~*~ Every last word of the pages to follow is from an author's vast imagination and is therefore not supported in true reality. Although the characters to be featured are prominently factual, the numerous scenarios, situations, and events they will encounter throughout the course of the tale are not! Its principal objective is that of enjoyment and entertainment to you, the reader.

~*~ Underage reading or any other illegalities is not condoned nor encouraged in any way by said author. He also will not tolerate any form of plagiarism towards any of the words to come as they are his and his alone. Neither the author nor the Nifty Organization makes a profit from this, or any story, posted on their site. He does it of his own freewill.

~*~ Address any type of question and/or feedback to jc71883@hotmail.com, making sure to add a relation to the story on the subject line of the e-mail as to guarantee its reception.



Chapter Forty-One

~*~ A Rush of Fresh Blood ~*~



Quietness remained stagnant in the car as he continued to drive away, confused and hurt. It happened so quickly that his mind was finally able to slow down and process it all. His body was tired and wanted rest but it was late morning when he pulled up to the wrought iron gates of his mansion and waited for them to completely open before proceeding through. Bryant's mind was quickly trying to come up with more clever lies to explain his whereabouts as his car slowly approached the house. It was almost impossible because he barely got any sleep at Justin's last night. But now that was all over. They were all over. Kobe turned the car off and retrieved his personal belongings as he stepped out and made his way home. There was only about an hour left of the morning. This was not happening. Once inside, the baller smelled fresh coffee so he headed to the kitchen. She was there.

"Hi baby," came his subtle greeting.

Vanessa turned around with the cup of coffee in her hand and simply asked, "Where were you?"

"I crashed at Fisher's house after the party. I had too much to drink so I couldn't really drive home," the lie began with one of his teammates.

"You told me last night that you were only going to be there for a couple hours and then you were coming back home to be with me. I called you and called you and you didn't pick up."

"I'm sorry. Things got kind of crazy out there. There were all these people---"

"---I don't care about all those people Kobe! I would have never let you go if I knew this was going to happen."

The Los Angeles Laker was taken aback and he got upset, "Let me go? I don't need your permission to go anywhere Vanessa."

"I don't understand what's going on with you---"

"Would you rather I had driven home last night?"

"Why did you drink so much?"

"My teammate had a party at his house. I don't count the amount of drinks I have."

"You should have called me or picked up my calls Kobe! Do you know how worried I was?"

He was half expecting an argument as to his antics but he was not mentally prepared for it nor did he want it right now. They were both upset; but for completely different reasons and he just wanted time to think and figure out what his next move was. She had every right to be upset and he could easily get caught in the lie if she even called his teammate Derek Fisher. Bryant was not even sure if his teammate was at his house last night but it was the lie he began yesterday so continuity was key. He walked passed her and to the cabinet to retrieve a cup to pour some coffee. If Vanessa was determined to have this conversation now then he needed some liquid encouragement to wake up. Justin's words threw him so far off course that he was unsure of how to return. Kobe sipped the freshly brewed coffee and looked up at the kitchen's ceiling to try and find a way to end this as soon as possible.

"I'm sorry. I don't know what else to say---" the basketballer said after the pause.

"You've been sorry a lot these past months. You've been distant or moody or just not there. What the hell is going on?" she screamed out.

"Nothing! I'm fine."

"You're lying to me Kobe! You were never like this. Our relationship was never like this. Talk to me. Tell me what's wrong."

"Vanessa---I---I just have a lot on my mind."

"We used to talk about everything. What changed sweetheart?"his girlfriend was highly upset and hurt.

"I don't know. Can we talk later? I want to relax now."

"What is this---your hangover period? Why would you drink so much? And not call me? You had to know how much that would hurt me."

"---I wasn't thinking," Bryant blurted out.

"I'm sick of this. I'm sick of the mood swings---the distant cold attitude---you lying to me."

"I'm not lying to anyone!"

Vanessa sat in the breakfast nook of their kitchen with the cup of coffee in front of her. She looked out the window and remained quiet, not knowing what to do next. It had been like this for months now. He barely took her anywhere anymore; they spoke so infrequently. It felt like the intimacy in their relationship was slowly dying and that she was the only one fighting to save it. Kobe's sex drive was also displaced and weaker. They were still intimate but she felt like it was more of a chore to him than to be close to her. And their encounters were sporadic and detached. She had so much time to think about this but she never once went to infidelity because her boyfriend was not that type of person. He was an honest and decent man. He would never do that to her. Something big was bothering him though because the disconnect in their relationship was no longer oblivious or could be denied.

