Thrown by a curve, p.19
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       Thrown by a Curve, p.19

         Part #5 of Play by Play series by Jaci Burton
Page 19

  Author: Jaci Burton

  He seemed so matter-of-fact about it, when it had obviously hurt and probably still did. “It couldn’t have been easy for you. ”

  “No big deal. ”

  She put her hand over his. “Tell me about it. ”

  She ached for him, because she saw a man still hurting over the breakup of his parents’ marriage.

  “Nothing to tell, really. It was over and done with a long time ago. ”

  And there he went again, his gaze riveted to his Chianti, as if it held all the answers. She squeezed his hand. “Garrett. Talk to me. ”

  He lifted his gaze and met hers. “Trying to do the whole college and baseball thing while there was shit going down at home kind of sucked, but I got through it. They were both really supportive of me, didn’t want me to think my world was coming to an end just because their marriage was. ”

  She pushed her plate to the side and took a sip of wine. “I’m sure you thought it was. ”

  “I was eighteen, not a kid. ”

  “Eighteen is still a kid. It’s hard for anyone to have their parents’ marriage break up. I don’t think it matters how old you are. ”

  He gazed at her over his glass of wine. “I survived it. ”

  “You’re trying hard to downplay what had to be a really traumatic moment in your life. Why?”

  He studied her, then grabbed the bottle and refilled her glass. “It’s not something I like reliving. Frankly, it sucked. I was pissed at them for ending their marriage. I wanted them to stay together. ”

  Now, she understood. “My best friend’s parents divorced when we were sixteen. It devastated her. They argued a lot, and Casey worried over it, wishing they’d stop fighting. But it never occurred to her that they’d divorce. When they did, she was crushed. It tore her world apart. I hated seeing her so unhappy. ”

  “Yeah. I was already away at college, but when I’d come home on breaks, seeing the life you knew dismantled and put in boxes, like it never happened . . . ”

  Alicia couldn’t imagine the pain of having the relationship of the two people you counted on the most fall apart right in front of you. Hard enough to deal with as a child. It had to be harder when it happened as an adult. She reached out and laid her hand over his. “I’m sorry. ”

  He looked down at her hand then lifted his gaze to hers. “It’s okay. It was a long time ago. ”

  “But you obviously don’t like to talk about it, and I brought it up. I’m sorry for that. ”

  He laughed. “Hey, it’s not like my parents are dead. People ask about them. I have to talk about it. ”

  “I’ll drop the subject. ” She started to withdraw her hand, but he grasped her hand in his, squeezed it like a lifeline.

  “Don’t. It’s okay. ”

  Maybe he didn’t think he wanted to talk about it, but she figured he really did.

  “You said your dad still lives in Las Vegas. How about your mom?”

  “She moved back to Southern California, near where my grandparents live. ”

  “Oh, well, that was probably nice for her, to be near her family. ”

  “Yeah. I visit her during the off-season and whenever we have games there. ”

  “And your dad?”

  He shrugged. “Not so often. ”

  There was a story somewhere in there. She wasn’t sure she should ask about it. But she’d come this far. He could always tell her to mind her own business or refuse to answer. “Why not so often?”

  He paused, stared into the glass of Chianti. “He cheated on my mother. ”

  She let her eyes drift closed for a fraction of a second, wishing she hadn’t asked the question. When she opened them, he was staring at her.

  “Oh, God. I’m so sorry, Garrett. ”

  “Nothing to be sorry about. You didn’t do it. My dad’s the one who broke up my parents’ marriage. ”

  Maybe that’s why he hadn’t wanted to change the subject. She wondered if he’d ever had anyone to talk to about this.

  She took a swallow of wine then leaned forward, glad they were in the type of restaurant where voices didn’t carry. The place was lovely, but it was noisy, which meant they could have a conversation no one would overhear.

  “Are you still angry with your father over the breakup of the marriage?”

  He didn’t meet her gaze. “It was a long time ago. Both my parents have moved on. ”

  She leaned back. “How so?”

  “My mom remarried about five years ago. Nice guy she met where she works. ”

  “Oh, good for her. ”

  He smiled. Finally. “Yeah. She really loves Henry. And he treats her like a precious diamond. ”

  “So you obviously approve of him as a stepfather. ”

  He laughed. “Yeah, he’s great. And he loves baseball, which is a plus. Though he’s a Los Angeles fan, so I have to deduct points. ”

  She let out a soft laugh. “Well, yes, I could see how that would detract from his overall score. But I’m glad she’s found happiness. ”

  “Yeah. Me, too. ”

  “What about your father?”

  “He married the woman he cheated on my mom with. Like less than a year after he and my mom divorced. ”

  “Oh. ” She let that settle a bit and worked on her meal. Garrett didn’t offer up further details on his dad and stepmother. She wondered if he saw his father at all or if he’d cut all ties. She didn’t want to ask, and obviously, he didn’t want to talk about his dad, so she let it be.

  Their plates were cleared, and they both declined dessert. Garrett paid the bill, and they left the restaurant and headed back to the house. He was quiet on the ride back. Alicia knew he must be thinking about his parents. Pain like that didn’t just go away, especially if you never dealt with it.

