Keeping Carrie blindfolded and in the dark as to his identity suits Major League catcher Jason Holder just fine while he figures out if being a Dom really is his thing. With the media circling like vultures as he works to get his career back on track, the last thing he needs is a sex scandal if things don’t work out.
Just when he’s got it all under control a new kind of scandal from an unexpected source threatens everything, and Jason soon finds out that what you don’t know can hurt you.
The gray concrete-block basement walls matched Jason’s mood and amplified the soft whir of the automatic pitching machine. Fuck. Someone else was using the batting cage. Showing up on the team’s day off was tantamount to admitting your hitting sucked, and he had hoped to find the place empty. He briefly considered turning around and leaving before whoever it was saw him. But hell, who was he kidding? His batting average sucked lemons and everyone on the team knew it. If word got out he was taking extra swings, then at least his teammates would know he was trying to fix the problem.
Jason rounded the corner to see the Mustangs third baseman swing at a perfect pitch and miss.
“Morning, Todd,” he said with a wave.
"Hey, Jason, I'll be through in a few."
"No hurry." Jason sat on the bench where he could watch.
Todd took another swing. "Maybe you can help me. Take a look and tell me what you see." He fouled the next ball off. “Man, I’m getting too old for this shit.” Todd tightened his grip on the bat and glared at the pitching machine.
“You’re only what, thirty-five? You still have a few good years in you.”
Todd grunted and connected with another pitch. The ball fouled. “Damn it. What the hell am I doing wrong?”
“You’re dropping your shoulder, getting under the ball too much.”
“Thanks, man.” He took a few more swings, connecting better on each one. “Now see, that’s what I’m talking about. I’ve been struggling for weeks, and no one said a damned thing. Not even Tuley. What’s a batting coach for if he doesn’t coach?”
Jason shrugged. “I don’t know. He hasn’t done a damned thing for me either. I’ve never hit this bad in my life.”
Todd continued to swing at the oncoming balls. “I hear you. Sometimes there’s no explanation. It just is what it is.”
“What it is, is crap,” Jason said, shaking his head. “I led the league in home runs last year. This year, I can’t get a base hit to save my life.” It seemed everything in his life was out of control these days, and he didn’t have a clue how to change any of it. All he knew was he had to do something—and fast. “I gotta fix whatever’s wrong before I end up on the bench.”
Todd laughed. His bat connected with the last ball from the automatic pitching machine. “The Mustangs aren’t going to bench you. You’re the best catcher in the league.” He grabbed his towel hanging from the fence and wiped his face. “They might put a Designated Hitter in to bat for you, but take you out of the game? Ain’t gonna happen.”
“Yeah, well, that’s not a chance I want to take.”
They switched places, Todd collapsing on the bench with a water bottle and Jason taking his place inside the batting cage.
“Why don’t you see if you can figure out what I’m doing wrong?”
“Sure. I’ve got time,” Todd said.
Jason fouled off the first two pitches and completely missed the next four. “Fuck.” Totally unacceptable.
“There’s nothing wrong with your swing. You aren’t concentrating. You just gotta focus.”
Jason hit the stop button, leaned against the far side of the cage, and studied his shoes. Swinging at meatballs any high school kid should be able to hit wasn’t going to fix anything. “I don’t know what’s the matter with me. I can’t get my head in the game.”
“Troubles at home?”
“Not anymore.” Apparently there had been trouble, but he hadn’t seen it, probably because he had his head up his ass.
Todd raised an eyebrow. “What happened?”
“My girlfriend dumped me.” Jason was careful to keep his face neutral as he inwardly winced. Christ, the wound to his ego was still raw. Stacey wasn’t coming back so he might as well get over it and move on.
“The cute physical therapist who was working with Jeff?”
Jason nodded. He’d met her when she took on his twin brother Jeff as one of her clients following surgery on his elbow. She’d bullied his brother through twelve months of physical therapy and he was back in the Mustangs bullpen where he belonged. Jason pushed away from the fence and, after racking his bat and helmet, joined Todd on the bench. “Yeah, that one. She booted me to the curb.”
“When did this happen? I thought you two were firm.”
“Me too. It’s been a couple of weeks, I guess.” Two weeks of hell wondering if he was as warped as she’d accused him of being. Two weeks of wondering what he was going to do now.
“About the time you quit hitting?”
“Yeah. I know. It’s stupid, but I thought we had something going on, and then…”
“Then…what?” Todd asked.
