I come in through the front doors of the hotel, drenched in sweat from my afternoon run. I ran two extra miles today after my PT session. Might as well. It’s not like I have to get ready for a night out. No more Fridays, she told me. I thought Rylee would give in as the week wore on, but she stuck to her guns.
As I make my way to the elevator, I think I see a familiar face and do a double take.
“Murphy?” I walk over to a sitting area by the reception desk to see my best friend’s girl parked on a couch reading a book. She has a small suitcase by her side.
She looks up at me, smiling. “Surprise!”
I look around to see if Caden is here. I know he couldn’t be because they went home to New York for three days and today they start a series in Kansas City. “What are you doing here?”
“Can’t a girl fly in for the weekend to see one of her best friends?”
My heart soars to hear her say that. I’ve never had a chick as a best friend before, but Murphy has a way of working herself into your life whether you want her to or not. And at first, I didn’t want her to. She was nice and sophisticated and … freaking hot. She was also engaged to one of my closest friends. I know myself. It was only a matter of time before I fucked up and made a move.
But miraculously, that never happened and now they are planning their wedding and she’s become more like a sister to me than anything else.
“Yes. But why?”
She just smiles at me and gathers her things.
I shake my head. “What the hell did Caden tell you? It’s not like I’m wallowing in self-pity down here, Murphy. I’m fine.”
“He said no such thing. I just miss you and I needed a vacation.”
I look at her small suitcase. “Just how long do you plan on staying?”
“I fly out Sunday night. I thought you could take me to the beach tomorrow so I could work on my tan.”
I raise my eyebrows at her. “You’re not going to watch the game?”
“I don’t watch every game, you know.”
I stare her down.
She gives me an eyeroll. “Okay, so we can stream it on my iPad.”
I laugh. I’m pretty sure she never misses a game, even if she has to record them. When she’s not working at the gym, she lives, eats, and breathes baseball just like we do. She’ll make the perfect baseball wife – she has her own responsibilities separate from Caden, yet she’s as passionate about the game as any woman I’ve ever seen. What a change from when Caden first met her and she knew nothing about the sport.
I pick up her suitcase. “You didn’t get a room, did you? I have a suite. You can take the bed and I’ll sleep on the couch. It’ll save you a few bucks.”
Murphy backs up and studies me. “I’m sorry, I was looking for Brady Taylor, the guy who couldn’t care less who spends money and on what.”
I laugh. “It’ll be fun. Don’t girls love sleepovers? Well, unless you think Caden will have an issue with it.”
“There was a time when Caden didn’t want you to look at me, let alone share a suite with me. All you ever did was look at my boobs back then.”
I shrug. “Can’t help it. It’s an unconscious habit.”
She cocks her head sideways. “You don’t do it anymore.” I’m amused that she says it almost as if she’s upset about it.
“That’s because you’re like my sister, Murphy, and that would be gross. Plus, Caden would kick my ass.”
“I’m not sure about that,” she says. “I’m thinking it might be a draw.”
“Come on. Let’s head on up so I can shower and give you a proper hug.”
~ ~ ~
I throw on some clothes and towel-dry my hair before joining Murphy out in the living room.
“What do you want to do tonight?” I ask.
“Maybe I should ask you that,” she says. “I mean, I did kind of crash your party here. Did you have any plans?”
I raise my arms out to my side. “My dance card appears to be empty. I’m all yours.”
“What about the physical therapist?”
I shake my head. “I told you. We’re just friends. It was a one-time thing anyway.”
She chews on her lower lip as she studies me. “But you didn’t want it to be.”
“Whatever. It is what it is,” I say, pouring myself a drink. “On to the next one.”
I slam down the decanter a little too hard, spilling liquid out the top.
Murphy walks over and uses a napkin to clean up my mess. “Maybe she would like to join us.”
I laugh. “Not a chance. She said she wouldn’t go out with me unless . . . Wait, you’re brilliant.”
I pull out my phone and type out a text to Rylee. Normally I don’t care to have the numbers of the girls I date. But Ry is more than that. She’s my physical therapist. And I think she just might be my friend.
Me: I think I have just the thing to change your mind about going out.
It takes her a few minutes to reply. All the while I stare at my phone, wondering what she could be doing late on a Friday afternoon if she’s not with me.
