Disclaimers: See Part 1.
"You can't have been sleeping all this time?" Gary's phone call had woken her up out of an exhausted sleep. For a minute, Parker wondered who the naked body pressed up against her back was, until she became fully conscious and remembered how she had spent her morning. If that didn't pull a stitch, playing tennis should be a cinch.
"No, not sleeping." She kept her voice low so as not to wake Alicia.
"I'm coming over." Gary heard the rough sounding voice and thought Parker was still upset over the night before.
"Give me an hour, then you can come over." Parker pulled out of the tangle of limbs behind her and sat up.
"Why?" Gary asked arching a brow Parker couldn't see.
"You can wait, or you can come over now and see a naked Alicia in my bed your choice."
"Maybe if we beat you a couple of times a day with a tightly strung racket, you would start learning from your past mistakes," said Gary as he dropped down to the bed after hearing the news.
"Yeah, well when Brad Pitt shows up in your room and lies down on the bed naked with a come hither look, we'll talk about your stronger than steel will power, coach. Until then, give me a chance to take a shower."
"This might be good, the papers have been calling all morning after you and I made the headlines. Take her out to lunch this time and let the press see you together. It's the least you can do for the girl. Because let me tell you, if you want me to dump her again for you, I'm quitting." Gary relaxed his breathing; he was off the hook this time in letting the emotionally charged Alicia down when Parker didn't want to see her again.
"I'll keep that in mind if I want new representation."
"Where are you going?" The voice from behind Parker sounded just as rough as hers had when she was on the phone with Gary.
"To take a shower then I'm taking you out to lunch. I figure it will help you out to have the sharks take some pictures of us together so your fans won't think you are a homicidal maniac." Ok, Alicia, let's see if this no strings attached thing was for real. I have got to start thinking these things through more carefully, and then maybe I can sit and enjoy a glass of something instead of wearing it, thought Parker as the ramifications of the morning became as bright as the light streaming through the window.
"Can I join you?" Alicia sat up and let the sheet pool at her hips. Parker was staring and it wasn't at her bed head. She sat back on her hands and arched her back a little enhancing Parker's view.
"Huh?" Parker smacked her lips together and tried to get back to her thoughts before Alicia's surgically enhanced features smashed her reasoning with a big two by four.
"You know, help keep your stitches dry and all." Alicia pointed to Parker's chest and waited not wanting to push too hard too fast.
"Nah, relax and I'll be out in a minute."
Parker, Parker, Parker, you aren't playing by the rules, baby, and it's really starting to piss me off. You should be all over me not walking into the shower alone. Alicia got up and called her agent to tell him where she was and where she was going so that there would be reporters waiting for them when she and Parker got there. In her mind they were a couple again, now it was time to let the rest of the world in on the happy news.
Alicia walked out toward the waiting car first while Parker picked up her messages from the front desk. She smiled at the petite blonde walking up the street with some flowers in her hand and Emily, to be polite, smiled back. Parker walked out of the front door and walked to the open door of the car without looking around. One more lunch with the pop star and she would be off the hook. While she was checking her messages she reviewed everything she had said up in the room and was pleased that nothing sounded like a promise.
"Come on, lover, we have reservations and I'm starved." Alicia slid in first and when Parker was clear of the door the driver closed it and moved to the front to get them moving. Parker never saw Emily hand the bouquet in her hand to a homeless woman walking passed the front of the hotel.
No wonder she didn't call. Emily walked away in the opposite direction so that Parker wouldn't have the opportunity to see her.
Practice was slower paced in the next few weeks as Parker played to see what her mobility was. Gary would wrap her chest every morning to protect against popping the stitches in the healing wound in her chest, and to keep her pain down to a minimum. The tournament started the next day and he felt the games would last longer since Parker had lost some of the power in her first serve, but hopefully the strength of the rest of her play would pull them through.
"You want me to go with you?" Gary packed all her rackets and picked up the bag so she wouldn't have to strain herself. "Maybe a change in tradition will be lucky for you this time."
