jakeward and bethaboo present ch 3! Sorry this was kind of a long time coming. . .it's long (almost 10k) and bethaboo also had to write a totally different, difficult story for the latest Support Stacie Auction. If you like AU, check it out--it's called Undisclosed Desires.
I'm not going to promise and say we'll update faster (though I am fairly sure we will and its definitely our intention to). We are also trying a new experiment with switching/alternating POVs this chapter. We didn't start out intending to do that, but it just kind of happened that way, and we think it works pretty well. Let us know what you think!
BTW, Jacoby Ellsbury changed his number from #46 to #2. Jakeward and I are unable to comment on this preposterous decision because we were not consulted (aka we're still pouting). Does this make our #46 Ellsbury shirts collector's items someday?
Oh, and Tito, if you're reading this. Freaking sign Jason Bay already.
There was no way around it. I'd tried, and tried, and tried some more to justify sleeping with Bella Dwyer even though I didn't really like her. I'd even considered lying to her and telling her that no, I'd lied—I did like her for more than just the smoking hot chemistry that seemed to explode between us—but while I might have acted like a total schmuck with her for the entirety of our acquaintance, I really wasn't a jerk when it came to women.
I was only a jerk when it came to Bella, for some strange and inexplicable reason, but regardless, lying was out.
The day after my fight with Bella we'd dropped a game to the Jays. It had been a close one, and I'd been sure that our handful of runs would be enough until the opposing batting order had declared open season on our bullpen. Our guys were good and so that didn't happen often, but it happened enough for me to gnash my teeth in frustration. I hated it when there was nothing I could do but sit back and watch as we lost. I'd been playing baseball for two decades now, and I thought I'd come to terms with the fact that sometimes, a game being a win or a loss wasn't up to me—but yesterday it had been more unpalatable than it'd been in years. I told myself that my frustration had nothing to do with the fact that Bella had been watching in the stands, no doubt pursing her lips and deciding that we were overrated, but I knew I was lying to myself.
I hated that we'd lost, but even more I hated that I cared what she thought of me and of the team.
I also hated that she'd turned me into an angsty sissy, tossing and turning all night long, unable to sleep or to get the taste of her out of my mouth and my head. Finally I'd packed up my stuff and come to Fenway early, determined to work out some of the kinks cluttering my mind with an extra-long batting practice. Unfortunately it became obviously fairly quickly that my hang-ups were more emotional than physical, as I hit ball after ball, drilling them into the Monster and higher, but my mood remained absolute crap.
Jasper wandered out on the field, a couple hours before the game, as I was running drills, and abruptly, but not surprisingly, my mood worsened. Whitlock and I had never been close friends, but with the advent of Bella, we had seemingly declared war on each other over her. Personally, I was pretty damn sure I was winning—though I wasn't even sure I wanted to—and this had pissed Whitlock off. He wasn't used to not getting a woman he wanted and we both knew it.
I ran back to the first baseline, and Jasper was waiting for me, his posture deceptively laidback as he fingered a baseball in his throwing hand. There was activity behind him, in the bullpen, and I thought he'd probably come down to set the relievers straight, only to find something more interesting—baiting me about Bella.
"Have some extra energy there, Masen?" he drawled, a smirk spreading across his face.
I nodded sharply, hating that I had to acknowledge that I'd struck out with her two nights ago, but glad that, at the very least, Jasper hadn't gotten any from her either. We were both, it seemed, in the doghouse. Bella didn't seem to like Jasper's Southern charm very much and that explained his position, but mine was my own damn fault—and that was the last thing I wanted him to discover.
"How's my girl Bella?" Jasper asked again, apparently prepared to bait me any number of times until I snapped. I ground my teeth together and attempted to ignore him as I grabbed my bag from the sideline and tried to walk back to the clubhouse entrance. But Whitlock stopped me, his arm held out warningly, as if he wasn't going to tolerate silence as my only answer.
Well, that's just too damn bad, I thought as I eyed him, he can fucking deal with it.
"What do you want, Whitlock?" I sighed, attempting to reign in my temper.
"Just to talk. You know, like teammates." He looked so innocent, standing there, a single eyebrow raised, but I knew he was full of bullshit. He was dying to find out what was going on between me and Dwyer, and there were two problems with this:
I knew I didn't want to tell him. Better to keep him guessing and off-balance.
Even if I did want to tell him, I was pretty sure I had no idea what was going on.
"Things are fine," I said shortly, refusing to give him any of the dirt he wanted.
"Fine, my ass," Jasper crowed, a triumphant smile flashing across his face. "If things were fine, you wouldn't be out here hitting the crap out of the ball and running you were chasin' some really good tail. Oh wait. I forgot; you don't chase tail. You just chase Dwyer." I hated that Whitlock equated Bella with some mindless blond bimbo groupie.
"I'm not chasing her," I said and I knew I sounded pissed. Hell, I was pissed. What did I care if Whitlock knew it? He'd been baiting me, after all.
Whitlock's smirk reminded me that he knew good and well that I'd been chasing, but not succeeding. As if I needed his reminder. My body was tight and tense, and though I hated admitting it, Seth had been right the other night—I needed to get laid.
Maybe if I'd gotten into Bella's apartment the other night, Jasper wouldn't be getting to me this way. Instead, he was only reminding me of what I hadn't gotten in yet.
"You like her." Jasper said it all pussy, as if I was whipped already. Which I wasn't. Not in a million years.
