Heat Of The Moment (Brooklyn Heat) (7 page)

BOOK: Heat Of The Moment (Brooklyn Heat)
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“Doesn’t America already think that?” she shot back.

“I’m rehabbing my image.” He grinned at her again.

“So this is your proposition?” she said, as everything fell into place in her mind.

“You want me to pretend to be your girlfriend?”

He nodded. She laughed, and threw her head back. That was ridiculous. “That’s ridiculous.” She forked up another piece of French toast.

“How come? You don’t think I’m cute enough for you?”

“First, no one would believe it.”

“Why not?”

“Because! How did we meet?”

“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “We could concoct some kind of story.”

“And what would I have to do?”

“Spend time with me,” he said, shrugging. “Just long enough for us to be seen out together, for some other photographs of us to end up in the tabloids.”

“No.” She shook her head. “No way. I don’t want to end up in some tabloid with you.”

“You do realize that if you don’t do it, you’re going to end up in some tabloid anyway.”

“But it’s not true!”

“What’s not true? That you made out with me in my hotel room just an hour after meeting me, and then a paparazzi caught a snapshot of you leaving? Yes, that’s very true.”

“I’ll sue them.”

“For what?”

“I don’t know.” There had to be something. Defamation of character or libel or something. Celebrities were always suing tabloids for things that were really true. Of course, in order to do that you probably needed lots of big name lawyers. And in order to get lots of big name lawyers, you probably needed lots of money.

“Well, whatever.” Chad had finished his French toast, and he reached over and forked up a piece of hers without asking. “I tried.”

She looked at him, thinking about it. He was trying to act like this whole situation didn’t mean that much to him, like it didn’t matter if he signed the deal with Expera or not. And from a financial standpoint, it was probably true. When you were making ten million dollars a year, another ten million on top of it was nice, but definitely not necessary. He didn’t seem like he was hurting for money, like some of those professional athletes who ended up blowing their fortunes and filing for bankruptcy. But still. He wanted that deal with Expera. And he wanted it badly enough to bring her here, to ask her if she would pretend to be his girlfriend. He needed something from her, and he was trying to pretend that he didn’t, that he was doing her a favor by keeping her picture out of the newspaper.

“What’s it worth to you?” she asked suddenly, the wheels in her head turning.

He stopped eating. “What’s it worth to me?”

“Yeah.” She nodded. “How long until you sign the deal?”

“A few days.”

“And then we can break up?”

“Yes.”

“So like I said, what’s it worth to you?”

He looked her in the eye, and she didn’t look away. She wanted him to name a figure. She would try to get him up of course, because she wasn’t going to do it for anything less than twenty five thousand dollars. Even though it would be in a more legitimate way, she was still going to end up in the tabloids. Her name was still going to be out there, linked with his forever, at least as far as google was concerned. Twenty-five thousand dollars in a few days would be way more than she’d ever made in her life. It would give her time to find another job, to relax while she did it, to not have to worry about anything for a while.

“A hundred thousand dollars,” Chad said, his tone serious.

Kenley almost blinked. But she forced herself to take a moment, to act like she was thinking about it. And then, finally, she said, “Deal.”

Chapter Six

One hundred thousand dollars. The words had been out of his mouth before he even knew what he was saying. Chad was no stranger to being a little extravagant –

bottles of Cristal, the best hotel rooms, thousand dollar pairs of sunglasses. But those were treats, and at the end of the day, you at least had something to show for it.

You’ll have something to show for this, too
, he told himself as he walked through the airport in New York the next morning, fresh off his flight from Florida.
You’ll have a
shiny new endorsement deal, which could be a springboard into other, shinier
endorsement deals.

When he really thought about it, though, the hundred thousand dollars wasn’t the problem. Yes, it was a lot of money, but if it got him the deal, it was a small price to pay.

The real problem, the problem that had been nagging at the back of his mind ever since he left his mom’s house and Kenley yesterday afternoon, was that he had been so quick to offer it.

He hadn’t planned on offering her any money. Yes, he knew there were probably going to be expenses – clothes and dinners, that kind of thing. But those were normal expenses you had when you were dating someone. He hadn’t planned on actually
paying
her to pretend to be his girlfriend.

He’d underestimated her, though, because she’s come right out and asked him what it was worth. And in that moment, he’d wanted her to say yes so bad that he’d blurted out a hundred thousand dollars.

Why was she having that effect on him? He’d never seen anything like it.

Actually, that wasn’t true. He had seen something like it, on his best friend Jay Havens.

It was the same way he’d acted when he’d met his fiancé, Alyssa. The thought was so disconcerting that Chad picked his phone up and immediately called Jay.

“Yo,” Jay said when he answered. “Where’ve you been? I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for days.”

“Question,” Chad said while he waited for his luggage to come around the carousel. He kept his head down so that no one would recognize him. Luckily the area he was in was relatively free of foot traffic at this time of day, but in New York, it was usually only a matter of time before someone spotted him. “When you met Alyssa, how did you know she was the one?”

“Because I couldn’t stop thinking about her, and I’d do anything to be with her.”

Through the phone, the sound of Alyssa saying
‘aww’
could be heard in the background.

