Igniting the Wild Sparks, Book 3

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Chapter 19

Saturday afternoon, I pull into the spare parking spot in front of Finn’s apartment. Only an hour before, I returned home from North Carolina. My apartment was devoid of Finn’s things, leaving me to feel empty and abandoned. It figures he’d come back here, pouting.

On the other hand, because he lied to me and publicly gave me the middle finger, he can shove it up his moping ass.

Since his car is here, I mentally prepare for an argument, and I’m so ready to give him one. I don’t want to have one right before our game. It’ll be better for us to get it over with before we appear together in front of the team. He has to hear me out and understand that I’m in love with him, not Rod and that I won’t put up with his jealousy anymore.

I bound up the steps, smoothing my red Legal Eagles shirt when I reach the porch. Although I’m mad at Finn, I smile at my number eleven—his eleven—and fine-tune my ponytail before I turn the door handle. Locked. I use my key to open the door and step into the quiet apartment, taking a careful look. Dirty dishes and a couple of cereal boxes litter the counters. In the living room, I notice the two glasses on the coffee table, and the empty bottle of Jack Daniels on the floor. Why in the hell is a bottle on the floor? Can’t he even clean up after himself?

Sighing, I walk to the bathroom to check there, since I had missed it last time. The door is open. No Finn. I then go to his bedroom and push open the door. His bed is a mess, clothes are all over the floor, and an empty bottle of Jim Beam adorns his nightstand. I now have my reason why he didn’t call me back. Oh, Sparks.

“Finn?” I don’t even know why I call out for him when I just checked almost every room. I poke my head into the spare bedroom, which is his office, but nothing stands out.

Returning to the kitchen, I look for a missed note he might have left me amid the clutter. Nope. I didn’t bring my phone since I inadvertently let the battery die.

I check his patio, but he’s not outside, either. Where could he be? Maybe Ricky picked him up, and they went to the field early. That’s a possibility. Or maybe he drove to West Virginia to give his fucking bridge the good news in person. That’s an even greater possibility.

I clean up some before I leave, so it’s not in my face if I come back here after the game. God. I don’t even know where I’ll stay tonight.

After locking up, I drive to Byrd Park, where we’ll be playing our games. It’s also the park where Rod cried for Eden. As I pull in, I notice Rod’s gray truck. I then see him talking on his phone, hanging over the side of the truck bed with his bright red cap on backward.

Walking up to his truck, I hear him say, “You wish. Whatever. Don’t try your damn voodoo shit on me.” He randomly glances my way, and seeing me, he straightens. “I gotta go. Later, bitch.” Rod hangs up and smiles at me. “What up? Long time, no see, slut puppy!”

“I know. You were much better looking the last time I saw you. What the hell happened?”

“I knew you’re hot for me.” He licks his lips, prevailing in not laughing this time, unlike me.

Grinning from my laughing fit, I tease, “I used to be. I’m over it now.” I giggle more, and Rod frowns at me.

As I catch my breath, he holds up his phone. “That was Mortgage. She’s not coming.”

My laughter drops with my voice. “Why?”

He shrugs and stuffs his phone into his pocket. “She’s sick. I imagine she got a bad batch of blood or fell from her perch.”

“Shut up!” I abruptly laugh again, punching his arm. I then check out his uniform. “Why are you wearing those blue jeans?”

Rod raises an eyebrow and smirks. “Would you rather I wear nothing?”

I roll my eyes. “Can’t you wear sweats?”

He instantly grimaces. “I only wear those fucking things if I’m jogging in cold weather. Thankfully, I don’t jog.”

“So sorry they’re beneath you, your majesty. Aren’t those an expensive pair, though?”

Stepping back from the truck, he looks down at his jeans and then up at me. “So?”

My examination continues to the black and white sneakers on his feet. “And your shoes are not cheap.” He owns more shoes than I do.

Amused, he leans against his truck and asks, “Why do you care if I wear nice clothes to play in, Mom?”

