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Dirty Filthy Boy

Chapter 4

Ty

MONDAY MORNING, I WAKE UP GROGGY AS FUCK. After the game, the team had arranged for limos to drive the players to the downtown Chicago hotel where the Outlaws regularly hold victory celebrations. When two women made me an offer I could not refuse, we’d move the party to my hotel room for some serious menage action. Around four in the morning, I’d caught my ride home, where I’d stumbled into my own bed. Alone. I never bring women to my house.

I blink at the digital display on my night table–12:06 p.m. Normally, I don’t sleep this late, but the Outlaws don’t hold practices the day after a game. So, it’s my day off. I have all day to recuperate, and I’ll need every fucking second of it. The cocksucker linebacker of the Dallas Roughriders almost took me out of the game. But after the referee called a penalty for roughing the passer, I paid him back big time by throwing what turned out to be the winning touchdown. My body doesn’t feel much like celebrating, though. Too many hits, too much alcohol, too much . . . No, there’s no such thing as too much sex.

I trudge to the bathroom to piss, and, after a much-needed shower, grab some OJ to rehydrate. Something tugs at my consciousness, something I should remember. And then it hits me. The redhead reporter. Shit! I was supposed to meet her at ten o’clock at The Honey Bee. It’s fucking 12:45 now. Damn. I fucked up. Royally. No way is she still there waiting for me. Can’t call her. I don’t have her number, but our press office must have her contact information. No reporter can interview a player without providing it to the Outlaws. Protection for the player, the team. The reporter as well.

I call the head of PR who has the information I need–MacKenna’s business number and the address where she works. A phone call’s going to get me nowhere. She’ll probably hang up on me which means I’ll need to drive to her job and apologize.  After plugging in the address into my car’s GPS, I head out, and on the way, I figure out my strategy. An apology followed by an invite to a fancy restaurant should do it.

When I arrive at her newspaper, the frizzy-haired receptionist squints up at me, not a hint of recognition on her face. “May I help you?”

“Umm, is MacKenna Perkins here?”

“I’ll have to check. What’s your name?”

Her failure to recognize the quarterback of the Chicago Outlaws surprises the hell out of me. That’s not my ego talking. But basic reality. Chi-Town is football crazy, and I’m its best-known player. “Ty Mathews.”

She pushes a button into her console and announces, “MacKenna. Ty Mathews is here to see you.”

After a short conversation, the receptionist hangs up. “She’ll be right out,” she says before going right back to sorting papers on her desk.

I barely get out a thank you before MacKenna is there in all her glory. Masses of auburn curls cascade down her back, a soft contrast to the fuzzy blue sweater she’s wearing. My dick hardens at the thought of my hand wrapped around that magnificent hair while I pound into her.

“Hello, Mr. Mathews.” She drills out through thinned lips.

Ooookaaayyy. She’s obviously pissed, not that I blame her. “Can we, uh, go somewhere and talk?”

“Sure. How about the Honey Bee Diner?”

She’s not making this easy. Not that I expected her to. Time to put my plan into action. “I’m sorry.”

“Uh huh.” She crosses her arms underneath her luscious breasts, putting them on display, calling attention to her hard nipples.

Lord, have mercy! Those things could take a man’s eyes out. “I overslept.”

“I waited an hour.”

“I’d like a chance to make it up to you.”

From out of nowhere, an older man shows up, beefy hand stuck out. “Mr. Mathews. How do you do? I’m Horace Bartlett, chief editor of the Windy City Chronicle.”

I shake hello.

“Ms. Perkins tells me there might have been a misunderstanding about the time you were supposed to meet.”

Smart man. He’s come up with a way for me to save face, without flat out calling me a jerk.

“Misund–” MacKenna spits out.

But before she can complete the word, her boss interrupts. “Ms. Perkins is available now if you have the time.”

“I do.”

“Well, I don’t.”

“Perkins.” The way he commands her to silence with a single word and a look, I’m liking this guy better and better. “Why don’t you take Mr. Mathews into one of our interview rooms? Can we get you something to drink or eat?”

“Actually, I skipped breakfast this morning. Would Ms. Perkins be available for lunch?” I address the question to her boss. I’m not stupid enough to ask her.

“Nope.”

“Absolutely.”