The two were always together, ever since they’d gotten engaged.

Chad loved Alyssa – she was cool and fun and always called him out on his shit, which he found refreshing. But normally, he would roll his eyes at the fact that that Alyssa was so close to Jay that she could overhear Jay’s conversation. Today, however, Chad thought it was sweet. The thought was alarming.

“Why?” Jay asked suspiciously. “Why do you want to know how I knew Alyssa was the one?”

“No reason.”

“Did you meet someone?”

“No.” His suitcase came around the carousel, and Chad reached down and picked it up.

“Who is she?” Jay asked.

“She’s no one,” Chad said. “I told you, I wasn’t asking because of that.” On the other side of the airport, near the wall, a woman wearing a tight sweater and a pair of jeans that showed every curve of her body smiled at him. Chad smiled back. See? he thought to himself. He didn’t care about Kenley. Here he was, back in New York, flirting with the first hot woman he saw for God’s sake. He was back to his old ways, back to his old tricks, getting all worked up over anything in a form-fitting outfit. The problem was, he didn’t feel all that worked up.

“You weren’t asking because of what?” Jay asked.

“What?”

“You just called me up and asked me how I knew Alyssa was the one, and now you’re saying you didn’t call and ask me about that for any good reason.”

“Oh.” Chad shook his head and stepped through the sliding glass doors to the traffic circle outside. One of the team cars was waiting for him there, and he held up his hand to stop the driver from getting out to take care of his luggage, preferring to do it himself. Then he slid into the car and gave the driver the address of his apartment in Brooklyn.

“Hello?” Jay said.

“Yes, I’m here.” Chad pulled his sunglasses off and looked out the window. The city was cold and gray, much colder than it had been in Florida. This was one thing that wasn’t fair about the off-season -- whenever he had time off, the weather was complete shit. Of course, he could have spent the winter somewhere warm, but the Brooklyn Heat organization frowned upon that kind of thing. They wanted the players to stay in Brooklyn, to become part of the
community.
It was a bunch of bullshit.

“What’s going on with you?” Jay asked. And he sounded worried.

“Nothing,” Chad said, trying to force himself to believe the words as they came out of his mouth. “Absolutely nothing. I’m just starting to get worried about myself, you know, because I can’t find a woman to settle down with.” It was a lie, of course. Chad had never worried about this in his life. But he couldn’t have Jay knowing what was really going on.

“You want to find a woman to settle down with?”

“No,” Chad said, trying to sound cocky. “That’s the problem. I can’t imagine myself with just one woman. I’m starting to think there might be something wrong with me.” As he said this, visions of Kenley at all his games, sitting in the stands and wearing his jersey, danced through his head. He’d take her home afterwards, make her dinner, and then they’d have a glass of wine in front of the TV while watching shows on HGTV.

Jesus Christ. What was wrong with him?

“Why?” Jay asked. “What have you gotten yourself into now?”

Chad hadn’t planned on telling him. But he didn’t want Jay to think he was turning into some kind of romantic sap, and before he knew it, the whole story was pouring out. Meeting Kenley. The pictures. The meeting with Expera. Him paying her to be his fake girlfriend. Of course, he left out the part about how much he’d been thinking about her, and spun the whole thing like it was going to be some huge colossal headache, just another classic Chad Parnell scrape that he’d gotten himself into.

“How much?” Jay asked.

“How much what?” Chad shifted uncomfortably on his seat.

“How much are you paying her?”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said.

“Chad, how --- oh, hold on.” He heard Jay conversing with someone in the background. “Alyssa wants to know what this girl looks like.”

“Kenley?”

“Yeah.”

Chad thought about it. Her long blonde hair. Her blue eyes. The way her nose crinkled up when she didn’t agree with something he was saying. Her soft skin, how nice she felt against him, how he loved pulling her close, how small she felt even though she was curvy and pretty and sexy all at once. “She’s pretty,” Chad said.

“And?” Jay asked suspiciously.

“And what? She’s pretty, she has long blonde hair.”

“Oh my God,” Jay said. “You love her!”

“What?”

“You love her! All those questions about how did I know that Alyssa was the one, and now you won’t even tell me what this girl looks like!”

“I told you what she looks like!”

“She has blonde hair?” Jay scoffed. “Come on. No hint of her breast size? No discussion of how she looks in a bikini or what you want to do to her sexually?”

“Jay,” Chad said, as if he was talking to a child, “I wasn’t going to say those things when your fiancé asked what she looked like. That’s disrespectful.”

“That’s bullshit,” Jay said. “Alyssa doesn’t care and you know it.”

“I have to go.”

“Tell me what she looks like!”

“I have to go.” He hung up the phone and looked out the window, watching Manhattan sliding by until it turned into Brooklyn. His phone buzzed in his lap, and he looked down, expecting a text from Jay, giving him more shit. He picked it up, ready to give in, to make sure that he described her this time, giving all the disgusting details he usually did. But it wasn’t Jay. It was Kenley.

“Flight arrives at 3:15,” the text said “See you then.”

That was all. No ‘looking forward to it’ or ‘can’t wait to see you’ or ‘what do you want to do tonight.’

