I pulled at my shirt, smoothing it out.
It was already smooth.
It’d been smoothed out for the entire drive and the whole thirty minutes before that, but I smoothed it out again.
“This is not how we do things in my world. We don’t use outside agents.”
“He’s not an outsider.” Nate glanced over, and I knew he was going to say all the same things he mentioned before. It sold me then, but now I couldn’t help but feel how preposterous this whole thing was. We used people inside our world. They knew the ins and outs, and they had the contacts. They understood the dance world and the culture.
This guy wouldn’t know any of that.
“He already represents a dancer, and trust me, he’s got the contacts. You said you wanted someone new, a new feel and a new vibe.”
I snorted. “I was an idiot.”
He frowned. “I don’t understand the nerves. Just see how it goes? You aren’t locked into anything just from meeting him. You don’t know if he’ll even want to represent you. He might meet you and hate you.”
I gasped. “Really?”
He shrugged, a little grin tugging at the side of his mouth. “Just saying. You’re fucking uptight as hell right now. I wouldn’t want to represent you.”
“Take that back.”
“That’s not nice.”
“I’m being honest.”
“You’re being mean.”
“You’re acting stuck-up right now. Stop acting like a ballet snob.”
I glared at him. “We are snobby in that world.”
“You said you wanted new. He’s new, and before you start judging him, I’d hold off. He’s a shark when it comes to who he picks to represent. He only picks the big stars.”
Well. That was something, I guess. “Who’s the other dancer?”
“I’ve no clue. It’s not my job to sell you or him to either of you two. I’m brokering the meet.”
The meet. Right. At the football game. “Does he represent this friend of yours who’s playing today?”
“Will he hate me if I don’t know anything about football?”
Nate snorted. “If you were a football player, yes. Since you’re not, I highly doubt it.”
“You don’t have to be an ass.”
“I’m just being your counterpart. You’re being stuck-up. I’ll be an ass.” He glanced over, his eyes sparkling. “I’m a lot nicer than I used to be. I can be an asshole, but I doubt you want to meet him.”
I stared at him, narrowing my eyes. “You were an asshole when I first met you.”
“That was different.”
“There are different types of asshole from you?”
He gave a short laugh. “Lots of different types. You met the alpha protective asshole and the ruthless asshole.”
“Do I even want to ask the names of the other categories?”
Nate gave me a blinding smile. “There’s the smart-ass asshole. The just all-around dick asshole. The mean asshole. The calculating asshole. All kinds.” His smile turned sly as he focused on the street again. “The coward asshole.”
“What were you like as a kid?”
I’d been laughing as I asked, but the mood in the vehicle shifted so suddenly that it startled me. I felt tension seeping into my bones, making me sit more upright. I’d been lounging, getting comfortable in our conversation.
“The short answer?”
I was almost holding my breath. “Any answer.”
“When I was little, I was fine. When I got older, I was messed up.”
“We’ve been over my sad and lonely, privileged childhood. I was, too.”
His lips curved up, but there was no smile there. “I have some friends who have always known themselves. They’ve always been so sure of the path they’re going to take, whether it’s right or wrong. They didn’t give a fuck. They’re going to do it. I wasn’t like that. I didn’t know what I was doing half the time, not until I lost someone. Then I almost lost everyone until I got my head on straight. I was mixed up inside as a kid. Guess that’s the answer for you, but”—he glanced sideways at me—“I was probably one of those rich, privileged assholes you hid from in school.”
“You were popular.”
I knew he was. He referenced it earlier how I wasn’t popular, but he hadn’t claimed his status during that conversation.
“I was in the circle of the most popular. I think that’s the best way to say it.”
“I think Valerie loved you.”
His eyes sharpened.
I turned away, looking almost distracted out the front window. “I think she loved you, but I think she knew you didn’t love her. And I think she wanted to take anything you’d give her, so that’s why she never pushed for more from you. I think she knew she’d lose you.”
I didn’t know if he was listening. I didn’t think I was saying it for him, anyway.
“And I think if she hadn’t been with Nico when she found out she was pregnant, I think she would’ve told you.” I looked at him now. “I can’t help but wonder that if she had, would she be the one sitting here?”
A wave of sadness moved through me, but it was a good kind of sad. If that made sense? But to me, in that vehicle, feeling an uncharacteristic closeness to someone who was uncharacteristically placed in my life, it felt right at the same time to say all that I had.
And that right there made no sense to me.
I’d gone to a few football games in high school, but that’d been it. It wasn’t my sport, and it wasn’t my escape from Duke, so it ceased to be in my world. I was now remiss because I loved football. Though, maybe I loved attending a game with Nate?
We went in as normal fans, but Nate was getting recognized. Not a lot, but enough that he was getting more attention because of the initial attention. He moved, placing his hand on the small of my back, and he urged me in front of him. We were in the concessions line.
His head bent to mine. “Ignore the attention. It’s my relation to Blaise. No clue why these people loved him so much.”
I glanced but saw the faint grin on his face. “We should have more talks about your family.”