I love it, too. In fact, I was in part named after it as it was my grandmother’s favorite song. During parts of the song, everyone in the room shouts out “Ba, Ba, Baaaa” and then “So good, so good, so good.”
I look at Caden and then around the bar, seeing everyone sing along. “Why does everyone here like Neil Diamond?” I ask, confused. “I thought that was a Red Sox thing.”
“This is a sports bar. It’s a baseball thing!” he shouts over the music, laughing. “Just go with it, Murphy Brown. Come on, let loose.”
I know the song has been associated with baseball. My friends were always tagging me in YouTube videos when we were younger. But I thought it was only popular in Boston. I mean, I don’t remember them playing it in Hawks Stadium the times I was there.
By the time the second verse rolls around, I get into it along with every other person in the bar. Caden pulls me close as we dance to a song I wouldn’t think was danceable. But we aren’t the only ones on the crowded dance floor so I guess it doesn’t matter how stupid we look.
Every time the verse rolls around, Caden and I put our faces close and yell “Ba, Ba, Baaaa” into each other, and when he loudly chants “So good, so good, so good,” I could swear he’s talking about me. About us. And not the illustrious song.
When the song changes to a new one, he tells me, “The next time we play the Red Sox in Boston, you are definitely coming. You have to hear this in person with forty thousand screaming fans.”
I can’t help but smile, because I know the soonest that could happen is next spring, many months from now. That means he still plans on us having a, um … thing by then.
“It sounds like fun. I’ll have to check my calendar though,” I say, smiling up at him.
“Oh, you’re going,” he says. “In fact, I’m getting you season tickets. You are my good luck charm.”
I look at him like he’s crazy. “Season tickets? Don’t you play like a hundred games?”
“A hundred and sixty-two,” he says. “But only half of them are played in New York.”
I stop dancing and look at him nervously. “I know you don’t expect me to go to eighty-one games.”
He laughs. “Hell no. I expect you to go to more. Maybe you can tag along on some road trips.” He sees my face pale. “I’m kidding, Murphy Brown. Well, not about getting you season tickets, but about you having to go to all the games.”
I swat him in the chest, and he grabs onto my arm, reaching his other around my back and pulling me tightly against him. “But I would have you at every single one if I could. Having you around makes everything better.”
“Do you want to hear something crazy?” I ask.
“I was named after that song,” I tell him. “My middle name is Caroline. That song was my grandmother’s favorite.”
He stares at me in disbelief. Then he shakes his head laughing. Maybe he thinks it’s a bit too coincidental as well.
“What?” I ask. “I told you it was crazy.”
“Want to hear something even crazier?”
“Okay,” I say.
“My middle name is Neil.”
Now it’s my turn to be speechless.
Our dancing turns into swaying. Our bodies are as locked together as our eyes. I lose all track of space and time as his eyes burn into mine, telling me everything I want to hear. I watch his lips as they come towards me in what seems like slow motion. They can’t get to me fast enough. I know what he tastes like. I’m already addicted to him. All I want is more.
But before his lips find mine, I’m blinded by a bright flash.
Caden pulls me protectively behind him, telling whoever took the picture to back off. Then hordes of other cameras come out and countless flashes light up the dark room. Caden pulls my hat down as far as it will go while he quickly escorts me out into the night and into the nearest cab.
I smile when he gives the cabbie his address instead of mine. He doesn’t want this night to end any more than I do. And even though his place is only two blocks away, he tells the guy to turn the opposite way and drive around for a minute before heading there.
Caden looks behind us the whole way to make sure no one is following.
“I’m sorry about that,” he says, once we’re safely in his apartment. “One of the many hazards of my job.”
“I’m the one who’s sorry, Caden. Those pictures might show up on the news. They will for sure be all over social media. Probably with me in all of them.” I put my purse on the bar and slump onto a bar stool.
“Do you think that causes me concern?” he asks, wide-eyed.
“Well, doesn’t it?”
