Getting Wound Up-- EXCERPT

From Getting Wound Up
A Sapphire Falls/ Love Between the Bases novel
copyright Erin Nicholas and Jennifer Bernard, 2016

As it happened, the next morning Eli’s extreme case of nerves made it easy to avoid referring to the half-naked incident. When Caitlyn got out of the shower, fully and carefully dressed, he’d already gone to the breakfast buffet and tanked up on coffee. He brought her a cup with plenty of creamers and sugar, as well as a plate of blueberry muffins. She poured creamer in her coffee while he paced around the room.
“Maybe you should go for a jog,” she suggested.
“Might pull a muscle,” he said tensely. “Or get lost.”
She laughed. “Did you eat anything?”
“Nope. Might throw up.”
“But you drank some coffee?”
“Little bit.” He drummed his fingers on his leg, which couldn’t seem to stay still. “You ready to go yet? I want to check out the stadium.”
“Eli.” She walked over to him and put her hands on his shoulders. She felt the contours of his muscles under the jersey and got momentarily distracted. The power that lurked in his body was enough to make a girl weak in the knees. She forced the memory of last night out of her mind. “This is what you were meant to do. It’s going to be fine. Just believe in yourself. I believe in you.”
“You do?”
“One hundred percent, without a doubt. Now let’s go, before your head explodes.”
His reluctant laugh was balm to her soul. At least she could still make him laugh. At least she could still be his friend. Calm him down. Be there for him during such a key moment in his life. Maybe that one brush with nakedness hadn’t ruined everything.
She drove him to the nearby campus of the Kansas City Community College. The parking lot by the athletic field was already filled with cars. Young men in baseball uniforms of every variety were making their way toward the field, armed with gym bags and baseball gloves. She whistled at the sight.
“How many people come to these tryouts?”
“Doesn’t matter,” said Eli tensely, staring out the window. “It’s not a competition.”
“It’s not?”
“Nope. It’s not like they’re going to pick the top ten or something. They only pick the guys they think have the potential to help the team. Some tryouts, no one gets a call. Most, actually.”
“Really? All these people and no one’s good enough for them?” Caitlyn pulled into a spot. “Can I watch?”
He shrugged. “It might get kind of boring. Usually the pitchers go last. Until I get to go, you’ll be watching a bunch of guys run the sixty-yard dash.”
“Doesn’t sound too bad to me.” Caitlyn gave him a cheeky wink as she hopped out of the Focus. “They’ll be wearing baseball pants, right?”
He glared at her. Ooh, had she made Eli just the tiniest bit jealous? Or was it just a general glare based on nerves and tension? She grinned to herself as he slammed her car door and slung his gym bag over his shoulder. He definitely looked even crabbier than he had before.
“I think the sign-up is that-away.” She pointed to a long folding table where a few men in warmup jackets were handing out index cards to the shifting line of baseball wannabes. “I’ll find a seat on the bleachers. I’ll be watching, so knock ’em dead.”
She gave him a wave as she headed across the parking lot.
“That’s it?” he called after her. “That’s all I get?”
Turning back, she saw him striding toward her, an intent focus in his gaze.
“The least you could do is give me a kiss for good luck.” He swept her into his arms and planted a kiss full on her mouth.
She tasted coffee and five-alarm heat. The shock of it vibrated all the way to her toes. She didn’t even get a chance to really kiss him back before he plopped her back down on the pavement.
His blue eyes gleaming, he spun around and headed for the sign-up line.
She pressed her lips together, still tasting the warm force of his mouth. Why had he done that? Just to mess with her? Keep her from ogling hot outfielders?
As soon as she’d caught her breath and found a seat in the bleachers, she extracted her cell phone and fired off a text.
Seriously? You call that a kiss? Your moves need work, big shot.
She saw the exact moment when he got the text. He clutched his chest as if she’d shot him, and pretended to nearly fall to his knees. Then he texted back.
Challenge accepted.

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