Home > Block Shot (Hoops #2)(13)

Block Shot (Hoops #2)(13)
Author: Kennedy Ryan

“Her clients love her,” August says, a sly look in his eye that tells me he’s trying to get under my skin. He should know by now I don’t have skin to get under anymore. Just an exoskeleton to ward off provocation and bullshit.

“I guess so,” I say with a shrug. “She matronizes them enough.”

“She does not matronize them,” Iris shoots back. “She takes care of them.”

“My clients know representation doesn’t come with ass-wiping, hand-holding, and cuddles, not that my guys need it,” I reply. “If Banner wants children, she should give birth.”

“Whoa.” Iris shifts Sarai to her other hip, brows sky-high. “I know Bagley’s a rival firm, but wow, Jared. Harsh much.”

“Yeah, she represents Kenan,” August offers. “And you know Glad doesn’t cuddle with anyone but his kid.”

Kenan “Gladiator” Ross, August’s teammate on the San Diego Waves, is about as un-cuddly as a man could be. I wanted to sign him, but Banner beat me to it. That loss hurt and actually came up in one of my last performance reviews at Richter before I struck out on my own to start Elevation. By then, Banner and I had bumped heads enough professionally and avoided each other enough personally to extinguish any “tender feelings.”

Still.

There is that occasional inexplicable pinch when I hear her name.

“We may see her at tonight’s game,” Iris says. “Since both her clients are playing.”

“Yeah, I’m on Vidale tonight.” August shakes his head. “One of the toughest guys in the league to guard.”

“Are Sarai and I still riding with you, Jared?” Iris asks, walking backward slowly toward Sarai’s room.

“Yeah. I’ll work outside by the pool ’til it’s time to go.”

She closes the door to Sarai’s room, leaving August and me on the landing alone.

“Dude, everybody in the locker room was talking about this thing with Banner and her favorite client,” August says, giving me a pointed look. “If you know what I mean.”

“No, I don’t know what you mean.”

“Apparently, it’s been going on for a while,” he says as we head back down the stairs and out to the pool. “But it’s just now getting out. Or maybe they’re letting it out now.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I gather my boots and socks and head over to the umbrella-covered table where I left my laptop.

“Banner and Zo Vidale,” August says. “You hadn’t heard?”

“Dammit, Gus. Heard what?”

“They’re dating.”

Pinch.

8

Banner

“Quinn, can I get your autograph?”

My client smiles wide and white in response to the request. That smile sells cereal, lipstick, and sports bras like nobody’s business.

I make sure of that.

Turns out Quinn Barrow, the “has-been” Mitch was so quick to dismiss all those years ago, had a lot more to do and give. She wouldn’t see me the first five times I visited her in the hospital. After her second suicide attempt, I got through and everything changed. Not overnight. There were times during her rehab and the painful process of learning to live with a prosthetic that Quinn wanted to give up, and so did I. The whole country was pulling for her, though, a fact I shamelessly leveraged when it was time to negotiate her first endorsement deal.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that,” Quinn murmurs as the kid walks off with an autographed nachos tray. “Being recognized and randomly approached. It’s surreal that people know me, much less want me to sign stuff.”

“You’re America’s Titanium Sweetheart.” I chuckle at the grimace on Quinn’s face. “Hey. It tested well. It stuck. We’re using it.”

There’s a point when an athlete, any public figure really, has to distinguish between their public selves and their private selves. Between the product and the person. Quinn still struggles with that sometimes. She balked at contract clauses requiring her to wear the titanium prosthetic so many times in public each month.

“Sometimes it just feels slimy.” Quinn takes a sip of her beer. “Like this thing I thought had ruined my life, that almost ended my life, now I make my living from it?”

“No, you make a living from your hard work and ingenuity.” I give her a firm look. “No different than models who trade on their beauty or athletes who get paid to play ball. You had to learn to walk again, Quinn. To drive, to live. You’d already honed that body all your life as a runner. Now you help other people hone theirs. Just because you’ve monetized the experience, doesn’t mean you’ve cheapened it.”

“You always know what to say to every client, huh?” Quinn dips her hand into the carton of buttered popcorn.

“It’s my job. Speaking of, we need to meet with the Netflix people to discuss that collaboration with Chef Paddy.”

