-huh.” I’m not sure why I’m suddenly feeling hopeful and romantic that these two are going to hook up, but I am straight giddy at the prospect. “So, does that mean tonight is the night?”
“We’re going to a high school baseball game, not looking to do jail time for indecent exposure,” Wes throws back. I’m not buying it. Lame excuse.
“Don’t bullshit me. Tonight’s the night.”
“She completes you,” Nathan adds. We just watched Jerry Maguire a few weeks ago in Z’s quest to see every single one of Tom Cruise’s movies.
“Fuck off, both of you.” Wes tosses the ball from hand to hand.
“I gotta shower,” Nathan announces.
“Hurry up. I’m leaving in fifteen, and I need to make a stop for condoms.” I look to Wes. “You good? Need me to put some in your nightstand?”
He throws the ball back to me.
“Okay, fine. I’ll lay off. You probably need to go take care of business anyway. Since she bailed on dinner, you have time to rub one out before and after your shower.”
“For the love of all that is holy,” he whines.
“What? Please tell me you aren’t planning to show up to the game without clearing your head? Dude, you go in there without taking care of business, and you’re gonna embarrass yourself and the whole male population.”
He shakes his head and lets it hang down.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” I mean honestly, the dude doesn’t get laid in months and he’s just gonna show up fully loaded? He’ll be coming in his pants by the time he gets her clothes off. Rookie move.
He stands and ambles toward the stairs.
“You know I’m right,” I call after him. He doesn’t look convinced. I pull my phone from my back pocket and set an alarm for later tonight. Good thing for him, I take orgasms – even when they’re not mine – very seriously. I’ll text him later to make sure he heeded my advice.
In fact, I’d be doing the same thing if I hadn’t already jerked myself raw trying to work Kitty out of my system. Those blue and brown eyes haunted me as I came so hard, I saw stars. Twice. Even picturing her now I can feel myself getting hard again. The fact that Kitty not only said no but did so with such disdain has gotta be why just the thought of her has my pulse racing and a smile spreading across my face.
Blow out a breath and pull up my text history. One hot girl is the same as any other – at least for what I’m looking for. I don’t do romantic gestures or long walks on the beach. Well, unless by long walks you mean sex. Sex on the beach is awesome.
While I wait for Nathan, I scroll through the chicks that have messaged me about hooking up tonight. They said hang out, but every time a girl texts me to “hang out” it ends with her undressing me. Chicks don’t like to come right out and ask for sex.
Busty blonde? Sassy redhead? Freshman good girl looking to break out of her quiet shell? The options are endless, but I am bored.
“Knock, knock,” my sister’s voice calls out from the back entrance.
I hurry to greet her. The smell wafting out of the casserole dish she’s carrying makes my stomach growl.
“That smells amazing,” I say, taking it from her and pulling the foil back.
I grab a fork and plate, give myself a generous serving, take a bite, and then look up.
“Game night?” I ask around a mouth full of pasta and point my fork toward her green Valley High t-shirt and matching green pawprint painted on her cheek.
“Playing Pinnacle tonight. They’re even bigger and meaner than last year.”
“Go easy on them,” I say with humor lacing my tone because even from the stands, Michelle is a force. She is the definition of crazed fan, razzing players and coaches alike. She loves watching basketball maybe as much as I love playing it. And she does it with as much flair as I do.
“Hey,” Nathan calls out entering the kitchen and pulling a clean shirt over his head. “Good to see you, Smelly.”
Michelle rolls her eyes. She hates that my friends have adopted my childhood nickname for her. She’s at that age where she wants everyone to think she’s mature and capable instead of the sixteen-year-old naïve kid that she is.
I push a plate and fork in front of Nathan, and he helps himself to the food.
“What are you two up to tonight?” Michelle asks, pulling a beer from the fridge, popping the top and taking a long pull.
“Give me that.” I take the beer for myself. “Want one?” I ask Nathan.
“Theta party tonight,” Nathan answers for us and shakes off the beer.
“Just the two of you?” She motions between us with a frown. “Aren’t you supposed to take dates or something?”