Even he was starting to believe the lies. His body felt a bit drowsy and unresponsive as if he were in a hangover state and the conversations between him and Fisher last night were forming in his mind. The breakup with Justin took everything out of him and he just wanted to rest but she seemed determined to have this conversation now. It was a bad move on his part; he had to admit it. A pair of eyes was on him while he drank the coffee and propped up against the marble countertop for support. There were control issues that resonated deep within him because of his father. Kobe hated being controlled or told that he could not do something. What Vanessa said to him earlier made him lash out because unwanted feelings of his past were resurfacing. Black and cold silence clung onto the air until she could no longer bear it. So many questions had to be asked and so many things had to be explained.

"Why are you pushing me away?" came out of the darkness.

"I'm not."

"It feels like you are."

"Well I'm not," the shooting guard distantly said.

"Is that all you're going to say? We have real problems here Kobe. They aren't just in my mind."

"I---can't talk about this now."

"Why? Where were you last night?"

"I told you! What more do you want from me Vanessa? I can't talk to you right now. I'm tired and I might say things I regret or don't mean. Please can we do this later---" he was outspoken almost to the point of being scathing.

His girlfriend got up from the breakfast nook and walked out of the kitchen without a second glance. He watched her until she disappeared away and pounded his fist against the cold marble. Thoughts and feelings were seducing him into things he never expected himself to do or have. The Los Angeles Laker stopped drinking the coffee and left the kitchen behind to one of the many guest rooms in his sprawling mansion. He was sure that Vanessa needed time alone too as he did so he left her upstairs and plopped down onto a bed downstairs in one of the guest rooms. The black coffee had no effect because Bryant was asleep after only a few minutes of lying down. Rest was needed. With it, his head could be clearer for when they spoke later about his actions. It was not something Kobe was looking forward to but the strain was too much to ignore. This was how it had to be for now. It was quiet.

Kobe Bryant awoke only a few hours later to find that the early afternoon Sun shone into the bedroom. He sat up on the bed to gather his head and thoughts as it all came trickling back. A light was constantly blinking on his phone which meant a text message. It was from Vanessa telling him that she went out to run some errands. He did not blame her. He was so messed up the past months with mounting pressure to keep Justin a secret and the steroids and the pressure of being him. He did not blame her for being so worried or angry because he was feeling the same things. She deserved better than this. The baller left the room for upstairs and saw that he was truly alone. He stripped away his dirty clothes to take a shower. It was truly over between them. Kobe wondered what his ex boyfriend was thinking or doing right now. The water tried its best to provide a soothing experience but failed.

It felt like he lost a piece of himself. It did not matter how horrible he treated Justin by lying to him about Vanessa because when it came down to it he genuinely loved and cared for him. And now that piece of him was missing and vacant. It was best to let the dust settle a little first before trying to fix anything, if there was anything left to fix. Timberlake seemed to be through with him. He could not worry about that now because he had to shift his attention to his wilting relationship with his love Vanessa. Kobe knew that he loved her and could not imagine his life without her so he had to fix them. He just did not know how to. The basketballer raided his refrigerator for a simple sandwich and bottle of water and sat in the nook to enjoy it. But he could not just distance himself from Justin. They loved each other and he was going to find a way to get the singer back. He would try anything.

Deep within the house in a simple closet hid an exceptional truth. A reality that only he knew about. On the first floor of the lavish mansion next to one of the many vacant bedrooms was a solitary hall closet. But even that was not enough. Bryant left the nook behind and walked to the forgotten closet to find what he needed. It was the beginning of a new cycle today ironically. He slid the wooden doors apart and looked at the superficial layer of folded towels and spare sheets. The shooting guard averted his eyes to the highest metal shelf where towels towered over. Sliding them aside revealed his secret. A broken ventilation shaft hid everything. Kobe carefully removed the metal frame and dug his hand deep within the shaft to retrieve his steroid package. Vanessa could never reach this spot so it was safe. His fingers felt the package and he pulled it forward and out of its crevice. Another one.

The Los Angeles Laker hung over the vanity of a nearby bathroom, where he always went to do the deed when he was at home, and looked at himself in the mirror. With everything that has happened this release was something that he needed. Justin's taste craved to be on his lips again. He yearned to hold his boyfriend again. The separation had only been hours but it already felt like years and was growing stronger inside him. A big part of him was alone. The mirror painted a picture that Kobe was scared and ashamed of; a weak fool who let one relationship define his entire being. Timberlake was the one though. Three sterile syringes stood perfectly still next to three designated vials all full of clear liquid. It taunted and scowled and pleaded to get done. He always had to shut down his brain to inject these poisons into his system. But something was different this time. And it felt weird.

