Thrown by a curve, p.27
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       Thrown by a Curve, p.27
 

         Part #5 of Play by Play series by Jaci Burton
Page 27

  Author: Jaci Burton

  She never had one-night stands. She’d always had relationships. This time, it would be a one-night stand. They’d had great sex, she’d gotten the release she’d needed, and now she could move on. She was totally over it. She was strong, and she could take working close to him. Touching him and not having him would be hard.

  Just like he was hard—his body was hard—and she’d like to glide her hands over him and . . .

  “Here, Alicia, let me—”

  She almost dropped an egg on the floor as Garrett scooted in next to her to help her cook.

  “I can do this. ”

  “No reason for you to be my cook when I’m perfectly capable. ”

  He cracked the eggs over the pan then started scrambling.

  “I’ll do the bacon, then. ”

  “Sure. ”

  She laid the bacon in the other pan, and they worked side by side. She tossed bread in the toaster while he grabbed orange juice. It was companionable. She was conscious of him, of his body brushing against hers in the confined space. Every time he touched her she wanted him to grab her, push her up against the counter, and kiss her like he had last night.

  Yeah. She was over it all right. He had taken a shower and he smelled like soap—clean and delicious—and she wanted to lick him all over, then wrap her hand around his cock and slide him inside her. She was practically vibrating just thinking about it.

  She couldn’t handle it. His scent, his body close to hers, was driving her crazy. She still wanted him. Last night had just been a sampling, and she wanted more.

  She moved away.

  “I don’t bite, you know,” he finally said. “Well, I do bite. You might like it. ”

  She leaned against the counter. “I can’t do this. ”

  He frowned. “Do what?”

  “This. You and me. Last night was a mistake and we both know it. ”

  “I don’t agree. ” He moved in closer, and she backed away.

  “I’m serious, Garrett. I’m serious about getting you ready to pitch and I can’t do that and . . . ”

  “And what?”

  “And have sex with you. ”

  “Why not?”

  “Because I have to focus. I have to think about you as my patient, not my lover. I have to be detached and clinical, not emotionally involved. I just can’t. ”

  “Okay. ”

  “Have you got this?” she asked him while not looking at him. “I’ll be right back. ”

  “Sure. ”

  She pushed away from the stove and left the room, needing a few minutes in her room to compose herself. She shut the door and paced, her arms wrapped around her middle.

  That hadn’t gone well.

  This was ridiculous. She was a hands-on therapist and it was going to be impractical to dash out of the room every time she got within a few inches of Garrett.

  Time to suck it up and deal, Alicia. You made this bed.

  More like she’d unmade the bed.

  She inhaled deeply then went back to the kitchen.

  “Breakfast is ready,” he said.

  “Great. Thanks. ”

  They filled their plates and ate in the dining room. Alicia was happy for the space between her and Garrett, though she knew that was only going to last as long as breakfast, because after that they had therapy. At least he seemed content to stop talking about what happened between them last night.

  After they ate, she did the dishes. Garrett said he was going into the workout room to warm up, while she lingered a little too long over scrubbing the skillet.

  She finally gave up. It was time to do some therapy, so she grabbed her notebook and headed into the workout room.

  Garrett was on the bench press. She laid her notebook down and went over to him.

  “You shouldn’t do these without me being here. ”

  He paid no attention to her, so she laid her fingers under the bar while he lifted the weight.

  “This is a heavier weight than you normally lift. ”

  Again, he didn’t answer her, but he didn’t seem to be straining, so she let him go, but she still stood above him to spot him. He did twelve reps, and she helped rack the bar when he finished. He sat up and leaned over to take some deep breaths.

  “How did that feel on your shoulder?”

  “It felt fine. ” He tilted his head back to look at her. “I’m not having any pain. ”

  “That’s good. But don’t add weight without consulting me. ”

  He arched a brow. “You think I don’t know what I can handle?”

  “I think you have a therapist for a reason. How about you let me be the therapist, and you be the patient?”

  “I think you laid out the ground rules about who was who in this relationship pretty clearly earlier,” he said. “I don’t need you to draw me a picture, Alicia. I got it. ”

  He stood and went to the pulleys, then waited for her. The room temperature seemed to have dropped about ten degrees, the chill between them evident.

  Okay, she could deal with this.

  When she came over and selected a weight, he said, “Your weights are too light. Add more. ”

  Now he was acting like a patient. A surly, frustrated athlete. That she could wrap her head around. That she could deal with. As long as she focused on Garrett as just another athlete, she could keep it impersonal.

  She looked down at her notes and shifted the weight by five pounds. He tilted his head and gave her a look. “Come on, Alicia. ”

  “Start there. Do twelve. ”

  He blew out a breath and did twelve. Easily.

  “See? No problem. Now add more. ”

  She added another five, and he did twelve more. Also without effort. She had him do two more sets, then came up behind him and felt his shoulder, digging in deeply to see if he tensed with pain.

