Home > Hook Shot (Hoops #3)(2)

Hook Shot (Hoops #3)(2)
Kennedy Ryan

“She’s right,” I say. “You’re thinking with your heart and your vagina.”

“Gimme a break. You like sex more than Yari and me combined,” Billie fires back.

I don’t unleash on her because I know we’re riding her hard, and she needs to score a point. “I actually think I’m done with dick for a while,” I say a little too casually.

My words create a tiny cone of stunned silence even as the frenetic urban soundtrack continues playing around us.

“Sorry.” Yari bangs an imaginary hearing aid. “This damn thing doesn’t always pick up bullshit. What’d you say?”

The three of us laugh, but I sober with each step that takes us closer to the design studio where we work in the Garment District.

“I’m serious,” I tell them. “I love dick, true, but I feel like I need . . . I don’t know, a break.”

How do I explain how complex sex is for me? I’ve always compartmentalized it into a purely physical connection. I scratched the itch on my terms, letting men into my body, but allowing no real intimacy. Lately, though, not only has it left me unsatisfied, but it’s left me depressed. Empty. Bleak. Something in me wants more than what I’ve had, but true intimacy is a risk I’m not willing to take.

Not to mention the fear. The last time I had sex . . .

How do I explain to my friends what I don’t fully understand myself? Nothing I’ve been feeling makes sense. And telling them now would be like starting in the middle of a story they’ve never heard before. Maybe I could at least try talking to them about it.

“Whoa.” Billie stares at her phone with her mouth hanging open. “Did we know there’s a Hi, Felicia bitmoji?”

Okay. Maybe not talk to my friends about this.

“Sorry,” she says, sidestepping a construction worker. “What were you saying about swearing off dick, Lo?”

“I think I want to take a sex break.”

Both of them stare at me as we approach the entrance to JPL Maison, the design studio where we work.

“I don’t understand the words that are coming out of your mouth,” Yari finally replies.

“I don’t know,” I say with a shrug. “It feels . . . empty.”

“Then find a bigger dick,” Billie says. “One that’ll fill you up.”

The three of us share a grin in the lobby of the renovated loft which houses our offices.

“I’m serious. I think this”—I gesture to my pelvic area—“needs to be man-free for a while.”

“Remember that time I tried to quit smoking and gnawed through the strap of my purse?” Billie asks. “I feel like that’s how you’ll be if you don’t come on a regular basis. You might also gain ten pounds. I did.”

“Who said anything about not coming?” I ignore Yari’s snort. “I have a diverse and quite capable fleet of vibrators.”

The garage door of the elevator lifts, and we walk onto a floor displaying bolts of vibrant fabric, several tables with seamstresses and sewing machines, and rack after rack of expensive clothing in various stages of completion.

“What about Chase?” Yari says of our boss’s favorite photographer and my latest fuckboi. “He won’t be happy about your little sex break.”

“Already told him, and you’re right. He wasn’t happy.” I snort. “What can I say? I got a golden pussy. It’s a curse.”

They laugh as I knew they would, distracted by the sass I use to cover my confusion. It was that last time having sex with Chase that pushed me to this decision.

“But Chase knows he’s got about as much say over my body as he has over the price of tea in Chinatown,” I continue. “He’ll be fine.”

We climb the iron stairwell to the top floor housing our offices and the conference room. I take my spot at the long table, a slab of repurposed slate unearthed from an old quarry. In every meeting, I sit immediately to the right of Jean Pierre Louis, founding designer of JPL Maison.

Two paths couldn’t have been more unlikely to cross than mine and my boss’s. I stepped in to style a shoot for a friend at the last minute in Atlanta. I wasn’t even officially working in fashion. It was a side hustle to help get me through college. My major at Spelman was business, but I often considered opening my own store or doing something in fashion later.

