Home > Long Shot (Hoops #1)(14)

Long Shot (Hoops #1)(14)
Kennedy Ryan

“How you holding up?” Lotus asks, pulling away to study me closely.

“I’m okay.” When she levels a skeptical look on me, I give up the pretense. “Alright. I’m losing my mind.”

“What do they say?

“They’re running tests.” I sniff and swipe at my wet cheeks. “They should be back in soon.”

“Where’s Caleb?” She looks around the room like he might be hiding in the closet or under the bed. “I’m sure he’s not far since this is his heir apparent.”

I laugh, but Caleb is slightly obsessed with this pregnancy. I may still feel ambiguous about this baby, but he certainly doesn’t. The only thing I’ve ever seen him want more is basketball.

“His agent called and needed to go over a few things, so he stepped out for a sec.”

“I guess he’s excited about going to Baltimore, huh?” Lotus asks.

The Baltimore Stingers took Caleb in the draft. August wanted to play for his hometown team, but the San Diego Waves drafted him instead. Somehow, even though he smiled for the cameras and pulled the team’s cap over his dark, caramel-streaked curls, I knew he was disappointed. He and Caleb keep trading victories and losses.

Score another for Caleb.

“Yeah,” I finally answer Lotus’s question. “He’s looking for a place in Baltimore now. He’ll be moving in the next few weeks.”

“And you?” Lotus studies my face. “Where will you be moving?”

“I have to be out of my place in the next couple of weeks.” I try to ignore my anxiety. “Since it’s an on-campus apartment, and I’m graduating . . .well, I gotta go.”

“If my scholarship didn’t require me to live on campus—”

“I know,” I cut in. “Don’t think twice about it. That still wouldn’t solve everything. Having a baby with no job? I was hoping to have heard from Richter about the internship by now.”

Unless vomiting on Jared ruined my chances. Couldn’t blame him for thinking twice about hiring me.

“Maybe I can work at the bookstore for a little longer,” I say.

It sounds ridiculous even to my ears. Work at the campus bookstore instead of living in luxury with Caleb when there’s nothing holding me in Atlanta? I’m in some kind of limbo until I hear back from Richter, but a hasty move could be the wrong one. It could change the course of my life, and as much as Caleb keeps pressuring me, I won’t be rushed. I know if I want to move when he does he’ll pay all my expenses, but that would feel like one more step in the direction I promised myself I’d never take.

Needing something to do, I press my phone home button. Two missed calls.

“Hmmm. I missed a call from Mama,” I murmur. “And some number I don’t know.”

“How is Aunt Priscilla?” Lo’s voice is a polite query, but I know she doesn’t enjoy discussing my mother, and her mother even less.

“She’s fine.” I sigh, my heart as weary as my body. “Of course, she wants me to ‘make the most’ of this pregnancy. Wants me to marry Caleb and do anything I can to secure my future. At least, the only future she imagines for me.”

“Hey, our futures won’t look like our mamas’ pasts,” she assures me. “Don’t you worry about that.” Lotus grips my hand, the green stone of the ring she wears glinting under the hospital’s fluorescent lights. I link our fingers so my ring, identical to hers, winks back at us, too.

“Remember when MiMi gave us these?” I ask, a tiny smile tugging at my lips as I remember one of the few times our great-grandmother visited us in New Orleans.

“Of course I do.” She scrunches her face and clears her throat, signaling she is about to do her famous MiMi imitation. “Mes filles, wear these always and have my protection.”

I giggle at Lo’s heavily accented, but spot-on, imitation. I haven’t been around MiMi much, but when I am I only ever understand half of what she says since she switches seamlessly from French to English. She blends her languages the way she blends her faiths, saying Hail Marys one minute and praying to the Great Spirits the next. She wears rosaries around her neck and scatters her potions and gris-gris throughout the house.

“These rings haven’t failed to protect us since we put them on,” Lo says, the laughter leaving her face. She lays her hand against my stomach. “It’ll protect you now.”

