Winning With Him (Men of Summer #2) - Lauren Blakely Page 0,1

onto the field, I try to recall stanzas and verses—words and rhymes from the poets who helped me through the aftermath of days of upheaval when I was younger.

T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Yeats.

But they don’t come.

My mind is a blank slate.

There are no rhymes, no words to grab onto.

“Declan! How the hell are you, son?” my father calls out.

Once I hear the Jose Cuervo in his voice, my pulse spikes. My hands go clammy.

He opens his mouth again. “And do you already miss your boyfriend?”

That’s when my world swings upside down.



He’s not supposed to be here.

He’s not supposed to come near my field.

I’ve asked him not to.

Begged him not to.

We had a deal.

No surprises.

That was the one thing I asked for, the one thing he promised.

So much for that. I’m twenty, ten, five feet away from the man who’s about to drop my private life, and Grant’s too, dead center in my professional one with his question about whether I miss my boyfriend.

A question he asked in front of a group of my new teammates. The first baseman and the designated hitter.

That’s a motherfucking problem.

“Dad,” I say thickly, hunting for the next words. Words like Stop, be quiet, and why the hell are you here?

But I’m lost.

Utterly lost.

My head swims in foreign languages, swirls with words I don’t know, a tongue I can’t access because this man blindsided me today. He’s the last person I expected to see at a game.

Kyle appearing out of thin air would have shocked me less.

Hell, I wish Kyle were here. I’d gladly take a pop-up from any ex-lover over a surprise visit from my father. The man teetering on the edge of a blunder that could upend my guy’s entire fucking future.

“But you’ll see him again soon,” he adds.

Fear crashes over me in waves. He hasn’t used a name yet.

But he might.

He absolutely might.

Especially since tequila has loosened his tongue. I swear I can see the fumes from the liquor curling off him.

And I have to shut him up.

“Good to see you, Dad.” I yank him into a big bear hug, pretending I’ve missed him so damn much. Then I whisper near his ear, just for him, “No boyfriend talk now. Please.”

I’m desperate and not above begging.

I’ll do anything to shut him up, whatever it takes.

“Of course,” he says softly, then when we pull apart, he lifts his finger to his lips like we’re in cahoots.

I want to crawl away and turn off all the lights until he’s gone.

Instead, I plaster on a well-practiced sham of a smile. “How are you?” I manage to ask the man who raised me, who left us, who flitted back in whenever he felt like it.

He lifts a ball between us. “I got some autographs! Check this out. It’s a ball from Tucker Reyes. Comet’s home-run king,” he booms. My new teammate is nearby, and my dad turns to clap a hand on the first baseman’s shoulder. “And a helluva player.”

“Aww, thanks, Mister Steele.” Tucker beams, his toothy grin full of pride. I’ve seen the same from countless other ballplayers who feel blessed by my father’s praise. It’s so ironic, that adoration. My dad, former minor league star, legendary hitting champ in Triple-A, and outgoing, likable, friendly guy.

How could anyone have any issue with him? How could his son possibly have a single bone to pick?

Tucker shifts his focus to me, still smiling. “Welcome to the best team in baseball, Declan. Stoked to have you and your killer bat in New York, where you belong, man,” Tucker says, giving me a good to see you again handshake. “Also, your dad should be our hitting coach. He’s been giving me tips, and I am going to destroy the Barn Owls’ pitchers today thanks to him.”

“Yeah? Hitting tips?” I choke out the words. If my dad is dispensing hitting tips, that means he’s trying to ingratiate himself. That means he might try to stick around.

No way can I let that happen.

My dad nods proudly, scrubbing a hand over his beard then through his thick head of faintly wavy dark hair. He looks like me but weathered by the years and by the bottle.

I wish I didn’t look like him at all.

“I told Tuck he was dropping his shoulders,” my dad adds, all gregarious.

Tucker grins. “And then I lined up my back shoulder and bashed the hell out of every single ball during practice.”

I swallow, reaching deep down for words. “How . . . long?” I need to get a handle