Home > Block Shot (Hoops #2)(16)

Block Shot (Hoops #2)(16)
Author: Kennedy Ryan

“Same,” Iris near-gushes. “I’ll see you next week in Denver.”

“Sure thing.” Finally, reluctantly, Banner’s eyes land on me, and she speaks grudgingly. “Good to see you again, Foster.”

“I’m sure we’ll see more of each other now that we’re both in LA,” I remind her. “Maybe at the gym tomorrow.”

She grimaces but salvages it into a grin at the last minute.

“One can only hope.” She turns to Quinn. “You ready? I need to find Zo.”

“Finally a night together,” Quinn says, her tone teasing and salacious.

Banner flashes a quick self-conscious look my way, but doesn’t answer. She just takes Quinn’s hand and drags her in the direction of the opposing team’s players’ tunnel.

So he’s staying with Banner instead of flying back with the team. Makes sense. If Banner was my girl, I’d stay back and fuck her, too.

If Banner was my girl.

The phrase boings around my head on a pogo stick for a few minutes while I escort Iris and Sarai to the opposite players’ tunnel where August will be. As soon as they are safely with him, I head for my car to start the trip from San Diego to LA. I pull up the Bluetooth for a phone call before I even make it out of the lot. It’s late to call my assistant, but she knows how I operate.

All the time.

“Seriously?” Chyna sounds like she was asleep. It’s not that late. “This is way after hours, Jared. What do you need?”

“Now don’t go drawing personal boundaries,” I tell her, letting her hear the rare affection I hold for her and so few others. “It’s too late for that shit. You’ve spoiled me all these years.”

Her heavy sigh is followed by a long-suffering chuckle.

“One day you’re gonna meet the woman you can’t charm.”

Already did, my friend. Just left her.

“So what we got?” she asks. “Now that I’m up?”

“You remember the guy we met who owns the new strip club downtown?”

“Yeah. You said he reminded you of a lizard in snakeskin.”

“That’s the one.” I laugh, pushing the button to lower the top on my convertible. It’s a glorious night for a drive. “Call him. I need a favor.”

10

Banner

“Girl, you better get you some.”

In the early morning quiet of my bathroom, I shhh Quinn’s app like it understands me. It’s five o’clock and I’m recording my food and workout from yesterday because I forgot last night. In addition to tracking nutrition, fitness, and water intake, it also logs sexual activity and menstrual cycle. Considering my PCOS diagnosis, I need to monitor this closely. Zo spent the night with me instead of at the hotel with the team. He’s in the bedroom asleep, and I don’t want to wake him up.

We had sex. That’s not unusual in a healthy relationship between two consenting adults, but we’ve been best friends since he coerced Cal Bagley into making me his agent nearly ten years ago. At that point in his life, Zo needed a friend more than he needed sharp negotiation skills and experience. I was that friend. I walked with him through that first year following his family’s death. In interviews, he always says he probably wouldn’t have gotten through the pressures of his rookie year and all the grief he had to process without me. It went both ways. I needed a friend just as badly. I got tossed into a pool of sharks, sink or swim. It was the rookie year for us both, and he was there for me, too.

Only in the last year did he express that he wanted more than friendship. Initially, I was a hard no. Why ruin a good thing? And frankly, as fine as Zo is, I’d never thought of him that way. I told him as much, but he kept asking. Eventually, I caved and we went out on one date. And then another. And then a third. I’m not going to say lightning struck. It didn’t, but it was nice to have someone as attractive as Zo want me. It was nice having someone to cuddle with while watching a movie. Nice to be holding someone’s hand when walking on the beach.

The first time we made love, I cried into my pillow after. Not because it was awful. It was good. It was sweet and tender and . . . good. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had just ruined something precious. That I jumped off a building and was just waiting for the splat. But there has been no splat. Just falling. I guess this is falling in love? It’s a shame that at thirty-two years old, I’ve never been in love, but who’s had time? The occasional hookup. Drinks here and there. Dinner. I’d made myself vulnerable to two men in college, and both were disastrous. I may still be falling for Zo, but I know I can trust him, and he knows he can trust me. That must be a huge part of love.

“Girl, you better get your butt in gear.”

My workout times are also scheduled into the app, so “she” knows I haven’t left the house and should already be on my way to Titanium.

“I’m going,” I grumble.

