Home > Scoring With Him (Men of Summer #1)(8)

Scoring With Him (Men of Summer #1)(8)
Author: Lauren Blakely

I am all the way out, and I’m out on my terms. I don’t need a single soul whispering, talking behind my back, or speculating. I don’t like to leave it up to anyone’s best guess. My Instagram and Twitter profiles are decorated with rainbows.

But even when you’re out, people can still trip you up.

That’s why I need the arrow for protection.

From the people who let me down.

Those who have, and those who will.

I close my eyes, picturing the arrow going forward, riding that momentum to take me through the next several weeks, then, I hope, on to my first ever baseball season in the Major Leagues. Finally, finally, everything in my life feels right, and I don’t want anything to change that.

Not even the fact that I have a crush on one of my teammates.

 

 

The next day, I’m a bottle of Diet Coke mixed with Mentos. I rise before dawn, shower, get dressed, and head for the ballpark, all jitters and excitement.

I walk the half-mile from the hotel. The sign for the ballpark looms high above the gates, graced with the name of the team’s first owner.

Helen Williams Field.

The spring training home for the San Francisco Cougars.

It’s beautiful, and it beckons me.

Memories flash before me. The time I first picked up the well-worn baseball glove my grandfather gave me. When I threw a ball to him in the backyard. When he tossed it back to me and I caught it on the first try, and he said, “You’re going to be an all-star catcher someday.”

Years of practice.

Sore muscles, broken bones, heartbreaking losses.

But victories too.

High school state championships, college World Series, the Major League Baseball Draft.

As I head into the team’s spring training facility for the first time, I take it all in. The plaques, the trophies, the photographs. I’m in the presence of greatness. Just look at the pics of all these guys who’ve come before me, won rings, snagged batting titles, earned Cy Youngs.

They played here first, took batting practice out on the diamond, and fielded ground balls.

I get to do that now. It’s my chance to show my team that I have what it takes to be their starting catcher for the next decade.

Nothing will distract me. Nothing will throw me off.

I make my way down the corridor, my shoes echoing against the concrete, as I say hello to everyone I pass. I greet the groundskeepers, the janitors, the staffers, asking how they’re doing. I like to be the one people can rely on for a friendly face, an encouraging word. That’s how I fit into the team and the organization.

And with the pitchers too, since they’re the guys who have to rely on me most.

Item number one on my to-do list?

Earn the pitchers’ trust.

It’s mostly just pitchers and catchers at the complex for the first few days, working out on a practice field. I toss balls with the starters, then the relief pitchers, then the team’s closer, Chance Ashford. The man has a punishing cut fastball, and I love it.

“I’d like to say that’s your secret weapon, but I’m pretty sure all of baseball knows your cutter was forged at the gates of hell,” I tell him when he comes off the mound after a throwing session.

He arches a brow, gives an appreciative smile. “So, it’s got fire coming off it? Like those car decals with flames? I’ll take that compliment.”

“Yup. It’s exactly like that— nice long tail of fire and all,” I joke as we head off the field.

“Excellent.” He clears his throat when we reach the chain-link fence. “By the way, I’m going to post a shot on Insta from our practice. I’ll tag you in it. Cool?”

“Yeah. Definitely.”

“Awesome.” He claps my shoulder, his dark eyes intense, his expression serious. “And I saw the flag on your profile. You’re all good here. Be yourself, man.”

I smile, my chest filling with relief and, admittedly, admiration for this guy. “Appreciate that.”

That’s all he says, and it’s all I need.

Though, I know he’s only the start. Can’t assume the other players checked me out online. Somehow, I’ll need to say something to the rest of the team, just like I did in the minors and with my college team.

I’d rather be the one to say it than have it said about me.

 

 

As the week draws to a close, the position players stream in, some joining us for early practice.

On the first full workout day, I’m early again, leaving the team hotel before the other guys and making my way to the complex.

Once inside, I say hi to Chet, the groundskeeper, then Hope, who runs the ticket office.

I turn the corner toward the locker room, and I nearly run smack-bang into a wall of man. A two hundred pound, six-foot-three mass of muscle, cut abs, and carved jaw.

A man sporting a grin that makes my skin tingle.

The breath flees my lungs. My pulse spikes. So, this is what it feels like to meet your crush.

It feels like your body is alive. Electric. Made of sparks.

“Hey there.”

That’s it. Two words. They’re all Declan says.

But I already know.

This is going to be a big fucking problem.

The sexiest man I’ve ever seen on TV is worlds hotter in person.

And I was dead wrong when I told Reese this crush would die a swift death in person.

The opposite is true.

The object of my crush stands inches away, with deep brown eyes that travel over me and a body I want to feel under me, on top of me, next to me. I am so fucked.

I haul in a breath.

Time to pretend like I haven’t thought of scoring with him so many damn times.

Or that I’m thinking it again right this very second.

 

 

4

 

 

Grant

 

 

My next thought is, Impress him.

I don’t mean like if we were in a bar and I were trying to pick him up with wit or banter or a 360-degree view of my arms.

I mean, impress the hell out of him as a ballplayer.

Declan Steele is one of the best in the majors. In his first four years, he’s amassed some killer stats, epic plays, and absolutely clutch RBIs, homers, and hits.

He’s exactly the type of guy you want on your team, and I want him to like me as a ballplayer.

I want all the guys on the team to trust me.

I go in nice and easy with Declan, homing in on the thing we have in common.

No, not the gay thing.

But everyone loves a compliment.

“That was a hell of a double play in that game against the Storm Chasers last fall. The one where you leaped ten feet above the runner as you threw to first,” I say, picturing that play perfectly.

Declan raises an eyebrow. His smile spreads slowly, taking its time moving across his handsome face. Then it reaches his eyes. There’s a glint in them, along with a crook in his lips.

“Impressed you saw it, rookie,” he says, emphasis on rookie.

That’s got to be good. If he knows it’s my first year, he knows who I am.

“You are a rookie, aren’t you?” he adds.

Ah. So, it was a lucky guess. The shortstop doesn’t know me. I straighten my shoulders instinctively. “Yes, I am,” I say, tempted to add sir. But this isn’t the military. He’s not my boss. I do, however, need to show respect for him and the time he’s put in. “First time here.”

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