This story is a sequel to my stories , Fast Break and Footsteps (Ghost Towning) . You may want to read the preceding stories before reading this one. Fast Break and Footsteps (Ghost Towning) can be found on my on my website – mickeyminner.com
“I still don't like Jackson.” Pat was sitting in her office with her assistant coaches seated on the opposite side of her desk. The three women had spent the past few hours discussing the players arriving the next day to attend the Cougar tryout camp.
“Her scouting reports are good,” Kelley Stockley said. “And I need another post player.”
Pat looked at the assistant coach. “From what I've seen of her in tapes, I think she's lazy.” Pat paused to re-read the scouting report on the player in question. She finished reading then tossed the report onto her desk.
“But she does have good numbers,” Sherry interjected, “and the reports rate her high.”
“I agree we need more post players to look at, Kelley. I don't like Jackson but I'll trust you may be seeing something in her that I'm not.” Pat frowned.” But I want her pushed hard. We can't waste time on players who aren't willing to give all they have; even in tryout camp. Understood?” She stared at Kelley until her assistant nodded her understanding of the coach's unspoken threat. Then Pat turned her gaze to her other assistant coach. “Sherry, we have plenty of experienced guards with Wendy and Amie backing up you and Pete. But with that being such an injury plagued position, we have twelve possibles coming to camp. I need them thinned out quickly so we can use the balance of camp to work with the ones that have a chance to make the roster.”
Sherry looked up from the clipboard she held. “Two? Three?”
“I think we need to narrow them down to four or five by the end of week two. We can decide on the final number when I see how the other positions are shaping up.”
“Anything else, Coach?” Kelley asked.
“Just one thing. Mac signed a new power forward this morning.”
“Oh? I wasn't aware of any trades,” Kelley responded, knowing that players signed without going through tryout camp were usually veterans traded from other teams.
“No trade,” Sherry explained. “But I think you're going to be as happy as I am with this player.”
“Seems I've been left out of the loop,” Kelley grumbled.
“Not for any of the reasons you're imagining,” Pat quickly assured her unhappy assistant.
“Okay,” Kelley said hesitantly, not being fully reassured by her coach's comment. “So, let me in on your little secret.”
Pat smiled nervously. “The new player is me.”
“You? Pat, are you kidding me?”
“I never thought I'd live to see this day.”
“It's great news, isn't it?” Sherry asked excitedly.
Kelley's displeasure at not having been informed earlier about the recent development wasn't easily forgotten. “Who else knows?”
“Me, you, and Sherry,” Pat answered. “I plan to tell the returning players when they report to camp this afternoon.”
Kelley eyed Pat sternly. “You do realize you're setting us up for a pretty rough season,” she stated harshly.
Pat bristled. “Care to explain?”
“Look, Pat, I'm not trying to be a bitch about this but you have to admit naming Sherry as a player slash coach just so you can sleep with her—”
“You're out of line,” Pat snapped.
“Stop,” Sherry warned both women. “Calm down before this goes somewhere we'll all regret.”
Pat glared at Kelley. “You over stepped—”
“Pat, she's right,” Sherry interrupted, “and we both know it. If we're going to make this work, we need to have Kelley on our side. To do that, we need to listen to what she's thinking.”
Scowling, Pat leaned back in her chair. “I'm not sure I want to know.”
“Would you prefer my resignation?” Kelley asked.
“Whoa, wait a minute,” Sherry exclaimed then looked to Pat. “You don't want that… do you?”
Pat sucked in a calming breath then released it slowly. A voice in the back of her mind was asking you didn't expect this to be easy, did you? “No,” she answered both the voice and Sherry. “I don't want that, Kelley. You're too good a coach to lose.” Slowly, she spun her chair around to gaze out the window behind her desk. “I didn't think you had a problem with me and Sherry being… together,” she finally said in a quiet voice.
“I don't care about your personal life, Pat. But I do care about the Cougars. And, to be honest, I have concerns about how all of this is going to affect the team. Last year was hard enough with the crap Dawn was causing and with that idiot Palmer mouthing off all over the league. You have to admit there's bound to be a lot of leftover distractions this year. Now, you've added Sherry to the mix as a player slash coach—”
Pat turned back around to face her assistant coaches. “You don't think Sherry's qualified?”
“That's not what I'm saying. She's already proven she can coach, I watched her work with the other guards last year— Wendy and Amie both improved their movement on the court. Heck, even Pete's game went up a notch or two because Sherry was pushing her.”