My lips pull to the side from that remark. “You’re screwy.”

He cheekily grins. “Aw, yeah. My favorite pastime.”

Screwy. Not screwing.

Shrugging, before reaching into the bed, he grabs his glove and loudly whispers, “I’m a master at both.” We both laugh. “Shit, Hadders. At least I’m not boring.”

“That you aren’t.”

He swivels his head, searching for something. “Where’s your boyfriend? Is he ready to bash my face in?”

“I haven’t seen him. I went to his apartment, but he wasn’t there. I don’t know where he is.”

“Didn’t you call him?”

“No. My phone died.”

“It’s about fucking time. I’ll send a sympathy card.”

“I thought he’d be at his apartment, so I didn’t bother to bring it.”

“Babe! Oh, no! You’re here! Didn’t you get my messages?” I look over my shoulder to see Val hurriedly coming up behind me. I turn and give her a regretful smile.

“No, I didn’t get them.”

Rod smacks the back of my shoulder. “There you go, Hadders. Another reason to ditch that damn phone. It really hates you.”

She sadly says, “I thought… Oh, no. What did Finn say about you being gone?”

“He’s not happy with me.” Understatement of the decade.

Her face falls. “I’m so sorry. When I saw your note on my desk, I called you and left you a message, trying to tell you not to go or to at least not be down there long, but…” Val sighs and then looks up at Rod. “How’s Eden?”

“She’s better. She might get to go home on Monday. She’s happy about that, and so is the hospital staff.” I elbow him, and he shoves me back. I also note his twang has lessened.

Some of our opponents trickle past us, wearing green shirts with Surf and Turf on them. I point with my chin. “What company is that?”

Val glances at them. “Hewitt Plumbing and Danover Electrical. Adorable, huh?”

Rod shakes his head. “Effin’ fabulous, Val. Don’t be cutesy about them. They’re the enemy.”

“We’re not at war, General LaFayette.”

Val walks to the rest of our gathering team, meeting up with Brandon along the way. Rod and I follow, and he whispers, “Your boss hates me.”

“She loves you, Gregory.”

He sighs. “Yeah, you’re right. She makes me cookies for my birthday every September nineteenth.”

I giggle. “Too bad your birthday is February eleventh.”

“I can’t correct her now. It’s been almost three years!”

“I told you I could go into her calendar and change it.”

“But then she’ll figure out she was wrong. Then I’d feel bad for making her feel bad. It’s an awkward position all around, Hadders. At least I can look forward to no-bakes and peanut butter blossoms on September nineteenth every year.”

“It’s official.”

“What?”

“You’re the weirdest guy I know.”

“I’d better be.” Laughing, he swats me with his glove. I try to retaliate with mine, but he easily hops out of the way before I make contact.

Returning to my side, Rod asks, “How’s your stomach?”

“It’s okay,” I fib a little.

“Liar.”

I narrow my eyes in doubt and from the sun. “Why do you say that?”

“Because you have a horrible poker face.”

“Thanks for calling me ugly.” I jut out my bottom lip in an attempt at a pout but reel it back in, seeing his unimpressed expression.

“Hadley, I would never call you ugly.”

Reaching the field, I smile. “The pain is only in one spot now. It’s getting better.”

Betsy comes up to us with a somewhat panicked expression. “Where’s Ricky? Isn’t he supposed to be here?”

Perplexed by her reaction, I say, “Yeah. I don’t know where he is, but I’m sure he will be soon.”

“Cara isn’t here, either.” As soon as she says that, she looks away from me, and amends, “Oh, never mind. There she is.”

I follow her gaze and see Cara approaching us. She’s wearing our team shirt, hat, and her own bored scowl.

When she gives us a lame shout for our attention, we all gather before her. “Okay. According to the schedule, we’re the home team, so we get the field first. Each team will take the field and warm-up for ten minutes. I just talked to their coach, who said they’re just about done, so I guess we’re up soon.”

