“What are you talking about, Murphy?”

“Oh, right. Well, the guys aren’t only designing clothes for women – it’ll be for men, too. So, they’ll need a male model and …”

“Fuck, no.”

“See – I knew you’d have that reaction.”

“I’m a ball player, not a model.”

“Plenty of athletes are models. Look at all the guys who model jeans and tightie-whities.”

“No.”

“Come on, Brady. Just think about it. We all know you don’t need the money, but that’s just an added bonus. And think of who you’d be working with. Griffin is one of the most awarded photographers in the world. And he’s so nice – not like a lot of other photographers who are pushy and demanding. And you’ll get to hang out with Mason, too, since football season will be over – well, unless they go to the Super Bowl. And there’s me – I want to spend time with you. Caden gets you three-quarters of the year, this is my chance. Please? Just give it some thought.”

I close my eyes and shake my head. Murphy Cavenaugh is damn hard to say no to. But a model?

I wonder if she’s just asking me because she thinks I’m done in baseball. Maybe she’s trying to give me a back-up profession like Caden helped give her.

“I don’t know.”

She squeals into the phone. “I’ll take it. I don’t know is better than no. And it’s definitely better than fuck no.”

I breathe out a sigh. “I don’t know means I don’t know, Murphy. Don’t read too much into it.”

“Fine. They don’t need an answer right now. Like I said, it will be a few months before things will start moving forward. You have plenty of time to think about it.”

“Yeah, we’ll see.”

I can almost hear her smile through the phone. I can see why she has Caden wrapped around her little finger. Murphy is one of the most caring, empathetic, trustworthy women I’ve ever met. She, and the angel I woke up with this morning.

I check the time. “Hey, I have to go. I’ve got to be at PT in an hour.”

“Okay, good luck with your elbow today. I miss you, Brady.”

“Miss you too, girl.”

After we hang up, I fish Lenny’s card out of my wallet and tell him I won’t be needing a ride today. Today, I get to walk to PT. Rylee said it was okay to start doing that now since my elbow has healed enough to be jostled around more. And right now, Rylee owns me. She controls almost everything I do. What she says goes. She’s the boss.

And I find myself getting turned on just thinking about it.

Chapter Six

“I’ve been offered a job,” I tell Rylee.

She stops moving the ultrasound device and looks me in the eyes. “You have a job.”

I look down at my arm that is sore as hell after today’s PT. “We don’t know that yet, do we? My forearm still burns. My fingers are numb and I still can’t grasp anything worth a shit.”

“It’s been two weeks, Brady. You have to give yourself time to heal. A hundred-mile-an-hour ball hitting your arm does a lot of damage. You’re expecting too much. You are progressing at an acceptable level. You should be happy with that.”

“Acceptable?” I say, deplorably. “I’ll never pitch again if I’m just acceptable. I need to be exceptional, Ry.”

She raises a brow at me. “Ry? We’re using nicknames now?”

I shrug and she giggles.

“I have every reason to believe you will be exceptional again, Bray.”

I give her crazy eyes and we fall into a fit of laughter.

“Yeah, it doesn’t quite work on you, does it?”

“No, it doesn’t. But my driver calls me BrayTay,” I tell her.

“Your driver?”

“The guy who drove me to and from here for the past two weeks. Lenny.”

“You hired a private car?”

I can tell she disapproves.

“No. He was one of my first Uber drivers when I got down here. The guy kind of grew on me and I figured it would be easier than getting a rental and driving with one arm. So I got his card and have been using him ever since.”

“Wow. He must feel like he hit the jackpot.”

I laugh. “Yeah. I’m a good tipper.”

“So you’re stuck at the hotel without a car unless you call Lenny.”

“Pretty much. But it’s only a two-minute walk to the beach.”

She scolds me with her eyes.

“I was careful,” I say. “Plus, those restrictions are lifted now, right? When can I start running?”

“Let’s give that another week or so, shall we? You’re going to need all your strength to keep up with my PT.”

“I don’t doubt it. Has anyone ever told you you’re the Queen of Pain?”

Her face breaks into a beautiful smile. “All the time.”

“Can I ask you a question, Ry?”

