Home > Block Shot (Hoops #2)(3)

Block Shot (Hoops #2)(3)
Author: Kennedy Ryan

“Hěn hào chī.” She carefully places each syllable like if she drops one it might break.

My lifted brows request the translation.

“Very delicious.” She grins infectiously. “On my first business trip to China, I’ll be able to tell the server that the meal was Hěn hào chī.”

“China, huh?” I drop my bag of already clean laundry to the floor. Many of my clothes get re-washed to justify studying with Banner in a laundromat.

“Basketball is exploding in China,” she says. “Yao Ming tore down the Great Wall, so to speak. The financial implications of China for the NBA are huge.”

“So they tell me in our Econ class.”

After having no classes with Banner at Kerrington, despite the fact we are both sports management majors, we share two classes our last year here.

“Speaking of which, we need to study for that final,” she says, tossing a dryer-warm T-shirt in my face. “And you’re late. Again.”

“Sorry.” I toss the T-shirt back into her pile of navy blue and black cotton. “Again.”

“I hope it’s worth it.”

I let her words settle around us for a second before answering.

“You hope what’s worth it?” I ask with a quick frown.

“I’m not stupid,” she says wryly.

“Obviously.”

“I know what you’ve been up to,” she says, lowering her voice conspiratorially.

Oh, shit.

“Uh . . . you do?”

“Of course.” She hits my shoulder with her small fist. “You’re pledging a fraternity.”

A relieved breath rushes past my lips. “What makes you think that?”

“The buzz cut?” She points to my shorn hair. “The late hours and weird ‘assignments.’ It all adds up to a fraternity. I just hope they aren’t asking you to do anything too outrageous. Or dangerous.”

The stern line of her lips paired with the belligerent glint in her eye makes me want to divulge all the outrageous, dangerous shit I’ve done the last three months to get in with The Pride. Of course, every prospect signs confidentiality agreements, and even if we don’t get in, we can’t talk about The Pride. But if I could tell her . . . she looks like she would kick some ass in my defense.

“So are you in?” she asks, going back to the pile of darks and starting to fold again.

Hell no. Prescott’s words “fuck a fat girl” resurface in my head, and anger grips me by the throat. I swallow several colorful curses and simply shake my head.

“I withdrew.” I twist the rope on my laundry bag and avoid her stare. “They crossed the line.”

“I’m sorry, Jared.”

She covers my hand with hers for a second. I hated Prescott calling her fat, but she’s not small. Her hands are, though. Long, slim fingers. Short unpainted nails. She’s maybe five-six or seven. No makeup covering her clear olive-toned skin. Dark, wavy hair scooped into a knot and anchored with two pencils. Banner doesn’t bother with the things girls often do to gain a guy’s attention. Maybe she’s too driven, too tunnel-visioned on her goals, but she has my attention. She’s had it for months, and she either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. Tonight, I’m determined to find out which.

When she moves her hand to pull away, I loop my thumb around her index finger, anchoring our hands together. We share a held breath and the only sound is water sloshing and clothes spinning in the machines. It’s so quiet in the laundromat that I hear her breath hitch when I reach under to scrape her palm with my thumbnail. I don’t let her go, don’t let her ignore the inevitability of my interest. A frown gathers on her face and genuine confusion clouds her eyes. She looks from our hands still pressed together to my face then shakes her head like she’s imagining something. The moment is elastic, for a few seconds thick with unspoken desires—mine and I’m pretty sure hers—and then in an instant, snaps back to the harmless, sexless thing we usually have. She lets out a breathy laugh and pulls away.

Will I have to take out an ad? Sketch lewd pictures in her notebook? How can she not know that I’m interested in her? Hell, Bent’s never even met Banner and he knew. I’m not usually a subtle guy when I want someone, but I’ve never wanted anyone like Banner.

“We’d better get cracking,” she says and walks toward the back room where we usually study.

Her books are already spread across the rickety coffee table. I pick up and flip through her Econ textbook, pulling it back a little to read notes in the margin.

“You do know you need glasses, right?” She moves her books to make room for mine.

“No, I don’t.” I scrunch my face. “That’s crazy.”

“Are you worried about how you’ll look?”

“No,” I answer honestly.