When the other team vacates, I take my lovely spot in left field. Before pitching, Rod glances back at me, mischievously smiling. I know he’ll never take his turn at bat again with me in the outfield, which makes me feel ashamed for not paying attention that day.

Sylvie starts us off, sharply swinging to the side of the plate, before nearly hopping into a serious ass-kicking stance. I punch at my glove, waiting for her to pick me as her target. I’m ready.

Rod’s face turns serious as he takes a cursory look at his teammates and then focusing on Sylvie. He throws the ball, a near-perfect underhanded pitch, and she swings, propelling the ball into centerfield, sending Gloria stumbling after it as it flies over her head.

Sylvie takes the leap onto second base, and Gloria frowns, throwing the ball back to Rod. Brandon steps to the plate, and after a swing and a miss, he hits a fly. I run backward, keeping my eye on the ball, and catch it. My team cheers and I shyly grin, again glancing to the sidelines to see if our coach is here, but he isn’t.

Being some kind of magnet, Shasta next hits one to me, which is an advantage for her this time since I’m further out and not at shortstop. I jump up to try to catch it even though I probably don’t have a prayer of doing so, but a sharp pain stabs me, and I instinctively curl inward, grabbing my stomach.

“Hadders, you okay?” Rod asks, stepping off the pitcher’s mound.

Unfurling as everyone waits for my answer, I nod. “Yeah. Just surprised me.”

“Hadley!” I look up, and Ricky motions for me to come off the field. Fuck. When did he get here? I’m torn between embarrassment and resentment. Since I can’t beat a cop’s order, I reluctantly walk from the field, passing Rhonda, who is sent out to take my spot. Great. I guess this will take a few minutes. She quickly smiles at me but makes googly eyes at Greg Rodwell.

Ricky fixedly watches me as I walk over to him and cross my arms. I’m so pissed at him for aiding and abetting my boyfriend. Stopping in front of him, I moodily ask, “What?”

Sighing, he nods to the bench behind him. “Take a seat.”

I look back to the field and then to him in confusion. “Why?”

“You know why,” a familiar deep voice replies from behind the home plate cage. I turn my head to see Finn walking into my sight. Even though he’s wearing sunglasses and there was evidence at his apartment of him having a hangover, he looks even sexier than the last time I saw him in my room before he left for his work trip. Right. His red T-shirt sets off his very tousled, glowing blondish hair, and his goatee blends in with the dark stubble growing in on his jaw.

“I’m fine,” I argue. Oops. He hates that word.

Finn points to the bench. “Sit.” He never negotiates with me. I glare at him, but from here, I can’t see his eyes to assess his expression.

I stubbornly pull on the bill of my hat and gripe, “I want to play.” Finn ignores me as he drops the bag of helmets next to the bats before walking back around the fence. Moping, I slam my glove down on the bench and take a seat next to Crick. We fleetingly smile at each other, but that’s the extent of our conversation.

Someone taps me on my arm, and I look up, scowling, most likely. Betsy asks, “Your boyfriend won’t cut you a break?”

I cross my legs and sulk. “No.”

Walking around the bench, Betsy squeezes in between Crick and me, and he obligingly moves to accommodate her. I smile apologetically at Crick as Betsy says, “You think he’d let you have anything you wanted. I mean, to keep you happy and all. He’s the one who has to live with you.”

I gloomily mutter, “You’d think.”

She runs her fingers through her short blonde bob. “I’d be mad if I were you. He’s not even letting you play.”

Even though I want to punch Finn in the stomach and break his sunglasses in two, I automatically defend him. “I guess it’s because he’s worried about me.”

She scoffs, “I think it’s because he wants to show you who’s boss.”

I can’t help but snort. “Boss? Of me? Hardly.” I see Ricky, Cara, and Finn, along with the other team’s coaches, talking to the umpire.

“Well, it’s not like you can just get up and go out there on your own. He’d stop the game and yank you out again.”

