Corn-fed reporter MacKenna Perkins is about as sweet as they come. Hired by a small Chicago newspaper, she wants nothing but to cover important social issues. But when half the staff comes down with the flu, she’s drafted to interview a rookie wide receiver. Since she knows next to nothing about football, she predictably fails at it. Until she captures the attention of Ty Mathews, the cocky, bad boy quarterback of the Chicago Outlaws.
On the field, Ty Mathews vanquishes defenses with his legendary golden arm. Off the field, other parts of his anatomy get all the fame and glory. He barely has to crook a finger to have women running to him. Until he meets MacKenna. The ingenuous, barely-touched, still wet-behind-the ears reporter wants nothing to do with him after he fumbles a meet-up. And that sets his warrior’s heart racing. Because other than winning a Super Bowl, the thing he wants most is MacKenna.
“PERKINS? GET IN HERE!” Horace Bartlett, my boss and the editor of our small newspaper yells as soon as I walk in the door of the Windy City Chronicle. A grizzled veteran from the old newspaper days, he calls everyone by their last name. Thanks to his hard work and business savvy, he’s kept the newspaper afloat in today’s fast-paced, social-media crazed world.
“How did it go?” He barks as soon as I step into his office, while chomping down on a cigar he uses more to express his feelings than anything else.
I’m not about to ‘fess up that I made a fool of myself, so I fudge things a little. “He was not available to interview.” It’s the truth, isn’t it? Ron Moss walked out on me.
“Knew you’d mess it up.” Randy Brennan, nephew of the newspaper’s owner and all around pain in the ass, yells from his cubbyhole which sits right outside Mr. Bartlett’s office.
Mr. Bartlett’s bushy brows thunder down. “How can that be? That interview was confirmed a week ago.”
“Some miscommunication with the press office, maybe?” God, I’m going to hell for this. “But the good news is I got another interview lined up for Monday morning.”
“With Ron Moss?”
“No. Ty Mathews.”
Randy’s head pops over the partition of his cubicle, like one of those whack-a-mole games at a carnival. “The God Almighty quarterback of the Chicago Outlaws? That Ty Mathews? No fucking way.”
Happy that Ty Mathews was telling the truth about his fame, I calmly turn to Randy, and give him my most brilliant smile. “Way.”
The word barely makes it out of my lips before Mr. Bartlett slams shut the door. “Damn eavesdropper.”
Yeah, pretty much what I’m thinking.
“How did you manage that? Ty Mathews doesn’t give out private interviews.” He pins his famous Bartlett inquisitorial stare on me, the one known to make seasoned reporters squirm.
I’m not immune to it, what with me being a wet-behind-the ears rookie reporter, so I fidget about a bit. “He doesn’t?”
“No. Which makes me wonder what you had to do, or promise to do, to get it.”
One thing about Mr. Bartlett, he’s a straight arrow. He doesn’t cotton to reporters providing favors to anyone in exchange for access. “He noticed my disappointment, and he volunteered his services.”
“Just like that, huh?”
“Yes, sir.” I’m not lying. Ty Mathews did. I didn’t do anything wrong, at least not with him. Ron Moss, however, is another story. If he complains about my behavior, I’m toast. I make a mental note to contact him and explain what happened so things don’t spin out of control.
“Perkins, I hired you on the strength of your academics and the expose you wrote for your school paper on the women’s shelter. You might be a natural for the social issues, but Ty Mathews is another kettle of fish entirely. He’s brash, cocky, and a hard nut to crack. Nobody knows his real story. That’s not by accident. The only information he and the Outlaws have ever divulged is that he came from Texas, graduated from Nebraska State, and took his college team to the national championship. The rest is one great big dark hole.”
“How is that possible in this day and age?” Nowadays you can find out anything on the internet.
He jerks the smelly cigar from his mouth and waggles it at me. “You get the answer to that question and every media organization in the country will be pounding on your door wanting to hire you.”
“I’m not looking for another job, Mr. Bartlett.” It’s true. I like working for a small paper where I can hone my journalistic skills without the pressure of a big conglomerate.
He holds up a hand in the universal stop sign. “I know you just started working here, but you’d be a fool not to set your sights higher. And an interview with a quarterback whose past is shrouded in mystery would get you there. But things may be demanded you may not want to give. Ty Mathews plays hard both on and off the field. You get my drift?” Another down boom of his bushy eyebrows. Those things take up enough real estate to have their own zip code.
I cross my arms against my chest and give him a steady stare of my own. “He likes women. I get it.” I would have been blind not to notice the way Ty Mathews looked at me. Like I was a great big ole turkey sandwich and he couldn’t wait to gobble me up. Thing is I’ve been ogled my whole life. Been fighting off boys since I turned fourteen and I grew into a pair of 36C cups with the hips to match. Granted none of those boys had been a famous football player with the charm and body to melt the panties off any living, breathing female, but Ty Mathews does not strike me as the kind who won’t take no for an answer. And, believe me, I won’t be saying yes. No matter how much he flexes his muscles at me. “Don’t worry, Mr. Bartlett, I can handle him.”
He must be reassured by what he sees because the cigar chomping slows down a bit. “So when and where does this interview take place?”