“Figures,” she mutters, a small smile teasing the corner of her mouth.

“No,” I repeat firmly, maybe slightly defensively because the words do blur a little. “I just don’t need glasses.”

She shrugs and laughs under her breath, flopping onto the couch and digging into her backpack for supplies. Her heavy coat is draped over the armrest of the lumpy couch. Heavy coat. Oversized sweatshirt. Baggy jeans. How’s a guy supposed to know what’s under all that? For the first time in . . . ever, I don’t think I even care.

“Albright will expect you to defend your position,” she says, and I realize I’d tuned out while she sat and cleared space on the table for my books. “You know what he always says.”

“Convince me,” we say in unison, laughing and mocking our professor’s deep voice. He constantly challenges us to prove our points and to thoughtfully articulate why we believe what we say we do.

“I was so intimidated by him at the beginning of the semester,” she confesses, traces of our humor lingering around her eyes and mouth.

“Didn’t seem that way. You answered the man in Russian from the last row of the auditorium,” I remind her. “Seemed pretty confident to me.”

“It’s no different than answering him in English.” She pushes a stray strand of silky hair fallen from the topknot behind her ear. She does that when she feels self-conscious. For all her tells, she hasn’t told me much, and I have no idea where I stand with her, unless it’s firmly in the friend zone.

“Yeah, no different because you speak Russian.” I dip my head and try to catch her gaze, smiling when she sketches on her notebook and refuses to look up. “And Spanish. And Italian. And soon Chinese.”

“Well, Spanish was the first language I heard at home.” She shrugs one shoulder. “Mama thinks it’s a travesty for Hispanic people not to speak it. I grew up bilingual and realized I had a knack for picking up languages pretty easily.”

“You seem to have quite a few ‘knacks.’ Is there anything you don’t do well?”

A wry smile tips her mouth. “Jokes.”

“Jokes?”

“Yeah, I’m really bad at them.”

“Convince me,” I say, using Professor Albright’s signature phrase.

“What?” Eyes wide, she finally looks up from her doodling.

“Tell me one of these bad jokes.”

“Oh, gosh.” Faint color washes under her skin. “Okay.”

She traps her bottom lip and closes one eye, concentrating before clearing her expression and looking back to me and speaking.

“Knock, knock.”

“Seriously?”

“Knock,” she says firmly. “Knock.”

I sigh and bite into a smile.

“Who’s there?”

“Europe.”

“Uh . . . Europe who?”

“No, I’m not.”

I stare at her blankly in the waiting silence following her “joke.”

“Are you done?” I ask incredulously. “That was it?”

Laughter erupts from us at the same time.

“Yeah, that’s bad,” I agree.

“Well, I try.”

“But your horrendous joke-telling doesn’t quite outweigh how awesome you seem to be at most other things.”

“Ha!” She rolls her eyes and resumes doodling. “I wish my advisor agreed with you.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s old school. He doesn’t think women make great sports agents.”

“A lot of people don’t. There aren’t many of them, for sure. You know you’re entering a male-dominated field, but if anyone can handle it, you can.”

“Thanks, Jared. His views are pretty antediluvian.”

Shit. Those lips wrapping around the word “antediluvian” may as well be wrapped around my cock. Has my brain always been a sex organ, or did she do this to me?

“Did you hear me?” she asks, frowning.

“Sorry.” I was busy adjusting myself under the table. “What’d you say?”

“He keeps spouting survival of the fittest. He thinks women lack the killer instinct required to be truly successful sports agents.”

“He’s not wrong.”

The look she shoots me could cut the rest of my hair off.

“Whoa.” I raise my hands to ward off all that ire. “Not about women’s inability to succeed in this field.”

Her expression eases a fraction.

“But he’s not wrong about survival of the fittest,” I clarify. “That’s real. Most sports agents are assholes. Mercenary. Cutthroat. Ruthless. I’m perfectly suited for it and plan to be the best asshole in the game.”

She smiles, uncertainty in the barely curved lips and searching eyes. “You don’t mean that.”

“I do.” We stare at each other for a few seconds, and I let her see the truth of what I’ve said.

My dad, with all his military training and knowledge of how to kill people in a hundred different ways, is a kind man. My stepmother and stepbrother, good people with good hearts.

   
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