Sweet little lies, p.12
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       Sweet Little Lies, p.12

         Part #1 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis
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  “Abby is Jake’s secretary,” Pru said. “She’s really great.”

  Finn looked at Jake.

  Jake gave a slow head shake.

  “What,” Pru said, catching it. “She’s wonderful! She handles your entire office and she’s always sweet, even when you’re a total asshole.”

  “Yes,” Jake said. “She’s a sweetheart. She’s great. In my office and also at handling me, even when I’m a total asshole. What she isn’t great at is softball.”

  “She’s learning,” Pru insisted.

  Abby struck out.

  The next batter was a lean and lanky kid, late teens, early twenties maybe.

  “Nick,” Pru told Finn. “He works in maintenance.”

  “Pru got him the job,” Jake said and Pru shushed him. Nick strolled out of the dugout, winked at Pru and got a second base hit.

  The next batter was a young kid who couldn’t have been more than eighteen. She wore thick-rimmed glasses and squeaked at every pitch. She also swung at every ball that came her way and several that didn’t.

  What she didn’t do was connect with a single one. Probably because she kept her eyes closed, which meant that her glasses weren’t doing jack shit for her.

  Finn tried not to care. It was just a softball game, and a bad one at that, but come on. He looked over at Coach Jake and pointed to their batter. “Mind if I . . .?”

  Jake gestured for him to go ahead, his expression saying good luck.

  “Kid,” Finn called out.

  The kid turned to face him.

  “Finn,” Pru said warningly but he didn’t care. He didn’t know how she’d gotten Jake to “go dark” but Finn hadn’t made any such promise.

  “What’s your name?” Finn asked.

  “Kasey,” the girl said. “I work in accounts receivable.”

  “You know how to hit, Kasey?”

  “Yeah.” She paused. “No.”

  Shit. “Okay, it’s easy,” Finn said. “You just keep your eyes open, you got me?”

  She bobbed her head.

  “Make contact with the ball, Kasey. That’s all you gotta do.”

  Kasey nodded again but failed to swing at the next pitch. She turned to nervously eye Finn.

  “That’s okay,” Finn told her. “That was a sucky pitch, you didn’t want a piece of that one anyway. The next one’s yours.” And he hoped that was true.

  Pru watched Kasey swing at the next ball and connect.

  Finn launched himself off the bench. “Yes!” he yelled, pumping his fist. “That’s it, baby, that’s it!”

  He’d started off not wanting to be here, resenting the game, and yet now he was one hundred percent in it. Even, Pru suspected, having fun. Watching him gave her a whole bunch of feels, not the least of which was happy. She was really doing it, giving him something back.

  After Kasey hit the ball, she dropped the bat like it was a hot potato and whipped around to flash a grin Finn’s way, executing some sort of very white girl boogie while she was at it. “I did it! Did you see? I hit the ball!”

  “Yeah, you did. Now run, Kasey!” Finn yelled, pointing to first base. “Run your little ass off!”

  With a squeak, she turned and started running.

  Finn laughed. He laughed and turned that laughing face Pru’s way and she nearly threw herself at him.

  “Having fun?” she asked, unable to keep her smile to herself.

  “You tell me. Prudence.”

  She was going to have to kill Jake in his sleep.

  He grinned at the look on her face and leaned in close so only she could hear him. “You owe me.”

  “What for?”

  “For neglecting to mention that you guys are The Bad News Bears.” He glanced at the field and leapt back to his feet, throwing himself at the half wall. “Go, Kasey, go! Go, go, go!”

  Pru turned in surprise to see that the shortstop had missed the ball and Kasey was rounding second.

  The ball was still bouncing in right field.

  “Keep going!” Finn yelled, hands curved around his mouth. “Run!”

  Kasey headed toward third.

  Finn was nearly apoplectic and Pru couldn’t tear her eyes off him.

  “That’s right!” he yelled. “You run, baby! You run like the wind!”

  His joy was the best thing she’d seen all day.

  All week.

  Hell, all month.

  Scratch that, he was the best thing she’d seen.

  Unbelievably, Kasey made it all the way home and the crowd went wild. Okay, so just their team went wild. Everyone piled out of the dugout to jump on Kasey.

