Hard and Fast (Locker Room Diaries)(4)

By: Kathy Lyons

“Sophia.” One word from me in that tone of voice was usually enough, but my sister was having a really bad day.

“—of time. Thank God, you have me and aren’t relying on the team publicist.” She sneered at the title, as if what she did was any different. “She can’t even—”

I tried again, my voice louder. “Sophia.”

It didn’t work. She was on a roll.

“—book a third-rate interview right. What a disgrace. I tell you, the team should hire me. I’d get things running the way they should be. I’m the reason Connor’s famous. I’m–”

I stood up and got in her face, a solid wall blocking her from the other people in the room. “I know it’s been a hard week, but you need to calm down.”

“—really just embarrassed by the level of her unprofessionalism.” Her volume was dropping, but her pique still came through loud and clear. “Is it a money thing? Is the team short on funds so they have to hire cut-rate staff?”

Damn it! That was not the thing to say in front of a reporter! I looked back at the redhead who was already pouncing on the dropped suggestion.

“Is that true?” the redhead asked. “Is Joe DeLuce cash-strapped? Are the Bobcats in financial trouble?”

“No,” I said, loudly and firmly. And right behind me, Gia was scrambling over to cover my sister’s gaffe.

“You have to be joking!” she laughed. “Joe DeLuce is one of the richest men in America. Ms. Hart is understandably upset at the change in plans for this interview. She was just—um…” Making up bullshit. “Trying to point out that I’m, um, modestly paid.”

I looked at Gia. Her cheeks burned crimson, but she didn’t break. I admired that. I knew better than anyone how much she’d have loved to throttle my sister, but she smiled and tap-danced as fast as she could.

“There are no financial problems,” I said firmly.

“That’s right,” Gia continued. “We’re well on the way to winning the pennant, thanks in no small part to our great catcher here. That’s the story—”

The reporter gave her a sly look. “You know I’m going to check it out. Give me the exclusive, and I’ll soften the blow.”

Well, hell. The redhead was not going to be distracted unless I did something significant.

“How would you like to see me make one of those behind-the-back catches?” It was the first thing I could think of, but it was a risk. I was about 40 percent with that catch, and that’s because I was helping one of our backup pitchers stay sober by tossing the ball around instead of heading to a bar. I hadn’t seriously been practicing the thing. And the last thing we needed was a video of me twisting around, missing easy balls.

But I’d already offered, and now the reporter’s expression turned speculative. “That would make for some good footage.”

Yeah, it was always fun to look like an idiot on camera.

Gia jumped right in. “It definitely would. And there’s still some time before the next event.” She whipped out her phone and turned to me. “How fast can you change into your jersey?” she asked.

Five minutes, but I knew she’d need longer if she wanted to pull this off. “Fifteen minutes.”

“Great I’ll text you where—”

The reporter interrupted. “And if you could arrange for me to have some one-on-one time with Joe DeLuce, I could make it worth your while.”

Gia shook her head. “I’m sorry. Joe’s schedule is fully booked.”

A lie. Joe’s schedule had openings. Meanwhile, my sister interrupted with a rude sniff.

“She can’t help you. Just call my assistant. We’ll get you what you need.”

That was a double lie, since Sophia’s assistant was MIA, but the reporter didn’t know that. And that would buy Sophia enough time to come up with a logical excuse why an interview couldn’t happen.

Meanwhile, Gia was busy on her phone, making arrangements. “Field’s busy,” she said to everyone. “But we can do it out front. I’ll get an area cordoned off.” She looked at the reporter. “Thirty minutes?”