Genre: New Adult
Series: My Paper Hearts Saga, Book 4
It was the biggest game of the season.
The biggest game of my career in high school baseball.
I should have been hyped up. I should have been giving my all and going in hot while the Ole Miss recruiter was watching.
But I choked.
More than once.
It took Coach until the bottom of the fourth before he finally approached the mound and I knew my time was up.
Lawrence LeBaron, the hotshot freshman, was already warming up to relieve me.
Coach stepped up to the mound, looking down at the ground and shaking his head. “I don’t need to tell you that you’re playing like shit, Crabtree. Getting too hot?”
“Yeah, sir. Sorry.”
Coach smirked. “I’m thinking it’s less about you being hot and more about you hoping that you’ll stay out of the eye of the recruiter sitting behind your little girlfriend.”
I shook my head fiercely. “No, Coach. I’m just too cocky. Go on and take me out and let Lawrence bring it home for the win.”
Coach put his hand on my shoulder. “Blaine, I’ve been coaching you for the past three years. I know when you’re playing hot, when you’re on a streak, and when you’re throwing the game. This is throwing the game.”
“I’m sorry, Coach. I don’t want to fuck up this game and ruin our chance for the playoffs.”
“Look, I’m not pulling you off the mound. You’re the best we have and you know it.”
“Not right now,” I muttered.
Coach glanced back at the dugout, then lifted his hat and turned toward me. “You aren’t going to win me this game because you want to impress a recruiter or get laid by your cheerleader girlfriend. You’re going to win this game because you’re Blaine Crabtree; one of the best kids that’s ever walked onto this field. You play with heart. You’re fiercely loyal and honorable and I would trust you with anything, so I’m trusting you with this game for your team. Think you can do that?”
I swallowed hard before nodding. “Yeah, coach, I can do that.”
Caimon didn’t hit a single ball the rest of the game. By the time the lights went on the field, I was already jogging off the mound and wiping the sweat that was caked on my brow.
Before I could reach for my water bottle, Julie was jumping into my arms and knocked it out of my reach.
“That was awesome, Blaine! I was sitting right in front of the Ole Miss recruiter and I know he was impressed! He’s probably going to offer you a spot right here and now!”
I forced the biggest smile I could. “Yeah. I don’t know if it works that way but it would be awesome.”
“Blaine Crabtree?” A deep Southern accent asked.
Julie turned toward the guy with the baseball cap low over his eyes, then looked at me mouthing, ‘the recruiter’. “Call me when you leave, Blaine.”
She beamed at the recruiter before she swayed away.
The guy moved forward and shook my hand. “Tom Slandry, Ole Miss.”
I nodded. “Hello, sir, it’s good to meet you.”
“You played one hell of a game, son. I was worried there in the beginning, but you proved to be every bit the stud your coach said you would be.”
“Thank you, sir.”
This could have been my time to get cocky and brag that I was a shoe-in for all-parish as a junior but I just kept my mouth shut.
“I see you haven’t committed anywhere yet. Are you waiting until your senior year begins or are there other schools I should know about?”
I shook my head. “No other schools, sir. I’m committed to working for the parish highway and roads department.”
The last words flew out if my mouth before I could take them back.
Tom’s eyes widened. “The road crew?”
I swallowed hard. “Yes, sir.”
“You know the road crew will still be there after school; that is, if the majors don’t call.”
“I know, sir.” I sighed, mustering up the courage to do what could be one of the biggest mistakes of my life.
“I’m a small town boy. Always have been. Always will be. I like playing the game but it isn’t my life. I know if I play in college, it’ll take the joy out of it and it’ll become my life. I’d rather keep it fun. Something I actually enjoy, rather than a job.”
Tom smiled, breaking his professional demeanor. “Well, that’s not what I was expecting to hear when I approached you, but I can respect that.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a card. “But keep me in mind if the small town boy decides to take a trip to Oxford.”
I took the card knowing full well I’d never use it. Hell, I was surprise he still offered. “Thank you, sir.”
Starting a life and family? Check
Getting Offers for higher paying jobs? Check
Turning down a hottie from the past…Um…not so much.
Blaine Crabtree never considered himself a lucky man until Libby Gentry came into his life.
Now, he isn’t sure if he is lucky or just the biggest sap in the parish.
To be fair, he is a married man now with a baby on the way, but that doesn’t stop old habits from dying hard.
With his friends calling for him to go out and a job relocation out of town, he isn’t getting to see much of Libby, but a certain ex keeps finding her way back to him.
When Blaine feels like the walls are closing in around him, will he break out and go on his own path or are he and Libby meant to be?