“What are you gonna fucking do, dude?” Dave’s voice cut across the room where Kenn sat, head down, arm still propped up in a brace.
“I’m sorry, man. I didn’t mean to.” Kenn hadn’t meant to in a deep, truly sorry sort of way.
“No shit you didn’t mean to, you stupid fuck, but you did. What were you thinkin’, man? Surfing? For fucking charity? We’re a team!”
“I didn’t think I’d wipe out.” And shit, Steph’d already come and chewed his ass like no other coach on earth. Steph. Mom. Dad. Julie. Jennifer. Pete, his dorm-mate. “I don’t need this shit from you, asshole.”
“I know, but…” Dave plopped down beside him. “Shit, you’re my partner, dude. You got my back. The World Cup Finals are in seven months. They’re saying you’re in that fucking brace another month.”
Kenn nodded. He was. Then six weeks without weight bearing. “I can do it. I won’t let you down.”
“Mercy’s pregnant.” Dave’s head dropped into his hands. “We’re going to get married.”
Scared brown eyes looked at him, and suddenly Dave seemed younger than him, even. “I know, right? That and then this… We gotta make it to the Olympics, dude.”
“We will.” They’d been on the competitive circuit together since the day he turned eighteen. Four years and two national championships.
“I still can’t believe you fucked up your goddamned arm.”
“Me either.” It was all just supposed to be fun—goof off, eat, ride a few waves. When the board had flipped and come down on his head and shoulder, the whole damn world had gone black for days. Three whole days.
Shit, he’d missed fucking Christmas day.
Dave ran his hands through his hair, sighed hard. “What’re you going to do?”
“Get a trainer. Get better quick. Hope my dad doesn’t kill me?” He was pretty sure he wasn’t going to be graduating in May.
“A trainer.” Dave nodded, looking more hopeful. “You’re going to work your ass off, right?”
“No, fuckhead. I’m going to be the King of Slack. I’m going to fuck off royally and bring you down. Shitass.” Like he’d ever fucked off. Ever. He was a fucking Bio major with a 4.0, a world-class volleyball player, a competitive surfer, and he frigging volunteered with PETA, for Christ’s sake.
“Fuck you, asshole. It’s not just me anymore, is it?”
“No. No, but it’s never just one of us.”
Dave sighed, nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I know. I just…worried, yeah?”
“I’ll be back at drills in six weeks. Back at practices right after that.” A break was good, right?
“You better be, dude. I need you at my back.”
“Shit, man. That’s what I do.”
Dave was his fucking partner, his goddamn best friend, and the best setter in the world, so long as Kenn was there to dig for him.
“So this is it then? See you in six weeks?”
“Well, you could come have a beer with me sometime. I’m not dead.”
Dave laughed. “As long as you don’t get drunk and clip the other one, yeah?”
He lifted his right arm and flipped Dave off. “Fuck you, buddy.”
“Yeah, and you, too.”
They laughed together and, for a minute, Kenn could believe he wasn’t screwed.
Dusty parked his car at the beach and headed out toward the waves. He loved the beach in the early morning. The sand underfoot, the sound of the waves. The only people around were the hard-core surfers and a few runners. It was great. He walked down by the waves for ten minutes or so, before he started looking for his appointment.
Stephanie Connor had called him a week ago, frantic about one of her athletes—Kenn Majors. Everybody in the scene had heard what had happened to him over Christmas, but Dusty, just like everyone else, assumed the man was out for the year. Apparently Kenn and Stephanie thought that was a bad idea.
Dusty saw the man in the sling, jogging at the edge of the surf, solid and stacked. Working hard despite the injury. It was a good sign. As long as the guy didn’t overdo. It’d be a shame for that beautiful body to be injured any longer than necessary.
“You Dustin, man?” Sun-bleached blond hair, huge green eyes—damn, that was a pretty man.
“I am. And you’re Kenn Majors.” He held out his hand.
“You know it. Thanks for meeting me.” The shake was strong, sure.
“It’s my pleasure. I’ve seen you play—you’re great.” They started walking together along the beach. “Frankly, I was surprised when Steph called me with the news that you wanted to be back in shape by Worlds. You ready for the work that’s going to take?”
“I don’t have any classes this semester. I don’t have anything else to do. Moved out of the dorms and everything.”
“Girlfriend?” They could be huge distractions, and if Kenn was going to make it to the Worlds, there could be no distractions.
“That’s between me and my coach.”
“Sorry, Kenn, but if I’m going to be your trainer, I need to know what else is going on in your life.” Food, social life, sleep—how long and when—as well as exercise and training routine; he was going to be in all of Kenn’s business, and if the man couldn’t take it, then it wasn’t the right partnership.
“I don’t have a girlfriend.” There was a story there, he’d bet.
“If we work together, I’ll be setting your schedule, your diet, your regimen.”
“Whatever I have to do. I have to play.”