Authors: Celia Aaron,Sloane Howell
Nikki had been seeing Braden for all of two weeks. They’d met at a bar frequented by the baseball team. An unrepentant cleat chaser, Nikki could smell a player from a mile away and have her mouth on his dick in under sixty seconds. Braden was her latest, possibly her greatest, conquest. Since it had lasted two weeks—a record—I’d finally agreed to go to a baseball game with her to see him play. Even though I hated players.
And now Nikki wasn’t the only one drooling over a guy in baseball pants. Easton was magnetic, his intensity making it impossible for me to look anywhere else.
He gave a nod and gripped the ball in his glove, eyeing Braden. He took a step back, turned on the mound, and exploded toward the plate, his throwing arm nothing but a blur. I found myself jumping up and down with Nikki as the ball made a satisfying slap on Braden’s glove and the umpire shot his right hand out again, two fingers extended. The crowd was amped up, still buzzing from last week’s opening day excitement.
“That’s it, Kyrie!” Nikki giggled and finally released me. We both leaned forward, our hands on the net, as we watched the next pitch.
Easton rolled his shoulders and brought his glove up, his eyes boring into Braden until he nodded.
“Last pitch.” I breathed in and whispered something like a prayer. I hadn’t been invested in a game in years. But now, watching Easton play, I wanted a strike. I wanted a win. I wanted a lot of things I’d sworn off of a long time ago.
His powerful wind-up had me holding my breath. The ball shot forward, noticeably curving and thwacking into Braden’s glove. The umpire gave the signal—his fist to the side. Strike out.
The stadium erupted in raucous cheers, and someone threw popcorn on Nikki and me as we hugged. The players trotted to the middle of the field as Braden and Easton bumped gloves. After yells and high fives, the crowd began to scatter from their rows and out into the falling night.
I draped my cross-body bag over my shoulder and grabbed Nikki’s elbow. “Come on.”
“What?” She raised her eyebrows and gestured to the mass of testosterone in the middle of the field. I couldn’t help but notice Easton was there, still on the mound, his head turned in my direction.
“We have work tomorrow.” I crossed my arms over my chest. “Final proof before printing. You know we have to be on our toes.”
could do with a few typos. Remember that time when we were interns and we hid ‘dildo’, ‘lube’, and ‘anal’ in the crossword at the back?”
“How could I forget? We would have been fired if you hadn’t been fucking the managing editor.”
“You can thank me anytime.” She turned back to the field and squealed. “Oh my god! He’s coming over and Easton’s with him.”
I looked up and couldn’t make out Braden in the mass of bodies in socks and stripes, but the one that was a head above most of them certainly caught my eye. Easton, and he was walking sure and straight right toward us. Panic rose inside me.
“I have to go.” I took a step up the stadium stairs. “Tell Braden I said congratulations.”
“But, I need a ride,” she protested.
“You have one… On all fronts.” I took another step, too afraid to turn around and see him behind me.
“True.” She called. “Carpool tomorrow?”
“Yeah. I’ll be at your place at 7:30 sharp. Be ready.” I picked up my pace, practically running up the stadium toward the concourse. Once in the shadow of the stadium, I stopped and looked back down toward the field. A few fans walked past, blocking my view, but when they cleared, I saw him. He stood staring right at me, as if he could see me.
My heart constricted and I couldn’t tell if I wanted to rush back down to meet him or turn and run. A few years earlier, I knew which emotion would have won out. Not anymore. I gave him one more look, locking his handsome face in my memory, before turning my back and melting into the crowd.
I fought our way through a sea of reporters and cameras to get to our lockers. The media were relentless vultures, not caring about the fact we just won. Every question was about the fight. I’d hoped the dingy locker room smell would ward them off, but it seemed to have no effect.
“Look guys, can you give us a few minutes?” I untucked my jersey and noticed a few drops of blood soaked into the fabric along the shoulder.
Must be Braden’s.
A reporter elbowed through the pack. “Do you regret throwing a punch, Easton?”
“I regret using my pitching hand. Give us a minute, okay?”
Braden stared at me. “Since when do you shy away from reporters?”
“Come on guys, back it up.” I tried to wave them away, but they hovered like flies on shit. “I’ll talk to you in a minute.”
Coach came barreling through the clubhouse, fists clenched, a fireball as usual. The reporters scattered toward him, giving us a brief reprieve.
I turned to Braden still clad in his catcher’s gear. His uniform was caked in dirt from the scuffle. “Who was the girl with Nik?”
“Nik’s friend. She was reading a fucking book the whole game.” I tossed my bag and glove into my locker.
“Since when do you pay attention to the crowd, Mayweather?” A wide grin spread across his face, despite his split lip and blood crusting at the corner of his mouth.
“I wasn’t.” I glanced to his bloodied lip. “Fuck man, you should put some ice on that.”
“It’s merely a flesh wound.”
His horrible attempt at a British accent made me chuckle.
“Seriously, who was she? She disappeared after. I caught a glimpse of her on the concourse for a sec, but she vanished before I got a good look.” Closing my eyes briefly, I could see her—dark hair, round ass, long legs. I snapped out of my momentary daydream, still trying to picture her face.
Braden’s lips curled to a shit-eating grin under his mussed mop of brown hair, some of it plastered to his forehead from his catcher’s helmet. “There was a girl? What girl?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Braden—”
“No, no wait a minute. I think…yeah I think I remember a girl. Her name is umm—” He cocked his head sideways. “I’m trying to think here.”
I threw my hat into my locker. “I’m gonna split the other half of your goddamn lip if you keep fucking around.”
