Home > Hook Shot (Hoops #3)(10)

Hook Shot (Hoops #3)(10)
Kennedy Ryan

“Of course.” I bring her head to my chest and kiss her hair. “You’ll have a room anywhere I am. We can grab some food on our way home. This place called Playa Betty’s claims to have Cali-style beach food.”

“For real?” Simone’s expression brightens. Though she’s spent most of her life in Houston, she loves California as much as I do. So few things have made Simone happy lately that I notice every one.

“We’ll check it out for ourselves,” I tell her, “after we’re done here.”

“Can Mommy come, too?” She glances from me to Bridget, a mixture of caution and hope in her eyes.

A smug smile lights Bridget’s face.

“Your mom has a commitment after the session,” I tell her carefully. “Maybe next time.”

“Oh.” Simone’s expression falls.” Okay.”

I’d do almost anything to restore the spark that seems to come and go so quickly in what was once my joyful little girl, but being with her mother isn’t one of them. I’ll have to find new ways to make her happy.

“Simone, I need to talk to your parents for a few minutes, okay?” Dr. Packer asks, her kind eyes resting on my daughter.

“Okay.” Simone sits on the sleek leather couch and pulls her phone out.

The three of us enter the office and Dr. Packer closes the door behind her, gesturing for us to take the two seats across from her desk.

“Simone is in a very vulnerable place right now,” she starts off, no warm-up. “She has a lot of anxiety and is feeling unmoored.”

“I was afraid of that,” Bridget says, shaking her head. “I told Kenan we should keep trying. I knew the divorce would devastate her.”

“Is this a joke?” I demand. “Are you seriously trying to put the divorce on me?”

“I’m just saying I was willing to make certain sacrifices to keep things stable for Simone.”

“Well I’m sure uprooting her life, taking her away from her school and friends in California so you could shoot a reality show helps a lot.”

“Actually, it might,” Dr. Packer inserts. “Simone says New York feels like a fresh start where everyone at school doesn’t know about her family and . . . what happened.”

Fury and shame rage through me. Did the kids at school tease her? Taunt her with all the things TMZ reported about her parents? Welcome to the Shit Show.

“And the school has an excellent ballet program, of course,” Dr. Packer adds.

“It does?” I arch a look between Dr. Packer and Bridget.

“Yes, it does, Kenan,” Bridget says with a sigh. “If you paid attention to something other than basketball, maybe you’d know your daughter wanted to attend this school in New York because of their dance program. That’s why I chose to live on the Upper West Side, close enough for her to walk to school.”

I look to Dr. Packer for confirmation.

“Don’t look at her,” Bridget says peevishly. “I’m Simone’s mother.”

“Oh, now you remember. When did it all come rushing back? When the TV crew you brought to your daughter’s counseling session left? Was it right around then?”

“You’re not going to make me feel guilty for having something for myself.”

“And you won’t make me feel guilty for leaving a dead marriage with an unfaithful wife.”

“How dare you—”

“Quiet,” Dr. Packer says firmly, but still not raising her voice. “Both of you. These sessions, this time—none of it is about you. It’s about how Simone is processing all of this, and I’m telling you she’s not in a good place.”

Pain squeezes my chest tight. I never wanted to hurt my daughter, only to protect her. I’ve shielded her from every outside threat, but the greatest danger was right under her roof.

“She also seems somewhat fixated on the idea that you two might reconcile.”

I don’t catch the disdainful bark of laughter in time, and Bridget glowers at me.

“That’ll never happen,” I inform Dr. Packer. “There’s a lot of things we can do to make it better, but that’s not one of them. I don’t know where she would get that idea. Our divorce only recently became final, but we haven’t lived together for a long time.”

I had to leave my own house. The one I played eighty-two grueling games a year to buy, I had to vacate. It made sense. I travel so much I wouldn’t have been there most of the time, and staying in the house was supposed to give Simone some sense of stability, but then I requested the trade to San Diego. Even though we were estranged, Bridget moved to San Diego because Simone wanted to be close to me, and I wanted that, too. Yeah, she’s experienced a lot of upheaval at our hands.

