Anatomy of a Player (Taking Shots #2)(5)


by Cindi Madsen

Strike that. She probably thought it was overly violent and bad for society in general. The thing was, as challenging as they were, I’d loved my classes last year. Even the ones that highlighted the many ways my family fit into the screwed-up dynamic—at least I better understood some of my motivations, as well as my mom’s.

Professor Hummel seemed to be teaching with the sole purpose of weeding out the weak. All the statistics bothered me, too. Like every life and problem was just a statistic, and more data for us to analyze, not a person with problems that were consuming their world, unique or not. Plus, adding math to anything was just extra evil.

Half the time I felt like a fraud attending a college like this anyway, and sitting in that class just accentuated the fact that I didn’t belong—not only because I struggled to keep up, but also because the materials we covered made me either want to hide or defend myself. Hell, I’d even internally justified my mom’s actions from time to time, despite telling myself I was done doing that. Those types of reactions would allow everyone to see right through me for sure. As it was, I suspected several of my classmates thought the only reason I was here was because I was good at hockey. Which was the truth, but I’d told myself that if I earned a degree, how I’d ended up at BC didn’t matter. What mattered was becoming something more than a sad statistic.

Too bad I didn’t understand how to calculate statistics or when to use them, just that most of the numbers suggested I’d fail.

“What about the TA?” Dane asked. “Male or female?”

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about working that angle. “Feminist. The preachy kind.”

Dane made a sour face. “A bi-curious male would’ve been better. But still. Don’t tell me you can’t work some of that Decker charm on her? Maybe make her see the light?”

I didn’t want to admit she might be beyond my charms, but I’d had a conversation with her that proved she was—when she’d handed back my test with the big F on the front, she’d seemed pretty damn gleeful about it. There were other girls in class, but I hadn’t had time to feel them out. It was just run from one class to another, then to the rink. Not to mention extra cardio and weight-lifting sessions.

The door swung open and our other roommate came in and tossed his backpack aside. “Who’s ready to hit the weight room?” Ryder grabbed the duffle bag that held his gym clothes and hiked it up on his shoulder. Everyone called him “Ox” because his last name was Maddox, he was the biggest guy on the team despite only being a sophomore, and when he charged a guy, you could practically see the steam coming out of his nostrils.

He worked harder than any of the other guys to remain a starter, too, which made me feel lazy, and I spent at least half of my day training. “Spot me, Decker?”

I glanced at my book one last time. Frustration rose and hitting the weights seemed like the perfect way to work it out. “Let me grab my stuff.”

Dane gave me a look. “So you’re going to do your assignment when?”

“When I get to it. Jeez, with you riding me all of the time, it’s no wonder I haven’t had any time to work my charms on a girl who can help me with my studies.”

“Ass,” Dane said, adding a middle finger to punctuate his statement. But then he grabbed his gym bag and headed out the door with us. It was nice that he cared so much, I suppose. When he’d first started harping on my grades in high school, I’d found it suffocating. It wasn’t until he’d practically carried me through an algebra class we’d had together that I’d learned to appreciate his big brother complex. Guess that happened when you were the oldest of five.

With his help, and with hockey as motivation, I’d pulled my Ds and Cs to mostly Bs with a few Cs. Unfortunately, after we made it through our college gen eds, our classes diverged—mine focused in sociology and his, along with most of my other teammates, in management and leadership classes.

On the way to the gym, my phone rang. When I saw the number across the display, I muted it. For someone who couldn’t be bothered with me for the last twenty-one years, Mom had certainly worn out my phone number this past week.

I would’ve killed for her to try to talk to me this much when I was a kid. Now… Well, now I didn’t want to deal with it at all.

Chapter Five

Whitney

So far, the meeting with the editor of the Heights wasn’t going so well. Lindsay Rivera, editor-in-chief, had given a snort of laughter when I said I wanted a spot this semester.

Any other day I might’ve taken that as a sign and given up. Not today. “Yes, I screwed up not coming here earlier, but I’ll take anything. I might look like a ditzy blond sorority girl, but I’m not looking to be an anchorwoman or to spend my life reporting on celebrity gossip for an entertainment channel. I want to do the actual investigating. I want to write hard-hitting stories, not be patted on the head and told to focus on keeping in shape and looking pretty.”

Lindsay’s finger froze on the mouse she’d been clicking—a dismissive gesture I’d decided to ignore. “Let me guess. You have Professor Jessup?”

“Yeah. How’d you know?”

“Because he gave me that same bullshit speech when I took his class.” Lindsay pressed her lips together and narrowed her eyes on me, and I held my breath.

Then I realized I shouldn’t hold my breath. This was my opportunity—really it was everything to me right now—so I was going to take it.

“I understand what I’m asking for is a big deal. I know the Heights is ranked in the top twenty of college papers and has been selected as an ACP Pacemaker Finalist several times.” It was one reason I’d chosen Boston College, and I couldn’t believe I’d given up so easily on trying to get a spot. “I know that it’s been editorially and financially independent from the college since the seventies, which I think keeps it much more fair and balanced and is super cool. I want to work at this paper, and I’ll work hard. I’ll do whatever it takes, and I won’t disappoint you, I swear on, like, a thousand bibles.”

“Well, I like that you can give me a history lesson on the paper, but as much as I enjoy those fun facts, I need more than that to hire someone. After all, I turned down qualified applicants who bothered to apply before the semester started.” She clicked the end of her pen over and over, each clickity-click causing a spike in my blood pressure. “Pitch me an idea.”