Home > Long Shot (Hoops #1)(18)

Long Shot (Hoops #1)(18)
Kennedy Ryan

Her eyes widen, and she glances down at her daughter, biting her lip.

“Maybe,” she finally mutters. “No one’s suggested that before. Not that I’ve talked to anyone about it.”

“Might help. What’s her name, by the way?” My voice is practically polite, not giving away a hint of how seeing this beautiful baby affects me, of how her mother affects me.

“Sarai,” Iris replies, a small frown crinkling between her eyebrows. “It means princess.”

“She looks like one.” I quirk my lips when Sarai seems to smile at me. I don’t know if babies actually smile at this stage, but warmth washes over me just the same.

“August.” Iris’s pause is loaded with hesitation and resolve. “I meant what I said. Caleb is taking care of us. He has to until I’m in a position to get back on my feet. I need to try to make it work. You understand that, right? I can’t . . . we can’t . . .”

Her lashes drop, and she shakes her head. She doesn’t need to say anymore. Her gorgeous face is so earnest.

She’s too good for him. I knew that right away. She wouldn’t be the girl I can’t stop thinking about if she were disloyal. If she were a cheat. Still it’s only a matter of time before Caleb shows his true colors.

After I walk out this door, Iris and I will keep living our lives, going about our business as if these few moments didn’t shake my foundations, but one day she’ll walk away from him. She’s too smart and too good not to.

And when that happens, I’ll be there.

10

Iris

There have been days I’ve wanted to hurt myself. Maybe even hurt my baby. I’m an awful person, but an honest one. All I can do is hope these feelings aren’t who I really am. I hope this isn’t the mother I will be forever, but this is who I am today.

I read the lines I wrote weeks ago. My counselor recommended I write my unfiltered thoughts down in a journal. That advice came with a prescription that had me feeling better about life in general relatively quickly.

All-Star Weekend was a turning point in so many ways. I was feeling low that day in the room designated for nursing mothers. My conversation with August, his suggestion about post-partum depression, opened me to the possibility that maybe there was more to what I was feeling than just my own selfishness. Than just resenting my circumstances. It prompted the conversation with my doctor that has led me out of that dark, desolate place.

I close the journal and lock it in the nightstand on my side of the bed. I’m not that woman anymore. It has only been a few weeks, but Sarai, my princess, has shifted to her rightful place—the center of my world.

“You’re mommy’s princess, aren’t you?” I coo down to her, going through the motions of changing her diaper. I nuzzle the soft pads of her tiny feet, eliciting a little snicker from the gorgeous baby on my bed. Maybe I’m a biased mama, but I think she’s the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen.

But August thought so, too.

When August walked in, I was shocked but also so pleased to see him. So pleased I haven’t been able to get him out of my mind. Those charged moments when the blanket fell from my breast and I gaped at him like a hussy instead of immediately covering myself. I was frozen with shock, and if I’m honest . . . God, I hate admitting this even to myself. The way he looked at me, so hungry and reverent, I just wanted more of it.

When I saw August, I was still carrying fifteen pounds of baby weight. My hair hadn’t had a good condition and trim in weeks. The bare minimum makeup I’d forced myself to apply was long gone, but he’d looked at me like I was a goddess. Like he’d eat me whole if he got close enough.

And I’d wanted him close enough. So much closer. My nipples stiffen under my T-shirt, recalling the heat simmering between us for those electric seconds.

This is not good.

I have to get these thoughts under control.

I’ve deliberately avoided the sports sites I usually stalk and have tuned out the basketball world as much as I can. I don’t want to know about August—don’t want to hear about who he’s dating or how well he’s playing or how his life is just perfect.

Because mine isn’t.

Besides my daughter, whom I don’t think I could love any more than I do now, my life is in shambles. I’m living in a city with no friends or family, completely dependent on my baby’s daddy, whom I’m not sure I love.

There. I said it. At least in my head I’ve said it.

I don’t think I love Caleb.

How could I feel what I did with August in that room—how could I think about him so often—and love Caleb? I mean really be in love with Caleb? I refused to believe my heart is that fickle.