“Well neither of us have dated anyone since you left the house,” Bridget offers.

Anger puckers the smooth surface of my composure.

“No, you did all your dating before our marriage was over,” I say, clipping the words.

As soon as I say it, I want to take it back. Not because it’s not true, but because it’s uncalled for. It’s true, but it’s not why we’re here.

“That’s actually not helpful, Mr. Ross,” Dr. Packer says, the reproach mild, but definitely present in her voice.

“I know. Yeah.” I run my hand over my face. “Sorry.”

“As I was saying,” Bridget says pointedly, “neither of us have dated, and I don’t have any prospects right now. Do you, Kenan?”

My memory immediately transports me to that party a week ago. In an instant, I was addicted to the taste of Lotus, more than my mouth could have imagined. Addicted to her sharp sense of humor and the glow that had nothing to do with make-up. The mystery in her eyes that had nothing to do with games. I wanted her lips again as soon as she pulled away.

“Kenan?” Bridget asks, her tone strident. “Is there someone?”

Lotus has told me in no uncertain terms that we’re not happening. But I also felt her response to me. I’m not giving up on her. “No, I’m not seeing anyone.”

I hate that flare in Bridget’s eyes at my admission, some mixture of satisfaction and misguided hope.

“We’ll have to be very careful when either of you develop romantic attachments,” Dr. Packer says, making a note before looking up at us. “We’ll have to take that slowly and one step at a time as a family.”

She tosses her pen down, sits back in the chair, and links her hands over her waist.

“You may not be married,” she says. “but you’re still a family. You have to be, for her. It’s the most crucial relationship in her life. You’re not man and wife, but you are still mother and father to Simone. You have to figure out how to be that in this new space because she needs it.”

Considering all Dr. Packer has said, it’s probably good that Lotus and I keep it simple, if we become anything at all. If her situation is anywhere near as complex as mine, a relationship is the last thing we need.

I can tell myself that a million times, but I can’t forget how we locked in that kiss—how the world tipped to the side with every tilt of our heads and stroke of our tongues. There’s a recognition, an awareness that has crackled between us from the moment we met. So I’ll be careful with how I pursue Lotus for Simone’s sake, but I can’t convince myself we shouldn’t see where this goes.

5

Lotus

“Join me next week when we explore staying cool in the summer’s hottest fashions,” I say into the mic. “Till then, it’s ya girl Lo. Don’t forget, the world might try to get you down, but you gotta glow up.”

I pull the headphones off and push the mic away from my mouth, releasing a weary breath. I’m often tempted to stop the fashion podcast I started last year, gLO Up, but it’s becoming so popular. I’m gaining new followers every week. I have sponsors now, not only for the podcast, but paid partnerships for Instagram. I’m an “influencer.” Who knew?

My position with JPL has catapulted my efforts. I’m not under the illusion that all of this would have happened so quickly if I didn’t work with one of fashion’s darlings.

My first official position with JPL Maison was “intern.” Unofficially, glorified grunt. That worked while I was getting my associates at FIT. Now, with my degree, I’ve been promoted to Assistant Design Coordinator. Unofficially, whatever JP needs. One day, I’m selecting fabrics for him to consider as he’s designing, the next I’m organizing pattern-makers. I could be sketching, pressing, steaming, draping. Hell, I’m not above getting in there with the seamstresses and sewing buttons, embroidering, and doing whatever needs to be done. I’m learning fashion from the ground up and at every level. It’s the best education I could ask for under the tutelage of a genius.

My eyes drift to the Singer sewing machine in the corner of my bedroom. A gift from MiMi. It blurs through my tears. I don’t know how other people grieve, but processing the loss of my great-grandmother will take a lifetime. I can’t think of her without aching. She left me so much, though. Not the tiny house Iris and I inherited in the bayou where I spent much of my childhood. Not even the sewing machine she used to teach me how to create an almost invisible seam. Not even the black magic I’m not always sure I completely understand or believe. Those aren’t the greatest gifts she left me.

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