“I’m really sorry,” the desk clerk said. “But there doesn’t seem to be another room available. It’s a busy time of year. In addition to your group, there are several conferences ongoing. Almost every hotel in the city is at capacity right now.”
Mike scowled and ran a hand over his beard before turning away. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Ginny shifting from one foot to another.
“There must be some mistake,” she said. “You’re sure?”
Mike glanced toward the front desk in time to see the clerk nod. This is great, just fucking great, he thought.
“I am,” the clerk nodded said, her eyes darting from Ginny to Mike and back again. “The two of you are booked to stay in room 301. I have to apologize for this – sometimes for bookings for larger groups are mishandled.”
Mike shot a glance toward Ginny. He liked her, sure, and respected the hell out of her, but there was no way he was going to sleep in the same hotel room with her. “I mean,” he said, “I could just go stay with Blip or one of the guys.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Don’t be an idiot,” she said, gesturing toward the empty lobby. “They’re all probably asleep by now.”
Mike’s eyes darted across the darkened space, his eyes settling on ornate grandfather clock, its hands at twelve and two. At 2am in the morning, even he had to admit she was right. Though the rest of the team had gotten into town in the afternoon, he and Ginny had been held up doing interviews in San Diego. The sports journalists had wanted to talk to Mike about his expectations for the new season, considering their World Series win last year. And Ginny, well, she was the shiny new thing again, having returned to the Padres after landing on the injured list at the end of the last season. The buzz surrounding her was almost as intense as it had been when she’d first come on the scene.
He frowned and pulled his phone out of his pocket before thumbing at the fingerprint sensor to unlock it. “I’ll just get an Airbnb.”
“Seriously?” Ginny said.
He glanced up at her just long enough to see her head cocked to the side, her eyes narrowed at him. “Yup,” he said, before returning his attention to his phone.
“Right,” she continued. “You know, all the people who run them are probably sleeping by now, even if there are any vacancies. Not to mention, you’re going to spend way too long trying to find one, and then even more time ubering your way over there. You won’t get to sleep until four. Seriously, it’s not worth it. Old men like you need to get your sleep if you’re going to be up bright and early in the morning.”
He turned to look at her, taking in the hand on her hip and the way her lips were pressed together. He felt like they were playing a game of chicken, but instead of watching an on-coming train, they were watching each other to see who broke first. And of course, it was going to be him who broke. She knew it and he did too. Hell, even the goddamn hotel clerk knew it.
“Fine,” he relented. He turned off his phone and held out his hands in a placating gesture. “But only if you’re okay with it.”
“Oh, I’m okay,” Ginny said, nodding with her jaw jutting out. “The question is, are you?”
Mike snorted. Why wouldn’t he be okay with sharing a room with Ginny? It couldn’t possibly be because he’d avoided her as much as possible since her injury. Or because before she got hurt, he’d put himself on a path to move across the country because he couldn’t deal with his feelings for her. The feelings that had caught him one hundred and ten percent by surprise, because, falling for a rookie? Who the hell does that? And it definitely wasn’t because he’d spent the nights he couldn’t sleep revisiting that charged moment outside Boardner’s. Replaying that moment and taking it further, wondering what if he hadn’t gotten that call.
Of course, it was a moot point. As Ginny had pointed out – standing on the pitcher’s mound during her last game of the season in a tone that brooked no argument – he was her teammate, and nothing more.
He rolled his eyes. “Of course I’m okay with it. No looking at my junk, though, Baker.’
She laughed. “In your dreams, Lawson,” she joked, and he attempted a chuckle in reply.
Too real, he thought. Too close to home. Instead of commenting further, he turned to speak with the woman behind the desk.
“Well, uh, I guess that we’ll take that room then.”
“Of course,” the clerk said with a smile that was entirely too chipper for 2am. “Again, my most sincere apologies for the mix up. Your whole group is sharing rooms, and I imagine that the booking agent thought nothing of booking any two members of your team together. I doubt she follows sports very closely, so she probably didn’t realize that Ms. Baker requires separate accommodations.”
“It’s okay, really,” Ginny said, resting her chin on her hand as she slumped over the counter. “At this point, I don’t care. I just want to go to sleep.”
“I hear you,” the clerk sighed. “It is very late. That said, check back with us at around 11am or so. We should have another room available for you then, okay?”
“Will do.” Ginny nodded and suppressed a yawn. “I’m so exhausted.”
Mike looked at her and thought briefly about how cute she looked when she was sleepy, then pushed that thought away as quickly as it appeared. God, he still thought every little thing she did was endearing, and he was so, so fucked.
Also, he was tired. Yawning seemed to be contagious.
