Chapter 2

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Josh had walked into the airport feeling sorry for himself, upset, carrying a mood he was having a hard time classifying as anything other than shitty.

The dark cloud hanging over his head at another boot back to the minors was maddening. His batting average was still hovering around 200, and he fit well with the team. The fans loved him, he was a veteran player, all-star. So why was he now the sacrificial goat when some phenom younger player needed to stretch their legs?

But... He knew his batting average was slipping, his spring knee strain, and shoulder issue were a factor, and his two errors in the last game didn't help. It was high time that he had some stability to just get his shit worked out. He was tired. At this rate, he'd take anything, even a year-to-year contract. Even if it meant leaving the club to go elsewhere.

Which would suck. He liked playing with the Sixers. He liked Toronto too, it felt like home. He'd been here longer than any other club.

As he settled into his seat on the plane, he looked across at the reason the black mood had evaporated into thin air. Wild blonde shoulder-length hair framed thirst quenching blue eyes that just about killed him when he looked past the proffered coffee only a few minutes before. Her curved body with just the right amount of oomph had added to the nearly-killing-him feeling when she had sat down beside him.

She looked like a tiny rock and roll firecracker.

Then, she had put her hand on his leg, and it was all he could do not to yank her onto his lap. He figured the emotions and endorphins he had rolled through after being pulled into the office that morning were partly to blame for his seeming overreaction to this woman, but...

He was mesmerized by her.

Hence his impulse to have her sit with him. Normally he wouldn't offer a fan the chance to get close enough to go superfan crazy, but somehow, he trusted her. She didn't seem like the type of woman who would do that. She hadn't even asked for an autograph, which was the de-facto standard request, and grated his nerves.

She'd brought him coffee instead, made perfectly. Nobody'd ever done that before.

She buckled her seat belt, looked out the window, then turned and grinned impishly, lifting her shoulders in excitement. "I've never flown first class."

That smile... Holy Hell. He wondered how her lips would taste stained by a deep, rich red wine, and he shifted in his seat, hoping his arousal didn't show. He was not normally so impulsive. While he silently cursed himself into calmness, he racked his brain for something suave to say.

"Well, it's my lucky day to share it with you." he replied.

She relaxed back into the seat and turned her head to him. "Seriously, this is nice. Thank you. I'm so sorry about you being sent down. If it helps, commentary on you has been quite vocal that you should be a permanent part of the team, the last time you were optioned."

He nodded, and tried not to let his bad mood fight through the distraction of her. He knew people weren't happy with the decision, which irked him more. He fought the urge to punch the seat in front of him and took a couple of careful, cleansing breaths before he spoke.

"Well, it's the way the game is played." He shrugged as nonchalantly as he could. "It sucks, but I'll be ok. Vegas is a good club too."

She pursed her lips and he realized she didn't believe his weak attempt at avoiding the subject, likely seeing the tension he'd hoped he had hidden. Obviously not.

She reached out and put a hand on his leg again. The jolt of energy that coursed from her touch up through his nerve endings made him blink. 'The firecracker has a fuse', he thought as their eyes met. She felt it too, her blush stealing back over her cheeks. She pulled her hand away, and flicked her hair behind her ear nervously. He wanted to lean in and nibble on that ear.

What in fresh Hell was wrong with him?

"Its ok. I'm sorry I brought it up. Let's distract ourselves with ridiculously expensive things in Skymall." She stuttered, and reached for the magazine in front of her.

For the next few moments, they leafed through the catalogue, pointing out things like gold-anodized poodle doorstops and ten thousand dollar toothbrushes, anything but talk baseball or the reason he was sitting in his seat. It was a sweet gesture, just like the coffee, and he let a little more tension go, chuckling over ridiculous tchotchkes and dust-gatherers.

"Freddie has that cell phone cover. Only, his is pink." He murmured, when she pointed to a ridiculous Swarovski crystal phone case, and shook her head in disbelief.

"Oh, I suppose he can afford that." She replied, and stared at the page. "I forgot that you and your teammates can... I mean-."

He realized the PC media answer wouldn't do for her. For some reason, he wanted to tell her how pissed off he was. Like he hadn't been able to tell his team-mates or the coaches. He had just thrown his batting helmet across the club room and stormed out, kicking a trash can for good measure as he did, the entire locker room silent at his outburst. He'd hear about that later.

He also hadn't bothered to check the messages he was sure were from Timo and Havier, trying to buck him up after said temper tantrum. They were good friends. He'd behaved like a dick.

"It's ok. And my bullshit answer wasn't." he sighed and ran a hand over his face tiredly. "I am angry. Being in the Show is the goal, right? This back-and-forth is killing my confidence. I've been a Major League ball player for ten years now, and I am not ready to give up even though folks say I am past prime. But its reality, so I'm lumping it. Don't want to."

Her hand was back, this time on his shoulder. Her calm nod said it all. With the simple admission of him being angry, and her touch, his shoulders dropped and the tension left them. Regrettably, she moved her hand away again, twisting her fingers together in her lap.

"You'll be back." She stated. "You have to."

"You seem pretty confident in my abilities."

"You should be too." She stated, and then covered her mouth. "Sorry, that was way too forward."

"And bringing a stranger coffee in an airport isn't?" He laughed, making her giggle, which was an altogether pleasing sound and he wondered at how he could make her giggle again.

As the plane backed away from the gate, he impulsively twined his fingers with hers, realizing he needed to go with this dangerously spontaneous feeling he had. This woman, a complete stranger, had just like a snap of a finger, diffused one of the worst days of his career so far. He didn't want to destroy something to take out his aggression. He wasn't so tense his back was cracking. For once, he didn't have to drag out all his anger management crap.

It did not hurt that she was sexy as hell, and had him thinking about things other than baseball. He shook their joined hands a bit, and smiled his best smile. "Now, let's leave my bad day in the dust. Tell me about this wine thing you're going to."

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