She sunk into the bath, the hot water washing over her shoulders, and envisioned her reunion with Marco. He may not have responded to her late-night invitation in Australia, but he had forwarded her that funny viral Saturday Night Live video just last week, hadn’t he? And when she’d replied to tell him that she thought it was hysterical, he’d written back xoxo. Clearly, this wasn’t the stuff of Shakespeare, but at least he’d been thinking about her, too. Maybe he’d even had a similar epiphany: they had a great time together, the sex was undeniably fantastic, they understood each other’s time commitments and limitations, and they had tennis in common. Other famous people dated each other all the time – just look at Natalya and Benjy. So long as they were disciplined enough to stay focused and keep their priorities straight – which she absolutely knew they both were – then why shouldn’t they have a relationship?
Brian who? She closed her eyes and inhaled the scent of the lavender travel candle she’d lit and placed beside the tub. He’s all yours, Finley darling. All yours.
the warrior princess does not wear flats
MIAMI, MARCH 2016
When Charlie walked through the connecting door to her room at the Four Seasons Miami, she was surprised to see a fully dressed and alert-looking Jake sitting on her bed. Unless important business called, he tried never to get up before eight. Or even better, nine.
‘Is everything okay?’ she asked, her mind flashing to her father. ‘Is it Dad?’
‘He’s fine. Everyone’s fine. You want to tell me where you were at six in the morning? It doesn’t look like the gym, I’ll tell you that much.’
Charlie glanced down: she was wearing admittedly minuscule boy shorts adorned with tiny embroidered roses, one of those drapey yoga sweatshirts that fell sexily off her shoulders and dipped down in the back to the top of her butt, and a pair of Ugg scuff slippers. Anyone with eyes could easily see she was wearing neither underwear nor bra. In three strides she walked to the bathroom and grabbed the robe that hung behind the door. Cinching it around her waist, she said, ‘It’s none of your business! Why don’t you tell me why you sneaked into my room in the middle of the night?’
‘You missed your drug test,’ Jake said, raking his hand through his hair. ‘They waited for twenty minutes even though they’re not obligated to, and then they left. They called my office to declare it, and my office called me.’
‘Shit.’ Charlie slumped into the desk chair.
‘It’s only a warning this time, Charlie. But next time you’re automatically suspended, regardless of the outcome.’
‘I don’t believe this! What are the chances they’d choose today?’
‘The chances? I’d say they were pretty damn high. We’re in Miami! You think the testers would rather show up at six a.m. in Qatar or Florida? I mean, seriously, Charlie.’
She smacked her own thigh. Stupid! In her excitement at jumping into Marco’s bed, she’d forgotten all about the one-hour window she’d provided for the doping officials to test her.
‘Enough of the sneaking around. I’ve known forever now you’ve been sleeping with someone. Why won’t you just tell me who it is? A player? Coach? Not that hitting partner of yours, is it? He is cute.’
‘Dan? He’s a baby.’
‘He’s two years younger than you. That hardly qualifies as scandalous. It’s barely even interesting. Are you telling me you haven’t even noticed that he has a crazy six-pack? That detail just eluded you?’
Actually, it hadn’t eluded her. Dan was a bit thinner than she may have liked, and an inch shorter than her, but the abs made up for it. And who wouldn’t notice the great teeth and nice, easy smile?
‘Dan is very good-looking, yes,’ Charlie said. ‘But we’ve barely spoken in the few months we’ve been working together. He slams balls at me, says “Yes, sir” to Todd, and then beelines off the court the second practice is finished. I’m sure he’s a perfectly nice person, but I am not sleeping with Dan.’
Jake gave an exasperated sigh. ‘But we all know you’re sleeping with someone. Who is it? Leon? Paolo? Victor? It’s Victor, isn’t it? I heard he just broke up with his girlfriend. He reminds me of Brian. The whole hippie-dippie thing.’
Charlie grinned. She was enjoying this. ‘I’ll have you know, Brian went from hippie-dippie to total prep practically overnight. And you really think Victor’s my type? I should be insulted. Especially since I just so happen to be having a very fun fling with Marco.’
She waited, almost holding her breath, excited for Jake’s reaction.
He stared at her.
‘Marco? Marco who?’
‘How many freaking Marcos do you know, Jake? Think about it.’
‘Marco Acosta? Isn’t he Leon’s massage therapist? Or does he work for Raj now? I can’t remember.’
‘Jake!’ She punched his arm.
He furrowed his brow. ‘There’s Roger’s business manager, but I thought he went by Marcello. I see him at tournaments sometimes. Isn’t he married?’
‘I could kill you.’
‘Just tell me.’
‘I shouldn’t have to. This is ridiculous.’
‘What’s ridiculous is that you’re sleeping with Roger’s married business manager and he’s, what? Twenty years older? More?’
‘Marco Vallejo, you jerk.’
Jake’s lower jaw dropped open.
‘Marco Vallejo?’ he whispered.
‘The one and only. What, is it really so hard to believe he’d sleep with me?’
‘Thanks. You really know how to make a girl feel good.’
‘I can’t believe it. You’re having an affair with Marco Vallejo?’
‘Okay, this is getting insulting. Or is this where you tell me you’re sleeping with him, too? Haven’t you always kind of figured that was going to happen? One of these days we’d fall for the same guy …’
He finally closed his mouth. ‘I’d sleep with him in a second. Who wouldn’t? But no, I’m sorry to report I’m not …’
‘Well, I am! Just did, in fact.’ Charlie smiled devilishly.
‘Oh my god. He’s spectacular. He’s been the one all along? The one you’ve been sneaking around with, thinking none of us noticed? How could you not tell me?’