“Not for the reasons you might think, Murphy.” He comes up behind me and wraps me into his arms. He leans down and rests his chin on my shoulder. “In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I want this. But I also know what could happen if and when people connect you with me. I told you earlier that I’d always keep you safe, but the truth is, I would fear for your safety if it got out that you have what others want.”
I wriggle out of his grip and turn around to face him. Because I need clarification of what I think it is that he’s telling me. I look up into his alluring green eyes. “What do I have that others want?”
“Me,” he says.
The way he said it wasn’t cocky or conceited. It was simply a truth. A fact. Because undeniably, others would kill to be in my position. Maybe that’s what he’s afraid of.
He brings his hands up to cradle the sides of my face. Then he traces my scar with his thumb—something that’s become a habit for him. “That is if you want to have me,” he says.
Before I can answer, his lips claim mine. They claim me even more completely than the other kisses we’ve shared. His kisses destroy me with each soft touch, nip and lick of his mouth. They destroy me, because now I know for sure that I’m ruined. I’m ruined for any man that would follow him.
He asked if I want him. But it’s no longer a question of want. I need him. I need him to the very core of my being. This man is my best friend. My other half. My soul mate.
His hands explore my arms and my back as mine weave through the locks of his hair. My legs part for him and he stands between my thighs, pressing himself against me in all the right places. The pleasurable friction causes me to moan into his mouth as he grips me tightly.
He finally breaks our kiss, pressing his forehead against mine. “I want you, Murphy Cavenaugh. I want you more than you could possibly know.”
Two things simultaneously go through my mind. One: that is the first time he’s ever called me by my given name; and two: this is only our second date. Or maybe it isn’t our second date. Because for some reason, Caden refuses to classify it as such.
I pull back and sit up straight.
He backs away, looking disheartened. “What is it?”
“What’s going to happen after our third date, Caden?”
He narrows his brow at me in question.
I blow out a sigh. “Lexi told me about your three-strikes rule. Technically, we haven’t even been on a date yet. According to you, this is just a thing. What happens after our third date? I want you too, Caden. But I want you for more than three dates. And I’m not about to go to bed with another guy who’s going to dump me in two seconds flat.”
He paces around the counter, running a hand through his hair. “It’s not like that with you, Murph. You’re different and you know it. And I’m not Tony.”
“Am I different? How do you know your old habits won’t come back to haunt you? What if you get scared and can’t help yourself. What if you decide I’m a Tony and am only here to trap you?”
“Jesus, Murphy, I would never think that. I know you aren’t trying to trap me. Hell, you didn’t even want my help when I offered it to you in the hospital. You didn’t use my phone number. You didn’t get all starry-eyed like most girls. To this day, you won’t even text me unless I text you first.”
“None of that matters if it’s being in a relationship that scares you,” I say. “What if your three-strikes rule is to keep you from falling for someone, not to keep others at bay?”
“That’s ridiculous,” he says.
“Is it? Why, Caden? Why is it ridiculous?”
He walks back around the counter and stands in front of me again. “Because it is. And besides, even if that’s why I had the rule, it obviously didn’t work.”
“What do you mean?”
He cages me in with his arms and leans down close. “It didn’t work because it didn’t keep me from falling for someone.”
My heart flips over in my chest. My pulse shoots through the roof. My hands shake.
“So now you know the score of the game, Murphy Brown. I guess the ball’s in your court.”
I can’t speak. I can barely breathe. Could he possibly feel the same way about me as I feel about him? Two weeks ago, we were friends. And now we’re talking about wanting … needing … falling.
He leans over me and grabs my purse off the counter before putting it on my shoulder. Then he stands me up and leads me towards the door. “Thanks for a great time, Sweet Caroline. I’m taking you home now. But I hope you aren’t working next Friday night, because we’re going on a date.” He stops walking and looks directly into my eyes. “Our third date.”
Murphy leans in close and whispers in my ear. “I guess Brady doesn’t think he’s living on borrowed time.”
Her eyes go wide as she takes in Brady’s penthouse. It’s true. It’s impressive. He spared no expense. What I don’t tell her is that while I’m focused on making sure I have a future, Brady could care less if he has one. He’s impractical. Arrogant. Reckless.