Getting Wound Up

By: Jennifer Bernard

For Bryan’s sake, she needed to keep her stupid hopeless feelings to herself.

But…her crush whispered…what if he does get signed? What if he leaves town to play professional baseball? What if you don’t have to see him every day?

Fine, she told herself firmly. If Eli gets an actual contract that takes him away from Sapphire Falls, I’ll reassess the situation. “Celebrate big.” The way I want to celebrate.

Eli spent the rest of the drive mentally rehearsing pitches and going over the information Caitlyn had downloaded from the Internet. Open tryout camps were basically the last resort for guys who hadn’t been chosen in the draft, for whatever reason. Or people like him, whose lives had veered in different directions. There were a few stories of major leaguers who had been discovered at open tryouts, but not very many. Mostly, the machinery of Major League Baseball was pretty damn good at tracking down the players with potential. If he’d stayed in college, he might have been drafted. Who was he kidding? He would have been drafted. Pitchers were always in demand, and he’d been a rising star on one of the Big Ten’s best teams.

But that was then, and this was now. At this point in his life, without consistent playing time against batters who could test him, without coaching from the experts, his chances were statistically very low.

But statistics didn’t tell the whole story, he reminded himself. Even baseball fanatics who knew all the stats recognized that.

The tryout was scheduled to start at nine the next morning. They arrived at the hotel, an unassuming lodge near the college campus, around seven in the evening. Stretching the kinks out of his shoulders, Eli hauled Caitlyn’s bag, along with the one Bryan had packed for him, into Room 112 while Caitlyn finished checking them in. As soon as he spotted the two double beds, he stopped dead in the doorway.

He was going to be spending the night alone in a hotel room with Caitlyn.

So? It would be just like the time they camped out in the backyard and told ghost stories. Right?

Sure it would. Except Bryan wasn’t with them. And they were both over the age of ten. And Caitlyn was….

“What’s wrong?” She stepped next to him, her fresh scent going right to his head. “Is the room okay?”

Caitlyn was beautiful, that’s what she was. Golden-haired, bright-eyed, sweet-faced, sexy-shaped… Back the truck up. He wasn’t going there. Not with his friend’s sister. Not with someone who’d been such a good friend to the whole Anderson family.

“Sure. It’s great. No problem at all. Um…you hungry? I could really go for a pizza. Or maybe some barbecue. They say it’s great in Kansas City.”

She peered at him, her eyebrows pulling together in a perplexed frown. It made a crease in her forehead that he wanted to smooth away. Hands off, idiot.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Nervous about tomorrow, I guess.”

Her face cleared. “Oh, of course. Well, don’t worry. Worrying doesn’t ever help. Believe me, I know. But we should probably eat right away so we can get to bed early.”

“Yes,” he said, his voice suddenly thick. Get to bed early. Good plan. In those beds that just happened to be right next to each other.

Gulp. Sure, Caitlyn was like a sister, and she’d been a good friend forever…but she also had those gorgeous curves and that sweet, sassy attitude, and he wasn’t a freaking monk. She was getting him all wound up, and they’d barely gotten here.

Eyes on the prize, Anderson, he reminded himself. Tryout. Friars. Tomorrow.

* * *

All through their dinner—smoky barbecue ribs that nearly made her faint with pleasure—Caitlyn tried to get back that look in Eli’s eyes. The one that had flashed across his face in the hotel room. That look that said, “One night isn’t going to be nearly enough for all the things I want to do to you.” Had she hallucinated it out of sheer frustrated lust?

Entirely possible. Especially since he was now talking nonstop about her brother Bryan.

Bryan. She loved her brother, but for a moment, she kind of hated him too. If not for Bryan, she wouldn’t be anyone’s little sister. She’d just be a woman.

“You came back to Sapphire Falls because of him, didn’t you?” Eli was asking.

“Yes, but that’s not the only reason. I love Sapphire Falls. Where else can you walk down the street and know exactly what everyone’s favorite kind of candy is?”


“Of course! Hailey likes the margarita lime truffles. Lindsay loves the mocha almond fudge. TJ goes for peanut brittle. Mrs. Gunderson can’t get enough raspberry ganache.”

“What’s mine? Bet I have you stumped there.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “No. I have your number. You’re a cyborg. What else could possibly explain your complete lack of a sweet tooth?”

He laughed, and she involuntarily pressed her legs together under the table. That rumbly male sound just did something to her.

“I like some sweet things,” he said, blinking innocently as he popped a piece of cornbread slathered with honey butter into his mouth.

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