  When they got back to the house, he grabbed a beer from the fridge and went out onto the back deck. She opened a bottle of water and followed him.

  It was a nice night. A little breezy, so she went back inside and put her sweater on, kicked her sandals off, and pulled her feet up onto the chaise, content to listen to the sounds of the ocean waves. Garrett leaned against the deck post, his back to her, giving her a chance to admire his great ass without him being aware of it.

  She was worried about him. She could tell he wasn’t relaxed as he took a swallow of beer and set it down on the deck rail. His shoulders were tight, his stance rigid.

  Tension wasn’t going to help his therapy. She pushed off the chair and came next to him.

  “Are your muscles feeling tight?”

  He looked up at her. “If I say no, will you leave me alone?”

  She laughed. “That means yes. Come on. Let me give you a good stretch. It’ll ease some of that tension. ”

  “Ugh. ”

  “Yeah, whatever, wuss. Suck it up. ”

  She went into her bedroom, slipped out of her dress and into her yoga pants and a tank top so she’d be more comfortable. When she went into the workout room, Garrett was already there, shirtless and in low-slung sweatpants.

  He still made her knees weak, but she swallowed and took a sip of water, mentally readying herself.

  She put Garrett through the thirty-minute stretching session. He gritted his teeth and endured it, but he was tight, and his body was tense. When she finished, he sat up and grabbed a towel to wipe down his face and body.

  “How about a massage?” she suggested.

  He slanted a glance her way. “I thought that was against your rules. ”

  “You’re tense. You look like you could use it. ”

  He grabbed a bottle of water and downed it in two swallows. “I’m fine. ”

  He was not fine. “A massage will relax you. Therapist’s orders. ”

  He let out a resigned sigh. “Sure. ”

  She set up the massage table with towels.

  “Facedown,” she said.
r />   He smirked at her.


  He shook his head. “Nothing. Nothing appropriate, anyway. ”

  “I have no idea what you’re talking about. ”

  “I know. ” He climbed onto the table, and she got out her massage lotion then turned on some music.

  He lifted his head and looked up at her. “Really? You’re going to play that new age shit?”

  “Well, yes. It’s very calming and relaxing. ”

  “It’ll put me to sleep. ”

  “There’s nothing wrong with you sleeping while I massage you. ”

  “I don’t really feel like sleeping right now. How about something a little edgier?”

  She leaned her hip against the table. “Edgier doesn’t seem very relaxing, Garrett. ”

  He lifted up on his forearms and shot her a grin. “Maybe not to you. ”

  “Okay. I’ll find something . . . edgier. ”

  She scrolled through her music until she hit something that rocked.

  “That’ll do,” he said, and put his face down on the table.

  Nope. Not relaxing at all, but if that worked for Garrett, so be it.

  “I’m going to put some heat on your injured shoulder first. That way by the time I get to that part, it’ll be warmed up and ready for me. ”

  He lifted his head again. “God, you’re not going to stretch the fuck out of it again, are you?”

  Her lips curved. “No, I’m not going to stretch it. This will be a gentle massage. I promise. ”

  “Good. ”

  She put the heating pad on his shoulder then mentally centered herself by breathing in then out. After rubbing the lotion between her hands to warm it, she started in the center of his upper back and worked her way down, wanting to save his shoulder for last because she knew that’s where the worst tension would be.

  She was going to make him feel better and melt the knots in all his muscles. And maybe help him relax.

  Though touching him like this wasn’t going to be relaxing for her.

  At. All.




  GARRETT WASN’T MUCH FOR MASSAGE, THOUGH A LOT of his teammates swore by it. A lot of the guys got weekly massages to help with their sore muscles. Garrett just got in the whirlpool or a hot shower and otherwise sucked it up.

  But Alicia was right. Talking about his parents tonight had knotted up the tension between his shoulder blades, and now his shoulder hurt. Of course some of that probably had to do with the way Alicia worked him in their therapy sessions.

  Not that he’d tell her that. She was tougher on him than any of his previous therapists had been. He’d wanted to cry. And he never cried.

  He hoped to hell whatever she was doing to him would result in some good. Because he’d take whatever pain she dished out if it put him back on the mound.

  Right now, though? Whatever she was doing back there was pure pleasure. He focused on the sweep of her soft hands over his back, the way she seemed to target every sore muscle, coaxing it into submission with her thumb or the heel of her hand.

  He’d tried massage once or twice before and always seemed to get some tiny little woman who seemed nice but then proceeded to employ some Marquis de Sade technique of massage, determined to outdo her peers in how much they could hurt their clients.

  Alicia didn’t do it that way. Her hands glided over his back until he couldn’t help but let out a groan of pure pleasure.

  She rolled her fist down his spine, all the way to where his sweats rested low on his ass. He wanted her hands all over his body, rubbing him down front and back.

  When she took the heating pad off and smoothed her hands over both his shoulders, he sank deeper into the cushioned table.

  “You have magic hands. ”

  She laughed. “Sure I do. ”

  “No, really. This is a great massage. ”

  “Your muscles are cooperating. Be quiet now. You shouldn’t talk while I’m massaging you. Take deep breaths, in and out. ”
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