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Cocky Score: Chapter 31

Autumn

Waking up next to Briggs after everything he said last night, it was nearly impossible not to tell him that I turned down the promotion and am giving up the job altogether to be with him. But before I do that, I have one last thing I need to get squared away. I need to convince my brother to keep an open mind about me dating Briggs.

I just can’t stomach being the reason these two have a falling out. I need to try first with my brother before I tell Briggs how I feel. Otherwise, Briggs is acting like he’ll happily send my brother a picture of his middle finger and tell him to F off. I can’t risk it.

When we walk into Mr. Conley’s hospital room, armed with a full breakfast in our bellies and a double shot latte for me and black coffee for Briggs, the doctor is already in the room. The look on Briggs’s mom’s face tells us everything we need to know.

“None of us are a match,” she says softly, rubbing Mr. Conley’s shoulder.

Mr. Conley, of course, looks unaffected and is sporting his usual happy smile. He just shrugs.

My breakfast wants to make a quick exit back through my mouth at the news. This was not how I thought today was going to go.

“Don’t lose hope yet,” the doctor says. “We’re still reaching out to the donor program to see if they can find us a match. We just usually like to test family first since it’s the easier course of action.”

“So, what’s the next step?” Briggs asks.

We all look at the doctor for his response.

“We’re sending Mr. Conley home tomorrow, as planned, and we’ll wait to get all of the test results back as well as wait to hear if we have a match from another source.”

“What can we do in the meantime?” Mrs. Conley asks.

He looks at Mr. Conley, speaking to him directly instead of speaking as though he’s not in the room.

“It’s most important that you eat healthily, keep up on all of your vitamins, and try to avoid anyone who is sick. We don’t want you fighting off a cold if we find a donor and decide to move forward. We need you in tip-top shape for the transfer.”

“Is it okay to have visitors at the house?” Briggs asks.

“Yes, just make sure they aren’t sick before they come over. Research has proven that cancer patients with a good solid support system and positive thinking are far more likely to heal and recover than those without a support system and a negative outlook.” The doctor looks over at Mr. Conley. “Keep doing the things you enjoy and spend time with the people you love. It will improve your health.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Mr. Conley says.

“All right, well, I’m going to go check on a couple of other patients, but I’ll be back to check on you in a bit,” the doctor tells Mr. Conley.

I hear a knocking on the door, and when I look over, my heart leaps to see Isaac standing at the door.

“Isaac!” I yelp and race to him, throwing my hands over his neck and give him a giant hug. “You’re here!”

“Of course I am.” He squeezes back. “Hello, Mr. Conley,” he says over my back.

“Isaac, what a surprise,” Mr. Coney says. “What are you doing here? I thought you have a fight in a couple of weeks. Shouldn’t you be training?”

Isaac releases me and heads over to Mr. Conley’s bed.

“Well, I heard there might be some donor testing I could get in on, and I didn’t want to miss my chance.”

“You’d like to be tested?” The oncologist was just on his way out after writing a few more notes on Mr. Conley’s chart.

“Yes, sir. I flew over from Las Vegas on the first flight out this morning when my sister called me yesterday.”

“You didn’t need to do that—” Mr. Conley attempts to argue, but my brother raises his hand to stop him.

“We’re family. That’s what we do,” Isaac says, and then looks over at Briggs.

Briggs walks over, and they embrace for a manly hug that ends in a lot of back-patting.

“It means a lot to me that you’re here,” Briggs tells Isaac.

“I’ll always show up for you. You know that.”

Briggs nods in agreement.

“Follow me, and I’ll take you down to the testing,” the oncologist says.

This is my opening, my chance to talk to my brother alone and convince him to give Briggs his blessing so that we don’t have to go against my brother on this. I already gave up my promotion. This is the last thing I need to secure before telling Briggs that I want to be with him too.

“I’ll come with you,” I tell Isaac, quickly making my way out with Isaac and the doctor.

Once we’re settled in the lab room, waiting on the nurse to come in and swab Isaac, I take the empty room as my opportunity.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’re here. This means a lot to the family… it means a lot to Briggs and me.”

“I know. That’s why I canceled a podcast I was supposed to be on this morning to promote the fights.”

“You did?” I say with a little guilt.

“It’s okay, Autumn. They rescheduled, and I don’t give a fuck if anyone thinks it’s unprofessional. They can go fuck themselves. Nothing is going to keep me from being here.”

Isaac throws his arm over my shoulder and pulls me in for a quick side hug.

“How are you holding up, though?” he asks.

