Catching Caden

Chapter 4

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“Yeah.” He furrows his brow. “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.”

I laugh. “That’s what most people think. But one of the earliest versions of it is a little different. It states, ‘whatever can happen, will happen’.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?” he asks.

“Nope. Think about it. Whatever can happen doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, whereas whatever can go wrong, assumes that an outcome will not be a positive one.”

“Okay.” He ponders my statement. “You make a good point. And now I know you’re a glass-half-full person. So, tell me, why were you named after Murphy’s Law?”

“My parents tried to have a baby for ten years before they gave up. They tried everything including fertility treatments and implantation. Nothing worked. Then two years later, after they’d stopped trying and accepted a life without children, my mom got pregnant.”

A brilliant smile creeps up his face and I see what I hadn’t noticed before. Caden Kessler is hot. Like, freakishly hot. He’s tall, but not excessively so. Built, but not crazy buff. He has dark hair and the most amazing eyelashes. They are so long. Every model I know would kill for eyelashes like that.

“What a great story,” he says.

“Maybe, but I’m starting to think the other version of it is the right one.” I gesture to my swollen face. “Case in point. Everything went wrong.”

“Or maybe everything happens for a reason,” he says. “That should be a law, too.”

“Kessler’s Law,” I say.

He nods proudly. “I like the sound of that.”

I laugh and then my hand comes up to cradle the left side of my face.

“Hurts when you laugh, huh?”

“When I laugh. When I smile. When I talk. Pretty much when I do anything except watch TV.”

He gives me a look and then picks up the remote control and points it at the TV, turning it on. When he sees what channel it was turned to, a triumphant smile overtakes his face. He winks at me. “I’ll make a baseball lover out of you yet.”

“I don’t know,” I tell him. “It seems kind of pointless. Most of the time when someone hits the ball, it gets caught. And sometimes a guy can swing a bunch of times before anything happens. I’m sorry, but it’s kind of boring.”

“Boring?” He grabs his chest like he’s having a heart attack as he backs up and falls into the chair in the corner. “You just invalidated my entire existence.”

I wince from the guilt. “I’m really sorry. But obviously tons of other people like it. The stands were full.”

“Yeah. Saturday games always get a great turn out.”

My phone vibrates next to me. I look to see it’s my agency calling. I check the time. Why are they calling me on a Saturday night?

“I’m sorry,” I tell Caden. “It’s my agency, I need to take this.”

My shaky finger swipes across the screen before I say, “Hello?”

Chapter Five

Caden

When she answers the phone, I take a moment to look around her room. Other than the flowers I sent, there isn’t any evidence that anyone else has been here. No well-wishing balloons. No get-well cards. No teddy bears. Nothing.

One thing’s for sure. Tony is a deadbeat asshole.

“It’s really not that bad,” Murphy says to whoever is on the phone.

“Well, yes, it’s broken, but—”

The person on the phone cuts her off, but I’m not close enough to hear what they are saying.

“Yes, that’s right,” Murphy says. “I will need to have surgery. But how do you know all this? Did you call the hospital? I didn’t think they were allowed to give information.”

“Who? One of my roommates?”

At this point in her conversation, the one beautiful blue eye I can see wells up with tears.

“Eight weeks, maybe less, but the doctor swears I will be able to cover the scar with makeup.”

Her tears spill over and stream down her cheeks. She’s trying to hold it together, but I can hear her voice cracking.

“Are you sure? Maybe if I—”

Apparently, she was cut off again. She nods as she listens, then she wipes her nose with her sleeve. “Okay. I’ll call you then. Thank—” She pulls the phone away from her ear and looks at it. Then she throws it across the room, shattering the screen.

While she sobs on the bed, I walk over to the phone and pick it up, shoving it in my pocket. I go into the bathroom and let her have a few moments to herself.

When I return, she’s sniffing and wiping her eye. “They’re horrible. Every one of them. Why did I think any of them even cared about me?”

“Who?”

“My agent. My roommates.” She shakes her head in disgust. “My agent wouldn’t come right out and say it, but I know it was one of my roommates who called her. How else would she know I was injured? It was probably Tori. She’s always had it out for me. But to be honest, I think any one of them would have called my agent if it meant they would have a shot at stealing my job.”