“My treat, of course. L’Herron is just down the street.” L’Herron is a high class French restaurant. By the time we get there, it’ll be two o’clock, and their lunch rush should be over. Should reduce the number of autograph seekers while she conducts her interview.

After one last dirty look at me, MacKenna excuses herself to get her things. Soon, Horace Bartlett is waving us out the door, his face wreathed in a broad smile. Hard to do with a cigar in his mouth.

On the way to L’Herron, MacKenna’s tight lips reflect the conflict battling within her. She can’t say what she really thinks of me, not with her boss watching from the newspaper’s front door. She’s holding on so tight to her temper, she may very well explode.

To my surprise, she manages to keep it together until we reach the restaurant. There, we’re shown to a booth with a clear view of Lake Michigan. Disregarding her “I’m not hungry” remark, I order the Chateaubriand Bouquetiere for two–roast tenderloin of beef, accompanied by an array of fresh vegetables with a béarnaise sauce–and a bottle of their best red Burgundy.

When the server leaves, she jams her arms across her chest while giving me the evil eye.

Getting on her good graces shouldn’t be this hard. Most females would be slobbering all over me by now. But then she’s not like any woman I’ve met before, is she? For one thing, she smells like apple blossoms, not some cloying perfume, and she’s barely wearing any makeup, unlike those two blondes from last night who’d slathered on enough makeup to spackle a wall. “You’re not hungry?”

“I ate breakfast. At the diner. Once I got tired of waiting for you.”

Feisty little thing, isn’t she? But then I walked right into that one. “I apologize. Again.”

“Where I come from, Mr. Mathews, actions speak louder than words.”

Me too. But, of course, she’s not going to believe that. Not now. But I have to find a way to get her in a better mood if for no other reason than I screwed up. And I don’t like screwing up. “Please call me Ty. You must have eaten four, six hours ago.” I’m starving, but then we have different caloric needs. She’s probably five four and a buck ten soaking wet. I’m six six and carry 250 pounds of hard-muscle. Still, she needs to eat. “How about some bread?” I push the basket at her.

She grabs a roll, tears off a piece, and, without taking a bite, drops both halves on her plate.

Okay. So she’s not a bread lover. I, on the other hand, love it. So, I grab the last aromatic French mini-baguette and slather it with fresh butter. Without being asked, the waiter replaces the empty container with a fresh batch.

“Would you like to ask some questions while we wait for the entrée?” I volunteer, after I’ve wolfed down half the baguette. Only a few diners are sprinkled across the restaurant and none of them seem the least interested in me. With any luck, we won’t be interrupted.

Her eyes flash at me, and not in the good way that usually goes along with, ‘Oh, yeah, baby, baby, baby.’

“You’d like me to start the interview? Fine.” She fetches her recorder from her purse, grabs her notebook, slaps it down on the table. “Tell me, Ty, is the reason you overslept a blonde or a brunette?”

I choke on the bread. “What?”

“How do you like to do it? I imagine missionary must be pretty boring for you. I’m betting doggie style is more your thing. Or perhaps something more exotic?” Damn if she doesn’t write ‘How Ty Mathews likes to do it’ in her notebook.

What the fuck? “We’re supposed to be talking football.”

Waving a dainty hand, she dismisses my statement. “Most readers don’t care about such things. They want to know about your sex life. So tell me, the blonde and the brunette at Platinum Saturday night, did you take them home and do the nasty with them?” Her eyes spark with emotion–anger, for sure. But there’s something else there. Something much darker, more primal. Excitement. Lust.

Some men might be clueless when it comes to women. Yeah. I’m not one of them. I know exactly where they’re coming from.

MacKenna is pissed I stood her up, but she’s also angry about what she witnessed at the club. “You saw me. At Platinum.” I know she knows, but I want a starting point of reference.

“Yes, that was quite a show you put on. Half the people there could not keep their eyes off you. So for our readers, Ty, tell me, why did you allow that woman to blow you in a public place?” She’s so worked up, her breath fails toward the end. And then she goes and licks her mouth.

I was hard before, but now? It’s going to be damn difficult to walk around with the wood in my pants. Under cover of the table, I shift and tug to make some room while fighting the urge to put that soft mouth of hers to good use.

“Turn off the recorder.” The Texas twang I’ve fought so hard to get rid of creeps into my voice. Something it does when my emotions get the better of me, like now.

