Thrown by a curve, p.33
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       Thrown by a Curve, p.33
 

         Part #5 of Play by Play series by Jaci Burton
Page 33

  Author: Jaci Burton

  Garrett arched a brow. “He knows about us?”

  “Yes. Apparently, rumors are floating around the team about how close we’ve become. ”

  “Yeah? Huh. ”

  He didn’t seem bothered by it. Maybe she shouldn’t be, either. Gavin said he’d be discreet. In the meantime, she’d try to be less . . . close to Garrett in the future. At least publicly.

  “Anyway, Liz is in town, and he wants to get together at his place. ”

  Garrett didn’t say anything for a few minutes. She wondered if he was worried about the whole rumors thing.

  “Gavin’s going to grill me about our relationship, isn’t he?”

  She laughed. “No. He’s aware we’re . . . having sex, and he said that’s the last thing he wants to talk about. I think you’re in the clear. ”

  “Good. Then dinner sounds fine. ”

  “Why? Because you’re afraid to face my cousin, or afraid to answer questions about our relationship?”

  He spared her a quick glance as he drove. “Neither. And both. ”

  Confusing answer. She wasn’t sure what to make of it, or whether she liked it. A part of her understood his reasoning for being uncomfortable. After all, Gavin was her cousin. Family was always tricky. Even she couldn’t define their relationship, if they even had a relationship.

  They were having sex. Plus, they had a working relationship. That’s all it was between them.

  Wasn’t it?

 

 

  TWENTY-TWO

  GARRETT STEPPED UP TO THE FRONT DOOR OF GAVIN Riley’s beach house with more than a little anxiety.

  Gavin was, after all, Alicia’s cousin. Family. Protective of Alicia, no doubt. Plus, he was Garrett’s teammate. They’d been playing together for years, had gone out for beers after games, had gotten along well. Garrett had to be able to count on Gavin at first base, needed to know Gavin had his back. Relationships in baseball were everything. So was trust.

  All things Garrett hadn’t thought about when he’d dragged Gavin’s cousin to bed. Of course, Gavin hadn’t been front and center on his mind when he’d gotten Alicia naked.

  “Are you okay?” Alicia asked as they waited at the front door.

  He stopped staring at the door long enough to slant his gaze toward her. She looked beautiful tonight with the sides of her hair pulled up, the remainder of it cascading down her back in loose, soft waves. He wanted to bury his face in her hair, then tangle his fingers in it. But he kept his distance.

  “I’m fine. Why?”

  “You look nervous. I told you not to be nervous. This is going to be fun. ”

  Yeah. Like a beheading was fun.

  The door opened and Elizabeth Riley stood there. He’d met her several times before, both with Gavin and accompanying his agent, Victoria, since the two of them were not only peers, but friends.

  “Hey, it’s about time you two showed up,” Elizabeth said.

  “We’re not late,” Alicia said, hugging Elizabeth as she walked in. “You know Garrett. ”

  “I do. That bitch Victoria has you as a client. You’re not currently pissed at her or anything, are you?”

  “No. ”

  “Dammit,” she said, then winked at Garrett. “Who wants a drink? I have beer, wine, and tea. ”

  “Beer’s good for me,” Garrett said as Elizabeth led them toward the kitchen. Wearing capris, a sleeveless silk top, and ridiculously high heels, Elizabeth was a stunner with knockout red hair and curves any man would be happy to get his hands on. Gavin was a lucky man.

  She handed him a beer. “Thanks, Elizabeth. ”

  “Call me Liz. The other is way too formal. ”

  Gavin came in from out back. “Oh, you guys are here. What’s up?” He shook Garrett’s hand and caught Alicia around the waist, pulling her in for a hug.

  “You’re tan,” she said to Gavin.

  “Went out on the boat for a while today since we had an off day. ”

  “I, of course, am not tan, being one of those fair-skinned redheads who burn. So I lathered on the sunscreen and tried not to fry out there. Lord, it was hot. ”

  “Bitch, bitch, bitch,” Gavin said, but gave Liz a wink.

  “Yeah, but who caught the fish today, stud?” she asked.

  “You did, my beautiful but not tan wife. And you’ll never let me forget it, will you?”

  “You bet your ass I won’t. ”

  Alicia laughed as she gave Liz an incredulous look. “You caught fish?”

  Liz pulled out a chair at the bar. “Sit. Make yourselves comfortable. And yes, I caught fish. I’m getting pretty damned good at this fishing thing. ”

  “She’s even learned to bait her own hook without cussing or complaining,” Gavin said, taking a long swallow of beer.

  “Or wanting to throw up,” Liz added.

  “Yeah, that, too. ”

  “I’m so proud, Liz,” Alicia said. “We’ll have to go to the lake in the summer. I love fishing. ”

  Garrett looked at her. “You like to fish?”

  She lifted her gaze to his. “I love it. My family always used to camp. My dad taught Cole and me to fish when we were kids. Do you fish?”

  “I’ve done it here and there. ”

  “You’ll have to come, too. ”

  She made it sound like he’d still be in her life in the summer. Would he? He hadn’t thought much beyond the here and now, because that’s the way his life had always been. Relationships had never been long-term for him, which suited him just fine and had fit with his career goals. It was hard to have a relationship and do what he did for a living, always being on the road. Plus, he’d never known if someone was in it for him or for who he was and what he did.

