Thrown by a curve, p.38
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       Thrown by a Curve, p.38
 

         Part #5 of Play by Play series by Jaci Burton
Page 38

  Author: Jaci Burton

  She laughed. “Really?”

  “Really. It was kind of embarrassing. But not as embarrassing as the one commercial I did for a razor where I had to spend an entire day with my face coated in shaving cream while wearing nothing but a towel around my waist. ”

  “Oh, I saw that commercial. Lord, you looked hot with that towel slung low on your hips. I had fantasies about you while watching that commercial. ”

  He grinned. “Yeah? Would it burst your bubble to know I had my boxer briefs on under that towel?”

  “Totally. ”

  “No way was I going commando with twenty crew members there. Doing those commercials and print ads are never as fun or as sexy as the finished product. It’s all work. ”

  “Oh, poor you. ”

  He squeezed her hand, then twirled her around as the music picked up. “I can tell I’m not going to get any sympathy from you. ”

  She laughed. “No. Poor famous guy. ”

  “If I don’t start pitching again, I’m going to be has-been guy. ”

  “You are pitching, in case you haven’t noticed. ”

  “I’m practicing. That’s different. I’m reserving judgment until I pitch a minimum of six innings in a real game. ”

  “Oh, is that a challenge?”

  “Would it help if I said yes?”

  “It’s not going to make me work any harder on you, so no. We’re doing the best we can to get you ready, Garrett. ”

  “I know you are. But this is my career. Hell, it’s my life. ”

  She pulled away from his embrace. “Do you think I don’t know that? Do you think I approach any of my clients any differently than I do you? That I don’t take this seriously?”

  She walked off the dance floor. He followed. “Alicia, that’s not what I meant. ”

  She turned to face him. “Then what did you mean? See, this is the problem with you and me. ”

  How the hell had they gotten from a dance to talking about his rehab to some kind of issue in their relationship? “What problem between you and me?”

  “This. What we’ve been doing. You think after we—” She paused to glance around, then moved in closer. “You somehow must think that us sleeping together has caused me to approach your therapy differently. Like I’m on some goddamned vacation. Like I’ve slacked off with you instead of giving it my all. ”

  “That’s not what I said. When did I say that?”

  She pointed her finger at his chest. “Well, let me tell you, stud. At no time have I ever given you less than everything I’ve got to give. In fact, I’ve given you more. A hell of a lot more. ”

  She went to the table, grabbed her purse, and headed for the exit, leaving him standing there with several sets of Riley eyes zeroed in on him.

  Shit.

  The only one to come up to him was Cole, though.

  “What was that about?”

  He dragged his fingers through his hair. “Hell if I know. We were talking about some of the PR work I used to do, and then we started talking about my rehab, and the next thing you know she’s pissed as hell at me and making a fast dash for the exit. ”

  Cole followed Garrett’s gaze toward the front door where Alicia had walked out. “Huh. Women. Who can figure them out sometimes? And my sister? I wish I could offer some advice, man, but she’s always been a big mystery to me. ”

  Garrett had thought for sure Cole would take a punch at him for upsetting his sister. “I don’t know what I did. I swear I wasn’t trying to upset her. ”

  Cole offered up a wry smile. “Don’t worry about it. I can get her from zero to rage demon in about four seconds just by saying hello. ”

  Somehow he figured Cole was exaggerating. “I’m sure I did something or said something that irritated her. I need to say I’m sorry. Well, first I need to figure out what I did wrong. Then I need to apologize. ”

  Cole laughed and patted him on the back. “Yeah, good luck with that. ”

 

 

  TWENTY-FIVE

  MAYBE SHE WAS PMSING. THAT WAS ALICIA’S ONLY EXCUSE for her lunaticlike behavior at the club.

  She’d built up a good head of steam heading out of the club, carried a body full of smoke to the car, but by the time she’d gotten home and into the driveway, the fog had cleared, and she was, unfortunately, much more clearheaded.

  And mortified that she’d let her emotions get the best of her, that she’d stormed out of the club, out of Jenna’s opening night, without saying good-bye to her family and without thanking Jenna and telling her what a great success the club was going to be.

  Alicia owed Jenna a big, fat apology. If she ever left her house again, which at this point was debatable considering what a spectacle she’d made of herself.

  This was the reason she’d spent the last several years focusing on her education and her career and most definitely not on men and relationships. Men made women crazy. Or at least they made her crazy. Okay, one man in particular was making her lose her ever-loving mind.

  As she sat at her kitchen table sipping the cup of hot tea she’d made to try and mellow herself out, she replayed their conversation over in her mind. What had the trigger point been?

  Having Garrett show up at the club had been wonderful, and she’d been grateful and thrilled that he’d gotten along so well with her family, especially with Cole. And when he’d asked her to dance, she’d been happy to be able to touch him and feel his body close to hers. They’d talked, and he’d made her laugh with his stories of advertising and commercials, until they’d gotten on the topic of therapy . . .

  That’s when everything had gone awry, and she’d gone up like an erupting volcano because he’d challenged her abilities. Or at least that’s what she’d thought she’d heard. In a packed club with the music blaring and people talking all around her, for all she knew he could have been talking about the hottest new brand of goat cheese.

