Tackled (Alpha Ballers #1)

Contents

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Chapter 01 - LILY

Chapter 02 - DRAKE

Chapter 03 - LILY

Chapter 04 - DRAKE

Chapter 05 - LILY

Chapter 06 - DRAKE

Chapter 07 - LILY

Chapter 08 - DRAKE

Chapter 09 - LILY

Chapter 10 - DRAKE

Chapter 11 - LILY

Chapter 12 - DRAKE

Chapter 13 - LILY

Chapter 14 - DRAKE

Chapter 15 - LILY

Chapter 16 - DRAKE

Chapter 17 - LILY

Chapter 18 - DRAKE

Chapter 19 - LILY

Chapter 20 - DRAKE

Chapter 21 - LILY

Chapter 22 - DRAKE

Chapter 23 - LILY

Chapter 24 - DRAKE

Chapter 25 - LILY

Chapter 26 - DRAKE

Chapter 27 - LILY

Chapter 28 - DRAKE

Chapter 29 - LILY

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CHAPTER 01 - LILY

Draft day, 3pm

So this was the draft. I walked into Radio City Music Hall and my jaw must have hit the floor from the start. Bill Thompson turned to look at me, muttering under his breath as he shook his head. Something about ‘dumb kids’ or something like that.

Radio City Music Hall, though! Holy moley! It was much cooler than I ever expected! I’d been to New York a couple times with my Dad over the years; we’d always strutted proudly down the streets in full Patriots gear, joyfully inviting the sneers of all the New York sports fans we ran into. Especially Jets fans, but we shrugged all of them off.

It was good to have rivals, especially rivals that were good. This was the first time I’d been to New York alone, though. Despite being here for work I felt like everyone I passed by must have thought I was a goggle-eyed tourist, my head constantly snapping back and forth between this famous landmark and those gigantic buildings stretching all the way up to the sky.
 

My neck hurt already, and I’d only been here for less than 24 hours! Still, it was totally worth it. This was the draft! The majesty of Radio City Music Hall stretched out before me with its dark gothic architecture and huge lights shining from so far up all the way down here, bathing the auditorium in a soft glow, punctuated by the TV lights.

And all the people! Media, agents, and players on the ground level, fans in jerseys from each of the league’s 32 teams in the balcony. I stared up there as I walked in, wondering if the teams staked out places before hand or they just showed up and congregated in one place. No one wanted to sit with fans of another team, or, even worse, a division rival.

It occurred to me right then, yet again, that I loved the tribal nature, the group you were a part of as a football fan. Sure, it was mostly drawn over geographic boundaries, but that didn’t stop it from being any less important? Patriots fans put up with Jets, Bills, and Dolphins fans, and that’s just how it was - how it had nearly always been.

Bill Thompson turned around and looked me. “Don’t keep dawdling like that, we have work to do.”

“Sorry, Bill.” I picked up the pace and caught up to them. Bill still gave me a strange look whenever I used his first name, but I had dropped the ’Mr. Thompson’ thing after the first day, once I realized he was just a normal human being, albeit one with a gift for writing about New England sports.

All the sudden, Bill stopped in his tracks. I couldn’t see around him, because he was much taller and wider than me, but I figured something or someone had gotten in his way, and he was just waiting for them to move. Instead, Bill turned to me, giving me a look that suggested exasperation mixed with despair. “Listen,” he said gruffly, “today is a big day.”

Outwardly, I didn’t give any reaction except for nodding, but inside I was momentarily thrilled that Bill Thompson, the great Bill Thompson, was about to give me a pep talk right before our big day. I knew it had taken a long time, over a week, for him to warm up to me, but I couldn’t help but feel that this was the beginning of a beautiful working relationship.

“Don’t fuck it up.”

Any joy that I had felt in the past few moments over being part of the journalist club, being a member of the team, and working with my colleagues turned to ashes and dust right then and there. This wasn’t exactly a pep talk that I was expecting. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me. Listen, I know you went to journalism school. I know you think you can write. I’ve even seen some of your stuff, and it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever read. But don’t get ahead yourself, kid. You’ve got a lot to learn, and I’m not fully convinced you’ll be able to pick it up in time. So all I’m asking you for today is not to get in my way.”

I stared at him, dumbly, still in shock over the dramatic turn this conversation had taken in such a short time. I couldn’t remember a conversation with such difference between expectation and reality. “That’s all? There’s nothing else you want me to do?”

Bill shook his head, raising his voice over the increasing sounds of the crowd all around us. “Just don’t fuck it up. And don’t get in my way.”

Well, that was one way to inspire confidence on such a big stage. I bet Bill Thompson would make an amazing doctor, with bedside manner like that. The only thing I could do was nod, and Bill, satisfied that I had understood him, turned around and kept walking.

We headed over to our section, where our cameraman was already waiting. I could see Bill’s mood deteriorating by the moment; Bill thought that a newspaper should produce a newspaper and nothing else. These newfangled things like websites and online content, especially video, didn’t make any sense to him. Leave that stuff to the TV stations.

I, of course, being in my early 20s, didn’t know what he was talking about, and the idea of a news organization not having an online component and producing massive amounts of video made about as much sense to me as a dog walking itself.

Our cameraman was a jovial guy in his mid-30s, named Steve. Steve shook Bill’s hand, though Bill really wasn’t interested, and Steve grinned when he saw me. “All ready for the big day?”

