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Authors: Jaci Burton

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Straddling the Line (23 page)

BOOK: Straddling the Line
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As someone who cared about him, she took a step back. As a professional reporter, she was going to have to push him on this.

She pondered it over breakfast, during which she and Trevor exchanged glances. She also noticed her mother shooting very knowing looks at both her and Trevor, so maybe their tryst last night hadn’t been as secret as she first thought. At least her mother was smiling whenever she looked her way.

Then again, the last thing she wanted her mom to think was that she had some personal relationship going with Trevor, because it wasn’t a relationship.

It was just sex. She was doing a good job compartmentalizing it there.

Okay, maybe it was becoming more than just sex, at least to Haven. But she wasn’t going to allow herself to make it more than a fling, an interlude, something fun to do while she was on this assignment. She had enough to handle with getting her career on track and putting this whole grief nightmare to rest. Anything else would be too much.

Trevor was too much, and he’d made no indication he was even interested in a relationship. The last thing she wanted was to get hurt, and have more emotional turmoil to wrestle with.

No, she was better off putting Trevor firmly in the “fun to have sex with” box and leaving him there. So when he turned his sexy grin in her direction, his eyes capturing her with their intensity, she put a lock on her heart.

She could so easily get lost in him.

She could so easily love him.

ADMITTEDLY, TREVOR HAD FUN REVISITING HIS COLLEGE
campus for the day with Haven and the camera crew. They met with both his football and baseball coaches and Haven conducted short interviews while they reminisced. It was great to catch up with the coaches. He also got to talk to a few of his teachers, who were kind enough to say nice things about him even though he knew he’d given them all headaches. He walked them around campus and showed them some of his favorite hangouts, and they went out on the football field. He even took a few passes from some of the current football team out on the field.

That was fun, and Haven said they got some good shots. Now they wanted to do some interviews in town at some of his favorite local haunts.

“Let’s stop there,” Haven said, pointing out a local luncheonette. “This is a familiar hangout for a lot of the sports teams. I called ahead, and Ralph said we could film inside.”

Trevor grinned. “I haven’t had a cheeseburger in here in a long time.”

“And it just so happens it’s around the lunch hour.”

He gave her a sidelong look. “It’s like you planned it this way.”

“It is, isn’t it,” she said with a waggle of her brows.

Ralph had been the owner and manager of the luncheonette forever—at least according to Ralph. He was in his late sixties now, and beamed a smile at them as they walked in. Ralph looked like he ate at least two cheeseburgers a day, but he still had plenty of energy as he hurried from behind the counter with his arms outstretched to pull Trevor into a big bear hug.

“Trevor Shay. It’s about time you showed your face here again.”

“It’s good to be here. I’m hungry.”

“Haven called and said you’d be coming in. I’ll put those burgers on right now. Still with grilled onions and pickles, no mustard?”

The one thing everyone liked about Ralph was that once you became a regular, he never forgot your likes and dislikes. “Still the same.”

Trevor and Haven made their way to the corner booth. It was just after the peak lunch crowd, so the place wasn’t as crowded as it normally would be, since most of the students would be back in class by now.

Even Andy, the camera guy, ordered a cheeseburger and put the camera down while they ate.

“Ralph makes the best fries you’ll ever eat,” Trevor told Andy.

“This is truth,” Haven said, shoving two in her mouth.

Andy agreed, and they enjoyed an interview-free lunch. Ralph even came over and sat with them, reliving old times, including Trevor’s junior year, when the team won the national championship.
He pointed out a picture on the wall of the team. Trevor grinned, remembering when they’d all come in and signed that photo for Ralph.

“It’s one of my prized possessions,” Ralph said.

After lunch, Andy grabbed the camera, and Haven asked questions about the diner.

“What makes Ralph’s a special memory for you?”

“My roommates—Garrett Scott, Gray Preston, and Drew Hogan—we’d all hang out here when we didn’t have class or sports practice. The burgers are great, and all our friends would be here. It was a good spot.”

“To meet girls?”

Trevor grinned. “Well, that, too, but it’s off campus, and everyone from the college comes here. It’s a tradition. Me and the guys made it a point to meet here every Monday afternoon after practice. Unless one of us had a game, we were here.”