"I know Nick bought you both some tickets to see Rent tonight, big guy, so no, I'll be fine. My tradition got me to the finals last year and if that's where I end up this time, I'll be happy." Parker scratched her chest and wanted nothing more than to get into the shower in her room. As the wound healed, the more it itched. She just hoped she could control herself from looking like she was feeling herself up in front of the cameras starting tomorrow.
"Ok, but we'll come with you if you want."
"Gary, hand me that bag and get the hell out of here." Parker held her hand out for the racket bag and glared at her coach.
"No, I'll carry it for another twelve hours thank you. It will be waiting in your room when you get back don't worry. Have fun tonight and I'll see you in the morning. Call me if you need anything. And don't worry about the family, Nick is picking them up and bringing them over from the airport." They took a cab back to the hotel and went their separate ways.
In the two weeks since the attack, Parker had worked on getting stronger and tried to live down the headlines in the local papers that covered the story of her and Alicia getting back together. A story that the singer didn't seem to be denying and one that Parker was trying to forget about. One lunch did not make for a joyous reunion.
Her table was waiting for her by the wall of glass that looked out to the lit trees in Central Park. It was set up for one and the other patrons looked up from their conversations and meals when she walked in and sat down. Under one arm was a thin book of Robert Frost poetry that she placed on the table when the waiter handed her a menu.
"Welcome back, Ms. King, would you like the usual?"
"Thank you, Barry, and yes the usual would be fine." Her waiter moved off to get the drink she ordered, giving her time to look over the menu.
Parker never did mind eating alone and always did so before the beginning of every major tournament she played in. The solitude found in a crowded restaurant and a good book let her forget about tennis for a couple of hours, since it would be all she would think about for days to come. The next opponent, the review of her mistakes made in the last sets, the aches that accompanied her after a couple of grueling afternoons on center court, and all the other things Gary would want to cover once play began.
Barry came back and put the mug in front of her and took her order. When he left, she opened the leather bound book she had brought with her and started reading as she took sips from the cup sitting on the table. Parker tuned out the whispers being said about her from most of the patrons in the restaurant that night. Some of them wanted to come over and wish her luck, but her engrossment in the book and the fact she was sitting with her back to most of them kept them in their seats.
"You're staring." Bobbie took a sip of her mixed drink and tried to engage Emily in conversation again. They were out having a celebration dinner after Emily had found an apartment she liked. The pilot would be moving as soon as the furniture she had ordered was delivered.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" Emily answered but kept her eyes glued to the woman drinking hot chocolate three tables away from them. She and Bobbie were sitting by the windows too, but Parker had never looked in their direction since she had sat down.
"I said you're staring. I didn't take you for a starstruck tennis fan, Em. The precocious Ms. King and I met not that long ago, if you want I can introduce you." Bobbie took a sip of her drink and tipped her head back in Parker's direction.
"You know Parker?" Emily finally moved her eyes from Parker to her dinner date.
"Parker? My, I may have over emphasized my relationship with the pin up girl of tennis. Do you know her?" Bobbie put her drink down and reached over to hold Emily's hand. The pilot had been sulking for the last couple of weeks and no amount of trying on her part would make Emily tell her what was wrong.
"Yes, we've met. How do you know her?"
"I wished her luck in the park one morning when I saw her stretching for a run. She thanked me then took off like Satan was chasing her through Manhattan. Ms. King actually gave me the run of my life when I tried to keep pace with her, after that morning I had to take a week off to recover. If she does that every morning no wonder three sets of tennis seem to be a breeze for her."
"Yeah, Parker seems to take on everything in her life with the same type of vengeance." Bobbie arched her brow at the statement, as Emily's attention went back to the lonely looking player.
"I saw her looking at us that night at Gotham too. It seemed to be fate that I would run into her again after seeing her that morning. As intently as she was looking, I chalked it up to her thinking the same thing, but if you know her, maybe she was looking at you."
"What do you mean, she was looking at us?" Emily forgot Parker for a minute and turned her eyes to Bobbie. All she could remember from that night was the blood coming through Parker's fingers when she went to get into the cab.
"I was looking at her when you walked in and her eyes followed you to the bar. She was watching us say hello before that Alicia girl gave her a wine bath. You know you read about stuff like that but you never think you will actually ever see them play out like that." Before Bobbie finished her observation she found herself sitting alone as Emily moved to the table where Parker was sitting.
