Middle of the fifth inning and his Phillies were down. Michael smacked at the steering wheel and let a string of curses fly from between clenched teeth. She was going to be impossible if the Braves won this game. They’d already won the first two in the series this week, but if they won this last one? “Fuck.”
He pulled into a parking spot. The walk to Turner Field would take him to at least the end of the inning, but he would be there, with her. Living down south with the woman he’d arrested on a clerical error, the woman who, even though she was a lifelong Braves fan, had turned out to be the love of his life…
Atlanta was so different than his small Pennsylvania hometown. Okay so maybe different wasn’t exactly the right word. It was a whole other universe. From the sheer number of events, crowds of people, lines of traffic, and crime. It was a wonder he could find his way from home to work and back again as it was. And the food? He couldn’t even wrap his head around the food. A heart attack couldn’t be too far away given the sauced and cheesed and smothered southern dishes his girlfriend’s mother was fond of making for them every Sunday.
He wouldn’t trade any of it, though. The few days he and Holli had spent holed up in his apartment that Christmas a couple of years ago had been eye-opening for him. The connection, the ease, the sex. He smiled. The sex with Holli had been anything but boring that week. He liked hard, fun, even kinky sex, and Holli was definitely his match in that.
At the gate of the stadium he handed his ticket over. He made his way down the steps from the pavilion and saw the back of her head. Well, the back of her ball cap. Her brown waves were pulled back in a ponytail. Even without seeing more than her head and the top of her shoulders, he knew she’d be decked out all the way down to her toes in Braves gear.
He looked down at himself and grimaced. No wonder the Phillies were losing. He didn’t have a stitch of supportive clothing on. Midstep he turned and headed to the nearest gift shop. They didn’t have a big selection of anything Phillies, but there were a few caps to choose from. He plucked one from the hook and at the register found a small bat that brought a smile to his face and dirty thoughts to his mind. It was roughly twelve inches, and maybe the circumference of a quarter at the end.
Without a second of hesitation, he grabbed the bat by the grip and laid it down with his hat. The cashier smirked, and Michael grinned. “Mixed relationship,” he offered.
“I hope she’s not the Phillies fan.”
“With as bad as they’ve been playing this series, if she’s the fan, you’re gonna be in the dog house until they win a game.”
Michael laughed. “You’ve got a point. Good thing I’m the Philly.” He paid for his items, ripped the tag off the cap and tossed it in the trash, then fit the cap on his head.
He jogged back down the steps, then slid into the seat next to Holli. She didn’t look at him, just took his hand and smiled with a small tilt of the corner of her mouth. “You really think that hat is gonna help?”
Michael squeezed her fingers. “It can’t hurt.”
“This is why when you get dressed on game-day morning, you put on your gear.”
“I know.” It was a superstition she had. If she wasn’t dressed in a Braves shirt, Braves socks, and Braves cap the day of a game, no matter where they were playing, they had a better than average chance of losing than if she was wearing it all.
He couldn’t fault her thinking. After all, he hadn’t worn any Phillies stuff since they’d come to town to play this three-game series, and they’d lost every game and not gracefully. “Maybe I should ask Santa for some Phillies boxers or something this year. At least I can wear them to work and not be mobbed. I can’t walk into the station with a Phillies tie or shirt visible to all.”
“You could always switch teams.”
“I’m going to ignore you said that.”
“Just a suggestion.” She lifted their joined hands and kissed the back of his. “I wasn’t sure you were going to make it.”
Michael shifted to get comfortable in the small confines of the stadium seats and glanced out over the field. Middle of the top of the sixth, the Phillies were up to bat and centerfield was so close, Michael felt as though he could reach out and run his fingers through the grass. He couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Thursday night. “Traffic sucks here. Even with the light flashing on the dashboard.”
“You put the light on?”
“Of course. The Phillies are in town.”
“And this is police business?”
“If I find someone to arrest, yes.”
“Been there, done that,” she muttered, but loud enough for him to hear, and he laughed.
“Yes you have. So, what’s been going on? I caught some of it on the radio, but when the announcers are biased, it kind of takes some of the fun out of it.”
“Yeah, that’s what takes away the fun. Whatever you have to tell yourself to feel better.”
Her sarcasm wasn’t lost on him, and he nudged her shoulder. “Shut up.”
“Fat chance. As you can see, the Phillies are really what sucks in this town. Third game in the series, and y’all can’t get a batter on base.”
“They were waiting for me to show up. They knew I couldn’t be here for the first two games, and they were waiting for me to be here before they turned it on.” Two could play the smartass game.
“Oh. Well, by all means, work your magic then, Officer, but be forewarned, my Braves are still going to kick your butts all the way back to Pennsylvania.”
Much as he loved his team, she was likely going to be right. “Just watch the game.”
“Oh come on now. You’re not a sore loser, are you?” Her sarcasm was not lost on him, and she knew it.
“You know better than that. You should just keep your eye on the ball. I don’t need any further comments from the peanut gallery.”
“Or seventh-inning stretch, I’ll give you
something to be sore about.”
“Are you threatening me, Officer?”
“Only if you take it that way. I prefer to look at it as more of a promise. Less incriminating that way.”
She said nothing further, only smiled slightly. They settled in and watched as the Phillies struck out twice, were walked once, and had a ball ground out at second. Michael fought the urge to bury his face in his hand or poke his eyes out.
Holli leaned her head close to his. “So, exactly how sore?”