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I snort at him. Yeah, still an arrogant spendthrift.

“Brady, you can’t go bribing my clients so you can talk to me.”

“I didn’t do it so I can talk to you. I really do need a physical therapist.”

He holds out his left arm and my eyes find a new pink scar. Not the scar from his broken elbow. My eyes snap to his. “You had the nerve transposition surgery?”

He nods. “Some smarty-pants PT told me it was my best shot.”

“When did you do it?” I ask.

“Right before training camp,” he says. “I felt my progression had halted. I wasn’t getting any better. It was do or die time. And, well … I knew you’d be there to help in my recovery. Or so I thought.”

“So why come here now? You have team PTs you can work with.”

“I’m allowed to work with any PT I choose, even those outside of the organization. I know you. You will push me harder than anyone.”

“But you’ll travel with the team, won’t you?”

“Yes, whenever I can. But I’ll work with you when I’m home. You’re going to get me back, Rylee, I know it.”

I know he means get him back in the game, but I think of how else that statement could be interpreted.

“How long have you worked at the gym?” he asks, oblivious to how his double entendre has affected me.

“A little over two weeks.”

“But you quit your job more than six weeks ago. Did you leave before spring training because of Alex or because of me?”

I shrug. “To be honest, a little of both. I needed some time off after … everything. I was beginning to fear for my safety being in Tampa. Alex knew where I lived. And I had been away from my mom for too long. And yes, there was the thought of having to see you.”

“How is your mom?” he asks. “I know dealing with Alzheimer’s can be difficult.”

I furrow my brow. I’m positive I never spoke of her.

“I walked in on you one time when you were Skyping your mom. I didn’t want to say anything because we weren’t talking about personal stuff.”

“But we are now?”

He looks to the floor. “Depends on what stuff, I guess.”

“Meaning we can talk about my stuff, but not yours.”

I start to walk away but he pulls my arm, tugging me back to him. “Meaning we can talk about lots of stuff, but not all the stuff. Some things I just don’t talk about, Ry.”

I look at the clock. “If we don’t get started, you’ll have wasted a lot of money for nothing. Let’s do your evaluation.”

He watches me meticulously as I measure his wrist flexion and extension and his grip. He silently follows my direction when I put his arm, wrist and fingers through their paces. I’m reeling on the inside, knowing he’s already stronger than he was last fall. If anyone can overcome this, he can.

“You’ve done a lot of work today. I’d like to ice your arm before you leave.”

“What, no manual therapy?” He winks at me.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

I can sense that he’s getting ready to argue, but then he backs down.

“Fine, ice me up. We’ll work up to the other stuff.”

I type my notes into my laptop while he sits with ice on his arm.

“I tried to get you a transfer, you know. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it happen.”

“You did?” I look up, surprised.

“That day when I saw you Skyping your mom, I called the team owner and put in a good word for you.”

“So that’s why I got the job offer.”

He looks confused. “You got an offer to come back to New York and didn’t take it?”

“They offered me a staff PT position, but it would require traveling with the team during the season. I couldn’t do it. Not with Stryker. But thank you for trying.”

“How is he – your son?”

I can’t help smiling. “He’s great. He recovered quickly and is just like any other precocious three-year-old.”

Brady’s eyes close and he winces.

I touch his arm. “Are you in pain? Is the ice too cold?”

“It’s fine,” he says.

My next appointment comes in the room. “I’ll be right with you, Kathy.”

“Can we talk some more?” Brady asks. “After work maybe?”

“Sorry. Murphy’s taking me apartment hunting.”

“You don’t have a place yet? Where have you been staying all this time?”

“In a hotel. I know, it’s awful, Stryker and I sharing a room. I put all my stuff in storage. But I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had a chance. Murphy has been great. She’s lined up all the places for me to see.”

“Yeah, she’s pretty great, isn’t she? I’m glad you two have become friends.”

He studies me as I unwrap his ice pack.

“I guess I’ll see you next time,” I say.

“Ry.” He looks over at my next client to see that she’s keeping herself busy with her phone. “I’m sorry for how I left. I had my reasons. Reasons that had nothing to do with you. I just wanted you to know that.”

