The perfect play, p.29
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       The Perfect Play, p.29

         Part #1 of Play by Play series by Jaci Burton
Download  in MP3 audio
Page 29

  Author: Jaci Burton

  “Oh, man, are we going to church?”

  “Not exactly. ”

  “Then what are we doing?”

  Mick stopped and turned to Nathan. “Nathan, I need you to keep your mouth shut and just listen when we get inside, okay?”

  Nathan backed up, clearly not used to hearing Mick talk to him that way. “Okay. Sure. ”

  They walked inside, and Mick found the meeting room downstairs. Mick signed in, shook a few hands, grabbed a cup of coffee and a soda for Nathan.

  “Oh, man, this is an AA meeting, Mick. ”

  “Yes, it is. ”

  “Why did you bring me here?”

  “What did I tell you outside?”

  Nathan dropped his chin to his chest. “Yeah, okay. ”

  It was pretty crowded in there, which was good. A guy got up and went over the administrative portion of the meeting, then they all said the Serenity Prayer, which Mick had recited so many times over the past years he probably said it in his sleep.

  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. ”

  Saying the prayer always brought a wave of peace over Mick, gave him the strength to continue on with his fight against alcoholism, made him realize he could never go back and change the past, but he did have control over today, tomorrow, and every day after that. And he knew that so far today he hadn’t had a drink. He’d made it through another day.

  People got up and started sharing stories. There were long-time alcoholics there who’d been through rough times. Some had regressed and started drinking time and time again, only to start fighting their demons and give it another try. Some had never touched alcohol after they gave it up. Others got up and shared success stories and received coins for milestones, which always made Mick smile.

  When there was a lull he got up, which made Nathan’s eyes go wide. But this is what he’d brought Nathan here for. He wanted him to hear the story. So he got up in front of all these strangers—though he wasn’t a stranger to many of them—and told the same story he’d told Tara the other night. And he kept his gaze trained on Nathan, making sure Nathan heard every detail. Mick didn’t worry about spilling this information in front of all these people, because AA was anonymous and people didn’t share what they heard outside of the meeting room. Your secrets at AA were always safe.

  When he was finished, when he’d stood up there and introduced himself as Michael, when he’d told them all he was an alcoholic, he hoped his message had gotten through. And maybe it had, because Nathan’s eyes had filled with tears. And he didn’t say a word when the meeting was over, when Mick visited with people there. No one asked for his autograph or talked football, because there Mick was just another struggling alcoholic trying day by day to fight his addiction. It’s why he liked coming to meetings, because he could be just another person there who was fighting his demons.

  They climbed into the car, and Nathan didn’t buckle up, just sat there with his chin pressed to his chest.


  Nathan shuddered as he inhaled, then turned his tear-filled gaze to Mick. “You think I could turn out like you. Because of what I did the other night. ”

  “I didn’t say that. I never said that. But yeah, I worry it could happen to you. Or any one of your friends who doesn’t think about the consequences of drinking and partying. Think about that practice you saw today, how hard those players work in the NFL. Then think about how hard they had to bust it in college making grades and getting through classes while also playing football. ”

  “But I thought—”

  “You thought what? That someone else does their classwork for them? That they can float through and professors will cut them some slack? College isn’t like high school, Nathan. Colleges don’t care if you’re playing football or not. They still expect you to pass. And try doing that while downing a bottle of vodka a day, or a case of beer, or whatever your poison is. Mine was whiskey and beer. ”

  “Jesus. I didn’t know. I just wanted to be cool like the other guys. ”

  “I’m sure the other guys don’t know either. They have no idea, because they think they can handle it. I thought I could handle it. And for a while I was doing fine. But then everything crumbled, and even then I wouldn’t listen to the people who knew what was best for me. I wouldn’t listen to my parents or my coaches or the team physicians. I almost lost out on my chance to play in the NFL. I could have lost everything. I could have died. All because I wanted to drink and party. Mainly because I wanted to drink. And it all started when I was your age, because I wanted to look cool and I was desperate to fit in. ”

  The tears fell down Nathan’s cheeks now. “So what am I supposed to do? They all drink. There are parties all the time. I’m accepted now. ”

  “You can still be accepted. You can be cool without drinking. And if they don’t like you because you aren’t a drunk, then what kind of friends are they? You’re a great football player with a lot of potential, Nathan. Let your skills and your academics do the talking for you. I’ll wager not every member of the team is a hard partyer. Find those guys and hang out with them. ”

  He slouched in the seat. “I guess so. ”

  “Look, I’m not going to make the choices for you. You’re old enough now to make your own. I just wanted to show you what could happen. Your life is entirely different than mine. It’s up to you to choose. ”

  He took Nathan home. The kid went straight up to his room, hardly saying a word to Tara. She cast a worried look at Mick.

  “Didn’t go well?”

  Mick shrugged. “I don’t know. I think I got the message across. It scared the hell out of him. ”

  She crossed her arms and nodded. “That’s a good thing. He should be scared. ”

  “I don’t know. I don’t know anything about teenagers, Tara. I tried. ”

  She went to him, put her arms around him, and kissed him. “Thank you. You did more than most people would have. He knows you care. And I appreciate it. ”

  He just hoped it would be enough.