"You hurt my feelings," said Emily in a soft voice as she stood next to the empty chair at Parker's table.
That must be the mantra I instill in women, thought Parker as she looked up from the book in her hand to the woman that had now taken a seat at her table. "How pray tell, did I do that?" Parker looked up from the verse she was reading passed Emily to the tall blonde that seemed to be her constant companion. She lifted her mug of hot chocolate and saluted the now shocked looking woman that was watching her dinner date sitting with someone else.
"You never called me this summer." Emily played with the napkin in her hand that she had inadvertently brought with her from her table. She was taking deep breaths trying to organize all the thoughts running through her head. It was the stuff she had wanted to talk to Parker about and now it was coming out as accusations.
"That's right, I didn't." Parker took a long look at the woman that had taken up most of her thoughts when she wasn't immersed in playing tennis over the past summer.
"I thought that you would at least once, after well, after the time we spent together."
"I thought so too, Captain, but you didn't reciprocate and give me your numbers so I didn't know how to get in touch with you. If you wanted to talk to me, you have every single number that will find me at the other end. Virgin Airlines is very accommodating, but giving out employee information is not part of their customer service. So you see, I tried, but you apparently didn't want to be found." Parker hadn't closed the book she was reading and hadn't really asked Emily to join her. The fact that she was getting pissed hadn't escaped her notice either.
Emily didn't make her any promises when she left so there was no reason for her to be mad now that the pilot was here with someone else. The someone else that had been kissing all over her two weeks ago in the other restaurant she had seen them in. You reap what you sow, Parker, and since you have planted row after row of miserable women all over the globe this is what you get.
"I did too give you my numbers." With Parker's clipped tones, Emily wasn't sure what to do.
"Captain, I am not going to sit here and argue with you, but no you didn't. You stayed at my house, you played with my dog, but there was no information on yourself that you left behind. Besides, I see that you are getting on just fine with your life. I don't see a purpose for us to talk unless you just want to gloat, and that, my dear, seems a little beneath you." Parker lifted the mug and saluted Bobbie again. The woman was sitting at the table with her chin resting on her palm watching the action taking place not that far from her lifting her glass to Parker again. Her eyes went from Parker to Emily like she was watching a special type of tennis match.
"What in the hell, is that supposed to mean?" Emily sat back and tried to figure out why Parker was being so obnoxious.
"Your date is getting lonely, Captain."
"I'm sure that my friend doesn't mind sitting alone for a minute while I'm over here telling you hello. Not that I'm sure why I bothered since you seem to have some sort of bug up your ass about something. Bobbie is who I've been staying with, she is not my date, well not technically."
"Is there a problem, Ms. King?" Barry came back with her appetizer and noticed the woman sitting with Parker. He and everyone around them noticed that neither one of them looked very happy.
"No problem, Barry, just an acquaintance that wanted to wish me luck." Parker smiled up at the waiter then at Emily. "Thank you, Emily, you have done your duty and are free to go."
"Why, is Alicia going to be here any minute?" Why in the hell am I talking like she owes me something? Get up and leave, Em girl, before she calls security, thought Emily as her feet refused to move back to her own table.
"I've told you once before, Captain, don't believe everything you read in the paper. If there is something you are dying to know, then ask me. I'm a dog, but honesty is not my problem," said Parker as she leaned forward. She made the statement sound as menacing as she could through a whisper.
"Did you sleep with her since I've seen you last?" The book finally snapped closed and Parker noticed that Barry wasn't moving after hearing Emily's question.
"Is there something else you needed to ask me too, Barry?" Parker looked up and asked the waiter. She did so not need this shit tonight.
"No, I'm sorry please excuse me." He looked disappointed that he had been dismissed before Parker answered the question.
"Now to answer your question, yes I have." The one good thing she reflected on later was that the hot chocolate she had been drinking had come to room temperature and there wasn't that much left in the mug. Parker took her napkin and wiped her eyes off so that she could see the shrimp cocktail Barry had put down.
