The Hook Up
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He’s unrepentant. “It’s f**king adorable, Jones.” Warm brown eyes look me over. “You’re adorable.”
“And you’re about to lose valuable equipment, Baylor.”
He gives me that shit-eating Drew Baylor grin. “I’d be worried if I didn’t know you have a vested interest in my equipment.”
“God, I walked right into that one, didn’t I?” For a moment we just smile at each other, then something changes. My heart begins to beat faster and another flush of warmth washes over me. I think I’ll want him always. And by the way his eyes darken and his body tightens, leaning closer to mine, he wants me too.
But he’s looking at my mouth, his lids lowering, his own mouth going soft. I stand and abruptly smash on my helmet. My hair springs out around my neck like red tentacles. “Well,” I say with false brightness. “Have fun tonight.”
Drew’s quiet as he steps up to me. Everything inside me seizes, but he simply lowers my visor with a gentle hand. “See you, Jones,” he says. “Take care.”
I straddle my bike and start it, but I pause and lift the visor. “Drew…” I take a small breath. “Thanks for listening, for making me feel better.”
He rests his hands low on his lean hips, and when he speaks, it comes out just a bit rough. “Thanks for trusting me enough to share.”
My throat aches as I leave him standing in the parking lot, my neck tight with the knowledge that he’s watching as I drive away.
FOR THE FIRST time since I’ve been with Anna, I’m relieved that she doesn’t want to be with me tonight. I don’t want her to see the spectacle that is Gray’s birthday celebration.
We hit a few bars, staying only long enough for the crowd to shout its appreciation, for Gray to have a drink, maybe play a game of pool or darts, and then move on. It might seem tame, but even now, there are rules. No binge drinking, no public spectacles, and absolutely no taking home random girls. Right now, we’re ranked number one across the board, and every team wants to take us down. There’s no room for mistakes. Maybe other teams play it differently, but it works for us. Dex and I are in charge of keeping the guys in line. We’re the sober sentinels standing on either side of the ever-moving group of our guys.
Ordinarily, this is a suck-ass job, but I don’t mind it tonight. Though I love hanging with my guys, the whole scene tires me. A few months ago, this might have me worried, but now I recognize it for what it is: my idea of fun has changed. It no longer includes anticipating how many different sets of tits are flashed at me or how many girls I can f**k. I don’t care if people recognize me or slap me on the back and offer to buy me a drink. I’d rather they not notice me at all. That sort of attention means dick-all to me now.
Life has more color, more flavor, and heat in the few hours I’m with Anna, then I’ve experienced in all the years I’ve partied. Because that fun always felt like I was searching, pushing for some ineffable satisfaction that constantly eluded me. With Anna, I feel like I’ve landed right where I want to be.
Exhaustion weighs down my shoulders and my eyelids are gritty as we head back to my house. Normally, I wouldn’t agree to a party here. But it’s Gray’s birthday, and he deserves to have his fun. My house is safe from the public eye and events can be contained there. Because Gray has been adamant about one birthday request.
With a suppressed sigh, I lean back against my living room wall and watch four half-naked women give Gray a lap dance. There are so many na**d limbs, it looks like some demented female hydra writhing around him. Tits bounce in his face, an ass grinds on his crotch, hands run over his head and shoulders, and he’s loving it, as are our teammates. Hoots and catcalls ring out. Especially when the women fan out, each of them headed for a guy. Music thumps in time to writhing and sleek female flesh.
I eye the clock on my DVR and grit my teeth. Yeah, I’m officially a grumpy old man. I just want to go to bed.
Across from me, Dex leans against the kitchen counter nursing a bottled-water. With his bulky frame, shaggy brown hair, and full beard that he insists on wearing, women often call him Bear, something I’m fairly certain he gets off on.
Ethan Dexter, or Dex as everyone calls him, plays center, my right hand, ultimate look out, and the last man standing between me being flattened by hungry linemen. I love this guy and am not ashamed to admit it.
