Home > Long Shot (Hoops #1)(15)

Long Shot (Hoops #1)(15)
Kennedy Ryan

“As long as it takes, Iris,” Caleb interjects sternly. “We’ll follow instructions to the letter.”

We don’t have to lie in bed for God knows how long. I do. Of course, I’ll do whatever the doctor recommends, but Caleb has no right to be cavalier about my life, my time, my body.

I bite my tongue because this isn’t the time to assert myself. I need to understand what is required and set Caleb straight later.

“For how long?” I ask again.

“We’ll start with full home bed rest,” Dr. Rimmel says. “And assess in a few weeks.”

The word home hits me hard. I have to be out of my on-campus apartment. The university has extended as much grace as possible, and I’ve got a few prospects, but nothing in stone.

Full home bed rest?

I don’t have a home, much less a bed to rest in.

“I’ll take care of her and the baby.” Caleb glances at me. “We’ll get your things moved into my place right away.”

A sense of helplessness washes over me. I clench the hospital gown in my fists. I hate feeling out of control in my own life, like an actor on someone else’s stage, my every move directed.

“It’s not just bed rest, but pelvic rest, too.” She gives Caleb a stern look. “That means low activity and no sex.”

Caleb’s face falls, but for me it’s a little bit of a silver lining. I haven’t wanted to have sex for weeks. I chalked it up to hormones, but maybe it’s Caleb’s high-handedness that’s been turning me off. At least this baby and this damn bed rest give me a good excuse to abstain.

I hate to think this way, but when I glance at my phone and remember Jared’s voicemail about Chicago, no sex feels like the only good thing coming out of this. MiMi’s talisman ring winks at me from my lap. I don’t know if it’s working or not. For now, the baby is protected, but my plans for the future are in definite jeopardy.

8

August

Make the best of a bad situation.

That’s not completely fair or accurate. I’m living in San Diego, a city with near-perfect weather year-round. I signed a thirty-million-dollar NBA contract. You’ll find countless dead hoop dreams in every high school gym and on any neighborhood playground. I’m one lucky son of a bitch.

I get it.

But beginning on a team that probably won’t have a winning season for years sucks. I’m already thinking ahead to the end of my rookie contract and how I’ll get out of San Diego. Coach Kirby’s voice in my head calls me spoiled, ungrateful, and a pussy. He would never tolerate this kind of defeatist attitude. And there are some plusses here.

For one thing, I’m playing with a veteran who knows how to win at this level. Kenan Ross is a beast. I’ve admired his game for years. I watch him during our first team meeting and have to admit it’s a great opportunity to play with him, even if I’m not sure he wants to be here either. He left a contending team, who won a championship just a few years ago, to come here and start from scratch.

“In my nose or in my teeth?” he asks under his breath while our head coach reiterates the privilege we have of building a team from the bottom.

“Huh?” I shoot him a perplexed look. “What’re you talking about?”

“You checking me out like a chick,” he says with a crooked grin, his teeth startlingly white against his dark skin. “So either you wanna ask me out . . .” He gives me a quick side-eye. “And the answer is hell no, by the way.”

I snort-snicker, glancing up to make sure Coach hasn’t noticed us not paying attention.

“Or there’s a booger in my nose, something in my teeth.”

“Uh . . . neither,” I assure him. “Nose and teeth all clear, and rest assured, you’re a little hairier than my usual.”

“Bigger, too, I assume,” he says with an easy grin.

Dude is huge. At six foot seven inches, he’s one of the best power forwards in the game. And swole with it. He’s as hard as marble, and at thirty years old, in the best shape of his life. He picked up the nickname “Glad” in college, short for gladiator. He throws bows down low, and he’s known for his aggressiveness in the paint. He battles for every possession, goes after every rebound. He’s an excellent two-way player, defense and offense, and as someone who has been accused of needing work in the defense department, I have much to learn from him.

Iris busted my balls about defense.

Fuck. I promised myself I wouldn’t think about her. She’s pregnant with another man’s baby. A jerk’s baby.

“Now you all pouty,” Kenan says from the side of his mouth. “Okay. I’ll go out with you. Damn.”

I chuckle and shake my head.

“Keep your pity date, man.” My smile disappears. “Though I was thinking about this chick I promised myself I wouldn’t think about anymore.”

“Yeah.” Kenan’s smile fades as fast as mine did. “I can relate.”

I’m an idiot. Kenan requested a trade when his wife cheated with one of his teammates on his last team. “Shit, Glad,” I say, inwardly kicking myself. “I didn’t mean to—”

“It’s aight.” His smile is manufactured, nothing like the natural one of a few minutes ago. “She’s not worth discussing. Neither is he.”

“But she was worth leaving a championship team to come here?” I ask.

“What’s wrong with here?” Kenan asks, his brows lifted. “I’m making the same money.”

“Yeah, well some of us don’t have rings yet,” I say, hoping I keep the bitterness out of my voice. “So money’s not everything.”

“What you thinking about rings for already?” He blows out a puff of disgusted air. “It’s only October. Season one. You just got here, Rook. You got a lot to learn and earn. You think because you were the man on your campus, you’ll come in here taking names and leaving your mark and shit?”

“No, it’s not that.”

“It is that.” Kenan’s eyes go hard. “I’ve played with entitled pricks before. Don’t be one.”

I bite back my defensive response and leave space for him to say more if he wants. He’s right. I have been acting like an entitled prick.

“How many guys from your high school are playing pro ball?” he demands.

“Just me,” I reply quietly.

“And from your college team? Any of them in the NBA?”

“Nah,” I admit with a shake of my head, remembering all the great players who just weren’t great enough to be here. “None.”

“Right, so quit thinking about what you don’t have and be grateful for what you do. You gotta pay some dues.” He stands when the coach dismisses us and tells us to report to the gym. “Starting now.” He points to the gym bag at his feet.

“That’s you,” he says.

“Uh . . . excuse me?” I point to my bag a few feet way. “No, that’s my bag over there.”

“I know that, Rook.” His grin is back, and this one is not only natural, but at my expense. “Since you’ve been here all of a day, but already think you should be winning rings, let’s see you carry bags for someone who actually has a ring.”

“Oh. You want me to . . .” My voice trails off as he walks away, leaving his bag for me to haul.

Another veteran player heads over and hands me his bag.

“Glad said you got this, Rook.” He smirks and drops the bag at my feet.

“Yeah, but—”

“This you?” another vet asks, dropping his bag and walking toward the gym.

“Um . . . no, I was just trying to tell Glad that—”

“Thanks, Rook,” he says and walks away.

By the time I make it into the gym, I’m struggling with seven bags, none of them mine. I drop them unceremoniously by the benches and jerk the sweatshirt over my head to join my teammates for practice.

“I wondered what was taking you so long,” Kenan says, bouncing the ball in a dribbling drill.

“So are you, like, hazing me or something?” I try to keep my voice light, but maybe I do resent that stunt a little.

Kenan stops dribbling to look me in the eye. “Everybody knows what you can do, Rook. We may be vets, but Deck is building this team around you. You’re young, but you’re the franchise player. We get that,” he says quietly. “But when you’re in the trenches with somebody, you don’t just need to know what they can do. You need to know who they are. I wanna know more about your character than I do about your game right now.”

His penetrating stare assesses me. “So yeah, you’ll carry bags for vets from time to time. Nothing wrong with staying humble before all the rings start rolling in.”

“It’s the least I can do,” I grudgingly concede, offering the smallest grin.

“Count yourself lucky.” He takes a shot that’s nothing but net. “They made me clean jock straps.”

“Shit.” I twist my face in disgust. “Ball sweat?”

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