* * *
So, this is happiness. This is falling in love. I get it now. I understand why I waited.
For the possibility that sex could become so much more than a hot tangle under the sheets.
Yes, that’s what I wanted. More than a quick lay.
Someone who makes my heart thunder.
Even though I won’t see him for ages, I feel like my luck is changing when I leave him that morning before he takes off for Florida.
Leave him with a kiss and a promise that we’ll see each other again in November.
As I walk out of the hotel in Phoenix, I can picture a sandy beach in Miami, the ocean lapping the shore. I can feel the tropical sun warming my skin, the book in my hands. Declan will stride over to my lounge chair and . . . Screw the hero in the story, I’ll set that paperback down in an instant and kiss the hell out of the guy I love in real life.
We have a plan—a plan, a date, and a real chance.
For the first time in days, I feel like everything will go my way.
The Lyft drops me off at the team hotel in the dark of the night, before the sun dares peek over the horizon.
With a disgustingly happy smile, I go in via a side entrance. The halls are blissfully empty. The stairwell is quiet as I walk up the steps, slow and silent as a cat.
No one wanders along the sixth floor. No one opens a door. I slip back into my room unseen.
My king-size bed calls to me, and I answer it, stripping out of my clothes, flopping onto the mattress, and sinking into the pillows.
I’m briefly tempted to send Declan a goodbye text before he gets on the plane to Florida. To tell him last night was epic and I can’t wait to do it again and again in November.
My fingers itch to send a sweet nothing. Hell, I’d love to get one from him.
But my better judgement wins out.
I could exercise some restraint. Get my baseball mojo back. Adjust the levers to crank up sports and dial down romance.
I’ve been dining on Declan Steele morning, noon, and night for the last week, and a short breather won’t hurt.
Maybe I’ll text him tonight.
Yeah, tonight feels better.
I set down my phone and close my eyes, replaying our dirty deeds as I drift off.
Yes, everything is going my way today. I just know it.
Three hours later, I’m on the field for the morning workout, kicking ass. Feeling as if anything is possible. The rest of the day unfolds like that—beautiful blue skies, a muscle-burning workout with Sullivan and Miguel, then a game at night.
At the plate, I key in on Declan’s words of advice. One of the last things he said to me when I left his room this morning. “In the last couple games, your weight was too far back on your knees. Shift forward maybe a millimeter. Like you usually do.”
With that adjustment, I make it to first on a line drive up the middle.
The next three batters go down, so that’s as far as I get, but I’ll take my single, thank you very much. First time in days I don’t go hitless.
When I’m suiting up to get behind the plate, I make a mental note to text Declan tonight and tell him it worked.
Yes, that’s exactly what I’ll say next time I talk to him.
For now, I feel like maybe, just maybe, I can get back in the game.
* * *
Life has a way of sneaking up on you.
It’s happened to me a few times over the years—at the end of a championship game when I was younger, then again when I was seventeen. A little later in the minors too.
Before I even lock eyes with my unexpected visitor, I know this time is going to make those other surprises look like kittens.
This is a lion’s attack of ambushes.
I’ve been a New York Comet for one short hour. I’m heading to the field in Tampa, wearing my number eighteen uniform, my name already sewn onto it, when the hair on the back of my neck stands on end.
When my skin prickles with uneasy awareness.
I see that familiar set of shoulders, that thick head of hair, I hear that big, boisterous laugh, and my stomach twists.
My throat goes desert dry.
My legs turn into cinder blocks.
But I have a game to play.
A bat to swing.
A glove to pick up.
As I walk onto the field, I try to recall stanzas and verses—words and rhymes from the poets who helped me through the aftermath of days of upheaval when I was younger.
I Kissed Shara Wheeler By Lauren Blakely Written on the Wind (The Blackstone Legacy #2) By Lauren Blakely Under One Roof (The STEMinist Novellas #1) By Lauren Blakely The Mrs. Degree (Accidentally in Love #2) By Lauren Blakely The Homewreckers By Lauren Blakely Summer Love By Lauren Blakely Ruthless Rival By Lauren Blakely Book Lovers By Lauren Blakely Wright That Got Away (Wright #11) By Lauren Blakely The Secret (Single in Seattle #1) By Lauren Blakely The Recovery Agent (Gabriela Rose # 1) By Lauren Blakely Falls Boys (Hellbent #1) By Lauren Blakely