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First base: kissing.
Every baseball player knows to keep their eye on the ball and swing for the fences. Each base counts, but a home run is the goal. No one wants to strike out. This is true both on and off the field.
Ellie had been my best friend since we were born, and we had a plan—get out of the tiny Alabama town we’d grown up in and go to college…together. But even life’s best-laid plans could throw a powerful curveball. Rather than attend classes, I was now the starting pitcher for a Major League team.
While my game-day stats were impressive, my record with women was less desirable. I was the professional baseball player who hadn’t been able to make it past third base since the one and only night I’d played hardball with my best friend.
When the bottom of the ninth came to a close on my career, I had to decide if our friendship was worth more than a few extra innings.
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Two guys argued a few feet away. I should have looked away, but I couldn’t. Their voices carried, and after the day I’d had, I needed some form of comedic relief—and these two provided that. Considering I’d been sitting on this stool in their direct line of sight for the last hour, I was well aware just how drunk each of them were, and the more they disagreed, the louder they became.
“That’s him. I’m telling you, I know my baseball players,” the one with dark hair said—or more like slurred—loudly.
“You wouldn’t know their faces if you had their cards right in front of you.” The blond rolled his eyes and tossed back the last of the amber liquid in his glass. “Now…if you’d recognized him as he walked away, I’d believe you. You pay far more attention to their asses in those tight pants.”
The guy with the dark hair—I could’ve sworn I’d heard someone call him Eric, but it could’ve been Derrick, it was hard to tell with the heavy slurring—punched his friend in the arm. “Fuck you, bro.”
“You’re a great guy, but I don’t like you like that.”
Eric or Derrick turned his attention back to me and squinted. There was a good chance he’d reached the double-vision stage of drinking. I actually envied him. I wanted to be there—or the blackout stage, whichever would ease the disappointment festering inside.
I didn’t shy away, and instead, held his stare until he nudged Dan—who he could’ve been calling “man” this whole time, but I didn’t care. “How much you gonna pay me if I’m right?”
“Nothing! Why the hell would I give you money?”
“Like a bet.”
Dan seemed irritated over his friend’s insistence. He’d been desperately trying to catch the attention of the redhead next to him, but every time he almost succeeded, the drunken moron at his side carried on about whether or not I was who he thought I was.
“Fine. I’ll bet you a hundred bucks.”
Eric checked his wallet…or, at least I think that’s what he was doing. He took out the bi-fold and fumbled open the cash part, closing one eye and drawing it close to the other. I was across the bar and could see there was no money in there. But apparently, he needed to check. Then double-check.
And check one last time before saying, “I don’t have a hundred dollars. How about five?”
“You’re making a big deal over five bucks?”
It was only a matter of time before he came over, and I didn’t care to be perched on the stool when he did. Honestly, I didn’t care to interact with anyone, but people frown upon those who drink alone. My options were limited.
Swallowing the last of my Crown, I flipped the tumbler upside down and slid off the stool. At the last second, I changed the course of my direction. Rather than head toward the door, I veered around the bar and approached the redhead sitting next to the guys. I’d found her staring at me a few times, smiling when caught and quickly diverting her gaze, so I figured it was worth an attempt.
I dug my wallet out of my back pocket and slipped out a five-dollar bill. Slapping it on the bar top, I slid it over, closer to Dan, while lessening the space between the redhead and myself, my brown eyes meeting her green ones. “What’s your name, sweetheart?”
“Nice to meet you, Kelly.” I flicked my gaze back to the guys, who now sat with their mouths hanging open, eyes popped wide in shock. I tossed my head back quickly in their direction by way of a casual greeting. “Hey, name’s Coby Kyler,” I said before glancing back down at the gorgeous woman so close to me. “You wouldn’t mind if I stole you away, would you?”
It took everything in me not to roll my eyes…at myself. I wouldn’t consider myself “smooth” with the ladies, but at least I was a hell of a lot better now than I had been a few years ago. But when she smiled and said, “Sure,” I figured I couldn’t have been as bad as I thought.
The two guys continued to gawk while I helped her off her stool, then they both turned to the five-dollar bill on the bar when she pointed to it and said, “I’ve already paid for my drink. And left a tip. So you don’t need to leave that.”
For the first time all day, the smirk on my face was genuine. “Sorry, man, but I didn’t have a hundred on me. I just wanted to say thanks for noticing me without having to check out my ass first. It doesn’t look half as good in jeans.” I tossed him a wink for fun and then took the girl’s hand.
She giggled and tugged on my arm as soon as we made it outside, automatically leading me to her car. “You didn’t drive here, did you?”