Home > Stealing Sawyer (The Perfect Game #3)(5)

Stealing Sawyer (The Perfect Game #3)(5)
Author: Samantha Christy

I look at the floor and see Aspen’s purse where she dropped it last night. I see the envelope lying beside it. Before I can tell myself what an invasion of privacy this is, I’m opening her letter. The paper is now hard and dry and I have to be careful peeling it apart. Some of the ink is smeared, but not so much that I can’t read it.

I look over at her bedroom door and stare at it in wonder. Why would an acceptance letter into the master’s program at Juilliard be a bad thing?

I assume, like making it to the majors was my dream, this was hers.

Then I glance around at my meager surroundings and take in what looks like second-hand furniture in a small two-bedroom apartment that could probably fit into my living room.

I hear my phone vibrating and quickly retrieve it from my pants that are still in a heap on the living room floor. I see that it’s Danny calling. I really want to answer it, but I don’t. I don’t want to wake Aspen so I send him a text letting him know I’ll call him later.

Then I get dressed and stand in her doorway. I study her far longer than I should. I have thoughts that I shouldn’t be having. But when Danny’s face pops up on my phone again, this time with a text, I know why I can’t stay. I walk quietly across the apartment and gather my things. Then I collect her clothes, fold them neatly, and put them on her dresser. I pick up the condom wrappers and shove them in my pocket. Then I give Aspen one last look before I walk out her door.

As I usually do after a night like last, I find a Starbucks. This time, however, I don’t go home. I find myself wandering around the streets of the city, drinking coffee and thinking about the girl I left a short while ago.

I never think about the girl. Why is this girl getting in my head? Maybe it’s because she seemed so genuine. So sad. So damn real.

I think of her letter again, knowing it probably comes down to money. A graduate degree from the most exclusive fine arts school in the country can’t come cheaply. I think about how we are so much alike. We both want something we may not be able to have. I want to stay with the Nighthawks. She wants an education she can’t afford.

Suddenly, it hits me, and before I can talk sense into myself, I’m walking back up the steps of her building. I don’t know the building security code, so I have to wait around until I can sneak in after someone exits.

I try the door to her apartment, hoping that maybe it’s unlocked and I can just slip back in, pretending I never left. But it doesn’t budge.

I look at the time. Eight o’clock. I wonder if she’s a late sleeper. We did stay up well past midnight last night.

I knock on the door lightly. A minute later, I knock again – harder this time. I finally hear something inside her apartment. It sounds like she ran into a table and is cursing about it.

The door opens a crack and she looks confused when she sees me. She also looks seriously hung over. Her hair is matted down on one side and makeup is smeared down her cheeks. She opens the door a little wider, looking me over from head to toe.

“Why are you wearing the same clothes as last night? And, uh … how did you know where I live?” She pulls her robe tightly around her. Then she rolls her eyes. “Oh, right, you walked me home, didn’t you? I’m so embarrassed. I don’t normally get that drunk.” She looks at her hands and fists and unfists her fingers like they hurt. “It must have been the new stuff I took for my hands. Thanks for getting me home safely. I was obviously out of it. So, why are you here?”

She doesn’t remember last night?

“Do you normally get shit-faced drunk with strange men and then let them walk you home?” I ask, not feeling in the least like bursting her bubble and telling her she slept with me.

“No, I don’t. I had a bad day. One of the worst I’ve ever had.” She holds the door open and backs away. “Sorry, I guess since you were nice enough to make sure I made it home last night, the least I can do is offer you a cup of coffee.”

I watch her as she works in the kitchen, stopping to check her appearance in the mirror and then apologizing to me for how bad she looks before she runs off to the bathroom.

I stare down at the letter that still sits on the floor of her living room. I pick it up and turn it over and over in my hands.

When she emerges from her room, I see she’s ditched the robe in favor of yoga pants and a tank top. I wonder if she even thought twice about waking up in the nude. How could she not know? Then I think of the condoms that I flushed and the wrappers I shoved in my pocket. Can she really not tell she had sex last night? Don’t girls usually have a feeling?

She pours two cups of coffee and then comes over and sits on the couch opposite the chair I’m occupying. She eyes the envelope on the table, probably wondering if I read it.

“I have a proposition for you,” I say.

She belts out a laugh. “If I didn’t sleep with you when I was drunk, I’m sure as heck not going to do it now, when I feel like I could vomit at any second.”

