by Alessandra Torre

I set down my candy and tucked my hands under my thighs, swinging out my feet. “Dad tries every year to keep me home. He doesn’t succeed.”

“Most wouldn’t give their daughter a choice.”

“I think he just wants to make sure that I really want to be here. He argues, I fight back…” I shrugged. “Then the next season starts, and I’m back on the bus.”

“But this is your last season, right?”

I turned to him, one eyebrow raised.

“Someone said you were seventeen,” he explained. “I figured you were a senior.”

I nodded slowly. “I am.”

“So … what will you do after you graduate?”

I turned my head and met his eyes. “You ask a lot of questions.”

“None of the ones I want.” His reply was so quick that it caught us both off guard, his eyes moving away, head dropping, his teeth catching his bottom lip and holding it in place.

“So ask.” I suddenly felt bold, his hand near mine, gripping the edge of the dock, those strong fingers, that home-run-hitting arm tight as he rested his weight on it.

“Nah. Not now.” He smiled, as if in apology, and lifted his chin at me. “Ask me something.”

“Why did you sleep with Davis’s wife?”

It was a wildly inappropriate question—one I almost took back, the words hanging uncomfortably between us.

“Wow.” He rubbed his cheek. “You really dove in there.”

“You don’t have to answer it.” But I wanted him to. I wanted to know how someone could be so incredibly stupid.

“She was there. I was bored.”

I shifted uneasily. “Please tell me that’s not the sugarcoated answer.”

“It’s the truth. I’m a man. Self-control isn’t exactly my strong suit.”

“So … you didn’t love her?” I heard the way the question came out. Naïve. Young. I know people fuck without love. I’d seen, in ten years around players, a lot of stupid decisions. But, I still needed to ask, needed to know what kind of man sat beside me.

He laughed, hard and cruel. “Love her? No. I’m not entirely sure I even liked her.”

I wondered how Davis’s wife had felt about him. If she’d been the same, their sex just some lust-filled side project that had gone wrong. Or if he’d poured on false promises, wooing and abandoning her with one easy signature on the trade contract. I wondered if she was heartbroken and crying, all while I giggled at him in a hotel hallway and felt special because he’d given me seventy-five cents for a candy bar.

I was suddenly angry with myself and pushed to my feet, my cheeks burning.

“You’re mad?” He looked up at me, the moonlight on his face, his expression wary. “Oh.” He barked out a laugh. “You wanted the bullshit response I gave the press? You want me to be remorseful and blame it on alcohol or drugs?” I moved to leave, and his hand grabbed my bicep, and then he was standing.

“I knew what I was doing,” he said, low and close to my ear. “I knew the risks. I didn’t care. And look.” He let go of me, holding his hands out from his body. “Look at what I got. A spot on the Yankee roster. Not bad.”

I smiled, and he didn’t understand, his cocky grin becoming wary. “You think you’re the first asshole I’ve met?” I shook my head. “I’ve lived in a man’s world for a long time, Chase. And I’ve watched men like you make mistakes like that over and over again.”

“I’m not an asshole,” he said quietly, stepping closer—and I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to be able to see the detail in his eyes when they softened. The way they begged. What was he wanting? “It was sex. Nothing more. For either of us.”

“Her husband was your teammate. It’s like … being a family. You don’t do that to family.” He shouldn’t need me to explain this to him. He should know.

“A team isn’t a family. If it were, that would make your father and I brothers. And if we were brothers, then I couldn’t do this.” He stepped forward, his fingers warm, tips of contact sliding under the hem of my shirt, around to the small of my back. His other hand touched my cheek, a soft brush as if testing to see if I was real. I didn’t move, my mind struggling to think, to process. Was he about to—then, his head lowered, his hand fell away, and he pressed his lips to mine.

I didn’t want to kiss him. My hand was suddenly on his chest, and I wanted to push away. I didn’t want my palm to mold to muscle, for my fingers to dig. I didn’t want my mouth to open wider, my tongue to give in. I certainly didn’t want for this kiss, with this man, to change everything I ever knew about chemistry.

Our kiss had energy, it was a battle—one fought with gentle teases, exploratory touches, and passion—need pulling me forward even as I tried my best to push him away…

And then it was done, my feet stumbling back, his hands releasing me, eye contact the only thing left between us. Hungry eyes. They held me in place as he all but licked his lips. They should have scared me, but they didn’t. They matched the staccato of my heart, the gasp of my breath, the tremble of my fingers. They were wild and young, and I saw—in the widen of them—a peek of vulnerability.

I took another step back and almost fell off the dock, my foot turning on the edge of the path, my arms swinging out as I regained my balance. I blushed, my visions of a smooth exit shattered, and glanced over my shoulder at the hotel, no one in sight to witness my stumble, or our kiss. “I’m going to bed.”

I could still feel his lips on me when I looked back, Chase saying nothing, his eyes darker now that I was farther away, their hold lessened, and I turned. I stepped down the dock, flip-flops flapping against the boards, and listened. But he didn’t call out, didn’t follow, silence the only sound behind me.

He let me go and that, more than anything, stabbed the hardest.

When I got back to my room, I turned off the lights and walked to the window. Pulling aside the curtain, I looked down at the marina. Chase was still there, his back to me, hands in his pocket, standing where we had kissed, his eyes on the water.

I leaned against the wall, my fingers absently touching my lips. The kiss should never have happened. If my father found out, if anyone did, it would be disastrous.