“God, me too,” he said. “What a long day.”
“All that travel, yeah,” Ginny said, accepting the room keycards from the clerk before passing one to Mike.
He nodded. “Exhausting.”
They walked to the elevators, cases trailing behind them. Too tired to speak any further, they made way up two floors in the elevator and then down the hallway to their room. Ginny pushed the keycard into the slot, and opened the door. Walking in, they flicked the lights on, and let the door close behind them before stopping dead in their tracks.
“Um.” Ginny said, her jaw dropped open.
It was a typical hotel room. Inoffensive landscape paintings adorned walls covered in neutral wallpaper. The window was dressed in heavy drapes, the sheer panel obscuring the city lights that lay beyond. There was a tasteful dresser and desk, but no sofa. And one bed, a king. Mike stared at the massive bed that dominated the room, covered in soft looking taupe linens.
“Uh,” he said. “That’s not what I was expecting.”
She turned to him, her eyes wide, before walking into the room to rest her case against the wall. “Right? Do you think any of the other guys had this problem?”
“Probably,” he said. He nodded, not moving from the spot he’d landed when he’d entered the room. “Not like it hasn’t happened before. We’ve bunked two to a bed before, it’s never been a big deal,” before now his brain helpfully continued. “I even bunked with Blip one time.”
She chuckled softly. “I bet he must have loved that,” she said.
“Did you know he talks in his sleep and he steals all the blankets?”
“No!” Ginny laughed. “I’m surprised Evelyn puts up with that.”
“Yeah,” Mike groused. “He’s a real peach.”
“Anyway,” Ginny said, hoisting her case onto the luggage rack. She opened it and began to dig through it. “I guess we better hit the hay, huh, cap?”
“Yep,” Mike said, making his way into the room at last.
“You okay if I use the bathroom first?”
Mike glanced up at her to see a toiletries case in one hand and what looked like a pair of pajamas in the other.
“Ladies first,” he said, watching as she disappeared behind the door.
He laid his case on its side before opening it to look for something to wear. It wasn’t like he’d brought something to sleep in specifically. He hadn’t figured on sharing a room, and he slept in the nude most of the time, so sleepwear wasn’t exactly the first thing on his mind when packing. He dug through the case before coming up with a t-shirt that was a bit on the long side. The boxers he’d keep on. They were decent enough.
When she emerged, she was wearing a soft looking white tank and a pair of blue sleep shorts. Mike found himself averting his gaze as he made his way to the bathroom, worried that he’d linger too long on the way the tank hugged her curves or on the expanse of toned thigh the shorts revealed.
Once the door was closed safely behind him, he leaned forward and braced his arms on the bathroom counter. He closed his eyes tightly and let out a long sigh before gathering himself together.
He was so, so fucked.
After brushing his teeth, he changed out of the jeans and button-down he was wearing, and threw on the t-shirt, leaving on the boxers. He looked at himself in the mirror, taking in the slight paunch of his stomach, the greys that had crept into his beard during the past few years and the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes.
Yeah right, old man, he thought. Not like she’s gonna want you anyway, amiright?
Sighing, he turned to exit the bathroom. He turned off the main lights, leaving only the bed-side light to illuminate the room.
Ginny was already under the covers, a surprisingly small lump on one side of the expansive bed. Other than the rustling noise that Mike made as he put his stuff away, the room was silent. Figuring she must already be asleep, he pulled back the covers on the empty side of the bed and, taking care not to disturb her, laid down.
He glanced to his side, and saw that she had turned toward him, one hand tucked under her head. Her eyes were open, pupils wide and dark in the dim light of the room, and fixed on his own.
“Hey,” she said, her voice hushed.
“Hey,” he responded, settling himself down underneath the sheets. The bed was big enough that she was lying several feet away from him. He could do this, really he could. “So,” he said. “What’s your big-shot high tech boyfriend gonna think about you sleeping in the same bed as another man?”
As soon as the words were out of his mouth he regretted them.
“Well,” Ginny sighed, rolling over onto her back to stare at the ceiling. “Seeing as we’re not dating any more, I don’t care what he thinks. ”
“Oh,” Mike said, suddenly contrite, because fuck, can of worms, why did he open? “Shit, Ginny, I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
“No,” she said, tucking the blanket under her chin. “It’s okay. I mean it sucks, yeah, but we just wanted different things. You know?”
“Yeah,” Mike nodded. He sighed. “I know.” And boy did he ever. After the dissolution of his marriage, several high-profile yet fleeting relationships with minor celebrities and the debacle that was his relationship with Amelia, he figured he was the fucking poster boy for not able to make a relationship work. Fuck, it was probably just as well that call from Oscar had come in when it did last season. The last thing that Ginny needed in her life was someone like him to drag her down.
