"You need to stop whatever you're doing and get to a computer right now."
Dylan strained to hear Ava's voice over the din of the game, pressing a finger into her ear. She was sitting in the section reserved for players' families, surrounded by wives gossiping and the squalling of babies and toddlers.
"I'm at the game," she said loudly.
"Dylan, believe me. You need to go check this out now."
"Wait a minute. I'm going someplace quieter."
Dylan stood and apologizing as she went, tripped over Stephanie and her kids, heading inside. In the VIP suite, it was only slightly less noisy, so she instead made her way to the ladies room.
"Ava? Are you there? What's going on?"
"What took you so long?" Ava demanded.
"I was trying to find . . . never mind. Tell me what's going on. Is it something with Max?"
"Max?" Ava sounded confused for a moment, as though she didn't even recognize her own boyfriend's name. "No, this is about you."
"Me? What do you mean?"
"Are you sitting down?"
"Ava, just tell me."
"I wish you were at a computer, Dylan. It's going to sound a lot worse than it . . ."
"There's a picture in the Daily News of you making out with Ray Hernandez."
It took Dylan a moment to even comprehend what was being said.
"It's from Palm Springs," Ava began.
"I don't care where it's from. I've never made out with Ray Hernandez so it's impossible."
There was a pause and Dylan realized Ava was considering whether to believe her.
"Ava! Listen to me very carefully. I never made out with Ray Hernandez."
"Well, you two were a little chummy and the way he looked at you on the plane . . ."
"Tell me exactly what you see in that picture," Dylan said, her voice trembling.
"Okay. You're standing in front of a fountain. There's a gate, and . . ."
Dylan closed her eyes. Oh god. That first night in Palm Springs, when Ray found her at the park across from the nightclub. She tried to remember. For sure he hadn't kissed her, but the photo . . .
"So I'm looking at it, and it's kind of ambiguous," Ava said. "The shot is from an angle where it looks like he's kissing your neck or something."
"He was speaking into my ear," Dylan said, her voice dull. "He wasn't kissing my neck."
"Well . . ." Ava let the word drag out. "It's hard to tell that from this shot. And it doesn't help that there's a couple others . . ."
"Don't tell me," Dylan said, putting a hand over her face.
It all came back to her in flashes now. Ray holding onto her arm, holding her hand as they crossed the street.
"Honestly?" Ava said. "It looks pretty intimate. Almost like a lovers' quarrel or something. He's grabbing your arm."
"Ava, you know better than that."
"Yes, I do. But . . ."
Yes, but. Mark.
"And what was going on there, Dylan? I mean, it looks pretty . . . damning if you want to know the truth."
Mark's parents. Miri. The other Mets player. What would everyone think?
"Well, the good news is that they don't seem to know who you are," Ava said. "They're calling you a 'mystery woman'. Ray Hernandez is known to be a big cheat, so . . ."
"Everyone who knows me will know who I am," Dylan said, her voice lifeless. "That's the important thing. Cindy. Everyone."
"If you're at the ballpark, Dylan, my advice would be for you to go back to the hotel. Now. Call Corey."
Corey. Mark's agent. He was also Mark's de facto PR guy because Mark didn't believe in manufacturing a public relations image. And up till now, he hadn't needed to--he was fast approaching Ray's status as the most popular player on the team and the press loved him as well. Now that 'love' was certainly going to be put to the test.
"Okay," Dylan opened the door to the ladies room, looking about her guiltily, as though everyone knew what she had just learned. But everyone in the suite was still occupied by the game, or drinking and socializing.
Feeling like a fugitive, she headed for the exits, finding one of the security guards to get her a car back to the hotel. Once there, she washed her face clean of all her makeup and changed out of her expensive outfit and into sweats and a t-shirt. Her heart could not seem to stop racing. After about an hour of pacing the room, she plucked up enough courage to call Corey.
At first, she got only his voicemail, but after trying twice more, he finally answered.
"Pardon me, Dylan," he said, "but what the fuck is going on?"