EARNING A RING: More Than A Game #4 By Kristina Mathews
For Rachel Parker, covering the San Francisco Goliaths is the perfect opportunity to launch her career as a serious reporter. But she didn’t bargain on Bryce Baxter, the team’s star shortstop, tempting her more non-professional aspirations. After tearing up the base paths with him, she finds herself with a little problem, and Bryce might be the only man who can save the game.
Bryce Baxter should be living the dream. His team just won the World Series and he just signed the multi-year contract of his career. But his field of dreams has been overtaken by a fiery redheaded reporter, who’s bearing a news flash that will change both of their lives forever…
Bryce Baxter sat alone in the San Francisco Goliaths’ clubhouse. He didn’t want to go home and watch the replays of tonight’s game. There was enough of that going on in his head. He’d blown the game. How many times had he made that play since he first picked up a baseball at the age of five? A thousand? Ten thousand? Probably more. Not tonight. Tonight it was as if he’d forgotten everything he knew about the game. What should have been an easy double play ended up being the game-winning run.
The loss put his team even farther behind in their division going into the second month of the season and had reporters questioning the Goliaths’ chances of repeating a World Series run. Some were even questioning the team’s decision to re-sign Baxter to the big contract extension. The biggest one he’d ever inked. So naturally, he was having his worst start to the season ever. He couldn’t hit. Couldn’t draw a walk to save his life. And when he struck out, he did it in spectacular fashion.
Last November he’d been king of the world. San Francisco’s biggest hero since Willie Mays. As World Series MVP, he’d been awarded a brand new Corvette. His face had been on the cover of magazines. He’d made the talk show rounds. Met the President. Women had lined up outside his door. And he’d had his choice of endorsement deals, including a line of men’s hair care products. Now, if his game didn’t improve, his agent would be lucky to get him a spot peddling adult diapers.
Reluctantly, he headed toward the parking lot.
“Hey, Bryce, you got a minute?” He recognized the voice of the woman standing beside his car. A month ago, he would have been happy to see her. Professionally, personally, a little bit of both. But not now.
“Look, Rachel, I’m not giving any more interviews tonight.” He was so down, all he wanted to do was go home and crawl into bed. Alone.
“I’m not here for an interview.” She would have waited in the clubhouse if she were. He knew that. Rachel Parker was a professional, the in-game reporter for Bay Area Sports Network. “Can we go somewhere? Somewhere private?”
“I’m not giving that tonight either.” He waited for his body to protest, recalling the dozen or so encounters with the sexy journalist. She’d been hot. Real hot. Hot enough for him to forget his rule of one and done. They’d been hooking up off the record since before spring training of last season.
“Look, I really do need to talk to you.” She seemed a little nervous, not her usual confident, perky, and always upbeat self who was part bubbly cheerleader, part hard-hitting reporter. She was still hot. But instead of smoking, she was…smoldering. His body stirred. Enough for him to think that maybe spending the next several hours in bed might not be such a bad idea.
But it probably wasn’t a good idea either.
The last time they’d hooked up had been intense. Almost too intense. Too real. But maybe he’d just been riding the high of signing his ridiculous contract. Or maybe he’d felt the pressure of the deal and had transferred it to his personal life. Something he could control.
“You know, I think maybe we should take a step back.” He raked a hand through his hair, still damp from his long shower after the game. “I’m not good for anyone right now.”
Rachel gave him a weird look, almost as if her eyes slipped out of focus. Her face drained of color. She turned and stumbled toward his car, bracing herself against the front fender. Then she threw up on the hood of his Corvette.
“Are you okay?” He took a step toward her.
“No, I’m not okay.” She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “I’m pregnant.”
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Kristina Mathews doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t have a book in her hand. Or in her head. But it wasn’t until she turned forty that she confessed the reason the laundry never made it out of the dryer was because she was busy writing.
While she resigned from teaching with the arrival of her second son, she’s remained an educator in some form. As a volunteer, parent club member or para educator, she finds the most satisfaction working with emergent and developing readers, helping foster confidence and a lifelong love of books.
Kristina lives in Northern California with her husband of more than twenty years, two sons and a black lab. A veteran road tripper, amateur renovator and sports fanatic. She hopes to one day travel all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD, replace her carpet with hardwood floors and serve as a “Ball Dudette” for the San Francisco Giants.