Several networks have approached us before about television specials, reality shows and the like. This Biggest Loser-esque concept encompassing nutrition, fitness, and meditation is the first to truly pique Quinn’s interest.

“Oh, yeah.” A smile lights Quinn’s delicate features. She recently cropped her auburn hair to a cap of loose curls. Her green eyes sparkle with excitement as we wait for the Waves versus Titans game to begin.

“Want some popcorn?” Quinn proffers her carton to me. She’s the most disciplined woman I know, and every line and curve of her body is honed to perfection, but she’s never one to deny herself the occasional indulgence.

“Nope.” I extract a string cheese packet from my purse and sip from my bottled water. “I don’t have enough points left for buttered popcorn. And damn you for tempting me.”

“How are you liking Weight Watchers?” Quinn asks, licking fingers shiny with butter.

“I think it’s my favorite program so far. It feels measurable to me.”

“You look great, Banner.” Quinn’s smile gentles. “I’m proud of you.”

I got serious the last few years about my outside reflecting the confident, powerful woman I was on the inside. Quinn has been instrumental in my weight loss journey and helping me get to the bottom of the emotional and hormonal barriers keeping me from being fit. “Eating your feelings” was a way of life for me, and I didn’t realize in times of high stress, I ate too much and anything I wanted. All four years of college were high stress, and so were the first few years at Bagley. Now I manage it better.

“And are you taking your meds?” Quinn probes, slipping into trainer and motivator mode as easily as she slipped into the tight jeans that turned more than one head tonight.

“Every day, Mom,” I say with an eye roll.

I also discovered I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, a hormonal condition that can affect metabolism, fertility, and other reproductive dynamics. Taking the right medication, carefully monitoring what I eat, and working out regularly have made a tremendous difference.

“Loving this look, by the way,” Quinn says, eyeing my air-conditioned boyfriend jeans, fitted T-shirt, blazer, and stilettos.

“Thanks.”

“I bet Zo will like it, too,” Quinn says innocently with naughty eyes.

I reach to push my hair behind my ear, only to find it all scooped up in a topknot. Damn habit. One thing I’ve never grown out of.

“We’ll see,” I offer with a stiff smile. “I’m still getting used to being . . . public.”

“Well, you’ve been private for six months,” Quinn reminds me. “It’s a miracle you managed to keep it under wraps as long as you did.”

“Not a miracle.” I bite into my string cheese. “I was very careful. I still don’t know how to feel about it.”

“The fact that people know, or the fact that you’re dating Zo?”

“All of it.” I fiddle with the oversize gold hoop earrings Zo gave me for my thirtieth birthday. “What if this goes wrong? I could lose my biggest client and my best friend in one fell swoop. That’s why it took me so long to cave and go out with him. Now that it’s leaking, I just hope things stay as good as they’ve been.”

“You guys are great together,” Quinn reassures.

“We’ll see this summer, won’t we?” I take a deep breath. “He’s staying with me once the season is over. With the Titans being in Vancouver, we so rarely get real time together.”

Zo has a few business interests here in LA, but I know this will be a test drive for us seeing how it feels to be in the same place longer than a night or two every few weeks. I’ve been trying to ignore the unease that creeps in every time I think of us living together. Our friendship has always been so right. The thought of things going wrong with Zo because we’re dating scares me a little.

“You guys will be fine. Just focus on what’s real. All this,” Quinn says, waving her hand at the crowded arena packed with television cameras and fans, “goes away when the game is over. You have a real relationship with a real man. Not the image you help create.”

Image.

I actually hate how much I have to think about it, especially now that I live in LA. It was one thing living in New York, but the image consciousness goes up another level out here. I’m a double-digit chick in a single-digit town. I’ve accepted that. I’ve shopped with Quinn in exclusive boutiques where the salesperson immediately offered to show me their shoes or jewelry, assuming that was all that would fit. I’m over it. I’ve stopped trying to keep up and have just determined I’ll be the best Banner I can be. That doesn’t mean I’m immune to other people talking about my image.

Hey, Hollywood, a highly successful blog, seems to have taken a special interest in my relationship with Zo. The commentary has been some of the most vicious.

“You know Hannah from Hey, Hollywood called me Sponge Banner Square Pants last week?”

   
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