Teaser: Down by Contact, Partial Scene 1

Posted Mar 9 2013, 1:18 am

Chapter 1—Thrown for a Loss

Twelve years
and a couple multi-million-dollar football contracts changed a lot of things
for a kid who grew up poor, but obviously not enough.
Zach Murphy
shifted uneasily from one foot to the other. In less time than it took to hike
a football, he’d been catapulted from a man who commanded respect and
controlled his own destiny to one of inadequacy and uncertainty.
He hated
these fancy banquets where everyone pretended to be something they weren’t, and
the wealthy paid big sums to hang out with professional athletes all in the
name of charity. Zach preferred his charitable work to be more low-key and
private. Even worse, he hated how these affairs made him feel like an idiot—a
guy lacking all social graces. He tried to fit into a crowd like this once, and
it had been a disaster.
The bottom
line was he didn’t belong here. He’d already managed to insult some millionaire
geek’s wife by complimenting her on her healthy appetite. Hell, where he came
from, a man admired a woman who appreciated good food.
He sucked in
social situations, especially highbrow ones like this. His old team never made
him attend anything more than a bowling tournament, but the Lumberjacks
insisted their defensive captain go to all this shit.
Zach ran his
fingers through his unruly hair and almost wished he’d gotten it cut. Too long
and curly to be tamed with hair gel and too short for a ponytail, it kept
getting in his eyes. He tugged on this bow tie, rebelling against how
constricting it was. He’d been here less than thirty minutes, but it felt like
a lifetime. These snooty people stared down their noses at him as if they saw
right through to his white-trash roots.
Looking for
some friendly faces, he walked up to a couple of his defensive guys and joined
their conversation.  “Hey, guys, did you
see our jackass quarterback anywhere? I thought I’d arm wrestle him for a dance
with his hot little girlfriend.”
They stared
at him sort of funny. He wiped his mouth, wondering if he had crumbs on his
face or something.
On cue Tyler
Harris, the Seattle Lumberjacks’ quarterback and Zach’s personal enemy number
one, sauntered over with his cute, curvy girlfriend, Lavender, beside him. Zach
liked Lavender, she was sweet and sassy all rolled into one. Even better, she
could put the asshole quarterback in his place with one damning look. Harris
might be an uncontrollable bad boy in most circumstances, but Lavender led him
around by a ring in his dick, which amused Zach to no end.
Zach grinned
at her, and she hugged him then she straightened his bowtie. Harris snaked his
arm possessively around her waist and tucked her close to his side. His glare
cut right through the bullshit. He hated the linebacker as much as Zach hated
him. The jerk’s gaze swept downward as if assessing and cataloging Zach’s every
social blunder. His gaze fixed on Zach’s black cowboy boots.
Harris
smirked and raised one eyebrow. “Cowboy boots at a black tie affair?”
“Sounds like
the words to a country song,” Bruiser, their surfer boy running back, quipped,
as if he’d ever listened to a country song in his life.
“Hey, I’m
from Texas.” Zach shoved his hands in his pockets before he did damage to the
quarterback’s pretty face. He liked his boots. The broken-in Justins hugged his
big feet like a comfortable pair of old slippers. Hell, he’d even polished them
to a shine for the occasion. Best of all, the extra two inches made him one
inch taller than the Jacks’ six-foot-four quarterback.
‘Yeah, right.
But—” Lavender stomped on Harris’s foot before he opened his mouth again, most
likely to launch a new insult at the hated defensive player. She cast a
sympathetic look in Zach’s direction and dragged her stubborn-assed boyfriend
to his seat.
Zach barely tolerated
quarterbacks as necessary evils, prima donna jerks every one of them, and he
had zero-tolerance for Harris.
As a middle
linebacker, Zach made a living out of analyzing quarterbacks, studying their
body language, watching their eyes then telegraphing his findings to his
defensive teammates. Last year when his old team played the Jacks, he’d looked
across the line of scrimmage into Harris’s eyes and seen—nothing. Nothing but a
big fat zero, almost as if the QB had put his body on autopilot and mentally
