Writer J.T. Green desperately wants to be taken seriously at national weekly Sports Today, both for her and her father (the Coach), but a locker-room mishap lands her a losing assignment covering a dead-end local baseball club, the Gilbeytown, Pa., Beavers. Unbeknownst to her and her editor, famous pitcher Tommy Bainbridge is in town, and he's determined to help the Beavers kick their losing streak. Tommy and J.T. fall for each other, but their careers and trust issues make it impossible for them to commit; soon, however, J.T. uncovers a conspiracy threatening the Beavers that could drag her and Tommy down with it. Bruce (Who Wants to Be a Sex Goddess?) is in good form with this sports romance, keeping the baseball in the forefront without getting technical. Tommy is an almost absurdly good guy-humble, honorable, an old school sportsman-and J.T. is a strong foil-independent, indomitable and sexily vulnerable. Though readers may wonder at some of the loose ends, the novel's smalltown setting, vibrant supporting characters and modest aspirations make this a charming exploration of love and baseball. (Dec.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Man for Meby Gemma Bruce
The bragging. The pin-ups. The sweaty socks. Please oh please, set me free! Female sportswriter J.T. Green wants out of the locker roomuntil star pitcher Tommy Bainbridge walks in. Tommy defines the word hot: He's tall, a terrific kisser, and a total catch. J.T. wants everything he has to give. But Gilbeytown, PA, needs their/i>/b>
The bragging. The pin-ups. The sweaty socks. Please oh please, set me free! Female sportswriter J.T. Green wants out of the locker roomuntil star pitcher Tommy Bainbridge walks in. Tommy defines the word hot: He's tall, a terrific kisser, and a total catch. J.T. wants everything he has to give. But Gilbeytown, PA, needs their hometown boy back where he belongs and if his plans to help get leaked to the press, there's going to be hell to pay. Distracting a woman as determined and downright sexy as J.T. isn't going to be easy. Unless he can show her how heavenly it feels to be held in his powerful arms and. . .well, hey. She seems to like it. A lot. And so does Tommy.
It's clear as a freshly chalked baseline that Tommy and J.T. are crazy in love. To hell with reality. They don't care if they never come back . . .
Praise for Gemma Bruce and her novels. . .
"Sexy comedy with romance that sizzles the pages!" –Romantic Times, 4 star review of Who Loves Ya, Baby?
"Smart dialogue and sassy heroines make this provocative collection shine."–Romantic Times, 4 star review of Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed?Gemma Bruce is the alter ego of a popular mystery writer, who loves the excitement of a "who done it" and the sizzle of romance. After a career in dance, theater, television and film, performing before packed houses even on a bad-hair-bloat day, Gemma now goes one on one with her computer screen to create the characters and stories she loves. Her laptop has never once made a snide remark about her hair (although it has eaten a few sentences that made it blush).
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The Man for Me
By GEMMA BRUCE
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Chapter One "But I had clothes on." J.T. Green jutted her chin out and glared at the man glaring back at her across the littered desktop.
Skinny Martin was editor of the nationally read weekly Sports Today-and J.T.'s boss. But the paper on the desk between them wasn't ST. It was The Buzz, a national tabloid that was sold in every grocery store across the country.
He shoved the paper toward her and jabbed his finger at the picture at the center of the front page. "Does this look like clothes to you?"
J.T. glanced down. Her back was to the camera, but the camisole T-shirt she'd been wearing was gone. The two AL players were full frontal and wet. The photo was cropped at their waists, but the implications were clear. Especially since one of them appeared to be lunging at her. A full page headline read SPORTS TODAY REPORTER CAUGHT IN LOCKER ROOM ORGY.
"You told me to get an interview. I caught them when they came out of the shower."
"I didn't tell you to single-handedly make a laughing stock of Sports Today." Skinny raised his eyebrows, which made little half-moons on his moon face. "Did I?"
J.T. opened her mouth to explain, then closed it. The top of his bald head was turning red. Not a good sign. Skinny hadn't been skinny in thirty years. He was pushing the parameters of big fat slob and she was afraid he was going to have a coronary. He might be a bully, but he was the savviest editor around and she needed this job.
She pulled herself together. "They were wearing towels. I was wearing a camisole, like the one I'm wearing now, only blue. They airbrushed the straps out."
"I have irate e-mails coming out of my ears, the phone has been ringing off the hook, the real press is having a field day."
Three clichés in one breath. She was in deep doo-doo. "Skinny. There was nothing prurient going on. I've known both of those guys since I was ten. They were doing me a favor so I could get the story you wanted."
"That's why this guy is fondling you for the camera?"