  She decided she’d blame it all on the wine. Alcohol made people do dumb things all the time. Too bad she’d only had two glasses spread out over four hours with multiple waters in between, so she wasn’t even drunk. Not even slightly buzzed, as a matter of fact.

  The bottom line was, she’d overreacted.

  “Ugh, Alicia. You’re an idiot. ” She laid her head down on the kitchen table, deciding at that instant to become a hermit. She’d give up her career and become a hoarder. She enjoyed shopping online anyway.

  A knock at the door interrupted her self-pity party. She picked up her phone to look at the time. It was pretty late. Who could be here at this hour? Alarmed, phone in hand just in case it was someone she didn’t know, she crept to the door and looked out the peephole.

  Garrett. She laid her head against the door.

  She couldn’t face him. She was a moron. What would she say?

  Oh, I’m dramatic like that all the time. Wouldn’t you love to continue having a relationship with me?

  “Alicia. I know you’re there. I heard your shoes on the floor. ”

  Even worse, she sucked at stealth, too. Good thing he wasn’t a burglar. Unsure what to say to him but knowing she wasn’t going to leave him standing out there, she opened the door.

  He stood there, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his pants and his head cocked to the side. He wasn’t smiling.

  “Hey,” was all he said.

  So she gave him a “Hey” in return.

  “Can I come in for a minute?”

  Despite having no idea why he’d want to be within miles of her at the moment, she stepped away from the entrance. “Sure. ”

  She closed the door and locked it after he walked in, but she stayed near the door, just in case she’d have to let him out right away.

  He turned to face her, looking about as miserable as she felt.

  “I’m sorry,” he said right away. “I was a jerk. I shouldn’t have made yo
u doubt that what you’re doing for me—what you’ve done for me—has been anything less than a goddamn miracle. ”

  Great. Now she felt even worse. She moved toward him. “No, I’m the one who’s sorry. I behaved terribly, acted like the type of woman I absolutely loathe, the kind who throws tantrums and acts like a diva because things don’t go her way. I can’t apologize enough for overreacting to what you said. ”

  “You didn’t overreact. I was an asshole. ”

  “You weren’t an asshole. I’m just doing my job, and you have a right to feel about it however you feel about it. It’s natural for you to have concerns about your career. I made it about me. Even worse, I made it about you and me. I should know better. ”

  He swept one of the escaped tendrils of hair behind her ear. “I think it’s okay to talk about you and me like there really is a you and me. ”

  Something fluttered in her belly. “Is there?”

  “I think so. Don’t you?”

  “I don’t know what to think sometimes. It scares me. ”

  “Hell, everything scares me, Alicia. The fact I might not pitch again scares me. Being in a room full of your family tonight? That was terrifying, given how I feel about my own family. You and me? That definitely scares me. That argument we had tonight was minor in comparison. ”

  She loved that he was being honest with her. Knowing what frightened him—that the two of them and their relationship ranked at the top of that list—helped her understand him better. It scared her, too. Her feelings for him absolutely petrified her, because they gave him the power to hurt her. “You’re right, and I handled it badly. It won’t happen again. ”

  His lips lifted. “Don’t make promises you might not be able to keep. ”

  She laughed. “Okay, I won’t. I have some hot tea made. Would you like some?”

  “No. I want to kiss and make up. ” He pulled her close and cupped the back of her neck, drawing her lips to his. There was power in this kiss, a desperate passion she grabbed on to like a lifeline.

  Maybe it was an apology, but every time they came together, it always seemed more powerful than the time before. It could be that it was all in her mind, that her love for Garrett was growing and that’s why touching him, kissing him, and being with him felt so all consuming to her each time they were together. But there was something incredibly magical about the way he stroked her neck. Surely those goose bumps she felt weren’t her imagination.

  He slid his fingers along her scalp to release the clip that held her hair up then trailed his fingers down to find the zipper of her dress.

  With her zipper drawn halfway, he led her into the bedroom where he turned on the beside lamp, then stood her at the side of the bed and pulled her against him again to take her mouth in a searing kiss that left her breathless.

  “I’ve been waiting all night to get you out of this dress, to see what kind of underwear you had on,” he whispered against her ear, finishing what he’d started in the living room by pulling the zipper of her dress the rest of the way down.

  When she stepped out of the dress, his gaze roamed appreciatively over her black push-up bra and matching thong panties. She hadn’t expected to see him tonight, but she’d selected the underwear anyway, secretly hoping he’d be there.

  “Uh . . . fucking wow,” he said. “And with those sexy high heels? Double fucking wow. ”

  She blushed under his heated gaze. “Thank you. You next. ”

  He unbuttoned his shirt and shrugged it off, then slipped off his shoes and pants, modeling his black boxer briefs for her.

  She laughed. “Sexy. ”

  “Yeah, not even close. He dropped his briefs, his erection bobbing up and making her quiver in anticipation.

  He teased his fingertips over the swell of her breasts. “This underwear is very hot, Alicia. Did you wear it for me, hoping you’d see me tonight?”
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