hung out a “closed” sign.
Zach had
lived and breathed football from the day he took his first baby step. Football
was an all-in game. Either you were all-in or you’d best get the hell all-out.
He couldn’t fathom a football player who didn’t love the game with every cell
in his body and leave every ounce of try he had out on the field. But Harris
had. Last year. He’d quit on his team, missed practices, put in minimum effort,
and only physically shown up for games.
The team had
won their second consecutive Super Bowl in spite of Harris. Not that Zach had
been in the locker room or on the field. He’d signed with the Seattle
Lumberjacks in the off-season a few months after that second Super Bowl. But
guys talked, and he’d been in the league long enough to see all the signs, even
if he was observing from across the line of scrimmage or via a flat screen TV.
A Super Bowl?
How could a
guy not leave his blood and guts out on the field during the game of all games?
Harris’s don’t-give-a-shit attitude baffled Zach and put the two team captains
at odds with each other throughout training camp. Zach had no respect for
quitters. If he had his way, the Jacks would start a different quarterback on
the first day of regular season.
Zach ground
his teeth together until his head hurt just thinking about having one Super
Bowl ring, let alone a pair. He’d give both his nuts for a ring. Team loyalty
had gotten him nowhere. For twelve years, he’d played his heart out on the
worst team in the NFL, given them his best and never complained. The team
didn’t make it past one wild-card win in the first round of the playoffs.
During the off-season, his old team dropped him faster than a rabid coyote.
Then the Seattle Lumberjacks came calling, needing a guy to bolster their
defense and tutor their young players. He’d jumped at the chance.
This year
would be different. He’d taken a hefty pay cut to sign a one-year contract with
this team just for a chance to win a ring in what might well be his last year.
For a linebacker who played as hard as he did, thirty-four bordered on ancient.
Or so his body told him.
Reluctantly,
Zach took his seat across from Harris. Thank God, Lavender sat to Zach’s right
because Zach adored her. She shot him a friendly smile. Knowing it would piss
Tyler off, he grinned back. “You’re a pretty as a dandelion in a weed patch.”
Lavender
laughed and patted his arm. “You silver-tongued devil. Thank you. You cut a
dashing figure yourself.” A few of the guys around the table snickered behind
their napkins.
“A dandelion
is a weed.” Hoss Price, their
three-hundred-pound center snorted so hard, Zach expected his wine to come out
his nose. Harris glared at Zach as if he’d called Lavender fat or something
equally offensive.
Zach ducked
his head. He liked dandelions. They were the only flowers that had grown in his
Grandmother Lo-Lo’s front yard. He’d screwed up again. He’d meant his statement
to be a real compliment, but everyone took it as humorous.
“I didn’t know
Wal-Mart sold tuxes. Must be a new line or something.” John Myers, a
prima-donna wide receiver chortled, and his teammates joined in.
“From you,
I’ll take that as a compliment.” Zach looked down at his black tux. He didn’t
see a thing wrong with it. He’d bought it at a bargain price at a decent men’s
wear store for his cousin’s wedding a few years ago. It seemed perfectly
functional to him. Sure it was a little small in places, the pants a little
short, and it had a few wrinkles, but he didn’t see it as a big deal.
Off-the-rack clothes never fit him right. He was used to it. He’d be damned if
he’d spend five figures on a custom suit with some dumbass designer’s name on
the label like Harris did just to impress a bunch of people he cared less
about.
“Lapels like
that went out of style years ago.” John couldn’t keep his trap quiet.
Zach clamped
his mouth shut. Who gave a shit about out-of-style lapels? Not him. He didn’t
even know what was in style or care.
“Zach, you
look great—for a hick.” Bruiser grinned at him. He liked Bruiser usually, but
not so much right now.
“Hey, he’s
prepared for the rainy season, too. Those pants legs are above the high-water
mark.” Hoss choked on his wine, spitting some of it across the table. Too bad
he missed Harris’s face by a mere inch. Hoss didn’t have any better social
graces than Zach, but his elegant girlfriend dressed him for these occasions.