Ah, innocent Michelle.
“Joel tried and got shot down.”
They laugh and I shoot them both a glare.
Michelle studies me. “Wow, someone actually turned down the great Joel Moreno. What happened? How’d you ask her?”
“Uhh. I just asked if I could get her number so we could hang later.” I shrug. “She said no.”
Let me tell ya, talking about it again is not making me feel super.
My sister groans in exasperation. “Wow. It finally happened.”
“What’s that?” I question, sure I’m going to regret asking.
“Your ego got so big you forgot how to put in the effort to ask a girl out the right way.”
“Oh, shiiit.” Nathan covers his mouth, but it doesn’t hide the huge ass grin on his face.
“I mean, did you put any thought into it at all or did you just wing it and expect her to fall at your feet?”
Nathan doubles over with laughter. Glad he’s amused.
Regarding me seriously, Michelle’s voice is full of sympathy. “Not every girl is a lying, backstabbing, no good cu–”
“Alright, I think it’s time for you to go,” I say, screw my eyelids shut and hope I’ve cut off her rant for good. The fact that my baby sister knows just how badly relationships can blow up in your face is all on me. But at least it doesn’t seem to have made her any less of a romantic.
She laughs softly and I open my eyes and sigh in relief as she heads toward the door. Thank God. “I hope your bruised ego won’t affect the game this weekend,” she adds, waves, and disappears.
“She has a point,” Nathan says. “I mean, when’s the last time someone made you do more than ask nicely before they were volunteering to bounce on your penis?”
“Work for it,” I say, mostly to myself. Sadly, the thought hadn’t even occurred to me. Damn. Well, challenge accepted. I mean, honestly, how hard could it be to convince a girl I know already wants me, to go out with me?
The sound of an incoming text is my second alarm of the day. The first came five minutes ago when Z pounded on every door of our house.
The second, though, always comes precisely at five thirty in the form of a text. Specifically, a meme. Nathan loves them. Hand to God the guy sends me like ten a day. He must spend a good portion of his free time combing through Imgur to find the best ones. They’re funny as shit so I don’t tell him to stop even though ten texts a day from another dude is a bit much.
Slide my finger over the screen and tap on the text. Squinting through the bright light of my phone, I kick off the blanket and prop a hand behind my head. The meme reads “How do I sleep at night knowing I’m an asshole?” The white words are on a plain black background. Disappointment flickers because I prefer funny pictures to a wall of text, but I keep reading anyway. “Butt-ass naked with the fan on.”
This earns a gruff chuckle and I snap a picture of my junk, angled so the black fan beside my bed is visible. Dude knows me too well. I hit send and jump out of bed. Pull on boxer briefs, shorts, and a shirt. I brush my teeth while I piss – multitasking like a pro. Once I’ve finished in the bathroom, I grab socks and shoes and pad downstairs. The rest of the guys are already in the kitchen eating breakfast. Z is the only one that’s sitting. His big frame is seated at the dining room table with a plate and glass in front of him – using manners the rest of us reserve for mixed company. By some unspoken agreement we take turns making breakfast and by the slightly burnt toast splayed out on the counter with various condiments – butter, jelly, Nutella, and peanut butter, I know this is Wes’ doing.
“Breakfast is served,” Wes says as he pulls four more slices of blackened bread out of the toaster and drops them on the counter. Then he grabs a hand full of butter knives out of our silverware drawer and sets them beside it.
“Coming to practice today?” I ask, and daggers are shot in my direction from everyone but the man I’m talking to.
A grunt and head nod are my answer. After a season-ending injury, the senior point man just recently started coming back to practice. It’s damn good to have him back, if only on the sidelines. Not the same without him on the court with us, though.
I pull on my socks and shoes, then grab a cup and fill it with water. Dump a scoop of protein powder in it and mix with a knife because that’s what’s out on the counter for the toast.
I raise the cup to my mouth just as Nathan steps beside me, grabbing another piece of toast as he shoves what’s left of his last piece in his mouth.
