I ripped my shoulder pads over my head. They clattered to the floor. Piper dodged the equipment and struggled to keep pace with my longer strides.
“It’s a logistical meeting,” she said. “Nothing is being negotiated. It’s only to see—”
“How quickly my ass could get shipped out of here?”
“Bullshit.” I didn’t stop to listen. “It’s not about what I want.”
“This will protect your career—”
“You’re here to protect your money. Don’t count your fucking pennies yet.”
I was done with her. No matter how she pouted. No matter how big and bright her eyes were. No matter how she chased me with that wiggle to her hips.
My gaze fixed on the son of a bitch who’d get his three percent commission shoved up his ass.
The meeting must’ve been quick. I found Paul Madison scoring a free cup of coffee from the cafeteria. He turned to face me with a phony smile and extended hand.
An odd last request.
I slammed into him, batting the coffee from his hand. He grunted as I lifted him by the lapels of his suit and pinned him against the cafeteria wall.
“There’s our star player!” Maddy gripped my wrists. He smiled. Nervous, for good reason. “How are you doing, Cole?”
“A hell of a lot better than you’re gonna be.”
Maddy swallowed. He didn’t have the decorum or patience of his daughter, but he had her eyes, nose, and regal skin tone. Didn’t mean I wouldn’t hit him, but I might’ve felt bad about it later.
Piper huffed at our side. Her chastising glance shamed me without speaking a word.
Where the hell did she learn to do that?
“If you boys are done…” She said. “Maybe we can have a nice, professional chat?”
I dropped Maddy before he pissed himself. He landed hard, but Piper thanked me with an arched eyebrow.
Maddy heaved an unsteady breath and braced me with an extended arm. “I know you’re upset. I don’t want this for you either. But Coach Scott isn’t in your corner. The staff and management see you as a liability, and if the league starts demanding disciplinary actions or suspensions, they won’t defend you anymore. Agree to the trade, and we’ll find you a new home, somewhere they’ll take care of you. Do it soon and you won’t spend the season catching-up on their playbook.”
My rage didn’t start as a prickle on my neck. It surged, consuming blood, muscle, and bone. Every instinct in my body tempted me to give into that frenzy.
I couldn’t let it happen now—off the field, away from the game.
I stuffed it down, deep, and hated myself. Christ, it pissed me off to deny myself that anger.
It made me mad being mad.
What the hell was wrong with me?
I swore through clenched teeth. “You’re fired.”
Maddy’s eyes bulged, but I never offered mercy before. Nothing like losing a million-dollar commission to cripple a man.
And I was fine watching him writhe and rot.
I retreated to the locker room, but unless I wanted to take a dip in the river, the facility didn’t have enough cold water to calm me.
Not when she followed.
Piper covered her eyes at the door to the locker room.
Really? A woman like her shouldn’t have been afraid to see a little cock.
Or a big one.
I pulled off my shirt. “If you can’t handle the dick, get out of the showers.”
“Dropping the formality, beautiful?”
“Dropping the cordiality. You don’t deserve it.”
“Never said I wanted it. No point in being polite.”
Piper peeked and stiffened as I pulled off my pants. She covered her eyes again. Why the hell did that excite me?
“Chivalry isn’t dead—it never existed,” I said. “About the best you’ll get is me covering up with a towel so as not to offend your delicate sensibilities—even though you’re trespassing again.”
“I’m trying to be reasonable.”
“Admit it. You can’t stay away from me.”
“I’m contractually obligated to attend to you,” she said. “Believe me. I’d rather be anywhere else.”
“Exit’s right behind you. You might not recognize it without the screeching doorbell.”
“Have you always been this big of an ass?”
“I don’t skip leg days, beautiful.” I knotted the towel. Loosely. She didn’t take the bait or try to peek at how low it draped.
Piper sighed. “Have you always been so combative?”