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A crowd is gathering around us as people start to realize what’s going on.

Brady is trying to break free, but the two men holding him are as big as he is. I shout to the bartender to get security over and then I watch Sawyer get punched in the gut two times. He doubles over and then stands back up.

Why isn’t he hitting the guy back? He’s just standing there getting beaten up. Nobody is holding his hands, yet he’s just standing there.

“Sawyer, do something!” I scream.

“Yeah, do something, Sawyer,” the guy mimics me in a high voice before punching him again.

Sawyer’s face is stoic. He looks like he wants to rip the guy’s head off, but he just stands there. His jaw is tight and his temple is pounding. Sweat beads on his forehead and rolls down the side of his face.

Then all hell breaks loose as Caden, Cole and Spencer tackle the three guys. Brady is finally free and he participates in holding them down. But Sawyer is just standing there, watching it all happen, frozen.

Security comes over and breaks things up, having enough witnesses to justify throwing the three guys and Shauna out of the club.

We head back up to the VIP section and I ask the bartender for a bag of ice along the way. Then I put it to Sawyer’s jaw when we get up there.

“I guess we should call it a night,” Cole says.

“Fuck that,” Sawyer tells him. “I’m not letting those douchebags ruin this for everyone.”

“What happened, man?” Brady asks him. “Why did you just stand there and let him hit you?”

Sawyer looks at Brady, but he doesn’t answer him. It’s almost like he can’t.

“Give him a break, guys. He’s hurt.” I shoo them all away and lower my voice. I can tell he’s traumatized. But I’m not sure it’s because of the blows he took. “It’s okay, Sawyer. Whatever it is, it’s okay.”

He nods his head over and over. And I wonder what’s going on. I’ve never seen a man just stand there and get beaten up like that. Whatever it is, it runs deep. I look over at Brady, wondering if Sawyer doesn’t also have skeletons in his closet or demons in his past.

“Do you want me to look at your abs?” I ask when everyone starts to crowd around us again. “I have medical training.”

He shakes his head. “Not unless you want to be impressed by perfection,” he jokes. “I’m fine. Thanks for the ice, Rylee, but what I really need is a shot of tequila.”

“Shots for everyone!” Cole yells, motioning for the waitress to bring us some.

“Way to preserve your throwing arm,” Spencer says, toasting Sawyer when we all have our shots.

Sawyer lifts his chin at him. I’m sure he’d like everyone to think that’s what just happened, but I know better. And when Sawyer looks over at me, he knows I know it.

An hour and four shots later, we’ve all but forgotten the altercation. Brady has done everything in his power to turn the evening around and make it a good one. And by the time I’ve lost two games of pool, I’m putty in his hands.

On our way home, before we walk into the hotel, he stops me. “Knock knock,” he says.

I laugh. “Who’s there?”

“Five,” he says, holding up five fingers.

“Five who?” I ask with a knowing grin.

“Five times you’ll be screaming my name tonight, that’s who.”

I look at him sideways. “But you won. That means I have to give you five orgasms.”

“That’s right, Ry. You have to give me five of your orgasms. Did I not make that perfectly clear earlier?”

I giggle, looking at the time. “It’s going to be a long night, Taylor.”

“It’s going to be the best night,” he says. “I’ve been looking forward to breaking our record for eight months now. And believe me, this hand is ready to break records.”

He fists and releases his left hand and I smile knowing he’s not just talking about sex. He’s back in the game. And he’s going to be better than ever.

Chapter Forty-one

The best part of playing a series in Boston is that the guys don’t have much of a travel day. We’re back in New York and picking up Stryker by noon.

I expected Brady to go home and sleep. We did keep each other up very late last night. But he goes to Lexi’s with me to pick up my son.

“You don’t have any plans today, do you?” he asks in the cab on the way home.

“Just dinner with my mom. I’ll pick her up at five.”

“Good.”

“Why? What do you have in mind?”

“Hey, sport,” he says to Stryker. “How about we go play baseball on a real baseball field today?”

Stryker’s eyes light up and he claps. “Can I bwing my glove and wear my hat?”

“Of course you can. You need both of those to be a baseball player. Do you think your mom will want to come, too?”

“Mommy, will you play baseball with us? Girls can play, too. Right, Bwady?”

I laugh. “Gee, thanks. I’d love to go.”

