tagRomanceRunning into Coverage Ch. 03

Running into Coverage Ch. 03

byILmonamour©

Oh holy hiatus. Firstly, life happens to us all and turns days into weeks and side-projects into—well, side-projects. As always, there is much gratitude to Estragon who looked over these pages which sat in my inbox for ages. Your edits and support means the absolute world. There is much to be said for a lady such as Hadley, but I will let the next chapters cover that. As always, your thoughts, comments and feedback is always appreciated.

Enjoy

M

****

Over the next month, not a single day went by that she didn't hear from Marcus. They talked about his grueling practice or the shade of blue she managed to perfect. They talked in the morning hours, or late in the night depending on where either of them was. With the Cougars on back-to back-away games, Marcus had been tied up for most of that month, but had wanted to be there for Hadley. When he had been home, he would casually drop by the coffee shop to harass her or go to the studio. As the rains of October had hit, so did a leaky roof at the studio. Unfortunately, hers was up on the top floor and got the brunt of the water damage. One night when they were talking on the phone, Hadley had been voicing her concerns for some of her paints and paintings, and how the landlord wasn't making any progress. Having come from a working class family, he knew a few things about repairing leas, and had patched up part of the ceiling in an effort to stave off collapse, until the landlord fixed the actual problem.

On a sunny afternoon, Hadley dipped her fingers in some of the green paint and brushed them along the fresh canvas in her studio. When an annoying ring like a club hit echoed in the small space, Hadley figured it was probably Marcus calling since he was home and they were trying to figure when to meet up. She grabbed one of the cloths and wiped her hands. The number on the display was restricted but she picked it up anyway.

"Hello?"

"Yo, Hadley!" A deep voice filled the small device, Hadley pulled the phone away from her ear and stifled a laugh.

"I don't answer to yo's. Who is this?"

"Jamal, who else would be callin'?" The name registered immediately; it made her feel like such a schoolgirl over the fact that this big burly guy was calling her.

"A lot of people, Jamal. I'm worth way more than you think I am. How did you get my phone number?"

"I stole Jennings' phone earlier and got it. What are you doing tonight?"

"Painting, what are you doing?"

"Having a drink with you. A bunch of guys are getting together and we thought it might help—"

His voice was tight, but Hadley was no fool and caught on. "Oh my god! You want to use me to pick up girls?"

"Nah, it's not...okay, yeah. We're going to Brick, you know that place?"

"No, but I can't imagine too many places are named Brick or Wall."

"Damn, you are sassy. Come out for a drink, you know you want to."

"Maybe another time, Jamal."

"How about tonight? Seeing as you and Jennings are friends, we should be too."

Hadley had to laugh at that. "I can't even believe I'm considering meeting you." Truthfully, she had hit a hard spot in the current canvas she was working on and was craving a distraction. At a gallery near Lincoln Park, she had talked with a dealer, and managed to schedule time in a couple of weeks for him to view the canvas. How she was going to complete the piece in such a short period of time, was beyond her.

"It's one drink, we'll get Jennings to meet us. It's easier for the ladies to come up when there's already one there."

Hadley rolled her eyes and put the paints down. "What time are you all meeting up?"

Before she knew it, Hadley packed everything up and was on the next bus that would drop her off near the bar. Something she had quickly learned was that, with knowing Marcus, she got to know all of his teammates. It didn't surprise her that they called her or came with Marcus on his many visits. What surprised her was her immediate excitement in getting out for the night. Caitlin had been studying for mid-terms, and she didn't really want to be quiet in her own house.

As the bus came to a stop on Huron, Hadley grabbed her bag and dashed out of the back of the packed vehicle. Clutched in her hands was the address to Brick, and as she walked past several upscale eateries she knew she was close. A gust of wind blew into her face, forcing several strands to tangle and block her sight. Her fingers gently pushed the bangs out of her eyes when she saw the line forming outside of the restaurant. Her eyes took in everything. Even from outside, the restaurant was a hit. The plain building front had been painted black with very pale lighting in the entranceway. Hadley hated the idea of having to wait in any kind of line, but promptly stood behind a group of knockout blondes in dresses too skimpy for the cool October evening. She stood in line for fifteen minutes when her phone rang.

