Roy Walker never did like the taste of humble pie. Too bad he's getting his share of it now that he needs to pitch one more season of pro baseball. Worse, he can't achieve it without the help of physiotherapist Lane Bakerthe one woman who won't have anything to do with him. Somehow he has to make amends for the past.
But his intentions to be a better man get sidelined by the combustible connection between him and Lane. Ego aside, it's time to admit he never stopped wanting her and his greatest comeback will be winning her!
About the Author
She lives in South Jersey with her cat Lex, and her two kittens who have taken over everything. When she isn’t thinking about escaping to the beach, she’s working on her next idea.
Read an Excerpt
Five years ago
"Great party, Roy!"
"Thanks," Roy said dismissively, nodding to some woman he didn't recognize.
Yes, it was a great party. Booze was flowing, food was plentiful. The music was loud and people were starting to dance. Any second now something would break and then he could call this party a true success. Not that he really cared one way or the other.
The invitation had come as surprise to many of his teammates. It was completely out of character for Roy to want to socialize with them outside of work let alone host a party with free booze and food. In fact, for many of the players this was the first time they had seen the inside of his apartment.
But everyone knew this was Roy Walker's last year on the team. It had been Roy's plan from the moment he stepped on the diamond to dictate when he stepped off for good. He always said he would go out on top and this season was it. His final farewell. And kicking it all off with a huge party before they got down to the grueling business of the one-hundred-and-sixty-two-game season seemed like the perfect idea. His colleagues no doubt thought that maybe, after all this time and with his career coming to an end, Roy Walker was finally starting to loosen up. He wasn't.
"Roy, this is messed up!" Eddie Britton, the team's all-star second baseman, threw an arm around Roy's shoulder. This might be the first time a teammate had ever actually touched him outside of a fist bump or hand slap.
Roy was working on the assumption that messed up was a good thing. Mostly because Eddie was both drunk and smiling.
"I'm glad you're having a good time."
"Dude, free booze and food? Of course I'm having a good time. You should have done this years ago, man. People might have actually liked you." Eddie shook his head. "Now you're almost done."
Roy didn't take offense to the insinuations that no one liked him and that the only way he might have been liked was if he'd been supplying free food and alcohol to his teammates on a more regular basis. Eddie was probably right.
"Well, better late than never," Roy muttered. Not that this party was about making friends. There was only one objective for having all these people in his place.
"Speaking of friends, where is your girl? She's coming, right?"
His girl. Just the thought of those two words together made the muscles in his stomach go tight.
"I don't know who I'm not dating anyone"
"No, man. I mean, your girl! Or should I say, Danny's girl, who you wish was your girl." Eddie clearly thought that was hysterical.
Roy clenched his jaw. Had he been that obvious? So obvious that even the other guys on the team knew?
"I've got to check the beer supply," Roy said, rather than address that issue.
"That's cool," Eddie said, not upset by the brush-off. He stumbled away to take a dive into a couch where a bunch of baseball bunnies had congregated.
Maybe not for long, Roy thought. Not if everything went according to plan. This whole party was nothing more than a charade designed to do something he felt he needed to do. Before he retired.
Yes, after careful consideration Roy had made a decision about one person's need to know the truth. So he'd formulated a means to reveal ita big social gathering to bring everything to light. It was meant to be a grand gesture.
This might not be a good idea.
He shook his head. It was too late. The wheels were already in motion. Both Lane and her husband, Danny, were on their way.
Only not together.
"Is this a bring-your-wife party?" Danny had asked.
"Are you kidding?" Roy snickered. "I want everyone to have fun. Bring whoever you like. But there will plenty of female fans in attendance if you know what I mean."
Roy recalled the conversation with a heavy sense of dread in his stomach. What he was doing to Danny Worth was wrong. Maybe even cruel. Roy was deliberately setting him up and he was doing so for one reason and one reason only.
Lane Baker Worth deserved better. The daughter of the legendary Duff Baker, a Hall-of-Fame baseball player and manager, Lane was, to Roy, the princess of baseball. Yet, she'd married Danny Worthless. Roy would never understand what she'd been thinking. Maybe if he'd known her back then, he could have stopped it. Certainly her family should have stepped in to avoid the travesty of Lane and Danny's union.
Roy knew they had been young. Dating when they were nineteen, married at twenty-two. Hell, she was still young now at twenty-six, which was why Roy knew she didn't have to spend the rest of her life with Danny Worthless. If only she could see him for what he was, she could get out and start over with someone else. Someone like Roy.
He didn't like to admit that was his end goal. It made the motivation for this party seem much less noble and infinitely more Machiavellian. He didn't kid himself to think that just because her marriage to Danny might end, she would suddenly see Roy standing in front of her with open arms.
