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Wild Pitch (Homeruns Book 1) by Sloan Johnson (9)

I glared at the brace on my right hand as if it had somehow offended me. I was pissed, and nothing anyone could say or do would lift my mood. I replayed last night’s events in my mind, trying to figure out what I could have done differently to keep myself off the disabled list. It was one of those fluke moments and no one was to blame, but it didn’t change the fact that I’d be on the disabled list for at least fifteen days.

While the rest of the team boarded the charter plane to Miami, I wound my way through the commercial terminal, heading back to Chicago. I slumped back in the hard plastic chair at the gate to wait for the crew to start boarding the plane. The silver lining was that Sean had offered to drive down once his plane landed in Milwaukee to pick me up. That made the pain shooting from the tip of my middle finger all the way to my shoulder a bit more bearable.

I closed my eyes and considered the differences between my life before this season and what would happen after. I had always loved being on the road. In some ways, I viewed my entire life as an adventure, even though it got a bit tiring to constantly head off to a different city and have to turn on the morning news to figure out what state I was in at any given time. Now, I couldn’t wait to get home. Yes, it pissed me off that I wasn’t playing, but my injury was allowing me to spend some much-needed time with Sean.

The time in my hotel room over the past few days had given me time to consider whether I was being impulsive and reckless by pursuing a relationship with my best friend, but I kept my father’s words in the back of my head.

Teresa and I had been friends once, but that seemed like forever ago. Before she signed her first modeling contract, she wasn’t always the perfectly coifed woman most of my friends and family got to see. She’d kiss me goodbye when I got ready to leave for a road trip, and she’d be waiting for me when I got home, usually in a pair of my sweatpants that were so big she had to roll them at the waist to keep them from falling off. She looked like the girl next door with her hair pulled into a sloppy ponytail and not a drop of makeup on her face.

I told myself that the stresses and fighting were all part of leaving the person you loved behind. I rolled my eyes when the other guys dealt with their wives having nervous breakdowns while we were thousands of miles away, or when my teammates would talk about how much they missed being home. I didn’t understand it then, but now I did.

Saying goodbye to Sean ripped me apart. It may not be healthy, but now that I had this chance with him, I didn’t want to spend the better part of half of the year away from him. It wasn’t only the promise of sex, either. I wanted to sit down and play Xbox with him, watch movies, or even do housework and other boring shit.

Even worse, he made me wonder if playing ball was worth it. My stats had been dropping like the stock market as it crashed, and at least once, I’d heard my name mentioned in trade rumors. I told myself they were just that, but typically, once the rumors started, it was only a matter of time before the teams made an official announcement. If I had any hope of staying in the Midwest, I had to bust my ass to get back on the field and pay attention to my performance. I also had to think about whether I’d reached the point where I could walk away from the game, and if so, what came next in my life.

The announcement blared over the public address system that my flight was boarding and I grabbed my bags. I settled into my seat in business class, struggling to get comfortable when my knees felt like they were up around my shoulders. I texted Sean while the flight attendants made their safety announcements. I didn’t need them to tell me what to do in case of emergency, because I’d heard the spiel more times than I could count over the past seven years. As we taxied the runway, I closed my eyes to catch a quick nap. The last thing I wanted to do tonight was fall asleep early.

As I hurried through the terminal, I tried calling Sean to make sure he was here. I pulled the cap lower on my head and turned the opposite direction when I saw a couple of photographers at the other end of the concourse. It was unlikely they were here for me, but I wasn’t about to take the chance. My phone started ringing as the automatic doors opened, welcoming me home with a blast of hot, humid air. The heat wasn’t an issue, since I’d spent a few days in Arizona, but I’d always hated the humidity. If it was already this bad in late June, I didn’t even want to think about how bad it’d be later in the summer.

“Hey, where are you?” I asked, not wanting to waste any time.

“Just pulling up now. As soon as the car stops, get in.” I looked toward the oncoming traffic when I heard the roar of his bright red Camaro.

“Couldn’t find a flashier car to borrow for the occasion?” I teased. “You’re going to have to pop the trunk.”

“No time. Toss into the backseat, but pay attention so you don’t hit me.”

