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Keeping Score by Violet Paige (1)

Kane

It was seventeen to thirteen and we had the ball. Bottom of the fourth quarter, with less than a minute left on the clock and zero time outs remaining.

That was my moment. The moment I lived for. The moment I always played for.

Coach called for a screenplay and we lined left. The lineman across from me lifted his head and pointed directly at me. Mistake. I knew he was coming for me.

I glanced at Aaron on my right and then Joe on my left. They both nodded, letting me know they had my back. No one would get through them. They guarded the pocket as if their lives depended on it. Hell, in our world that was true. Every time we took the field we risked everything. We gave up the best of what we had to offer.

“Down set. Hut one. Hut two. Hike,” I called.

I caught the ball as the center spiked it backwards between his legs. I took a step back and tapped the ball searching, the field for an open player. I scanned from one side to the other.

Once.

Twice.

Three times.

No one was open.

Some people panicked in moments like that, but not me.

The adrenaline pumped through my veins and I saw the field with perfect clarity. Every one of my teammates was covered. Two guys barreled down on me fast from the right as my head jerked the opposite way. That’s when my focus was the sharpest. When I could see what no one else could. The tiniest opening just to my left and ahead about three yards.

I didn’t hesitate. I couldn’t afford to second-guess my gut. Ever.

My feet kicked into gear, racing against time. Against the defense. Against the clock. I squeezed through the sliver of space and then swerved to the right, avoiding the arms of a grizzly linebacker. I could see the end zone ahead. The goal post beckoning me like a lover’s arms. I didn’t care that she was a fickle lover.

Ten yards to go.

Five.

Two.

I crossed the chalk line, hurling my body forward. The stadium erupted. I was pretty damn sure they chanted my name after that touchdown.

The team rushed the field and somewhere one of the guys poured a jug of Gatorade over the coach’s head in fun. I’m clapped on the shoulder and smacked on the ass so many times I lost count as we made our way to the locker room.

We were one game closer to playoffs.

“Hell of a game, Hawkins. Hell of a game.”

I nodded at Coach as he veered off toward the administrative offices. I ducked into the locker room, knowing it would be a fucking circus inside.

This was where the real party began.

It was already out of control. Beer cans cracked open. The music blasted.

I was in fucking heaven.

“You going out with us?” Joe asked, slapping a towel toward me.

“Yeah, Kane. You going?”

I faced my two linemen. It was a stupid question. I cracked a smile and they both laughed.

“I’ve got press then I’ll meet you out.” The shower was calling my name.

“You know it.” They bumped fists and had a feeling tonight was going to be epic.

“Try to make the press conference quick, will you?”

I laughed. “That one’s not up to me. See you there.”

I walked into the tile enclosure. The hot spray of the shower slid against my sore muscles. My high from the game faded and in its place was an aching and soreness that could only be eased by promises of the after party.

Coming down off a win always sucked. The thrill faded and the adrenaline subsided far too quickly.

Not many other things in this world could equal the same kind of buzz I got when scoring on the field, but one of them came pretty damn close.

I loved women. I loved sex. But there was always a catch.

I had yet to find a woman who could be honest and up front about what she wanted. They liked to think they were going to be the one to finally snag the infamous Kane Hawkins. I let them believe whatever crazy fairytales they drummed up, when in reality I just wanted one night. Anything more than that and I knew it wouldn’t end well for her. I never pretended to be emotionally available. I was a sex junkie. I never denied it.

My agent, Savannah James, said I was her biggest pain in the ass and that’s saying something. She represented some pretty big douches, but their antics were preschool compared to mine.

My reputation started in high school. I was caught under the bleachers by the school principal fucking a hot ass red head that just so happened to also be my biology teacher.

Twice.

Yeah.

That didn't end so well, but it fueled my reputation. A reputation I never cared about. 

Playboy.

Asshole.

I've been called it all. There was a time it bothered me, at some point I started to ignore what the press said.

