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Shot Taker
Author: Piper Lawson








“This gala is vital for the organization. You’ll be creating the crown jewel of our facility.”

The owner of the Kodiaks is shorter than the players but compensates for it with a suit and watch that look like they cost more than the trailer I grew up in.

“You'll have a budget for supplies and a stipend for living expenses. The balance will be transferred when the work is complete,” he goes on.

“Thank you.” I try to sound as serious as he looks, but secretly I’m buzzing with nervous excitement.

This is the opportunity of a lifetime.

Months ago, I was put on probation from my job doing administration for a small design company.

Days ago, I was serving coffee a few blocks from my apartment in Boston.


I have the chance to show my work to millions of people.

The blank canvas could be the first thing that’s truly mine. A bigger gift than the money or the exposure.

James Parker’s office is dark wood and gold accents. You wouldn’t know it had anything to do with basketball except for the awards in the case and the windows that overlook the court. It’s clear he’s into winning, or at least being seen as a winner.

He nods to a stack of papers between us, an NDA on top. “If you’ll sign these.”

I take a moment to scan the pages, skimming over the legal jargon. I don’t want to miss anything important, but I’m also aware of him watching me.

Once I’m finished signing, I pass them back to him.

“You mentioned it’s a mural for one of the central hallways in the arena. I’ve been working on some ideas.” I pull out the sketches I drew on the plane from Boston yesterday. I’m glad I took an extra day to get here as I set the first concept in front of him. “I was thinking of the Kodiak logo, plus the players in action.”

I flip to an outline of five guys around the basket, one going up for a dunk.

He glances at it before meeting my eyes again. “We need more.”


“No, literally.”

A ribbon of doubt cuts through my anticipation. “How big is the wall?”

He walks me down through the halls. With his lean figure and perfect posture, I’d bet he’s closer to forty than fifty.

Staff nod to him, but in a deferential way rather than a friendly one.

It occurs to me he wasn’t at the wedding.

Because he wasn’t invited or because he declined to attend?

Maybe it was an impulsive idea to return to Denver…

For more reason than one.

He pulls up at the end of the hall that opens into a grand foyer and nods to the wall.

I stare down the length of it, my stomach dropping. “Holy. This entire thing?”

“The entire thing.” He smiles. “You have three months.”

I’ve only ever done small drawings and paintings, nothing of this scale. Brooke was right when she said James Parker didn’t do things halfway.

“Why me?”

The owner folds his arms, the diamond face of his watch glinting in the light. “Because timing is everything. And right now, you’re who everyone wants.”

Not everyone.

My mind flashes to Clay.

The Kodiaks’ all-star power forward.

The gorgeous, rich athlete who dragged me into his world, who kissed me like he needed me and told me without words that I belonged here.

When the offer from the Kodiaks' owner came in, coming back and confronting all those emotions I tried to leave behind seemed insane.

But I have friends here.


I loved the time I spent in Denver leading up to the wedding. Except…

The hairs on my neck lift. I turn, half expecting to find Clay standing there. He’s not, but there’s a full-story image of Clay on the opposite wall. He's dressed in his Kodiaks uniform, palming a ball with one hand and eyeing the camera as though he’s a bear that could swipe it to the ground if it looks at him wrong.

Since the Kodiaks Camp charity auction, my online following has been doubling every week. But with the Architectural Digest feature, it exploded.

People I barely know have reached out to congratulate me, but I’ve heard silence from the man who broke my heart with a letter.

Clay said he didn’t want me.

That we were nothing.

He hurt me in the worst possible way.

After my fiancé left with zero notice, all of our money, and a bunch of revenue from client projects at the design firm, I trusted Clay and believed he was different. I was different with him.

Until it was over.

We might not be on speaking terms, but he’ll be watching me work.

“Access has been restricted to this area, so only staff and players can go here. You won’t be interrupted, even when the public is in the building.”

The owner misreads my concern.

“I have headphones.” I gesture to my bag. “No one will bother me.”

A custodian arrives, driving a small cart. The owner waits for him to remove a ladder from the back and set it up for me.

“You best get started.”

“Thank you, Mr. Parker.”

He surveys me from the tips of my shoes to my pink hair. “Call me James.”

He pivots on one expensive dress shoe, and I turn back to the wall.

It’s fifty feet long and one and a half stories high. A huge mural on display for the team, the city, the world.

I checked the schedule before I came over to the stadium today. The team is on back-to-backs, which means no practice. They’ll be rehabbing and arrive just in time for shootaround and the game.

Today, this echoing place is mine.









“Second day of a back-to-back. How do you feel about your chances?” the reporter asks eagerly at our pregame press conference.

“Same as I feel every night—like we’ll win.”

At this point in the season, there’s a routine to giving comments. They’re the right words on an endless loop.

“Do you think the Kodiaks will make it into the playoffs this year? And if not, what does that mean for you?”

“We’re here to go as deep as we can.”

“Trade talks have been swirling,” begins another reporter, “and your name has been mentioned.”

The room goes quiet.

I shift in my seat, and every eye in the room follows the movement. They’re reading into each blink and breath and cough.

Chloe’s at my side, her knuckles cracking against her iPad.

“I’m here to play ball,” I say evenly. “The rest is above my paygrade.”

Chloe nods, which means I’m off the hook. I shift out of the chair and shoulder my gym bag, putting on my Beats headphones as I leave to prep for the game.

The past few weeks have been a blur. Work out, play, get on a plane, repeat. The schedule never bothered me before, but now I’m finding fault with what used to be my comfort.

Probably because of the throbbing ache in my gut and chest that never goes away.

Sometimes when I’m giving it everything, I swear it’ll be enough to take the edge off. If I’m tired enough, I won’t have the energy to feel this.

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