She turns off the machine, stashes it in her purse. “There. It’s off. Now tell me, why do you do such a thing?” She should be unemotional when it comes to an interview, and yet, she’s not. Although she’s trying very hard to hide it, her voice quivers.

The last few months I’ve grown bored with my life, having nothing to look forward to except more of the same. But now this spitfire sits next to me, all wet, pouty lips, and red-hair down to her luscious ass, challenging me, sparking my interest like no one has done before. And the warrior in me, the one who mows down defenses with his golden arm, rises up, burning to conquer this female. Ready to fucking own her.

I spread my arms across the back of the booth and wind a finger around one of her luscious curls. When I do, she doesn’t move, barely breathes.

“The question, little darling, is not why I did it. You’re smart enough to figure that out.” I lean into her, brush the back of my hand down her cheek. It’s soft, just as I imagine the rest of her is. “The more important question is, why do you care so much?”

Dirty Filthy Boy

Chapter 3

MacKenna

TOTALLY DISAPPOINTED, I whiff out a breath. “We’re never getting in.” I didn’t realize how much I wanted this, needed this, until now.

“O, ye of little faith,” Marigold says, dragging me to the front of the line where a mountain of a man stands, a foot taller and a mile wider than us. Parking herself in front of the behemoth, she greets him with a, “Hey, you.”

A smile breaks out on the mountain’s lips. “Marigold.” He picks her up like she’s a toy doll, and, leaving her feet dangling, he bear hugs her.

She bops him on the shoulder. “Oomph. Put me down, Beast.”

Beast? It suits him, that name.

With the greatest of care, he returns her to the ground. “How are you, Mar? Long time no see.”

“Good. Graduated in June. I’m teaching second graders at Mayer Elementary now.”

A wrinkle forms across his brow. “That’s a dangerous area.”

“Don’t worry. I know how to take care of myself.”

“Don’t I know it.” He rubs the top of his head. “I still have the bruise from the nookie you gave me when I didn’t do my English homework.”

Marigold knocks elbows with him. “That was just tough love, Todd. Listen, any chance we could get into the club? My friend here’s just dying to see the inside of Platinum.”

“Is she?” He gives me the once over, the kind a security guy would do, not the leer I usually get from men.

“Marigold, meet Todd Gryzinski. Todd, meet MacKenna Perkins.”

“Nice to meet you, Todd.” I stick out my hand and shake his paw.

“A pleasure, MacKenna.” His grip is surprisingly gentle for such a huge man.

Unable to leave well enough alone, Marigold pipes up with, “She’s a newspaper reporter, looking to do a piece on Platinum.”

 “Mar,” I warn her beneath my breath. I don’t do the street beat scene. That’s Randy’s job. I’m not eager to step on his toes.

“Welcome to Platinum, ladies.” Unclipping the black velvet rope holding back the masses waiting to get in, he turns to the guard standing two feet away at the club’s entrance. “Bruce?”

Only slightly smaller than Todd, the mini-mountain answers. “Yeah?”

“These ladies are my very special guests. Please see that they get a good table.”

Bruce two-finger salutes Mar’s friend. “Sure thing, boss.”

“Thanks, Todd. You’re the best.” Marigold pulls him down for a quick kiss on his cheek.

Once he straightens out, he puts his paw-size hand over his heart. “You’ve slain me, merry maiden.”

“See, that Shakespeare homework came in handy after all.”

He winks at her. “You don’t know the half of it. The ladies love all that poetry mush.” He nods toward the club’s entrance. “Bruce will see you right. Have a great time, Mar. Nice to meet you, MacKenna.”

As she waves goodbye to Todd, Mar hooks her other arm through mine. Together, we head toward the Platinum door, a black garish monstrosity with silver, blinking lights. There’s a momentary lull while the guard holds a conversation with yet another bouncer inside the door. Boy, this place has more security than Fort Knox. They truly don’t let just anybody in.

While we wait for the go ahead, I turn to Mar. “That was pretty impressive, kiddo. I thought we wouldn’t get in, not with that line. When did you tutor him?”

“My sophomore year. He was a junior and pretty well known around campus. Students fell all over themselves to talk to one of the college’s star football players. So I tutored him at our apartment. Otherwise, we’d never get any work done. You don’t remember him?”

