Don't Ever Give Up Ch. 08bySpotInTheSand©
Note: Nearing the end now. Thanks for sticking with me if you've made it this far. I've been getting killed in the voting because of the cliffhanger, which I suppose I should have expected. Hopefully this chapter goes a ways toward changing your mind.
Special thanks go out to my two regular editors, LilTexasSexFiend and AnInsatiableReader, for making this infinitely better than it was when I first wrote it. As always, let me know what you think, through voting, comments or private feedback. All three works too! ;-)
"Indiana is not one of our rivals," Tim's voice said. "It's not an ACC school. Hell, they went, what... 8-23 last year? They're not even a good team."
"I know," a female voice replied. "They just have one player in particular that I always choke against."
"You play in the ACC. Surely, you've gone up against better players."
"Yes," the woman answered. "But, none of them are my sister."
The digital voice recorder beeped as Tim turned it off. He tossed it onto his desk and watched as it landed squarely on Hailee Sullivan's athlete file. Hailee was one of the most talented off-guards in the ACC - when the vast array of mental blocks bouncing around in her head didn't get in the way. The women's basketball coach had specifically asked Tim to work on Hailee's mental training this year, because she was the team's top returning scorer.
And, Tim remembered now that the recording had jogged his memory, she had a sister.
He sat back in his chair in his office at the RBC Center, blankly staring out the window at the parking lot. His SUV was parked 30 feet beyond the glass, but he didn't see it. He didn't see anything.
"Leira is her fucking sister," Tim said out loud, not for the first time since leaving the party the night before. Even more than 12 hours later, he was still having trouble processing it.
Many of the things that defined Tim's life had taught him a lesson about how to handle what would be referred to as, in clinical terms, a massively fucked up situation. Flying had taught him to take a deep breath and think. Psychology had taught him to close his eyes and visualize a happy place. The Marine Corps had taught him to rely on his instincts.
So, Tim took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and held both for maybe 30 seconds. When he exhaled and opened his eyes, his instincts were still telling him to scream or beat the living hell out of something.
Who was he going to punch, though? Carlos? There was no way he could have known about Tim's past with Leira unless she told him, and one of the few things he remembered in the blur that followed J.T.'s revelation was the look of pure shock blanketed across Carlos' face when he finally realized what was going on.
He definitely felt like punching J.T., and J.T. probably would have let him, too, but that wouldn't be fair. It was the whole "Don't shoot the messenger" concept. Sure, J.T. had a flair for the dramatic, but this wasn't the kind of thing he'd keep to himself even for a second. Tim had left his phone in the car to charge during the party, and when he went out to get it earlier that morning, there were about 20 text messages from both J.T. and Sheila, most of them coming in the 30 minutes before they showed up at the party. He guessed the same was true for Julia, who'd left her phone at Tim's house. Their best friends had done all they could.
And yelling? Sure, that would feel good. Never mind that it wouldn't solve a damn thing - who was he going to yell at? Julia? She was almost as stunned as Tim was. He was quite certain she had no clue her half-sister was the woman responsible for the multiple hoops she'd had to jump through to earn Tim's trust over the past two years. Hell, she had wanted Tim to meet some of her family a few months after they'd met, but Tim flatly refused, hiding behind their status as just friends with benefits to get out of it.
He knew whom he really wanted to unload on, of course, but there was no point to that, either. He'd told J.T., Sheila, Julia and anyone else who would listen that he'd moved on. Humiliating Leira in front of the entire football team last night, as satisfying as it might have been, really wouldn't have helped prove that point.
Not that he didn't have the right, he thought. She'd just... left that day. Tim remembered the feeling, and he didn't like it. He'd felt more vulnerable that day than he ever had in Baghdad or the caves of Afghanistan.
There was one truth that managed to seep through the haze, though. All the things he'd been telling J.T., things even Tim himself only half-believed... they were all true. Now that he'd seen her again, he knew it without a doubt.
He didn't want Leira to change her mind. He no longer wanted to go back to that day, three years ago, and alter the past.
Tim didn't want Leira back. He just wanted answers.
Like J.T. had said at his party that day, Tim needed closure. He'd just never expected to get it like this.