“We’ll stop for a bite to eat and then drop our stuff off and grab his glove.”

I reach behind Stryker and touch Brady’s shoulder. “Thank you.”

He nods.

Two hours later, we’re walking through Central Park with a bag full of baseball gear. We come to the baseball fields and Stryker gets very excited. He’s seen these fields before and always makes us stop and watch the kids play.

Brady opens the gate.

“Can just anyone use these fields?” I ask.

“No. You have to have a permit and pay a small fee.”

“You planned this?” I ask.

“Yeah. A few weeks ago.”

I can’t help my smile. Other than bringing my son the stuffed animals, this is the first thing Brady has done that is just for Stryker. And he planned it weeks ago.

Brady puts his bag down and pulls a few things out. He puts a Hawks hat on my head. “You’re the fielder,” he says. “I’ll get him set up with the tee and he’ll hit them out to you.”

Brady pulls a large rubber tee out of his bag and puts a ball on it. Then he pulls out a small bat and a pint-sized Nighthawks batting helmet that looks just like the one he wears when he plays. He puts it on Stryker’s head and Stryker squeals in delight.

“I look just like Bwady!”

I realize how much effort Brady had to put in to this afternoon and it brings tears to my eyes. I wonder how hard this is for him. I wonder if he’s looking at Stryker wishing he were Keeton.

“Okay, sport. You stand just like this. Put your back leg here and bend your knees a little. Now hold the bat up like this.”

Stryker swings and misses.

I see Sawyer Mills walking onto the field. “You’re teaching him to hit like a girl,” he says, winking over at me. “Why don’t you let a real ball player show him how it’s done?”

“What are you doing here?” Brady asks.

“I heard you talking about it yesterday and I thought I’d come make sure you teach the kid right.”

Brady puts Stryker back in position. “Don’t take your eye off the ball.”

This time, he hits the ball and it dribbles towards the pitcher’s mound.

“I did it, Mommy! I did it!”

“Good hit, baby.”

“What are you waiting for, sport? Run around the bases,” Brady says.

He doesn’t need to show Stryker where the bases are. Stryker’s been to enough games that he knows exactly what to do. He takes off running, Sawyer right behind him, urging him on as they laugh the entire time. Brady and I both walk slowly towards the ball, giving Stryker extra time to get his home run.

Brady looks at me and touches the bill of my hat. “Have I ever told you how much I like you wearing my hat?”

“No, you haven’t. How much do you like it?” I ask seductively. “Are we talking just a little, or really really a lot?” I tease.

He looks over at Stryker to see that he’s rounding second, oblivious to what we’re doing. Brady pulls me to him and kisses me. It’s a quick, but passionate kiss.

“I like it that much,” he says, running his thumb down my cheek.

We break apart and watch Stryker cross home plate. We cheer loudly and run over to give him high-fives.

Stryker hugs my leg and then hugs Brady’s. He looks up at him. “Are you my daddy?”

My jaw drops and I watch Brady’s spine stiffen. I get down on my knees. “Why did you ask that?”

“Mommies kiss daddies,” he says.

I look at Brady. He seems to be recovering from the shock of Stryker’s words. He picks up the ball and sets it back on the tee, walking over to Sawyer so I can have a moment with my son.

“Yes, mommies do kiss daddies. But sometimes mommies kiss people who aren’t daddies, too.”

“So, he’s not my daddy?”

“No, baby. He’s not. But he is very special to me. I hope he’s special to you, too.”

“If I ask him, will he be my daddy? Ms. Helen says kids have daddies, but some don’t, like me. I want a daddy. Can Bwady be my daddy?”

I see Brady trying to look busy, but I know he can hear what we’re saying. I’m wondering just how uncomfortable this conversation is making him. Even though he’s asked me to marry him, we’ve never talked about him being Stryker’s father.

“I’m not married, Stryker. Maybe someday if I get married, you will get a daddy.”

“Can you marry Bwady?” he asks.

Brady snickers. “Yeah, Rylee, can you marry Bwady?” He winks at me.

“Not yet,” I say.

“Can I throw the ball with you and then hit another home run?” Stryker asks Brady.

“Yeah, sport, we can do that. And you can hit as many home runs as you want,” Brady says, walking over to him. He picks Stryker up and swings him around before putting him back on his feet. Then he tickles him under his arms.

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