Thrown by a curve, p.8
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       Thrown by a Curve, p.8
 

         Part #5 of Play by Play series by Jaci Burton
Page 8

  Author: Jaci Burton “Right. Okay. I’ll order the pizza. I like pepperoni. How about you?”

  “Uh, I’m a vegetarian. So, cheese for me. ”

  He gave her a look. “No, shit. Okay, cheese pizza it is. ”

  “You can put meat on your side, or on the whole thing. I can just pick it off, you know. ”

  “I like cheese pizza. Would you like a soda? I have iced tea, too. Or I could make coffee. ”

  She grabbed a spot on the sofa. “Iced tea would be great. But don’t go to any trouble. I can get it for myself. ”

  His lips curved as he walked by. “I’m pretty sure I can fix you a glass of tea, Alicia. You want sugar?”

  “No. Plain is fine with me. Thanks. ”

  She’d barely paid attention to his place when she’d stormed in this morning, because she’d been so focused on him and getting him to therapy. Now that she was more relaxed, she looked around.

  Wow. It was nice here. Roomy living room with a sectional, big screen television, lots of video games, surround sound. The room was artfully decorated in shades of taupe and brown that lent a masculine feel to the room. The hardwood floors only added to the hominess of the place, and there were area rugs spread around in a way that looked haphazard, but she knew was deliberate.

  Someone had decorated. Unless Garrett had that kind of flair.

  “Did you decorate the place yourself?”

  “Huh?” he asked as he came in with their drinks then looked around as she motioned to the living area. “Oh. Hell, no. If it were up to me, there’d be like a folding table in here, and I’d be sitting on the floor. Some chick at the furniture store recommended a decorator, who took care of everything. ”

  “She did a good job. I guess I’m just surprised that you live in a nicely furnished house, you being a single guy and all. Most of the guys I know live in apartments or a condo. ”

  He laughed as he flopped onto the sofa next to her. “I like big spaces. I did my time in apartments. Too cramped for me. ”

  “Well, you’re a big guy. I could see why that wouldn’t work for you. ”

  “How about you?”

  “An apartment. I’m not a big guy, so it suits my purposes. ”

  He gave her a long once-over, the kind that a man gave a woman he was definitely noticing. It made the room seem awfully warm. “No, you’re definitely not big . . . or a guy. ”

  She laughed. “No, I’m not. But I have lived with a big guy. And sharing a tiny bathroom with my brother growing up wasn’t fun. The apartment I live in now is like a castle by comparison. ”

  “College was like that for me. I shared a bathroom with three other guys. Not anything I ever want to do again. ”

  “I did that in college, too, though I shared a bathroom with about fifteen women. ”

  He made a face. “All those hair products. ”

  She laughed. “Hey, we managed. And how did you score a suite?”

  “Athletic dorm. It wasn’t too bad. ”

  “No kidding. You got lucky. You went to college in Oklahoma, right?”

  “Yeah. ” He leaned back on the sofa with his drink. “In fact, there’s a get-together with some of the guys from my dorm coming up. Haven’t seen some of them in a while. ”

  “Are you going?”

  He shrugged. “I haven’t thought much about it. Been focusing on the shoulder thing, you know. ”

  “You should go. It would be good for you to reconnect with your friends from college. ”

  “Maybe. ” He took a long swallow of his drink, and she studied him, the way his body moved. Some of that was the nature of her job. She watched every athlete’s body, always looking for signs of injury, watching their body mechanics to see if she could correct anything they did that might point out a weakness. But with Garrett she found she simply enjoyed watching him . . . and his body.

  She shook that thought away. “I sense hesitation. How long has it been since you’ve seen your friends?”

  “I don’t know. Like I said. It’s been awhile. ”

  “Oh, you should definitely go. I love hanging out with my college friends. ”

  He snorted. “You’re a girl. ”

  “What does that have to do with it?”

  “Girls like all that rehashing of the past. Guys . . . not so much. We move forward. ”

  “That’s such crap. Guys have shown up at our college get-togethers, and they have just as good a time as the women do. So, what’s holding you back?”

  He didn’t answer. Then it hit her. “It’s your injury, isn’t it? You want to go back to your friends as a big success. And right now you feel like a failure. ”

  He narrowed his gaze at her. “That’s not it. I told you, I forgot about it until just now, because I’ve been focusing on rehab. ”

  She didn’t believe him. “You’ve been a success. You are one. Look at your career. ”

  “That’s in the past. ”

  “Oh, please. Look at your accomplishments at such a young age. You’re a Cy Young Award winner. Come on. Don’t you want to celebrate that with your friends?”

  “In sports you’re only as good as your current season. ”

  She wanted to smack him in the shoulder—the uninjured one, anyway. “That sounds like a line fed by media. You watch too many sportscasts. How many athletes do you know of who never even make it to the majors, who never get their shots to play the big games? You have, and you’ve played so well. Don’t let this injury define you when it’s nothing more than a bump in the road. ”

  Garrett stared at Alicia. She gave a good speech, but he wasn’t sure if he believed her. He wanted to, but she just didn’t know how it was in sports. One day you were on top of the world—the next you were out the door. You were only as good as the last pitch you threw, and he hadn’t thrown one since August of last year. Not only did his team measure his success that way, so would the media. And the fans.

