Chapter 1

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A bright flash of metal caught Gretchen's eye as she sat down in her seat.

She did a double-take as she realized the flash of metal was an expensive watch, and trailed her eyes up the well-toned arm it cuffed, into the tight sleeves of a white Toronto Sixer's baseball polo. From the shirt, she locked onto a very familiar face, hidden behind designer-brand silver aviators.

A face – hell, a whole man – she'd never met in person, but had cheered for on TV and at home games as much as she could.

Her heart thumped audibly in her ear as she took him in. Joshua. Joshua Malvern, the left-fielder for the Sixer's was walking towards her in the airport. A tall, fit and dangerously handsome major league baseball player, at her gate, the last one on the concourse.

Puzzled, she glanced at the date on her phone. He shouldn't be here. He should be at batting practice. He should not be getting on a plane to Las Vegas.

Then she noticed the slump in his shoulders as he sagged into an empty seat, three down from her, his carry-on duffel jumbled beside him. She caught his faraway stare out the window as he took off his sunglasses and ran a hand tiredly over his face, the weight of the world etched across his features.

Oh. Oh no. Not again. He was being sent down. The club would likely not bring him back, he was out of options. Her heart fell, heavy at the thought. It happened all the time, to the best of players. This time, it sucked.

She remembered she had her team cap with her, and she ruffled through her laptop bag for her fine tip Sharpie. It was red, but what the heck, it would show up on the white brim of the hat. She wanted to remember him as a member of her favorite baseball team. Her favourite ball player period, since his rookie year in Boston.

She hesitated. Would he want to be bothered? He had a "fuck off" vibe she could feel even from where she was sitting. Crushing the cap in her hands, she bit her lip, debating on the merits of doing it anyways. Finally, she put it away. An autograph wasn't appropriate given his obvious mood. She got up, grabbed her carry on, and strode to the coffee bar in a spurt of insanity.

She knew how he liked his coffee, everyone did. She also knew his batting average and RBIs, his favourite meal and colour, basically all the normal tidbits that a celebrity doled out about themselves on social media. Joshua wasn't on any of that publicly, he was a pretty private guy compared to some on the team, but his fans certainly were, and loved to share. Reporters would take any nugget of information and throw it to the fans like they were a hungry pack of dogs too.

Joshua kept his nose clean, and Gretchen was certain the attention he had to muddle through was frustrating. He was a big draw,  and they liked to find the dirt, of which there never was any.

A few minutes later, she presented him with the coffee silently, trying not to wimp out and back away, and he looked up into the proffered cup, confused. She wiggled the cup slightly.

"Two cream, no sugar." She wavered, ready for him to tell her to get the hell away from him, and call security.

He blinked, and quirked an eyebrow as he gently lifted the coffee out of her hand. Phew.

"Thanks." He replied quietly, peeling the tab back on the lid, and nodded to the seat beside him. "Have a seat."

'Are you sure? I don't want to be a-" She started, but he shook his head and patted the fabric, taking a sip, nodding and letting out a groan from his throat, closing his eyes.

"You look like you needed it." She offered quietly, slowly dropping to the chair beside him, gripping her own cup to keep from shaking like a leaf. This was by far the most daring thing she had ever done. She was quite sure she was certifiable in the moment. He was a celebrity, a pro sports player... Someone completely out of her league, pun intended.

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