“Probably.” The ump goes behind home plate, and Ricky calls everyone in for a quick pep talk, even though I’m far from peppy. Finn encourages, imparting last-minute strategies and tips to the team, but I don’t join in since I’m obviously sitting out this game. I know it’s in poor taste or childish.

As my team takes the field, Betsy and Crick both return to the bench, since Rod is pitching, and Grant is starting at first base.

Leaning his shoulder against the chain link in front of us, Finn casually flips through papers on his clipboard as if his very pissed off girlfriend isn’t sitting twenty feet away from him.

I irritably ask, “You’re not letting me play at all?”

Without stealing his attention away from his precious notes, he answers, “No.”

“Why?”

“Because.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“It is.” He watches the team on the field but won’t give me two seconds of his time.

Betsy nudges me. “Told you.”

I ask him, “Am I even a member of this team anymore?”

To the ball field, he responds, “Yes.”

“So, you’re punishing me for being there for my friend?” He doesn’t answer, and my blood rapidly stews. Having the odd feeling of being watched, I see Cara studiously observing us instead of the game. I wish she would mind her own fucking business, more so than even Betsy. I also notice Ricky watching us, but his apprehensive expression differs from Cara’s intrusive one.

Unnerved by the audience, I watch as Finn writes on a paper attached to his clipboard. Is he actually ignoring me? This is ridiculous. I snap, “Yeah, well, I should punish you for lying to me.”

He doesn’t look up, but I know that statement affected him because he subtly crumples the paper beneath his fingers. Biting his lip, he evaluates the game, still refusing to look at me.

Betsy whispers, “I think you’re making him mad.”

“Good.” I don’t care if he hears me. “Did you have fun as a cricket while I was gone, Jiminy?” This time, Finn acknowledges me, but his sunglasses partially veil his emotions as he testily licks his lips and clamps his teeth together. I guess he’s not good at poker, either. How did I not know he was lying to me?

Instead of responding with words, he returns his focus on the game, which enrages me. Now I’m hitting the truth, and he won’t even admit to it. I bet he was jumping before he got here. His windblown hair certainly gives him away since he’s not wearing his ball cap.

Betsy asks, “Are you two having a fight outside of him not letting you play?”

“We’re fine,” I lie, saying his favorite word louder for him to hear. However, with Betsy listening, I know anything I say can and will be held against me in the Court of Public Opinion.

I get up from the bench, and when I do, he turns his back to me, so he’s full-on watching the game. He’s making it an art of ignoring me. Standing next to him, I cross my arms and huffily ask, “Are you going to talk to me?”

His jaw again twitches, but he doesn’t take his eyes from the game. “Later.”

“Maybe I want to talk now.” I nearly stomp my foot. I’m acting immature, but I’m past caring.

“No.” I practically hear his teeth crunching together.

“So, you’re only going to answer me with one or two words? I’m not worth a third?”

“Guess not.”

“Good one, Wilder. So, we’re not talking about this?”

“Not now.” I’m about to beat him with a softball bat.

“Hadley, leave him alone,” Ricky says, now next to me.

I whirl to face him. “Oh, I’m sorry. Are you Finn’s paid assassin now?” Ricky rolls his eyes and pushes up on his cap. I can imagine the mess beneath it from hurdling through space. “I don’t want to hear a word from you, Ricky. You are just as much to blame for him keeping this from me.”

He tilts his head. “He’s an adult.”

“So, I’m not acting like an adult because I don’t want him doing crazy shit that could get him killed?”

Ricky steps closer to me, lowering his voice. “We will all talk after the game. This isn’t the time to do it.” He widens his eyes and darts them somewhere behind me to get the hint of Betsy and Cara hanging onto every word, no doubt.