There was no reason to change. Why should I?

I always thought marriage was a joke. A game I had no interest in playing.

At least the way I’ve lived I’ve always been upfront. Women know what they’re getting when they decide they want a night with me. It’s never more than sex. And it sure as hell is never less. I played football like a rock star and fucked even better.

The DC Sharks were creatures of habits. We ate in the same restaurants. Drank in the same bars. Chased ass in the same clubs. Call us territorial bastards, but we liked to stake out our grounds.

As I walked into Catch, I smiled. I had spent practically every night here after a big win.

The succulent smell of perfume and sex hit my nostrils. I breathed in deeply. I fucking loved this place.

I walked to my usual table and waited for the rest of the guys. I thought I would be the last one. The press conference with Coach ran longer than I wanted, but the pundits and analysts knew how to spin a game. Even when we won. It came with the territory. I wasn’t much for reporter questions. We won. What else was there to talk about?

A cute little waitress saddled up to the table within moments. She looked young and innocent. Her uniform fit like a glove, tight in all the right places. Her breasts were pushed together, bobbing over the edge of her shirt. It was as if this moment was supposed to happen—this girl was meant to help me celebrate my win.

She nervously tucked her hair behind her ear. “H-hi. Can I get you something to drink?” she asked.

I leaned forward. I’d never seen her here before. She looked out of place. Almost too good for Catch. Too good to serve me. It was the lightness in her eyes and the way her blond hair fell over her shoulders in waves. She was a good girl. The kind of girl who should stay away from me.

“A couple of beers,” I answered. My eyes trailed her throat. Damn she was gorgeous.

She scribbled down my order on her waitress pad. “Anything else?” she asked.

“I guess you’re new here?”

She chewed her bottom lip. Damn, her nervousness was even sexy. “It’s that obvious?”

“Not many girls write down two beers.” I chuckled.

Her eyes fell to the floor. Shit.

“Sorry.” Her voice was soft and apologetic. “I don’t want to screw anything up tonight.”

“It’s all right.” I grinned. “I think you’re doing a fine job.”

Before I could ask her her name, she turned and darted off toward the bar for my beers.

“She's hot,” Joe said, slapping my back as he walked up behind me. “New waitress?”

He caught me staring through her clothes as if I had X-ray vision.

“No shit,” I snorted. I wanted him to know I had first dibs on her.

He turned the chair next to me, straddling it. “You asshole. You always get the best ones," he said, punching my shoulder. I grinned and nodded, knowing it was true.

Maybe the guys deferred because I was the quarterback, or maybe it was because I had established how things worked on the team. I really didn’t care as long as they understood the system. I always walked out of here with the girl I wanted.

“Sorry man. Did you see her?” I shrugged my shoulders.

“You’d have to be blind to not notice her,” he replied, studying her ass while she cleaned the table next to ours. “How’d you beat me here?”

My attention was on the girl. She was flustered. She knocked over a chair on her way back to the bar. The bartender scowled at her and said something out of the corner of his mouth. I didn’t like the fucking way he talked to the girls here. And something about this one pissed me off even more.

“Kane? Man, did you hear me?”

“Yeah. Yeah. I took an Uber.” I didn’t look at him.

It wasn’t long before the new girl returned with our drinks. I could tell she was concentrating on the tray so she didn’t spill them. As soon as she placed the frosted mugs on the table she backed away. I fought the instinct to grab her wrist and pull her onto my lap. It was animalistic as hell. Need. A drive to touch her that overtook me.

She smelled like fucking heaven. Everything about her was subtle and intoxicating.

Her eyes locked on mine. “If you need anything else, let me know.” She was about to retreat.

“Just a moment darlin’,” I replied. I wanted to pull her toward me. Inhale her. Kiss her.

“If it’s about the order, then tell me.” She set her eyes on me. I saw the resolve there. The strength to stand up for herself.

