Thrown by a curve, p.3
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       Thrown by a Curve, p.3

         Part #5 of Play by Play series by Jaci Burton
Page 3

  Author: Jaci Burton

  Alicia hugged her. “Of course you can come. ”

  “Great. ” She turned to Ty, who was right behind her. “You’re on your own. Find the men. ”

  Ty nodded and wandered down the hall. “First I’ll find the beer. ”

  Jenna rolled her eyes and followed them up the stairs.

  Liz knocked softly on the door to Aunt Kathleen’s bedroom. “Tara, we’re invading you. ”

  “Hey, guys, come on in. Just feeding Sam. ”

  Liz pushed the door open, and they all piled in. Tara was in Aunt Kathleen’s rocking chair, Sam to her breast.

  Alicia sighed. Tara looked so serene as she rocked the baby in her arms.

  “You sure we’re not bothering you?”

  “Not at all. I’d love the company. Otherwise, I might fall asleep again. ”

  Alicia laughed. “Okay. ”

  “So, what’s going on?” Liz asked.

  “I’ve been assigned to Garrett Scott’s rehab. ”

  Liz arched a brow. “Garrett Scott, huh? That’s interesting. ”

  Jenna rolled onto her side on the bed. “He’s a hottie. Shoulder injury, right?”

  “Yes. He’s been rehabbing for several months with no progress. ”

  “So, what’s the problem?” Tara asked.

  “He was working with one of the senior members of the team. Actually, several senior members. Until I opened my big mouth, and said he had his head up his ass and wasn’t cooperating with his treatment plan. ”

  Liz snorted. “That sounds like something you’d say. ”

  “I know, right? I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Then again, it wasn’t entirely my fault. He did ask my opinion. ”

  “So you felt free to give it to him,” Liz said with a smirk.

  Alicia sighed. “I did. And before I could blink Garrett said he wanted me assigned to him. Just me. I thought I was going to get fired, and instead, I’m in charge of his recovery. ”

  Jenna sat up and crossed her legs over each other. “Wow. That’s big. Are you feeling intimidated?”

  This was why she needed her girls. They knew exactly how she felt. “More than intimidated. I’m scared to death. ”

  “You can handle this, Alicia,” Tara said as she lifted Sam over her shoulder and rubbed his back. “You know what you’re doing. ”

  “Tara’s right. ” Liz squeezed her hand. “We’ve talked about this. You went into this field because it’s all you ever wanted to do. You love sports and medicine. This is your shot to do something monumental. Rehabbing Garrett and being successful at it could be a huge step in your career. ”

  She looked at all of them. “What if I screw this up? Garrett is their number one pitcher. ”

  “You won’t screw it up,” Tara said, smiling when Sam let out a tiny burp. “You know what you’re doing. This is what you’ve trained for. ”

  “Tara’s right,” Jenna said. “You’re going to get Garrett’s shoulder in shape and get him back on the pitcher’s mound. ”

  Liz nodded. “Have some faith in yourself. And go kick his ass. ”




  MONDAY DAWNED OVERCAST, SPITTING SNOWFLAKES and promising a big-ass storm later in the day.

  These were the kinds of days that caused Garrett’s shoulder to ache like a son of a bitch. So when he arrived at the team practice facility early, he was happy to see Alicia already there.

  She had her digital notebook in hand, her hair pulled back in its customary ponytail, and she was wearing that hideous uniform everyone from the sports medicine team wore. No makeup, very plain, except she wasn’t plain. How had he not noticed her before? Caught up in his own misery, probably, because Alicia was pretty. There was something about her that made him see through the ugly uniform and lack of makeup.

  Maybe it was the promise she’d made to help him pitch again. But it was more than that, because he also liked the sparkle in her eyes—it reminded him of the sky in the summer. And her mouth—he really liked her mouth, especially when she smiled. He wanted to see her smile more. He’d bet she was gorgeous when she smiled. It didn’t hurt that she was pretty, and not all made-up and dressed like she wanted to be taken out to lunch or shopping like the women he usually hung out with.

  She came to meet him when he pushed through the door.

  “Good morning. Are you ready for this?” she asked.

  “I’m stiff, I’m sore, and my shoulder hates this weather. ”

  She nodded. “Don’t worry. We’ll put some heat on it to warm you up first, then we’ll get to work. ”

  He followed her to one of the private rooms.

  “Take off your jacket and get comfortable on the table. I’ll go get a heating pad. If you brought some music with you, you can get that started. ”

  He had brought his MP3 player, and it was obvious Alicia wasn’t going to have a conversation with him. Usually, he and the guys would shoot the shit for about an hour then do some therapy. This was going to be different.

  He tucked in his earbuds and turned on some music. Alicia came back and put hot pads on his shoulder, then turned down the lights and left the room without a word.

  Fine. Whatever. He didn’t need her to be his best friend. The heat felt good, so he settled in, closed his eyes, and immersed himself in the music.

  The ten minutes passed too fast. He could have gone to sleep, but she pulled the pads off, leaving him chilled. He grabbed his jacket, but she stopped him.

  “You won’t need that right now. Come with me. ”

  She took him into the workout room and sat him down on the arm bike.

