Good morning! We’re just a few days out from the release of Making the Play, so I thought I would share the first two chapters!
You can pre-order the ebook here.
And the form to order ANY of my signed books is now open until June 30, so fill that out here if interested.
Someone crashed into Jax. Hard.
Years of training and working out saved him from falling, but he turned to catch the girl who wasn’t as skilled. She straightened with his help and looked up with wide brown eyes.
“I’m so sorry,” they said at the same time.
Jax chuckled and was rewarded with a bright smile. His hands still sat on her waist while hers laid against his chest, and he had no desire to let this beautiful woman go. She didn’t seem so inclined either.
“Kaley, are you coming?” a voice called. Another young woman approached, her blond waves blowing in the breeze and her heels clacking against the pavement of the parking lot. “Are you okay?”
The girl—Kaley—quickly stepped away from Jax, running a hand through her contrasting dark hair and pulling it over one shoulder. “Yeah, I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
Around them, people wandered toward the gates, most talking animatedly with friends and family. A pang of sadness went through him, but he focused on the girl in front of him. He didn’t have time to dwell, not right now.
“Neither was I,” Jax said, noticing that, unlike her friend, Kaley wore a baseball jersey that made him grin. “Nice shirt.”
A blush crept across her cheeks, but she didn’t shy away from his stare. “Thanks.”
“We should get going,” her friend said, reaching for Kaley’s arm. To him she asked, “Do you know which side section fourteen is on once we get inside?”
“First plate,” he said in sync with Kaley.
She tucked a stray piece of brunette hair back behind her ear. He couldn’t fight his widening smile if he wanted to. She wasn’t just wearing the clothes to fit in. She knew the layout of the stadium—knew baseball. Liked it. Did she recognize him though?
“Well, we should…” Kaley trailed off, pointing one thumb over her shoulder toward the tall crimson gates streaming with people. “Thank you again.”
“Anytime,” Jax said. He didn’t want their time to be over, but he needed to get inside too. He was already going to get an earful for showing up so late.
Kaley turned, looping her arm through her friend’s, and headed toward the entrance. Before she walked more than a couple cars down the row, she turned around. Walking backwards a few steps, she yelled, “Good luck!”
Without another word, Jax watched as the girl walked away. His own last name reflecting off the back of her shirt as she went.
He headed around to the side entrance, quickly walking into the locker room and shrugging out of his jacket as made his way inside. Shoving his phone and shoes into his locker, he sat down to pull on his cleats. Once they were laced up, he grabbed his shirt and hat. But his other things were gone—someone likely brought them out already. At least he hoped so as he ran to the door.
“Williams, you’re late!” Coach Isaacs yelled when he entered the bullpen.
“Sorry, sir.” Jax tucked in his now-buttoned shirt. “There was an issue with Sierra.”
The coach’s eyes softened. He nodded in understanding but said, “You still owe me extra lunges tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir.” Jax ran out to the field, and a mitt flew toward his face. He caught it with a curse. “You could’ve just handed it to me.”
“I wanted to check your reflexes,” Kade said with a grin as he tossed a ball to him. “Make sure you’re ready.”
“Of course I’m ready.” He was always ready.
He threw the baseball back at his best friend, and before he knew it, they were on the field surrounded by cheering fans. With the stadium lights shining down on him, Jax took a deep, calming breath. It was his favorite place in the world. He wished Sierra was there.
He wished for a lot of things.
Almost out of instinct, he glanced up to section fourteen. At least he knew for certain there was one person in the stands rooting for him. He knew there were others—he wasn’t modest enough to deny he had fans out there. That was what happened when one was on track to going pro early.
Shaking his head, he focused on the game. He could think about pretty women later. And the upcoming draft.
For now, he just wanted to get lost in the one part of his life that hadn’t changed drastically in the last year. Out here, he didn’t have the weight of his family, of school, on his shoulders.
Out here, he only had one job: to play ball.
Kaley jumped on her toes as they slowly made their way through the crowd toward their section. The air smelled of popcorn, hot dogs, and other fried food, and with so many people talking, she could barely hear the music from the speakers throughout the stadium.
Maya tugged on her arm a little. “I don’t understand why you’re so excited. It’s not even a real team.”
Whirling to face her roommate, Kaley gasped. “They are totally a real team!”
“You know what I mean.”
Kaley rolled her eyes and turned back around. She did know what she meant. The Firebirds were a college team, not major league. But that didn’t matter; Kaley grew up loving the Bennu team—her dad’s old team and now her older brother’s.
As they walked down the aisle to their seats, Kaley said, “They might not be major league, but they’re a big deal. Most of the guys end up being drafted early. They’re the best team in the Midwest.”
Maya sat in her seat with a smirk. “You’re a little biased.”
Shrugging, Kaley looked out to the Firebirds warming up. Red jerseys littered the field as they tossed baseballs back and forth. She quickly spotted her brother but knew he wouldn’t find her even if he looked.
Her family had season seats half a dozen rows above the dugout—her preferred spot. They had a box suite too, but she loved sitting in the crowd with all the excitement. Her dad was once the first baseman at Bennu. He’d retired from the majors when she was a child after a bad knee injury, then he worked his way up from assistant coach to head coach at his old alma mater.
When Kade joined the team as shortstop, her dad had looked on the verge of tears. She didn’t think she’d ever seen her dad cry, but he was so happy to have his son following in his footsteps.
Another player ran out, the others visibly heckling him for being late. Kaley shook her head as she sat next to Maya.
“So, what happened in the parking lot?” Maya asked.
Not hiding her grin, she said, “Jackson Williams.”