I shake my head. “No. Not really.” Busy as I was with school, a part-time job, and volunteering at the women’s shelter, I was in our apartment only long enough to grab something to eat and fall into bed exhausted. Whenever I ran into one of the football players she tutored, I never paid much attention. They all looked pretty much the same—big, bulky, missing a couple of chromosomes. “No.”

She shrugs. “If it hadn’t been for me, he would have flunked his English class. He needed at least a C to stay on the football team.”

“And now he’s a bouncer?”

“Don’t judge, MacKenna. He’s part owner of the club.”

“Sorry.” One of my constant sins. I tend to make quick decisions about people before getting to know the real them. That doesn’t jive with me being a journalist, I know. But actually it’s the reason I became one. Because I wanted to get to the truth. I’ve gotten better through the years, but there are times when I slip back. “You’re right. But why isn’t he playing football?”

“His first year in the pros, he blew out his knee. They had to let him go.”

“He looks okay.”

“Okay is not good enough for professional football. You have to be in tip top shape.”

Bruce gives us the high sign and we follow him inside. The club is wall-to-wall people. A band’s supposed to play tonight, but at the moment, a DJ is spinning music which blares from speakers hanging from the ceiling, poles, even the floor. The music is so loud, my body vibrates with it, which I guess is entirely the point.

Smoke machines are hard at work throughout the club. Guess they add to the mystique of the place. Or maybe they use it to cover up the bumping and grinding on the dance floor. We follow Bruce to a section that offers a prime view of the club. Miraculously, a table opens up right in front of us and Bruce grabs it before somebody else does. The mini rounds are on raised platforms so that you can look down on the dance floor crowd and take in the whole scene.

“Thanks, Bruce.” Marigold blasts him with her most brilliant smile.

“You’re welcome.” Smiling back, he hands Marigold a card. Over the loud music, he yells. “Free drinks, all night long.”

“Thanks!” Mar doesn’t drink that much, and neither do I. But, hey, free drinks are free drinks. After I tell her what I want, Mar makes her way to the bar while I hold down the table. A couple of guys come by to hit on me, but I ignore them. Eventually, they get the message and drift away. By the time she returns with an Appletini for me, and a Mojito for her, the band has taken the stage.

“They’re quite good,” I yell.

“Yeah, that’s why I wanted to come tonight,” she screams back. “They just cut a record and they’re getting a lot of great buzz.”

Before I get a chance to comment, a commotion erupts by the front door. People cramming the entrance swerve back in a great big wave. At first I can’t figure out what’s causing all the brouhaha. But then the crowd parts, and I see HIM. My jaw drops as my mouth waters at the sight. God, if he was gorgeous all sweaty on the football field, he’s a hundred times more stunning now. Dressed in dark trousers, dark shirt and black leather jacket, he exudes heart-pounding sex appeal. No wonder women flip over him. He’s taller than just about everyone in the club, but not taller than the mountains around him. Some of his Chicago Outlaws’ teammates, I bet. “Gah.”

“What’s wrong?” Mar asks.

I nod my head toward the front entrance.

“Well, well, well, small world, huh?”

“What?”

“What a coinkydink. Out of all the club joints in Chicago, Ty Mathews had to walk into this one.”

“Misquoting Casablanca now? Really, Mar.” And then I catch the man standing behind him. “Oh, God. Ron Moss is with him.” I try to crawl under the table, but there’s nowhere to hide.

“Where?” She’s so short, she doesn’t spot Ron.

“Behind Ty Mathews.”

She grabs the edge of the table and boosts herself up. “Oh, yeah. I see him now.” Dropping back to the floor, she says, “What’s he doing in this den of sin? I remember the days he wasn’t so uptight.”

My gaze swerves to her. “You know him?” I’d never heard about this.

“Yeah. We went to the same high school. I was a freshman, he was a senior.”

Given my disastrous interview with Ron Moss, I need to ask her about him. But I’m so focused on Ty Mathews, I can’t think about anything else right now. “Shouldn’t they be, I don’t know, resting up for the game tomorrow?”

“Oh, honey.” She pats my hand. “This is what they do to ‘rest up.’ If they party too much, they’ll have plenty of time to recuperate. It’s a Sunday night game.” She sips on her Appletini. “I can’t get over Ronnie being here. This is not his type of thing. Not these days.”

