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Authors: Sophie Lira

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BOOK: Safe With You
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“Thanks.” I want nothing more than to kiss her right here on the field. Instead, I take a deep breath, squeezing the bat, and return to the batter’s box.

Olivia pitches me another ball, and I hit it out of the park again with even more force, confirming our deal. Every apprehension I had about playing leaves my mind on the spot. Suffocating tension fills the air as I walk over to her, dropping my bat.

“I think I owe you dinner. Considering I didn’t hear it land, maybe a few rounds of beers, too.” I take another step and tug her closer. She looks up, either totally expectant or petrified. I want her, but I know she doesn’t feel the same way … not yet, anyway. I might be an asshole because I know she’s not ready to move forward, but I can’t stop whatever is building between us right now.

“Hey, guys!” Aubrey calls out with a laugh. “C’mon, no making out on the field, this is a family establishment.”

Noah nods with a smile, mouthing
to me as we both step back. I swallow hard. I haven’t talked to him since the night we signed up, but I hope he didn’t run his mouth to anyone. I’m surprisingly okay with playing, but I’m not ready to talk about how the six MLB teams scouting me left the game before I was carted off the field.

I’m not ready to tell everyone I don’t know what to do with my life. How the accident I keep referring to was really a collision at home plate. The worst in ten years for any promising college baseball player.

“Hey.” Olivia nudges my arm, her green eyes staring deep into my soul as we lock gazes. “You okay? You zoned out for a second.”

“Yeah … I’m really glad to be playing again.” I know I could confide in her. Tell her the things I’ve barely told Cam. But even if I tell her my deepest secrets, I don’t know if she’d ever tell me hers.

Chapter Seven







I thought the heat would relent a little at the baseball fields. But I’m shit out of luck, even with the light breeze blowing through the huge oak trees. The sun is setting, casting a beautiful orange, pink, and purple marbled sky. This quiet and charming section of New Orleans is twenty times more gorgeous than the industrial shitshow where I lived in Shreveport. I’ve tiptoed around why I moved to everyone. Outside of Natasha, Aubrey’s the only one who semi-knows why.

Even though I’m sure Zach and Noah aren’t blind, I’m beyond grateful they didn’t call out what almost happened between Kyle and me a few days ago. I’m also glad he didn’t push asking about Tyler. My conversations, if he actually answers, consist of,
“Hi, I miss you. But I can’t talk right now. I’ll call you back.”

“I’m going to start calling you Speedy Simon pretty soon!” Noah yells, throwing the ball back to Zach.

I heave over second base, still recovering from my double. “Please don’t. I have enough nicknames.”

“You’re like the littlest thing and you’ve been zipping around these bases all day.” Zach pauses before chucking the ball to Noah.

Kyle bursts with a laugh from home plate. “It’s kinda perfect.”

“No, it’s not.” I have two nicknames already and it’s more than enough. Natasha’s been calling me Chip since the ninth grade, and my brother has been calling me Ollie since I was born.

“Aw, Liv, it’s cute!” Aubrey giggles next to me, nudging my side.

Kyle gives me a hopeful look and I groan, dropping my shoulders.

“Okay, okay. Zach, let’s go. I’d like to bat again sometime today,” Kyle says.

“Dude, even if I toss you my nastiest changeup, you’re still going to knock it out of the park.” Zach picks up the softball at his feet and rustles it inside his glove.

“Now.” Kyle smiles.

Zach rolls his eyes and launches one of the more accurate fast-pitches I’ve ever seen, especially for a guy. I take off toward third and glance over my shoulder as the sound crashes off the bat and explodes through the park. Noah sprints, but can’t catch it before it lands in the bayou.

“Holy shit.” I stop as I hit home and Kyle jogs around the bases. That was his third home run today. He follows me into the dugout as I slump onto the warped bench. I take a long drag of Gatorade.

“We’re gonna need more softballs.” Kyle sits next to me and wipes the sweat from his face with the bottom of his T-shirt. I can’t stop myself from gawking at him while he isn’t looking.

“Here.” I hand him the extra Gatorade I brought. “Drink up.”

He smiles and nudges my arm. “How’d you know fruit punch was my favorite?”

I hold up my bottle. “Because it’s the best one, duh.”

