Home > Block Shot (Hoops #2)(12)

Block Shot (Hoops #2)(12)
Author: Kennedy Ryan

“Okay, okay,” Cal says to Alonzo’s back. “She’ll be your agent.”

Alonzo slowly turns and leans against the door, his eyes fairly twinkling at me.

“But she won’t have her degree for a few months,” Cal offers, his voice grudging. “And she has to pass the agent test. You need to be with an agency soon to take advantage of this window before the draft in June. Nike, Reebok, Gatorade—all of them will be sniffing around before the draft, and you need some representation in the meantime.”

Out of habit, I begin translating.

“I understood him,” Alonzo interrupts softly. Of course he did since I guess he magically learned English in the last five minutes. “But surely I can sign a provisional contract ensuring that as soon as Banner is eligible and available, she will represent me. You will guide her, yes?”

Cal slants me a side-eye and blows out a weary breath.

“Yes.”

And just like that, I went from lowly intern to agent for one of the biggest fish who has walked through the doors of Bagley & Associates in years. And all, I guess, because I showed some basic human decency and told the truth.

Let them have their Pride of Lions and their alpha male cliques and the parties and connections they don’t want me privy to. I’ll do this my way. Represent clients my way. Lead my way. Fight my way. Survival of the fittest, my ass. Who needs The Pride?

Part II

“There will be men who fall in love with your skin

and others who drown themselves

in everything that lies beneath.”

-Cindy Cherie, Poetess

7

Jared

“Look at me, Uncle Jared!”

I squint through the glare of sunlight in the direction of the high-pitched voice. A splash follows the tiny projectile human into the pool.

“Great cannonball, Sarai!” I yell back to my niece. “Make sure to tuck your knees in.”

I slip off my short boots and socks, roll up the pants of my suit, and sit on the edge of the pool, lowering my legs into the cool water.

“Now this is the life.” I glance at my brother, August, seated beside me in his trunks. “I’d say this is an upgrade from your apartment.”

“Yeah, we needed the bigger place.” He looks past the pool in his backyard to the electric blue sprawl of the Pacific Ocean just beyond. “Much better view, and it’s close to Sarai’s school. Not too much of a commute for Iris to the Elevation office either.”

“How’s she adjusting to the new setup?” I scoop a handful of water and splash Sarai, who’s swimming toward us.

August’s initial reluctance to relocate our sports agency headquarters to LA from San Diego, where his team, the Waves, play, centered around his wife. Iris works in marketing with us, but wanted to stay with August in San Diego.

“You’re her boss,” August says. “Shouldn’t you know?”

“You’re her husband. Shouldn’t you?”

We share a grin because we both know Iris wouldn’t choose to be anywhere my brother wasn’t.

“Dude,” I say, loosening my tie and tossing it over my shoulder. “You are married with kids. What the hell?”

August’s smile is wide and satisfied.

“One kid for now,” he says. “But hopefully more soon. Isn’t life grand?”

“As much as I love Iris and Sarai, you can have that life.” I lean back, arms straight and palms pressed to the concrete. “I’m not ready to settle down with just one woman.”

“You’re in your thirties, bruh. You must at least think about it.”

“I do think about it,” I agree. “And break out in hives.”

We both laugh, but I’m serious.

“Two reasons marriage is not even on my radar,” I continue. “One, I have a low tolerance for people.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

August can’t relate to my view because he’s one of those “people people.” We couldn’t be more different. Not just that I’m blond and blue-eyed and that his darker skin and thick curls proclaim his biracial heritage, but we’re different inside.

“No, it’s true,” I say. “People have hidden agendas. They lie and they bore me.”

“All of them?”

“No, just most of them, but I don’t care enough to find the exceptions. I’m definitely not taking the time right now to find one I could tolerate forever.”

“You said two reasons,” August reminds me. “What’s the other one?”

“Oh, simple.” I waggle my brows suggestively. “I like pussy in assorted flavors.”

August’s laugh booms across the placid backyard. I’ve loved making him laugh since we were kids, stepbrothers who had no clue about the other but pretty sure almost from day one that we could be best friends.

And even though I’m a few years older, we always have been.

