Authors: C.C. Galloway
Tags: #General Fiction
Table of Contents
PASSION IN PRINT PRESS
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2012 by C.C. Galloway
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
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Print ISBN# 978-1-60820-597-4
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To Lawan for believing that Calleigh and David should have their own book. This one’s for you.
Professional football players were a complete and utter pain in the ass.
As he advanced towards the gym off to the side and rear of the Tide complex, David straightened his tie and questioned why he was even bothering. The task that had propelled him outside the building’s wide beam steel doors was about as much fun as standing naked in front of a firing squad. Or having his wisdom teeth extracted. Without Novocain or any other type of anesthesia.
Ninety-five percent of the time, he loved his job. He really did. He earned good money, established his own hours and everyone except for the owners answered to him. The other five percent? Made him contemplate selling every last possession he owned on eBay and setting off for the Seychelles for a blissful escape into anonymity. No cell phones. No BlackBerries. No iPhones. No faxes. No agents. No owners. No coaches. No disappointed fans.
On days like today, the prospect sounded like nirvana.
Santiago probably wouldn’t even respond to his simple request, let alone agree to it. To that extent, he wasn’t even sure if this Mary person was legit. For all he knew, she could be some random woman trying to extract info about Santiago, although the possibility seemed remote. Laura Cain, the Tide’s head of P.R. who should have been running this errand and refused to because it was
had run the woman through the Tide’s background check service and concluded she was the real deal. Mary Richardson had been a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison when Santiago had been a freshman. According to the comprehensive background report, she currently taught math over on the North side at Walker and enjoyed an excellent credit rating. He harbored no delusions Santiago would actually entertain the request, but all he could do was present it to him, let him reject it as he undoubtedly would, and then he could report back to Laura that nothing had changed.
Swinging through the gym’s revolving glass doors, he immediately lasered in on his target. He planted himself at Santiago’s feet, his shadow looming over him, and waited.
And waited some more. Patience had never been a virtue of his. Hell, did he even have any Biblical virtues? Likely not, but ever since entering his chosen profession, he’d learned that successfully dealing with and negotiating with egos the size of Texas required a perfectly executed amount of patience. And that only included agents. Let alone the players those agents represented. Professional football players’ egos were limitless, as expansive and vast as the Milky Way.
He hoped if he had to, he could pluck the bar from Santiago’s hands and place it in the holder, thus forcing Santiago to at least stop, even if temporarily. This little show Santiago was putting on epitomized their power struggles. Any time he approached the Tide’s right-side defensive end, regardless of the time or topic, Santiago would ignore him for as long as he could. In response, he would refuse to let his temper control him, regardless of how long their dance lasted. Two minutes. Five minutes. The longest Santiago had ever remained silent topped out somewhere around twelve minutes.
Not that he counted.
Fucking MBA from Stanford and this is where it landed him. Waiting for a twenty-seven year old surly athlete to be bothered to acknowledge his presence.
The gym’s silence swelled around the two of them. The built in speakers responsible for surround sound were silent. Apparently, Santiago listened to his own iPod while he engaged in what appeared to be an additional workout, brutal in its intensity and repetition. His teammates all displayed far more sense. At this time of the day, during this particular juncture in the season, all of the other players had returned home.
But not Santiago.
After what seemed like an interminable amount of time, one of the longer waits in their respective history, Santiago put the bar up, sat up straight, and took a long pull on his bottled water, never once bothering to meet his eyes. Typical, insubordinate son of a bitch.
It was now or never.
“We received a call this afternoon from a woman who claims she knows you.” Normally he’d interject a paternity joke here, which for all too many of his players, was anything but a joke. However, there was no point with Santiago. The man was the sworn enemy of humor. “Mary Richardson? Do you know her?”
Finally Santiago established eye contact.
“I know her.”
David wasn’t exactly a talker, but Santiago made him look like Barbara Walters’ best friend.
“Anyway, she called in to request you take part in Walker High School’s College Career Day. From what I understand, it would require you to show up and talk to the students about the importance of graduating not only from high school, but attending college and graduating with a degree. It’s next Tuesday. I’m sure if you’re interested, Coach will make an exception for practice. I don’t think I need to remind you how beneficial this would be for the team.”
Attempting to persuade him because it would be good for him personally was a non-starter. A complete and utter waste of time. While sports apparel companies, car manufacturers, and numerous other outfits continually planted themselves on the Tide’s doorstep, eager to have the league’s MVP endorse a wide variety of products, Santiago consistently refused. Wouldn’t give any of them the time of day to hear about their prospective offers. On that note, he and those companies were practically brothers in arms.
Even though David thought Santiago’s eyes flared when he’d initially mentioned the woman’s name, he remained seated on the bench, wiped his neck with his towel and took another long pull from his water bottle. Close to sixty seconds elapsed before Santiago responded.