Emily watched her as Parker took a bite out of only one of the jumbo shrimp before fishing her wallet out of her front pocket. With a quick mental addition Parker left enough for the items she had ordered but wasn't sticking around to eat plus the tip. With as much dignity as she could, Parker pushed away from the table and walked out with out gracing Emily with another word. The pilot was torn on whether to break out into tears over the fact Parker didn't care about her, or the fact she had made a complete ass of herself in front of a room full of people.
"You know, Parker, one of these days you will have to learn that honesty is not always the best policy. Next time take a clue, from let say President Clinton. You look them right in the eye and say 'I did not have sex with that girl.' End of story, since it's no one's business anyway." Most of the people walking around the entrance to the park that took you to Tavern on the Green looked at the tennis player and wondered if she was on something as she walked along the street covered in chocolate and talking to herself.
Parker walked for a while then sat on low stonewall that surrounds Central Park to get her thoughts in order. Emily didn't have the right to be mad at her. If she had cared enough about continuing where they had left off, she would have called. "It's not like I didn't think about her at all this summer, or try to get in touch with her. She was all I thought about."
"That's nice to hear, but I would have still preferred that you hadn't slept with Alicia again. I missed you, Parker, and believe me, you have taken up more than your share of time in my head as well. You forgot your book." Emily sat beside her on the wall holding the damp book Parker had left behind.
"Not the way to treat a first edition Frost," said Parker holding up the chocolate sodden book.
"No, I would imagine it's not. I'm sorry for throwing that on you, I don't know what came over me."
"I know exactly what came over you, call it experience, but tell me, Emily, what are you hoping for here?"
"I want to spend time with you, Parker. This past summer, for a couple of days I thought we had started something that was special to both of us. If you had asked, I would have stayed with you for a few more days to see if something was there."
"Why didn't you, stay I mean? I wouldn't have thrown you out."
"A girl wants to be asked, Parker. If not it makes us look desperate if we just move in." Emily moved closer and reached out for one of the big hands she remembered holding the night they went out to dinner.
"And you think I'm going to ask you anything now? You bathed me in hot chocolate in front of a restaurant full of people. I have enough problems with people thinking I'm an ass to women without any outside help."
Emily looked at her feet and let go of Parker's hand thinking she had lost before they had even begun. The summer was just a fluke that wasn't going to repeat itself or continue where they had left off. "I'm sorry, just send me your cleaning bill."
"Captain, do you think you are getting off that easily? If you do, then you're delusional as well as forgetful about leaving phone numbers so people can call you."
"What do you want?" asked Emily letting her smile show for the first time in weeks.
"I want lots of things, but first I want to know if you kissed your date good night?" Parker smiled at her and Emily's heart started to warm up.
"Yes, against my better judgment I did."
"Good, now tell me why you didn't call me this summer?"
"I thought it would make me look clingy."
"I see, would you mind terribly if I were to kiss you now?" Parker leaned further into Emily until their shoulders touched.
"Yes, you want me to, or yes, you would mind?" Parker stood up and towered over Emily after the woman had not given her the answer she was expecting.
"Yes, I would mind." Emily smiled and moved closer to the scowling woman before she went on. "This is a new dress and I don't want to get chocolate on it." Parker smiled back before crushing the smaller woman to her chest making sure that some of the chocolate got onto Emily.
"Send me your cleaning bill, Captain." The kiss surprised Emily because of how quickly Parker had scooped her up.
It was similar to the one Parker had given her the night they went out to dinner and she left her at the guestroom door. Only this time Emily parted her lips and invited Parker in. Emily could feel the calluses on Parker's hands as they came up and framed her face, but instead of concentrating on their roughness she thought about how the strength of Parker's hands made her feel safe. The contrast was in her lips though, in that they were silky soft and they touched hers with just the right amount of pressure to keep her wanting more.
"I missed you too." Parker kissed her again before taking Emily's hand and started the walk back to her hotel.
"Where are we going?" As they walked Parker told her about her pre-tournament tradition of eating alone and laughed at the slight frown that had taken over Emily's face. She thought it was a brush off from Parker not two minutes after they had kissed.
"Well I thought that this was the only city in the world where that tradition of mine doesn't work, so I thought I would change my tactics just this once. Did you get to eat tonight?"