“So is Iris okay with the new set up?” I ask, directing us back to the previous topic of discussion.

“She’s fine.” August shrugs broad bare shoulders. “Probably wondering if all the best action is happening there in LA while she’s in the San Diego office.”

August pauses, shooting me a searching glance before going on.

“Once the season is over, I might lease something in LA so she could work out of that office this summer. I’m sure we can find a good preschool for Sarai. I want Iris to have that experience. That okay with you?”

“Sure. You are a partner, albeit silent. Elevation is just as much yours as it is mine, Gus.”

“Just making sure.” August stands, hauling Sarai out of the water. “Come on, princess.”

She giggles when he tickles her while toweling her off. She is precious. I wouldn’t mind having a beautiful little girl, if she didn’t come permanently attached to a woman.

“One day I’ll get to focus more on it,” August says, bundling Sarai against his chest. “For now, ball is life.”

“Which is exactly what it needs to be,” I remind him. “Our strategy is working. Athletes see one of the NBA’s brightest rising stars signed with Elevation, they feel confident we’ll take care of them, too.”

“You were right to relocate headquarters to LA.”

“It’s the smart move considering how many of our clients want to transition into acting, producing, entertainment in general. Getting to know the wizards behind the curtain can only help.”

“Yeah, especially with Cal Bagley setting up shop in LA,” August says, kissing Sarai’s hair. “And he sent his big guns out to run the office, right? Didn’t Banner Morales leave New York to come out here?”

“Yeah.” I lock my teeth around the reply. “Banner’s running their LA office.”

I’ve never talked to August about Banner and what happened senior year. Even after ten years, something still pinches in my chest when I hear her name. Not my heart. I traded that useless organ in long ago to get where I am now. It’s in the vicinity, though, of where my heart used to be. And that pisses me off.

She pisses me off.

At least it’s mutual. It’s a small industry, sports management, when you get down to it. Sure there’s lots of professional athletes, but they comprise such a small percentage of the general population. The number of agents who make it to the level I have, owning an agency and representing the caliber of talent we do, is fractional. Even with sports management, specifically the NBA, being such a small world, I don’t see Banner often.

Early on, our paths crossed infrequently. She was at Bagley & Associates in New York and I was at Richter Sports in Chicago. I saw her for the first time at a convention in Philly. When we spotted each other, she turned and walked the other way. I followed. I may have cornered her and tried to talk about that night again.

Okay. I did corner her and try to talk about that night again.

She threatened to blow her rape whistle if I didn’t leave her alone. Seeing how she called the cops on me before, I didn’t want to chance it. After a few more thwarted attempts, I gave up. She made it abundantly clear she wanted to put that night and me behind her. As badly as I wanted another night, and another one and another one, that wasn’t meant to be.

What did it matter anyway? Banner was a soft spot, and the further up the ladder I climbed, the less I could afford those. Especially when we were pursuing the same clients. It’s a dog-eat-dog and spit him—or her—out game.

Survival of the fittest.

Banner can be the killer with the heart.

I’m just the killer. It has served me well.

“You think we could ever tempt her to work for Elevation?” August asks as we walk back into the house.

“Who?” I snap my head around to look at him.

“Banner.” He walks up the stairs with Sarai in his arms, her head on his shoulder.

“Banner Morales?” Iris asks from the top of the stairs and reaches to take Sarai from August. “I love her.”

Of course she does.

“Is she gonna come work for us?” Iris’ eyes light up like a Christmas tree.

“No,” I say decisively.

“Maybe,” August replies at the same time. “You don’t think she would even be interested? Cal Bagley’s a jerk.”

“So’s Jared,” Iris says with a straight face because it’s true. “I want to go on record that I approve of recruiting Banner to come work at Elevation.”

“And I want to go on record that your opinion is completely irrelevant,” I say, only half-jokingly. Iris is still young to the game and is working her way up from the bottom. I don’t afford her preferential treatment just because she’s married to my brother. She doesn’t expect it.

“You don’t like her?” Iris rolls her eyes. “Men are always intimidated by her.”

“Hell, if I am.” I huff a disparaging breath. “I could negotiate Banner Morales under the table. Gimme a fucking break.”

   
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