Hot Corner (Baseball Romance)

 

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The Hot Corner

PJ Chase

 

Chapter One

 

For Audrey Maxwell, one memory from her childhood stood out more than ever.  She was nine years old, watching her father William play ball for the Sarasota Snakes.  William was a career minor leaguer.  He'd never gotten so much as a sniff of the big leagues.  But that didn't mean he wasn't going to keep trying.  William had a dogged determination that he'd one day pass on to his daughter. 

The Snakes were playing the Werewolves that day at the ballpark.  And the Snakes were down a run late.  William came up to bat with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.  He was about to face Joe Drake, one of the most feared closers in all of minor league ball.  The guy had some serious high heat.  Still, with a runner on first, William had a chance to win the game with just one swing of the bat.  William hadn't had a good day at the plate though.  He'd gone 0-4 with three strikeouts. 

Still, William dug in with fire in his eyes.  He stared down Joe, ready for the pitch.  Joe eyed the sign from his catcher, then went into his wind up.  It was the high heat that Joe was so feared for.  But William had anticipated just that.  William took a crack at the pitch, he swung hard, and got good wood on the ball. 

It was a homerun swing--he really got all of it.  William's swing had really taken the ball for  a ride.  The left fielder went back and back, inching closer and closer to the fence.  The ball started its downward trajectory, looking like it might have just enough to get over the fence. 

William meanwhile watched the ball sail through the air, praying that it had the distance.  The left fielder then leaped up against the wall as the ball came down.  But the ball had just enough distance to clear both the wall and the left fielders outstretched glove.  And like that, the game was over.  William had won the game on a walk off two run homerun.  The home crowd went wild as William and the team celebrated.  But little nine year old Audrey beamed the most. 

***

Now at twenty-four years old, Audrey still thought about that moment.  Because Audrey wanted a moment like that.  Audrey had taken her lumps, just like her father had.  But as was the case in baseball, all it took sometimes was one swing to turn things around.  And that's exactly what Audrey wanted.  It hadn't come yet though.  Instead Audrey seemed to be going 0-4 a lot in life lately.  Striking out was all too common. 

Growing up with a father in minor league baseball, it was no surprise that Audrey took a job at the ballpark.  She worked in the promotions department in Orlando for their ball club.  She hoped for more, but so far a promotion had not materialized.  At the same time, the right man to take care of Audrey's heart hadn't materialized either.  Still, she hadn't given up.  At least not yet.   

Audrey had only fallen in love with two guys in her life. The first was Trevor Brockman.  Trevor was Audrey's college sweetheart.  She actually thought she'd marry him one day.  Then Trevor broke her heart and headed off to the major leagues.  The second guy was a man that Audrey had met while on the rebound--Jean Pierre Gastenau.  Jean Pierre wasn't just a rebound love though.  He also happened to work at the ballpark with Audrey.  Right down the hall actually.  So when Jean Pierre left Audrey to chase tail, it did more than break Audrey's heart.  It also made for an awkward work environment when she was around him.  Luckily, Audrey had gotten good at avoiding Jean Pierre.  Now Audrey was hopelessly single and looking to finally find the right guy.  She was not having much luck though. 

Through all the heartbreak, Audrey's saving grace was her sister Elizabeth.  Apparently heartbreak ran in the family, because Elizabeth found herself painfully single at the same time as her sister.  At least they had each other though.  They could reminisce about better times and dream of the happy times they wished would come.  It was comforting knowing they didn't have to go through it all alone.  But recently Elizabeth had found a man, leaving Audrey alone in the ranks of the hopelessly single.

Suddenly Audrey felt like the last single woman in Orlando.  She knew that wasn't really true.  Of course there were some other single women in town.  Audrey just didn't happen to know any of them. 

 

Chapter Two

 

Audrey really needed a pick me up, and she hoped that could be with her sister.  It was funny, when Audrey and Elizabeth were growing up, they hated sharing the same room.  But now that they were older, they had no problem sharing rent in the same apartment.  Audrey hoped she and Elizabeth could have a ladies night on the town.  But when Audrey heard Elizabeth humming to herself with a dreamy look in her eyes, it was clear Elizabeth already had plans.

"Another date tonight?" Audrey asked.

"You know it," Elizabeth replied.  "Why?"

"Oh.  Just hoping you and I could do something together."

"I could cancel," said Elizabeth.

"No.  Don't want to keep you from your happiness.  I know how hard it is to find a good guy."

"Sis, don't look so down.  You're going to find someone soon enough," Elizabeth insisted.  

"I'm not so sure about that.  But I'm happy for you," Audrey said.  "You and John are great together."

"Yeah.  I think we really have something special," Elizabeth admitted.  "But enough about John and I.  This is about you.  Now I know that some days it might be tough to believe, but you will find love too."

Audrey grimaced.  "How can you be so sure?"

"Come on.  Do you really think the universe would let you stay single for the rest of your life?" Elizabeth replied.

"Well when you put it that way, it does sound kind of ridiculous," Audrey said.  

"It took me a long time to realize it myself, but life just has own schedule," Elizabeth explained.

"Wow.  I've never really thought of it that way," Audrey admitted.

"So who knows when love will put you on the schedule," Elizabeth said.  "It could be sooner than you think."

"I hope you're right," Audrey replied.