“Oh, yeah, Kyrie.” He laughed. “
, I remember.” His light blue eyes turned serious when he noticed me glaring at him. He pulled off his cleats. The spikes clanked against his locker when he tossed them in. “Man, they work together.”
“So what’s up with you and Nik? She just another conquest? Fuck of the week?” I grabbed my towel.
“Nah, well, I don’t know. The verdict is still out on her. She’s a wild one though. Fucks like a champ.”
I shook my head. “Poor girl.”
“Pfft. She knew what she was getting into. She’s kinda ditzy, but in a hot way. I don’t know. Why the fuck do you care anyway?”
“Spit it out, motherfucker.”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You want me to arrange a
date with your little pitching muse?” He gave the corner of the lockers a hip thrust in unison with ‘play’.
The words escaped my lips before I could get them back. I was sure to catch shit for it.
Braden smiled his ass off while he peeled his chest protector from his short, stocky frame. “I mean, I could make it happen. But what’s in it for me?”
“Oh, besides me saving you from an ass-raping on the field?” I shook my head with a look of haughty derision and smirked before taking a seat in the chair in front of my locker. “By the way, you’re welcome for making you look like less of a bitch.”
“Maybe if you didn’t ignore my signals and serve up shit that gets knocked out of the stadium I wouldn’t have been sucker punched by that little fuck boy.” He moved his hand up over his eyes like he was searching for something way out in the distance. “Goddamn ball just passed Mars.”
“You probably told him what I was throwing. Fucking prick.” I started mocking him in a falsetto. “Easton, why are you shaking off my fastball? Easton your ass looks so good in your pants, the ump is gonna smell how wet my pussy is back here!”
“You’re a major league cunt, you know that?” He shook his head at me, now laughing where everyone in earshot could hear. The elastic of his shin guards shot around his calves as he unhooked them one at a time. “Yeah, I’ll text Nik and see if they wanna meet for drinks. But I’m warning you, that chick seems kinda stuck up.”
“So she’s intelligent and doesn’t take your shit?” I kicked off one cleat and then the other.
“Yeah, pretty much.” He nodded and paused. “She does smart people shit at their work. Editor maybe? At the magazine. But I guess she’s not happy.”
“The fuck kind of magazine is it?” I’d struggled with my lit classes in high school, so it sounded like I would have to step up my game to keep up with the likes of her.
“Some teeny bopper mag. Shit you see when you check out at the supermarket. Pictures of Bieber and that hot little Latina girl all over it.”
“You know, the teen heartthrob people? Probably pictures of you on there, too.” He framed his hands and held them up to my face. “Yeah, we give you one of those little head set thingies and a v-neck tee and you could be in a boy band for sure.”
“Dick.” I stared at him, not sure how else to respond to his ridiculousness. “Tell me more about Kyrie. She’s definitely hot. Caught a glimpse of her on the net before I cleaned up your little bitch fight.”
“You don’t clean up my messes for me, motherfucker.”
“Someone has to not be a pussy around here. Anyway, she looked pretty turned on after I laid that fucker out. She’s definitely hot as balls.”
“That she is. She is not ugly by any means. These are facts.”
We fist bumped.
“You gonna make it happen or what?” I didn’t want to sound like an over-eager teenager, but the thought of her forced my hand. I needed to meet her, talk to her, and, if all went well, do quite a few more things to her.
“You know I will, bro.” He glanced to the reporters then back to me. “Thanks for having my back, man.”
“Always.” I stared at the eager faces, each of them looking for a sound bite. “Better give these assholes something to write about so they go the fuck away.”
“Give ‘em the tip. Just the tip ya teasing sumbitch you.” His words were quickly drowned out as I stripped my shirt and walked to the reporters in nothing but my pants. I learned quickly that if I distracted them, the questions were fewer and easier. My upper body had worked numerous times in the past.
“One at a time, guys.” I pointed to one of them.
“Easton, why throw the punch?”
“Protecting my catcher. Next.”
I nodded to the reporter intent on saying my name as fast as possible.
“Your contract is up this season. Do you think it was wise to engage in such risky on-field behavior?”
Fuck me, I hadn’t thought about that. I was surprised my agent hadn’t yet called to rip me a new asshole.
“It’s the way I play. I don’t make financial decisions on the field. I make baseball decisions. If you try to hurt one of my teammates, I will correct your behavior. That’s what I did. Next.”
“Easton! How’s the hand? Are you hurt?” Someone yelled from the back of the pack.
“Look, I told you all I’m going to about the fight. We won the ballgame. W’s are all that matter. So like I said, I’m not answering anything else about the fight.”
Another reporter asked about the altercation and I started back toward Braden. “I’m done guys.”
Flashes of light bounced off the shiny lockers wrapped around the three walls in my peripheral vision. They were snapping pictures of me walking away.
Fuck it. Fighting happens
. I wasn’t going to apologize for it.
Braden’s thumbs flew across his cell phone screen. Without looking up, he said, “Got a text from Nik. We’re meeting for dinner and drinks tomorrow night. You in?”
“Kyrie’s coming.” The tone in his voice was like a seventh grade boy teasing a buddy with a crush.
“Oh yeah?” I tried not to sound impressed, but a shock of adrenaline surged through my body. It was inexplicable. Why was I so excited over this girl?
“Nik’s being weird though. She didn’t tell her friend you were coming. So I guess it’s some kind of surprise or something. Fuck, I don’t know. Women?” He shrugged.
I didn’t care. I’d take it. I wanted to see her up close. “That’s fine. What time?”
“Great, I’ll pick up some gnarly sex toys on the way.” He tried to look serious.
“Jesus Christ.” I started toward the shower, shaking my head at him.