I’m not sure Caleb loves me either. I’m pretty sure he’s cheating on me, but I can’t make myself care, much less ask. Even though my new OBGYN found a birth control that works with my body, I didn’t tell Caleb. If he’s out there cheating on me, he’ll wear condoms. Further evidence that I cannot be in love with him.

A snippet of gossip penetrated my social media boycott the other day. Apparently, August has been seen with tennis star Pippa Kim on more than one occasion, and everyone’s speculating that they’re dating. It’s unreasonable, but I resent that. It makes me . . . angry is the wrong word. I don’t have a right to anger, but I don’t like it. Whatever this feeling is, it burns in the bottom of my belly all day like a smoldering coal.

I should be jealous of the numbers I find scrawled on slips of paper in the pockets of Caleb’s pants, but I’m not.

My phone rings, interrupting the plans that have cycled through my head constantly lately.

I glance at the screen. Lo is the only person I really talk to anymore, besides my mother from time to time.

“Hey, Lo,” I say, propping Sarai on my hip and crossing the heated floors barefoot. I certainly won’t have heated floors and a mansion with a parking garage full of cars if I leave Caleb, but I’d have my life back and some semblance of control over my existence.

“Hey, Bo. What the hell is up?” Lo’s voice is half-amused, half-irritated. “You forget your girl or what?”

“Course not.” I place Sarai in her high chair and pull ingredients out to prepare her lunch in the food processor. “Just busy being a mom, I guess.”

“I get that, and you know how much I love my princess, but I’m feeling a little neglected.”

“I’m pretty sure of the two of us, you have the more demanding life. Every time I call, you’re in some fashion show or at a shoot.”

“True that,” Lo says with an unabashedly satisfied chuckle. “This life is fly.”

I roll my eyes, a smile tweaking my lips.

“You need to figure your shit out, too,” Lo says sharply. “You can’t stay in this rut forever.”

I was excited about bouncing my plans off her like we always have, but her comment stifles my enthusiasm.

“Rut?” I ask. “You call having a baby and devoting myself to her a rut?”

“Don’t go getting all sensitive,” she says teasingly, though I’m not in the mood to be teased. “You never leave that big ol’ house. You haven’t made any friends there. You aren’t getting your career back on track.”

“I will,” I say with more confidence than I feel.

“Don’t let Caleb run all over you,” Lo plows on. “There is only one thing I take lying down, and that’s the good dick. Even then I’ll probably end up on top.”

Her audacious chuckle from the other end has me chuckling, too. God, I miss her. I miss this.

“I’ve met Caleb,” Lo says. “I doubt very seriously you’re getting the good dick.”

“Oh my God. You did not just say that.”

“Oh, yes I did, honey. I gets the good dick no matter what is going on. That’s a priority. And I’m not talking about that rich-man dick.”

“Ex . . . cuse me?” Laughter defies my good intentions and barges out of my mouth.

“I’m just saying I haven’t met a rich man who can really fuck, ya know?”

“Um, no, I don’t know.”

“Well, Caleb is the only man you’ve ever slept with, so you’ve only had rich dick. You don’t have anything to compare it to. Gimme some of that broke dick. That unemployed, still-living-with-his-mama, sleeping-on-her-couch dick.”

I’m laughing uncontrollably now, and it only spurs her on more.

“That phone-just-got-turned-off dick,” Lo continues, warming to her subject. “Gimme a man who grew up on food stamps and never knew where the next meal was coming from. The rich ones fuck like they’re entitled to your pussy. Fuck me like I’m survival. Like your life depends on my shit. That’s some grateful dick, right there.”

“And yet I’ve never known you to date anyone like what you’re describing,” I remind her.

“Date?” Lo asks, her voice indignant. “Who said anything about dating? I’m talking about fucking. I only deal with those dudes between the sheets and for as long as it takes to give him a ride to the check-cashing store the next morning. You don’t fall for broke dick. Honey, you just get it while you can and ride it while it’s good.”

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