Who cares? Chad told himself. It’s just business. That conversation with Jay had left him rattled. It didn’t mean anything that he wouldn’t describe Kenley, just that she meant nothing to him. This was an arrangement, pure and simple. He scrolled through his phone, looking at the numbers of women he’d amassed over the years. Some of the names he didn’t even recognize.

In a couple of days, when this whole thing was over, he would call one of them, celebrate his new deal with a bang. No pun intended. Satisfied, he leaned back against the seat and enjoyed the rest of the ride to Brooklyn.

***

“You’re going to do
what?”
Melissa screeched. She was sitting on Kenley’s bed while Kenley rummaged around in the closet.

“I’m going to be his fake girlfriend,” Kenley said. She’d taken a flight this morning from Florida to Connecticut so that she could check on her apartment and pack some things for New York. Later this afternoon, she’d fly from New Haven to LaGuardia to meet Chad.

She surveyed her clothes, running her eyes across the comfortable sweaters and soft denim. What did one wear when they were pretending to be the girlfriend of a famous baseball player? Something told her that her GAP and Old Navy heavy wardrobe wasn’t going to cut it.

“And he’s paying you?” Melissa asked.

“Yes.”

Melissa cocked her head and pulled one of her long dark curls down and wound it around her finger. “No offense, but why does he have to pay for it?”

Kenley pulled out her suitcase and set it on the bed. She’d been in such a rush to leave Connecticut for Florida that she hadn’t taken the time to really pack much of her stuff. The weather in Connecticut was cold, and in Florida it wasn’t, so she’d just bought a bunch of cheap bathing suits and stuff when she’d gotten down there. Looking back, she had probably been in a little bit of denial, spending a bunch of money on new summer clothes she didn’t need when she’d just lost her job. Oh, well. Money wasn’t going to be a problem soon, har har har.

“I told you, there are pictures of me and him together,” Kenley said. “So he had to pretend that I was his girlfriend.”

“Why were there pictures of you guys together?” Melissa leaned back against the pillows on Kenley’s bed and took a sip of the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte in her hand.

“I’m sorry, it’s early, and I’m having trouble processing this.”

“Because I was coming out of his hotel room, and some little jerk asshole who worked there took a picture of us.” She held up a black dress she’d gotten for fifteen dollars at TJ Maxx, but was DKNY. “Do you think I can wear this in New York?”

Melissa raised her eyebrows incredulously, but Kenley put the dress in her suitcase anyway. She had no choice -- it was one of the only things she had that was even close to being appropriate.

“So how much is he paying you?”

“I can’t really say.” Kenley moved over to the dresser and rummaged around in her underwear drawer, picking up a handful and stuffing it into her suitcase. Her underwear, at least, didn’t matter, since no one would be seeing it. And if Chad thought he was going to, he had another thing coming. This wasn’t going to be like some kind of Indecent Proposal situation. Yes, she was pretending to be his girlfriend, but that definitely did not include sex.

“You can’t really say?” Melissa screeched. She set her coffee down on Kenley’s nightstand and crossed the room toward her. “You call me up, demanding I come to your apartment immediately, which I do, stopping to bring you coffee on the way over I might add, and you won’t even tell me the details?”

“I shouldn’t have even told you as much as I did,” Kenley said, moving past her and into the bathroom. Most of her toiletries had already been packed for her trip to Florida, but she wanted to make sure she hadn’t forgotten anything. She was going to need all the help she could get if she was going to pull this off.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Melissa asked, following Kenley into the bathroom. “You think I have a big mouth?”

“I didn’t say that.” The truth was, of course, that Melissa
did
kind of have a big mouth, and that Chad had sworn Kenley to secrecy, had forbidden her from telling anyone. But what was she supposed to do? She had to tell
someone.
And although it was true that Melissa was a gossip, when it came to the really important things, Kenley knew her sister could keep her mouth shut. At least, she was hoping she could.

“So then how much?”

“A lot.”

“Fifty grand?” Kenley didn’t say anything, and Melissa’s eyes widened.

“More?”

“Are you going to be able to drive me to the airport in a little while?” Kenley asked. “My flight leaves in an hour.”

“Yeah, sure, no problem.” Melissa never worried about things like work schedules or whether or not her boss would just let her take off in the middle of the day.

She just did, and somehow, it worked.

“More than fifty thousand dollars,” Melissa muttered as she headed back toward Kenley’s room. “God, some people have all the luck.”

***

The flight to New York was short and smooth, with no turbulence and a relatively enjoyable in-flight movie, but Kenley’s stomach was flipping so much that she couldn’t relax. She tried to read a book, but the words kept dancing on the page. She tried to eat a bag of pretzels, but she didn’t have any appetite. Finally, she just sat there, sipping her water and taking deep breaths, checking her watch every minute to see if they were there yet.

When they finally touched down, she was one of the first off the plane. She looked around the airport, realizing she had no idea where she was supposed to meet Chad. Was it even Chad she was supposed to meet? Maybe he’d sent some kind of driver or assistant to pick her up. He probably figured that since she wasn’t a real girlfriend, she didn’t warrant a trip to the airport.

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