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My (Mostly) Secret Baby
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You know that instinct to run when something bad is coming?
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New York City was exactly the kind of cold I liked this time of year. Dreary, quiet, and with just the slightest touch of depressing. People were too busy clutching their arms around themselves and ducking their heads against the breeze to bother me. No strangers in line at the coffee shop were shooting pairs of finger guns at me while suggesting I smile.
The thought of walking around the streets of New York with a fucking smile on my face was ridiculous. Very few things in this world made me smile—and one of those was a secret I’d take to my grave.
No. I preferred to get shit done. Speaking of which, I took an annoyed glance at the Rolex on my wrist and stepped out of the car. After a second thought, I leaned back in the car window and told my driver to circle back in thirty minutes. Hopefully, that was all the time it’d take to track down my younger brother, Chris, and drag him to the meeting.
If I knew my brother—unfortunately, I did—he’d be somewhere around where I told him to meet me but not quite there. He’d also probably be doing something stupid instead of sitting and waiting like a normal human being.
I swore, he was one of thirty professional athletes I personally represented for my agency, but he was at least ninety percent of the work I did on a daily basis. My little brother was what you’d get if you took the energy and libido of a poorly behaved middle schooler, the sense of humor of an old man, the temperament of that pissed off goose who bites kids at the pond, and put it all in the body of a professional athlete.
I was supposed to meet him outside the Marriott five minutes ago. Of course, there was no sign of him out front, so I had to resort to wandering the sidewalk to see if he’d been distracted by a vendor selling balloons or maybe a hot dog stand. Once, we’d been doing a photo shoot at a museum and I eventually found him in the kid’s room organizing some sort of Hot Wheels race between a bunch of toddlers.
That was Chris. High energy, and high fucking stress for me.
Some of the top athletes from around the world were meeting here to discuss potentially joining team USA for next year’s Olympics. Ever since I’d started representing my brother as his agent, I’d known I wanted to leave my mark. I wanted to be like Michael Jordan’s agent, David Falk. I wanted to do more than take the money sponsors decided to throw my brother’s way for what he did on the field. I wanted to make an empire for him. For us.
That brought us to the Marriott. American football still wasn’t included in the Summer Olympics, and I was going to make my first attempt today to change that. Just like the Olympic Games had propelled Michael Jordan to stardom, they’d do that for my brother and more. He’d do what he always did and dominate on the field, and he’d be remembered as the one who brought American football to the Olympics.
Of course, that all depended on me actually finding the idiot. Besides, if Chris managed to screw this up, which was entirely likely, I could probably poach an athlete or two from their agent while we were here. But that was beside the point.
I did actually find a man selling balloons to a crowd of little kids and their parents. My brother was nowhere to be seen, which meant he’d probably gone inside chasing his other interest: women.
I was about to head into the hotel when I saw a little girl lose hold of her balloon. She let out a squeal of anguish that drew everyone’s attention to the little red ball of rubber the wind was carrying directly toward me.
Admittedly, I didn’t really want to catch the balloon. If I was telling the full truth, I was a little tempted to pull a pen from my jacket pocket and pop the thing. After all, it’d be a good lesson for her. Hold on to the shit you care about, and don’t trust other people not to destroy the things you love. Ultimately, it didn’t matter what I wanted to do about the balloon. I had a reputation to uphold.
I was an asshole, and I never planned to apologize for that. Life got complicated if people started expecting you to care. Not giving a shit was the strongest armor out there, and I was decked head to toe in the lack of shits I gave.
So I watched the balloon sail right past me, not even lifting a hand as it drifted by. It blew over a sewer grate and launched upwards, quickly turning into a sad little red dot that was destined to explode in the stratosphere.