"No I was busy becoming fodder for the tabloid news. How about I treat you to dinner, and then you'll have to give me joint custody of the trophy if you win the Open?"
"How about I pay, and you just go along for the ride?"
Emily sat on one of the chairs while Parker stripped out of her soiled clothes in the bathroom. She just stared at the bed and imagined Parker rolling around on it with Alicia. There was no way in hell she could compete with someone like that, or any other girl Parker had been associated with over the past couple of years.
"My dress is stained." It was a poor excuse to get out of the room but Emily didn't want to be there anymore. She wanted to be back in that library in Press Cove with Parker reading her something from the hundreds of books that lined the shelves.
"I thought we could stop at your place and you could change and maybe drop that in cold water or something so the stain won't set." Parker pointed to Emily's dress feeling bad now that she had stained it.
"You don't mind?"
"Mind what?" Parker's brows came together in confusion over the question.
"Leaving here." Emily waved around the room that had all of Parker's stuff thrown about. Parker figured this had more to do than just the room.
"I want to have dinner with you. I've actually wanted to have dinner with you since the last time I took you out to dinner, and the time you cooked me breakfast. Abby and I have been pining away for you, Captain, so don't disappoint me now that I got you back."
They took a cab to Emily's new apartment that had no furniture and just the bulk of the clothes she didn't need at Bobbie's. Parker walked around and looked out the windows in the front room as Emily went to change. When she walked out of the bedroom she was dressed similar to Parker in jeans and a casual shirt. She smiled when she stepped out and saw Parker holding the book that Barnaby had given her when they had stopped in the night before they had gone out to dinner. It was a collection of love poems and sonnets by Shakespeare, Barnaby's favorite author. Since it was his favorite, Emily had appreciated and enjoyed it that much more that he had thought enough of her to part with it. With any luck she could convince Parker to read some selections out of it tonight.
"How about take out and we'll come back here and eat?" Emily had just gotten Parker back and wasn't ready to share her just yet. The apartment only had a bed that she had taken from the place she had shared with Gail. It was the one thing that she had taken from home when she moved out, and only because it had the sentiment value of having been the one she had had since she was a child.
Parker looked around and saw only the hardwood floors that were present in every room, but was game for whatever Emily had in mind. "Sure."
The cartons of food were spread out throughout the living room and their conversation was finally coming as comfortable as it had when they had first spent time together. When Parker looked at her watch, she was surprised to see that it was almost midnight and it was time to go if she was going to be in any shape to play in the morning.
"Am I boring you?" Emily knew that when a date looked at their watch, the night had come to an end.
"No, I just need to get going if I want to stay awake on the court tomorrow. The networks frown on center court matches when one of the players is napping on the sidelines. Tell me that I can see you again and I'll go away happy?"
"You can see me again, but why don't you stay here and take a cab back early?"
"Because I'm doubting I can serve or lift my arms over my head for any reason if I sleep on the floor tonight. Come on, I'll walk you home, and if you behave, I'll give you and the blonde bombshell some tickets for tomorrow's match."
"You don't have to sleep on the floor, silly, I have a bed, and I was planning on staying here and not at Bobbie's anyway." Emily walked Parker to the only bedroom in the place and showed her the neatly made bed that stood alone pushed up against the back wall.
"It's a double bed." Parker stood in the doorway with her hands crammed into her pockets looking at the sleeping surface like it was a bed of nails.
"Yes, so what?"
"Emily, I'm an inch over six feet. That means I won't fit in that bed." She pointed to the bed and wondered where Emily was planning on sleeping.
"Come on, Kong, we'll make the best of it." Emily stripped her pants off and pulled her bra through one of her sleeves before she lay to one side of the bed. The one thing she hoped that Parker understood was that this wasn't about sex. It was about getting to know each other and building a trust between them. One more headline putting Parker and Alicia together in anyway and she would kill Parker in her sleep.
She's leaving? Emily's heart just stopped beating for a moment when the tennis player turned and walked down the hall. Her smile returned when she heard the light switch in the bathroom click on. When Parker walked back she was dressed in only her underwear and the t-shirt she had worn under the light sweater she had on. Parker sat on the other side of the bed and fluffed up her pillow before stretching out for the night. She could hear Emily laughing because her feet were hanging off the end of the bed.