“As long as it’s not a personal one.” She winks at me.

“It’s not. The doc in New York gave me a twenty-to-thirty percent chance at a full recovery, yet you tell me I’ll be exceptional again. Why?”

“Brady, I couldn’t very well do my job if I didn’t believe what I do will help people. It’s true, there are some people who will never completely recover, but I have to believe in myself in order to believe in you. And you shouldn’t want anyone working on you who thinks differently.”

“Damn, girl.”

“What?” She cocks her head to the side.

“You’d get along great with my friend, Murphy.”

She puts away the ultrasound wand. “I’m not looking for a setup.”

“Murphy is a woman, Rylee.”

“Oh, well in that case, I’d love to meet her.”

“She lives in New York. She’s engaged to my best friend, Caden.”

“Kessler?”

“The one and only.”

She gets a sweet, dreamy look on her face. “Oh, my gosh. Is she the home run girl?”

I laugh at the nickname the sports community dubbed Murphy after she was hit by his ball.

“Yeah.”

“Well then, I have to meet her. Will she be coming with Caden when you guys play the Rays?”

“I don’t think so. She doesn’t travel with him much. She has a great job.”

She hooks me up to the TENS unit and then starts typing away in my chart. Then she looks up as if she just remembered something. “Speaking of jobs – what was the offer you got?”

I nod. “That involves Murphy, too. She wants me to be a friggin’ model, can you believe that? The gym she works for is the largest in the city and the owners are developing their own brand of workout clothing. They’ve asked her to be the female model and me to be her male counterpart.”

“Oh, wow. Is that the gym Mason Lawrence owns?”

“Yes. How’d you know?”

“You said it was the biggest. When I was in PT school, people would talk about that place all the time. Did you know they have an athletic trainer and a PT on staff?”

“I did know that. Mason is a friend. I also work out there in the off-season, so I’ve used all of their services.”

“So it sounds like you could do the modeling in addition to your day job, no?”

“I suppose.”

“Why not do it then?”

I shrug.

“Oh, you think you’re too big for it. Is that why?”

“No,” I pout.

“You think a big-time MLB pitcher is too good to pose in workout clothes for his friend’s gym, don’t you? A friend who could very well profit greatly by having you do so. And his gym will prosper, possibly creating more jobs for people and surely resulting in increases in pay for those who already work there. Do you not want Mason Lawrence to be your boss or something? Are you one of those guys who is all alpha-male and can’t stand having other people tell them what to do and how to do it?”

“You’re pretty bossy and I don’t seem to have a problem with that,” I tease.

“Maybe not when your livelihood depends on it,” she quips.

“I don’t think I’m too good to do it,” I argue.

“Then do it. What do you have to lose? It will give you something to do until you are one hundred percent.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Good. Keeping busy is good for the mind and it actually helps injured players deal with life better.”

“I’ll take that into consideration.”

She goes back to her typing, but talks to me as she does it. “In fact, maybe you should think about getting that rental car. Sitting around all day is not going to help your recovery. You need to get out there. See the city. Have some fun.”

“Or you could pick me up on Friday and show me the town.”

She stops typing and looks at me abhorrently. “I’m not dating an athlete, Brady. Not to mention it violates my contract to date a player.”

“Ha! You can thank Sawyer Mills for that. They even amended the wording to include family members of employees after not one, but two daughters of team coaches complained about him last year. But rest assured, I’m not asking you out, Rylee. I’m just asking a friend to show me the town.”

“I don’t know. And you’ve seen the town, Brady. Lots of times.”

“I’ve seen the inside of bars, Rylee. I’ve never seen Tampa through the eyes of someone who lives here. You said yourself there are lots of places to see. So show me.” I narrow my eyes at her. “And, hey, what’s so bad about dating an athlete?”

“Sorry,” she says, looking slightly guilty to have said it the way she did. “It’s just that when you work day in and day out with them, you hear a lot of stuff and you get jaded.”

I try to gauge the honesty of her statement. I mean, the way she said she wouldn’t date an athlete, it wasn’t like she was just making an excuse not to date me specifically, it seemed more like she’d had a bad experience with one or something.

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