“I'm just saying we're going to have a lot on our plates… I'm concerned… that's all… Okay?”
Sherry placed her clipboard on Pat's desk then shifted in her chair to face Kelley. “I think we all are. At least, I know I am. I'm not a fool; I know this coach slash player situation is contrived so that Pat and I can be together. And I have doubts about being able to pull it off… it's a lot to take on. But having said that, I want to give it a try.” She could see by Kelley's refusal to meet her eyes that she wasn't convincing the other assistant coach. “If it will help, I've already told Pat that if it gets to be too much, I'll quit.”
Kelley stared at the clipboard in her lap, her eyes not focusing on the pages of stats. After several minutes, she raised her eyes. “I'd hate to see you do that.” “You're a damn good player.”
Sherry smiled. “Thanks, I appreciate that.” She stole a glance at her lover. “But my relationship with Pat is too important to me… much more important than playing ball.”
Pat focused all her attention on Kelley. “I have the same concerns as you and I've spent many sleepless nights debating the pros and cons. I don't doubt that this year could be rough. For one thing, Mac is being very public about insisting on a repeat which means every other team will be gunning for us. And, as much as we would like to think they will, I doubt the press is ready to let the Palmer crap go. And you're also right about Sherry taking on coaching duties and about me coming on as a player—all of this may end up adding more stress than any of us need… or can handle. But we've proven we make a good coaching staff and I'd like to think we can handle anything that may result from all this. But, to do that, I have to know you're going to be with me… not against me.”
“You know what I think about you as a coach,” Kelley said. “You've done a hell of a lot to improve the Cougars since you took over.”
Pat smiled. “You've made that a lot easier for me.”
Kelley grinned. “I'm glad you noticed,” she said then sobered. “The last thing I want to do is walk away from what I have here.”
“Glad to hear that.”
“But I think I need some assurance that you'll listen when I say I'm seeing problems… with the team or with you and Sherry. I think I deserve that.”
Pat rocked in her chair, nodding. “You do. I've assured Mac that I won't let the dual roles, or our relationship, get in the way of the team's success. If she thinks anything is going bad, Mac can pull the plug any time she sees fit. And I hope that I would be smart enough to think it would be in my best interest to pay attention to you… if, and when, you see a problem and let me know about it.”
“Saying it and doing it, are two different things,” Kelley said apprehensively.
“Anytime you think I'm not being that smart, you're free to go straight to Mac,” Pat said more sharply than she had intended.
Sherry reached out to place a hand on Kelley's arm. “We do understand your misgivings. Believe me, we have them too,” she said retracting her hand. “I've lost count of all the hours we've spent talking about this. But we've got our priorities straight… the Cougars will repeat as champions and we will preserve our relationship. Everything else can be dropped, regardless of what we have to give up.”
“And the same rule applies as before,” Pat added in a serious but friendly tone. “When we're here, we're coaches; our personal relationship stays at home.”
“Okay, you've convinced me,” Kelley smiled nervously, “I think. But I will hold you to what you said, Pat… I will go straight to Mac if I think you've gone over the edge.”
Pat nodded. “I'd expect no less.”
Sherry stood up. “How about lunch before we have to meet the veterans this afternoon?”
“You buying?” Kelley asked.
“Nope, Coach is.”
Pat groaned but stood to join her assistants. “Come on, I know a really cheap greasy spoon,” she said then led them out of her office.
“Whoohoo,” Pete exclaimed leaping out of her seat and jumping around on the arena floor doing her version of a happy dance. She had been sitting with the other returning Cougar players in the first few rows near center court when Pat broke the news to them. “Hot damn,” Pete shouted. “This is for real, right?” she asked coming to a bouncing stop in front of Pat. “This isn't an April Fool's joke… is it? No, it can't be… it's not April.” Then she danced over to the assistant coaches standing off to the side of Pat. “It's real? Really real? Really, really real?”
“It's real, Pete,” Kelley informed the exuberant player. Sherry was laughing too hard to answer.
“Whoohoo,” Pete shouted again and danced back over to Pat. “Do you know how much I've wanted this?” she asked the coach. “Playing ball with Pat Calvin… it's a dream come true.”
Pat smiled wryly. “So it seems.” Amused, she watched the woman happily hopping around her. “You want to sit down so we can finish this?”
Grinning, Pete danced back to her seat. “This is soooo great,” she told Terry Peters seated next to her.
“All right,” Pat addressed the players. “We know how Pete feels… what about the rest of you?”
“It sounds like good news, Coach,” Val Jensen responded hesitantly. “But…um, what does it mean as far as playing time?”