“This is harder than I thought, but seeing Mr. Conley in better shape than I thought he would be in keeps me hoping.”

“How’s your job? What did they say when you wanted to leave on such short notice with everything going on with Briggs and the project?”

“It’s over, actually. The club owner was the one who was blackmailing the franchise and Briggs. Turns out he pissed on the wrong senator, and he’ll be doing some time.”

“Oh shit.”

“Yep.”

“That means you and Briggs aren’t fake dating, or whatever the fuck it was? Did your boss give you the promotion?” he asks, then looks over at me with furrowed brows. “Wait… if you’re not fake dating Briggs, why are you here?”

“Yes, Briggs and I aren’t faking it anymore.” His eyes narrow at the way I word it. “And yes, I was offered the promotion, but I turned it down. I’m turning in my resignation when I get home.”

“What the hell? Why?!” he asks with confusion.

“Why do you think?”

He looks away and shakes his head. “What are you thinking, Autumn?”

“That I love him…”

“Jesus, Autumn. You’re going to regret this. That Derek dude was a better fit.”

“Will you let me finish?” I snap.

Isaac looks at me with surprise. I don’t often get angry with my brother, and it takes him off guard.

“Derek is a terrible person, which only further confirms that you are in no place to tell me who I should or shouldn’t date. You can’t even pick a semi-normal woman for yourself, and you’re pushing me to date a man who went against company policy and ratted to you about my private relationship with Briggs. Not to mention the horrible things he said to me while I was trying to do my job.”

“I didn’t know. I’m sorry. Want me to go beat his ass?” he says, his eyes softening toward me.

“No! Keep your fists in the ring where they belong. Stay away from Derek.” I shake my head at my brother’s desire to try to fix everything with his fists. “As for Briggs, he has done nothing but take care of me and protect me during this entire process, showing me more respect and patience than my own brother at letting me make my own decision as a grown woman.”

He looks past me for a second.

“Maybe…” That’s as close to “you’re right” as I’m ever going to get with him.

“Damn straight, I’m right.” I huff, realizing that I just cursed at my brother. A rarity for me. And he didn’t technically say I was right, but I’m taking it how I want. “And yes, maybe you’re right. Maybe there is a slight possibility I might be disappointed about giving up the promotion and the job someday down the road. But I know with every inch of my being that I will regret giving up Briggs, and that’s the one regret I can’t live with. Do you understand?”

He looks down at his athletic pants. “I guess.”

“The only thing still holding me back is that I can’t let Briggs give up his friendship with you even though I know he will if you push him to do it. He’ll choose me if you force his hand, and I don’t want that to happen. Please, I’m begging you, don’t make him choose. He needs you right now with everything going on with his dad.”

He nods again, not looking at me still.

“You know… I’ve never seen Briggs want a woman so badly that he’d be willing to give up anything for her.” Isaac looks up at me.

“Please tell Briggs you approve.”

My phone vibrates with a call. I pull the phone from my pocket and see it’s Erika. She wouldn’t call after telling me I had the day off unless it was an emergency.

“Shoot, it’s my boss.”

“Take it. It’s fine. I need some air.”

I nod, give him a quick peck on the cheek, and then hightail it out of there. Downstairs has the worst reception, and I’m lucky to have even gotten this call.

I run up the stairs, not wanting to risk losing her in the elevator.

“Hello,” I say, a little out of breath.

“Hi, Autumn. Is this a good time to call? Am I interrupting anything?”

“No, actually. Now’s a good time. Is everything okay?” I say with concern.

I think quickly about the accounts I’ve been assisting with over the past month, even though I’ve been taken off most of them to focus on Briggs. Could she be calling about those? Maybe she needs me to do a few things before I officially quit.

“Oh… yeah, everything’s fine. After you left, I called Phil Carlton and Sam Roberts and had a nice long conference call with them. They are beyond grateful for the work we’ve done for them, especially you, and they confirmed that they will be signing on as a client with a huge retainer.”

“That’s great news,” I say, happy to have been there to help facilitate the win.

“But that’s not all…” she says, excitement in her voice. What could be better than this? “They want more hands-on assistance with turning each of their players into golden boys, at least in the eyes of the media, like you did with Briggs, that they’re asking if I would be willing to create a liaison position for you so that you can work day to day in an office on the Hawkeyes’ premises.”

“What!?” Where is this coming from? I don’t get it.

“Sam says that you, his administrator Penelope, and their in-house PR manager Tessa Tomlin all work together seamlessly, and they want to offer you your own office next to Tessa’s where you two can work together.”

