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

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

“Aw, man,” I say, making sure to look appropriately disappointed. “I don’t think I can make it tonight. I’ve got this other thing.”

“What happened?” Yari frowns. “This morning you said you were, and I quote, ‘here for this.’ What thing do you have now?”

“It’s a new thing,” I tell her through a teeth-clenched smile.

“Don’t be a party poo. It’ll be fun.” JP breaks out his grown-man pout, bottom lip pushed to capacity. “Please, Lo. We’re all going.”

“You must come,” Vale says from the end of the table in her lilting Swedish accent. “Keir asked the caterer to add those olive hors d’oeuvres to the menu specifically for you.”

“Oooooh,” I moan. “Not the crostini?”

“Yes,” she replies with the reverence those appetizers are due. “The crostini.”

“And what, pray tell,” Yari says, “would you be doing that’s better than sailing down the Hudson with New York’s flyest?”

“All our friends will be there,” Billie urges. “And one of Anna Wintour’s minions has been invited.”

“Second or third minion?” I demand sharply.

“Second,” Vale confirms with the aplomb of a woman assured of victory.

Dammit. I’ve been wanting to meet that second minion.

“Think of the fabulous people,” JP says.

“The delicious food,” Vale adds.

“Don’t forget the entertainment,” Billie pipes in.

Their food is only matched by their fun. They have a penchant for games we all play with rolling eyes and exasperation, but enjoy by the end.

It’s not any of their arguments that ultimately persuade me, though. Kenan Ross is one man. Since when did I allow any man to deprive me of something I want? Much less the mere threat of being attracted to him? I’m stronger than that.

“Okay,” I finally yield with a smile to everyone watching and waiting for me to cave. “I’ll come.”

“Well,” Paul drawls as my friends squeal their excitement. “With that settled, let’s get down to business.”

“You’re right, Paul. Down to business,” JP says, clasping his hands under his chin. “So what are you all wearing?”

I laugh with everyone, except Paul, and get caught up plotting my Instagram-ready outfit for the party. How could I have considered skipping it? Sure, Kenan is devastatingly handsome. And, yes, this virile man comes at a time when I’ve sworn off men altogether, but so what? I’ve never met a guy I couldn’t resist.

How different could Kenan Ross be?

2

Kenan

“Did you say arm porn?”

I hope I heard my agent, Banner Morales, wrong.

“Uh, yeah,” she replies, and even over the phone I hear her amusement, though she tries to disguise it. “It means—”

“Stop.” I grab my wallet and keys from the dresser and head for the door. “I don’t want to know.”

“Okay, but you are going to the party tonight, right?”

“What party?” I ask, grinning and locking up. “I just got to New York. I kinda want to chill tonight, and you know I hate parties.”

All true.

“Kenan, come on. It’ll be fun. A great way to meet new people in a new city. And a great chance to network.”

“Network?” I ask disparagingly. “It’s like you don’t even know me, B.”

“I know if left to your own devices, you’ll be holed up in that apartment all summer working out in your home gym and listening to jazz.”

Damn. She does know me.

I wait for the elevator to come, grimacing because I don’t want to have this discussion. “I’m leaving for the party now.”

“Oh good.” Banner sounds relieved. “There should be a car downstairs waiting. And heads up, some of the Bodee folks will be there, too.”

“Just a small gathering of friends, huh?” I ask dryly.

“Work is play, and play is work. You know many a deal begins over dinner and a drink.”

“I know, I know.” I step onto the elevator and chuckle. “And I may be going to this party, but I haven’t made up my mind about this arm porn thing.”

“Okay, seriously. He just likes your . . . arms, and thinks you’d be great for this new line of watches he’s designing with Bodee, that activewear company.”

“But I don’t do shit like this. Body armor, tennis shoes, sports drinks—I’m down. But fashion? Me?”

“He’s a fashion designer, but don’t think of it as fashion, per se,” Banner says, using that cajoling tone I’ve heard a thousand times in all the years she’s represented me. “Bodee is on the come-up in sportswear. They’re making moves to increase their market share and compete with the big boys. This partnership with Jean Pierre, who’s a pretty big deal in the fashion industry, by the way, demonstrates they understand the power of cross-marketing.”

“Are you done with your little pitch?”

“My little pitch is something you should pay attention to. You’re in the home stretch of your NBA career, Kenan.”

“You think I’m not financially prepared for retirement?” I ask, a little offended because that’s far from the truth. “You know better than anyone how well diversified I am. The businesses I own, the investments I’ve made.”

“I want you to be relevant for years to come,” Banner says. “Thirty-six is almost the end of your NBA career, but so young for everything else. You have a lot of life ahead of you after retirement. Decades, and while business interests and investments are great, these are most ballers’ highest earning years by far. Off-court opportunities will help us stockpile.”

I’m poised to tell her I don’t give a damn about being relevant and will welcome the return of my privacy with open arms when she pounces and plays the card she knows always works.

“Think of your daughter.”

I’ve done nothing but think of Simone. She’s the whole reason I’m in this city. I don’t even like New York that much. I prefer the pace of the West Coast. This is the city that never sleeps. I like sleep. I sleep eight hours every night and have for as long as I can remember.

“What about her?” I take Banner’s bait, as she knew I would.

“You’ve amassed a fortune playing basketball, and that’s great, but the more opportunities we consider and create, the better for your future and for hers.”

I’m silent, processing her words. The elevator doors open and I stand there for a few seconds. My professional life is pretty incredible, but my personal life has been a war zone for the last few years. My ex-wife, Bridget, made sure of that, and I’m afraid our only daughter, Simone, is the biggest casualty. She’s my weak spot—the jugular Banner goes for whenever she really wants me to do something.

And it works every damn time.

“I’ll think about it.” I catch the closing door with my arm and walk into the lobby of my new apartment building.

“Just go to the party,” Banner says. “Hang out with Jean Pierre. Have fun. You’re rich as hell. An eligible bachelor. It’s New York. Live a little. And don’t be all growly for the next three months.”

I am growly. She’s right. I present a controlled front to the world, but it feels like I’ve been angry for the last three years. And the control it requires for me to not show the world that anger, that frustration, is exhausting.

“I’m sorry, B.” I make eye contact with a man parked outside my apartment building leaning against a black SUV.

“Mr. Ross?” he asks.

I nod and climb in the back seat when he opens the door.

“Chelsea Piers?” he asks, voice quiet and polite, no doubt because I’m on the phone. I nod again and raise the partition separating us. Last thing I need is some driver selling stories about my private life.

“Kenan, you still there?” Banner asks.

“Yeah. The driver just picked me up and we’re on our way to the party. Satisfied?”

“I’ll be really satisfied if you loosen up and enjoy your summer in New York.”

“I shouldn’t be here. Simone shouldn’t be here. I don’t give a fuck where Bridget wants to live, but she didn’t have to drag my daughter with her across the country so she can do some reality show about being a baller’s wife when, thank God, she’s not even my wife anymore.”

Banner is abruptly silent in the face of my mini-tirade.

“Okayyyyy,” she says with a little laugh. She’s one of the few people who has seen me truly lose my temper. She knows how to give me space to recover it.

“I’m sorry.” I release a weary breath and run a hand over my face. “I’m so tired of Bridget’s games, and this is the most immature, selfish one yet. Not just inconveniencing me, but uprooting Simone, and I’m pissed about it. So enjoying New York is not really a priority.”

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