Overview: Thanks to her favorite sport, Brooke Reid is on her way. With a full college scholarship waiting for her, and a head full of WNBA dreams, she leaves for her summer job as a counselor at her childhood basketball camp. Her game plan was set in stone, even if the specific plays were a little uncertain. What she couldn't anticipate is the mysterious Brock Reede and his fiery attitude. Personalities collide and Brooke is entangled in something she never expected.

 

Best Shot (Sporting Hearts Book 1) by Michelle Irwin Book Chapter One

 

 You’re sure you’ve got everything?”
Dad’s question washed over me as my gaze trailed over my bedroom again. So much of what had been me in there was already stripped away. Within the last week, my entire life had been packed up and put into three different boxes—those going to college with me, others going into storage, and everything destined to become donations. My journal was the last thing packed into the coming with me boxes.
All that was left in my former bedroom was a bed, an empty closet, and a side-table that still bore stains and partial drawings from when I took a permanent marker to it when I was six. Even those marks would soon be lost to a project my step-mother was already far too enthusiastic about. So many memories would be gone. Within a week or two, it would be as if I had never even existed in that space.
My crazy and unrealistic dream of playing basketball for a living had taken two giant steps in the right direction over the last few months. The first was the moment my letter came to confirm my scholarship at Georgia State University and the second when I’d been hired as a counselor at Best Shot Basketball Camp just outside of Winchester, Kentucky. A camp I’d faithfully attended for years. When I’d received the phone call to let me know I’d been selected, I’d rushed to accept the position even though I hadn’t got the note they mentioned sending. The role would mean not only playing on a team under a fantastic coach like I had since I was old enough to steadily dribble a ball with one hand, but also coaching younger kids, which would only help improve my skills overall.
Every time I’d attended the camp before, I’d only been there because I’d secured my spot in one of the handful of scholarship programs. It had given me the opportunity to learn and play alongside some awesome teammates under skilled and attentive coaches, an opportunity my parents would have never been able to give me otherwise, but it also set me apart as the one to pity. Despite that, I earned the respect of even the wealthiest camper the moment I stepped onto the court every year.
This year would be different though. There was no reason for anyone to pity me, so there could only be respect. I’d earned my spot through hard training and dedication.
“Brooke?” Dad’s questioning voice drew me out of my thoughts.
“Huh?”
“I asked if you’ve got everything.”
“Oh, uh, yeah. I think so.” I was understating the details to him because I didn’t think, I knew. I had checked and double-checked every drawer, underside, and shelf to make sure it was all sorted. Including the diary I used to keep between the mattress and the frame of the bed. Especially that diary.
Once upon a time, I had envisioned going to college and returning home for the holidays. That wasn’t going to be possible though. The demands of my basketball scholarship wouldn’t allow for enough free days for a proper visit, except maybe over summer. From now until I graduated, my tight schedule would barely allow a few days to myself. Even though there were still weeks of summer before classes started at GSU, I was ready to leave. First there was Best Shot, then I would spend the second half of my summer vacation at the college training camp getting to know my teammates. After this first year, it could be possible to return home during summer, but it would only be for a few short weeks before I’d need to return to GSU. If I made it onto the Best Shot counselor roster every year until I graduated like I hoped, I wouldn’t even have that. It made no sense to keep my bedroom intact while I worked at my degree and potential future.
Not only that, Dad and Renee had plans for the room once I was out of the house. They didn’t know I knew, but I’d seen the designs and swatches and knew their ideas.
There were so many new beginnings coming in just the next few weeks. Despite the changes coming, I couldn’t stop and wait for them to happen. For starters, I had to plan as early as possible for what I would do after graduation because I had to take the right actions the moment I stepped foot into the training camp or I would fail before I even started. My ultimate goal was to play professionally, but I was effectively resigned to failing that dream. Everyone at camp, everyone on the team at college, and too many other people all over the country were desperate for a professional career in basketball, but the sheer number of people compared to how few positions there were in the Women’s NBA made that reality unlikely for the majority of us. Despite my scholarship, it was possible I would never see any time playing on a professional court. I might have already hit the pinnacle of my career and it could be downhill from here. Most of us hopefuls would be lucky to become gym teachers.
In fact, that was my plan if I failed to make it playing pro. Education was the future and all that. I hoped my time at the camp would solidify that as my back up dream. Either that or dealing with the kids at camp would send me running, screaming, in the opposite direction away from that possible career. That would leave my future completely unknown, but at least I’d be able to rule out one more plan. At the very least, it would give me something to focus on that wasn’t the fear of failing to perform on my new team.
“You know which boxes are which?” I asked Dad. Because of the camp, I was relying on him to arrange the shipment of my belongings to the campus. If he followed my instructions properly, they should arrive the same day I did.
