Teardrop Shot

Page 39

“When are you heading back to camp?”

“That’s kinda up to you. I mean, we’re in off-season, so we don’t actually have to go back till Monday. Are you free Monday morning? Should we plan to go back that day? Or we can go back tomorrow after Janet’s.”

I was happy they were here, which was not something I would have imagined myself thinking even three months ago. A lot could change when you started letting yourself live.

“Whatever you guys want. I’m easy. I don’t have a job.”

“Speaking of.” He gave me a serious look.

“AHH! YOU GUYS ARE ON THE KISS CAM!” someone screeched behind us, trying to push our heads together.

I jerked, whipping my eyes up to the jumbotron, and there we were, my profile to the camera.

I paled.

Grant stiffened.

And Hadley acted.

She yelled, then grabbed my face and whipped me around to her. Her lips mashed to mine, and after a second of shock, a cheer rose up around us. People clapped and laughed.

Owen surged to his feet, pointing at us. “She’s my wife!”

Trent bit his lip, trying to keep from laughing.

I just held my hands up and shook my head. “She kissed me.”

“She’s not my girlfriend. My girl’s on the other side,” Grant announced to anyone who would listen.

Sophia was dying in her seat, almost on the floor, her arms hugging her sides. And Lauren? She was back to being confused.

The camera had moved on, but it zoomed back again. This time it found Owen and Hadley. Husband and wife kissed, and another cheer rose up. The camera came back to me, but I shook my head. “I’m alone,” I mouthed.

A guy yelled from above us, “I’ll kiss you!”

Grant tapped my shoulder. “I’m going to get back. It’s unsafe being here. We’ll talk later.”

The players came back out, there was more dancing music, and the next half didn’t disappoint.

Juan fouled out, leaving the court to a chorus of boos.

Reese led the charge, and it wasn’t really a surprise when his team won at the end, 109-85.

I got my Easter egg during Reese’s last interview, right before he jogged off the court. He asked to wear the interviewer’s glasses. It was all a joke, but the guy loved it, and I had a feeling that clip would be played on YouTube quite a bit.

As he ran into the tunnel, I saw him looking for me.

Once our gazes caught, I held up my phone. He dipped his head once and kept running. I knew people saw the exchange. There was no way they couldn’t have. I ducked my head as I noticed a few cameras pointing my way.

Hadley touched my arm. “You want a hat? Owen brought one he didn’t wear.”

“Maybe that’s a good idea.”

I pulled my hair around my face, tugged the hat down low, and tried not to look up until we’d left our seats. There were two guys following me, one holding a camera in front of him.

We were nearing a bathroom, and I grabbed Hadley’s hand, ducking inside, then circling around a group. The exit was at the other end. The guys were waiting outside the second door, trying to look inside. I held back. When a big surge of people went past them, I moved us into the middle. Hadley was right with me.

She laughed, her beer breath blasting me as she twisted to look behind us. “Who was it?”

“I don’t know, but they were following me.”

“I hate to say it, but if you and Reese do become something, that’s going to happen more and more. People watch him like a hawk.”

I nodded and squeezed her hand. “Let’s just get through the ‘we’re friends who bone’ stage. I’ll worry about that later.”

She laughed, patting my arm. “Sounds good to me.”

A guy pointed at us. “Hey. It’s the lesbian chicks.” He turned and yelled at us, “You guys are hot. Keep kissing.”

His friends thought he was so funny. One added, “Yeah. Always keep kissing. Without clothes.”

Hadley flicked her eyes up. “Is it wrong to want to dump beers right on their crotches?”

“Then step back and yell, ‘Oh! Who smells like piss?’”

We were both laughing when I remembered I wasn’t supposed to be leaving with them. “Shit. I have to go somewhere else.” I pulled my phone back out, but Reese hadn’t texted yet. I began backing away. “I might have to go that way?”

We had separated from the group, so I was torn. I was good with directions. Hadley wasn’t. She could get lost in a Super Target, and since I didn’t see Trent or Grant or any of the others ahead, I decided to take Hadley to where we first came in, then make my exit to wherever Reese told me to go. He probably needed time to shower.