“Maybe he wants to feel like he’s a part of the team?” I volunteer.

“Yeah, maybe.”

Someone shows up to escort the Chicago Outlaws to the VIP section on the other side of the club. I breathe a sigh of relief. Ron Moss did not catch sight of me.

After the excitement by the front door dies down, a guy I’ve never met before comes up to our table. Turns out Mar knows him. After a quick check in with me, she goes off to do her boogy thing. Soon she’s on the dance floor, letting her freak flag fly.

A stranger I’ve never met walks up to the table and asks me to dance. Even though he’s polite about it, I give him the brush off. Mar’s the dancing queen of the two of us. Me? I like to observe. I’m hopeless, I know.

While I sip my drink, my gaze wanders toward the VIP section. Located up a flight of steps, it’s not so high I can’t tell what’s going on. And what’s going on is plenty. The Outlaws are spread out over several open booths. On the left, two of the players are putting on quite a show, groping, open mouth kissing a couple of blondes, and a brunette. On the right sits Ron Moss with a couple of other players, sans women. Well, except for the waitress who’s bending forward flashing a pair of impressive breasts at him. Honey, that’s not going to work. Sure enough, he says something, squeezes out of the booth and heads toward the back of the VIP section. Now that I know him better, I feel bad for him. This has to be hard for someone who doesn’t enjoy these types of recreational activities. Maybe I should go up there and talk to him, apologize for what happened today in the field.

While I’m debating the wisdom of doing that, my gaze wanders to the middle of the VIP section where Ty’s holding court, front and center. The blonde on his right is rubbing his chest, kissing his jaw. When she tries to kiss him on the mouth, he jerks away and says something. She pouts before taking on a new tack and nibbling his ear. The brunette on his left smirks, presumably at the blonde’s lack of success. She pushes her breasts right against his right bicep and whispers something in his ear. When he nods, she crawls under the table, between his knees.

It’s so smoky in the place at first I have a hard time seeing what’s going on. But suddenly the mist dissipates long enough for me to catch a gander of what she’s doing. Her head’s bobbing up and down right between his legs. Holy shit! Is she going down on him, right here in front of God and everyone?

He bares his teeth as his hips move in tune to her rhythm. Is anyone else seeing what I’m seeing? Yep. Many at the raised tables around me have their gazes glued to Ty and his floozy. He’ll get into trouble, won’t he? Anyone could complain to the cops about the lewd PDA. But the audience doesn’t look shocked. Going by the snickers and the laughter, they’re  titillated, excited, but not shocked. They came to see a show and they’re getting one. Besides, who’d be stupid enough to report the god almighty quarterback of the Chicago Outlaws the night before game day?

Like a magnet unable to fight the attraction, my gaze’s drawn right back to Ty. His gorgeous face tight with passion, his sensual mouth huffing breath after hard breath. My face flushes with heat. My panties get wet. And all of a sudden I imagine it’s me doing that to him. My mouth on his erection, my lips wrapped tight around him. When the crisis hits, his head rolls back, and I can almost hear his moan of ecstasy from clear across the space. The woman takes a second—to wipe her mouth? to zip him up?— before she climbs back into the booth. She makes a big show of swiping her lips again before she drinks from her glass. But when she tries to kiss him on the mouth, he turns his head, just like he did with the blonde before.

“What’s going on?” Mar asks.

When did she get back? Did she catch the peep show? Or worse, my reaction to it?

In a panic, I come to my feet. “We have to leave.”

Hot and sweaty from dancing, she stops blotting the perspiration from her brow. “Wait. What’s wrong?”

“I don’t feel well.” It’s true. My stomach roils with nausea, excitement, something.

“You are a little flushed.”

“Yeah, I think I’m coming down with that bug that’s going around.” My gaze drifts to the VIP section. Ty Mathews is standing up, throwing an arm around each companion. Oh, God. He’s coming down the stairs.

I grab Mar’s hand. “We gotta go. Now.” I run toward the exit, but before I get there, like Lot’s wife I look back. And just like her I’m punished when his gaze finds me.

For an infinitesimal second, he smiles, not the least hint of embarrassment on his face.

Horrified, I drag Mar out the door and don’t stop running until I reach home.

Dirty Filthy Boy

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.


Chapter 2

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.

“Who?”

“Ty Mathews.”

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.

“Yeah.”

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.

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