He raised one brow. “What do you take me for?”
“Do I need to give Renee a copy of the instructions?” I teased. His new wife had fallen into the role of stay-at-home wife in a way Mom had never been willing or able to. It had made his role as a pastor in a local Baptist church that much easier for him in the eyes of his congregation—at least after the initial shock of his divorce and a second marriage had sunk in.
“I’ll be fine, and you should stop being so cheeky. Have you called for your taxi yet?”
“Uber,” I said reflexively, wiggling my cell phone, more than used to Dad’s reliance on old technology. “I’ll order one shortly. I don’t have to be at camp for a few hours yet. I thought I’d spend a little longer at home first. Maybe go for a quick walk around the neighborhood.”
“Okay. I’ll shift the boxes from the room while you’re out.”
I nodded absently and headed out of our small home. As I walked down the streets I’d lived on all of my life, my mind ran with the things that the next few weeks would bring. It wasn’t the stress and responsibility of camp and the team that made my heart race and hands shake; it was worse than that. It was the knowledge of who I would be face to face with again all too soon.
Mason Cohen.
There was no doubt in my mind he’d be back at the camp, just like he had been every year I’d attended. I had no idea whether I’d have time to prepare once I arrived or if he’d turn up among the crop of new counselors. I hoped he wouldn’t be though. I was counting on his arrogance to keep him away from applying for a position he would no doubt deem beneath himself. After all, his family was richer than sin and he believed himself better than the rest of the team.
Due to his family’s involvement in the sport, he was destined for a position with an NBA team—either on the court or behind the scenes in management. He liked to laud his wealth and privilege over everyone he met. Worse, if he’d sucked on the court, it would have been easy to hate him for how easy his life was destined to be, but he didn’t. Instead, he had that effortless talent the rich were all too often afforded. The sort that came from the best schools, coaches, equipment, and camps—the best of everything. Nothing he received was ever second best or beneath his social standing. Nothing, that is, except me.
For years, he had seemed determined to make me feel inadequate during our time at camp together. He’d made my life hell since he’d first learned I was at the camp on a scholarship. Then over the course of a few summers, things changed. There were brief moments when it seemed he’d dropped the pretenses and was letting me in. In those blinding moments, I fell for the vulnerable young man I thought I saw there. That guy was someone I wanted to spend time with. Only, he was nothing but a fantasy. One I’d convinced myself might be real.
With gentle sweet nothings, romantic gestures, and unfailing confidence, he had coerced me into giving up my virginity to him last summer. It was awkward and embarrassing, but I’d thought it could only get better with practice and believed we’d be able to get practice now that we were together. I’d been so happy. At least until the rumors started among his friends about the things we’d shared. Then I’d seen who he really was—the full of himself jerk I’d known him to be for years. That was the real him, and everything else was nothing more than a show to get the prize. And to him, I was nothing more than a toy, manipulated and then put on display for him and his friends to pass judgement on.
When summer ended, I’d had to head home to my super-conservative Christian pastor father and pretend I was unchanged from the day I’d left home. Mom, my spiritualistic free-spirited parent who’d left Dad years ago, was the only one who knew of my transition into womanhood. Even she made me feel stupid for the choices I’d made. Not for the sex itself, but for allowing myself to be fooled purely for the pleasure of a selfish rich kid.
If it wasn’t my best chance at learning to coach while I kept my own skills sharp, I might have skipped camp to spend a few more weeks at home. I’d considered backing out a few times since I’d received the call, but doing that would mean turning my back on my future as well as explaining to Dad why I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t sure that was a conversation I could have without revealing the information that would leave him disappointed in me. I didn’t need his disapproval on top of my existing stress. Even though I hadn’t read back through it, I was positive at least twenty pages in my journal were dedicated to Mason and the torture I felt over him.
As much as Mason made me want to run, he was also part of the reason I applied for a camp counselor role. Maybe if I could see him again, in a position where I had more power, I’d be able to claim back some of the control I’d lost when I let him convince me to sleep with him. Of course, I would only be fooling myself if tried to claim that I didn’t want to go back because of him. I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit that at least part of me wanted to return solely to capture another glimpse of the six-foot-three blond muscle machine who’d broken my heart.
I let the thoughts of previous summers play on my mind as I walked through my past street by street. By the time I reached my house again, I was running a little later than I would have liked.
“You ready?” Dad said. Renee was at his side and wore what I assumed she thought was a motherly smile—in fairness it was probably more matronly than any expression my mother had ever worn. It felt wrong coming from her though, she was too close to my age for me to ever see her as truly motherly.
“As I’ll ever be,” I said.
As I waited for my Uber, I gave Dad and Renee another hug and ran through the plan again. Once more, Dad assured me that he’d get the boxes to my dorm in time for my arrival.
After I’d climbed into the Uber, I leaned out the window and waved goodbye to my Dad and my history.
Next stop—the rest of my life.