"Jesus, Skinny. He recognized the Buzz reporter and tried to push me out of the way. The cameraman sneaked in. They don't allow those kind of journalists in the clubhouse. And just for this reason."
J.T. thought she sounded reasonable, but Skinny's color grew redder. "Maybe we should discuss this later."
"Forget it. You're outta here."
J.T.'s stomach flipped over. He was firing her? She'd only gotten the job because Skinny and the Coach were old pals, but she'd been busting her butt to get good stories, cutting-edge news, so people would finally stop thinking of her as Abe Green's little girl. She swallowed back the panic that rose to her throat. "You're firing me?"
"I'm sending you on location."
J.T. nearly slumped with relief. The Coach would kill her if she blew this job. Another blot on the Green family baseball dynasty. "You are? Where?"
Tommy Bainbridge waved cigar smoke out of his face as he listened to his uncle Bernie's side of the phone conversation.
Bernie sat back in his desk chair, his stomach making a little mound beneath his gray sweatshirt. His right leg, encased in a hard cast to the thigh, was propped on a pillow on the desktop.
He jabbed the stale air with his cigar. "Uh-huh. Yeah. Whatever."
Tommy stepped back until he was almost against the closed door. He wished he could open the window, but it was filled with an ancient air conditioner that rattled more than it pumped out air.
Bernie banged the phone down. "Aw hell. Damn reporter left Atlanta three days ago. I'd like to ring Skinny Martin's fat neck. In-depth story, my ass. They're following you. Wondering why you aren't with the Galaxies where you belong. Which brings us back to the same question I've been asking. Why the hell aren't you with the team?"
"Because you said you were in trouble. And if the reporter left three days ago he isn't following me. I've only been here since yesterday and I didn't tell anyone where I was going."
"You told him we're in trouble?" Larry Chrysler, the Beavers general manager, was sitting in the only other chair in the room. He was as tall as Bernie was short, streamlined where Bernie was thick. Balding while Bernie's wiry salt-and-pepper hair was still thick.
Bernie narrowed bushy eyebrows until they met in the center of his forehead. "I told him we were going through a rough patch. I just wanted some advice. I didn't mean for you to come hauling back home to bail me out."
He rolled the cigar tip around in the ashtray, jabbed it out, and took a roll of Tums out of his shirt pocket. He downed two before frowning at Tommy. "I don't want you jeopardizing your season 'cause a me."
"You're family. Family first. Over the majors, over the money, over baseball."
"Over the babes?"
Larry shook his head. "Hell, you're getting old, boy."
"You're right. I am," said Tommy. He was thirty-six. He'd been playing in pain for years, had surgery during the off-season, and spent most of last year on the disabled list. His rotor cuff was shot; no surgery in the world was going to make him the pitcher he used to be.
"So if you're not injured and you're not being traded-"
"Jesus, Larry. The Galaxies would be crazy to trade Tommy." Bernie's barrel chest expanded to fighting size. It had intimidated more than a few umpires in his day. It didn't faze Larry.
"Don't get your panties in a twist. I'm just saying that it's pretty damn clear that Skinny Martin smells a story and I'll eat my Roger Clemens rookie card if it's about the damn Beavers." He looked over his shoulder at Tommy. "So if you're not leveling with us on why you're hanging around like a guy without a job, you'd better let us in on the joke."
Tommy looked at the space between the two men. He owed both men the truth. They were old-time ballplayers, all rough, scruff, and hard knocks. They'd played together on the Mariners in the late seventies.
These guys understood sacrifice. Had lived with the curves life had dealt them. They'd understand his decision. But Tommy was sworn to secrecy until the Galaxies signed his replacement. And he felt like a cad.
"I took a few days off. It happens. Hell, I was back for most of last season. Had a winning record. Worked my butt off during spring training. Pitched on Saturday. I have five days before I'm scheduled to pitch again. I asked for a few days off for family reasons. They were fine with it. I'm here because I can be. And you're in deep shit."
Larry barked out a laugh. "You just noticed? We've been in deep shit for years. We keep on muddling by."
"That was before somebody decided to help finish you off."
Bernie reached into his shirt pocket for more Tums.
"Damn it, Bernie," said Larry. "Why don't you get yourself a prescription for your stomach? Only pregnant women pop Tums."
Bernie finished chewing and swallowed with a gulp. "Can't afford the co-pay." He stuck the unlit butt of his cigar between his teeth and clamped them tight.
Tommy finally moved from the door and leaned over the desk. "This team is being sabotaged. You know it and I know it."
"Aw hell." Larry straightened up and met Tommy's eyes. "This team doesn't have to be sabotaged. It can sabotage itself. Have you looked at last year's win-loss record? We're monkey meat. No wonder we don't collect shit at the gate. There's more excitement at the little league field."