“Monday, at a diner close to where he lives.”
“A public setting. That’s good. Have your rough draft on my desk no later than Wednesday. If it passes muster, I’ll include it in the Sunday edition.”
“Yes, sir.” I smile, thrilled about the possible inclusion of my first piece in the Sunday edition.
Once he dismisses me, I float toward my cubbyhole on a cloud of glory only to get the stink eye from Randy when I pass him by. I don’t know what he’s got against me. He reports on the street beat scene; I cover the social issues. Maybe he’s upset about the football interview. He shouldn’t be. Mr. Bartlett asked me to talk to Ron Moss because the sports reporter and his backup both came down with the flu. I was the only journalist in the office when that call came in. If Randy had gotten to work on time, maybe Mr. Bartlett would have handed the assignment to him. So he’s got no one to blame but himself.
By now it’s late afternoon so after writing a quick summary of my visit to the Outlaws camp, leaving out the embarrassing parts, I head home to my minuscule studio-sized apartment in the Avondale section of the city. Not the best of neighborhoods, but it’s all I can afford.
As soon as I walk in the door, my cell rings with the special peal I’ve programmed for Marigold Thompson, my best friend and ex-college roommate. She’s a school teacher who, just like me, is working her first job. We’ve been so busy, she teaching second graders, me at the newspaper, we haven’t gotten together for two weeks. But it’s Saturday night and she’s decided we need to cut loose.
An hour later, she shows up, wearing a tight, micro skirt, a see thru white blouse with a black bra underneath and a pair of long, sparkling earrings. Not exactly the schoolmarm look she sports during school hours, but it’s pure Marigold. Since I live only a short distance from one of the most popular clubs in town, we decide to hoof it, rather than take a cab. On the way, I fill her in on today’s fiasco.
“Can’t believe you did that. Of all people.” She’s not being judgmental. After four years in college, she knows me only too well. I never wear anything low cut or high rise, so yeah, today was out of character for me.
“I know. I was an idiot.”
“Give yourself a break, MacKenna. You fell for a practical joke, that’s all.” She curls her arm through my elbow in a show of support. “So who were they?”
“I don’t know. They didn’t bother to introduce themselves.” Probably so I couldn’t complain about them. Afterward, I’d been too embarrassed to ask their names. But I’ll find out from Ty Mathews next time I see him. And figure out a way to get even with those clowns if it’s the last thing I do.
“So what did your boss say? Are you in trouble?” Clearly, she expects the worst.
“Well, another player volunteered to be interviewed so I think I’m going to be okay.” I wrap my shawl tighter around me. It might be early September, but with the breeze blowing off Lake Michigan, the air’s turned cool.
She comes to a dead stop in the middle of the sidewalk. “Shut-up!” Her screech almost deafens me. “The star quarterback of the Chicago Outlaws?” Marigold is what you might call a football fanatic, something she became while tutoring a bunch of football players. She was in high demand in college. If she could fit you into her schedule, it’d be a guaranteed C. So it stands to reason she knows exactly who Ty Mathews is.
She clamps her hands on my shoulders and shakes me. “Girl, you just won the lottery. He never gives private interviews.”
“So I heard.” I squirm beneath the pressure of her hands. For a five-foot nothing, the girl’s got a mighty grip. “Mar, let go.” Once she frees me, I push the walk light button. The night club’s across the way. As busy as this intersection is, we’d be risking life and limbs if we mad dashed it across the street.
“He talks to the press at the end of each game, but he doesn’t do one on ones. So this is like huge. Bigger than huge. It’s like . . . What’s wrong?” She must have noticed me chewing my lip. One thing about Mar, she’s tuned in to the universe. Comes from being raised by new age parents and living in a commune.
The ‘Walk’ light comes on, but I’m a safety kind of gal. So, not trusting Chicago drivers, I look both ways before crossing the street. “Do you think he offered because . . . you know?”
“He wants to do the nasty with you? I think there’s a big chance, yeah. That boy’s a playah.” She dances more than walks across the street.
We come to a brief stop on the island in the middle of the intersection. “You’re supposed to make me feel better about doing this interview, Mar. Not worse.”
She tugs at me. “Come on. We gotta get across.” On the other side, she dismisses my objection with a wave of her hand. “Trust me. You got nothing to worry about. He’s got women lined up all over town begging him to screw them. He doesn’t need a dewy-eyed virgin from the middle of nowhere Iowa.”
“I’m not a virgin!” Granted, I’ve only done it three times, but once is all it takes to lose your V-card. Right?
“Guarantee he doesn’t think so. Not with that purer-than-driven-snow vibe you put out. Honestly, MacKenna, you gotta get some and pronto.”
Tired of being thought of as a goody-two-shoes, I blurt out. “I touched Ron Moss’s ass.” I’d left out that tiny detail out of the litany of sins I’d confessed.
“You did? No wonder he walked out on the interview. That wide receiver is about as straight as they come.”
“And Ty Mathews called me a bold woman,” I say with a note of pride in my voice.
“Woot!” She high fives me. “MacKenna Perkins, there might be some hope for you after all.”
Her ebullient spirits make me feel better until we turn the corner and run into the block-long line in front of Platinum. We’re not getting in. No way. No how.