I shrugged. "She's hot." Except that it was a hell of a lot more than that. Hot women chased after me every day of my life practically. Bella had some indefinable fire inside her that made me want her, where I'd just ignored the rest of the pack.
"And here I thought that you were going to go all rainbow and shit on me, buddy. Good for you."
"Whatever floats your boat, Whitlock," I snapped. He'd worn me down to just about my last nerve, though Bella herself had done a number on the rest.
"I have to go get ready," I told him testily. "I have a game tonight, unlike some of us."
As I stalked past, I heard him mumble under his breath, "Let's hope you show up and actually play."
Don't give in, Masen, I lectured myself as I clenched my fist on the handle of my bat, he's just trying to get a rise out of you. Don't give him the fucking satisfaction. Take it out on the Jays.
Ok. So that hadn't gone the way I thought it would. I never thought he would get into the cab with me, and I sure as hell hadn't seen him doing what he did on the front step of my building. Correction, what we'd both done. And I wished I could lie and say I hadn't wanted to take him in my apartment and fuck him until neither of us could think or walk straight, but what would that actually prove? That he was right? That I was wrong?
He had made it clear that he didn't know what the attraction was between us, but it couldn't be denied that what was driving us both was sexual chemistry. But that just wasn't enough. It never was and I'd told myself when I got this job that I would not fall victim to the standard crap that pro athletes pulled on women. I'd felt something greater when I first saw him, something I couldn't put my finger on or wrap my mind around. But it was like a cord that pulled me to him. I felt it when I watched him play, heard him in the clubhouse after he was ejected, when Jasper talked to me at dinner, and I felt him before I saw him as I waited for the cab.
It was clear he was effected by the same pull, or at least I thought he was. Then he all but suggested a one-night stand with me after the most intense heavy petting I'd ever been a party to. For as much as I wanted to drag him by his shirt through the door, I couldn't. We both needed to figure this out, and hopefully understand what was happening between us before we both did something we would regret.
It was the longest night of my life. I tossed in bed for hours before finally succumbing to sleep near three. My dreams were filled with repeats of the kisses and the front door, and I woke more frustrated than when I'd gone to sleep. The frustration oddly enough, wasn't sexual. I couldn't understand what it was about Edward that had him so firmly planted in every thought I had and every breath I took.
After laying in bed twenty minutes longer than I should have, I dragged my sorry self to the bathroom. I was due at Fenway in a few hours, and the very idea of seeing Edward again, even playing on the field, was nearly more than I was ready for. After I showered, I noticed the light rash from Edwards stubble. Heat thrumbed through my body and raced straight to my center at the thought of what he made me feel as he pressed against me, kissed me, and ground himself against my core. The image that flashed in my mind made me lightheaded and I gripped the bathroom counter to stabilize myself.
He would be the death of me, given enough time. Of that much, I was certain. How was it possible to have so much annoyance for one person and at the same time want to know what it felt like to wrap my legs around him, feel him as he would sink into me, and know that that even that wouldn't be enough.
I finished getting ready by pulling my hair up. If I was going to be seated in the stands watching the game, I wanted to make sure I was as comfortable as possible. It was July in Boston after all, and while that wasn't the same as July in Miami, hot was hot.
I grabbed a bottle of water, my pad, pen, tape recorder, and went to get my phone. I noticed the screen showed a voice mail. I dismissed it, collected my bag and keys and made my way to catch a cab. Once I was seated in the cab, I gave the location to the driver and listened to my voice mail.
"Hey Bella, it's – uh, it's Charlie. Listen, I know you were supposed to sit in the Monster section today, but I was thinking – and the GM agrees - it would be a great idea for you to sit with the player's wives and families. So just stop by Will Call and the tickets will have been changed for you. And, uh, thanks."
"No fucking way am I doing that!" I cursed and startled the cab driver.
"Excuse me?" he asked in that tell tale South Boston accent.
I shook my head, slightly embarrassed that I used my outside voice. "Sorry, I –uh- it was just a reaction."
"Pretty strong reaction there, miss. You got boyfriend troubles?" he asked as he looked at me through the rear view mirror.
I expelled a snicker. "Boyfriend? No, though I can guarantee you that concept hasn't entered his head."
"Being a boyfriend? How in god's name is that possible? A beautiful woman such as yourself? He's missing the boat as far as I can see."
I smiled at my nameless cabbie. "Thank you, but I don't think he knows what the hell he wants, and this voice mail just complicates things."
"It does? Well listen here – if you aren't getting respect from a guy, don't waste your time. There are plenty of good men out there that know what the hell they want and aren't afraid to tell you and show you."
I smiled at his words and through the front window that we were a near the park. Well showing me isn't the problem, is it? I thought. "Well it's hard to tell when even the guy doesn't know what he wants. Why is that? Why are guys so damned guarded anyway?"
"I don't know what this jerk's problem is," he continued, "but what you need is a nice guy. You going to the game today?"
The cab pulled up to the park and the cabbie put the car in park.
"Yeah, I am," I said as I fished my fare out of my wallet.
"Well you're here early enough. Why don't you go in there, watch some batting practice and try to catch a few eyes. That Edward Masen is available, I hear, and has the rep of a true gentleman."
I felt my ears blaze and my cheek on fire. I tamped down my irritation and handed him the money. "Thanks, but I don't date ball players. Too . . . untrustworthy."
"I wouldn't know about that, but in this town those boys are gods. I'm sure there is at least one single and decent on in the bunch."
"Hmm," I said as I collected my things. "Thank you."