"Good night, Emily."
"Aren't you going to kiss me good night?"
"Only if you want me to."
"I want you to." Parker rolled over a bit and pressed her lips to Emily's and lengthened the kiss when she felt the pilot's hands in her hair pulling her closer.
Parker slowed them down knowing that it was too soon to move into that type of relationship with Emily. She rolled Emily to her side of the bed as she thought that for the first time she felt like this was a woman that she could come to care about enough to have a relationship with that didn't last the normal three dates. Emily held on to her hand and was close enough that Parker could feel her body heat but it was only their hands that were touching. What would the papers say if they could see you now, Kong? Parker asked herself as the fruity smell of Emily's shampoo reached her nose.
The next morning Emily got up and found the space on the bed next to her empty. She panicked when she thought Parker had just left until she saw the slacks still folded next to the bed on the floor. Emily found the tennis player sitting on the floor in the living room with her eyes closed and her legs folded under her like she was meditating. The quiet of the room and the early morning light coming through the naked windows made the empty room almost seem like a temple so Emily stayed quiet not to disturb whatever Parker was thinking about. Parker never opened her eyes when there was a light knock on the door, nor when Emily went to see who it was.
"Good morning, Emily." Gary stood in the hallway with two large black bags waiting to be invited in.
"Good morning, she's in there if you are here for Parker."
"I am, but why don't we let her finish before we go barging in there." Gary set the racket bag down by the inside of the door and unzipped it to get some medical supplies out of it. He dropped the other bag at Emily's feet letting her get a close up view of the tennis outfit full of sponsor logos at different spots. Even the socks she noticed had something sewn on to the tops when Gary pulled them out and laid them on top of the other stuff.
Gary saw her looking over what Parker would be wearing and smiled. "The talent is what gets all those companies to use her as a walking billboard, but that's what pays the bills once you can prove you can play."
"Does seeing Parker wear this on her sleeve really make someone want to drive a Lexus?" Emily asked as she pointed to one side of the pullover shirt.
"Do you buy office supplies at a certain store because they have a bowl game for college football?" Emily laughed at his analogy and knew that this was probably an argument he had often with fans and sponsors alike.
"What's she doing?" She pointed to the quiet woman sitting in the other room.
"She's going over every shot in her head. Reviewing every possibility so that there will be no surprises she hasn't given thought to, no weakness she isn't busy erasing now instead of on center court. Parker's the real deal, Emily, she gives the folks what they pay big money to see. Just straight forward power tennis that takes no prisoners and makes the shelf life of the balls next to nil."
"Is that on, and off the court?"
"I don't know, you spent the night with her, did she force you?" Gary didn't like the tone of Emily's question, and the fact Parker was messing around the night before a major tournament.
"No she didn't, I'm sorry I shouldn't have said anything."
"Nonsense, Gary, just likes to cause me trouble whenever the opportunity presents itself. Are you working today?" Parker had gotten up and walked quietly on bare feet to where they were talking.
"No, I'm not. I was planning to watch you on television today if you must now my deep dark secret," teased Emily hoping Parker wasn't insulted over her question to her coach.
"How about you and your friend join Gary and my sisters in my box?" Gary handed Parker the tickets she had requested that morning when she called. Emily took them and kissed Parker on the cheek for them. Bobbie would be thrilled since she loved women's tennis.
Emily watched as Gary helped Parker get dressed first changing her bandages and wrapping her chest tightly enough to cover the stitches but still leaving her the ability to breathe. It was like watching a gladiator getting ready to step into the arena. Only this one could chip your bones if you weren't careful, with little yellow fuzzy balls. With a good luck kiss from Emily, Parker was out of the door.
Parker turned before getting into the cab and looked up to the windows of Emily's apartment. The pilot stood there with her fingers pressed to her lips looking a little dazed from the kiss they had just shared. She waved and smiled before disappearing into the car making Emily sigh. Things were looking up and it wasn't because she had scored tickets to a tennis match.
Continued in Chapter 6
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