Double Play

Page 23

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"Steeeee-riiiiike!" the ump yelled.
"Fastball," someone said behind her. "Fastest fastball in the league."
Wade threw the ball back to Pace, dropped into a crouch, and sent Pace a sign between his spread thighs.
Pace nodded. His next pitch arched, making the batter leap back from the plate with an oath, but then the ball arched again, sliding right into the strike zone.
"Steeeee-riiiiike!" the ump yelled again.
The batter looked pissed off.
The Philly crowd booed.
"Jesus, did you see that curveball?" someone on Holly's left said in disbelief. "It must have curved a foot and a half!"
Holly had no idea how low it really curved, because she couldn't take her eyes off Pace. He went on to pitch a textbook no-hitter, and if he felt any of the pain she'd sensed the other day, he didn't let it show. In fact, he let nothing show. He was a solid, tough rock of determination from the start to the seventh inning, when Gage pulled him to save his arm for the next series.
Ty went in, allowing several runs, but still holding their lead, and the Heat won eight to four.
The informal after party was set in one of the bars of the hotel, free drinks on management. Holly found herself with a lingering headache, probably from the hot sun, not to mention the cheering she'd done. She thought about escaping to her room to work on her next article, which she'd decided would be about the public's view of baseball, from past to present, focusing on kids and how much the game and the players meant to them.
But looking around at the growing crowd, she decided to stay a few more minutes in case she heard anything interesting.
Which was really just an excuse.
She wanted to see Pace. Knowing it, she made her way through the gang to the open bar and tried to get the attention of one of the two pretty, young bartenders, one blonde, one brunette, spending more time looking at the players than making drinks. She waited.
And waited.
"You don't have a penis, so I'd give up." Samantha smiled at her and opened her purse to pull out a flask. "It's Scotch. I carry it when I fly because I'm such a wuss. Take it."
"Oh, no, I-"
But Sam had moved on. Holly shook her head and tried once more in vain to get a much lighter drink from either of the bartenders. "I'm invisible," she finally decided.
"Aw. Not to me, darlin'." Wade nudged her shoulder with his as he worked his way in next to her, all three-day scruff and Prada sunglasses.
She'd learned several things about the Heat's star catcher. For one, he was a world-class flirt and yet somehow, when he looked into her eyes, he made her feel like the only woman on the planet.
That he looked like a surfer didn't hurt. Nope, all that sun-kissed beauty from head to toe really worked for him. Like the others, he was gorgeously built, but beneath that laid-back exterior was a sharp mind, a quick wit, and a fierce loyalty to those he cared about, making him about as easy to crack open as a brick wall. He was both cocky and discreet, a paradox she'd learned while trying to ask him some hard-hitting questions; she'd gotten nowhere. Nope, those deep sea green eyes of his had gone from sparkling to closed up tighter than a drum in a single heartbeat.
The entire team had that in common-tight lips.
"What can I get you to drink?" Wade asked her now.
"A wine cooler, if you can get it, thanks."
He gestured to the closest bartender, the cute little blonde one, who ran over to him so fast she nearly killed her coworker.
Holly had been a bartender in college. Actually, she'd been a lot of things in college, since it had taken many, many jobs to pay her way. But she'd served quickly and efficiently, with a nice but distant smile, ensuring that she'd get tips but not hit on. The tactic hadn't always worked. Sometimes she'd gotten stiffed, sometimes she'd gotten hit on in spite of her distance, and sometimes she'd gotten both stiffed and hit on, which had always pissed her off.
Wade winked at the blonde as he gave their order, then grinned at Holly as the woman rushed to get the drinks. "They like us here. We tip well."
"I bet."
He studied her while reaching for the bowl of mixed nuts on the bar. "You know, I didn't peg you for a pansy-ass drinker. I'd have guessed you'd drink beer. Maybe a Scotch. Something tough anyway."
She thought of Sam's Scotch in her purse. Maybe she should have stuck with that. "You think I'm tough?"
"Well, not as tough as me, but close. Hey, Skipper," he said to Gage as the manager bellied up to the bar with smooth ease, gesturing with a nod of his chin to the brunette bartender.
Gage was built like his players. Plus, he had the rugged dark looks of his Latino heritage going for him, along with a smile that could slice an ump-or charm a reporter. Holly should know. He'd charmed her at the continental breakfast that morning, where she'd gotten almost nothing out of him except stats and a detailed account of how much volunteer work the guys did with their 4 The Kids charity.
"You getting lucky tonight?" Wade asked him.
"I already did with the win," he said as the pretty bartender brought him a beer and a smile as he turned to Holly, gesturing to the makeup-covered bruise on her forehead. "How's that bump Pace got you?"
"Better, thank you. Speaking of Pace, where is he tonight?" READ MORE ...

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