C6 Chapter 6
“The Steel just announced a news conference on Tuesday at ten. Rumor is, Tyrell Oden has a more serious injury than originally anticipated, and they’re going to announce a mid-season trade.”
Luckily, the writer next to me kicked me under the table to get my attention.
“Sorry. Can you repeat that?”
Mr. CUM huffed.
I felt the need to make an excuse. “I was going over some interview questions in my head.”
“Your head should be in this meeting. And eyes on me.”
I nodded, and he proceeded to tell me about the news conference, presumably for a second time.
“Already registered,” I said.
“Good.” He sighed. “Now that we have Ms. Maddox’s mind back on the news, why don’t we chat about Brody Easton.”
Ummm. That was where my mind had been. I just couldn’t seem to shake the jackass from my thoughts. “Okay.”
“Phil Stapleton wants a sit-down with Easton for his weekly show. You seem to have established some sort of rapport with him. I saw him toss a ball your way after a touchdown yesterday.”
Two balls. Ones that were in a duffle bag in my office and read, I’d really like to fuck you, to be exact. And I was pitifully hard-up in the romance department, because the thought of him wanting me had me shifting in my chair.
“I’ve interviewed him a few times, yes. Although I’m not sure you’d label our interactions good rapport.”
Mr. CUM waved a dismissive hand. “Next week, invite him for a sit-down with Phil. We want him on Sixty with Stapleton.”
It was a widely known fact that Brody Easton did not do more than required TV locker room interviews and news conferences. Newspaper articles were even limited to those where he had final approval of the words. He’d declined every in-depth, one-on-one televised interview since he’d earned himself a spot back on the team. “He doesn’t do sit-down interviews.”
“It would be a big score for us. We’re lagging in ratings this year, you know.”
I gritted my teeth. I knew what he was insinuating. Although the truth of the matter was, we were behind in ratings because of irrelevant content. Many of the old-timers stuck to interviews of the players they were friendly with and reported mostly on notable past sporting events. Viewers wanted fresh stories. “I’ll see what I can do.”
I sat through another hour of the wasteful meeting and then headed back to my office. Indie was sitting in my chair, tossing a football in the air. The I’d really like to fuck you football. And she was smiling from ear to ear.
“Anything you want to talk about?”
“Guess the cleanse is about to end. Or did it already?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Why? He’s ridiculously hot, and he’s obviously into you.”
“That man isn’t into me. He wants in to me.”
“No. There’s a major difference.”
“You know, it’s the new millennium. You can have sex without love and commitment.”
“Yes. I know. I’ve dated.”
“You date guys for a few months, find something wrong with them and then take a six-month hiatus from penises. Wouldn’t it be easier to just have sex and not date? Then you wouldn’t need the six-month celibacy recovery period. You could just fuck your brains out year-round.”
“That logic made a lot more sense in your head before it came out your mouth, didn’t it?” I pulled a file from my cabinet and began to thumb through it.
“So you’re going to sleep with Easton?”
“Did you really miss the sarcasm in my voice? The guy only wants to get laid. He’d be gone the morning after I gave in.”
“Did he ask you out?”
“I suppose. He asked me out to dinner before delivering that eloquent invitation on the ball.”
“See, he’s into you.”
As much as I hated to admit it, I sort of wanted him to be. There was no denying that I was attracted to him physically. What woman in her right mind wouldn’t be? But I just wasn’t a one-night-stand type of person. I imagined the day after—going from feeling wanted to being forgotten—was a little bit like bungee jumping and slipping loose from the rope. An exhilarating high as you took the plunge, only to free-fall when you realized nothing was holding you any longer. It was just you—all alone. And you couldn’t even remember what made you jump in the first place.
That night, exhausted from travel, I climbed into bed early. Although my body was drained, my mind seemed to be spinning. Thoughts of Brody Easton and the way he looked at me gave me a feeling of excitement I had forgotten existed—a visceral reaction that was pointless to try to tame. Not once since Drew did I have that flutter.
I reached over to my bedside nightstand and picked up the small, oval-framed picture taken in middle school. Even though it was always there, I hadn’t really looked at it in years. Drew was wearing his football uniform, and the eye black under his sweet brown eyes was smeared from wiping sweat during the game. I smiled, thinking back to how a look from those eyes gave me butterflies growing up.
Lying in bed in the dark, I tried to make sense of my fascination with Brody. But in the end, I decided maybe I simply had a thing for football players. After all, my father was a football player. I’m sure Freud would have had a thing or two to say about that.
I sat in the back row at Wednesday’s scheduled press conference. The dais held five men. From left to right sat the director of team operations; head coach Bill Ryan; Chargers wide receiver Colin Anderson; the Steel’s offensive-line coach; and to the far right, Brody Easton. As rumored, Coach Ryan confirmed that Tyrell Oden, one of the team’s key offensive-line players, had received a season-ending injury. They also confirmed a rare mid-season trade to replace him. Colin Anderson was to join the Steel this week.
