She shrugs. “A lot of guys do, but he’s the most persistent.”
I feel a twinge deep inside, but ignore it. “What if I set you up with one of the guys from the team?”
“I’m not going out with a baseball player,” she says.
“What’s wrong with baseball players?” I ask defensively.
“Nothing, I guess. But I’m not going out with anyone right now, Caden.”
“What if it would just be platonic? I hate going on dates. The more the merrier if you ask me. I never know what to talk about. And all they ever want to talk about is me.”
She laughs. “You are being ridiculous. You never run out of things to talk about when we’re together.”
“That’s different. Friends are different. Come on, will you at least think about it? It might be fun.”
“Fine. I’ll think about it. But only if they understand it’s platonic. And not tonight. Tonight, I have plans with your sister.”
“Lexi? That’s great. What are you two doing?”
“She’s hosting a girls’ night for me and some of her friends. To tell you the truth, I’m pretty excited about it.”
I open the door for her. “Have fun tonight. And keep next Saturday night free.”
“I said I’d think about it, Caden.”
“Saturday,” I say again, allowing the door to shut between us before I head home.
Then, when I turn around to hail a cab, I run smack into someone. When I see who it is, alarms go off in my head.
It’s the same guy from the restaurant. The one from outside the stadium that day. I sidestep around him, keeping a close eye on his hands as I don’t know what to expect from this stalker.
“Caden,” the man says.
I hold my hand up to keep him back. “Sorry, I’m in a hurry,” I say, quickening my steps to the curb.
A cab pulls up and I get in before the man can follow me.
“Caden, wait!” the man shouts. “Don’t you recognize me?”
I study him as the cab slowly pulls out into traffic. He walks on the sidewalk next to the cab, giving me a better chance to look at him. He gives me a sad smile. And that’s when it hits me.
It hits me and my whole world changes. As the cab drives away, I realize the man left in its wake is none other than my father.
When I enter my apartment, I’m more than a little disappointed to see Tony in the living room. Again. I swear he’s over here more now than when we were dating. He’s lying on the couch tossing a baseball to the ceiling and then catching it. I flinch as he does it over and over.
As I walk behind the couch to my room, I reach out and grab the baseball out of the air so he’ll stop throwing it.
“Careful,” he bites at me. “That’s a home run ball.”
I study the ball as it dawns on me what he said. My jaw falls open in disgust. “Are you kidding me?” I yell. “I was lying there bleeding and you took time to pick up the damn ball?”
He tries to grab it from me, but I hide it behind my back.
“Do you know how rare it is to get a home run ball?” he asks.
“Ugh!” I pout petulantly.
“Give it back, babe,” he says.
“Do not call me babe, you two-timing bastard.”
“Me? Two-timing? What about you?” He points to the television which is tuned to ESPN. “How long have you been fucking Caden Kessler?” he asks.
I’m rendered speechless. I can only stare at him in surprise and confusion.
“I saw you, Murphy. He had his arms around you. It’s all over ESPN and social media.”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but I’m not sleeping with him. Unless you’ve forgotten, it was his ball that hit me. And unlike some people, he came to see me every day in the hospital.”
“But you’re not fucking him. Right.”
“I don’t care what you think, Tony.”
Kirsten walks into the room with two glasses of wine. “Oh, hi, Murphy. Nice hat. Boyfriend give it to you? Does he have any single friends?” She giggles on her way over to Tony.
I roll my eyes and refuse to acknowledge her questions. If they want to think I’m with Caden, who am I to tell them otherwise?
After Kirsten puts the wine on the table, Tony pulls her on top of him and she straddles him while he kisses her senseless. Neither of them is bothered by the fact that I’m standing right here. When Tony opens his eyes and stares at me while he’s still kissing her, I realize this display of affection is all for me.
I shake my head and turn around to walk away. I couldn’t care less whose throat he sticks his tongue down anymore.
“Murphy!” he shouts out after me. “Ball.”
I look down at the ball still in my hand. Then before giving it too much thought, I cock my arm back and launch the ball across the room, right through a plate glass window. I can hear it bounce off fire escapes before landing in the alley six floors below.
I don’t stick around to hear their shrieks of displeasure. Instead, I pull my suitcase out of the closet and throw all my stuff into it.