An overwhelming rage shrouded his body and in one swing of his muscular forearm Bryant knocked everything off the bathroom countertop. Both the good and the bad. The crashing and shattering sound never entered his eardrums because his mirror image had him hypnotized. He wanted to punch the mirror or scream or hurt something; this rage was too much. It was the first time he experienced emotions this bad but his mind was working enough for him to know what was going on. Replacing one evil with another was what set him off. Kobe realized that he was falling into the same pattern as before. His father never accepted or loved him so he shot up to fake those feelings. Now he was about to shoot up this new cycle to try and deal with the pain of losing Justin. The players changed but the concept and reasoning behind it did not. And now he was entering two dangerous cycles.

Motionless jars and dangerous needles littered the floor as tears that once clung to his strong jaw line dropped onto the countertop. The pain could not manifest itself in any other way but this one. His hands propped his body up against the bathroom counter and his head hung low and water splattered everywhere. It felt like a total emotional meltdown and now he made up his mind to discontinue the steroid use; his body was craving it even more. It did manage to get him addicted despite all his efforts to deny it. Justin was right. Kobe sobbed while the breakdown took all his strength and confidence in that bathroom. The bathroom weighed a ton and his soul was pressed into the floor in front of him. His hands shook a little and his eyes were ruby red when he was courageous enough to look back at himself. This should have never happened; it was completely out of control.

But he needed to stand on his own two feet again. The crutch was no longer there or an option for him anymore. Timberlake was gone and the steroids were gone. Two major changes within the past twenty-four hours were what caused the break in his sanity. Kobe dropped his last tear and it was wiped away by the back of his hand before he tried to reform himself. He was unsure of how much time had passed but Vanessa might be home sometime soon and he had to clean his mess up. Carefully, the unused needles and three broken glass vials were picked up. He threw the broken pieces of glass into the toilet and ripped the protective casing from the syringes and broke then all in half. They joined the glass mess in the floating water and were flushed away from his life. Bryant grabbed tissues and cleaned up the spilled poison on the bathroom floor to flush it as well. A weight was lifted.

The Los Angeles Laker sat at the elegant dinner table in the head seat in a trance-like state. His eyes stared forward and blinking was drastically reduced. It was withdrawal. His body knew that the drugs were nowhere inside him and now the sensation to do it was becoming unbearable. Maybe if he stayed completely still it would all go away. His broken heart would piece back together and the primal urge to shoot up would disappear. Hands were shaking and his head was clouded now more than before in the bathroom. Kobe had a life to live and this was not the way to do it. If his girlfriend saw him like this then she would know something was wrong and only try to probe deeper. He was considering telling her about the steroids now to get her off his case but she would never know about Justin. She was never going to find out about that part of his life; that side of his aching heart.

Kobe struggled inside until he was able to regain control of himself. They steroids were a part of his life for so long now that he had completely forgotten what it felt like to control his own self. The road to recovery ahead was going to be long but he was going to walk it alone because he started it alone. No clinics or rehabilitation centers. This was something he had to do for him to prove that he could. Within the positive mindset the shaking soothed and the rejection was becoming manageable. The chocolate basketballer had to think of what to say when Vanessa got back. Things between them were left in a heavy state of disarray and he had to fix it somehow to make her trust him again. It was a strain on their relationship where Vanessa was giving everything she had but he was only able to reciprocate back fifty percent. The guilt was building more inside him and things had boiled over.

The other fifty percent was only allocated to Justin but he had to painfully admit to himself that it was over between them. It was the right way to go because now Bryant could go back to giving all of himself to his relationship with his girlfriend. But he would never be able to kiss the singer's perfect lips again. Or passionately bond their hands together when they made love. Or share his deepest hopes and desires and fears. It had to be truly over; this was the way it all ended. The cravings were sprouting again but the baller was determined to fight it off and vowed never rely on drugs to solve his problems again. Doing so only enhanced the problems both in his professional and personal life. Yet another thing linking the two together. Kobe finally had enough; he was sick of feeling sorry for himself and was not going to let Vanessa get away from him. They belonged together after all.