"Most welcome. Good luck with that guy, okay? Stand your ground and if he can't commit- well, that's his loss."
I offered a smile as I climbed out of the cab. I knew it was honest and free advice, but it had set me on edge once again. I wasn't sure what the point was in trying again with Edward. I was convinced that until he understood what he wanted, he wouldn't change. And I wasn't sure I wanted to change values and rules that I had managed to follow for years.
I walked into the park via the press door and made my way to the clubhouse to see if I couldn't get a few words from a player other than Jasper Whitlock. I didn't know what his angle was. He'd flirted rather hardcore with me the night before, but then there seemed to be nothing behind it. I needed to set that shit straight before I did anything with Edward. Or at the very least before I actually had to interview him for the site.
I stood around the clubhouse for a good twenty minutes before I heard voices. I must have missed the majority of the players get ready for batting practice, but as in every locker room, there were a few that were hanging back .
"I swear on all that is holy, there isn't anything to tell. She left the restaurant and I haven't talked to her since," I heard Jasper's voice practically boom from the hallway that led into the clubhouse.
"Yeah, right. Since when do you not get the digits, at the very least?" the second voice asked.
"Look, McCarty, I get what I want when and from whom I want it. She just isn't on that list, got it?"
"Tell that to Masen," the voice, Emmett McCarty I assumed without actual sight confirmation, said clearly in warning.
A loud, short laugh boomed. "Yeah right. I'll tell him right after he grows a pair. Did you see the looks he was giving her? He either wanted to kill her or fuck her. I can't decided what was talking louder, but believe me when I say I won't let this shit lie."
"Your funeral, man. I'll see you out there."
"Cool,man. I'll be right up." Jasper's voice sounded closer to where I stood.
I swallowed hard and cleared my throat. I would have to face Jasper sooner or later, and based on what I had just over heard, it would be best to do so when Edward wasn't around.
"Hello?" Jasper called and I could hear his cleats lightly fall on the floor.
"Hey, Jasper. It's me, Bella," I said and did my best to keep my voice light.
Jasper quickly turned the corner and as soon as he saw me, flashed a killer smile, and closed the distance between us. "Hey, darlin'. How are you on this fine afternoon?"
I smiled at him, even as thoughts of what a player he was flashed about in my mind. "I'm doing fine."
"Mm-hm," he said as his eyes scanned over me, "that you are."
"Jasper," I said warningly, my voice showed my exasperation with him and the constant flirting.
A quick cock of his head told me he wasn't done. "No w, now, hold on darling. You can't blame a man for noticin'. Though I must admit it would be nice for you to be noticin' me instead of Masen."
I sigh quickly in exasperation. "Jasper, it's not like that. And really, it's not any of your-"
"Hold on there, darlin'. I'm not trying to start a fight with you. "
Well that would be a first for me in this clubhouse, I thought. I looked up at him, my eyes full of doubt and annoyance was building. There was only one way to stop this shit, and I needed to start with the man in front of me. "Jasper, I'm not interested in starting anything with anyone in the club, is that clear?"
"Yeah?" he questioned, his voice full of doubt. "Does Masen know that?"
I was ready to respond, to take his bigger-than-Texas attitude down a notch, when Jasper cocked a grin, lifted his hand to his head, touched the bill of his cap with one finger, and threw it back down – like some Texan in a ten-gallon. A quick wink fired at me and he was gone, leaving the clubhouse to take the field for practice.
I went to the field and watched the practice. The drills, stretches, batting practice had the potential to be incredibly boring, but there was something about this team that sucked me in. There was precision, speed, accuracy, and something more. Something that was very rare to see in a sports team – friendship. It was obvious from my perch in the visiting team's dugout that this team not only knew each other on the field, they knew each other off as well. There were jokes, asking about each other's wives and kids, about plans for the few days off that were coming up.
I watched Emmett McCarty and Carlisle Cullen laugh as they set up for practice.
"How's the knee holding up, Doc?" Emmett's voice boomed from a good half field away.
"You know how it is. Start out strong, stay strong, right?" Carlisle replied with an honest smile.
"How's that wife of yours doing?" Emmett asked as he started to stretch his arms.
Carlisle laughed as she strapped his guards on his legs and chest. "Well, she's almost got that house done with the remodel. I hope she's happy this time. I don't think I could stand it if she decided to sell this one and find another dying property to save."
"HA! That would suck if she did. You've been bouncing around more in homes within this state than most players do their whole career with team!"
"Don't think that hasn't escaped my mind," he said as he turned his cap backward and reached for his facemask. "Nah, it's a good thing. I figure if she's always working on a house here, they won't trade me, right?"
Emmett laughed and I had to smile when I heard it. "Very true, Doc. Very true."
I scanned over the field, watching the players go through the various routines they had for practice, and felt my breath stop and my jaw pop open when I saw Edward in the outfield.
He stood in his position in center field and tossed a ball between himself and Seth at second base. It was clear that these two were close, and I knew my team history well enough to know that they had practically come up from the minors together. Seth had once commented in an interview that Edward was the future of the team—that his speed and base stealing was unmatched in the sport. It was clear their friendship went well past the field, and watching them toss the ball with the ease they did proved the point even more clearly.
I started to zone in on Edward. The way his cap sat on his head and covered the hair my hands had been running through; I could still feel how soft and thick his hair was. I was drawn in by the way his forearms looked as he threw the ball and remembered all too clearly what it felt to be held in his strong arms. My eyes locked on his thighs and the obvious strength they had as I remembered he had me lifted and pressed against my front door. I felt light-headed as the memory of the past day consumed me and I struggled to collect myself before anyone noticed how far gone I was.
