Out of Bounds

an excerpt

Chapter One


"Mr. Johnson, how do you feel being the number one draft pick for the Stars?"

"Is there a lot of pressure to contribute right away, knowing it's only the team's fourth year in the league?"

James Kendall, Kasey's agent, stepped in front of Kasey, drawing all the reporters' attention. "My client isn't answering any questions at the moment, gentlemen...and ladies," he amended when he spotted the female reporter from one of the national sport shows. "We're in the middle of delicate contract negotiations. We don't want to mess those up by talking out of turn."

Kasey managed to keep from rolling his eyes. Delicate, my ass. James had gone into the first meeting like he was marching into battle, determined to get Kasey the most lucrative deal he could.

He appreciated the effort, but to be honest, he didn't care what they paid him as long as he got to play. Look at you, sprouting the company line already. The voice in his head sounded like his twin. Garrett would pull a rib laughing if he'd heard Kasey say shit like that. It was true as far as it went, but James wanted to make sure Kasey would be taken care of for life.

Coming out for the draft his junior year of college disrupted his educational path. Yet Kasey planned on doing whatever he had to do to get his degree. Hell, he promised his mom he wouldn't turn his back on that since Garrett had thrown it all away on his silly Hollywood dream. Her words, not Kasey's. Of course, she hadn't meant them. Garrett had surprised his parents with dropping out of school and moving to Los Angeles. To be honest, they hadn't been thrilled when Kasey announced he was entering the draft. Education was far more important to his parents then basketball or acting.

In addition to his parents' beliefs in education, Kasey had seen too many pro players go bankrupt after they retired because they hadn't made plans for after they stopped playing. He wasn't naive enough to think his basketball career would last forever. Ten to fifteen years if he managed to stay healthy by some miracle. He'd retire by thirty-seven and still have a lot of his life left. He was going to invest his money and not go crazy buying shit. If you get a good contract. Don't go spending cash you haven't made yet.

Maybe he'd start his own company or invest in someone else's. He didn't have to decide right then and there. But his future was always in the back of his mind.

"Car's here, Kasey." James motioned for him to follow.

They pushed their way through the crowd of reporters and fans gathered outside the main office for the Arizona Stars, the newest team in the league. Kasey sighed as he settled into the backseat. "I hate all that," he muttered.

James chuckled. "Maybe we should get Garrett to play you when we have to do press conferences."

"He'd love that, if only to feel like he was putting one over on the media." Kasey grinned.

"He can't hate the media already. He hasn't even starred in a movie yet."

Kasey straightened. "Hey, I forgot to tell you. Garrett got the part. He's the lead in some big action movie. It's his shot to hit the A-list."

James glanced up from his phone. "Well, your brother's got the talent and drive. Plus the notoriety of being openly gay in a country where it's still not a hundred percent accepted."

That was true, but if anyone could use that to his advantage, it would Garrett. "Garrett's always marched to his own drum. He's one of those people who think the world should be one way and somehow it remakes itself to fit his image."

Kasey's phone buzzed and he checked the number on the screen. "Speak of the devil and he shall appear...or call," he quipped as he answered.

"What?" Garrett sounded puzzled.

"Nothing." Kasey shifted around, trying to find a little extra room for his legs. "What's up?"

"Rich and I just hit town. On our way to your hotel. We thought we'd check out a club or two since this is going to be your home base for the next couple of years. Gotta make sure the nightlife's exciting around here."

"I don't want to go, Garrett. I really just want to take a shower and veg in front of the tv tonight. Also, don't jinx things. We haven't signed anything with the Stars yet." Even while he spoke, he knew his protest was futile. If both Garrett and Rich, Garrett's boyfriend, wanted to go out, Kasey would be hitting the clubs.

"You've not even in pre-season training, Kase. You can stay out late and drink too much." Garrett's voice lowered. "Even get some action before turning into a monk for the season."

Tension shot through Kasey. He looked over at James, relieved to see his agent on his own phone call.

"I don't shit where I eat, bro. You know that," Kasey said softly.

Garrett sighed. "I know. I can't help but think you're going to be extremely lonely your entire career."

"Maybe but it's my choice. Hollywood's more forgiving." Kasey changed the subject. "James and I are on our way back. Find a good restaurant because I'm hungry and I want to eat before we go anywhere. Pick two clubs for us to visit tonight. It's been a long day, Garrett, and I'm serious about being tired."

Garrett seemed to have accepted his stipulations. Kasey let his twin get his way more often than not, but he could dig in his heels and out stubborn a mule when he wanted.

"Fine. We'll pick ones that are gay-friendly, but aren't straight gay."

They both snorted at that statement.

"You know I don't care about that."

"I know. I'm your cover and I'm fine with that for now."

