Don’t move, he had said.
I didn’t. I stayed in place until he pulled me up, my feet almost lifting off the ground, and his hands stayed in place until he was certain I was firm on my feet, our bodies parting, my hands releasing their grip on his shirt, nervously moving to adjust my baseball cap into place, to pull at the front of my wet shirt, releasing the cold material from my skin.
“Thank you,” I muttered.
“You should get into dry clothes.”
“Your teeth are chattering.” His hand reached out and was suddenly at my jaw, fingers gentle in their brush over my lips, and I ground my teeth, my eyes moving, shock pushing them up, past his touch, and to his face for the first time.
A mistake. This close, our bodies just a foot apart, his touch soft on my lips … I was unprepared. Unshielded.
There was a line between his eyebrows, a hard pinch of skin. His eyes deep and soft, no laugh in them today, no cocky tilt of that mouth. He pressed his lips together, his jaw tight, skin golden, and it was pure beauty before me. I couldn’t look away—not when our eyes met, not when his hand slid to cup my face.
He let go of me then—the moment his fingertips slid into the dip behind my earlobe, wrapped under the line of my jaw. He pulled away, his hand fell from my waist, and we both stepped back.
“I’m sorry.” He rubbed at his mouth.
“It’s a blind corner. No big deal.”
“No.” He coughed. “I’m sorry about the locker room. What I said—it was stupid.”
“Oh.” I could feel the blush, hot and prickly through my cheeks. “It was stupid.”
He laughed in response, the sound loud and unexpected. “So you didn’t like what you saw.”
I stared at him, my eyes widening, no coherent, logical response coming to mind. “No!” I finally said, and it was five heartbeats too late.
“Really,” he challenged.
I couldn’t respond to that and stepped around him, moving down the hall, my feet quickening. I was desperate for an escape, for room to breathe, desperate for anything but another word of conversation.
“You always run, Little League?” his call rang down the hall, slamming into the back of my head.
I stopped. Turned. Met those eyes across twenty feet of nothing. “You always bunt?” I called back.
He snorted. “Bunt?”
I shrugged. “That’s what it felt like to me.” My lie came out strong, the words mixing his brown eyes into something darker.
“Grand slams aren’t typically called for, in this situation.”
“What situation is that?” I couldn’t shut up. It was like I was running full force to the edge of the cliff, but my legs wouldn’t stop.
Women. Not girls, not children. Had I ever been considered a woman? Was I a woman?
“And it wasn’t a bunt,” he added, before I had the chance to formulate a response.
He took a step back, turning away and tossing a response over one perfectly sculpted shoulder. “Babe, I haven’t even stepped up to bat.”
He was around the corner before my brain processed the words. Before I could form the question that followed the receipt.
Hadn’t stepped up to bat? Meaning … he hadn’t even been interested? Or … was that heart-stopping moment just a scratch at the surface of what Chase Stern could unleash?
It was probably good he left. I didn’t think anything positive would come from a further explanation.
That night, the game was cancelled, and I went back to the hotel, my uniform still wet, my mind still wound up.
When I closed my eyes in bed, all I could see was his stare, and all I could smell was the phantom scent of his cologne.
Chase Stern stepped off the bus, shifting his bag higher on his shoulder. Moving forward, he ignored the shouts from fans, their line of bodies packed in on either side, hands reached out over the barricade fence, balls and notepads thrust out, an undulating wave of obligations. A pair of tits caught his eye, and he slowed, stretching and taking a Sharpie from the perky blonde. “What’s your name?” he asked.
“Kristin,” she beamed, and when she leaned forward and adjusted the hem of her shorts, he could see everything.
He scribbled her name on the jersey she held out, glancing backward, his eyes connecting for a brief moment with Ty, her step off the bus quick and no-nonsense, her eyes moving off his, her face unchanging.
“My number.” The blonde tried to hand him a piece of hot pink paper.
“I’m good.” He waved it off, capping the marker and handing it back.
“Just take it,” she insisted, still holding it out.
He took the next pen and scribbled out another signature, ignoring the paper, which seemed to make the blonde more insistent. Giving another two autographs, he stepped back, waving a hand to the crowd and avoiding the eyes of the blonde.
He didn’t analyze his actions. Didn’t wonder why his overactive sex drive seemed to have suddenly gone on hiatus. It was probably about time he stopped screwing around—especially with the Yankees, a team that frowned on scandal of any sort.
He stepped toward the building, following the line of players who had passed, his eyes finding and resting on a figure, shorter than all the others, one blonde ponytail bobbing among the men.
11:14 PM. The Marriott. At an alcove at the end of the twenty-seventh floor, I stood and stared at the vending machine choices, chewing the edge of my cheek. I had my strengths. A killer curveball. Mad karaoke skills. The ability to finish off a Slurpee in five minutes flat with no brain freeze. Decision-making was not my strong point. Especially when faced with a well-stocked vending machine.
“Big thought process you got going on there.”
I didn’t look over. There was only one person who owned that voice. I held up the dollar. “Limited funds. I have to choose wisely.”
“Go with the Milky Way.”
That line of idiocy earned him a grimace; the gesture aimed in his general direction before my eyes were held hostage by the beauty that was a shirtless Chase Stern.
Navy pajama pants hung low on his hips, and I’d bet my dollar right then that he had nothing on underneath. No shoes. Bare torso, cut and lean, with enough muscle to rip homers and make any teenage girl come apart at the seams.