BY TIA KELLY
A different kind of love story.
Diane Collins has big plans for her life, and hoops star Warren Scott is not among them. He doesn’t want to be the face of the NBA, and she doesn’t care that he is. His reluctance to be part of the limelight disarms her and the two embark on an unlikely friendship that becomes an even unlikelier romance.
Soon, his life is her life – filled with VIP treatment, parties, and luxuries beyond Diane’s wildest imagination. But Warren is harboring a secret, and once it’s revealed, Diane’s decision to stay or go could change the very fabric of who she thought she was.
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Making her way around the small group behind her, Diane returned to her seat near the windows that gave her a view of the New Orleans-bound plane that was still grounded.
She reached for the magazine inside her LeSportsac tote bag and flipped through the pages of Essence‘s June edition. The “True Love: The Myths, the Reality” article caught her eye, but first she wanted to see what tips were in the new issue’s other article about being single and satisfied. That particular slogan beneath the picture of Iman with her NBA player husband and daughter and the big, bold letters staring back saying “We Are Family!” contradicted the “single and satisfied sentiment.” If anything, their happy faces made her feel alone and disappointed.
A low grunt beside her got her attention, and she looked to her left to see a man trying to get comfortable in one of the seats. His long frame poured into the aisle in front of them as he shifted his stiff, magnificent body, making his unusual length stand out even more.
A family with two young children stopped in front of her and the stranger. The mother held on to a Polaroid camera and one of the kids clutched a piece of paper and pen.
“We hate to bother you, Warrior, but do you mind?”
The guy wore a scowl on his face as he took the piece of paper and scrawled his name across it.
“No pictures, if you don’t mind. I’m just trying to spend some quality time with my lady before our flight,” he said in a voice so low that it was barely audible.
The group moved on, and Diane sighed with relief after noticing no other stragglers threatened to invade their space, and she kept her own curiosity about him in check. He was a man that clearly wanted to be left alone, but that was until she was dragged in to fight the imposition his celebrity caused him. Turning the page, she mumbled to her seatmate, “Your lady?”
“They usually leave me alone if I have company.”
She smiled, not able to resist the urge to tease him. “Glad to know I could be of assistance. By the way, I’d be highly upset if after all I did to save you from your fans my man happens to forget my birthday this year.”
He laughed. She placed the magazine on her lap and turned to get a good look at him. He kept his head down, but she still noticed the intensity in his golden brown hazel eyes beneath thick, dark brows. A passerby called out, “The Warrior.” With his head still bent, she saw his softened face transform with another type of discomfort. A group of young men repeated the nickname, and the guy beside her clenched his jaw. Strong, angry nostrils flared above full lips, and for some reason, Diane felt the need to protect him.
Her soft voice broke the tension, and she placed her hand atop his forearm. “I take it you would rather they don’t recognize you.”
“Right now just isn’t the best time for me.”
“You must be pretty famous. People are whispering and staring at you.” Diane watched the corridor fill with people slowing down just long enough to get a glimpse of the Warrior as he waited at the gate.
He shrugged and shifted again in his seat, not saying anything, but also not moving to get from under her touch.
A gate attendant appeared and offered him two small white flight pillows. He struggled as the attendant watched without offering any more help that might invade this man’s space. On instinct, Diane reached to help, placing the pillows behind his back, pausing to ask if that was any help. When he nodded, the attendant returned to her post at the counter.
His laborious effort of pointing behind him was just as uncomfortable for her to watch. “Landed on my back during last night’s game.”
He smiled and laughed again.
“What’s so funny?”
“No. I’m just confused. Would it be safe to assume you are referring to basketball?”
“No need to tell me more. I don’t follow sports, so any conversation about teams and the like would be wasting your time and mine. But I do hope you find relief soon.”
The Warrior smiled and signaled to get the gate attendant’s attention.
“Your ticket?” he asked Diane.
He pointed toward the sign with their destination and flight number nearby. “Are you going to New Orleans, too?”
He stared at the ticket before handing it to the attendant. “There was a mix-up when my lady and I made our travel reservations. Is there any way you could seat her beside me in first class?”
Turning back to Diane after the attendant walked away, he offered a stiff shrug. “Like I said earlier, I hurt my back in the game and now the spasms are killing me. I just want to rest during the flight. Do you mind sitting with me? That’s the only way I can make sure whoever has that seat doesn’t work my nerves the next few hours.”
Diane looked back at the uniformed woman that was still smiling and typing on the computer terminal in front of her. “Why me?”
He lifted his head, and once their eyes met, Diane felt herself drawn to him. Just as he opened his mouth to speak, the attendant returned holding a new ticket out for Diane to accept.
“Mr. Scott, we’re about to start boarding, but I’m willing to allow you and your companion early entry so you can get situated. Please follow me.”
Diane paused, but he nodded after standing, and gestured for her to follow. Collecting her belongings and his small bag, she walked with him toward the jet bridge.
ABOUT TIA KELLY
Tia Kelly is the author of contemporary and women’s fiction. She is known for her candid way of capturing life, love and relationships… one story at a time.