Thursday, 9 August 2018

NEW SPORTS ROMANCE: Beyond the Bases by Kaylee Ryan


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SNEAK PEEK

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My eyes sweep past the door and then back. Two women who I’ve never seen before just walked in. We’re here a lot, enjoying the anonymity and all that. Very rarely is there a face I don’t recognize, and none ever as gorgeous as these two.

            “What are you…?” Drew’s voice trails off when he follows my gaze. “Damn.”

            They’re both gorgeous, but I can’t seem to take my eyes off the brunette. I watch as her friend links their arms together and guides them to the bar.

            “I call—” Drew starts, but I stop him.

 “The brunette is mine,” I say, not giving him a chance.

            “Hell yeah.” He claps his hands, rubbing them together. “That’s what I’m talking about.”

            I don’t dignify his reaction with a response. Instead, I watch them. The blonde friend orders them drinks, and I’m surprised they both receive a bottle of beer. My kind of girl. They turn to look for a table, and Drew stands and saunters over to them.

            “Would you ladies like to join us?” I hear him ask. Drew doesn’t know the meaning of inside voice.

            The blonde immediately nods while the brunette looks a little less certain. She does, however, follow her friend to the table. I stand to greet them, holding my hand out to the blonde first. “Easton,” I say, shaking her hand.

            “Chloe, and this is Larissa.” She releases my hand and motions toward the brunette.

            “Hey,” I say, my voice more gravely than I’d like. “Easton.” I offer the lovely Larissa my hand. Hers is soft and smooth, a definite contrast to mine, which are hard and calloused from years of playing ball. Remembering my manners, I pull the chair out for her. She eyes me skeptically, but takes the offered seat.

            “So, are you ladies new in town?” Drew asks.

            “Nah, I’ve lived here my entire life,” Chloe offers.

            “What about you?” I ask Larissa.

            “Yeah, born and raised,” she says with a soft smile.

            “I’ve never seen you here before,” I tell her.

            She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, and I can see a slight tremble in her hands. “I don’t really get out much.”

            “Yeah, I had to beg and plead to get her to come with me tonight,” Chloe adds.

            “Not much on the bar scene?” I ask Larissa. I know the answer, just by her reactions. She’s not some barfly who’s playing coy; she really doesn’t seem to be comfortable being here.

            “Other obligations,” she answers.

            “So y’all come here a lot?” Chloe asks.

            “You could say that.” Drew smirks. He’s evasive, but his smirk tells me that he knows if this girl tries to hound him here, Billy, also known as Shorty, will kick her ass out.

            I keep my attention focused on Larissa. “So, what do you do?”

            “I’m a waitress right now. I’m working my way through school. Slowly,” she adds.

            “What’s your major?” She’s quiet, and not vying for my attention. That’s not something I’m used to.

            “Accounting. I’m good with numbers.” She shrugs before taking a sip of her beer. “What about you?”

            I debate on whether or not to tell her the truth, but she doesn’t seem starstruck like so many others. I decide to go for it. “I play baseball.”

            She raises her eyebrows.

            I throw my head back and laugh. “True story. I play first base for the Tennessee Blaze.”

            She looks at me then to Drew and Chloe. “What?” Drew asks.

            “What do you do for a living?” she asks him.

            He looks at me, and I give him a subtle nod. “Third baseman for the Tennessee Blaze.”

            Drew gives zero fucks about shouting from the rooftops about what we do. Me, on the other hand, I sometimes like to just be Easton. In my family, that’s how things work. No matter what your profession, you’re still just one of the Monroes. “I can get you tickets to a game,” I tell her.

            “Uh-huh.” She nods, a small smile playing on her lips.

            She doesn’t believe me, and that’s okay. What’s more important is to keep her talking. I need to know more about her. For example, do her brown locks with a hint of gold feel as soft as they look? How will her lips feel pressed against mine? What does she look like underneath all those clothes? That’s a start, but I’m intrigued by the brown-haired beauty who is working her way through college and what her other obligations are that keep her from frequenting bars.

            “So which restaurant do you work at?”

            “The Vineyard,” she says, not taking her eyes off her beer bottle where she’s currently peeling back the label.

            I whistle. “Nice place. I’ve been there a few times.” This gets me a nod, but that’s it. What’s it going to take to get to this girl? Looking across the table, I see Drew huddled up close with Chloe, and they’re deep in conversation. What is it about Larissa that has me off my game tonight? Finishing off my beer, I stand. “Anyone ready for another?”

            Drew holds up two fingers, and I know he’s ordering for Chloe too. “You?” I ask Larissa.

            “I really shouldn’t,” she says, lifting her bottle and taking the final sip. I watch as she tilts her head back, the long column of her throat exposed. My lips ache to kiss her, to taste her skin.

