Apr 29 2014 8:30am
H&H Quickies #3: Kristina Mathews Presents a Making a Comeback Prequel!
Today it is our pleasure to bring you an exclusive Quickie scene from Better Than Perfect author Kristina Mathews. Earlier this month, we asked you to offer suggestions (“prompts”) as inspiration for a short original scene, and boy did you deliver!
Now we're happy to present the result to you, a prequel scene to Kristina's upcoming release Making a Comeback (Book 3 in the More Than a Game series). Be the first to meet future hero and heroine Nathan Cooper and Annabelle Jones!
Here are the prompts she chose (with thanks to everyone who left a suggestion, because they were all great):
- An injured athlete returns to hometown to meet: single mom next door
- A lost ball found
- chai tea latte
- red platform shoes
Nathan Cooper stood at the mailbox, he quickly flipped past the junk mail, the coupons for the local pizza joint, and the credit card offers he didn’t need. So far, no hate mail, the hand addressed envelopes with no return address and usually poor penmanship, seemed so out of date when anyone could flame him on Twitter these days.
He was almost ready to throw the whole stack straight into the recycle bin, when a familiar name caught his eye. An envelope addressed to Annabelle Jones, to be delivered to the house next door. What were the odds that it was the Annabelle Jones? With the way his life had been going lately, pretty slim. Still, it looked like a real letter, not something his new neighbor would end up just throwing away.
One of the letters slipped between his fingers and fell into the grass that he’d neglected to trim around his mailbox. He reached down to pick it up and noticed something small and round. A bright white leather covered ball with red stitching sat there, mocking him. How did that get into his yard? It certainly wasn’t one of his. He hadn’t picked up a baseball since his surgery. That had been six months ago.
He tucked the mail under his right arm, and reached for the ball with his left. Annabelle Jones, whether she was the swimsuit model or not, must have kids. Kids who couldn’t keep their balls in their own yard.
He’d have to do something about that.
After dropping his junk mail in the recycling, he carried Ms. Jones’s mail and the stray baseball to the house next door. He rang the bell and waited. Less than a minute went by before the front door swung open.
It was the Annabelle Jones. She stood there, almost as tall as him in her red platform shoes, dark skinny jeans and a sweater that should be illegal in forty-seven states. California being one of them.
Damn. The only way she would look any hotter would be if she stood there in that red bikini she’d worn on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The one that he’d been obsessing about for ten years now.
“Ms. Jones.” His voices sounded like a teenage boy’s, cracking at the mention of the prettiest girl he’d only fantasized about. “I seem to have gotten your mail by mistake.”
“Oh, thank you.” She held her hand out and probably wondered why he wasn’t giving it to her. Either that, or she recognized him from when they both lived in San Francisco. She’d been married to the owner of his former team, the Goliaths. And if she recognized him, she probably wasn’t too happy about living next door to a cheater. He’s started last season with a fifty-game suspension before finally tearing his shoulder once he was traded to St. Louis.
Not exactly a role model.
“Here.” He shoved the letter toward her, but held on to the baseball. He didn’t want her to make the connection, if she hadn’t already.
She glanced down at the envelope in her hands, then looked up at him with a smile. “Would you like to come in? I can make a chai tea latte.”
“No, thanks. I need to get going.”
“Do you live next door?” She tilted her head to the side, letting her blond curls brush her shoulder.
“Yeah.” He knew the less he said, the better.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come in? It would be nice to get to know my neighbor.”
“ I really need to go.” He gripped the ball tighter, a move that used to bring him comfort. “I have a… a thing I gotta do.”
How many times had he dreamed of meeting Annabelle Jones? A thousand? Three thousand? He’d been obsessed with her since he was in the minors. She was his dream girl. But that was before he got mixed up in PEDs. They called them performance enhancing drugs, but all they’d done for him was delay the inevitable. Surgery had fixed his shoulder, but his reputation was damaged for good.
“Hey, is that a baseball in your hand?” Annabelle asked.
“Yeah.” He might as well get it over with.
“Sorry about that,” she reached for the ball. “My daughters must have thrown it over the fence. They didn’t break a window or anything, did they?”
“No. Nothing’s broken.” He handed over the ball. Their fingers brushed and it felt like he’d been hit by a line drive straight to his chest. “But you should have them keep the ball in your own yard.”
“Sure.” She gave him a half-hearted smile. “I’ll keep them away from your yard.”
“That would be best.” He started to back down the steps.
“Hey, if you ever need to borrow a cup of sugar or anything,” she was just trying to be friendly.
“I don’t eat sugar.” His voice was harsher than it needed to be, but he couldn’t let her get too close.
“I’ll try to remember that.” She looked like he’d just run over her dog. “So are you one of those guys, who watches every bite you put into your body? You probably work out seven hours a day.”
Her gaze travelled up and down his body, as if she was taking stock of what he had to offer.
He had nothing to offer. Not to her, her kids, or any Major League Baseball team.
Copyright © 2014 by Kristina Mathews
Learn more or order a copy of Better Than Perfect (Book 1 in the More Than a Game series) by Kristina Mathews, out now:
And keep an eye out for Nathan and Annabelle's novel, Making a Comeback (More Than a Game #3), coming soon!
Kristina Mathews doesn't remember a time when she didn't have a book in her hand. Or in her head. But it wasn't until she turned forty that she confessed the reason the laundry never made it out of the dryer was because she was busy writing.
While she resigned from teaching with the arrival of her second son, she's remained an educator in some form. As a volunteer, parent club member or para educator, she finds the most satisfaction working with emergent and developing readers, helping foster confidence and a lifelong love of books.
Kristina lives in Northern California with her husband of more than twenty years, two sons and a black lab. A veteran road tripper, amateur renovator and sports fanatic. She hopes to one day travel all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD, replace her carpet with hardwood floors and serve as a “Ball Dudette” for the San Francisco Giants.