The car jerked to a stop in front of me. “Hey, babe–” Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, shit! Staring back at me were the same blue eyes I’m addicted to, but everything else about the face was all wrong. “Oh, hi Abi.”

“Get in, it’s getting cramped back here,” Sean hissed from the back seat. Now the comment about looking where I threw my bag made sense. I carefully set the bag behind his legs.

Abi slammed the car in gear and took off with a jolt as I closed the door. “Easy, would ya?” Sean scolded. “I asked you to drive, you don’t have to act like you stole it.”

“Oh, come on! When am I ever going to get a chance like this again?” I loved listening to the two of them bicker back and forth. It was such a mundane thing, but it reminded me that we were all normal people, even if two of us were professional athletes and one of us was folded like a pretzel in the back seat to keep anyone from catching a private moment and selling it.

“Abigail, remember what I told you,” he said tersely. She snorted and rolled her eyes while she waited for the light to turn green. As soon as it did, she pressed on the gas pedal harder than necessary and started shifting through the gears. “Abi, you are not taking this car on the expressway.”

“Too late,” I said, hopefully deflecting some of the attention from her. She was obviously having a blast and I figured a happy Abi was a quiet Abi. She obviously knew something about our relationship, but until I could talk to Sean in private, I didn’t want to give away anything else.

“I’m assuming we’re going to your place for the night since we have the kid along?”

“I’m not a kid, Atley,” she seethed. I patted her knee as if to tell her she was cute as a button because I knew it would piss her off. “And in case you’ve forgotten, I’m the one who’s helping keep your secret right now, so you might want to think about that.”

The teasing lilt in her voice kept me from freaking the fuck out. I looked back at Sean, and he apologized quickly. I’d spent more time than I cared to admit thinking about what it’d be like when I saw Sean again, and not once in that time did I consider the fact that his sister would be with us. I knew that she was staying at his place over the summer, but it would have been nice to have some warning that we weren’t going to have any time to ourselves.

“Abi, if you pull over so I can drive, I promise I’ll let you borrow my car for an entire weekend,” he bartered. That did the trick and Abi took the next exit, pulling into a gas station parking lot. “Thank you.”

I stayed in the car while the two of them switched places. While Sean went into the store, I turned in my seat to talk to Abi. I’d told myself I wanted to talk to Sean a bit, but I couldn’t wait. “You’re cool with this?”

“What? The fact that my brother’s gay or the fact that he’s dating you?” she asked, never looking up from the phone in her hands.

“Both, I guess.” I had no clue what I was asking, but I knew the idea of us being together was going to be a lot for most people to process and accept.

“Yeah, I’m happy for him,” she assured me. “Between us, it didn’t surprise me when he came out. I know the rest of our family sucks and would rather bury their heads in the sand than think any of us are capable of making ourselves happy, but not me. He’s never had a girlfriend, and there were times I wondered, but couldn’t ask him.”

“So, you really don’t have a problem with him and me?” I pressed. It was one thing for my parents to accept us without question, but it’d kill him if Abi wound up turning her back on him. It’d kill us because I would never ask him to choose me over his family.

“No problems here,” she answered as Sean opened the door and handed in the drinks and snacks before getting into the driver’s seat.

Sean remained stiff in his seat until we were clear of the city and across the border into Wisconsin. Then, he cautiously placed his hand on my knee. I smiled as I covered it with my own, savoring the warmth of his skin. “Missed you,” I whispered, literally biting my tongue at the responding giggle from the back seat.

“Abi, do you want me to drop you off at Mom and Dad’s and pick you up tomorrow morning?” Sean asked.

“Can’t I stay at your place since all of my stuff is there?” she asked tentatively. I groaned, wondering if we’d ever have a chance to be alone. “Or not.”

I turned to face her, sincerely feeling like a tool. “Abi, it’s nothing against you. I’m in a crappy mood and I have some shit I really need to talk to your brother about.”

“No, I get it. I can probably call Amy and stay at her place.” The bubbly, light-hearted girl from earlier was gone and I wondered what was going on in her world.

“No, it’s cool with me as long as your brother’s good with it.” I looked over to Sean, hoping I hadn’t crossed a line. He didn’t look thrilled, but I knew he wasn’t going to tell her no. He very rarely did.