“Wait,” Maya turned toward her more, “as in the Williams on the back of your shirt?”
Kaley nodded. She had a jersey for her brother too, but since their falling out, she’d worn it less and less. Something he always brought up during their family dinners every other week. Like he wanted to start an argument.
“And how is it you’ve still never met him?” Maya nudged her in the side. “He looked very interested.”
Kaley rolled her eyes, but her cheeks heated up. She hadn’t missed the way he smiled at her. It made her insides melt. Shaking her head, she said, “Kade wants nothing to do with me, and I’d rather not deal with him ignoring or yelling at me if I can help it. Anymore, it’s always one or the other with him; there is no in between. The only one on the team I know is the pitcher, Brent, because they’ve been friends for years—before even coming to Bennu.”
“That’s a shame… I could really use some more baseball players in my life.”
“But you hate baseball.” Kaley laughed at her ridiculous friend.
“I don’t hate it. It’s just boring.” Maya pointed to the field. “The players are a completely different story.”
She couldn’t disagree with that last part. The players on the field tossed in the extra balls before spreading out to their positions. As Jackson moved to first base, he looked up toward their section. Her stomach fluttered, and she wondered if he was searching for her.
Fireworks lit up the early summer sky in an array of colors. The Firebirds celebrated their win on the field while the students did their share in the stands.
An idea forming, Kaley stood and grabbed Maya’s hand. “Come on.”
Maya didn’t move. “I told Eliza we’d meet her afterward for food.”
The third in their little trio worked nearly every evening and couldn’t get out of it tonight, but she disliked baseball even more than Maya, so she didn’t mind meeting up with them after the game. This was the first time Kaley had been able to convince Maya to join her. The girl loved to party and usually went tailgating, but she almost never made it inside the stadium. Not with Kaley at least.
Kaley looked from Maya to the man who kept glancing in her general direction. She didn’t want to ditch her friends though…
“Go,” Maya said, playfully shoving her toward the aisle.
“Okay, I’ll see you back in the room later.”
“Sure you will,” Maya teased.
People slowly moved out of the stands around them. Maya joined them with a wink over her shoulder. Taking a deep breath, Kaley headed down the remaining steps to the bottom row. She leaned over the rail, wondering how to get his attention while avoiding her brother’s.
Jackson finally noticed her standing there. A dimpled smile lit up his face, filling her stomach with butterflies. He took a step forward, but another face came into view.
“Kaley,” her dad said as he moved to stand in front of the shorter section of the wall. “I didn’t know you were coming today.”
She looked away from Jackson, who watched with concern etched in his features. It probably looked like she was being told by a coach to stay off the field. Her dad held up a hand, and she grinned. Climbing over the rail, she took the help. He grabbed her as she jumped, just as he always had when she was younger. Her feet hit the ground, the wall reaching her shoulders.
“I always come,” she told her dad.
He let out another deep chuckle before pulling her into a hug. Letting go, he led her toward the players. “But you never stay after.”
Kade met her eyes with confusion that quickly turned to annoyance as he glanced at the number on her shirt.
“Yeah, well,” she started, “I’m not exactly welcome around here.”
Her dad threw an arm around her shoulders and kissed the top of her head. “Yes, you are. One of these days you two will get past this.” He paused, giving her a side look. “It would help if you didn’t wear other players’ jerseys.”
She shook her head. “Not going to happen. Especially after that game-winning double play,” she added as they came to a stop near the players. Kade all but ignored her, which didn’t surprise her. Jackson, however, moved closer.
“Jax,” her dad said, “this is my daughter, Kaley. Your biggest fan.”
Her eyes went wide as she snapped her head to the side to glare at him.
“Big fan, huh?” Jackson asked with a grin. He stuck out a hand.
As she took it, Kade said, “Yeah, likes you more than her own brother.”
Kaley clenched her jaw for a second then smiled. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Her dad was called over by one of the other coaches, and Kade moved closer. “Why are you here?”
“I always come to your games.”
He scoffed. “No, I mean here, on the field.”
“I’m not allowed to come say hi?”
At that moment, Brent appeared. He gave her a quick side-hug. Crossing his arms, Kade glanced from Brent to her to Jackson. “Unbelievable.”
Before she could defend herself, he stormed off.
“Sorry,” Brent said quickly before following.
Guilt coursed through her, but anger leveled it out. No matter what she did, it was wrong. If she showed up supportive, Kade somehow turned it around to her wanting attention. If she didn’t, he made an even bigger deal out of it. There was no winning. She could only hope her dad was right and one day they’d get over whatever this was that had built up between them.
She didn’t hold her breath though. Kade wouldn’t even tell her why he was mad at her—what she did to make him hate her. He’d once been her best friend.
Jackson turned to stand beside her. They both looked up at the flashing, booming lights. As the fireworks picked up in speed, signaling the finale, he said, “So, you came to find me?”
Pure arrogance lined his tone, but also something else. Amusement? Excitement?
“No, I came to say hi to my dad.” She glanced over at Jackson’s tall frame. “Meeting you was a bonus.”
His grin faltered, as if he just put two and two together. “Your dad… the coach. And Kade’s your brother.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” she said, turning her attention fully toward him as the fireworks ended and the park lights brightened for the remaining people to leave.
“Goodnight, Kaley.” Shaking his head, he began walking toward the bullpen with the rest of the team. The corner of her mouth quirked up to the side as she watched him go. He glanced back at her briefly just before disappearing, but she saw his smile return as their eyes met.
Want more? Making the Play releases June 30th!
Pre-order the ebook here.