Kasey heard the implied statement that Garrett wouldn't always be. He knew at some point he'd have to ‘come out', but he didn't think it needed to be right now. Not when he was on the brink of getting everything he'd always wanted. Well, almost everything. Finding someone to love would have to wait. Kasey was used to being alone and he meant what he said to Garrett, he wasn't going to mess around with anyone in Phoenix. Playing for one of the pro teams in the city meant he could be recognized at any time, and again, that was a risk he wasn't about to take.

Kasey heard Rich in the background and Garrett's quickly replied, "Shut up" told him he didn't want to know what his brother's boyfriend said. He bit his tongue. No one in the Johnson family, except for Garrett, liked Rich. Kasey believed Rich hitched his wagon to Garrett's rising Hollywood star. The man liked eating at expensive restaurants and being seen at exclusive parties. He liked going to clubs every night when they were in Los Angeles. Rich wanted to hang with the ‘in' crowd.

He always managed to convince Garrett he needed to have the latest designer everything, and as Garrett's boyfriend, Rich deserved those things as well. It drove Kasey nuts to see his brother manipulated like that, but at the moment, Garrett loved Rich and no one could say anything against him.

Maybe someday that'll change. Hopefully Garrett will see what an ass Rich is. Kasey just hoped his brother's heart wouldn't be broken when it happened.

"Garrett in town?" James grinned.

"Yeah. Already plotting a night out."

James nodded. "Not surprising. An up-and-coming star like he is needs to be seen often, though that boyfriend of his seems to need the attention more."

"That's true."

"What's true?"

Kasey winced, having forgotten Garrett could hear him. "Nothing. How far away from the hotel are you?"

"We just pulled in."

After checking his watch, Kasey said, "We're about five minutes away. Wait for me in the lobby. James got me a suite so if you want to crash with me, you can. Got an extra bedroom."

"Cool. We're only here for the night. I have an audition tomorrow in LA."

"You can tell me all about it over dinner," Kasey promised. "See you in a few. Did you want to join us for dinner?" He asked James while shoving his phone in his pocket.

James shook his head. "I'm going to order room service and do some work before going to be early. You can come to the meetings looking all haggard and sleep deprived. They kind of expect it from rookies feeling their oats. I'm the one who has to make sure you get the best contract possible, so I have to be on top of my game."

"Do you really need me there tomorrow? I thought I might check out some houses. If I'm going to be here for the next two years, I need to have a place to stay." Kasey didn't think he'd be able to take another day of listening to the negotiations between James and the team's lawyers.

"No. Not tomorrow. We're just hashing out the little stuff. Incentives and bonuses. Do you want me to see if Alice can get you a list of houses on the market in the area? If you give me a list of what you're looking for, I can email it to her and she can get it back to you in the morning."

Alice was James' crazy efficient personal assistant and she was paid very well to do whatever James asked, but Kasey didn't want to bother her. Besides... "Nah. My mom already hopped online and sent me some addresses to check out. Once she knew who drafted me, she was on the computer, determined to find me the right house." He chuckled. "I might end up having her fly here and go look for me."

"Mamma Johnson is fierce," James agreed. "She'd find you the perfect place, plus get a great price for you as well. Maybe you should have her as your agent."

Kasey shook his head. "No way. I think you'll do just fine."

The car pulled into the driveway of the hotel then stopped in front of the doors. After climbing out, Kasey stretched and grimaced as his ribs twinged a little. In the national championship game, he'd taken a hard elbow to the ribs, bruising them. Thank God, they weren't broken, but it had taken a while for him to be able to breathe without any kind of pain. The doctors had promised the ribs would be healed before pre-season practices started. Now it only bothered him when he moved just right.

Walking into the lobby, he glanced around when he heard his brother's laugh. His heart leapt a little at seeing Garrett. They were identical twins and appearance-wise that was true. No one could tell them apart just by looking at them. Well, no one but their family of course. If anyone spent any time with them, they'd notice the differences. Garrett was outgoing, always ready to talk or go out. He definitely got all the star genes and as the oldest—by three minutes—Garrett liked to lord it over Kasey.

Kasey knew he was quiet. Maybe it came from having Garrett as a brother. It had always been easier to let Garrett do the talking then to put himself out there. Kasey wasn't shy or anything. He just didn't see the point of talking if he didn't have anything to say. Also, he was more cynical than Garrett, which was odd, considering Garrett made his living in Hollywood. It took a lot to convince Kasey people wouldn't try to use him for whatever they could because he was ‘famous'. Or about to be famous. He glanced at the slight blond man hanging on his brother's arm and acknowledged that most of his cynicism came from being exposed to Rich.