My phone buzzed.

Reese: Leaving from the main floor exit, in the back. Go out where you were sitting, and go left. Keep going left until door 16. Take that down a floor, and you’ll see a group gathering. Press is here, by the way. If you want, you could come to the hotel and we’ll meet there?

I was still with Hadley, so that worked best.

Me: Which hotel? That’s perfect.

Reese: Hotel Ivy.

Me: Sounds good.

Reese: Wait. Fuck.

Me: What?

Reese: If we’re doing this, why don’t I just come to your apartment?

Me: Sounds even better. I’ll have my friends drop me off.

Reese: Sorry. I didn’t realize how many press would be here. Hot kiss cam, by the way.

He sent me a picture of Hadley and me. Kissing.

Me: Her lips are super sweet. You should be jealous.

Reese: Jealous is not the word.

I barked out a laugh, then saw Hadley watching me. I sent one last text.

Me: Leaving now. See you as soon as you can get to my place.

“Look.” Hadley motioned behind us.

The two guys from before had spotted us. They were following again.

Hadley walked next to me, close enough to nudge me with her arm. “Maybe they’re following us because of us, not you and Reese?”

It was a thought.

I squeezed her hand, and for some reason, I enjoyed holding it during that moment. She felt safe, reassuring.

“Let’s just find the rest. Change of plans.”

Reese texted me just as we saw the group lingering at the door.

Reese: Coach let me go early. He’s got a soft spot for you. I’m leaving straight from here. I’ll shower at your place. I have clothes with me. If I go back to the hotel, it’s going to take forever to leave again.

Me: Okay. We’re walking out now.

Hadley went to Owen’s arms, and Grant moved toward me. I explained about the two guys, who Grant immediately spotted and began scowling at. Then I let him know about the change of plans.

Trent migrated over. “That’s fine,” he said. “But things will get tricky because we’re dropping you off and have to grab our stuff. What if, you know…” He gestured to where Lauren was standing, far enough away not to hear us, but close enough to know he’d mentioned her in some way. Her eyes narrowed.

At this point, I was done with all the planning and evading. “It will be what it’ll be.”

Grant snorted. “Yeah. No.” He rotated to Trent. “She can stay in the car. You and I can grab your suitcases.”

“And if she insists on coming up?”

“Oh my God.” I was done with all of this. “Let’s just see where the chips fall, okay? Two guys following me is enough for me to deal with.”

“Well, let’s go now,” Grant said. “See if we can hurry and be out of there before he shows up.”

With a plan in place, we all surged out to where we’d parked. Hadley and Sophia yelped from surprise, and Lauren hurried to keep pace, throwing suspicious looks my way. Our way. Her eyes lingered where Trent and Grant had closed ranks around me.

My phone buzzed again.

Reese: I’ll be out of here in twenty.

I showed Grant and Trent the text. Both nodded.

“Then we’ll be out of there in twenty, just to be safe,” Grant confirmed.

I loved my friends. Why had I ever stopped hanging out with them?

I didn’t want them to feel rushed, but that’s what we were all doing. Rushing.

Walking through the parking lot to the van took ten minutes. Getting out of the parking lot was another twenty minutes itself.

Reese buzzed me as we pulled onto the street, and we still had to maneuver through the traffic.

Reese: Almost to your place.

Grant was driving, so Trent looked back at me. I just gave him a resigned look.

Me: We’re still trying to get there. Post game traffic is a bitch. How are you getting there faster than us?

Reese: Left from the back way. We have roads cleared for us. I’ll wait till you get there.

Me: Juan?

Reese: Told him to take a hike. I just want you tonight.

Me: Friendship boning.

Reese: FF. Friendship fucking.

That was one phrase for it, but every time we talked on the phone and during our text exchanges, something else was there. It was building, growing. It was becoming more and more cemented inside of me.

When we pulled up, an SUV was pulling away, and there, about to open the door, was Reese.

Lauren jerked forward, gripping the seat in front of her. “Is that—oh my God!”

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