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Page 50

I whipped around to my manager. “Now? Now you want to be helpful? And why are you here? Roman’s been kicked out. My order of protection was served to him. Your job is done.”

He tugged his blazer shut, smoothing it down. “You just had a game. Your new girlfriend is missing, and I feel like I had a hand in it.”

Juan kept laughing, the sound getting louder.

Marie was giggling with him. “It’s not that funny.” She let out another giggle.

I gave her a look. “You sure you didn’t go to the wrong seats?”

She hiccupped, shooting upright. “What are you saying?”

“How much have you had to drink?”

“Oh, dude.” Juan groaned.

Marie was on her feet, advancing to me. “Are you kidding? Do you know what I put your girl through? I railed her ass up and down and sideways, and then I flipped her over, and she took it. All of it, until she put me in my place… I forgot why I started with that.” Her fight left her quickly.

Juan tugged her back down next to him.

“I might’ve drunk too much tonight,” she admitted.

“It was a good game, wasn’t it?”

She turned to Juan. “Yeah, baby. You were amazing.”

They began nuzzling each other.

“You guys are all fucking worthless to me.”

I wanted to do violence—to someone, my manager, Roman, anyone at this point. Charlie was alone. She wouldn’t have been allowed to stay in the stadium this long. Security would’ve kicked her out. We were waiting out the traffic in the team’s waiting room, and I couldn’t do a damn thing. I needed to get home, get my phone, and then get her ass back. Now. Five hours ago. Yesterday even.

The panic almost choked me.

“You really like her, huh?”

I didn’t respond to Marie.

“I’m sure she’s fine.”

“She doesn’t know where I live. I picked her up from the airport just this morning.”

I was helpless. And I hated feeling helpless. She couldn’t have just asked a stadium employee where to wait for players, because how many people tried that route? It was an unofficial rule. If a player wanted someone to know where they were, they told them how to get there. Too many fans had tried before, and everyone had been on alert anyway because of Roman.


“You fucking relax, Juan!” I snapped. “She doesn’t know anyone in the city. Put yourself in her shoes.”

He quieted, then shrugged. “I’d just hole up at a bar and wait it out. Eventually you’ll get back to her.”

But shit happened. All the fucking time.

I’d ditched girls before. And if she went on social media and searched, I knew she could pull up a few. But none of them were like her. They were the one-use girls. A screw. No promises given. They’d known what was happening, and while most were fine with it, there were always a few who wanted more, expected more.

This life, knowing how Charlie handled pressure—a part of me couldn’t stop worrying she’d decided to ditch me. If I went to the airport, would I find her there, trying to go through security? Or what if she’d already gotten through security?

What a great fucking start to whatever we were doing.

I growled and punched a plastic ball. It shot across the room. Ignoring everyone’s looks, I started pacing.

“It’s the only thing I could hit.” I couldn’t damage my hands.

Juan was laughing. Again.

“Shut the fuck up, Juan, or I’m going to punch you.”

He laughed harder.

“Okay.” Stan came over. “I’ll talk to security, see if they can find her on the cameras. If she left the way everyone leaves, maybe we can see the car she left in? How about that?”

“You can do that?”

“I’m your manager. Trust me. I can pull a few strings.”

“Then why are you fucking offering now? The game ended an hour ago.”

He shot up his hands, but turned and left.

And I just kept wanting to do violence.

Roman. Charlie missing. My phone at my house.

I wanted to do more than violence. I hated this feeling. It was clawing up in me, rising, filling me, and I couldn’t work it out.



Marie lifted her head from Juan’s shoulder, somber. “She said she wasn’t permanent.”

I frowned. “What’s that mean?”

She shrugged, settling back into Juan’s side. “She was saying it to Stan when I walked up to them. I don’t think she knows I overheard her.”

Not permanent?

Foreboding filled me. The fuck?


I’ll be honest.

I wasn’t too sure about my relationship with Seattle.