"Hello?"

"Hadley, where are you? We been waiting on you, girl."

Hadley laughed, "I'm outside standing with the rest of the world who wants to get inside." There was a slight pause but then her phone went silent. She pulled the phone away from her ear and saw the disconnect notice and laughed.

Within seconds, the front door swung open and the Cougars' Defensive Tackle walked out into the evening chill. He scanned the line that stretched beyond the corner of the street until his eyes rested on a short blonde standing with her hands on her hips. Shaking his head, Jamal whistled loudly causing several of the people standing in line to look.

"Always surprised with you. Always." Jamal wrapped his big arms around Hadley and pulled her in for a hug. She laughed against his chest before swatting him lightly with her phone.

"You hung up on me."

Placing his arm on her shoulders, Jamal directed Hadley into the restaurant toward the rest of the group. At the table, glasses were scattered all over and several of the guys were in debate on who was the hottest girl at the table across the way. Hadley hung her bag up on the rung under the table and laughed as Brent Hammond gave a wounded look to the other guys as they disapproved his choice. A waitress came up to the table and took the order for another round which included a martini for Hadley. Soon enough, she joined in the great debate and found herself happy she had come out for the night with the guys.

****

Pulling the cell phone out of his pocket for what seemed like the fiftieth time since leaving the Cougars' complex in Rockford, Marcus checked for a missed call. The screen was just as blank then as it was before Jamal had asked him to come out tonight. A small part of him had hoped that Hadley would have called but he knew she was busy working on some new project that she wouldn't really tell him about, and kept referring to her reluctance as 'creative indifference.'

She wasn't like any other girl he had ever talked to, and he smiled thinking of her defiance. Hadley did whatever she pleased, whenever she pleased and didn't apologize for being herself. She spoke the words on her mind, but also had a compassion and generosity that he admired. More than once she had offered to cook a meal for him when he was cooped up on a couch nursing a strained hamstring.

The valet service outside of Brick was attentive as he drove up and got out of the vehicle. Handing over the keys, Marcus walked past the line and nodded at the man at the door. "Nice evening tonight."

The man uncrossed his arms and went to open the front door for Marcus. "Sure is, have a nice night Mr. Jennings."

Inside, the place was packed with swarming bodies. The heat from so many people instantly made Marcus comfortable enough and glad he didn't wear a jacket. Casually he glanced around until he heard a loud booming laugh cast from the side of the bar. Several tables had been pulled together and was over crowded with his teammates and a lot of women that either were or weren't girlfriends or new people they'd all met that night. Used to the typical night out with the guys, Marcus walked up to the table and nearly came up short as the conversation was riveted at a very particular blonde woman, he seemed to recall had been talking with him for the greater part of that month.

Hadley's arms were waiving around wildly as she proved a point, all of the guys started howling and laughing at her. Never being someone who couldn't give as much as she took, she simply laughed right with the rest of his friends. Marcus inhaled as his mouth opened to a wide smile. Jamal was the first to see him walk up and pounded his back for a greeting.

"Jennings, man! We were just thinkin' that you was going to blow us off for some of your beauty sleep."

Marcus scoffed, and looked over at Hadley who was pulling an olive from the toothpick. His eyes followed her motion as the olive lost itself in her mouth. He cleared his throat, a tightness forming in his jeans. "I told you I would be here." His eyes never leaving Hadley as he spoke.

The corner of her mouth curled and her eyes twinkled. "Well then take a seat pretty boy, we've all got you beat so looks like you'll be the designated driver."

Everyone laughed including several of the newer attendees who seemed more interested in making sure everyone near the bar knew who they were standing with. Marcus shook his head and walked over to Hadley's side. Tilting her head up, she blinked but smiled sweetly up to him.

"Yeah, that's what I thought." Placing a hand along her hip and rubbing lightly, he ordered a beer from the waitress as she cleared empty glasses and bottles from the table.

From there conversations flew between everyone without any signs of reticence. At one point, Marcus was defending his love of hip hop music to how Fabian started to actually rap for their group. Hadley covered her face but didn't hold back her laughter and the others just smacked him or listened. They were loud, obnoxious and everything that made for a fun night out.