  He didn’t. That was a good sign, so she put him through a more rigorous workout, adjusting her notes as he went about the circuit. He was making drastic improvement, but she’d see how he felt at the end of the day. Pushing the muscles and tendons was one thing while he was doing the workout. It was the aftereffects that concerned her the most.

  She really wanted him to pitch, however, he needed to rotate that arm. That was going to be the true test of whether he was going to get through this injury or not.

  But she liked what she saw. And she wanted to see more.

  After weights, she’d run him through his therapeutic exercises, pushing him harder than she had previously. He’d taken it without complaint. Then they’d each had a sandwich, sharing the kitchen space—not in an unfriendly way, but not in a particularly friendly way, either.

  So after lunch, she said, “Let’s go pitch. ”

  The only reply she got to that was a shrug, followed by him walking away to get ready.

  Distance was good, right? This was what she’d asked for.

  On the drive over to the ballpark, he was silent. Okay, so some guys didn’t appreciate being dumped. Not that she was exactly dumping him since they were still going to see each other every day.

  That was the problem with working together and sleeping together. It never worked out. Not that she’d ever slept with a colleague or, God forbid, a patient before. She’d always kept her work life separate from her personal life, vowing to never mix the two. She’d always figured that was one complication she didn’t need.

  She should have stood by that vow. Garrett had to trust her. They had to be partners in his recovery. How was that going to happen with this added tension between them?

  She pushed that quandary aside and got him up on the pitcher’s mound, repeating what he thought were the same warm-up underhanded pitches from yesterday, following up with some soft overhand pitches.

  She could tell he was bored and frustrated, and she needed to challenge him. His recovery was going well, and
she wanted to know now before they got any further what his pitching mechanics were going to be like.

  She held the ball in her hands. “Now, get into your windup, but don’t throw hard. Just loft one over, but throw a little harder than what we’ve been doing. And I don’t mean serious heat. Just a little faster. ”

  He stared at her. “I think I got it, Alicia. I don’t need you to draw me a road map. ”

  Oh, yeah. He was irritated. She got into the normal catcher’s stance, squatting down and prepping to receive a pitch.

  “Would you like me to give you a signal?”

  “Funny. ” He paused, wound up, then threw her a hard ball that smacked into her glove. It stung, but she’d taken pitches from the pros in rehab before. She knew it was going to hurt.

  She stood. “How did that feel?”

  “Fine. ” He waved at her with his glove. “Get back down there and let me throw some of my other pitches. ”

  “Okay. Again, no serious velocity on these. ”

  “Yeah, yeah. ”

  He burned the next five pitches into her mitt, and didn’t once pull up or wince like he was having any pain.

  She caught the last ball and stood, pulling the ball out of her glove. “Your form looks good. How did those feel?”

  He stepped off the mound. “Like I could pitch at least six good innings. ”

  She smiled and met him halfway. “Good. Let’s throw a few more, but still not too hard. ”

  He nodded, took the ball from her, and stepped back on the mound. They went at it for about forty-five minutes, and he did what she asked, using correct pitching form but not throwing too hard. Alicia kept watch to be sure he wasn’t favoring his right arm or giving off any signals that he was having pain. When he threw what she thought was enough pitches, she stopped him.

  “That’s enough for now. ”

  Again, he didn’t complain, just tossed her the ball and left the mound, content to grab a bottle of water and cool down.

  “How’s the arm?” she asked as they climbed into the car.

  “It’s good. A little sore, but I’d expect that after not pitching for so long. ”

  “We’ll ice it down when we get back to the house. Then I’ll massage you. ”

  “Okay. ”

  He was being uncharacteristically cooperative. And businesslike. Which was exactly how she liked her patients to be. But not how her relationship with Garrett had been since they’d met. Now there was no banter, no easy conversation. She’d effectively shut that all down with her dismissal of them and the relationship they’d begun.

  Admittedly, she missed it, but this was how it was supposed to be, how it must be. He was obviously coming to grips with the fact that they weren’t going to have a personal relationship. If that made her feel sad and empty—tough. It was exactly what she wanted, so she might as well get used to it.

  She laid her gym bag on the floor when they got back to the house, then turned to him. “Ready for some ice?”

  He shrugged. “Sure. ”

  “Come on. Let’s go into the workout room. ”

  He followed her into the room. She was conscious of him behind her, watching her as they headed down the hall. She wanted to turn to him or wait for him so they’d walk side by side, but she didn’t. Instead, she kept walking until they were inside the room. He walked right past her and to the cushioned bed where he stretched out and waited for her.

  Ignoring the pang in her stomach, she retrieved the ice pack from the freezer, wrapped it in a towel, and brought it to him.

  “Ten minutes,” she said.

  He grabbed his music player and slipped in his earphones. “Got it. ”

  He’d tuned her out, deepening that ache in her stomach. She walked out of the room and hunted down her notebook. She set a timer and began to chart today’s notes in Garrett’s file.

  The ten minutes passed much too quickly. But when she went into the workout room, she found only the ice pack lying there. Garrett was nowhere to be found. She loaded the ice pack back into the freezer and left the room.
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