But he at least deserved to know this despite what happened between them. He got up and left the dining room behind to backtrack to find his phone. He was harassed again and just wanted to relax but his insides were stir crazy missing the drugs and Justin Maybe shooting some hoops was the answer but he would do that after he sent this text message. Kobe sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the mobile device in his hands; it moved through his fingers easily. Another text message from Vanessa informed him that she was going to be home within the next hour and it was almost up so she should be nearby. He over-thought what he wanted the text to say because there was so much to say but that bombardment would lose the true intent of the message. Bryant pressed on the keypad but then had a second thought and deleted it. Only moments later, the true message was boiled down to its simplest form.

I quit. –KB.


Under a sunlit sky the Los Angeles Laker shoots an orange ball towards a ring high up in the clouds. Sweat trickles downs from him temples and across his face until they fall on and disappear on the rubber court. It is a recent upgrade from the pitch black tar one from before. The sweltering Sun does not bother him as much as his mind is; quitting the steroids and coping with losing Justin. They were watching TV together this morning while in bed and the show said that Justin went overseas to Japan. So now he is running and sweating and shooting his pain away on the large court in his backyard. Plus he has to work that much harder to keep his game intact now that the steroids are gone. Kobe knows that he was only using the drugs to deal with the raw and forcibly hidden emotions about his father but he also cannot deny that they pushed his game far beyond its peak and to a whole other level.

The spasms still occur but are not as prominent as they once were and the cravings have all but disappeared. Bryant's raw willpower is fueling him now and combating the urges to start shooting again. It should have been this way from the beginning. But quitting the steroids is also giving him the new urge to talk to his father. It makes him question whether he was taking the drugs to suppress his father's reckless treatment of him or the desire to work things out between them. Either way the baller is sure that he is in no shape to take to his father now; he is not sure he will ever be ready to have that conversation with the man. It hurt hearing that Timberlake was all the way on the other side of the world from a television entertainment show but he has to realize that they no longer have that type of relationship. A relationship he still cannot get over or forget no matter how much he wants to.

He shoots the ball high into the air and it hits the rung before bouncing back and away from him. He does not immediately go after it but instead interlaces his fingers on top of his head and looks up to the sky. There are no clouds and the sky is the purest and sexiest he has ever seen. They are just like his eyes. Those beautiful crystal blue eyes he loved to stare into and always managed to get lost in. Everything about them was amazing and that is the hardest part to let go of. Kobe lets out a deep sigh and walks over to the edge of the court to retrieve the ball. His insides wished when he turned around Justin would be there looking at him play like he did when he first arrived in Aspen but that surreal reality is gone. No one is there but him. Vanessa is off running errands again; things have been very dicey between them over the past few days and he does not know how to start up a conversation with her.

Bryant unintentionally lashes out at her for even the simplest things sometimes, another symptom of withdrawal from the steroids. But he does not mean any of it and it is pushing her further away from him and causing a permanent rift in their relationship. Everything is so complicated but he can no longer think only of himself. It has been this way ever since he met Justin so long ago but no more. No matter how hard it is, he has to start a meaningful conversation with his girlfriend and get things out in the open. His chocolate skin glistens with sweat and the ball misses the hoop again. The basketballer is off his game today but he would have to play in an actual match to notice if the drugs are missing or not. Either way though, he is not going back to that dangerous and destructive habit. It lands in the basket this time as he uses the back of his hand to wipe his forehead clean.

Inside, he makes his way to the refrigerator to refresh his bottle of water and remains there drinking the whole thing. His tank top is drenched and feels heavy as it clings to his skin so seductively. He has been playing basketball for three hours straight in an attempt to condition himself but also to clear his mind though he on manages to achieve the former. Once again the house and empty and quiet as he makes his way upstairs and to their bedroom. It is immaculately clean with everything in its place and not a visible sign of mess. She is so good to him in so many ways. Kobe, careful not to touch anything with his sweaty body, maneuvers across the grand room to the closet to grab a towel and then across to the bathroom. The mirror will be avoided for now so he strips out of the sticky tank top and pulls down his basketball shorts and boxers to head into the shower. His body needs to be cooled off.

Cold water touches every single one of his pores when he steps under the blasting showerhead and he lets out a soft gasp of pleasure. It all feels so good. Kobe dunks his head into the spraying water and revels in all the glory. His short wavy hair splatters water everywhere when he rapidly shakes his head from side to side, enjoying the shower to the fullest. He wonders where Vanessa is or what she is doing; he really has to control his emotions when it comes to her. She is the only woman for him. The showerhead settings change the water into pulsating form to offer its user a massage while they soap their skin. A bar of soap makes a seductive trail from his neck to chest and down abs. Smooth lather is created and bubbles are born on his skin. Bryant kneads the bubbly concoction into his skin with every one of his fingers so he can get clean again. Outside on the basketball court was grueling.

