“Who’s that chick?” Rocco asked Ralph. They are surrounded by balloons, laughter and cake in London. He flew down for his friend’s baby shower. Ralph and Rocco have been friends since the academy, Ralph was only there on a summer training he was going to go back to England to inherit his family’s multibillion pound empire whilst being someway in line for the throne having inherited his great-grandfather’s title. Married to Caroline his incredible wife, a financial maven with her own hedge fund, very much in demand. Ralph and Caroline are two of his very good friends by way of Ralph, and they have stayed in each other’s lives for that long. Rocco missed the birth of their daughter two years to whom he is godfather, thanks to his maddening schedule, but he was not about to miss another big moment in one of his best friend’s life.
Ralph hadn’t missed a moment in his. Nor had the other guys, they were always there for one another. Granted four of them played baseball on the other side of the world and one of them was in London, they found a way.
‘The one with all the flowers.’
Ralph spared a look at JJ, who was busy fussing over flowers for the shower. ‘That’s JJ, Caroline’s friends from boarding school.’ He looked back at his friend. ‘No way Rocco she’s a good girl.’
‘What is that supposed to mean?’
‘It means what it means, she’s a good friend of my wife’s who’s come all the way from New York to create this paradise of flowers for her baby shower and I will not have you messing with that friendship. Caroline will have your guts for garters.’
‘You’re breaking my balls man. I like her, introduce me.’
‘No.’ Ralph points at Rocco with a silver cake fork. ‘Stay away from her Rocco.’
‘Come on. I’m a good guy.’
‘You’re a sports superstar with all the trappings who just spent half the day talking about his ex-girlfriend whom he’s not sure he’s ever loved for the past ten years of being with her, being known together by the press and the fans, walking red carpets with her, giving interviews… and now you’re… you’re crazy.’
‘When you put it like that…’ Rocco trails off. He needed to get away from the fiasco of his on again off again relationship with his Alexa, his now ex for however long. It was always this way with them; break up to make up like the Method Man song. Her problem was his feet dragging to get down the aisle, she’s his publicist therefore entangled in his business and now that they are on this break he needed to get away from it all. To think. She hung out with the other baseball wives, and despite not being one of them officially they treated her like one. They were an “it” couple from the moment the press got wind of their relationship, on every “it” list, every VIP list. Alexa was the perfect girlfriend and the smartest PR person, she curated his public persona to perfection and they’d been mixing business with pleasure pretty much on their first meeting. Lately however, she’d been dropping hints about not wanting to be a forever girlfriend.
On the red carpets the reporters would allude to that and she’d be coy enough but only just to get tongues wagging. To the world they were perfect, but behind closed doors, the rows got louder and Alexa got angrier at him. She’d threatened to drop him for her client list if there was nothing for her in it. She made that threat once before and he’d told her there would not be a second time. She all but laid out her plans and he got on the plane to London. He called his manager and asked him to put together a team of possible candidate for his PR, and terminate his contract with Alexa.
There was hell to pay.
‘You asked your manager to end our contract?’ Alexa was livid. She didn’t think he would call her bluff.
‘I did. I told you there wouldn’t be a second time.’
‘Fuck you Rocco. You would be nothing without me, nothing at all. I made you into the man you are. I made you Rocco Rossi on and off the baseball field.’ She knew she was pushing it, he was Rocco Rossi before she came on the scene, he was not hiding who he was, the fact that he’d gotten into fights, been in Juvvie once and had a sealed record, Rocco was not hiding behind that and the rough only made him more bankable. ‘And I hid all your secrets. I know where your bodies are buried.’ Alexa finishes, that venom dripping from her tongue.
‘Are you done.’
That resolute tone of his lets her know how far she’d pushed it. She’d gone too far, pushed too much.
‘I made me on the field and off it, my talent, my skills, the same one that makes me and you by extension a lot of fucking money. You don’t get to threaten me with secrets I am not hiding behind. I own my past, my present and all of who I am. I was Rocco Rossi before you showed up on the scene. My parents gave me that name.’ Rocco pauses, reigning in his anger. ‘So are you done?’
‘I am. Done with you.’ Not really but she’ll give him time to cool off, because this is what they do. Good thing he is in London too.
Or is it?
Rocco couldn’t stand the back and forth anymore and the outside pressure was getting to them big time. This was for the best, except the other ten times was also for the best. This time however, the distance made it easier. Him hiring a new publicist would not make as much news because no one really knows the inner workings of his team and Alexa would want to control that narrative make sure the news of their break up never got out. They were going to get back together after all. Or were they? Rocco looks over at JJ, her thick braids loosely pilled on her head as she talked to the women who were gathered around her, working on their floral crowns.
As if feeling his look JJ looked over to where Rocco stood with Ralph and just for a split second, she falters and there is that half smile. Kismet.
‘Rocco…’ Ralph had been looking at his friend checking JJ out. Smitten.
‘I didn’t do anything.’
