Teardrop Shot

Page 64

Someone gasped in the suite, and I blinked back tears.

I heard someone ask in a whisper, “Did you know they were doing this?”

Her friend replied, “No.”

Trent leaned over to me. “They were handing filters out in the entrance to everyone.”

The stadium was an ocean of blinking blue lights. An awareness spread through me. I knew, I just knew that this was for Reese, because of Roman’s death. The fans were trying to give him their support in their way.

My hand went out to the window, and I spread my fingers, pressing my palm there. It was my gesture to Reese, though I knew he wouldn’t see it.

I caught movement beside me and looked over. Trent was giving Dwayne a filter, and they both raised their phones, holding the blue in front of the light.

A few others in the suite were doing the same.

When Reese’s name was announced and he jogged out onto the court, a roar sounded through the entire stadium. Those blue lights waved around, and everyone was in a frenzy.

The camera zoomed in on Reese, and he wiped away a tear, blinking to stop the rest. He dipped his head to the crowd, then turned to look where I was.

My hand hadn’t left the glass, and I leaned forward.

The entire arena was Seattle Strong for Reese that night.

Once the game ended, we remained in the suite. Most of the others filtered out right away, but a few remained. Marie was standing point guard for me. It was too much. The game had been emotionally exhausting.

Reese played and he played with his whole heart, but there’d been a few camera cuts to him when he’d been caught blinking back some tears. Every time I wanted to go to him. Every time I wanted to take away his pain. Every time I could do nothing.

Our small crew remained in the corner. I hadn’t even gotten up for the bathroom, not once during the game.

Stan was either talking on his phone or checking his phone.

Dwayne had no idea my relation to Reese still. Bless his heart. He was blissfully drunk, sitting between Marie and Trent. He hadn’t witnessed the line of hugs I received when I came in, and I don’t think he let his beer run empty the whole game. If I were asked, I’d have to say that Dwayne had the best time this game.

Trent nudged me with his arm, showing me his phone. “Look.”

He had ESPN pulled up and my heart stopped in my chest. It was a picture of me, from the beginning of the game when I placed my hand against the window. The headline read, “Forster’s New Girlfriend There in Time of Need.” I gulped, grabbing the phone.

“How did they—” But I was scrolling, reading the article.

Stan leaned over. “The word’s out. I wasn’t able to stem all of the articles popping up. If ESPN found out, it’s a loss. They know.”

I didn’t know how to process this.

Handing it back to Trent, I scooted back in my chair and pulled my feet up, folding my arms around my knees. My go-to position when I want to hide.

Trent was eyeing me, pocketing his phone. He shared a look with Stan, then Marie.

“How are you doing, hon?” Marie switched seats with Trent.

I shook my head. “It doesn’t matter. All that, it’s whatever. I’ll deal, process it later. I just want to be there for Reese right now.”

He’d been there for me.

He made me want to live again.

It was my turn now.

“Yeah. That makes sense.”

Trent was standing, almost hovering over us. I tipped my head back. “Have the others texted during the game?”

He was reading his phone again. It wouldn’t stop buzzing now. A deep frown pulled at his mouth, and he itched an idle hand over his forehead. “Shit.” Soft, under his breath. He raised wary eyes to me. “Janet’s husband was watching. He saw your picture.”

So she knew.

I lifted up a shoulder. My feelings had thawed toward her since she’d been there for me that day.

He kept reading more texts as they were coming in. A grunt, then a grin. “Most are just the gang, expressing concern for how you’re doing, how Reese is doing.”

Dwayne’s head jerked around. “Forster?” He belched, a hand pressing to his chest. “Oh. Sorry.” His cheeks pinked. “I think I’m fairly drunk.”

Marie laughed. Even Stan grinned at that.

I eyed Dwayne. “Fairly?”

His eyes were almost swimming around from all the booze.

An embarrassed grin appeared. “By fairly, I mean that I am very intoxicated. I should get a cab for the hotel.”

Trent shot him a look, putting his phone away. “Nah, man. I’ll take you. My car is here anyways.”