When I go into the bathroom to get the rest of my things, Kirsten is yelling at me about the broken glass and Tony is pissed at me over the baseball.
Dragging my heavy suitcase behind me, I stop at the door, throw Kirsten my key and say, “I hope you two will be very happy together. If ever two people deserved each other, it’s you.”
“What about the window?” Kirsten calls out after me.
“Send me a bill,” I say, right before the door slams shut behind me.
Walking down the hall, two things occur to me. One: it will probably cost me a week’s salary to fix the window; and two: I’m homeless.
~ ~ ~
Lexi looks down at my over-sized suitcase and laughs. “Well, that’s a unique hostess gift.”
My face blanches. With all the worrying I did on the way over, I plain forgot to pick up a bottle of wine for her. I close my eyes in shame. “Oh, gosh, Lexi. I’m so sorry. I’m a terrible person. I was going to pick something up and then there was Tony and Kirsten and the ball and the window.” I notice she’s still staring at my suitcase. “It’s not what you think. I’m not crashing here or anything. But I left. I threw my key at her so I can’t go back. I’m going to a hotel later tonight. I promise. I just didn’t have anywhere to leave my suitcase.”
She smiles at me before reaching down to pull up the handle of my suitcase. “You are not getting a hotel room,” she says, dragging my heavy bag behind her.
“Of course I am.”
I follow her down the hallway where she turns into a beautifully-appointed bedroom. “You’ll stay here, Murphy. For as long as you need to.”
I look around her guest room that looks like it’s been decorated by one of those shows on HGTV.
“Wow. This is nice,” I tell her. “But I can’t—”
“It’s already been settled,” she says, cutting me off. She puts her hand on my shoulder. “I know what it’s like to not know where you are going to stay. I know what it’s like to be scared and alone in a big city. You’re staying. Now come on, I need some help with the drinks.”
I follow her out into the kitchen and notice how quiet it is. I look around. It shouldn’t be that quiet in here. She has two small children. “Where are your kids?” I ask. “I was looking forward to meeting them.”
“With Mrs. Mitchell,” she says. “Kyle is working tonight and I wanted to be able to let loose and have fun with the girls. I think Piper’s daughter is there, too. One big sleepover.”
“That’s nice of her to watch your kids for you.”
“That woman is a saint. Between Baylor, Skylar and Piper, she already has six grandchildren of her own, but I swear she considers my kids and my sisters-in-law’s kids as her grandchildren as well. I lost my own mom when I was in college, so she’s taken me under her wing.”
I gasp. “You lost your mom? Caden told me your dad was out of the picture, but I didn’t know you’d lost your mom, too. I’m so sorry.”
“Thanks. I know you lost your dad at a young age. Caden told me. Are you and your mom close?”
I nod. “Yes. I miss her sometimes, but not enough to move back to Iowa.”
She laughs. “Kind of different from New York City, huh?”
“Like night and day.”
“Did you tell your mom about the accident yet?” she asks as she hands me glasses from her cabinet.
I draw my brows at her in confusion.
“Caden and I are very close,” she explains. “We talk about anything and everything. I hope that’s okay.”
I shrug. “It’s fine. It’s not like I’m telling him military secrets or anything. And, no, I haven’t told her. I’m sure she’ll be calling me any day now once the insurance statements start to roll in.”
She shakes her head at me with a smile. “I’d love to listen in on that conversation,” she says. “How do you think she’ll take it?”
“She’ll insist I move back to Iowa. That’s why I didn’t tell her. But now I’m healed. Well, except for some scars, but I’m good. I have a job. I don’t have a place to live, but she doesn’t need to know that. Plus, I think one of the trainers at the gym is looking for a roommate and I’m pretty sure I will be able to move right in. I might not need to stay here for more than a night or two.”
“I’m not worried about how long you need to stay here, Murphy. It’ll be fun.”
The doorbell rings and all three Mitchell sisters walk in. Over the past week, Piper, Skylar and Baylor have all come into the gym to make my acquaintance. Their husbands are my bosses so I tried to make a good impression on them, but I got the idea they didn’t care about good impressions. They all befriended me immediately and I’m grateful that my circle of friends is expanding considering I just walked out on my previous one.