Back then, I had it all.
Wicked fastball. Killer instinct. Cocky grin. Full package.
(And believe me, I knew how to score.)
My senior year, I was a first round draft pick with a two-million-dollar signing bonus. Before I could even legally buy myself a beer, I made my Major League debut.
Point is, I was invincible.
Until one day I wasn’t.
After tanking my career—during the World Series, no less—the last thing I want to do is return to my hometown, where every jerk in a ball cap has an opinion about what went wrong with my arm. So when my sister drags me back to town for her wedding, I vow to get in and out of there as quickly as possible.
Then I run into April Sawyer.
In high school we were just friends, but I’d always wanted her, and I’d never forgotten her—the red hair, the incredible smile, the crazy, reckless thing we did in the back of my truck the night we said goodbye. It’s been eighteen years, but one look at her and I feel like my old self again. I can still make her laugh, she can still take me down a notch, and when the chemistry between us explodes, it’s even hotter this time around—and I don’t want it to end.
But just when I think I’m ready to let go of the past and get back in the game, life throws me a curveball I never saw coming.
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Want another bite?” Then she started to laugh. “I know how much you like local cherries.”
Tipping back my beer, I narrowed my eyes at her, then set the bottle down with a thunk. “What is that supposed to mean?”
She shrugged. “You liked mine, didn’t you?”
April laughed even harder and sucked on the spoon.
“Wait a minute. Wait a minute.” I sat up straight and blinked at her. “Are you serious? You were a virgin that night?”
“Hush,” she said, looking around, although we were practically the only people left in the dining room. “Yes. I was pure as the driven snow before you got me in the back of your truck.”
I groaned, squeezing my eyes shut. “Why didn’t you say something?”
“Because I didn’t want you to know, obviously.”
“God, now I feel like an even bigger prick.”
“Tyler, I can’t be the only rookie you initiated.”
“You were different.”
That made her smile. “Are you saying you wouldn’t have done it?”
I thought for a second. “Nah, I probably still would have done it. But I might have tried to make it last a little longer.”
She dug into the ice cream again. “It was pretty quick.”
I groaned again.
“But you were a gentleman, as far as I was concerned. And it’s not like I knew any better back then.” She started laughing. “I mean, after all, your nickname was ‘The Rifle.’”
“Because I pitched fast, dammit!”
“Oh, come on, that’s funny. Admit it.” She leaned over and nudged me with her shoulder. “And I was glad you were my first, despite everything.”
I ran a hand through my hair, sat up a little taller. “Good. But I just want it on the record”—I held out one hand—“I have learned some self-control in the ensuing years. And some skills. Some very valuable skills.”
“Duly noted,” April said with a nod. “Now let’s talk about your feelings.”
I frowned and picked up my beer. “Do we have to?”
“Yes. You’re very angry.”
“Don’t I have a right to be? You saw it tonight. I feel like I can’t turn a corner without someone telling me how great I was, what a shame it is that my career ended the way it did, or wondering why, for the love of God, I just couldn’t relax and throw the ball.”
“So tell them to fuck off.”
“I do. All the time.”
“But then you have to actually let it go.”
I exhaled. “That’s a lot harder. Because deep down, I’m asking myself the same damn thing.”
“Okay, so what’s next? Look ahead. If you can’t play ball anymore, what are you going to do to show everyone that you’re still a badass?”
Um, put my tongue between your legs? But I didn’t say that. What I said was, “I’ve got no idea.”
“Hmm. You need some clarity.”
What I needed was her naked body against mine. That moan in my ear. “You think?”
“Yes. And some inner peace. Deep down you’re craving it.”
Deep down I was craving a taste of her pussy, but I didn’t think I should mention it. “Okay.”
“Maybe you should try yoga,” she suggested. “Learn to find your center.”
The only center I wanted to find was hers. “Yoga? No way.”
“Well, we have to think of something to decrease your stress level. What about sex?”
I froze. “What about it?”
“Does it relax you?”
“You know, you don’t have to try to fix me. I’m fine.” And you definitely shouldn’t talk about sex—I’m hanging on to gentleman by a very thin thread here.