But I can’t ask her. That would be too personal.
I’m beginning to regret my rules. I wonder if she’d let me re-write them to just exclude my personal life.
“Come on, Ry.”
She chews on the inside of her cheek for a minute. “I’d have to move some things around.”
“What things?” I ask.
She closes her laptop and glares at me. “What happened to no personal questions?”
Damn. Now I really want to change the rules.
“Fine,” I say petulantly, wondering just what plans she needs to move around. Does she have a boyfriend here? Or is he one of those ‘ties’ she mentioned leaving behind in New York? “So what do you say? Assuming you can change your other plans.”
She picks up her pen and points it at me. “No flirting. No kissing. No accidentally brushing against my boobs and then claiming it was because you had one too many drinks. In fact – no drinking.”
I stare her down, trying not to laugh at the fact that in all my time in the majors, not once have I had a woman say words like that to me. And I have to say, it’s fucking refreshing.
I laugh. “Okay, I concede to all those things. You’ll do it then?”
Her lips pucker as she considers it. “Under one condition.”
I raise a brow at her. “As if there aren’t any already?”
She rolls her eyes. “No throwing your money around. No first-class anything. No going to the head of the line because of who you are. Just a normal night for two normal people.”
“That’s three conditions, Rylee.”
“Do you want to do this or not?”
I smile at her moodiness. “You drive a hard bargain, but yes.”
“No violating the rules, Brady. Don’t forget that within these four walls, I own you. I’m the Queen of Pain, remember?”
I try not to laugh again because she looks damn cute when she’s so demanding.
And suddenly. I can’t wait for it to be Friday.
Rylee pulls up in front of the hotel driving a fairly new mid-sized SUV. As far as twenty-six-year-olds go, she’s probably making more money than most. I’ve heard other physical therapists talk about PT school and apparently it’s a bitch, so she’s paid her dues and earned her way to where she is, even if her father’s name helped her get here.
I reach out to open the passenger door and then curse myself when I can’t get a grip on it. Being left-handed, it’s instinctual to try to do everything with that hand, especially since I got rid of the sling yesterday.
Rylee sees my actions and when I finally slip into the passenger seat, she turns to me. “You know, keeping the sling on a while longer might be a good idea. It’ll keep you from doing those sorts of things with your primary arm.”
“You told me I was okay to go without it,” I remind her.
“I said we were getting to that point, Brady, but that you’d have to be sure to be super careful in how you use it. Your elbow recovery is going well. I don’t want to see you have any setbacks.”
“I hate that fucking sling,” I tell her.
She just stares at me like I’m five and she’s my schoolteacher.
“I’ll be careful. Jeez.”
She looks placated for now and puts the car in gear. As we pull away from the hotel, I notice what I didn’t before. She’s got her hair down. She always wears it up at work. And I can see why. It’s very long. Her chocolate-brown hair is thick and wavy and I could swear it smells like fruit. It falls far down her back, well below her bra line, but not quite reaching the waistband of her jeans.
Rylee is stunning.
She catches me staring and raises a questioning brow.
“Where are we going and why did you have to pick me up so early?” I ask.
“Because our first stop closes at five. We’ll have to make it quick, we’ll be pressed for time as it is.”
“Do you plan on telling me where we’re going, or are you going to make me play twenty questions?”
She giggles. “I’m taking you to the Florida Aquarium. I can’t believe you’ve never been. It’s amazing.”
“Fish? You’re taking me to see fish?”
“Not just fish. Rays and sharks and all kinds of sea creatures you didn’t even know existed. It’s quite fascinating. It’s on the TECO line, but I figure you’ve done that to death with all your bar-hopping.”
“The TECO line? Oh, you mean the streetcar things? No, we don’t bar-hop that way, we usually hire limos.”
She shakes her head. “Of course you do. What was I thinking?” She shifts lanes rather erratically and makes a sharp turn as if she just realized that was where she needed to go.
“Rylee, do you always drive this badly? I mean, maybe I should take the wheel.”
“Shut up. Last minute change of plans.” She pulls into a parking lot and we get out and walk to an electronic ticket booth that has prices for the TECO line. She selects two unlimited day passes and before I know it, she’s swiping her debit card.