  Except Pru.

  She jumped on Finn.

  She didn’t mean to, certainly didn’t plan it, her body just simply took over. She turned to him to say something, she has no idea what, but instead she literally took a few running steps and . . .

  Threw herself at him.

  Luckily he had quick reflexes, and just as luckily he chose to catch her instead of not. He caught her with a surprised grunt, and laughing, hauled her up into his arms. He slid one hand to her butt to hold her in place, the other fisting her ponytail to tug her face up to his.

  “Did you see that?” she yelled, losing her ability to self-regulate her voice with the excitement. “It was beautiful, yeah?”

  He looked right into her eyes and smiled back. “Yeah. Beautiful.”

  And then he kissed her, hard, hot, and quite thoroughly.

  And far too short. She actually heard herself give a little mewl of protest when he pulled back and let her slide down his body to stand on her own two feet.

  “We’re still down by ten runs,” he said.

  She nodded, but she’d never felt less like a loser in her entire life.

  Chapter 14

  #TheWholeNineYards

  In the end, they lost by five, which Pru actually considered a total win. In the very last inning, she’d dove for a ground ball and slid along the ground for a good ten feet, bouncing her chin a few times while she was at it, but hey, she got the ball.

  She also got some road rash.

  She hadn’t felt it at the time, but by the end of the game when they’d all packed up and were going their separate ways, Pru’s aches and pains made themselves known. She slowly shouldered her bag and turned, coming face to face with both Jake and Finn.

  Jake—with Thor in his lap—gave her a chin nod. Since their venue was a middle school field only two blocks from his building, they usually walked back together.

  Finn didn’t give her a chin nod. He just stood there, watching her in that way he had that made her . . . want things, things she wasn’t supposed to want from him.

  Clearly she needed to work on that.

  Jake grimaced. “You’re a mess. Let’s go, I’ll patch you up at the office.”

  “I’m fine.” A big fat lie, of course. Her road rashes were stinging like a sonofabitch. “I’m just going to head home.”

  Jake slid a look at Finn before letting his gaze come back to her. “You sure that’s a good idea?”

  Of course it wasn’t a good idea. But she wasn’t exactly known for her good ideas now was she? “Yep,” she said, popping the P sound.

  “You shouldn’t go alone, you might need help.”

  “I’ve got her,” Finn said.

  The two men looked at each other for a long beat. Pru might have tried to mediate the landmine-filled silence between them but her brain was locked on Finn’s words.

  I’ve got her . . .

  She had long fantasies where that was true . . . She reached to take Thor but Jake shook his head.

  “He’s coming home with me tonight for dinner. I’ve got steak.”

  “Steak?” Pru repeated, realizing she was starving. “But after our games, you usually make hotdogs.”

  Jake shrugged. “It’s steak tonight. I’ve got enough for you to join, if it’s okay with Thor.”

  Thor tipped his head back like a coyote and gave one sharp “yi
p!”

  Pru spent a few seconds weighing a steak dinner cooked for her versus watching Finn in those sexy butt-hugging, relaxed-fit Levi’s of his for a little bit longer. It was a tough decision, but in the end, she took the jeans. “No, thanks.”

  Jake just gave her a knowing head shake and rolled off.

  “Did you just almost trade me in for a steak dinner?” Finn asked.

  Pretending she hadn’t heard that question, she started walking, but he stopped her.

  “You okay?”

  “Yeah,” she said. “We lose all the time.”

  “I meant because you used your face as a slip-n-slide on that last play.” Earlier, when she’d convinced him to come play, he’d gone inside his house for a duffle bag, from which he’d pulled out his mitt earlier. Now he pulled out a towel and gingerly dabbed it against her chin.

  “Ow!” she said.

  “But you’re fine, right?” he asked dryly.

  She removed the towel from her chin, saw some blood and with a sigh put the towel back to her face.

  Finn took her bag from her shoulder and transferred it to his, where it hung with his own. “I’ll get an Uber.”

  “I don’t need a ride.” She started walking, and after a beat he kept pace with her. She worked on distracting herself. The temperature was a perfect seventy-five-ish. The sun had dipped low, leaving a golden glow tipped with orange flame in the west, the rest of the sky awash in mingled shades of blue.