Two business guys eyed me from across the room at the hotel bar. I had my back to them, and I was trying to shred every napkin within reach manically to scare them away, but they didn’t seem to be taking the hint. Their smirks only grew the longer I stayed. I’d gotten three dirty looks from the staff, so I ordered a drink. The waters weren’t doing it for them, but I was feeling quite sober now, so I figured one drink was fine. I could nurse it, keep my wits about me, and decide what time to give up on Reese.

He’d ditched me.

It was almost three hours after the game, and still no text.

I wished I had some willpower, but I didn’t.

Me: Ever think saltwater and freshwater have a conversation and ask which one is better?

Me: A follow-up: Would you outlaw pervy old business guys or celebrate them? Have a day just for them?

Me: I’m trying to look crazy to scare off two guys. Shredding my napkins and laughing like a hyena isn’t working. Suggestions?

Me: If they approach, I’m going to start talking to my barstool.

I had more in me, but the server was coming back around. I’d been nursing my drink for the last hour. He stopped, eyed the pile of napkin pieces and asked, “Want more napkins?”

I burped. “God, yes.”

Shit. I should’ve been louder. The guys hadn’t heard me.

ESPN was on. They’d moved past talking about the game and talking about Reese, and were on to the daily highlights. It was early in the season, but there were other sports going on too. Why couldn’t they talk about one of them?

Oh. Right.

Reese. Seattle.

Made sense.

I needed to add this to the con list regarding my relationship with Seattle. Dating one of the city’s celebrated pro athletes after he’d ditched you? Most definitely a con.

My phone buzzed, and I considered heralding it in the air and yelling, “Hallelujah!”

The business guys were past drunk by now. They probably wouldn’t have even heard, but I tried to slow down how quickly I checked my phone.

I wasn’t desperate or anything.

I opened the screen, and my lungs deflated. It was a text from Grant.

Grant: That game was awesome tonight. Caught it on TV. How’s the trip? How’s your man?

Right. It was just past nine there.

I didn’t have it in me to text him back, but I would in the morning. I might need tips on how to get my carry-on back from Reese. Buzz!

Another Grant one, I assumed, reaching to read it, but no!

Reese: HOLY FUCK! I left my phone at my house. Traffic fucking sucks. I’m coming to get you. Where are you?

My hand shook. My throat trembled. Really? Had he really?

Then…whatever. I still needed to get my carry-on, no matter what.

I took a picture of the napkin the server had just put on my table. It was still intact and the logo hadn’t been shredded. I sent that picture, no words with it.

I slammed my drink and agreed to another when the server almost immediately offered.

Feeling ditched, whether it was real or not, sucks balls.

Two drinks later, a flash of brake lights illuminated the hotel’s windows as a car paused, then went to park.

I knew who it was. It was another expensive-looking car, just like his manager A-hole’s.

Another knot to swallow.

Reese was so out of my league. I had one job offer on the table, and really, if I didn’t take it, I’d be homeless.

What’d Reese see in me? The charm of my random questions? Really?

Humor could only go so far. What was I doing?

Marie had ditched me. Then I’d had this three-hour whatever-it-was.

Even though this all seemed a miscommunication, I couldn’t ignore the hurt swimming in my gut. The pain sliced me, thinking Reese had decided he was done with me. And sorry, but those thoughts do exist when you’re sitting in a bar for three hours and that phone won’t buzz back.

It was a wake-up call.

If he could hurt me with just this small blip, what would he do if I really let him in?

One more time.

One more night.

That’s what I’d give Reese. I’d fly back tomorrow, I’d take the camp job, and I’d learn to love it. That’s where I belonged—with Owen and Hadley, Grant and Sophia, even with Trenton coming to visit. Maybe a dinner with Janet too.

I was still reminding myself of that, ignoring the piercing stabbing in my chest, when Reese came in. No ball cap on. No hood over his head. He was dressed in jeans and a regular-looking shirt.

Bad move, pal.

“That’s Reese Forster!” one of the pervs exclaimed, and not quietly.

“What? No.”

Someone else, “What’s Forster doing here?”

“Yeah.” A pounding sound. A barstool scratched across the floor.

As Reese saw me, his eyebrows pulled together, his face clouded over, and he looked beyond me.

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