by Collette West
Underdog Luke “Single” Singleton is yearning to make a comeback. After getting hit in the neck with a pitch—an injury that nearly cost him his life—he has one last chance to play for his hometown team, the Stockton Beavers. But his mom has Alzheimer’s, and he’s all she has to depend on. How can he pursue his career, much less someone special?
Personal care aide Roberta Bennett is done dating baseball players. Having had her share of heartbreak, she heads to Stockton hoping for a fresh start. But after she finds Luke’s mom outside, lost, and alone, she can’t refuse when he hires her on the spot. Unbeknownst to Luke, Roberta is all too familiar with the violent tendencies of the pitcher who hit him.
Now that they’re living under the same roof, the last thing either of them is looking for is a relationship. But it’s not long before they find themselves drawn to each other. And right when Luke is thinking about finally making a change to his single status, a secret from Roberta’s past emerges with the power to tear them apart.
But I’m not about to let her blow me off so easily, not when we were finally starting to enjoy ourselves. This time, I pull on the corner of her scarf and end up drawing it down over her shoulder, spinning her around. I have her off-balance, trying to find her footing, when she falls into my arms.
Her eyes never stray from mine when her hand comes to rest on my neck at the exact spot where I got hit. I swallow hard, never believing anything in the world could feel as good as this. If given the choice, I’d go through all the pain and rehab all over again just to have her do what she’s doing to me now. She glides her fingers along my jaw and across my goatee before lightly skimming them over my lips, making me shudder with pleasure. I lean in, and she lowers her hand, her eyes burning into me. Intent on capturing her lips with mine, I’m close enough to feel her warm breath on my face when suddenly she pushes me away from her, taking a step back.
Holding a hand to her forehead, she’s unable to look at me. “Sorry… I tripped and—”
“Roberta,” I gasp, struggling to catch my breath. “It’s okay. I—”
Yet all she says is, “C’mon,” before turning and leaving the alcove.
I run a hand across my face, trying to make sense of what just happened. I almost kissed her…
And for a split second, I could’ve sworn by the fire in her eyes that she’d really wanted me to. God, could she possibly have feelings for me? No… That’s just crazy. She probably didn’t want to hurt my feelings, and to save me the embarrassment, she graciously backed away before anything could happen.
Yeah, that sounds more like it. Now we can just pretend like she tripped and I caught her and go on our merry way. My fingers stray to my neck, right where hers were. Because that’s what she wants, right?
Collette West grew up as somewhat of a jock-nerd hybrid. Entering the world three weeks premature, her dad nearly missed her birth because he had seats behind the dugout for a sold-out, highly-anticipated match-up between two of baseball’s biggest rivals. Not to be outdone, her book-loving mom taught her how to read by the time she was three. A love of the game coupled with an appreciation for the written word were instilled in Collette’s impressionable brain from a young age. No wonder her characters believe in the philosophy: sports + romance = a little slice of heaven.