Out of Bounds(8) read online by Lauren Blakely
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Out of Bounds(8)
Author: Lauren Blakely

That’s what I need to stay strong this season and injury-free. And that’s exactly what I intend to do this fall. Stay in top-notch shape and take the team all the way. As I walk off the field with Tony Elkins, our leading receiver, who sports a full beard and a long mess of hair, he claps me on the back. “Nice work, Erickson. Been a good week.”

“Thanks, man.”

“Keep that shit up and we can make it far this year,” he says, offering a fist for knocking. I reciprocate.

“That’s the goal.”

“Streak, baby. We need to get on a streak.”

“Yeah? That’s the key?”

“I’ve already got my lucky socks planned. Soon as you start working that magic in the pocket, firing off beautiful bombs to your favorite receiver,” he says with a wink as he taps his chest with both hands.

I nod, long and playful. “As long as you catch ’em, man.”

He holds his arms out wide. “Always, baby. These arms were made to cradle the ball,” he says, and I like his brand of cocky confidence.

We head indoors, the blast of cool air-conditioning a welcome relief from the heat. I glance around the concrete hallway, still getting used to the look and feel of Los Angeles’s facilities.

Getting traded wasn’t entirely unexpected. The writing was on the wall when Anaheim drafted a Heisman winner in the first round last spring, and paid big bucks for his arm to the tune of a fat four-year contract for the Georgia graduate. Like a goddamn neon sign flashing that my days were numbered. It’s been tick-tock since then, as I waited for the call any second. Didn’t matter how good my last season was; my contract ends in a year, and the future of Anaheim rested on the new guy’s shoulders.

I get it. I’m not annoyed. This is how pro ball goes. I’m just glad I got traded only thirty miles away. I’d happily pack up for a lot of franchises—hell, for pretty much whoever comes calling with a good offer—but I like Southern California, and I have a boatload of good buddies in this town both from my college days and from the first three years in the pros.

But there’s an even better reason I’m glad I was sent to Los Angeles. The chance is mine and mine alone to start every game. Los Angeles isn’t trying to groom a new superstar, like my old team was. My new team is simply aiming to keep its head above water, and its nose out of the news. I can absolutely deliver on both counts.

That will be my goal this season. Leading this team, on and off the field.

As I head inside the locker room, I remind myself that it’s a damn good thing Dani never called me back after I found a cool way to leave her my number the next day. That phone call I got the night I met her might have prevented me from giving her my full number, but I made sure to get my digits to her the day after. The trouble is I didn’t hear a word. Not a peep. I wanted her to call or text. Hell, did I ever want to see her again. That woman occupied an astonishing portion of my brain that evening a couple weeks ago after I left her porch. And look, even though my agent was calling to give me the big news, I still managed to spend time with her in the shower when I returned home. She looked lovely in my imagination with her hands against the tiled wall, back bowed, ass up, all nice and slick and wet and ready.

In my solo flight that night, she came as loud and as hard as I did in my fist. I bet she’s an electric one between the sheets, because lord only knows, she felt like fire in my arms.

And there goes my dick. Imitating a flagpole as I enter a room full of dudes. I’d like to find the off switch to my dirty thoughts. Honestly, I’d like to shut them the fuck down right now, and fortunately, there’s nothing like a roomful of big, hairy men to do that for me.

Done.

Since Dani never got back to me, whatever latent lust I feel for her is moot. I tried to track the woman down. I wanted to see her again, and I made a hell of an effort—one I thought was pretty damn sweet. Didn’t faze the woman. Her radio silence was all I needed to know. I’m not the kind of guy to get hung up on a girl, especially not someone I only spent a few hours with anyway.

A few fantastic hours.

But that time with her is in the rearview mirror. My job is to yank this team out of the funk it’s been in, and there’s no place for a woman I’ll never see again in that mission. Besides, I’ve witnessed what’s happened to my buddies on and off the field when they got distracted by women. They start losing their focus, dulling their edge, forgetting what matters on the field. Me? I’m not perfect, but I believe firmly in a blinders approach. Stay out of trouble, don’t get distracted, and keep your eye on the motherfucking prize.

Excellence.

That’s what matters to me, and now I’ve got a chance with a team to perform.

After I shower and dress, I find Stuart, the team’s main press guy, waiting for me in the hall.

“Hey Drew,” he says, parking a hand on my shoulder. He’s shorter, with dark hair peppered with gray. His eyes match—they’re almost silvery.

“You all set for the fundraiser tonight?”

“Absolutely,” I say, since he asked me to attend a charity event to benefit inner-city youth in LA. Not only is it a good cause, but our support can help improve the Knights’ tarnished image.

“Wonderful. Lots of folks from the organization will be there, so I’ll make sure you meet everyone and that they all know our new quarterback,” he says with a wide smile. “And you’ll smile for the cameras. Get some Instagram posts, make a few comments to the sports sites. You know the drill.”

“Can’t wait,” I say, and I mean it.

***

“Make sure to look pretty tonight,” Jason says, laughing, as I turn at the light, heading to the boutique hotel.

I speak into the phone, set in the holder on the dashboard of my Tesla. “I look devilishly handsome, but I’m pretty sure tonight’s not the night for picking up chicks. Call me crazy, but I don’t think the team would be too stoked if I went into their charity event chasing tail.”

“Shame,” my best friend says, his voice smooth and cool. “I’m sitting here at Piccolo’s and the pickings are quite pretty.”

I can picture him there, enjoying a Scotch and surveying the scene, sitting like a king. It’s his favorite hipster bar, and he regularly cleans up there, along with my other boys.

“Then you should enjoy them all. Though I doubt you can pull without me,” I say as I near the hotel.

Jason snorts. “As if.”

We grew up next door to each other in a crummy neighborhood in San Diego, and played ball together as kids. At high school, he killed it as a running back, but then he switched to track after a few years to take advantage of his speed. He nabbed a scholarship to college, but that’s as far as he went in sports. The guy is amazing with financial management though, and he works his ass off as an advisor to all sorts of clients, myself included. I rarely make decisions without him. He’s become my business manager. He’s rock solid, and one-hundred percent dependable. He was the first one I called after my agent told me I was traded, and he was fired up. Due in no small part to the fact that he lives in Los Angeles. He already helped me find a sweet condo in Santa Monica to rent for the year.

“Hey,” Jason says, segueing to his business tone. “I got a request for a meeting today from a sports drink company, Qwench. Potential sponsorship. It’s in the exploratory stages, but I’ll do my due diligence, take the meeting, and see if it’s worth pursuing.”

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