Sinewy biceps and forearms get the soap treatment and he stretches out to do his back before returning to his chest and lower torso. They too become coated with the pale green substance and he moves even lower to go between his leg. Kobe's once limp dick jumps at the first sign of sensation and immediately starts growing. They have not been intimate since he and Justin broke up and all that passion is pent up inside him. If Vanessa were here he would take her but it will have to be just him because it only took a few moments for his dick to become fully stiff and begging for release. The bar of soap clamps in between his hands and he rubs them back and forth to create a lubricant to coat his rod. The Los Angeles Laker shooting guard drops the soap in its nearby dish and instantly wraps his long fingers around his awaiting shaft. His other soapy hand finds his balls below to churn them close.

There are widespread stories in general of how using steroids saps away the sex drive but Kobe Bryant never experienced this side effect. His libido remained intact and was always ready to go whenever he was but now that he is off the drugs it has gotten worse. His once normal and healthy sex drive cycle is thrown way off balance as a post symptom of stopping the steroid use. He wants it so much more frequently now and these past days of not getting it from Vanessa has driven him up a wall and his fingernails are raw from climbing. It is unwanted because his hormones are turning him into an obsessed sex fiend; this is another reason he shoots hoops. Bryant hopes taking his mind off sex by conditioning for basketball would help but so far it has not. His dick would behave and remain soft but as soon as he has to adjust himself or accidently brushes against the organ, everything spirals out of control.

Upon first stroke his rock hard pole jumps in his hand and yearns for more. The other hand gently massages and fondles his balls with soap while his shaft becomes coated with it as well. He has to lean against the wall because he knees feel as if they are about to buckle from under him as he pleasures himself. As hard as he tries Bryant's mind will not run on Vanessa but instead clutches onto Justin's memory. His soft red lips and those pink nipples and his tasty alabaster skin with freckles sparingly placed. The man is a god among other mere mortals. The way he kisses is sinful. Fingers teasing skin resulted in true love being born. He tastes like heaven. Kobe grips his dick tightly as all these memories he is trying so hard to get rid of comes rushing back into his body. Timberlake will always be a part of him. A part of his heart will always dream about what a life with the singer would be like.

His well lubricated balls slip in and through fingers while he arches his back against the tiled wall to enhance the pleasure coursing through his body. The baller moans under his breath and grits his teeth in pure ecstasy while pleasing himself. Licking Justin's bellybutton and the length of his shaft before sucking on the head and going down deeper and deeper just to elicit those corporeal moans. Those primal urges that always seemed to be satisfied and quenched after they finished making love. Kobe licks his lips over and over again with both his hands still so busy bringing forth gratification. Water crashes on the side of his body and falls to the floor as his eyes are closed and his nipples are noticeably hard. His pumping picks up speed to take him to another level and that much closer to release and he grunts and gasps louder than ever before. They escape through his teeth with great necessity.

Kobe loved sucking and licking on his lover's neck. He wanted to mark him as his own every day they were in Aspen together but he somehow resisted the urge. Too many questions would be raised by the media and keeping a low profile always was their top priority. The stroking becomes more demanding and forceful as he tightens the grip on his balls and remembers every single detail about Justin's body. The short hair wavy hair on his head that matches the short wavy hair of his pubes. His pink nipples that seemingly pleaded to be sucked on. And his beautifully curved ass that Bryant could never help himself to keep his hands off of. More moans force him to open his eyes momentarily, causing the train of thought to be lost in the process. But he only struggles for a second before regaining it all and pumping his dick faster and with long, powerful strokes to bring the ultimate satisfaction.

Everything is so close now. His hands are quivering and his heart threatens to pound out of its caged protection. He misses Justin so much that his memories are all that are left of them. The beautiful night at the frozen lake and making love in front of the blazing fireplace. It fuels him to go harder and faster and deeper to reach nirvana. Kobe feels his balls churning in a frenzied state of passion and lust glazes over his eyes. His engorged dick wildly pulses under his touch and he keeps his eyes closed to enhance the experience even more. Thoughts are vivid and sensations feel real against his skin and lips. Timberlake's lips have stained his forever; a taste he will never come to enjoy again. Memories will have to suffice for this moment and many more in the future he fears. The motions remain the same but the grip is tighter and the sounds are more harsh and shallow. Like a caged animal.