"You just need a little patience," Elizabeth insisted.  

"Yeah, like I have any of that," Audrey joke.

***

Audrey always had baseball though.  She loved the game.  But even more, she loved the players.  Damn were some of them hunky.  Audrey imagined what it would be like to have one all to herself. 

Audrey's father had cautioned her about just that though.  He warned her that ball players were just dogs.  That they were no good.  Ironically, Audrey's father wasn't just a baseball player himself, but he also happened to be coming up on his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with Audrey's mom. 

Still, warning or not, it didn't seem to matter.  None of the players had shown any interest...yet.  Still, Audrey held out hope. 

 

Chapter Three

 

Audrey wasn't quite sure what to do anymore.  The world just wasn't making the sense that it used to.  Audrey found herself stuck in a holding pattern--neither here nor there.  There was not really much she could do.  So many of Audrey's hopes and dreams depended on having the right man in her life.  She was desperate to find love again.  But while Audrey grew tired of love passing her by, her sisters life seemed to go into overdrive.  So much so that Elizabeth was a no show for her family's weekly dinner together.  That left Audrey to eat with her mom Carla and dad William.

"Is Elizabeth not coming again?" William asked, noticing only three place settings at the table.

"Apparently she has another date," Carla answered.

"Oh.  Well that means more food for me then," William said, only thinking of his stomach.

As Carla served food on Audrey's plate, she asked a pointed question.  

"Things are really getting serious between them, aren't they?" Carla said.

"What are you looking at me for?" Audrey wondered.

"Don't play dumb.  I know Elizabeth tells you what's really going on.  The question is, are things moving along as nicely as I hope they are?  I would like grandkids at some point," Carla said.

"You know, I don't think that Elizabeth would like us talking about her love life when she's not here," Audrey deflected.

"Fair enough," Carla admitted.  "How about we talk about your love life then?"

"What love life?" Audrey deadpanned.

"Audrey, is it that bad?" Carla asked.

"Can we please not talk about this?" Audrey replied.

"Uh oh.  It's even worse than I thought, isn't it?" Carla said.

"Mom, I just said I didn't want to talk about it," Audrey insisted.

"I can't believe it.  I've been so happy about Elizabeth's relationship that I've completely ignored your heartbreak," Carla explained.

"I wish I could ignore my heartbreak," Audrey joked.

"It's all going to change now though.  I'm going to focus my attention on your heartbreak," Carla insisted.

"What, because I haven't focused on it enough already?" Audrey joked again.

"I meant that I'm going to focus on getting your heartbreak to go away, smart aleck," Carla replied.  

"That's ok mom, really.  Let's not talk about this anymore," Audrey said.

It was then that William decided to pull himself away from eating to chime in.  "Good luck with that.  When your mom gets something stuck in her craw, it isn't coming out anytime soon."

"Some people would call that persistence," Carla said.

"Other people just call that being stubborn," William replied.

"Well, whatever you want to call it--I get results.  And this time will be no different," Carla said.

"Doesn't anyone care what I think about this?" Audrey asked.

"Honey, leave the thinking to me.  I'm not going to rest until I find the perfect guy for you," Carla said.

Audrey was wide eyed at how quickly the conversation had taken a turn.  "But I didn't ask you to do any of that.  I mean I'm twenty-four, it's not like I'm in high school anymore.  Besides, who wants to be set up by their mom?"

"Will you just trust me?  I'm your mother.  Knowing what's best for you is what I do," Carla said.

Audrey wanted to say that she preferred to make her own decisions.  That she would like to be involved in making decisions about her own life.  But she knew that her mom didn't believe in taking no for an answer.  So instead Audrey just bottled up her feelings and grimaced at her mom.

"Don't worry.  You can thank me later," Carla insisted.

***

Normally Audrey would welcome any help she could get in her search for love.  But things were different when Audrey's mom got involved.  Carla was tenacious beyond belief, but she also wanted things her way.  If Carla was going to take the time to handpick a guy for Audrey, she expected nothing less than Audrey to fall head over heels in love with the guy.  Unfortunately, things didn't always work out that way.  That was a nearly impossible pill to swallow for Carla.

Knowing that, Audrey was not entirely excited that her mom had taken up the cause to find her a man.  After all, her parents were retired.  Audrey's mother should be enjoying her retirement, not playing freelance matchmaker.  Of course it didn't matter if Audrey was excited or not.  After all, Carla was right--she did get results.  She also didn't do it alone.  Carla brought all her projects to her book club to wrap their heads around.  So while Audrey was at home with her thoughts, her mother was quilting with her seven closest friends trying to find a man for Audrey.

It seemed so surreal.  Audrey couldn't believe what she'd gotten herself into--especially since she hadn't asked for any of it.  She just wanted to avoid talking about her sister's love life at the dinner table.  It did no good to linger on the past though.  The fact remained that Audrey was embroiled in the situation, whether she liked it or not. 

Instead of just sitting back and worrying, Audrey took another tact.  She decided to let her mind wander.  What if her mom was able to find a man for her after all?  A kind man that was hunky beyond belief.  The kind of man that Audrey had been dreaming about.  That would appreciate her and all her quirks.  That would be attentive to her feelings.  If Audrey's mom was able to find a man like that for her, then Audrey wouldn't mind all the meddling.

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