“They came up with this idea?” I have no other words. I can’t even fathom this. Did Briggs do this?

“I was a little surprised too, but it does make a lot of sense since we will be working so closely with the team and all the players. You’ll have a better feel for each team member and how the Hawkeyes operate to better serve them and have a closer working relationship with Tessa. You two could feed off each other.”

“And I’d still work for you?”

“Not exactly, which is how this works out, and my board members are happy too. You’ll be a liaison working between the two companies, so you’ll technically be an independent contractor. You’ll be in contract with me. Of course, I’ll require you to sign a non-compete contract, meaning you can’t work for any other PR firms, and on occasion, I might need you to work on a plan for another client if we need your expertise.”

My expertise? My grin widens at her compliment.

“I can’t even believe this. This offer seems too good to be true, but I don’t think I can accept this offer either, with Briggs and I deciding to stay together. And what about Derek? Will he be working on the Hawkeyes account too?” I ask, not wanting any further contact with the man.

“I’ll get to Derek in a moment, but first I spoke with Sam discreetly about the situation. I hope you won’t feel that I overstepped.”

I don’t say anything because that will depend on Sam’s answer.

“He said that he assumed that you and Briggs were getting closer, and he feels that you are the reason for Briggs cleaning up his act. He has no problem with you two dating.”

“Really?”

“Yep. Sam said he wants to be sure you get a raise for this and to charge it to the Hawkeyes, so I’m doubling your pay.”

“What!? That’s more than the promotion pay I was going to get.”

“I know, but I think you’re worth it, and you’ll be wearing a lot more ‘hats’ over there as our in-house PR director. I have a feeling that you’ll earn every dime with those boys on that team.”

A new wave of relief hits me. I can’t even describe the cloud nine I’m bouncing around on. And it gets me out of the office where I no longer have to see Derek regularly.

“Thank you, Erika. I won’t let you down.” But then a thought comes to mind, and I have to ask. “Did Briggs have anything to do with this?”

“Absolutely not. Sam Roberts thinks you’re a genius, and Tessa likes working with you. This all came about based on your own merits.”

I smile as I walk down to the far end of the hall, where there is a small sitting room and no one in it.

Then I remember I have one other question that she hasn’t answered yet. “You mentioned Derek.”

“Right, yes. You’ll no longer have to worry about bumping into Derek when you’re in the office. He was terminated after you left.”

“He was?!”

That’s surprising. Even with the crap he pulled yesterday in front of the staff, he’s still very good at what he does.

“Sam called me the day before you came into the office and told me that he had heard from Penelope that Derek told your brother about the fake relationship… something you failed to mention…”

“I’m sorry, Erika. I just didn’t want to cause issues.”

“I understand. However, what Derek did was considered a breach of contract, and Sam said that if I didn’t fire Derek, Phil Carlton would void our contract with them.”

“What? Are you serious?”

“Yes. And understandably so. Although I should tell you now, I don’t like not knowing what’s going on under my nose. I was blindsided by a client when my best employee could have warned me that this might be coming.”

I didn’t consider it from that angle. Then again, I told Penelope, Tessa, and Isla in confidence. I can’t be mad, though. Penelope was trying to be a good friend, and her action did ultimately eliminate Derek from us further having to work together.

“It won’t happen again, I swear.”

“Good.” She clears her throat. “I agreed with Sam that Derek should be terminated and that I would have done it sooner had I known. Sam was understanding, and no damage was done, but that’s why Derek was in my office. I called him in to let him know that his employment was being terminated, but you walked in early.”

“I apologize. I wasn’t sure I would have the nerve to turn down the promotion if I didn’t do it right then.”

“It’s not a problem. I let him go after you left.”

“I’m sorry it had to come to that. I hope our drama won’t make you retract your open policy for office romance.”

A pang of guilt hits me.

“It won’t. He was jealous about your relationship with Briggs, but he was aiming for your promotion behind your back. It came with a better office and a bigger salary than his.”

That little shit.

“No wonder. I kind of feel stupid that I thought he wanted me to turn down the project because he wanted to date me.”

“He’s always been a selfish dick, and you’re a catch. He wanted both, so don’t sell yourself short.”

“Thank you, Erika, for everything.”

“Think about the position and let me know.”

“Let me bounce it off Briggs, but I think he’ll like this option.”

“Take care. You’ll start first thing on Monday morning at the Hawkeyes stadium if you decide.”

We hang up, and I stand looking out over the hospital parking lot on the second floor of the hospital, reflecting on everything that’s happened over the last month.


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