Home > Block Shot (Hoops #2)(4)

Block Shot (Hoops #2)(4)
Kennedy Ryan

“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.

And then there’s me.

I never felt as nice as the rest of my family. It wasn’t until I started here at Kerrington that I realized it’s not that I’m not as nice, I just see people more clearly. I spy their twisted motives and ill intentions. The entitled brats here only honed that sense, only deepened my conviction that, by and large, people look out for themselves. If they’re gonna suck, I’m gonna manipulate them to my own ends. Thus . . . my choice of profession.

“I’m made for this job,” I tell her.

“So am I,” she fires back, her voice defensive. “My advisor says survival of the fittest, but I don’t think about life in terms of Darwin.”

“You mean science? Facts? Truth?”

“No, I mean in terms of the last man . . . person . . . standing . . . in terms of having to eliminate everyone else so that you come out on top. A food chain culture that thrives on atavism.”

That sounds like life to me, but I let her keep talking.

“I think less Darwin, more . . .” her eyes search the room as if the answer might be painted on the laundromat’s Pepto-pink walls “. . . Maslow.”

“Maslow?” I ask. “Two completely different schools of thought.”

“Yes, but both predictive of human behavior.” She leans toward me, warming to the subject. “Darwin used evolution, our most base biology, and Maslow used psychology, but both sought to understand why humans do what they do and how we end up with the best of the best.”

“And you think Maslow has it right?” I ask skeptically. “Convince me.”

She quirks her lips at my continued nod to Professor Albright.

“I think Maslow is at least another way to approach it. Darwin’s approach considers us no better than animals.”

“We are animals.”

“We are human,” she asserts pointedly. “We’re higher functioning, not only intellectually, but emotionally. Darwin assumes evolutionary competition leads to survival. Maslow believes that survival is a need, and if that need is met, we have the emotional margin for compassion and cooperation to meet the needs of others too. With Darwin, there is a last man standing. With Maslow, we could all be left standing.”

She tucks her hair behind an ear again, sliding her eyes away. “Guess this is why my advisor thinks I don’t have that killer instinct.”

“Maybe you’re the killer with a heart.” I lift her chin with one finger. “Maybe you’ll take all that caring shit and use it to win clients over. Leave the heartless, ruthless stuff to people like me.”

When she glances up, her dark eyes, fringed by thick lashes, snare me with the sincerity, the earnestness there. Still holding her chin, I stroke the powder-fine texture of her jaw. Confusion wrinkles her expression for a second before she pulls away from my touch.

“Um . . . maybe.” She runs her hands over her face and slumps her shoulders. Tugging out the pencils anchoring her hair, she tosses them on the table. Sable waves fall over her shoulders and across her chest. I can’t look away. Don’t want to. She’s usually so pulled together. Seeing her literally let her hair down is a privilege I’ve only had a few times this semester.

“Well, at least today showed him I can do something right,” she says sardonically, laughing without much humor. “In spite of my ovaries.”

“What happened today?”

“Oh, I forgot to tell you.” A smile lights her face. “I got the Bagley internship.”

“No way.” I shake my head, genuinely impressed. “I didn’t know you were still in the running. I got knocked out in round two.”

“It’s not a big deal.” That faint flush rises over her cheeks, and she waves her hand. “I just didn’t want to jinx it. I honestly thought I had no chance. I figured Prescott had it on lock.”

Hearing Banner say that asshole’s name, I go still. Has he ever approached her with the kind of crazy shit he proposed to me tonight? I’d break him in half.

“Prescott?” I reach for a water from the neat rows of bottles she always keeps at hand when we study. “I didn’t think you even knew him.”

“I don’t.” She shrugs. “But I found out his dad is like best friends or fraternity brothers or something with Cal Bagley. I assumed it was Prescott’s to lose. I know he did, too.”

Damn. All the pieces fall into place, and I understand why he wanted to humiliate her. Payback is a whiny, entitled, selfish bitch named William Prescott.

“Wow,” I say even while the wheels keep turning in my head. “Congratulations. That’s amazing.”

“It is,” she says, her grin wide and proud. “They decided late, though, so now I’m scrambling to find a place in New York and to get my schedule adjusted for next semester.”

She stands and heads out to the main room where a load just finished drying.

New York.

I clench my fists on my knees, absorbing the information. She’s transferring a load from the dryer to a plastic basket when I venture back out there.

“So, New York, huh?” I ask, digging into the stack of white T-shirts and starting to fold.

“You don’t have to do that.” She aims a frown at the diminishing pile of laundry we’re plowing our way through. I quirk a challenging brow, and she rolls her eyes.

“Thanks.” She resumes folding. “Yeah, remember it’s a practicum, so my advisor wanted to talk through adjustments for my last semester and me working in New York.”

Dammit.

I’m happy for her. It’s the most prestigious internship in our department. Bagley & Associates is a powerhouse sports agency, and landing a job with them post-graduation would catapult anyone’s career. But New York? We take our exams in just a few days and then go home for holiday break. I thought I’d have all of next semester to win Banner over.

I may only have tonight.

And right then I come to a decision. Darwin. Maslow. Tomato. Tomah-toe. I’ve been taking the scenic route instead of the shortest path from me to what I want. That shit’s about to end.

“Congrats again,” I say, placing the last of the T-shirts into the basket. “Like I said, you’re good at everything.”

“Thank you, but I think we already established I don’t do everything well.”

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