Home > Block Shot (Hoops #2)(14)

Block Shot (Hoops #2)(14)
Author: Kennedy Ryan

Quinn spits a little of her beer out.

“Oh my God, what?” Her eyes widen first with humor, then shock, then morph to narrow angry slits.

“Yeah, and I quote. ‘Is it just me? Or does Zo Vidale’s agent/girlfriend have a squarer than normal ass? Let’s call her Sponge Banner Square Pants.’ End quote.”

“That little bitch,” Quinn says hotly. “Criticizing every detail of other people’s appearance. Meanwhile we’ve never seen what that little twat looks like. And you can betcha bottom dollar it’s nothing like the avatar she hides behind.”

“Whatever.” I shrug, pretending the barb doesn’t still burn where it landed.

“Not whatever.” Quinn grabs my hand and forces me to look her in the eyes the same way I’ve done over the years. “You’re beautiful, Banner. And your body is beautiful. You’ve worked hard. You’re disciplined and healthy, and heredity and squats have given you a great ass that is not abnormally square.”

“Hey, what more can a girl ask for than a ‘within normal range’ square ass?” I quip sarcastically.

“Maybe Hannah’s just pissed because she doesn’t have a fine, rich boyfriend.” Quinn’s eyes crinkle at the corners and a saucy smile spills over her mouth. “Ohhh, but boyfriend or not, you gotta appreciate premium manflesh. Incoming. Check out fine and rich, if that Tom Ford suit is anything to go by, at two o’clock.”

“Where?” I turn my head slightly to the right.

“Don’t look,” she says hastily. “He’ll know we’re interested.”

“We aren’t interested. You are, so I’m looking. Also that wasn’t two o’clock. That was ten o’clock. Did you fail driver’s ed or what?”

“Driver’s ed?” Consternation crinkles Quinn’s smooth expression.

“Ten and two?” I demonstrate the hand positions on an imaginary steering wheel.

“Good grief.” Quinn laughs and gives an exasperated shake of her head. “Just look. But guard your ovaries. He’s got a kid. He was fine in the first place. Add his adorable little girl and no ovaries are safe.”

I glance over my shoulder and everything inside of me jerks. There was a time I deliberately avoided news of Jared Foster. Over the years, I haven’t had to avoid news. There just wasn’t much of it. Not personally anyway. I know he started his own agency a couple of years ago, Elevation, formerly based in San Diego—now headquartered mere blocks from the LA office of Bagley & Associates I’m managing.

The same way he was the golden boy of Kerrington College, he has become the golden boy of sports management. Not even thirty-five years old and owns one of the fastest growing agencies in the business. Cal hates him. I suspect Cal was so determined to set up shop on the West Coast because Jared was out here. And I suspect Jared set up an office in LA because Cal did. I don’t want to be caught in the middle of their turf war, but if it happens, I won’t back down. I’ve cultivated the killer as much as the heart and know which to deploy in any given situation. Jared Foster would definitely qualify as a “situation.”

I don’t think of him or that night . . . if I can help it. Humiliation. Hurt. Confusion. Anger. That’s all I remember.

Oh. And the best sex of my life. Jared Foster remains the best thing that ever happened to my vagina, despite how horrendously left that night went. So yeah, I didn’t want to hear any personal details about him. I couldn’t have missed that he had gotten married, but I guess I did miss that he has a daughter.

I swallow around some strange hot lump in my throat as I watch her dark head touching the silky fair strands I threaded my fingers through for one night. He’s carrying her like she’s the most precious thing in the world. They’re laughing and her skinny arms loop around his neck. A petite dark-haired woman walks up behind them carrying hot dogs and beer. Her face is a replica of the little angel in Jared’s arms.

She would be petite. She would be perfect. At least she’s not a Cindy.

I turn away, hopefully before he noticed me gaping at him and his family.

“Hot, right?” Quinn asks, hush-voiced. “And the kid takes him to lava level.”

“Hmmm,” I offer noncommittally around a bite of string cheese and a sip of water.

“Oh God,” Quinn sotto-squeals. “He’s coming over here.”

I choke on my cheese, and a light sweat sprouts across the surface of my entire body. I will not let him reduce me to this again. To this naïve, nervous . . . girl who starts breathing heavily every time he’s within a two-yard radius. If I was facing him across a negotiating table, it would be an even playing field. I can hold my own with the best of them. But this isn’t a board room. It’s a basketball game. My current lover just ran onto the court. My one-night lover is headed this way. And even knowing I’m long over Jared, my stupid heart does that thing it does sometimes when I think about him.