Feeling the cool haze of a vodka buzz, priorities were first and Hadley scooted off of the high seat and walked off toward the washroom. Marcus' eyes watched her as she made her way to the back of the restaurant. Why his gaze stayed with her, he couldn't explain. All of his thoughts were interrupted as Jamal shouted out to him.

"Your girl can use the bathroom if she needs it, man."

He cocked an eyebrow at the larger player. "She's not my girl, just making sure she got there okay. The crowd is wild here."

Fabian choked on his drink before looking up at Marcus. "She's been here with us without you for most of the night and you're not pissed?"

Marcus took a swig from the longneck. "No. You're all a bunch of assholes. And you know if you touch her, I'll break your arms."

Fabian laughed, while Jamal studied Marcus' face. "She's a good girl, Jennings. She calls all of my shit out at the front door. If you don't catch her, someone else will."

"She doesn't fall for my bullshit either." The men all laughed together but as Hadley came back to the table it was clear to Marcus that she had one too many drinks in her. She wobbled when she should have been walking straight, and held onto his side for support instead of sitting in the chair. Slightly alarmed, Marcus dropped his head to whisper into her ear so nobody else in the group could hear. "Do you want to get out of here?"

Hadley rested her head on his shoulder and nodded. Marcus took the lead and started to leave some money for the tab but Jamal stopped before he could pay for anything.

"This one is on me. Glad I could finally help the notorious Marcus Jennings out in landin' his lady."

"I already told you, we are just friends, Jamal. See you tomorrow." Hadley was walking out to the front entrance when Marcus came up to her.

"Thanks Marcus, I didn't think I drank that much." Her voice trailed and Marcus thanked God that the valet was quick in getting his vehicle. Hadley rested her head against the back of the seat and shut her eyes. When she spoke, her voice was quiet as if she hadn't realized she spoke out loud. "I don't want to go home."

Out of instinct or feeling the need to comfort her, Marcus rest his hand on Hadley's thigh and squeezed lightly. His voice, equally as quiet, "everything okay?"

Turning to face Marcus, Hadley kept her eyes closed. The fingers that were fidgeting with a necklace dropped, lightly brushing his hand. "Caitlin's studying, her books are all over the place. I just want to curl up on the couch and fall asleep. But I can't without disturbing her."

Marcus hadn't realized his hand was still on her thigh and put it back on the gear-shift. Even though they were only a couple of blocks away from her apartment complex, Marcus turned onto the next street and drove to his condo instead. When he shut off the engine in the underground parking garage, Hadley finally stirred.

Rubbing her eyes, she looked around at the unfamiliar area. "Where are we?"

Marcus opened the door and climbed out. "My house. You can't bother Caitlin here."

"Marcus, I don't...."

"To sleep, Hadley. I have more than one bedroom. Or you can sleep on the couch." He lifted a brow and gave a devilish smile.

They rode up in the elevator quietly. Of all the times that they had done things together, his house had been avoided. Something she should have thought about before, but honestly was never really bothered. They weren't dating, and he never made a big deal out of inviting her over in the first place.

His condo was on the thirty-eighth floor of one of the newer condominium towers near Lakeshore Drive. Everything inside was masculine, but very well kept. Clean and tidy, except for the coffee table which was covered with notes, pencils and game-film CDs. Instead of the plush leather couches she fully expected in his bachelor pad, he had large overstuffed love seats that accented the coloring on the walls which were covered with impeccable and stylish artwork. Hadley's eyes widened as she walked further into his condo and realized that even though their friendship had grown, she had judged him from the beginning and he didn't deserve that.

"Your house is gorgeous, I had no idea."

Hadley followed him into the spare bedroom. "I know, I don't usually bring people back here. It's kind of where I get to be free...of everything. There's a bathroom across the hall, when you need to leave wake me up and tell me. I'll drive you. You are not taking the bus."

Hadley tried to laugh but was caught up in an intense yawn. He opened up the bedspread as she took off her boots. "Thank you for everything, Marcus. I don't have a shift tomorrow so I may just sleep in if that's okay?"

A light smile blessed his parched lips, he ran a tongue over them. "I have practice at nine, you can stay for as long as you need."

