A/N PLEASE READ: This novel is going to be really different from my last two. Adult-romance is my comfort zone and my favorite kind of novel to write, so I'm really excited to finally be posting in this genre! The characters in this novel are older than my other novels, so it's going to have several R-rated love scenes-just as a warning. I will only upload one chapter at a time with, because since I'm writing in the Harlequin format-dual POV-the chapters are going to be longer than my previous two novels. That's about it, so I hope everyone enjoys my newest work! Happy reading, guys! -Jessica
Caleb Harrison settled into the chair across the desk from Coach Crawford and looked down at the Amarillo Chronicle lying flat in front of him. He sighed when he read his name across the top of the page. AMARILLO KNIGHTS' PITCHER CALEB HARRISON ARRESTED ON ASSAULT CHARGES.
"Congratulations, Harrison, you made the headlines and the season hasn't even started, yet," Coach told him, sitting back in his leather chair, his fingers laced over his belly. His jaw was tight, and his expression was flat, yet firm. Caleb was new to the Amarillo Knights. This was his first year, so he didn't know Coach that well, yet. But he knew right now the man was pissed.
Caleb didn't say anything, so Coach sat up, and leaned forward with his laced fingers now placed on his desk. "Consider this your warning, Caleb. One more stunt like this and your ass is benched permanently. Are we clear?"
"Coach, you don't understand," Caleb started, sitting forward. "It was a huge misunderstanding. I-"
"All I need to understand, Harrison, is that your name is on the front page of the paper, associated with my team, and assault. That's all I need to understand."
Caleb looked down. He couldn't say anything else.
Coach Bryce Crawford was notorious in the Minor League Baseball world for being a hard-ass, no-bullshit kind of guy. But he was also pretty well-known for getting his guys to the majors, and that's what Caleb wanted. So his mouth remained closed and he didn't say another word.
Coach obviously didn't want to hear what he had to say anyway.
Caleb cleared his throat and straightened up. "I understand, sir, and I'm sorry I put you in this position, along with the team."
Coach Crawford sat back, and he studied his new star pitcher. He studied him hard.
The Coach could be intimidating, just by that stare. Especially now. Caleb figured him to be in his early fifties, with salt-and-pepper hair, light on the salt, heavy on the pepper, making him look younger than he really was. His eyes were an icy blue, and when he narrowed them at Caleb, a slight hint of age was shown by the few wrinkles sprouting from the corners of them. His jaw was strong, and it was set, and tight right now.
"You like baseball don't you, Caleb?" he asked.
Caleb nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Why don't you tell me why you like it, son. Is it the money?"
That was a silly question. He barely made enough in AAA to live off of, much less live in luxury.
Caleb shook his head. "No, sir. It's because I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. Baseball's my favorite thing in the world."
"Then what the hell are you doing, 23 years old, running around in the middle of the night, getting drunk and getting into bar fights?"
Caleb sighed, wanting more than anything to give his coach his side of the story. To tell him what really happened and not what he was seeing in the paper. Even the police report was a lie. But that was a lost cause. "I don't have an explanation, sir. It was dumb, and it won't happen again."
"It better not happen again. Not if you want to play for the majors. You think they play around up there with that immature shit? Boys that can't control their attitude? Because they don't, Harrison. And I'm only doing it once. Screw up again, and you're gone. You got me?"
Caleb nodded. "Yes, sir. I understand completely. I swear, it won't happen again."
"Oh, I know it won't son. Not on my field. You're dismissed. I'll see you tomorrow at 3:00. Big game against Seattle tomorrow night. Be ready and keep your ass out of trouble tonight."
Caleb hopped out of the chair, eager to get out of that office. He would have felt better if he'd been able to argue his case more, but he'd take what he could get and be happy with it. He was on probation, and lucky enough to get that.
He'd made the papers, after all.
Caleb walked out of the stadium and slid his sunglasses on, shielding his eyes from the early morning sun. He crossed the parking lot to where his black 1979 Ford truck was waiting for him, basking under the warm Texas sun. He hopped in the front seat, and caught a glimpse of his very own copy of the Amarillo Chronicle.
Damn. Caleb knew he was in deep. He wasn't wild, and he didn't go around just breaking the law for the hell of it. Despite what Coach now thought of him, he did take his baseball career seriously, and last night wasn't about him acting out. It was about defending his dignity, and when you throw a punch at Caleb Harrison, you should expect to be punched back.
Of course, Caleb hadn't expected to grace the front page because of it. He'd expected some fuss, no doubt. He'd punched Jackson Castle III, after all, heir to the biggest oil fortune in Texas and a senator's son. Jackson III was 22, a year younger than Caleb, and notorious for starting trouble. When it landed back on him, though, he was also notorious for crying 'daddy.'
