Quick note: So I removed this story a couple months ago with the intention of turning it into an original novel. But things didn't turn out as planned, and I love it too much to keep it down. I'll be reposting the story over the next couple of weeks - fleshing it out a bit more, correcting some mistakes, and adding some missing scenes. Thank you all for your patience and I hope you like it just as much during take two. :)
She sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose as she stares at the homepage of ESPN, a picture of the Pittsburgh Pirates' shortstop grinning blearily at the camera smack dab in the middle of the page. If this were a newspaper, it'd be above the fold. Somehow the blinking BREAKING NEWS bar above it makes it worse.
If it can get worse.
He has a pretty brunette straddling his waist, his fingers curled tight around her hip, and yep – there's the half empty bottle of whiskey, right at his elbow. The headline reads Pirate Goes Plundering and she sighs again, pressing harder against her closed eyelids until she sees spots.
She would say she expected more from ESPN, but she supposes it's hard to avoid a meaty storyline when it falls right into your lap.
The headache behind her eyes has regret niggling at the back of her mind. Regret at coming to Pittsburgh, regret at believing David that this job would only mean good things for her, regret that she didn't even bother to do background before she took the job – clinging to the lifeline with both hands and packing her bags almost immediately.
Still. Regret is a funny thing and maybe - maybe she should have stayed in Kansas City.
But thinking of Kansas City makes her think of soft brown eyes smiling at her over morning cups of coffee, a life promised together only to be – only to be destroyed with no warning whatsoever.
Her thumb rubs against the inside of her finger in a compulsive twitch only to find bare skin instead of cold metal and she sighs again, staring at the clock above her door. He's late – of course – and she's just about to pack it in, thinking about that bottle of merlot Mary Margaret left her as a Welcome to Pittsburgh, when the plundering pirate himself comes swinging through her door.
He's wearing a pair of loose fitting sweats and a Pirates t-shirt that's worn and threadbare, the wash having teased the logo from the fabric where it's stretched across his chest. He smells like the soap the equipment guys buy in bulk – wintergreen and fresh –the wet hair curling behind his ears and leaving droplets on his shoulders confirming her suspicion that he took in an extra-long shower after practice. He adjusts his backwards baseball cap as he meanders through the door – a tuft of riotous black hair peeking through above the band – stopping abruptly when his gaze snaps up and lands on her.
"Uh, you're not a man," is his genius greeting and she is momentarily taken aback by the grit in his voice, the way he has to clear his throat around his obvious surprise. She's read his bio, knows he hails from some distant corner of England, discovered at his tiny college by an MLB scout. But still, the languid roll of his accent catches her by surprise.
He gives her a slow grin, shoulders rolling back – practically strutting over to one of her chairs and dropping himself into it while fixing her with an intense stare – all serious blue eyes and hair draped over his forehead. She merely arches an eyebrow in response, used to men who think they can get whatever they want with a pretty face.
"No I'm not," she replies and they simply stare at each other for a moment until she remembers that she's supposed to be berating him for his behavior – not engaging in some quasi wild west stare down.
"Mr. Jones –" She begins, but he cuts her off quickly.
"Killian." He amends and the smile he shoots her is crooked, one side shooting up until the other mirrors, dimples flashing in his cheeks. She fights the urge to roll her eyes because he is just so typical. She had hoped that the spread in ESPN was a one-time thing, but nothing she sees is making her feel better about this whole PR nightmare – the party boy star athlete apparently not a persona painted on by the media. He tilts his head to the side as he looks at her.
"You're new," he surmises.
This time she does roll her eyes. "Obviously. Now, Killian – "
"Wherever did you come from, lass?"
She supposes he means to be charming, his chin resting in the palm of his hand as he gazes at her, but instead all it does is fray her already limited patience. She has a bottle of wine at home, damnit. Not to mention a couple (two – two is all there was) boxes left to unpack and – wine. Lots and lots of wine.
Irate, she bites the inside of her cheek. "Well, when a man loves a woman –"
His chuckle is deep and rich and his eyes shine as he leans back in her chair, propping his feet up on the edge of her desk and crossing his arms. She pushes his legs off and he falls with another snort, grin spreading wider to flash perfect white teeth.
It's easy to see how wiry brunettes keep falling into his lap.
(It's easy to see how danger follows him everywhere he goes.)
