“They called the board and there was a five-am video conference. They wanted to do it before your boss got in.”
Reese’s eyes flashed, and his jaw was like cement. He leaned forward, his gaze holding mine captive. “I sat there and I listened as your friends ran through a list of shitty things your boss had done, and not just these last two weeks, but for years. And you were the subject of several of the items. The fucker sexually harassed you? You mentioned him making comments, but nothing like what I heard. How he radioed you on the camp radio where everyone could hear, asking if you were making out with your boyfriend? How you walked into a meeting with another guy behind you, and he accused you both of screwing around in the woods? I listened to your friends explain to a room of old, white fat dudes how the ‘boyfriend’ had only held your hand once, and you’d only ‘dated’ for two days, and you’d literally just walked into the meeting at the same time as the other guy. And there was more.”
His nostrils flared. Shoving back from his chair, he began to pace: around my living room, back to the kitchen, and around to the living room again. He kept moving, his hands unfisting and fisting in front of him.
“After they got through their sixteen-page fucking memo, complete with names and phone numbers and taped testimony from others, they got to me. I had to sit there and first deal with their fanning, which was fine, but then the leers. When I told them how you and I became friends, how I was at your cabin—fuck those leers. I could feel the dirtiness coming off of them. They didn’t seem to care until I told them I’d gone into your cabin. That got their fucking attention. I went to grab the rest of your stuff. Juan tried too. We both got sick. That’s what made them perk up. They seemed resigned to the shitty stuff your boss had already done, but they didn’t start sweating until they heard that two pro ball players got sick from entering a cabin that wasn’t condemned on their property.”
Icy dread lined my spine. “Did you tell them about us?”
He snorted. “Hell no. All your credibility would’ve been gone. You’d have to be a goddamn nun, do charity events twenty-four seven, openly donate all of your earnings to God, and maybe then they might give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m sorry, but that sucks. That really fucking sucks.”
I sank as far down on my chair as I could get. I was almost in a ball.
He didn’t know. He couldn’t understand what his words were doing, how I never would’ve been believed, but now I was?
I pressed my forehead to my knees, feeling tears on my face once again.
I was so sick of it.
I was so sick of life, and that hadn’t hit me until Reese laid it all out.
All of that I’d lived. All of that I still carried. All of that, alone, just on me.
I’d never told anyone, not Damian, not my family. Everyone had heard when it happened, but no one said a thing. Why would I have bothered to tell anyone else? Why would anyone believe me?
Reese kept pacing. I could see him swinging his arms around from the corner of my eye. He was rolling his shoulders like he was warming up for a game.
“Coach spoke, and he backed up your claim about not having a place to sleep. He said he brought it up to your boss, and he’d said just what you told us he would. He’d have you stay in that janitor’s closet. No one should sleep in a janitor’s closet. And all the extra work you did? You worked from when you woke up, till I made you leave the gyms at night. You never got paid for all of that.”
He snorted. “And you know what their first response was? That manning the gym courts wasn’t extensive physical labor. That was their justification. That place sucks. Why in the world did you work there in the first place?”
He stopped now, waiting, focusing on me.
I lifted my head and rolled one shoulder back. “Because my friends were there. Because at one point, they were a second family to me.”
His eyes swept over my face, and he cursed under his breath.
Crossing the room in two strides, he bent and picked me up.
I went willingly, my arms and legs wrapping around him, just like on that wooded path two nights ago. He carried me to the living room, sat us on the couch, and hugged me. His head burying in my neck.
“I don’t have the words to take away what happened to you, but I can tell you what happened because of your friends rallying around you.”
I sat back, wanting to see him when he told me.
He tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear. “Your boss was canned. I spoke up, saying I’d only consider coming back to your camp if your friend Owen took that dickhead’s spot. Coach backed me up on that, just saying we’d consider it. I’m not saying they hired him based on our recommendations, but I think it helped a little.”
“So you’re saying…”
“Your friend Owen is the new director at that place. And they hired your friend Grant to take Owen’s spot. I don’t know what it was, because he was in the kitchen the whole time I was there, but they all seemed happy about it. They made another move to hire you as their head of publicity. Apparently you’re good at that stuff?”
I frowned. I was? “If I am, that’s news to me. What’d they say?”
“They approved it, and I told them what my publicist makes and not to take that position for granted. You could do a lot with publicity, so I guess if you want it, you have a job with them?”
“What’d they say the salary would be?”
Really? Was I going to be picky?
“I don’t know. I just know your friend suggested you, and they approved offering you a job. I had to promise all your friends tickets to the next local game for them to let me come see you first.”
“What?” I shoved back from him, already turning for the door.
“Relax.” He chuckled, his hands moving down my back, pulling me close. “I got the night. They’ll show up in the morning, when I go to the airport. I worked it out with them.”
This was all happening so fast.
Still on his lap, I leaned back, dazed. “I went to bed last night worried about a job and a place to live, and now all of this? If they offer me a job, I’ll have to move there, but even staying in Fairview, the rent will be cheaper than anything here in the city.”
I couldn’t believe it.
And Reese was here. And he wasn’t mad at me, just irritated, then mad for me.
I started crying.
Big surprise there.
“What? This is all good, right?” He brought his thumbs to my face, wiping tears away.
“I think it’s just a conditioned response. Anything happens, and it was the questions. Now it’s this. I’m evolving.”
But I was laughing and smiling, and I couldn’t believe it. “Am I going to wake up and all of this will be gone?”
Reese smirked, bringing his palm up to my face, wiping the last tear away. “Nah, but can we skip some of the other formalities, because I only have the rest of the day and night with you…if you know what I mean.”
I nodded, and he picked me up.
He took me to bed.
Later that evening, after the bed, the shower, the couch, and back to the bed, we ordered pizza. The delivery guy left after a full-out gushing moment over Reese, who had answered the door before I could offer to get it first. He’d paid for the pizza, signed an autograph, and declined a selfie before I came out of the bedroom fully dressed. Only going around in shorts had its benefits—one was getting the door first.
After we began eating, which I insisted we do at the table, I asked a question. “How’d you know something was going on yesterday?”
He picked up a slice, folding it and lounging back in his chair. His legs kicked out under the table. “I guessed something was up, but I figured I couldn’t do anything till you came to see me. You never did, so I asked Coach. He told me what happened—oh, and I have that check for you. When he looked at it, he felt bad, said no one should earn that little after working morning to night like he knew you did.”
He gazed over his pizza at me, his grin wolfish. “You’re a hot chick who knows basketball. Okay, that’s not that rare, but you’re a girl who gets noticed. We all saw you doing dishes when we came in for breakfast, and you closed the courts at night. You’re a hard worker, and you never complained about it.”
“I still can’t believe what you said happened.” I’d checked my phone. There’d only been a call for a job interview. “Are you sure? My friends are really coming tomorrow?”
He nodded, biting into his pizza. He chewed. He swallowed. “Trust me. It wasn’t just four tickets I gave away. Two of the guys wanted another for a date. That made six tickets, plus one for you because there’s no way your friends are coming and you aren’t. I made them promise that part, even if they had to drag you there.”
“You really think I wouldn’t want to go to your game?”