“Blake, and my attorney, Tiger.”
“Crystal can stay here with me while you talk to them,” my father offers.
One of the players gives her a once-over that makes me want to go shake him, and I say to hell with discretion. I grab Crystal, pull her to me, and kiss her, making damn sure everyone knows whom she belongs to.
Afterward, she grins. “Good thing your mother already knew about us.”
“And now everyone else does, too.” I set her right next to my father. “Watch out for her,” I instruct him.
My father chuckles. “Gladly.”
Not giving Crystal a chance to tell me she doesn’t need watching, I waste no time striding away to the opposite side of the gymnasium. Punching my voice mail button, I listen to Blake’s message as I lean against a wall of folded bleachers.
“I’m here, and so is Detective Grant. I told him to contact Tiger, and I’m warning you that he wasn’t pleased. I’m headed to the hospital and I thought he’d join me, but he didn’t. I’ll call you if I find anything out. Otherwise I’ll see you in the morning. And don’t fucking keep my wife out too late. You have Jacob. I haven’t slept with her in two weeks.”
My phone beeps with a call from my attorney, and I answer to hear, “Fucking Detective Grant won’t take my calls.”
“I take it you got my message?”
“I got it and I’m headed to Long Island. I talked to Luke Walker and he’s still being shut out, but I set up a meeting with the Long Island PD for tomorrow morning. And I told them this is a bunch of bullshit. I’m as sick as you are, of you becoming everyone’s fall guy.”
“That’s the least of my worries with Ava on the loose.”
“Let me do my job. I’m here for a reason.”
Crystal starts walking toward me and I say, “Call me if anything changes.” I slide my phone into my pocket.
“Is everything okay?” Crystal asks as she steps to my side.
“Blake wants his wife home early since he hasn’t slept with her in two weeks, my attorney is meeting with the Long Island PD tomorrow, and the asshole detective who made my life hell over Rebecca is in town. But nothing significant has changed.”
She leans a shoulder on the wall, facing me, and I do the same. “Your mother’s doing better. That’s pretty significant.”
“Yes,” I say, reaching up to catch the long blond hair that’s managed to attach itself to her lips, lips that I want to kiss and feel on several places on my body. “And now we’re out of the closet with her, and pretty much everyone.”
“Yes, we are. What was that kiss all about?”
“The caveman in me felt the urge to stake my claim among the other wannabe cavemen.”
“Is that right?”
“I did it. I’ll own it.” We’re silent for a moment and there’s this level of understanding between us, a sense of knowing each other in ways beyond words, that I’d never thought I wanted in my life. But I want it now, with Crystal. “I’m sure you got an earful about me and baseball from my mother tonight.”
“No. She was excited to see you here, but I didn’t want her to tell me the details of why you’ve stayed away. I told her that was your place, if and when you wanted to tell me.”
Her respect for my personal demons reminds me again of her own. She’d once claimed we were too alike to be compatible, two bulls after the same red flag. I’d agreed then, but I’m beginning to think that what makes us alike, the scars beneath our need for control, are what pull us together.
She runs her fingers down my cheek and traces my lips, as if she’s absorbing who I am, what I am—when I’m still struggling with that myself.
I capture her hand in mine, feeling as if showing her my past is a window into the future. “Come with me. I want to show you something.”
Leading her toward a door, we exit into a corridor that leads to a large reception area with offices with half-glass walls lining the hallway behind it. I lead Crystal to the office farthest in the back, flipping on the light and illuminating a basic desk, a small, round table that could be in a cafeteria as easily as here, and an array of pictures on the walls of sports heroes my father has met.
Crystal scans the room while I claim one of a cluster of weathered, hard chairs sitting around the desk. “Your father’s office,” she guesses.
“Yes.” I wave at the wall to my right, where my father still proudly displays several pictures of me pitching on the mound.
Crystal immediately moves in to get a closer look, studying them intently for some time before facing me. “You played for your father.”
“Another yes.” I lift my hand to her. “Come here.” As soon as she’s within reach, my hands settle on her hips and I maneuver her between my legs, her hands on my shoulders. “You’re not going to ask even one of the many questions I know you have?”
“No. You don’t need questions. I think . . . I think you need answers that only you can give. We find those answers in our own way that we can live with, or we don’t find them at all.”
There’s a flicker of something dark in my mind, a brief flashback that I shove aside before it takes hold of me. Yet another confirmation that the past absolutely owns me, and has for too long.
“Ten years ago I was pitching for NYU, under my father as a coach, and I had the attention of the right people. There were scouts circling as intently as the press is now. I was going pro. The only question was with whom. I was that good. And that’s not ego; it’s a fact. I was, and then I wasn’t, and then everything changed. And . . .” I hesitate, that dark spot in my mind again stirring memories that I’m not prepared to sort through in a public place, especially with my mother and father nearby. I stand up and say, “And that’s where the past ended and the present began.”