Home > Hook Shot (Hoops #3)(4)

Hook Shot (Hoops #3)(4)
Kennedy Ryan

“I get that,” Banner replies. “Bridget has made life hell for you.”

For years, I add silently.

“But at least you got your divorce and didn’t lose half your money.”

“Thanks to you.” Banner can’t see my grateful smile, but I want her to know how much I appreciate all she’s done for my career while protecting me financially.

“Hey. I’m just glad you hadn’t married her before you signed with me,” Banner says. “There’s a lot of ballers’ college sweethearts walking around with half the paper.”

We’d just graduated from college when I was drafted to the NBA. Bridget was pregnant and moving with me to Houston, my first team. When I signed with Banner as my agent, she insisted on a pre-nup and personally oversaw many of the details to ensure there were no loopholes.

“Most men would not have been as generous as you were, Kenan,” Banner says. “You gave her more than you had to in the divorce.”

“She’s the mother of my child. Even if we aren’t married, even though she cheated on me, even though she held up our divorce forever demanding more money, that still means something.”

“It wasn’t just about the money, though was it?”

“No, she claims to want me back, but that’s some shit. She’s the one who threw the marriage away.”

“Maybe she regrets it,” Banner says softly, a hesitant note in her voice. “I don’t excuse cheating, by any means, but people do make mistakes.”

“Yeah, well she made a big one. I never cheated on Bridge, not even before we were married. I can’t ever trust her again, so she can forget this reconciliation she’s fantasizing about.”

“Maybe focus less on Bridget’s drama and more on yourself. Have a summer fling.”

“I don’t fling.”

“Then have a summer fuck.”

Banner’s tough as nails and crude as hell when she needs to be. Representing some of the alpha-est males in the NBA, she often has to be to hold her own.

“Now that I might consider.” I won’t tell her how long it’s been. We do have some boundaries.

“Who knows?” Banner continues. “You might meet someone you really like.”

An image, one I’ve suppressed for months, breaks the surface. Petite, slim, curvy. Platinum blonde hair. Cinnamon skin. Dark, defiant, sultry eyes that can look right through a man and show him nothing at all. Lotus DuPree. I know she lives here in New York, but each time we’ve seen each other in the past, she’s made it clear she wasn’t interested. Her, I would summer fuck. Her, I might even summer fling, but she was with another guy when I saw her at the team Christmas party. Maybe she’s taken. As interested as I am in her, I’m not sure she reciprocates, and I doubt I’ll get the chance to find out.

“Uh, yeah. Maybe, but I’m not gonna hold my breath.” I take in the glimmering lights against the city backdrop.

“Well, be open. And remember no growling or scowling at this party tonight.”

“But those are two of my favorite things.”

“And don’t agree to anything,” Banner adds sharply. “If Jean Pierre presses you, tell him your agent will be in touch with an answer.”

“Which will probably be a hell no.”

“Glad, come on,” she says, abbreviating my on-court moniker “Gladiator.”

The irony is I’m so tired of fighting. Not on court, but after all the drama with Bridget, definitely tired of fighting off the court.

“Okay. No growling. No scowling. No committing to anything. Got it.” I drop my head back against the leather headrest. “Can I go now?”

“Yes. Let’s debrief tomorrow.”

“Bless you. Bye, B.”

“Bye, Kenan.”

As soon as she hangs up, I close my eyes and try to absorb the quiet into my very pores. Extended conversations, even with people I love, sometimes leave me feeling drained. I’m an introvert. The things that refuel me don’t involve people at all. I love being alone.

“Children and bored adults need to be entertained. Grown men living with purpose require time and quiet and energy.”

That’s what my dad used to say.

God, I miss him. Thinking about the wisdom he always shared with me, sometimes welcome, sometimes not, sears me even a year after his death.

“Son, fuck her, but don’t keep her. The two of you are oil and water, and will make each other miserable.”

He said that when he met Bridget.

