“Get it all out of your system now, big brother. I told you not to go all fangirl on them.”
“I’ll be cool,” he says. “Do you get nervous when he’s up to bat?”
I nod. “More than I’d like to admit,” I say.
I didn’t at first. But the more I watch him and the more I get to know him, the more nervous I become. The story he told me the other night about the jersey on his wall and finally realizing he didn’t want to change his number – he not only wants to play in the majors, he wants to go down in history. That means every time he comes up to bat, it’s an opportunity to add to his record of stolen bases. Of course I get nervous.
“Why wouldn’t you like to admit it?” Denver asks. “I’d say it’s pretty normal for that to happen when your boyfriend plays in the majors. I’m still not used to saying that. Are you?” He leans close and whispers loudly, “You’re Sawyer Mills’ girlfriend, Pen. You live with the guy. You may even marry him someday.” He takes a step back and looks down at Sawyer as he walks up to the plate. “Holy shit, he could be my brother-in-law.”
I watch Sawyer swing and miss and then I swat Denver. “Don’t go marrying me off just yet. We’re still pretty casual about things.”
“Casual?” He laughs. “I saw the video, Aspen. The one where he declared his love for you. That’s not casual. You’ve done the impossible here. Well, I think you have. I’m not sure I trust him yet, and a few weeks ago, you weren’t either. I’m withholding final judgment until I meet him face to face.”
Oh, how I wish I could tell Denver everything. We’ve talked so much over the past few days. It’s like we were never apart. I almost told him. I almost told him about a dozen times. I was so close that I had to call Bass so he could talk me down. But talking to Bass about Sawyer isn’t really something I can do anymore. Not since he admitted his feelings for me. And I really need to talk to someone about Sawyer. But I can’t. And it’s becoming harder every day.
Sawyer hits the next pitch and the ball goes foul, but the first-baseman runs over and makes a diving catch and the ump calls Sawyer out. He’s not having a particularly good game. That happens a lot lately when I come to his games. It worries me that the stress of his situation, of possibly being traded, is getting to him.
“I have to hit the bathroom,” I tell Denver, excusing myself around him. “Can I bring you anything?”
“I’m good,” he says, not taking his eyes off the game.
I locate the ladies room only to find I have to stand behind a dozen women to wait my turn. Someone brushes me from behind and I turn around to see a tall redhead staring me down.
“Sorry,” I say, as if it was my fault that she ran into me.
“You should be,” she bites back at me.
I turn around and try to mind my own business, when she bumps into me a second time. I scoot up, closer to the woman in front of me, but the redhead crowds me again.
I turn around. “Would you mind backing up a bit, it’s too hot in here to stand so close.”
“My, my, isn’t she bitchy?” she says to those around us.
I look around, wondering if I’m the only one who sees what’s wrong here. Nobody else seems to care.
When she bumps into me again, I give her a death stare and then step out of line so I can find another bathroom.
“What?” the redhead yells after me. “Are you going to get your famous boyfriend to stick up for you? He won’t, you know. He’ll toss you to the curb soon enough.”
I stop walking and turn around, appraising her. “Do I know you?” I ask, wondering if I went to high school with her and maybe now she’s jealous of seeing me in the news.
“No, but your boyfriend does.”
I roll my eyes at her and walk away.
“He knows me very well!” she shouts for everyone to hear. “What makes you think you’re so special, you pretentious bitch?”
I walk quickly over to the next set of bathrooms and wait in line there, looking behind me to make sure I’ve not been followed.
It’s nothing new, being bothered by Sawyer’s past conquests. It’s happened a few times before in New York. And like the redhead, they pretty much just like to tell me they’ve slept with him. I guess they try to rile me up or something. Get me to fight with him, perhaps, so they can watch our relationship crumble.
What they don’t know is that next season, they will have their beloved Sawyer back. I’m sure he’ll be more discreet about it, but they’ll have him back nonetheless. And the thought of it – the thought of him with the redhead – with anyone – makes me sick to my stomach.
When I finally return to my seat, Denver asks why I’ve been gone so long.
“Big line,” I say. “Did I miss anything?”
“Caden hit a double. Benham scored. They have two outs now.”
I have a hard time concentrating on the rest of the game. I look around the stands at all the pretty women and wonder just how many of them have been with Sawyer. How many of them will be waiting for him to come out of the clubhouse so they can have a shot with him? How many of them hate me?
