Lady in Red Ch. 06byHarddaysknight©
Steve had been sitting still, eyes closed and relaxing as much as possible as Laura and Gwen worked on removing his bandages. He never realized that Amber O'Leary was in the room until he heard her speak to Gwen. His eyes popped open and he began to rise until Laura placed her hand on his chest and gently pushed him back. He saw Gwen step in front of Amber in an obvious attempt to keep her away from him. What a time and place for Gwen and Amber to meet!
"You're an amazing woman, Gwen," laughed Amber as she stepped forward and wrapped Gwen in a tight embrace. Steve felt some relief that Amber was working to defuse the situation, but wondered if it would be good for him in the long term. How would Gwen react to Amber's stories of their meeting over a year ago?
"You must realize that I can't steal that guy from you," whispered Amber into Gwen's ear. "I already have a great guy and he'll probably propose to me at Christmas. I want to be your best friend, or at least one of them. Steve is an amazing guy, but you're perfect for him. You're even willing to fight for the guy! I really like that."
As Gwen digested Amber's words, her arms came up to return the embrace. "I'm sorry if I acted a bit possessive, but you're so beautiful and I saw you have dinner with him at Dominick's a few weeks ago. I hate to admit it, but I was really jealous. You're so beautiful!"
Steve was close enough to hear the two women's conversation. Gwen had seen him with Amber? That was news. Small wonder Gwen had been so aloof the past few weeks! Thinking about it, he was lucky she still cared enough to drag his ass out of the river. She thought he was seeing Amber for a romantic date! Amber was at least 24 and wouldn't be interested in a kid like him. How could Gwen even think he and Amber would be involved in any way?
"Gwen, I could use a little help here," called Laura. "Steve really needs to take a shower before we bandage him again. Let's get this off him and get out of the locker room so these kids can shower. The testosterone is getting pretty pungent in here."
Gwen quickly returned to Laura's side and helped her remove the bloody bandages from Steve's torso, as Laura spoke to Steve. "Take a nice long shower and get some pants on. After everyone's done, call Gwen. We'll come back in and wrap you up one last time before I stitch you up tomorrow at the hospital."
Coach Watkins cleared his throat to speak. "I know it's a bit unusual to have so many people in the locker room, especially females. But this is an unusual situation. We're the state champions! The next governor of our great state is here, along with his wife and daughter. Our local reporter, Amber Stahl is here, as is Dr. Laura Masters. Many of the players' parents are here, and proudly so.
"As you may, or may not know, after every victory, it's been our tradition to award the game ball to the person the team felt contributed the most to our victory. During the regular season, a player could only win the honor once. For the title game today, all bets are off and everyone has been considered.
"It's a real honor for me today to present the game ball for the championship game. This honor is an unanimous choice by our team. We've had an exciting season and the past few days have been a roller coaster ride. How this team was able to put aside all the distractions and focus on the game, I'll never know.
"I've given a lot of thought to the events of the other day when Glen's nephews where trapped in that submerged car. In the entire crowd of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, only one person committed himself to diving into that cold water to save those kids. That was Steve. Only one person jumped into the water to help Steve even before he surfaced. That was Gwen Anderson. Only one person realized that Gwen would not be able to pull Steve up that bank and jumped into the icy waters to help her. That was Billy Marsh.
"I've been kicking this around since the whole thing happened. What was wrong with me? With the other parents, and the other players? Why is it that none of us risked our lives to help those kids in that car, or even Gwen and Steve afterward? Am I a coward? Are all of us cowards? I've done some soul searching about this. I've finally reached the conclusion that most of us all acted in a normal human fashion. We stood there horrified and uncertain as to what we should do. There are a few people that do not think through situations like that. They simply decide what needs to be done and take action. Steve is one of those rare types.
"It doesn't make the rest of us less human, or less brave. It simply shows that Steve has certain rare qualities the bulk of humanity lacks, especially under stressful situations. Gwen has those qualities. Billy Marsh exhibited them as well. Any of us could have attempted to do what they did, but we watched. Our reaction was the average, or normal reaction. Don't beat yourself up over it, but appreciate greater than average courage when you see it. And we sure saw it!
"To get to the point, the team has decided to award the Sparta State Championship game ball to Gwen Anderson! The team believes that her actions two days ago saved Steve Hammer, and our football season."