“That’s not my proposition.” Then I cock my head sideways and study her. “Well, I don’t know, maybe it is.”

“Huh?” She takes a sip of her coffee. “You’re going to have to be more clear. My head is still a bit fuzzy.” Then she eyes me up and down and her face pinks up. “Wait, did we … uh, did we make out in an alley last night?”

“We might have.”

Her head drops into her hands. “Oh, my God. I’ve hit an all-time low. That isn’t me, Sawyer. I don’t go making out in alleys with guys I just met.”

“It’s fine,” I tell her. “You’re a good kisser. So, about that proposition. I’d like to hire you, Aspen.”

She sits up straight and defensively pulls a pillow onto her lap. “Come again?”

“I’d like to hire you to be my girlfriend.”

Her nose wrinkles in disgust. “You what?”

“For appearances’ sake, I need to be seen with a girlfriend.” I shake my head because I hear what I sound like and I’m going about this all wrong. “I’ll pay you for it.”

“Like a whore?”

“No, not like a whore. I just need certain people to think I’m in a relationship.” I run my hands through my hair “I – I can’t have a girlfriend. But I need one.”

“Certain people. A woman?”

“No. It’s not like that.”

“Was last night at the bar an audition?” she asks abhorrently.

“God, no. I didn’t even think of asking you this until just now.”

“Get out,” she says.

“Come on, Aspen. We had fun last night. We get along great. I need a girlfriend and you need the money.”

She throws the pillow off her lap and stands up. “What the hell do you mean by that?”

I nod to the envelope on the table. “I saw the letter. I’m sure grad school will be expensive. Would half-a-million cover it?”

Her jaw drops. “I don’t know who you think you are, but you’re not anyone I want to know.”

She eyes me warily as she skirts around the couch like she thinks I’ll pounce on her and keep her from getting away. I put up my hands in surrender, letting her know she’s safe.

She backs into the kitchen. “I’d like you to leave. Right now.”

I pull my folder out of my duffle bag. “Here, you can read mine, too. It’s only fair.”

She backs away. “I don’t give a shit who you are or what’s in that folder.” She points to the door. “Please, just go.”

“Aspen.”

She holds her phone up for me to see. “Do I need to call the police?”

“No. I’m going.” I put my duffle bag over my shoulder and walk to the door. “I didn’t mean to ruin everything. Last night was incredible – one of the best nights I can remember. I think you’re a great girl. I’m really sorry, Aspen.”

I walk through the door, closing it behind me. I stand in the hallway and think of what a stupid idiot I am. Then I hear a thump and realize she must have hit the door. I wonder if she’s leaning against it. Maybe she’s sliding her back down the door until her butt hits the floor. Maybe she’s looking at me through the peephole. I look directly into it and put on my best apologetic face. “I’m sorry,” I say to the door.

Then I walk away.

~ ~ ~

“You okay, Speed Limit?” Brady asks, walking back to the clubhouse after our practice.

I don’t even roll my eyes anymore at the nickname my grandfather gave me when I was drafted by the Hawks and assigned #55 because my favorite number was taken. I stopped trying long ago to get them to quit using it. It was useless. Anytime someone gets a nickname around here, it sticks like white on rice.

“Yeah.”

“You seem distracted.”

“I’m good.”

“Game starts in two hours,” he says. “You gonna have your focus by then?”

“I said I’m good.”

Brady pats me on the shoulder and nods to our manager who has been sneering at me all day. I swear he’s waiting for me to mess up just so he can rub it in my face. “Don’t let Rick get to you. Everything will blow over soon enough. Just keep your nose down.”

“I wish it were that easy.”

Brady cocks his head, studying me. “What did you do?”

I shake my head. “Nothing, man. Everything’s fine. Let’s get some grub.”

I walk over to the buffet table set up with sandwiches and fill my plate. Then I take a seat away from the others while the coaches prepare us for tonight’s game. We spend the next hour watching tape from yesterday’s game. Well, most of the team does. Me – I spend the hour worrying about what an idiot I was to do what I did last night. And this morning.

This could be bad. This could be very bad. What if she figures out who I am? What if she remembers last night? What if she goes to the press and tells them I tried to hire her to sleep with me? That’s not what I was doing, but she doesn’t know that. She didn’t give me a chance to explain.

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