As I turn to Finn, he glances away from me and back to the game. Not as smooth as he thinks he is. Going up to him, I angle my head to see his face better, and I darkly ask, “Was it worth it?” His body stiffens while his Adam’s apple frantically dips, but he doesn’t take his attention away from the field action. From behind me, Ricky claps and yells encouragement to Rod. Though I want to watch my friend pitch a good game, I don’t deviate from my mission. “Answer me.” If Finn gets to use it on me, I’m throwing it back at him.

He quietly growls, “Sit down.”

“What? I won’t like your answer?” He doesn’t reply, but he’s holding his breath, and his eyes want to close. He always closes his eyes when he doesn’t want to face something, like a bridal shop commercial.

I guess I have my answer.

And just like at the kite festival when he wouldn’t introduce me to his boss, I’ve reached my limit of bullshit.

When I take a step back, Finn’s shoulders slump in relief. Pivoting on my heel, I storm past Betsy and Crick. “I’m out of here.” I don’t have a game plan, per se. Unfortunately, I take off in the opposite direction of my car. Smart move for a rock, but I can’t dwell on it or look back as I quickly move with an unknown purpose, except to get away from Finn Wilder. I’m sure he didn’t even notice I left.

I think I’ve made headway until I hear a booming, “Where are you going?”

I roll my eyes and try to get my legs to go faster. “Four words! Wow! I’m so deserving!”

With his long legs, I know he’s on my ass by now because his voice is closer and angrier. “We have a game!” Really? Didn’t notice.

Heading to the nearest tennis court, not knowing what I’ll do from there, I book it, but can’t run, or the aching in my stomach will literally bring me to my knees. “You have a game! I’m just a benchwarmer!” My hands slam against the chain-link door and fumbling with it, I hurriedly swing it open to the sound of metallically squeaking with a vibrating clatter. Thank God it’s empty because Sparks is about to see sparks. I go to the closest net and hold on to the post, my stomach unable to take any more crazed power-walking.

Finn looms over me. “You’re hurting! I saw you! I see it now!” I bite my lip, cursing my lack of pain tolerance.

Catching my breath and wincing, I look down at the blue turf and strive to sound nonchalant and not gasp out loud. “It’s not bad.”

“I can see it on your face!”

Shaking my head, I argue, “You didn’t even ask me. You just yanked me from playing.”

“It’s my job as a coach to look out for my players and to do what’s best for the team!”

Still grasping the post, I shift to look at him. His hands are on his hips, his sunglasses on top of his head, and a frown adorns his beautiful lips.

Focus, Beckett.

With a cold smile, I seethe, “Congratulations. Job well done. When my boyfriend reappears, tell him to call me because God knows I’ve been calling him for days! I wonder why he doesn’t call me back? Oh, yeah. He spent time with his good friends, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam. Those bastards.”

Finn clenches his fists. “You fucking took off!”

“For Eden! She’s dying, Finn!”

His brown eyes are dark and piercing, even in the late afternoon sun. “You still went down there for Greg Rodwell.”

Steady enough to let go of the post, I angrily cross my arms. “Yeah, I did. He needed a friend. Don’t you through your parents’ divorce?”

He grimly laughs and takes a step towards me. “That’s funny because the one person I need, my girlfriend, isn’t here when I need her.” His sarcastic smile drops. “Instead, she’s off with another man in another state, doing who in the hell knows what with him!”

I gape at him in horror. “You think I went down there to cheat on you when his sister is in the hospital? How sick is that?”

Taking another step, he says, “Grief does a lot of shit to people. Did he cry and beg you to take his pain away? And the only way to make him feel better was to fall on his dick, right?” I blink at him in shock, unable to comprehend what Finn just said to me. I can’t believe his jealousy is back, and so much worse, even after what Rod told him. What I told him.

Swallowing hard, hot tears spring to my eyes as he icily glares at me. I cry, “No! I wouldn’t do that! He’s not my boyfriend!”

“Are you sure? You’ll do anything for him, no damn questions, but I have to beg you to spend time with me, to move in with me, to make love to me!”

“Seriously? Have you forgotten last week, after decorating? I begged you!”