But Caleb wouldn't worry about it, now. It was over and done with, Coach wouldn't listen, and Jackson had daddy's money on his side to make Caleb look like an ass hole who went around bars punching people for no reason. He would have to accept there was nothing he could do and lay low until it blew over. Tomorrow night was opening night for the Amarillo Knights, and he was pitching. That was what was important now, and nothing else should have been on his mind.
Caleb drove the five miles to the apartment complex that housed most of his teammates. The Costa Verde Estates weren't the hottest apartments in Amarillo, but given the fixed income the Knights were on, contrary to their major-league counterparts, the guys had to do what they had to do to make ends meet.
Caleb shared a bigger apartment with two other guys from the team, though, and it helped rent a lot. At first, he was apprehensive about it. This wasn't his first year in the minors, but it was his first year playing for the Knights. Last year, and the year before that in Boston, he'd had his own apartment, and he'd struggled. The leniency on rent was nicer with the two roommates, but he did miss his personal space.
The second he was through the door, Brent and Kyle wanted to know what had happened between Caleb and the Coach.
"Probation," Caleb said simply, in a hurry to grab a shower and lock himself away in his bedroom for some privacy.
"Probation?" rookie-second baseman, Brent asked, incredulous. "What the hell?"
"He didn't even give you a chance to explain?" Kyle asked him, popping the top to a Budweiser. "That's bullshit."
Caleb shrugged. "I'm lucky."
"Lucky?" Brent asked. "You call that lucky? That's not right, man."
"No, but that's how it is."
Kyle sighed and shook his head. "I can't say I'm too surprised. That's Crawford, for you. He sees exactly what he wants to see and doesn't give a damn about anything else. You're right, Caleb. You're lucky. He letting you play tomorrow?"
"He's got to," Brent interrupted. "Coach wouldn't sit the best pitcher out and throw the game like that."
"Oh yeah?" Kyle asked. "You two are both new to the Knights, so I'll let you in on a little secret. Coach will do anything to prove his point. Hell, he'd sit Caleb here out if he thought it meant the team would turn on him and teach him a lesson."
Caleb felt a knot in his stomach. Just the thought of sitting out tomorrow night made him sick. Major league scouts would be at that game and he knew it. Tomorrow night was important, and on top of that, the last thing he needed was for his team to turn on him. And in a place like Amarillo, it wouldn't just be the team turning if they lost on account of him.
Kyle smacked him on the back. "Cheer up. Nothing you can do about it, man. Crawford's an ass. You can't change that. You defended yourself. I saw it, Brent saw it. Money and politics wins in Texas, man. Trust me. You'll learn soon enough."
Caleb sat on the couch and sighed. No, he was certain he'd learned that already.
"I know what will cheer you up," Kyle said. "Come out with me and Brent tonight. Last night of freedom before the season starts tomorrow night. I promise, no one will end up in the papers."
"Come with you where?" Caleb asked.
"Solstice. New club downtown."
Caleb thought about it. He'd heard about Solstice, and honestly, up until he'd made the papers, he had wanted to check it out. It seemed like fun.
"Fine," Caleb sighed. "I'll go. But if anyone throws a punch at me, you hit him back."
"…Three, two, one, happy birthday, Hannah!"
At exactly 9:19p.m., at the sound of her two best friends' cheering, Hannah Crawford leaned forward and blew out the candles on her tiny birthday cake. It was a simple gift from Chase and Emily to kick off her twenty-first birthday, but it was appreciated just the same.
"At last!" Emily cheered, clapping her hands together as the smoke from the candles drifted up between the girls to the ceiling. "You're finally legal!"
"Hell yeah!" Chase agreed, popping the top to a bottle of champagne and letting it fizz over the side. "Tonight, we're going to party like there's no tomorrow, bitches."
Emily sighed. "Such a nice choice of words, Chase, my dear."
Hannah laughed as Chase poured three glasses and the three of them toasted.
Chase was right. She and her friends were going to go out and have the time of their lives tonight, and if she didn't remember it tomorrow, then oh well. She would only turn twenty-one once.
Chase took her glass of champagne and held it out. "I propose a toast. Here's to a night that our little Hannah will never forget. Then again, if we do it right, she might not remember it, either."
Hannah laughed as the girls clanked their glasses together, then she put hers to her lips and took her very first 'legal' sip of alcohol.
Excited wasn't the word. Hannah had waited for this weekend since she was old enough to appreciate what being twenty-one meant. She and her two best friends had had her three-day birthday bash planned for a month, and had even gotten a hotel room to come back to after a long night of celebrating at Amarillo, Texas' hottest new club, Solstice. It had just opened last weekend, and tonight would be there first night checking it out.
