Anatomy of a Player (Taking Shots #2)(17)


by Cindi Madsen

That challenge-fueled excitement I experienced around her zinged through my veins as I strolled over. She spun at the sound of my approach, and her eyes widened for a second before a stern, no-nonsense expression took shape. “Surprised to see you near a library on a Saturday,” she said.

“I’m not surprised at all that you spend your Saturdays here.”

The haughty tilt of her head kicked up a notch. Don’t laugh, don’t laugh. It was almost too easy to get a rise out of her, but I needed to break through her barriers, not make her erect even more. I poked her arm and shot her a smile. “I’m only teasing. It’s a nice surprise.”

She pressed her lips together, her eyes narrowing.

“Come on, Reporter Girl. We’re going to be seeing a lot of each other this season. Can’t we try to be friends?”

“Friends know each other’s names.” A syrupy-sweet smile spread across her face.

“Fair enough, Whitney.”

Surprise flickered through her eyes. The glasses gave her that hot librarian vibe, but the reflection of the locker room’s lights had hidden the different blues swirling through her irises. I got a little lost in them for a moment, then remembered I’d been trying to convince her to be friends.

“Yeah, I remember your name. That makes us halfway there, right?”

“Halfway sounds right. Since…” She grimaced. “I’m totally blanking. All I remember is that you’re number fourteen.”

Now I was the one narrowing my eyes, trying to read if she genuinely couldn’t remember my name or number—not that I was deterred either way. “Ouch. I’d suggest learning the hockey players’ names if you’re going to be covering the games. Or are you one of those girls who only claim to know about hockey?”

“I know hockey,” she insisted. “I’ve been watching it for years, and I’m fully qualified for my job, thank you very much.”

I sensed movement behind me, and Whitney’s oh-shit expression made me wonder who in the world it could be. But when I spun, it was just an unassuming girl with a boy haircut.

“I forgot to add something,” she said. “They also think that they can ask me for notes and I’ll just give them to them, because they can’t possibly be bothered to come to their classes. They think I’m desperate for attention, but the joke’s on them, because I give them wrong answers every time. They’re too stupid to even know it.”

I glanced from the girl to Whitney and raised my eyebrows, silently asking what that was all about. A nervous laugh sputtered from Whitney’s lips, and she stepped forward and put her hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Could you give me just a second to finish up here? I want to keep the answers confidential, so I’ll meet you…” She looked around and muttered about how the Tree of Life sculpture was a bit far.

“How about that bench over there?” Whitney pointed. “Then I can add to your answers and keep everything more organized.” There was a panicked edge to her words, and she nearly pushed the girl away from us.

Boy Haircut glanced over her shoulder at me, scowled like I’d ruined her life, and then strode toward the bench.

“What was that?” I asked. “She’s all fired up.”

Whitney reached up the way girls did when they brushed their hair out of their face, only hers was all pulled up in that ever-present bun. I wondered if she ever let it down. One day, I was going to liberate the blond strands and run my fingers through them.

“It’s… It’s nothing. I mean, it’s…confidential. So I better go talk to her. I’ll see you later…?” She pointed at me, like she really needed me to fill in the blank.

“Hudson,” I said. “And it’s number nineteen—I’d hate for you to get it wrong in your column.” I was going to stick to killing her with kindness, even if she was going to play games. In fact, that’d make it all the more fun. Another wave of excitement hit, washing away everything else. Bring it, blondie.

“Right. I’ll make sure to remember that—it’s just that I’ve been covering football, too, and those guys really stick out in my mind, you know?”

“Those guys haven’t won a game all season, and they’re definitely not league championships like we are.”

“So you think you should get special treatment for winning the NCAA playoffs last year?”

“Hell yeah,” I said. A triumphant smile curved her lips, and I felt like I’d walked into a trap. No matter. I could tell by the way she couldn’t stop staring that she was attracted, and that was all I needed to seal the deal eventually. “I’ve got to get to my study session, but I’ll catch you later. Whitney.”

I’d really wanted to call her Reporter Girl and show her that I could play her little game better any day, but then I’d undo what progress I hoped I’d made.

She spun around and headed over to the girl with verbal diarrhea. Despite the stuffy clothes, Whitney had a hell of a sassy sway to her hips, which proved I was right about there being a hot, feisty girl underneath.

Oh, yeah. Unleashing her was going to be fun. In fact, our heated interaction might just be enough to get me through the next few hours.

Chapter Thirteen

Whitney

Two hours in, and I’d had a dozen students slow down long enough to answer my questions. I’d thought the study-minded would care about the perks athletes received, but it was more like most of them were oblivious that sports were even being played.

Three people told me they were big fans, one of football, one hockey, and one said “all the sports.” She even bragged about our hockey team winning the NCAA playoffs last year.

Four thought that athletes—especially the hockey and football players—probably received special treatment, but few cared passionately about it. No one had been as passionate as Anna, the girl with the pixie haircut. I’d been terrified she’d blow my cover, and my entire article would be at risk once Hudson knew what I’d been asking, but part of me wished he’d known her scathing remarks had been about athletes—maybe that’d give him the dose of humility he needed.

Probably not, though.

Enthusiasm was hard to keep up, especially when the next three people I waved down refused to stop long enough to answer my questions. My energy waned, and I set up under a tree and pulled out the stack of newspapers Lyla had given me. The sun broke through the clouds, and a gentle breeze rattled the dried leaves overhead, shaking a few loose.