  And his friends.

  Okay, his friends wouldn’t judge him on his success or lack of it. That’s why they were still his friends. But he judged himself, and that was enough. He just didn’t want to have to . . . explain.

  “When’s your get-together?”

  “I don’t know. Sometime this month. It’s not a big deal. ”

  She blew out a breath. “So, when is it?”

  “Geez, I don’t know. The date’s in an email Gray—one of my roommates—sent me. ”

  Alicia rolled her eyes. “Oh, my God, Garrett. Do you have it handy where you could look it up?”

  “It’s on my phone. ”

  “Go get it. Find out when it is. ”

  “Why are you so interested?”

  She gave him a smile. “Just consider it therapy. Will you go get it?”

  She was pretty when she smiled. Really pretty. Like not making him think of her as his Attila the Hun therapist kind of pretty. He got up and went down the hall, came back with his phone, which he’d scanned for Gray’s email while he’d made his way back to the sofa. “It’s this weekend, actually. Too late now. We have to head to Florida. ”

  He handed her his phone so she could read the email. She looked at it then lifted her head to look at him. “It’s not too late at all. It would only delay the trip to Florida by a couple of days. You should definitely go. Are all your friends baseball players?”

  “No. We had guys from every sport holed up together in the athletic dorm. ”

  “That’s so interesting. How many of them have gone on to play professional sports?”

  He smiled. He hadn’t thought about the guys in a long time, hadn’t seen them in a while. It would be good to catch up. “From my core group—all of them. ”

  She arched a brow. “Really? That’s amazing. And now my curiosity is high. I want to know who these guys are. ”

  He thought about it for a minute. Ridiculous idea. He wasn’t even going. But if he was . . . “You could
come with me. ”

  She looked as surprised by his comment as he was when the thought popped into his head.

  “What?”

  But now that he’d said it, it made sense. “Sure. Come with me. I’ll introduce you. ”

  “Oh, I don’t think so. I mean you should totally go. You’ll have a good time. And you really should reconnect with your friends. ”

  “This was your idea. ”

  “I know. It was my idea for you to go. ”

  He liked that she looked so uncomfortable, with her deer-in-the-headlights, wide-eyed expression. Since she made him so damned uncomfortable all the time, it was nice to turn the tables on her.

  “Hey, you’re supposed to be with me all the time anyway. You wouldn’t let me blow off one day of therapy. You’d let me be away for a three-day weekend to go to this reunion?”

  She opened her mouth, then shut it.

  Perfect. He had her now.

  “Okay, you might have a point there. ”

  He never made an argument without one.

  “Uh, where would we be going exactly?”

  “Not that far. Central Oklahoma. Just a short drive down the highway. And we could work out at the lodge facility. There’s state-of-the-art equipment there. ”

  She cocked her head to the side, mulling it over. “Okay. ”

  The doorbell rang, and Garrett went to grab the pizza from the delivery boy. They ate while planning logistics for both the weekend coming up and for the subsequent trip to Florida.

  “I’ll need to order certain equipment for your workouts. And I’d really like to have access to a pool. ”

  “There’s one at the beach house I stay at. We could use that one. ”

  She arched a brow. “Really? You have a beach house?”

  He grinned. “I rent it from a couple I know. I don’t like hotels. It’s bad enough I have to deal with them throughout the season. At least during preseason I have the beach house. ”

  “All right. I can work with that. ”

  “Actually, you could stay there, too. There’s a guesthouse. ”

  She pondered the idea. She’d figured she’d stay at the same hotel as the team, but this would make more sense, especially if there was a guesthouse. “Okay, that works. We can commute together to the team facility. ”

  “Yeah, we can do that. But there’s also a gym room that has a lot of exercise equipment. ”

  “Really?” She got out her notepad. “Tell me what’s in there. I’ll be sure to order in whatever else we need. ”

  He gave her a list, and she made some notes.

  “This will work out great. I’ll need to call Max and get things ironed out for the delay. He was expecting us to make plans to head down there right away. ”

  “Make the call. ”

  “Now?”

  “I don’t see why not. If Max or Phil has a problem with me taking that trip to Oklahoma, they’ll let you know. And then I’ll talk them out of it. ”

  She rolled her eyes. “Do you always get your way?”

  “Not always, but it’s nice when I do. ”

  She grabbed her cell and dialed Phil’s number. As team doctor, he’d have the final say. As Garrett suspected, Phil was fine with the delay and was happy Alicia was going with Garrett to continue his therapy.

  She hung up and laid her phone down. “We’re all set. ”

  “Good. ” He leaned back in the dining-room chair.

  “What’s going to happen when you don’t get what you want?”

  “You think everything goes my way all the time?”

  “Seems that way. ”

  He shook his head. “Honey, if I got everything I wanted, I’d be in Florida throwing pitches right now. ”
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