“Damn,” I muttered to myself, but I wasn’t entirely sure she didn’t hear me. Another fault of mine—I said whatever was on my mind.

“No, the beers are fine.” I picked mine up and took a swallow to prove a point. It wasn’t the beer I wanted. It was her.

“Ok, then I’ll check back with you soon.” She turned to go.

“Wait, do you have a name?”

She swiveled on her heels then pinched her lips together as if she were deciding what name to give me. “Julie.”

“Nice to meet you, Julie.” I held out my hand to touch hers. “Kane. And this is my buddy Joe.”

Joe grimaced. “Don’t buy his lines, darlin’. We call him Hawk for a reason.”

I gritted my teeth. “You call me Hawk because my last name is Hawkins.”

“Oh, ok so which is it? Kane or Hawk?” she asked.

I grinned. “I’ll let you choose.”

Her eyes fell to the floor again. “I’ll be back to check on your beers.”

Before I could keep her at the table for another round of sparring she wedged herself between an oncoming party and disappeared.

“Fuck,” I whispered. There was a certain thump under my ribs. Women were my vice. And for a quick second I thought that one had the potential to kill me.

“Looks like we’re going to be here all night ordering drinks.” Joe laughed, watching her retreat into the darkness of the bar.

I touched the glass to my lips, seeking the poison to fill my veins with the kind of speed and power I needed.

I placed the empty glass on the table. “I’m trying to behave for Savannah. She’s always busting my balls for drinking too much and being seen with too many different women.”

“Tonight’s not going to help your case,” Joe added.

I shook my head. “No, it’s not.” I searched the few tables for any signs of Julie.

Joe kept talking. “Kenny is the same way. Always trying to be my daddy. What’s the deal with these damn agents?”

I shrugged. My attention was somewhere else tonight.

I spotted a familiar face coming from the bar and I smiled. I stood, meeting him at the table with a warm hug. He slapped me on the back a few times before pulling up a chair.

“It’s good to see you, Pops.”

“You too, son. I thought I’d find you here after that win tonight. Congratulations.”

“Thanks, old man.”

Pops was my neighbor growing up. As a young kid without a dad he was the closest thing I had to a role model. For a quick second I thought about mentioning the nightmares that had been wrecking my sleep lately, but I saw how he looked at me. I was the pillar of strength now. I kept my damn mouth shut.

“How have you been, Kane? It’s been a while. How’s life at the top of the food chain?” He asked with a wink.

“Not bad. Sharks are one game from the playoffs. One game.”

He nodded. “I know. I saw the entire thing. I never miss one of your games.”

My stomach clenched. I was so used to doing my own thing, I forgot there were people out there who remembered when I was kid. When I didn’t have shit for parents. Pops, who watched me on television, like a dad watching his son.

“Just a game away,” I repeated. I looked around for Julie. We needed another round.

“I tried to get to one earlier this season, but a thousand for a ticket is too rich for my blood.”

I stared at the man who had tried to replace the biggest void a boy can have in his life. He stepped in when no one else tried. “If you want tickets, you’ve got them.”

“No. No. You don’t have to do that.”

“You’re going to the next game. You have a spot in my family box.” I eyed him. “No arguments. Do you understand?” I grinend

He was getting ready to say something when the hot waitress appeared.

Pops smiled at her. He saw what I did. What every hot-blooded man in this bar saw. She was sexy as hell, without even trying. She pulled off an undeniable vibe and it drove me crazy.

“There you are.” I winked.

The blush on her cheeks traveled down her throat to the tops of her breast. Fuck.

“Did you want another round?” she asked, clearly bothered by the attention.

I held her eyes for a moment, nodding but not answering.

“Three more.” I held up my fingers.

“All right. Anything else?”

I closed my eyes and imagined everything we could do together. My hand reached out gently brushing over hers as she turned toward the bar. I heard a sharp intake of air and hoped like hell she had felt that same buzz of electricity that had just run up my arm.