I blinked my eyes, so wide and pure. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Right.” He snorted, facing forward again as the flight attendant came with the garbage bag. “You’re a fair-weather fan. Those are the worst.” He side-eyed me, smirking. “No offense.”
I snorted right back, clipping my seatbelt in place. The descent would still take a while, but I wasn’t going anywhere. “I’ve always been a Thunder fan, and I’ve always been a Forster fan. Don’t underestimate the Reese, man. He’s going to be the GOAT one day.”
He groaned, and a couple of the other passengers glanced over. He waved at me. “Sorry. She just told me Forster’s going to be the GOAT one day.”
A guy a few rows back yelled, “Reese Forster? You kidding? The guy can’t rebound for the life of him. He’s gotta depend on his teammates.”
Yeah. Oh-kay, my seatbelt was off, and I twisted around. I rested an arm against the back of my seat so I could properly see my target. It was a bigger guy who, no surprise, had a Chasers ball cap on.
“Excuse me? What are you talking about that he can’t rebound? Who cares? He’s not on the inside. Wanna know what he does excel at?”
“Everything else?” said a woman from the other aisle. She and her friend started laughing together.
“And he doesn’t look too bad, either,” her friend added as they collapsed in laughter.
I had to pause, fighting back a grin, before finishing, “He led in scoring five out of the last seven games. He’s led in steals most always. His balls skills are close to Stephen Halorry, another legend in the league, and his floater balls can come in damned handy—and yes, they can win an entire game. Thank you.”
I was not done.
Raising a finger, I continued. “No, he doesn’t lead in rebounds, but that’s why they have Crusky, or Lestroy even. And no, he doesn’t lead in three-pointers, but seriously, he’s really good at those too. He’s the youngest captain that team has ever had, and that’s a feat all by itself.”
I needed a breath. My face was getting hot.
And once I stopped, I started noticing the looks.
A few guys wanted to argue, but the guy beside me was just smiling. Leering, slightly. He leaned forward. “You wanna go on a date, honey? I think I could get tickets to the Chasers game.”
I couldn’t stop myself. My retort came before I knew I was going to say it. “Oh, fuck you.”
Half the plane erupted in laughter.
I sat back, and one of the middle-aged ladies waved at me. “You go, girl. You put those men in their place. They ain’t used to girls knowing about sports.”
As I put my seatbelt back on, I noticed my neighbor eyeing me. “What?”
“I’m not hitting on you—I have a girlfriend in New York—but do you wanna go to the game? I’m sure my friend would have room for one more. I didn’t know you were that big of a fan.”
I wanted to huff, but only because I was still feeling spicy. Instead, I shook my head. “I think I’m already going with the friend I’m flying in to see.”
“Okay. Well, if I see you, I’ll give you a shout.”
The fight drained from me once we landed, and I headed for the exit. My seat neighbor ended up keeping pace with me. We both had only carry-ons, so once we were outside, I waved Trent down and turned to him. “You got a ride coming?”
“Yeah…” But he was looking at Trent, his eyes narrowed.
Then, as Trent’s SUV pulled over and he got out to meet me, my neighbor’s eyes went wide. “Fuck, man. I thought we were meeting at the game tomorrow?”
Uh…back up. Screeching brake sounds.
Trent stopped, and his shocked gaze jumped between the two of us. He scratched the back of his head. “Um. Huh?”
“Give me a hug, man. It’s good to see you. I don’t know how you—” He stopped, catching on that Trent was staring just as hard at me. “Oooh.” He motioned between us. “You two know each other?”
It was clicking in place now.
Of all the ironies.
I gestured to Trent. “This is the friend with the box seats?”
When my plane neighbor nodded, I turned to Trent. “You have box seats?”
He coughed, his face pinking. “I, uh, kinda know the team.”
Oh my God.
I wanted to smack myself in the forehead.
Then Trent and my seatmate were shaking hands and hugging. I learned his name was Dwayne—Trent introduced us.
“Charlie, huh?” He released my hand, stepping back and frowning. “That’s an unusual name for a girl.”