He looked around, the memories as thick as gnats invading the field on a hot summer night. He could still see them all sitting in this very booth—younger versions of all of them—laughing like crazy, girls surrounding them. God, life had been great back then. “We’d sit here and plan out our futures, talk about where we were gonna be in ten years.”

“And has it worked out the way you thought it would?”

He looked at Haven. “Better in a lot of ways. I’m fortunate to be living my dream, playing in two sports. And I have your father—Bill Briscoe—to thank for much of that.”

Haven paused for a second, giving him an unguarded glimpse of both her pain and her gratitude at his statement. “And why is that?”

“Bill and Ginger Briscoe were the dorm parents for the sports dorm. But they were a lot more than that to all of us. To me. I struggled academically and emotionally. Bill was tough when I needed someone to be tough on me, and listened when I needed an adult
to talk to. I wasn’t the easiest kid back then, but he really understood me. He gave me space when I needed it, and he sure as hell knew when to rein me in. I’m not lying when I say I wouldn’t be who I am today without him.”

“Okay, let’s cut here,” Haven said, then turned to Trevor. “Thank you.”

“Just stating the truth.”

After thanking Ralph for the lunch and saying good-bye, they headed over to one of the bars. It wasn’t open yet, so they did an interview outside, where Trevor told some tales about some outlandish antics he and the guys had gotten into on some wild weekend nights after games. He had Haven and Andy laughing when he told them the story about sneaking a very drunken but just-a-month-from-age-twenty-one underage Drew out of the bar one night when the cops came in because the bar was over capacity. It had been a big win for the football team, so it seemed like everyone on campus had crowded into the bar that night to celebrate.

“We threw him out the bathroom window.”

Haven’s eyes had widened. “Did he get hurt?”

“Nah. He landed on top of the Dumpster, then rolled off that and onto the ground in the alley. Then we hurried out the back and dragged him back to the car.”

He could tell Haven fought to keep a straight face. “Poor Drew.”

“He was fine. Drunks are very resilient.”

They wrapped up and Andy left them back at the house. It was hard saying good-bye to Ginger, but Trevor had to get on a plane and head to Tampa. He had deadlines to make and he needed to get ready to play.

He and Haven got in the car and made the drive back to St. Louis.

“How do you think it went?” she asked as they drove along the turnpike.

He turned to her. “How do I think what—oh, the interview stuff? Fine, I guess. How do
you
think it went?”

“It’s good. Really good, Trevor.”

He liked hearing the confidence in her voice, was happy to see her focused on work.

“Trevor, this piece would be so rich if we could touch on your early family life, if we could talk to your parents.”

He gripped the steering wheel. There was so much she didn’t know, so much about him—about his past and, hell, even his current life—that she was unaware of. Dipping into the past would only open old wounds and possibly expose his secret. That he would never do. It was too much of a risk. “No.”

“I don’t understand. Is there something you’re ashamed of? A lot of players have ugly childhoods, you know. You’ve risen above it, become a success. We could—”

“I don’t want to talk about this, Haven.”

“You don’t trust me.”

He shook his head, trying to keep his focus on the road. “Let’s not talk about this while I’m trying to drive. I need to focus.”

“Okay.”

He’d put her off, for now.

But he knew she was going to bring it up again.

And he was going to shut her down again.

And he’d keep doing it.

For his own preservation, and for the safety of the secret he’d held all these years.

TWENTY-FOUR

THE BALL SAILED THROUGH THE AIR IN A PERFECT
arc. Trevor never once took his eyes off it, though part of him recognized the safety on a path to his position. He dug in and pushed, racing to beat the corner to the first down line.

He reached for the ball and it landed right at his chest. The safety slammed into him and pushed him out of bounds. Holding tight to the ball, Trevor rolled to the ground.

The whistle blew, and Barrett Cassidy held out his hand. Trevor grabbed it and Barrett hauled him up.

“A few more steps, I would’ve had ya,” Barrett said.

Trevor laughed. “You’d like to think so, wouldn’t you?” Trevor slapped Barrett’s helmet and the two of them trotted back to the line of scrimmage.