I barely stop my eyes from rolling. To be a college-educated, sophisticated millennial, Lo puts more stock in MiMi’s voodoo mumbo jumbo than she should. She did live with the woman for years, so some of the superstitions were bound to rub off on her, but I think it’s a load of crap that pulls the wool over people’s eyes and preys on their fears and ignorance for monetary gain. I don’t say any of that because Lo gets defensive, and I get irritated, and right now I need the harmony between us more than anything.

“You’re right.” I rub my thumb across the gold band on my ring finger before continuing quietly. “It’s just . . . there’s a part of me that wants this pregnancy to be over, Lo.”

Her eyes snap to my face. My confession might draw judgement from someone else, but Lotus’s face softens with sympathy. She understands how hard I’ve worked.

This baby is a life. I know that. I respect it, but my dreams are alive, too, and I wonder if one must die for the other to thrive.

“I get it.” She pulls one knee up under her on the bed. “We’ll know what’s going on soon and go from there.”

I nod, my stomach muscles clenching while we wait. What if the baby isn’t okay? What if the baby is okay? The two possibilities send my life spiraling in radically different directions, and my fear spirals with them. To distract myself, I tap the unknown number alert and see a voicemail. I open the voicemail and put it on speaker.

“Iris, hi,” a vaguely familiar, deep male voice says from my phone. “It’s Jared Foster.”

My eyes go wide.

“The internship,” I whisper-hiss at Lotus, who stretches her eyes wide back at me.

“I hope you’re feeling better since the last time we saw each other.” Jared’s voice holds a touch of humor. “I know you felt bad about what happened. Don’t. My dry cleaning was tax-deductible.”

Even though I’m not in the same room with Jared, embarrassment burns my cheeks. Vomit. Seriously?

“I’ll just get right to it,” Jared continues. “Richter is offering you one of the internship spots. We’d expect you in Chicago in the next month, and we’d need you ready to travel pretty much right away. There’s several deals we’re about to close, and you’d have to jump right in.”

His low chuckle interrupts the list of expectations. “You said you were ready to work, to do whatever it took,” he says. “I hope you meant it. Give me a call so we can talk details. Congratulations.”

My fingers tremble over the phone, and I immediately want to replay the message. I’ve been anxious, biting my lips all day, but now they stretch into a wide grin. In the midst of so many things going wrong, something is going so right.

“Oh, my gosh.” Lotus squeals, her eyes lit with as much joy as she’d have for her own good fortune. “This is amazing, Bo.”

“I know,” I squeal back. “He told me it would take a couple months to decide, but I had almost given up—”

The door swings open in the middle of my sentence. The doctor walks in, followed by Caleb, who lowers the phone from his ear and slides it into his pocket, obviously just finishing a call.

It all comes crashing back. I’m in the hospital, three months pregnant, and bleeding heavily. What felt like the greatest moment of my life now feels like a cruel joke—a carrot dangled in front of me and snatched away. Lotus grips my hand again, lining our rings up and giving my fingers a reassuring squeeze.

“We’ve looked at everything, Iris.” Dr. Rimmel’s eyes are kind, and her expression is serious. “You have a rather large subchorionic hematoma.”

“English, Doc,” Lotus says with a wry look. “No speak medical-ese.”

Dr. Rimmel’s lips twitch, and I’m so glad Lotus is here, or I’d be going crazy. Caleb comes to sit on the bed beside me, his concern and frustration all over his face.

“Yeah, what’s that actually mean?” he demands. “We’ve been waiting forever.”

Where Lotus’s comment lightened the atmosphere, Caleb’s injects so much weight, Dr. Rimmel’s slight smile disappears, and her shoulders square.

“To put it simply,” Dr. Rimmel says, giving Caleb a pointed look, “the placenta detaches from the uterus, which causes clots and the bleeding we’re seeing.”

“The baby?” I force myself to ask, not sure what I want to hear her say. “Is the baby okay?’

“Yes, the baby’s fine, but we need to put you on bed rest to make sure everything stays fine.”

“Bed rest?” I croak. “I . . . like full-on stuck in the bed? For how long?”

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