Tim's exit from the party had been as graceful as he could manage. Honestly, he'd wanted to throw up the moment J.T. told him Leira was Julia's sister, but he'd fought off that particular urge. There was no way he didn't flinch or cringe, he thought, but he'd recovered pretty quickly, at least physically. He stood there for at least a minute, probably more, with five sets of eyes glued to him, waiting for a response.
Finally, he'd given them one.
"That's great," he'd said, not really sure what he was going to say even as he opened his mouth. "Please, excuse me for a minute."
He'd turned around and began a brisk walk toward the exit. Both J.T. and Julia had called his name, but he'd put up a hand, waving them off without looking back. Once off the court, the walk turned into a jog. He took the stairs two, sometimes three at a time until he reached the concourse, then sprinted down the hall.
His first plan was to get to his car and just drive until he ran out of gas or ran into the ocean, whichever came first. When he passed his office, however, he changed his mind. He went in, locked the door and sat on the floor across the room, where no one could see him through the window or the door. He pulled out a small flashlight and started working on player evaluations.
He dozed off sometime around three a.m. and slept right there on the floor. Three hours later, he'd woken up stiff and sore as all hell but really, really not caring. He needed a shower, so he'd grabbed the workout bag from his SUV, and that's when he discovered his voicemails and text messages. Without returning any of them or even taking his phone with him, he went back into the building, to the locker room just down the hall from his office, and cleaned up a little.
That was four hours ago now. In about an hour, the team bus would depart from the football stadium, on the other side of the massive parking lot, for the airport and the flight to Miami.
Tim was about to get back to the women's basketball team and Hailee Sullivan's sibling rivalry when his door opened. He didn't even look up.
"I must have forgotten to lock the door when I got back this morning," Tim said. "These aren't office hours."
"C'mon, Doc," Carlos said. "I been here four years. When have I ever gave a fuck 'bout office hours?"
Tim looked up in time to see the star running back plop unceremoniously into a chair in front of his desk. As Carlos' ass hit the seat, the stench hit Tim's nostrils. Carlos' red T-shirt was soaked through at the chest and armpits, and sweat dripped from his forehead onto his equally red workout shorts as he leaned forward in the chair.
"Jesus," Tim said. "You know we have showers in this building, right?"
"Yeah," Carlos replied. "Right 'round the corner from the weight room."
"Think now might be a decent time to avail yourself of that particular luxury?"
"Do what?" Carlos answered, his face screwing up. "Available for who?"
Tim chuckled. He knew damn well Carlos understood, but he liked acting stupid sometimes. "We're leaving in just a bit, Carlos. What can I do for you?"
"Not a damn thing, Doc," Carlos said. "Just up here for a little pre-flight liftin'. Saw your car outside, figured you was in here."
Tim waited. Carlos said nothing.
"And, I just wanted to check on you."
"Touching," Tim said, shaking his head and looking back down at his notebook. "Really."
"C'mon, Doc," Carlos said. "You know I didn't know anything."
"Do you know anything now?"
"I know everything now," he replied. "Your boy and your girl filled me in after you took off last night."
"Good," Tim said. "You probably know more than me."
Carlos was only too eager to fill in the gaps. "You shoulda seen what happened after you left. Leira--" Tim put his hand up.
"And let's keep it that way, OK?" Tim said.
Carlos was silent for a second. "You really don't wanna know?"
"No, Carlos," Tim answered. "I really don't."
Carlos chuckled, but stood up. "Aight, Doc." He extended a fist, and Tim dutifully bumped it.
"Please, go get a shower before I have to sit on a bus with you for 20 minutes and then a plane for two hours."
Carlos ignored that. "You know... I wish you'da let me tell you what went down last night. 'Cause maybe, you wouldn't be so pissed at me for what's about to happen."
"And, what's about to happen?" Tim asked, not really paying attention now.
"You'll see." The door opened, and Carlos left. Tim never looked up, still making some last-minute notes in Hailee's file. After about 20 seconds, though, he realized the door had never closed behind Carlos. Besides that, something was off. There was still a presence in the -
"Are you OK?"
Tim closed his eyes when he heard her voice.
He expected something to wash over him - old feelings, vivid memories, anything. Instead, he just caught goose bumps from the drafty concourse air.
"I'm great," Tim said, finally looking up as Leira took the chair Carlos had been using.