Steve had been watching Gwen as Coach Watkins delivered his speech. She blushed at the mention of her name for saving the children and Steve, but when the coach handed her the game ball; her mouth fell open in stunned amazement. Tears formed and rolled down her cheeks. She accepted the ball in one hand and hugged the coach with the other arm as everyone cheered.
Then Jared White, the big defensive end, stepped up to Gwen with open arms and declared, "You owe us all a hug, Girl!"
Without hesitation, Gwen rushed to him and gave the burly black senior a kiss and a hug. Soon she was hugging and kissing every player that stepped in line. The tears never stopped, even as her smile seemed to grow with every hug.
Jared eventually moved next to Steve and slapped him on the back. "That's a great girl you've got. I always thought she and her smart friends felt they were better than us, but she's a regular girl. Well regular, except for nicer tits and a prettier face than anyone else in the school."
Just as Jared finished his statement, Gwen appeared in front of them. "I heard that, Jared White! Don't think you're going to get away with that kind of talk!"
"I'm sorry, Gwen," apologized Jared. "I was just joking..."
Gwen quickly pulled Jared's face down and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. As she released him she laughed, "Don't make a habit of talking about me like that, but I'll take it as a compliment today, Big Guy! I'm too excited to be upset. Now for your hug and kiss, Steve!"
Steve marveled at Gwen's ability to control the room with her warmth and personality. He stepped up to her, and warned, "You'll have to wait for that hug. I'll get blood all over your clothes, but I'm sure ready for that kiss."
Gwen leaned in as Steve bent down to kiss her. Knowing the whole room was watching, they made it quick, but there was no mistaking the sparks that flew. Once again, Coach Watkins cleared his throat, and Steve stepped back from Gwen.
"I have to ask all visitors, especially females, to leave the locker now. These guys have a lot of dried sweat and dirt to scrub off before we board the bus for Sparta. Thank you, everyone for your support. Special thanks to Dr. Laura Masters, who you may have noticed, performed a neat piece of surgery on me near the end of the game. She somehow managed to get my head out of my ass. That was her professional diagnosis and she managed to correct the problem, at least temporarily."
"Gwen, would it be okay if I gave your boyfriend a quick kiss, before we have to leave?" requested Amber O'Leary.
Gwen beamed as she nodded her head. As long as Amber referred to Steve as her boyfriend, and asked permission for any special interactions, Gwen could be friendly with the older girl. Gwen helped Laura collect her things as Amber gave Steve a pretty substantial smack on the lips. Gwen smiled as she realized that Steve had just seen her kiss nearly every guy on the team. It seemed that a lot of girls wanted to kiss Steve, and apparently the guys were finding Gwen rather acceptable these days.
As the fans began leaving, Jared once again spoke to Steve. "Gwen has totally changed from last year! She'd never have hung around athletes, never would have kissed one, let alone a room full of them, and she kissed us black players, too. She treats all of us the same. She's come a long way. You're good for her, and she sure isn't doing you any damage either! You'd be at the bottom of the river if it weren't for that girl. You're a lucky man."
Paula, Kate, Lisa and her two friends, had waited around outside the locker room for Gwen. Angela Walker had joined them as they talked about the game and how great it was for Sparta to finally win a state title. They were there when the fans began filing out of the locker room. Lisa was the first one to spot Gwen wiping her eyes as the daughter of the governor hovered near her.
"What've you done?" demanded Lisa, as she strode up to Amber, stopping only when their faces were inches apart. "You had no business being in there. You can't hold a candle to Gwen! Steve knows that. You think having a famous father makes you special? Let me tell you..."
"Hello to you, too," laughed Amber. "You must be one of the beautiful Anderson sisters, probably Lisa. Steve told me that you and Kate were drop dead gorgeous, but I thought he was probably exaggerating a little. I can see now that he was right. He did neglect to tell me just how tight your family is, however. You're ready to fight for your sister, and she was ready to fight for Steve."
Lisa was flummoxed. She had verbally attacked the girl and insulted her eye to eye. She expected yelling, cursing, maybe even a catfight, but not laughter and compliments. Suddenly Kate was at Lisa's side.
"Steve said I was drop dead gorgeous? Did he really say that? I'm Kate, Gwen's other beautiful sister. Did Steve tell you about us the night Gwen saw you having dinner with him at Dominick's? I knew he wasn't running around on Gwen. Are you Steve's cousin or something?" finished an exuberant Kate.
