Baseball and Other Lessons
Matt Roberts’ career ended with a tweet.
@ESPN: Sources confirm @MattRobertsTX career likely over. 35yo pitcher suffered cracked skull, brain bleed. Surgery successful.
Next came the Deadspin article.
ESPN Reporting Matt Roberts, Texas’ Ace, Out Forever
Followed by the piece from Bleacher Report.
Texas’ Matt Roberts’ Career Over, Next Steps for Texas to Fill Gap
Sports Illustrated jumped on it next, followed by the Sporting News, Yahoo! Sports, The Dallas Morning News and SB Nation. From there, the barrage was endless as social media took one stupid—and highly inaccurate to his knowledge—tweet as gospel.
Matt’s head pounded. He wasn’t sure if it was because of his stitched up head or if his blood pressure was getting too high. When he noticed his hands were shaking, he figured it was probably his blood pressure.
He sat back on his brother, Chase’s couch, closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths, trying to find some internal peace. Instead, all he could find was that damned tweet. Sighing, he opened his eyes and looked back at his open laptop, giving the offending tweet the evil eye, before picking up his cell phone and dialing his agent.
Darrin answered on the first ring. “Hey, Matt. Don’t worry, man, we’re on it. I don’t know who ESPN’s sources are, but they’re wrong. We haven’t heard anything from the front office other than they want you to have a full recovery and that your health comes first.”
Matt sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Dammit, Darrin, where the fuck did this shit come from? I’ve barely been out of the hospital for a week. Nobody knows the future of my career right now, especially not some lowlife who’ll give crap information to ESPN.”
“I know. Like I said, we’re trying to track down the source. I also have a call in to Reed. Hopefully I’ll hear something soon and can get this mess cleared up.”
Reed Thornhill was the team’s president and general manager, and the person who would ultimately decide Matt’s professional fate. He and Reed had a pretty good relationship, and Matt couldn’t see him making such a definite statement without having all the facts. And the facts were, Matt couldn’t even begin rehab until the stitches were out, and after that he had to be cleared by his neurologist. It could take weeks, if not months.
“No problem, man. So how are you doing?”
Matt blew out a breath. How was he doing? He was going fucking stir crazy. That’s how he was doing. “Fucking crazy, D. I’m bored out of my mind.”
“You know you could have stayed in Dallas, in the comfort of your own condo and all the take out you desire at your fingertips.”
Matt snorted. “I know. Mom was worried sick, and I knew she’d be calling me multiple times a day. I also didn’t feel like having the media breathing down my neck.”
Darrin changed the subject. “How’s the ranch doing?”
Matt, along with Chase, Chase’s friend Owen, and Darrin were all owners of a managed game ranch just north of Del Rio, on the Devils River. “You know about as much as I do. Chase and Owen do a great job keeping up with it, and Daniel runs the place flawlessly. I’m hoping to get up there some time soon, just have to have clearance to drive.”
“Any word on when that’ll be?”
“I have an appointment in San Antonio next Monday. Hopefully he’ll give me the go-ahead then.”
“Keep me up to date. In the meantime, I’ve gotta go—lunch with Mercer to discuss the contract extension the Cowboys offered him.”
Clint Mercer was the Dallas Cowboys’ all-pro tight end, Darrin’s client, Matt’s friend, and all-around good guy. “Getting ready to milk them dry?”
“As dry as I can.” Darrin chuckled. “Anyway. Stay off of Twitter and message boards for a while, and I’ll call you as soon as I know something.”
“Thanks, D.” Matt ended the call and tossed the phone back onto the couch beside him. He rested his head against the plush back and stared up at the ceiling. God, he was bored.
Needing to do something—anything—he texted Chase.
Matt: I’ve gotta get out and do something. I’m losing my mind.
Chase: Dude, you’re supposed to take it easy.
Matt: I know, but if I take it too easy I’m going to jump off a bridge. I just need to get out.
Chase: Whatever. We were planning on going to April’s tonight. I guess you can tag along.
Matt: Great. And thanks.
Jenn McDonnell surreptitiously watched Matt as she and Owen played a game of pool in the corner of their usual group’s favorite bar, silently cursing her best friend Chase for letting his older brother tag along.
