Better Than Perfect(9)

By: Kristina Mathews

“Didn’t pass a drug test.” The frustration in his voice came through clearly. He’d worked too hard to restore the team’s image in the wake of the steroid era. “But don’t worry. I have someone lined up to fill in on short notice. You’ll love him.”

She had a feeling she already did.

“Who do you have in mind?

“Johnny Scottsdale.”

“He’ll do.” She hoped her voice didn’t betray her. The idea of working with Johnny was tantalizing and terrifying at the same time.

“I know how much this program means to you.” Russ was a good guy. He knew his job was more about how the players could benefit the community and not how the charity work could further the careers of the players. “Harrison Foundation has done a lot of good for a lot of people.”

“That is the goal.” Alice rubbed her temples. “I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in such a short time.”

“Seven years.” Russ reminded her.

“Has it been that long?” She’d been a widow for two years longer than she’d been a wife. Yet she remained close with her in-laws. They were still her family, and they would be lost without Zach helping fill the void from losing their only son.

“You’d just started your second year when I came on board.” Yes. That was when he’d hit on her. She’d used the excuse that she didn’t have time; she was too busy getting the foundation off the ground. Her son needed her.

He’d at least taken the hint. They’d been able to maintain a professional relationship.

She hoped she could be as professional with Johnny.

“Time flies.” In many ways it seemed like just yesterday when she’d made that one mistake that changed her life forever. Maybe it was a series of mistakes. Starting with letting Johnny go. Ending up naked in a hotel room with his best friend. And then marrying Mel when she felt she had nowhere else to turn.

“Don’t worry about a thing.” Russ said. “I’m sure Johnny Scottsdale will come through for you. From what I hear, he’s as solid as they come.”

You have no idea how solid he is.

Where did that come from? She had no right to think about how strong he was. No right to long for his arms around her. Absolutely no right to wish she could trade the last fourteen years for one more night in his bed.

“Does Johnny know he’s going to pinch hit for Cooper?” Alice spent way too much time around the game. She couldn’t help but use baseball clichés.

“He’s all set. Juan Javier told me he’s ready to step up to the plate.” Russ was just as bad. Came with the territory, she supposed. “I’d expect a call from him soon.”

“Do you happen to have an email for him?” She was a coward. She didn’t want to hear it in his voice that Johnny was still angry. Or worse, devoid of any feelings for her. “It would be easier to send him the information than try to go over it over the phone.”

“Sure. I’ll get it to you right away.” Russ must have been in his office, because her inbox popped up with an alert for a new message. All of Johnny’s contact information.

They ended the conversation with a bit of small talk before hanging up.

She opened her email program. Attached the necessary files and got no further than Dear Johnny in the body of the email before she noticed Zach standing there with an empty milk glass and the container of leftovers she’d planned on saving for lunch at least two days this week.

“So, I guess Johnny Scottsdale is going to do the camp after all.” Zach tried to act like he didn’t care one way or another, but he couldn’t contain the grin that spread across his face when she nodded. “Cool.”

He set the glass on the counter and opened the fridge again.

“Zach, you can’t possibly be hungry.”

“I guess not.” He flopped down on the bench seat of their little breakfast nook. “Do you think Johnny would teach me how to throw a curveball?”

“I’m pretty sure he’ll stick to the basics.” Alice had done the research on protecting young pitchers. There was some dissention, but most of the experts were all about protecting younger players. “As part of the program, he’ll focus on proper mechanics of the fastball, and for those kids who are ready, I’m sure he’ll work with them on the changeup.”

“Yeah, but some of the guys…”

“Zach, even if he wanted to show you how to throw a curveball, I’m not going to let you work on it until you’re in high school.”

“I know.” His shoulders slumped. “Not until I have hair under my arms. So lame.”