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Perfect Catch(6)

By´╝ÜSierra Dean



Olivia stared at Alex’s extended hand, and her gaze darted to Alice. Giving her daughter a silent nod of approval, Alice waited to see what would happen next.

“Olivia Darling. But you can call me Liv if you want to. You play for the Felons, don’t you?”

“I… Uh…” Alex looked back to Alice for help, but since Alice was too busy holding in her laughter, he wouldn’t get any aid from her. “Yeah. You a big baseball fan?”

“My dad is a—”

“Huge fan,” Alice interjected. “Liv learned to fill out a scorecard before she could ride a bike.” She hoped the compliment would distract Olivia from mentioning Matt.

Alex knowing she was a mother was okay.

Knowing she’d slept with a guy Alex probably knew? That was a different story entirely.

Besides which, Matt didn’t want his paternity to become tabloid fodder. And Alice didn’t want Olivia to become a source of jokes for late-night talk-show hosts. The fewer people who knew the connection, the better.

“Who’s your favorite team?” Alex asked.

“The Mets. My dad—”

“Livvy, is the pizza here?”

“Oh yeah. Uncle Kevin has it in the kitchen.” Liv pivoted away from them and ran back up the hall and into the kitchen yelling, “Mom brought a boy home.”

Alice gave Alex an apologetic look, and a moment later Kevin wandered down the hall with a curious expression on his face.

“I was wondering what had kept you. Didn’t realize you’d stopped on the way home to pick something up.” Kevin, who clearly thought he was being clever, gave Alex a careful glance. “Hey.”

“Hey.”

“Kevin, this is Alex Ross. His car got a flat on the highway. I helped him out with his tire and invited him to join us for dinner.”

“No Triple A?”

Ignoring him, Alice charged on. “Alex, meet my good-for-nothing brother, Kevin.”

The two men shook hands, though Kevin didn’t seem any less suspicious of the new arrival. “What were you doing out on the highway? You know, aside from hoping passing women might take pity on you.”

“Isn’t that the best reason to get a flat tire?” Alex asked without missing a beat. When Kevin didn’t reply, he added, “I’m driving in for training. I was on my way to the hotel when the breakdown happened. I’m actually really lucky your sister happened along.”

“You’re a baseball player?” Kevin’s surprise was evident in his tone, and Alice began to worry he might give away her secrets faster than her child could.

“Yeah. Catcher for San Francisco.”

“Nice.” Kevin gave Alice a meaningful look. Alice hoped her own loaded gaze was all he’d need to know he should keep his mouth shut. “Pizza’s getting cold.”

They all moved into the kitchen where Olivia was already parked at the small table, her plate loaded with cheese pizza. Or at least it resembled pizza under the thick coating of parmesan cheese powder she’d sprinkled over the top.

An open can of Coke was sitting next to Olivia’s plate, and a bottle of Budweiser was beside Kevin’s. Alice bit her lip, choosing not to mention the alcohol or the sugary, caffeinated pop. Liv was going to be a monster to put to sleep now, but there was no point in making a scene about it with Alex over. Kevin could thank his lucky stars later that company had saved him from getting a real earful.

Alex sat between Alice and Olivia, and around a mouthful of pizza, Liv asked, “Areooanyood?”

“Excuse me?” Alex looked at her as if she were speaking Swahili. Which was possible, considering only someone with exposure to children would be able to decipher what Liv had asked.

“Finish chewing then speak,” Alice reminded her daughter.

Olivia made a show of chewing her food, locking her gaze on Alice as she did. When she’d swallowed, she turned back to Alex and repeated, “Are you any good?”

“I guess I must be. They haven’t kicked me off the team yet.”

“Do you know Tucker Lloyd?”

Alice facepalmed, but Alex kept rolling right along with Olivia’s inquisition. “I do. We’re actually best friends.”

“No kidding?”

“No kidding.”

“He’s pretty good. I guess.”

Pretty good was a substantial understatement since the previous season Tucker Lloyd had pitched a perfect game. Everyone with a passing knowledge of baseball knew Lloyd’s name, which was probably the reason Olivia was grilling Alex about him.

“Well, he’s not a New York Met, but we like having him around,” Alex teased.

Olivia wrinkled her nose but honored him with a smile. “Want some of my cheese pizza?” She pushed the box towards him. Alice’s heart almost went into arrest as she watched the gesture. Not that Olivia was a selfish child, but it was still rare for her to share things she thought belonged to her. For her to grant Alex this favor was enormous, and there was no way the man could possibly appreciate it on the same level Alice did.

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