Anatomy of a Player (Taking Shots #2)(13)

by Cindi Madsen

Considering my miniscule sports knowledge, I was fairly certain I was safe from that fate. Lindsay’s only comment on my write-up from the hockey game had been that it was good, but I needed more voice in the next one, and for it to be a couple of paragraphs longer. So between my research and my classes, I needed to find a voice before the next game.

No biggie, right? I’ll just order one off Amazon. Two-day shipping, for the win!

A tall guy with a mop of sandy-brown curls walked in and Lindsay motioned him over. “Whitney, this is Will, our tech guy. He keeps up the website and formats the online articles, and if you need help digging for information, or you find a lead that you need researched through more…let’s go with thorough methods, he’s your guy.”

“Delighted to meet you,” he said in a delicious British accent. Since I’d had people mock and mimic the hint of southern accent I’d tried to rid myself of, I didn’t mention it, and I made a mental note to be careful of accidentally imitating it. For some reason, I couldn’t be around someone with an accent without subconsciously adopting it, usually poorly. Even now I had the urge to say things like “cheerio,” “bloody hell,” and “loo.”

Before I made a fool of myself, I settled into the tiny desk Lindsay had asked a janitor to dig out of who-knew-where—the 1900s from the looks of the genuine chipped wood. Not that I was complaining. It matched the old-school brick architecture of most of the buildings on campus.

I opened my laptop and continued on with my research. Finding instances of jocks thinking they were above the rules was almost too easy. There was that NFL quarterback everyone here loved, who’d cheated in a playoff game but got special treatment despite a judge’s ruling. At Auburn University, their curriculum committee tried to discontinue the “Public Administration” major, stating it added little to the school’s academic mission. But then top administrators overruled the decision, because Auburn’s athletic department had been funneling their football players through the cakewalk program. The athletic department even offered to fund it so that their football players could keep up their counterfeit GPAs.

Then there was the UNC scandal, where the athletes took fake “paper classes.” A quick email would result in a passing grade.

Must be nice.

The big kicker was the way they’d boasted about their ability to maintain high academic standards while running one of the top sports programs.

Next, I spent a good hour on scholarship information. The Flynn Fund for athletes at Boston College offered two hundred and seventy-two scholarships totaling nearly fifteen million dollars. All the applicants really needed to be was good at sports.

On the other hand, the Presidential Scholars—awarded to about fifteen students—required nearly perfect grades, stellar SAT scores, and well-written essays. Seemed pretty unbalanced if you asked me.

As for other scholarships and the money put into them, I kept hitting dead ends when it came to exact statistics. With Boston College being a private school, they didn’t have to report that funding the way other universities did.

When I hit a wall a few hours in, I packed up my laptop and notes so I could go to the library to do the rest of my homework. I took the long route, deciding to walk by the Conte Forum building. A stone eagle statue stood outside the giant athletic facility. I paused near it, noting the modern design, vastly different from the gothic spires of the older buildings that I loved.

Showy, just like the athletes inside.

“Reporter Girl, is that you?”

I whirled toward the voice and my stomach hit my toes. Not Hudson—anyone but him. But there he stood, his damp brown waves and the whiff of soapy-freshness making me think he’d recently showered.

I reached up to run a hand through my own hair, but instead I hit the stupid tight bun, which left my arm hovering in midair. I tried to cover the awkwardness by pushing up my glasses.

“I was just, uh, coming from the newspaper office, and admiring how this place looked all lit up.” Why did I add that stupid “uh”? Mama used to harp on it when I slipped and said it during my pageant interviews. She told me it made me sound like a dumb hick, and that I should be glad I wasn’t competing in Alabama, like she’d had to, where the competition was even steeper.

Hudson glanced back at the building like he’d never thought about it before. Big surprise, he took the state-of-the-art facility for granted. Probably thought he deserved nicer.

“Yeah, I guess,” he said. “It is a really nice facility—nicer than any I thought I’d ever play in—but once in a while I miss the old and simple. And I definitely miss pick-up games, where there weren’t so many rules.”

Crap. That was actually kind of a great answer. I swore he was analyzing me as much as I was analyzing him, though, like he was wondering if I liked his response. Which made me wonder if it was even genuine. Plus he’d admitted to not liking rules, which was a red flag. He’d called me Reporter Girl, too. I bet he didn’t even remember my name.

Be tough, Whitney. No falling for his charming answers.

Hudson looped his thumb through the strap of his bag. “So, you said you came from the newspaper office? What made you want to go into journalism?”

“The desire to see through bullshit.” I flashed him an over-the-top grin. There. Let him analyze that. No matter what I said, I’d probably never get in good with this particular hockey player. There was something about him that prickled my defenses.

Probably because I knew if I dropped them—even a little—I’d start thinking about how his brown eyes had a way of sucking me in. Or how he was only a few inches taller than me but twice as wide, the T-shirt stretched tight across his chest making it clear that it was all muscle.

“I like that straightforwardness,” he said, and for a frantic second I thought he meant my staring. “But you look a little stressed. After I hit the weights I usually go soak in the hot tub.”

“Cool story,” I said, and I was glad that my voice came out calm, because my internal alarm was flashing red. Hot tub? Partial nakedness? Bad idea all around.

Amusement flickered across his features. “I thought you might want to join me. It’d help with that stress.”

“Somehow I don’t think you’re that worried about my stress. In fact, I’d guess you’re more interested in my bikini.”