extra innings…an excerpt

I posted on Monday about the new Holidays with Jane: Spring Fever collection which is now out (and you can stop by Monday’s post and enter to win a copy plus coffee!).  My story in the collection is called Extra Innings and it is a Persuasion redux with a baseball flair.  I thought you might enjoy an excerpt…let me know what you think!


Extra Innings


People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do: I stare out the window and wait for spring.
—Roger Hornsby

I had two major problems in life.

The first was that the Chawton Choppers were having their opening game on Easter for the first time in the nine seasons I’d worked for them. This meant I would miss the Elliot Easter Extravaganza, which was apparently akin to murdering my father in cold blood. Not that my father would notice I wasn’t there until it was time for the annual family picture. Our Easter picture got plastered in the local newspaper each year with the caption: “Mayor Elliot and his daughters Elizabeth and Anna hosted their annual Easter Egg Hunt for underprivileged children at their home on the west side for the millionth year in a row.”

Except my name wasn’t Anna. It was Anne. Or Annie, as I was known at work. The Chawton Chronicle had been printing it wrong for five years, and no one had bothered to correct them. The one time I’d mentioned it to my sister, she’d rolled her eyes and said, “As if it even matters. It’s close enough.” Of course, when the Chronicle had gotten Elizabeth’s age wrong (and not even by an entire year; they’d said she was thirty-seven two weeks before she was, in fact, thirty-seven), she’d been on the phone screaming down the place within minutes of the newspaper getting tossed on our front porch.

My second problem was that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t blend in with the ficus.

I should’ve had a good shot at it. On a normal day in The Life of Annie it might have worked. The Choppers’ team colors were green and gold, and I was currently wearing a green polo which seemed very ficus-like. But I was also wearing blue jeans and holding an entire tray of large coffees from Mansfield Perk. The cream-colored cups and lavender logo stood out like a neon sign from said ficus. And Rick Wentworth’s piercing blue eyes didn’t miss much.

Rick Wentworth.

Did I say two problems? Three. And number three was a doozy. A six foot tall, dark-haired, dimple-bound doozy.

“Oh, Annie!” Bob McCallister boomed from beside Rick. I blinked. When Bob boomed, he really boomed. “Come meet our new assistant coach!”

I glanced to the left, then the right, trying to find an escape path. I darted a quick look at the beige carpeting, wondering at the odds of the floor opening up and swallowing me whole à la the Pit of the Sarlacc in Return of the Jedi. My palms were sweaty.

Am I breathing…maybe I’m not breathing? The carpeting started to turn itself into an odd looking swirl. Nope. Not breathing.

“Come on, Annie!” Bob boomed again. I gasped, forcing air into my starved lungs, and took a step forward. My heart was pounding so hard against my rib cage I was sure they could hear it.

That’s right, Annie, another step. You can do it. One more step.

I focused my eyes on the Choppers’ logo on Bob’s polo. It matched mine. Tuesdays were green day. Tomorrow we’d all wear gold. Wedding bands are gold. Crap, I’m screwed.

“Good morning, Bob,” I said to the logo on his shirt. The crossed bats and interlocking Cs were as familiar to me as my own face.

“Rick.” Bob’s logo turned in the direction of the taller man to his left. “This is Annie. She’s the GM’s administrative assistant…but basically she runs the whole show, isn’t that right, Annie?” Bob’s meaty hand reached out and whacked me on the shoulder. I tried not to grimace and used my other hand to steady the coffees that had tilted precariously. “This is Rick Wentworth, but then you probably know that, all the ladies seem to know who you are, Rick.” Bob whacked Rick on the back.

“Welcome to the Chawton Choppers, Coach Wentworth.” I nodded in his general direction, eyes still firmly on Bob’s polo logo.

“Thank you, Ms. Elliot.” His voice was just like I remembered it. Warm honey dripping over gravel. Stop being stupidly poetic, Annie. My gaze flicked up to his face for a moment, and I regretted that immediately. He was looking at me with the strangest look of…was that disappointment? I felt that look like a fist to my mid-section. I refocused on Bob’s shirt logo. The heat of my blush burned in my cheeks.

“I’m gonna take Coach around and introduce him.” Bob’s statement didn’t seem to need a response, so I nodded.

“Have a good day,” I mumbled to the logo before slowly backing up and turning in the direction of the GM’s office and my ultimate freedom.

“That Annie; she’s a peach, but a shy one. Let’s go meet the rest of the office staff.” I winced as Bob’s overly loud voice followed me down the hall. I still had the coffees to deliver…but first, I’d go hide in the bathroom until Rick Wentworth was out of my office.

I didn’t realize how badly my hands were shaking until I tried to take one off the drink carrier to open the bathroom door. The coffees danced mid-air like they were trying to do the Macarena. I finally gave up and pushed the door open with my hip. Blessedly, the restroom was empty. I deposited the coffees on the counter and locked myself in a stall. My hands were still shaking and my breath was coming in short pants. I perched on the edge of the toilet seat and squeezed my eyes closed. A pep talk was in order. Dear Annie, stop being a moron. Ok? Thanks.

I grimaced. As pep talks went, it wasn’t my best work.

It was over. The worst of it was over—the first meeting. From now on we could just pretend to be complete strangers. Thankfully, Bob hadn’t asked how Rick had known my last name. And I hadn’t passed out, or dropped the coffees, or broken down in tears. All in all it was a win.

We could go on now as if we’d never known each other, as if we had never meant anything to each other. As if I still didn’t doodle Annie Wentworth into my Day Planner on rainy days.

As if I’d never worn Rick Wentworth’s ring.

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