“I know her, but I’m not doing any career day at any school,” Santiago uttered as he lay back down on the bench and returned to his workout.
On any other day, he would have let it go. He knew this. He expected this. He’d only approached Santiago to appease Laura who would stalk his office and his email until he completed this errand and reported back. He never considered the possibility that Santiago would actually agree. But today, he was tired of all of it. The players who demanded millions for a few months worth of work and begged him to fix all their problems when they were caught with their pants down. The agents whose only concern was their take, not their players’ careers or their career-threatening injuries. The players’ union that was threatening to hold the league hostage if their demands weren’t met when the current labor agreement expired at the end of the season. The coaches who weren’t interested in the Tide’s long-term strategy, only this season’s success.
“Would it kill you to ever do something for someone else? Or something for your team?” he challenged. The Tide didn’t ask for much from its players off the field. The occasional public appearance that savvy players parlayed into positive press and endorsements. Necessary interviews designed to develop and maintain the team’s national profile, a profile they were still struggling to brand as an expansion team. Some charity appearances simply because it was the right thing to do.
Santiago remained focused on his bench presses, never changing his pace or his form to indicate his words made any impact.
“I don’t even know why I wasted my breath. I knew you’d never do it, but I guess hope springs eternal.” He shook his head in frustration and began stomping his way back to his office just as three Tide players strolled in from the track, their sweat and soft odor announcing their arrival before he actually saw them. Tamar Johnson, Shaun Gilweather, and Leslie Murray. Like a gift from Lombardi, inspiration struck.
“Well, well, well. If it isn’t the man I will replace by the end of the season,” Tamar smirked as he sauntered over to Santiago, juiced from his run and dropping the load of shit that comprised the substance of all of his interactions with Santiago David had ever witnessed. The kid had a mouth alongside a death wish given the amount of trash talk he sent Santiago’s way day in and day out. “Good thing you’re working out. Cause when the Tide trades your sorry ass, ain’t no team gonna want an aging D.E. with fewer muscles than my grandma.” Tamar laughed at his jokes while Murray and Gilweather rolled their eyes and went to work on their triceps. With anyone else, David would have expected that they’d stay around to try and protect Tamar. The word from the players was that the little fucker could be a lot of fun when he wasn’t being an immature shithead.
“Hey Tamar? Would you be interested in working with some local high school students?” David asked. Tamar was a total showboat, on and off the field. A Heisman-trophy winner out of Michigan currently in his rookie season with the team, there wasn’t enough anyone could do to promote his talent, so he did it himself. He administered his own Facebook fan page, Twitter account, and taped weekly Podcasts that he later broadcasted via YouTube about everything on the planet related to Tamar. His favorite foods. His favorite plays. His stats, both high school and collegiate. The traits he was looking for in the future Mrs. Tamar Johnson. His favorite Christmas presents. And why Snickers were preferable to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Thus far, none of his actions had negatively impacted the team.
“Of course, my man. You know I’m all about giving back to the future of our country. And high school students fucking love me. They worship me. They see me living the dream. What can I do?”
David knew Johnson relished every event he could use to keep his name in the press, particularly when the activity was affiliated with the team. The guy should have his own public relations firm for as many statements as he had the Tide release on his behalf in addition to his relentless self-promotion.
Besides, Santiago hated Tamar. With excellent reason, but still. This was just too good to pass up.
“Perfect. A friend of Santiago’s who teaches at Walker, a local high school up in North Portland, wants a Tide player to come and talk to the students about college next week. Pretty basic stuff. Coach will give you the time off from practice. If you have a minute, we can go call her right now.”
Before Tamar could respond, Santiago interrupted. “That won’t be necessary, Shalvington. What do I have to do?” he reluctantly offered.
Perfectly played. He hadn’t lost his touch after all.
§ § §
“Enough about my non-existent romantic relationship with Michael. Anyone you’re interested in?” Mary Richardson asked Calleigh, several days after Michael Santiago’s highly successful speech at Walker where they both taught different math sections.
How do I disclose the existence of a guy who barely acknowledges me, certainly isn’t attracted to me, and works with Michael?
Easy. You don’t.
“No. No one special on the horizon.” Guilt at hedging to her best friend settled like a cold in Calleigh’s chest, but when and if she ever discussed him with Mary, the setting would be face to face, not over the phone. She owed her that.
After ending their conversation, guilt surrounded her heart. She shouldn’t have given Mary such a hard time about Michael and what was or wasn’t currently happening between them and what steps Mary should or shouldn’t take to make said situation happen or not happen. She talked a good game, but when it came right down to it, sustaining a healthy, romantic relationship with any member of the opposite sex was beyond her capabilities.