“You weren’t wrong,” I mutter to no one but myself. That was probably why, even after more than a decade of trying, Bridget and I didn’t work out. She craves the limelight. I shun it. I believe in fidelity. She had an affair with one of my teammates, a supposed close friend. Just minor philosophical differences.

Now she has the audacity to join this new reality show Baller Bae . . . I need to stop thinking about this, or I’ll be walking into that party growling and scowling, in direct opposition to Banner’s orders.

We drive through the city, which hums with some force I’ve never experienced anywhere else. I can’t quite place it, but it feels like potential energy—like you could toss a ball from any spot here and it would travel around the world. No wonder people come here to dream.

The partition rolls down. “We’re here, Mr. Ross,” the driver says.

I peel off several bills and offer them through the opening.

“Oh, it’s taken care of,” he says, even though he’s eyeing the cash.

“I take care of myself.”

I give him the money, flash the briefest of smiles, and climb out. While I walk toward the massive boat moored to the pier, I rehearse social cues like smiling, nodding, and feigning interest. A tall dark-haired man and a woman with a snowy-white bob stand at a velvet rope greeting party guests approaching the boat.

“Mr. Ross,” she says with an accent I can’t quite place. “I’m Vale, Jean Pierre’s assistant. We spoke on the phone.”

“Oh, hi.” I accept her hand with a smile. “Thanks for sending the car.”

“No problem,” she says warmly. “And this is my husband, Keir.”

“How do you do?” he asks.

“Fine. Thank you for inviting me.”

“Mr. Ross!” a man says from a few feet away.

He claps his hands once, and his eyes roam from my shoes to my head. I have no idea if this short man with dark hair, an open smile and the beginnings of a paunch is Jean Pierre or not, but he’s wearing an ascot and has a French accent, so there’s a good chance he could be.

“Or should I call you Gladiator?” he all but purrs.

“Don’t do that.” Judging by the look on his face, that came out wrong. “What I mean is my teammates call me that, but not many other people do. Kenan is fine, and you’re Jean Pierre?”

“Yes, well my”—he does air quotes and winks—“’teammates’ call me JP, and you’re welcome to as well.”

“Okay. JP then.”

A pretty blond woman walks up beside JP, her blue eyes assessing.

“Well hello there,” she says. “I’m a huge fan of the game, and you in particular. We’re so glad you could make it.”

JP frowns at her, but she either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care, because she keeps staring and batting fake lashes at me. Nothing against fake lashes. I just don’t like it when the woman blinking them is fake, too. I’ve had one of those already.

“Kenan, this is Amanda,” JP says. “One of my favorite stylists.”

“One of your favorites?” She affects an affronted look. Or maybe it’s real. I can’t tell.

“Don’t be a greedy little so and so,” JP says, diffusing the chastisement with a smile.

“You’re the last guest to arrive,” Keir says smoothly, unclamping the rope and gesturing for us to walk the short board to the floating boat.

The yacht is huge, and everyone seems to be spread over two decks. A DJ plays everything from house music to hip-hop, to 80s and 90s pop. Servers bearing trays laden with food glide between clusters of guests. We’re moving so slowly on the water I barely feel it, but the pier has drifted farther away every time I glance back. The skyline, dotted with glittering buildings against the velvety night, keeps distracting me from the conversation.

“You hungry?” Amanda asks. She’d take a bite of me if I was down, which I’m not. I’ve had enough experience with man-eaters to last a lifetime. She’ll find someone else to devour. I’m sure any reasonably attractive millionaire will do.

“Uh, nah. I’ve eaten.” I shake my head and tap my leg with twitching fingers. My workout regimen has been thrown off the last few days transitioning into my new place and moving. I can tell I have a lot of pent-up energy. They probably don’t have anything I can eat anyway. The key to me playing as long as I want to and going out on my terms is playing smarter, not harder. Smarter means living like a monk year-round, if you’re a monk who works out twice a day, soaks in ice baths, and can still have sex.

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