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My mother picks at her food and then asks to be excused to lie down on the couch. The three of us are left to finish our meal together. I try to steer the conversation away from my son to make Brady more comfortable, but Stryker is three and he requires a lot of attention.

I encourage Stryker to eat quickly and then I allow him to leave the table to play with his new cars while Brady and I finish our wine.

Brady motions to the living room. “He’s quite a boy.”

“He’s my whole life. He and my mom.”

“So, the Mets player?”

“You know how there are some things you don’t talk about? Well, Stryker’s father is the one thing I don’t talk about.”

His jaw goes slack. “Stryker’s father is a ball player?”

I stare him down until he holds up his hands in surrender. “Alright. Fair enough.”

I can see the wheels turning in his head. “Just leave it alone, Brady. Please.”

He eyes me over the rim of his wine glass. When he puts it down, I give him a refill.

“We’re doing a photo shoot at the gym this week,” he says. “You should come.”

“We’ll see. I might be busy with a client.”

“Are you afraid to see me with my shirt off?” he teases.

“Why would you have your shirt off? Aren’t you trying to sell clothing?”

He laughs. “Yes, we are, but sex sells, Ry. Surely you’ve seen the posters they did from the last shoot. Murphy will have more clothes on than I will, but they’ll have her looking pretty damn good, too. Some of those workout clothes for chicks barely cover anything.”

I roll my eyes. I’ve seen some of the so-called workout clothes around the gym. More like pick-up clothes. Of course, they have a full range of clothing in the new line, so some of the outfits are actually functional.

“What do you do in the photo shoot? I mean, how does it go? I have seen some of the pictures of you guys, they seem pretty racy.”

He smiles at me. “You’re not jealous that Murphy gets to touch me and you don’t, are you?”

“Don’t flatter yourself. Besides, I get to touch you three times a week now.”

He smiles bigger. “That you do. And I look forward to every session.”

“So what time did you say that photo shoot was?”

He tries not to laugh. I know I’m a petulant fool. And I’m not jealous of Murphy. Okay, maybe I’m a little jealous of her.

“Ten o’clock on Friday.”

I frown. I know I’ll have a client then.

“Nana’s sleepy,” Stryker says, walking back into the dining room.

We get up to see she’s fallen asleep on the couch. “I should go,” Brady says. “Thank you for a nice dinner.”

“I’ll walk you out.” I turn to my son. “I’ll be back in two minutes, baby.”

He holds up two fingers.

“That’s right,” I say, reaching down to kiss them.

I prop the door open and walk Brady to the elevator. “I hope that wasn’t too terrible,” I say.

“Not at all. In fact, maybe we could do it again sometime.”

I furrow my brow. “You want to come to Sunday dinner again?”

“Sunday, Tuesday, Friday, any time really.”

I think about what he’s saying. I’m just not sure I’m ready for that. I’m not sure he’s ready for that. “I don’t know.”

The elevator doors open and I realize at this moment that he pressed the wrong button. As he steps on, I tell him what he’s done. “Brady, it’s going up, not down.”

“Yeah, I know. I have to go up to get to 16F.”

The door closes before I can question him, but I don’t miss the devious smile he flashes me.

Chapter Twenty-nine

Apartment 16F?

That was the one the manager showed me before this one. What the heck? I race back to my apartment and call Murphy.

“Why did Brady just leave my apartment and go upstairs to the sixteenth floor?”

“Well, hello to you, too, Rylee. And Brady was at your apartment?”

“Long story. Why did he go to sixteen, Murphy?”

“Have you asked him?”

“No. I have my mom and Stryker here so I couldn’t follow him up.”

“Did you want to follow him?”

I stomp my foot. Hard. “You ask too many questions.”

She laughs into the phone. “I could say the same thing about you.”

“So you don’t know?”

“Listen, if you want to go ask him yourself, I can be over there in half an hour. I’ll watch Stryker and your mom.”

I look at my mom who’s still sleeping on the couch. Then I look at my watch. It’s just after seven. “Can you make it forty-five minutes? That way I can run my mom back to her place first.”

“See you then.”

“Thanks, Murphy.”

“Anytime. I mean it.”