The Los Angeles Laker arches his back in the precise moment cum travels from up balls up his long shaft. The gooey white liquid surges out of the head of his dick and spray everywhere. The many days of pent up sexual frustration is over as it is all released along with his semen. He continues to shoot more and more until his body almost starts to hurt. Stroking and teasing still continues until his dick slowly starts to deflate into its flaccid state. Kobe catches his breath fully before opening his eyes and passing his hand under the now misting water to cleanse it. A small smile hangs low on his lips as it is one of the most intense ejaculating orgasms he has ever had. His rubs his wet hand over his face to regain his thoughts and lock the appropriate ones away for no one to know. The baller peels the rest of his skin away from the wall and steps under the shower to get his whole body wet all over again.

It was intense and everything he wanted it to be and now a big part of him is relaxed and focused. The chip has been taken off and he feels and is somewhat eager to deal with his girlfriend now. They are going to work through this because he will not lose her. He just lets the water crash over him as if they are able to solve all the problems of his life. It was never supposed to be this way. He honestly believed that he would mess around with a guy for the first time and revile it so much that he would never want to do it again. And, in turn, that revulsion would strengthen his relationship with Vanessa all without her knowing anything. Kobe always thought that two men together was unnatural and revolting but this has not been the case ever since Justin Timberlake walked into his life and they both figured out their feelings for each other together. Now that is all in his mind. No letting go.

It is not supposed to be like this. The basketballer is not supposed to love him more than he loves her. When he first realized that he was in love with Justin, half his heart belonged to him while the other half remained with his girlfriend. But as time went by and events unfolded his heart dedicated more and more of itself to the young singer that had him captivated in every way imaginable. Vanessa occupies a pedestal in his heart but Timberlake has invaded everywhere else. The percentage is no longer even between them and this is why Bryant is having such a hard time dealing with their breakup. This, along with the withdrawal from steroid use is why he has been lashing out at his girlfriend over the past week. Ever since Justin found out about her. This is why they have not had sex since the breakup and he is forced to pleasure himself in the shower. But nothing is her fault; it is all him this time.

The hard task of expelling the former N*SYNCer out of his heart and replacing Vanessa to her former glory is his sole focus at the moment. Everything else would have to wait for him until he got his personal life with her back on track. He uses the soap this time to lather on his skin to clean himself and puts off shampooing his hair because he does not feel up to it. Bryant misses the showers he used to take with his ex boyfriend because they constantly made him feel better after but that was all gone now. He soaps on and around his limp dick and balls before moving down further to his legs and feet. The shooting guard replaces the soap on the holder and faces away from the glass sliding doors, deciding at the last minute to shampoo his hair instead. Now every inch of his body will be clean until he does something to mess it up again. Whether literally or symbolically. The door opens to his back.

"Hi. Kobe---it's me," Vanessa greets as she walks into their large master bathroom.

He immediately turns around and looks at her through the stained and skewered glass shower doors, "You're back. How are you?"

"Good. It's hot out there."

"How were your errands?" Bryant asks while fingering conditioner into his short wavy hair.

"Good---I guess."

"Let me finish up here and then we'll talk."

She looks down to the marble tiles at her feet and softly speaks, "Yes. We need to talk."

The conversation is so forced between them; it never used to be like this. This bad. He dunks his head under the spraying nozzle to wash off the conditioner and remains under there for a few minutes before ultimately getting out. The house no longer caters to him alone. Kobe uses the large towel to brush across his chest, abs, and back until it finds it final resting place circled around his waist. When he is ready to leave the sanctity of the bathroom he finds her sitting on the edge of the bed with a few shopping bags at her feet and her taking off her heels. She obviously went to the fashion trendy Rodeo Drive as part of her errands because the bags at the foot of their bed carried such names as BVLGARI and Hermés. Bryant does not object to this as he smiles and walks by half naked and still somewhat wet into their closet to find something to wear because his money is her money.

She has access to all of his accounts and credit card lines because she has never given him a reason to doubt or mistrust her. Plus, with the added tension between them perhaps shopping is something she needs at the moment and he will not dare take that away from her. It is, to some extent, therapeutic possibly. Vanessa is not with him for his money and he knows that so being able to give her the ability to buy the nicer things of life and not have to constantly check in with him is one of his greatest pleasures. The use of making all the money he does is to save yes but also to keep his family living as comfortably as they can and Vanessa is his family. She says nothing when her boyfriend passes by her and disappears into the closet to change. Bryant removes the towel from around his waist and uses it to dry himself off completely. He slips on a pair of boxer briefs, a pair of jean shorts, and a black t-shirt.

"So what did you buy?" Kobe emerges from the closet while towel drying his hair and inquires about the bags.

"Just a couple things I saw that I liked," she replies to him with both her feet on the bed now as are the bags. "I bought something for you."