It took a few minutes, but I managed to calm my body's reaction to Edward and was able to focus on the rest of the team. It wasn't long before Jasper came onto the field to practice on the mound, and as soon as he did, I could see Edward's posture change. His face, which had been light and open before, was drawn serious and almost glaring at Jasper. I wondered what the issue was between then, if it extended beyond Jasper's strange urge to be constantly flirting with me, and Edward's clearly undecided state where I was concerned.
"Wow, you think pretty highly of yourself, don't you, Dwyer," I said to myself.
I shook my head and wondered if Japer and his inflated self worth had finally gotten to me. I threw my notebook in my bag and decided that I would head back to the clubhouse and start working on my first assignment that was due in a few days.
My bat, which had been so productive in batting practice, was absolutely silent. I struck out twice, and the second time, I felt like I was going to wring the umpires neck as he rung me up.
I sulked into the dugout, not even feeling up to reminding myself that at least we were losing to Roy Halladay, one of the better aces out there.
The dugout was pretty silent, as Sam, and then Emmett and finally Seth, all succumbed to Halladay. Lester, our starter, turned in a good performance, but against Halladay's domination, nothing looked all that great.
We lost, 3 to 1, and I wanted to punch something as we filed back into the clubhouse. Instead of feeling vindicated and cleansed with the passion of a great game played, I felt more edgy and tense than ever. I knew I was going to have to approach Bella after the game, and talk to her, and I was dreading it. I seemed to stick my foot in it more with her than I had with any other female, and I had a feeling that today wouldn't be any different.
I would make her see, I vowed. If I didn't get my hands on her in the next twenty four hours, I might actually implode from the sexual tension.
The clubhouse was usually laidback and relaxed, even after losses, but today had everyone perplexed and it was a lot quieter than normal. Even Seth seemed to have lapsed into a period of relative silence, which was the weirdest part of all. Usually he'd blast bad rap music after a loss, dancing around like an idiot to raise everyone's spirits. But today, he didn't even dock his iPod into the stereo system.
I took a shower and was just packing up my bag, mentally reciting what I was going to tell Bella, when Jasper sidled up to me, a smirk plastered over his features.
"Good game," he said, and I gritted my teeth. "I especially liked the part where you showed Halladay where your balls were."
I turned to face him. "Listen, Whitlock. Bug me all you want to about Bella, but leave my fucking lame ass performance out of it."
Jasper shrugged innocently, as if he was surprised I was reacting so negatively to what he'd said.
"Listen, man, it sucks. Nobody was very good today. But some run support for my man Lester would be good."
I glared at him. Billy was the captain of the team, but Jasper was the unofficial leader of the pitchers. I knew it frustrated them when they didn't get run support, but we'd had to go against Roy fucking Halladay today.
"You going to go find Miss Bella Dwyer? Get loosened up? Cause she looks like a fucking tiger in the bedroom, you get me?"
Oh, I got him alright, and I'd come to the same conclusion myself, from personal experience, but I hated his insinuation. Nevermind that it was the same thing that I'd accused her of being myself. I'd realized, over the last few days, that Bella liked wanting me just about as much as I liked wanting her. She wasn't a groupie; she would rather walk across hot coals than sleep with me, but sometimes our bodies made a decision and there was nothing our minds could say about it.
I should have let it go, but it bothered me, strangely, that Whitlock had the wrong impression of her. Bella was smart and professional; it wasn't her fault that her body lusted for me just as much as mine wanted her.
"Bella's not a groupie," I said calmly. "I'm suggesting—no,I'm ordering you—to treat her with more respect than that."
Whitlock's expression of surprise told me that he'd been expecting me to agree, not to stand up for Bella's honor. Then his gaze tightened, and he ambled a step closer, until he was definitely in my personal space. "It's none of your business how I think of Bella," he said quietly in a deadly voice. If I knew what was smart, I would agree with him. But I realized, I'd decided that it was my business what everyone thought of her. If I was going to defend her, did that I mean I liked her after all?
"You're wrong," I told him, aware that the room around had grown even quieter, the rest of the team picking up on the fact that we were in the middle of what was rapidly turning into a confrontation. "I'm making it my business. Bella is a nice girl. You will not treat her like a groupie."
A deadly smile broke over Jasper's face, as he coiled, then struck. "But you do."
I didn't stop; I didn't think. My fist, which had been clenched at my side during the entirety of our conversation, struck back, hitting Jasper square in the jaw. Pain blossomed across my knuckles, and the room froze for a split second before Jasper could process what I'd just done, and then I was on the floor, tackled backwards as Whitlock rained punches down like hellfire.
I managed to block most of them, but he landed a few good ones on my ribs and one well-placed hit on my face that would definitely turn into a black eye.
Whitlock was pissed as hell, spitting obscenities at me, and it took three guys to pull him off of me. I sat up, rubbing my ribs as I tried to get to my feet.
"What the fucking hell?" Charlie yelled as he marched into the room, his face bright red with fury. "What the hell, Masen?" He got in my face, yelling, but I had to admit that my temper was a lot more in control after being able to lay Whitlock out. He'd been asking for it for longer than I could remember, and it had felt fucking amazing. And I'd defended Bella. Maybe if I told her that, she'd be swayed to see things my way. Girls liked that sort of thing, right?
"I'm fine, I'm fine," I said holding my rapidly-bruising hands out in front of me. "Sorry."
