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But I never went up. And now it’s Thursday. He’s coming home. I wonder if he’s going to like the way I arranged his furniture. I wonder how long it will take for him to invite me up.

I wonder how long my willpower will hold out before I cave and accept his invitation.

I never responded to his nightly texts telling me he was in bed alone. I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t think it was appropriate that we start having conversations while we were in bed.

“Mommy is crazy,” I tell Stryker as we eat grilled cheese sandwiches and apple slices. I whirl my finger in a circle around my ear and he mimics me.

“What is it about him?” I ask no one. “He’s so wrong for me. I’m so wrong for him.”

There’s a knock on my door. I’m not expecting anyone so I look through the peep hole.

It’s him.

My heart thunders as I look down at my t-shirt, yoga pants and bare feet. I pull my hair from the ponytail and give it a fluff before I open the door casually like I don’t care who’s behind it.

Brady doesn’t say a word. He just lets his eyes wander over my face. Then my shirt, my legs and finally my feet. “You are a sight,” he says.

I snicker. “Well, if you’re going to show up unannounced, you get what you get.”

“That’s not what I meant, Ry. You’re beautiful. I missed you.”

I smile, not wanting to reveal just how much I’ve missed him too. “How do you like the apartment? Did I mess anything up?”

He nods to his large duffle bag on the floor of the hallway. “I haven’t been up yet. I’m sure I’ll love it.”

“You haven’t seen it yet?”

“I wanted to come by and thank you first.”

I walk over to the counter and pick something up. “Of course. You wanted to come get your key. Here it is,” I say holding it out to him.

Stryker comes up behind me. “Hello, baseball man.”

“His name is Brady, Stryker. Not baseball man.”

Brady laughs. “It’s okay. I kind of like the sound of baseball man.” He reaches down into a side pocket of his bag and pulls out a stuffed animal snake. He hands it to Stryker. “Here you go, champ … uh” —he runs his hand through his hair and bites his lower lip. Hard— “Stryker. Here you go, Stryker.”

“It’s a rattlesnake, Mommy. See the tail?”

“Say thank you, Stryker.”

“Thank you, baseball man.”

“You’re welcome,” Brady says.

Stryker goes to play with his new toy on the couch.

I try to hand Brady the key a second time.

“Keep it,” he says.

“I’m not keeping your key, Brady.”

“Don’t you think it’s important for someone else to have a key to your place? You know, for emergencies?”

“Yes. He’s called the super.”

“Just put it in your junk drawer and forget about it if you need to, but I’d really like you to keep it.”

I put it on the table. “For emergencies only,” I say. “Do you want something to eat? I could make you a grilled cheese sandwich.”

Brady smirks at my mention of a sandwich. Then he eyes Stryker on the couch. He shakes his head. “No, I’m good, but thanks for asking. I should probably go check out the new pad and get some sleep.”

I nod to his arm. “How are you? How’s the hand?”

“I wore through another stress ball this week. But it’s basically the same.”

“Are you coming in for an appointment tomorrow?”

“Ten o’clock. I’ll go right to practice from there. Are you going to the game tomorrow night?”

I shake my head. “There are only so many nights I can get a babysitter. I’ll watch it on TV though.”

“Are we still on for Saturday? Do you have a sitter?”

“I found a great one.” I nod to the door at the end of the hall. “She lives right down there. Dinner at Mitchell’s, right?”

“I’m looking forward to it,” he says, picking up his bag and slinging it over his shoulder. “I have one more question, Rylee.”

“What is it?”

“How come you didn’t answer my texts?”

I step outside into the hallway so my son doesn’t hear me. “I guess I didn’t know what to say. ‘Thank you for keeping your dick in your pants’ just didn’t seem right, but I didn’t know what was.”

He laughs. “Ry, you never have to thank me for keeping my dick in my pants when I’m away. It’s a given. And I know if I don’t, you go away. It’s not going to happen.”

“I guess we’ll see, won’t we?”

He checks his watch. “Six weeks and three days.” He leans close. “I dreamed about what I’m going to do to you on that day.”

I look up at him and see the heat in his eyes. He drops his bag on the floor. “I’m going to kiss you, Rylee Kennedy.”

My tongue comes out to wet my lips just before his mouth claims mine. My body falls against the wall of the hallway as he kisses me. His hands wander around to my neck, then down my arms and finally, he grabs each of my hands in his.