Zach didn’t have a woman to make sure he looked put together.
“Zach looks
fine.” Lavender pinched Bruiser’s arm while Tyler yelped. She must have kicked
him under the table just for good measure. Zach needed to find a woman like
her.
“Zach, you’re
a handsome devil. These guys are just jealous.” Rachel, wife to all-pro wide
receiver Derek Ramsey, shot a shut-up-or-die glance around the table, pausing
at John. As if John gave a shit.
Being defended
by women stung Zach’s pride and booted his ego to the basement, but the ladies
meant well. He couldn’t fault them for that.
Harris
narrowed his gaze, seeming to zero in on Zach’s blue shirt. Obviously, the
quarterback didn’t care much for blue. Zach reached across the table for the
basket of bread, but John yanked it out of reach before he could grab it. “What
the fuck? You got the manners of a stray dog. Didn’t your mama teach you any
better?”
Zach cringed.
He hadn’t a clue what he’d done wrong. Besides, his mama didn’t teach him a
damn thing. She’d been too busy drowning in a bottle or shooting up.
“Hey, why do
you think his old team called him wolf?”
Hoss hooted louder than a train bearing down on a busy intersection.
“Here I
thought it had to do with his prowess on the field.” Harris started to laugh
then flinched, and Lavender winked at Zach..
“Hey, being a
wolf is a good thing on the football field. Wolves are fierce.” Tomcat rose to
his defense. He’d known Cat since college. His real name was Thomas but the
defensive end stalked unsuspecting quarterbacks like a tomcat on the prowl,
hence the nickname. Tomcat had followed him from their old loser team and taken
a pay cut just like Zach for one last chance at a ring.
Zach ignored
them all. Hell, they were just having fun hazing the new guy on the team, except
for Harris. That guy enjoyed every minute of Zach’s torture. Eventually the
conversation shifted to Sunday’s first regular season game.
Heart sinking,
Zach stared at the confusing array of eating utensils, plates, and glasses.
Nobody needed this much stuff just to eat dinner. Hell, where he came from,
he’d been lucky to eat with a fork. This fancy crap reminded him of how much
his lowly upbringing still shaped his present.
As the waiter
placed the first of many courses in front of Zach, he glanced around to see
which fork to use. Harris eyed him like a man probing for an enemy’s
weaknesses. Pretending to study his oysters, Zach flicked his lowered gaze to
Lavender’s plate. He picked up the little fork just as she had. Grasping an
oyster in his big hand, he tried to dig it out of the shell. The damn thing
popped out and flew across the table. It hit Derek’s jacket and slid downward,
leaving a slimy trail. Harris broke into laughter with the rest of the table
following suit. Zach’s ears burned, but he held his head high, refusing to let
these vultures pick his embarrassed carcass clean.
“Hey, man, no
big deal.” Derek, who also had the misfortune of being Harris’s cousin, smiled
sympathetically at Zach, while Rachel wiped off his lapel.
“Why don’t you
go back to the trailer park where you belong?” John sputtered, laughing too
hard to get a breath. Harris just smirked.
Zach ignored
them both and pushed the plate away. He’d be damned if he’d try to eat another,
never liked the fucking things anyway.
“Hey, man,
that isn’t funny.” Tomcat jumped in.
“Hey, man,
it’s all in fun. Murphy knows that.” John nodded at Zach.
Zach
concentrated on a spot across the room, faking interest in the crappy painting
hanging on the wall, the one simply titled, The
Cat
. Hell, the kindergarten class from his hometown of Cactus Prairie,
Texas, painted better pictures. At least a cat looked like a cat, not an alien
space ship spraying people with spaghetti sauce.
Then he saw her.
Zach’s day
went from calamity to catastrophe. He broke into a sweat. Pain shot through him
as if he’d dropped a two-hundred-pound barbell on his chest. He couldn’t
breathe, couldn’t muster a coherent thought in his shocked brain, couldn’t drag
his eyes off her.
The woman of
his dreams and his nightmares.

1 Comment

Comments

One response to “Teaser: Down by Contact, Partial Scene 1”

  1. Laurie Ryan says:

    Oh, yeah. I can hardly wait for this story to come out. That is a great beginning!

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