Home > Out of Bounds(7)

Out of Bounds(7)
Author: Lauren Blakely

Last season was rough for the team. A few of our players dabbled in drugs, and by dabbled, I mean one totaled his Ferrari while coked up and the other trashed a hotel room doing speed and is in rehab. On top of that, our wide receiver, Chuck Romano, became a baby daddy for the fourth time and with a fourth woman.

But wait. It doesn’t stop there. Chuck Dip-His-Wick Romano didn’t spread his seed just anywhere. He went and knocked up the new nineteen-year-old cheerleader for the Knights, an adorable, perky, former gymnast named Bambi.

She’s now a former cheerleader, since she quit and moved back home to Oklahoma to raise the baby with her parents.

That whole situation was a nightmare for the press office. Lord only knows, the sports gossip sites had a field day with the Knights. The team served up a buffet of juicy news all year long, operating as anything but men in shining armor. Spin the roster like a lazy Susan and grab a drug or sex scandal when it stops.

You were virtually guaranteed one or the other.

I’m just glad I don’t do PR for the team.

Ally squeezes my arm. “Yes, I know you’re focused on me. But Drew Erickson is so freaking All-American cute.”

A memory of Andrew—Drew—and his dimple flickers through my mind. “He is cute. Cute, as in young. He’s twenty-six, which makes me four years older. He’s a baby.”

“He’s supposed to be a baby. He’s a pro baller. They’re young.”

I sigh. “You’re relentless and adorable, but also you’re not going to win, because I’m not going to track him down,” I say when I reach her building on campus. “A few minutes ago you were ready to jump on him and beat him up for not calling me.”

“You’re right. I’m back to plan A. Totally going to beat him up.” She mimes punching someone.

I crack up. “Get out of here.”

She leans across the console, gives me a sloppy kiss on the cheek, and then grabs her bag and heads out.

***

I’ve always loved football. It’s been a part of my life as long as I can remember thanks to my dad. He’s not one of those fathers who was disappointed he had girls rather than boys. Instead, he picked up the ball and tossed it to me. We had some good chats and fun conversations throwing a football back and forth in the yard. He’d tell me his plans for upcoming games, and I’d pepper him with questions. My analytical mind wanted to understand every single detail about how football was played, fought, and won. I learned the formations, the types of coverage, when to go for a forward pass, a screen pass, or a play action pass.

Sometimes, he’d ask me what to do in a game, and I’d weigh in with suggestions, based on the opponent and their style of play—running, passing, defensive-minded, and so on.

He didn’t really need my advice. He had a winning record over thirty years as a high school coach. He just liked hearing what I had to say, and he wanted to foster a love of learning in me. He succeeded. That same love turned into my affection for law, for rules, for loopholes. Being a good lawyer isn’t that different—the job is all about strategy, and it lets me apply my questioning mind to something I love—the game.

Truth be told though, most of what I work on are contracts with vendors who we partner with at the stadium, as well as the local TV and radio stations. But Stuart Grayson, the head of communications, has asked me to review all the press releases and statements lately, especially with the heat the team’s been under due to the player fuck-ups in the last year.

That’s what I expect when Stuart raps on the door and strides into my office later that morning. I brace myself for news that a tight end is leading a cockfighting ring, or a linebacker put a bun in the oven of a teenager he met at the mall. “Did you hear about Sanders?”

My stomach drops. Please no. Not the quarterback. Dear God, I hope he didn’t become the next player to go for jailbait. “What now?”

Stuart taps his right shoulder. “His shoulder.”

Even though I’m confident his shoulder didn’t impregnate a high schooler, I’ve been trained to assume the worst, so my first thought is he shot himself accidentally in his shoulder. But then I realize Stuart means the trouble Sanders had with his shoulder the other day. He dislocated it during practice. “Right. He’s in PT isn’t he?”

Stuart shakes his gray-haired head. “Was in PT.” He mimes slicing a knife over his own shoulder. “Labral tear. Needs surgery,” he says, tucking his hands into his pockets and shifting back and forth on the balls of his feet. The man talks in phrases. He has an aversion to using subjects in sentences. “Out of commission for the rest of the season.”

“Ouch,” I say, wincing in pain, like I can feel what Sanders is going through. “That’s terrible. What’s next?”

“GM made a trade a few days ago. Looks like he just wrapped it all up, so we wanted you to take a look at the release. Shouldn’t be anything out of sorts, but it’s good to follow our new procedures on everything. Gotta play by the rules.” Stuart slaps a few sheets of paper on my desk. Still warm. Fresh off the printer. “Back in ten?”

“Of course,” I say, as I grab the pages. This is an easy in, easy out scenario. I seriously doubt the release will require any lawyering, but when you need to fix a bad rep, you can’t cut corners, even on something as simple as a statement about a quarterback requiring surgery. When Stuart leaves I begin reading, but I’m still thinking about that other quarterback. The one who made me weak in the knees. Who sent butterflies swooping through my belly. Who turned me on.

Normally, I’m pretty solid when it comes to assessing situations. My radar is finely tuned, and I was so certain Drew would be dialing my numbers. Maybe Ally was right. Maybe something happened to him.

Setting aside the page for a minute, I take a quick break to check out the Bleacher Report to see how Drew is faring in the preseason. Fine, fine. I’m stalking him, but I reason it’s for my job. It’s good for me to know what’s happening in the league. Once I learn what Drew’s up to, I’ll give all my focus to this quickie news release on our quarterback.

I peer at the screen. There’s no info on Drew’s number today. No report on his preseason stats with the Anaheim Devil Sharks. Nor yesterday. That’s odd. I check the clock. Stuart will be back in five minutes.

Turning away from the computer, I return my focus to the release about the injury. All looks good. I flip to the next page.

The first paragraph makes me blink. Once, twice, three times.

The words rise up from the page, beating, like they’re alive.

The Los Angeles Knights are pleased to announce the team has traded for Drew Erickson, a quarterback from the Anaheim Devil Sharks. He will likely start in the first game of the season for the Knights.

 

 

Chapter Four

Drew

Los Angeles is sharp.

Better than I expected given the team’s troubles in the last year or so. But they’ve weeded out some of the guys who were bringing them down. I firmly believe those kind of problems have a way of carrying over to the field. You just can’t fuck shit up, land punches, snort lines, and, well, knock up a teenage cheerleader, and then play like a pro when it’s time for kickoff.

Today marks the end of my first week with my new teammates. In the morning we run routes once more, so the receivers and I are in synch on the timing of the plays. The pace is light in the early hours, but picks up after noon with a long series of passing drills under the hot sun. By the time practice ends, my muscles are drained and I’m sweat-soaked, but I can’t complain. This is a good kind of exhaustion. The kind that seeps into my bones and portends a good night’s sleep.

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