  Alicia was different, though. Their relationship had been anything but traditional. They’d never even had what he would consider a date. He didn’t know how he felt about what was going on between the two of them. The sex sure as hell was smoking hot, and he definitely felt something, but what was it?

  Maybe it was time to start figuring it out, because at some point this whole therapy thing was going to be finished, and they’d be left with . . .

  What?

  “I’ve got steaks out on the grill—except for you, Alicia, of course,” Gavin said. “You’re having this amazing pasta salad that Liz fixed for you. ”

  Alicia grinned at Liz. “Awww, you cooked. ”

  “I boiled, mixed, chopped, and tossed. Gavin will be cooking,” Liz corrected.

  “Don’t let her fool you,” Gavin said. “She’s a hell of a cook. Garrett, want to grab your beer and come outside with me while I turn these steaks?”

  Oh, shit. It was time for the inquisition. “Sure. ”

  The night was clear and warm, every star visible in the moonless sky. Garrett followed Gavin down the steps and over to the side of the patio where the grill was located. He took a long swallow of beer and contemplated his life as it stood right now.

  What if he never pitched again? What would he do? He’d never much thought about life after baseball, but he wasn’t going to do this forever. And if he didn’t get his arm working, he’d have to figure out something to do. Maybe he should start planning that sooner rather than later and get a strategy in order.

  “Been missing you on the team, man,” Gavin said.

  “Been missing being there. How’s it going?”

  Gavin shrugged. “Typical preseason. Ups and downs. Sure could use you. ”

  Garrett took a long swallow of beer. “Working my ass off to get back. ”

  “How’s your shoulder?”

  “It feels a hell of a lot better, but I haven’t had the chance to pitch in a game situation yet, so there’s a lot up in the air. ”

  Gavin leaned against the deck. “Scary shit, man. I think all of us who play know what you’re going through, how you’re feelin
g. We’re all one injury away from that big ‘what if. ’”

  “Yeah. It’s definitely got me thinking about what I’m going to do if I can’t pitch anymore. I’ve pushed it to the far corner of my mind for a long time now, but I have to face reality and come up with a backup plan. ”

  “None of us ever want to think about life after baseball. ” Gavin looked at him. “Do you even have a backup plan?”

  Garrett laughed. “Not yet. I guess it’s time to figure that out. ”

  “You’ll pitch again. My cousin is damn good at her job. She’s dedicated and fierce. She’ll have you on that mound, good as new. ”

  He loved that Gavin believed in Alicia. “She is good at her job. She’s pushed me harder than anyone—hell, harder than I ever thought about pushing myself. ”

  Gavin smiled as he tipped the beer to his lips. “That sounds like Alicia. The words no and I can’t aren’t in her vocabulary. When she got hired on to the team, I knew if I ever got hurt, I’d want her in charge of my recovery. ”

  “Seriously?”

  “Hell yeah. For as long as I’ve known her, she’s wanted to help people. In high school she knew she wanted to go into sports medicine, even bullied the high school football coach into letting her apprentice with the team athletic director, just so she could get some on-the-job practice before she went off to college. This is her life’s dream. She’s so goddamn dedicated to making sure athletes stay healthy, recover, and play at the top of their game. It’s more than just a paycheck to her, you know. ”

  “I can see that. I’ve seen it in action. She puts a lot of heart into what she does. And I’m really grateful for what she’s done for me. I think very highly of her. ”

  Gavin paused while he flipped the steaks then turned to Garrett. “I know this is really tricky territory, because you and I are friends, and she’s my cousin. I don’t want to butt in because it’s none of my business. The only thing I’ll say about it is, I just don’t want her to get hurt. ”

  He knew Gavin would say something. The responsibility of looking after family and all. Not that he had much experience in that department since he rarely saw his own. But from what he’d heard about Alicia and her family dynamics, he knew they were close, so he’d expected this. “I don’t want her to get hurt, either. I’ll do everything not to let that happen. ”

  Gavin stared at him for a minute then nodded. “I believe you. You’re not one of those assholes. ”

  Garrett laughed. “Uh, no. I’m not. I won’t hurt her, Gavin. That’s not what this is about. ”

  “Okay. Good talk. Let’s move on to how we’re going to kick Baltimore’s ass tomorrow. ”

 

  * * *

  ALICIA TRIED TO PEER OUT INTO THE DARKNESS, SO she could get a read on what was going on between Gavin and Garrett. She couldn’t see them, though. And she also couldn’t hear them, which was a good sign there was no arguing going on.

  “What are you looking at?” Liz asked her as they sat at the bar drinking wine.

  She pulled her gaze toward Liz. “Trying to figure out if they’ve come to blows yet. ”

  Liz snorted. “Gavin isn’t going to punch Garrett just because the two of you are having wild monkey sex. ”

  Alicia’s eyes widened. She thought about denying it, but this was Liz, who would poke and pry until she got the truth out of Alicia. “How did you know?”

  “Please. I know that nervous look. Besides, Gavin told me. You’re afraid Gavin is going to go all protective cousin on Garrett. ”

  “Maybe. ”

  Liz waved her hand. “Not going to happen. Believe me, the last thing Gavin wants to talk about is your sex life. ”

  She relaxed her shoulders. “You’re probably right about that. ”
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