Anatomy of a Player (Taking Shots #2)(16)


by Cindi Madsen

“Not to mention it landed you Beck,” I said.

“Yes, let’s always mention that.” A dreamy look crossed her face, and I’d officially lost her. She came back a few seconds later. “Like I said before, just go as all-out nerdy as you can. Spout facts. Make it awkward. Of course, that’s a bit trickier while you’re doing interviews, because you want to come across as professional.”

“Therein lies the problem. No matter what I say, Hudson doesn’t seem to understand what treating me like a professional entails.” Of course, the way I stared at him wasn’t entirely professional either. I’d have to figure out a way to shut down my hormones around him, so that I wouldn’t have to work so hard to shut him down.

“Well,” Lyla said, leaning back against the counter and crossing one ankle over the other. “You landed pretty great slams the past few times. I’m sure he’ll give up on flirting with you and move on.”

A strange sensation tugged on my gut. The thought of him moving on didn’t bother me. Or it shouldn’t. As frustrating as he was, a teeny tiny, obviously mentally unstable part of me craved our interactions and the challenge of coming up with a retort. My blood pumped faster around him. I said things I normally didn’t. With him, speaking my mind was easy.

More than once, I wondered if I’d been too harsh the other night. But he’d assumed I’d be desperate to jump into the hot tub with him—and that jab about my swimsuit sent a spike of irritation through me every time I thought about it. Just, like, once. Okay, three times, maybe four. I stacked the night of the party against him, too, with his smooth line and accompanying wink. Every inch of him was player, player, player.

I couldn’t let myself forget that.

Even if that tiny part of me wanted to play right back.

I set up in front of the library, and if getting my nerd on was the goal, well then the flutter I felt about conducting my first poll meant I could cross that off my list.

The flutter died pretty quickly once I tried to get students to answer my questions. People didn’t even slow down. In fact, they saw me and sped up, like I was one of those pushy salesmen in the mall that sold sunglasses, lotions, and flat irons.

Finally I gathered enough courage to be bolder. When a couple of girls started toward the library, I stepped into their path. “Hey, would you mind answering a few questions? It’ll only take a few minutes of your time.”

The reluctance was clear in the way their shoulders sagged, but I’d snagged them—I just needed to keep them. “Do y’all think that athletes at the college get preferential treatment? Do you think they have different rules than the rest of the student body?”

The girls looked at each other, like the other would know the answer, then they gave uniform shrugs. “We don’t really pay attention to sports,” the one with curly dark hair said.

“Yeah, I could care less,” her brunette friend echoed.

“But don’t you think it’s unfair that they get preferential treatment, just because they know how to score in a game that has little bearing in the real world?” Okay, I was trying to sway them toward my side, and I wanted to be unbiased, but maybe they needed a little push to get them started.

The curly-haired one glanced at her friend again and then readjusted her backpack. “Sorry. I really don’t care. I’ve got a huge exam coming up, so I need to hit the books. Good luck.” With that, they both left.

Okay, so I might’ve idealized how amazing it’d be to jump in and ask the hard-hitting questions. Not that mine were especially hard-hitting. But this impacted the lives of students here on campus. Didn’t they care?

I wondered if having a camera pointed at me and a microphone in my hand would make people more or less likely to answer. The attention hogs would probably come over, but who knew if their answers would be coherent, much less helpful. I wonder how long most journalists ask questions before they get a response they can even use.

Determined to not let the lack of passion of my last two participants—and I used that term loosely—get me down, I tried again. I spotted a nice-looking girl with a cute pixie-cut, and decided I’d try her next. I almost felt bad interrupting her impressive speed-walking, but as soon as I asked her about unfair treatment, the speed transferred from her walking to her words.

I scribbled her answers as fast as I could, unable to keep up with her spiel against athletes. “…and did you know that there are studies proving that high school students would learn more after ten a.m.? But you know why America still has them start so early anyway?”

I had an idea where she was going, but this time, I was going to be unbiased—I thought this girl might be biased enough for the both of us. “Tell me.”

“So that the athletes can fit sports in after school. The entire country is obsessed with sports players. I’m up to my eyeballs in student loans, but they slide in and get early registration, and have everything paid for.” She huffed at the end of her sentence and shook her head. “There are people out there making medical breakthroughs, and athletes get more attention and money. I mean, soldiers are out there fighting for our country, and we barely pay them enough for their families to scrape by. I seriously get so angry when I think about it.”

She shook her head again, and I could tell she was fighting to calm herself, which made me hesitant to ask anything more. My questions had been answered and then some, anyway.

“Thank you so much for stopping, and for your opinion.”

She nodded and then wandered away, but instead of taking up her speed-walking, she moved slowly and looked a bit lost. Oops. I think I messed up her concentration. Maybe even her entire afternoon.

I spotted a tall, bespectacled guy and spun around to grab his attention—I wanted to have as wide a demographic as possible. “Excuse me, could I ask—”

He shook his head and walked on. I blew out a breath. That’s okay. You can’t get me down.

Now, to just figure out which student to stop next.

Chapter Twelve

Hudson

On my way into the library, I spotted Reporter Girl herself. She had a yellow legal pad under her arm, and she spun in a slow circle, glancing from passerby to passerby. She lifted an arm as if to wave one of them down, hesitated, then slowly dropped it.

I eyed the door to the library—where I really needed to go in order to not be late—then at her again. I can spare five minutes to lay some groundwork.