“Dude, don’t you know every time you send a dick pic it shrinks by an eighth of an inch?” he says, mouth still full. Then he proceeds to slap my junk. I groan instinctively before the pain even registers. Spill my drink down my shirt and onto the floor. “That’s for the visual of your small prick I can’t get out of my head.”
“Not cool,” I grit out. “So not cool.”
I cup my balls through my shorts and give them a protective squeeze. “The opportunity was too good, man. And if my dick is small then yours is microscopic.”
“Time to go,” Z says as he stands and takes his dirty dishes to the sink.
I grab two pieces of dry toast for the walk over and guzzle what’s left of my protein drink. Wipe the back of my hand over my mouth and follow the boys out the door.
It’s quiet out. Early, dark, and cold. We move at a clip across the street to Ray Fieldhouse where we practice, workout, and play games. It’s my favorite place on all of campus. The fact that it doesn’t have my last name plastered all over it is a definite bonus.
Might be a new semester, but we’re deep in the season. Final Four is less than two months away and everyone is feeling the pressure and excitement. Coach Daniels doesn’t need to yell at us about being lazy or sloppy, although he does, because we’re as hard on ourselves as he is. We want this. Maybe more than ever now that we’ve seen Wes go out with an injury.
We practice for two hours before classes and then most evenings we’re back in the gym for workouts or drills. We’ve got a big game on Sunday, so today’s practice is particularly grueling. Shooting drills, one-on-one maneuvers, full-court press scrimmage, conditioning, and then more shooting drills. By the time we’re done I’m almost looking forward to class just so I can sit and relax.
Walking into the locker room for a quick shower before I head out, I pause as Coach yells out from his open office door, “Moreno, see me before you leave.”
I lift my head in acknowledgment. After I’m showered and changed, I stop in Coach’s office as requested.
“What’s up?” I slouch into the chair on the opposite side of his desk and grab two granola bars from my bag. These things are worthless. I’d need to eat like twelve to satisfy my hunger, but two is all I have left. Need to tell my mom, the saint who keeps our pantry stocked, to get something more substantial next time for snacks.
Coach stares down at his phone, a mixture of confusion and excitement in the way his mouth curves into a smile but his eyes scrunch together. “One second.”
I’m amused as he proceeds to make me fucking wait while he’s lost to whatever he’s got going on.
I give in and comment on his weird actions when the man actually snickers at the ping of an incoming message. “Sexting during office hours?”
It takes a moment before he lifts his head and meets my gaze. “Sorry, what?”
“Nothing. You wanted to see me?” I lift a hand for him to get to the point.
He sets the phone on the desk and then leans back in his chair. “Right. I want to switch things up a little bit on Sunday and have you up top of the zone instead of in the back. Shaw is still finding his place and we’re going to have to play the ball more aggressively if we want to rattle them.”
Makes sense. I’m taller and faster than the other options and Z is a beast down low.
“All right. Anything else?”
His phone pings again and he glances down before answering. “Yeah, what about local restaurant suggestions? Something nice but not too pretentious.”
I feel my left eyebrow arch up in question. “Team dinner?”
“Uhh. No.” He shakes his head. “Just thought you might know somewhere good. Since moving to Valley five years ago most of my dining out has included In-N-Out I’m afraid.”
“We talking restaurants of the romantic variety?”
The embarrassment that spreads across his features throws me off. Coach Daniels is not the kind of guy I expected to be looking for dating tips. “I said nice, not romantic.”
“When it comes to dining, those two things are synonymous.” I decide to put him out of his misery. “Araceli’s. It’s got great views, good menu, but it’s not over the top.”
“Araceli’s,” he repeats the name back slowly like he’s trying to remember it.
I toss the granola bar wrappers in the trash and pull my phone out. “I’m texting you the details. Shouldn’t need a reservation on a Thursday, but if you have any problems, just tell them you’re a friend and you want my table on the patio.”
“Your table on the patio?”
“I have a standing Thursday night reservation.”
He cocks his head to the side looking at me like the twenty-one-year-old kid he thinks I am.
“You better hope tonight isn’t the night I finally need it.” I stand and grin leaving him before he can ask me more.