Home > Hook Shot (Hoops #3)(9)

Hook Shot (Hoops #3)(9)
Kennedy Ryan

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m not.” He chuckles, a wry twist to his lips. “I mean, I’m sorry it was messy, but not that I’m divorced. My point is I’m not looking for anything serious—”

“And I’m not looking for anything sexual,” I remind him.

“Then I guess that leaves us with a whole summer to be friends. It sounds like neither of us need complicated. We could keep it simple and see where it goes.”

The word “friends” dangles between us like a taunt, a dare. A bluff. That kiss we shared, the heat in his eyes, the spark when we touch make “friendship” an impossible lie. There’s something about this man. Simple is the last thing I think when I see him, but he’s right. Simple is what we both need.

When I don’t answer, he reaches to push the hair behind my ear, tracing my studs, and I shudder.

Simple, my ass.

4

Kenan

When Bridget and I met in college, I thought her capriciousness, her carefree approach to life would balance me out. Even then I wasn’t exactly the life of the party. Most guys on the team had two priorities: getting drafted and getting laid.

Okay. So getting laid was high on my list, too.

But even though I was a student athlete there on scholarship, I never thought I’d end up drafted into the league. My life was like Google Maps. Re-routing every so often, telling me there was a quicker or more efficient way, a better path until my future was completely unrecognizable. I was nowhere near the law student my father hoped I would be, and I wasn’t destined to be a judge like him. Things kept changing, and as flighty as Bridget could be, she was a constant. Maybe I needed that then.

Now I sit across from her in the lobby of our family counselor’s office and wonder what the hell I was thinking when I married her. She was a constant, alright. Constantly testing me. Constantly making life difficult. Ultimately humiliating me. Betraying me.

“They should be out soon,” she says, glancing at her Cartier watch, a gift from me for our fifth wedding anniversary. The diamonds, pure and priceless, mock me—mock what I tried to create with her. She also still wears her wedding ring, which annoys the hell out of me.

“Yeah.” I glance at my watch, too. One JP asked me to try out. Thinking about JP inevitably leads me to thinking about Lotus and our odd, candid conversation under the stars. She’d jokingly told everyone she was going to blow my mind before she kissed me.

She did.

She tasted wild and sweet like some exotic spice. A wildflower. The taste, her scent may have faded, but the memory hasn’t, and I want it again.

Blow my mind again, Lotus.

I should be cautious. Maybe once I thought the woman sitting across from me was a wildflower, but she turned out to be a Venus flytrap.

Bridget answers her phone on the first ring, says a few words, and then sends me a triumphant grin.

“My crew is coming up,” she says, walking past me toward the elevator.

“Your crew?” I ask, puzzled. “Like your friends?”

“No, the Baller Bae production crew.”

“Not here.” I stand and cross over to stand in front of her at the elevator. “Bridget, if you even think about—”

The elevator opens and a group of people carting cameras and cords walk out.

“Where should we set up?” one of them asks Bridget.

“In hell,” I snap. “I hear it’s freezing over. You can re-load your shit and go back to VH1 or BET or wherever you came from.”

“You can’t do that, Kenan.” Bridget gasps. “This is my livelihood.”

“Your livelihood?” I ask incredulously. “I think you’re confusing this narcissistic exhibitionism with actual work. Ironically, it’s my work that even has them interested in you in the first place. Now tell them to go, or I will.”

“You’re not going to ruin this for me,” she says, her voice pitching higher, her face crinkled into a scowl.

“Who’s in charge?” I ignore my ex and raise my voice over the crew’s low hum of laughter and conversation. “Where’s the producer?”

No one steps forward right away.

“I said—”

“I heard you, Mr. Ross,” a woman says, stepping from behind a tall cameraman. “Is there a problem?”

“What’s your name?” I really want to ask her age because she looks about sixteen.

“I’m Lilian James,” she says calmly, “but everyone calls me LJ. Is there a problem?”