“I understand your concern,” Pat answered the team's returning starting forward. “For now, you're still our starter. I'll have to earn my place on the floor like everyone else.”
“Forgive me, Coach, but won't you be the one making that decision.”
“Look I know this comes out of left field,” Pat told the players, many with unsure looks on their faces. “So let me put our priorities right up front. Number one, we're going after a repeat… Mac wants back-to-back championships and so do I. I'm hoping that's what all of you want, too.” She waited as the players responded affirmatively. “Okay, good.”
“What's number two, Coach?” Terry Peters, a returning post player asked.
Pat smiled. “There is no number two. All our efforts will go to accomplishing number one. Anything… and anybody in the way of that, gets pushed aside. Understood.” She looked at Val who still looked concerned. “I'll be honest, I don't know if I can even play at this level but I'm going to give it a shot. If I can't then I'll step aside.”
“Come on, ladies,” Pete interjected. “You've all seen Coach play.”
“College was a long time ago,” Val muttered.
“Damn it, Val. Coach isn't some old lady and her college days didn't end that long ago.”
Pete smiled wickedly at the reticent teammate. “She had no trouble whooping your butt in practice last year.”
“All right, enough,” Pat stopped the interplay before it went too far. “Val, as of right now, you are the starting forward.” She paused for a moment. “But don't think you're going to get a free ride. We've got some rookies coming tomorrow that will be giving you a run for your money. And I'll be running right with them.” I hope , she added to herself. “Anybody else?”
“Nah, Coach,” Tonie Jessup, another returning post player, spoke. “I say we give you a chance. If we kick your ass,” she grinned, “you can remind us later why you wanted to give this a try.”
“No special allowances?” Terry asked.
“No special allowances,” Pat assured her.
“Then let's get on with this.”
“Guards, you're with Sherry. Post players, go with Kelley. The rest of you stick with me. We're going to start out by gauging your fitness. Then we'll run through some plays to see how many you remember,” Pat grinned when several players groaned. “I sure hope you all kept up with your training schedules during the off season.”
“You could have told me,” Pete panted to Sherry. They had spent the past ten minutes running full court wind sprints with the other returning guards, Wendy and Amie, and all were taking a two minute break.
Not breathing quite as heavily as Pete, Sherry took a drink from her water bottle. “I didn't know myself until a few days ago,” she said wiping an errant drop off her chin with the back of her hand.
“Bet you were as happy as I am.”
Grinning, Sherry closed the top on her water bottle then tossed it to the side of the court. “I didn't dance around the living room like a damn idiot but, yes, I was happy.”
“Why are you so happy about it?” Amie asked Pete.
“Are you kidding me? Didn't you ever watch Coach play in college?”
“Sure… we all did.”
“I would have killed for a forward with her moves on my college team,” Wendy admitted. “We probably would have gone as far as the sweet sixteen instead of being blown out in the first round.”
“You think Coach still has the moves?” Amie asked.
Pete stared at Amie. “Honey, have you not been paying attention. I've seen her put moves on every single one of us in practice.”
“Practice isn't a game,” Amie countered.
“What do you think, Sherry? You know her best,” Wendy asked.
“You mean Coach, donja?” Pete asked with a smirk.
Sherry swatted at the ducking player. “Yes,” she admitted her error with a grin, “Coach only has one speed. Game, practice, or shooting around in the driveway, she goes full out. I don't think she'll have any problems. And to answer your question, Amie, she definitely still has the moves.”
A whistle stopped the women's laughter.
“You plan to stand there talking all afternoon,” Pat yelled from the other end of the court.
“Uh, oh,” Sherry groaned. “Come on, ladies,” she told the others, “we have ten more of these to run.”
“Damn, I don't remember the first day of camp being so rough,” Pat groaned as she slid into the hot tub on the deck at the back of the house. “You'd think I'd be used to it by now.”
Sherry held out a bottle of beer to her lover. “Maybe the rumors are true.”
“Isn't alcohol forbidden during the season?” Pat asked reaching for the bottle.
“Yes, but, technically, the season doesn't start until tomorrow.”
Pat placed the bottle's mouth against her lips and tilted it upward. “That's cutting a pretty fine line,” she said after taking a long swallow.
“You could report me.”
“Nah, too much paperwork,” Pat said with a wink. “What rumors?”
“You're getting old.”
“Sheesh, I'm only three years older than you.”
“You keep up what you did today and you'll seem fifty.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
Sherry took a swallow of beer. “You're trying too hard.”