"They had a winning record," mumbled Bernie, and spit out a piece of tobacco. "Not to mention state-of-the-art ball fields, concession stands, plumbing that works, and a grounds crew that any major league team would be proud of."
Larry let out a long sigh and leaned back in his chair. "We're about to be history. There's nothing you or I or Bernie or anyone else can do to stop it." In a quieter voice he said, "Tommy, times are changing. The population is changing. They want a new ballpark, a triple-A team. They'll pass the referendum. They have the clout to get it done."
"By tearing down Gilbey Field," Bernie groused.
"They want progress."
"On the backs of the rest of us poor tax-paying schmucks."
"The commuters have support among the locals."
Bernie spit out another piece of tobacco. "Thanks to our sell-out, hypocrite mayor. If you had told me Charlie Wiggins would grow up to be the swine that he is, I wouldn't have believed it. And his mother one of our oldest fans. Poor woman deserves more than that polecat for a son."
"That might be," said Larry, "but that's life. Tommy, I know what the team means to you. But if you want it to survive, you'd better buy it. I haven't seen one of our downy absentee owners in years. Just get nasty directives 'From the desk of.' As if they give a shit. We're a great tax write-off.
"And if the town takes back the ballpark, they'll unload the Beavers faster than you can say strike three. But we don't need it broadcast all over the country.
"If you really want to help, you can babysit this reporter. But don't mention any of this shit. We look bad enough as it is. Just flash your million-dollar smile at him, tell him you're here for your mother's birthday-"
"Her birthday's in March."
"Whatever. Give him some razzle-dazzle and send him on his way. Whatever he's looking for, I don't want him poking around in our business."
Neither did Tommy. This was just what he and the Galaxies were trying to avoid. Leaks to the press would damage the Galaxies clout in the negotiations with Isotori. If the new deal went south, Tommy would be playing in pain for another year. "So what do you know about this reporter?"
"Never heard of him," said Bernie. "Must be a rookie or a deadbeat. Why else send him to cover a bush league team. So I guess you're right. If they were after you, they'd've sent a veteran."
Larry snorted. "Maybe, but Skinny Martin is a conniving son of a bitch. No way is he interested in the Beavers. The Beavers are old news. Hell, the Beavers are no news."
The Beavers might be old news, but they'd survived for twenty years, and Tommy wasn't about to let them go down without a fight. "Okay. Nanny nine-one-one at your service."
"Good." Larry stood up. He was a good three inches taller than Tommy. And though a paunch fell over his belt, he was still pretty formidable. "Knew you wouldn't let us down. Now I gotta go figure out a way to make a payroll from peanuts, so let me get outta here and do it."
When Larry was gone, Tommy turned back to Bernie. "You coming to Ma's for dinner tonight?"
"No, me and Nonie promised the kids we'd take 'em for pizza."
"Then see you tomorrow."
"You think you could drop by the Night n Day and give the guys a heads up about this reporter? Tell 'em not to gossip."
"Yeah, no problem. And Bern. Don't worry about the reporter. Nobody reads print."
"Yeah. I hope you're right. Now get outta here. And watch out for that damn reporter. And tell the boys to keep their mouths shut."
"Exit right in one point three miles." Obeying the pleasant voice of her GPS, J.T. crossed two lanes of highway and downshifted her red Mustang convertible.
A piece of hair that had escaped from her ponytail lodged in her mouth. She spit it out. She should have stopped to put up the top miles ago; she was covered in goose bumps. But she was anxious to get on with her assignment and get it over with.
Gilbeytown was supposed to be in a valley. She imagined warm, sunny, and mild....
It was a stretch. Things were not looking sunny at all, in the sky, in her career, in her life, certainly not in her love life. She didn't even have a love life. You needed time for love. Though if she blew this assignment she might have all the time in the world. She shuddered-and not from the cool air.
J.T. knew Skinny didn't give a shit about the Beavers, an independent team at the bottom of the independent league. He just wanted her out of the way. That's why she was going to be roughing it with a bunch of bush league bozos for the next three weeks.
Maybe she'd meet her soul mate in Gilbeytown, Pennsylvania. Like that was going to happen. At least one of the players might be cute enough for a little flirting. Probably not. Which would be too bad, because at least there, she could be sure there were no cameras except for her own digital. She had to watch her back of course, keep her nose clean, and all those other clichés Skinny had heaped on her before she left. But he didn't say she couldn't have a little fun. And J.T. deserved it.
Three weeks. It seemed like an eternity. But at least she was still employed. She was a good reporter and if she ever got a chance to do something big, she'd prove it.
Her cell chimed "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Corny, but she liked it. She checked caller ID and groaned.
