Mediopolis Communications, LLC
October 2021, original story
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Game Time Decision: Brooklyn Monarchs, Book V
He only has one shot to prove his love …
At thirty-seven years old, Marlon Burress doesn’t need a game clock to know he’s coming to the end of his NBA playing days. After fifteen years with the Miami Waves, the franchise has traded him to their division rival, the Brooklyn Monarchs. Even worse, his new team signed him to only a one-year contract. But before he walks away from basketball, Marlon needs a new plan. As he considers settling down, his thoughts turn to his greatest challenge yet: winning back his former college sweetheart.
Zerleena Chase spent her entire college career as Marlon’s cheerleader. After he graduated, Marlon made a fast break to his basketball dream, leaving her on the sideline. It took Zerleena years to find her own voice. Now that her satellite radio show is gaining national recognition, Marlon has bounced back into her life, expecting her to play on his team once more. But this time, Zerleena ‘s taking center court. If Marlon wants a second shot at her love, he’s going to have to prove that Zerleena has always been his most valuable partner.
Read an excerpt of Game Time Decision: Brooklyn Monarchs, Book V
“You can’t be serious.”
Zerleena Chase’s wide-eyed stare and offended tone weren’t the reactions Marlon Burress had expected when he’d said he wanted to marry her.
“I am serious.” And very, very confused.
He lowered his flute of red wine and studied her heart-shaped brown features, looking for a reason for her scathing response. Maybe she was tired? Ill? Had the wine gone straight to her head?
After all these years, he hadn’t thought his college sweetheart would throw herself across the table and into his arms. But he hadn’t expected her scorn, either. He’d assumed she’d at least consider his proposal. Instead she’d shut him down with deflating speed and determination like Hakeem Olajuwan, the seven-foot retired professional basketball center, blocking shots at the post.
Maybe she hadn’t understood him. He repeated the words. “Let’s get married.”
Zerleena’s caramel gaze dipped to his half-full wine flute before lifting again to search his eyes. “How much did you have to drink before dinner?”
“I’m not drunk, Leena. And I’m not kidding.” Why was she acting like this? Was she in shock?
“Did you hit your head on your way over here?” Zerleena’s dry declaration puzzled him.
Shaking his head, Marlon turned away, taking a moment to gather his thoughts.
The Italian restaurant in downtown Brooklyn, New York, was full, a testament to its popularity. Its dark wood and crimson red décor gave the establishment a warm, romantic feel. The air was heavy with the aroma of rich sauces and generous seasonings. Each table was dressed with a crisp white tablecloth and a slim, crystal vase, presenting a single deep red rose.
He patted himself on the back for picking the perfect spot for a wedding proposal. DeMarcus Guinn, his former teammate and long-time friend — and now that he was playing for the Brooklyn Monarchs, his head coach — had recommended it.
Marlon had felt the stares from the other Saturday evening guests. As a two-time National Basketball Association champion and former league Most Valuable Player, he was used to the attention. Fans of his previous franchise, Florida’s Miami Waves, had been intense. Brooklyn Monarchs fans weren’t as enthusiastic about him. Yet. But their attention this evening was proof they were warming up. He ignored their stares tonight, though. Tonight was all about Zerleena. She hadn’t noticed the looks or at least she hadn’t said anything.
Marlon returned his attention to his date; his future wife, once she realized he was serious. She was texting again. “Leena, we were good together.”
“Were. In college. Fifteen. Years. Ago.” Zerleena spaced her words as though driving home the history. She set her cell phone aside.
“You look even better now. You’ve been working out.” Marlon offered her a hopeful half smile.
Zerleena at twenty-two had been sexy. Zerleena at thirty-seven was hot as hell. Her raven hair was shorter. It framed her face and swung above her narrow shoulders. Her soft, generous curves had firmed. There was a maturity in her wide caramel eyes that hadn’t been there in college. Perhaps there also was a touch of cynicism, which seemed to be directed at him. It challenged and excited him.
Her gaze cooled, causing Marlon’s smile to shrivel and die. Hope stood on shaky ground.
“I haven’t heard from you since we graduated. Once you were drafted to the NBA, you broke up with me. Do you remember? I do. You said a relationship would cramp your new lifestyle.”
That was then. “Things are different now.”
Her eyes flared again before narrowing. “How?”
Marlon leaned into the table, willing her to understand. “I’ve been traded to the Monarchs. We’re in the same city—”
“With more than eight million other people.”
“— and since I’ll be retiring soon, this would be a good time for me to consider settling down, maybe even raising a family.”
Zerleena’s lips parted. She gave him a slow blink. “Start a family with whom?”
Marlon smiled, inclining his head toward her. “With you.”
“Hold on, pal.” Zerleena extended her right hand, palm out. “I haven’t heard from you in fifteen years. Not five. Not ten. Fifteen. And now because you’ve moved into my city you assume my ovaries are happy to see you? They’re not.”