"Oh yeah? What that?" he asks as he sits on the bed next to her and kisses her on the cheek.

"A watch from Van Cleef & Arpels. I know you've wanted a new one for a while now."

"Let me see it. I've been meaning to buy one."

His girlfriend carefully rummages through the bags on the bed until she comes upon the proper bag with the gift inside. Kobe reaches out his fingers to grip the black leather box and open it to see the watch. It is beautiful of course; her taste in jewelry for both men and women is flawlessly majestic. The leather bands feels sensual against his wrist as she helps him put it on and the face is magnificently strewn with peridot gemstones; his birthstone color. The transparent lime green stones come alive against his skin's complexion and the watch is handsome on his forearm. They share a devoted kiss on the bed and look at each other deeply once it ends. This has to be a positive turn and the baller only wants to keep making positive turns for her. Bryant backs off after a slight awkwardness passes through him and looks down at the watch knowing full well that her eyes are still on him.

"Do you like it?" Vanessa breaks the silence and uneasiness between them.

"Yeah. I do. Thank you."

"You're welcome. It looks really nice."

"Well you've always had exceptional taste," her shooting guard boyfriend compliments. "I'm sorry about a lot of things Vanessa."

"What do you mean?"

"Fisher's party and snapping at you for stupid stuff and pushing you away. Everything. You are the best thing in my life."

"It surely doesn't feel like it lately."

"I know. I'm still messing up but you have to know that I love you so much and I'm trying my hardest get past everything and get back to how we used to be," Bryant honestly admits and is willing to change.

"Past everything? What is everything Kobe? You tell me nothing and when I try to figure out what's bothering you so I can help you snap. What's going on with you?" she moves closer to him because she has been ready for them to move past his apparent anger and irritation.

"I---don't know. I'm just so frustrated and tired of it all."

"Tired of what?"

"My life. The pressure. It's all eating away at me," he is not completely honest but it is not all fabrication either.

Vanessa tries to hide the worried look on her face when she asks, "Are you saying you're unhappy?"

He hears the question ring in his mind and is taken aback by it. She has never asked him that question before; there was never any need to but now it is all relevant. His heart is torn in two and being on top of his game does not matter nor does the millions of dollars he makes in endorsement deals nor that he is well on his way to being in the NBA Hall of Fame at such a young age. And then there is everything with Justin swimming around in his head; things he cannot tell his girlfriend because it would surely bring an end to them. Kobe is unhappy in so many ways that he cannot count anymore but it is unfair to blame any of it on her. He is the one who felt attracted to the singing megastar at that charity basketball game and he is the one who pursued him until something unexpected and wonderful came of it. Now that it has all come crashing down he does not know where to go to begin to cope.

"I don't know---a little. I---don't know," Bryant speaks lowly and with a tinge of guilt in his voice.

"Well---what are we going to do about that?" Vanessa is determined to fix them just as much as he is.

"Vanessa I love you and I don't know why I'm pushing you away but I need you. Stay with me---be patient with me."

"I was never going anywhere sweetheart. You're the one pushing me away."

"I know. I have a lot to figure out on my own and it has nothing to do with you. It doesn't mean I don't love you---I just have to do this for me. "

"How long have you been feeling this way?" she tries to get to the bottom of it.

"Can't say. I think I've lost my way. I know I have."

"Maybe this has something to do with your father?"

"What do you mean?" the chocolate basketballer looks up at her and questions.

"Maybe a part of you wants him back in your life."

"No. Don't go there."

Vanessa threads carefully but moves forward anyway with, "What else could it be Kobe? Think about it. You never had a normal relationship with him to learn how to maintain a healthy relationship and now look. All your relationships as an adult are suffering. You and basketball, the sport you once loved and now practically feel indifferent about. You and me---"

"You think that's it?"

"If you think about it doesn't it make sense?"

"But you know what my relationship with him is like. It's been this way ever since I was a kid. Why would it start to bother me now?"

It is a superfluous question because he already has the answers. She is right and Justin was right when they were in Aspen together. Now that the steroids are gone he has to deal with his problems on his own. The feelings surfacing and boiling over are no longer being suppressed and kept under control by the drugs; this is the nastiest side effect of them all. But it must be true; all of it must be true. So once again his father has metaphorically shown up to destroy his life and places the baller at a crossroad. In order protect all his future relationships Kobe must go back to the past and talk to his father. It is nothing more than cruel irony and that is something he does not need at this point in his life. Vanessa keeps her gaze on him, almost as if she is studying him while he is lost deep in thought but he still feels her looking at him. This conversation, though desperately needed, raises more questions over again.

