“He’s not mad at you. He’s mad at me for telling Coach he should sit the game out.” I nudged Reynolds.
“Plus you’ve been icing the shit out of his balls, Doc. A man can only take so much of that torture.” Reynolds’s hand went to his crotch, like he was protecting his own balls from getting iced by me.
“Thanks for the tip. I’ll keep that in mind.”
Reynolds fired a salute before starting to tear out of his jersey while I moved onto the next player on my list.
After that, the locker room cleared out faster than normal. It probably had to do with the guys not being in the mood to celebrate. I was in one of the back rooms, restocking my bag with the supplies I’d run through during tonight’s game, when I heard a pair of cleats echo inside the room.
“You are still here, good. Should have figured.” Coach Beckett was still in his jersey and cleats. In fact, I wasn’t sure anyone had ever not seen him in his jersey and cleats, which had led to the rumor that the man slept in them.
“What can I do for you, Coach?” I asked, stuffing a few more rolls of athletic tape into my bag.
“I just wanted to say thanks for giving it to me straight earlier about Archer. I appreciate that. In fact, I need that. Too many of these people are just going to tell me whatever they think I want to hear, but I need someone who’s going to tell me what I need to hear.” Coach crossed his arms and tipped his head. “I hate losing a game, but what I hate more is losing a season. Good job tonight, Eden.” Before I could say anything, he turned to leave. “The team bus already headed out to the hotel, but there’ll be a car waiting for you and Archer when you’re ready to leave.”
My hands froze inside my bag. “Archer’s still here?”
“Yep. Just you two left.” His voice echoed as he moved through the locker room.
I waited inside the backroom for a few minutes, thinking. I wanted to talk to him, but I wasn’t sure if he felt the same.
Stalling for a few more minutes, I decided to go find him. I hadn’t gotten where I had by being timid and complacent. I wouldn’t approach whatever this was between Archer and me like that either.
Heading into the main part of the locker room, I found it dark and empty. All of the lockers had been cleaned out except for one. Number eleven’s. He was nowhere in sight, but then I noticed the sound of the shower. If he was still in the shower room, he was about to qualify for the longest shower ever.
Then again, maybe someone had just forgotten to turn off one of the showers. I broke to a stop when I got inside the shower room. Someone had left a shower on, but that someone was still hovering beneath it, his head and arms pressed into the tile wall below the showerhead. Archer wasn’t moving; he was just standing there, letting the water rain down on his back and spill down his body.
My throat ran dry watching him like this: naked, braced against the wall, water rolling down him, steam fogging around him. I had to remind myself I was mad at him because damn, there was nothing infuriating about the man stationed in front of me right now.
I felt other things, but anger wasn’t part of the spectrum.
He didn’t respond. He didn’t move.
“Is this how we’re going to deal with this stuff when it comes up?” I took a few more steps inside the big shower room. “Giving each other the silent treatment?”
I waited a minute. Then two. I was about to turn and leave when he shifted.
“I could have played.” His voice was low, guarded, but at least he was communicating.
“Yeah, you probably could have.”
His head tipped over his shoulder. “Then why didn’t you say that earlier?”
Crossing my arms, I moved closer. “Because I didn’t think you should play.”
A sharp exhale rolled out of his mouth. “I’m a ball player. I get paid to play. My job is to swing the bat and play the field. It isn’t to ride the bench with a bag of