Dwayne stood up, then began to fall again. Trent grabbed his arm, steadying him up. That grin turned grateful and he patted Trent on the arm. “Thanks. You’re a good friend.”

Trent asked me, “Are you—I mean—do you need anything? I could—”

Stan finished up on his phone at that moment, a look of finality settling down over his face, and he stood from his seat. “It’s time.” He gave Trent a firm nod. “I got her.”

Marie was waiting for Stan and asked now, “Cars are here?”

He glanced down to her. “Yes. Reese is almost ready to leave.” He turned his robot-like face toward me. “We can go now, and we should if you want to get ahead of any press. I believe there’s a sports reality show filming in the arena. You might want to avoid them now.”

That was enough for me.

Dwayne looked confused again, tipping his head up to the side. His eyes skirting from me to Stan, or trying. They kept getting distracted by Marie in the middle. He paused, squinted, and he leaned forward now. “You’re a player’s girlfriend, aren’t you?”

Marie snorted, standing up with me. “You’re just now piecing it together about me?”

He was totally lost now. “Huh?”

She laughed shortly, holding her hand out. “I’m Juan Cartion’s girlfriend.”

His eyes bulged out. “You don’t say?” He almost stumbled as he jerked forward to shake her hand, pumping it up and down. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I figured you belonged to someone, but I wasn’t sure.” His grin diminished to a shy one. “Took me all game to get my courage up to ask. I was hoping you weren’t.”

Marie barked out another laugh, pulling her hand free. “Yeah.” She sidled up next to me. “Okay. We’ll leave it at that.”

He chuckled to himself.

Trent shook his head. “Okay. That’s really our cue to go. He’s forgetting he has a girlfriend.” His eyes found me. “Call me. Text me. Let me know if you need anything. Are you…” His gaze went to Stan, then back to me. “Are you going to remain here—”

“I’ve chartered a plane. We’re going straight to the airport after this.” He turned to me. “Do you have everything you need?”

“It’s that bag I gave you in the SUV.”

He nodded. “Then we’re good to go.”

My phone buzzed in that moment.

Reese: You’re with Stan? Are you in the SUV?

Me: We’re going now.

Reese: I got questions about you, just to warn you.

My throat swelled up. There he was, thinking about me when a part of his world crumbled today.

Me: Don’t worry about me. How bad are you?

Reese: Getting through it. See you soon.

Reese: Love you.

Fuck the throat. A tear escaped my eyelid. I flicked it away.

Me: Love you back.

Reese: Feels good to type that.

Me: Yes, it does.

He didn’t text again. Putting my phone away, all eyes were on me.

A sad smile stretched over Marie’s face. “How’s he doing?”

I lifted a shoulder up. “Said he got questions about me.”

Stan swore under his breath. “I was hoping they’d hold off considering he lost his brother. Okay. That’s it then. We need to go.”

Hugs were done at the door. I hugged Trent, even Dwayne.

Trent murmured in my ear before letting me go, “Please reach out if you need anything. I travel a lot for my job. It’s very easy for me to book a gig in Washington, just saying.”

I stepped back, flicking him on the shoulder. “Go back and be with your woman. I like Lauren.”

“She likes you too. And maybe I will.”

He took Dwayne then, a hand on his arm as the guy was weaving all around people. With another wave over his shoulder, Trent and Dwayne went around the corner. We went the other way, and like before, I just followed Stan where he was going. It was a myriad of cement steps and back doors. Marie went with us, all the way to the parking area.

I wasn’t ready for the attention, but we were getting it. As soon as we stepped out the last door, a woman with a camera was there. “Stan! How’s Reese doing? Is that his girlfriend?”

Marie came to my other side, draping a sweatshirt over me and I tugged down the hood. This felt weird, adopting Reese’s method of camouflage. A few months ago, I only had a cheating ex and a pervy grandpa in my life. That’d been it.

I paused in my thoughts as we walked down toward a row of SUVs waiting.

Breaking at one, Marie gave me a tight squeeze. “Stan has my number, but I got yours from him. Hope that’s okay? I’m going to text you, see if you need anything. And I’ll reach out once we get to Seattle in the morning.”

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