“Your roommates sound wonderful.”

“They are anything but,” she says. “But I had no choice. I didn’t know anyone when I moved here six months ago. There was an internet site that put aspiring models in touch with each other and that’s how I found them.”

“Where did you move from?”

“Iowa.”

“That’s a long way,” I tell her. “You must miss home.”

She shrugs. “Not really. I mean, I miss my mom. But most of my friends got married and moved away. And when Kelly … well, there’s just nothing left for me there. It was always a dream of mine to live in New York City and I did some modeling in high school and really liked it, so I thought, what the heck.”

“Going after your dreams. I like that. Most people would never have the courage to take that big a chance.”

She looks around the room. “Yeah, well, look where it got me.”

I feel like shit knowing I’m the cause of her misfortune. And she doesn’t even know about Tony yet.

As if reading my mind, she says, “And Tony still hasn’t shown up today.” She looks sadly at the clock. “He hasn’t even called. And now my phone is broken so I won’t be able to talk to him when he does.”

I hate to hit a girl when she’s down, but she needs to know. I sure as hell am not going to be the one to tell her, however. I pull out my phone and tap the screen a few times. “Here, look at this,” I say. “I got someone at the office to send me this video. You might not be ready to watch it, but it’s footage of my ball hitting you.”

She looks up in surprise. “It is? And you can see it?”

I nod. “Yes. The cameras always follow home run balls to see what the crowd does. It might be hard to watch, so don’t feel like you have to.”

“No. I want to,” she says, tapping the screen to play it. She watches the close-up of the ball hitting her face and knocking her out of her seat. “Oh, my gosh, it happened so quickly, it was hard to really see it.”

I tap on the screen to replay the video. “Here, you can slow it down if you want.” I show her how to do it.

She watches it in slow motion. She watches it several times. When her jaw drops and she says, “What the …” I know she saw it. She watches it a few more times. Then I snatch the phone away from her.

“Sorry,” I say. “I don’t want you throwing my phone across the room.”

“That fucking bastard!” she yells.

I go over and shut the door to her room, knowing it might not be the last curse word she yells. I know this, because I know what she saw on the video. I know she saw herself looking at her phone before the ball hit her. I also know she saw Tony run his hand down another girl’s cheek as the girl looked at him and touched him back in a way you don’t touch a guy if he has a girlfriend.

“That cheating bastard!” she yells. “And Kirsten. My own goddamn roommate. How dare she do that to me. What a slut.” She covers her head with her hands. “How could I have been so gullible? He said he loved me.”

“I’m sorry,” I tell her, pouring and offering her a cup of water. “Did you love him?”

“Yes. No.” She shrugs noncommittally. “I don’t know. I thought I did. He was always so nice to me. How was I with him for almost four months without seeing what a bastard he was?”

“Guys are good at hiding that sort of thing. Trust me, I know. There are plenty of guys on my team who have wives or girlfriends, yet they hook up with random girls when we travel. Hell, some even have a girlfriend in every city we visit.”

“Do you?” she asks. “Have a girlfriend in every city?”

I shake my head. “I don’t do girlfriends.”

“Oh, so you’re a player,” she says in disgust. Who can blame her given what she just discovered about her boyfriend.

I laugh. “No, Murphy. I’m not. I’m not saying I’m celibate either, but I’m also not looking for a girlfriend. In fact, quite the opposite. I rarely ever date the same woman more than a few times.”

“Sounds like the definition of a player,” she says.

“It might be if I went on a lot of dates. I don’t. I think I’ve only been on a dozen or so this year.”

She cocks her head to the side, studying me. “You’ve only been on twelve dates this entire year?”

“Or so,” I tell her. “I guess I’m picky.” I don’t tell her the real reason. I don’t tell her I’m afraid of being trapped. Of being played for what I am instead of being loved for who I am.

“I guess I should start being a little pickier myself.” She lets her head fall back against the pillow as she sighs deeply. “What am I going to do? I have to go home tomorrow and face them. Face Kirsten. I just lost my job so I won’t be able to pay the rent. I stupidly quit my waitressing job, so Joe will never hire me back. I’ve made a mess of things.”


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