"Oh yes? What happens next?" His eyebrows raise high on his head as his tongue does something obscene against his bottom lip, chin falling into his hand as he stares at her expectantly. She schools her face into an unamused look and turns her computer monitor to face him.
His gaze switches over to it quickly and he doesn't even have the audacity to look contrite. He shrugs with a little frown and averts his gaze back to her.
"Did you want details?"
She stares at him mouth agape. She's dealt with her fair share of crises. Had players under her tutelage who were difficult to deal with – at best. She even worked for an owner who was one step away from the purest form of evil and yet – she's never had someone come onto her as she confronted them.
Rage simmers in her stomach and she sits up in her seat a little straighter at the same moment he does, fingers adjusting his hat on his head. "Or better yet, how about you and I get out of here and I show you."
"You have got to be kidding me. Listen –"
"We could round first base," he cuts her off with a lascivious wiggle of his eyebrows. "I could show you my swing."
"Oh my god."
He doesn't look deterred. "Ground rule double, perhaps? Slide on into home?"
When she doesn't say anything at all – choosing to stare at him like he's sprouted another head – he frowns. "You don't look like you bat for the other team, so to speak."
Amusement pulls at the corners of her lips because he's using baseball puns to hit on her. It's like he's not even trying – or he is.
"Does that ever actually work?"
He shrugs at her with a small sort of nod and she sighs – realizing that it definitely has nothing to do with the way he approaches women and everythingto do with the way he looks. Bright blue eyes, tall lean frame, messy black hair in a constant chaotic sweep – the way his bottom lip tugs down a bit when he smiles wide –
Said lips twitch upwards with a smug smile (like he knows what she's thinking and he probably does, damnit) and she blushes lightly, flicking off her computer monitor and grabbing for her purse.
"I called you here because I need you to cool the antics. You're creating a mess for yourself, and for your team."
His gaze is cool as he appraises her, jovial mood disappearing almost immediately when the word team leaves her mouth.
"And for you," he adds quietly, standing when she does.
She nods because he's right – it makes her job more complicated when a player is going off the rails. She pulls on her coat. "I just need you to be a gentleman."
He arches an eyebrow at her strange way of articulating appropriate player behavior and grins, rocking back on his heels with his hands in his pockets. He takes a step closer to her as she rounds her desk, just shy of uncomfortable.
"I'm always a gentleman, love."
It's the bottom of the sixth when she finds her eyes drawn to him again, shifting his weight back and forth, bill pulled down low over his forehead. His eyes slant in concentration towards David as he readies for the pitch, punching the inside of his glove several times in quick succession and then stilling completely.
The stadium goes almost completely silent – fans waiting with baited breath. Ruby stills next to her, fingers ending their constant clacking to watch the next play.
The pitch goes and the crack of the ball as it makes contact against the bat echoes through the ballpark. She stands in her seat in the press box as the entire crowd does the same, the ball arching high and left, straddling the line between foul and fair. She feels the tension in her spine as Killian shifts beneath it, suddenly running full steam ahead towards the left side of the field. He waves off the outfielder and sprints madly, turning just before the wall and tilting his glove up.
"Holy shit." Ruby mutters and she's tempted to agree because that is just a ridiculous catch and there is no way he makes it. Not without breaking both his legs – or maybe someone else's.
He goes head over ass into the stands, nothing but the bottom of his cleats visible over the low wall. There is a moment of stillness where everyone in the stadium holds their breath, an eerie quiet as the world narrows to his shifting legs and the umpire running over to the low wall. Seconds that feel like hours and her breath backed up into her lungs until – he signals out and the crowd erupts around them. Her heart beats madly in her chest as she keeps her eyes trained on where he disappeared, leaning forward with hands braced on the edge of her desk in the open air box.
He appears suddenly, hand holding the ball high in the air and she sighs, relief that she doesn't quite understand slumping her shoulders. She watches as he tosses the ball to the ump and then steps up on the low wall. He hesitates, even as his teammates crowd around him, and turns suddenly, eyes searching as he looks into the crowd. It looks as if his gaze lands on the press box, and she watches as the magnified version of his face grins slow and wide on the jumbotron behind him.
Still standing on the wall, he flips off his hat, bending at the waist and tipping his head down in an exaggerated formal bow. Blue eyes peer up from under a thick fringe of black hair and she swears to god he's looking right at her.
The mouthing of the word gentleman pretty much confirms it.