“Anyways, it’s like two thirty. We should sleep,” she said with a yawn.
“Yeah,” Mike nodded, reaching over to toggle off the light on the bedside table.
When the room fell into darkness, Mike shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position, eventually settling on his back with his arms by his side. He was hyper-aware of Ginny lying next to him, of the subtle movements she made as she settled down for the night. Apparently comfortable, she sighed softly, and breached the distance between them to pat the comforter in the expanse between their bodies.
“Night, Mike,” she said, her voice thick with sleep.
He smiled at the shape of her in the dark.
“Night, Ginny,” he replied.
It was a long time before he slept.
He woke up before his alarm went off, feeling pleasantly warm and comfortable. He blinked his eyes open and promptly closed them again under the barrage of morning sunlight that filtered through the sheer curtains. His brain floated hazily, enjoying the sensation of the soft blankets covering him, the fluffy pillow underneath his head, and the warm body that was cozied up against his side. An arm was thrown over his chest, and a head of curly hair was tucked against his shoulder.
Wait a minute.
Mike’s eyes snapped open, and he looked down to where Ginny’s head was pillowed on his chest.
She’s a cuddler, he thought, finding her desire to snuggle both completely endearing and wildly arousing. He bit his lip and allowed himself a moment to enjoy the feeling of her body against his, before realizing his morning wood had made an appearance, not far away from where her hand rested against his belly.
Shit, he thought. Oh no. Oh no, no, no.
He glanced down at the top of her head once more. Her breathing was deep and even, and she seemed as though she was still asleep. He could get out of this, he was sure of it. He’d just ease out from underneath her, grab some clothes, tip toe to the bathroom to rub one out in guilt-ridden silence, get dressed and no-one would be the wiser.
Looking toward the window, he shifted. When he started to roll out from underneath her, the hand across his waist moved to grasp his side, fingers trailing over his abs in a way that felt amazing. Which, of course, made his dick harden even further. Ginny issued a sleepy grunt and nuzzled her head into his shoulder as she threw her leg across his hips, grasping him in a koala-tight hold. Her thigh brushed against his erection, and oh my god, as hot as Ginny was, there was no way he wanted her to know just how turned on he was.
Mike jumped and Ginny immediately startled beside him, bucking an arms-length away across the mattress, looking as though she’d just touched a live wire. Shocked, she looked down at herself and then at him. Her eyes traveled down his body and then flitted away to look at the wall, biting her lip and closing her eyes as she shook her head minutely. Mike glanced down, and of course his dick was tenting the sheets, the fucking traitor that it was.
“Oh,” Ginny uttered, pushing her hair back.
Grabbing the blanket and pulling it up to his chest, Mike looked at her. “In my defense, you’re the one who ended up snuggling with me on my side of the bed.”
Ginny looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
“And this,” he said, gesturing to his erection, which was now wilting under the blankets. “Is completely normal. Lots of dudes get morning wood. Doesn’t mean that I want to do anything with you. Or that I think you’re hot. Or anything.”
Ginny looked affronted. “You don’t think I’m hot.”
Oh shit, he thought. It’s a trap.
“Um,” he said, his sleep addled brain grasping for words. “Nope?”
“Huh”, she said, turning over to prop her head up on one hand as she looked at him. “So, last year, when you thought you were leaving, you were going to kiss me because, what, that was just a friendly way of saying goodbye?”
“Yup,” Mike nodded, resolute. “That’s all it was.”
Ginny snorted. “Bullshit,” she said, a grin tugging at the corners of her mouth. She grabbed a pillow and swung it at him, landing it on his shoulder.
“Hey,” Mike said. He shot her a grin before grabbing another pillow and tossing it in her general direction.
She grabbed it, and bopped him on the head with it. “You suck at pillow fights,” she said. “You throw like a girl.”
Hefting the bolster pillow, he swung it at her head, but she darted out of the way. “From where I’m standing, that’s a compliment,” he said.
“You better believe it,” she replied with a giggle, and the soft, full pillow hit him square in the face. “You know what,” she continued, “I’m a snuggler. Deal with it. It’s what I do with people I–”
She cut herself off, swinging at him again instead.
“People you what?” he asked, laughing as he made a grab for the pillow in her hands. He tugged at it, and she giggled as she pulled it back again, and him along with it. The thought of resisting the pull entered his mind only to be dismissed when he found himself being pulled toward her wide grin and the miles of bare skin that the tank top exposed. He ended up hovering above her, one hand braced on either side of her head. She inhaled sharply, and he looked at her to see the grin morph into a coy expression as she bit her lip. As he watched, and her eyes flicked from his lips to his mouth.
