Quarterback's Secret Baby (Bad Boy Ballers)(4)

By: Imani King



"No," I lied, trying to look casual.

"You sure, Kaden?" My dad teased. "You're wearing cologne, too. I can smell it. Who's the special lady?"

My mom picked that moment to walk into my room. She immediately joined in with my dad. "Special lady? Who is it? Is it that little blonde girl - what was her name? Ashley?"

It was definitely not Ashley. It was always funny when my parents teased me about girls, though. They knew I wasn't a choirboy but there was definitely some weird form of pride going on there. The most that ever happened was my dad slipping me a condom before I went out and giving me a wink and a slap on the back.

"Naw, it's not her," I told them, not really eager to talk about Tasha in that joking way we always talked about girls I might be seeing.

"Huh. It sounds like you like this one!" My mom smiled, walking up to me and kissing my cheek. "Good luck tonight, honey. Your father and I will be there for the final whistle."

I left before my dad could continue the interrogation and drove to the stadium. It took a few minutes to figure out that my uncharacteristic nervousness wasn't even about the game - it was about Tasha. Tasha Greeley. The one girl I could not figure out. I'd tried repeatedly to get her to go out with me but she always treated me with this weird defensiveness that I couldn't make sense of. She couldn't possibly still be embarrassed about the spaghetti sauce incident outside the grocery store, could she? So what was her deal? When she was with her friends she was always laughing and smiling, but whenever I tried to interact with her she went all stiff and abrupt. I'd never given her a reason to dislike me. So what the hell?

She was standing alone by the main ticket booth, I spotted her as I looked for a parking spot. God, she was so fucking beautiful. Fitted leggings and a pink hoodie - she looked good enough to eat. It wasn't just the obvious stuff, though. It wasn't just the peachy curve of her ass in those leggings or the way she bit her lower lip sometimes when she was thinking. There was something self-possessed about her - a rare trait in the girls I knew. Even covered in spaghetti sauce at age ten and so embarrassed she couldn't look me in the eye it had been there, that refusal to surrender her dignity. It made me insanely curious. I parked the SUV and snuck up behind her.

"Boo!"

She jumped and then turned to me, smiling. "Hey Kaden."

"Hey."

We both stood there for a few seconds and I felt a new and unfamiliar awkwardness inside me. What the fuck? If there's one thing I'm not, it's awkward. Especially not around girls. So why was I standing there like a lemon and jamming my hands into my pockets like a love-struck freshman? Come to think of it, why was she doing the same?

"So," I coughed. "You look nice. I like your, uh, I like your hoodie." Kill me.

"Thanks. I like your shirt. Do you guys always get dressed up before a game?"

I did a little double-take when she asked me that. "Yeah. Don't you ever go to games? How can you go to Reinhardt High and not be into football?"

She smiled and that dimple, the deeper one that always appeared on her left cheek, popped up. It would have been so easy to lean down and kiss that little dimple. But I didn't want to screw up. And not wanting to screw up was turning me into a stammering idiot. Get your shit together, asshole.

"Actually, no. This is my very first football game. I'm not really one for sports."

"Really?!" I asked, incredulous. Living in Little Falls and not being into football was like living in Italy and not being into pasta.

"Yeah really," she said, shrugging. "I guess it just wasn't a thing in my family."

I walked her to her seat, right next to the field in the 'friends and family' section of the bleachers and got stopped about ten times on the way. I admit I kind of enjoyed that part, mostly because I thought it might impress Tasha to see the respect with which I was treated by not just other students but grown men and women. As far as I could tell, though, she barely noticed.

Just as we were about to walk down the stairs to Tasha's row, I heard a female voice.

"Kaden! Kaden! Oh my God!"

My heart sank before I even saw her face. "Oh. Hey Kelsey," I said, in my best I'm-being-polite-but-please-go-away tone of voice.

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