Fix Her Up (Hot & Hammered #1) - Tessa Bailey

Chapter One

No freaking way.

Georgette Castle tucked the stolen key into her pocket, wincing at the creak as she opened the apartment door. Empty beer cans skittered along the floor the farther she pushed, the stale stench of unwashed dude reaching out and throttling her. Her older brother had tried to warn her. Had she listened? No. Did she ever listen? Also a definitive no.

This time, though, Georgie had been positive Stephen was mistaken. It didn’t seem possible that the town’s baseball phenomenon could fall so far so fast. Just under two years ago, she’d watched Travis Ford hit a World Series grand slam on live television, along with everyone in town, gathered beneath the new flat-screen television at Grumpy Tom’s. There had never been a doubt Travis would go professional after his sterling college career at Northwestern.

No one saw the injury coming. Especially Travis.

After a year of physical therapy and being passed between teams like a hot potato, Travis had come home to Port Jefferson. Georgie could still see the heartbreak in his eyes during the sparsely attended press conference announcing his retirement at age twenty-eight. Sure, he’d been smiling. Joking about the chance to improve his golf game. But Georgie had been in love with Travis Ford since she hit puberty and knew his tells. Every expression on his face was categorized in her memory, his name scrawled on every other page in her diary, never to be discovered beneath the floorboards of her bedroom. Five decades from now, when she looked back on her youth, she would remember Travis standing at home plate on the high school baseball field, lifting his batting helmet to adjust it, allowing just a glimpse of dark auburn hair to catch the wind, before covering it back up.

Heroic, gorgeous, bursting with character, and cocky as sin. Travis Ford before.

What would the after look like?

“Hello?” Georgie called into the dark dwelling. “Anyone home?”

She kicked aside a plastic bag full of takeout containers and closed the door behind her, advancing into the apartment. Stephen had definitely been here to see his childhood friend. The untouched health shakes and UV sun lamp made that obvious. He’d at least tried to reach Travis. So had members of the church, old baseball coaches, and autograph seekers. Instead of being coaxed back out into the light, though, he continued to wallow.

Georgie had a better plan.

“Hey, dickhead!” Now in the living room, she stooped down and picked up a melted pint of ice cream, her lip curling in a smile. Perfect ammunition.

See, Georgie might have reached the ripe old age of twenty-three in Travis’s absence, but she would always be the pesky little sister. That wasn’t a label she’d given herself. But she’d heard it upward of a thousand times growing up and it refused to die. What was a girl to do besides give in and embrace it? Sympathy hadn’t worked with Travis. Now she’d try her own method of breaking through to him.

A floorboard groaned beneath her foot as she stepped into the bedroom, finding Travis facedown and naked on top of the covers, that signature deep auburn hair in a wreck around his head. She almost lost her nerve then, lowering the pint of soupy vanilla ice cream to her thigh. Ridiculous that her heart should kick into a gallop and the moisture in her mouth dry right up. It was just a butt. You could go on the internet and see butts by the . . . butt load. While she was thinking about it, God bless the internet. What an invention.

Still. Throw in Travis’s considerable height and naturally athletic frame, complete with ripped muscles and dark, manly hair . . . well, maybe his butt excelled over other butts. Every human in town with a preference for men concurred. Travis Ford was extraordinary.

Just not today. And not for the last month since his premature homecoming.

Georgie lifted the pint of ice cream and took a moment to contemplate the task in front of her. This wouldn’t be easy. Deep down in her bones, she wanted to throw her arms around Travis and tell him everything would be all right. He might not get another chance to be a star on the baseball field, but he’d never stop being a hero. The man who left this town and achieved dreams most men let go of as children.

Unfortunately, he’d never stop being the man whose face she’d pictured while Frenching her pillow in middle school, either. As a grown