Anatomy of a Player (Taking Shots #2)(3)


by Cindi Madsen

Definitely not easy, and my blood zinged with the challenge. “I’m Hudson.” Whoa. Little swaying right there. I did my best to hold still, but the room was tilting again.

“I’m not interested,” she said, then she turned back around and said something to her redheaded friend. The friend seemed familiar, but she was facing the other direction, and I couldn’t focus on her with the many other thoughts drunkenly crashing through my head. All of them agreed that the blonde needed to be our main focus—girls like her didn’t come around every day.

“I was afraid this was a bad idea,” she muttered. I wasn’t even sure her friend had heard her, or if the blonde hottie was purposely talking to herself. “I’m just not ready to deal with it, despite trying to dance it off and being on my second crazy-strong drink. In fact, I’m thinking—”

I tapped her on the shoulder again, and she gave an exasperated sigh before glancing at me.

“How about you and I get a drink? You know what they say…” I winked, which I didn’t think was part of my usual repertoire, but it came out anyway. “Three’s the charm—I’ll make sure of it.”

“Look, buddy, the amount of alcohol it’d take for me to sleep with you tonight would kill me. So you might as well move on.”

I laughed, which was apparently the wrong move, because she said something about how she never should’ve come, then grabbed her friend’s arm—even though the girl had been talking to someone else—and walked away, melting into the crowd.

I wasn’t sure how long I stood there staring at the place where she’d disappeared, but the next thing I knew Dane was all up in my grill, waving his hand. “Bro, you’re so wasted. Remember how we agreed to go easy so we wouldn’t be totally hung over at tomorrow’s practice? Coach is going to kill us.”

“Be fine by practice,” I muttered, not sure if the words had come out right.

“Do you even know where you are?”

I knew where I was, but the rest of my mind was pretty blank, which was exactly what I’d wanted since the start of this sucky day.

Chapter Three

Whitney

I readjusted my bra so the push-up pads had maximum effect and then felt to check that my jeans weren’t gaping in the back. Thanks to my Kardashian-esque booty that exercise didn’t touch, finding the right pair of jeans was like finding a college guy who wanted to be in a long-term relationship.

I wanted to believe they existed—the commitment-ready guys, that is, since I’d discovered that for the right eye-bulging price I could find jeans with cool designs on the pockets which hugged and flattered and came pretty damn close to perfection—but right now it felt like I’d have a better chance at running into a unicorn on campus.

It’d been just over a week since Trevor had shown his true colors. Going to the party with Lyla and Beck only showed me there were more guys exactly like him ready to take his place. The intoxicated, tattooed dude who’d hit on me might’ve been ridiculously hot, but for once I hadn’t fallen for a cocky smile and a line. At the time I’d been too involved in my personal pity party to appreciate my fortitude, but by the time Lyla and I had our girls’ night, the thought buoyed me up and led me to a huge decision.

Until I could figure out how to break my habit of falling for guys who hurt me, I was taking a sabbatical from dating and sex to focus on my professional future. When I’d first come to Boston College, all I’d been thinking about was how I was that much closer to becoming the hard-hitting journalist I’d always wanted to be. Guys and parties had gotten in the way, but I vowed now to correct that.

Step one: meeting with my journalism professor after class. I planned on finding out what I needed to do to ensure that when I graduated, I’d have a foot-up on the rest of my competition.

No more letting life happen to me and then wondering why it’s going so wrong. I’m taking my future into my own hands. Without the stress and worry guys inevitably brought, it’d be so much easier to focus, and the thought of being in control of my life again sent a swirl of excitement through me.

I saw a flash of my future self, living in New York City and working for some big time publication. People would open their paper and look for my byline, knowing they were in good hands with me.

Holding on to that motivational image, I grabbed a Coke out of the fridge and unwrapped a package of Strawberry Pop-Tarts—the breakfast of forever-running-late champions.

Einstein mewed from his spot near my feet and then rubbed against the bottom of my jeans. “Hey, buddy. Do you need breakfast, too?”

Despite being in a hurry, I set down my Coke and checked his bowl. It had some dry cat food in it, but there was a tiny place in the center where the blue plastic showed through, which I’d learned meant “completely empty” to Einstein.

I poured more of the fish-shaped pieces into his bowl, until there was a giant mound where the hole used to be. Before Lyla and I moved in together, she’d asked if I was cool with cats. I felt neutral about them, so I said I was fine with her having one. The more I got to know the little gray and white furball, though, the more I realized I was a cat person. I didn’t talk about him with my dates, like Lyla used to, but during the dateless times, I was always glad to have him curled up by me on the couch.

Since I had a lot more of those nights in my immediate future, he and I were about to have a lot of one-on-one time. “Okay, I gotta go now. Wish me luck.”

Einstein was too busy eating to bother with well-wishes. Okay, now I’m talking to the cat and making excuses for him. Maybe I am getting to the crazy cat lady point. Dang, Lyla’s wearing off on me.

I retrieved my Coke and rushed out the door, refocusing on my mission: find out how to be the best journalism student ever, so that every major news outlet would want to hire me the second I graduated.

That way I could focus on blowing the lids off of scandals instead of how stupid guys were. Once I was living in a big city, reporting on huge stories, I was sure that my guy problems would be nothing but a distant memory.

“I just want to do everything I can to ensure that I’m ready for real-world experience once I graduate.” I finished up my spiel, taking my first full breath since I’d sat down with Professor Jessup. A cough lodged in my throat, my body rejecting the stale, Old-Spice-scented air. I forced it to stay put but glanced longingly at the window and the blue sky beyond. Cracking a window wouldn’t kill him, would it?