Jerk.

9

Jared

“Where are we sitting?” Iris asks from slightly behind me.

“I want nachos,” Sarai whines, frowning at the hot dogs her mother carries.

“Sarai, you said hot dogs,” Iris returns firmly. “And I got hot dogs. I’m not going all the way back to get nachos now.”

“But, Mommy, I—”

“I’ll get the nachos,” I cut in. “Once we get settled and find our seats, I’ll go back.”

“Thank you, Uncle Jared,” Sarai says sweetly, blinking those mile-long lashes at me.

They start so young.

How does August live with this? Not gonna lie. It’s a lot of estrogen right now. After a hard day, I’d much rather be in my LA apartment with the city sprawled beneath my balcony and a glass of that overpriced whiskey Bent sent me for Christmas. Instead, I’m at a basketball game refereeing the two beautiful girls in August’s life. Don’t get me wrong, on my short list of people I can tolerate for more than a day, Iris and Sarai are near the top.

But damn.

We’re approaching the section of seats, where I recognize several Waves team friends and family, when I see her. Beside our three empty seats is Banner Morales and Quinn Barrow, one of her clients. As always, Banner’s beautiful. It really bothers me that she is always gorgeous. It would be much more convenient if she didn’t glow. If those silky hairs weren’t escaping that knot on top of her head and skimming her cheeks and the nape of her neck. If those wide same-size lips weren’t curved in a genuine smile. Her features aren’t delicate. They’re bold, each one daring you to look away.

Fuck my life.

And hearing that she’s dating Zo Vidale doesn’t help. Not that I still have feelings for her. I don’t. Not the soft gooey ones I nurtured in college. But the hard ones? The ones poking behind my zipper? They might still be around, especially when Banner is roaming out in public looking like this.

“Oh gosh,” Iris says, her voice tinged with excitement. “Are those our seats right beside Banner?”

“Yup. Looks like.”

“Oh, this is perfect.” Iris beams up at me. “You know how much I—”

“Love her,” I interrupt with a grimace. “Yeah. You mentioned. Look, if you can check your inner fangirl, that’d be great. Banner may be your Wonder Woman caped crusader in this business, but she’s also the managing partner for a rival agency that just set up shop a few blocks from Elevation.”

“Okay.” Iris nods and gives me a rueful smile. “But I do really like her.”

“Most people do.” I roll my eyes. “Just remember you work for me, and she and I vie for the same clients.”

“Have you ever blocked her shot?” Iris asks softly, probably because we’re closer to our seats now. And Banner.

A cocky grin takes over my mouth. I’m known for the block shot. Like in basketball, when one opponent deflects a field goal attempt as the ball is on its way to the hole, I love nothing more than to let another agent think he has a client on lock. Meanwhile, I knock on back doors and meet in back rooms to convince the client I’m the better option. I block their shit just when they think they’re about to score.

“No, I’ve never blocked Banner’s shot,” I reply, but level a frank warning look at Iris. “But I wouldn’t hesitate. Results trump feelings.”

“Jeesh. Glad I’m not an agent,” Iris says. “I’ll stick to marketing. Less blood.”

That’s what she thinks. If I was in marketing, there would be blood.

Banner is studying her phone when we reach the seats, but her client Quinn isn’t. She’s smiling up at me like I’m an ice cream cone in the Mojave Desert.

I get that a lot and use it with no shame.

“Hi,” I say, meeting Quinn’s eyes with a smile of my own. “I think these are our seats.”

Banner’s head pops up, and her eyes narrow before she pulls her professional mask in place.

“Banner Morales, wow,” I drawl, setting Sarai down at the seat between Iris and me. “Long time no see.”

Her expression says not long enough, and her polite smile barely disguises it.

“Jared, great to see you again.” She looks over at Iris and Sarai. “Introduce me to your family.”

Pause.

Does she think I’ve . . . procreated?

“This is Iris West,” I say pointedly. “My sister-in-law and my niece, Sarai. Iris, this is Banner Morales.”

“Nice to meet you.” Banner shakes Iris’ hand and offers a wide natural smile for Sarai. “Hi, Sarai. Aren’t you the prettiest thing?”

Sarai burrows her head into the pant leg of my suit and peek-a-boo smiles at Banner, who tweaks her nose and chuckles.

“I bet you’re not shy at all,” Banner continues, her whole focus on my niece. Sarai giggles and shakes her head. “She’s beautiful, Iris.”

   
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