"Out of line," Charlie bellowed. "Sam tells me you punched Jasper first."
"I did," I admitted. "But he fucking deserved it. He called Bella a groupie."
Charlie's face, if it was even possible, grew darker with rage. "He fucking called her what?" He turned towards Whitlock, who was holding a cold water bottle to his jaw.
I wondered if he'd deny it, but he just nodded. I had to admit that it took a brass pair to admit to Charlie, who was terrifying when he got angry, that he'd fucked up.
"I was just defending Bella's honor, sir," I added, hoping that maybe this would excuse me from my whole part in the brawl.
"Shut up, Masen," Charlie said testily, as he stalked towards Whitlock. "And you, you miserable excuse for a man. You'd better make yourself scarce before I decide to finish the job that Edward started."
He said nothing, just got up and let the door slam behind him. "And nobody, nobody breathes a word of this to the press," Charlie ordered as he stomped off.
Seth handed me a bag of ice and sat down next to me on the bench. "I can't believe you got away with that," he said, awe in his voice.
I couldn't really believe it either. I mean, Charlie had vouched for Bella's credentials, but I hadn't imagined that Whitlock's insult would really piss him off that much. Good thing he hadn't found out about me almost screwing her. If I did manage to get in Bella's pants, I'd have to keep it more under wraps than I'd thought. There was no telling what Charlie would do if he found out that I was involved with her.
"So you're going to pursue her then?" Seth asked, and I nodded.
"I need to go talk to her now. . .let's just say that our last conversation left a lot to be desired."
"Well, you'd better do it fast," Seth said, slapping me on the back, "before your black eye gets any worse and she asks what the hell happened to you."
I got a good amount of work done and decided the last place I needed to be was in the clubhouse when the team came back in and did what they needed before the game started. I packed up my bag and decided a stroll around the park would be a great way to pass the time before I needed to claim my seat and watch the game.
After eating then exploring the public areas of the ballpark, I went to Will Call and picked up the ticket Charlie had left for me. I didn't like the idea of sitting with the families, it just seemed too personal, but I knew there was a reason Charlie and the GM wanted me there so I knew I needed to just suck it up and deal. I would talk to Charlie later about the issues I had with it. I knew that conversation would have to happen sooner rather than later.
I looked at my ticket ,and after some assistance, I found my seat. The wives and family members were filing in and it wasn't long before the seat next to me had an occupant.
"Hey there, I'm Rachel. Seth's wife," she said with a huge smile and stretched out her hand.
I took it and returned the smile. "Hi, I'm Bella Dwyer." I half expected either a vacant smile or to be asked who I was with, boyfriend-wise.
"Oh right! The reporter from ESPN! It's really nice to meet you. Seth was talking about you last night." Her smile increased and I could hear genuine honesty and friendship in her words.
I chose to ignore the last thing she said, and instead focused on the part I thought most wives, and players, would have issue with. "Yes, I'm that reporter. I'm here to cover the team for the rest of the season."
"Well that is wonderful! I'm so glad you chose to sit with us today. You'll see an entirely different game sitting here with the families and, well, other important guests." She kept smiling, but offered a wink at the end. Yeah, that wasn't telling, was it?
Rachel and I talked on and off throughout the game, and I fast realized that she was someone that outside of my assignment, I could actually be friends with. She was very sweet and honest, but quite the little bulldog when her husband missed a pitch or failed to connect on a throw. As the innings passed, our conversation went from casual, short talk to a slightly more personal one.
"So are you dating anyone, Bella?" she asked with such a leading tone in her voice I knew she in all likelihood already knew something about what was or wasn't happening between Edward and me.
"Um, no. I'm not and the horizon isn't looking too hopeful either," I said hoping she would understand that I really didn't want to speak about Edward.
"Well, that's fair. I'm sure you really want to focus on your career and all. I mean, this is a pretty huge assignment you've taken on." She turned her attention back to the field and I saw that Edward was up to bat.
"Yeah, it really is." I watched him take the pitches. First a ball, then a second ball. He swung on a strike, then the catcher called for a time and went to the mound.
"You know, Edward is a really decent guy. Seth wouldn't be friends with him he weren't. They spent a lot of time together in the minors. When Seth was called up, Edward was really worried he wouldn't ever get the call. Seth talked to him for a good three hours that night."
"Uh-huh," I said. I was listening but truth be told, I was drawn to Edward like a moth to a flame. Or more aptly a train to a wreck.
He swung on the next pitch and it went deep right before it was caught. He almost made it on base and I could see his posture change when the ump called him out. Seth followed him for the next out, and Rachel , after shouting encouragements, came back to our conversation.
"Have you talked much to Edward?" she asked, keeping her eyes on the game.
I thought about her question for a second. I really didn't want to go personal with someone I had only been talking to for five innings. But there was something about her that made me trust her. Well, trust her enough. "Not too much talking, no."
I saw a faint smirk appear. "No, I suppose not. He's not too friendly with reporters."
I saw the light coming through the crack and pushed the door open. "Yeah, I noticed. Why is that?"
"Well," Rachel sighed as she spoke. She looked around us before she spoke. "Edward came up in September, just before the regular season was over. He was thrilled to have his shot. Most of his buddies had been called up earlier in the season, so he was feeling like something was missing or something. Anyway, the story. Back before he was called up, he and Sam Uley were back in PawSox land. Sam had been called up but was sent back while Charlie tried to figure out how to bring him to stay – too many players and they weren't ready to trade anyone yet. Well, Sam started seeing this girl that summer and we all really liked her. She was a local reporter and it seemed like a great thing for him.