He scoffs, “Wow! Once!”

“Finn! I only want you! I’m not in love with anyone else!” Tentatively, I move closer to him, but he steps back as his hand goes to his mouth.

Knowing he wants to say something but is withholding, I hesitantly ask, “What?”

His fingers tightly grip both sides of his jaw and then fall. Finn’s eyes blaze. “I know you’re fucking in love with him!”

Almost falling over, I stare at him in utter shock as the tears trickle from my eyes. I whisper, “How could you say that?”

Finn swallows and glances over at the baseball field as he calmly asks, “How could you do that to me?”

“I’m not in love with him!” My shoulders heave as I lean my elbow on my arm that’s holding my stomach. We have to be drawing attention in our red T-shirts, especially since I’m still wearing my red cap. Maybe people think my coach is a stickler for his players, making it to first base.

As I scrub away my tears with my free hand, Finn whips his head back to me, snarling, “Don’t fucking lie to me!” When I look up, he cocks his head, his tone suddenly the eye of the storm. “When did it happen? Did you even think of what it would do to me?”

“Nothing happened!”

His brown eyes blacken. “How many times did you fuck him? Huh?”

“Finn, I didn’t! Holy shit!”

As I sob, he’s in my face again, roughly breathing down on me, but still deceptively subdued. “Once? Twice? Or did you lose count?”

“Zero!” My hand flies up to my mouth to keep from screaming or puking. I’m about to do both.

His ambush doesn’t stop there as his voice rises. “Did he make you come? Did you at least fantasize it was me giving it to you? Did he knock you up?”

“You prick!” On impulse, I shove his chest with both of my hands as hard as I can, but he doesn’t budge, even though I caught him off guard by my outburst. “I didn’t fucking cheat on you, Finnigan! And if I get pregnant, it’s yours!” Panting, I glare at him. “You’ve been lying to me! You might as well have been cheating on me!”

He throws out a hand. “I wasn’t trying to hurt you!”

I indignantly push on his extended arm. “You did! So, what about all these damn lies?”

Finn leans his chest on my arm. “Lies? You want to talk about lies? I know you are lying to me!”

“I’ve told you everything!”

He shakes his head, not breaking his glower. “Huh-uh. Morgan told me you might have trouble getting pregnant.” Oh. I can’t see him laugh. It’ll kill me.

I back away from Finn until I bump into the net. “What the hell does that matter to you? It doesn’t apply to your life, really. So, laugh. It’s no big deal.” Wrapping my arms around my stomach, I cry like a damn baby, which is a mocking commentary on the situation, and I wait for him to do a happy dance.

Surprisingly, his voice isn’t as hard. “Why would I laugh? I wouldn’t do that.”

“Right. Now you’re lying again.” I turn and aimlessly walk along the net, trailing my fingers over the leathery top as I dry my face with the heel of my other hand. I know he’s following me, so I go on. “It was pointless to mention it, and it’s not absolute.” Louder, my voice carries over the tennis court. “Your lie is a whole different level of wrong! You told me you’d never do it again, but you are!” When I get to the end of the net, I spin around, and he’s right there, as I predicted. “You lied to my face! I trusted you, Finn!” He starts to speak, but I say, “And then you broke my damn heart by announcing to everyone on live TV that you’re jumping the fucking bridge again!”

He snaps, “You didn’t break my heart? I had a cabin for us! Time away! Just the two of us, something we desperately need, but no! You were with him! Do you know what that fucking did to me? It brought me to the damn brink!”

“The brink of what?”

His hands sail into his already-messy hair, jostling his sunglasses. “Of losing my fucking mind! All I thought about was what you were doing with Rodwell. If you were giving yourself to him!” He looks away from me and caustically inhales. It’s quiet between us as I stare at the side of his handsome face, with his hands still in his hair, waiting for one of us to start again. He softly adds, “Giving him what I thought was mine.

I retort, “No, he didn’t touch my vagina.”