Curling deep into the covers, Hadley nodded. It took every ounce of Marcus' willpower to not drop a kiss on her forehead or her bare shoulder as she lay so peacefully in the bed. It took even more strength to leave the room and get into a cold shower.

****

A light tapping against the window woke Hadley out of a light sleep. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness and she reached over to her nightstand in search for her phone but didn't find it. Pulling the sheets down, she looked at her dress and realized she was fully clothed. Awkwardly, she rolled out of the bed and went to the dresser against the wall to see if there was anything she could scrounge up and use for nightwear. There were more framed photos than anything, but she managed to find an old college t-shirt.

Stripping down, she put the t-shirt on which dropped to her knees and went out to get some water from the kitchen. As high up as the condo was the light of the city and moon kept the space well lit. Hadley was able to find her way into the spacious kitchen and quietly pour a glass of water and walk back to the room. She didn't remember the room as dark as it was, but she didn't want to curse the light by turning it on and started to crawl into the bed that seemed larger than the one she had been laying in. As she buried herself under the covers closer to the center, her leg bumped against something very warm. A movement from the far side of the bed shifted and it was then that she took in the faint scent of cologne in the air.

A gravelly voice spoke out from the darkness. "Hadley?"

"Marcus?"

"Who the hell else would it be?" He turned and flipped the light on and inhaled sharply at the sight of Hadley lying beside him. "Are you...?"

"Oh—uh...I thought this was the other room." As Hadley sat up and let the sheets pool at her waist, Marcus noticed that she was wearing his shirt, which had bunched at the exact place the sheets had fallen. He went from soft to hard in record time and shifted to hide his secret.

"It's not."

"I can go. I mean, I will go to the other room. I should go."

With a hand held out to where her knee was, Marcus squeezed it lightly just as he had in the car. "You're comfortable, you can stay here." He looked around the bed then back to her, "it's big enough."

Her eyes were big pools of the midnight skies, "okay."

"Okay, as in, we are going to sleep."

Hadley laughed, "you don't want to spoon with me?"

A deep rumble erupted from his throat as Marcus took in her sass. Even at two in the morning, she was still giving him shit. "It's the other way around, Had." Without another word he reached over and turned the lights off. Hadley lay as still as she possibly could but found it increasingly difficult as the deep and steadied breaths of Marcus filled the air in the room as he drifted into a deep sleep. The bed was comfortable, and warm from both of them lying beneath the covers. Blinking rapidly, she fought the sleep that ached to control her. Giving into the inevitable, her eyes fluttered shut and she sank into sleep.

Always able to get up early, Marcus often awoke before his alarm went off. That morning wasn't any different. Groggy from the sleep, the morning sunlight crept into the room from the corners of the blinds. He was sleeping on his side, something he never did but was curled into the backside of Hadley. His hand resting lightly over her side, their hands clasped together. At some point in the night, he must have turned to her. Her hair tangled at the nape of her neck and Marcus wanted nothing more than to move it so he could nuzzle her, but feared waking her. Or pissing her off.

After a few minutes, her hand eased out of his and her entire body rolled over in frustration. Still completely asleep she covered the back of her head with her hands. Marcus took full advantage of the break and turned his alarm off so it didn't disturb her sleep and slid out of bed to take a shower. When he was all done shaving and getting ready, he came out of the bathroom ready to head out for practice only to see Hadley sitting upright in the middle of the bed.

Hair everywhere, black eyeliner smeared at the corners, in his t-shirt. "I feel like hell and you look fine, how fair is that?"

"Good morning to you too. You don't look all that bad."

"If I can't run my fingers through my hair, I look terrible."

"Wiseass. Take a shower, you'll feel better. I have to go to practice, so do whatever you have to do. There's plenty of food in the fridge."

Hadley scrambled out of the sheets and followed Marcus to the door, completely unaware that she was only in his t-shirt. "Protein shakes and spinach."

Shaking his head, he glanced down at her bare legs and smiled. "Take or leave it, babe."

"I'm way too tired to even comment on that."

"At least this way, I can say I slept with you. And offered breakfast."

Hadley's mouth gaped as Marcus walked out the front door of his condo. She stood in foyer for several minutes before falling onto his couch laughing at everything. He was right, they had slept together.

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