Marie paused in her circling.
I mirrored her, folding my arms over my chest. “I get that you’re being protective of Reese, but if you think I’m going to lay out all my innermost secrets to you, a stranger, you can walk right back out. Reese invited me here. He said you’d hang out with me until he was done, but I have no problem buying a scalped ticket and going to see his game by myself.”
She sneered. “It’ll be in the nosebleeds.”
“I don’t give a shit. I’m going with the pure intention of being able to say yes, I was there to support him when he asks about the game. I don’t like lying, but I’m also not going to let you interrogate me anymore. The first ten minutes were out of respect because Juan is a nice guy. The next ten minutes were for my entertainment, but these last five minutes, the arrow went real quick to not enjoying this anymore.”
“Reese never asks me to take care of someone for him. Ever.”
“Then maybe you should trust him? I don’t know what to tell you.”
Her eyes were almost slits. She tipped her chin up. “You hurt him, and I will sic a private investigator on you. I’ll ask him to expose your weakness, and whatever that is, I’ll exploit it. I don’t care. Reese is a damned good guy.”
“Why do you think I’m here?”
She cocked her head. “Because he’s rich, and famous, and hot?”
“I don’t care if he’s rich. The famous thing actually freaks me out, and yeah, the last part is nice. I’ll give you one of those.”
“Are you an actress?”
A small growl escaped her closed mouth.
I amended, “Sorry, but no. I was recently fired from two jobs, and I’m a mess right now, but despite all of that, Reese still invited me out here.”
“Are you a mode—”
I almost snorted again.
She amended this time. “You don’t have the height for that.” Suspicion still hung heavy. “One last question and I’ll ease up.”
“Will you let me go through your purse?”
A purse. Ooooooh fuck.
I paled. “I knew I forgot something.”
But it was no problem. I had transferred all my stuff to my carry-on. A purse wasn’t needed. Relief weakened my knees after a small heart attack.
“I would, if I’d remembered it. I took everything out and put it in my carry-on for easier access. I hate carrying two bags, so I was going to stuff my purse in my carry-on too. But it’s at my apartment right now.”
Her eyebrows went up into her forehead. “You don’t have a purse?”
“And you only brought a carry-on with you?”
A slow nod from me.
She relaxed suddenly, her arms falling to her sides and her shoulders rolling backward. “Girl, you could’ve said that and saved us a whole lot of time.”
“Because no chick who only brings a carry-on to see fucking Reese Forster is out to use him. No high-maintenance chick would forget a purse.” She flicked her hair over her shoulder, pivoting and going into the kitchen. She reached for a bottle of tequila and poured two shots for us. “Here.” She pushed one to me. “We could’ve been drinking this whole time.”
I migrated to the counter. “I don’t want to argue with your theory, but I don’t quite get it either.” I picked up the shot and held it. “But here’s to an interrogation-free game? I’m hoping.”
She grinned, the first time her ice fa?ade had cracked. She toasted me with her shot, before tossing it back. “Damn. I need one more.”
“Are you driving to the game?”
“Let’s do an Uber. The guys will drive us home later.”
She flashed me a grin, and my heart stopped. It took her from terrifying to stunning. She was a short little minx, sassy scary, though.
“And you can’t really blame me. I’ve been with Juan for four years. Reese is like family. He’s a godparent to our son.”
“You have a son with Juan?”
She nodded, smiling in pride. “And two little girls too.”
This was so not the world I came from.
She must’ve sensed my thoughts, because she held up that finger again. “And don’t be calling me Juan’s baby-momma, because it’s not like that.”
“You’re from the Midwest?”
Wary now. “Yeah?”
“You conservative and shit?”
“You know. Looking down on me because Juan and I are shacked up, three kids together, and no ring?” She had lowered her head, giving me a side-eye I knew I’d never be able to mimic.
I was about to break one of my rules. “I lived with a guy for seven years. No kids, but no ring either.” And even though she hadn’t asked, I added, “And yes, my dad disapproved, but I didn’t care. And by the way, I’ve never used the term baby-momma in my life. I’ve only heard it on movies and television.”
“Yeah. You gonna look down on me now?”
We took a moment, eyeing each other. Her side-eye was still perfection, but I was trying. I felt like a bobbing ostrich, though.
Then she sighed, every inch of her loosening up. “Okay. I got you. I think.” She paused a second. “You must have baggage?”
My lips were sealed.
She grunted, nodding to herself. “Yeah.” She threw back the second shot and grabbed two beers after that. “Definite baggage.”
She slid one of the beers to me, and I took it. I was so far out of my depth, I was just going to go with it. She said drink the beer, I’d double-fist it.
Later, after we’d both settled down and called a truce, she grinned at me from the back of our Uber.
“I should probably tell you right now that I’m into girls too, and damn—Reese has good taste.”
A whole chunk of thawing ice fell off my chest. “If you hadn’t won me over with the shot glasses that look like tampons, that would’ve done it.” I patted the tampon in my pocket.
At least for the time being, I had a feeling Reese was right. Marie and I were going to get along just fine.
“That’s Shelly. She’s Crusky’s current girlfriend, but don’t make eye contact for too long or she’ll start thinking we’re talking about his wife.”
We were three beers in, and four shots. We’d also eaten a slice of pizza, so I was pretty sure that absorbed one of the beers. Saying I was more than tipsy would’ve been… What was I saying again?
I burped. “Crusky has a wife and a girlfriend?”
He was no longer the Cruskinator to my inner fangirl, but Crusky. I was talking like I knew him, which I didn’t, not really. He teased me once, though.
And I was talking to myself again.
I focused on what Marie was saying, blinking a few times because that seemed to help.
“—going through a divorce, but the wife is fighting it and it’s taking foooorever.”
Marie nudged me with her shoulder, leaning in from where we were standing. The game hadn’t even started. She’d brought us up to this box area because family could come up here, but it was really just to grab a few free drinks and food. She asked if I wanted to stay. The other choice was a pair of regular tickets. I opted for a fill-up, then the seats down below.
“Can’t say I blame you. It’s dangerous being up here.”
I hadn’t known what she was referring to, but when more people came into the box, I got it then. Wives. Families. I recognized the guy who’d barked at me at Reese’s and ducked when he looked back at me. Marie was shorter than me, but a little heavier. I hunched farther down.
She stopped talking about Crusky’s love life and frowned at me. Moving her hotdog out of the way to see me, she asked, “What are you doing?”
The guy moved, frowning at me, and I turned my head—because I was two again. If I couldn’t see him, he couldn’t see me.
Fuck. Damn. Incoming.
Why’d she have to sound so friendly? Marie was my new ally. Right? Wrong. I was just visiting. Of course she’d cozy up to him.
“Hello…” He sounded stiff, and I couldn’t avoid this any longer.
I turned, standing tall again, and locked eyes with him. He wasn’t as hostile as before, his eyebrows were still pinched, confusion clouding his eyes more than anything else.
He put a hand out. “You are?”
Okay. Fine. He was playing this game.
I gave him a big smile. I loved games like this. Fitting my hand in his, I gave it a firm pump. “I’m Marie’s friend.”
She looked down, her shoulders shaking, trying to smother her laughter. She was failing so miserably.
“Right.” He sighed and pulled his hand away. “What’s your name?”
Déjà vu again. This was a Keith 2.0 moment, except this guy was a lot younger. He didn’t look too much older than Reese.
Marie entered the fray. “This is Stan. He’s Reese’s manager.”