"Once he was called up, he knew he wouldn't have too much time while he tried to prove himself to the club so he called it off with her. We all thought things were fine until Spring Training. By that time, he had met Emily. They were perfect for each other from the first minute they met. We all knew he'd marry her. Well, Leah wasn't too thrilled with that. She hadn't quite gotten over Sam and really put up a stink in Fort Myers. She used her press credentials to really make things pretty hard for him."
"What did she do?" I asked in a hushed tone so our conversation could remain as unnoticed as possible.
Rachel rolled her eyes. "She did what any worthless reporter does. She lied. She said she had first hand knowledge of him doping and that he was abusive towards his last girlfriend. She tried selling her 'story' to the sports media outlets, but no one bit. She found a few smaller outlets that were willing to pay a pittance for her drivel."
"But she was his last girlfriend," I said. I found I was getting slightly annoyed hearing her retell the story.
"Right, but the locals in Ft. Myers didn't know that. Heck, even the people in Boston didn't know. And Sam's a pretty massive guy. It's easy to believe someone of his size got that way by unnatural means. It was cleared up before the team ever left Ft. Myers but by that time, it really left a mark of the guys that came up together. Seth, Edward, and Sam are pretty tight and that nonsense really hit them all pretty hard. It took a few months for the organization to clean that mess up. But Sam was worth it. Charlie knew it was all lies and that was all that mattered to most people. If Charlie trusts a person, it reaches deep in this town and in this sport."
"So that's why Edward hates reporters? Because one girl went all 'Fatal Attraction' on Sam?" I asked. I avoided the reference to Charlie. He had nothing to do with Edward's issues, so I wasn't going to bring him up if I could help it.
"What? There's more?" I asked, slightly shocked. Just how little I knew about the back story for this team was becoming clear, and Rachel was more than a fountain of information. At least the information that I really needed – information in Edward.
"Oh hell yeah, there is," Rachel started. "Remember all that crap this summer about Emmett using steroids?"
"Who didn't hear about that?" I asked. I noticed that the inning had retired since we had been talking and I looked out to center field in time to see Edward catch an out. My heart leapt at the sight of him before I quickly, and silently, chastised myself over it.
"Way to go, Edward! Nice catch!" Rachel shouted, and I noticed several other wives were cheering him as well. "Ok, so early in the summer that story broke. It's obvious, and has been proved, that Emmett never doped but some reporter got it into their heads that they were going to fishing and see if they could make a story about nothing. I mean, Manny had had just been accused of the same thing, and you know how tight Emmett and Manny were before he was traded to the Dodgers. I guess to that report, it just made sense to claim Emmett had as well.
"Emmett's a big guy, just like Sam. And Edward really looks up to them. Sam was always telling Edward that his time would come and he would be called up. He texted him after every game when he was called up to let him know what to expect and all that. He's a real decent guy- heart of the team after Seth- and it really banged Edward up when he heard all the lies and rumors and doubt going on this summer about Emmett."
I thought about what she said and it all started to sink in. "So that's why he hates reporters?" I mumbled under my breath.
"Wouldn't that be enough for you? If the tables were turned and you had some pretty bad experiences with ball players, wouldn't you be a bit hesitant to trust a ball player again?" Rachel asked before she stood up and cheered her husband on after the double play he and Sam made.
There is no way she knows, there can't be, I thought. Her words may have hit close to home, but I shoved them aside. "He did talk to me a bit yesterday."
Rachel sat back down and looked at me. "I know. Seth told me."
I gave a slight laugh. "I bet he did."
Rachel smiled a very caring smile and she placed her hand on my shoulder. "Bella, listen. From what I was told, Edward seems to really like you, but he has his issues just like I am sure you must. After Edward came to the majors, after the team won the World Series, he had to deal with a lot of crap."
"Like what?" I asked. I felt like whatever she had to say was going to either change my mind or solidify the thoughts I'd been having.
Rachel leaned over and nearly whispered, "All ball players have issues with female fans throwing themselves at them. Hell, most of the women do it just to collect a jersey story. You know? Say they slept with the player. They think about it like the 'Bull Durham'-thing, except they aren't helping the players. They're using them. Edward had his fair share of women that just wouldn't stop. Two of them were just bat-shit crazy. They never missed a home game and were always waiting for him after. This one, Tonya, oh mercy, she was a handful. He must have told her a hundred times he wasn't interested but she never stopped. She finally told him she didn't want a relationship with him, she only wanted sex. Well, you can imagine how that went over with him."
"No, actually I can't," I answered honestly as I watched Edward in the outfield.
Rachel shifted slightly in her seat and looked me dead in the eyes. "Bella, Edward is a damn decent guy. He never slept with any of the women that were flirted with him. Honestly speaking?" She waited for me to nod before she continued. "I've known Edward for a few years and I've never known him to date. And after what Seth told me last night, Edward is really into you."
I thought about what she just said and realized she must have known more that I first thought.
"You wouldn't know it by my side of things."
"Bella, at the risk of sounding like we're back in junior high school, I know . I mean, I know what happened yesterday. Edward told Seth about the night he left your house. He is having a hell of a time trying to figure this out just like I think you are. And I think that short of you actually telling him – well, he won't see it."
"Rachel, I don't know. I mean he clearly has issues with reporters and even if I wasn't one, I'm sure there would be other reasons why we just can't get along."
"But the chemistry is there, right? The way Seth talked about it, it sounds like that certainly isn't an issue."
