Page 35 of The Keeper

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A chorus of “yeah” and “please” follows, and Cal holds up his hands, looking a little overwhelmed.

“I will see what I can do,” he says, which seems to appease the horde.

We clean up and send the kids off to their next activity before Cal follows me to my office to figure out when he can come again.

“You did well,” I say as I sit at my computer, pulling up the club’s activity schedule.

“I told you I knew how to do this.”

“Your overconfidence makes me want to gag sometimes, buddy, not gonna lie.”

“Well, I know what I can do well and what I cannot. There is no reason to feign humility.”

I laugh out loud at this and find him smirking slightly, a wicked glint in his eye. “Well, I guess that’s why you’re so good in bed, then.” It slips out, and though I blush, I hold his gaze, trying to come off as confident and sexy rather than embarrassed and awkward. “Oops. I talked about the thing we weren’t supposed to talk about.”

“It is what it is. The sex was really, really good. I’m not sorry about it.”

It feels like the energy between us is supercharged all of a sudden. He licks his bottom lip. I think it’s an unconscious action, but it’s delicious, nonetheless. I stand up, practically panting.

“Is it hot in here?” My attempt at a joke.

Cal kicks the door shut and steps forward, pulling me to him and kissing me hard on the mouth. “What are you doing to me?” he muses to himself in between kisses.

“What amIdoing toyou? I’m not even sure I evenlikeyou all that much,” I tell him on a shaky laugh.

“That’s fine. I’m used to people not liking me.”

That stops me. I put a hand on his chest and back away. “Really? That’s…kind of sad.”

“Don’t pity me.” He shakes his head as if shaking away the dreamy desire of a moment ago in a return to reality. “I’m fine with it. It takes me a long time to get to know people, to figure out how they fit into my life. It’s hard for me to make connections and people are not patient, so they often move on.”

For whatever reason, this levels me. It hurts my heart. I understand what it means to not fit a mold. I’m a Hirsch, right? A daughter of Hollywood. And yet, I’ve never felt less than others. Cal is a rich, famous hockey player, but I think the rich and famous doesn’t matter to him at all. I’m just realizing this now, and I feel stupid for not recognizing it sooner.

“Well, Cal, maybe we should just be friends, then. Take the time to get to know each other?”

“How would we do that, Billie?”

“We both like music. We can go to some shows together. Enjoy some music?”

He presses his lips together, considering.

“We can get to know each other. I’ll take the time, Cal. I’ll be patient.”

He stares me straight in the eyes for so long it begins to feel uncomfortable. Finally, he nods. “Okay. Actually, one of my favorite bands is playing in LA in a couple of weeks. The show is on an off night in between games in LA and Oakland. I was going to try to make it when I’m in town. Maybe we could see the show together if you’re up for a trip?”

I check the date and realize it’s the same weekend as my dad’s party. “That’s, uh, the same week as this family thing. My dad’s turning sixty and my mom’s throwing a big thing for him.”

“Oh.” Cal is frowning at me and still manages to look hot.

“I mean, it’s not the same night as the show. I could still go. But if I’m in LA, then I have no excuse to skip the party, and my family stresses me out.” I’m babbling because thoughts of my family make me panic. I go to this stupid party and my mom will try to fix me up with some dumbass Hollywood type, and my father will compare me to my A-list actor of a brother, and I’ll feel like jumping off the balcony to an early grave by the end of the night. But then, I think of a way that things might not go that way at all as I turn to Cal, the hot hockey player. “So, I just got an idea. You could stay in town for the weekend after the Oakland game and go to this party with me and pretend to be my boyfriend?”

Cal’s face opens up and he laughs; he actually laughs. “Why on earth would you ever need to have a fake boyfriend?”

“It’s complicated. My family’s complicated. And it would only be for a night. I can fill you in when we go to the concert. Deal? Do this thing for me?”

“Well, Billie, I guess I can understand when you say ‘it’s complicated,’ so I’ll do it.” He says all of this with a very non-complicated shrug of his shoulders. Typical Cal behavior paired with that signature subtle smirk he’s perfected plastered on his handsome face.

His response makes me happy for some reason.