            Bending down, placing my lips next to her ear, I whisper, “I’ll be right back.” She can’t hide the way her chest inflates with her heavy breath or the way goose bumps break out across her skin. I make my way to the bar and order four bottles of beer, all the while trying to hide my smile. She’s more affected than she lets on. When I turn to head back to the table, I see the girls are gone. Quickly, I scan the room and find them huddled over the old jukebox in the corner.

            “So, your girl’s hot,” Drew says when I set two bottles of beer in front of him.

            “Her name is Larissa,” I remind him.

            He holds his hands up like he didn’t mean to offend me. “Good to see you back in the game, brother,” he says before taking a long pull from his bottle.

            “I’m not back in the game. It’s not a game, and if it was, I could say I never left. I don’t make a sport of dating and hooking up.”

            “Not now.”

            He’s right. When I was a rookie, I ate that shit up, but it got old, and it’s hard to hear Mom call and ask about “all the women.” I hate to hear the disappointment in her voice. I’ve heard whispered stories about my dad and my uncles and their antics all my life, but I’ve never really seen that from them. They’ve always been madly in love with their wives. My grandparents are the same way too. I grew up surrounded by couples who are blissfully happy. I’ve had my fun, not that I’m against more of it, but one day I’d like to find someone to take home to my family.

            “Good choice,” Drew says when the girls join us. It’s an old Aerosmith song, “Dream On,” that you can’t help but sing along to.

            Chloe points across the table. “That’s all Larissa. She’s the music guru.”

            “What’s your favorite genre?” I ask.

            She smiles over at me. “All of it. Well, I’m not much on the super heavy metal stuff. It gives me a headache. Other than that, I’m a fan.”

            “Really? You go to a lot of concerts?”

            “Not really. No time.”

            When the song changes to Cole Swindell’s “Middle of a Memory,” I can’t fight my smile. Standing, I offer my hand to Larissa. Drew catches on and does the same with Chloe.

            “What?” Larissa asks, her green eyes staring up at me.

            “Dance with me.”

            She looks around nervously. “There’s no dance floor.”

            “Doesn’t matter.” Drew and Chloe head to the darkened corner, leaving us alone. “Dance with me,” I repeat. Reluctantly, she places her hand in mine and allows me to guide her to the same corner Drew and Chloe disappeared into. My hands on her hips, I pull her close and sway to the music. I listen to the lyrics and think about how they relate to me, to us in this very moment. There is something about this girl that grips me.

            “I feel like everyone’s watching us,” she says, glancing around.

            “Hey,” I whisper, and wait until she’s looking at me. “There’s no one watching you but me. It’s just us, right here, right now. Making memories.” I wink, and her lips tilt in a smile.

            “Are you always this charming? Or just when you’re on the prowl?”

            “On the prowl?” This girl is a ball buster.

            “Yeah, isn’t that what you’re doing? Trying to sweeten me up so when you ask me to go home with you later, I’ll go willingly?”

            “Are you suggesting that I would force you to go otherwise?”

            “Not at all. I just meant, if you’re sweet and charming, you assume my answer will be yes.”

            “Would it be?” I know the answer is a resounding no.

            “No.”

            “Good thing that’s not what I’m doing then, huh?” I give her hip a gentle squeeze.

            “Right.” She laughs. “I’m the first baseman for the Tennessee Blaze, and we’re making memories,” she coos, mocking me.

            I don’t bother to hide my grin. “So, you think this is all talk, just to get you into my bed?”

            She shrugs. “If the shoe fits.”

            “We fit,” I say, pulling her tight against me. The subtle hint of warm vanilla assaults my senses. Her hands, which were resting against my chest, snake up around my neck. I could pull out my phone and type my name into the search engine and prove her wrong, but I don’t. Instead, I sing along to the song, my voice just low enough for her to hear. I like the thought of just being Easton to her. I like it a whole hell of a lot.

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MORE ABOUT BEYOND THE BASES
What happens when you want more in life than just running the bases?

You hang out at home plate and stop playing the field.

He's sexy and irresistible. I've done my best to ignore the magnetism that flows between us. I don't need complications in my life. I can't get wrapped up in his world, the last thing I need is to get attached to a professional athlete. I don’t have time for heartbreak.

Something about her pulls me in. I want to get to know her. I want a chance to show her I'm more than just my career, my paycheck. I'm the man for her. I know I am. No matter how much she resists this connection between us. It doesn't change the fact that she’s my grand slam.

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Kaylee Ryan is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author. When she’s not spinning tales of happily ever after, she’s reading or spending time with family.  Born and raised an Ohio girl, Kaylee resides in Cincinnati with her husband and their son.


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