I make my way to him, stepping over the legs of the woman now kneeling before Gray, her head bobbing up and down in rhythmic fashion. Holy hell, I do not want to witness that. Some things can never be unseen.
“Who the f**k arranged for a full service performance?” I ask Dex, as I stand next to him. “That was not part of the deal.”
Dex crosses his beefy arms over his chest. “Simms. The little f**ker.”
Simms, who is a massive defensive end, is also getting some personalized service. I turn away and fish a water out of the fridge. “Let them finish off, and then the girls are out of here.” I take a long swallow and grimace. “I don’t give a shit if it’s Gray’s birthday, I don’t need to see all of that.” Never mind that if we get caught, we’re in deep shit. Not by the police. It’s a sad truth that we’re so revered by this town, this state, that we can get away with anything short of murder. And some days, I wonder about even that. No, I’m talking about Coach. Who doesn’t put up with any shit.
Dex grunts. His face is flushed and his mouth pinched. If there’s one thing that I know about Dex, it’s his intense dislike of exhibitionism. He’s never gone for casual sex. For all I know, he might be pulling a Tebow and is still a virgin. “Why not stop them now?”
“Seems cruel to stop a guy in mid…” I shrug, not wanting to finish that statement.
But I’ve made Dex blush harder.
“You can go if you want,” I offer. “I can clear them out on my own.”
Dex shakes his head and grabs his own water, chugging it down in two gulps. He slams the empty bottle down and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “Naw, I’m not doing that to you, man. Can you imagine any girlfriend being okay with this?”
Despite my foul mood, a smile tugs at my mouth. Anna would probably go into a tirade about the objectification of women and how such paid services dehumanize both sexes. She’d be right, but then she’s never had to deal with a whiny Gray before.
Pride. It washes over me with warm satisfaction when I think of Anna. And then it promptly flushes away, leaving me cold, because I want Anna to meet Dex and the rest of them. Which seems like it will never happen. She’d balk at the idea. Then again, she came to my practice today. She sought me out for basic comfort.
The warmth returns. Strange how much satisfaction I got just from taking the hurt out of her eyes and replacing it with happiness. When I think of her asswad absentee father, who I’d personally like to pound into a stain on the turf, and of her mother’s roving hands boyfriend, Anna’s reluctance to make a deeper connection becomes clearer. Whereas I grew up seeing firsthand what a loving, committed relationship can be, she likely hasn’t got a clue.
“You got a woman, Dex?”
Dex studies the cabinets before him as though they hold the secret of life. “I was just thinking out loud.”
“Doesn’t sound like it.” I take a drink and try to hide my smile. “Sounds like you’re afraid of what a specific girl might think.” Which would make two of us.
“There was a girl.” The corners of Dex’s eyes crease, like he’s caught between a smile and a grimace. “She didn’t like football. And what could I say to that?”
“Said we were just boys in oversized bodies.”
“Well, sometimes we are,” I mutter. “But, isn’t every guy at some point or another?”
“You know it’s going to be worse when we go Prime Time. Take all of this,” Dex jerks his chin toward the living room, “add a shit-ton of money to it, and see what mess comes out.”
Money. The way most of us are playing, we’ll be making bank by this time next year. It isn’t a pipe dream; it’s a fact. And it will come with the expectation of excellence. Against guys who are tougher, faster, stronger, and far more experienced.
After gaining national recognition, I’ve had the privilege to talk to some of my heroes: quarterbacks who’ve won the Super Bowl. They make no bones about the unrelenting pressure. In college, you have what feels like ten minutes in the pocket. In the NFL? It’s ten seconds. And you better believe they’ll hit you hard. You aren’t looking down the barrel of a gun but a f**king cannon, kid.
Does it scare me?
It makes me antsy as all hell. I want my life to happen now.
I shrug and set my now empty bottle down too. “We’ll be all right. And by ‘we’ I mean you, a few others, and me. I don’t know about some of these boneheads.”