We sit in silence for a few minutes, watching Zach and Noah play catch. I don’t even have to convince myself this is fun. It
fun. All I want to do is keep apologizing to Kyle for how our friendship started. I know he isn’t judging me because there’s something he’s hiding, too. His knee brace is a giant contraption of metal and Velcro straps. He keeps calling himself Legatron and I think it suits him. The dark-pigmented scar running down his leg almost looks like a burn. There are little scars all over his shin, and I’m sure they’re from traction or something.

“Hey, I’m going to go field and let Noah bat. Coming?” Kyle breaks me from my daze.

I shake my head. “My back is a little sore. I’m going to sit out for a few and stretch.”

“You okay?” His eyebrows pull together.

“I’m fine. Really.” I want to touch him, to let him know I’m really okay. But I’m not sure I’m there yet.

“Okay, go do your upward-facing cat or whatever.” He nudges my arm and winks.

I shove my finger dangerously close to his face. “Do not mock me, Avery.”

He laughs and walks out to the field. I make my way to the half-dead grassy patch of land behind the dugout. The temperature has dipped along with the sun, and thankfully the bugs seem to be at a minimum. My hamstrings are tight and my back sighs at the stretch from downward dog. I cycle through a few sequences and end with a few harder poses for fun.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were over here?” Aubrey bounces over and plops in the grass next to me. “I would have loved a little yoga break. My arms are killing me.”

I shrug. “I guess I needed the alone time. A lot on my mind.”

“All good. Kyle was staring at you with no shame for a few minutes.” Aubrey pats my leg. “He’s an insane baseball player, by the way.” Her sky-blue eyes narrow at me and I think she knows something I don’t.

“He said he was pretty decent in high school.” I shrug and pull at the grass, staring into centerfield. “But it’s not like he was drafted by the MLB.”

Aubrey chokes a cough. “Definitely not.”

“What?” I grab her arm.

“Nothing … ” She shakes her head and I let it go. I want to watch Kyle play. It’s mesmerizing. Enchanting.

Kyle walks up to bat again. He’s calm, never tense. He examines his bat, the same wooden bat he always uses. It looks like it’s gone through every game he’s ever played. It’s nicked and scuffed, but he still runs his fingers over its surface like he’s telepathically speaking to it. I’ve never seen someone so connected while playing, even when he’s in the outfield. All joking stops, and all he does is concentrate.

Zach pitches him three balls, and each one hits the same exact spot in left field. His precision is mind-boggling. Aubrey glances at me, her jaw unhinged. He does it again, but this time to center. The way he plays kind of reminds me of us: he’s concentrated and doesn’t give up. He takes pride in what he does, and even if he grounds out to second, it doesn’t faze his next hit.

“Take a chance with him, Olivia. He’s a genuinely good guy.” Aubrey gives me a quick squeeze.






Hot tears flow down my cheeks as I throw my phone on my bed. I was so excited Tyler called me back for once, but of course it was only to tell me more bad news. I need to shower before Aubrey picks me up to go to Kyle’s, but the hurt I’m feeling slices deep. Tyler is the only real family I have. Now that he bailed on coming to visit me, again, he’s solidified the reality that he’s a shitty brother. I don’t know why I keep wasting my time with him.

Every time it’s a new excuse. New job. New girl. New something. If I didn’t hate Braden so much, I’d call him to find out why his supposed best friend is acting like the world’s second biggest piece of shit. After our falling out, when Tyler left for California without saying a word, it took me almost a year to speak to him. I couldn’t stay mad, though. He left because he shouldn’t have been my father figure when our dad was gone for work. I just wish he was honest with me about it.

I spend a few minutes looking at puppy videos on YouTube to get my mind off him, but every time I calm down about Tyler, I think about Kyle. Aubrey’s reaction to my baseball comment still lingers. Kyle is amazing at baseball, yes. But if he is so good, he should be playing for Tulane, or maybe even in the minor leagues. The Google search bar beckons me, even if I feel a little bit like a stalker.

The second I hit
my browser explodes. The entire world stops.

Oh my God. He’s Spider-Man.

THE Kyle-fucking-Avery.

UNC baseball.

He was called the next big star by every sports outlet. I never really connected his name and I have no idea why. I distinctly remember watching a special on college baseball on ESPN with Natasha.

And now he’s here.

And he likes me.