“I watched you… you're trying to out play everybody.”
Pat's brow creased. “I'm just doing what I expect of everyone else… giving a hundred percent.”
“No, you're giving ten times that. You don't have to prove anything, Pat.”
“I'm not trying to,” Pat snapped.
Sherry took another swallow of beer. “Honey, I'm not criticizing—”
“No, I'm not. I'm just saying you need to slow down. If you keep working as hard as you did today, you won't make it through training camp; let alone the season.”
“You suddenly became an expert on this?”
“Dammit, Pat,” Sherry shot back, “don't pull that attitude with me. You're the head coach, act like it. There's no way you'd allow any other player to do what you did today—you never took a break and you pushed yourself right to the point of exhaustion. If I tried that… or anyone else, you'd sit my ass on the bench for the rest of the day.”
Pat sunk deeper into the water until only her nose and eyes were above the bubbling surface. She glared into the night while she considered Sherry's words. “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit,” she muttered under the water.
“Look, do it your way,” Sherry said disappointedly. “Just remember you promised Mac and the players… and me, you wouldn't do this. It's only day one and you've already broken that promise. I can't wait to see what the rest of the season is like,” she grumbled standing up to climb out of the hot tub.
Pat sat up. “Wait,” she exclaimed as soon as her mouth rose above the water.
Annoyed, Sherry glared at Pat. “I'm going to take a shower.”
“Please, sit down.”
“Because you're right,” Pat grudgingly admitted. “And we need to talk about it.”
Sherry slowly sat then waited.
“Okay, I did act like an idiot today. I'm just… I just don't want to look like one on the court,” Pat said in explanation.
Sherry groaned. “Ugh! I figured we'd end up having this conversation halfway through the season.”
“Maybe its better we're having it now.”
“I think it would be better if we never had to have it.”
“Sherry, I'm just trying…”
“I know what you're trying to do, just don't try so damn hard. Honey, your first priority needs to be coaching. If you don't do that, this team will fall apart. Is that what you want?”
“Then be the coach. The rest will come… I know it will.”
“I need to practice—”
“Of course you do. But, jeez, Pat, you designed every play we run. You know them inside and out. Do you really think you have to prove that every day in practice by showing up the other players?”
“Was I… doing that?”
Pat slowly sunk down until she was completely under water leaving Sherry to wonder how long she planned to stay that way. After several moments, she emerged frowning. “I'm an ass.”
Sherry laughed. “Some days.”
“Thanks a lot.”
Pat reached up to smooth her hair, forcing the water from it. Leaving her hands on the back of her head, she tilted it back and sighed deeply. “Okay,” she said dropping her arms into the water with a loud splash and looking at Sherry. “Point taken.”
Sherry stretched out a leg, when her foot made contact with one of Pat's thighs she began a sensual message. “Did I ever tell you I like older women?”
“Really? Hmm, maybe because I've been living with one for a year I've just acquired a taste for them,” she declared with a sexy grin.
Feeling her body react to her lover's touch, Pat eased her leg away from Sherry's foot. “You do remember we have to get up at five tomorrow?”
Sherry groaned. “You do know how to kill a moment, don't you?”
“Does this mean no beer and no sex for the season? Cuz if it does, I'll quit right now. I can't go that long without you, woman.”
Pat laughed. “No more beer. As for sex, we better limit that to weekends.”
“Shit, Pat, you're killing me,” Sherry muttered shifting to sit beside her. She turned to face her lover. “All better?” Pat nodded. “Still friends?”
Pat finished the beer then dropped the bottle onto the deck. “The best. Remind me to pick that up later,” she added draping her arm over Sherry's shoulders. “Thanks.”
Sherry snuggled closer. “You said our number one priority is winning the championship.”
“And you said to kick your ass if you start doing stupid things.”
“You did,” Sherry replied smirking.
“Well, if I didn't I should have.”
“I love you.”
“Even when I'm an ass.”
“Does it help to know that it'll be just as bad for me?” Pat asked moments later when their lips separated.
“Oh, that.” Sherry leaned against Pat. “A little,” she said gazing into her lover's eyes. “Maybe we should say weekends and Wednesdays.”
Pat's hand slipped behind Sherry's neck and gently pulled her close so she could again press their lips together.
“How wrinkled do you think we'd be if we stayed here all night?” Sherry asked when they separated to breathe.
Pat smiled and pulled Sherry into her lap. “Who cares?” she asked before reclaiming her lips.
To Be Continued...
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