“Good catch,” his coach said as the offense regrouped.

It was a grueling practice. It might be early October, but in Tampa, it was still hot. Sweat dripped down Trevor’s neck, but he
had to focus. He was playing catch-up with the team that already had played three games. They’d won two, lost the last one. He had to meet rookies and reinsert himself with his teammates again.

Nothing he wasn’t used to, but it always took him a while to change gears from baseball to football.

He caught sight of Haven walking the side of the field. Andy the camera guy was there, too, taking shots of him at practice.

He hadn’t seen much of her since they’d gotten back to St. Louis. He’d packed up and grabbed a flight right away, while she’d stayed behind to finish up footage to send in to her studio.

It had been three days. He’d missed her. He’d invited her to stay at his place, but she hadn’t answered him. She’d told him she was arriving today, so she must have come right to the field.

He wanted some alone time with her, but damned if he knew when he was going to get it. That was why he was hoping she’d stay with him at the house.

After practice ended, he stopped and talked to his coach, George, for a few minutes.

“There’s a rookie tight end that wants your job this year,” George told him.

“Warrell Timmons,” Trevor said. “Kind of a hotshot punk.”

George laughed. “He’s good.”

“Not as good as I am.”

George slapped him on the back. “That’s what I like about you, Trevor. You’re always so modest.”

“You don’t like me because I’m modest, George. You like me because I’m one of the best tight ends you’ve ever had.”

“True. So why don’t you give up baseball and play for us full time? You’re not getting any younger and I’m tired of having to wait for you.”

“Hey. I’ve got plenty of playing years ahead of me.”

“So you say. But football’s a hard game.”

“Not for me it isn’t.”

“Those young kids like Timmons are coming up all the time. One of these days, one of them is going to push you right out.”

Any other guy would be offended—or maybe paranoid. But Trevor knew his coach. There was a place for him on this team as long as he stayed healthy, kept his stats up, and wanted to play here. And every year some new hotshot like Warrell Timmons tried to shove Trevor out of the way. He knew he couldn’t devote the entire season to playing for Tampa, so they had to develop new players at the tight end position.

And maybe Trevor couldn’t spend the entire season playing, but he was good at helping the new guys.

“So you want me to spend some time with this kid?”

“If you wouldn’t mind. Knock that chip off his shoulder and show him how the position is supposed to be played. Right now he has a God complex. He could do no wrong at the collegiate level. But you know how it is when you come to the pros.”

Trevor cracked a smile. “I do. Consider it done.”

This should be fun.

“But Trevor?”

“Yeah.”

“Don’t be too hard on the kid. He’s had it rough, so he’s overcompensating by playing the tough, cocky rookie, you know?”

Trevor scratched the side of his nose, remembering exactly what that was like. “Yeah, Coach, I know.”

“Figured you did. This is his dream and I know that. I’ve tried to talk to him, but he’s not getting rid of the attitude.”

Trevor nodded. “Gotcha, Coach. I’ll handle him.”

Instead of walking off the field, Trevor went over to where Warrell was gathering up his stuff.

“Good practice today.”

The kid stood, straightening himself, trying to tower over Trevor, which was hard to do considering Trevor’s height.

“Uh, thanks. You, too. You know, for an older guy.”

Trevor laughed. Yeah, he popped attitude, all right. “Think you can beat me?”

Warrell puffed his chest out. “Know I can.”

“Good. Let’s put you to the test. If you have any energy left after practice.”

“I’ve got plenty to spare, old man. Do you?”

“More than you. Let’s do this.”

Trevor called the receivers coach over, and they went through a series of drills. Warrell had great reflexes, but he was still young and didn’t know the playbook as well as Trevor did, so on a wideout, one of the quarterbacks threw both of them a six-nine-six, and Trevor cut across the field, making a sweet catch and a run into the end zone, leaving Warrell in the dust.

They went through several formations, and while he was good, and had the potential to be great, it was obvious Warrell wasn’t yet at Trevor’s skill level. He had the stamina of youth, but not the experience.

BOOK: Straddling the Line
6.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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