By the time Kate finished her rant, all the women, including Lisa, were laughing. "Everyone, I want you to meet my friend, Amber O'Leary. This is my sister Lisa, my sister Kate, my mother Paula, my teacher Ms. Walker, and Lisa's friends, Donna and Susan. Amber is our future governor's daughter and, as it turns out, a friend of Steve's, but not that kind of friend!"
"Why are there tears on your face?" asked Lisa. "I thought that Amber had pulled some kind of stunt in there that upset you. I'm sorry for what I said, Amber, but I still don't understand what's going on."
"You missed it, but it'll probably be on YouTube now that I think about it," replied Gwen with a smile. "I was ready to tear into Amber almost as bad as you were, Lisa. Then she told me she had a boyfriend that would soon be her fiancé. That relaxed me real fast. I was all teary-eyed just now because the team awarded me the game ball! I'm still all emotional about it. They gave the game ball for the state championship game to me! It'll probably be in a trophy case with my name on it. Can you imagine that?"
"Let me see if I have this right," interjected Angela Walker. "In the last half hour or so, both you and your sister, Lisa, have practically threatened the daughter of our next governor with bodily harm. Now that same young woman is one of your best friends. The football team that just came from behind in the last seconds of state championship game to win its first ever state title, and awarded you the game ball. Does that pretty well cover it?"
"Except that Gwen hugged and kissed just about every guy on the team, especially her hunk of a boyfriend, after helping remove his bloody bandages to expose that amazing body, ... upper body, that is," laugher Amber.
"I'd say that it's been a pretty full day for you already, Gwen. The rest of the day will seem pretty boring after all of that," suggested Ms. Walker.
"Only if you consider having dinner with the incoming governor of this great state, and his family, boring," boomed Patrick O'Leary as he walked up behind Amber. "I've reserved a room at a local restaurant for dinner this evening. I already spoke to the coach about allowing Steve to remain behind while the others travel back to Sparta on the team bus. He's agreed, providing someone is willing to offer Steve a ride home. Would any of you consider doing me that small favor?"
"We will!" responded Gwen and Kate simultaneously, before breaking into laughter.
"That's settled then," chuckled Patrick O'Leary. "Now, will you ladies join me for dinner once Steve is dressed? I understand that Dr. Masters and Ms. Anderson are going to bandage him up one final time this afternoon. Hopefully that won't take too long, and then we'll meet for dinner."
Gwen and her family and friends were standing near the locker room entrance when Jared White and a couple of other players strolled out. Seeing Gwen, he headed in her direction.
"I was going to try to talk you into forgetting Steve and going out with me, but now that I see your three sisters standing here, I don't know which one of you to ask," revealed Jared shaking his head sadly. "This is a real problem."
"Three sisters?" asked Gwen as she followed Jared's eyes. "I have two sisters. Who did you think was my other ... my Mom?"
"Your mom?" replied Jared, as he tried to act surprised. "I thought she was your sister."
"You guys are all alike! You've seen Mom at tons of school events. You knew she was my mother. You're a smooth tongued devil, Jared! I'm going to have to warn Steve about you."
"Just don't tell your father," chuckled Jared. "I almost forgot, the locker room is empty now. You ladies can tend to your ailing superstar. How one guy can attract so many babes is beyond me!"
The Anderson women, Angela Walker, and Dr. Masters all laughed as they headed for the locker room. Lisa's two friends had declined the dinner invitation knowing the governor wanted to meet with the group from Sparta, and had gone back to their dorm. Steve sat on the bench in front of his locker when the group entered the room. He was wearing his sneakers, jeans, and a smile.
"I've missed you more than you'll ever know," stated Lisa, as she rushed to be the first to Steve. She carefully sat on his lap and gently touched his chest. Then she kissed him on the lips and stood up, wiping her eyes.
"When I watched that video of the river rescue, my heart was in my throat. We came so close to losing you. Gwen would've been destroyed. Kate and I wouldn't have been much better. Thank God that Gwen was there and so determined to keep you safe," cried Lisa quietly, before sniffling and turning to her family. "Now let's get this guy trussed up so we can feed him."
