Bottom of the Ninth (Bad Boys Redemption Book 3)

Chapter Twenty-Four

MIA

Current Day

“What do you mean you didn’t screw him?”

“Geez, Nala. A little louder. I don’t think Mr. Cunningham in three eighteen heard you.” My head turns toward my apartment door as if I could see through the steel to Mr. C’s apartment. “We’re supposed to be discussing the calendar, not me.”

“Come on!” Nala’s hand slaps the couch cushion in succession with her whiny pitch. “I wanted juicy details. It’s been way too long for me, and Mr. Biggie doesn’t hold the same appeal. I need variety.”

“Please don’t bring your vibrator into the discussion.”

“What the fuck ever. You’re the one who gave me the link to purchase it.” Her laugh is infectious, breaking my will.

“Don’t laugh. I may have to drag mine back out. The perfect date ended in a huge heap of sexual frustration.” The back of my head hits the couch’s inside back cushion as I let out a breath and stare at the ceiling. I’ve seen AJ bring home girls before, so I know he has no qualms against a one-nighter. Plus, we already broke that barrier when we were getting on like Donkey Kong four nights ago. So, I don’t understand his sudden need to do right and be all gentlemanly. My heart appreciates the nobility of his gesture, but that goodbye kiss did nothing but leave me hot and bothered.

I’ve always been open-minded about sex. I’m not one of those girls who ties sex together with deep-seated emotions. Sure, an intimate bond exists and, yes, I’m giving the best gift I can offer to that person—myself. I understand that, but sometimes, the action is nothing more than a way to fulfill the lust or need between two people. And there’s no denying the chemistry between us is off the chart. God, that man gets me going. Cue in the frustration by getting denied.

I also can’t deny the sweetness of him wanting to take me out properly. I imagine he doesn’t date much. Quick hookups are all I’ve ever witnessed or heard about. Even though I’d rather have spent last night with him in my bed, the effort and restraint are commendable.

“You’re going to see him again?”

Nala’s question cuts into my reverie. “What?”

“Are you seeing him again?”

“Yep. Tonight, actually.”

“Nice. What are you doing?”

“I’m cooking supper for him.” When he called this morning and asked if I was busy, I suggested staying here. I may have ulterior motives, but I figure this way he’s already in my apartment, so I’m not being left at the entrance to my building again. Last night’s date was beyond my imagination, but tonight, I want to be selfish and keep him to myself.

“You’ll just have work your body harder, girl. Wear something provocative.” She shimmies her shoulders and waggles her eyebrows, drawing out a laugh.

“Let’s get off my sex life.” I straighten in the seat and slide into business mode. “What are the numbers looking like?”

“As you know, we had about one thousand preorders. But since I posted on your website and paid for some social media advertising, we’ve moved about five thousand calendars in three days.”

“Nice!”

“I have two thousand on hand for our event tomorrow. It’d be nice if a certain ballplayer showed up to help.”

“Oh, you’re right. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Your name is getting out there, girl. If you strike soon, you should be able to start selling more of your photos online. It’s a huge boost.”

“I definitely won’t turn away potential sales, but that isn’t the reason behind doing this charity drive. We’re on target to reach our hundred-thousand-dollar mark. That’s a huge donation.”

“Heck yeah, it is. We’re lucky I found the direct shipment place. Could you imagine mailing out every calendar by hand?”

“God, no.” I rise off the couch and turn toward the kitchen. The movement created enough wind to knock a piece of paper off the end table. I can’t hold back my frustrated sigh. “My renewal letter for my apartment.”

“Are you going to renew?

“I don’t know. Seven weeks is all I have left to decide.” I glance around the six-hundred-square-foot area. “This place is so tiny, but I can’t afford much more.”

“You know, I haven’t solved my roommate situation yet. The room’s yours if you want.”

“I’ll give it some thought. Thanks for your help. I owe you big time.”

“Anytime, babe. I better get to work.” She grabs her coat and hat. “What time is lover boy coming over?”

“Around six.”

“Ooh! You should fix oysters on the half shell.”

“Get to work,” I tease.

“I’m going. I’m going, but seriously, girl, oysters.” She snaps her fingers. “Or something made with avocados. I heard they’re a good aphrodisiac, too.”

I roll my eyes. “I’m fixing manicotti.”

“Well, at least seduce the hell out of that man.”

Nala leaves, and a wave of emotions stirs deep within me: excitement, anticipation, and the worst one—fear. I don’t want to want AJ this badly. We can only be temporary. I know this. It’s part of the reason I’m allowing myself to be with him. Yeah, because the man doesn’t sweep you off your feet every time he’s around. He’s still not the kind of guy I want to end up with. I still want a man who will be present in my life, our kids’ lives. I don’t want someone whose job will take him away. If I thought living with my dad was bad, AJ’s career is ten times worse. This decision would be a lot easier if only he weren’t so Goddamn nice.