I swallow hard, scrolling through no less than twenty results. I stop at a video titled “
Kyle Avery horrible collision at Vanderbilt.
” Another piece of my brain puzzle connects. Shaking my head, I click
. His stance is exactly the same, as is his concentration. The ball launches with such power I feel it deep in my bones. He rounds third and I see it coming a mile away.

A shriek escapes my mouth before I can stop it.

His screams.

The sight of his fibula ripping through his skin.

The blood.

The bench-clearing fight.

Just as an older guy who looks exactly like Kyle and an umpire tackle a spectator, who I’m assuming is his friend Cam, I slam my laptop shut. I gasp through another few breaths and hold my chest. I can almost feel my heart breaking.

Like a zombie, I drag myself into the shower. The scorching steam helps me breathe, but I can’t get past it. I don’t want to tell him I know because I feel if he wanted everyone to know, he would have told us. Aubrey was so right: he does need someone as much as I do.

I finally have enough of a grasp on reality to get ready on time, but I feel if I talk too much, I’m going to blurt it out to everyone. So I keep my mouth shut from the time Aubrey picks me up until we pull up to an ancient brick building with wrought iron balconies and big bay windows. I glance at Aubrey. “Seriously?”

Aubrey shrugs with a smile. “What did you expect? Our shitholes?”

“Kyle lives
?” I glance outside again at the old warehouse converted into luxury apartments. He must have gotten a sweet as hell settlement or something to afford this place.

“Uhm, well he does have a boss Range Rover and his wardrobe is definitely worth more than yours and mine combined.” She shoves the door open and hops out of the car. “Let’s go.”

I follow her inside the lobby, complete with royal blue couches and modern white tables. Exotic flower arrangements in a rainbow of colors line the counters, and I can only imagine the amount of wealth I’m going to walk into when we get to his apartment. Aubrey stops at the security desk and a knot forms in my throat. She hands her ID to the portly guard with a giant pair of headphones over his head.

“Can I meet you upstairs?” I dart my gaze to the lobby bathroom. “I need a minute.”

“Sure, he’s in Twelve-A.” She takes the card back and walks toward the elevator, seemingly oblivious to my dysfunction.

After the doors close, I squeeze my eyes shut and hand the guard my license.

He swipes my ID through a scanner and gives me a wink. “You’re good to go. Have a nice night.”

“Thanks.” I walk into the bathroom and take a good look at myself in the mirror. Thanks to a nice long shower and clean clothes, I feel better. Aside from my eyes being more hazel than normal from my meltdown, I’m not a puffy-faced disaster. I run a brush through my still-damp hair and then pin it up into a ballerina bun. I slather on some more lip balm and wish I had concealer for my dark circles.

I rip open the bathroom door just as Kyle walks by in the lobby. His hair is still wet from the shower, and if he smelled any more delicious, I’d lick him. No guy should look this amazing in a pair of old shorts and faded T-shirt.

“Whoa, what’s the matter?” He takes a step toward me and tips my chin up.

Kyle, on the other hand, misses nothing.

“My brother canceled on me. He was going to come out for my birthday and he gave me some excuse about meeting his girlfriend’s parents. I’m just really disappointed.” The words tumble out. I think I’m more shocked I told him the actual truth. At least my new knowledge from sleuthing didn’t come roaring out instead.

He sighs, tugging me into his side and giving me a quick squeeze. “Don’t let him get to you.”

Totally easier said than done, bro.
“I should be used to it by now.”

“No you shouldn’t, Liv. Aubrey told me it was your birthday soon, so we’re all taking you out.” He smiles, giving me another hug. “I forgot something in my car. I’ll be up in a minute.”

I nod and smile. Maybe we can help each other if no one else can.

Within minutes, all of the shit that made my day plummet seems to dissipate. The night flies by in a blur and the only tears in my eyes are from laughter. My stomach is heavy from too many wings and beer … and I’m totally okay with that.

Kyle’s apartment is incredible. I roll the edge of my beer bottle on the counter and sink back further on the high chair. The huge bay windows overlook part of the harbor and the twinkling bulbs of the city below string along the street like Christmas lights. I should have expected one of the two apartments on the
level to be his. Everything in his kitchen is black granite and stainless steel, polished and sparkling. Low-hung lights glow softly above my head and I don’t want to leave. Ever.

BOOK: Safe With You
4.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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