“I can see that.”
“I figured if we’re going to hang out together, you might need it.”
He stilled and then a low laugh escaped him. “What I need with you, Pru, is full body armor.”
He lifted his head. “And who says we’re hanging out?” he asked, his gaze holding hers prisoner.
She hesitated briefly. “I do.”
His eyes never left hers which was how she saw them warm. “Well, then,” he said. “I guess it’s true.”
Their eyes stayed locked, holding for a long beat, and suddenly Pru had a hard time pulling in enough air for her lungs.
“So what’s the favor?” he asked.
“I play on a coed softball league. We’re short a player tonight and I was hoping—”
She blinked. “But I didn’t even finish my sentence.”
“You’re short a player for tonight’s game and you want me to fill in,” he said.
“Well, yes, but—”
She took in his suddenly closed-off expression. “Because . . . you’re against fun?”
He didn’t react to her light teasing. He wasn’t going to play. He clearly had a good reason, maybe many, but he didn’t plan on sharing them.
“You should’ve called and saved yourself a trip,” he said.
“I didn’t want to make it easy for you to say no.”
“I’m still saying no, Pru.”
“What if I said I need you?” she asked softly.
He paused for the slightest of beats. “Then I’d say you have my full attention.”
“I mean we need you. The team,” she said. “We’ll have to forfeit—”
She crossed her arms. “You said I had your attention.”
“You have that and more,” he said cryptically. “But I’m still not playing tonight. Or any night.”
She knew he was living life carefully, always prepared for anything to go bad. But she knew that wasn’t any way to live because the truth was that any minute life could be poof—gone. “Do you remember the other day when you caught me at my worst and saw a few of my demons?” she asked quietly.
“You mean when the picture frame broke.”
“Yes,” she said, not surprised he knew exactly what she was talking about, that she hadn’t been even slightly effective in hiding her painful memories from him.
“You didn’t want to talk about it,” he said.
“No,” she agreed. “And you let me get away with that.” She dropped her gaze a little and stared at his torso rather than let him see what she was feeling now. “Whether it was because it doesn’t matter to you, or because you have your own demons, I don’t know, but—”
Oh thank God, he’d shut her up. Sometimes she really needed help with that. She stared at his neck now, unable to help noticing even in her growing distress and sudden discomfort that he had a very masculine throat, one that made her want to press her face to it and maybe her lips too. And her tongue . . .
“Pru, look at me.”
He said this in his usual low timbre, but there was a gentle demand to the tone now that had her lifting her gaze to his.
“It matters,” he said. “You matter.”
This caused that now familiar squishy feeling in her belly, the one only he seemed to be able to evoke. But it also meant that it was his demons eating at him and this killed her. “Softball is a problem for you,” she whispered.
“No.” He closed his eyes for a beat. “Yeah. Maybe a little, by association.” He blew out a sigh and turning his head, stared at the sweet car he’d been working on.
Which was when she remembered he’d had to quit playing baseball in college to raise Sean.
God, she was such an idiot.
“You’ll have to forfeit?” he asked.
“Shit.” He shut the hood of the Chevelle and went hands on hips. “Tell me you guys are good.”
She crossed her fingers. “You have to see us to believe it.”
Not ten minutes into the game, Finn stood behind home plate wearing all of the catcher’s gear, staring at the team in complete disbelief.
He’d been recruited by a con artist.
He slid his con artist a look. She was playing first base, looking pretty fucking adorable in tight, hip-hugging jeans and a siren red tee with a ragged penny jersey over the top of it, heckling the other team.