Rylee: I doubt that.
Me: Remember how you said we’d need a chaperone?
Rylee: I was kidding, Brady. What, did you enlist Lenny or one of the A-team guys to be a third-wheel or something?
Me: No. But what if I told you the chaperone was the home run girl?
Rylee: Caden Kessler’s fiancée is in town?
Me: The one and only.
Rylee: I’m not going on a double date, Brady.
Me: Caden is in Kansas City. If you were a good team therapist, you’d know that.
Rylee: I do know that. I guess I just assumed they’d be here together. I mean, what is Murphy doing in Tampa without Caden? Wait, did you set this up just because I said I’d like to meet her?
Me: She just showed up at the hotel. I knew nothing about it. Scout’s honor.
Rylee: Why do I get the idea you were never a Boy Scout?
Me: Very funny. You’ve got me there. But seriously, I did not have a hand in this. Murphy was asking what we should do tonight and I just thought of you. Like I told you weeks ago, I think you two will get along great. And you DID say you wanted to meet her. I’m trying to be nice here, Ry.
Rylee: Okay, fine. But I still can’t go out tonight.
Me: Why not?
Rylee: I just can’t. Just leave it at that.
I find myself having an emotion that I never have. Ever. I see red. I see some goddamned guy named Stryker. And I try to push it to the back of my mind.
Rylee: But I might be able to meet up with you guys tomorrow night if she’s still in town.
Me: Tomorrow would be fine. Can you be here at six? I’ll take you both out for dinner and drinks.
Rylee: I think I can manage that.
Me: Great. See you then.
I put my phone away and turn to see that Murphy was watching over my shoulder. She gives me a smug smile.
“What?” I ask.
“I saw that,” she says.
“I saw your jaw tighten when she said she couldn’t go out tonight.”
“You’re seeing things. I think planning your wedding has turned you into some love-crazed woman.”
“Or maybe it has fine-tuned my senses. Come on, Brady. Admit that you like the girl.”
I throw my hands up. “I like the girl,” I say. “I like a lot of girls, Murphy.”
“Yeah, but you like her more. Don’t you?”
“Are we in seventh grade?”
She smirks at me before she walks over to pull her suitcase into the bedroom. “I’m going to shower the travel grime off, then you’re showing me the town.”
“It’s not like you’ve never been here,” I call out after her. “You came down for a whole week during spring training this year.”
She peeks her head out of the bathroom. “You’re right, I did. And I barely left the hotel room.”
I laugh thinking of how giddy Caden was the week of her visit. “That’s my boy.”
“No, that’s my boy,” she says, closing the door.
I listen to her sing shamelessly in the shower. It’s unnatural for two people to be as fucking happy as they are.
I walk in the bedroom and put her suitcase on the bed for her. I stare at the bed and think about what Rylee and I were doing on it just a week ago. Then I glance over to the closet where my Bumbershoot shirt sits, folded neatly on a shelf.
Some people are just not meant to be happy.
I open the passenger door to let Murphy in. She laughs at me. “There is no way you are fitting in the back seat of this car. But thanks for the gesture.”
She slips into the back of Rylee’s SUV as I take my place in the front, but before I put on my seatbelt, I forge an introduction. “Rylee Kennedy, meet Murphy Cavenaugh.”
Rylee turns around in her seat and shakes Murphy’s hand. “I’m so happy to meet you.” She holds up her arm, displaying a #MurphyStrong wristband. “I’m a big fan.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Murphy says. “I haven’t seen one of those in a while.”
After Murphy rose to fame as the girl who got hit by Caden Kessler’s ball and then stole his heart, she was publicly humiliated by her ex who had been trying to extort money from Caden. After she bravely showed her face, refusing to let the ex get the best of her, fans printed t-shirts, hats, and wristbands in her honor.
I turn to Rylee. “So you’ll show your support for Murphy, but not the team you work for?” I tease.
“What are you talking about? I love the Hawks.”
“Then how come you don’t wear t-shirts or hats?”
“Brady, I wear a polo shirt with the Hawks logo every day at work.”
“Only because you’re required to. When is the last time you’ve been to a game?”
“I might have caught one just last week,” she says.
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