  “So what was that about?” Finn asked after a few minutes of silence.

  “Nothing. Like I said, sometimes we lose, that’s all.” Or, you know, always.

  “I mean the look Jake gave you.”

  “Nothing,” she repeated.

  “Didn’t seem like nothing.”

  “He’s got a condition,” she said, huffing up the hill. Damn. Why had she said no to getting an Uber again? “You’ve got to ignore most of his looks.”

  “Uh huh,” Finn said. “What kind of condition?”

  “A can’t-mind-his-own-business condition.” Her aches and pains were burgeoning, blooming as they moved. It was taking most of her concentration to not whimper with each step.

  “You sure you’re okay?” he asked.

  “One hundred percent.”

  He gave her a once-over, his dark gaze taking in the holes in her knees, and she amended. “Okay, ninety percent,” she said and then paused. “Ten at the worst,” she amended.

  Finn stopped and pulled out his phone.

  “We’re over halfway there,” she argued. “I’m not giving up now.”

  “Just out of curiosity—do you ever give up?”

  She had to laugh. “No,” she admitted.

  He shook his head, but he didn’t ask if she was sure, or try to tell her she wasn’t fine. Clearly he was going off the assumption she was an adult.

  Little did he know . . .

  “Sean plays baseball too,” Finn said out of the blue a few minutes later. “He sucks. Sucks bad.”

  “Yeah?” she asked. “As my team?”

  “Well, let’s not go overboard.”

  She took a mock swing at him and he ducked with a laugh. “In high school, he made it onto his freshman team,” he said. “But only because they didn’t have enough guys to cut anyone. The painful part was making sure he kept his grades high enough.”

  Pru hadn’t actually given a lot of thought to the day-to-day reality that a twenty-one-year-old Finn would have faced having to get a teenage Sean through high school. There would’ve been homework to do, dinners to prepare, food shopping needed, a million tiny things that parents would have handled.

  But Finn had been left to handle all of it on his own.

  Her stomach tightened painfully at all he’d been through, but he was over there smiling a little bit, remembering. “That year half of the JV and Varsity teams got the flu,” he said, “and Sean got called up to the semifinals. He sat on the bench most of the game, but at the bottom of the eighth he had to play first base because our guy started puking his guts up.”

  “How did he do?”

  Finn smiled, lost in the memory. “He allowed a hit to get by him with bases loaded.”

  Pru winced. “Ouch.”

  “Yeah. Coach went out there and told him if another hit got by him, he’d string him up by his balls from the flagpole.”

  Pru gasped. “He did not!”

  “He did,” Finn said. “So of course, the next hit came straight for Sean’s knees, a low, fast hit.”

  “Did it get by him?”

  “He dove for it, did a full body slide on his chin while he was at it.” Finn gave her a sideways smile. “But he got the damn ball.”

  “Did he get road rash too?” Pru asked, starting to get the reason for story time.

  “Left more skin on that field than you did.” Finn grinned and shook his head. “He came through though. Somehow, he usually does.”

  She loved that the two of them had stuck together after all they’d been through. She didn’t know anything of their mom, other than she’d not been in the picture for a long time. Whatever she knew about the O’Rileys was what she’d been able to piece together thanks to the Internet. She’d done her best to keep up by occasionally Googling everyone who’d been affected by her parents’ accident—needing to make sure they were all doing okay. When she’d discovered that Finn had opened O’Riley’s only a mile or so from where she was living and working, she hadn’t been able to resist getting involved.

  And now here he was, a part of her life. An important part, and at the thought she got a pain in her heart, an actual pain, because she knew this was all short-lived. She had to tell him the truth eventually. She also knew that as soon as she did, he wouldn’t be a part of her life anymore.

  “Tonight brought back a lot of memories,” he said, something in his voice that had her looking at him.

  Regret.

  Grief.

  “You miss baseball,” she said softly.

  He lifted a shoulder. “Didn’t think so, but yeah, I do.”

  “Is that why you didn’t want to come tonight?”

  “I didn’t think I was ready, even for softball.” He shook his
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