Paula had been surprised at the depth of Lisa's emotions when she saw Steve. It had been obvious that Kate had a big time crush on her sister's boyfriend, but Lisa surprised her. She was older and had gone out with quite a few boys over the years. Still, it was obvious that Lisa was drawn to Steve. If Gwen were not her sister, realized Paula, she'd be working to make Steve hers.
Steve had begun to stand up when Lisa had hurried up to him and dropped into his lap. He saw the concern mixed with sadness in Lisa's eyes as she leaned in to kiss him. He knew that if he hadn't fallen so fast and so hard for Gwen, Lisa would occupy all of his thoughts. She was sexy, smart, fit and amazingly beautiful. With the exception of Gwen, Steve had never seen Lisa's equal, although Kate was rapidly getting there.
As Laura and Gwen worked on getting Steve bandaged, Kate decided to quiz him. "Did you tell the governor's daughter that I was drop dead gorgeous? Did you mean it? Do you really think that, or did she make it up?"
Steve blushed a little, then smiled. "I did mention that Gwen had some attractive sisters. I don't know if I used the term 'drop dead gorgeous' or 'supermodel looks and figures'. I know it was one or the other, or maybe even both. Are you upset at me for talking about you, Kate?"
"Yeah, I'm pissed!" responded Kate. "I'd have your babies right now if I could!"
"Kate!" scolded her shocked mother. "Ladies don't talk like that! You were way out of line. You've probably embarrassed Steve with that outburst."
"This is quite a family unit," laughed Laura. "It's a good thing your daughters are so close to each other or there'd be hell to pay. This guy's managed to cast a spell over three gorgeous sisters. Normally, that's a formula for disaster, but I've seen how Lisa and Kate stick up for Gwen, and how proud they are of her. That puts this whole thing on a different level. It's quite touching, actually."
Steve had been surprised at Lisa's emotions, and was stunned at Kate's declaration. Kate had made no bones about her feelings for him, but his talk about treating her like a sister should have solved that situation. He realized that he had to always be careful to not mislead Lisa or Kate. He'd do anything for them, but Gwen was the sister for him. Of that, he was certain.
"Okay, Steve you can put your shirt on now. Sorry, ladies," grinned Laura. "Let's get to dinner so we can all find out how it happens that Steve's on a first name basis with the governor-elect and his family. Maybe he'll fill us in during the ride to the restaurant? No, scratch that idea since Angela will be driving her car, and she won't want to miss this soap opera."
Steve had no illusions of keeping anything from the Anderson's and friends any longer. Amber had given him enough time to talk to Gwen. As it turned out, Gwen had seen Amber and Steve having dinner that evening. That caused her to be less than eager to be alone with him. It was only in the last couple days that Gwen showed signs of forgiving him for a sin he didn't really commit, but which had upset her greatly.
Patrick and Janice O'Leary greeted them warmly as they entered the private room he had reserved. "Thank you all for coming! I'm so excited to meet all of you. Steve has really done well for himself. That's no surprise. He's made some wonderful friends in a relatively short time. Of course, he did have a lot of promotion. Dancing and swimming with the lovely 'Lady in Red', saving small children from a watery grave, leading his football team to the state championship, and shattering all sorts of records in the process will garner more than a little attention."
Steve had been warmly greeted by Amber again as she hugged him hard and then kissed him on the lips. He was a little surprised at how warmly Janice O'Leary greeted him. She was a very attractive woman approaching fifty, with red hair and fair skin, like her daughter. After hugging him, she also planted a very friendly kiss on his lips and then hugged him again.
This did not go unnoticed by the Anderson party. Paula and Lisa exchanged glances while Angela Walker worked to conceal her disapproval. Gwen simply reached out and took Steve's hand and squeezed it, signaling to the other women in the room that he was her man.
"I see that you can tell that both Janice and Amber are fawning all over Steve. You're wondering about it, so I assume that Steve didn't find the time to tell you about our trip to Afghanistan last year. Please be seated. We'll order our meal and then you'll get to hear a little story that should clear up quite a few questions you may have," promised Patrick O'Leary.
Once the orders had been given, the future governor began his story. "I was a Congressman last year at this time. I was on a congressional committee that has oversight on matters concerning foreign relations. Along with several other Congressmen, I was scheduled to visit Afghanistan to view firsthand the progress our forces had made there. Somehow, Janice and Amber convinced me to take them along.