Maybe because you hit on her the first time you met her.
Roy winced at the memory.
Even with her shiny new diamond engagement ring on her left hand she hadn't been safe from his come-on, although, to be fair, he hadn't been all that serious about it. Hitting on the other players' girls was something he didRoy's personal vetting process for the women who dated his teammates, to see where their actual loyalties fell. Were they with the ballplayers because of who they were as men? Or were they baseball bunnies looking for fame and fortune and any player would suffice?
In a way, it was a matter of self-protection. Roy had been hit on by too many wives who wanted to climb the baseball hierarchy. Leaving their husbands to attach themselves to the next highest rung.
The best. Roy Walker.
Once he knew which category the women belonged to, he knew which ones to avoid.
So the come-on to Lane had been a test. In a bar filled with Washington Founders players, her fiancé included, Roy had asked her if she wanted to get together sometime. Just the two of them. To discuss baseball.
A perfectly harmless invitation that Roy and Lane both knew wasn't harmless. Only by the time he asked the question he already knew Lane wasn't the type of woman who jumped from one player to the next. There was something too open about her to be that type. So when he made his pass he expected outrage and fury.
Instead she'd laughed at him. Actually laughed at him. Head back, full-on hysterical laughter.
"Seriously?" she'd said. "Are you kidding me? What are you trying to prove? That you're some badass who can have any woman he wants? From what I've seen so far you're sullen and brooding. Barely civil to your teammates. Hate to break it to you, Roy, but that doesn't make you badass and mysterious. It makes you sad and alone. I wonder if you know what love is. Even if I wasn't engaged, someone like you wouldn't get to have someone like me."
In a sort of crazy twist, in that moment when she'd been telling him how pathetic he was, he'd come to admire her. He could see how right she wassomeone like him would never be worthy of someone as open and giving as her. He'd spent every day since then trying to establish what?
He didn't know if it was a friendship between them. He didn't know if she took their small connection that seriously. And it was a small connection. A couple of words exchanged outside the locker room when she waited for Danny after a game. A hot dog or two at some out-of-the-way place he tracked down because he knew she loved them. Some mocking banter where she would call him out for being an ass.
That connection, of course, was fueled by the fact that he needed her. Desperately.
Lane Baker Worth was a miracle worker when it came to physical therapy. She called her specialty kinesiology, but Roy called it woo-woo medicine. Some magic she was able to perform with her hands and her fingers by applying pressure to certain spots of his body that allowed for greater blood flow and a decrease in inflammation.
It wasn't traditional, but it worked. Any athlete who wanted to avoid the drugs and sometimes even surgery sought out her services. She was the hardest appointment to get in DC. Athletes from all over the country would fly to see her for a couple of hours of work.
Danny Worthless had that gift every night if he wanted it. Danny Worthless had her. Her spirit, her smile, her love of the game.
It wasn't right. And Roy had finally decided it couldn't continue.
The doorbell rang and, despite the loud music, he heard it as if it was a special sound sent out over a frequency meant only for him.
Danny was on his way. Roy had gone so far as to text him that he had some girls here who really wanted to meet the Founders' shortstop. Danny texted back that he already had some company and would be there soon.
All Roy needed was the second actor in this play.
He opened the door and Lane smiled at him. Half sincere, half suspicious. It was always like that with her. As if she was afraid there was some prank he had set up that she'd step into or some joke he would make her the butt of.
Probably very smart of her.
"You came." Which made him irrationally happy. Crazy, considering what he planned for that night.
"You said I had to," she reminded him. "Or I would be, quote, 'the biggest loser who ever lived.'"
Roy smiled. "Clearly you have self-esteem issues if you thought you had to prove me wrong."
Of course she didn't. No one in the world knew who she was as well as Lanie did. That's what made her so damn compelling. She didn't play games. She didn't manipulate or strategize to get what she wanted. She was always simply who she was.
Unlike Roy, who frequently didn't have a clue about himself outside of being someone who could throw a ball.
No, Lane definitely hadn't hunted down Danny as trophy-husband material the way so many of the other wives had. She hadn't pursued him like he was some prize to be won. Like baseball players were nothing beyond their gloves and hats and bats. And money. No, Danny had had to win Lane.
It's what made her different from the women currently in Roy's penthouse, drinking his liquor and shaking their well-toned, surgically enhanced bodies. Doing everything they could to attract attention. Hoping some player would notice them and set them up for life.
Roy saw nobody but Lane. Every damn time she was in the room.
"Well, Danny's not getting back in until tomorrow. Decided he needed one last golf game in Florida before the season starts next week. So I thought, what the hell."
