“All those pretty runs come from my pretty hands.” Colby’s head was up and smiling. “I can do this all night long, baby.”
“Baby!” Jake hooted. “Who you calling baby? I don’t call anyone baby unless she’s under me, or straddling me, and even then—” He stopped, his eyes darting to me. “Uh. Sorry. I mean…” Then he shrugged, throwing back to Colby, “You want to get the right terms, baby. I’m sweetheart, not baby.”
“Really?!” Colby’s nostrils flared, but he had a shit-eating grin on his face.
Stone pushed off from the counter, coming to stand next to me. “Those two trash talk all the time. This is a snippet of the shit they say in the locker room.”
“All day, every day.” Jake held his arms out wide. He was bouncing on the back of his heels, as if getting warmed up for an actual game.
The oven beeped at that second, and I moved over to pull out the primavera.
“Damn.” From Jake. He leaned over me, breathing in the pasta. “That smells fucking good.”
“Looks fucking amazing.” Colby tapped Stone on the chest. “No wonder you ain’t been social lately. Got this to come home to now.”
Stone stiffened, his jaw clenching, but Colby didn’t notice.
Me, I got light-headed noticing that. I wasn’t sure why, but there it was.
He and Jake Bilson kept going back and forth, and as I finished with the food, Stone helped me. Plates were pulled out. Drinks were poured. He asked what I needed for the food, but I was done. We were ready.
After that, the guys insisted I plate first, and they followed behind.
I stood to the side, not totally sure what to do, but Stone came up next to me and motioned with his head. “Games are starting. You need me to bring your drink?”
I didn’t know if this was a ‘team’ thing, if I was ‘allowed,’ but as the guys headed to the theater room without hesitation, I knew they’d been expecting me to eat with them. Stone noticed my pause and put his plate on the counter. “What’s wrong?”
I shrugged, feeling all sorts of awkward. “Those are your teammates. You said watching the games was part of your job. I just figured…” I didn’t know what I figured.
No. I did.
I figured I didn’t belong.
I figured I was a secret.
The lines around his mouth tightened. “What you and me are doing ain’t anyone’s business. No. No one needs to know the details, but you’re a friend and I don’t do well with hiding shit. Lying is way different than just not offering information. Those guys don’t know shit about what I’m doing, and despite their ribbing, they don’t care. Every guy on the team has a situation, whether that’s family, a wife, or something else. We’re all just doing our jobs. That’s it.”
I wasn’t sure what to take from that, but I wasn’t something he was embarrassed about. I got that part.
Warm sensations were filling my belly up.
I picked up my plate and went and watched two football games with the lead wide receiver, quarterback, and cornerback of the Texas Kings. Then once the quarterback and cornerback left, Stone scooped me up and I watched two more games half-lying on top of him.
All things considered, it was a fucking great Sunday.
“Hey. So, um.”
This was Siobhan’s greeting when she slid onto the seat next to me in class. She glanced around, tucking some hair strands behind her ears. Then, ducking her head, she scooted closer and asked, her voice lowered, “Are you okay? I mean, with the coma and what happened in the library?”
Oh boy. That was a loaded question.
“Yeah. I’m good.”
Her eyes were searching mine. I knew she was trying to figure if she should push or not, but whatever she saw must’ve reassured her because her second question came next, and with a little bit more excitement infused with it.
“So who was that guy in the library?”
I hid a grin. “He was just a guy I know from back home. That’s all.”
That guy’s video had been released the day before. My phone’s alert went off last night when we were watching game three. You could hear everything. The guy asking me a question. Stone telling him no. The rest, and how pissy the fan had gotten. It wasn’t a big deal, but I got the alert because it hit on the college’s sports page. My name was out there, the other blogs knew who I was, but the college’s website hadn’t named me, saying it was to allow privacy.
Privacy, my ass.