"I propose another toast," Emily said. "I propose that Hannah Crawford gets her ass laid tonight."
"Here, here!" Chase said. "We all know she needs it!"
Hannah playfully scoffed and walked to the small loveseat in their suit, plopping down with her champagne glass. "Excuse me, but what's that supposed to mean."
"I think you know what it means," Emily said.
Hannah shrugged, shaking her head.
"It means since you and Zack broke up, you've been uptight," Emily explained.
Hannah sighed and rolled her eyes. So they were on that again. "I have not been uptight. I've been perfectly fine."
Her friends were convinced that she was incapable of being single. In Hannah's opinion, she was less stressed without a boyfriend. They thought otherwise.
Chase waved her new French manicure back in forth in a so-so manner. "Yeah, yeah. So you say. But I know you well enough, Hannah, to know when you need a man."
"I am very offended," Hannah said, putting a hand to her chest to feign that offense. "I think you know me well enough to know I can get by perfectly fine without a man."
"I believe you can get by without a man," Chase offered.
Hannah waited, because she could practically hear the 'butt' lingering at the end of her friend's statement. "Mhm," she urged with a smiled.
"But you need some penis in your life."
Hannah rolled her eyes. "Really, Chase?"
Chase laughed. "What? You would be a lot looser."
"If I randomly go out and hook up with guys from the club, then yes, I will be consider looser," Hannah said.
"Not guys. One guy. Singular. You get laid once, and it'll last you a good while. You'll be in a great mood."
"I am in a great mood," Hannah said.
Chase just shook her head. "Hannah, I'm trying to be helpful."
"I know, sweetie, and I appreciate it."
"You're patronizing me."
Hannah and Emily exchanged glances and laughed. The bad part about it was that Chase really did think she was being helpful.
"OK, I have an idea," Hannah said. "Why don't we just go out tonight, celebrate my biggest birthday, and have a damn good time. And stop trying to pimp me out. Please."
"Fine, but don't get offended if the two of you end up alone here tonight," Chase said. "If the opportunity arises, I'm having sex."
That didn't surprise Hannah one bit. "Just don't bring the lucky guy back here," she told Chase.
"I second that," Emily said.
Chase rolled her eyes and checked her silver watch. "Are we ready to leave?"
"More than ready," Hannah said, grabbing her black clutch from the end table. "Let's go."
An hour later, Hannah, Emily, and Chase were pushing through the doors of Solstice. Pulsing lights of every color flashed to the beat of a new Pitbull song that blasted from every corner of the dark club, and the dance floor was already packed.
"This place is amazing!" Chase shouted over the music.
Hannah laughed and nodded her agreement. She really couldn't argue that. The lights, the music, it was all amazing. The back wall behind the dance floor was a huge mirror with a small ledge in front of it. Off to the side of the main dance floor were a few stripper poles and places to sit-wow-and on the side was the DJ booth.
"To the bar!" Chase directed, pointing toward the long bar.
Hannah knew that would be their first stop.
The bartender was a broad-shouldered guy with huge muscles, a goatee, and sleeve tattoos on both arms. His too-tight t-shirt read Solstice, and his left ear was gauged.
"Hey, sexy ladies," he said with a flirtatious smile. "What can I do you for?"
"Can I get a Cosmo?" Chase asked, flashing back an equally flirty smile.
"A Martini for me," Emily said, winking.
"I'll take a shot of Jack Daniels," Hannah said. She watched the bartender raise his eyebrows in surprise.
"Coming right up," he told the girls. He placed the shot of whiskey in front of Hannah, then went back to make Emily and Chase's drinks.
"Just became legal my ass," Chase said as Hannah took the shot.
Hannah just smiled. She knew she surprised people a lot. With her small, feminine stature, and girly ways, no one would expect her to come to Solstice and order whiskey. But she was looking to have fun tonight, and silly little mixed drinks like her friends had wouldn't do a thing for her.
"You gonna have another?" Emily asked with a smile.
Hannah smirked and put her shot glass back down, waving for the bartender. "One more."
Just enough for a buzz was all she needed. Jack Daniels was strong, and she didn't want a black out in the first five minutes of partying.
The girls finally finished their drinks, and Chase was the first to stand up.
"I think the dance floor is calling our names," she said. "Come on, ladies!"
Hannah grinned. "I hear it, loud and clear! Let's go!"
A/N: Let me know what you guys thought of my first chapter!! Comment away, good or bad!! This is a new style of writing for me, so I'd love your feedback!! :) Also, it's only a bit of a preview. I won't update this until "Riding With Boys" is complete. It's just too hard to focus on two books at once and I want both books to have my undivided attention :) Thanks!!!