“There will be if you don’t get the hell out of here.”

“Sir, we—”"

“Don’t ‘sir’ me. Are you aware I have a court order stating my daughter and I are not to be seen on your show?”

“Yes, but Bridget said it would be fine for us to get footage of her entering and leaving counseling.”

“Well, Bridget was wrong,” I say before she can spout more nonsense Bridget erroneously authorized. “Simone’s coming out of her session any minute, and if she is in even one shot, I promise you I will shut your shit down. You understand that?”

Lillian swallows and nods solemnly.

“You’re overreacting as usual,” Bridget says, sounding bored and longsuffering.

“And you’re acting irresponsibly as usual,” I fire back. I turn to Lillian, leaving Bridget to find some common sense.

“This is our family counseling session. Our daughter’s having a hard time with this divorce, and we’re doing this to help her,” I say. “This is real life. She needs to take it seriously. Coming out to a circus for fake reality TV does not help.”

“And where do you suggest we go?” Lillian asks, one brow flicked imperiously. I gotta give it to the kid. She’s got balls to be standing up to me when I’m in a mood this foul.

“That, Lillian James, is your job.” I point a thumb over my shoulder to the closed door of the therapist’s office. “My daughter is my job. You can park under the Brooklyn Bridge as far as I care, but get the hell out of this lobby before Simone comes out of that office.”

“Maybe you can wait in the parking lot across the street,” Bridget suggests impatiently. “Get some instant reactions from me after the session.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Ross. I was told,” she says, shooting a hard, pointed look at my ex-wife, “this had been cleared.”

“To be safe,” I advise, “anything you’re shooting with proximity to me or Simone, you should clear with my team.”

“Okay. So I’ll contact you if—”

“No, this is the last time you and I speak. If you need anything, you’ll go through my agent, Banner Morales. You think I’m an asshole? Wait’ll you meet her.”

Lillian turns to Bridget. “We’ll be in the parking lot when you’re done.”

I stand by the elevator with arms folded until the last person has left and there’s no sign of a camera, cord or mic.

Bridget watches me in simmering silence, resentment tightening every line of her body. As soon as they’re gone, she unleashes all that banked vitriol on me. “What the fuck, Kenan?”

“What the fuck, Bridget? How could you think it was okay to bring a camera crew to our family counseling session?”

“They weren’t going in,” she says, shifting on her stilettos and glancing away.

“Just the sight of them here could affect Simone’s perception of things, of our life.”

“You humiliated me.”

“Oh, a taste of your own medicine then.”

“Is this payback?” she asks, hands on her hips. “Along with leaving me next to nothing to live on?”

“Next to nothing?” I huff a disbelieving breath. “You do understand I’m paying you twice what we agreed on in our pre-nup, right?”

“You wouldn’t have to be paying me anything if you had just given me a chance to explain about Cliffton.”

God, doesn’t she have the self-preservation not to bring him up? “I don’t care anymore, Bridget.”

And it’s true. I hate that this has hurt Simone, and disrupted her life so badly, but I don’t regret divorcing Bridget and only wish I’d done it sooner.

Before she can challenge that statement, the office door opens and Simone comes out, followed closely by our therapist, Dr. Packer.

“Daddy!” Simone’s face lights up and she rushes over to hug around my waist.

She’s a perfect mix of the two of us, with Bridget’s blue eyes, and my mouth and cheekbones. Her sandy hair riots all over her head, equal parts curly and coarse. Every time my mother sees Simone’s hair, she begs me to let her do it. But Simone is fourteen, too old for me to dictate who touches her hair.

“Hey, Moni.” I swipe a hand down my daughter’s face. We watched Face/Off together last year, and Simone loved how John Travolta brushed his hand down his kids’ faces to demonstrate his love. We’ve been doing it ever since.

“I can’t wait to see your new place,” Simone says. “I have a room?”

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