"Well, no," I said. I was immediately embarrassed with the knowledge that of exactly what Edward may have shared.
"So, it is Jasper then? Are you more interested in him? Seth said you two were quite chummy at dinner the other night." Rachel raised her brow and offered a smile. She really was like a little truth tonic.
"Oh god, no. It isn't Jasper. Are you kidding me? There is no- I mean he isn't even- and he just tries too hard. Oh my god, no. It certainly isn't Jasper. He just- I don't know- he'll never be more than a friend. Even if he does want more."
Rachel smiled more broadly and leaned back in her seat. "Hmm. Seems like you have some things to think about, doesn't it?" She looked over at me and winked again before she turned her focus back to the game and cheered her husband and the team on.
I tried to watched the rest of the game, but all I could see what Edward did on the field. My head was too full with thoughts of what he had done to me at my front door and in the clubhouse, the looks he'd given me at dinner, and the way he pursued me into the cab. I had been in an Edward-free existence for almost two days before I came to the game and the moment I saw him, I was sucked back in. I felt myself drawn to him, and in some strange way, I felt sure that it was the same for him. If we could keep from attacking each other with words and our bodies long enough, we might just be able to figure it out.
Then it hit me. What if the only way to prove to him that I wasn't a groupie or some rep-trashing reporter was to just drop the attitude and take the chance? Even if it meant sleeping with him before he figured his shit out. If what Rachel said was true, it had been a while since he had been with anyone. And he clearly wasn't the type to sleep around so . . . if he wanted me that way, then maybe that was the only way he could show his true intention. He could be just as confused as I was about what was happening between us, that intense attraction. I had my reasons for my attitude and knew full well what they were. I had seen too many ball players "love 'em and leave 'em" and I had promised myself I would never fall victim to that. But if I went into it knowing that it was either going be just for sex or had the possibility for more, wouldn't I be a fool for not trying?
I watched the last inning of the game with only half my head in the game. It was a good thing my first blog post was going to be an overview of the team and park. If it wasn't, I would have been screwed. I felt my stomach start to do flips in the seventh and decided to make use of the food service men and women. I took down a beer and cotton candy and knew that the stomach issues wouldn't go away with food. I was going to find Edward once the game was over and make sure he got my point – one way or another.
The game finished and the boys lost. I had a feeling that my plan would be trashed because of it. Losses were never easy and if Edward's reaction to his ejection was an indicator, losing would give him the same vibe. Well, just toned down. I pulled my lip balm out of my bag and applied it more out of habit than anticipation. Although, once I started thinking about it, I really was anticipating him kissing me again. We were two for two as it was. I checked my phone for messages and replied to the few that needed it. My best friend, Alice, had texted several times to see how the new job was going. It was going to be interesting for sure to explain the situation to her as it had unfolded so far. I answered a few more emails from my boss and mother, and was just about to stand up when Rachel grabbed my arm. She had her phone in her hand and her eyes were wide.
"Bella! You aren't planning to go to the clubhouse, are you?" she asked and unless I was mistaken, she seemed panicked.
"Uh, yeah, actually I was. I got thinking about a few things and-"
"Oh! Well you can't, I mean- um, sit down for a second." She tugged on my arm and I had no choice but to follow her motion. "Uh, I just got a call from Seth. It seems that Edward hit Jasper in the locker room."
"What?!" I asked. I was shocked. No, scratch that, I was stunned.
"Yeah, seems Jasper may have provoked Edward with some comments about you and well… Edward hit him."
"Oh my god. I'd ask if you were kidding, but I can't help but think you aren't," I said still shocked.
What the hell had Jasper said that would have riled Edward up to the point he would hit him?
Rachel looked around to make sure we were as alone as one could be thirty minutes after the game. "I think you may have just gotten your answer, don't you?"
"Maybe, I still don't know," I said. I didn't want to place too much hope on something without proof. It was the reporter in me.
"Bella, Edward never raises his voice and never hits anything. I've known him for years and I can't recall a time I've been this shocked by something he has done. What now?" She turned her phone over in her hand. "It's a text from Seth," she said as she started to read the message.
"He's coming to look for you."
"What? Who? Edward?" I asked and I felt panic start to rise. I had a plan, sure, but I wasn't ready to put it into effect.
"Yup, he just left the clubhouse and he's coming here. Seems he knew you were seated with me today."
"Rachel? What do I do?" I questioned. Any plan I had in place after the seventh inning flew out the window.
"Do what come natural. And if that doesn't work – do what you two do best," she said. She reached over and hugged me. "I hope it works out. I'd love to see you again. And don't be a stranger. Edward's family seats are never taken so just feel free to sit here any game, ok? And good luck!"
"Yeah, right. Thanks," I said and I released the hug. I watched her leave the section and finally stood up, ready to let Edward find me.
I was trying not to panic but I knew I was failing.
Twenty minutes later, I was hot in pursuit of my goal. I'd even managed to develop a three step plan in the interim. It wasn't complicated, but it didn't have to be—it only had to work.
Step 1: find Bella.
Step 2: convince her that I wasn't a jerk.
Step 3: get naked and busy.
I'd struck out in the lobby and was about to find an usher and ask if they'd seen her when I heard her voice behind me, on the stairs that led to the wives' box.
"Decided to take up boxing?" she asked in an amused voice.
"Bella, I've been looking for you." I knew I sounded relieved; I figured it wasn't bad that she knew just how desperate I was—or maybe just how desperate I was for her.
