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The chatter in the Sonics locker room intensified as the opening-day excitement seemed to cast a spell over the place. Familiar faces appeared at the door along with an influx of new ones, rookies hoping for a permanent role in the rotation and prospects acquired in recent trades. There was much good-natured jostling and ribbing as the baseball team settled in for the season.
“What was with that bonehead play last week against Detroit?” Jimmy Reilly said as he put away a stack of towels. “Good thing it was just spring training.”
“Yeah, that was right up there with those girl balls you were pitching.” Brian McCauley grinned.
“You see the papers?” Jimmy asked, his brow lifting. “They were praising my fastball. The Trenton Times can’t say enough nice things about us. Imagine that, after last year when they were calling us the Garden State Goons!”
“You can thank his girlfriend, Nikki Case, for that,” Chase Westbrook, the starting pitcher, said, pointing to shortstop Jake Baldwin. “Best damn PR rep in the business.”
“You’re not going to get an argument out of me,” Jake said as he kicked his locker door closed. “She cleaned up our image, got rid of the haircuts, the tats, the bar fights. Have to admit, her plan worked. I hate it when she’s right.”
Chase laughed just as Pete Johnston, the Sonics’ manager, walked in with a new player. By the deferential way he was being treated, it was clear the new guy was someone important. The noise in the locker room subsided as recognition came quickly, and more than one mouth dropped as they identified the California slugger.
“Hey, boys,” Pete said in his folksy way, chomping on a wad of bubblegum. “We got ourselves a new first baseman. I know you’ll all welcome Gavin King to the Sonics.”
Their new teammate stood beside Pete like exhibit A. At six foot five, with black hair, chin scruff, and a build that went with his size, he had an undeniable presence. Even more irritating, he was good-looking, with a pair of intense dark eyes, a firm chin, and a sensual mouth. He’d been considered a star player, and rumor had it that among his other attributes, he was considered irresistible to the female fans.
But worst of all, every man who had been with the team the previous summer could only remember that devastating game when Antonio Chavez, the Sonics reliever, lobbed a curveball right over the middle of the plate and Gavin tattooed it, sending it four hundred feet over the bullpen wall to lose the game.
It still stung.
“Now we all know it was Gavin’s grand slam that kept us out of the series last year,” Pete continued, as if reading their minds. “That’s all the more reason we want him on our team. We need to fill Ryan’s cleanup spot, and he is just the guy Jeffrey thinks will do that.”
Several of the men groaned, but they were not about to challenge the manager, or Jeffrey Caine, the general manager. Yet none of them were happy to see their adversary being led to the nicest locker in the room. Pete opened the door, tossed out Jake’s belongings, and displayed the generous storage inside, a pile of fluffy towels, and a pair of shower shoes.
“Chase, why don’t you show him around, you know, make him feel at home? And Brian, once Gavin’s ready to play, I’m going to change the lineup, move you down and put Gavin behind Jake in the rotation. Any questions?”
“Good. Meet you all outside in fifteen for batting practice and drills. We want to keep up all the good work we started last year. Gavin, I’ll let them fill you in.”
Chase did an eye roll, but otherwise complied. As the pitcher led him out of the room, they noticed that the new player walked with a limp.
“Great,” Brian said in disgust once he was out of earshot. “On top of everything else, he’s a gimp.”
When he returned with Chase after a tour that took all of fifteen minutes, Gavin turned innocently to Jake. “So where is the concierge?”
“The concierge. You know, the person that orders stuff for us. I was thinking to get a salad for lunch.”
Jake’s eyes met Cody’s, and he fought the humor that threatened to burst out of control.
“We don’t exactly have a concierge,” he said seriously. “But we do have a snack stand. I’m sure if you asked real nice, they could find something for you.”
A couple of the men broke into laughter. “I guess this will take some getting used to,” Gavin said, glancing outside. Even though it was April, there was a coating of frost on the ground. He visibly shuddered. “This sure isn’t California.”
“You can say that again.” Cody grinned. “Welcome to Joisey.”
Page Count: 237 pages
Publisher: Loveswept (September 22, 2015)
The Boys of Summer are back! In Katie Rose’s sweet, sparkling novel, the newest New Jersey Sonic falls for the woman who’s trying desperately to save his career.
Physical therapist Jessica Hart has learned her lesson: Never date professional athletes. She’s been down that road, and barely recovered after the relationship crashed and burned. Then Jessica meets Gavin King. An All-Star slugger with chiseled good looks, Gavin was traded to the Sonics because he hurt his knee sliding into second, and now his future is in her hands. Gavin’s no bad boy—but he’s tempting enough to make Jessica think twice about all her rules.
Gavin is trying to find a comfortable routine. If he wants his old life back, he must take it easy, stay out of the limelight, and keep his distance from gorgeous redheaded physical therapists. The thing is, Gavin isn’t the kind of guy to sit on his ass and let other people pull his weight. And when he sees something he wants, he can’t help but fight for it, even if it means risking everything, even if it only lasts a single moment: like one kiss from Jessica.
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