The guy was a jerk, and she so did not want to be around him.
She hadn’t always felt that way. Once upon a time they’d been friends. Well, kind of. They’d once gotten along okay, sort of like siblings but not quite. As kids he’d teased her and made her laugh, and she’d almost enjoyed hanging out with him.
Somewhere along the way, though, that had changed. Their family and friends sometimes pried a little too much, curious as to the sudden shift in emotions. She would just shrug her shoulders and say something flippant, or that maybe it was the fact that since he’d made it to the majors eleven years ago he’d rarely come back home to see his family (and Jenn had it on good authority that Sarah Roberts missed her “baby boy”). Sometimes she’d say it was because he came across as an arrogant dick, like being blessed with a ninety-eight mile per hour fastball and a nasty slider somehow made him better than the mere mortals who wore his jersey and cheered his name.
Somewhere along the way, she’d gotten pretty good at evading the truth.
So she would put up with him—when she had to—because Chase was his brother and one of her best friends. Like a brother, really. And tonight she was putting up with Matt more than she wanted to because she was trying to give Chase and Jo—her other best friend since childhood—some time alone together to try and figure out whatever was going on between the two of them (they were obviously meant for each other, but still hadn’t come to terms with that fact).
From the corner of her eye, she saw Chase lead Jo out onto the dance floor, took note of the way they looked at each other and smiled. It may have been the night before the Fourth of July, but Jenn was willing to bet money that there would be fireworks tonight.
She missed her shot, turning the table over to Owen Daniels. As her other best friend—she really was lucky, wasn’t she, to have three best friends?—lined up to take his shot, Jenn sipped from her margarita and tried to watch Matt without anyone noticing.
Even with his current crazy haircut, the man was hot. Her gaze kept wanting to skitter up to the stitches on the shaved side of his head—stitches that had happened after he’d been hit by a line drive and suffered a cracked skull and brain bleeding just a few weeks ago.
Looking at the stitches, though, did funny things to her stomach. She’d never been good with blood or injuries; they always made her feel squeamish and jittery inside. Seeing Matt’s head—and remembering the moment the injury had happened since she, Chase, Jo and Owen had been watching the game together—made her uncomfortable.
It made her want to care.
Jenn sipped her margarita and focused her gaze on the row of cue sticks on the opposite wall.
“You can look at them, y’know.”
Matt’s voice, deep and low, a whisper against her ear, startled her. She jolted. Slushy liquid sloshed in the glass in her hand.
She took a half step to the side, away from him. “Look at what?” she asked, not looking at him.
“The stitches. My head.”
“Unless you’re one of those women who gets turned on by pain. That shit’s too kinky, even for me.”
Jenn closed her eyes. Gritted her teeth. “They make me feel squeamish.”
She could feel him beside her, hot and big and the epitome of Alpha Male. If he’d been a character in the Regency romances she loved to read, he most definitely would have been a rake.
And she? She would have been a wallflower. Or a governess.
A woman who most definitely did not garner attention from outrageously attractive males with hazel eyes, a lean body sculpted with muscle and lips that would make most women think about hot kisses and raunchy sex.
Jenn, though? She really just wanted to wipe the smirk from those sinful lips and not be aware of that muscled body.
“Stitches make you squeamish?”
Matt’s voice was deep and seductive, like the promise of silk sheets, dark chocolate and a bottle of wine. She steeled herself against it, knowing that he was all too aware of his…potency.
“Yes,” she ground out.
He sighed. “You’re a strange woman, Jenn McDonnell.”
She snorted. Owen lined up to pocket the eight ball. “I’m strange? You’re the one walking around with half of your head shaved.”
“It’s different. I like it.”
“Or you just haven’t gotten to a stylist yet.” She somehow doubted he was a Super Cuts sort of guy.
Owen sank the eight ball and asked, “You up for another game?”
“Nah. I’m gonna go grab another drink and make sure Jo and Chase haven’t been arrested for public indecency or anything yet.”