‘If Caroline finds out-’
‘Caroline finds out what?’ Ralph’s wife, all seven months pregnant and glowing appeared behind them.
‘How did you get here? You were just there.’
‘Well I saw this one smiling at my girl over there and caught that moment between them.’
‘It wasn’t a moment.’ Rocco laughed.
‘Sure it wasn’t.’
‘I told him you’d kill him.’
‘I think they’d make a good couple.’
‘WHAT?!’ Both Rocco and Ralph exclaim in unison.
‘She’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s sexy, she’s an incredibly successful business woman and she’s not into his world.’
‘Darling, are you feeling alright?’
‘I’m pregnant, and hormonal. Rocco’s the baller, sexy and a badass. Do you want in?’
‘I cannot believe I’m hearing this from your right now.’ Ralph exclaims, shocked at his wife’s inference.
‘I know JJ is not dating anyone.’
‘He’s barely out of a relationship himself. Barely .’
‘The longest he’s gone so I think it’ll stick this time.’
‘Thank you,’ Rocco says pointedly to Caroline, ‘for the vote of confi-’
‘You hurt her, I’ll murder you. Carve you like a turkey at Christmas right to the bone.’ She meant every word.
Caroline caught JJ in the back, tidying up the remnants of the flowers. ‘Thank you so much for today J, this was incredible.’
‘Thank you for allowing me do it.’ JJ took her friend’s hands in her. They don’t make time enough for each other and with the distance it is rarer even with them so when Rocks called and wanted to gift this to Caroline because all three of them had been friends in boarding school, tight as musketeers, she dropped everything and made the time.
‘And I’m going to give Rocks a big smooch when I see her next. I hate that we don’t see each other as much as we’d love to.’
‘At least you two are over there-’
‘Ha! You know Rocks is as busy as they come if I didn’t have to do the flowers for her properties, goodness knows I’d never see her.’
Caroline laughs, ‘the crazy woman and with Bash and his empire…but thank you, the both of you. It means the world to me that we still maintain a connection despite life being what it is.’
‘Mmm…’ JJ accepts a glass of champagne from the passing tray. ‘We were such tyrants in boarding school weren’t we. Sister Agatha will never forget us.’
‘Bless her.’ Caroline rolls her eyes. ‘So what’s good with you? Are you seeing your dad whilst you’re in town?’
‘I had tea with him at the Four Seasons yesterday.’ The subject of her family makes JJ prickly, whilst she, her older sister and two bothers, share a good relationship, things with her father and second older sister not so much, but she loves her father. He gave her the best opportunities in life, to the chagrin of her second older sister; there is no love lost there.
‘I’m glad you saw him, anytime he sees me at the Farmer’s market he always makes time for me. Always. I think its his way of making sure he is in touch with you somehow. I know a lot has happened there but he misses you, you know.’
‘He’s also still mad at me about everything.’
‘He’s your dad J, he’s hurt. You were and still are his favourite, you deserved to be because of everything with your mother. Give him time to get over it.’
‘He won’t.’ JJ shrugs. ‘And before you ask, I have not spoken to her and I’ve no intention to on this trip. This is all about you.’
‘That was not going to be my follow up question.’
‘Huh. What was?’ JJ did not believe her friend.
‘What do you think of Rocco?’
‘Who is he?’
‘The guy you had a moment with when we were making the crowns.’
JJ rolled her eyes.
‘I saw that. And yes that’s Rocco Rossi the baseball player.’
‘I don’t watch baseball.’
‘You watch entertainment news?’
‘Errr no, I’ve been building a business here missy and I know you avoid that trash like a plague.’
‘He’s a very good mate of Ralph’s and I think you two would hit it off together. He is totally far from your type.’
‘And what type is that?’
‘Clean cut, no rough, proper. Barnaby. Rocco is not that person, he’s a sports star, the best third baseman in the history of baseball and he’s well known, well liked, much loved by the fans-’
‘That’s not my type.’
‘I know, but he’s also a wonderful guy who I think you’ll really like when you get to know him.’
‘He’s a celebrity.’
‘Not like that, not the trashy red carpet type you get these days.’
‘Has he walked a red carpet?’
‘Then he’s not my type.’
‘The part of him outside of the flash, is who I’m talking about that ninety percent of who he is. He’s a good guy but not perfect-’
‘What’s his baggage?’
‘An ex-girlfriend he was on and off with for ten years.’
‘How recent is the off?’
‘A week I think.’
‘I know, I know, I’m hormonal but I have a really good feeling about this.’
‘I have baggage too, you know that.’
‘Go out for drinks with him, just get a feel.’
‘I can’t believe you, I haven’t seen you in years and here you are trying to set me up.’
Caroline shrugged that cheeky smily on her face, ‘at least you know nothing has changed. Furthermore, you know I’m right its fortuitous that you’re here and he’s here, Rocco is always so busy, this is the first time he has seen his goddaughter, but I am taking this as a good sign.’
‘A good sign.’
‘Just have drinks with him.’
It was more than just drinks in the end.