“Seriously?” I ask, scolding her.
“It’s ten bucks, Brady. I think I can handle it.”
“You’re not doing that again,” I tell her.
“This isn’t a date.”
“You are doing me a favor, Ry. I’m paying tonight.”
She grabs the two passes from the dispenser and hands me one without acknowledging my declaration. “Come on, the aquarium closes in an hour, we’d better hurry.”
We hop on a car just before it pulls away. I can’t help my smile as we make our way to our destination. She’s right. Seeing the city this way is different. It kind of makes me feel like a kid.
There are plenty of kids on the streetcar. I try not to look too closely at the younger ones. Because every time I do that, I end up seeing one who has Keeton’s nose that turns up slightly at the end, or one with dirty-blonde hair with a cowlick over his right eyebrow.
But when I look at Rylee, I see her eyes bounce from one kid to the next, the smile on her face telling me way more than I want to know. She obviously wants kids. One more reason I never get involved with women.
“Oh, look,” she says, pointing out to the right. “There’s a cruise ship in port today. I’ve always wanted to take a cruise. Sometimes I come down here with, uh … sometimes I come down here and sit on a bench up the bay a bit and watch them go out. It’s fun to wave to them and know they are going to have the vacation of a lifetime.”
“Why don’t you take one?” I ask, but what I really want to ask is who’s the guy she comes down here with. “I’m pretty sure you can afford it.”
She glares at me. “Just because I have a good job doesn’t mean I should spend all my earnings. I’m saving for the future. And blowing that on a frivolous vacation is not in my plan. I can go to the beach whenever I want – that’s my vacation. Plus, I go back to New York every time I get a few days off.”
I study her for a second, again, wondering who’s in New York. “You’re very, um … responsible, aren’t you, Ry?”
She laughs. “Is that a nice way of calling me a tight-wad?”
“Tight-wad, penny-pincher, cheapskate – take your pick,” I say with a wink.
“Yeah, well, if I’m a tight-wad, you’re a squanderer.”
“I guess we balance each other out then, don’t we?” I say, rubbing my shoulder against hers.
She puckers her lips at me. “Not a date, Taylor. No touching.”
“Oh, come on. I touch my teammates more than that.”
She bites her lip and raises a suggestive brow at me.
“Get your head out of the gutter, Ry. I’m one-hundred-percent hetero male, and I’ll prove it if I have to.”
“Pul-ease,” she says rolling her eyes.
“And it’s not like you and I don’t ever touch,” I tell her. “You’ve given me how many massages in the last few weeks?”
“That’s totally different and you know it.” The streetcar stops and Rylee stands up. “This is us.”
I step down from the car and offer her my hand. “I’m still allowed to be polite, aren’t I?”
She takes my hand and shakes her head at herself. “I guess there are exceptions to every rule, aren’t there?”
I’m counting on it.
We walk a few blocks to get to the aquarium. I make sure to have my wallet out and ready as we approach the entrance. No way is she paying for anything else.
“We’re going to have to hurry our way through more than I would like, but I think you’ll still enjoy it.”
She looks like a kid going into a candy store.
As the ramp we’re following goes higher and higher, the exhibits get more interesting and I find a few that I really do want to find out about. And whenever I stop our progress, Rylee can recite almost everything that is on the exhibit information plaque.
“Just how many times have you been here, Ry?”
She shrugs. “Let’s just say I could be a tour guide for the aquarium.”
“So marine biology was your back-up plan?” I tease.
“Excuse me,” a woman says. “Would you mind taking our picture?”
She holds out a camera to neither of us distinctly and Rylee grabs it. “Of course.”
The mother and her two young sons pose in front of some stingrays that are swimming behind a thick wall of glass. The older of the boys keeps trying to get his mother’s attention while she’s trying to get him to smile for the camera.
After Rylee snaps a few photos, the woman thanks her and they walk away. The kid, who must be ten or eleven, is still trying to talk to his mom. Then a minute later, the lady turns around and, looking embarrassed, she says, “I’m sorry. My son is surely mistaken, but he believes you are a baseball player for the New York Nighthawks.”
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