Jenn made her way through the bar, set her empty glass on a table holding other discarded drinks, and headed for the ladies’ room. She sang along as the DJ switched from Josh Abbott Band’s “Oh, Tonight” to “Fuzzy” by The Randy Rogers Band. The song’s tale of drunken escapades always made her think of The Hangover, which never failed to make her smile.
She finished up in the bathroom and walked out to the main bar area, didn’t see Jo and Chase and figured they’d stepped out to the back patio to get some air. She stepped up to the bar, ordered another margarita and walked back to the pool tables.
There were three women surrounding Matt, the same three that had fluttered around him when Jenn and Jo had first arrived. They’d scattered for a while, but apparently had decided that Jenn and Jo weren’t competition.
Jenn stayed back, sipped her margarita as the fake redhead with fake boobs leaned into Matt and trailed her fingers down his chest and towards the waistband of his jeans. Owen caught her eye and shook his head as he lined up a shot. Jenn stifled a giggle.
The redhead’s fingers trailed lower, dipped inside Matt’s jeans. He rolled his eyes before removing her hand. Jenn couldn’t hear what he said, but apparently Ms. Wandering Fingers wasn’t too happy about it, if the mulish expression on her face was any indication.
Jenn was stifling laughter when someone tapped on her shoulder. She turned around and saw Jo, her cheeks flushed, eyes bright and hair slightly mussed. Jenn raised her eyebrows.
“I, uh, feel a migraine coming on. Chase is going to take me home. I’ll see you later.”
“Migraine, huh?” Jenn teased.
Jo’s blush deepened, but Jenn could tell she was trying not to smile. “Yeah. A migraine.”
Jenn laughed and hugged her best friend. “Well, I hope you find a way to get rid of it.”
Jo did laugh then, before turning and walking away. Jenn contemplated the sugar crystals on the rim of her glass as a smile tugged at her lips.
She’d so been right about those fireworks tonight.
Matt watched the exchange between Jo and Jenn, vaguely aware of the three women surrounding him. He’d never been a huge fan of jersey chasers to begin with, but having them surround him in his hometown while he was on the disabled list seemed like a little too much even for him to take right now. Jo shook her head at something Jenn said, and Matt noted the tousled hair, swollen lips and beard burn on her neck.
Looked like little brother was finally going to score.
At least someone was.
Disgusted with his self-pitying thoughts, because, really, he was one of the best pitchers in the league with a healthy bank account, wise investments and women at his beck and call if he wanted them, Matt breathed deeply and tuned back in to the jersey chasers currently trying to score with him.
Yeah, that wasn’t happening.
Even if he’d been interested, the doctor had specifically told him no sex. Apparently repetitive motions and strenuous activities could still cause complications with the damned head wound.
“So, Mattie, how ‘bout we go back to my place?” The brunette—Kara or Katie or Karma—asked with a pout as she trailed an index finger over his left bicep. “We could play pitcher and catcher, if you know what I mean.”
Jesus. Talk about a bad pickup line. “Thanks but, uh, no thanks.”
“Oh, come on, Mattie. It’ll be fun. Jeanine could join us if you like.” The brunette batted her eyelashes at him. Matt couldn’t remember which one Jeanine was, nor did he really care.
“Sorry. But I can’t. Doctor’s orders.” He shrugged, adopted an innocent expression and hoped like hell it worked. Despite not liking jersey chasers, he only got tough on them when he had to.
Kara/Katie/Karma lifted up onto her toes and whispered in his ear, “I’ll let you do me any way you want, Mattie. My pussy’s dripping wet and aching for that cock of yours.”
She nipped his ear lobe before lowering herself to her normal height, bit her lower lip and looked up at him with big blue eyes. Matt sighed. Time to play hardball, apparently.
Normally, he would have someone with him he could pawn the girls off on—whether it be Darrin, a teammate, or a friend who was more than willing to take one for the team. Tonight, though, he had Owen—a guy who would be more likely to crack a joke than show any interest in any of the three women—and Jenn, who he was pretty sure would outright refuse to help him, especially after what had happened the last time she’d assisted in a Jersey Chaser Extraction.
Feeling somewhat hopeful, despite the feeling in his gut, he caught Jenn’s gaze, mouthed, “Help me” and hoped like hell she’d put that last Extraction behind her.