Before I leave, I perform my everyday ritual of looking at myself naked in the mirror. There was a time I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand naked in front of a mirror and just stare at myself, take in my imperfections without flinching. Without hearing the criticisms from culture, of men on the street, of my exes.

From myself, the harshest critic of all.

And looking at myself naked each morning, I may see a little extra flesh around the middle. Or one day, not yet thank God, some boob droop. Or God forbid, a square-er ass, but I make the choice every day to accept the girl who stares back at me. To offer her the same unconditional love she offers the people she cares about, her family and friends. I would never judge those closest to me, never say the things to them that I used to say to myself. If there are things I see that I want to change, I develop a plan to work on them. If there are things I cannot change, I work to accept them.

I will never be petite. I’m just not made that way. Some of it’s just genetic. My hips, my ass, my very bones are too big for that. I’m not interested in being tiny. I want to be strong and healthy and feel good in my clothes, and now I do.

When people first started realizing that Zo and I were dating, Hollywood Hannah referred to me as “the biggest Kardashian.” I thought that was so cruel. Not only to me but to Khloe. I understood the reference. Khloe has worked hard to have a strong, healthy body, but when you see her standing beside her sisters, she is and will probably always be the biggest Kardashian. Like me, she’ll never be tiny.

My relationship with food is more complicated than any relationship I’ve had with a man. My feelings drive me into binges or starvation. In counseling, I sorted out what food should be to me. It’s for nutrition. Not to make me feel better. It’s not comfort. It’s not a companion to make me feel less lonely. It is not a friend I celebrate special occasions with. It is fuel. It oils my engine so I can live my best life. So I can pursue my dreams. So I can make this world a better place.

Once I’ve braved my daily look in the mirror, I tame my hair into two long braids, brush my teeth, and splash water on my face. I’ll shower at the gym, but I’m wearing no makeup. I look about sixteen. Not exactly my tough chick face. I grab pieces from Quinn’s Titanium workout gear collection out of my laundry basket. Even a year ago, I never would have worn something this revealing, though it’s modest by most standards. The cutoff T-shirt reads “The Future Is Latina” and shows my midriff, consequently leaving my hips, ass, and thighs exposed in the capri work out pants.

I can’t resist. I turn my back to the mirror and stare at my ass. Accepting myself as I am doesn’t mean I won’t work to improve and be the best version of myself inside and out.

“Sponge Banner Square Pants, huh?” I say aloud. “Extra squats for you today.”

I tiptoe through the bedroom, making sure the drapes are drawn tight to keep out light until Zo is ready to wake up. I peer down at him, picking out his striking features in the shadows. He’s a beautiful man, inside and out. He’s won citizen awards for his humanitarian work, and is generally held as the kindest guy in the NBA. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t love Zo. I drop a light kiss on his unruly mop of dark curls. I’m a very lucky girl.

I climb into my Ivory Range Rover with butterscotch hand-stitched leather seats, a special treat to myself, and keep counting blessings on my way to the gym. I try to start every day with gratitude. Zo is at the top of that list, along with my family and friends like Quinn.

Every time I walk through Titanium’s doors, I feel a spark of pride. Quinn, that broken girl with bandages covering fresh slits on her wrists, the one who did nothing but glare all day at the space where her leg used to be . . . she made this. She wept on my shoulder after each rehab session, not because learning to walk with only one leg hurt so much, but because she wanted her other leg back so badly. That girl did this. I believed in her so much that I even invested seed money into this gym. Best investment I ever made.

I fob in at the front desk and head up to the studio where Quinn trains me three times a week. I would have referred to I’ve never been able to shake the image of the types of girls Jared dated when we were in college. It only heightened my embarrassment, realizing how gullible I was to think he actually wanted me that night. I hope it was worth it, being a part of The Pride. He told me he didn’t join, but I’ve seen photos of him with Bent on yachts, at galas, ski trips. They remain close, and Bent stood with that group of jackals who taunted me. I know August West is involved with Elevation, probably funding much of it, but you don’t end up owning an agency like Elevation at Jared’s age without a lot of favors. And nobody does favors like The Pride.

“Morning, ladies,” I greet Quinn and Tanya, who teaches Titanium’s pole dancing classes.

“Hey, love,” Tanya pulls me into a Chanel-scented hug. Even at six in the morning, she smells of her signature scent. “You look amazing, Banner. I’ve been meaning to tell you.”

“Thank you,” I reply, returning Tanya’s squeeze. “You look beautiful as usual. Best calves in the business.”

   
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