"What are you thinking about?" she rests her hand on his forearm.

"I have to figure this out."

"Are you alright?"

"I'm feeling a lot better now. Thanks to you. I still haven't decided what I'm going to do about my father," Bryant tells her to answer her question from before.

"Only you know what to do about your father honey. How to deal with him. I know you'll do the right thing. You're a good man."

"If I was a good man we wouldn't be having this conversation."

"Don't be so hard on yourself," Vanessa becomes even bolder and rests her head on his broad shoulder while he steadily stares forward. "You're entitled to mistakes just like everyone else."

"But other people's mistakes don't ruin so many lives."

"You're being way too hard on yourself. You'll be fine. We'll be fine. I believe that."

Kobe lovingly kisses her on the forehead and, "I guess I should too huh? I will."

Vanessa stays silent because it is her turn to be deep in thought. Shopping was not the only thing she did today. But with this critical time in their relationship and with the both of them being on a rocky road with each other, now might not be the best time. She is scared inside and worried about what is going to happen to them. The issues Kobe has with his father are more deep-seeded and damaging than he ever let be known and she wonders how he has been able to deal with it and keep it under control for so long. She also begins to wonder why he never confided in her about this clearly dangerous mindset he now seems to be stuck in. Bryant keeps his eyes looking forward wondering if he would ever have the courage to stand up to his emotions and face his father. Justin said he should when they were in the mountains together and now she is reaffirming it to him. They both cannot be wrong.

"I got something else for you---" his girlfriend fills the silence of their luxurious bedroom.

"You want to spoil me today huh?" the basketball legend breaks away to look at her and smiles softly.

"This is important. You have to tell me exactly how you feel about it okay?"


"Do you promise?"

Kobe contemplates this for a deeper meaning but agrees with, "Yeah I promise. Show me because my curiosity is through the roof now."

"Okay," Vanessa remains mysterious and nervous as she reaches over to the group of designer bags looking for that infamous powder blue one. "Here," she hands the whole small bag to him.

"Something from Tiffany's? You really are spoiling me."

"Just open it."

He carefully paws through the notoriously known Tiffany & Co. chiffon blue paper until something cold touches his hand and, "What is this? A crystal---rattle? I don't understand---"

She holds on to his hand and interlaces their fingers as one before, "I went to my gynecologist this morning. She told me that I'm pregnant."

Bryant stares at her with a perplexed look on his face, "You're---pregnant?"

"Yes. A little over two weeks."

"But---I mean how? Aren't you on the pill?"

"I am. I'm as shocked as you are but the pill isn't a hundred percent effective. The doctor told me that no birth control method is a hundred percent effective."

"You're---pregnant---" the news attempts to pass through him again but somehow it does not seem to stick.

The Los Angeles Laker cannot speak or move and he questions whether he is breathing at the moment. The two words stick together in his mind and unmercifully taunt him. He is going to be a father. Close to nine months from now he is going to be totally responsible for a little life he helped create. It is an overwhelming thought and challenge but he is not upset or angry or emotionally gone. Something deep within him steps up and accepts the challenge for the new life he created. Vanessa keeps her hand clutched so close to his but he does not feel it at the moment. Kobe's face supports a blank expression and his heart is skipping a beat or two every thirty seconds or so. It is almost like a rhythm; the rhythm of his body and the rhythm of life. When he says it in his mind again, the words are finally able to be processed for what they truly mean. Both for the new baby and for them as a couple.

"Kobe---say something---" his girlfriend nearly pleads with him.

"Are---you sure about this?"


Bryant looks at her and his eyes water a little and finally admits, "I'm going to be a father? I'm going to be a father. I'm going to be a father!"

"Yes sweetheart. You're going to be a father."

"I can't believe it! I just can't believe it!"

He holds her face in his hands and stares into her beautiful brown eyes before the share a warm and inviting kiss. Everything is going to change now; it has to. This baby has fought off all the odds to come to them from its mother being on a contraceptive pill to its father taking steroids back then and possibly having a lower than normal sperm count. It is a true blessing and Kobe only sees it as this. Vanessa kisses him back with raging passion and serenity because the instant feels like her old boyfriend is back. The moment is pure perfection between them as they each break away and follow up by looking at one another again. Their family was not supposed to start out this way because it is not traditional but he did not care about tradition. God is going to grant him with a son or daughter no matter all the awful things he has done. Bryant takes this as the ultimate sign that Vanessa is where he belongs.