JP and I hit it off right away. I was the only one who understood his tirade of French when he saw the “blasphemy” of his creation being so poorly styled. I stepped in, fixed the hot mess the stylist had made, and soothed the savage beast with the Louisiana French MiMi taught me. Apparently, it was good enough, because by the end of the day he was telling me dirty jokes in French and offering me a job.

We’ve only gotten closer over the last two years. He recommended that I enroll at FIT, which is not far from the studio. It kicked my ass, getting my associates degree in fashion design while working full-time and often overtime at the atelier, but it was worth it. I’ve been at JP’s right in every meeting for a long time now.

“Wearable wonder,” JP says without preamble, his French accent thick. “That is our theme for this season.”

He gestures for everyone at the table to gather ’round him and his sketch pad. He could design digitally and share it so we all looked on our iPads, but JP is surprisingly old school. His fingers are often smudged with charcoal from his pencils, and the notepad perennially tucked under his arm is always full.

“Feast your eyes,” he says with a dramatic flourish, “on spring.”

Sketch after sketch comes alive with the vivid colors he’s used to articulate the clothes on paper. There are easily a hundred sketches, but only a portion of them will actually make it to the runway for Fashion Week in September.

“All of you know what a purist I am,” JP says. “But, like we always say, fashion is first art, then commerce. And commerce is where Paul comes in.”

Our collective attention turns to Paul, JPL CEO and Billie’s boss/adulterous love interest.

Yari elbows me and we silently mouth bastard to each other.

“Yes, well,” Paul says, adjusting the glasses Billie finds so sexy. “The possibilities with a theme like wearable wonder are endless. Our marketing team has been working tirelessly, and I think we’ve hit pay dirt partnering with Bodee, a sportswear company with a smaller share of the market than Nike, Reebok, or Adidas, but looking to make big moves.”

“Of course, you’ve all heard of wearable tech,” Paul continues. “Fitbit, the Apple Watch etcetera . . . We see a potential marketing intersection between our theme, wearable wonder, and wearable technology.”

“Watches,” JP says triumphantly. “Bodee has asked me to design a line of watches.”

“They’ll still be JPL designs,” Paul says. “Some of our models will even wear them in the September show.”

“And I have the perfect spokesperson,” JP chimes in with what can only reasonably be described as heart eyes. “Chase actually brought him to my attention.”

Oh, this should be great. Chase does have a good eye, obviously.

“He’s a professional athlete,” JP says, his voice going higher with his eagerness. “A basketball player. His body is . . .”

JP clears his throat and visibly tries to calm himself down. I should offer him a wind machine, à la Queen Bey, to cool off.

“As I was saying . . .” JP’s voice is only slightly more subdued. “He’s a basketball player.”

“I thought I had a picture here somewhere.” Paul flips through his stack of papers. “But it’s Kenan Ross.”

I don’t need a picture. I have perfect recall for six feet and seven inches of dark bronze skin, flexing muscle, regal bone structure, and a smile more stunning because it’s so rare. I last saw him when Chase accompanied me to a San Diego Waves Christmas party. Kenan plays basketball with my cousin Iris’s husband.

I keep my face serene and vaguely interested, but inside I’m doing a face palm and cussing in two languages. Just as I decide I’m giving up men while I figure out what the hell is broken in me, the sexiest man I’ve ever met dribbles into my life? Hard to avoid him if he’s our new spokesperson. And I have managed to avoid him in the past. The few encounters we’ve had were charged with an intensity that made one thing clear: the rules I set for other men—casual, easy, simple—do not apply with Kenan Ross.

No, thank you.

“We’ve been in talks with his agent, but he still hasn’t agreed,” JP says. “I thought it’d be nice to meet him in a more relaxed environment. Something not work-related. He’s here for the summer and would probably enjoy meeting some people. I’ve invited him to Vale’s party tonight.”

Vale, JP’s assistant, and her husband, an influential fashion magazine editor, throw legendary parties. I’ve been looking forward to their yacht party for weeks. They don’t own a yacht, but have generous friends in high nautical places.

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