"You look good," Leira said. "Except... doesn't look like you got much sleep."
"Glad you approve," Tim said. "How did you get in?"
"I convinced Carlos to let me in."
"Still banging our star running back, I see," Tim said. "Good to hear."
She grinned, but it didn't get past her lips.
"What do you want?" Tim continued.
"Just to talk to you."
"Well, that's going to be one hell of a one-sided conversation, but knock yourself out." Tim stood up and started putting away the women's basketball files in a locked filing cabinet.
"Come on, Tim," she pleaded. "You must have questions."
He said nothing. He yanked open another drawer and haphazardly threw player files into a laptop case. He had everything he needed for Miami on his laptop, but he was trying to appear busy.
"For example," she continued, "why I walked out on you the way I did."
Tim stopped moving the files around in the cabinet and virtually froze in place. He rocked his head back slightly, and then turned around. He stayed quiet, and after a few seconds, Leira took that as her cue to keep going.
"I'm sorry, Tim," she said, standing up. Tim was afraid she was going to approach him, but instead, she just paced back and forth in front of the chair. "I was confused back then. I had just finished my Bachelor's degree, I had a job that could take me anywhere, and I just felt trapped."
Tim made his way back to his chair and sat down gingerly, as if even the slightest impact could bruise him. He finally took Leira's appearance in, for the first time in more than three years. She wore a pair of dark oversized Ray-Bans that covered up much more of her face than 99.9% of heterosexual males would have preferred, even though it was overcast outside and pretty dimly lit in his office. That was the only thing that was off, though. Her long, blonde hair hung down in loose curls, the tight yellow turtleneck she wore managed to accentuate her ample assets without coming off as trashy, and her blue jeans looked like they'd just been manufactured a few minutes ago - by Sherwin-Williams.
Standing there in his office, more than three years after she'd dumped him, she was still head-over-heels gorgeous.
"I didn't know what I wanted, Tim," Leira said.
Then again, Tim thought... so were most porn stars.
When he spoke, the ferocity in his voice shocked even Tim himself. He could only imagine what it did to Leira.
"Well, Leira," Tim said, "I'm glad you've finally fucking figured it out. I'm sure Carlos is great in bed. Probably even better than me. I hope he gives you all the orgasms your little pussy desires. Enjoy it. Enjoy it for the next four months. Because in April, Carlos is going to be a Top Ten pick in the NFL Draft. And once he signs that $13-million-a-year contract to carry the ball for the Chiefs or the Dolphins or the Texans or whoever gets lucky enough to take him... he's barely going to remember your name. He'll replace you with five others that look just like you, and if you even so much as mention moving to whatever city he's playing in, he'll laugh at you like that one dumb kid in the locker room who just doesn't get the fucking joke."
Tim felt like he should stand up now, with the roll he was on, but he calmly stayed seated. He gathered up a few notebooks and a couple dozen pens from a cup on the desk and nonchalantly deposited them in his bag.
"In one of the landmark cases of turnabout being fair play in the fucking history of mankind, Carlos McDonald is going to drop your ass like a bad habit. He's going to leave you in little old Durham, North Carolina, while he moves onto bigger and better things. Oh, he'll never forget you - after all, you're the dumb blonde he fucked the shit out of in college who honestly thought she was the one who could change him. He'll always remember you. But about three seconds after they call his name on ESPN, he'll forget your number."
Just then, Tim heard someone banging on one of the outer doors to the building. It was probably another player in to grab a quick ten-minute lift before taking off for Miami. Either way, Tim didn't care. He was more focused on the look on Leira's face. She was clearly stunned - he could tell that even with the sunglasses hogging up half her face. He had no idea if she was crying, but it wouldn't have shocked him. She was always quick to start the waterworks if things didn't go her way. Back then, he'd thought it was cute.
"Impressive," she croaked out after a minute. "That was never your style, Tim. You always did the right thing. You let J.T. bring the hellfire and brimstone."
"Yeah," Tim agreed. "Well, J.T. isn't here right now, but I'm glad he taught me well."
Leira started inching closer to him, effortlessly sweeping around the corner of his desk.
"And besides," Tim continued. "Who's saying it wasn't the right thing?"
