Dear Lord baby Jesus, please make baseball season start sooner.
-Text from Diamond to Wrigley
Lumberjacks vs. Strokers
I’d never, not once, been to a major league baseball game. But, for my sister, I’d do just about anything. Even sit down at some sporting event and pretend to act like I cared.
“You could at least act like this place isn’t infecting you with hepatitis,” Diamond hissed under her breath at me.
This place was gross.
Well, it didn’t look gross, but the seat was sticky.
At my previous job as a certified occupational therapist who worked with a home health agency, I was no stranger to dirty places and things. But I didn’t do sticky very well. There was just something about it that grossed me out.
“I’m sticking to the chair,” I spat, standing up and looking at the seat.
The seat was black plastic, so at first, I couldn’t see what the stickiness was from.
But, upon closer inspection, I could see that there was some residue dripping down from the platform above the chair behind me.
I braced both hands on the metal arms of the chair and bent over the seat, peering behind to see what was dripping and groaned.
“Umm,” I said, looking up at the man that was paying a great amount of attention to his phone. “Your drink is spilling. And it’s dripping down into my chair.”
The man looked up, reached forward, and tipped his cup back up.
But, in the process, he’d spilled even more of his drink—this time directly onto my chair.
“Wrigley!” Diamond hissed. “Sit down!”
I did, but I didn’t stop the grimace that curled the corner of my mouth when I looked at her.
“There’s red Slushee all in my seat…” I paused when a thought occurred to me, turning and trying to see my ass over my shoulder. “Is there anything on my shorts.”
I froze at the sound of the deep voice, and I turned to follow the direction I’d heard it from. And nearly swallowed my tongue.
Because there was a man standing on the grass right below the short wall that separated our seats from the field.
And the man?
He was gorgeous.
He had a green jersey on with ‘Lumberjacks’ written across the chest. His jersey was tucked into a pair of skin-tight white baseball pants, and those pants were pulled up above the calf to expose his matching green socks. His feet were encased nicely in a pair of pink baseball cleats.
One hand was tucked into a glove, and the other was holding the rim of his baseball hat—which he pulled off moments later, giving me a blinding smile.
He had red hair.
Red hair that leaned more toward orange than red, and a trim beard that closely resembled the same shade.
His teeth were straight and white, and his eyes were a bright green that shone like shiny emeralds.
And he was staring straight at me.
“Ummm,” I hesitated. “Did you say something?”
“I said there’s not a damn thing wrong with your shorts,” he repeated, then he walked off, leaving me standing there stunned.
“Oh my God!” Diamond hissed. “Do you know who that is?”
I looked at my sister and followed her gaze back to the man that was now in a circle swinging his bat.
“I have no clue who that is,” I admitted, shaking slightly. “Should I?”
God, he really made my heart race.
And how freakin’ tall was he? Holy shit!
He had to be at least six-foot-five or six. And, he wasn’t skinny either. He was stocky.
Tall and stocky.
The man looked like he’d take down a freight train.
“That’s Furious George Hoffman,” Diamond said as if I should know this. As if I’d disappointed her by not knowing. “He’s won the Home Run Derby three years in a row, and has one of the highest batting averages in the entire major league.”
I nodded my head as if that was the coolest thing in the world. “Nifty.”
She rolled her eyes. “You have no clue if it’s any good or not.” She snorted. “You disgust me.”
I had no clue what a home run was. But, a derby, I knew was like with horses and at the race track. I just couldn’t see the correlation.
I grinned, then patted my sister on the head. “I’m gonna walk up there and grab a few towels to wipe my seat down. Be right back.”
My sister waved me off and returned her eyes back to the game, and I was just about to hike my way back up the million stairs I’d just descended when a crack had me looking up.
People around me started to squeal, and I turned around and looked up just in time to take a baseball straight to my left eye.
I hit the ground seconds later.
I cursed and started running, hopping over the small wall that separated the stands from the field.
The moment I hit the concrete, I vaulted up the two steps and crouched down beside the woman I’d just beaned in the face with one of my foul balls.
The brown-headed temptress dressed in her tight white jeans shorts, tiny black tank top, and flip-flops looked like a broken doll.
“Wrigley!” the girl that’d been sitting beside the bombshell cried. “Move!”
I growled at the people that were crowding around me and said two words. “Back. Off!”
They backed off, giving me enough room to shift the woman’s hair away from her face and take my first look at her eye.
It was already swelling, turning a deep shade of purple.
I ignored Coach Siggy’s voice and felt for a pulse, happy when I’d found one.
Unconscious. Not dead. Good.
I kept ignoring him and smoothed a hand over the woman’s face.
“Wake up, beautiful.”
As if she’d been waiting for my call, her eyelids fluttered open, and the intense gray eyes were once again staring back, looking at me.
“Hello,” I smiled. “I’m sorry.”
She smiled back. “Sorry for what?”
I pressed lightly on her forehead, right above where the swelling was starting, and said, “For hitting you in the face with a ball.”
She moaned. “That’s gonna suck the next few weeks.” She frowned. “I’d say I’d take your balls to my face any time you want, but…I have a class for battered women tomorrow. This is going to be hard for them to look at.”
I held my laughter inside…barely.
I also silently agreed with her.
My mother wouldn’t have taken advice from some woman with a black eye. She’d have just looked at her as another victim.
The girl started to sit up just as the medics made their way down the steps to us.
“You okay, ma’am?” the first medic asked.
“Yes,” the woman answered.
‘Wrigley’ looked around my crouched form and saw her sister there, staring at her with worry in her eyes.
“I’m okay, Diamond,” Wrigley promised. “I told you we shouldn’t have come here.”
Diamond gave a watery laugh. “I also told you to watch for fly balls in this section. Which you insisted we sit in because it didn’t have netting to obstruct your view. Are you glad we sat here now?”
Wrigley stuck her tongue out at her sister, and I found myself thinking about sucking that tongue into my own mouth.
“Game’s on, Hoffman!” Coach Siggy bellowed. “Either get your ass over here and get the game back on or find your way to the locker room.”
I’d rather find myself into something else, but alas, I wasn’t a total cad.
I stood up, but not before pressing a kiss to Wrigley’s hand. “Hope you’re not too fucked up tomorrow to teach that class.”
Wrigley’s eyes met mine. “Oh, I’m a pro at hiding my bruises.”
And, before I could so much as comment on that, or relay how angry it made me feel to know that she had any experience at all hiding her bruises, she made her way up the stairs with the paramedics, leaving me no reason at all to be standing in the stands.
I sighed and went back down to the field, easily vaulting myself over the wall.
Then I went back to the box, and hit a solid line drive up the middle, yielding me a double.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t look for her throughout the game.
She came back some time in the third inning. She was gone by the eighth.