“You have to stay in the basement for tonight,” he informed her. I hoped that was because he didn’t want a repeat of when my dad overheard us. Because I really wanted an encore of what we were doing when that happened, maybe even more.

“Really, I don’t want to be an imposition. I’m sure you two have a lot to discuss.” She tittered through the words, assuming my excuse about needing to talk to him was code for wanting to fuck like rabbits.

“Abi, when you’re a big girl, you’ll understand that sometimes two people talking means they’re going to use their words,” I teased. I wasn’t close to most of his family, but Abi was the little sister I never had and I had a lot of taunting to catch up on. “Seriously, it won’t be a big deal.”

“You know, one of these days I’m not going to sit here and take your shit, Mason,” she retorted. “Until then, you’ll keep getting a free pass because you’re cute and my brother likes you.”

“Abi!” Sean barked.

“Really? You’re going to get all pissy about me saying something when you were sitting there groping his leg a few minutes ago?” God, this girl didn’t hold back at all. It was refreshing. “FYI, Mason, Sean thinks you’re pretty damn cute, which I’ve been telling him for years. You twist him up in knots, but I think I’ve helped him get his head out of his ass.”

“Abigail Marie!” Sean shouted. I reached for his hand, pressing my lips together to keep from laughing.

“Good to know, Abi,” I responded. “I might have to get your number in case he gets all weird on me.”

It still bothered me that a small part of him still thought this was nothing more than an experiment for me. Yes, that was partly my own fault since I’d never told him that I was bi, but it hurt that he thought I’d risk our friendship if I wasn’t at least somewhat certain that we’d be good together.

“Mason!” Sean scolded. Oh, this was going to be fun. I leaned over to kiss his cheek. He pushed me away, and I squeezed his hand tight, placing it on my lap.

“Oh, come on. If you already spilled the beans, there’s not much point in being all reserved and shit.”

He shook his head and kept his focus on the road. It seemed he’d wisely realized there was no way he was going to win now that Abi and I had teamed up against him. My partner in crime dozed in the back seat, leaving us a chance to talk.

“So, what’s the prognosis?” Sean asked, looking at the brace on my right hand. I didn’t want to talk about this, but figured the sooner I got it out of the way, the sooner we could move on to more pleasant topics.

“Well, without boring you to death, they think it’ll be fine. I’m going to have to either drive back and forth or stay at my place most of the time because we’re going to start working on some exercises tomorrow morning,” I said. I didn’t tell him that I was trying to avoid taking my pain pills or that it hurt like a bitch.

“Fifteen days going to be enough to get you back out there?” he asked.

“Should be. And it’ll only be about a week after that and we’ll have the break, so then I’ll be able to rest it for a few days,” I told him.

I glanced over my shoulder and saw that Abi was sound asleep in the back seat. I watched her for a few seconds to make sure she wasn’t faking so she could eavesdrop on our conversation. “So, don’t take this the wrong way, but what’s up with the tagalong?”

Sean’s brow creased as he looked in the rearview mirror. The two of them were the closest of the siblings despite their eleven-year age difference, and I could tell he was worried about her. “She won’t tell me what’s going on, but she’s been off for about two months now. When I stopped by the house to get changed and wait for it to be time to leave tonight, she was clingy and asked if she could come with me.”

“And she gave you the pouty face and you caved, right?” I teased.

“Pretty much. Honestly, I’m hoping maybe she’ll talk to you, because she sure as hell won’t open up to me,” he huffed. That didn’t sound like Abi at all. They were as close as brother and sister, especially since she was so much younger. The fact that I was his only hope of finding out what was going on with her was disconcerting.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I promised him. “But not tonight. I have to get back tomorrow, so I plan on spending every possible minute with you tonight.”

“Look at you, getting all sappy,” he chided. He looked to me and my cock twitched at the heated look in his eyes. “Just so you know, that talking you said you wanted to do is also going to wait. I have plans of my own, and none of them require conversation.”

If we were alone in the car, I would have gotten a head start on Sean’s unspoken promises, but thanks to his lack of foresight, that’d have to wait a bit longer.