  “This will get you warmed up. I’ll be back shortly. ”

  She set the time for five minutes and walked away.


  Wasn’t this fun? At least the TV was on, set to sports news. He pedaled away and caught up on sports, but he also watched Alicia out of the corner of his eye. She went into the office, chatted with Phil and Max. They looked over whatever she had in her electronic notebook. There was a lot of nodding going on. Talking about him, no doubt.

  When his bell rang, she was right there next to him.

  “Ready?” she asked as he climbed off the bike.

  “I’ve been ready. ”

  “Good. Come over here. ”

  She led him to the doorway.

  “Reach your arms to the top of the beam,” she said.

  He turned to her. “What?”

  “Lift your arms up, straight overhead. Touch the overhead. ”

  He did. His left arm went up just fine, but he winced when he straightened the right. And he wasn’t straightening it as easily as the left arm.

  “It’s just a stretch, nothing too strenuous. Keep it up there and try to straighten your right arm, keeping your arm as close to your ear as you can. ”

  She stood behind him, silently watching.

  “See anything?”

  “Yes. Now, drop your arms, shake them out for a few seconds, and do it again. ”

  He gave her a look over his shoulder. “This doesn’t seem to accomplish anything. ”

  “That’s why you’re the pitcher and I’m the therapist. Do it again, and hold for a count of ten each time. ”

  He shrugged but reached for the top of the doorway again.

  She had him do it five more times. By the last time, it felt like his form was much better. She came up behind him and grasped his shoulders, pushing against the muscles and tendons.

  “Right side feels tight,” he said.

  “Of course it feels tight. You don’t move enough. You don’t stretch enough. The more you keep your arm immobile, the more scar tissue forms. That’s half your problem. ”

  He turned to face her. “And the other half is?”

  She tapped the side of her head. “You thinking that your career is ov
er. And because of it, you don’t do your home exercises like you should. And because you don’t do your home exercises like you should, your shoulder isn’t healing. Self-fulfilling prophecy and all that. ”

  Garrett didn’t like how easily Alicia had him pegged. Then again, wasn’t that the reason he’d chosen her in the first place? She’d seen right through him, had told him what he needed. And what he needed was someone to push him.

  He needed to get back on the mound. He was twenty-nine years old and still had a lot of years left to pitch. He wasn’t going to let this injury derail his career. Being out of commission this long had fucked with his head, and he didn’t know how to change that.

  The one thing he’d always had was control—over his pitches, over his career, and over his life. The past year he’d lost all of it, and he wanted it back. All the team doctors and athletic directors and therapists hadn’t helped him get it back.

  The therapists he had befriended had done nothing but enable him, allowing him to make excuses and not get the strength in his arm back.

  Was that what he wanted?

  Maybe Alicia was the key. She seemed confident in her ability to help him, so he had to trust in her. He was running out of options.

  He looked down at her, wondering how much he could challenge her. “You’re kind of short. ”

  She snorted. “Oh, but I’m mighty. Just you wait and see. ”

  He liked that she didn’t insult easy. “You must have brothers. ”

  “One. And cousins. You don’t scare me. ”

  “Wasn’t trying to. ”

  “Let’s go for a walk,” she suggested.

  “Aren’t you going to work out my shoulder?”

  “In good time. ”

  “You know it’s winter out there. ”

  She cocked her head to the side. “Yes, I do. Afraid of a little weather?”

  “No. ” He hated cold weather. If he’d wanted to be in cold weather, he’d have played football.

  “Good. Put your coat on. ”

  “Is this part of my therapy?”

  She grabbed her coat. “No. I love freezing my ass off and thought you might want to join me. ”

  “You’re kind of a smart-ass,” he said as he slid into his heavy winter jacket then his beanie.

  “Yeah, I’ve never heard that one before. ” She slipped her hat over her head. “Everything I do with you is part of your therapy. Let’s go. ”

  They walked outside the facility, and Garrett slunk farther into his jacket. The darkness of the morning hadn’t given way to any sunshine, and the wind had picked up even more, so it felt colder. They walked up the stairs and down the street.

  Alicia was practically bouncing as she lifted her face to the sky. She turned to him. “It’s supposed to snow today. ”

  “Yeah, like a foot of it or something. ”

  “I know. It’s exciting. ”

  He caught the grin on her face, and just as he had imagined, it transformed her from pretty to beautiful. Her cheeks rounded, and her lips curved into something so sexy it stole his breath. He tried not to notice, but it was hard not to. “You like snow. ”

  “I love it. I love all weather, actually. There’s nothing like a big snowstorm while you’re cuddled inside the house in your pajamas with a steaming cup of hot chocolate and a great romance novel. ”

  And now he’d have to get that mental picture out of his head. He wondered what her hair would look like out of that ponytail, waves of dark curls spilling over her shoulders. Though the fantasy would be better if she was reclining on the sofa naked.

  He decided this whole therapy thing would go a lot better if he didn’t find her sexy. Bathrobe, fuzzy slippers, her face slathered in some kind of green facial cream, and maybe her hair in curlers.

  “Reach up and grab that thin limb on the tree,” she said as they walked.

  He stopped and pulled his head out of the fantasy. “Huh?”
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