Thrown by a curve, p.42
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       Thrown by a Curve, p.42

         Part #5 of Play by Play series by Jaci Burton
Page 42

  Author: Jaci Burton

  She’d been busy working on rehab for some of the other guys, so he rarely got the chance to talk to her during treatment and workouts anymore.

  On an off day, he waited until she finished and showed up at her house that night, hoping like hell she hadn’t moved on, that she didn’t have a date over when he rang the doorbell.

  When she answered, she was wearing skintight yoga pants and a long-sleeved shirt. God, she looked good. He wanted to pull her into his arms and kiss her. But he couldn’t. He’d lost that right because he was stupid.

  Her eyes widened when she saw it was him at the door.

  “Oh. Hi,” she said.

  “Hi yourself. I know I should have phoned, but you didn’t answer the last few times I called you, so I thought I’d drop by. ”

  “Yeah. Sorry. My feelings were a little hurt about being dumped as your therapist. ”

  He loved that she was so forward and honest. “Can I come in?”

  She hesitated. He didn’t know what he’d do if she said no.

  “Sure. ”

  He stepped into the living room and turned. “I feel like I’m always apologizing to you. ”

  She didn’t say anything.

  “Maybe it’s because I’m always fucking up. I’m not very good at this relationship thing. I’ve never had one before. I’ve dated here and there, but nothing long lasting. You and me—I think we’ve got something special, and I feel like I let it go. ”

  “You didn’t let it go. You’re mixing the work aspect with the personal. ”

  He took a deep inhale. “But they are mixed together. Or they were. In my head, anyway. ” He dragged his fingers through his hair. “I got used to seeing you every day. I got used to you taking care of me. And when you weren’t there . . . ”

  She frowned. “So you’re upset I’m not your therapist anymore?”

  He was screwing this up. He shook his head. “No. I mean, yes. What you did for me—you turned my life and my career around. I can’t thank you enough for that. Manny thinks I’ll be a starting pitcher again soon. ”

  “That’s good news. I told you that you would be. ”

  “I know you did. I guess when I started pitching again, I wanted it to happen right away. And when it didn’t, everything got confused for me. I looked for someone to blame for that. ”

  She crossed her arms. “And I was convenient?”

  She wasn’t going to make this easy for him. “Yeah, I guess so. You were responsible for my recovery, for helping me pull my head out of my ass and make me see that I could pitch again. And when things didn’t go the way I wanted them to, I blamed you. When Max came to me and told me that he could get me the rest of the way, I jumped at the chance. ”

  “I could have gotten you there, Garrett. ”

  “I know. Which is what I told Max. He’s very good at what he does. But he’s not you. ”

  She stepped closer. “You told Max what?”

  “I told Max that while I appreciated his working with me, I’ve grown used to you as my therapist, and I’d rather work with you. ”

  She gaped at him. “You did not say that to him. ”

  “I did. He’s fine with it. ”

  Her lips lifted. “I’m pretty sure Max isn’t fine with it. ”

  “I don’t care if he is or not. What I do care is how you feel. ” He crossed the distance between them and picked up her hand to hold it; he’d missed her touch so much. “I hurt you that day. And I let you walk away from me. I’m sorry for that. I’ve missed you. ”

  “I’ve . . . missed you, too, Garrett. ”

  “I love you, Alicia. ”

  Her eyes widened. “You do?”

  “I do. I can’t tell you how much that scares me. The breakup of my parents’ marriage kind of soured me on the whole idea of love and permanence. You know how I am about family. Hell, I don’t even see my own much anymore because it makes me so damned uncomfortable to be around them. It reminds me of pain and loss and things I don’t want to remember. But then I see you with your whole family—and the love that surrounds you—and it makes me believe that maybe we could have something like that, that maybe that kind of love actually does exist. ”

  Alicia was swamped with so many emotions at once she couldn’t process them all. Relief that he’d shown up—that he’d come to her and laid his feelings on the line—and utter shock that he’d told her he loved her.

  He’d even apologized and taken responsibility for hurting her. It took a strong man to stand up to his failings. A lot of men couldn’t do that.

  She laid her hand on Garrett’s chest and tilted her head back to look into the face she loved so much. “You did hurt me. I’ve put everything I have into making you a pitcher again. And you threw it all away because you got scared. ”

  This time he didn’t look away. “Yes. I’m sorry. ”

  “You can’t run every time the world doesn’t turn in the direction you want it to. You might not become a starting pitcher again at the time you think is right for you, but you will start again, Garrett. I know you will. I believe in you. I’ve always believed in you. ”

  She felt his shudder. He clasped his hands over hers, brought her hand to his mouth and pressed a kiss there. “You’ve always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. ”

  “Yes, I did. ”

  “Thank you for that. And now I have to ask if you’ll forgive me for hurting you, even though I don’t deserve it. Because I love you, and I want to be with you. ”

  “How will that work, Garrett? I can’t be your therapist and your girlfriend. ”

  He cocked a brow. “Why not? There’s no rule that says you can’t work for the team and have a relationship with a team member, is there?”