He pulls away, leaving me wanting more. This kiss was just a teaser. A glimpse of what’s yet to come.

“Mmmm,” he mumbles. “You taste just like grilled cheese. Kind of makes me want one now.”

Then he backs up and walks away. But I call out after him. “Brady?”

“Yeah?”

“I put your sheets on your bed and hung your towels in the bathroom. Whoever labeled your boxes did a very good job and I found them easily. I, uh, didn’t go through any other boxes. I just thought you might be tired when you got home.”

He smiles and walks back to me, kissing me once more. “Thank you. That was very considerate. I knew you were the right person for the job. Maybe you could come help me unpack my kitchen this weekend. On Sunday before your mom comes to dinner and we leave again?”

I’m impressed that he remembered my mom comes to dinner on Sundays. And it takes me all of two seconds to cave into this man and say yes. “I’m not going anywhere near your bedroom, Taylor.”

“I’m okay with that. Besides, just knowing you’ve already been there is good enough for me.” He studies me for a second. “Did you lie down on my bed, Ry? Tell me the truth.”

I shrug innocently. “I might have just for a second. It was a long afternoon.”

“You have no idea how happy I am to hear you say that. Now I can fantasize about you on my bed and know you’ve been there.”

I feel heat come up my face. He laughs as he walks away. “You don’t expect me to refrain from all sex, do you?” he jokes, holding out his left hand. “I’m willing to bet my PT would call that some damn fine therapy. Gives the hand a hell of a workout.”

I’m sure I’ve turned three shades of red when he spins around and gives me a wink before getting on the elevator.

I take a second to collect myself before going back through my door. I almost can’t wait for bedtime. And when I finally crawl under the covers and my hand wanders beneath my panties, I look up at the ceiling, wondering if Brady is thinking about me at this exact moment. And wondering if he’s doing what I am.

Chapter Thirty-four

For weeks he’s been courting me. With his words. With his looks. With his kisses.

He texts me every night after his away games. Sometimes he even calls. Sometimes we talk on the phone for hours. Sometimes we just listen to each other breathe, having run out of things to say, but not wanting to hang up.

Two more weeks until June 1st and I can hardly stand it. I long for his hands to be on me. But he’s been the perfect gentleman, never pushing me to give more than what we’d agreed upon.

He came for Sunday dinner again and my mother is completely enamored with him. Of course it could be because she thinks he’s my dad.

And he’s trying with Stryker, too. No matter how much I know it hurts, he’s trying. He brings my son a stuffed animal representative of each city he visits. He’s still standoffish with him, however. Understandably so. But we’re a package deal. And no matter how much Brady and I get along, this will never work if he can’t fully accept my son.

My phone pings and I smile. Eleven o’clock. Just like always.

Brady: Did you catch the game?

Me: I saw the highlights. It looked good.

Brady: It was. God, Ry, you have no idea how much I want to be out there.

Me: I know you do. It will happen. You’re getting stronger every day.

Brady: You tell me that all the time. But it’s been almost three months and I still can’t throw a baseball better than my grandmother.

Me: That’s not true, Brady. You are throwing well. And once your grip comes back, you’ll be throwing better than before. Every single time I measure your hand, you improve. Every millimeter of progress you make is one step closer to your goal. Someone once told me that the best things in life are worth fighting for. You need to keep fighting and you’ll get what you want.

Brady: Are we still talking about baseball, Ry?

I reread my text and realize what I said. And I wonder if he thinks I’m worth fighting for.

Me: So you get back tomorrow, right?

Brady: Way to deflect the question. Yes, tomorrow. Is it okay if I come by for a minute and drop off Stryker’s animal?

Me: What is it this time?

Me: Wait. Let me guess. You are in San Diego … um, a seal?

Brady: Guess again.

Me: A sea lion?

Brady: Nothing from the water, but you’re close on the name.

Me: I give up.

Brady: A mountain lion.

Me: Really?

Brady: Yeah, San Diego is close to the desert. It was either that or a bobcat.

I look at the shelf where Stryker keeps all the stuffed animals Brady gives him. He gets so excited when he knows Brady is coming home. We often play guessing games on what kind of animal he’s going to bring. It’s been fun for Stryker. And surprisingly educational.

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