"There you are." Garrett broke away from Rich to rush over and wrap Kasey up in a huge hug. No manly chest bump and shoulder smack for him.

"Hey man, take it easy. My ribs aren't totally healed yet." Kasey grunted, but didn't push Garrett away.

"Oh sorry. Forgot about that." Garrett grinned. "Nice to see you again, James." Garrett offered his hand for James to shake.

"So we have reservations on this amazing Thai restaurant in thirty minutes. You have twenty to change," Rich informed Kasey, his gaze scanning the crowd in the hotel.

"Hello Rich. It's good to see you too." Kasey met Rich's eyes with a bland expression.

"Whatever. I know you don't like me, so we don't have to pretend when Garrett's not around." Rich rolled his eyes. "I'm pretty sure you don't want to go clubbing in a suit, so you should hurry up."

Kasey swung around to head to the elevator. "I'm heading up to change. You coming with me?"

The others joined him. He stood in the corner of the car, listening as James, Garrett and Rich discussed some starlet's Twitter meltdown. Kasey didn't know who she was or why she was even remotely important. Following social media and popular people wasn't his thing. Hell, he didn't even follow any sports stars. He knew he would have to set up some accounts once he signed his contract. The teams liked when their players interacted with fans as long as they towed the company line.

He said good-bye to James before going to his suite. After tugging off his suit coat and tossing it over the back of the couch, he untucked his shirt as he asked, "Where are we going tonight?"

"Getting Thai for dinner. Then we're going to Elite, which is a hopping new club downtown. Not a gay club, but they won't toss Rich and I out for dancing together. After that, I thought we could go to Liverpool. Supposed to be another amazing club. Not new and probably isn't on the trend setters list, but it sounds good." Garrett grabbed Kasey's jacket and carried into the bedroom to hang up.

Kasey figured he could deal with the clubs. He wouldn't be drinking and dancing wasn't something he did with any kind of grace, so just hanging out with his brother would be enough. Garrett would be the center of attention like always and Kasey was fine with that. Having lived with his outgoing brother all his life, he'd learned to settle into the background.

Maybe at one time, he'd resented how his brother seemed to draw all the light to him. Then Kasey realized that most of the people who circled around Garrett weren't interested in him as a person, they just wanted to bask in his reflected light. They hoped some of his opportunities would rub off on them. Since Kasey was a basketball player, there wasn't much hope of reflections from his sport.

"Are you ready yet?" Rich poked his head in the room. "It shouldn't take this long. It's not like you dress for the club anyway."

Kasey rolled his eyes at Rich and flipped him off. "I'm almost ready. Is the Thai place fancy? Do I need to keep my suit on or can I put on some jeans and a button-down?"

"Here." Garrett handed him a pair of distressed jeans before going to the closet.

"Where did these come from?" Unfolding the jeans, he studied them. "I know they weren't in my suitcase when I packed it."

Garrett snorted. "Of course, they weren't. They're mine. I knew you wouldn't have anything suitable for clubbing, so I brought some clothes for you. Don't worry. They aren't too tight. You can wear underwear. I know how you are about going commando."

Kasey shrugged. "I don't like how the fabric chafes my skin," he mumbled. After taking off his suit pants, he tugged on the jeans. While they were bedazzled on the pockets and that really wasn't his style, they were only slightly tight around his ass. Which means they are super tight on Garrett. He got the bubble butt gene.

"Can you even breathe when you wear these?" He joked as he took the shirts Garrett held out.

"I don't usually sit when I wear those. I'm out dancing or schmoozing the crowd," Garrett informed him. "So it doesn't matter how tight they are on me."

Kasey finished dressing. The white T-shirt and dark green button down shirt somehow managed to look dressy without being too much for the club. He wanted to slap himself. There was no such thing as being too much for clubbing. He'd seen just about everything at the clubs in L.A. when he'd gone with Garrett and Rich. Hell, some of the outfits Rich wore were enough to make Kasey blush.

He brushed his hair and teeth, grabbed his wallet and phone then gestured for Garrett to lead the way. "I'm as ready as I'm ever going to be, which I'm pretty sure isn't near ready enough for you, Rich."

His brother's boyfriend ignored him, which didn't surprise Kasey at all. They tolerated each other for Garrett's sake, but without his brother, they wouldn't have been friends. Hell, he'd never have met Rich if it hadn't been for the man grabbing a hold of Garrett in college and never letting go. Probably figures he's not talented enough to land roles on his own, so he's going to take advantage of every chance Garrett could get him.

"This will be great. It's been a while since we've hung out." Garrett slung his arm around Kasey's shoulders as they strolled to the elevator.

He hugged Garrett close. No matter what he thought of his brother's boyfriend, Kasey loved Garrett and would do his damnedest to enjoy the rare chance to spend time with him.