Cindy sat next to him in the booth at the diner. She took a bite of her turkey sub and checked her watch for the third time.
“Where are they? I thought you said Hayden left right after you did.”
Mike nodded. “They’ll be here.” He lifted his sandwich to his mouth.
“They better hurry. It looks bad when the senior leaders blow off the team on the first meet meal.”
“Meet meal? I didn’t realize there was an official name for this.” He set his food in his basket and held her by the waist, kissing her cheek. “Aren’t I good enough company for you?”
She laughed and pushed him away. “Stop.”
“Why? Can’t I kiss my girlfriend in public?” He tried to kiss her lips, but she pulled away.
“Yes, but keep it PG.” She tweaked his nose. “I don’t know if you know this, but you have a reputation.”
“Me? What reputation?” He took another bite.
“That you’re a bit of a player. And you had quite a few… conquests. I don’t want people to think I’m the next one.”
“You aren’t my next conquest.” He laughed but stopped when she frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” She picked the edge of her bread, tossing the pieces on the wrapper.
“Something.” He turned her face to his with his finger under her chin. “Come on, tell me.”
“You don’t deny the rumors?”
He gazed into her eyes, wishing he could deny it. “That depends. What did you hear?”
“Just that you, well, that you’ve,” she shook her head. “Never mind. It’s in the past.
Doesn’t matter.” She took a bite of her sandwich.
“I can’t change what I’ve done.” He held her hand and kissed her fingers. “But you know how I feel about you. You’re all that matters now.”
She turned to face him in the seat. “I know that, but everyone else doesn’t. What if they see us and think that you’re just trying to,” she stopped, looking down at their hands.
“Trying to what?”
“You know what I mean.” Her cheeks darkened with her blush.
“I do.” He leaned in and this time she let him kiss her. “But I know you don’t want that right now. And that’s okay. Besides, haven’t we already decided we don’t care what everyone else thinks?”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I want them to think we’re doing it. If that rumor got back to my parents, we’d both be dead.”
“It would be worth it.” Mike’s pulse quickened. He wouldn’t hold her to anything. Still, if she offered, he wouldn’t say no either. “I’m only joking, sort of.”
“Eat your sandwich.” She giggled and glanced at her watch again. “What on earth is taking them so long?”
“I think Hayden had to go home and get clothes.”
“Clothes? Why? He had street clothes already.”
“He did.” Mike couldn’t hold back his laughter. “Until I took them when he got in the shower.”
“You took his clothes?” She wrinkled her forehead. “Why’d you do that?”
“Because you told me I couldn’t hit him.”
Cindy chewed her food slowly, staring at him. “So, you took his clothes because he didn’t tell you about seeing me with Tavis.”
“I told you, men need action to express our feelings.”
“How would he get to his car with no clothes?” Cindy snickered.
“He had a towel,” Mike said. “Besides, Molly might thank me for it. She’s been trying to get him naked for months. Maybe that’s why they’re so late.”
“Oh my god, Hayden is going to kill you.” She laughed with him.
“Nah, he won’t. It’s a guy thing.”
The bell above the door rang, and they looked toward the sound as Hayden and Molly entered. Hayden met Mike’s smiling face and shook his head. He gave Mike a thumbs up, and Molly laughed.
“Told you.” Mike patted her leg.
Cindy picked up her sandwich. “Guys are weird.”
Molly and Hayden joined them after ordering their food, sliding into the opposite side of the booth.
“You’re welcome,” Mike said to Molly.
She blushed and Hayden said, “I’m just glad you left the towel.” Which made Molly’s face even redder.
After they ate, Mike leaned back into the corner of the booth. Cindy rested against him with her back on his chest.
“This should be a great season.” Cindy played with Mike’s hand as she talked, and he smiled. “Two wins today for the 4X1’s. It’s been a while since we began the season on top.”
Hayden nodded. He put an arm around Molly, and she leaned her head on his shoulder.
“Well, what did you expect? That’s what happens when you get a real athlete on the team.” Cindy elbowed Mike in the stomach, and he groaned.
“You’re so modest.” She shook her head.
“You love it. My confidence turns you on, admit it.” He tickled her sides.
“I admit to nothing.” He tickled her harder, and she laughed even more.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Mike and Cindy looked up as Elijah towered over them. Jamal stood next to him, glowering.
“What’s it look like we’re doing?” Cindy glared at him. “We ate and now we’re visiting with friends.”
“I told you to keep your hands off my sister.” Elijah pointed at Mike. Jamal crossed his arms on his chest.
“You did,” Mike said. “And it still isn’t your call.”
“What do you want, Elijah?” Cindy asked. She squeezed Mike’s knee.
“I want my sister to stay away from users.” He narrowed his eyes. “You aren’t doing to her what you do to other girls.”
“I’m not doing anything.” Mike twitched, but Cindy leaned back onto his chest, holding him in the seat.
“Elijah.” Hayden glanced at Mike’s face. “Hang out with us for a while.”
Elijah sneered at Hayden. “I’m cool with you, Hayden, but stay out of this.”
“You stay out of this, too.” Cindy said. She stood, standing toe to toe with her twin, moving her head from side to side. “Like it or not, Mike is my boyfriend. And if I want to get naked and dance in the street with him, you don’t have any say at all. So, butt out.”
Elijah’s eyes widened and his mouth hung open. The shock on his face was mirrored on Jamal’s. Mike and Hayden chuckled, but Molly shook her head, frowning at Cindy.
Conversations died around them, a quiet settled as everyone watched the argument. They knew Cindy.
Elijah glanced at Mike then frowned at Cindy. “I told you I’d be watching.”
“And I told you not to worry.” Cindy took a deep breath and blew it out. “Everything is fine.”
Elijah shook his head. The look he gave Mike would make Freddy Krueger run back into a nightmare to hide. Mike’s stomach dropped.
“You remember what Mama said.” He lowered his voice. “Her and Daddy don’t want you knocked up. And that’s all he’s gonna do to you. Then he’ll leave you to deal with it. Just like he did the last girl.”
Mike’s heart pounded in his ears drowning out the gasps in the room. He looked at Cindy, hoping she’d let him talk before she ran out the door.
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