I glared at him, but he grinned. “Sorry. Had to see if some of that fight was still in you.”
I grunted, putting my bag in the back since Trent was now enamored with Dwayne. Going to the back seat, I opened the door and hollered at them, “Let’s do all this on the ride.”
Other cars were starting to honk. We’d exhausted the thirty seconds we could use to greet each other, throw our suitcases in the vehicle, and take off.
Both guys laughed, and Dwayne nodded to me as he sat in the front passenger seat. “This is nice. Thanks for letting me have it.”
I just grunted again. There was another potential problem in the future, and I waited till Trent was inside and we had pulled out to the main road before bringing it up.
“Is it the box with the team girlfriends and family?”
He met my gaze in the rearview mirror. “Maybe?”
I groaned. “Trent.”
“No. Can we get regular tickets? I don’t want to deal with his manager and a few other people.” Ahem. Marie. But mainly Stan.
“I’m sorry. You said you wanted to come down and see—”
I coughed, shooting a meaningful look toward his friend.
Trent caught it, amending, “—the game, and I did a recent speaking event with them. Just was natural to reach out, but I can change it.”
“No way!” Dwayne protested. “I was looking forward to the box.”
Turned out Dwayne and Trent knew each other because they both traveled a ton. Trent had been booked for a speaking event with the company Dwayne worked for, and the two saw each other on a plane not long after that. They’d been fast comrades at heart. Dwayne mentioned he was flying in from Alaska, and because it made sense for both of them, Trent invited him to the ball game.
I was content to listen to them talk, but I knew Trent was concerned about me. He kept looking back in the mirror, and I gave him a small wave. I was fine. He could talk with his friend, who told him what hotel he’d booked. Then he asked a question that had me listening closely.
“You still dating that model?”
Trent started coughing. “Uh…” Cough! “What?” Another cough. A sputter to follow, “How’d you know about that?”
“All the guys know. What’s her name?” He was snapping his fingers, trying to remember.
I couldn’t hold back my Cheshire Cat smile, offering, “Lauren?”
“Yeah! Thanks.” He said to Trent, “Lauren.”
“How do you know about Lauren?” He shot me a dark look. “And not a word from you, thank you.”
“Consider it box tickets payback.”
Dwayne frowned at me as he spoke. “Yeah. My buddy knows her. Small world, right? He follows her on Instagram and said there was a picture of you two. He remembered you from that work thing and showed me. She tagged you and everything, said you were her beau.”
Dwayne was teasing when he used the word, but Trent shifted in his seat. The back of his neck had grown a little redder.
For once, it wasn’t my life.
For once, it wasn’t my romance or lack of romantic life.
For once, I wasn’t the center of attention.
I leaned forward, propping my chin on my hand. “Yes. Let’s hear more about this Lauren.” I winked at Trent, who just scowled.
“Um, how about you, Charlie?” he asked under his breath. “Seeing anyone new lately?”
Dwayne’s gaze jumped between us, his smile not dimming.
I retreated back to my seat, but after Dwayne kept on, talking about how hot Lauren was, Trent looked at me in the rearview mirror. I pretended I had a carton of—what was this? It was huge. I had to really work to get my arms around it, and then what was inside? Popcorn? Hmmm. Delicious. But wait, it needed more butter.
I was lathering it on when Trent said, “Not funny, Charlie. Your days of being a comedian are over.”
I held up a kernel of popcorn. “Don’t make me start with my questions again. It’s a problem. They can come back.” I popped that invisible kernel into my mouth and rubbed my stomach. It was delicious.
“You’re messed up.” But he was trying not to smile.
Dwayne had stopped his gushing over Lauren to watch the two of us. “You guys are good friends, huh?” He nodded to me. “You missed it, man. She gave a guy his ass on the plane after she took offense at a rib against Forster.” His eyes sparked.
I pretended there was a platter in front of me. I served it to Trent.
He just grumbled, “So funny, Charlie.”
I was throwing the popcorn at him now. “Watch it. I heckle too.”
He coughed. “So. Forster, huh?”