Contains bad words and sex-y scenarios. For mature (18+) readers.
A War on Two Fronts
Austin flipped the channel, bypassing every news station still talking about his home being shot up and the walls left like Swiss cheese. Somehow their gated-community’s system got hacked, and the guard at the main entrance conveniently left his post at the same time, allowing somebody access to their home. Even though the shooter or shooters didn’t get inside the private front gate at the end of the driveway, because of their weapon of choice, they didn’t have to.
The offender(s) did the same to three more houses on the street belonging to a Dallas point-guard, a real estate investor, and an internet celebrity. Based on the internet celebrity’s recent posts and some kind of controversy he was toiled in, the police believed he’d been the real target.
Austin didn’t care. His children could have been at home.
The guard was fired and placed under investigation. The company who’d monitored the system was replaced. That had happened three days ago and yet, the incident was still on the news.
It had gone from the original story of the break-in to an exposé about, “How Secure is our Home Security,” and then to an investigative report that had revealed the security company’s troubled financial situation.
He’d assumed that would have been the worst thing to happen in the last week. Hell, the year. But as he arrived at the ESPN channel and the ticker at the bottom flashed the latest news—Houston linebacker, Matt Wilson, traded to Dallas just days after a major scuffle with Austin Riley—he knew the entire month would be a shit-show.
Sommer appeared in the living room with Eli on her hip, Eli’s attention on playing with the strap of her pajama tank top. “Morning, babe.”
He grumbled a response. Eli mimicked the sound.
She disappeared in the direction of the kitchen and came back a few moments later with Eli holding a bottle to his mouth.
“Aren’t you supposed to be headed for practice?” She let Eli down to the floor.
He scrubbed a hand over his face. “I’m on my way.”
“Cutting it kinda close there.”
“You usually don’t mind when I’m running behind.”
She grinned. “That’s when I’m the reason.”
He changed the channel to one of Eli’s preschool shows. Eli toddled in front of the TV, plopped down to sit, and tipped his bottle back like a longneck.
“You had a long day, bud?” Austin crouched, dropped a kiss on his son’s forehead, ruffled his hair, and then stood. “I swear, there’s a fifty-year-old man living inside that boy.”
Sommer laughed and leaned up for a kiss. “Maybe he did have a long day. All those bills he has to pay.”
He swatted her on the butt and headed for the bedroom.
“Austin? I saw the news. I don’t want our kids to visit you in jail.”
Olivia held the banister with one hand and rubbed her eyes with the other as she descended from her upstairs princess quarters. When the information saturated, her eyes widened. “Daddy’s going to jail?”
Sommer shook her head. “No, sweetie. Mommy’s just joking around.”
Austin shot her a look over his shoulder. Sommer smiled, rolled her eyes, and headed for the kitchen.
* * * * *
Sommer sat Eli in his high chair around the breakfast table. He whined and tossed his bottle across the kitchen floor, continuing his antics from when she’d picked him up and interrupted him in the middle of his show.
She retrieved the bottle, set it on the countertop, and placed a plate of French toast sticks, milk, and scrambled eggs in front of Olivia.
Olivia beamed. “Thank you, Mommy.”
“You’re welcome, my love.”
Eli, unhappy he didn’t get the reaction he was looking for from the thrown bottle, burst into screaming tears. Sommer stared at him, shook her head, and placed cut up pieces of French toast sticks in front of him. The crying stopped immediately, but he let the sad face linger for effect.
“Mommy, guess what I’m going to do today?” Olivia asked, using a child-sized knife and fork to spear her already soft scrambled eggs. “I’m going to paint you a picture. A real one, not on paper but on like…what’s it called…can-can—”
“Canvas.” Sommer took a seat at the table with a mug of coffee, one eye on Eli.
“Yes, canvas!” Olivia swallowed a bite. “We’re painting Fall. My teacher, she’s from Indiana and she said Fall there is different and I asked her how and she said it’s because…”
Sommer sipped while Olivia rattled on.
She eased back in her seat, confident Eli was satisfied and wouldn’t be causing any more problems that morning. At least, for now. Half her attention was on Olivia while the other half was on Austin. The house being shot up was a rare, once-in-a-lifetime kind of event, but things were already tense for him. It was the last thing they needed right now.
They didn’t tell Olivia about it, and she was still having dreams of the sound of the bullets hitting the walls. And then, to make matters worse, he now had to be teammates with Matt Wilson?
She took a long sip of the aromatic, slow roast. Maybe them being on the same team would help things. Men weren’t really known for holding grudges, and it was possible Matt was coming on strong because he’d wanted to get under Austin’s skin. Disagreements could sometimes boost a public figure’s career if they got “into it” with the right person. Austin was Dallas’ golden boy. Matt wouldn’t be the first to try to get a piece of him, but he was the first to do it the way he was.
“…but then, I didn’t really think that would work.” Olivia cradled her cup in both hands and swallowed a gulp of milk. Sommer’s heart warmed when she pulled the cup away, revealing a milk mustache.
“So how’d you solve the problem?” Sommer asked.
Olivia opened her mouth to respond, but a burp snuck out.
She giggled and thumped her chest. “Scuse me.”
Sommer’s phone vibrated on the kitchen island.
“Good use of manners, sweetheart,” she acknowledged, hurrying over to the phone when she saw Austin’s name on her watch. She lifted it to her ear. “Hey, handsome.”
It wasn’t Austin’s voice, but she knew whose it was.
“Matt, what are you doing with my husband’s phone?”
“Stuff happens. I miss you.”
“Am I going to have to get other people involved to get you to stop?”
“Look, Sommer,” he sighed, “I wanted to apologize about how I came off the other day. I was way out of line. You’re one of the best in the business. I mean, look at what you did for Lincoln. And he was your first client.”
“Please give me another chance.”
She couldn’t believe this man was in his thirties. He’d gone out of his way to steal Austin’s phone and break into it. Maybe if she’d been with anyone but Austin, and they were fifteen years old, she would have thought this was endearing.
She also didn’t understand Matt’s preoccupation with her. The man was attractive, well-hung, and rich. Even if his thing was women who were off-limits, Austin wasn’t the only player in the league who was married…and a few of those wives would have given it up already.
“Talk to Gary.” She ended the call, mainly because she really wasn’t sure Austin wouldn’t end up in jail if he found Matt on his phone and talking to her. Hell, he might start changing his mind about her interest in Mark, and they’d already gone through enough of that with his almost-baby mama around four years ago.
“Mommy!” Olivia waved her arms over her head. “Eli’s calling you.”
Sommer turned the phone face down and walked back to the kitchen.