Dex just watches me as if I haven’t answered the way he wants. “You think it’s smart to fall for a girl now when you know what’s out there for you in the near future?”
“What do you mean by that?” I know I’m scowling, but does he think a guy can simply cut off his feelings?
Dex’s massive shoulders lift and fall. “I’m thinking a girl’s got to love the life as much as she loves you to put up with the shit we’ll be dealing with, is all.”
The scowl on my face seems to sink down into my bones. I want to roll my neck just to throw off the ugly feeling settling over me. Love the life? Shit, I don’t even know how to get Anna to consider the possibility of loving me.
One girl decides to lose the g-string and hop on Gray’s lap, and I’ve had enough.
“All right, that’s it,” I say, “I’m calling this game.”
“About time,” Dex mumbles.
“Listen up,” I boom out in my play voice, “party’s over.”
“What?” shouts Simms. “We just got started.”
“And now you’re going to end it.” Dex plants his feet wide and crosses his thick arms over his chest. “We’re coming down to the wire. Coach hears about this shit and it’s lights out.”
“Damn, man, that’s just wrong,” grumbles another guy.
But they’re listening; Dex and I are co-captains, and they’re used to listening to us. Besides, they’ve committed too much to the season to mess up now. The women, on the other hand, are gaping at Dex and me like we’ve gone insane. Which makes my guys slow their feet.
“Come on.” I clap my hands together. “Let’s go.”
“That’s right,” I say to the group, “Mom and Dad have spoken, so be good little f**kers and go to bed.”
Someone half-heartedly throws a cheese puff at me, but they’re moving, grumbling their way to the door with Dex herding them out. As for the girls, all but one of them scurry off into my bathroom to put their clothes back on, freshen up, or whatever; I don’t want to know.
It’s the one who’s stayed behind that worries me. She’s eyeing me like I’m ice cream on a cone as she strides over, clad only in black heels, her br**sts bouncing with every step.
I busy myself with collecting empty bottles, praying she’s just heading for a drink. No such luck.
“Battle Baylor. God, but you’re hot.” She edges nearer, her ni**les grazing my arm as she moves around to face me. “Even better looking in person than you are on TV.”
Life-sized too. I refuse to edge back, but I want to. I’m not blind; the woman’s body is centerfold ready. I still want her far away from me. I keep my eyes on her face. “I’ve got clean-up to do here. You and your friends all set with payment?”
The smile she gives me is tight, her lips shining with a layer of pink gloss that would probably taste like stale wax. “Don’t you worry about payment. I’m off the clock for this. I’ve been dying to get my hands on you.”
Blue eyes rimmed in dark kohl gaze up at me. She’s all but thrusting her bare tits under my nose. Something my baser self can appreciate—a na**d woman is a na**d woman, after all. The rest of me, however, is embarrassed for both of us.
When I was in high school, I had fantasies of being serviced by multiple women at once, of receiving this exact type of proposition. Young me had thought it would be sexy as all hell. The reality, I’d soon come to realize, is seedy and awkward.
“Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not interested.” Not even a little. The need to hurry her out of my house presses on the back of my neck. More so when she leans into me and her br**sts brush against my shirt. She smells of beer and deodorant, and she had my best friend’s dick in her mouth not ten minutes ago. The thought makes me wonder how she kept her lip gloss so pristine.
“Ah, now, Battle,” she rubs her hand over my chest while looking up at me, “I think you’ll change your mind when you see what I can do with my mouth.”
I don’t want anything to do with her mouth. I’m fairly certain I’ll never be able to look at pink lip gloss the same way again.
Gently, I take hold of her wrist and lift her hand from me. “Honey, you could suck the center out of a Tootsie Pop and I’d still say no. Not that I don’t appreciate your offer.”
She pouts, but steps back. “You’ve a funny way of showing your appreciation.”
“So I’ve been told. Time to go. Drive safely.”