  “Of course there is. It’s in my contract with the team. ”

  He took a step back. “Seriously?”

  “Seriously. How can you not know that? I just assumed you did, or that it’s in your contract, too. I can’t fraternize on a personal basis with any team member without losing my job. Why do you think I was so freaked out when the other players caught us kissing?”

  “You have got to be kidding me. Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?”

  She shrugged. “Well, first, and again, because I thought you already knew. And second, because I thought what you and I had was a fling, a temporary thing. I figured as long as we hid it well, no one would ever know. Now . . . ”

  She was elated by his declaration of love, and miserable at the same time.

  He sat on the sofa. “This sucks. ”

  “Yes. ”

  “And it’s unacceptable. ” He pulled his phone out of his pocket and punched a number, looking at her as it rang. “Victoria, it’s Garrett. We have a problem. ”




  ALICIA CHEWED HER BOTTOM LIP AS SHE WAITED IN the team conference room with Garrett, his agent, Victoria Baldwin, and Lucas Birdwell, an attorney Liz had hired to represent Alicia in this matter.

  Her boss, Max, Manny Magee, and the team’s attorneys were all present as well.

  Alicia’s throat had gone utterly dry. That night when Gavin had told his agent he wanted to be traded, she’d nearly collapsed on her living-room floor.

  “Now that we’ve outlined the issue, I’m sure you can see why Garrett has asked for this trade,” Victoria said, looking so well put together in her stylish navy blue suit and gold stacked heels that Alicia felt frumpy in comparison in her simple black dress and black high-heeled pumps. But the last thing she wanted to do was call attention to herself. She’d pulled her hair back in a low ponytail and hadn’t worn any jewelry. It was much better for Victoria to have all the attention, and that she did with her hair smartly cut in a short bob, her perfect manicure, and her expertly applied makeup. The woman was utterly stunning and completely confident as she addressed ever
yone present.

  “Wouldn’t it be simpler for Miss Riley to secure another position?” asked one of the Rivers’ attorneys whose name Alicia couldn’t remember since there were five of them present.

  “Simpler, yes. But Garrett has requested the trade, so Miss Riley doesn’t lose her job. As we’ve discussed, the two of them are in a relationship and determined that Miss Riley doesn’t lose a job she’s so well qualified to perform. She enjoys her position with the Rivers and doesn’t want to compromise it. ”

  “Wait,” Manny said, with a frown on his face. “So Garrett and Alicia have fallen in love, have I got that part right?”

  “You have, Manny,” Victoria said.

  “And this is a problem, how?”

  “Miss Riley’s employment contract specifies she can’t personally fraternize with any of the players,” Alicia’s attorney explained.

  “What a crock,” Manny said. “Why don’t you just rewrite her contract then. She stays, Garrett stays, and everyone’s happy. ”

  Victoria looked over at the attorneys. The one whose name Alicia couldn’t remember said, “If we did that, Mr. Magee, we’d have to do that for all the employees of the team. ”

  “What? You think there’s gonna be a bunch of fraternizin’ then? There’s only one other female member of the sports-medicine team, and she’s already married, isn’t she?”

  “Yes,” Max said. “She is. ”

  Manny leaned back in his chair. “Then it seems to me the problem is solved. I’d rather not lose one of my best pitchers just because he happened to fall in love with a woman who works for the team. Dumb rule if you ask me. Who writes these contracts anyway?”

  No one on the Rivers legal team answered that question.

  “Is it possible to revise Miss Riley’s contract?” Lucas asked.

  The suits conferred, then Mr. Teers—Alicia finally remembered his name—answered. “I think we can do that as long as Miss Riley and Mr. Scott agree that she’ll no longer be directly responsible for Mr. Scott’s therapy. ”

  “I don’t think so,” Garrett said. “What difference does it make if she does my therapy or not? She’s the one who got me back on the pitcher’s mound. ”

  “Garrett,” Alicia said, placing her hand over his. “You can’t win everything. It’s okay. ”

  “She’s right, Garrett,” Victoria said. “Take this as a victory. Alicia keeps her job, and you get to stay with the Rivers. Surely there are many fine sports-medicine specialists working for the Rivers who can handle your physical therapy. ”

  “There are,” Alicia said, looking over at Max, who so far hadn’t betrayed his feelings on the matter with any sort of expression. “Work with Max. ”

  Garrett inhaled, then sighed. “Fine. ”

  “Then it’s agreed,” Lucas said.

  After some legal language maneuvering, the meeting was over. Alicia found the whole process exhausting, and was still shocked Garrett had even contemplated the trade in the first place.

  After thanking Lucas for his time, Alicia stood outside with Garrett and Victoria.

  “Thanks, Tori. I knew I could count on you,” Garrett said.

  “You make me want to drink, Garrett, you know that?”

  He grinned. “I doubted they’d let me go. Even though I’m not a starting pitcher yet, I’m too valuable to the team. ”

  Victoria patted his cheek. “That’s what I love about you. All that ego. ” She looked over at Alicia. “Keep him healthy, even if it’s on the down low. ”

  Alicia laughed. “I’ll do my best. And thank you. ”

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