Just walking through campus, I got thirty people looking at me weird. A guy looked like he was going to approach, say something, but I ducked into the biology building just then. I was hoping it’d all go away and so far, no one blinked an eye at even seeing me in class again. Except Siobhan.
“How are things with Trent?”
She got all red, sitting up, her eyes almost bulging out. And at that moment, Trent slid into the chair on my other side. “Ladies.” He paused, as if realizing who I was. “Oh, hey. Where’d you go?”
Siobhan frowned, her head jerking to the side.
“Really? I’m sorry.”
I dipped my head in a slight nod. “Yeah. I’m okay now.”
Or I would be. I would be. I would be. I was going to keep repeating that mantra to myself until it was true. For the most part, I was doing better. It hadn’t slipped my notice that I could handle being in the kitchen with everyone Saturday night. But that was because Stone was there.
If I was thinking far ahead, I’d be concerned. I couldn’t depend on him. This thing with us wasn’t romantic. I was guessing the friendship was there again. I mean, we slept together the last two nights, Saturday afternoon until my housemates came home, and the other full night before I bailed. So, yes. To say we weren’t friends again would be moronic, but romantic…that was different.
I was surviving. He was helping me survive. I couldn’t afford to look a gift horse in the mouth, at least not yet.
If he met someone, or if he wanted to stop what we were doing, I’d deal. That was my plan. I’d just deal, but until then, I couldn’t stop anything, not even to prevent further heartbreak in the future. It wouldn’t matter. I’d crumble now, so, yeah. That’s where I was, so I spoke the truth to Trent.
I was okay now. Now. Maybe not tomorrow, the day after, but now. Right now, I could stand. I was here.
Trent seemed satisfied with my response, but Siobhan was watching me during class. I was preparing myself for a full interrogation at the end, but the professor called me up and I was saved. My professor wanted to check-in with me, make sure I could handle being back. I told her an abbreviated version that I was fine, I was better, I was ready to learn again. She seemed satisfied, just like Trent, and talking to her caused me to leave much later than everyone else.
I was good.
Or so I thought.
Siobhan was waiting as soon as I turned the corner. “You were in a car accident?”
Trent was next to her, his eyebrows raised, but leaning against the wall with more of a bored expression on his face. He was watching the students go back and forth in the hallway since three other classrooms just emptied, too.
“Yeah,” I said in response.
“Is that why you were in the coma? Because of the accident?” She didn’t let me answer. Concern flooded her face. She reached out, touching my arm. “I would’ve been there for you. I’m so sorry. I should’ve called more. I don’t even know where you live. I’ve been a horrible friend, although we don’t really know each other that well. But hey, you have that one friend to help you out, right? I couldn’t see his face, but he looked yummy.” She leaned in close, lowering her voice. “Real protective and grrr, you know?”
I knew. I so knew.
“Hey! You’re the chick!” A guy suddenly appeared out of the crowd going past us. He was tall, lanky, a Texas C&B ballcap on his head, and he was wearing a Texas Kings shirt. He shoved his phone in my face. The video on the college’s website right there and playing…loudly.
“…don’t direct questions at her.”
“Just fans, man. Don’t need to be a dickhead…”
I reacted. I didn’t think. I just reacted, hitting his phone away from me. It fell to the floor, breaking, and the guy started to yell, “What the fuck?! You bitch.”
Two guys muscled their way in, blocking me from the phone guy. I had another split-second warning, glimpsing their backs. They were tall and strong, and imposing as fuck. One growled, “Back the fuck off her! You shoved that phone in her face. We saw the whole thing.”
The guy started to cower, then his face crunched and he shot back, “She broke my pho—”
The second guy was growling, too. “Let me shove my fist in your face, see what you do. It was a reflex, you little fuck.”
The first guy, “Get lost!”
The second guy helped. “Or we’ll fuck you up. I know your name, little prick. You play JV baseball. I have buddies on the varsity team. They’ll give me all the details on where you live, who your friends are, everything. Get in her face again, and this won’t be an empty threat. Got it?”