The Coach. He'd already called her three times. She hadn't returned any of them. She was sure Skinny had been on the horn to him before she'd packed up her laptop and taken the elevator downstairs. Too bad you couldn't trade fathers the way teams traded players.
J.T. didn't really want a different father. She just wanted the one she had to approve of her. But he never did.
It had always been like that. Standing before him as an eight-year-old, blinking back tears because she'd just struck out at T-ball. You don't even have to have an eye. Just knock the damn ball off the pole. Telling her to get tough when she skinned her knee sliding home instead of kissing it better. Now that she was older, he wanted only one thing from her. "Get married. I need grandchildren. Boys."
"Exit right in point two miles."
Oh, what the hell. She pressed the CALL button.
"What the hell were you doing in that locker room? Haven't you learned anything? How could you let yourself get in that kind of situation? You're the laughingstock of the sports world."
Okay. That hurt.
"I've been avoiding calls for days."
Gee, Coach, thanks for asking my side of the story, for sticking up for me. For having faith in me. For knowing me so well.
"Exit right. Exit right."
J.T. braked and swerved off the highway.
"Well, don't you have something to say for yourself?"
She had plenty to say, but like always it stuck in her throat.
"Why don't you just get married and give me some grandchildren."
Boys, she thought as he boomed, "Boys," at the top of his lungs.
She hung up before he did.
"Turn left at the end of the ramp and proceed point one mile."
J.T. stopped at the bottom of the ramp and sat there gripping the steering wheel. Breathed in, out, in, out, until she stopped shaking. Looked across the road. Saw green trees everywhere. It's a jungle out there.
Well, she'd show them. The Coach. Skinny. Everybody. She'd do the most kick-ass, in-depth, human-interest story of the Gilbeytown Beavers that the world had ever seen. She'd raspberry the whole crowd when she received her Pulitzer. And no one would ever question her credentials again.
She turned left and crossed over the highway. The first thing she saw was a Holiday Inn Express. Followed by a steak house chain, a Wendy's, a Pizza Hut. And suddenly not a tree in sight. Just acres of asphalt parking lot in front of a giant, newly constructed mall.
There was probably some metaphor for that, but metaphors didn't sell. She'd learned that the hard way.
J.T. had done her research. Gilbeytown was one of the many small Pennsylvania towns that had gone belly-up after the collapse of the steel industry in the 1950s.
The town had managed to hold on to its baseball team for twenty years. That alone was newsworthy. Independent league teams had a short life span. They were either being put out of business by lack of operating funds or by a bigger team moving in and forcing them out.
But not in Gilbeytown.
She turned right at the mall and proceeded down a county road. The trees returned and she wound her way beneath them, passing an occasional house or boarded-over gas station.
Two point five miles later, she came to a billboard in green script that advertised Applewood Acres. Behind the sign, a web of newly paved streets wound through a neatly organized community of perfectly landscaped McMansions.
On the opposite side of the road was an identical neighborhood called The Pines.
Green plastic men lined the street warning motorists to Use Caution. Children at Play. She didn't see any children, just big houses, three-car garages, two-story atriums with huge chandeliers. And tiny, little striplings to replace the mature trees someone had bulldozed away.
Excerpted from The Man for Me by GEMMA BRUCE Copyright © 2008 by Gemma Bruce. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Gemma Bruce is the alter ego of a popular mystery writer, who loves the excitement of a "who done it" and the sizzle of romance. After a career in dance, theater, television and film, performing before packed houses even on a bad-hair-bloat day, Gemma now goes one on one with her computer screen to create the characters and stories she loves. Her laptop has never once made a snide remark about her hair (although it has eaten a few sentences that made it blush).
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Sports Today is a popular national weekly magazine. Writer J.T. Green writes for the magazine with hopes that players, managers and fans will take her work as honest serious reporting. However, an embarrassing locker room incident leaves her in exile in Pennsylvania covering the news no one but a local would be interested in.
She is covering the Gilbeytown Beavers, a team with a losing streak. In town is renowned superstar pitcher Tommy Bainbridge, who plans to help the Beavers win. When the pitcher and the reporter meet, they are attracted to one another, but between their jobs implying an intimate relationship taboo and their distrust of the other¿s vocation, this couple has no chance but to strike out especially when JT uncovers a conspiracy for the team to lose.
This fun sports romance with a nod to the movie Major League is a home run as baseball pulls the nine inning plot. J.T. is a feisty independent reporter doing her job while Tommy is the perfect throwback athletic hero (some will insist caricature). The venue is terrifically described and the investigation filled with suspense. Additionally baseball fans will enjoy their romance as he strikes out with her but keeps swinging the bat in an effort to hit a game winning home run.