“With people you’re attracted to?” he asked.
Her finger darted up to rest on his lips, which parted involuntarily beneath her touch. “Shut up,” she said, breathless. “I decide when we talk, remember?”
He nodded and his eyes widened when the hand against his lips moved to cup his jaw.
She looked up at him, her eyes alight. “And I’m not interested in talking now.”
His heart started beating at a staccato pace as she drew him down toward her, and his eyes remained fixed on her face until it became a blur. When his lips met hers, his eyes closed as he was overwhelmed by the unexpected barrage of emotion he felt at finally being able to kiss her. Her arms wrapped around his neck, holding him close as her mouth bloomed open underneath his in a heated welcome. She moaned when he slipped his tongue between her lips, tasting her for the first time, and goosebumps ran up his arms as arousal rolled through him.
In the warmth of the morning sunlight, they kissed and touched each other until Mike’s cellphone alarm rang, telling them to leave the sanctuary of the bed and face the real world.
“So,” Blip said over breakfast. “You two get in late last night?”
“Yeah, god, I couldn’t wait to get to bed.” Ginny said. Mike watched, fascinated as she brought a strawberry to her mouth and bit into it. Her lips closing around the juicy red fruit brought back some vivid memories of their morning together.
He cleared his throat and looked away, sure his face had gone suddenly scarlet.
“You okay, old man?” Ginny said, kicking him under the table.
He turned to her, forcing a toothy grin onto his face. “Just fucking peachy, Baker, how ‘bout you?”
“Never been better,” she said with a wink. “Something musta got into me.”
“You know,” Blip said, looking from Ginny to Mike and then back again. “You two are being really weird this morning. Something happen last night that I should know about?”
“Nope, not a thing,” Ginny said, turning to Mike. “Right, cap?”
“Same old, same old,” Mike said, digging into his scrambled eggs. His heart had dropped, though, listening to Ginny easily handwave their morning together. Get it together, he told himself. Quit mooning over her like some teenager with a crush.
He felt a movement under the table beside him, and almost jumped when Ginny’s hand found his and gave it a squeeze. She shot him a quick, reassuring grin before returning her attention to her meal.
“I’m gonna go get some more pancakes,” Blip said, pushing his empty plate to the side. “Evelyn never makes them anymore, she’s on some Paleo diet or some shit.”
“Sure thing,” Ginny said, looking up at Blip with a wide, innocent smile. “Can you get me some more strawberries, too?”
“Hey, no problem,” Blip said, moving to stand and walk away.
They watched Blip go, and when he was safely out of earshot, Ginny turned to Mike and said in hushed tones, “You gonna be okay?”
“Yeah,” Mike said, feigning nonchalance.
“Because you know,” she continued, her voice low and intimate. “I’ve been thinking I could make an exception to my no-team mates rule.”
He ducked his head and smiled down at his breakfast plate, before turning to her. “Does that mean I’m your only exception?”
She tilted her head to the side. “Isn’t that a song?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Mike said with a chuckle. “I definitely wouldn’t know any songs by Paramore. Not even one.”
She pushed at his shoulder. “Okay, now I’m starting to rethink this whole thing. You’re ridiculous.”
“Yeah, but you like it,” he said in a sing-song tone.
“Yeah,” She responded, a soft smile on her face. “I do.”
“So,” Mike said. “You gonna check into another room tonight?”
“Nope,” Ginny laughed, turning to him with a wide smile. “Not after this morning, are you kidding me? I’m going to want a replay of that.”
Mike cleared his throat and looked around the dining room. No-one was looking at them, which meant nothing seemed out of the ordinary. “You wanna keep this under the radar for now?”
“For now,” she said. “I’m not okay with everyone knowing my business.”
“So, we’re doing this?”
“Uh, I think we already did it,” she laughed.
“Did what?” Blip said returning to the table with a plate of pancakes in one hand and a bowl of strawberries in the other.
Ginny cleared her throat and turned to Blip. “Um, won the World Series. You know. Last year.”
“Yeah, we did!” Blip said, enthusiastic. He handed the plate of strawberries to Ginny, and Mike watched, fascinated, as another strawberry made its way to Ginny’s lips. “And we’re going to win it with you in play this year!”
“You know it!” Ginny replied.
Underneath the table, Ginny’s hand found Mike’s once more. She slid her palm over his, threading their fingers together to hold on tight. He smiled and looked down at his plate, holding the fork in his other hand as he finished his breakfast, feeling hopeful for the first time in years.