"So I heard," she said. "And I heard that you'd decided it would be a great idea to use your ace pitcher as a punching bag."
Charlie had said that the press couldn't know, but I had a feeling that Bella wasn't going to write about this. At least she wouldn't when I told her why I'd done it.
I shrugged, trying for nonchalant. I didn't want her to think that what I'd done was a big deal, when in fact it was. I was usually a pacifist. It was only since Bella had arrived in my life and had twisted me into knots that my temper had begun to get the better of me. "He deserved it," I said.
"What did he say?" She walked up to me, her dark hair falling around her face. I hadn't ever seen her with it down before, and I wondered if she'd worn it like this for my benefit. It wasn't very likely, but I still liked it. She really was beautiful, except she didn't seem to know—or maybe it was that she didn't care.
She reached up, the tips of her fingers grazing the tender, bruised skin around my eye. "You've got a black eye; it was definitely something important."
"You should see Jasper," I joked, and she rolled her eyes.
"Seriously. Tell me what happened."
So far, I thought with relish, she was eating out of my hand. It was all part of the plan to pretend to be reluctant to share the reason for my fight with Jasper. Then she'd drag it out of me, be incredibly touched that I'd defended her, then she would let me take her clothes off. Please, god, soon. Just being in her presence made my fingers itch to touch her like I had the other night. My attraction to her still didn't make any sense, but I was through fighting it.
"Promise it won't show up on any websites tomorrow," I said, as I shifted my bag to my other shoulder, and glanced around surreptitiously, confirming that we weren't being watched by anyone who would tell Charlie.
"Whitlock said something. . .not exactly. . .nice about you. I defended you."
I'd expected a lot from this admission. I expected gratitude and tears, followed quickly by nakedness.
What I got was something else entirely.
Bella Dwyer, ever the surprise, laughed in my face.
"He was just trying to get a rise out of you," she said, when she'd finally stopped laughing at my expense. "And you let him. Jasper and I understand each other."
And just like that, my temper ballooned out of control again. "Believe me, " I told her emphatically, "it was not like that at all. He meant what he said, and it was unacceptable."
She shook her head, her eyes dancing with mirth. "Believe me, he was trying to piss you off. And he succeeded, clearly."
"Clearly," I muttered under my breath, my annoyance with ballooning again.
"But," Bella added, as she smiled at me winsomely, "I appreciate the sentiment."
Great, that will really help, I thought fatalistically.
I took a deep breath and tried to find my self-control. I had to get control of this conversation before I went off half-cocked again or attacked her in the lobby of Fenway. What I needed was a smooth, collected seduction attempt. "What are you doing later? Would you like to have dinner with me?"
She glanced at me speculatively from under long lashes. "Dinner?"
"I haven't been very . . .nice. . .myself," I added lamely. I was never very good at apologizing, but I was trying my damndest here. I had to dig myself out of the hole before she decided that I was more bother than I was worth.
"I can't do dinner," she said apologetically, "but I can do this." And abruptly, she pushed me backwards, until we were in an out of the way alcove that led to the bathrooms, and then, with me pinned against the wall, she kissed me.
She tasted like cherries and beer and cotton candy. I groaned into her mouth as she wrapped herself around me like a vine around a tree. Lust exploded in my brain as our tongues met and melded together.
Her hands slipped between us and rested on my chest, then moved lower, caressing my torso. She wasn't very gentle against my bruised ribs, but I didn't care, as long as she kept touching me. I tangled my hands in her hair, relishing the feel of the silken strands on my skin. I wanted her, desperately, and I hoped that the feeling was mutual.
My lips left her mouth and slid down the long column of her beautiful neck. "I want you," I murmured into her ear. "Dinner or not."
She pulled back a little, her eyes sparkling with mischief. "But you're going to have to wait for dinner, and not before."
"When?" I asked, before I captured her mouth again, gorging myself on the way she tasted.
"Soon," she said, as she tried to step away, clearly a lot more in control than I was at the moment. That was unacceptable. I needed her shaking against me again, making those tiny desperate noises in her throat. I needed her as crazy for me as I was for her.
"Bella." I held her fast against me, refusing to let her move. Her eyes bore into mine. Deliberately I shifted my hands, just the tips of my fingers tracing the elegant line of her spine. "Don't tease me, or I'll tease you back."
She gave a little shrug, her expression seeming to say that she wasn't exactly going to argue with that.
"Fine, it's your choice," I said, pulling her even closer until she was absolutely flush against me and could feel every inch of how much I wanted her. I bent my head, and kissed her again, nibbling on her bottom lip until I heard that groan that I loved so much.
"Fine, fine," she gasped, pulling away. "You win."
"Good," I said smugly. "Now tell me when."
"I'm going with the team to Texas. Take me out then, then find a way to ditch your roommate," she said breathlessly.
I thought about this for a second, shifting her against me until she gasped a little. "I think we could manage that," I said, brushing another kiss against her lips. "But I'm not sure I can wait that long. I'm so . . .tense."
"You are," she agreed, her hands moving lower, until they were resting on my belt buckle. I sucked in my breath as she traced the taut skin above my jeans. "Maybe I should help you out. . .or maybe I shouldn't," she said with a laugh and a smile, pulling away from me before I could react.
"That's not fair," I said, swallowing a string of curse words. I needed her, like I'd never needed a woman before. She'd twisted me up into knots and it was up to her to untangle them.
"See you in Texas," she said with a wink, as she walked away, leaving me with a black eye, bruised ribs and yet another impressive set of blue balls.