Tim knew what was coming as she continued to creep closer. He braced himself for it, and when she plopped herself down in his lap, pressed her chest against his and draped her arms around his neck, he was ready for it. He thought it would overpower him, her scent and her touch enveloping him again after all this time.
It still briefly overwhelmed his senses, though, which is why it took him a few seconds to stand up, even with Leira in his lap. She fell back to sit on the edge of his desk. Out in the concourse, he heard Carlos yelling something as a door slammed again.
"So," Leira said, looking more than a bit put off. A lot of women would have thrown themselves at Tim one last time, but Tim knew better than to expect that. She had too much pride for that. "You really think you're going to be happy with Julia?"
She spat out her sister's name like it was poison she'd sucked from somebody's snakebite wound. For the first time since Leira had walked in the room, Tim felt his blood start to boil. He was nervous and panicked when she first came in, but he'd calmed himself down. Now, he was getting angry. His face hardened and he snapped his glare onto Leira.
"As opposed to you?" Tim said. "I think I'd be happier dating Rosie fucking O'Donnell."
Apparently Carlos was still hanging around, because he noisily choked back a laugh in the hallway outside. Tim picked up his office phone and started punching numbers.
"Now," he said. "I'm calling campus security. Even on a Sunday morning, I don't think it'll take them more than five minutes to show up. Pretty sure you won't like what happens if you're still around when they get here."
She glared back at him for a long moment. During their relationship, they'd had fights as nasty as this one. They'd exchange vicious looks with each other, and sometimes hurled some brutal insults. But the rage would dissolve as they dragged each other down onto the nearest flat surface for passionate make-up sex.
Not this time. Without another word, Leira spun around and slammed the door behind her as she left.
Tim sat back down in his chair and took several deep breaths, trying to calm himself down again. He tried to process what had just happened.
Leira was probably telling the truth, he decided. She probably was confused back then, and maybe she wasn't ready to be in the kind of relationship they'd built together. Still, Tim thought... for one, she could have done things differently back then; she could have ended things a lot better than she did. Secondly, if she'd ended up with a husband and two kids by now, Tim might have bought the whole 'I didn't know what I wanted' bit. But no - Leira had eventually decided that sleeping with Carlos was a better life plan.
Even still, she'd been right. That little outburst wasn't Tim's style at all. And while he was glad to have said something that might have at least registered with her... he'd been right before. He didn't feel any better. Not one damn bit.
Tim couldn't put his finger on it, but cussing out Leira and telling her how worthless Carlos was about to make her feel did not stop Tim's world from spinning dangerously close to out of control. It didn't make things worse, but it really didn't make things better.
He still felt like shit, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Tim threw a few final things into his bag, and five minutes after Leira left, Tim did the same. Carlos was leaning against the wall not even a foot away.
"Daaaaaamn, Doc," Carlos said. "That shit was ice cold."
"Did I say anything that wasn't true?"
Carlos considered that for a minute. "Yeah," he finally answered. "I know you pissed at her, Doc, but... you a red-blooded straight dude with a well-developed appreciation of the female form. I don't care what the bitch did to you -- you would not fuck Rosie O'Donnell over Leira. Even if she was into dick."
Tim laughed, hard. He didn't feel any better, but it did feel good to genuinely laugh at something.
"I didn't say anything about fucking," Tim said as he locked up his office. "I said dating."
"Oh," Carlos said as they started down the hall. "OK, then, yeah. That big 'ol bitch might be fun to take out on the town one time."
Tim laughed again. "Who was that trying to get in while Leira was in my office?"
"Uh, yeah," Carlos said. "See, the thing is, Doc..."
Tim stopped and waited.
"Yeah," Carlos stammered, his eyes searching for a way out of this conversation. There wasn't one. "That was... yeah. That was your girl."
"Julia?" Tim was genuinely surprised.
"Yeah." Carlos looked like he'd just swallowed a bug.
"What is it?"
"She came in wanting to see you. By the time she got to the door though, Leira was all up on your jock, tryin' to break it down for you VIP style. She stood there for a second, then she stormed out."
Tim's fists started to clinch.
"I'm sorry, Doc. I tried to stop her. I was gonna tell her how bad you'd just smacked the girl down before she showed up, but she took off."