Returning his suddenly sorrowful gaze to mine, he drops his arms, and his brown eyes burn into my green. “I meant your heart, Becks.” It’s now that I realize I haven’t heard him call me Becks in days. Actually, he hasn’t called me anything. Period.

Staring at each other as if we’re trying to win a contest, the tears stream down my cheeks, and I don’t hide them anymore. On the contrary, his eyes are tear-free. Does he ever cry? If he didn’t cry when he thought I was breaking up with him a few weeks ago or cry from not jumping off his fucking bridge, what in the hell would make Finn Wilder lose it?

He finally breaks our stand-off by whispering, “Your heart’s mine, and I don’t plan on giving it back to you. I won’t even let you steal it from me to give it to someone else.”

“It is yours. I tell you this all the time. It has been and always will be, but you can’t act like a jealous beast anymore. You’ve got to stop it.”

“That’s why you deserve so much better than me.” He inhales and slips a hand back into his hair, making his hair stand up even more over his sunglasses. “I’m sorry for being a total dick.”

My pursed lips threaten to smile. “Yeah, you are a dick. We’ve established that on several occasions.”

Unsmiling, he says, “But I admit, I’m still pissed off for missing our chance to go away together.”

“I am sorry about that. I feel bad you lost your deposit.”

He shakes his head and shoves both of his hands into his pockets. “It’s not about the money.”

I roll my bottom lip under my teeth before saying, “If I would’ve known, I wouldn’t have gone to North Carolina, but to tell you the truth since I’m being honest,” Finn glances past me and frowns, “I didn’t want to go with you after I found out about your extracurricular activities.”

He slides his gaze back to mine. “I’m sorry for that.”

“You’re sorry, but you’ll still do it.”

His eyes are wide and seemingly truthful. “I want to.”

I nod and sniff. “At least you’re finally honest with me.” I take a shaky breath. “Do whatever you want. I can’t stop you,” I utter in resignation.

I fold. Finn Wilder wins.

“Yes, you can. You know you own me, Becks.”

As tempting as it is to take advantage of his vulnerability, I cross my arms again as I look out to the park, beyond the tennis court.

We’re quiet, but hear the clanging crack of a bat amongst the sound of cars on Blanton Avenue. Finn inhales. “Where do we stand?”

I cautiously ask, “What do you mean?”

He’s also guarded, asking, “Are you renewing your ultimatum regarding my jumping?”

Exasperated, I sigh. “No. I told you to do whatever you want. I’m not stopping you anymore. It’s your life.”

My gaze falls to the blue turf, and he angles his head down, catching my attention. “But I’m sharing it with you, Becks.”

Feeling the tears building again, I glance at the chain-link behind him. “Not really. You’ve hidden so much from me. I feel like I don’t even know you.”

From my peripheral, he peers at the ground. “I’m still me. I just didn’t want you to worry so much.”

“That’s impossible.”

Lifting his head, he puts his hands on his hips and quietly says, “I struggled these past few days.”

“So did I. Your lie rocked my world. I thought I could trust you.”

“You can. I should’ve told you I wanted to skydive again.” And there it is.

“So, that’s what you’ve been doing?”

Finn eyes me warily. “Yes.”

Slightly irritated again for hearing him admit the truth, I ask, “For how long?”

Cringing, he drops his head. “Since May of last year.”

“What?”

He slowly raises his head and takes a deep breath. “It wasn’t a lot… at first. I was stressed, and I just wanted to let go.”

“Can’t you take up a hobby, like painting or bird watching?”

A slow smirk tugs at his full lips, and I look away. “Well, you’ve been doing a bang-up job with drinking.”

“Skydiving is different. It’s amazing, Becks. I’d love to take you up with me.”

I can’t shake my head fast enough. “I don’t think so.”

“You’d like it.”

Not wanting to think about jumping out of a plane, I instead ask, “Why were you so stressed?”

Finn shrugs as he watches passing cars. “A lot of things.”

