“Trust me, sweetheart—that’s one line you don’t want to cross for numerous reasons. And those reasons are way too fucked up to talk about even over a bottle of whiskey.” She switched her glare to me and bared her teeth. “Isn’t that right, Keiran?”
I didn’t bother to answer her question or acknowledge Dash’s inquisitive stare. What is he doing bringing her over here anyway? I didn’t give a shit about being caught in a compromising position. I had no intention of ever touching Diana and even less intention of explaining myself. I unlocked the door and entered, leaving the door open because what else would they all do but follow?
Ever since Sheldon became friends with Monroe, she had watched me like a hawk, critical of every move I made. It made my previous tolerance of her almost unbearable. She didn’t think I was good enough for Monroe… well, that was one thing we agree on at least.
“Who is she?” Sheldon demanded, crossing her arms over her chest. I didn’t miss the eye roll she directed her gaze toward Diana.
“Why is that your business?” I asked casually. Truth is, I was really curious to know why she cared so much.
Sheldon’s eyes narrowed and her lips set to deliver a scathing reply, but Dash interjected before she could. “Actually, I would like to know myself.”
His hard gaze met mine, and he silently communicated that he wasn’t about to let it go. I sighed and relented because I trusted Dash and much more than that, I respected him. “She’s Mario’s—”
He eyed Diana with a look of disgust while Diana checked him out with a lascivious look. “She’s a little young…”
“Eww. I’m his daughter.”
“Oh, she speaks,” Sheldon griped. “I thought you only talked when you wanted to get a cock in your mouth.”
“What’s wrong, princess? You afraid of a little competition?”
“You’re barking up the wrong tree. I’m actually doing his brother,” she snapped.
Teeth were bared and claws unsheathed as they squared off against each other. I felt the beginnings of a headache stir, so I signaled Dash to take care of them and headed upstairs for my gear. I needed to play a game to unwind because if I had to listen to any more of that, I would be tempted to shoot both of them between the eyes.
I came back downstairs after changing into only basketball shorts and sneakers. As soon as my foot connected with the carpet of the living room and all eyes shifted to me, I immediately regretted not wearing a shirt. Diana’s eyes shamelessly trailed my body, and the way she licked her lips told me she was thinking of only one thing. Sheldon’s snort and the sound of disgust interrupted her eye fucking when she turned her gaze to glare at Sheldon.
“I called Q,” I directed to Dash, dismissing them.
“Dude, we can’t play with only three players,” he reminded me.
“Damn.” I rubbed my forehead and hid my frown by aiming it at my feet. Right. How could I forget? My brother was lying in the hospital with his only remaining lung failing, and here I was ready to play basketball.
“I can call Buddy,” Dash offered. I could hear the sympathy in his voice and could feel my anger grow, but rather than taking it out on my best friend, I turned on my heel for the door. “Fine. Whatever.”
* * *
Buddy fell on his ass for the third time in the ten minutes we had been playing. He sent me an uncharacteristic dirty look and swiftly jumped back on his feet and continued the play without missing a beat.
I knew they were all thinking the same. It was written all over their faces. I knew it too, so I guess it’s why no one bothered to say anything.
I was falling apart.
For the last ten years, basketball had been my escape and punishing Monroe had been my drug. With Monroe gone, I felt as if there was nothing to keep be balanced, and I was too preoccupied for even the simplest of distractions.
I dribbled the ball, and as it bounced from hitting the pavement and made its way back into my hand, I was reminded of everything that waited to destroy me—and everyone I could hurt in the process.
I took the shot… I made the basket.
The play resumed, and the ball was in my opponent’s hand and like always, I waited for an opening to get the ball back into my hands and steal another victory.
I watched my opponents, I studied their reactions, and I looked for a weakness and then took an opening. The ball was in my hands, and I was back in control.
My control of the ball faltered on my third dribble, but I quickly regained control, and just as I braced my feet to take the shot, I was blindsided.
My palms scraped the pavement as I slid across the concrete and gritted from the pain of the abrasions I knew I would find. The ball bounced away, and when I looked up, Buddy was standing over me with an apologetic expression.
“Sorry, man. I didn’t mean to foul you like that.” He held out his hand and waited for me to take it. I ignored it and jumped to my feet, much like he had except I felt my knees turn to jelly. His hand was still out, and a look of uncertainty was plastered on his face, so I took it in mine and shook it to show no hard feelings.
“It’s not your fault. I should have been watching my back.”
We each toweled off before making our way to the house. “Do you think they killed each other by now?” Dash joked. “It’s been mighty quiet.”
“Who are you talking about?” Quentin questioned as we entered the house.