I shake my head. “You don’t owe me any explanations,” I say. “I knew what we were doing was a short-term thing. If I allowed myself to think anything else, it was my own fault.”

He steps closer. “Are you saying you wanted it to be something else?”

I look up at him but don’t answer.

He sighs and brushes a stray hair behind my ear. “It’s okay, Rylee. I wanted it to be something else, too.”

He walks away, leaving me incapable of … anything.

I hold a finger out to Kathy, letting her know I’ll be just another minute. Then I go into my office, close my door and just breathe.

Chapter Twenty-five

I walk out to the front desk to meet Murphy. “Ready?” I ask.

She pulls a folder out of her bag. “I’m ready. We’re seeing three places today.”

“Want to grab a sandwich from that deli on the corner first?” I ask.

“Ugh – sandwiches? What is it with you and sandwiches?” a deep male voice asks.

Murphy and I spin around to see that Brady has snuck up behind us. “What are you doing here?” I ask.

“If you think I’m going to let the two of you go apartment hunting without protection, you’re crazy.”

“I’m not taking her to the slums,” Murphy says defensively.

“Still, are you sure you know what buildings are safe? I mean, you’re from Iowa, Murphy, and Rylee grew up outside the city.”

“We know enough,” I say. “Plus, I told her I wouldn’t live in one without security.”

“They all have doormen and twenty-four-hour security,” Murphy says. “So you can see we’re far ahead of you.”

“I’m coming anyway,” he says, walking to the front door to open it for us.

I stare at him and wonder why he’s doing this. He walked away. Four months ago he walked away from me at the hospital and never looked back. Why is he interested in being around me now? Does he think he has to protect me from guys like Alex? Or does this have anything to do with what he said earlier?

“Want me to get rid of him?” Murphy asks in a whisper.

I shake my head. “No, it’s fine.”

“Maybe he can intimidate the managers into giving you a better deal,” she says.

I laugh. “I wouldn’t doubt it.”

Murphy and I talk on the way to the deli with Brady walking behind us. After we order our dinner, he asks, “So, the sandwiches?”

I shrug. “Stryker likes them, so they are pretty much a staple in my house. I’ve had to get creative to make sure he’s getting enough nutrition, but it’s fun. I make a mean chicken salad avocado hoagie.”

Brady looks like he swallowed a bug. He must not like avocado. Or chicken salad.

“Uh, where is the little tyke?” he asks, running a hand nervously through his hair.

Murphy gives him a sympathetic look.

“I asked my sitter to stay late today. Believe me, you would not want him tagging along. We’d get nothing done but chasing him around the apartment buildings.”

“Oh, okay.”

I don’t miss the relief that pours out of him and I wonder if that’s the whole issue. Maybe my having a child is a deal breaker. The certified bachelor of baseball doesn’t want a girlfriend with a kid. I guess I can’t blame him. I mean, even if he has changed like Murphy said, it’s still a lot to take on. Not that I want him to take anything on. I might have at one point. But I’m over that. I’m over him.

Aren’t I?

As Murphy and Brady talk about scheduling another photo shoot for the gym, I appraise him and wonder what it would be like to be with him. I can’t even imagine it. He has a girl in every city. Every city. How would one reconcile that? Even if he did want to be with me, I’m not sure I could do it knowing there are twenty-something other girls out there who had sex with him on a regular basis? That’s just gross. And wrong.

And entirely hypocritical of me to think considering I was one of those girls.

I let my forehead fall to the table.

“What is it?” Murphy asks.

“Nothing. Don’t mind me. I’m just tired, I guess.”

“Well then, let’s finish up and find you a new place. We won’t keep you any longer than necessary. I’m sure you want to get home to that gorgeous kid.”

Brady looks at Murphy. “You’ve met him?”

“I have. He’s absolutely precious.” She puts her hand on Brady’s arm in a motherly manner. Then she balls up her wrapper and stands up. “Come on, let’s go.”

The first apartment we see is awful. Even in a secure building, it doesn’t look safe. No way is the fire escape up to code. Brady threatens to call a building inspector if I even think twice about signing a lease.

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