I wake up Mom, and Stryker and I take her home to the memory care center. We make it back just in time to meet Murphy in the lobby. I don’t even walk them back to my apartment, I give Murphy my key and stay in the elevator.

“I’ll put him to bed if you’re not home in an hour,” Murphy says with a wink.

“Ha-ha. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.”

“Want to bet?” she asks as the doors close.

I press sixteen with a shaky finger. Why is he here?

I knock on his door twice before he answers. “Are you stalking me?” I ask before he even gets the door fully open.

“I was hoping you’d come up,” he says, opening the door to let me in. “I didn’t know it would take you an hour though. I almost left.”

I look around the place. There are a few boxes stacked by the kitchen but nothing else. “What are you doing here?”

“I live here.”

“You live here? It doesn’t look like anyone lives here.”

“Well, I will live here as soon as the movers bring all my stuff next week.”

I narrow my eyes at him. “Why?”

“Because I thought it was a nice place. Don’t you think it’s a nice place?”

“Well, yes. But I happen to know what your current address is, Brady. It’s on your records. And I’m pretty sure this one pales in comparison to your current place.”

He shakes his head and laughs. “It really does. But here’s the thing – One: I don’t need all that space; and two: this apartment is less than half of what I pay for the other one. Someone once told me to quit spending so much money and save for the future.” He looks at his arm. “Because you never know what could happen.”

I lean back against the wall. “I’m not worried about your future in baseball. You’ll make it back. I’d bet my job on it.”

“I’m just glad one of us has confidence in me.”

I pick up a takeout menu on the bar, wad it up and throw it at him. “You are one of the most confident people I know, Brady Taylor, so don’t give me that crap.”

He throws the paper back at me. I smooth it out and look at it. “Was this going to be your dinner?”

“I was moving some personal stuff over that I didn’t want the movers to touch and I thought I’d check out the restaurant next door. Turns out I got upgraded to your mom’s famous lasagna. Far better than Mama Choo’s if you ask me.”

I look over the menu. “I don’t know, it looks kind of good.”

“Then maybe we should check it out together,” he says.

“Why are you really here, Brady? In this building. In my building?”

“I thought we could, you know … date … or something.”

“Or something?” I give him a look. “No.”

I turn around to leave but he grabs my arm. “That’s not what I meant, Ry. I meant we should date. Period. No or something. We should date. You and I should date.”

I lean back against the wall. “Define date.”

“Go out to dinner. Maybe the movies. I hear bowling is fun.”

“You leave in a week, Brady. Your season is starting in case you’ve forgotten.”

“I’ll be home half of every week, Rylee. I’m not leaving for the entire season.”

There are so many things I want to say to him I just don’t know where to begin. I sigh and try to think of how to tactfully say what I need to say.

“I know what you’re thinking. I’m the guy with a chick in every city. I’ve changed. I’m not like that anymore.”

“So everyone keeps telling me.”

He raises a brow. “Everyone?”

“Murphy. Caden. My boss. Even Sawyer pulled me aside yesterday and told me what a nice guy you are.”

“No shit?”

I nod. “But what does that mean? Have you called all thirty of them and told them not to expect you to bed them when you’re in town?”

“It’s twenty-seven,” he says. “And I can’t. I don’t have their phone numbers.”

I look at him in confusion. “Then how do you meet up with them?”

He shrugs. “They always find me after the games.”

“Wow,” I say, shaking my head. “You sure have them trained well, don’t you?”

“Damn it, Rylee. I know I sound like a misogynist pig, and maybe I was, but I swear I’ve left all that behind.”

“Why have you left it behind, Brady?”

He paces over to the balcony door, runs a hand through his hair as he looks out, and then walks back to me. “Do you need me to spell it out for you?”

“I guess I do. I’m not that bright.”

He runs a finger down the side of my face. “You’re wrong. You’re brilliant,” he says. He puts his hands in his pockets and leans against the wall next to me. “I’ve never been good with words or feelings. Not in a long time anyway. But you’re different, Rylee. You’re intelligent and fun and despite being pint-sized, you’re strong, both physically and mentally. You call me on my shit. And you’re just so … normal – but don’t take that the wrong way.”

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