“Me?” Definitely.

“My limitations involving you.”

I swipe at the new rogue tears. “I’m sorry I’m fucking up your life.”

“Baby, you’re not. You are my life. I shouldn’t have lost my faith in us. In you. I’m sorry I did.”

“Why did you assume I was cheating on you? I don’t understand.”

“Because I have problems, and my shortcomings hurt you.”

“No, your distrust, lying, and jealousy hurt me. Accusing me of cheating on you is outrageous, Finn. I would never do that. If I didn’t want to be with you, I’d tell you. I wouldn’t sneak around behind your back. How do I know if you’re lying to me?”

With a hint of annoyance, he says, “I’m not.”

“My brain wants to believe you, but my heart is scared. I’m not sure how to move on.”

Finn grabs onto the net, clutching it tightly, curling his fingers through the squared holes. He mumbles, “Fuck. Are you leaving me?”

I bite my lip, so I concentrate on that sting instead of the one in my heart. I want to easily forgive and forget, but I need this not to happen again, too. “No, but I need a minute to acclimate myself to your secret hobby and jarring announcement. I have to concentrate on Morgan’s wedding this week without added stress.”

He reluctantly nods at the ground. “I figured as much you wouldn’t want me around.”

“It’s more that I don’t want you to go. Now I’m afraid to watch you walk out the door, not knowing what you’re doing.”

He raises his head. “Becks, I’d tell you from now on, but then you’d freak out.”

“It’s such a Catch-22. I don’t know if I really want to know even though I’m mad because I didn’t know.”

“I know.” Finn ruefully smiles, but nods.

Watching a bird picking at a twig on the ground, I say, “I want to trust you again.”

“I’ll make it happen. I promise you.” The sincerity in his voice compels me to look at him, and we again stare at each other in silence.

Overwhelmed with feelings that I can’t grasp, I take a cleansing breath. “After Morgan’s wedding, we’ll talk more. I’ll be home Sunday afternoon if you’re not working.”

“Okay.” His gaze falls, and mine goes with it. “Is your stomach any better?”

“Yeah.” It’s my heart that hurts.

Also taking in a deep breath, Finn’s tone becomes authoritative. “Well, as your coach, you still shouldn’t play until our next game in two weeks.”

I glance up at him. “And what does my boyfriend say?”

Finn anxiously licks his lips before clearing his throat, and his voice is gentler. “As your boyfriend, I want you to stay with me and watch the game. Cheer on your team.”

“All right.” Undecided of what else to say to him, I cautiously walk past him to the gate, and he easily falls into step next to me, grabbing my arm. I stop and peer up at him, perplexed. “What?”

His eyes descend to my lips and then slowly wander back up to my eyes. “I really need to kiss you, Becks.”

“Is that the truth?”

“I would never lie about my feelings for you.”

I’m lost in his stare. “And how do you feel? About me?”

“You know how I feel.”

I slightly shake my head, still entranced, and hating that I am. “I don’t know if I do anymore.”

His eyes do another circuit, and he gruffly asks, “So, I can’t kiss you?”

My eyes automatically go to his mouth and then dragging my gaze up to his hopeful one, I say, “Maybe Sunday.”

“Then I’ll tell you how I feel Sunday. It’s only fair.”

I slowly shake my head with a contrite smile. “You don’t play fair.”

He leans closer, and his cologne and voice weaken my knees. “Neither do you, but I know I’ve met my match.” His eyes speculatively drift over my face. “Or my ruin.”

“I think you’re doing that all by yourself.”

He regretfully smirks. “Yeah. You might be right.”

Finally, I blink and look down, and he steps back, giving me space to breathe again. We walk back to the field close together yet so far apart.

Will I get over this? I can’t even hold his hand or kiss him. Maybe I am unreasonable, but if he can’t be rational about me helping Rod, then I get to be irrational about something, too.

Fair is fair, even if love and Finn Wilder aren’t.

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