I gulped, looking around at the throng of people, all milling about and buzzing with intensity, before answering. “I think so. It’s a lot to take in.”

Steve squeezed my shoulder. “You’ll be fine. You’ve done stuff like this before, I’m sure. Maybe this is a little bigger than before, but you’ll get into it soon enough.” He laughed. “Of course, there’s always next year.”

I wanted to laugh, but Bill shot Steve a withering look, and I decided not to join them. At this rate, even if I did great today, if Bill had his way, I would not be covering the patriots next year with him.

Bill turned back to me. “We’ve got work to do here. Why don’t you make yourself useful?”

I jumped at the opportunity to show Bill that I was a productive and valued member of the team. “What can I do for you?” I knew I sounded way more earnest than I should, but I couldn’t help it. Despite Bill’s acidity toward me, I really wanted to work with him. This was a prestigious job I’d managed to get, and if there was anything I could do to make sure I kept it, and got to cover the team of my dreams and childhood, I would do it.

He smiled, and I knew right then and there that whatever he was then ask wouldn’t be all that useful. “Go watch the players arrive in the green room. Maybe you get an interview or two. Take Steve with you.”

Steve smiled again and hoisted his camera onto the shoulder. “All ready to go?” Steve seemed like a guy who was always in a good mood, no matter what was going on. I didn’t quite understand how that kind of attitude could work, but at the same time it was nice to be around.

Bill was sending me off to watch the players arrive in the green room rather than set up our space. A big part of that was meeting the other reporters who were sitting nearby, exchanging gossip, and seeing if there were any last-minute deals or trades to be made. This was the real stuff, and Bill was keeping me out of it. Still, there wasn’t much else I could do right now; Bill was in charge.

Oh well, time to make the most of it. I nodded at Steve, and he followed me as we made our way to the entrance to the green room. The green room at the draft was a little different from at a late-night talk show. There are roughly 250 players drafted each year, but the league only invited a few, maybe 20 or 30, to actually go to the draft. Those 20 or 30 were the ones the league expected to be drafted in the first round.

Only a few got to actually come to the draft, the ones the league were pretty sure will be drafted early. They love that TV moment of the young man surrounded by his parents, getting a phone call from a professional football team, seeing if they’re interested in joining and playing in the big league. To my knowledge, no one had ever said no to that phone call.

At the same time, every so often one of the players invited to the draft wouldn’t be drafted where expected. When that happened, there was another kind of TV moment that the league loved: watching the nervous young man and his family despair as more and more teams passed him by, and watching his salary expectations diminish as a result. The announcers would be talking over him, asking each other why teams were deciding not to draft him. It was quite the spectacle, like everything the league did.

Win or lose for the player, the league always got what it wanted.

We set up shop right near the entrance to the green room. When the door opened, I peered inside, and saw that a lot of the players had already shown up, with their close family in tow. Everyone was all dressed up, like they were going to church or a fancy dinner.

We stood outside the entrance for about half an hour, greeting the last few players as they arrived, and getting one or two questions with each of them. Nothing too interesting, but things that we would put on the website. If there was one thing about football fans, they were crazy about the draft.
 

There was no other event on the football calendar could make your team instantly better, or make them instantly a contender for a Super Bowl. Of course, if your team screwed up the draft, or, even worse, if your team screwed up the draft many years in a row, like the Cleveland Browns always did, the draft could doom you to another year of living in the basement.

We had just closed up, and were heading back to the regular reporting area, Bill Thompson be damned, when a commotion erupted behind us. Steve nudged me, and I turned around to look back where we had been standing.

Drake Rollins was here. I sucked in a breath.

Drake Rollins was here. And he looked just as gorgeous as ever.

I couldn’t believe that Drake Rollins even had the guts to show up today. That took some serious stones. With all the stuff that he had gone through off the field of the last few months, his draft stock had taken a nosedive. I had forgotten that he was even invited to the draft. Most players just watched from home with their families and friends.

I felt my cheeks start to burn. Drake Rollins, wide receiver from Cal. My alma mater. I hadn’t seen him in a few months; after he declared for the draft right after the end of our season, he was a ghost around campus. Meanwhile, I had been finishing up my last semester, and was neck deep in books.

I turned to Steve. “Drake Rollins is here? Did you know he was coming?”

Steve shrugged. “He was invited originally, but after that stuff a couple days ago…”

“He was uninvited, right, right, I remember now. What’s he doing here?”

Steve shrugged again. “Beats me. They’re not going to let him in.”

I nodded. “Nope, you’re right, they won’t let him in.”

Drake was just as good looking as ever, probably even more so now. He had spent the off-season clearly working hard in the gym, getting ready for the draft. It was just that off the field he couldn’t keep it together. Run-ins with the law, pissing off the Dean by sleeping with his daughter, you name it, if it was bad, Drake Rollins was thick in the middle of it, with that famous grin plastered on his face.

I had fantasized about Drake Rollins since I had first seen a picture of him in a Cal football program. He was the literal definition of tall, dark, and handsome. Those deep brown eyes, that short black hair, just the perfect man. I had seen him at the gym a few times getting ready to swim, and the way his amazing tattoos twisted and turned across his body made my mouth water. I imagined them underneath his well-tailored suit and I could help but get a little wet at the idea of tearing that suit off and having him fuck me, hard.

Ugh, Lily, you could not have picked a worse time to think like that! I had work to do, but all I wanted to do was fantasize about my dream man, who just happened to be here.

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