Kickin' It (Red Card) - Rachel Van Dyken
“No,” I said firmly as my sister, Willow, tried to speak over me.
“But Matt, I—”
“No.” I yawned and stared out across the pier. Paradise. I lived in paradise. All the hard work, all the blood, sweat, tears, all the whiny athletes I represented and insane hours, it had all paid off, hadn’t it? I was living in a mansion overlooking the Puget Sound with my own infinity pool and hot tub just footsteps away from my master bedroom. I was happy.
I had everything.
A twinge of something hit me in the chest. I ignored it. The cool ocean breeze stung my face as my sister sighed on the other end of the phone like I was the one being unreasonable.
I loved the little pain in the ass.
She was smart.
And almost impossible to say no to. Which was why I tried to keep her argument to a minimum; hell, I’d just say no until my voice went hoarse.
It was my fault. I’d been too protective of her when we were kids, and after our parents’ death I’d taken raising her almost too seriously. Making sure she knew right from wrong. I didn’t realize I was making a carbon copy of myself until she started showing interest in every single thing I did. I could at least be thankful it was the positive things like holding down a job and not doping to get ahead in the league.
I shuddered as guilt settled on my shoulders. Guilt that staying in the league had been so important I’d completely forgotten my morals.
My breath hitched as disappointment swiftly replaced that guilt, because on days like this, I did miss it. I rubbed my chest as an ache started to form dead center; I missed the crowd yelling my name. I’d been a good player, but I was a better agent.
“Two chocolate cakes, one peanut-butter-fudge sundae, and Starbucks delivered to you every morning.”
My eye twitched. I’d officially created a monster. “Two weeks?”
“I’m listening.” My mouth watered. Damn her for knowing every weakness I possessed and using it against me.
She took a deep breath. “I majored in business.”
I tried not to sound too annoyed at her obvious information dump. “I’m aware.”
“Stop interrupting me.”
“Sorry.” I pinched the bridge of my nose and sat on the edge of one of the wicker chairs as the breeze picked up around me. I had a million things I’d rather be doing than listening to my sister list all the reasons it was a good idea for her to join an agency and rep athletes.
“As I was saying,” she huffed, “I majored in business. I went to the school you chose for me because I trust you. I majored in something safe even though my heart wasn’t in it. I played soccer just like you, I graduated summa cum laude just like you—”
“Is there a point to this?”
“Yes!” She sounded like she wanted to reach through the phone and strangle me. “I’ve followed in your footsteps because I admire you—and I think if you look at it logically you’ll come to the same conclusion I have.”
“That I did everything better?” I wondered out loud.
“My ass,” she snorted. “You know I want to go into the family business—I want to manage athletes.”
“Ah, this again.”
“Yes, this again!”
I suppressed a sigh. I loved her, and I was so damn proud of the woman she’d turned into. My lack of enthusiasm had nothing to do with her abilities, and everything to do with the fact that she was drop-dead gorgeous. Just the thought of her working around men who thought with their dicks at least 90 percent of the time had me ready to go to prison. Did I think she could handle it? Yes. Did imagining her working with any of the guys from the Bellevue Bucks still keep me up at night? Absolutely. She wasn’t just my family, she was my only family, and I wanted to protect her from guys who thought nothing about one-night stands and dropping millions on a boat just because they could afford to—not that boats were a bad thing, I just didn’t like guys who showed their worth with how much money they could spend.
Unable to hold it back any longer, I let out a frustrated sigh. “Willow.”
“Stop saying my name as if it’s going to calm me down. If anything, it just reminds me that you still treat me like a kid because the fact that I have boobs scares you!”
“I’m not scared of your boo—” I cut