A lie. Danny had been in town for two days. He was just spending his nights somewhere else. With someone else if his text was to be believed.
That should be enough, Roy thought. Enough to end it.
All Lane had to do was stay until Danny walked through the door with whomever on his arm. That alone should be enough to end their marriage. Lane wasn't a person to tolerate disloyalty.
Roy had no idea who the woman in question would be. Danny went through groupies like toilet paper. An easy thing to do when you were on the road for eighty-one nights of the season. It wasn't as if he even tried to hide his behavior from anyone. As if he expected everyone to understand that when they were home, Lane drove him to every game, watched every play of every inning and then took him home when it was over.
When Danny was on the road those tasks were done by some other woman.
Of course the guys didn't say anything. The locker-room bond was tight. It had to be to win championships. And this was a championship-caliber team, having already won two World Series and coming close again last year.
So no one talked. None of the players talked to their wives. Or if they did, none of the wives talked to Lane. They all sat back and observed. As if it was entertainment to watch a dumb-ass twenty-six-year-old kid, who happened to have been gifted with athletic talent, shit on the princess of baseball. Night in and night out.
Roy was done with it. When Lane had worked on his neck and shoulder recently he thought he could sense something in her. A sense that she wasn't happy, and rather lonely.
Not that she would ever confide in Roy about her marriage. He was the man who didn't know what love was. How hard would it be for someone so proud to admit she was wrong about it, too?
Which is why he decided he had to help her. Save her, really. She didn't want to admit she'd picked the wrong guy. Understandable. No one wanted to admit their mistakes. Fine. He'd simply force her hand.
In front of the whole damn team.
"Uh, you going to invite me in?"
Roy realized she was still standing in the corridor. He thought of some of the women he'd invited. Thought of the other nonwives who had come with some of the married players.
Hell, he thought of the women he'd paid to be here. Backups to zero in on Danny if he didn't show up with someone else.
Lane would see it all. Instantly.
No. Suddenly, he didn't want to invite her in.
This is stupid. A mistake. She doesn't deserve this.
"Look, you can't change your mind now. I'm here, I'm thirsty and, if I have enough drinks, I might even dance."
Not waiting for his answer, she bounced around him and he had to move to let her in or risk her pushing him out of the way.
"At least let me walk you to where you can put your coat down," he said quickly, taking her arm. He needed to shield her from the party. They walked the long hallway from his oversize living room into a series of guest rooms. He didn't think. Just led her into his bedroom and closed the door.
Shit. You screwed this up. She is going to see all those guys not with their wives. She is going to see Danny not with her. This is going to hurt her.
Roy wanted to open her eyes to the truth. He wanted her to leave her worthless husband. He didn't want to destroy her faith. Not in love. Not when it was so damn pure.
"Lane, I screwed up."
Her eyes widened. "Wow. Did you just admit you did something wrong?" He nodded.
"Because the Roy Walker I know doesn't do that."
"I get it. You think I'm an arrogant ass."
She smiled softly. "I don't think it, Roy. You are. But I realize it's a little, very little, part of your charm."
Damn, she was actually smiling at him. In fact, she'd been treating him differently since he'd helped her father by doing a charity stint at the Minotaur Falls Opening Day Fair. Danny had been away on another one of his "trips" and someone needed to raise money for the Youth Athletic League. Roy offered his services in exchange for a few therapy sessions.
A few hours in the dunk tank and suddenly Lane had seen something in him that she hadn't seen before. Maybe it was that she'd learned it wasn't true that Roy didn't do any charity work evera reputation he had fostered along with his ass persona. He just didn't make a big show of his charitable work like so many of the other guys on the team. Which is why he never said anything about the equipment and uniforms he donated.
Only Duff had made a point of thanking him for the stuff in front of Lane.
Which meant his secret was out. He wasn't quite the selfish, arrogant ass he'd always presented himself as. It must have been difficult, after years of thinking he was a pathetic scumbag, for her to realize he was a better man than he let on.
The truth was he never really cared what other people thought. With Lanie, though, it mattered.
Only now he was about to prove her shiny new opinions wrong. Really, really wrong.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you had the chance go back and change a decision you made in the past-would you? The Comeback of Roy Walker by Stephanie Doyle had me pondering that question throughout the story. I received an ARC of this story for an honest opinion and I was very impressed. Roy Walker is a retired major league baseball player who is looking for a second chance in more ways than one. A bad business investment is forcing him out of retirement and he needs help getting back in fighting form. There's a catch. He has to start in the minors working an old baseball manager. He also needs the help of physical therapist Lane Baker, but Lane and Roy have a history. A history that Lane may not be ready to forgive Roy for. Great story.