The Nighthawks win, but just barely. I know Sawyer will be upset with himself, but it would be worse if they’d lost.
“Come on,” I say to Denver, pulling him by the arm. “Let’s go get a drink and do some people-watching. It will be a while before they come out.”
His face splits in two with a smile. “I can’t believe—”
“Yeah, yeah, you can’t believe you’re going to meet him. I know. Get over it.”
Thirty minutes later, we’re waiting by the clubhouse for the guys to emerge. As usual, fans scream as the players come out. When Sawyer comes through the door, the crowd becomes uncharacteristically boisterous.
“Is it true, you’re off the market?” a reporter shouts over the female shrieks.
Sawyer spots me and waves me over. I pull Denver behind me.
“It’s true,” he says, pulling me close to him.
He gives Denver a lift of his chin. We all know now is not the time for introductions.
“Sawyer!” a fan yells. “Can I have a picture?”
He kisses me on the top of my head before he walks over to pose for pictures and sign autographs. A while later, Sawyer re-joins Denver and me as the crowd starts to thin. But several people linger to get one last look.
A man and a woman approach the three of us and I stiffen. “That’s the lady who called me a bitch earlier.”
Denver and Sawyer both look surprised. “Someone called you a bitch?” Sawyer asks defensively.
“Yeah, when I was in line for the bathroom. She’s a fan of yours, apparently. And according to her, she’s seen you do a lot more than play baseball.”
“Shit,” he says, looking perturbed.
The man and woman come closer, the guy looking pissed as hell. “Is this him?” he asks her. “Is this the asshole you slept with last season?”
The man lunges forward and pushes Sawyer in the chest. “You fucked my wife?”
Sawyer backs up and puts his hands up in surrender. “If you’re going to be mad at anyone, man, it should be her. I always ask if they’re married. I’m not inclined to have meatheads like you coming after me.”
“Well she is,” the tall, muscular guy says, grabbing her left hand and showing him her ring. “And maybe you should check the ring finger for telltale signs next time, you mother fucker. Or better yet, keep your dick in your pants.”
Sawyer pushes me protectively to the side. “It’s really not my problem if they lie to me to get into my bed, now is it? And it sure as shit isn’t my fault if you can’t keep your own wife satisfied.”
What happens next, happens in slow motion. The guy takes a swing at Sawyer, but Sawyer ducks and the punch lands right on Denver’s jaw. Denver’s head snaps back and blood spatters across the wall behind us.
I look at Sawyer, who looks guilty as hell that Denver took the punch meant for him. The guy cocks his arm back, looking like he’s going to take another shot at him.
“Stop it!” I yell, putting myself between the two of them.
Denver pulls on my arms, yanking me out of harm’s way. “Get out of the way, Aspen.”
The guy laughs. “Does your slut always stand up for you, you pussy?” he says to Sawyer.
Sawyer’s hands ball into fists and his face turns red. The vein at his temple is throbbing.
“Hit me!” the guy yells at Sawyer. “Hit me, you pussy. Then we’ll see who the real man is.”
I can tell Sawyer is about to jump the guy. Hell, he’s about to kill him. Just before I think he’s going to blow, he turns and hits the door he’s standing next to. I hear a crack and hope to God it’s the door and not his hand.
Then security walks up. “Is there a problem here?” a beefy guy with no neck asks.
“Yes, there’s a problem,” I say. “This jerk just hit my brother.”
The security guard looks at Denver to see his bloody mouth and swollen jaw. “Would you like me to call the police so you can press charges?”
Denver looks at Sawyer and then back at me before answering the man. He shakes his head. “No. I’m fine. It’s all good.”
“Just get them the hell out of here,” Sawyer says, motioning to the couple.
“With pleasure, Mr. Mills,” the guard says.
We all watch the guy and his wife being escorted away. Then my brother holds out his hand to Sawyer. “Denver Andrews. Nice to meet you,” he says laughing.
“You, too.” Sawyer shakes his hand, cringing. “I’m sorry about that.”
“Shit, did you hurt your hand?” Denver asks.
“I’ll be fine. It’s my catching hand, not my throwing one. Plus, the door was wood. It had some give. But it looks like we both might need some ice.” He nods to Denver’s jaw. “And then maybe some shots. Come on, I know a good place. Some of the other players will be there.”