  TARA WAS THRILLED TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO the AIDS charity fund-raiser at the art museum, a very high-profile annual event in San Francisco. Black tie, very ritzy, and she and her staff had been planning it for months. It was going to be incredibly well attended, with local dignitaries like the mayor planning to come. Plus, the rumor was being tossed about that some Hollywood people were planning to be in attendance.

  She hadn’t been able to eat, sleep, or breathe for the past week, nor had she and Mick been able to see each other, which was probably a good thing, since Mick was doing preseason game prep, and he said Elizabeth had been running him ragged with PR appearances so he’d been unavailable, too. She missed him terribly, but during a quick phone call earlier in the week they’d made plans for tomorrow.

  She was looking forward to seeing him. Nathan was spending the night at a friend’s house now that he was through being grounded. He’d been on his best behavior lately and had actually been hanging out with a few new friends—nice kids, actually, so Tara had checked them out, made sure the parents of the kid he was staying with tonight were going to be home, and gave her okay for him to stay over.

  That left her free and clear to dive into full-on panic mode for this event. She’d arrived at the gallery three hours before the doors opened, making sure the caterers were in place, the bar was set up, and there was a clear pathway to all the silent auction items.

  With a few free minutes before the gallery opened, she ducked into the ladies’ room to check her appearance. She wore a black cocktail dress with tiny spaghetti straps. The bodice was form-fitting and tight enough that she could barely breathe, which was perfect. She wore sinfully high shoes that she loved and adored and—as usual—killed her feet. Her hair was piled up high on her head
with cascading curls. She applied a new layer of gloss to her lips and inspected herself in the mirror. Not too bad. Stress had added some color to her cheeks, so she actually looked okay. It was important she make a good impression on the foundation and any potential new clients she might meet tonight.

  “You breathing?”

  She turned around and grimaced as Maggie walked in. “Hyperventilating is more like it. You look lovely. ”

  Maggie pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. She had on a blue dress and wore the top of her hair up, the bottom straight and teasing her cheeks.

  “Well, thanks. I just want to get through tonight without passing out. I can’t believe you made me come tonight. I’m office help, not front lines. ”

  Tara slipped her lip gloss into her clutch and went to Maggie, patting her on the arm. “Nonsense. I need your help working the auction tonight. ”

  Maggie inhaled and blew it out. “Whatever you say, boss. ”

  “You’re the most outgoing person I know, and we need all the new clients we can get. So let’s plug in and get started. ”

  Once the doors opened, there was no time to be nervous or worry about the small details. People streamed in, likely because they’d heard there was a chance a few movie stars were going to be in attendance tonight. Tara didn’t care who was there as long as the event went over well. So when Olivia McCallum, Susan Winters, and Layla Taylor arrived—all hot and upcoming Hollywood starlets, she practically fainted because this was the draw she’d been hoping for. And when movie heartthrobs Derek Davis and Malcolm Brown came in, Tara knew the night was going to be perfect.

  The gallery was packed to the gills with the cream of the crop of San Francisco elite, a few of the top Hollywood singles, and enough media to ensure success. The silent auction bids were filling up, thanks to Maggie’s skills at dragging people over to the bid table. Plates were kept filled with the latest haute cuisine from one of the best chefs in San Francisco—and everyone raved about the food, much to Tara’s delight. Drinks were plentiful, conversations were flowing, and she couldn’t be more pleased.

  “If this is how all the events turn out, I can see how much you love being in the trenches,” Maggie whispered as they snuck a minute together to catch up.

  “Trust me,” Tara said to her. “They’re not always this good. ”

  Maggie visibly vibrated with excitement. “This is glorious. Did you see Derek Davis?”

  “I did. ”

  “And Malcom Brown? I had to keep myself from screaming like an idiot fan girl. ”

  Tara’s lips twitched. “Glad you managed to subdue yourself. Now how about you check in with the bar and make sure they’re still well-stocked. These people drink like fish. ”

  Maggie giggled. “Consider it done. I’ll be sure to check the bar frequently just in case Derek Davis decides to belly up there for a drink. ”

  The possibility of that happening was slim to none, but Tara didn’t want to disillusion Maggie from her celebrity hunting quest. And as long as Maggie did her job, Tara didn’t care how much she ogled the celebrities. She was just glad she had a second set of eyes monitoring all the corners of the gallery.

  Tara made another pass through the tables where the silent auction was going on. Pens and pads still in place, long lists of bids ongoing, which should make the curators ecstatic. People with money always made charitable foundations happy, which meant all the promotion for this event had paid off.

  Flashbulbs popped all over the place, and Tara did her best to avert her eyes whenever she saw a flash. She kept herself busy and hovered in the background, making sure the limelight stayed on the people it was supposed to stay on. She brought those not too popular but eager to meet celebrities to the right people so introductions could be made, happy she had just the right contacts to make that happen.

  Everything was going smoothly, and she was thrilled with her choice of caterers and waitstaff for tonight’s event.