A friend of mine had tipped me off about the trade yesterday, and it had given me time to do a little digging. Although it had never made it onto the media’s radar, Colin and Brody apparently had a tumultuous history. They’d attended the same college. Brody’s last year before being drafted, they were even on the same offensive line. Apparently, the two didn’t get along and there’d been multiple off-the-field fights. I doubted any of the reporters knew about it since I’d only found out because I happened to have a friend in common with Colin. Division One schools kept internal conflicts very quiet. They didn’t want to taint a prospective draftee as a troublemaker.
After the announcements, Coach Ryan opened up the floor for questions. Brody caught my eye and winked. Like an idiot, I smiled back. His flirtations were so overtly over-the-top, it was impossible not to find them at least a tiny bit amusing.
Every hand in the room went up. The coach called on a well-known reporter in the front row. I watched Brody scribble something on a piece of paper and slide it down to the coach.
Before the next question, Coach Ryan glanced down at the paper, then scanned the room. He hadn’t even found me in the crowd when he said my name. I stood to ask my question anyway.
“My question is for Mr. Easton.” Brody looked momentarily pleased. “Are you concerned about the chemistry between yourself and your new receiver?”
Brody folded his arms across his chest and leaned back in his chair. “What were his stats last year, Ms. Maddox?”
“Hundred and eleven catches, fourteen-point-three average yards, eleven touchdowns. Second best in the league.”
“You have your answer. Do you have any other questions, Ms. Maddox?”
A few men snickered. But I wanted an actual answer. “The question wasn’t how capable of an athlete he is. We all know he’s quite talented. My question—perhaps I should repeat it—was are you concerned about the chemistry between you and Colin Anderson?”
Brody’s jaw tightened. “I’m not planning on dating him.”
“I didn’t think so. But considering the two of you didn’t get along in college, might there be a concern for you?”
His answer was curt. “No. As long as he does his job, I’m not concerned.”
“Thank you.” I sat and the room began to buzz with chatter.
Brody stared at me with a gleam in his eye for the remainder of the interview. It made me question if I had just poked a lion. Colin, on the other hand, was sporting an evil grin, and it appeared he was enjoying our interaction.
I didn’t mill around socializing after the conference ended. I had a hot date with a month’s worth of laundry that I’d stood up on multiple occasions. I was texting Indie while walking down the long hallway toward the exit when a hand at my elbow startled me.
“Nice find. Did you have to call my entire dorm to dig up that little piece of information you just unleashed in there?”
“I’m sure if I interviewed your entire dorm, my ears would be bleeding.”
“You realize that every journalist will be watching every interaction between that asswipe and me now?”
“No, you’re not.”
I stopped walking. Brody was still holding my arm.
I turned to him and shrugged. “Okay. So maybe I’m not. So what?”
He squinted at me.
“Oh. By the way. My station wants me to ask you to do a sit-down interview with Phil Stapleton for the Sixty with Stapleton show.”
“You're going to ask me for a favor after you just screwed me in there?”
I tilted my head and gave a sugary-sweet smile. “You sabotaged my first locker room interview and then asked me out.”
Easton’s eyebrows shot up. “So you’re getting even with me?”
We reached the front doors of the stadium, and Brody opened one and followed me out. “Are you going to follow me all the way home?”
“Is that an invitation?” He shot me a damn cocky smile.
I shook my head and kept walking. Neither of us said a word until we’d crossed the parking lot and arrived at my car. I unlocked the door and got in. Easton stood outside, holding the door open. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll do the sit-down for Sixty with Stapleton.”
“Under two conditions.”
“And they are?”
“You do the interview. Not that old jackass Stapleton. He has guest interviewers all the time. They want me, you’ll be the guest interviewer.”
“Are you serious?”
“Wow. I’m sure Stapleton won’t be happy about it. But Mr. Cu—my boss will.”
“Then it’s settled.”
My eyes narrowed. “Why are you being nice to me now, when I just unleashed what will probably turn into a media shitstorm on you?”
“I like you.”
I shook my head. “I’ll talk to my boss and then call your agent to set it up.”
“Sounds good. Can I borrow your cell? Coach is probably wondering where I disappeared to.”
I handed him my phone. He dialed a number, hung up and handed the phone back to me without bringing it to his ear.
He read the confusion on my face. “You didn’t ask me what condition number two was.”
I’d gotten so excited he was going to give me an interview, I’d forgotten he’d said there were two conditions. “What’s the second condition?”
“You have dinner with me.”
“Does dinner mean sleeping with you?”
“Hopefully when it’s over. But if you want to switch things up a bit and get to the fucking first, I’m happy to oblige.”
“Relax. I’m joking. Dinner means dinner. You know, I take you out to some overpriced restaurant where we share a meal and I tell you how great I am.”
“Gee. How can I turn that invitation down?”
He winked. “That’s what I thought. I am sort of irresistible.”
“If you don’t say so yourself.”
I was pulling out of the parking lot and still wondering what the hell I’d just agreed to, when my phone buzzed.
Brody: Wednesday night. I’ll pick you up at your office at 6. Wear something sexy.