Page 57 of The Keeper

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“What I don’t get, though,” he says, shaking his head, “is why you can’t see me that way. How come?”

“I don’t want to jeopardize our friendship.” I give him the only answer there is.

“That’s fine,” he says, clearly unconvinced.

“We’ve known each other for a long time, and I don’t want to lose what we have.”

“By trying to make it something it isn’t?”

“Relationships are messy. I like having you in my life this way.”


I lift my brows and give him aWhat?look.

“I didn’t just magically wake up feeling this way, you know. I think, maybe if you opened your eyes, you could grow into feeling the same way about me.”

I have to resist the urge to cringe. It’s not that I find Stuart unattractive. Not at all. He’s a good-looking man. He’s successful and caring and funny and loyal. He’s a good person, worth loving. But I hate seeing him like this, on the verge of begging.

Our food comes and we eat in near silence as the house band starts tuning up for the first set of the night. I’m thankful for the mic checks and guitar riffs, which fill the space between us in between awkward sentences about how our jobs are going.

When we finish our meals, Stuart insists on paying and asks if he can give me a ride home. I nod and he leads me to his car. My place isn’t far, and when we stop at the curb, I resist the urge to jump out and run straight to the safety of my apartment.

“Stuart, you know I care about you a lot, right?”

“I know.”

“I think you’re great. I really do. You are really important to me.”

“I know all that, Billie. We’ve been friends for too long for me to think otherwise. But my feelings are different. And I’ve waited to tell you, but I can’t stomach the idea of you handing yourself out to some guy who couldn’t care less about you when there’s someone here who really loves you.”

My heart melts a little, even as my thoughts go to Cal, to the way I feel when I’m with him. Stuart is good and pure. Cal is an unknown. He’s strange and cocky and blunt and very stuck in his ways. But he’s also talented and brilliant and sexy and sweet and very generous in bed. We connect in many ways, surprising for someone so different from me.

Stuart must mistake my silence for an invitation because he leans over, places a hand on my cheek, and goes in for a kiss. It’s soft and searching. With Cal on my mind, I lean into it, but pull away quickly, feeling guilty.

“I’m just asking for a chance,” he says pleadingly.

I nod, and he runs his thumb over my cheekbone before kissing me again. This time, I push feelings about Cal aside and focus on the moment, the feeling of my lips on Stuart’s.

And I don’t feel a single thing.


numbers and science


Tonight is our home opener. We’ve been asked to do twenty minutes of press before the game, and I’m talking to some blond woman (Kassy or Kacey??) doing her best to be pro-sports media sexy but looking more like an overgrown Barbie to me.

“So, Cal,” she asks, pushing in a little closer, “tell me about your approach to your position. You stop more goals than anyone on the ice right now and are on track to top the leaderboard in career saves if you continue on this trajectory.”

“Well, for one, I’d have to play for decades to take that record. But for me, it’s all about science. It’s geometry and physics translated into body awareness.”

“Really?” the reporter asks, leaning in so deep her tits threaten to spill out of her top. “Tell me more.”

“Ahh…it’s not that difficult to understand. There are laws to the way things move and stay in motion.”Like, what force is defying the laws of gravity preventing your tits from poking me in the eyes right now.“In my mind, I see the way the puck moves, the angle of it, and I adjust to meet it. Easy.”

She laughs and says, “Well, good luck out there tonight.”

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