Jason grabbed a water bottle from his duffel. “Surely you have better things to do with your day off than listen to my sad story about the one that got away.”
Todd sat back, stretched his legs out in front, and crossed his arms over his chest. “Nope. Not until tonight. Spill. Maybe if you tell somebody, you can get your head back in the game.”
Well, shit. Now he’d gone and done it. He rummaged in his bag for a towel while he tried to figure out a way to get out the hole he’d dug for himself. He wiped his brow and took a long pull on the water bottle. He should have kept his mouth shut, but he hadn’t, and now he was going to have to tell Todd something — unless he could get him to back off on his own. Yeah, that might work.
“What are you, some kind of shrink?”
“No, but I do want to win. And the Mustangs need you to start hitting. If I have to listen to your sad tale, then I’ll take it for the team.”
“Okay, but if you tell another soul I’ll use your head for batting practice and smile while I do it.”
Todd raised both hands in surrender. “I don’t doubt that for a minute. My lips are sealed, compadre. Now, tell me what happened.”
Jason glanced around the cavernous basement below the stadium to make sure none of the other team members were around. Assured they were alone, Jason began, “You know that book, the one everyone’s talking about? The one all the women are reading and saying it’s making them horny?”
“Yeah. What about it?”
“Well, Stacey bought a copy. We’d had some awesome morning sex, and I didn’t have to be at the field for a few hours, so we were just chillin’, you know?”
“Well, after breakfast, she picked the book up again — man, she couldn’t put it down. I swear, every time I saw her for days she had that book in her hands.”
Todd nodded, and Jason continued. “I asked her what was so interesting about it, and she started reading me some of the sexy parts. We laughed about a couple of them, and then she read this one where the guy handcuffed the woman and did some kinky stuff to her. It was hot, I’m telling you. Anyway, I said I wouldn’t mind doing some of those things to her.”
“She looked at me like I’d turned into some kind of monster. She couldn’t believe I’d even think of doing those things to a woman, much less her.”
“What did you do?”
“I told her I wasn’t going to do anything she didn’t want to do, and she should have known that.” Jason shook his head. Stacey’s behavior still didn’t make any sense to him. “Anyway, the next thing I know, I get a Dear Jason text. A text. We were in Atlanta and went from there to Cincinnati.”
“I remember that trip,” Todd said. “I didn’t have a single hit against the Braves.”
“Yeah, well, I wasn’t much better,” Jason said with a sneer. “By the time I got home, she’d cleared out of our place.”
“Had you ever asked her to try any of the things in the book, or done any of them without her permission?”
“No! I’d never force a woman to do anything she didn’t want to do. And honestly, I’ve never had to.”
“Your charisma aside, was there anything else she said?”
“Just that I was too demanding. That it’s always my way in bed, never her way. Shit! I asked her all the time to tell me what she liked.” He raked his fingers through his hair. Now that he’d started talking, he couldn’t stop. His frustration poured out faster than fans scurrying from the stadium when the home team was losing by a dozen runs.
“She said she didn’t like the way I tried to take care of her, as though she couldn’t take care of herself. It sounded like a bunch of women’s lib shit to me. You know. She said she could pump her own gas, and she didn’t want me ordering for her at restaurants. I’d call to check on her when I was out of town, just to make sure she was okay. I thought I was being considerate, but she said I was smothering her. And then the kinky sex thing…she said that scared her.”
When he finally wound down, it was as though the concrete walls had absorbed all the sound. The silence was deafening. Aware that Todd hadn’t said anything, Jason dared to look at his confessor. He didn’t like the way his friend eyed him.
“What?” Jason asked.
“Do you want to do those things to a woman? Really, want to do those things, or was it just some fantasy?”
Jason nodded. “Yeah, I think I’d like that. You know, calling all the shots, having a woman at my mercy. Willingly. I’d only do it if they wanted it, too. Stacey had to know that.”
Todd stood. “You have plans tonight?”
The abrupt change of subject caught him off guard. “No. Just gonna watch some TV, maybe have a few beers. Why?”
“I want to show you something.” He pulled a team notebook out of the bag he’d crammed underneath the bench. He scribbled something, tore out the page, and folded it in half before handing it to Jason. “Meet me at that address around nine. Dress casual.”
Damn, he didn’t feel like going out. “Thanks.”
“Sure.” Todd grabbed his duffel and left.
He hoped Todd wasn’t going to try to fix him up with some bimbo. The last thing he needed right now was a woman messing with his head — it was plenty messed up already.
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